Imams from the House of the Prophet
(Ahl-i Bayt اہل بیت)
Ahl-i-Bayt (family of Prophet) are those sacred souls who are eternally pious. Every one of them is the Imam of the Path. This whole family common or elite is the leader and Imam of the Sufis. I take honor to mention here few amongst them.
1. Imam Hasan (may Allah be pleased with him)
Abu Muhammad al-Hasan b. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was the heart of Prophet (peace be upon him), odor of the heart of Murtada, Nur (light) of the eyes of Fatima (may Allah be pleased with them). He was profoundly versed in Sufism and he has many subtle sayings. He by way of precept said:
عليكم بحفظ السراءرفان الله مطلع علي الضماءر
“See that you guard your hearts, for Allah knows your secret thoughts.”
This means that as man is entrusted to watch over his heart, similarly he is duty bound to preserve its exhibition. “Guarding the heart” refers not turning to others (than Allah) and in keeping one's secret thoughts from disobedience to the Almighty.
When the Qadarites got the upper hand, and Mutazilites doctrine became widely spread, Hasan Basri wrote to Hasan b. Ali seeking his guidance, and asked him to state his opinion on the perplexing subject of predestination and on the dispute whether men have any power to act.
Imam Hasan replied that in his opinion he who did not believe in the determination of men’s good and evil action by Allah was infidel, and that those who imputed his sins to Allah was wrongdoer. Allah does not force any one for good or evil deeds, but nothing happens in His kingdom without His will. Where He has made the mankind owner of something that something belongs to Him and He is the actual owner. Similarly, where He has given free hand to mankind to act freely, there too He is the actual Causer. Therefore, He does no stop anyone from performing good or evil, but by His grace He can stop someone from his evil actions and if He does not stop him, it won’t mean that He forced him to perform wrong. Allah has kept the argument by extending the force to mankind to act good or wrong and made him responsible for his act and it is not on Allah and His argument stands firm.
A Bedouin came to Imam Hasan while he was sitting at the door of his house in Kufa, and started abusing him and his parents. Hasan rose up and said:
“O Bedouin, what ails you, perhaps you are hungry or thirsty?”
The Bedouin took no heed, but continued to abuse him and his family. Hasan ordered his slave to bring a purse of silver, and gave it to the fellow, saying:
“O brother excuse me, for there is nothing else in the house, had there been more, I should not have grudged it to you.”
On hearing this, the Bedouin exclaimed: “I bear witness that you are the grandson of the Prophet of Allah. I came here to make trial of your mildness.”
Such is the characteristics of true saints and Sheikhs who care not whether they are praised or blamed, and listen calmly to abuse.
2. Imam Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him)
The candle of Ahl-i-Bayt (family of the Prophet), and Imam of the world is Abu Abdullah al-Hussein b. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him). He is the martyr of Karbala and Qibla for the afflicters. All Sufis are agreed that he was in the right. So long as the Truth was apparent, he followed it, but when it was denied, he drew the sword and never rested until he sacrificed his dear life for Allah's sake. The Prophet (peace be upon him) distinguished him by many tokens of favors.
Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that one day he saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) crawling on his knees, while Hussein rode on his back holding a string, of which the other end was in the Prophet mouth. Seeing all this I said: “What an excellent ride you have, O Abu Abdullah!”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “What an excellent rider is he, O Umar!”
Imam Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
اشفق الاخوان عليك دينك
“Your kindest brother is your religion,”
The salvation of man is in following the religion and his perdition in disobeying it, therefore wise person only follow the commands of loving brother and does not do any act without his consent. The real brother is that who advises you and does not deny his affection.
Once, a man came to him and told that he was a poor family man and asked for the food. Hussein told him that his food was coming, so he should wait a little. After a short while the Messenger of Caliph Amir Muawiya (may Allah be pleased with him) came and placed five purses before Hussein. Each purse contained thousand Dinars. The messenger told Hussein that the Amir was apologetic and had said that for the time being spent this money, and he would send more soon. Hussein gave that money to the poor man and made an apology to him that he kept him awaiting for such a meager favor. We are men of affliction and we have forsaken the world and prefer others needs over ours. His sayings and wisdom is well known by whole Ummah.
3. Imam Zain ul-Abidin (may Allah have mercy on him)
From Ahl-i-Bayt, successor of Prophethood, candle of the Ummah and Autad, the afflicted, Imam of the deprived is Abu al-Hasan Ali b. al-Hussein b. Ali (may Allah be pleased with them). He was the most honored and ascetic personality of his time and is famous for unveiling and narrating the truth and subtleties. In reply to a question about who was the most blessed, he said:
من اذا رضي لم يحمله رضاء علي اللباطل و اذا سخط لم يخرجه سخطه من الحق
“The man when he is pleased, it is not on wrong, and when he is angry, is not carried by his anger beyond the bounds of right.”
This is the character of those who have attained perfect rectitude, because to get satisfied with fictitious is also wrong and to quit the truth in anger is also immoral and pious does not like incorrect.
Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him) used to call him Ali Asghar (the younger). When Hussein and his children were martyred at Karbala, there were none left alive except Ali who was sick. The women were brought unveiled on camels to Yazid (may Allah curse him), at Damascus. Someone asked Ali that how was he and members of the house? Ali replied:
“We have been treated in the same way as Pharaoh did with people of Moses who slaughtered their sons and took their women alive. We are under so many afflictions that we do not know when day has arisen and when night has fallen. We are still thankful to Allah for His bounties and praise Him for the trial in which He has put us.”
Once, Caliph Hisham b. Abd al-Malik during Hajj while performing circumambulation of Kaba tried to kiss the Black Stone (Hajr-i Aswad) but due to rush of pilgrims was unable to reach to it. At that time Ali was also circumambulating. When he approached Hajr-i Aswad to kiss it, all pilgrims withdrew from his way and he peacefully kissed it. One of the Syrian courtiers tauntingly pointed out to Hisham that he was not offered the chance to reach to the sacred stone, are you the King or that beautiful youth, for whom everybody made the way. Hisham said that he did not know the youth. At that time famous poet Farzoaq was also present there. He got up and said in a loud voice that he knew the youth. People asked him to tell them who was he? The poet Farzoaq stepped forward and recited the splendid encomium:
This is he whose footprint is known to the valley of Mecca,
Whom the Kaba knows, the unhallowed territory, the holy ground.
He is the son of the best of the entire creature,
He is the pious, the elect, the pure, and the eminent.
Know that he is the darling child of Fatima,
He is on whose ancestor Prophethood is sealed.
Whenever Quraish have a look on him, everyone exclaim,
No one can surpass him in commendable qualities.
He occupies such an exalted position that
Arabs and non Arabs are incapable to reach there.
His ancestor was the possessor of qualities of all the prophets,
And whose Ummah possesses the virtues of all the Ummah
The Nur (light) of their forehead lightened the hearts,
As with the rise of sun darkness perishes.
Hajr-i Aswad recognizes him from his odor, so that, when
he comes to touch Hajr-i Aswad, it kisses his hands.
Modesty keeps his gaze low, but people low their gaze because of his awe,
No one dare to talk with him except when he has a smiley face.
His hands hold stick of musk willow which spreads pleasant odor,
His palm is emitting fragrance; he is a leader of high repute.
His qualities are blessed from the qualities of the Prophet,
His conscious, habits and virtues are all praiseworthy
The heavy shower of his graciousness is common to all,
He is ever generous, material paucity never stops him.
His beneficence is open to the creature, who because of him,
Got deliverance from immorality, poverty and tyranny.
No one can match him in generosity, and neither
Any nation can show equality, may their men be very generous.
He is like rain of mercy in famine, and
Lion of the jungle at the time of fear and calamity.
It is that family whose love is faith, and enmity is infidelity, and
Nearness to them is the shelter for peace and deliverance.
When Farzoaq read these lyrics, Hisham got enraged and ordered for him to be imprisoned.
When Ali came to know about it, he sent to him 12,000 dirham with a message that we only possessed that much which was too less to your affliction. Farzoaq returned it, with the message that he had uttered many lies in the panegyrics on princes and governors which he was accustomed to compose for money, and that he had addressed verses to Ali as a partial expiation for his sins in that respect, and as a proof of his affection towards Ahl-i-Bayt. Ali, once again sent the money back with the message that if Farzoaq loved him, he must retained the money however, he begged to be excused from taking back what he had already given away; Farzoaq at last consented to receive the money.
There are so many virtues and merits of this eminent Imam that these cannot be encompassed in writing.
4. Abu Jafar Muhammad b. Ali b. Hussein (may Allah have mercy on him)
He was known both as Abu Abdullah and Baqir. He was distinguished for his knowledge of the abstruse sciences and for his subtle indications as to the meanings of Quran. There are many Karamat (miracles) associated to him.
It is related that on one occasion the king with the aim to kill him, summoned him to his presence. When Baqir came to him, the king begged his pardon, bestowed gifts upon him, and allowed him to leave courteously. When courtiers asked why he had acted in that manner. The king replied that when he entered he saw two lions, one on his right side and one on his left, who threatened to kill him if he had attempted to do him any harm.
In his commentary of the Quran verse,
فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللّهِ
whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah,: (Q 2:256),
Baqir said: “Anything that diverts one from contemplation of Allah is his taghut طَّاغُوتِ (idol), so one has to see what veils him from contemplation of Allah and needs to get rid of it to make union with the Truth and get free from the veil. And one who is veiled has no right to be claimant of the proximity of the Truth.
Baqir after completing his litanies at night used to have loud Manajat (secret talk with Allah):
“O my Allah and my Lord! night has fallen, and the power of monarch has ceased, and the stars are shining in the sky, and mankind are asleep and silent, there is no crowd at the doors of the rich and the Umayyad have shut their doors and are being guarded by the watchmen, and all the needy have left for their homes.
But Thou, O Allah, art the Living, the Lasting, the Seeing, the Knowing. Sleep and slumber cannot overtake Thee. He who does not acknowledge Thy Essence is unworthy of Thy bounty.
O Allah nothing can withholds Thy Essence, neither eternity is impaired by Day and Night, Thy doors of Mercy are open to all who call upon Thee, and Thy is the owner of all; Thou dost never turn away the beggar, and no creature in earth or heaven can prevent the true believer who implores Thee gaining access to Thy Court.
O Lord, when I remember death and the grave and the reckoning, how can I take joy in this world? Therefore, since I acknowledge Thee to be One, I love Thee; I beseech Thee to give me peace in the hour of death, without torment, and pleasure in the hour of reckoning, without punishment.”
He used to do this Manajat weeping. On asking that why did he cry so much, he replied:
Jacob lost only one son for whom he wept so much that he lost his eye sight. I have lost my eighteen family members, is it not sufficient argument for me to cry.
5. Abu Muhammad Jafar (may Allah be pleased with him)
Imam Abu Muhammad Jafar b. Muhammad al-Sadiq b. Ali b. Hussein b. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) is the most celebrated among the Sufi Sheikhs for the subtlety of his discourse and his acquaintance with spiritual truths. He has written famous books in explanation of Sufism. He said:
من عرف الله اعرض عما سواء
“Whoever attains marifat (knowledge of Allah) turns his face from all other”.
The Gnostic (arif) does not see other worldly things because his marifat (knowledge of Allah) is total denial of others. The denial of all other than Allah is marifat and marifat of others is the denial of the Truth (Allah). Therefore, the Gnostic is free from the creature and in union with the Truth. He does not have that much heed for others that it might keep him away from the Truth nor it is of so extreme value that it might attract him toward itself.
لا تصح العبادة الا بالتوبة فقدم التوبة علي العبادة
“There is no right worship without repentance, because Allah hath put repentance before worship, and hath said,
those that turn (to Allah) in repentance” (Q 9:112).
I put repentance before divine service, because repentance is the start point in way of Path and worship is the last. When Allah mentioned of the evildoers He made repentance mandatory and said:
وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah,” (Q 24:31);
But when Allah mentioned the Prophet (peace be upon him) He referred him to His “servant ship” and said,
فَأَوْحَى إِلَى عَبْدِهِ مَا أَوْحَى
“So did (Allah) convey the inspiration to His Servant - (Conveyed) what He (meant) to convey.” (Q 53:10).
Once Dawud Tai came to Jafar Sadiq and said, “O son of the Prophet (peace be upon him) of Allah, advise me, for my heart is blackened.”
Jafar replied: “O Abu Suleman, you are the accomplished ascetic of your time, what for you need advise from me?”
Tai pleaded: “O son of the Prophet (peace be upon him), thy family is superior to all mankind, and it is incumbent on thee to give counsel to all.”
Jafar said: “O Abu Suleman, I am afraid that tomorrow on Resurrection Day my grandsire will lay hold on me, saying, `Why did not you fulfill the obligation to follow in my steps?` because before Allah the best is ones conduct not his ancestry.”
Dawud Tai began to weep and exclaimed:
“O Lord Allah, if one whose lineage is of Prophetic family, whose grandsire is the Prophet, and whose mother is Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) – if such as one is distracted by doubts about his end, who am I that I should be pleased with my dealings (towards Allah)?”
One day Jafar talked to his associates, let us take a pledge that whoever amongst us should gain deliverance on the Day of Resurrection would intercede for the rest. They said, O son of the prophet, how could you have need of our intercession since your grandsire intercedes for all mankind? Jafar replied: “My actions are such that I shall be ashamed to face him on the Last Day.”
All of his sayings are the result of self account which is a quality of perfection, and is a characteristic of Prophets and Saints. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
اذا اراد الله بعبد خيرا بصره بعيوب نفسه
“When Allah wishes a man well, He gives him insight into his faults.”
Whoever bows his head with humility, like a servant, Allah exalt his state in both worlds.
Now I shall mention briefly Ahl-i Suffa (the People of Veranda). In a book entitled “The Highway of Religion” (Minhaj al-Din), which I composed before the present work, I have given detailed account of each of them, but here it will suffice to mention their names and “names of honor” so it may meet your need.