Soluk (behoviour) and worship in Nahj al-Balaghah (2) profile God’s worshippers

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In the last section we discussed the viewpoint of the Nahj al- balaghah with respect to worship. We found that the Nahj al- balaghah does not regard worship as a series of cut –and- dried, lifeless rituals. The bodily movements constitute the apparent body of worship, while its soul and meaning is something else. Only when endowed with meaning and spirit is worship worth its name. Real worship means transcending the three- dimensional world into the spiritual sphere, which is a world of perpetual delight and sublimation for the soul and the source of vigour and strength for the heart, which has its own pleasures.

There are many references to the characteristics of the pious and the devout in the Nahj al- balaghah often the Nahj al- balaghah sketches the profiles of the pious and the devout and describes their characteristic fear of God, their devotion and delight in worship, their constant sorrow and grief over sins and frequent reciting of the Qur’an, and their occasional ecstatic experiences and states which they achieve in the course of their worshipful endeavours and struggle against their corporeal self. At times it discusses the role of worship in lifting from the human soul the pall of sins and black deeds, and often points out to the effect of worship in curing moral and psychic diseases. At other times it speaks about the unadulterated, unsurpassable and pure delights and ecstasies of the followers of the spiritual path and sincere worshippers of God.

During the night they are on their feet reciting the verses of the Qur’an one after the other, tarrying to deliberate about their meaning, and thereby instilling gnostic pathos into their and by means of it seek remedy for their spiritual ailments. What they hear from the Qur’an seems to them as if they witnessing it with their own eyes. If they come across a verse arousing eagerness (for paradise) they lean towards it covetingly and their souls cling to it avidly as if they are approaching their ultimate goal. And when they come across a verse that instills fear, their heart’s ear is turned in attention to it as if they themselves hear the cracking sound of the flames of Hellfire. Their back are bent in reverence and their foreheads, palms, knees and toes rest on the ground as they beseech God for deliverance. But when the day dawns? They are kind, patient, scholarly, pious and righteous.

He has revived his intellect and slain his self, until his body became lean and its bulkiness skrunk, and strubbornness turned into tenderness ( of heart) then an effulgence, like a thunderbolt, descended his heart and illuminated the path before him opening all the doors, and led him straight into the gateway of peace. Now his feet, carrying his body are firmly rooted in the position of safety (on the sirat) and comfort because he kept his heart busy with good deeds and won the good pleasure of his God.

As we observe, this passage speaks of another kind of life, which is called the life of intellect it specks about struggle against the carnal self (al- nafs al- ammarah) and its destruction, it speaks about exercise of the spirit and the body, about lightening, which as a result of exercise illumines the being of the follower and brightens his spiritual words, it speaks about the stages and targets that the devotee’s earnest soul reaches on his way until it attains the last and highest stage of man’s spiritual journey the Qur’an says:

O man! Thou art labouring unto thy Lord laboriously, and thou shalt encounter him. (84:6).

Ali (a), in the passage cited above speaks about the inner peace, contentment and tranquility of soul which a man’s restless, disturbed and anxious heart ultimately attains:

……Indeed, the hearts are at rest in God’ s remembrance.(13:28).

In the sermon 228, Ali (a) describes the significance attached by this class of devotees to spiritual life- the life of the heart:

They see that worldly people attach great importance to the death of their bodies but they themselves attach much greater importance to the death of heats of those who are living.

Ali (a) describes the ecstatic eagerness of the earnest soul which impels them to move onwards on the path of spiritual perfection in these words:

They lived in society and participated in its affairs with their bodies, while their soul rested in the higher spiritual spheres.

Had there been no preordained time of death for each of them, their spirit would not have remained in their bodies even for the twinkling of an eye because of their eagerness for the Divine reward and their fear of chastisement.

He did every thing only for God, and so God also made him his own.

The esoteric knowledge and emanated insight, revealed to the heart of the follower of the spiritual path as a result of self – education and self – refinement, is described in these words:

The knowledge that bursts upon and surrounds them is endowed with absolute certainty, and their soul attains the highest degree of conviction. They easily bear what the easy- going regard as harsh and unbearable. They endear what makes the ignorant recoil with horrow.

The effect of purging of sins of worship and remembrance of God
From the point of view of IsIamic teachings, every sin leaves a black stain and the effects of distortion in the human heart which in turn weakens a person’s aptitude for good and righteous actions, and consequently further deviates him towards other sins and foul deeds. on the other hand, worship, prayer and remembrance of God, develop a human being’s religious consciousness, strengthen his aptitude for virtuous deeds and diminish his proneness to sin. This means that worship and remembrance of God efface the mal- effects of sins and replace these with fondness for virtue and goodness.

In the Nahj al- balaghah is a sermon which deals with salat, zakat and delivering of trust, after emphasizing the importance of salat Ali (a) further says:

Certainly, prayer removes sins likes autumn strips leaves off from trees, and it liberates you from the rope (of sins) tied around your neck. The prophet (s) likened it to a refreshing stream at one’s door in which one takes a purifying bath five times in a day and night. Will after so much cleansing any dirt remain on him?

Moral Remedy by worship
In the sermon 196, after refreshing to evil conduct such as disobedience, oppression, injustice and pride, Ali (a) says:

It is on account of these perils that God has encouraged his believing servants to perform salat and zakat, to keep fast during the days when it is made obligatory, these acts of worship give their limbs peace and rest, cast fear in their eyes, soften their spirits, cultivate a sense of humility in their hearts and purge them pride.

Intimacy and Ecstasy:
My God, thou, of all beloved ones, art the most attached to thy lovers and most ready to trust those who trust in thee. Thou seest, thou lookest into their secrets and knowest that which lies in their conscience and art aware of the extent of their inner vision. Consequently their secrets are open to thee and their hearts look up to thee in eager apprehension. In loneliness, thy remembrance is their friend and consolation. in distress thy help is their protection.

There are some people devoted to remembrance of Allah who have chosen it in place of all worldly good.

In the sermon 148, Ali (a)alludes to the coming times of the promised al – Mahdi (a) – may God hasten his appearance –and at the end of his discourse describes the courage, wisdom, insight and devotion of group of persons who shall assist him:

Then a group of people will be made ready by God like the swords sharpened by the blacksmith, their sight would be brightened by revelation, the inner meaning of the Qur’an would be familiar to their ears and they would be given to drink the cup of wisdom every morning and everything.


Glimpses of the Nahj al-Balagheh- pages: 111 to 118


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