Patience and Humility of the Holy Imams (A.S.)
By: Maulana Sayyid Zafar Hasan Amrohi
Patience is the best virtue of man, because Allah is with the patient ones: Surely Allah is with the patient. (Surah Baqarah 2:153)
Patience means that when calamities befall man he refers to the Almighty and he does not utter a single word of complain. Some people start complaining about the Creator of the Universe at the slightest difficulty. For example, if there is too much rain they say: Allah is causing non-stop rain! Or: This rain is a punishment! If one has many children he starts a string of complains etc. There are many things regarding which man begins to complain against the kingdom of Allah. This is opposed to patience. But the patient ones may be afflicted with the greatest calamity but they would not utter a single word of complain against the Almighty God. There is no difference in their referral to Allah. They do not even slightly let go the reins of reliance. The high level of patience found in the Holy Imams (a.s) was such that its equal is not to be found in the Muslim world. Also, it is wrong to think that weeping in a calamity is impatience. Weeping is a psychological behavior. How can Islam promulgate a law against it? One who has an aggrieved heart would definitely cry.
Patience Of Imam Ali (a.s)
Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) was patient in all the calamities that befell Ahl ul-Bayt after the departure of the Messenger of Allah (S) from this temporal world. Actually it began during the lifetime of the Prophet (S) when people prevented him from writing a will in favor of Ali's successorship. After the sorrowful passing away of the Prophet of God the absence of the companions in the funeral was another fact that caused unhappiness to the Imam. Then the forcible insistence for pledging allegiance! The crashing of the burning door on the side of Fatima by a person well known for his ferocity as a result of which the unborn fetus was aborted. Then the deprivation of Amir'ul-Mu'minin from the right of caliphate. Rejection of the Quran he had compiled etc. They all were such terrible events that if they had befallen anyone else he would have either been fed up with his life and committed suicide or fought with the enemies. If not, then he would have started complaining about Allah Almighty. However, Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) did not do any of these.
Patient is one who, keeping in mind the circumstances restrains his desires for vengeance. The patient person has the consequences in his view and he does not give preference to a little gain in exchange of a larger benefit. In order to maintain patience in all such circumstances Ali (a.s) had to bear untold torture. He says thus in Nahjul Balagha: I remained patient while there was a thorn of sorrow in my eye and suffocation in the throat.
Ibne Abil Hadid truly said: At such a time a valiant warrior like Ali (a.s) chose to keep his sword sheathed. Only Ali could accomplish this feat.
We add here that: If the welfare of Islam had not been intended, nothing could have restrained the sword of Ali(a.s).
Patience Of Imam Hasan (a.s)
The patience exhibited by Imam Hasan (a.s) is such that it has no equal. The treatment people meted out to his respected mother and holy father after passing away of Allah's Messenger (S), is sufficient to make the sentiments of any mortal uncontrollable. However, the Imam remained patient at every, juncture. The intrigues that Muawiyah engineered against him or the cursing of Ali (a.s) from the pulpits for years. The slayings of innumerable followers of Ahl ul-Bayt. Instigating a mutiny in the Imam's army. Not following the terms of treaty for a single day. The amount that was agreed to be paid to the Imam every year according to the terms of the treaty was not even paid once. Poisoning of the Imam through his wife Judah binte Ashath. Such kinds of calamities befell him but the Imam bore all this in patience. He never became the initiator of any kind of mischief or turmoil. He could have also retaliated more severely but he did not allow the emotion of revenge to control his reason, and did not allow the blemish of bloodshed to taint his infallibility. Some battles fought against Muawiyah were all initiated by Muawiyah and defense became obligatory on the Imam.
Patience Of Imam Husain (a.s)
If we describe this epitome of patience it would make a whole book. No one had the patience of Imam Husain (a.s). If we leave all the incidents of his life and only consider the tragedy of Kerbala we would see that the patience of the whole world combined couldn't rival it. Prophet Ayyub (a.s) was very patient but his patience in comparison to that of Imam Husain (a.s) was like a drop in the ocean. The mountains of calamities that crashed on him in Kerbala and the hardships that surrounded him are well known to all. But at no time and under no circumstance the lips of Imam Husain (a.s) uttered any complaint. In the time of calamity the sentence he repeated was: We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. Can one in whose every vein of the body the spirit of patience flowed could be disconcerted with the calamities surrounding him? Rather as much the difficulties intensified as much Husain's face brightened. He became as much reliant on Allah. The world accepted that Husain is the Chief of the patient ones. In the matter of patience neither a prophet nor a saint could be his equal. If we did not have regard to brevity we would have written a whole book only on the patience of Imam Husain (a.s).
Patience Of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
The enemies of Islam committed such oppressions on Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) after the carnage of Kerbala, that only to imagine them makes the heart tremble. However the Imam remained patient in all those hardships. May be someone says that what else could the Imam have done, other than bearing all the things patiently? He did not have any army with which he could have retaliated. What strength did he possess that he could have exhibited?
We reply: He could at least have prayed to the Almighty to remove the calamities and hardships. He could have complained to Allah why He was not helping him. He could have cursed his enemies and prayed for their destruction. Agreed that at that time he was a prisoner of his opponents and could not do anything. But after being released from the prison he could have narrated the atrocities of Bani Umayyah and instigated the people to rise against them. He could have raised an army like Ibne Zubair. At that time even low scale propagation would have been successful, because injustice and oppression had made Yazid hateful to everybody. It was this same tragedy of Kerbala that was used by Ibne Zubair, Saffah and Mansur etc. to raise armies around themselves and to lay the foundation of their empires. The call of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) would have been a thousand times more effective. The whole of the Arab world could have been involved in the conflict.
But the fact was that the patience of Ahl ul-Bayt was intact. After being released from captivity they entrusted the revenge for the blood of Imam Husain (a.s) to the Almighty God and remained silent. Do not consider it cowardice. It was the most excellent kind of valour. Do not refer to it as weakness. It was the greatest type of patience. He wanted to show that though they allowed themselves to be destroyed they never could permit the perpetual bloodshed of Muslims. They never did initiate any conflict. Only when they are absolutely helpless and the enemies confront them wielding the swords and their remains no scope for reconciliation do they remove their swords from the sheaths and defend the truth.
Patience Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was also very patient and thankful. Many circumstances arose for him that anyone else would not have been able to bear, but he observed absolute patience and self-control. What can be said about others, some wretched relatives of the Imam himself caused trouble to him. They also made many efforts to cause disrespect to the Imam, but he observed patience. Hisham the ruler of Syria had restricted his movements and made life very difficult for him but he never forsook patience. He continued to act on the behavior of his holy ancestors.
Patience Of Imam Ja'far As-Sadiq (a.s)
The narrator says: One day I paid a visit to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) when one of his sons was seriously ill. I had gone to see the ill child and I found the Imam standing at the door in an aggrieved state. Then he went inside and remained there for some time. When he came out again it was seen that his condition had changed and he did not seem as much worried as he before was. I thought that maybe the child was now better. I asked the Imam about him and he said that the child has passed away. I said, “Master! You were worried when he was alive but are no more aggrieved after his passing away?” The Imam said, “This is the practice of us Ahl ul-Bayt. We seem worried and aggrieved before the coming of a tragedy but when it actually occurs we submit to the Divine Will and we act with patience and accept with pleasure all that comes from Him.
“Satisfied with His destiny and accepting His command.”
This is the specialty of us Ahl ul-Bayt. What we pray from Allah, He accepts it. But if His wisdom does not agree to accept it, we reconcile to His Will and we never utter a word of complain to Him.
Patience Of Imam Musa Kazim (a.s)
The author of Rawzatus Safa writes that a descendant of Umar was the governor of Medina. He used trouble Imam Musa Kazim (a.s) greatly, and mentioned unbecoming remarks about Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s). The close companions of the Imam requested many times to permit them to slay this man. But every time the Imam restrained them and said, “Do not do that without my permission.”
One day the devotees of the Imam said that they could no longer bear the insults and high-handedness of the Governor. “For God's sake allow us to take revenge from him.” The Imam said, “All right, tell me where his house is and where you can find him?” The people informed him. At once the Imam mounted a horse and headed for his house. There was a blooming and green field that belonged to the governor. The Imam steered his horse inside the field and began to trample it. Someone reported this to the governor who came out at once and began using abusive language. The Imam did not pay any attention and continued to ride the horse all over the field. When the crop was absolutely destroyed the Imam came to the man and asked how much he had spent on it. He said: Two hundred dinars. The Imam gave him three hundred dinars and said, “Take this amount now and also be hopeful of the future crop. If Allah wills this time the harvest would be much more than your expectations.” Seeing the excellent behavior of the Imam, the fellow got up, kissed his hands and began to ask forgiveness of his past misbehavior. He said, “Indeed no one in the world is better or even equal to the descendants of the Prophet.” After this, the Imam returned home and related the whole incident to his companions.
Then he asked them, “Now tell me whether this act of mine was better or what you had intended?” They all said that what the Imam had done was much better. The Imam actually trampled his field so that he may know that by the auspiciousness of the steps of Ahl ul-Bayt of the Prophet there is increase in the fertility of fields. Their trampling was much beneficial than ordinary greenery.
Patience Of Imam Reza (a.s)
During the period Imam Reza (a.s) resided in Merv as the heir apparent of the caliph there was an Abbaside leader who was very jealous of him. He was always waiting for an opportunity to degrade the Imam in the eyes of Mamun, but he did not get any chance. One day he came to the Imam and criticizing the Shiite religion began to foul-mouth the Imam. The Imam asked him, “O Man! After all, what is your aim with this?” “To insult you!” he replied. The Imam said, “The special servants of Allah are never humiliated.” “I do not consider you among the chosen servants of Allah,” he said. The Imam said, “When did I ask you to consider me thus? But the One Whose servant I am considers me thus.” He said, “Show me a miracle and I will accept it.” The Imam said, “Is it anything less than a miracle that you are talking in such a bad way and I am maintaining patience and self-control? Can I not complain to the ruler and have you punished severely?” Hearing this the man became regretful and fell down at the feet of the Imam and said, “From today I have become your devotee. I had come with the intention to make you behave arrogantly with me so that I can fight you and defame you in the town. But I have become a devotee of your good behavior. The fact is that being on such an important position the patience and forbearance you have shown is impossible by anyone else.”
Patience Of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s)
The officers of the Abbaside dynasty were highly jealous of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) specially when he became the son-in-law of Mamun Rashid. The nobles of the Abbaside clan did not like that Ummul Fadl be married to Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) because they had intense enmity to the family of the Holy Prophet (S), but they failed to change the decision of Mamun. This failure made their opposition more severe. Now they began to poison the ears of Ummul Fadl and said to her in a taunting way: Your father has done a great injustice upon you. He has married you to a poor and destitution-loving man. You should have been given in marriage to a prince or a son of an officer. Ummul Fadl was herself of a haughty nature while these people instigated her day and night. The result was that from the first day of marriage she began to oppose the Imam. And then she gave so much trouble to the Imam that cannot be fully related. However, the Imam observed patience and self-control. Some of his relatives also used to trouble the Imam but he never opted for any retaliatory tactics.
Patience Of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s)
Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) resided in Samarrah for thirty years. During this period he had to bear every kind of hardship and difficulty at the hands of the Abbaside rulers. Especially at the hands of Mutawakkil, the most oppressive one. However, the Imam remained patient and thankful. Seeing the atrocities of Mutawakkil and the patience of the Imam the people were much astounded. In spite of the fact that the Imam had hundreds of visitors from among his Shias, he never mentioned his woes to them. If he had even slightly instigated his followers there would have been a revolution in the kingdom of Mutawakkil, because Samarrah and the surrounding areas were heavily populated with the Shias.
Patience Of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s)
Motamid the Abbaside ruler did not leave any atrocity undone on Imam (a.s). The limit was that during the time the Imam was in captivity no one was allowed to meet him. He was given to drink cold water for two years continuously. No more than two loaves of bread were rationed for him every day. He bore all these hardships with patience and self-control. Even after his release, he was not allowed to live a free life. Such a strict vigilance was maintained on him that nothing could be more severe. But he continued to be patient in every hardship. Who can be patient like Ahl ul-Bayt?
Though we have mentioned in brief one or two incidents connected with each of the Imams (a.s), it is a fact that the Holy Imams (a.s) underwent untold hardships and calamities all their life at the hands of the rulers and hardly a day passed in peace and comfort. But in spite of lifelong hardships those patient servants of the Almighty continued to thank Him.
Humility of the Holy Imams (a.s)
Humility means to be modest and to behave in a very ordinary manner. The opposite of this is pride and arrogance. The virtue of humility was of the best kind in the manners of the Holy Imams (a.s).
Lowly before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, (Surah Maidah 5:54)
This is in praise of them only. Like the other moral virtues, humility is also a middle line. Any sort of extremism in this regard creates defect in the character of man. The aim of these qualities is that man should not become arrogant and that he does not lose the quality of servitude to God. Along with this one should behave in such a way that one may not be degraded in the eyes of the people and act like Sufi mendicants.
Humility Of Imam Ali (a.s)
Baghawi has narrated in his Mojam that Abu Salih reports from his grandfather that he saw Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) purchasing dates worth a dirham. Then he placed the dates on a cloth and began to lift them. When the narrator offered to carry them for the Imam he said, “The father of the children is more deserving to lift this load.” By this action the Imam intended to offer a lesson for his followers that they must not feel ashamed to perform any chore connected with the house and family.
Ahmad Ibne Hanbal has narrated in his Musnad from Zadan that he saw Imam Ali (a.s) holding a cane in his hand ushering people in the market and guiding those who had lost their way. He also helped people lift heavy loads and all the time recited the following verse of Quran: (As for) that future abode, We assign it to those who have no desire to exalt themselves in the earth nor to make mischief and the good end is for those who guard (against evil). (Surah Qasas 28:83)
Then he said that this verse is regarding the powerful people.
Ahmad Ibne Hanbal has also narrated in Manaqib that Abul Matar al-Basari says that he saw Imam Ali (a.s) among the crowd of date-vendors. A slave maid was weeping and the Imam asked her why she was weeping. She said that she had purchased a dirham worth of dates for her owner but he has returned the dates and the date-seller was not taking it back. The Imam told the shopkeeper that she was a mere servant and she had no say in the deal. So he must accept the returns and reimburse the money. But the shopkeeper pushed the Imam aside and refused to listen to him. Someone asked angrily, “O man! Do you know who it is?” “No,” he replied. “He is Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s).” When the shopkeeper heard this, he at once accepted the dates, repaid the money and began to implore the Imam to forgive his behavior and not remain displeased with him. The Imam said, “I can only remain happy with you if you give full measure and do not misbehave with the customers.”
Humility Of Imam Hasan (a.s)
One day Imam Hasan (a.s) was passing by a group of boys partaking pieces of bread. They invited the Imam to join them. The Imam dismounted from his steed and joined them. Then he brought them to his house, gave new clothes and a dirham to each of them. Then he said, “I have still not repaid their kindness because what they offered me was all that they possessed. And I have more than what I gave them.”
Humility Of Imam Husain (a.s)
Jabir Ibne Abdullah Ansari narrates that one day he was going to meet the Imam when on the way he came across a poor man who asked him where he was going. Jabir told him that he was going to Abu Abdillah al-Husain (a.s). The man said, “I am in great poverty, my clothes are tattered and I have no shoes. I cannot dare to go to the Imam in such a condition. You, sir, may please petition the Imam on my behalf.” Jabir took him along and they arrived at the Imam's place. When the Imam saw the disheveled condition of the pauper he said, “Come here.” The fellow hesitated. The Imam looked at him in concern and again said, “Come here. The poor sit with the poor.” The person moved forward and the Imam seated him beside himself and began to ask about his woes with sincere concern. Jabir says, “Before I could utter a single word of petition on his behalf, the Imam bestowed him a dress and also gave him a hundred dirhams. Seeing the generosity, humility and modesty of the Imam I was absolutely charmed.”
When the Holy Imam left Medina and reached Mecca, on his way to Kerbala. Abdullah Ibne Zubair came to pay him a visit. When he arrived he found that some poverty-stricken people of Mecca were sitting with the Imam and conversing with him. Abdullah desired that they should leave soon, in order that he may talk to the Imam. However the Imam continued to speak with them affectionately and comfortingly. Abdullah did not like this. When the people went away Abdullah said, “O Son of the Messenger! You allowed those people to remain with you for a long time. You should have given them whatever you wanted to give and bid them farewell immediately.” The Imam replied, “Ibne Zubair, the upheavals of the times have made them deprived. The rulers do not pay any attention to them. I though I would hear the woes of these poor people in detail and lighten the burden of their hearts. O Ibne Zubair, I am the grandson of a grandfather who used to sit with the people of Suffah (Homeless destitutes of Medina) after the Morning Prayer and remain with them till mid-morning, inquiring about their well-being.”
Harith Ibne Yazid, the slave of Marwan was a staunch enemy of Ahl ul-Bayt. One day he came to Imam (a.s) for something and the Imam behaved with him in a very cordial and humble manner. This affected him so much that after this encounter he never spoke ill about the Holy Imam and gradually he began to have so much regard for the Imam that he resigned from the services of Marwan.
Humility Of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
The cordiality and humility of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was well known among the residents of Medina. He used to deal with his slaves and maids also in the most cordial and gentle way. His behavior with his slaves was such that strangers failed to recognize which of them were the Master and which one the slave. One day a father-son duo from Khorasan came to meet the Imam. When it was the time for dinner the Imam moved forward to wash the hands of the guest but he said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah (S)! I will not allow this!” The Imam said, “It is my duty. Why do you want me to be deprived of its rewards?” Thus, the Imam did not agree and at last washed his hands. After that he ordered Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) to wash the son's hands.
Humility Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was of an unusually simple and humble nature, especially with the poor people. When the poverty-stricken people of Medina visited him, he seated them beside himself. Rather he used to spread out the skirt of his cloak and make them sit on it. He spoke with them in an affectionate way. If one of them fell ill he visited him. If on the way a needy person met him and desired to tell him his woes he used to halt at once and listen attentively to his problems.
Humility Of Imam Ja'far As-Sadiq (a.s)
Among the relatives of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) someone's son expired. He went to pay his condolences, but on the way the strap of his sandals broke. He picked up the sandals and continued walking. One of his companions asked, “Shall I bring a vehicle?” “No,” said the Imam, “For the one facing calamity nothing is better than patience and contentment.” Thus, he walked barefoot and completed the formalities of condolence.
One of his slaves fell sick. He used to visit him morning and evening and administer medicine to him with his own hands. He said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah! This illness of mine has inconvenienced you.” The Imam said, “May Allah bestow cure to you soon. I am not at all inconvenienced. Rather, I obtain heavenly rewards by visiting and serving you.”
Humility Of Imam Musa Kazim (a.s)
All his life long Imam Musa Kazim (a.s) never spoke with anyone in a harsh and caustic manner. He never hurt the feelings of others. He used to meet every high and low person in a humble way, and he fulfilled the needs of people with utmost sincerity. Pride and arrogance was never seen in his behavior.
Humility Of Imam Reza (a.s)
Someone remarked to the Imam, “By Allah! No one is superior to you as regards lineage and ancestry.” He replied, “All the virtues my ancestors possessed were due to their piety and obedience of Allah and not due to something else.” The man said, “By Allah! You are better than ordinary people.” The Imam replied with perfect humility, “O man, do not swear by Allah regarding this. One who has better piety than me is superior to me. By Allah! This verse has not been abrogated: Surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty). (Surah Hujurat 49:13)
He pointed out towards a Negro slave and said, “From the aspect of my relationship with the Prophet alone, I do not consider myself better than this slave. However, if I perform a good deed I would be better than him on the basis of that deed.”
On the basis of his humility and respect, Imam Reza (a.s) used to meet the poorest of the poor without any sort of formality. Mamun did not like this, and one day he objected to it. The Imam said, “I can forsake the heir-apparency but I cannot give up my poor brethren.”
Humility Of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s)
The narrator says that when he learnt that the Imam was married to Ummul Fadl, “I went to congratulate him. Keeping in mind the prevailing way of life I was thinking that the Imam might not allow me audience. But I was wrong. As soon as the Imam received the news of my arrival he called me at once. I saw that there was not a slightest change in his past and present condition. He had the same good manners, same cordiality, same humility, meekness and the same affection and regard. I was feeling thirsty but I controlled it and did not choose to ask the Imam for water. But the Imam realized it and he ordered his slave to get water for me. There was some delay in this, therefore the Imam himself arose and brought water for me. I said, 'Why did your highness take the trouble?' He replied, 'This is a rewardable deed. Do you want to restrain me from it?'”
Humility Of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s)
It is narrated from Saeed Ibne Salih in Rawzatus Safa that: When I learnt that Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) has shifted to Samarrah, my happiness knew no bounds. But I was greatly surprised when I found out that the ruler had housed him in the Poor House, that how a personality like Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) could agree to stay in such a place. Anyway, I came to meet the Imam and he embraced me with great affection, inquired about my well being and seated me beside himself. I said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah (S). I am your worthless slave. Do not insist me to sit besides you.” The Imam said, “Saeed bin Salih, I am the servant of the same God, Whose you are. We Ahl ul-Bayt do not allow pride and arrogance to enter our behavior.” I was highly edified by this humility-liking nature of the Imam, because there was a feeling of superiority in me due to my wealth and I used to meet with an air of aloofness with people lower in status. From that day I reformed my behavior.
Humility Of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s)
Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was of exceeding humble nature. He used to meet the high and low, all with utmost humility and simple demeanor. This was the reason that every class of people of Samarrah used to chant his praise. When the Imam passed on the way, people used to stand up as a mark of respect. The effect of this was that the crowd that attended his funeral was so multitudinous that it was not seen thus even in the funeral of the ruler.