The Aspects of Virtue in the Family
By: Hojjat al-Islam Husain Ansariyan
The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Whoever marries and visits his relatives for the sake of God, God shall attend to him by placing a crown like that of the angels on his head. [Vasa'il, v.20, p.51, Al-i-Bayt Press]
The Sincerity of One's Intentions
These wise and important words have been reported on the authority of the Prophet (Pbuh): Whoever marries to please Allah and establish a family, God will adorn his head with the crown of angels. Marriage produces numerous benefits: the loving-kindness of a wife and a husband; relief from loneliness; increase in one's daily sustenance; the happiness of two families; maintaining half of one's religion; attaining God's satisfaction; sexual pleasure; having children in one's life and finding support in life, etc. In addition to all these benefits, if one marries for the sake of God and with the best of intentions, then due to his good intentions he has engaged in a great act of worship. Marriage will make him equal in worth to angels and a crown like that of the angels will adorn his head. Why not act in such a way that God's acceptance illuminates it and places a highmost value on it?
From the very beginning, let's base the foundation of marriage and the establishment of a new life upon sincerity. Our men and women must give their total attention to this matter so that both the worldly and spiritual aspects of their lives will enjoy the attention, mercy and acceptance of Allah. Imam Ali (Pbuh) has been narrated as having said that none of our acts is of a higher value than the ones accepted by God. This has been narrated in the book Mava’ez al-’Addadiyi.
The Peak of Sincere Intention
Considering this matter, pay especial attention to this very amazing story told by the Prophet Moses (Pbuh) (Musa ibn Umran).
One day Moses (Pbuh) watered the Prophet Jethro's flocks of sheep and then in return Jethro (Pbuh) invited him to come home with him. Moses entered that great Prophet's house where the table was already spread for dinner. Jethro requested the young man to sit down for dinner. Moses replied that he could not partake of the food, so Jethro asked Moses if he was hungry. Moses replied he was hungry, but was afraid that the dinner before him was in recompense for his previous good deed. He said we are of a family who will not even exchange a bit of our good deeds for the Hereafter, even an earth full of pure gold. Jethro said: "O, young man! I swear to God that this was not what I had in mind when inviting you to dinner. I didn't intend to recompense your divine deed with food from my table. It is my father's and my custom to entertain guests and serve them food. After this discussion, Moses sat down at the table to eat. [Bihar al-Anwar, v.13, p.21]
Really, it is very astonishing that Moses had left Egypt some time ago and been wandering around in the wilderness, but during that time was not able to find any suitable food. He had eaten the sweet plants of the desert and upon entering Jethro's house he saw a prepared and pleasant table of food. Even though he was terribly hungry, he would not partake of the food because he thought that this deed only for God's sake (watering the sheep) might possibly be lessened in the sight of Allah. However, when Jethro insured Moses that he also intended to please God and had sincere intentions in entertaining his guest, then Moses sat down to eat. Jethro's sincerity was the reason why Moses became Jethro's shepherd for the next eight years. And Moses sincerity was the reason why the Prophet Jethro (Pbuh) became Moses's father-in-law.
A Surprising Example of Sincerity
For many years I had been a friend of one of the sincere men of the cloth in love with the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and his Household. His morality and behavior had taught me some good lessons. He told me that when he had left Tehran for Qum so as to become educated in theology, Ayatullah Al'Uzma Hajj Sheik Abdulkarim Haeri" . Abdulkarim was the head of the Qum Seminary. After some time, I was introduced to the Ayatullah as having an especial zeal for and way of reciting the tragedies of the Household of the Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh). I was requested to recite those tragedies for him at specified times. Gradually, I became renown for this type of recital and I was honored to be in the line of the professional reciters of the elegies for Imam Husayn (Pbuh).
One Thursday night I was taken to the home of one of the great clergymen who lived in the poorer parts of town and was asked to make a speech where I spoke for a few minutes about death referring to some lines from the book Nahj ul-Balaghah (The Peak of Eloquence).
The house owner sobbed too much and even continued doing so until the end of the meeting. I was invited to go again next Thursday night and was instructed to speak about a lighter and more down to earth subject. Whenever the distinguished house owner remembered the sermon subject from the week before, he sobbed his heart out.
Then I was told a surprising story about that man's sincerity. He was single, but our insistence upon his marrying was to no avail. After a while he accepted to get married, so a young, unmarried woman was suggested to him to be his suitable match. According to the principles of Islamic law he saw her one time, but he rejected the marriage. Later on I heard that the man had married a dark-complexioned, ugly widow having three offspring. I was really surprised to hear the news, so I asked him why he had done so. He replied that he had seen the first lady who was a virgin and accepted to marry her, but as much as he tried to do so out of sincere intentions and for the sake of Allah he found it to be impossible. So he decided to forsake the marriage. Then he said he saw the second woman whose husband had died and therefore had no one to bring in the daily bread. She was left with three orphans so no one was ready to marry her. He noted that he had found the field of sincerity of intentions and married for the sake of Allah. He also mentioned that the real benefits of this good deal would be bestowed upon him on the Day of Judgment. The Commander of the Faithful Ali (Pbuh) stated: Blessed is the one whose actions, knowledge, kindness, revenge, taking and not taking things, speaking and not speaking all stem from his sincerity for Allah. [Mizan al-Hikmat, v.3, pp.56-58]
He also said: Sincerity is the most honorable ending. [Ibid]
Hazrat Ali (Pbuh) said: Freedom is found in sincerity. [Ibid]
And he said: Sincerity is the support for the worship of Allah. [Ibid]
The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Blessed are the sincere ones. They are the lights on the path of guidance and are free from any wickedness. [Mizan al-Hikmat, v.3, pp.59-62]
Imam Hassan Askari (Pbuh) said the following about the very impressive value of the sincere ones: If I reduced the whole world into a bite of food and fed it to the one who worships God out of sincerity, then I would still think I had not done right by him. [Ibid]
The Prophet (Pbuh) stated: Do all your actions out of sincerity for God. God will not accept those actions except the ones done out of sincerity for Him. [Ibid]
Imam Ali (Pbuh) said: The one whose goal is other than God has been ruined. [Ibid]
The Prophet (Pbuh) stated: Sincerity means to avoid all divinely forbidden things and actions. [Mizan al-Hikmat, v.3, p.63]
The flower of sincerity in each action would blossom from the garden of the spirit and its scent would fill all spheres of life, if passion, lust, the instincts, keeping up with the Joneses, attachment to material affairs over and above the lawful limits and forgetfulness in one's affairs did not rule over us. O' how pleasant is the life of a man and his wife who have based their marriage on sincerity and during the course of life continue to be sincere even in the face of limitations. Say:
Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for God, the Cherisher of the Worlds: [Holy Quran: An'am 6:162]
Hypocrisy and showing off in the performance of the obligatory acts would void them and hypocrisy and showing off in the lawful acts would reduce their value.
Piety and Justice
A woman and her husband must observe the divine matters and Islamic decrees when interacting with each other. Enacting these truths in life is impossible unless one puts piety and justice to work in his life. Piety means avoiding evil deeds, bad-temperedness and unacceptable behavior. Justice means to avoid going to extremes in one's daily affairs. Oppression of a woman by a man and vice versa to whatever degree it may be is shameful, even though some may not think it is important. A woman does not have great physical strength and at times is not in good spirits. In his encounters with his wife a man must consider the various aspects of her creation, just as God has taken into consideration a woman's abilities and powers and exempted her from carrying out some duties. Woman's weaknesses must be compensated for by the graceful encounters of the man with her. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Whoever gets married for the sake of God and observe the relations of the womb, then God will crown him with the angels' crown.
The Manifestations of Virtue in the Family
She is not in a position for man to fight with her and turn the house into a field for combat and struggle. Consider the following two excellent traditions in this regard: The Commander of the Faithful Ali (Pbuh) has mentioned various detailed and important issues including the nature of woman's creation in his letter to Imam Hassan Mujtaba (Pbuh): Truly, a woman is like a bunch of scented flowers, not a source of physical power. [Vasa'il al-Shiia, v.20, p.168]
Imam Sadiq (Pbuh) said: Most residents of Heaven are from amongst the oppressed. God was aware of their weakness, so that is why He was merciful to them. Then it is incumbent upon men to obey Allah and treat women with kindness, patience, love and affection. In encounters with them, men must consider their physical and spiritual states to be a similar to bunch of scented flowers. Men should avoid going to extremes in oppressing women in any way since God who is the Creator of women has ordered men to fear Him in their dealings with women. And man must entertain God's maid in his house with all possible material and spiritual benefits. This delicate interpretation about women which shows God's especial mercy and consideration for woman has come in a very important tradition regarding the marriage of Adam and Eve in Vasa'il al-Shiia. [v.20, p.13, Al-Bayt Publications].
However, a woman must remember that a man has to suffer many hardships to run the affairs of the house. He has to worry about providing for proper housing, clothing and food for the comfort of his wife and children; things which cannot be provided for except by suffering many hardships, working, traveling and encountering various people. Thus, when the man comes home the woman should kindly receive him, take care of him with pleasant conduct and give in to his natural desires. She should welcome her life partner and fill the atmosphere of the house with the good scent of her proper behavior and smile at him thanking him for his hard work. She should attract his love. Then justice, piety, good conduct, a proper attitude, smiling, showing satisfaction, maintaining the peace, and proper entertaining are all considered to be good acts. These must be mutually embarked upon by both sexes so that their joint life is filled with these blessings. The proper treatment of a husband by his wife and that of a husband for his household constitutes a very important section of Shiite traditions being amazingly large in number.
The contents of these divine traditions are also amazing. The oppression of anyone of any other, even in the slightest amount, is not justified and the oppressor must know a terrible punishment awaits him. A man does not own his wife so that he can implement any plan he desires. And a woman in respect to her husband is not free to do as she wishes. Allah, the Prophet of Islam (Pbuh) and the Infallible Imams have designated duties for every woman and her husband. The couple may only interact with each other within that framework of duties. It is oppressive to act outside the divine limits and human, moral responsibilities and such actions have reactions in this world and the Hereafter.
A very important tradition on the authority of the Prophet (Pbuh) concerns a wife oppressing her husband and vice-versa which are satanic acts not associated with nobility. It is really important to pay close attention to it. "Neither the prayers nor any of the good deeds of a woman who bothers her husband will be accepted by God, unless she changes her ways, becomes an assistant to him and pleases him. That annoying woman should know that in case she continues to bother him, she shall be the first person to enter Hell even though she spends her entire life fasting, saying night prayers and frees slaves in the way of God. The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Such punishment exists for a man if he bothers his wife or oppresses her [Vasa'il, v.20, p.160, Al-i-Bayt Press]. Such men or women should know that God has announced his hatred of oppressors in the Holy Quran and has expelled them from his circle of love. But God loveth not those who do wrong.[Al-i-Imran 3:57]
Men and women should note that oppression is not just physical, but mean looks, paying no attention and not giving in to one’s spouse, bad behavior, being vulgar, swearing and belittling are all cases of oppression, too. The woman who oppresses her husband and the man who oppresses his wife are not true Muslims. They have left the circle of guidance and are wading in the marsh of deviation.
Nay, but the transgressors are in manifest error.[Holy Quran: Luqman 31:11]
The Prophet (Pbuh) stated: There are seven mountain passes between Heaven and a servant of Allah: The easiest one is death. Annas asked the Prophet (Pbuh) which was the most difficult for the servant. He replied: Standing in front of Allah (on the Day of Judgment) while the oppressed ones are clinging to the oppressor's collar. [Mizan al-Hikmat, v.5, p.596]
The Commander of the Faithful Ali (Pbuh) said: The evil provisions for the Hereafter consist of oppressing God's servants. Oppression unsteadies one's steps, deprives one of blessings and wipes out whole nations. [Mizan al-Hikmat, v.5, pp.595-6]
I swear to Allah that if seven countries were given to me so that I would commit a sin by taking the husk of a barley seed from an ant's mouth, I would not do so. The Prophet (Pbuh) has prohibited men from eating whatever is being transported by the mouth and feet of an ant. [Ibid]
The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Avoid oppression: Verily it is the darkness on the Day of Judgment. [Mizan al-Hikmat, v.5, p.599-600]
A man said to the Prophet (Pbuh) that he would like to among the guided ones on the Day of Judgment. Imam Sadiq (Pbuh) said: Any type of oppression is infidelity and he who beats his innocent servant is an unbeliever. [Ibid]
A Virtuous Countenance
Believing men and women have especial characteristics which are manifested in their lives, cause enjoyment in life and the appearance of a new, pure generation. These characteristics cause them to be prosperous in the Hereafter.
The believers, men and women, are the protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey God and His Apostle. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is Exalted in power, Wise.[Holy Quran: Tauba 9:71]
From many verses about believers, I think this one alone is enough to learn about their physical and spiritual attributes. Once such men and women establish a joint life, their mutual life will be filled with light, sincerity, goodness, blessings, truth and honesty. In this type of life, the man is an ideal man and the woman is an ideal woman, too. Also their life is a good life, and they are prosperous in this world and the Hereafter. The late Majlesi said: There were people whose wife and children would tell them to avoid earning illegal property when they left the house to go to work. We can tolerate hunger and difficulty but cannot tolerate the punishment of the Resurrection Day.
Truly, what virtue is greater than patience and tolerating hardships so as to protect one's self against the punishment on the Last Day. I, myself, saw a great man who sometimes would prohibit his family from buying the things they wanted in a convincing tone. He would promise to fulfill their needs at a later date when business was good. His wife and children would submit to his request and did not bother him. Family life abounded with peace and quiet, divinity and enlightenment. Khadijah the Great (the Prophet's wife) was a woman who patiently bore the hardships during her noble husband's times of difficulty. She shared in his sufferings and sorrows, and lived with the Prophet (Pbuh) in such a way that after her death he would ask God to be merciful to her whenever he remembered her and tears would flow from his eyes. At the beginning of their marriage, she devoted her great and rare wealth of those days to the Prophet's movement. The Prophet (Pbuh) gradually spent that wealth to relieve the problem of the needy and to aid God's movement: finally nothing remained of the wealth. Near the end of her life she lived with her husband in a humble house without too many furnishings. She lived in hardship and the only thing she said to her husband in those difficult days was during the last moments of her life. With tears in her eyes she asked him if God was satisfied with her. The angel entrusted with revelations descended from Heaven and asked the Prophet (Pbuh) to give his best regards to Khadijah and announce God's satisfaction with her. Khadijah became really happy and said to the Prophet (Pbuh) that life and death were now very sweet for her. Fatimah Zahra was only four years old at the time. When she felt the absence of her mother at home, she asked her kind father where her mother was, and the Prophet (Pbuh) answered that she was with the angels. Verily, a believing woman whose faith is manifested in her actions and behavior is an angel-like creature and a source of satisfaction for God and a spring of virtues and perfection.
An Instructive Story
My maternal grandmother and grandfather lived with each other for almost seventy years in peace and quiet, honesty and with faith and morality. Till the end of their lives, they never forgot the following: to lovingly perform the obligatory and recommended Islamic duties; to perform the night prayers; to recite the Quran; to make pilgrimages to the Saints; to hold religious meetings; to entertain guests; to solve others' problems; to visit relatives and to attend the congregational prayers.
My paternal grandfather and grandmother lived with each other in the same way (maybe even more devotedly) for more than fifty years. As is inevitable for everyone, my grandmother passed away near the midday call to prayers early in Muharram, the month of mourning for the Master of the Oppressed Imam Husayn while my grandfather was in perfect health. The children and the relatives were about to write announcements for her mourning ceremonies after burying her. But my grandfather told them not to do so since he was going to pass away the next night after the Isha (night) prayer. He asked them to wait until then and hold just one mourning ceremony. Everybody got worried but he pacified them.
No one could believe him, but the next night after finishing his prayer he spoke to God saying: O' God, you have promised to attend to the call of the needy and now that I am traveling to the Hereafter, please help me since I am in need. Then he recited some holy words and passed away next to his prayer mat. They buried both of my grandparents in the same grave. I saw him in a dream one night and asked him where they were. He said that he and his wife stayed where they were buried for three days, and then they were taken to the Master of the Martyrs Husayn (Pbuh). Then he said they now have a pleasant life in the divine atmosphere of Purgatory.
An Amazing Event
I became really fond of religious life, the mosques and religious ceremonies during my childhood and adolescence after witnessing my father's religious states of mind and his encounters with men of letters, mosques and religious ceremonies. During the era of the ungodly rule (the Shah's regime), a percentage of the people, especially the youth, were corrupt. Going to religious centers and my interaction with clergymen was very beneficial for me and the development of my spirit. Based on the background that I received from the family, the mosque and the religious clergy, I was attracted towards the religious centers in Qum at the age of sixteen in the year 1963 AD. There, I naturally had more encounters with religious knowledge and the men of the cloth. I had the opportunity to visit with many outstanding successful men during my studies of Islamic sciences.
I do not remember whom I heard this amazing story from, but the story is very interesting and educational showing the mental and spiritual states of a woman when her existence is combined with faith, good deeds and morality. That noble man told me: The Gohar Shad. Mosque next to the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (Pbuh) is one of the most widely frequented mosques on the earth where thousands of prayers and pilgrimages are performed each day. And tens of classes for teaching Islamic sciences and training religious clergy are held there. The founder of this mosque was an educated, wise, chaste and noble woman. Before building the mosque, she ordered the architect and those in charge to place water and hay along the path of the animals who were to carry the building materials to the mosque. This was so that none of the animals would have to carry any load while hungry or thirsty, since it is not accepted by God and one's conscience. And their owners did not have the right to beat the animals.
The work schedule had to be clearly defined, the workers had to be treated with compassion and kindness and their wages had to be paid according to their efforts. When they needed to be admonished, it had to be done so in a gentle tone and no one's feelings were to be hurt. The surrounding houses had to be purchased according to their current market prices, since a place of worship was to be built and a center for pilgrimage as well as a school for the discussion of divine sciences. The lady admonished everyone not to oppress any man or animal in the least amount, since that would lessen the value of the work done.
The Commander of the Faithful Ali (Pbuh) said in Nahj ul-Balaghah: Truly, you are all responsible for pieces of land and the animals.
Lady Gohar Shad used to visit the mosque to check the progress of the work and issue the necessary orders. Gohar Shad was the wife of Shahrukh Mirza and the daughter-in-law of Taymor Gurkany. By chance, during one of these visits one of the workers saw her face and fell in love with her, but he did not dare express his feelings since the condition seemed dangerous. This affection was a ridiculous affair, but that naive worker did not understand these things and fell ill. From the daily mosque work report Lady Gohar Shad became informed of his illness: he lived with his mother in a half-ruined house. She went to visit him. In a weak state, the poor man was pale and waning out of his love for her. After she asked about his health and insisted on finding out the reason for his illness, his mother, who was even more naive then the son, divulged the secret.
Lady Gohar Shad complained to the mother about the young worker without getting angry or using her high social status. Then she told his mother that she was ready to marry him after having separated from her husband, but he must first give her nuptial gift being forty days and nights of worshipping God and prayer in the prayer niche of the semi-built mosque. She was aware of the result of such an effort, but the young fellow accepted her proposal and out of his love and excitement he prayed there for a few days. However, his state of mind changed with God's favor and Imam Reza's attention. After the forty days had passed, Gohar Shad sent a messenger to him to inquire about his health. He told the messenger that if he only knew the pleasure of abstaining from pleasure, he would never call carnal desires pleasure. I heard a passer-by say that wine will get pure when it stays in glasses for forty days. (A poem)
By profitting from belief in God, paying attention to the Hereafter, having good attitudes and proper behavior, we can make our home a place for the manifestation of humane, divine and spiritual virtues. This is not too difficult, and if God helps one he can easily walk on this path, although it may be most difficult for others.