Delivered when the Holy Prophet died and `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib and
Abu Sufyan ibn Harb offered to pay allegiance to Amir al-mu'minin for the
clear through the waves of mischief by boats of deliverance, turn away
from the path of dissension and put off the crowns of pride. Prosperous is
one who rises with wings (i.e. when he has power) or else he remains
peaceful and others enjoy ease. It (i.e. the aspiration for Caliphate) is
like turbid water or like a morsel that would suffocate the person who
swallows it. One who plucks fruits before ripening is like one who
cultivated in another's field.
If I speak
out they would call me greedy towards power but if I keep quiet they would
say I was afraid of death. It is a pity that after all the ups and downs
(I have been through). By Allah the son of Abu Talib
is more familiar with death than an
infant with the breast of its mother. I have hidden knowledge, if I
disclose it you will start trembling like ropes in deep wells.
(1). When the Holy Prophet died
Abu Sufyan was not in Medina. He was coming back when on his way he got
the news of this tragedy. At once he enquired who had become the leader
and Chief. He was told that people had paid allegiance to Abu Bakr. On
hearing this the acknowledged mischief-monger of Arabia went into deep
thought and eventually went to `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib with a
He said to him, "Look, these
people have by contrivance made over the Caliphate to the Taym and
deprived Banu Hashim of it for good, and after himself this man would
place over our heads a haughty man of Banu `Adi.
Let us go to `Ali ibn `Abi
Talib and ask him to get out of his house and take to arms to secure his
right." So taking `Abbas with him he came to `Ali and said: "Let me your
hand; I pay allegiance to you and if anyone rises in opposition I would
fill the streets of Medina with men of cavalry and infantry." This was the
most delicate moment for Amir al-mu'minin. He regarded himself as the true
head and successor of the Prophet while a man with the backing of his
tribe and party like Abu Sufyan was ready to support him. Just a signal
was enough to ignite the flames of war.
But Amir al-mu'minin's
foresight and right judgement saved the Muslims from civil war as his
piercing eyes perceived that this man wanted to start civil war by rousing
the passions of tribal partisanship and distinction of birth, so that
Islam should be struck with a convulsion that would shake it to its roots.
Amir al-mu'minin therefore rejected his counsel and admonished him
severely and spoke forth the words, whereby he has stopped people from
mischief mongering, and undue conceit, and declared his stand to be that
for him there were only two courses - either to take up arms or to sit
quietly at home.
If he rose for war there was
no supporter so that he could suppress these rising insurgencies. The only
course left was quietly to wait for the opportunity till circumstances
al-mu'minin's quietness at this stage was indicative of his high policy
and far-sightedness, because if in those circumstances Medina had become
the centre of war its fire would have engulfed the whole of Arabia in its
The discord and scuffle that
had already begun among muhajirun (those who came from Mecca) and ansar
(the locals of Medina) would have increased to maximum, the wire-pullings
of the hypocrites would have had full play, and Islam's ship would have
been caught in such a whirlpool that its balancing would have been
difficult; Amir al-mu'minin suffered trouble and tribulations but did not
raise his hands.
History is witness that
during his life at Mecca the Prophet suffered all sorts of troubles but he
was not prepared to clash or struggle by abandoning patience and
endurance, because he realised that if war took place at that stage the
way for Islam's growth and fruition would be closed.
Of course, when he had
collected supporters and helpers enough to suppress the flood of unbelief
and curb the disturbances, he rose to face the enemy. Similarly, Amir
al-mu'minin, treating the life of the Prophet as a torch for his guidance
refrained from exhibiting the power of his arm because he was realising
that rising against the enemy without helpers and supporters would become
a source of revolt and defeat instead of success and victory.
Therefore, on this occasion
Amir al-mu'minin has likened the desire for Caliphate to turbid water or a
morsel suffocating the throat. Thus, even where people had forcibly
snatched this morsel and wanted to swallow it by forcible thrusting, it
got stuck up in their throat.
They could neither swallow
it nor vomit it out. That is, they could neither manage it as is apparent
from the blunders they committed in connection with Islamic injunctions,
nor were they ready to cast off the knot from their neck. He reiterated
the same ideas in different words thus: "If had I attempted to pluck the
unripe fruit of Caliphate then by this the orchard would have been
desolated and I too would have achieved nothing, like these people who
cultivate on other's land but can neither guard it, nor water it at proper
time, nor reap any crop from it.
The position of these people
is that if I ask them to vacate it so that the owner should cultivate it
himself and protect it, they say how greedy I am, while if I keep quiet
they think I am afraid of death. They should tell me on what occasion did
I ever feel afraid, or flew from battle-field for life, whereas every
small or big encounter is proof of my bravery and a witness to my daring
and courage. He who plays with swords and strikes against hillocks is not
afraid of death.
I am so familiar with death
that even an infant is not so familiar with the breast of its mother.
Hark! The reason for my silence is the knowledge that the Prophet has put
in my bosom. If I divulge it you would get perplexed and bewildered.
Let some days pass and you
would know the reason of my inaction, and perceive with your own eyes what
sorts of people would appear on this scene under the name of Islam, and
what destruction they would bring about. My silence is because this would
happen, otherwise it is not silence without reason." A Persian hemistch
"Silence has meaning which
cannot be couched in words."
About death Amir al-mu'minin says that it is so dear to him that even an
infant does not so love to leap towards the source of its nourishment
while in its mother's lap.
An infant's attachment with
the breast of its mother is under the effect of a natural impulse but the
dictates of natural impulses change with the advance of age.
When the limited period of
infancy ends and the infant's temperament changes, he does not like even
to look at what was so familiar to him but rather turns his face from it
in disgust. But the love of prophets and saints for union with Allah is
mental and spiritual, and mental and spiritual feelings do not change, nor
does weakness or decay occur in them.
Since death is the means and
first rung towards this goal their love for death increases to such an
extent that its rigours become the cause of pleasure for them and its
bitterness proves to be the source of delight for their taste.
Their love for it is the
same as that of the thirsty for the well or that of a lost passenger for
his goal. Thus when Amir al-mu'minin was wounded by `Abd ar-Rahman ibn
Muljam's fatal attack, he said, "I was but like the walker who has reached
(the goal) or like the seeker who has found (his object) and whatever is
with Allah is good for the pious." The Prophet also said that there is no
pleasure for a believer other than union with Allah.