How to practically cure the Heart of the Disease of Pretension (Riya)
By: Sayyid Ahmad al-Fahri
Scientific Point to Eradicate Pretension from the Theological Imam Al-Khomeini, May Allah Prolong his Shade
He, may Allāh prolong his shade, has said, “We would like to state in this regard something that may be effective in treating this heart disease. According to evidence, revelation and observation, as well as the traditions of the Infallible Ones, peace be with them, and the Book of Allāh, the Great, according to His dominance over all beings, His maintenance of all what needs to be maintained…, the hearts of all the servants are under His control and in the grip of His power. Nobody can fare with the servants' hearts without the permission of the Maintaining One and His evolving authorization. It can never be. Even those who have hearts, too, cannot fare with their hearts without His permission, the most Exalted One, and His dealing.
The Holy Qur'ān informs us of this fact, and so do the narratives about Ahl al-Bayt, peace be with them, who stated so by reference, explicitly and implicitly. Allāh, Praise to Him, is the One Who owns the heart and Who fares with it, while you are a weak servant incapable of faring with hearts without the dealing of the Truthful One, the most High. Rather, His will subdues yours as well as that of everything in existence. So, if your pretension is to attract the servants' hearts and attention, to gain respect and status in the hearts, to earn a good reputation…, all these are outside your control; they are under the control of the Truthful One, the most Exalted.
The Lord of Hearts, the One Who owns them, permits them to incline to whoever He wants. And your behavior may result in the opposite of what you want. We have heard about and seen pretenders with two faces, having impure hearts, those whose affair was exposed and who gained the contrary of what they had desired. There is a reference to this in a sacred tradition recorded in Al-Kāfi as transmitted by Jarrah al-Madāini who quotes Abū Abdullāh, peace be with him, saying the following in his explanation of this verse: "Whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him do righteous deeds and in the worship of his Lord admit no one as (His) partner" (Qur'ān, 18:110): "
Someone does some good deed not for the sake of Allāh but so people may hold him in high esteem. He loves people to hear about what he does. Such person is one who associates a partner in the worship of his Lord." Then he said, "No servant does an act of righteousness then time passes by except that Allāh will bring something good out of it. And no servant does something wrong in secrecy and time passes by except that Allāh will bring out something bad out of it for him."
You, my dear one, ought to seek good reputation with Allāh. Plead to the One Who owns the hearts to let the hearts incline towards you. Work for Allāh, and let your deed be purely for His sake, for the most Exalted One will then make you loved by people in this world plus rewards you with good things and eternal blessings in the world of the hereafter. He will then enhance the impression which you leave on people's hearts and make you honored in both this life and in the one to come. But if you are able, through practices and struggles, to rid yourself of this love, too, do so in order that your heart may be pure, your deed in this direction will be sound, your heart will direct itself towards Allāh, your soul will be cleansed and the impurity of the self (nafs) will disappear.
What benefit do you reap from the love of weaklings or from their hatred, or from fame among poor servants of Allāh? Even if we suppose there is a benefit, it will last for only few days, whereas the outcome of this love could drag you to pretension; so, God forbid, you will then become a polytheist, a hypocrite, or an apostate. And if we suppose that one's [prohibitive] matter in this life will be veiled from the eyes of the people, but in the presence of the divine justice, and in the audience of the righteous servants of Allāh, His great Prophets, those who are close to Him and His angels, he will be exposed, and he will surely bear the impact of shame, finding none to help him. You have no idea what a scandal in that Day it will be and what shame and darkness which none knows save Allāh. It is the Day when the unbeliever will say, "Woe unto me! If only I were (mere) dust!" (Qur'ān, 78:40).
But it will be of no avail to him. You, poor soul, for the sake of partial love and fame, which are of no benefit, among the servants of the Almighty, turned away from these blessings, lost the Pleasure of Allāh, Glory to Him. You made yourself an object of His wrath.
You substituted the deeds whereby you can achieve the abode of honor, the eternal life, the everlasting happiness, life in the highest stations of Paradise… with the darkness of shirk and hypocrisy, and you prepared for yourself the sighs, the regret, the intense torment, becoming a prisoner in Sijjeen as described in a sacred narrative in Al-Kāfi and cited from Abū Abdullāh, peace be upon him. In it, the Prophet (Õ) says, "An angel gleefully ascends with the news about a deed of a servant. If he ascends carrying reports about the servant's good deed, Allāh, the most Exalted, the most Great, says, 'Deposit it in Sijjeen, for he did not seek My pleasure when he did it.'" I and you, in our condition, cannot imagine Sijjeen, nor can we understand the record of the deeds of the sinners or see the picture of these deeds that are in Sijjeen, but we see their reality when we are incapacitated and have lost touch with any remedy.
So, wake up, my dear one, from your sleep, do awy with heedlessness and laziness, weigh your deeds with the scales of reason before they are weighed in that world. Hold yourself to account before you are held, and rid the mirror of your heart of shirk and hypocrisy and of having two faces. Do not permit your heart to rust with shirk and apostasy lest it should be afflicted with the fire of the Hereafter. Do not let the light of nature be replaced with the darkness of disbelief.
Do not render to loss the nature whereby Allāh created people, do not betray this trust of Allāh, cleanse the heart's mirror so the light of the beauty of the True One shine in it, thus it will be more precious to you than this whole world and everything in it, and the fire of divine love will then burn in the heart, burning every love that you have in your heart for anything else, and you will not accept to replace one moment of it with the whole world, and you will enjoy the pleasure of remembrance of Allāh compared to which all animal pleasures will be nothing at all.
If you are not worthy of this station, if these images appear in your eyes to be strange, do not abandon the divine blessings in the world of the Hereafter about which the Holy Qur'ān has informed you as well as the traditions of the Infallible Ones in exchange for attracting the hearts of the beings. Do not lose these rewards, do not deprive yourself of such blissful things for the sake of an imagined fame that lasts few days, and do not trade eternal happiness for continuous pain…
Call to Sincerity from the Professor of Theology, Imam-Al-Khomeini, May his Shade be Prolonged
He, may Allāh prolong his shade, has said, "Be informed that the real Owner of the domain, the One Who truly grants bounties, the One Who grants us blissful things, having prepared them for us even before we came into this world, prepared the nutritional food that is good and suitable to our weak stomach, the One Who cultures and serves with love as great as mountains, so His service may be obligation-free, with suitable environment and air, in addition to all His apparent and hidden blissful things.
He prepared us for the world of the hereafter and that of the barzakh before we get there. This Master of blessings wants our hearts to love him, to love His Greatness, with sincerity, and the result of this love will be for our own benefit, too. Despite all of this, we do not listen to His commandment but disobey Him and take a path that does not lead us to His pleasure; so, what a great injustice we have committed! How have we argued with the King of Kings?!
And the loss is only our own; His domain is not hurt in the least, nor can we get out of His power and authority. It makes no difference to Him whether we believe in His unity or not. If we are knowledgeable about Allāh, fearing Him, pure of souls, all this is for our own good. And if we are unbelievers or polytheists, we only harm our own selves. Allāh is independent of the worlds, of their obedience, sincerity and worship. His domain is not harmed by our rebellion.
Our shirk and hypocrisy do not diminish it. But since He is the most Merciful of those who have mercy, His spacious mercy and great wisdom have required that He leads us to the paths of guidance, the ways of distinguishing goodness from evil, beauty from ugliness, and to show us what causes humanity to slip away, what robs it of happiness, and the great boon for such guidance belongs to Allāh.
The favor belongs to Him for whatever acts of adoration, sincerity and worship we perform. So long as our visions, and the eyes whereby we can see the barzakh, are not open, we are unable to comprehend this fact. And so long as we in this narrow and dark world, in this dark nature, are shackled with the chains of time, jailed in the dark extended place…, we are unable to realize the great boons that belong to Allāh Almighty, and we cannot imagine the divine blessings that lie in this sincerity, adoration and guidance.
Beware of thinking that we do a favor to the great Prophets of Allāh, or to His honored friends, or to the nation's scholars who are the guides to our happiness and salvation, who have saved us from ignorance, darkness and torment, who invited us to the world of celestial light, happiness, elation and greatness.
They bear the burdens of hardship and exhaustion while educating us so we may be saved from the darkness that lies in false beliefs and compounded ignorance and from the pressures and suffering that are the manifestations of a lowly conduct, from the engulfing fearful images of the ugly deeds, and so we may instead earn the celestial lights, the norms of happiness and elation, the pleasures of the soul, the feeling of restfulness, the huris with large lovely eyes, and the mansions that we cannot possibly imagine.
Our world of this domain, as greatly spacious as it is, cannot bear one single outfit of those of Paradise. These eyes of ours cannot bear to see a single hair of the huris with their large lovely eyes. Yet the angelic picture of beliefs and deeds has been realized, through divine inspiration, by the great prophets, especially by the one who had the total revelation, the inclusive constitution, namely the seal of prophets (Õ).
The prophets saw it, heard it, and called us towards it while we, poor souls, are like children who do the opposite of what the wise rule. Rather, humans even call these prophets wrong, argue with them and always do the opposite of what they enjoin. Yet those pure and contented personalities, the good and pure souls, due to their compassion and mercy towards the servants of Allāh, did not fall short in calling upon the ignorant one, pulling them in the direction of Paradise and happiness through any means of power and wealth, without asking them for any reward at all.
The only reward asked by the Messenger of Allāh (Õ) was that we be kind to his near in kin. Perhaps the picture of this kindness in the world of the hereafter may manifest itself in the form of the most glittering light for us. This reward is for our own good, too, so it may get us to reach happiness and mercy. Thus, the reward of following the message is credited for us, and we benefited from it: "Say: 'I ask no reward of you: It is (all) in your interest: My reward is due only from Allāh'" (Qur'ān, 34:47).
How can we, the poor ones, do them a favor, and what a great benefit do we reap from being sincere to them?! What favor do you vest upon the scholars of the nation, upon the scholar who explains the difficult issues and the rulings, or upon the honored Prophet, or upon the Holy One, the most Great?! Each person, according to his level and station, leads us towards the path of guidance.
Indeed, we owe them so much, too much to be able to reward them in this world, the world that is not at all suitable for rewarding them. Indeed, to Allāh, to His Messenger, and to His friends belongs the favor just as the Almighty has said: "Say: 'Do not count your Islam as a favor to me. Nay! Allāh has conferred a favor on you when He guided you to the faith, if you are true and sincere. Truly Allāh knows the secrets of the heavens and the earth, and Allāh sees well all that you do'" (Qur'ān, 49:17-18).
If we are truthful in our claim of belief, the favor belongs to Allāh for having guided us to thus believe. Allāh sees what we do not, and He knows the images of our deeds, of our belief, of our submission to Him in the world of what is unknown to us. As for us, the poor ones, we know none of the truth, so we learn from the one who is knowledgeable about them and feel indebted to him, and we follow the scholar and feel indebted to him, and we offer congregational prayers behind the scholar and feel indebted to him, although we owe them without knowing it. Hence, when we feel that we are the ones who do them a favor, such feeling turns our deeds upside down, hurling them into Sijjeen, rendering them to an utter loss.
The Second Level of Pretension
From what we have stated, it is learned from our greatest professor and best teacher of ethics, Imām al-Khomeini, may his shade be prolonged, that [the above-stated level of] pretension occupies in the principles of beliefs the first, the most intense and the ugliest of all.
As for the second level of pretension, it lies in the virtuous demeanors and the commendable ethics. It, too, according to what is stated by the imām, may his shade be prolonged, has two stations: The first is that a person demonstrates the commendable characteristics and the virtuous demeanors in order to attract people's hearts towards him. The second is that he declares he dissociates himself from the contemptible characteristics and ugly demeanors for the same purpose.
Our professor has said the following in this regard: "Pretension in this level, although it does not lie in the intensity of ugliness as is the case with the first station, but after attention is drawn to something that may drag the pretender in this level, too, to what places him in the first level. There is an image for man in the spiritual world that could be non-human because it is connected to the domain of the nafs and to its faculties. So, if it has virtuous human faculties, these faculties would make your spiritual picture human, if you are gathered in [the form of] these faculties once you do not get out of moderation; the faculties are virtuous when the evil-insinuating nafs does not play havoc with it, nor the path of the nafs interferes in forming it.
Actually, our professor/mentor, may his shade be prolonged, used to say that the scales in the wrongful practice and in the right legitimate practice is actually the path of the nafs or the path of righteousness: If the one treading the path does so seeking what is right, going in the direction of Allāh, his practice is right and legitimate, and Allāh, Praise and Exaltation belong to Him, will help him in his effort according to the text of this sacred verse: "(As for) those who strive in Our (cause),We will certainly guide them to Our paths, for truly Allāh is with those who do what is right" (Qur'ān, 29:69).
He will thus be attracted towards happiness, abandoning the insinuations of egotism, leaving behind the will of the nafs. It is well known that one who demonstrates to people his good manners and virtuous demeanors is prompted thus by his egotistical impetus, feeling conceited, loving and adoring himself. Loving Allāh can never coexist with egotism. Seeing Him can never coexist with seeing the nafs; it is simply impossible, a mere fancy.
So long as the domain of your presence is represented by your egotism, as you love power, prominence, fame and dominance over Allāh's servants, your faculties can never be virtuous, nor can your manners be divine because the real factor in the domain of your existence is Satan; neither your angelic aspect nor your inner-self reflect those of a human. After the angelic barzakh eye opens, it will portray you not as a human being but, say, as one of the demons.
It is impossible for the divine norms of knowledge and the sound belief in the Unity of the Almighty to exist in a heart that is an abode for the demons. If your domain does not become human, and as long as your heart is not purified of such crookedness, from any form of conceit, your heart will never be an abode for the Truthful One, the Almighty. One qudsi tradition states the following: "My earth has no sufficient room for Me nor my heavens, but there is room for Me in the heart of My believing servant."
So, there is none in existence that is a mirror reflecting the beauty of the loved One except the heart of a believer. The One Who fares with the believer's heart is the Almighty, not the nafs, and the factor in its existence is the loved One. The heart of a believer is not one of a person who sticks to his view no matter what, prattling; the heart of the believer is in the fingers of the most Merciful One, turning it however He pleases. The One who fares with the domain of a human heart is Allāh. Turning and alternating it is done through the will of Allāh Almighty.
You, poor soul, who is worshipping himself, with whose heart Satan and ignorance fare, having put an end to the faring of the Truthful Almighty with your heart, through what belief do you expect to be a source for the manifestation of the Truthful One and of [His] absolute domain? Be informed that as long as you remain thus, as long as this vice, the dominance of the will of the nafs over you, you are a disbeliever in Allāh, treading the path of the hypocrites even if you imagine yourself as being a Muslim, a believer in Allāh.
Wise Admonishment from the Professor of Theology, Imam-Al-Khomeini, May his Shade Last
Wake up from your sleep, dear one, abandon negligence and tardiness, let your eyes abstain from indifferent sleep, and be informed that Allāh Almighty created you for Himself as the qudsi tradition states: "O son of Adam! I created all things for your sake and created you for Myself." In the [divine] address whereby Moses was honored, the Almighty said, "… And I chose you for Myself" (Qur'ān, 20:41).
Turn your heart into an abode for Him, as He has also said, "My earth and heavens do not have room enough for Me, yet the heart of My believing servant does." So, you and your heart are among the divine canons. Allāh Almighty is jealous; therefore, beware of daring to cause your own perdition and be exposed to the law of the Truthful One, the Almighty.
Fear Allāh's jealousy lest He should expose you in this world to a scandal which, no matter how hard you try to rectify, you are unable to rectify it. You are within the domain of your own self and in the presence of the honored angels and great prophets, yet you dare to violate the divine canon and the virtuous manners whereby the friends of Allāh try to imitate Him!
You hand them over to someone else other than the Truthful One; you grant your heart to the enemy of the Almighty, committing shirk in your inner-self and in its domain; so, beware lest the Almighty should expose the domain of your own self and expose you before the angels near to Him. Moreover, He will expose you before this world, afflict you with a scandal that can never be rectified, scandalize you with a rift that can never be sewn together again. Allāh, Glory to Him, covers shortcomings, but He also is jealous.
He is the most Merciful of those who show mercy, yet He also is the most tough when it comes to penalizing. He covers faults so long as they do not go overboard. When a fault does, God forbid, due to such a momentous act and ethical scandal, His jealousy overshadows his covering as you heard in a sacred tradition. Be aware, then, of all of this and go back to your senses; express your regret to Him for He, the most Exalted One, is Merciful and tries to help people obtain His mercy.
If you return to Him, He will hide your past shortcomings, not acquainting anyone with them, vesting virtue upon you, personifying in you the commendable manners, making you the mirror of His attributes, carrying out your own will in that world; His will is effective in all worlds, according to the following tradition about the people of Paradise: "An angel comes to them [to the residents of Paradise] seeking permission to enter. Once he enters, he will hand them over a letter from Allāh after having conveyed the greeting of the Almighty to them. In the letter there is an address to everyone. Everyone is addressed thus: 'From the Ever-living, the Sustaining Who never dies. I say to a thing BE, and it is, and I have made you this day able to say BE to a thing, and it is.'"
The Prophet (Õ) goes on to say that it is then that whatever a resident of Paradise commands, it comes to be. The command there will be yours if you want to achieve such a status. If you submit your will to Allāh, He, Praise to Him, will make you the manifestation of His will, faring with the affairs; the domain of creating will be at your disposal in the Hereafter. This is different from the impossible false authorizing.
You, dear one, ought to choose for yourself one of these two matters, for Allāh Almighty is independent of us, of the entire creation, of our sincerity and the sincerity of everyone and everything in existence.
Third Level of Pretension
This is the pretension that is known to be found among jurists, may Allāh be pleased with them, and it, too, has two degrees: The first degree is that one carries out his action and whatever worship is legislated for him, or through what he deems as rationally commendable, intending thereby to show his acts of adoration to the people and win their hearts, intending to be pretentious through that act of worship or through its method, or condition, or a part thereof, as described by our fellows in their books of jurisprudence.
The second degree is that he abandons a deed in order to reach the same result. The greatest professor of theology, imām al-Khomeini, says the following: "Be informed that pretension in this level is more frequent and common than all other levels because most of us are not qualified for both above-stated levels. In this aspect, Satan does not intercept our way from that highway.
But, since most people are worshippers, upholding the rituals and formal manifestations of adoration, Satan is active here more than anywhere else, and the plots of the nafs in this level are many more. In other words, since most people, according to their quality, live in a physical Paradise, earning stations in the Hereafter through doing good deeds and abandoning bad ones, Satan, too, enters upon them from this door, instilling in their hearts the roots of pretension and deception in their deeds, so much so that branches grow out of them and leaves, substituting their good deeds with bad ones, hurling them into hell and the lower stations through these same rituals and acts of adoration, rendering the means whereby the abode of the Hereafter are built requiring their very destruction, introducing into an act what is supposed to get one in the 'Illiyyeen station to be turned by the angels, according to the command of the Almighty, into one qualifying the individual to be hurled into the inferno. The persons who fit in this level, who have neither rations nor a conveyance for the trip [to the Hereafter], must persist in cultivating themselves fully, and they must not neglect this matter, too, God forbid, lest they should be among the fellows of hell: They lose track of the path to happiness, and the gates of Paradise will be closed before them while those of the fires will be opened." Thus the imām, may his shade endure, ends his statement.
Levels of Pretension from the Aspect of what is Hidden and what is Manifest, a Precise Research in the Issue of
Be informed that pretension, in as far as being manifest or hidden, has several levels. Some levels are obvious, some are more obvious, whereas some others are hidden, and some are more so.
The first level: It is the most obvious level: Someone undertakes an action in order to show off in a way so as if the need to pretend is not there, he will not do it. It is the most obvious of its levels and needs no explanation.
The second level: It is a little bit more hidden: The pretending side is not initially prompted to undertake the action; rather, the side that urges the origin of the action is the Divine side, the nearness to the Almighty, but the non-divine side intrudes into it, so much so that the act, despite the care of this side, becomes easier to undertake without it, such as one whose habit is to perform the tahajjud and to perform the night prayer (qiyam).
He performs it every night, but while feeling lazy and drowsy. But when he has a guest, he stands up from his bed with agility and ease. Had he not hoped for rewards from Allāh, he would not have abandoned the pleasure of sleep not only due to the presence of the guest but this presence had an impact on him, making it easier for him to pray and to offer tahajjud, and the prayer will then be easier than it would have been if he had been by himself.
The third level: In it, the pretension is more hidden than it is in the second level: The non-divine side has nothing to do with the original intention to undertake the action, nor in the ease of doing it. But, at the same time, the substance of pretension is present in the heart. It is known that such pretension cannot be identified except through the precise experiment such as suspected terminal physical ailments since these, after medical analyses, indicate the presence of a disease which the doctor starts treating.
So is the case with this spiritual disease: Precision is a must in diagnosing it. If some traces of the ailment are found, its substance will be known to be present. Its indication is that one must test himself at a time when people accidentally get to see his adoration. Will he then feel happy and elated on account of their seeing him or not?
An individual may undertake an action with a sincere intention, desiring no pretension in it; rather, he even avoids pretending and hating it. But, at the same time, if he realizes that someone accidentally gets to know about it, he becomes happy, as if he feels restful when he gets to know that the individual saw how that act exhausted him. Such happiness and elation form the mark of pretension which is hidden within him, inside him, from which elation drips.
Had he directed his attention towards anyone other than Allāh, and had he paid no attention to people, there is no sense in this elation when he knows that others came to know about his [righteous] deed. Happiness [in such a case] is like a fire that is hidden inside a stone. It becomes evident when the stone hits iron and the hidden fire comes out to the open and becomes obvious when the stone hits a stone. People who are acquainted with and knowledgeable about the stone hitting the iron expose the hidden pretension.
At that time, if this person does not react to this pleasure, that is, when happiness appears in his heart, and if he does not rebuke himself for it, reprimand it and meet it with hatred, this pleasure will be like nutrition for the disease's substance. It grows undetected, and the effect of that growth gradually creates in him the need to find a reason for people having to be familiar with his work. It is like talking about a subject and saying something casually. For example, if he is one of those who offer tahajjud, he talks about how the weather is cold or hot at the end of the night, or about something like that, so that others will understand that he was awake at that time [for tahajjud].
It may even be more hidden than that, too, such as one does not say anything to suggest to others familiarity with them, with his actions, neither explicitly nor implicitly. But people can get to know it from the way he dresses himself, his appearance or general conditions, such as drowsiness, the low tone of his voice, how his lips are withered…, etc. Or he may not watch himself during his prostration in order to avoid hitting the ground so prostrating will bear an impact on his forehead. Deep inside his conscience he will be elated about it, that is, that he has a visible mark of adoration.
Or he may be at a mourning commemoration for Imām al-Hussain (Ú) or a gathering for supplication. At the end of the gathering, he does not remove the tears from his eyes fully. There are marks like these, and even more hidden than that, which show no such indications: This means that he may perform a [righteous] deed sincerely without desiring anyone to notice it, nor does he like it to show, yet he expects people to start greeting him, to be generous to him, to meet him with a smile, with respect, to praise him, to be energetic in carrying out his errands, to be tolerant as they trade with him, etc. If he goes to a meeting place, they make room for him.
If anyone falls short of doing any of these things, he will find it in his heart to be too heavy, and he will find it unsuitable for his status. It is as if he is rewarded by people for the worship which he hides, so much so that had he not performed such worship, he would not have demanded all of this, nor would he have found it unacceptable when people treat him any less than that. In my view, this has roots which also extend to conceit. In reality, he demands that from Allāh, the most Glorified One, and even wonders why the Almighty did not cast love for him in the hearts of people so they may respect him although he did perform that "sincere" act of worship!
As a whole, unless the presence of worship is similar to its absence with regard to everything relevant to people, and had one not contended himself with the fact that Allāh knows about what he does, such an individual will not be free of pretension, even as low as the sound of ants' tracks, nor is he free of conceit either which we, by the will of Allāh, will discuss.
It is possible this much pretension voids one's rewards. Nobody is spared such type of pretension except Allāh's sincere worshippers, for Satan can have no way of reaching them. Perhaps a reference to this lies in a statement by the Commander of the Faithful Ali (Ú) who is quoted as having said, "Allāh, the most Great, the most Exalted, will say to those who recite [the Holy Qur'ān in public] on the Judgment Day: 'Did people not sell to you cheap? Did people not start greeting you? Were your needs not taken care of by people?' According to tradition, [the Almighty adds saying] 'There are no wages for you here; you were paid your wages in full.'"
Abdullāh Mubarak is quoted as having said that it is narrated about Wahab son of Muneer saying that a man from among the travelers said to his fellows, "We left behind the wealth and the sons fearing oppression, now we fear lest more oppression has afflicted us than that with which people who have wealth have been afflicted!
If one of us is met, he likes to be respected because of the station of his piety. If he asks for something, he likes to be given on account of his faith. And if he buys something, he likes the seller to sell it to him cheaper because of his faith!" This reached the knowledge of their king who rode among a crowd of people. The valley and the mountain became full of people. That traveler inquired about it and was told that the king was coming.
He asked his servant to bring him food. He was brought beans and oil which he kept stuffing in his mouth, eating violently. The king asked the travelers, "Where is your fellow?" They pointed to him, whereupon the king asked him, "How are you?" The man said, "Like anyone else," but according to another way of telling this incident, "I am fine." The king said, "There is nothing good with this man," leaving him. The traveler said, "Praise be to Allāh Who sent you away from me, thinking ill of me!"
Yes, my dear one, the sincere ones were apprehensive of hidden pretension, trying hard to mislead people about their righteous deeds out of their concern about hiding them more so than people's concern about hiding their bad deeds and sins, all of this in the hope their good deeds will be sincere, so Allāh will reward them on the Judgment Day by hiding these bad deeds and sins from people. These sincere folks knew and became convinced that Allāh Almighty does not accept anything but what is purely for His sake, for He has said,
"And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allāh, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith): To establish regular prayers, and to practice regular charity: such is the right and straight religion" (Qur'ān, 98:5).
The Judgment Day is the Day of their want and need for righteous deeds; it is the Day when neither wealth nor offspring will be of any benefit save for one who reaches Allāh with a sound heart.
A scholar has provided this example: The desert travelers go there with the best currency in circulation because they know that the need for it is the greatest in the desert, and that the desert people accept only the best currency. The same applies to those who have hearts. They witness the Day of Judgment and the rations whereby they supply themselves: piety, knowing that the best of rations is piety. They bring about deeds that are free of pretension, protecting themselves against all levels of pretension.
Unique Qur’anic Jewel
While narrating the story of Yousuf (Joseph) and his brothers, the Qur'ān states that after the latter having come to Egypt and asked Yousuf to provide them with provisions and rations, the Qur'ān states the following: "At length, once he had furnished them with provisions (suitable) for them, he put the drinking cup in his brother's saddle-bag. Then a crier shouted out, 'O you (in) the caravan! Behold! You are thieves, without doubt!'" (Qur'ān, 12:70).
One of the men of knowledge says, "It is not right to think that Yousuf accused his brother of theft so he would take him and keep him in his company because if Yousuf's purpose was to keep his brother with him, he did not have to accuse him in this ugly way, embarrassing him and letting him fall in the public's esteem as a thief although he is the son of the prophet of Allāh. Rather, he could have found another excuse to do that without scratching his dignity.
If he had to, he could have done so secretly, say, in a confidential personal meeting rather than before the public, so much so that a crier had to cry out to the caravan, charging it of theft. So, what prompted this announcement to the caravan which contained Canaanites who would return to the land of Canaan and the robbery committed by a prophet of Allāh would be the core of the talk in all meeting places and gatherings? Men will talk about it and so will the women, and the reputation of a house about which people know nothing but honor and spirituality will be ruined. There has to be something hidden in this matter."
The man of knowledge goes on to say, "The hidden matter is that reaching truly divine dignity is not easy except through public humiliation. We tie dignity to the truth because posts and stations among the public are not truly dignifying. True dignity is in reaching nearness to Allāh. In other words, it is neighborliness of Allāh, the company of the Lord of the Worlds, a station of the truth near an Able King. The company of Allāh's servants is the company of Allāh. Whoever loves you loves Allāh, and whoever hates you hates Allāh. Whoever Allāh chooses, He starts with you. Whoever visits his brother in Allāh, the Almighty says, 'You have visited Me'.
This dignity does not become available except when conditions are met the greatest of which is humiliation by the people. If you wish, you can say that the greatest obstacle in the path towards Allāh and towards reaching Allāh's courtyard is love for prominence and eminence among the people. So long as the heart remains attached to such love, the owner of this heart cannot reach his destination as this narrative tells us: Two ferocious wolves, one of which attacks a herd of cattle from its beginning and the other from its end, are as detrimental to one's creed as loving distinction and a high station.
Therefore, the worldly mastership is rejected in the eyes of Allāh's friends who hate it as the Master of the Pious has said, 'By the One Who split the seed and created the breeze, had it not been for the presence of what is present…, you would have found this world of yours less important in my esteem than a goat's sneeze.' One who treads this path must take this love out of his heart, even if it means dropping his esteem from public eyes if he does not feel secure regarding the ills and detriments of his own nafs, just as severing a part of the body is permissible, even obligatory, when there is concern about the health of the rest of the bodily parts.
Therefore, the virtuous al-Naraqi has narrated in his book Mi'rāj al-Sa'āda about a scholar reciting the Qur'ān in front of their students and sincere ones deliberately in a way about which they claim he has no knowledge and that he is illiterate. Committing a small harm in order to attain a great deal of goodness is rational and according to the Sharī`a permissible. This concept has many testimonials from those who tread the path towards Allāh, and many refer to it in their poems.
One of the men of knowledge says, "I saw once in a vision someone whom I did not know. He handed me a piece of paper and ordered me to sign it. I signed it without knowing what is written in it or be familiar with its contents. Once I have signed it, the person who gave it to me said, 'Our narrative is quite hard; it is not tolerated except by an angel who is near to Allah, or a sent prophet, or a servant whose heart Allāh tested with conviction.'
He read this tradition and said, 'I undoubtedly choose humiliation.' So, I woke up from my sleep and came to know that I had signed the document of my humiliation among the people so I may win through such humiliation the ability to bear the difficult traditions and the secrets of Ahl al-Bayt, peace be with them." This topic has a lengthy continuation, so we shall leave it for its place and people.
Generally, the impurities of hidden pretension are numerous, countless. As much as one realizes on his own about how a human being or an animal becomes acquainted with his adoration, he still has a branch of pretension. Since he has no hope set on animals and infants being thus acquainted with his adoration, he does not care whether they are present [when he is involved in an act of adoration] or if they are absent, whether they notice his adoration or not.
If one is sincere, having no desire about anyone [with regard to his acts of adoration], he will think very lowly of their knowledge of his acts of adoration because he knows that they, too, are like children: They cannot bring him sustenance, nor can they bear any impact on his destiny, nor increase his rewards. Rather, they cannot bring their own selves any good, or any harm, or death, or life, or resurrection…, etc.
At this point, in order to explain what we are driving at, we have to submit a question because the matter is very important: We see most people feeling glad when their good deeds are recognized; so, is such feeling of happiness lauded by the Sharī`a, or is it held as contemptible?
The answer is that it is not lauded at all, nor is it held as contemptible either. Instead, it is praised in some cases and held with contempt in others. Here are the details: The lauded one falls into four categories: The first is that one's intention is to hide the acts of obedience and sincerity to Allāh, but when people noticed what he was doing, he has to remember that Allāh, the most Praised One, by virtue of His Attribute expressed in this supplication: "O One Who manifests what is beautiful!" has manifested something beautiful, so he is led to think that Allāh has fared well with him: The perfection of His munificence is that He hides obedience and disobedience. But Allāh, due to the beauty of His care, hides the man's acts disobedience while manifesting those of his obedience. This is a great act of kindness from the part of Allāh Almighty in his regard, hence the man is very happy on account of Allāh having done such a nice thing for him, not because people praise what he has done or the status in their hearts which he now occupies. It is as though he sees through it that Allāh, due to His favor and mercy, has accepted his deed, so he is happy about it.
"Say: 'In the bounty of Allāh, and in His mercy, let them rejoice!'” (Qur'ān, 10:58).
The second is that his happiness stems from [his conviction that] since Allāh Almighty manifests what is beautiful in him while covering up what is ugly in this life, He will do likewise in the Hereafter as well, for Allāh is the Lord of the Hereafter and of this life. Actually, His mercy in the Hereafter is broader than it is in the life of this world as referred to in the traditions.
It is as though he is repeating what Imām Zayn al-`Ābidin (Ú) has said in one of his supplications thus: "Lord! Just as You have covered up sins that I have committed in this life, I have a greater need that You will veil them in the Hereafter." His elation in the first case is due to accepting what is in the present time without considering the future, while in the second his mind is set about the future. One tradition states the following: "When Allāh covers up the sin of one of His servants in the life of this world, He covers it up for him in the Hereafter as well."
The third is that his elation stems from his belief that hopefully those who see his act of adoration will emulate him, hence he will have an increase in the rewards. Even if he undertakes the action publicly with this same intention, he will not be violating the spirit of sincerity: He will have the reward, due to his intention, as though he undertook that deed privately firstly, and secondly due to Allāh Almighty manifesting his deed and letting others emulate his act of obedience to Him, and one who thus feels elated is quite justified. The manifestation of indications of benefit is sweet and undoubtedly prompts one to be happy bout it.
The fourth is this: When he sees how those who noticed his act of adoration praise him for being obedient to his Lord, he will feel happy and glad that they, too, obey Allāh and love to see people obeying Him as well; their hearts incline towards the good deeds.
There are some people who see obedient people and hold them in contempt, or feel envious, or speak ill of them, or ridicule them, or charge them with pretension rather than praise them for their act of adoration. This elation is due to seeing how good the belief of Allāh's servants is, how good their souls are. The sign of sincerity in this type is that one feels happy when people praise someone else just as he feels happy when they praise him, perhaps even more so, as it is quite obvious.
As regarding what is contemptible, it is when one feels happy for having earned a status in the hearts of people, so people may now praise and magnify him: This is hated and is contemptible, and surely Allāh knows best.
Wise Admonishment from the Professor of Theology, Imam-Al-Khomeini, May his Shade Endure
Quite often, it so happens that a pretender does not pay attention to the fact that pretension has penetrated his actions, that his good deeds are a pretense and worth absolutely nothing. This is so because the traps of the self (nafs) and those of Satan are quite minute and transparent. Humanity's path is very narrow and dark: Unless man fully examines, he does not pay attention to what he does.
One thinks that his deeds are purely for the sake of earning the Pleasure of Allāh, but they instead please Satan. Since it is the human nature to be egotistical, such love for one's own self veils him from seeing his own faults. For example, earning the science of religion, which is one of the important acts of obedience and adoration, may afflict one with pretension in this great form of adoration even while he is unmindful, unaware, of it.
He, as we have already stated, due to the thick curtain, the curtain of self-love, likes to solve a scholarly problem in the presence of scholars and chiefs in a way which nobody else came up with. It will make him stand out, according to his own thinking. The more he explains the problem sufficiently, attracting the attention of those present, the more elated he feels. If someone opposes him, he has to overcome and humiliate him; he has to make him lower his head before people, forcing his own argument on him, his opponent, whether it is right or wrong.
After vanquishing the opponent, he feels within himself that he has distinguished himself and earned a place of prominence. If a master believes what he says, so much the better. And the poor man is unaware that although he earned a status among the scholars and men of virtue, he dropped in the esteem of his Lord, the King of kings in all domains Who orders the deed of such an individual to cause him to be hurled into Sijjeen.
This pretentious deed was also mixed with various forms of disobedience: scandalizing a believer and humiliating him, harming the brother-in-faith, insulting and sometimes uncovering his faults. All these are sins and make an independent cause to render such an individual to be among the fellows of hell. If we suppose that the nafs places its trap before you and says to you, "My objective is to explain the legislative ruling and show the word of truth, which is the best form of obedience.
My goal is not to demonstrate my distinction, or to brag," you must ask it about its inner self the following question: If my friend, who is like me in my scholarly degree, explains the legislative ruling, and if he solves the problem himself, and if you were subdued in that meeting place, will your attitude be contrariwise?!' If the case is positive, you will be truthful in your claim. But if the nafs approaches you through the venue of trickery, abandoning no deception, saying to you, "There is a virtue for manifesting righteousness, and Allāh rewards for it, and I want you to win this virtue and let you live in the abode of Allāh's rewards," you must say to it, "If we suppose that Allāh, the Praised One, granted you this virtue in case you are subdued and if you believe in righteousness, will you still seek victory over your opponent?"
Upon referring to your inner-self, if you find out that you love victory, too, and fame among the men of virtue as being a man of both knowledge and virtue, and that this scholarly research was in order to gain a status in their hearts, be informed that you are a pretender in this scholarly research which is one of the best forms of obedience to the Almighty and one of the best acts of worship, and that this deed was prompted by love for prominence and distinction which is more harmful to your conviction (imān) than two wolves raging in a flock the shepherd of which is absent, according to a narrative.
You are obligated, as a man of knowledge who seeks reform, one who guides others towards the path of the Hereafter, a doctor of psychological ailment, to reform yourself first and to repair your own temper so you will not be among the scholars whose good deeds are void, whose condition is very well known.
Lord! Do purge our hearts of the impurity of shirk and hypocrisy! Purify the mirror of our hearts from the adornment of loving this world which is the cause of all these matters. Be our Companion, help us, we poor souls who are afflicted with loving ourselves, with loving distinction and eminence, along this dangerous journey, this path that has many obstacles, the narrow and dark one, surely You can do anything at all, Allāhomma Āmeen.
Among the important acts of adoration in Islam is the congregational prayer service in which the distinction of the imām is greater; therefore, Satan penetrates in it more than in others. His enmity towards the imām is greater. Satan stands to deprive the imām of this virtue, empty his deed of sincerity, thus causing him to be lodged in Sijjeen, rendering him associating a partner with Allāh, the most Great.
Satan enters into the heart of imāms of congregational prayers from various paths such as conceit and pretension, which is making a show of this form of worship before the public in order to win a status in their hearts and earn the reputation of being great and sublime. For example, Satan sees so-and-so, who is a great worshipper, having attended his congregational prayers, whereupon he increases his submission, bringing him closer to himself through various means and tricks in order to get him in the end to fall in his trap.
He reminds the imām in his place of meeting, or through another way, to let people know that "So-and-so worshipper attends my congregational prayer service," finding in his heart love for this person who attends his service, demonstrating love and sincerity to him in a degree which he does not demonstrate to Allāh Almighty or to His close servants even for one moment in his lifetime, especially if the attendant of the prayer service is a respected businessman. If, God forbid, a man of distinction attends the prayer service because of losing track of his path, so he joins the ranks in his congregation, the calamity will then be greater.
Satan, at the same time, does not leave the imām alone whose group is smaller in number. He attends and insinuates to him to let people understand that "I have abandoned the world and I pray in the quarter's small mosque with the poor and the indigents." This imām is like his predecessor, even worse, because he nurtures in his heart the vice of jealousy, too, permitting its tree to produce its fruit. Since he had no share of the good things in this life, Satan deprives him of his share in the Hereafter as well, rendering him a loser in this life and in the one to come.
This Satan does not leave me or yourselves alone when we are not imāms of the congregational prayer service not because we shy away from it but our hands fall short of it, so he insinuates to us to defame the group of Muslims, to charge them, to suggest that there are faults with that group, counting our deprivation of the group as our isolation from it and abandonment of this life.
We identify ourselves as being free of love for the self and for prominence. We, then, are in a worse shape than both previous groups. We do not have the complete life enjoyed by the first group nor the incomplete one for the second group, nor do we have the Hereafter. Had we been able, our seeking eminence and our love for distinction and wealth would have been greater than both those groups.
Satan is not satisfied with playing tricks on the group's imām, nor is the fire of his desire quenched by turning the imām into a fellow of hell, but he also enters the rows of those who follow the imām as well to commit his mischief.
Since the first row is the best, and since the right side of a row is better than the left, it is his first target. Satan takes the hand of the poor worshipper and gets him out of his house despite the distance from the place where the group congregates and seats him in the right side of the first row. He starts insinuating to him to inform people of this virtue which he attained. This poor man, too, without Satan tempting him, manifests the distinction of his own self with twinkling and coddling, thus his inner shirk shows itself, entering his deed into the Sijjeen (the sinners' record).
Then Satan enters in the rest of rows, mobilizing their folks to hold on to the first row and to throw the poor worshipper, who is sitting in the first rank, with their arrows of defamation and curses while labeling themselves with integrity. It may be noticed that Satan takes the hand of a respected person, especially if he is among the people of knowledge and distinction, to seat him in the other row so that this person may show people that despite his status among the public or in the world of knowledge, while a man like him ought not emulate such an imām, but "On account of my renunciation of this life and abandonment of the self's desire, I attended his congregational service. Despite all of this, I even sat in the last row…"
The likes of this individual are never seen in the first row at all! Satan does not contend himself with only the imām and those who follow him but sticks to the beard of one who prays individually, taking his rein, pulling him out of the home or market, spreading a carpet for him with twinkling and coddling in a corner in the mosque, a man who does not see any imām as being just, so he prolongs his bowing and prostrating as people look on, repeating lengthy sacred verses.
This person hides inside himself his desire that people must understand the following: "Due to the plentitude of my sanctity and precaution, I abandon the group so I may not be afflicted by praying with an imām who is not just." Besides being conceited and pretentious, this man is also ignorant of the issues of the Islamic Sharī`a because the emulation authority of this person perhaps does not apply any criterion besides a good appearance so he may emulate an imām.
Thus do we place the rest of our matters at the disposal of Satan while whenever this cursed one finds an impure heart to which he resorts, he burns the apparent and the hidden deeds, rendering him among the fellows of hell even through good deeds. Thus ends the wise admonishment of Imām al-Khomeini.
Explaining how to scientifically and Practically cure the Heart of the Disease of Pretension
Some scholars of the hereafter have made statements in this regard which I would like to cite here briefly with some explanations: You have come to know that pretension voids the good deeds and causes Allāh to hold one in contempt, that it is one of the major lethal sins; so, you have to get ready, be serious and struggle while bearing the hardship of uprooting this tree from the heart. Reaching the ladders of sublime humanity is not easy without bearing hardships. Likewise, getting rid of terminal diseases cannot be achieved except by taking bitter medicines. This struggle, though tough in the beginning, falls within the practical field; its hardship gradually dissipates completely.
Let it be known that the origin of pretension is love for prominence. If love for prominence is analyzed, it will be rendered to three roots:
1. Love for praise; man loves to be praised and lauded; he finds pleasure in hearing compliments,
2. Flight from ill reputation; man hates to be the source of ill reputation; he is harmed and feels the pain when hearing that his reputation is being chewed,
3. Greed for what people possess.
These three often cause pretension.
It may be observed how one does not desire praise, nor does he covet lauding, nor does he look at what others enjoy, but he cannot tolerate to be reprimanded and spoken ill of, so he undertakes a pretentious act. He is like a miser individual who participates in a deed of righteousness when he sees others doing likewise, spending money for that cause. He finds himself among generous people who offer plenty of money by way of charity.
He offers little of it by way of charity so he may not be described as a stingy person. Or he may be like a young man among youths who are worshipping, keeping themselves busy with prayer and supplication, so he, too, prays and supplicates so that he may not be spoken ill of and accused of being lazy and idle. And there are among the scholars those who do not covet to be praised by people, but he cannot tolerate to be identified as knowing very little.
If he is asked about an issue with which he is not familiar, he is swift to issue a verdict without knowledge rather than convincing himself of asking someone else who is familiar with it for fear he may be held as ignorant. Generally speaking, one can be patient with regard to the pleasure of praise but cannot tolerate the pain of being spoken ill of.
One who treats these three causes has to know that one seeks and desires something due to thinking that it is good, useful and sweet to him, whether it is so now or it will be in the future. If he gets to know that it is pleasurable in the present time but is harmful in its outcome, it will be easy for him not to desire it. It is like one who knows that honey is delicious, so he craves eating it, but if it becomes obvious to him that it contains poison, it will be easy for him to shy away from it. Thus is the case with our subject.
No matter how much a servant of Allāh knows that pretension is harmful, that it causes him not to reform his harm, that it deprives him of imminent success and the loss of a station in the hereafter, in the final outcome, bringing him punishment, contempt and infamy, when someone cries out as witnesses testify: "O debauchee, treacherous, pretender, polytheist! Did you ever feel the shame when you traded the obedience to Allāh for what the short life offered? Did you not watch people's hearts but did not watch out when you meet the Truth, Praise to Him? Did you not seek popularity among the servants of Allāh by doing what brings about wrath from Allāh?
Did you not decorate yourself with what makes you look bad in the eyes of Allāh? Did you not seek nearness to the servants of Allāh by being distant from Him? Did you not seek their praise by being ill spoken of by Allāh? Did you not seek their pleasure by exposing yourself to Allāh's anger? Did anyone else stand in your eyes as being thus less important than Allāh?!" We seek refuge with Allāh from such humiliation and exposure.
"If only you could see when the guilty ones bend their heads down before their Lord…" (Qur'ān, 32:12).
So, no matter how much a servant of Allāh thinks about this humiliation, comparing it with what he earns from His servants, from making himself look good in their eyes, a status among them attained through the venue of pretension, one which he may not even get, comparing it with what he will face of shame and infamy in the Hereafter…, he will then come to know that pretension is fire that has burnt his good deeds, rendering them into the record of the sinners. He may have lost a high status with Allāh by earning this good deed which he spoiled with pretension, a status that places him in the company of the prophets and the righteous.
Surely pretension has taken him out of the latter's company and send him to the row of the accursed, add to this what he will be exposed to in the life of this world of worries because of trying to please others. To please others is an unattainable objective; whenever you please a group, another is displeased with you. What goal does he achieve when he earns their praise? What does he get when he drops in the eyes of Allāh while raising himself in the eyes of His servants while such praise does not increase his sustenance, nor does it prolong his lifespan, nor does it benefit him on the day when he realizes his poverty and want?
So, O pretender who lets pretension covet his good deeds, be informed that Allāh, Praise to Him, is the One Who manipulates the hearts to either withhold or to give, and the beings have no choice in this regard, nor is there anyone to sustain them besides Allāh. One who sets his hopes on people will never be free of humiliation and disappointment. Even if he arrives at his goal, he will not be without indebtedness to others, without receiving humiliation; so, how could you abandon what Allāh has in store with Him in exchange for a false hope, for a bad whim that may hit the mark or miss it: If it hits the mark, its pleasure does not compensate for the pain of its bad outcome and humiliation?!
O pretender! Beware of fearing being spoken ill of! When people speak ill of you, it does not speed up your demise, nor does it postpone it, nor does it render you among the residents of hell if you are a resident of Paradise, nor does it make you contemptible in the eyes of Allāh if you are praised by Him, for all the servants are incapacitated: They cannot cause any harm to their own souls, nor benefit, nor life, nor death, nor resurrection; so, perfection is not achieved through their praise, nor is it diminished because of their criticism.
A poet from Banu Tamim once said, "Praise for me is good, while criticizing me is bad," whereupon the Messenger of Allāh (Õ) said to him, "You have lied! This applies to Allāh: There is nothing good except in praising, nor is there anything bad more than saying something bad about Him. What good would you get when people praise you while you are held in contempt by Allāh? And what evil could touch you if people speak ill of you while Allāh praises you?"
Generally speaking, it is through thinking about these matters that it is hoped that one's heart is directed towards Allāh, so he gets rid of the humiliation of pretension and the cruelty of people's hearts. Lights from his sincerity reflect themselves on his heart whereby his chest is pleased. Through them will beautiful revelations be opened up that increase his feeling of happiness for being in the company of Allāh, of being unhappy when he is in the company of people. He will then hold life in contempt while holding the Hereafter with high regards. The status of the creation drops from his heart. The reason for pretension collapses, and the paths of sincerity will be facilitated for him…
When Showing off Acts of Worship is Permissible: Advice by Imam Khomeini, May I be his Sacrifice, for those who want Admonishment
Practical Treatment for Pretension
Contemplating upon and making plans for the issues which we have stated, though it has a strong effect in treating this disease, ought not suffice to scientifically treat this dangerous ailment. Rather, the disease has also to be practically monitored. The practical medication is that one must accustom himself to hiding his acts of adoration and closing the doors while doing them just as the doors are closed when sins are committed, till his heart is convinced that Allāh knows about and is familiar with his acts of adoration, and his soul does not stop him from seeking anyone to know about them save Allāh.
It has been narrated that a companion of Abū Hafs, the blacksmith, spoke ill of this life and of its people, whereupon Abū Hafs said to him, "You have manifested what you should have hidden. From this day on, do not keep us company." He did not even permit showing this much because in speaking ill of this life there is a sort of invitation to asceticism, and such an invitation often stems out of pretension; therefore, this student made him the object of his teacher's reprimanding
There is no cure for pretension like hiding. This is so even though it, in the beginning, is very difficult to do, but if one perseveres about it by forcing himself, he will be aided by divine acts of kindness, and good success will be his; it will then be easier for him and his burden will fall through support and help from the Almighty.
Let me cite for you, kind reader, some of what has been narrated about the biographies of the Imāms of Guidance who are the doctors of the souls: Al-Qummi, the narrator of traditions, may Allāh be pleased with him, has narrated saying that Imām Ali son of Imām al-Hussain (peace be with them both) used to come out during the pitch dark of the night carrying a sack on his back in which he placed small bundles containing [gold] dinars and [silver] dirhams, and he might also have carried on his back food or firewood.
He would come to a house door and knock it then hand over something to whoever comes out to open it, covering his face meanwhile so the poor recipient may not know who he is. When his corpse was placed down for the burial bath, his back showed marks of swellings as large as camel humps. He used to sustain a hundred families from among the poor of Medīna.
The son of Aisha is quoted as having said, "I heard the residents of Medīna saying, 'We have now lost the secret charity when Ali son of al-Hussain (Ú) died.' When he died and was stripped for the funeral burial, they kept looking at the marks on his back. They said that he used to carry flour sacks on his back during the night in order to get them to reach the poor of Medīna stealthily, and he used to say that secret charities put out the wrath of the Lord."
The Prophet (Õ) has said, "The greatest rewards for an act of worship are for one who hides them."
The Commander of the Faithful, peace be with him, has said, "One of the treasures of Paradise are: hiding a good deed, persevering while facing calamities, and hiding hardships."
The Imāms, peace be with them, are also cited as having said, "The distinction of a good deed done in secrecy over one done openly is that the first will be rewarded seventy times as much."
There are many other such narratives.
Ares where Showing Acts of Worship is Permissible
There is no doubt in the requirement of sincerity in the act of adoration and obedience to win the pleasure of Allāh Almighty. This is taken for granted as one of the principles that have to be taken into consideration in all conditions and circumstances. No other rational or legislated incentive advances an act for the Divine One more than it. Sometimes what the nafs insinuates is not even considered: A deed has a great benefit; therefore, it must be undertaken in order to show people. A pretentious deed gives the person who undertakes it nothing in return as the Holy Qur'ān clearly states: "… like those who spend their substance (just) to be seen by men but do not believe in Allāh or the Last Day. They are in parable like a hard, barren rock on which there is a little soil; a heavy rain falls on it, leaving it (just) a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with whatever they had earned" (Qur'ān, 2:264).
Besides adhering to this accepted principle of the Sharī`a, we say that hiding a righteous deed, although it contains the benefit of sincerity and the absence of pretension, yet, on the other hand, if it is done openly, it may also produce a benefit which is: making it desirable to people. Thus, people may emulate the one who does it even if the deed may be threatened with pretension. The deed in both cases is raised in the Holy Qur'ān: "If you disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if you conceal them and make them reach those (who are really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove some of your (stains of) evil from you. And Allāh is well acquainted with all what you do" (Qur'ān, 2:271).
Disclosing them is of two types: One is disclosing the act itself publicly, and the other is talking about it after it has been secretly done.
As regarding the first, it in fact has preference over what can be done secretly and what can be done publicly. If the act cannot be hidden, such as performing the pilgrimage, going for a holy war, attending the congregational prayer service, and the like, it ought to be undertaken and not to let the insinuation have room in it. Doing such deeds openly has nothing to do with making a show or with pretension. Rather, the benefit of taking the initiative in such deeds is to let people desire them, but the condition in them, as we stated, is that they must not be done just to show off. They are to be done publicly.
Rather, perhaps the catalyst to hide such forms of worship is pretension as we pointed out before. It is this: Some souls covet to have a status in the hearts of people, so people may think well of them. In such case, what is also known is this: One who knows that they cannot be hidden, that they will eventually be known, he tries to hide doing them. This is so because if people see the action later on, and they will have to, they will think that this person does what he does for the sake of Allāh, praise belongs to Him, and he does not like people to get to know his deeds.
For example, if someone wants to perform the pilgrimage, he knows that this action cannot be hidden from people because later he will have to be seen in Mecca and Mina and perform the rounds and other rituals which will be seen by a huge number of people. And he, once back from the pilgrimage, will be visited by the brethren; so, this deed will imminently be known. But if people come to know about it, they will state that he was hiding the preparations for it, so they will consider him as being sincere in his action and will think well of him. Such an individual is either a fool or a deceiving pretender who wants to hide his pretension from people.
But if the deed can and cannot be hidden, such as offering charity and prayers, it has to be manifested so long as there is no pretension in such manifesting, that there will be no harm in it such as showing the act of offering charity while harming the one receiving it. In such a case, it has to be hidden. But if it has no other harm, it is better to manifest it because it contains a public invitation to others to do likewise. This is proven by the tradition of the prophets and friends of Allāh (Õ) who has said the following about such a person: "… He will have the reward of doing it as well as that of anyone else who emulates it."
Tradition narrates that doing a deed secretly equals doing it publicly seventy times. There are manifold rewards for doing a good deed secretly, as many as seventy times, if it follows the custom of doing it secretly. As long as the heart separates itself from the impurities of pretension, and sincerity is complete in both cases, there is no doubt that anything good which is emulated by others is surely better. The concern is only about pretension being unveiled. When the impurity of pretension takes place, emulation of others will not avail the doer, and he will perish by it; secrecy in such a case is better.
But one who manifests the deed must take two matters into consideration: First, he must manifest it while knowing or thinking it will be emulated, such as a man doing something good for his family, or a mentor in his quarter, or a scholar in his country, regardless of the variation of individuals' stations. In other words, the emulation intention is sound in one who is apt to be emulated; otherwise, there is no benefit in manifesting it, and he will miss out on the benefit of doing it secretly.
Second, one must monitor his heart; it may have hidden pretension, so it invites him to manifest in the excuse of emulation. It, in reality, covets that undertaking the effort to win a station of emulation, and this is a hurdle that cannot be transcended except by the strong ones, the sincere. Others, the weaklings, must not deceive themselves, so they will perish and cause others to perish unknowingly.
The similitude of the weakling in this dilemma is one who does not know how to swim well. He looks at a group of drowning persons, so he feels pity for them and goes to them to cling to him so he may save them from drowning. They cling to him, whereupon this weakling perishes just as they perish. Thus do the feet of the servants of Allāh and of the scholars slip away. Some of them hold on to the strong in their manifestation, but their hearts are not strong enough for sincerity, so their rewards are cancelled by pretension.
Notice that this is shrouded with ambiguity. One who wants to know the treachery of his soul and whether his aim in manifesting the good deed is to propagate it and advocate it, or if he has already fallen into Satan's trap, he must subject himself to a test. The test is: He must ask himself if a man of truth, the one who works for Allāh Almighty, tells him to hide the deed so people may emulate another scholar or worshipper from among his peers, and he will have the same reward of doing the good deed publicly…, and if his heart inclines to be the one to be emulated, so he manifests the deed, let him know that the incentive of pretension is there rather than the desire for divine rewards. It is the desire for people's goodness because they aspired to achieve goodness through the action of some other worshipper who received his reward.
He obtained it despite his secrecy. So, what is wrong with his heart inclining towards manifesting it other than the eyes of people noticing it, making a pretense for their sake? Let the servant of Allāh beware of the soul's deception, for it often deceives, while Satan ever lies in ambush. Love for a public status subdues one's heart. Seldom are manifested deeds safe from perils; so, he must not substitute safety for anything else, the safety in hiding and in manifesting, perils that our likes cannot bear; therefore, we and all other weaklings ought to be cautious.
A scholar who was propagating the creed was seen in a vision and was asked what was done to him. He said, "When I arrived at the barzakh [perhaps equivalent in Catholic theology to the purgatory], I was called upon by my name and was asked what I had done in my lifetime. I said, 'Lord! I wrote many books to promote the faith.' I was asked, 'While propagating the creed, did you intend that the faith was to be promoted, or did you want your own self to be widely known?' I was too puzzled to answer." This is why the tradition states the following: "Be sincere in doing your good deed, for the critic is quite observing."
As regarding the second type, it is one talking about the deed and announcing it after having secretly done it. Like the first, this, too, is dangerous. It is even much more so: The tongue is easy to articulate and move about narrating the tale with ease, and it may increase, decrease or exaggerate. The nafs enjoys manifesting claims supportive of love for itself; so, one whose heart is strong, sincere, in whose eyes people look small, it is equal with him whether they speak well or ill of him. If mentioning it to those whom he hopes will emulate it, thus seeking goodness because of it…, it is permissible to talk about the deed.
He will even be required to do so if his intention is pure and free of all perils because it is an invitation to others to do (similar) acts of righteousness, an invitation to do good which is good by itself, especially if one's nature is molded on loving to emulate others and being emulated, feeling the weight of its burdens. Talking plays a strong role in bearing an impact on people's hearts, on their emulating the speaker.
Perhaps a pretender manifesting an act of worship, when people do not know that it is pretension, has a great deal of good in it for people, yet it is evil against the pretender; so, how many sincere people have been the reason behind their sincerity is to emulate one who in the eyes of Allāh is a pretender! A narrated tradition states this: "Allāh strengthens this religion through the sinning man, and through people who do not ponder on consequences"; it refers to that. Talking about a good deed, if one is sincere without any pretension, is good, although there is something quite interesting which we noticed about great men and which we would like to state here: The men of divinity, those who rid themselves of desires, used to discourage others from narrating visions while attributing them to their own selves. They used to say instead, "I know someone who does such-and-such" or "Such-and-such happened the following to him by way of self-disclosure," for example, because the objective is achieved through the action or disclosure itself, and it is not needed to get to know who did it except if knowing so also plays a role in impressing, in emulating. It is only then that they used to identify themselves.
Advice by Imam-Al-Khomeini, May I be his Sacrifice, for those who Wish to be Admonished
So, my dear one, look deeply into your affairs and hold yourself to account in each of its deeds. Pull words out of it in every incident, so you may get to know for what purpose it is willing to do good deeds and honorable acts, why it asks about issues relevant to the night prayer, why it recites supplications in the presence of others… Does it intend that we should learn the answers to our questions from it, or does it teach them for the sake of Allāh Almighty?
Or does it want to be known by people as one of those who perform tahajjud? Why does it want people to know it is traveling on pilgrimage to sacred places, or even the number of such travels? Why it does not want people to know about its acts of charity which it offered in secrecy, so it resorts to other means in order that talk will pour into the subject of charity, and it will then announce it offers people charity?
If all of this is done for the sake of Allāh Almighty, if you want people to emulate you and you will be implied in this statement: "One who leads to a good deed is like one who does it", manifesting your god deed will then be good. Thank Allāh, Praise to Him, with your pure conscience and heart, but be alert lest you should be deceived by the nafs and by Satan when they both insinuate to you, and do not let them force you to do a pretentious deed in a sacred manner.
If manifesting is not purely for the sake of Allāh, abandon manifestation, for it is nothing but fame, and it comes from the foul tree of pretension. Allāh, to Whom all favors belong, does not accept such a deed, and He orders its doer to be placed in Sijjeen. We seek refuge with Allāh against the plots of the self, the nafs, for they are quite minute, and we all know in general that our deeds are not purely for the sake of Allāh Almighty.
Had we been sincere worshippers, why does Satan thus fare with our deeds although he had promised Allāh, Praise to Him, that he would never intercept the path of the sincere worshippers of Allāh nor stretch his hand to their holy field? Our greatest mentor, may his shade prolong, says, "Satan is the dog that stands at the gate of Allāh. A dog does not bark at the friends of the house's owner, nor does he harm them. The dog stands guard at the door; he does not bother those with whom the owner of the house feels comfortable. Instead, he prohibits from entering those whom the owner of the house does not."
If you keep Satan busy about your own self, you must know that your deeds are not purely for the sake of Allāh, not for achieving His pleasure. If you were sincerely seeking Allāh, why did the springs of wisdom now flow from your heart to your tongue even though you have been for the past forty years doing deeds which you regard as bringing you closer to Allāh? This is so although tradition says that if one is sincere to Allāh for forty mornings, the springs of wisdom will flow from his heart to his tongue.
So, be informed that our deeds are not purely for the sake of Allāh, nor are we even aware of it. Such is the incurable ailment. Woe unto the folks of obedience and adoration, of Fridays and congregations, of knowledge and faith, if they open their minds and see the Hereafter having opened its pavilions! They will then see themselves as being much worse than those who committed major sins, worse even than the apostates and those who associate partners with Allāh!
They will see the tablet of their deeds more black than that of those folks! Woe unto one who enters hell on account of his prayers and acts of obedience! Alas for those whose charity, zakat and prayers are portrayed in the most ugly form! So, poor soul, you are an apostate… As for the sinners, they are the ones who believe in His Unity though they disobey Him, and Allāh Almighty forgives the disobedient ones through His favor if He wills. But He has said,
"Allāh does not forgive one who associates partners with Him" (Qur'ān, 4:48)
if he dies without having repented. In the sacred traditions, according to what I have heard, the Infallible Ones, peace be with them, have said, "A pretender associates partners with Allāh; one who shows off his religious prominence, his being an imām, his having studied and earned knowledge, and his fast and prayers…, generally in his good deeds, so he may earn a status in the hearts of people, associates others with Allāh," according to the reports transmitted about the ones who are infallible, peace of Allāh be with them all.
Forgiveness is not extended to him, according to the sacred verse above. Would you have been among those who committed major sins, openly declaring your being a debauchee, violating the pure sanctities?! But you believed in His Unity, associating none with Allāh!
So, my dear one, now think about your matter, cure your soul, and be informed that fame among people who are worth nothing is worth nothing. Had a sparrow eaten those hearts, it would not have satisfied its hunger; they are worthless, equaling nothing. This weakling creature has no power; power is found only in the divine holy presence, and the Holy One is the only doer, the One Who causes things, while if the creatures want to create flies, they will never be able to do so even if each supports the other in the endeavor.
And if the flies rob them of something, they can never reclaim it. Power belongs to Allāh Almighty; He is the One Who bears an impact on all things in existence. So, exert yourself through all types of self-training and perseverance to write with the mind's pen on the heart's sheet that none can bear an impact on existence save Allāh; none is a doer in the abode of verification save Allāh. Enable your heart through all means of practical unifying, which is the first degree of tawhīid, and make your heart a believer, admitting this blessed word.
Stamp your heart with the stamp that there is no god save Allāh. Make it the portrait for the tawhīd statement. Get it to reach the station of comfort. Attract its attention to the fact that people can neither do any harm nor any benefit to you but, rather, the One Who can benefit or harm you is Allāh, Praise to Him. Remove from your mental vision this blindness, for there is concern that you may be among those who will say, "Lord! Why did You resurrect me blind?", that you will be resurrected blind on the Day when the innermost becomes manifest.
The will of Allāh supersedes all wills. If your heart becomes comfortable with this blessed statement, so you surrender it to this creed, there is hope your end will be good, the roots of shirk, pretension, apostasy and hypocrisy will all be uprooted from your heart.
Be informed that this faith agrees with reason and tradition. There is no ambiguity in it about obligation, although it is possible that one who is not knowledgeable about its principles and precepts may charge it of forcing obligations. The hearing faculties of those who make such charges are not accustomed to some requirements. It is not linked to obligation essentially. It, then, is tawhīd, whereas obligation is shirk.
Such is guidance, while obligation is straying. It is not appropriate to explain what obligation and what destiny is, but the topic is clear for those who are apt to it, while others should not get themselves involved in such pursuit. The One Who brought about the Sharī`a prohibits entering into such pursuits [for those who are not qualified to do so]. Anyhow, plead to the Merciful Allāh in all circumstances, especially when you are in solitude.
Plead to Him with humility, inability, and submission to guide you to the noor of tawhīd, so He may enlighten your heart with the glitter of the unknown, with sincerity in your adoration, so you may be freed from the whole world and you will see everything in it as being trivial. Humbly seek the Holy One's help to make your deeds dedicated to Him, to guide you to the path of sincerity, of love.
If you achieve a good result, remember that you are a weak servant of Allāh, the one who is stripped of the truth, who spent his lifetime following his whims and desires, whose heart, because of the impurity of transgressions and heart diseases, no longer accepts any advice, nor can any verse or tradition bear an impact on it, nor can any evidence, proof or sign. If you do so, perhaps you will be guided to a path that bring about salvation through supplication, for Allāh does not turn away a believer who goes to His door; He responds favorably to his supplication.
Having reminded you of these requirements, though you, too, knew them, for they are not new…, take your time to cultivate your heart, to examine your deeds and actions, your motion and stillness. Look into your heart's hideouts, and hold your heart to account as strictly as anyone among the folks of this world who holds his partner accountable. Abandon any deed in which there is the doubt of pretension and flattery, no matter how very honest such a deed may be.
If you see that your public acts of adoration are not being performed sincerely, do them privately, although they are recommended to be performed publicly, although rare is the case when pretension agrees in the origin of an obligation but is often in its particularities, in what is commendable, in what is superfluous.
Yet, at any rate, purify your heart from the contamination of shirk through a completely serious effort, through a great deal of exertion, so you, God forbid, may not be removed from this [transient] world while being in this condition [to the Hereafter], hence your status will be bad, and there will be no hope for your salvation, and Allāh, Praise to Him, will be angry with you. This is confirmed by a sacred tradition in Wasā'il al-Shī'a which cites Qurb al-Isnād which in turn traces it back to the Commander of the Faithful (Ú) who said, "The Messenger of Allāh (Õ) said, 'One who makes himself look good in the eyes of people by doing what Allāh loves, while being an opponent of Allāh in secrecy by committing what Allāh hates, will find Allāh angry with him, holding him in contempt.'"
This tradition carries two possibilities. One of them is when an individual beautifies his good deeds for people while privately committing ugly ones. The other is that he goes out to the public and shows others what he has done while deep down he is only a pretender. At any rate, this tradition contains a reference to pretension because doing what is obligatory and what is commendable, without meaning to make a show, does not incur the wrath of the Lord. Rather, it can be said that the second possibility is more likely because doing ugly deeds publicly is uglier than doing them privately. Anyhow, God forbid that the King of Kings and the most Merciful of those who show mercy should be wrathful with man. I seek refuge with Allāh from the wrath of the Clement One.
Here ends his sacred statement, may his shade be prolonged.
As we have repeatedly stated, the traps of the nafs are numerous; Satan lies in ambush against man in order to rob him of his capital for the Hereafter through countless tricks. But the more familiar with these tricks one is, such familiarity may benefit him in being saved from them. Let us add to the above the following: It may coincide that one spends the night with his adoring friends who stand up for the tahajjud and spend the entire or some of the night praying, and he in his customary case may offer tahajjud, but he used to rise close to dawn. So, if he sees them, his energy is fired up in harmony with them, so much so that he performs more than what he is used to, or he may pray although he was not accustomed to performing the night prayer. Also, he may be among a crowd of fasting persons, so he is energetic in performing the fast. Had it not been for them, such energy would not have been fired up. In cases such as these, a question is put forth: "Is this pretension, so he has to abandon it?"
The answer is: Not at all. Rather, it can be explained in a way wherein some matters are distinguished from others. A believer, since he wishes to adore Allāh, performs the night prayer and fasts during the daytime and may be hindered by obstacles, stopped by being busy, overcome by desires and pleasures, overcome by indifference, etc. If he accompanies those who adore, this indifference may abandon him, or the obstacles may be pushed away from his path, or he may not keep himself busy doing anything, so he is energized for adoration.
For example, he may be at home more capable of sleeping, enjoying a supple bed, or enjoying his wife, or talking with his children and relatives, or he may be busy with his daily transactions. These distract him from adoration during the first hours of the night, so he has no energy to stand up for prayers at the end of the night. If he finds himself in someone else's home, all these distractions will be removed from him.
Moreover, he may be manipulated by an impetus for righteousness such as seeing his friends turning their attention fully towards Allāh, turning away from the life of this world, adoring their Loved One, feeling the pleasure of addressing Him, so the catalyst of goodness moves within him, prompting him not to be late from the field of worship. He will then compete with them in their endeavor. It is in such doing that the competing ones should compete with each other.
There is no doubt that this has nothing to do with pretension. Or one may be robbed of sleep because of not being used to that house, or for any other reason, so he takes advantage of his sleeplessness. But when he is at home, sleep overtakes him. Perhaps it may be added to the above his being always at home, and his soul does not permit him to always offer tahajjud except for a short while. His condition will be a cause for such energy.
The same applies to fast. It may be hard for him to fast at home in the presence of delicious foods, and it is difficult for him to keep himself away from them. But if these foods are not present, the religious impetus to fast takes over. The available pleasures are obstacles and catalysts that weaken one's religious practice. If one is freed from them, the catalyst will be strong. Satan in such situations insinuates to him through pretension and says, "Do not do it, for you will then be a pretender, for you used not to do it at home nor offer more than your [regular] prayers."
He must not pay attention to such insinuation but undertake the deed so Satan and his nafs may lose hope and not repeat their insinuation. And his desire and energy may be for the sake of their observing him thus engaged, being concerned about what they may say and the possibility of their accusing him of being lazy, especially if they think that he is among those who offer tahajjud and adoration. His soul does not permit him to fall in their eyes. It wants to maintain its status. It is then that Satan, contrarily to the first possibility, says to him, "Offer your prayers, for you are sincere, and you do not pray for their sake but for that of Allāh, since you used to pray every night. And if you do not pray for one night or more, it is due to the abundance of hindrances. Your catalyst tonight is the absence of the obstacles, not for the desire that they see you."
The diagnosis in both situations confuses those who do not have a keen insight. If it is known that the catalyst is to bring the hearts of the public closer, he may either abandon the adoration or not offer anything more than what he used to do, not even one more prostration. If he comes to know that his energy is due to the removal of the obstacles and to compete with others for winning the Pleasure of Allāh and His obedience, he must take advantage of the opportunity and keep himself busy worshipping his Lord.
The diagnosis in both situations is tough for all those who do not have a keen insight. If one gets to know that the motive is to attract people's hearts, he must either abandon the acts of adoration or not add anything to what he is accustomed to doing, not even a single prostration. If he gets to know that the catalyst is the removal of obstacles and the competition for achieving the pleasure of and obedience to Allāh, let him seize the opportunity and keep himself busy worshipping his Lord. But if the matter is confusing to him and he is unable to diagnose the matter, let him ask himself this question: "If these men see him praying at a place where they do not see me, will I be generous with my prayers while they do not notice me?" If there is such generosity, let him pray, for the motive is right. But if he sees himself as having hardship doing so while they did not see him, let him leave it for its motive is pretension.
Likewise, he may be present during a supplication meeting. He looks at them and is overcome with tears out of fear of Allāh. But had he heard the supplication while being by himself, he would not have wept. Seeing people weak softens the heart; so, this is not pretension. Rather, he may not be able to weep, so he feigns weeping. This feign weeping, too, may not be motivated by pretension; instead, he fears for his heart lest it should be hard when he sees people weeping and when his eyes do not shed tears; therefore, he forces himself to pretend to be weeping. This is commendable.
The mark of truth in this is that he asks himself this: If he heard them praying while they could not see him, will he be concerned about his heart being hard, so he would feign weeping or not? If he does not find tears while being unnoticed by them, his concern is not due to his heart being hard, but it is out of his fear lest it should be said that he is hard-hearted. In this case, he ought to abandon his pretense of weeping. And the cause of weeping may be due to grief, but it is mixed with pretension during the time when he weeps, so he raises his voice and becomes quite vocal in his wailing; this additional enthusiasm is pretension. He first wept for the sake of Allāh but then Satan kept him doing so. Pretension may invite him to keep his tears on his face in order to show it.
On the whole, one's nafs and Satan have countless tricks. As a tradition states, "Pretension has seventy doors," keeping in mind that "seventy" is an indication of "many", while each door may open up to many other doors. Another tradition says, "Seek refuge with Allāh against the pretentious submission." The meaning of "pretentious submission" is that the organs, the limbs, not the heart, are submitting to Allāh, although it could have another meaning. In his supplication, the Master of those who Prostrate [Imām al-Sajjad (Ú)] states this: "Lord! I seek refuge with You against my publicly looking good in the eyes of people while looking ugly in Your eyes privately, keeping people feeling pity for me while losing that with which You are more familiar than I am, demonstrating to people my best condition while revealing to You my worst, seeking nearness to people through my good deeds, fleeing away from You through my wrongdoing, hence I will be afflicted with Your contempt, and Your wrath will fall upon me! Do, Lord, shelter me from all of this, O Lord of the Worlds!"
A Seal of Musk, Sublime Tradition & an Explanation by Imām Al-Khomeini, May his Shade Prolong
As we conclude these sheets, we would like to cite a sacred tradition narrated by al-Kulaini (may Allāh be pleased with him) in his sacred book Al-Kāfi from the Master of those who believe in the Unity of Allāh, namely the Commander of the Faithful (Ú). Sheikh al-Sadūq (may Allāh be pleased with him) has narrated a similar one from Imām Abū Abdullāh al-Sādiq (Ú). It is one of the pieces of advice by the Prophet (Õ) to Ali (Ú).
The tradition is thus rendered through isnād to Abū Abdullāh (Ú) who said that the Commander of the Faithful (Ú) had said, "There are three distinctive marks of a pretender: He is energetic [in feigning acts of adoration] when he sees people, is lazy when alone, and loves to be praised in all his affairs."
Imām al-Khomeini, may his shade prolong, has said the following: Since this disgusting sin may be hidden, not known by even the person with which he is afflicted: He claims his deed is sincere, whereas in his innermost, he is among the pretenders. For this reason, they have stated a mark of identification so one may thereby identify his innermost, and he may thus start curing himself of it: One sees himself, when alone, as having no desire to undertake acts of obedience to Allāh. When he forces himself to perform an act of worship, as he is accustomed to doing, he does so without energy or desire. Rather, he performs it as incomplete, impure. But if he is present in mosques or congregations, he keeps himself busy with an act or adoration as he is seen by the public. So he does it with energy, with connection, with pleasure, and with an attentive heart. He loves to prolong his bowing and prostrating during his prayer, performs what is commendable, well carries out its parts and requirements.
If his mind wakes up to such doing, and if he asks himself about the reason for doing that, the nafs will then place its trap on the principles of adoration and, in order to deceive one, says, "Your energy with regard to worship in mosques is more rewarding," or that prayers with a congregation is such and such. Or he may be in a congregation other than the mosques, so it says to him, "It is highly commendable for one to undertake a well done job so others may emulate him, follow his example, or have the desire for the creed." It thus deceives one through any means it can.
The truth is that this happiness and energy are not prompted except by a heart disease with which this poor man is afflicted, while he considers his nafs as being sound, not sick. There is no hope that he will be healed. This wretch, in his innermost, in his pith, in his conscience, loves to show people his deed while he is being unaware of it. Rather, he is demonstrating disobedience in the form of adoration, turning pretension into propagation for the creed. Although it is commendable that one performs what is recommended when he is by himself, why does the nafs always love to undertake it in public? It weeps for fear of Allāh in public congregations with energy and gladly, but when alone, no matter how it tries, it cannot squeeze a drop out of the eye.
Why does fear of Allāh take place only in congregations? One weeps and supplicates in the presence of thousands of people during the nights of Qadr, offering a hundred prostrations during his prayers, reciting the Greater Jawshan supplication and the smaller one as well as chapters from the Holy Qur'ān without feeling lazy, nor is he tired doing all of that. But if he prays ten rek'at in his solitude, he feels a back pain, and he is in such a bad shape! If the deeds that come up of an individual are prompted solely to win the Pleasure of Allāh Almighty, or to attain His mercy, or out of fear of His fire, or out of eagerness for Paradise, why should this individual love people to praise him for them?
Why should he listen to their praise, directing his heart towards them so he may hear someone lauding him or saying that so-and-so is a man of adoration, a worshipper who is keen to be in the forefront when the time of prayers comes, is mindful of what is commendable?! Or so he does so in order that he may hear someone saying that so-and-so, who performed the pilgrimage, is a trustworthy man, a man who can be reliable upon with regard to his transactions, etc.
If one looks forward to Allāh Almighty with anticipation, why should he care for all this profuse love [for public praise]? If [love for] paradise and [fear of] the fire are your catalyst to undertake this deed, why do you care for such love? So, be mindful lest this love should come from the branches of that bad tree, pretension, and try your best to repair what you can repair, and rid yourself of such love.
There is no harm in attracting attention to something in this regard which is: For each of these psychological conditions that are more than the good and the bad aspects, there are many levels. To be characterized by one of the good attributes while being dissociated from a level of bad attributes may be the specialty of those who know Allāh, who are friends of Allāh. As regarding the rest of people, they are as they are in their levels.
To be characterized by what is a shortcoming in the sight of the men of knowledge, of the friends of Allāh, does not seem to them [to these faulty persons] to be a shortcoming. Rather, it may be perfection of a sort. Also, the merits of these individuals seem to be bad to the men of knowledge, to the friends of Allāh. Pretension, which we are discussing, is actually one of these attributes. Salvation from all its levels is the privilege of the friends of Allāh. Others do not share them in it.
The general public of people being characterized by one of its levels is not a shortcoming based on the station in which they are. It does not harm their conviction or sincerity. For example, the hearts of the general public, according to their nature, incline towards showing people what is good about them, even if they do not do so with the intention of showing off. But their souls by nature are inclined to such love, and this does not necessitate rendering the deed as void or describing them as unbelievers, hypocrites and polytheist, although this is surely a shortcoming in the sight of the friends of Allāh, a shirk, a hypocrisy in the view of a friend of Allāh, or one who knows Allāh.
To be totally free of absolute shirk, to be redeemed of all its levels, is the first station of the friends of Allāh who have other stations not suitable for elaboration here. The Infallible Ones, peace be with them, have said that their adoration is one of freemen's, that is, solely out of love for Allāh Almighty, neither coveting Paradise nor fearing hell. It is one of their ordinary stations and the first degree of their mastership. There are for them, peace be with them, in their adoration conditions which are beyond our comprehension.
Based on what we have stated, a combination can be made of the tradition cited above transmitted from the Messenger of Allāh (Õ) and the Commander of the Faithful (peace be with both of them), and the other tradition by Zurarah who cites Abū Ja'fer, peace be with him, as narrated by Muhammad ibn Yacoub who traces it back to Abū Ja'fer, peace be with him, saying, "I asked him about a man who does something good. Another sees it and is pleased with it. He said that there is no harm in it, that everyone loves to look in the eyes of people as a man of goodness unless he does something solely for this purpose."
If one loves to be praised, he is regarded in one of the traditions as manifesting pretension, while in the other tradition the harm is removed when someone is pleased with something good coming out of his deed. The common denominator in the combination is the difference of opinion according to the status of the individuals. There is another way to look at the combination of both traditions which we have overlooked.
Here the speech of our professor [al-Khomeini], may Allāh prolong his shade, ends.
I say, perhaps the other way in combining both traditions is that the first tradition examines the love for praise at the time when a good deed is being done, and it is a mark of pretension. The other tradition examines love for praise after a deed is already done.
Or the love for praise in the first tradition is made as a mark of pretension, arranged by the other two marks, as is linguistically clear, especially since paying attention to the first marks (energy when people see a doer of good deed and laziness when he is by himself), and they must be observed together or separately so they may comprise a mark for pretension; otherwise, if one of them is supposed, say the energy when people see him and also when alone or laziness in both cases, it is definitely not a mark of pretension. If it is added to love for praise, it will definitely be a mark for pretension, a sure revelation of it, and this is contrary to praise alone, for it is not a mark of pretension as the second tradition says.
Or we may say that the first tradition means the pretender, because of being afflicted with the disease of pretension, loves people to praise him in all his affairs, as the tradition states. As for the second tradition, it is similar to partial obligation; it points out to the appearance of goodness from one when pleased; there is no harm so long as he did not do the deed for solely this purpose. Surely Allāh is the One Who knows best, and the last of our supplication is: Praise to Allāh, the Lord of the Worlds.
These sheets have been written down by the indigent, the one needs the mercy of his Lord, Sayyid Ahmed al-Fahri, on the twentieth day of the blessed Month of Ramadan in the city of Damascus in the year 1404 A.H.; with the one who undertook the migration may be prayers and peace.