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Chapter 1. Page: 1|2


38. The Avoidance of Oppression

In the opinion of the Imams, one of the worst sins among men is enmity and iniquity between themselves. Just as it is said in the Qur'an:

Deem not that Allah is heedless of what the iniquitous do; He is only deferring them to a day when eves shall stare.(14:42)

Likewise, 'Ali, Amir al-Mu'minin (A.S.) had a strong aversion to iniquity, and he told the truth when he said:

I swear by Allah that if all the continents of the earth and all that is under the sun were offered to me in exchange for sinning towards Allah even by stealing a grain of barley from an ant, truly 1 should never do such a thing.

And this shows how much a person can be aware of the evil of iniquity and hold himself back from doing it. 'Ali would not do wrong even to an ant by stealing a grain of barley from it, even though all the lands of the earth were offered to him. How then does one stand who sheds the blood of Muslims, plunders their property, and pours scorn on their reputation and honour? How should he be compared with 'Ali? Where does he stand compared to the wisdom of 'Ali? Truly, 'Ali's behaviour is a shining example of the excellent religious education which Islam seeks to instill in humanity.

Iniquity is, then, one of the greatest of the sins Allah has prohibited, and this is why the Household of the Prophet have cautioned their followers against it above all else, through their words and prayers. Thus was their policy and behaviour, and they acted justly not only towards their friends, but also towards those who showed disrespect for them and treated them with rudeness.

The story of the forebearance of Imam Hasan (A.S.) with the man of Sham (Damascus) who insulted him[9] is well known. On that occasion, the Imam spoke gently with him and treated him kindly, letting him understand that he had done wrong. Even as the fourth Imam, Sayyid as-Sajadin asked for forgiveness for iniquitous persons in his ad'iyah.
This is the utmost generosity and nobility of mind that a perfect man can reach. Although it is correct from an Islamic point of view to avenge an oppressor in one's own manner, and to curse him before Allah, it is better to forgive than to avenge, for forgiveness is a sign of virtue; indeed, in the opinion of the Imams, to curse him is to be iniquitous oneself.

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said:

Verily, a slave is oppressed so long as he refrains from cursing his oppressive master excessively, but if he should do so, then he becomes an oppressor too.

How sublime this is! But if to curse an oppressor is oppression itself, what is the condition of those who instigate oppression and iniquity, who commit aggression against people, or caste aspersions on their reputations, who plunder their property, denounce them before oppressors, or deceive them so that they fall into danger or are hurt, or who spy on them? How do they stand in the wisdom of the Imams? Truly, such persons are the farthest from the generosity of Allah, their sins and their punishment are the most horrible, just as are their actions and morality.


39. Doctrine of Non-Cooperation with Oppressors

Because oppression is very dangerous and has evil consequences, Allah has forbidden men to cooperate with the iniquitous or to associate with them. He has said:

And do not incline towards those who are injust, lest the fire touch you, and you have no guardians besides Allah, then you shall not be helped. (11;113)

This is exactly what the Descendents of the Prophet have taught us, and their teachings are the same as the Qur'an's. It is narrated that they had the greatest aversion to those who form ties with, help or cooperate with oppressors at any price, even to the extent of half a date. Without doubt, the greatest misfortune that has beset Islam and the Muslims is their lack of firmness in dealing with the evils of oppressors, and their connivance with them, not to mention their cooperating with them and protecting them in their oppression. There is no greater reason for the weakness and backwardness of the Muslims than their deviation from the straight path of Islam, and, as a result, the religion loses its power and disintegrates day by day, becoming foreign to the people. The Muslims, or rather those who call themselves Muslims, become powerless and far from the protection of Allah, so that they are unable to defend themselves against the most feeble and lowest enemies like the abject Jews let alone their powerful Christian opponents.

As far as they were able, the Imams always endeavoured to prevent their companions and relatives from cooperating with oppressors or helping them, and concerning this innumerable traditions have been related by the narrators. One of these traditions is from Imam Zayn al'Abidin (A.S.), who had written to Muhammad ibn Muslim az-Zuhari after warning him not to engage in oppression himself.

The reason they ask for you is only to use you as a grinding stone, a bridge whereby they can progress to their evil aims, a ladder to their deviations, so that you may be an agent and a propagandist for their crimes. Through you, they can hide their affairs from wise men, and attract the ignorant to themselves. Neither their own ministers nor their followers can disguise their faults as you can; what little will they give to you compared with what they take away. Take care of yourself, examine yourself and reckon with your actions as a responsible person.

The last sentence is full of meaning. Because, as long as man is conquered by his desires he considers himself worthless, and feels no responsibility for what he does; he cannot feel the evil of his bad deeds and he supposes that what he does is as nothing and will not be taken account of. Truly this is one of the secrets of man's unruly soul.

Then the Imam wanted to make az-Zuhari aware of this spiritual secret which mysteriously is part of his nature, so that he would not be deluded by his imagination and exceed his responsibility.

One conversation that is more forceful than the above, but which is on the same subject, comes from Imam Musa Kazim. He was speaking to Safwan al-Jammal who was a Shi'i and a faithful narrator of his traditions, according to al-Kishshi, who has given a biography of al-Jammal.

It is narrated that al-Jammal went to see Imam Musa.
'O Safwan! All of your actions are good, except one.'
'And what is that!'
'Your hiring of camels to that man Harun.'
'I swear by Allah that I did not do this so that he might live in pleasure, nor that he might hunt, or amuse himself, hut only that he might make the pilgrimage to Mecca. I have not taken charge of the camels myself, but have entrusted them to a servant.'
'Does he have to pay for them?'
'Yes.'
'Do you wish him to live until he pays.'
'Yes.'
'Whosoever wishes them (i.e. the oppressors) to stay alive is in fact one of them, and he shall enter Hell.'
Safwan relates that he immediately went and sold all his camels.

If such is the future for one who only wishes the iniquitous to live, then how bad it must be for one who helps them or joins with them, or does their work or who obeys them.


40. Doctrine of Non-Participation in
Oppressive Government

Since our Imams have firmly warned us not to help oppressors, even to the extent of giving them half a date, and not to hope for their lives, the situation of one who cooperates with them and joins their government is indeed a bad one. Similarly, for one who is in their employment, or is one of the founders of their state, or is devoted to preserving their government. Because:

being loyal to an oppressive government completely undermines the truth, and rehabilitates and propagates falsehood, iniquity and corruption.

This is related from Imam Ja'far Sadiq (A.S.).

However, joining the oppressors or their government is permitted by our Imams if, by so doing, we can increase justice and perform the commands of Allah. if it is for the good of the believers, encourages what is right or forbids what is evil. Imam Musa (A.S.) said:

Verily, there are among the company of the oppressors those through whom Allah has made bright His path. He gives them the power to protect His friends and to resolve the difficulties of the Muslims. They are among those who truly believe. They are the guides of Allah and a light among His slaves.

Many traditions have been passed down concerning these things, which have clarified the duties of governors and government employees, who should act in accordance with them. For example, (the letter which) Imam Sadiq wrote to 'Abdullah al-Najashi, the governor-general of Ahwaz.


41. The Imams call People to Islamic Unity

It is well known that the Household of the Prophet tried hard to preserve the rites of Islam, to call Muslims to restore its glory, to unify their beliefs, and that they also strived to maintain the brotherhood of Islam and to remove malice and enmity from the hearts of the Muslims.

We cannot ignore Imam 'Ali's dealings with his predecessors to the khilafah. He treated them with consideration although he believed that they had taken what was his right. He agreed with them and kept his peace with them. and refrained from expressing his opinion about his own right to the khilafah in public until after he had attained to it. Then he called together the remaining followers of the Prophet (those who were still alive and who had been present on the day of Ghadir when the Prophet had appointed 'Ali as his khalifah), so that they could bear witness to his appointment to the khilafah.

He never withheld his opinion about what was helpful or in the interests of Islam and the Muslims, and he often said:

I was afraid lest I should not help Islam and the Muslims, and that they would fail.

He said and did nothing against the position, power and authority of the khulafa', but kept himself to his house and remained silent, despite the fact that he saw what they were doing.

He acted thus for the sake of Islamic interests, up to the point where he was famous for his admirable qualities. The second khalifah, 'Umar ibn Khattab, said many times: "I would never encounter a difficulty without Abu 'l-Hasan being there to contribute to its solution." And "If it were not for 'Ali, 'Umar (himself) would have perished."

History cannot forget the way Imam Hasan (A.S.) dealt with Mu'awiyah. He made peace with him, because he realised that if he continued to fight, the light of the Qur'an and just government would be extinguished, and moreover the name of Islam would vanish for all time, the Divine shari'ah would be lost and the Imams that were to come would be obliterated. So he chose to protect the edifice of Islam and its name. For this reason, he made peace with Mu'awivah, who was a resolute hated Imam Hasan and enemy of the religion and of Muslims, and who his followers. He knew that Mu'awiyah would deal unjustly with him and his companions, and. although he could have counted on his family and followers to fight for their rights and defend themselves, he believed that the highest interests of Islam were above all these things and more important then them.

It was for the same reason that the third Imam, Husayn, the Holy Martyr, rose up against the Banu Ummayah; for he realised that if they continued in their vicious ways without anyone taking arms against them and proclaiming their wicked intentions, they would eradicate Islam and its glory. Thus he wished to point out their oppression and iniquity for posterity, so as to expose their evil plans against the Prophet's religion. Naturally, events turned out as had been predicted. If it had not been for his holy campaign, Islam would have been recorded as a religion of the past, and it would have been thought a false religion.

In completing his holy campaign, following through and pursuing his sacred aim against iniquity and oppression, the Shi'a revive and remember the tragedy at Karbala' every year and in various ways, as the Imams have commanded.

We should obtain a better and clearer understanding of how the Descendents of the Prophet tried hard to preserve the glory of Islam if we study the behaviour of Imam Zayn al-' Abidin towards the Umayyid kings, despite the fact that his family had been killed and that his reputation had been destroyed by them. He was continually despondent and heart-broken over the murder of his father and family by the Umayyids at Karbala', but, in spite of these things, he always prayed that the armies of the Muslims would be victorious, and secretly asked Allah to keep the Muslims in safety and to ensure the increase and glory of Islam. He propagated knowledge of Islam, and by means of prayer alone he taught his followers how they should ask Allah for victory for the Muslims. He said in his famous du'a', for the guardians of the frontiers of Islam:

O Allah! Send down peace upon Muhammad and his Family,
increase their numbers, sharpen their swords, protect their homes,
preserve their country, cause friendship to spread among them,
improve their conduct,
provide them with sustenance and the means of livelihood,
help them, bestow on them patience, teach them the ways of cleverness . . .
(and then after calling for the wrath of Allah on the unbelievers)
O Allah! In this way strengthen the people of Islam, protect their lands, increase their property,
let the soldiers of Islam be free from fighting that they might worship Thee privately.
Let nothing be worshipped over the whole of the earth but Thee.
Let no-one prostrate himself before anyone but Thee.

Thus he continued his du'a' (it is one of his longest), telling of the duties of the Muslims armies, how they must behave and be of good character and have good equipment. It contains teachings on the Holy War (jihad), showing its purpose and its results, warning Muslims to keep clear of their enemies, instructing them how to deal with their attacks and defend themselves. It also contains instructions on their obligations, such as continual remembrance of Allah, avoidance of unlawful things and keeping the jihad pure for Allah.

Likewise, other Imams have dealt with the kings of their times, although they were being tortured and cruelly and severely maltreated by these kings with many kinds of suffering and pain. When they realised that an' Islamic government was not going to be re-established, they tried their best to teach the religion to the people, pointing out to them the excellence of Islamic knowledge. No insurrection which happened either through some of their family or through others during these times was ordered by them; on the contrary, these were in opposition to their explicit orders, because they made the utmost effort to protect the government of Islam. No-one, not even the 'Abbasid khulafa' tried harder than them to protect it.

It is enough just to look at the advice of Imam Musa ibn Ja'far (A.S.) to his followers:

I charge you to obey your king and not to lose your strength through disobedience. If he is just, ask Allah to protect his life; if he is an oppressor, ask Allah to reform him. For your interests are identical with his interests. Verily, a just king is really like a father - wish for him what you wish for yourselves, and do not wish for him what you do not wish for yourselves.

This is one of the best sayings on the subject of the protection of a king by his people: "wish for him what you wish for yourselves, and do not wish for him what you do not wish for yourselves."

Compare with this the great offence some writers who are contemporary with us have committed. They have spoken of the Shi'a as a hidden destructive group, as a band of revolutionaries and avengers. Now, it is correct that every Muslim who obeys the teachings of the Household should, from the moral point of view, despise oppression and oppressors, keep clear of them and their evil deeds, feel repugnance and contempt for them and their fellows and helpers and dislike them all. The Shi'a have had these feelings engrained in their souls from generation to generation. However, they are not rebels. Nor do they like to stir up trouble or foment insurrection against a rebellious government which says that it is an Islamic government, neither secretly nor openly.

The teachings of the Imams do not allow them suddenly to take the life of someone who is a Muslim, or to betray him, although his beliefs may differ from theirs. But, according to their teachings, a Muslim who professes tawhid and the nubawwah of Muhammad (S.A.) is to be respected; his blood, his property and his family is secure. "It is not right to take the property of a Muslim except by his leave." All Muslims are brothers to each other, and to each of them belong the rights of brotherhood, as we shall now explain.


42. Doctrine of the Rights of Brotherhood
between Muslims

One of the highest and most excellent instructions of Islam to all Muslims is brotherhood without distinction of birth, rank or position. But, unfortunately, Muslims have always neglected this. One of the smallest duties of Islamic brotherhood is that a Muslim should wish for his brother what he wishes for himself, and that he should not wish for his brother what he does not wish for himself, as we shall point out in a tradition from Imam Sadiq.

One must study this duty well, and it is accounted a very small one in the opinion of the Descendents of Muhammad. One sees that Muslims find it difficult to fulfil this small duty, for their morals and behaviour are not in accordance with the Islamic spirit. Concentrate carefully on this small responsibility; if people were to respect it, neither oppression, nor enmity, nor theft, nor falsehood. nor back-biting, nor informing would be found anywhere among them. If they realised the result of this and were careful in carrying out this duty, oppression and enmity would disappear; they would live as brothers with each other and attain the height of happiness among themselves. Madinah al-Fadilah[10] of the ancient philosophers would become a reality, no government would be needed, no court of law, no police, prison or criminal law. they would be free from colonisers and tyrants; oppressors could not force their iniquity on them; and the earth would become paradise.

Furthermore, if Islamic brotherhood reigned among people, as Islam has said it should, then the word justice would disappear from our dictionaries; justice and its laws would not be needed, and brotherhood alone would suffice to ensure goodness, peace, happiness and pleasure among us. For humanity, in such a situation, would have no need for justice and its laws; these are only needed when there is a lack of love between people. A mother is kind and good towards her children because of her love and compassion, not because of the commandments of justice. We can understand why a man loves only himself and that which is agreeable to him; it is impossible for him to love something or someone unless it belongs to him. And when he does love something or someone, it is impossible for him to give them to someone else whom he dislikes. unless there exists a principle which is stronger than his desires, like a belief in justice and kindness, and in this case, he may devote his interests to someone else whom he does not like.

Such an ideal, when it dwells in the human mind, keeps it in a position above all material things, so that it is able to realise the superiority of justice and goodness. and to show kindness to others. It will be seen that man needs such superior ideals when there is no kindness and brother hood between him and his fellow men. That is to say that as long as he lacks the feeling of brotherhood - and the fact that he does is because of his egotism and desires as long as this feeling is missing, he must believe in the goodness of justice and kindness, following the guidance of Islam. And if he fails to believe in this as well, then he does not deserve to be thought of as a Muslim; such a man. even in name, is not a friend of Allah; he has done nothing for the sake of Allah. as we shall see in the tradition of the Imam which follows. Usually human desires overcome man, and it is difficult for him to prepare himself even to believe in justice, and so it is much more difficult for him to attain that perfect belief through which he can vanquish his desires.

We can see that the brotherhood of man is very difficult to obtain as long as its desirability is not sensed. For this reason, Imam Sadiq did not wish to explain to al-Mu'alla ibn Khunays more than he could understand, because Ja'far was afraid to teach him what he could not put into practice. Mu'alla asked:

'What does one Muslim owe another?'
'There are seven duties incumbent upon him. Should he neglect but one of them. he is not a friend or servant of Allah. and truly he has done nothing for the sake of Allah.'
'What may these things be?'
'I feel compassion for you. I am afraid lest you learn them, but you neglect to put them into practice, or you cannot. There is no power but in Allah.'

Mu'alla then relates that the Imam told him the seven:

'First. the smallest duty is that you should wish for your brother what you wish for yourself, and that you should wish that what you do not desire for yourself should not befall your brother.'

So, this is a small duty'. Do we find this easy? That is to say, we present-day Muslims? May those who call themselves Muslims but do not act in accordance with this small but strict duty find themselves disgraced.

It is amazing that the backward state of the Muslims should be ascribed to Islam, while the only reason for it is the behaviour of the Muslims, that is those who call themselves Muslims but do not carry out this humble duty.

Having reminded ourselves and mentioned our present circumstances, we shall now list the seven duties as related by Mu'alla from Imam Ja'far (A.S.).

(a) Wish for your brother what you wish for yourself, and wish that what you do not desire for yourself should not befall your brother.
(b) Do not make your brother angry, but seek to please him and obey his wishes.
(c) Help him with your soul, your tongue, your hands and your feet.
(d) Be his eye to see by, his guide to lead him and his mirror.
(e) Do not eat your fill when he is hungry, nor drink and clothe yourself when he is thirsty and naked.
(f) If he has no servant, but you do, it is incumbent on you to send your servant to him to wash his clothes, cook his food and spread out his mattress.
(g) Accept his promise and his invitation; visit him when he is sick, attend his funeral, and see to his needs before he asks you, hurrying to do them if you can.

When he had finished, Imam Ja'far said:

If you fulfil these duties you can call yourself his friend, and he will be your friend also.

There are many traditions told from our Imams, and most of them are collected in 'Kitab al-Wasa'il'il in the relevant sections.

Some people have imagined that the Imams meant brotherhood only among the Shi'a, but if they were to read the traditions they would understand that their imagination is deceiving them, although the Imams did strongly repudiate those whose way was against the Shi'a and who did not follow their guidance. Let us mention here the conversation of Imam Sadiq with Mu'awiyah ibn Wahab.
'How should we treat those who do not follow our ways?'
'Look to your Imams whom you obey, and obey them and imitate them. They visit them (i.e. those who are not Shi' a) when they are sick, go to their funerals, give evidence for or against them. and repay their trust.'

No, the brotherhood that the Imams envisaged among their followers is higher than ordinary Islamic brotherhood, and it has been mentioned briefly in the introduction. It will suffuce to read the following conversation between Imam Sadiq and Aban ibn Taghlab.

Aban relates: While I was circumambulating the Ka'bah with Imam Sadiq, one of our friends signalled to me that I should immediately go with him to help him. The Imam noticed and said to me:

'O Aban, does he mean you?'
I replied: 'Yes.'
'Does he believe in what you believe in?'
'Yes.'
'Then go with him and break your circumambulation.' I asked if it was incumbent on me to do so, and he said that it was. Then I went with the man to help him, and after doing so I returned to the Imam and asked him about the rights of the believers.
'Do not ask me concerning them,' he said.
But I insisted.
'Give your brother half of what you own,' he told me, and looked at me. He understood my surprise and said: 'O Aban! Do you know that Allah admires those believers who prefer others to themselves?'
I replied: 'Yes.' 'When you give your brother half of what you own you do not prefer him above yourself, but only when you give him the other half do you really prefer him above yourself.'

If we feel shame at this, then really we should not call ourselves believers. We are quite remote from the teachings of the Imams. Everyone who reads this tradition becomes astonished as did Aban, but then he pays no further attention to it and forgets it, as if he were not the person addressed, and as if he were not responsible.

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