First Doubt

In Nahj al-Balaaghah various sermons and sayings discuss difficulties during death, darkness of the grave, troubles after death and other related calamities.  These subjects are such as would upset any one and hence such discourses cannot be attributed to Imam Ali (a.s).

(Aasaar-e-Tashhayyu’ fi Adab al-Arabi, pg. 61)

 

Reply

  1. If remembering death, Day of Judgment and such other things were pointless and a cause of restlessness among people, then why have the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) reiterated them consistently. For example:

 

أَيْنَمَا تَكُونُوا يُدْرِكْكُمُ الْمَوْتُ

‘Wherever you are, death will overtake you.’

(Surah Nisa (4): 78)

 

كُلُْ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ

‘Every soul must taste of death.’

(Surah Anbiya (21): 35)

كُلُْ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ

‘Everyone on it must pass away.’

(Surah Rahman (55): 26)

كُلُْ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَْا وَجْهَهُ

‘…everything is perishable but His Face…’

(Surah Qasas (28): 88)

 

Moreover, in Shia and Sunni books, various traditions have been narrated under this topic. To quote one tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a):

مَا اَریٰ حُبُْ الدُْنْیَا قَدْ غَلَبَ عَلیٰ کَثیْرٍ مِْنَ النَْاسِ حَتْیٰ کَاَنَْ الْمَوْتَ فِیْ ھٰذِہِ الدُْنْیا عَلیٰ غَیْرِھِمْ

(What is it with people) that I see most being overcome by the love of world, as if death in this world is meant for others.

(Tohaf al-Oqool pg. 62)

  1. Since remembering death, grave and the Day of Judgment leave a positive impact on the lives of the people, the same have been emphasized upon by Islam. Remembering death and being prepared to embrace it have the following positive outcomes:
    1. Living a noble life.
    2. Resisting Satan
    3. Being generous and charitable
    4. Not being greedy of wealth and riches
    5. Facing hardships of this world with bravery and forbearance
    6. Being thankful in happiness and sorrow
    7. Being determined and steadfast
    8. Living a honourable life and not tolerating disgrace
    9. Working with resoluteness and not feeling weary
    10. Not being in haste in worldly affairs (since the worldly abode is temporal) and being serious concerning the affairs of hereafter and not postponing them.

The companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) frequently remembered death, eschewed worldly pleasures and led an honourable life. Moreover, most of them attained martyrdom and played an important role in propagating Islam.

Unfortunately, the later Muslims neglected death, chased worldly desires and embarked on conquest after conquest while busying themselves in playful activities. Not surprisingly, they lost the essence of Islam. This resulted in them forfeiting the honour and sanctity gained during the life time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a), fearing the slightest of problems and being overcome by oppressive rulers.

The abovementioned points make it clear that not remembering death and abandoning Allah’s obedience are a source of deviation and Satanic influence. For this very reason Nahj al-Balaaghah possesses a special position as Ibn Abil Hadeed Motazali says while explaining the sermon concerning Surah Takaathur (102):

‘By the One who is sworn by the people, I have read this sermon innumerable times over the last fifty years and each time it has left a new impression on me.’

(Sharh-o-Nahj al-Balaaghah vol 11 pg 153)

Hence this doubt is baseless as reminding the people of death and the afterlife is the way of the Majestic Quran and Sunnah and has multiple benefits.

Second doubt:

Making explicit the failures of the government and criticizing the rulers for their limitations was not a practice prevalent in the era of Imam Ali (a.s). These came into existence after him. Whereas one can find censure of rulers, minister, judges and scholars in Nahj al-Balaaghah. Likewise, the manner of governing, the approach of governors, inequitable distribution of Islamic treasury and decisions of judges based on utter ignorance too have been condemned.  On this basis Nahj al-Balaaghah cannot be attributed to Imam Ali (a.s).

(Asar-e-Tashhayyu fi Adab al-Arabi pg. 86)

Reply:

Notwithstanding that doubts about Nahj al-Balaaghah are often baseless, this one is particularly illogical. After the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise, Islamic society plunged into turmoil with undeserving people occupying positions of power and authority. Obviously, this led to large scale embezzlement of treasury funds and abuse of authority. Islamic laws as defined by the Quran and Sunnah were being violated on a regular basis. Under the circumstances, it was the duty of every Muslim to protest at the misappropriation of authority.

Therefore, it is unlikely that Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) being Ameerul Momeneen (a.s) would be silent on the issue. True to his nature, he raised his voice to expose the shortcomings of the government officials and thus defended the rights of the commonality. At every opportune moment, he took a stand against corrupt governors, treacherous judges and scholars who sold their religion for worldly gains.

Hence this doubt is also baseless.

Third doubt:

At least one of the sermons of Nahj al-Balaaghah and certain sayings have been attributed to others. e.g. saying no 289 has been narrated from Ibne Muqaffaa who was a famous litterateur, a fire-worshipper (who later embraced Islam) and paternal uncle of Abbasi Caliph, Mansoor. He was a friend of the famous polytheist Ibn Abil Awjaa and converted at the hands of Isa b. Ali and changed his name from Ruzbeh to Abdullah. He wrote some books in Arabic.

He has mentioned saying no 289 in his book without attributing it to Imam Ali (a.s):

 

كَانَ لِي فَيمَا مَضٰى أَخٌ فِي اللهِ، وَكَانَ يُعْظِمُهُ فيِ عَيْنيِ صِغَرُ الدُْنْيَا فيِ عَيْنِهِ

 

He translated Kalila wa Dimna in Arabic. He was killed at the hands of Sufyan b. Muawiya b. al-Mahlab in 143 AH on the orders of the Abbasi Caliph Mansoor.

In the same way, sermon 203 has been attributed to him.

اَیُْھِا النَْاسُ اِنَْمَا الدُْنْیَا دَارُ الْمَجَازَ

(Nahj al-Balaaghah pg 332)

This sermon is also narrated on the authority of Suhan b. Waail. The latter was a famous litterateur during Muawiya’s rule and lived in Damascus.

Hence it seems unlikely that all the sermons are from Imam Ali (a.s) as some of they have also been attributed to others.

Reply:

To begin with, given Sayed Razi’s (r.a) standing in Islam as a highly reliable scholar and his rigour in documenting traditions leave little room for an error of such magnitude. It is very unlikely he would record sermons/sayings by mixing up a personality like Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) with others like Ibne Muqaffa and Suhan b. Waail who were associated with oppressive rulers of the time.

Secondly, if it was indeed attributed to Ibne Muqaffa and Suhan b. Waail, then more authors should have come forward with this revelation. However, we observe that several authors have attributed this sermon to personalities other than Ibne Muqaffa. For instance, Ibne Qutaybah has narrated this sermon in Oyoon-o-Akhbaar vol. 2, pg. 355 from Imam Hasan (a.s) with minor differences in the text. Ibne Sho’ab al-Harrani has also attributed the sermon to Imam Hasan (a.s) in his book Tohaf al-Oqool with minor changes. Khateeb-e-Baghdadi has also documented this sermon on the authority of Imam Hasan (a.s) in his book — Tarikh-o- Baghdad vol. 12, pg. 315.

However Zamakshari in Rabee’ al-Abraar under the Chapter of Al Khair wa al-Islaah has narrated this sermon from Imam Ali (a.s).

Regardless of whether the sermon is from Imam Ali (a.s) or Imam Hasan (a.s) the moot point is that it is narrated from an infallible and not a person like Ibne Muqaffa who could never have delivered a sermon of such high concepts and literary beauty.

It should also be noted that Ibn Maysam-e-Bahraani has mentioned in his Sharh of Nahj al-Balaaghah vol. 5, pg. 389 that Ibne Muqaffa has narrated this sermon from Imam Hasan (a.s).

Thirdly, Ibne Abil Hadeed Motazali in Sharh-o-Nahj al-Balaaghah vol. 19, pg. 184 has narrated this sermon from Imam Ali (a.s). This proves that it is the word of Imam Ali (a.s) otherwise Ibne Abil Hadeed would certainly have listed it alongside other doubts on Nahjul Balaaghah.

Fourthly, the sermons of Imam Ali (a.s) were famous among the people so much so religious speakers and litterateurs would quote them without giving source credit to Imam Ali (a.s.).

Shaykh Muhammad Ali narrates from Ibne Sagheer in his book Taarikh al-Arab vol. 3, pg. 1,588 that the rulers of Abazi had given complete freedom to people of all faiths. Since they were amazed with the eloquence of Nahj al-Balaaghah, the speakers and the leaders quoted them frequently in Friday prayers and otherwise.

Ibne Muqaffa has quoted the sermons of Nahj al-Balaaghah in his books because he was impressed with their eloquence.  He writes in the beginning of his book Al-Adab al-Sagheer:

‘I have mentioned some parts of these sermons (which people remember) in this book. The sermons are a source of enlivening and purifying of hearts.’

(Madaarij al-Nahj al-Balaaghah, pg. 268)

The words of Ustad Muhammad Ali Kurd further establish this fact. He says in his book Imraad al-Ilhaan vol. 1, pg. 510:

‘Ibne Muqaffa has learnt eloquence from the sermons of Imam Ali (a.s).’

To conclude, the doubt concerning Ibne Muqaffa is also baseless like other doubts raised by the skeptics.