Part #2
Yasin T. al-Jibouri

(This text is excerpted from the forthcoming 8th edition of Nahjul-Balagha which I have been editing and which will soon be published in New York by TTQ. This is one of the most beautiful literary works I have ever come across, and I hope you, too, will see it as such. You are at liberty to circulate it and/or reproduce it however you see fit, surely this will please the Almighty with Whom Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (ع) enjoys a very special status…)

Imam Ali wrote the following for his son al-Hasan ibn Ali (ع) when he camped at al-Hadirin on his way back from Siffin: Part two of the Will:

“Be informed, O son, that in front of you lies an impassable valley wherein the light-burdened man will be in a better condition than the heavy-burdened one, the slow-paced one will be in a worse condition than the swift-paced. Your terminating point at the other end of this passage will imminently be either Paradise or Hell. Therefore, reconnoiter for yourself before alighting and prepare the place before getting down because after death there can be neither preparation nor any return to this world.

“Be informed that Whoever owns the treasures of the heavens and the earth has permitted you to pray to Him and has promised you acceptance of the prayer. He has commanded you to beg of Him in order that He may give you, to seek His mercy in order that He may have mercy on you. He has not placed anything between you and Him that may veil Him from you.

“Allah has not required you to get a mediator between yourself and Him. If you err, He has not prevented you from repenting. He does not hasten His punishment. He does not reprimand you for repenting, nor does He humiliate you when humiliation is more appropriate for you. He is not harsh in accepting repentance. He does not severely question you about your sins. He does not disappoint you regarding His mercy. Rather, He regards abstention from sin as a virtue. He counts your sin as one while counting your good deed as ten.

“Allah has opened for you the gate of repentance. Therefore, whenever you call on Him, He hears your call; whenever you whisper to Him, He knows the whispers. Place before Him your needs, unveil yourself before Him, complain to Him of your worries, beseech Him to remove your troubles, seek His help in your affairs and ask Him to grant you from the treasures of His mercy that which no one else has power to give, namely: length of life, health of body and an increase in your sustenance. Then He has placed the keys of His treasures in your hands in the sense that He has shown you the way to ask Him.

“Wherever you wish, He opens the gates of His favor by virtue of your prayers. Let the abundant rains of His mercy fall on you. Delay in acceptance of your pleas should not disappoint you because the granting of a plea is dependent on the extent of (your) intention. Sometimes, acceptance (of a plea) is delayed with a view to its being a source of greater reward to the pleading one and a better gift to the anticipating person. Sometimes, you may ask for a thing but it is not given to you and a better thing is given to you later, or a thing is taken away from you for some greater good. This is so because sometimes you may ask for a thing which contains ruin for your religion if it is granted to you. Therefore, your request should be for things the beauty of which should be lasting and the burden of which should remain away from you. As for wealth, it will not last for you, nor will you live for its sake.

“O’ son! Be informed that you have been created for the Hereafter, not for this world, for extinction (in this world), not for lasting (in it), and for dying, not for living. You are in a place which does not belong to you, an abode for making preparations, a passage to the Hereafter. You are being chased by death from which the runner-away cannot escape, as it will surely overtake him. So, be on guard against it lest it should overtake you at a time when you are in a sinful state and you are thinking of repenting, but it creates obstruction between yourself and repentance. In such a case, you will ruin yourself.

“O’ son! Remember death quite often and the place where you have to go suddenly and reach after death, so that when it comes, you will be already on your guard against it, having prepared yourself for it. (Prepare yourself lest) it should come to you all of a sudden and surprise you. Beware lest you should become deceived by the leanings of the people towards worldly attractions and their rushing towards it. Allah has warned you about it; the world has informed you of its mortal nature, unveiling to you its evils.

“Surely, those (who go) after this world are like barking dogs or devouring carnivore who hate each other. Those who are stronger among them consume the weaker ones. The big among them tramples over the small. Some are like tied cattle, and some are like untied cattle that have lost their wits and are running in unknown directions. They are flocks of calamities wandering in rugged valleys. There is no herdsman to detain them, nor is there anyone to tend to them and take them to graze. The world has put them on the track of blindness, taking away from their vision the beacons of guidance. They have, therefore, been perplexed in its bewilderment, sunken in its pleasures. They took it as a god, so it played havoc with them. They, too, played with it, forgetting what lies beyond it (the Hereafter).

“Darkness disappears gradually. Now it is as though travellers have got down and those who hasten will soon meet. Be informed, O my son, that everyone who is riding on the carriage of night and day is being carried by them even though he may be stationary; he is covering the distance even though he is staying and resting.

“You should know with certainty that you cannot achieve your desire and exceed your destined lifespan. You are on the track of those before you. Therefore, be humble in seeking and moderate in earning because often seeking leads to deprivation. Every seeker of livelihood does not get it [on his own], nor is everyone who is moderate in seeking is deprived. Keep yourself away from every low thing even though it may take you to your desired aims because you will not get any return for your own respect which you exhaust. Do not be a slave of others, for Allah had made you free. There is no goodness in anything ‘good’ if it is achieved through evil. There is no goodness in any comfort that is achieved through a (disgracing) effort.

“Beware, lest bearers of greed should carry you and make you descend to the springs of destruction. If you can, manage that there will be no wealthy person between yourself and Allah. Do so because in any case you will find what is for you and will get what is your share. A little received directly from Allah, the most Glorified One, is more dignified than that which is more but is received through His creatures, although (in all reality) everything comes from Allah.

“It is easier to rectify what you miss by silence than to secure what you lose by speech. Whatever is in a pot can be retained by closing the lid. I should prefer you retain what is in your hands rather than seek what is in the hands of others. The bitterness of disappointment is better than seeking a hand-out from people. Manual labor with chastity is better than the riches of a vicious life. A man is the best guard of his own secrets. Often, a man strives for what harms him. Whoever speaks much speaks nonsense. Whoever ponders perceives. Associate yourself with the people of virtue, you will then become one of them. Keep aloof from people of vice, you will remain safe from them. The worst food is that which is unlawful. Oppressing the weak is the worst type of oppression.

“Where leniency is unsuitable, harshness is lenience. Often, cure is illness and illness is cure. Often, the ill-wisher gives correct advice while the well-wisher cheats. Do not depend on hopes because hopes are the mainstay of fools. It is wise to safeguard one’s experience. Your best experience is that which teaches you a lesson. Make use of leisure before it changes into grief. Every seeker does not achieve (what he seeks), and everyone who departs never returns. To lose provision and to earn evil for the Day of Judgment means ruin. Every matter has a consequence. What is destined for you will shortly come to you. A trader undertakes a risk. Often a small quantity is more beneficial than a large one. There is no good in an ignoble helper, nor is it in a suspicious friend. Be compliant with the world as long as it is in your grip. Do not put yourself to risk regarding anything in expectation for more. Beware lest the attitude of enmity should overpower you.

“Bear yourself towards your brother in such a way that if he disregards kinship, you maintain it; when he turns away, be kind to him and draw near to him; when he withholds, spend over him; when he distances himself, approach him; when he is harsh to you, be lenient to him; when he commits a wrong deed, think of an excuse for him as though you were a servant of his. Take care lest this should not be done appropriately, lest you should not behave thus with an undeserving person. Do not take the enemy of your friend as a friend of yours because you will thus antagonize your friend. Give true advice to your brother, be it sweet or bitter. Swallow your anger because I did not find a sweeter thing than its taste in the end, and nothing is more pleasant than it in the end. Be lenient to him who is harsh to you, for it is likely that he will shortly become lenient to you. Treat your enemy with favors because this is the sweeter of the two successes (the success of revenge and the success of doing a favor).

“If you intend to cut yourself off from a friend, leave some room for him from your side by which he may resume his friendship if it so take place some day. If anyone has a good idea about you, prove it to be true. Do not disregard the interests of your brother depending on your terms with him, for he is not your brother if you disregard his interests. Your family should not become the most miserable people on your account. Do not lean towards him who turns away from you. Your brother should not be more firm in his disregard for kinship than you in paying regard to it, and you should exceed in doing good deeds to him than his doing evil to you. Do not feel too much the oppression of a person who oppresses you because he is only busy harming himself while benefitting you. The reward of him who pleases you is not that you should displease him.

“Be informed, Son, that livelihood is of two kinds: a livelihood that you seek and a livelihood that seeks you which is such that if you do not reach it, it will reach you. How bad it is to bend down at the time of need and to be harsh while being in riches! You should have from this world only that with which you can adorn your permanent abode. If you cry over what has gone out of your hands, then also cry for what has not at all come to you. Infer about what has not yet happened from what has already happened because occurences are ever similar. Do not be like those whom preaching does not benefit unless you inflict pain on them because the wise take instruction from teaching, while beasts learn only from beating.

“Ward off from yourself the onslaught of worries by firmness of endurance and purity of belief. Whoever gives up moderation commits excesses. A companion is like a relative. A friend is one whose absence also proves his friendship. Passion is a partner of distress. Often, the near ones are more remote than the distant ones, and often the distant ones are nearer than the near ones. A stranger is one who has no friends. Whoever transgresses right narrows his own passage. Whoever stays in his status remains constant on it. The most trustworthy intermediary is that which you adopt between yourself and Allah the Glorified One. Whoever does not care for your interests is your enemy. When greed leads to ruin, deprivation is an achievement. Not every defect can be reviewed; not every opportunity repeats itself.

“Often, a person with eyes misses the track while a blind person finds the correct path. Delay the doing of an evil deed because you will be able to hasten it whenever you wish. The disregard of kinship of the ignorant is equal to regarding the kinship of the wise. Whoever takes the world to be safe will be betrayed by it. Whoever regards the world as great will be humiliated by it. Not everyone who shoots hits. When power shifts, time changes, too. Consult a friend before taking a course, a neighbor before buying a house. Beware lest you should mention in your speech what may cause laughter even though you may be relating it from others.

“Do not consult women because their view is weak and determination is unstable. Cover their eyes by keeping them under the veil because strictness of veiling keeps them for long. Their coming out is not worse than your allowing an untrustworthy man to visit them. If you can manage that they should not know anyone other than yourself, do so. Do not allow a woman matters other than those about herself because a woman is a flower, not an administrator. Do not pay her regard beyond herself. Do not encourage her to intercede for others. Do not show suspicion out of place because this leads a woman on the right course to evil and a chaste woman to deflection.

“For everyone among your servants fix a task for which you may hold him responsible. In this way, they will not fling the task one over the other. Respect your kinsmen because they are the wings with which you fly, the origin towards which you return and the hands with which you attack. Place your religion and world at Allah’s disposal and beg Him to ordain the best for you with regard to what is near and what is far, this world and the next, and that is the end of the matter.”