Debate With Abil Awja

Abil Awja first of all had a narrow-minded nature; secondly the company of Hasan Basri had further spoilt his belief, therefore doubts and conjectures used to fill his mind all the time. In addition to being an atheist, this fellow was also brash and foul-tongued. One day he came to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s) and said, “I don’t understand how long the Hajj pilgrims would continue to trample the land of Mecca and how long would they continue to worship these stones and rocks? How long would they continue to run around it like runaway camels? Are these not actions of ignorant and stupid people? As you are the Imam of the Muslims and the son of the founder of Islam, give me a satisfactory reply.”

Imam (a.s) said, “O man! You have not reflected on the actual matter. The Ka’ba is the protected sanctuary through which the Almighty Allah tests His slaves, because this House is associated with Him. Therefore it is emphasized to respect and visit it. It is appointed as the place of worship for prophets and the direction of prayers of religious people. This house is the channel of His mercy and the medium of salvation. He created this house two thousand years before the creation of the world. The dignity of our slavehood is only that we follow each and every command of Allah and let the purpose for which the Ka’ba is created, be fulfilled.”

Awja said, “I am sorry to say that you have associated this house to such a personality whose existence, I refuse to believe. How can one believe in the existence of something, which is unseen? And till one does not believe, there is no question of obeying His commands.”

Imam (a.s) said, “You do not use your intellect. He is present and seeing everywhere and at every moment; and is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He listens to what we say and sees us and He knows the secrets of our hearts.”

He said, “First prove His existence. If he is on the earth, he went to the heavens and if he is on the heavens, how did he come to the earth?” Imam (a.s) said, “He is not confined in space, that another place should be empty of Him, or some place should surround Him. If He had been confined to a place what difference would have remained between Him and the creatures?

Awja asked, “But how does this prove that He is the Creator of all things?” Imam (a.s) replied, “Does such an obvious fact require a proof? I ask only you, who has created you?” “No one has created me,” replied he. Imam said, “Is it possible for a created thing to come into being without a maker?” When Awja heard this he became worried and changing tracks said, “Okay, let it be. Tell me what is the use of things like Day of Judgment, accounting, Paradise and Hell etc. of which you are a believer? After death, a man is mixed with the dust and all these things are mere assumptions. Imam (a.s) said, “Even if it is assumed that you are right, there is no fear for us after death and if your belief is wrong there is no scope for your salvation, while we are risk-free in both the cases. Now you tell me, which of us is better?”

Hearing this, he bowed down his head and after remaining silent for sometime said, “I accept your statement, but tell me, the Quran says, ‘When the skins of the inmates of Hell are burnt down, they would be given fresh skins.’ Can you explain that the skins that had committed the sins are burnt once, what is the fault of the new skins?” Imam (a.s) said, “They would be the same old skins, only their forms would be changed again. Like a brick is powdered and mixed with water and put in a die for making another brick. The same would be the case of the skins of the people of Hell.” He said, “Further, you tell me why different people die due to different diseases? What is the problem if all were to die due to the same disease?” Imam (a.s) said, “If it had been so, people would have remained fearless of death till the appearance of this disease and Allah does not like that anyone should be fearless of death.”

Although Sufyan Thawri had gained much knowledge from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s), he was against the Imam and he wanted to project his own image. One day Imam (a.s) was sitting in the Masjid, wearing a dress of thin white cotton. Seeing this dress Sufyan told his colleagues, “I will go and embarrass this Imam of the Rafidis(A derogatory term for Shias).” Saying this he came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Was your exalted and respected grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (S) also wearing these kinds of expensive clothes?”

Imam (a.s) said, “There is no restriction on wearing these types of clothes. In the time of the Prophet the poorest of the Muslims were leading a very frugal life, therefore the Prophet never used to wear expensive clothes, lest they may feel disheartened. Since the situation is not the same now, there is no harm in wearing these clothes. I have worn this dress only for the thankfulness of Allah, otherwise below this, see, I am wearing thick woolen clothes.” After this Imam (a.s) raised the skirt of Sufyan’s dress and said, “See, you have worn a coarse dress outside, to show off, while below you have donned soft and expensive apparels, so that your body remains in comfort. On the other hand these thick fibers prick into my body and it is painful to it. You have seen my exterior but did not inspect your interior.” Sufyan returned in embarrassment. His students said, “If he had embarrassed you, we would also not remain without taking revenge from him.” So they came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Are piety and asceticism worthless in your opinion?”

Imam: What do you mean by this?

Students: We mean to say that if you had valued piety you would not have worn such a good quality dress.

Imam: Is it prohibited?

Students: No, it is not so. But the Almighty Allah has praised those companions of the Messenger of Allah (S), who used to prefer others to their own selves.

…and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, (Surah Hashr 59:9)

And at another place He says:

And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive. (Surah Dahr 76:8)

Imam: Both these verses were revealed in the honor of us, Ahl ul-Bayt, and they denote our condition. Since you people do not know the abrogating and the abrogated verses of Quran, you are wandering in misguidance. Remember, the people regarding whom these verses were revealed were allowed and permitted to do so and it was rewarding and recompensing; but after this the Almighty Allah had mercy on the condition of the believers and abrogated this command so that their families were not put to inconvenience. At that time even if one had a single loaf of bread, one gave it in the way of Allah and did not think of ones young child or aged parents. Since this command was fatal to such people it was abrogated. That is why the Messenger of Allah (S) said, “One who has five grains, or five dirhams or five loaves of bread and he intends to spend them, then it is necessary for him to give one to his parents, one to his family, one to his needy relatives, one to his poor neighbors and the last one in charity on the way of Allah. This fifth position is lower and less rewarding than the previous four.”

Thus an Ansar (Helper) had five slaves and slave girls. Besides these he did not own anything. At the time of his death he freed all of them and did not leave anything for his young children. When the Holy Prophet (S) heard of their condition, he said, “He has left them to solicit alms. He has done a bad thing. If I had known of this before I would not have allowed him to be buried in the Muslim cemetery.

The Almighty Allah has praised those who are not spendthrifts and who practice frugality. The Holy Prophet (S) said, “There are some people in my community whose supplications are not accepted. First of all, those who criticize and curse their parents. Secondly one who lends something without taking anything in writing, or keeping a witness; and when the lender does not repay he begins to curse him. Thirdly, one who criticizes and curses his wife, though Allah has given him the option to divorce her. Fourthly, one who sits at home and does not go out in search of livelihood and who asks Allah for lawful sustenance. So Allah asks this man, “have I not given you limbs to work and have I not opened channels of obtaining livelihood for you?” Fifthly, one who is bestowed a great wealth by Allah and he squanders it all and becomes a pauper. Then he prays to Allah for sustenance. Allah replies to him, “Did I not give you extensive wealth, then why did you squander it away?”

One day the Holy Prophet (S) received gold and he gave it away in charity before the next morning. After this a beggar came seeking alms. The Prophet had nothing to give him. Since he was extremely softhearted he could not bear to see a beggar going away dejected and he was very sorrowful about it. The Almighty Allah revealed the verse,

And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off. (Surah Bani Israel 17:29)

Thus all these verses and traditions abrogate the actions that you have mentioned. Let alone this, even Abu Bakr, whom you call ‘Siddiq’, has proved by his actions that your opinion is wrong. Even though Allah ahs permitted making a will for a third of ones property, he willed a fourth of his property. If he had considered one-third better he would have made a bequest of that much amount. Rather if the donation of all of ones wealth had been better the Almighty would never have limited it to one-third.

Salman Farsi used to take out his yearly expenses from his share of war booty despite his ascetic nature and his contentment with little or nothing. The balance he used to give away in charity. Once someone objected to this that even though he were pious and God-fearing he did thus. “Are you certain of remaining alive for a year that you collect provision for this period?” He asked, “Even though you are my friend, why do you not hope I would live for a year? Why do you prefer the thought of my death to that of my survival? When a person has assured rations for a year he concentrates fully on the matters of the world and the Hereafter and a bankrupt man is always tense. He is not able to perform any worldly task or a deed for the Hereafter in the proper way.”

See the life of Hazrat Abu Zar Ghiffari; that inspite of his inclination towards frugality and seclusion, he never reconciled to destitution. He had reared some camels and goats and through them he maintained his family and served his guests. He helped the needy among his neighbors and acquaintances.

See these are the people regarding whose piety and fear of God there is no doubt, but they also lived in a way that they were never penniless by giving everything away in charity, as you people think. Mostly, this explanation of mine would have comforted you and if it is not so, I can explain further.” They said, “Please explain further.” Imam (a.s) said, “The Almighty Allah had made it obligatory for the believers to fight Jihad against people ten times their number, then He had mercy on them and reduced this number; that is Jihad is to be done against twice ones numbers. This command abrogated the previous one.

See, if a woman appeals to religious judge that her husband does not provide her bread and the Qazi compels him to provide her food and he says, “I am a pious person and I have no worldly possessions, how can I pay for it?” Now if the Qazi does not accept his excuse, then, whether in your opinion is this Qazi unjust or just?”

If you say he is unjust then he would not be qualified to remain a judge and if you say that he is just, then this command would be against your opinion.

If, as per your belief the entire world becomes ascetic and no one cares for any worldly thing, then who would accept charity, which is made so much rewarding by Allah? And how could the rich people produce the recipients of alms? The problem is that you have not understood the book of Allah and the practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet. You have neither understood its reality nor learnt about its abrogated and abrogating ones. Neither have you learnt about His commands and prohibitions. You don’t even know that Sulaiman, being a prophet of Allah asked for a kingdom that no one had ever acquired. Allah accepted his prayer and bestowed him such a kingdom. No one objected to him. In the same way his respected father, Prophet Dawood (a.s) was also a King. Prophet Yusuf (a.s) was the Aziz of Egypt. Dhurqarnain was a beloved servant of God. Allah also gave him the rulership of east and west. Thus, O people! Fear Allah and follow His commands and prohibitions. Ask those who know about that which you don’t know. The ignorant are always of lesser status than the people of knowledge.”

Piety Of Imam Hasan & Husain (a.s)

Thrice, Imam Hasan (a.s) gave up all his wealth in charity and twice he gave away half his wealth. Like his father, he also spent his life with the bare necessities. But his food spread was very wide. He used to have different kinds of dishes prepared for the guests, but himself ate only barley bread with vinegar or salt. His cloak was patched in many places. The narrator says, “One day I came to Imam Hasan (a.s) during his rule and found him sitting on a tattered sack. Seeing me, he had a sheet spread over it. I saw that it was patched at many places and it was of a very coarse material. I said, ‘O Amir’ul-Mu’minin, you are sitting on a sack. How is it possible for me to step on this blessed sheet?’ He said, ‘O Abu Salih, take a seat.’ I sat down following the command of Imam (a.s) then said, ‘O Son of the Messenger of Allah, you are the ruler, is there not even as much share in the kingdom that you can purchase a sheet for personal use?’ Hearing this, the Imam became angry and said, ‘Abu Salih, we Ahl ul-Bayt were not created for a comfortable life. We are created to provide comfort to others and to safeguard their rights. This sheet fulfills all my needs that an expensive one would do. Then what is the need for me to purchase a new sheet? O Abu Salih, would it not be better if I spend the same money on the poor and deprived people?’ Hearing this I said, ‘Amir’ul-Mu’minin, you are right. The fact is that, except for the Ahl ul-Bayt no one deserves this position.’”

 Piety Of Imam Husain (a.s)

Imam Husain (a.s) also spent a simple and austere life like his father and maternal grandfather. He was never fond of expensive clothes or tasty foods. He used to give away all that he received to the poor and destitute. One day received an amount from the public treasury. He kept it before himself waiting for needy people to arrive so that he can distribute it among them. Someone said, “O Son of the Messenger, your cloak is patched at many places, why don’t you take some money from this amount and buy a new cloak?” He said, “This is sufficient for me.” Very often people sent him gifts and presents, but he gave them all away to the orphans, the widows and poor people.

Piety Of Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s)

Piety Of Amir’ul-Mu’minin, Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s)

Imam Fakhruddin Razi has written in Arbaeen that in the lifetime of the Prophet (S) a group of companions was famous for its austerity; like Abu Zar Ghiffari, Salman Farsi and Abu Darda etc. All these great personalities followed the example of Ali (a.s) in simplicity and austerity.

It is narrated from Qabida in Majmaul Ahbab fil Manaqib al Ashab that: We have not seen anyone among the people more pious than Ali (a.s).

Ibne Athir has narrated from Hasan bin Salih in Tarikh Kamil that once in the presence of Umar Ibne Abdul Aziz the conversation steered towards piety. He said: Of all the people, Ali (a.s) was the most pious.

It is mentioned in Usud al-Ghaba that Ammar Ibne Yasir has narrated that the Messenger of Allah (S) told Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s), “O Ali! The Almighty Allah has bestowed you with such a merit as He has not bestowed anyone else. And that is piety in the world, which is an ornament for the people in view of Allah. Allah has made you such that neither you got anything from the world nor the world got anything from you. He gave you the love for poor people and He made you satisfied by their following you and He made them pleased by making you their Imam.”

It is narrated from Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s) that he said, “The Messenger of Allah (S) told me, ‘O Ali! When people became attached to the material world and forsake the Hereafter. Usurp the inheritance of others and destroy the religion and plunder the wealth of Allah; what would be your condition?’ I said, ‘I would leave them and forsake whom they follow. And I would betake Allah, His Prophet and the abode of the Hereafter. I would be patient on worldly calamities and difficulties, till the time I meet you.’ The Prophet said, ‘It is true, you will do this only.’”

Ahmad Ibne Hanbal has written in his Manaqib that one day the Satan suggested to Ali (a.s), “Always keep the public treasury full of wealth and gold coins.” Ali (a.s) came to the Baitul Maal (Public treasury) and ordered that people may be summoned. Then he started distributing till everything was finished and he said, “O Gold and Silver, defraud others.” When the public treasury became empty he ordered it to be sprinkled with water. Then he performed two rakats (Units) of prayers of thankfulness.

It is mentioned in Usdul Ghabah that Imam Hasan (a.s) narrated, “Neither my respected father collected wealth nor he left behind anything, except for six hundred Dirhams with which he desired that slaves may be freed.” In the same book it is narrated from Abu Naeem that he heard Sufyan say, “The Amir (Ali) never placed a brick upon a brick or a bamboo upon a bamboo to construct a house. If he wanted he could have inhabited from Medina to Jurab.”

Ibne Athir has written in Tarikh Kamil that Harun Ibne Antara narrates from his father that he went to Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s) to obtain his share of poor people. It was a cold season and Ali (a.s) was shivering as he had only an old cloth thrown over himself. The narrator said to him, “The Almighty Allah has appointed a share for you in the Public Treasury. Why have you not taken anything for yourself?” He replied, “By Allah, I do not like anything of your property. By Allah, this is my own quilt that I had brought with me from Medina.”

It is narrated from Zaid Ibne Abi Wahab that one day Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s) came out of his house in such a way that his lower garment was having patches all over it. Ibne Na’ja the Khariji, became angry on seeing him and said, “You are the Chief of the believers, such clothes do not befit you.” Imam (a.s) replied, “What concern do you have with my clothes. This dress of mine is remote from pride and it is deserving to serve as a model for Muslims.”

Ahmad Ibne Hanbal has written in Manaqib that during the temporal rule of Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s) he purchased a shirt worth three dirhams. Its sleeves were somewhat long, which he got shortened. Then he said, “Thanks be to God Who bestowed such a dress.” One day he was standing in the Kufa market to sell his sword, and he kept repeating, “By Allah, if I had the money to purchase this garment, I would not have sold my sword.”

Ahmad Ibne Hanbal has written in Musnad that according to the narrator Suwaid Ibne Ghafla, “One day I went to Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s) and found him sitting on an old and tattered sack. I said, “You are the ruler of the Muslims and owner of the Public treasury, and you sit on an old sack? You also have to receive foreign visitors. Don’t you have anything better in your house?” He said, “O Suwaid, a wise man does not become attached to a house that one has to eventually leave. We have the abode of eternity before our eyes, towards which we would soon depart. The diet of the Imam consisted of dry barley bread or grains half filled with husk. One day something special was placed before him. He did not eat anything. He was asked, “Is it unlawful.” He said, “No, but I don’t want to make myself used to things that the Holy Prophet (S) had never consumed.” Once someone said, “The Almighty Allah has made you the owner of a great kingdom, why do you not eat good food?” He replied. “I have heard from the Messenger of Allah (S) say that it is not allowed for the caliph to take more than two measures from public wealth. One measure for himself and one for the guest.”

It is narrated from Suwaid bin Uqbah that, “One day I went to the Imam at the Administrative Headquarters. At that time a loaf of barley bread and a cup of milk was kept in front of him. The bread was so hard and dried that he used to press it with his hands and sometimes with his thighs to break it. I was very disturbed to see it. I told his slave-maid Fizza, “You also do not pity the Amir’ul-Mu’minin? You should at least remove the husk from the flour before making bread. Don’t you see there is so much husk in it?” Fizza said, “What can I do? The Imam has taken an oath from me that I would never sieve the flour to make bread.” The Imam said, “O Suwaid, the Holy Prophet (S) and his Ahl ul-Bayt have never eaten wheat bread to satiation for three consecutive days, and never was the flour sieved for them. One day I was hungry in Medina and I came out to find some work. I saw that a woman had collected mud and was trying to mix it with water (to plaster a wall etc). I told her to give me one piece of date for each bucket of water. I pulled out sixteen buckets for her and my palms became sore. I brought the dates to the Holy Prophet (S) and related to him the whole incident, then we both shared the dates.”

Zaid says that one day he went to Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s) and saw a pot of water kept near him and on the other side was a canvas bag with its mouth sealed. “I thought he would remove precious things from it and give them to me. When the Imam broke the seal and opened the bag I saw that it contained parched barley meal. He took out a handful, mixed it in a cup of water, offered to me and took some himself. I could not restrain myself, and I said, ‘Sir, living in Iraq you have such food? While different kinds of eatables are available here?’ He said, ‘This is sufficient for survival.’ I said, ‘Why do you keep the bag sealed?’ He replied, ‘So that my family may not mix oil etc. in it. I do not want anything to be a part of my diet except barley.’”

It is written in Sharh Nahjul Balagha that the Imam always observed a diet of vinegar and salt. If he exceeded in it he ate some vegetables and if he further increased it, he drank some camel milk. He used to eat very little meat and he said, “Do not make your stomach a graveyard of animals.”

Taken from: Akhlaq e-A’imma, Morals & Manners of the Holy Imams by  Maulana Sayyid Zafar Hasan Amrohi

Debate With An Atheist

Intellectual Accomplishments Of Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (a.s)

The knowledgeable status of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s) had earned such fame that people used to visit him from far-off places. He had many discussions and debates with unbelievers, polytheists, apostates and heretics. If all these were to be collected they would constitute a voluminous book. We shall mention some of them in the following pages.

Debate With An Atheist
Juad Ibne Dirham, a leader of atheist sect had kept some mud and water in a glass bottle. After some days worms grew in it and he claimed to be their creator. One day he came to Imam (a.s) and also claimed thus. Imam (a.s) said, “If you are their creator, tell us how many of them are male and how many female?” He said, “I don’t know.” Imam said, “If you can’t do that, command the worms going one way to crawl in the opposite direction.” He said, “I cannot do it.” Imam said, “All right, then tell us what is the weight of each of them?” He replied, “I do not know.” Imam said, “When neither you have any knowledge about them, nor any control over them, then how can you be their creator?”

Question Of Abu Shakir Disani
Abu Shakir Disani who denied the existence of God told Hisham, a companion of the Imam, “There is a verse in Quran that is according to our belief and which goes against your faith.” Hisham asked, “Which verse is that?” He replied,

And He it is Who is God in the heavens and God in the earth…( Surah Zukhruf 43:84)

This according to him clearly showed that there are different gods for the earth and the heavens. Since Hisham had not pondered on this verse, he remained silent. When he came to Medina, he mentioned it to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s) who said, “If he says to you now, you ask him what his name is. He would tell you. Then ask him what his name is in Basra? He would mention the same name. At that time you tell him: Our God is also like that. He is God in the heavens and also God on the earth. He is God in the sea and on the land, in the plains and on the hill.” Hisham did as bidden. Abu Shakir said, “It is not your reply, it has come loaded on the camels from Hijaz.”

Another Debate With Abu Shakir
One day Abu Shakir came to the Imam and said, “Prove to me the existence of God.” Imam (a.s) told him to be seated. At that time a boy passed by holding a hen’s egg. Imam (a.s) called him, and taking the egg from him kept it on his palm. Then he told Abu Shakir, “See, it is such a strong fort that has no doors. On its outside is a hard skin and below it is a thin membrane, inside which flow two seas of gold and silver. But neither can the yellow mix with the white nor the white can merge with the yellow. Neither can a repairer enter it nor a destroyer comes out of it. No one can even know whether the newborn would be a male or a female. Then all of a sudden it cracks and a beautiful chick emerges from it. Can your reason agree that all this happened without a designer or a maker?” Hearing this Abu Shakir bowed down his head and said, “I repent for my beliefs today and accept the religion of Islam.”

Debate With An Egyptian Atheist
One day an atheist from Egypt came to Imam (a.s) who asked his name. “Abdul Malik,” replied he. Imam (a.s) asked what his agnomen was. “Abu Abdullah,” he replied.

Imam: The kingdom whose slave you are, is it from the kingdom of the heavens or from the kingdoms of the earth?

Atheist: I have never reflected on it.

Imam: Have you ever gone below the earth’s surface?

Atheist: No.

Imam: Do you know what is below it?

Atheist: I have no knowledge of it.

Imam: Have you ever ascended to the sky?

Atheist: No.

Imam: Do you know what exists there?

Atheist: No.

Imam: Have you visited east and west? Do you know what lies beyond the limits?

Atheist: No.

Imam: It is surprising that when you do not have any knowledge about the earth or the sky, the east or west, how can you deny the existence of God? How can an ignorant man make such a great claim? Just ponder upon it; the moon, the sun, the night and the day, which all move in a particular way, are they not helpless and captive in their orbits? If they had not been so, they would not have returned after passing away once. If they are not helpless, why is it not that sometimes there is night instead of day? Don’t you ever reflect on the earth and the sky that why the sky does not crash on the earth? Why the earth does not sink below itself? Who has made them stable? One who has done this is our and their absolute powerful God.” Hearing these words, he was astonished and at that very moment recited the dual testimony of Islamic faith and became a Muslim.

Taken from: Akhlaq e-A’imma, Morals & Manners of the Holy Imams by  Maulana Sayyid Zafar Hasan Amrohi

How can you be their creator?

Juad Ibne Dirham, a leader of atheist sect had kept some mud and water in a glass bottle. After some days worms grew in it and he claimed to be their creator. One day he came to Imam (a.s) and also claimed thus. Imam (a.s) said, “If you are their creator, tell us how many of them are male and how many female?” He said, “I don’t know.” Imam said, “If you can’t do that, command the worms going one way to crawl in the opposite direction.” He said, “I cannot do it.” Imam said, “All right, then tell us what is the weight of each of them?” He replied, “I do not know.” Imam said, “When neither you have any knowledge about them, nor any control over them, then how can you be their creator?”

Taken from: Akhlaq e-A’imma, Morals & Manners of the Holy Imams by  Maulana Sayyid Zafar Hasan Amrohi

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