Tonight is the eve of the birth of the man who wrote this Will that I keep quoting. I wish you could know him. I had a feeling once that perhaps he was the kind of role model you had been hungering for all your life and never found. I know the solace and comfort I have found in his love and leadership have been what support me when I have nothing to lean on and no strength to stand.
I had hoped to introduce you to him and then be secure in the knowledge that should there be a time when I am not there, you would have someone far better, greater and perfect to turn to.
Unfortunately, you remain a stranger to him. And a result to me. And also to your own self and the purpose of your life. This letter is not going to be as long as the others I have sent before simply because I don’t have the time to write to you, not when the minutes of this precious night and the time I have with him are passing by so fast. (If only you had learnt the sweetness of his company, nothing would have sufficed to replace it.)
I am writing however, because it would be a missed opportunity not to share his understanding of life on the very day his life began and his presence blessed this universe.
…Those people who have carefully studied the conditions of life and the world pass their days as if they know that they are travellers who have to leave a place which is barren, practically a desert almost devoid of food and water, unhealthy and uncongenial; and they have to go towards lands that are fertile, healthy and congenial, and where there is abundant provision of all comforts and pleasures.
They have eagerly taken up the journey, happy in the hope of future blessings and peace. They have willingly accepted the sufferings, troubles and hazards of the way, the parting of friends, the scarcity of food and comfort during the pilgrimage, so that they may reach the journey’s end – a happy place. They do not refuse to bear any discomfort and do not grudge any expense on the way, giving out alms and charities, and helping the poor and the needy. Every step which they put forward toward their goal, however tiring and exhausting it may be, is a happy event in their lives.
This is the journey I want to undertake, and if parting ways from you because of the choices you are making is part of it, it will be a ‘happy event in my life’. I would rather work hard, hurt deeply and be lied to and disappointed, but know that every pain I bear is a scar of victory on my journey to my True Home, and that I have had the courage to make that journey instead of running away from it like you have.
On the contrary the condition of those people who are solely engrossed in this world and are sadly engulfed in its short-lived, quickly fading and vicious pleasures, is like that of travellers who are staying in fertile and happy regions and who have to undertake a journey, knowing fully well that the journey is going to end in inhospitable, arid and infertile lands. Can anything be more loathsome to them than this journey? How they would hate to leave the place where they are and to arrive at a place which they so much hate and that is so dismaying, dreadful and frightening!
How sad is it to see you engrossed and engulfed in your current lifestyle so deeply that you don’t even seem to realise how shallow it is? or the lack of worth in it? Sadder than you can ever imagine….
My dear son, so far as your behaviour with other human beings is concerned, let your ‘self’ act as scales to help you judge its goodness or wickedness. Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.
Whatever you like for your ‘self’, like for others, and whatever you dislike happening to you, spare others from. Do not oppress and tyrannize anyone because you surely do not like to be oppressed and tyrannized. Be kind and sympathetic to others as you certainly desire others to treat you kindly and sympathetically. Whatever habits you find objectionable and loathsome in others, abstain from developing. If you are satisfied or feel happy to receive a certain kind of behaviour from others, then behave with others in exactly the same way.
Do not speak about them in a way that you do not like others to speak about you. Do not speak on a subject about which you know little or nothing, and if you want to speak at all about anything or about anyone, then avoid scandal, libel and aspersion yourself for you would not like yourself to be scandalized and libeled.
Do unto others as you would have done unto your self. This is a maxim that crosses the boundaries of all religions, cultures and races. It is part of basic humanity. And yet you did unto me exactly as you would never want done unto your self. After stating this fact, is there even a need to try and define the kind of person you have now become?
I would like to treat you the way I would want to be treated myself had I done what you have. The problem is: in my wildest dreams I cannot imagine doing that to anyone, let alone you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to glorify myself or say this is something noble in my character – rather it is beneath the lessons of dignity and self-respect taught to me by the man I am quoting.
Any goodness I try to emulate finds its source in him and I am sorely lacking in having followed his examples well enough. But at least I have a unmatched standard to constantly measure myself by and an unparalleled lead to follow.
Remember, son, that vanity and conceit are forms of folly, traits will bring to you serious harm and will be a constant source of danger to you. Lead a well-balanced life; neither be conceited nor suffer from the feeling that you are inferior, and exert yourself to earn an honest living. But do not act like a treasurer for somebody; do not be a miser who hoards what he earns.
Did you know that stubbornness is a form of conceit? To think that the way you do things is the only way to do them? To feel you can not change your mind, regret your bad decisions or go back and undo your mistakes. To burn bridges and think that the only way is forward. These are policies that can be flawed sometimes.
You cannot go into your future unless you first use your present to amend your past, and to do that you have let go of your pride and obstinacy enough to admit where you went wrong and feel enough of a remorse to want to make things right. It is the ability to do this that defines the boys and girls from the men and women. I wonder if you are incapable of ever doing so? That would be a true shame.
And whenever you receive guidance of the Lord to achieve the thing you desire, then do not be proud of your achievement but be humble and submissive to Him and realize that your success was due to His Mercy and Favour.
I chose to end on this note because I can not be thankful enough to be where I am. Who knows if I too would have been deserving of censure or lost on the way if I had still been in the circle of your influence. When I look at my life this past year or so, I cannot see much in terms of achievements and progress – this has been entirely my fault – but I can see that I have been saved from turning my back on my Lord, my faith and my Hereafter.
God has Blessed me with the awareness of what is Real, Important and Invaluable and what is not. I have no idea what I did to deserve this, but I don’t question it. I only thank Him in every way I can.
The guidance of God is there for everyone and for you, more so because you were born into the Truth. There is no legitimate excuse to turn away from it after having been exposed to it.
I know I stopped at the point above in the Will, but I can’t stop thinking about the wealth of knowledge that springs from the words of this man. And because one who loves cannot help but mention their beloved at every chance, I’m tempted to share a couple more sayings that seemed to speak to me and I think they do to you too.
He is known to have said “He who sells his next life for his present life in this world, loses both of them”. I might not be very good at mathematics or business, but I can make out a bargain when I see it. Can you not? Will you continue to throw away this life as well as the next – willfully and voluntarily? What happened to all your good sense and intelligence?
In all the time I have known you, I have worried about you and felt sympathy for you, but when I realised that this is exactly what you have done, sold your next life for this one…for the first time ever, I have felt a profound pity for you. And selfishly perhaps, an utter gratitude for being blessed with the ability to make out a good deal from a bad one.
But this is a night of Celebration. The heavens are lit up in joy and the Doors of Forgiveness flung open to anyone who would want to walk through them. All it takes is the realisation of where true Success and Joy lies and the sincere desire to want only the best for yourself. The rest is provided by God Himself.
He also says: “I wonder at a man who loses hope of salvation when the door of repentance is open for him.”
I too wonder.
*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.