Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quality is the Criterion

One of the most remarkable events of Islamic history where the peak of sincerity is revealed is the incident of Bibi Shutayta, a spiritually effulgent woman, who lived during the time of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) and Imam al-Kazim (‘A) in the Nishapur area of Iran.

A group of people led by Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Naishapuri left Naishapur for Medina to deliver people’s money to Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a). He was entrusted with 30,000 dinars, 50,000 dirhams, and 3,000 pieces of clothes to take to the Imam of the time. An old woman called Shutayta gives a dirham and a piece of raw cotton material spun by herself for the Imam (‘A). Muhammad bin Ibrahim tells the woman: O woman, I feel ashamed to give one dirham and a piece of cloth to Abu ‘Abdillah [al-Sadiq (‘a)]. She said: Wouldn’t you deliver [it to the Imam]? Inna Allaha la yastahyi min al-haqq (Indeed Allah is not ashamed of the truth). Muhammad bin Ibrahim takes the dirham from her, bends it, and places it in a bag which had lots of money [to be taken to the Imam (‘a)].

On the way, he learns that Imam al-Sadiq (‘A) had left this world, and Imam Musa al-Kazim (‘A) had become his successor. So he goes to Imam al-Kazim (‘A). When he arrives in the Imam’s presence, the Imam (‘a) asks for the bag of money that he had brought. Then he tells him to turn the bag, and drop the money, and he only picks up the bent coin of Shutayta. Then he (‘A) asks for the bag of clothes to be opened, and only takes the raw cotton material of Shutayta, and addressing Muhammad bin Ibrahim says “Surely Allah is not ashamed of the truth” (the same words that Shutayta had told Muhammad bin Ibrahim when the latter felt ashamed to take her coin).

Then he tells Muhammad bin Ibrahim to convey his salams to Shutayta and gives him a bag of 40 dirhams for her as well as a piece of cloth among the pieces of clothes of his kafan which his noble sister Halima bint Imam al-Sadiq (‘A) had spun.

The Imam (‘a) also tells him to tell her that she will live for 19 days after Muhammad bin Ibrahim’s arrival; she can spend 16 dirhams from the money for herself and give the rest as sadaqa…and informs his that he in person will come to bury her.

Then he told Muhammad bin Ibrahim to return back the wealth that he had brought to their owners…[Later on his return he realizes that except for Shutayta the rest had not accepted Imam al-Kazim (peace be upon him) as the next Imam of the time.]

On her demise, Imam Musa al-Kazim (peace be upon him) travels through tayy al-ardh (traversing of the earth) to Naishapur and prays for her funeral, and also places the earth of shifa (the earth of al-Husayn bin ‘Ali (‘A)) in her grave. When the Imam (‘A) finishes the burial ceremonies he mounts on his camel and facing the people says:

Make your companions know and greet them on my behalf and say to them: Indeed I, and whosoever is in my position among the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) must attend your funerals wherever you may be. Therefore be God-wary in yourselves and make your actions qualitatively beautiful so that you may assist us in your emancipation and your freedom from the Hell Fire. [Ref: ‘Allama al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v. 48, pp. 73-75]

Dear readers, this is the story of reality. The quality of one’s action is the mizan and balance to sift between the valuable and the valueless. The Holy Qur’an says: “…Who created death and life that He may try you- which of you is best in deeds (ahsanu ‘amalan)”. Hence let us struggle to establish ourselves in this level of sincerity (ikhlas) so that we are gradually overtaken by Divine attraction (al-jadhba al-ilahiyya) and instead of merely being from the mukhLISun (in the sense of the active participle), we are transported to the level of the mukhLASin (in the sense of the passive participle), a level in which Satan can never lay any kind of influence. Satan swears in the Qur’an: “…and I will certainly cause them all to deviate except Thy servants from among them, who are mukhLASin ( purified (by Yourself)) [15:39-40].

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