Piety and Islamic Rules
By: Sayyed Hussain Sheikh al-Islami Tooyserkani
Rules made by God Almighty are binding and it does not make any difference whether they are real or superficial (apparent), for benefits and harms in them have been taken into consideration. Therefore, when a religious authority issues a religious decree, he should be careful not to let his own opinion interfere in his Fatwa. Ibn Shabramah has been reported by Ibnul Sheikh in his Majalis from Husayn ibn Ubaydillah al-Ghadha’iri as saying: “Abu Haneefah and I went to see Imam Sadiq (AS).
Piety in Worshipping
One of the other subjects that have been ordered in the Holy Quran and the Sunna to observe Taqwa in is worshipping. It means that we should know Whom we are worshipping and Who deserves to be worshipped. It is then that we will find out the only being before whom we should be humble, to be devoted sincerely, and whom we should obey is God. Can human beings arbitrarily worship God? Can man bow to anyone and anything he relishes? Should the act of worshipping be done with sound motivation? Does an idol made by man, a tree planted by him, a cow fed by him, the sun and stars which appear and disappear, Satan or a human who cannot keep a fly or gnat away from himself deserve to be worshiped?
All the prophets have been ordained to remind human beings not to worship anything other than the All-wise, the All-knowing, the All-Powerful and the Ever-living God. The prophets’ calls were to worship God’: “And to Ad (We sent) their brother Hud. He said: O my people, serve Allah! You have no God other than Him. Will you not then guard (against evil)?”1 or “And certainly We sent Noah to his people and he said: O my people, serve Allah! you have no God other than Him. Will you not then guard (against evil)?”
Imam Ali (AS) has been reported as saying: “So fear Allah Who benefits you with His advice, preaches to you through His Messenger, and endowed you with His favors. Devote yourselves to His worship, and fulfill His rights on you as He deserves.”2
Truly, only God deserves to be worshipped as we recite in our prayer: “Thee (alone) do we serve and thee (alone) do we beseech for help.”3(1:5)
The worshipping of God should be practiced sincerely. In this relation, Lady Fatima (AS) says: “One who sends up his sincere devotion to God, God the Honored the Glorified will send down what is best for him.”4
Worshipping God should be based on love and gratitude. In this relation, Imam Sadiq (AS) has reported the Holy prophet (SAW) as saying: “The best of people is one who is a real lover of the worship of God, one who hugs it, one who loves it from the bottom of his heart, who attends it mindfully, who seeks relief in it, and is not afraid of ease and hardship of the world.” 5
Imam Sadiq (AS) has divided worshippers into three groups; “The first group are those who worship God out of fear, and this is the worship of slaves. The other group are those who worship God for reward, and this is the worship of employees. And the third group are those who worship God out of love for Him, and this is the worship of the free and this is the best of worships.”6
The master of the monotheists, Imam Ali (AS) has been reported as addressing God in this way: “O Lord, I have not worshipped You out of fear, nor have I worshipped You out of desire for paradise, but I have worshipped You because You deserve to be worshipped.”7
A true worshipper offer his worship secretly, for the reward is the highest. In this relation, Imam Sadiq (AS) has reported the Holy prophet (AS) as saying: “The best worshipping in terms of reward is the most hidden.”8
Imam Reza (AS) narrated from his fathers that Imam Ali (AS) said: “To hide good deeds, be patients with calamities, and hide (one’s) calamities are from the treasures of paradise.”9
A true worshipper should choose moderation and avoid extremes, for he will be deviated. In this connection, Imam Baqir (AS) has reported the Holy prophet (SAW) as saying: “For every worship, there is an intensive desire, then it will languish. Hence, one whose desire for worshipping is based on my Sunnah, will be guided, and whoever challenges my Sunnah will be misled and his deed will be in vain. Know that I offer prayer, sleep, fast, break my fasting, laugh, and weep. Whoever deviates from my Sunnah is not from me.”10
Worshipping should be based on full acknowledgement of God. The worshipper should know whom he is worshipping and what he is worshipping for. He should not be like an ascetic who worshipped God for a long time and when an angel asked God to show his reward, it seemed very little to the angel. Addressing the angel, God said: ‘Go to him to know that We reward men according the extent of knowledge and deeds.’
The angel went to the ascetic who was busy offering prayer. When he completed his prayer, the angel asked: ‘Do you have any desire or wish to be fulfilled?’ The ascetic said: ‘Yes, I wish that God might send His ass to eat from this grass, for it is being wasted.”11
Another ascetic had made Iblis angry. Iblis called all the devils, saying to them: ‘Which one of you can mislead this ascetic?’ Each of the devils offered a way of misleading, like gambling, adultery, sodomy and others. Iblis said: That is not a right way. One of the devils said: ‘I will mislead him through worshipping.’ Iblis said: ‘That is the way.’ The devil went to the ascetic and offered so much prayer that the ascetic man became infatuated by his prayer. The ascetic came to him to talk with him, but the devil ignored him in order to make him more eager.
Finally, when the ascetic managed to ask him what he had done that he had achieved such a position, the devil said: ‘I have committed adultery!’ The ascetic asked: ‘what is adultery?’ The devil elaborated on it. The ascetic said: ‘But I have no money.’ The devil gave him money. He went to a brothel, but a prostitute found that he was not of such bad things. She noticed that he had been deceived. The devil had deceived him indeed! The woman said: ‘This is an act of Satan. Leave this place!’ The ascetic man left the brothel and did not see the devil. Because of this act, God forgave the woman and she died the same night. In the morning, the following was seen written on the top of her house: “Attend the funeral of so-and-so, for she is from the people of Paradise.” Prophet Moses (AS) was inspired by God to offer prayer for her and to tell people to attend the prayer.”12
The act of worshipping should be done as God, the Holy prophet (SAW), and the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt have recommended. A true worshipper should never interpret Islamic rules due to his personal opinion. He should know that the only way for the correct implementation of religious rules is the path of prophets and their successors. Anyway, piety has to be exercised in all cases.
1. Qur'an, 7:65.
2. Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 2, p. 636.
3. Qur'an, 1:5.
4. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 67, p. 249.
5. Ibid., vol. 68, p. 253.
6. Safeenat al-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 113.
7. Mostadrak Nahj al-Balaghah, p. 165.
8. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 67, p. 251.
10. Safeenat al-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 13.
12. Safeenat al-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 114.
Piety and Prayer
As it can be inferred from traditions, prayer is the best act after the acknowledgement of God. Mo’awiyah ibn Wahab reports that Imam Sadiq (AS) was asked: “What is the best act which takes servants near to their Lord?” The Imam (AS) said: “I do not consider any act better than prayer after the acknowledgement of God. Do you not know that the righteous servant of God Jesus (AS) said: ‘God has recommended prayer to me.’ In the Holy Quran, there are about sixty or seventy occasions on which God has spoken of it.”
It is for the same reason that the acknowledges and sworn enemy of human beings, Satan, works hard to mislead worshippers in different ways like making a worshipper perform his prayer not within the divine boundary, making it invalid or dissuading the person from performing his prayer at all. Hence, the Lord of the universe has recommended his messenger to tell His servants: “Shall we call on that besides Allah, which does not benefit us nor harm us, and shall we be returned back on our heels after Allah has guided us, like him whom the devils have made to fall down perplexed in the earth? He has companions who call him to the right way, (saying): Come to us. Say: Surely the guidance of Allah, that is the (true) guidance, and we are commanded that we should submit to the Lord of the worlds. And you should keep up prayer and be careful of (your duty to) Him; and He it is to Whom you shall be gathered.”1
Should you have a look at the prayer of the Muslims of the world and think about its quality and quantity, you will see many deviations and negligence in it, whereas God has recommended Taqwa after ordering the prayer.
There are among Muslims ones who do not perform prayer, as if prayer is a mountain and they are charged to carry it. Some of them even mock at prayer. Should they deny it, they will be considered as apostate then. There are another group of Muslims who do not deny prayer nor do thy mock at it, but they are indifferent. Some others perform prayer, but what a prayer! Neither correct purification nor correct ablution! Neither perfect recitation of prayer nor perfect genuflection and prostration! Neither the permissibility of the place of prayer not of their clothes is important to them! Neither lawful nor unlawful issues of prayer are of any importance to them!
There are other Muslims who perform their prayer correctly, but their prayer has no spirituality. There are people who have performed prayer for their whole lives, but have not reached any spiritual position. Perhaps, most of us are included in this category.
It is perhaps for the same reason that after ordering prayer, God Almighty has ordered Taqwa, that is to be careful of negligence, waywardness, laziness, intoxication, idle sport, and the adherence to anyone other than God, the Prophet, and his household.
What is this prayer, which has been so emphasized by God?
We should know that the greatest factor which prevents indecency and evil is prayer that too accompanied by Taqwa. In this relation, God says: “Surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil.”2
Indecency has been defined as something whose ugliness in behavior and speech is evident. Evil (denied deeds) is an act considered ugly by sound reason or considered ugly by religion when sound reason cannot pass a judgment on it. Even if there was no benefit for prayer other than what we said, it would suffice.
Prayer has been recommended to all prophets including Jesus, John, Abraham (AS) and others. Above all, the prophets themselves ask the Lord of the universe to make them keep up prayer. Prophet Abraham (AS) asks God: “My Lord! Make me keep up prayer and from my offspring (too)...”3
To keep up prayer is one of the features of believers, benefactors, the pious and men of understanding. There are numerous verses in the Holy Quran, which refer to the same subject: “Those who believe in the unseen and keep up prayer”4
Elsewhere, the Holy Quran says: “These are verses of the Book of Wisdom, guidance and a mercy for the doers of goodness, those who keep up prayer...”5
The Holy prophet (SAW) has been reported as saying: “The best of deeds to God the most High and Exalted is prayer, benevolence, and Jihad.”6
Imam Ali (AS) has been reported as saying: “I advise you to keep to prayer and be careful of it. Surely, that is the best act and it is the pillar of your religion.”7
There are many benefits in prayer about which a separate book can be written. Prayer is the best way to talk with God. That is why Imam Ali (AS). Imam Sajjad (AS), and other Imams (AS) performed a thousand rak’as of prayer during a day and a night; the prayer that was offered in the highest spirituality and acknowledgement of God, the prayer they themselves recommended to us: “Offer your prayer as if it is the last one. Therefore, perform it with humbleness, in congregation, in the mosque, at its proper time, in clean clothes, with mindfulness, long prostration and full submission.”
One should note that prayer is the best way to get near to God and for sins to be forgiven. Abu Hamzah ath-Thumali has reported: “I heard Imam Baqir (AS) and Imam Sadiq (AS) say: “Imam Ali (AS) asked people: ‘What is the most hopeful verse in the book of Allah?’ Some man said: ‘It is this verse: “Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases.”8’
Imam Ali (AS) said: ‘It is a good verse, but it is not the answer.’
Another man said: ‘It is this verse: “And whoever does evil or acts unjustly to his soul then asks forgiveness of Allah, he shall find Allah Forgiver and Merciful.”9’
Imam Ali (AS) said: ‘It is a good verse, but it is not the answer.’
A third one said: ‘It is this verse: “O my servants! Who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the forgiving, the Merciful.”10’
Imam Ali (AS) said: ‘It is a good verse, but it is not the answer.’
A fourth man said: ‘The answer is this verse: “And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their fault- and who forgives the fault but Allah- and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done.”11’
Imam Ali (AS) said: ‘It is a good verse, but that is not the answer.’
(Abu Hamzah added) People rushed towards the imam, saying: ‘By Allah, we have no knowledge of it.’
Imam Ali (AS) said: ‘I heard from the Messenger of Allah his saying, ‘The most hopeful verse in the book of Allah is “And keep up prayer at the two ends of the day and in the first hours of the night; surely good deeds take away evil deed; this is a reminder to the mindful.”12’”
The messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “O Ali! I swear by Him Who has sent with the truth as a bearer of good tidings and a warner that whenever one of you gets up to perform wudu’ (ablution), sins began falling away from his body, and when he stands up with his face and heart before God for prayer, nothing shall remain from his sins before he finishes his prayer. It is as if he has been born just then. And if he commits a sin between two prayers, shall it be for him as that (to be omitted by the next prayer as said before).” Until he counted five prayers.
Then the messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “O Ali! The example of the five prayers for my Ummah is the like a river flowing near the door of your house. If there is filth in the body of one of you and he purifies himself in that river five times a day, will there remain any filth in his body? By Allah, such are the five prayers for my Ummah.”13
Considering what we have said, leaving prayer is blameworthy and entails severe punishment, which is Hell. That is why when the inhabitants of Hell shall be asked: “What has brought you into hell, they shall say: We were not of those who offered prayers.”14
It is for the same reason that the forsakers of prayer are considered as unbelievers by the great jurisprudents of Islam, in the case if they think that giving up the prayer is lawful, but if the think it is unlawful, then after giving up intentionally three prayers, when there is a discretionary punishment between them, one deserves to be killed.
The Holy prophet (SAW) has been reported as saying: “One who is sluggish and careless in offering his prayer, will be afflicted with fifteen afflictions by God, blessing will be removed from his life and sustenance, the miens of the righteous shall be removed from his face, he shall not be rewarded for any good deed he does, his supplication shall not be raised to heaven, there shall be no share for him from the supplication of the righteous, he will die hungry and thirsty, God will assign an angel in his grave to torment him, his grave shall be dark, an angel shall be ordered to draw him on his face while people shall look at him, he will be reckoned a hard reckoning, God will not look at him with mercy, he shall not be purified, and there shall be a severe chastisement for him.”15
1. Qur'an, 6:71-72.
2. Qur'an, 29:45.
3. Qur'an, 14:40.
4. Qur'an, 2:3.
5. Qur'an, 31:2-4.
6. Bihar al- Anwar, vol. 82, p. 206.
7. Ibid., p. 209
8. Qur'an, 4:48.
9. Qur'an, 4:110.
10. Qur'an, 39:53.
11. Qur'an, 3:135.
12. Qur'an, 11:114.
13. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 220.
14. Qur'an, 74:42-43.
15. Safeenat al- Bihar, vol. 2, p. 43.
I said: ‘God has honored you. This is a man from Iraq, who has an understanding of religion and wisdom.’ Imam Sadiq (AS) said: ‘Perhaps he is the one who interprets religion due to his own opinion.’ Then the Imam (AS) said: ‘Which one is greater, prayer or fasting? I said: ‘Prayer.’ The Imam (AS) said: ‘Why is it that a menstruating woman has to fast the missed days of fasting, but she does not have to perform the missed prayers (because of menstruation)? O Servant of Allah, fear Allah.”1
If a servant of Allah wants to observe a real rule which entails risk, it is unlawful. He has to observe the superficial rule. Traditions on dissimulation (Taqiyyah) 2 which has the same root as Taqwa refer to the same meaning.3
Dissimulation is a kind and the highest degree of piety. Abdullah ibn Jundab has been reported by Hammad ibn Eesa as saying: “Imam Musa al-Kadhim (AS), in giving the meaning of this verse: “Surely, the most honorable of you with Allah is the most careful of his duty”, has said: ‘It is the one with the utmost piety.’”4
Abdullah ibn Ya’foor reports: “I heard Imam Sadiq (AS) say: ‘Taqiyyah is the shield and the protector of a believer. One who has no Taqiyyah is not a believer.” 5
Imam Sadiq (AS) has also been reported as saying: “There is nothing better than ‘Khaba’ to God in worshipping Him. I asked what ‘Khaba’ is, and the Imam said: ‘It is the same as Taqiyyah.’” 6
There are many traditions on Taqiyyah which mean sometimes that man should conceal his faith in order to protect his own life and sometimes the lives of others.
At some times, it is necessary for a Muslim to perform his religious duties like the opponents. Sayyid Murtadha (may Allah have mercy on him) has mentioned in his book al-Muhkam wel-Mutashabih that Imam Ali (AS) said: “When man has the option, he has been forbidden to take an unbeliever as his leader of Imam. Nevertheless, God has obliged man by giving him permission (dissimulation) to fast as the opponents fast, break his fasting like them, and perform prayer as they do out of Taqiyyah. Otherwise, it is incumbent upon him to follow his own beliefs.
God Almighty has said: “Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than the believers; and whoever does this shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of Himself.”7
Therefore, dissimulation is a blessing that God has given to the believers so as to save themselves and others. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) has said: “Allah likes His servants to observe what He has permitted and what he has forbidden.” 8
2. Ablution (Wudu’)
Dawood ar-Raqqi has been reported as saying: “One day, I went to Imam Sadiq (AS) to ask him how to perform ablution correctly. The Imam (AS) said: ‘What God has made obligatory is to wash the face once. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) has added one more to it to mind for the weak people. Whoever washes his face three times, his prayer will become invalid.’ At this time, Dawood ibn Zurbi arrived and asked the same question. The Imam (AS) said: ‘Three times, three times and whoever does less than that, his prayer is not valid.’
My (Dawood ar-Raqqi) body started shivering. I was being almost tempted by Satan. Seeing a change of color in me, Imam Sadiq (AS) said: O Dawood, calm down! Which one is of unbelief, this order or the act of beheading?’
When we went out, we found that people had spoken ill of Ibn Zurbi before al-Mansoor ad-Dawaneeqi (the Abbasid caliph), accusing him of being heretic and associating with Imam Sadiq (AS). Ibn Zurbi was in an orchard near the orchard of al-Mansoor.
Al-Mansoor said to himself: “I will try him to see how he performs his ablution. If he does it like Ja'far ibn Mohammad (AS) which I do not approve, it will become evident that what they say about him is true. In that case, I will kill him.” Therefore, he waited for Ibn Zurbi to perform ablution. Ibn Zurbi did as Imam Sadiq (AS) had told him. Al-Mansoor sent someone to call him.
Dawood says: ‘When I went to al-Mansoor, he greeted me, saying: ‘O Dawood! They have said something wrong about you. The way you performed ablution was not like the purification by the heretics, so forgive me.’ Then he ordered a hundred thousand Dirhams to be given to him.’
Dawood ibn Zurbi and I went to see Imam Sadiq (AS). Zurbi said: my master, you save my life in this world. Thanks to you. We hope for paradise. The Imam said: ‘May God reward you and all the believers.’
Addressing Zurbi, the Imam said: ‘Tell Dawood ar-Raqqi what happened to you so that he will have no fear.’
Dawood Zurbi says: ‘I told him the whole story. The Imam (AS) said: ‘It was for this reason that I issued such a Fatwa for him, knowing that he may be killed.’ Then, the Imam said: ‘O Dawood ibn Zurbi! Wash your face twice when performing ablution. Do not add, for if you add to it, your prayer will become invalid.’”9
The same story happened between Ali ibn Yaqteen and Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) who first ordered him to perform ablution like the opponents, and when the danger of Haroon ar-Rasheed (the Abbasid caliph) had gone, in a letter, he said: “O Ali ibn Yaqteen! Perform ablution as God Almighty has ordered… for the danger that we were afraid for you of has gone.”10
Imam Musa ibn Ja'far (AS) has been reported by Ali (AS) ibn Yaqteen and Sheikh Sadooq as saying: “When dissimulating, it is valid to prostrate on clothes and carpets.” 11
Imam Reza (AS) has been reported by Bazanti as saying: “In relation to Qunoot (supplicating Allah earnestly in the prayer), Imam Baqir (AS) has said: “You have an option to or not to recite Qunoot.”
Imam Musa al-Kadhim(AS) has said: “When you are in Taqiyyah, do not recite Qunoot, and I will be answerable for that.”12
Abdullah ibn Sinan reports: “I heard Imam Sadiq (AS) say: “I invite you to fear Allah. Never be tough to people, for you will be abased. God Almighty has said: “…you shall speak kindly to people.””13
Then the Imam said: “Visit their (non-Shia Muslims) patients, take part in their funerals, bear witness for and against them and perform prayers with them in their mosques.”14
Imam Sadiq (AS) has also been reported as saying: “Whoever performs prayer with them in the first line is like one who has performed prayer behind the Messenger of Allah (SAW) in the first line.” 15
In another narration, we read that the Imam said to Isshaq ibn Ammar: “Take part in their prayer, for whoever performs prayer in the first line with them, is like one who has drawn the sword in the way of Allah.”16
There are numerous traditions on fasting in which the infallible Imams (AS) did not observe fasting to cope with the tyrant caliphs. One of the companions of Imam Sadiq (AS), who had come to visit him, said: “Would you break your fasting on a day of Ramadan?” The Imam said: “Yes, by Allah! To violate my fasting in a day of Ramadan is better to me than to be beheaded.”17
From what we have said, it is inferred that we have to do what is obligatory and to avoid what is forbidden when there is no obstacle on the way. But, in certain circumstances, we have to forsake an obligatory act and do something forbidden in order not to appear as opponent (to others). We should practice Taqwa in a way that if our Imam divides a pomegranate into two and says that this part is lawful and the other part is unlawful, we should unconditionally accept it. We should say to ourselves: What the Imam says is exactly what the prophet and God say.
As Taqiyyah is applied in the Islamic rules, it is applied in relation to ideology too. There are many narrations in this connection. Imam Sadiq (AS) has said: “Be careful of your religion. Conceal it with Taqiyyah, for there is no faith for one who does not observe Taqiyyah. You are like a honeybee among birds. If a bird knows what is inside a honeybee, it will keep on eating the honey until nothing remains of it. If the opponents know that there is the love of the Ahl al-Bayt in your hearts, they will eat you with their tongues and will curse you openly and secretly. May God bless a servant who follows our guardianship (wilayah).”
In some traditions, Imam Ali (AS) has said: “Soon, you will be asked to curse me. Curse me, but when you are asked to disavow me, do not do it, for I am on the Fitra (nature of true faith).”18
In certain narrations, we read: “Do not do it (do not disavow me) even if you are killed.”
It is well to mention that Taqiyyah is not a feature of our time, rather it was part of the rules of former religions too. The Companions of the Cave, the believer of Aal Firoun (the family of the Pharaoh), and Assiyah wife of the Pharaoh are good examples.
On the concealing of faith by Abu Talib, Imam Sadiq (AS) mentions the example of the Companions of the Cave, saying: “The example of Abu Talib is like the Companions of the Cave, who concealed their faith and declared atheism. So God rewarded them twice.”19
As for disavowing, Maytham at-Tammar an-Nahrawani says: “One day, Ameerul Mo’minin (AS) called me, saying: ‘O Maytham! What will you do if Ubeidillah asks you to declare immunity towards me or he will call you bastard?’ Maytham said: ‘By Allah, I will never disavow you. The Imam (AS) said: ‘By Allah, he will either kill or hang you.’ Maytham said: ‘I will endure it! This is the least I can do in the way of God!’”20
Imam Sadiq (AS) has been reported by Mohammad Ibn Marwan as saying: “What prevented Maytham from practicing Taqiyyah? By Allah, he truly knew that this verse “…he who is compelled while his heart is at rest.”21 was revealed in honor of Ammar and his companions.” 22
In the exegesis (tafsir) of Qumi, we read: “The tribe of Quraish arrested Ammar in Mecca. They tortured him with fire to compel him to utter what they wanted, but his heart was full of faith. The verse “…except he, who is compelled while his heart is content with faith”23, refers to Ammar ibn Yassir.”24
Ammar ibn Yassir is one of the persons whose perfect faith the Messenger of Allah (SAW) has testified. The opponents too have said: “The faith of Ammar is up to his shoulders.”
It is narrated that one day Ammar asked the Holy Prophet’s permission to enter his room. As soon as Ammar entered the room, the Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “Welcome, O the purified one!”
Ammar is one about whom the Holy Prophet (SAW) has said: “Whoever is the enemy of Ammar is the enemy of God and whoever has rancor against Ammar has rancor against God.” Ammar is one about whom the Holy Prophet (SAW) has said: “Paradise longs for four persons: Ammar, Ali, Salman and Miqdad.” In another narration, we read: “Paradise longs for Ali, Ammar, Salman and Bilal.”25
Ammar was one of those persons, who along with his father Yassir and his mother Sommayyah, lived in the desert of Mecca with sufferings. He was ninety when martyred at Siffeen.”26
Imam Sadiq (AS) has been reported by Ali ibn Abdul Aziz as having asked: “What did Umar ibn Muslim do?” I said: “He has become an ascetic, leaving aside trade.” The Imam (AS) said: “Woe unto him! Does he not know that the prayer of one who leaves trade is not responded to?”
Then, the Imam said: “Some of the companions of the Holy Prophet (SAW), who had heard this verse: “…and whoever is careful of (his duty) to Allah, He will make for him an outlet and give him sustenance from whence he thinks not”,27 closed the doors behind themselves, were engaged in worshipping God, saying: ‘This is sufficient for us.’ This news reached the Holy Prophet (SAW). So he sent for them, saying: “What made you to do so?” They said: “O messenger of Allah! God gives us our sustenance. Therefore, we are engaged only in worshipping.”
The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “Whoever does this, God will not respond to his prayer. It is incumbent upon you to be engaged in a business.”28
The Holy Prophet (SAW) and Imam Sadiq (AS) have been reported as saying: “Not being dependent on others is a good example of divine piety.”29
Imam Sadiq (AS) has also said: “Cursed is one who is a burden to others.” 30
Piety and Trade (Business)
One of the topics dealt with in the Holy Quran and Hadith is the question of trade and business as elaborated in the books of jurisprudence. Some scholars have written separate books on it. In this relation, we can mention Makasib written by the master of jurisprudence Sheikh Ansari, and Anees al-Tejarat written for the Farsi-speakers by Allamah Naraghi, which is the best of its kind. As for books of Hadith, which deal with trade and business, we can mention such books as Wasa’il al-Shiah, and Bihar al-Anwar, one or two volumes of which have been devoted to this topic. In these books, there are traditions on the merits of trade and business and the care one must take in relation to them.
Jameel ibn Salih has reported Imam Sadiq (AS) as saying about the verse: “Our Lord! Grant us good in this word and good in the hereafter.”31, “The meaning of good is the pleasure of God and paradise in the hereafter, abundant sustenance, and good temper in the world.”32
Imam Sadiq (AS) has reported Imam Ali (AS) as saying to Mawali: 33 “Engage in trade, and God will give you blessings, for I heard the Messenger of Allah (SA) say: “Sustenance has ten parts, nine of which are in trade and one part is in other things.”34
It has been narrated that Asbaat came to see the Imam who asked after Umar ibn Muslim. Asbaat said: “He is a righteous man, but he has put trading aside.” The Imam said: “It is an act of Satan.” The Imam repeated this three times and said: “Do you not know that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) bought a flock of sheep from Damascus and sold them with profit in a way that he paid his debt and divided the rest among the relatives.? On this occasion, God revealed the following verse: “Men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts from remembrance of Allah.”35
The Imam (AS) has also been reported as saying: “Leaving trade will diminish one’s wisdom.”36
It has been narrated: “The disciples of Jesus (AS) were walking behind him and whenever they got hungry, they would ask: ‘O Spirit of Allah! We are hungry.’ Jesus (AS) touched the earth and water gushed out. The disciples drank from it and said: ‘O Spirit of Allah, Who is better than us! When we get hungry, you give us food, and when we get thirsty, you quench our thirst. We truly have faith in you and follow you?’
Jesus (AS) said: ‘Better than you is one who works with his own hands and eats from what he himself earns.’”37
Imam Sadiq (AS) has been reported as saying: “God revealed to Prophet Dawood (David) (AS): “You were a good servant if you did not eat from the public treasury. You do not do work with your own hands!”
Prophet David began weeping. God revealed to iron: “Be soft and lenient for My servant, Dawood!”
God Almighty made iron soft for him in a way that Prophet Dawood (a.s.) would make a cuirass every day and sell it for a thousand Dirhams. He made 360 cuirasses, selling them for 360 thousand Dirhams and was never in need of the public treasury.”38
Having a share of the public treasury does not necessarily mean a bad thing, but in the story of Prophet Dawood, there was wisdom behind it.
Mohammad ibn Munkadir reports: “On a hot day, I went to Medina where I saw Imam al-Baqir (AS) leaning on two slaves due to his being corpulent. I said to myself: ‘A great man of Quraish working at this hour of day in search of the material world! I will certainly give him an advice.’ Therefore, I approached and saluted him. While gasping, the Imam (AS) greeted me back. Sweat was pouring from his head and face because of hot weather.
I said: ‘May Allah improve your affairs! A great man of Quraish seeking the world at this time of the day! What will happen if death overtakes you in this situation?’ Taking his hands away from the shoulders of the two slaves and leaning against the wall, he said: ‘By Allah, if death overtakes me and I am in this situation, I will be in a state of obedience to Allah by which I can preserve my value from you and people. I am afraid of death only when I am committing a sin!’ I said: ‘May Allah bless you! I intended to give you advice, but you gave me advice.’” 39
Furthermore, trade and business must be accompanied with an understanding of the Islamic rules. Al-Asbagh ibn Nabatah reports: “I heard Ameerul Mo’minin say from on the pulpit: ‘O group of tradesmen! First, you should learn and know the rules of lawful and unlawful trade and then engage in trade. By God, usury amongst this Ummah is more hidden than an ant walking on a black stone. Let your faith be intermingled with truthfulness. A tradesman is a transgressor and transgressors are in fire unless you give with justice and take with justice.”40
Imam Baqir (AS) has been reported by Jabir as saying: “Ameerul Mo’minin used to walk in the marketplace with a whip in his hand. He stopped in a place and said: ‘O group of tradesmen! Fear Allah!’ Then, he would remind them of what was related to trade: usury, selling with underweight, injustice, false oath, besides fairness and justice.” 41
In addition to knowing the rules of trade, a Muslim should act according to his own duty and safeguard the dignity and honor of Muslims and Islam. He should not do anything for which the enemies of Islam will mock at us. A tradesman must be a model for Islam, not a source of dishonor.
He should observe what is recommended and not blameworthy in business or trade. He should practice what is lawful and avoid what is unlawful like monopoly, underweight selling, and usury.
Truly, one of the activities of human beings in the world is business and trade. If transactions are made justly, they are permissible, praiseworthy and even obligatory. However, if they are not done correctly and are contrary to the rules of Islam, they are blameworthy or unlawful.
One of the cases that trade is blamed for is to earn wealth through usury against which God has warned in the Holy Quran: “…Allah does not bless usury, and He causes charitable deeds to prosper.”42
Elsewhere, God has said: “O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remains (due to you) from usury, if ye are (in truth) believers. And if you do not, then be warned of war (against you) from Allah and His messenger.”43
Usury has been discussed in detail in books of jurisprudence and is considered as a major sin. The rulings on it can be found in the same books.
As for the punishment of usury, Imam Sadiq (AS) has been reported as saying: “One Dirham of usury to God is worse than seventy acts of incest committed in the House of God.” 44
The Holy Prophet (SAW) has been reported as saying: “One who swallows down usury, God will fill his stomach with the fire of hell as much as he has swallowed down usury. Should he earn a wealth after that, God will not accept anything of his act. God and His angels will curse him, as long as a measure of one carat from usury is with him.”45
The Holy prophet (SAW) has also been reported as saying: “The worst trade is the one mixed with usury.”46 Such a trade is forbidden in all religions and by all prophets.
Allamah Qutb Ravandi in his book Da’awat has reported: “The Messenger of Allah (SAW), during his night journey, saw a red river with a man swimming in it. On the bank of the river, there was sitting a man with many stones around him. The swimmer would often come to this man and open his mouth. The man sitting on the bank of the river would put a stone in the swimmer’s mouth. This was his repeated doing.
The Holy prophet (SAW) asked about it and it was said to him: “He has eaten usury during his life.”47
Imam Ali (AS) has been reported by Imam Baqir (AS) as saying: “One who eats usury, the agent, the one who writes (the contract), and the two witnesses involved in the dealing of usury are equal in the sin.”48
Allamah Tabarsi mentions that Imam Ali (a.s.) said: “The Messenger of Allah has cursed five groups of people concerning usury; the eater of usury, the agent, the two witnesses, and the writer (of the contract).”49
It is for this reason that the Lord of the universe has made piety obligatory in the matter of usury. Whenever the question of sale and usury are raised, God says, “Fear Allah” so that human beings are warned against it and keep away from this punishment.
Abu Hamzah ath-Thumali has reported Imam Baqir (AS) as saying: “The Messenger of Allah (SAW), during the farewell (last) Hajj, delivered a sermon, saying: “O people! By Allah! There is nothing that takes you nearer to Paradise and keeps you away from Fire except that I have enjoined on it to you, and there is nothing that takes you near to fire and keeps you away from Paradise except that I have forbidden it. Be aware! Gabriel inspired me that no one dies unless he has fully received his sustenance. Therefore, be careful of your duty to Allah. Behave well in seeking sustenance. Take care not to get anything unlawfully when your sustenance comes late; for what is with God cannot be sought except by obedience to Him.”50
1. Mustadrak al-Wasa‘il, vol. 1, p. 75.
2. Taqiyyah means not to disclose or make public one's faith or some articles of faith to the aggressive mischief-mongers, or to those who are not fit to accept the truth.
3. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 11, pp. 459,520.
4. Ibid., p. 466.
5. Ibid., p. 461.
6. Ibid., vol. 11, p. 462.
7. Qur'an, 3:28.
8. Wasail al-Shiah, vol. 1, P. 81.
9. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 1, P. 312.
10. Ibid., p. 313.
11. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 696.
12. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 4, p. 901.
13. Qur'an, 2:83.
14. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 5, p. 382.
15. Ibid., p. 381.
16. Ibid., p. 382.
17. Ibid., vol. 7, p. 95.
18. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 11, p. 478.
19. Ibid., p. 476.
20. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 11, p. 477.
21. Qur'an, 16:106.
22. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 11, p. 476.
23. Qur'an, 16:106.
24. Tafsir of Safi, p. 305.
25. Goroohe Rastgaran (Those who were delivered), vol. 1, pp. 470, 473.
27. Qur'an, 65:2-3.
28. Wasa’il al- Shiah, vol. 12, p. 15.
29. Ibid., p. 16.
30. Ibid., p. 18.
31. Qur'an, 2:201.
32. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 12, p. 3.
33. Mawali (plural form of mawla) means “one’s manumitted slaves”.
34. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 12 p. 5.
35. Qur'an, 24:37.
36. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 12, p. 5.
37. Safeenat al-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 478.
39. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 12, p. 10.
40. Ibid., p. 282.
41. Ibid., p. 284.
42. Qur'an, 2:276.
43. Qur'an, 2:278-279.
44. Safeenat al-Bihar, vol. 1, p. 507.
45. Ibid., p. 505.
46. Ibid., p. 507.
47. Ibid., p. 507.
48. Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 12, p. 430.
50. Al-Kafi, chapter of piety.