05 August 2020 - 16:45
News ID: 450567
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This articles by Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi explains the influential teachings of Imam Ali al-Hadi.

The lecturers and students of the religious seminary can utilize the teachings of Imam al-Hadi ‎in helping the people resolve their various ideological questions and doubts. Unfortunately, ‎Imam al-Hadi has not been remembered like the other Imams, nor have his teachings been ‎given the attention that they truly deserve. We must do our best to remedy this shortcoming ‎in ourselves and our institutions. ‎

On the blessed anniversary of the birth of Imam ‘Ali al-Naqi, the tenth of the Shi’ah Imams, ‎we find it more necessary than ever to research the teachings of this great leader. It is ‎necessary to mention that Imam al-Hadi lived in a time period which was beset with various ‎types of pressure and an utter lack of freedom. Due to this atmosphere, the Imam did not ‎have as much of an opportunity to teach the people and spread the true message of Islam. ‎In spite of this unsuitable atmosphere, he still had many students who were trained under his ‎guidance and he would constantly answer the religious questions of the people. He would ‎also narrate traditions and deal with various jurisprudential issues which would arise. All of ‎these things showed the people how deeply his knowledge ran and how much he had to ‎offer to the Muslim community. [1]‎

Some of the prominent students of the Imam included Ayyub ibn Nuḥ, ‘Uthman ibn Sa’id al-‎Ahwazi, and ‘Abd al-‘Adhim al-Ḥasani (who is buried in Rey, which is nowadays included in the ‎city of Tehran, Iran). Some of these students authored very valuable religious or ‎jurisprudential works. In light of this reality, we wish to delve in to the key teachings of ‎Imam al-Hadi, particularly those which we can directly apply in to our own lives. Let us look ‎at what Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has said in regards to this issue.‎

A Reflection on the Essential Nature of this World from the Viewpoint of Imam al-Hadi ‎

The World as a Place of Business for the Hereafter

One of the teachings of Imam al-Hadi relates to the concept of the role which the world ‎plays in the felicity (or lack thereof) of human beings, as well as its role in the attainment of ‎human perfection. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained a tradition narrated from Imam ‎al-Hadi in regards to how human beings should deal with the material world: Imam al-Hadi ‎has been quoted as saying: “this world is a marketplace in which some people profit, while ‎others lose. [2,3]‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained that this tradition from Imam al-Hadi shows that we ‎shouldn’t look at this world as a final destination; it is rather a tool and a means of gaining ‎various valuable things (such as pious deeds and knowledge of God) for the next world, ‎which is the final destination. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has continued this explanation and ‎he has emphasized the necessity of making full use of this world as a marketplace for the ‎hereafter. He has said: This world is not our true home, nor is a place where we can live ‎forever. It is rather a grand marketplace where human beings need to ‘purchase’ their felicity ‎in the eternal otherworldly life, using various valuable bounties given to them, including every ‎moment of every hour of their lives, as well as their physical and intellectual powers.‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has then stated: Those who work hard and strive in this grand ‎marketplace, and who are aware of the reality of what this world is, will always be in a state ‎of struggle and they will not rest easy until they have attained a more valuable thing, i.e. an ‎eternal life of felicity in the hereafter, in exchange for these valuable possessions. This is the ‎complete opposite to the path of corruption and waste where people give up their valuable ‎time and energy for things which only bring them loss. In the end, these types of people ‎leave this world with nothing to show for their efforts.‎

The World and the Difference between the Materialist Worldview of the West and the ‎Monotheistic Ideology of Islam

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has continued his discussion of this tradition from Imam al-Hadi ‎by delving in to the differences between the West and the Islamic world when it comes to ‎the concept of this material world. The Western world looks at death as the end of ‎everything; it is for this reason that morality is something subjective and without any ‎definitive meaning. On the other hand, the religion of Islam looks at this world as a place of ‎opportunity to prepare for the next world. ‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has made the following remarks in this regard: The world is a ‎place of difficulties and examinations, while the hereafter is the everlasting abode. If we ‎consider the world to be a marketplace for the hereafter, where one attains various types of ‎knowledge and performs various good deeds, then it is natural that we will work harder and ‎with a more refined purpose. If it were not so, and we were to live with the beliefs of the ‎materialists, then the world would become a very dull and worthless place indeed. Ayatollah ‎Makarem-Shirazi has distinguished the differences between the materialistic and the ‎monotheistic worldviews. He has said: In order to live a pure life, it is necessary that we ‎exert ourselves and it is not possible to reach our goals without this exertion and effort.‎

Theocentrism as the Only Way of Preventing Loss in this World

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has continued his explanation of the various facets of the tradition ‎from Imam al-Hadi and he has detailed how Surah al-‘Aṣr in the Quran is a warning call for all ‎human beings. He has mentioned in this regard that: One of the notables has mentioned that ‎he learned the meaning of this Surah (al-‘Aṣr) from an ice seller. In olden times people would ‎bring blocks of ice and sell pieces of them to their customers (since there were no ‎refrigerators at that time). This ice seller was standing by his block of ice and yelling: ‘Have ‎mercy on the one whose investment is melting’. When the other man heard this statement ‎of the ice seller, he thought to himself that this is the meaning of Surah al-‘Aṣr which states: ‎‎‘Verily man is in loss’. This means that as time passes on and one’s life is cut short, if one ‎does not attain any good deeds, then verily such an individual is in a state of loss. ‎
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From this perspective, there is only one way to prevent this type of loss and that can be ‎found in the following verse of Surah al-‘Aṣr which states: ‘Except those who have faith and ‎do righteous deeds, and enjoin one another to [follow] the truth, and enjoin one another to ‎patience.’ In other words, the one thing which can prevent this loss from taking place is by ‎‎‘spending’ one’s time gaining things which are even more valuable than what is being lost. ‎This is the only way one can prevent this loss from taking place and in reality, what one ‎gains in this transaction is infinitely more valuable than the time lost gaining it.‎

Without any doubt, every breath we take is a breath which brings us closer to death. Every ‎heartbeat draws us closer to death. In light of this reality, we must take steps to ensure that ‎we are gaining something which can make up for this loss. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has, ‎then, described the various groups of people which exist in this world and how they live their ‎lives:‎

‎1. There is one group which gives up their valuable time in gaining wealth. They either gain ‎a large amount of wealth or they gain a little; in either case, they spend their lives chasing ‎after material things which they can only enjoy for a relatively short period of time.‎

‎2. Another group exchange their time on this earth for reaching social rank and position.‎

‎3. Another group pursues various means of pleasure seeking and they give up their time in ‎lieu of worldly pleasure

‎4. Naturally, all of these groups are giving up their valuable lives in lieu of things which do ‎not even come close to what they are losing. The only ones who are winning are those who ‎seek the pleasure of God and seek greater proximity to Him.‎

It is not by accident that one of the names of the Day of Judgment is the ‘Yawm al-‎Taghabun’ which means ‘The Day of Loss’ because it is a day when many people will learn ‎that they attained very little in return for the valuable life that they squandered on earth. ‎There is another verse in the Quran which states: ‘Indeed God has bought from the faithful ‎their souls and their possessions for paradise to be theirs …’ This verse indicates that the ‎true buyer of the invaluable possessions of man (the most valuable of which is his life) is ‎God. Moreover, based on, yet, another verse God the Almighty is also ready to buy from ‎man even the smallest of his possessions, in return for which, to grant him a life in Paradise: ‎‎“Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it” When someone decides ‎to sell something at this ‘marketplace’, they don’t simply receive an equal exchange; they ‎end up receiving ten times as much or even seven hundred times as much as what they ‎have given. [4,5] Even though everything that human beings have belongs to God and it was ‎given to them by Him, He is still so generous that he purchases these insignificant deeds and ‎gives the individual many times over what he had initially offered! [6]‎

Rationality: A Key Precept in Attaining Felicity in this World, As Well As in the Next

Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi, in light of the aforementioned tradition from Imam al-Hadi, ‎has mentioned that rationality is one of the key elements in minimizing our losses in this ‎world and exchanging our time for provisions for the next world. He has stated: Thinking ‎about the end of our lives and the necessity of gaining provisions for the next world is the ‎way of the rational people. If one uses their intellect and adopts a rational way of life, then ‎it will prevent many an act of oppression and sin from ever taking place. ‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi further explained: In a world which is filled with various events and ‎incidents, if one does not forget the hereafter, they will always be careful of how they are ‎acting. The criminals and oppressors are those who do not think about the hereafter; if they ‎did, they would not ever approach such actions. From this perspective, it must be said that ‎the world is a place of examinations and difficulties, while the hereafter is a place of eternal ‎life. If we consider the world to be a type of marketplace for the hereafter, then we will ‎naturally work harder and with more specific purpose towards our goals. ‎

Self-knowledge: An Essential Element in Self-purification and Moral Training

Self -knowledge in regards to one’s capabilities and worth in the journey towards God is one ‎of the key teachings of Imam al-Hadi. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained this issue in ‎greater detail and he has said: ‘Self-knowledge is one of the essential foundations of training ‎oneself towards greater growth and perfection. A lack of knowledge in regards to oneself will ‎cause one to be a stranger to all things and it is a cause of becoming distanced from God. ‎In a tradition from Imam al-Hadi, we read that: You are not safe from the evil of a person ‎who does not regard themselves with any value.’ [7,8]‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has thus considered knowledge of oneself as an essential element ‎in reaching lofty spiritual ranks. He has stated in this regard that: We can clearly understand ‎from this tradition of Imam al-Hadi that one of the essential foundations of developing moral ‎virtues and reaching spiritual perfection is attaining knowledge of one’s self. Until an ‎individual has passed this difficult stage of development, they cannot reach any of the higher ‎spiritual positions. It is for this reason that the great scholars of ethics and morality have ‎emphasized that a person who wishes to tread the path of spiritual perfection must first gain ‎knowledge of themselves and they should never be negligent towards this reality.‎

In reality, one of the important elements which prevents corruption and evil is the existence ‎of self-esteem and self-worth in an individual. People who have such characteristics and feel ‎that they have value will safeguard themselves from sins and other negative actions in order ‎to preserve that value from being destroyed. Those who don’t have this sense of self-worth, ‎or self-esteem, will not care what effect the various sins will have on them. A person who ‎feels they have no value has, in effect, nothing to lose and it is for this reason that Imam al-‎Hadi has told us to be wary of such people.‎

Self-edification: An Essential Foundation for the Realization of the Greater Struggle

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained the tradition of Imam al-Hadi in relation to the ‎concept of the greater Jihad as a key element of the religion. He has stated in this regard: ‎We know that fighting against our carnal desires, which are the primary root of various sins, ‎has been named as the greater Jihad in Islam. This is a Jihad which is considered to be more ‎difficult and more important than fighting the enemies of Islam.‎

The reason behind this is that until one has tamed his carnal desires, there can be no real ‎victory over one’s external enemies. Therefore, defeating this internal enemy is the true key ‎to victory, both in regards to oneself, as well as in regards to one’s external enemies. When ‎we examine how various people were defeated in battle, we find that they were almost ‎always defeated due to their own internal weaknesses, and not due to the strength of their ‎enemies. This kind of greater Jihad is even more valuable in places which are filled with ‎corruption and sin.‎

The Incomparable Value of Self Worth: The Crystallization and Manifestation of Man’s True ‎Essence

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained the various facets of the above-mentioned tradition ‎from Imam al-Hadi in regards to the necessity of character and self-value. The Ayatollah has ‎stated in this regard: One of the important issues within the divine religions and in regards to ‎human societies is the value system. For example, when we look at the material world and ‎the spiritual world, we find that everything has a specific value. Some things are less in ‎value, while some other things are more.‎

It is natural that if an individual determines that something is lesser in value, they will be ‎more apt to give that up. If they consider something to be more valuable, then they will ‎safeguard it more closely. If we take the example of a valuable gem, we also find that ‎sometimes people do not recognize the true value of things. For example, this gem in the ‎hands of a child is a simple toy which is of little value to them, and they would not be too ‎upset if they lost it.‎

The character of human beings is the same way and if they consider themselves to be ‎valuable, they will not do anything to tarnish or destroy that value. The Quran has stated ‎that after God, there is nothing as valuable in this world as the human being. The reason ‎behind this is that everything in this world has been created for the human being: ‘I have ‎created all the things for you, while I have created you for myself’. [9] In fact, the loftiest ‎beings created by God, i.e. the angels, prostrated themselves before Adam: ‘So all the ‎angels prostrated before Adam’. This shows us how valuable human beings are in the ‎hierarchy of God’s creation.‎

In addition to this, God has made all things subservient to man in the sense that God has ‎allowed man to control and utilize these things in his own favor. [10] So if we are to realize ‎the true value of human beings, we will easily understand that the carnal desires are nothing ‎at all and it would be a true pity if people pursued these things in lieu of their own growth ‎and perfection. If we understand our true value, then we will not sell ourselves except for ‎the loftiest of goals, which is the goal of the hereafter. [11] However, we should all be wary ‎of those who have no self-worth, because such individuals can even kill another person for a ‎petty amount of money.‎

The Reality of Being Thankful for Our Blessings as Reflected in the Teachings of Imam al-‎Hadi ‎

Being thankful for one’s blessings is amongst the things which are sometimes passed over ‎by people and forgotten. Referring to a tradition from Imam al-Hadi in relation to the ‎importance of being thankful for what God has given, Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi stated: ‎Imam al-Hadi is narrated to have said: ‘The one who gives thanks for his blessings gains ‎much more from having given thanks than he does from having that blessing. This is ‎because the blessings are a means of life in this world, while giving thanks is an investment ‎for the hereafter.’ [12]‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained the reality of being thankful according to the ‎teachings of Imam al-Hadi and he has said: Being thankful is not something which is only ‎done through words. It is rather something which comes about from one’s deeds. When one ‎utilizes a given blessing in the proper way, then this is a means of showing thankfulness for ‎it. Being thankful for the blessings which God has given us brings about even greater ‎blessings which make the initial blessing seem insignificant. A given blessing can be ‎something very simple or something which is material, but being thankful for it transforms it ‎in to an even greater blessing which is an investment for the hereafter.‎

Therefore, thankfulness can take place in the heart, through words, and through one’s ‎deeds. If an individual is thankful for their blessings, they will be given something which is ‎greater than that initial blessing. This is unfortunately something which is not often thought ‎about. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has mentioned that an unshakable faith in God, ‎forbearance, and true knowledge come about from being thankful for one’s blessings. ‎Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has further stated the following in this regard: It is essential for us ‎to understand that if we are thankful for our blessings, then we are only helping ourselves, ‎since God is needless of the thanks of his creation.‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has mentioned that this issue is proven through the life of Imam ‎al-Hadi. He has stated that: According to history texts, one of Imam al-Hadi’s companions ‎was a man by the name of Abu Hashim al-Ja’fari. Abu Hashim al-Ja’fari has narrated that he ‎was faced with a very difficult financial situation and so he went to see the Imam, in order to ‎complain to him of what was happening. He narrates: “before I could say anything, he said ‎to me: Oh Abu Hashim, which of the divine blessings do you wish to thank God for? Abu ‎Hashim replied: I became upset at this and I remained silent, not knowing what I should ‎say.‎

The Imam then continued and said that God has given you faith and He has made it ‎forbidden for the fire of Hell to burn your body due to it. God gave you a healthy body and ‎he helped you in obeying Him. God has given you contentment so that you do not lose your ‎value in front of the people. Oh Abu Hashim, I initiated this discussion because I thought ‎that you wished to complain to me about the One who has given you all of these blessings. ‎I have given the order that you be given one hundred Dinars; take it and resolve your ‎problems with it. This entire encounter caused Abu Hashim al-Ja’fari to become happy and ‎satisfied, without having complained about the difficulties of his life.‎

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has then explained how the lack of thankfulness has brought ‎about various social problems and difficulties during our own era. For example, imagine that ‎God gives a couple a child but this couple fail to raise that child properly due to negligence. ‎In essence, this is an example of a lack of thankfulness because they have neglected to ‎properly take care of what God has given them. In turn, this blessing will soon be ‎transformed in to a plight and it will entail a thousand difficulties for both the parents, as well ‎as the society in general. This will have effects not only in the material world of today, but it ‎will also have effects in the hereafter as well.‎

Another example can be found in an individual who becomes ill with a sickness; this person ‎practices patience in the face of their troubles and they are thankful to God for what He has ‎given them. Such a person then becomes better over time until they are cured completely ‎from their illness. Later on, they realize that if they had been healthy during that time period, ‎they would have participated in something which would have destroyed them completely.‎

They then realize that this illness was actually a blessing in disguise. Due to this reality, a ‎pious believer must utilize the divine blessings which God has given to them properly. This is ‎a type of practical thankfulness which is shown through one’s deeds. Contrary to this, the ‎hypocrites may claim verbally that they are thankful but on a practical level, they are not ‎being thankful at all.‎

A Final Word

Without any doubt, the words of Imam al-Hadi are a source of great wisdom and guidance ‎both in this world, as well as in the next. There is no doubt that it is obligatory upon us to ‎respect all of the Imams and one way to implement this respect is by implementing their ‎teachings in our day to day lives. The scholars and lecturers have an important role to play ‎in this regard. Through utilizing the teachings of Imam al-Hadi, who has unfortunately not ‎been focused upon as is his due, we can better confront the enemies of Islam and ‎strengthen the ideological foundations of our faith.‎

Makarem.ir ‎

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