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THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD ON RELIGIOUS EXHORTATIONS AND ASCETICISM

Al,imad ibn Mul,iammad ibn 'Abd Rabbih said:

We have spoken on proverbs and their arts in every tongue and in every age. We shall now begin, with God's help and divinely granted success, to speak on asceticism and famous men noted for it. We shall record selections from their words as well as the exhortations that prophets gave, which parents chose for

their sons and which were current among wise men and litterateurs, and in the meetings of God's worshippers with caliphs. The most eloquent of all exhortations is the speech of God, Most High and Powerful, to which falsehood cannot come from before it or from behind it, for it is revelation coming down from a Wise and Laudable One. God, may He be blessed and exalted, says, "Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and

" [Q 16: 125] to the end of the chapter. He also says, may

He be majestically praised, "How can you disbelieve in God, seeing you were dead and He gave you life, then He will cause you to die, then He will give you life, and then unto Him you shall return." [Q 2:28] He says, "Does not man see that We have created him from a sperm-drop. Yet lo, he is a manifest adversary

All-knowing." [Q 36:77-79] These are the most eloquent

arguments and the wisest exhortations. Then [we shall record] the exhortations of prophets, God's blessings be on them, the exhortations of fathers to sons, the exhortations of wise men and litterateurs, and the meetings of God's worshippers with caliphs. Then [we shall record] what they said on asceticism and the well-known men noted for it, then the famous ones related to it. An exhortation is weighty on one's ears, pressing on one's soul, far from being easily accepted because it opposes ardent wishes and runs counter to passion which is the springtime of the heart, the resort of the soul, the meadow of amusement, and the pasture of desires except for the one who has been edified by his learning, guided by his heart, and rendered wise by his experience. A poet said:

goodly exhortation

"until He says,"

Souls will not desist from their error Until they have someone to exhort them.

* * *

Wise men said, "A happy man is he who is admonished by another," and they did not mean a man whom another exhorted but rather a man who learned

is he who is admonished by another," and they did not mean a man whom another

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a

al-l:lasan used to say,

God to them for they are quickly

they

exhortation,

the hearts!"

describe,

we had been commanded to be

the weightiness

to disobey it. It is said:

lesson

are

from

badly

seeing

another and being warned

why

and mention

disobey them for if they are obeyed,

his

life in

"Tongues that

by

what he

saw.

That

is

"Restrain your souls for they are inquisitive,

to

say,

forgetful;

evil."

When

ending

his

session

and

"What an

exhortation

it is,

if only

speech,

ibn

it

inclined

closing

finds

he used to

Ibn al-Sammak used to say at the end of his

that know and

deeds that differ."

Yonus

hearts

'Ubayd

said, "If

afraid, we would have been patient,"

one's

ears

and

the

inclination

referring to

soul

of an exhortation on

of the

The thing most loved by man is what is forbidden.

It is also said:

When a thing is impossible to attain,

it is desired.

An exhortation prevents

what you dislike unless you receive it with

keen on

a restrainer;

contrition is made clear.

"Paradise is

He

the world, and reaching hellfire consists in

you

from doing

what you

ears open to warning lessons, a heart

do

desire,

and

makes you

thinking,

and

a soul whose learning is

a deterrent and whose mind

,;

is

the door of repentance will then be opened to

surrounded with loathsome things

Paradise

necessitates

you and the path of

peace

said

nes.

things of

The Prophet, God bless him and grant him

committing evil desires.

and hellfire by desirable

bearing the

loathsome

means that reaching

The best exhortation is the one given by a sincere

it

goes

person to

falls

a fair listener.

the

heart;

and

"How

how

It is said,

"If a word

if it goes out from the tongue,

a crown is,

beautiful a pearl is, and it is more beautiful

and how beautiful

beautiful

Someone

said,

out from

the

heart,

into

it does not go beyond the ears."

when

and it is more beautiful

an

exhortation

man."

Ziyad

it is on a king's head;

when it is on a young woman's chest·

it is

more

beautiful

when

it is

give

don't let the evil you know

from the best things you have heard

is, and

said, "O people,

by a virtuous,

we have done prevent you from benefiting

from us.

pious

A poet said:

Do in accordance with what I say, although my action

My words will benefit you and my falling short

falls short of it.

will not harm you."

* * *

'Abd Allah ibn

after

benefited from the words that 'Ali ibn Abi Talib,

wrote

what would not have passed him by,

'Abbas

said,

"I have never benefited

bless

him

and

grant

'After

greetings:

man

of anyone

I

may God be pleased with him,

attaining

but he is displeased with missing what he

from the words him

peace,

as

is

pleased

with

God's

to

me.

Messenger,

He

wrote

to

God

me,

much

as

with God's to me. Messenger, He wrote to God me, much as T H E B

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

53

would not have attained.

regarding matters relating to your hereafter,

have

your world, and don't be anguished by what you

concern be with what follows death.'"

So

let your pleasure be with what you

have obtained

you

to

have missed of them. Let your

and let your regret be at what

matters

you

obtained

relating

missed

of them.

Don't be happy with

* * *

A wise man

wrote a note that he made to reach

of a king

at

the

gate

was

prevented

from entering,

so

he

subtly

him. In it he wrote the following verse:

Don't you see that it is hoped that poverty And that it is feared that wealth turns into

becomes wealth,

poverty?

When the

head,

never been

by this your verse."

king read

the

verse,

he

quickly put on his

after the

sandals,

said to the wise man,

on his

"By God, I have

as I have been

set a cap

and went out in his home robe. He

admonished by

anything

Qur'an

Then he fulfilled the man's needs.

as

much

Exhortations of prophets, God's blessings be

upon them

[Exhortations of] the Prophet [Mul:iammad],

may God bless him and grant him

Abu

grant him peace,

same amount of provision any rider has." He

grant him peace, "O son of Adam, seize the

your youth

others

sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your

occupied,

Shayba

peace

that

the

Bakr

ibn

AbI

related

him and

to have of this world the

and

opportunity of five things before five

your

free time before your becoming

"When

in

not the face of a liar,

spread peace

Prophet,

may

God

bless

said, "It is enough for anyone of you

before

your old

also said, may God bless him

age,

your good

health before

'Abd Allah ibn Sallam

said,

grant

him

peace, came

to

(ta'am),

us

[occur]:

and your life before your death."

may

God

bless

him

and

God's

Medina,

and

(salllm),

Messenger,

I went to him.

say, 'O

On seeing his face, I knew it was

people,

give

others

food

to

eat

I heard him

and pray while people are asleep (niyam).'"

[Exhortations of]

'Isa (Jesus), peace be upon him

'Isa ibn Maryam, peace be upon him,

said,

among you to

sit with?"

They

said,

"Yes,

"The one whose sight reminds you of God,

"Shall I tell you who is the best one

He said,

whose speech increases your [good]

'Isa ibn Maryam,

of this

and your passions

indeed,

0

Spirit of God."

you,

slaves

work,

and whose

[good]

work makes you eager for Paradise."

peace

be

upon both of them,

said

to

the

disciples,

"Woe

to

world!

How

inconsistent your branches are with your roots

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with your reason! Your words heal sickness but your deeds are an incurable disease. You are not like the vine whose leaves are beautiful, whose fruits are good, and whose climbing is easy. You are rather like a samura (acacia) that has few leaves, many thorns and is difficult to climb. Woe to you, slaves of this world! You have placed deeds under your feet for anyone who wishes to take them, and you have placed this world way above your heads so that no one can reach it. You are neither slaves who give good advice, nor free men who are generous. Woe to you, hirelings of evil! Wages, you take; and good work, you corrupt. You shall meet with what you fear, when the master of the work looks into his work that you have corrupted and into his wages that you have taken." He also said to the disciples, peace be upon him, "Take up prayer places as homes, and homes as stopping places [in a journey]; eat the greens of the open country, drink pure water, and safely escape from this world." He also said to the disciples, peace be upon him, "Don't look into people's deeds as though you were lords, and look into your own deeds as though you were slaves; for people are of two kinds: those who are afflicted [with disease] and those who are healthy. Have mercy on those afflicted and praise God for good health." Likewise, he also said to them, peace be upon him, "I wonder at you: you work for this world where you are given provision without work; but you don't work for the hereafter where you are given provision only by [good] work!"

* * *

Ya}:iya Gohn), son of Zakariyya (Zacharias), peace be upon him, said to the disbelievers among the Israelites, "O progeny of serpents! Who guided you to embark on acts that anger God and cause you perdition? Woe to you! Come close [to God] by good deeds, and don't be misled by your closeness to Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him. For God is capable of making these stones a progeny oflbrahim. The axe has been [more than once] put to the roots of trees:

how appropriate it is that every bitter-tasting tree be cut down and cast into the fire!"

* * *

Sha'ya > (Isaiah) said to the Israelites, when God made his tongue utter Revelation, "An animal becomes more tractable with more exercise, but your hearts become only more cruel with more exhortation. If one's body is healthy, it is content with a little food; and [similarly] if one's heart is sound, it is content with a little wisdom. How many lamps the wind has extinguished, and how many worshippers conceit has corrupted! 0 children of Israel, listen to what I say; for the one who says and the one who hears a wise saying are partners, and the one more entitled to it is the one who puts it into practice."

i s the one who p u t s it into practice." THE BOOK OF THE

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

* * *

))

Al-Masib (Christ), peace be upon him, said, "God's friends have nothing to fear and they are not saddened, for they have looked into the inmost essence of this world when other people looked into its exterior, and they have looked into its future when others looked into its immediate temporal existence; so they have caused to die what they feared would make them die, and they have abandoned what they knew would abandon them. They are enemies to what people unquestioningly accept, and are peaceful allies to what people hostilely reject. They have news, and what they have is Good News. The Bible has spoken about them, and they have spoken about it. Through them guidance has been known, and they have been known for it. They do not believe any peace to be so insignificant they should not hope for it, nor any peril to be so insignificant they are not cautious of it."

[Exhortations of] Dawud (David), peace be upon him

Wahb ibn Munabbih said:

Dawud, peace be upon him, said, "O Lord, there is not a single hair on a man that does not have Your benefaction; how will he ever be able to reward You for what You have given him?" God revealed to him, "O Dawud, I give in abundance but I am content with little from my servants. To thank me for My benefaction, I am content with a servant's acknowledgment that any benefit he has is from Me and not from himself."

[Exhortations of] Ibrahim, peace be upon him

When God, may He be exalted, commanded Ibrahim, peace be upon him, to slay his son and make him a sacrifice [to God], he confided this to a bosom friend of his named Ali'azar (Lazarus). The friend said to him, "God does not afflict someone like you with something like this. He rather wants to try you or to put you to the test. You know that He would not afflict you with something like this to tempt you, to lead you into error, to bring hardship to you, nor to diminish your insight, your faith and your conviction. Therefore, let this not frighten you and don't ever permit yourself to have a bad opinion of God. He has rather raised your name high among all afflicted people, and He has considered you the greatest among them regarding the tribulation endured by you and your son in order to raise you as much in rank, degree and virtue. Patient people have no virtue of patience beyond yours, and meritorious people have no virtue of merit beyond yours. This is not the kind of affliction that God afflicts his friends with, for God is more honorable than this in Himself, fairer in His judgment, and more merciful towards His servants than to command the slaying of a good son by his own father who is a chosen prophet. God forbid that this be [seen as] an imposition by me on God or a rejection of His command or an expression of

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anger for his judgment; but this is my hope in Him and my opinion of Him. However, if your Lord has determined that this should be done, be then as good as His knowledge of you is; for I know that He has only exposed you to this formidable affliction and great predicament because He knows you well, and He is aware of your righteousness and your patience, and wants to make you a leader. And there is no power or strength but with God, the High and Great One."

Some of God's revelations to His prophets

God, Most Powerful and Exalted, revealed the following to one of His prophets, "I am indeed God, the Ruler of kings. The hearts of kings are in My hand. I will make the kings merciful to those who obey Me, and vengeful to those who disobey Me."

Christ, peace be upon him

Some of what God revealed to Christ, peace be upon him, in the Gospel is the following, "We filled you with longing but you did not long. We wailed for you but you did not weep. 0 man of fifty, what [deeds] have you put forth and what [deeds] have you delayed? 0 man of sixty, your harvest has drawn nigh.

0 man of seventy, come forth to reckoning."

* * *

In an ancient revealed book is the following, "On the Day of Resurrection, God, Most Powerful and Exalted, will say, 'My servants, you have been thirsty for long, your lips were parched in this world, and your eyes were sunken out of thirst and hunger. Eat now and drink happily as a reward for what you have done in the past days.'"

* * *

"Give me humility

from your heart, submissiveness from your soul, tears from your eyes and ask me [to fulfil your needs]; I am close and I will answer." In one of the scriptures, we read, "My servant, how often I show love to you by favors and you show hatred by sins! My benefaction to you is going down, and your evil is going up to Me." God revealed the following to one of His prophets, "If you want to reside tomorrow in the realm of holiness, be solitary in this world, an anxious and sorrowful outcast, like a lonely bird that abides in a wasteland, drinks the water of springs and eats from the edges of trees; and when night falls, it takes shelter alone, alienated from other birds and happy in the companionship of its Lord."

God, Most High, revealed the following to one of his prophets,

Most High, revealed the following to one of his prophets, THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD 57
Most High, revealed the following to one of his prophets, THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD 57

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

57

Musa (Moses), peace be upon him Some of what God revealed to Moses in the Torah: "O Musa ibn 'lmran, master of Mount Lebanon, you are my servant and I am the King and Judge. Don't disparage the poor man and don't deem the rich man fortunate for any little thing. When mentioning Me, be humble; and when you recite My revelation, be obedient and let Me hear the sweetness of the Torah in a sad voice." Wahb ibn Munabbih said, "God revealed the following to Moses near the tree, "Don't let the finery of Pharoah please you, nor the enjoyments he has been delighting in. Don't even cast a look at that, for it is only the flower of the lower life and the embellishment of the luxurious. If I wished to give you embellishments that Pharoah would know on seeing them that his power was incapable of having, I would have done so; but I turned you away from that and I turned him away from you. This is what I do for my friends. I protect them from the bliss and pleasure [of such embellishments], just as a kind shepherd protects his sheep from dangerous pastures, and I shield them from such embellished living and luxury just as a shepherd shields his flock from the kneeling parks of scabby camels."

YusufOoseph), peace be upon him

It was related that Wahb ibn Munabbih said, "After Yusuf had spent a few years in prison, God sent Jibril (Gabriel) to him with the good news of his release, saying, "Don't you know me, 0 righteous man?" Yusuf said, "I see a pure form and a good spirit unlike the spirits of sinners." Jibril said, "I am the Faithful Spirit, the messenger of the Lord of the worlds." Yusuf asked, "What then made you enter the place of criminals, when you are the master of messengers and the head of the cherubim?" Jibril answered, "Don't you know, 0 righteous man, that God cleanses houses with the purity of prophets, that the spot in which you happen to be is the purest of all earth, and that God has cleansed the prison and its surroundings with you, 0 son of the pure?" Yusuf said, "How dare you compare me to the virtuous, name me by the names of the truthful, and consider me along with my sincere forefathers when I am a prisoner among these criminals?" Jibril answered, "Apprehension has not injured your heart, affliction has not changed your character, prison has not alarmed you, you have not dishonoured your master's bed, this world's distress has not made you forget the hereafter, your own distress has not made you forget your father, nor has your father made you forget your Lord. This is the time when God will untie your neck and free you, show your wisdom to the people and make true your vision, establish your right in the face of your oppressors and reunite you with your beloved ones; [this is the time when He will] grant you the kingship of Egypt to rule its kings, enslave its tyrants, subdue its great ones, make its powerful ones humble themselves to you, its common people serve you, its vassals belong to you; [this is the time when He will] have mercy on its poor through you and cast

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love and awe for you in their hearts, make you have the upper hand over them,

and your good influence

show

night

because of it, and let his sleep go away from him, making him and his magicians

and priests unable to interpret it,

effective

among them;

[this

is

the time when He will]

let him

lie

awake all

Pharoah

a dream that

will frighten

him and

and teaching you how to interpret it."

Exhortations

of wise men

'Ali

of five things

Let no

one of you ever hope but from his Lord,

and let him not be ashamed of saying 'I don't know' if asked about anything he

Know that patience in

does not know,

relation to faith is like the head in relation to the body; if the head is cut off, the

which,

and not fear anything but his own sin;

'Ali ibn Abi Talib,

if you

may

God honor him,

the

said,

"I

will advise you

safeguard under

armpits

of camels, would be

little:

and of learning it if he does not know it.

body

will go."

He also

said, "Whosoever wants

to be

rich without money

and

strong

without

a tribe, let

him change

over from

being humiliated

by

sin to

the power of being obedient who disobey Him."

[to God],

for God wills the humiliation of all those

Al-l:lasan

Al-1:Iasan said,

God;

"He who

fears

God will find

everything afraid of him through

and he who fears people will have God make him fear everything."

Another

Someone

said,

"Whoever works

for his

afterlife will

be spared

by God

the

problems

of his

present

life,

and

whoever

sets right

his relation

with God

will

have

good

relations

with

people

through

God;

and whoever

purifies

his

conscience in secret will have his public image purified by God."

Four sayings by Arabs and non-Arabs

'Don't

don't do anything in which you have

burden your heart with what it can't bear;

no benefit; don't have confidence in a woman; and don't be deluded by wealth, however abundant.'"

Al-'Utbi said,

"Arabs and non-Arabs agreed on four sayings.

They said,

Abu Bakr on his deathbed advising 'Umar

They said, Abu Bakr on his deathbed advising 'Umar Abu Bakr, the righteous, said to 'Umar

Abu

Bakr,

the

righteous,

said to

'Umar

ibn

al-Khanab, God

be

pleased

with

both

of them,

when he

was

dying

and

was

appointing him to

succeed him,

"I

advise

you

to

fear God.

God may prescribe a deed to be done

at night that He

God may prescribe a deed to be done at night that He THE BOOK OF THE

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

59

will

not

done in

On the

Day of Resurrection, the balances of those whose balances will be heavy will be

it is

right

the

Resurrection, because they followed falsehood in this world and its lightness will

be theirs - and it is right that a balance should be light if nothing but falsehood

were put on it.

He mentioned them for their best deeds, and passed over their evil deeds, so that if you heard of them, you would say, 'I am afraid I will not be one of these.' He

and

He refrained from mentioning their good deeds, so that if you heard of them, you

'I am better than these.' He mentioned His assurance of mercy along

with His assurance of punishment so that a human being would be desirous and

If you keep my advice,

let no absent thing be more preferable to you than death, for it will come to you; and if you don't keep my advice, let no absent thing be more hateful to you than death - and you will never render death incapable.''

fearful, not wishing for anything from God but the truth.

would say,

mentioned

not accept when

the daytime

done

that

in the

daytime, and

accept

He may prescribe

when

done

at night.

a deed

He

will

to be

He will not

accept a supererogatory deed unless the obligatory ones

so because they followed

the truth

that

a balance

should be

balances

of those whose

Indeed,

the people

are performed.

and accepted its weight on them - and

if nothing but

will be

light

the truth

were put

on

will

be

so, on

the

Day

the people who

would

for

their

heavy

balances

it;

of

God mentioned

who

would

enter Paradise;

deeds,

enter hellfire

worst

Al-l:lasan al-Ba ri and Ibn al-Ahtam

Al-1:Iasan ibn

sick and saw him staring up

would

in

given in charity to any blood relative?" Al-1:Iasan replied,

bereft of you!

vicissitudes of time,

Abi al-1:Iasan

what

of which

who was

and down at a box in his home. Ibn al-Ahtam said,

[dirhams]

not

you

went

to visit

think

paid

'Abd Allah ibn

al-Ahtam

"O

Abu Sa'Id,

this

box,

about one

hundred thousand

(zakat)

I had not

the prescribed alms

and had

"May your mother be

lbn al-Ahtam said, "For

For whom have you been saving them?"

estrangement from the ruler and boasting to the tribe."

lbn al-Ahtam died later and al-1:Iasan attended his funeral and said after his

demon came to him and warned him of the

and against boasting to

Look how he

He then turned to the heir

burial, "Look at this poor man.

tribe with regard to

His

vicissitudes of his time and estrangement from his ruler,

his

went out of it all having been robbed and saddened."

what God had provided him abundantly.

and

said,

"O

heir, don't

be deceived as

your little

friend was

yesterday.

 

This

wealth

has come

to you

legally,

so don't

let it be of evil

consequences

to

you.

It has

come to

you

purely by

coincidence from

someone

who gathered

it

and

He crossed the

seas and the deserts to acquire it. You have not worked hard for it and you have

withheld it. He gathered it in falsehood and withheld it as a right.

not sweated for it.

grievous

person.

can't be obtained!"

The Day of Resurrection is indeed a day of sorrows, the most

of another

Oh, what a stumbling that can't be steadied, and what a repentance that

of which

is

seeing

your

wealth

tomorrow on

the

balance

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* * *

A wise man exhorted some people, saying, "O people, exchange loans for gifts and you will praise the consequence. Receive disasters with patience and you will deserve bliss. Perpetuate generosity by thankfulness and you will merit increase. Appreciate remaining in favor and being rich and safe, before being badly deluded and understandably punished, and before being deprived of action and the coming of the end. You exist in the world only as the aims of death and the targets of disaster. You will not receive a favor except by losing another. No long-lived man among you will ever gain a day of his lifetime except by losing another of it, and no trace of him will survive except by having another that will die. You are the helpers of fate against yourselves: in your very lifestyles are the causes of your deaths, and nothing will protect you or distract you from them. You are successors after predecessors, and will be predecessors after being successors. In every path of yours, there is a fallen man covered with dust and a standing man waiting [for the same end] - how in the world do you then seek permanent existence when you see how day and night [follow one another], building something up only to quickly destroy it and determining that something should be only to revoke it."

Abu al-Darda'

Abo al-Darda > said, "O people of Damascus, why are you building edifices that you do not live in, hoping in things that you do not achieve and harvesting what you do not eat? Look, the tribes of 'Ad and Thamod filled the cities of Bu ra and 'Adan with riches and progeny! Who will buy from me what they left for two dirhams?"

Ibn Shubruma

Ibn Shubruma said, "If the body is sick, no food or drink will be of any benefit to it; and if the heart is fond of this world, no exhortation will be of any benefit to it [either]."

Ibn Khuthaym

Al-Rabi' ibn Khuthaym said, "Let your speech be brief except in nine cases:

the exclamation of God's greatness (takbir - that is, saying: Allahu akbar), the declaration of God's unity (tahlil - that is, saying: la ilaha ilia llah), the glorification of God (tasbih - that is, saying: subbana llah), the praise of God (tabmid - that is, saying: al-bamdu Ii-I/ah), the invocation of good, the seeking of God's protection against evil, the commanding of good, the forbidding of evil, and the reciting of the Qur'an."

forbidding of evil, and the reciting of the Qur'an." THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD 61 A

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

61

A wise man

Someone said to a wise man, "Preach me an exhortation." The wise man said, "Let God not see you where He forbade you to be, and let Him not fail to find you where He commanded you to be." Another wise man was asked to give an exhortation and he said, "All exhortations combined can be gathered in one idea." He was asked, "And what is it?" He replied, "That you should resolve to obey God, for you will find all exhortations contained therein."

AbnJa'far and Sufyan

Abo Ja'far said to Sufyan, "Preach me an exhortation." Sufyan said, "And what have you done with what you knew so that I may exhort you with regard to what you don't know?"

(Harun] al-Rashid and Ibn al-Sammak

Haran [al-Rashid] said to Ibn al-Sammak, "Preach me an exhortation." Ibn

al-Sammak said, "The Qur'an is a sufficient exhorter. God, may He be blessed and exalted, said, 'Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with 'Ad, Iram of

the pillars, the like of which has never been created in the land

says, 'So your Lord let loose on them a scourge of punishment. Surely, your

Lord is ever on the watch."' [Q 89:6-14]

?' until He

Correspondence between wise men

Between two wise men

A wise man reproved another and the latter wrote to him, "O brother, one's lifetime is too short to bear separation [from loved ones]." The reproved man returned [to good relations] with the one who had reproved him.

Al-lfasan and 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz

Al-1:lasan wrote to 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, "It is as if this world has not existed and the hereafter has always been. And peace be to you." 'Umar wrote back to him, "It is as if the last one destined to die has died. And peace be to you."

Salman and Abu al-Darda'

Ibn al-Mubarak said, "Salman al-Farisi wrote to Abo al-Darda', 'You will never obtain what you want unless you abandon what you desire, and you will never achieve what you hope for unless you bear what you dislike. Let your speech be remembrance, your silence thoughtfulness and your contemplation admonition. For the world turns and its resplendence changes; so don't be deluded by them.

6 2 THE UNIQUE NECKLACE Let your home be the mosque. And peace be unto

62

THE UNIQUE NECKLACE

Let your home be the mosque. And peace be unto you.'" Abo al-Darda' replied, "Peace be unto you. After this, I advise you to fear God and to take from your health to give to your sickness, from your youth to your old age, from your leisure to the time when you are busy, from your life to your death and from your aversion to your affection. And remember a life in one of two positions in which there is no death: either in Paradise or in hellfire, for you don't know in which of them you will end up."

Aba Masa and <Jimir ibn <_Abd al-Qays

Abo Musa al-Ash < ari wrote to < Amir ibn <Abd al-Qlys, "I have known you to be of a certain trait but have heard that you have changed. If you still are what I have known you to be, fear God and continue; and if you now are what I have heard you to be, fear God and return."

Ibn a!-Nacjr and a brother ofhis

Mul.iammad ibn al-Naqr wrote to a brother of his,

and ahead of you are two stopping places, in one of you have neither received an assurance of safety and a declaration of immunity so you can trust [in God]."

"You are walking on a path,

which you must camp; but can thus come to rest, nor

Between two wise men

keep you, that souls have been

given and withhold what

slow-going

when ridden and not fast-going [leaving the rest behind] when made to lead the

way. For souls are safe

to the extent of their greed

motive. If you are able to have contentment of a satisfied one, do."

One wise man wrote to another, "Know, may God

created with a natural disposition to take what they are

they are asked to give; so make [your soul] ride a mount that is not

according to the extent of their fear, they seek according

and they aspire according to the extent of their

the fear of an apprehensive person and the

From <Umar ibn '-Abd al-'-Aziz to Ibn Jf aywa

< Umar ibn <Abd

often will be content with little; and whoever knows that speaking is work will speak little, except regarding what will be of use to him."

al- < Aziz wrote to Raja' ibn l:-Iaywa, "Whoever remembers death

From <Umar ibn al-Kha{!ab to Ibn Ghazwan

< Umar ibn al-Khanab wrote to < Utba ibn Ghazwan, his governor of Basra, "You have become a commander; you say something and you will be obeyed, you order so ething and your order will be implemented. What a blessing this is, unless it raises you above your standing and makes you tyrannical over those below you.

your standing and makes you tyrannical over those below you. THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD 6

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

63

Therefore, be more on your guard against a blessing than against a disaster; and beware of a fall and a stumbling from which you cannot rise. Peace be unto you."

Between al-Jfasan and < Umar ibn < A bd

a/- < A z iz

Al-l:-Iasan wrote to <Umar, "In what God commands you to do, there is what should preoccupy you from what He prohibited, and Peace be unto you." <Umar ibn <Abd al-<Azis wrote to al-l:-Iasan, "Write concisely to me about the world and describe the hereafter." So al-I:-Iasan wrote back, "This world is only a dream, the hereafter is merely an awakening, death is in the middle, and we are really in a muddle of confused nightmares. Whoever holds himself to account will gain, and whoever does not heed this will lose. Whoever considers the consequences will be safe, and whoever follows his passion will stray. Whoever is patient will win, and whoever is guided by fear will be secure. Whoever is willing to be admonished by a warning will see, and whoever sees will understand, and whoever understands will know and whoever knows will act. If you commit an error, correct yourself; if you repent, desist; if you don't know, ask; if you get angry, restrain yourself; and know that the best acts are those that one is compelled to do."

Parents' exhortations of their children

Luqman exhorting his son

Luqman said to his son, "When you come to a people's gathering, greet them in peace and then sit down. If they speak at length in remembrance of God, participate in their conversation; but if they speak at length about other topics, rise and leave them." He also said, "O son, take refuge in God against evil people and approach good ones cautiously." Similar to this is the saying of Aktham ibn Sayfi, "Be cautious of a trust- worthy person and don't trust a treacherous one, for hearts are in the hand of someone other than you." Luqman said also to his son, "Don't rely on this world and don't preoccupy your heart with it, for you have not been created for it and God has not created any created thing of lesser value to Him than it; and He did not make its comfort a reward for the obedient or its affliction a punishment for the disobedient. 0 son, don't laugh without astonishment, don't walk without a goal and don't ask about what does not concern you. 0 son, don't waste your wealth and feather the nest of another; for your wealth consists of what you have earned, and another's wealth is what you have passed over. 0 son, whoever is merciful will obtain mercy; whoever is silent will be safe; whoever says good things will win; whoever tells falsehoods will sin; and whoever does not restrain his tongue will regret. 0 son, associate closely with scholars and listen to them, for one's

6 4 THE U !QUE NECKLACE heart lives in the light emanating from scholars just

64

THE U

!QUE NECKLACE

heart lives in the light emanating from scholars just as the dead earth regains life from heaven's rain."

Ibn Safwan exhorting his son

Khalid !bn Saf an said to his son, "Appear at present can be_ m, and m the least you can inwardly be in the

in the best condition you future; and leave alone

deeds m secret that would not be good for you in public."

A bedouin Arab exhorting his son

A bedouin Arab s id to his son, "O son, the invoker of a blessing upon you has made you hear 1t, the seeker of a gift from you has offered his excuse to you, and so the whole matter has finally ended with you: I don't know of a more unfortunate person than the one who loses certainty and fails in hope."

'Ali ibn al-I:Iusayn exhorting his son

'Ali ibn al-1:Iusayn, who was one of the most virtuous of the Bann Hashim said to his son, "O son, be patient in disasters and don't expose yourself to da gers· on't help your brother in any matter whose harm to you would be greater tha its benefit to you."

A wise man exhorting his sons

A wise man said to his sons, "O sons, beware of being

for this will bring you w rry,

apprehensive in disasters

and gloating by th secure in them· for

a bad opinion of the Lord,

enemy. And beware of bemg lured by worldly events and

b_ut a

nght and

to_ ever thing

will be Judged; done by others.'

by God, I have never laughed at anything that did not later

therefore cautious of worldly events and expect them, for man in this world is

happen to m .

B

target for its successive arrows, some of which may miss him and fall on his

left, and some of which will hit him. And know that there is a reward

you judge, you

and whoever does good to others one day, to him good will be

and a recompense to every deed. It was said, 'As

A poet said

When time afflicts a certain people With its events, it besets others too. So tell those who gloat over us, 'Wake up, The gloaters will meet with what we have met.'

up, The gloaters will meet with what we have met.' THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD 65

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

65

A wise man exhorting his son

A wise man said to his son, "O son, I am giving you advice; if you don't keep to

the advice I give you, [most likely] you will not keep to that of others. Fear God

as much as you can, and if you can be today better than you were yesterday, and

tomorrow better than you are today, then be so. Beware of greed, for it is present poverty. Give up hope of things, for you will never give up hope of anything that God will not make it possible for you to do without. Beware of what one might have to apologize for, for you will never have to apologize for a good deed. If someone stumbles, thank God that it has not been you. 0 son, take good from good people, and leave evil to evil people. When you rise to pray, pray like

someone bidding farewell, believing that you will never pray again after that."

'Ali ibn al-I:Iusayn exhorting his son

'Ali ibn al-I:Iusayn, peace be unto both of them, said to his son, "O son, God has not been pleased that you be my son, so he advised you to be good to me; and He has been pleased that I be your father, so he warned me of you. Know that the best father to a son is he whose love does not make him lax towards him; and the best son to a father is he who does not let [paternal] neglect lead him to recalcitrance."

A wise man exhorting his son

A wise man said to his son, "O son, the most regretful person on the Day of

Resurrection is a man who unlawfully earned wealth that caused him to enter hellfire, and that he bequeathed to someone who used it in deeds of obedience to God, making him enter Paradise."

Ibn 'Utba and his father

'Amr ibn 'Utba said, "When I became fifteen years old, my father said to me, 'O son, the rules of boyhood are now no longer applicable to you; so cling to decency and you will be one of the decent people, and don't leave it and go far from it. Don't be deceived by anyone who praises you for what you know is contrary to what you know of yourself; for if he says something good, when he is pleased with you, that he knows is untrue, he will similarly say something bad when he is angry with you. Accustom yourself to loneliness away from evil companions, and you will be safe from bad consequences.'"

'Abd al-Malik exhorting his sons

'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan said to his sons, "Refrain from harm, do good, and forgive when you are powerful. Don't stint when asked to give, and don't be importunate when asking; for whoever restrains will be put under restraint, and whoever gives will be recompensed by God."

66

THE UNIQUE

NECKLACE

Al-Ashcath

exhorting his

sons

Al-Ash ath ibn

of your

free

c

(ttys

and

said to his

be

duped

in

sons, "O

matters

sons,

of your

don't be

humiliated

your

matters

pockets be

in

honor

wealth. Let

of people's money and your consciences

of their blood, for everyone has

a

responsibility.

of a disgrace.

money for a period of estrangement from the ruler and vicissitude of

in need, refrain

Be

given

are not matches,

models and by whom mean people unless they are in a state of disorder;

capacity

Beware of what might have to be apologized for or be ashamed

for an

offense

and

one

is ashamed

Save

time.

of;

for

one

polite

apologizes

when

to

be

your

When

from begging; being rebuffed should be a sufficient

asking

for

a gift

to. Interdict

for you

so that

your providence

[the

marriage

of your]

will

deterrence.

coincide with

a

who

consider

men

women to

are members of a house whom noble people

are honored.

Mix with the

common people

when they are, return to your tribes."

From

cumar

ibn

al-Khanab

to his

son

CAbd Allah

cumar

ibn

al-Khanab

"Whoever fears

God

be

sufficed

by

Him,

wrote

to his

son

CAbd Allah,

who was

away on

a trip,

will be

protected

by Him,

whoever

relies

on

Him

will

whoever

thanks Him

[for

His

gifts] will

be

given

to

incrementally

Let piety be the

forms no

no good in him, and whoever has no

by

Him,

and whoever

lends

and

to Him

will

be

rewarded

for

by

Him.

prop of your heart

the clarity of your sight;

whoever

whoever has no fear will have

intention

[of doing] will have no deed,

shabby garment will have no new one."

From

CAii

to his

son

l:lasan

CAii

ibn Abi

Talib wrote to his

son I:Iasan,

peace be unto both of them, "From

the one

who

who have expired, slave of the world,

the companion of misfortunes,

CAii, the Commander of the Faithful, the father who shall perish [soon],

conceding to time,

hopes

who is the object of illnesses, the captive of passing days, the

the merchant of deception,

the victim of desires,

son,

towards me,

the world

surrendering to adversities, whose life is

walks

on the path

of those

slipping away,

in what can't be achieved,

the target

as I pondered upon

solicitude

a truth

that

the prisoner of fate,

of plagues,

and

going away

the successor

from me,

to

the dead.

0

the hereafter coming

from

However,

and time being difficult with me,

others

and

paying

attention

to

singled me

out

and

shut

out

is

not mixed with

falsehood,

I

I have been made to refrain

what will

follow

me.

other people's

cares,

so

that

found

that you

part

it would

as

was seeking assistance by it -

I

concerned

remembering

when

anxiety brought me true thinking and pushed away my

me with my own circumstance, leading me to a seriousness

and

and rather that you are all of me to the extent that if

my

passion and confronted

that can't be dismissed

of me

anything happened to you,

afflict me.

about

At that

are

it would

happen

to me

and

if death

afflicted

you,

moment,

I

became

concerned

about

you

as

much

myself.

So I wrote this letter of mine to you, my son,

if

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

67

I remain alive for you or die, I advise you to fear God

remembrance

fast to

upon

that, by His blessing,

stronger than the

Revive

asceticism,

with people, warn it against the power of time and its

reports about peoples

see what they did

from homes of loved ones

become like one of them, my son.

but don't sell your hereafter for your present world. Don't speak about

don't know, and don't order what you are not

your tongue to command what is good and prohibit

to the one who commits the latter.

blames you when you are on God's side. Keep my

you in disregard,

a long road in reconnoitering

will carry your provision for you and give it to you at

the

ahead of you that none but people with the lightest

when

what is sought,

being he whose certainty is

and fill your heart with His

'And hold

and hold fast to

all

together,

His bond.

For God Most High says,

brought your

[Q 3: 103]

God Most High,

it by

God's bond,

you

when

you

one

your heart by

humble

and be not divided;

and

He

remember God's blessing

so

0 my son, what bond is

to it?

secure by

dispensing

were enemies

hearts together

if you hold

make

it

it by

on

you became brothers.'

between you and

exhortations,

it by

enlighten

of]

wisdom,

strengthen

[remembrance

death,

present to it

to

settled: you will find that they moved away

shortly

It is as

vicissitudes;

of the past, walk in their lands and

follow their traces

if you will

and where they

and lived in foreign lands.

So sell your present world for your hereafter,

what you

responsible for. Use your hand and

what is evil,

and be contrary

Fight for truth, not caring about anyone who

advice and let it not pass over

good in useless knowledge.

great difficulties,

If you

and

Know that there is

wise

who

your destination, then seize

incline

Be decent

that you will

a difficult

need

happen upon

is

a poor man

steep

for there

burdens can pass.

a

seeking

can lead

to loss

of

and the robbed one

for there is no

front of you with

and

of having

nice

sufficient provision.

him

with you;

opportunity

seeking and

when earning;

for many

the loser being he whose religion is robbed,

stolen.

And know that there is no wealth that equals

Paradise,

and His blessings."

and no poverty that equals hellfire. Peace be

unto you,

God's mercy,

From

CAii

to his

son lbn al-I:Ianafiyya

And

the

yourself in all impregnable

an

for

copiously.

being moved forward, although he himself does not walk

this world's

accustom

he

study

giving

wrote

to

his

son

to

and a

MuJ:iammad

God,

strong

are

in His

ibn

al-1:Ianafiyya,

patient

you

in

Beseech

Seek

yourself to

entrust

to

in sincerity,

Him

who is

forward, for God wills

are

"Apply

of religion,

matters

and

cave

Know

yourself to be

Most

Exalted,

for

defender.

hand.

adversity,

Lord

guidance

is someone

will be

your

entrusting

from

it

deprivation

that

he

proper

and

night

who journeys

the day

destruction and the eternal

subsistence of the hereafter.

If you

capable of renouncing the world fully, then do that; and

accepting this

not achieve your hope, that you will not go

you

who

if you are not capable of for certain that you will

advice

those

of mine,

beware,

you.

and then know

beyond your appointed time, and that

every

are

like

came before

Honor yourself by rising above

beware, you. and then know beyond your appointed time, and that every are like came before

68

THE UNIQUE NECKLACE

mean deed, even though it may lead you to desired things; for you will not be recompensed by anything for what you expend of yourself. Beware of allowing the mounts of greed to speed away with you by saying, 'When they slow down, I will desist', for this is what ruined those who were ruined before you. Control your tongue, for correcting an inadvertent silence is easier than remedying words you have already said. Preserve what is in a container by tightening its fastening lace, for good management with economy is more likely to keep your wealth than having plenty and being a spendthrift, and frugality accompanied by chastity is better than wealth accompanied by profligacy. A man is more likely to keep his own secret, [than another] who may attempt to harm him. Beware of depending on wishes, for they are the materials of the stupid and they bring about the failure of the here and the hereafter. Among the most fortunate things in the world is having a good companion; therefore, associate yourself with good people and you will be one of them, and avoid bad people and you will be far from them. Don't let a bad opinion of another person ever dominate you, for it will not let peace last between you and a friend. Kindle your heart with good manners as fire is kindled with wood. Know that ingratitude is a mean trait, that the company of a stupid man is a misfortune, that defending women is one of the noble qualities, and that he who is forbearing dominates and he who tries to understand achieves an increase [ofknowledge]. Give your friend sincere advice, be it pleasant or unpleasant. Don't abandon your friend on suspicion and don't cut off relations with him without reproof. To hurt someone who has given you joy is not a right reward. Means of livelihood is of two kinds: one that you seek, and another that seeks you and if you don't go to it, it comes to you. Know, my son, that what you possess of your world is only that which you use to improve your life and home with; so spend of your abundance, and don't be a treasurer for another man; and if you are anxious about whatever slips away from your hands, be anxious about what has not reached you. A sighted man may miss his aim and a blind man may see his right way. No man who economized has been ruined, and no man who lived frugally has become a pauper. Whoever puts his trust in time will be betrayed by it, and whoever thinks he is greater than it will be humiliated. The most important thing in religion is certainty, the fullest expression of sincere piety is avoidance of sins, and the best kind of speech is what deeds corroborate. Ask about the companion before inquiring about the road, and about the neighbor before the house. Defend your friend against yourself and accept the apology of the one who apologizes to you. Delay an evil act as much as you can, for oftentimes you wish to hasten it. Let not your friend be readier to abandon you than you to preserve relations with him, and to hurt you than you to do good to him. Don't ever let a woman possess more responsibility over anything than she can bear, for a woman is a sweet basil and not a [mere] housekeeper; this will be more likely to preserve her condition and keep her mind at peace. And let her sight be lowered modestly by your protection, restrain her by your guardianship, and honor those by whom she

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

69

becomes powerful and by whom she becomes stronger if you are proud of them. I ask God to inspire you to be thankful and rightly guided, to strengthen you and enable you to do all kinds of good deeds, and to turn away from you all evil by His mercy. And peace be unto you, God's mercy, and His blessings."

Meetings of hermits with caliphs

The meeting of alil:i

ibn 'Abd al-Jalil

Salih ibn 'Abd al-Jalil stood in front of [Caliph] al-Mahdi and said to him, "As i is ·easier for us to reach you than it is for others who find it difficult, we have taken their place to speak on their behalf and on behalfof God's Messenger, °?ay God bless him and grant him peace, by showing the duty we bear of commandmg [good] and prohibiting [evil] when there is no excuse for conceali g it. This is especially so because you are qualified by humility and have promised God and memorizers of His Book that you will prefer truth to anything else, and so you and we are united by one of the testimonies of a thorough examination [of the truth]. In the Tradition we read: 'Whoever does not obtain religious learning will be punished by God for his ignorance of it; but more severely punished will be the one to whom religious learning is available but he turns away from it.' Therefore O Commander of the Faithful, accept what [learning] our tongues offer you i a way to implement it and put it into practice, and not hypocritically and in a way to achieve reputation. For [what learning our tongues] will offer will merely be to draw your attention to what you have neglected and remind you of what you have overlooked. God, may He be exalted, disposed His Prophet for it, peace be upon him, when He revealed it, and He said, "And if an incitem nt from Satan should incite you, seek refuge in God - He is surely the All-heanng and the All-knowing." [Q 41:36]

A hermit meeting with al-Man!?Ilr

When [Caliph] al-Man$Ur was circumambulating the Ka'ba by night, he heard someone saying, "O God, I complain to You about the spread of injustice and corruption on earth, and about greed that has made fair treatment inaccessible to people who need it." Al-Man$Ur left, sat down in a corner of the mosque, and sent for the man. The man performed two prostrations, touched the Black Stone and came with the messenger and greeted the caliph by the proper caliph,al greeting. Al-Man$Ur asked, "What is this that I heard you say about the spread of injustice and corruption on earth? And what greed is it that makes fair treatment inaccessible to people who need it? By God, you have filled my ears with what has given me pain." The man said, "O Commander of the Faithful, if you give me security [from punishment], I will inform you about matters down to their roots; if not, I will retire from your presence and focus on my soul, for it preoccupies me." Al-Man$Ur said, "You will be secure. Speak." The man

70

THE UNIQUE NECKLACE

said,

him from dealing with the corruption and injustice

you."

me when I possess all that I

more than it entered you? God has

and wealth,

taking their wealth.

them, as

behind

You set up

"O

Commander of the

Faithful,

he

whom

preventing

greed has

that have spread on earth is

greed enter

"Yet, has greed entered anyone

entered,

"Woe to you!" the caliph said.

"How is that possible? How can

want?" The man said,

appointed you to take care of people's affairs

and have been

you

concerned with

and mortar between you and

imprisoned

collect

and

to enter your presence but

not

or

yourself

to

employees

and horses,

and you

did

or hungry,

but you have neglected their affairs

a barrier of bricks

iron

doors

and

armed

guards.

from

the

people;

you

sent

well as

them

Then

out

away

your

taxes and

you

So-and-So

order that anyone who was

and

gather money,

that no

strengthening them with armed men

one

should

be permitted

among

a small

group

you

unjustly treated,

who was

named;

aggrieved,

commanded

So-and-So

naked, or who was weak or poor should

had

preferred

the

be permitted to reach you, each

of whom

small group

you

selected

for

yourself,

that they

should

not

be

a right to

to

this

wealth.

When

and

all your

subjects

ordered

prevented

taxes and accumulating wealth, they said,

plotted

conditions

with them

from your company, saw you collecting

'This

that

but those they wanted,

should come out whom they would not

would not banish so that his

well known about you and them,

them; and the first who did that

gifts

man has betrayed God,

nobody

should

reach you

so why should we not betray him?' They

who

knew anything

of the

people's

and that no employee of yours who disagreed

standing with you would fall.

accuse of betraying you and whom they

When all this became

bribed

with

and

so

God's country came to These people became

If someone came to complain

you; and if he wanted to raise

people respected them, feared them and

were your own employees who bribed them

able to treat your subjects unjustly;

and money so that they would be

they were followed by those

that they in turn could wrong those under

be filled with greed,

your partners in your rule while you

and seek justice, they prevented him from reaching

the matter to you when you

this,

injustice.

a

injustice,

among your subjects who had power and wealth

them in rank.

oppression and corruption.

were unaware.

appeared in public, he found that you had

man

to

look

into

people's

of your retinue,

and

forbidden

complaints

they would ask

and acts of injustice not

complained of had a special position

wanted

would

refuge

he got

trying

and

had

appointed

acts of

If that man's

story reached members

and thus

the one responsible for dealing with people's complaints

to raise his case to you, because the person

of respect with them,

the one responsible would do what they

a result,

the

wronged

for

complaints,

person

to

take

When

because

he

would

be

afraid

of them.

As

continue

to

frequent the

one

responsible

in

him

and

seek

his

help,

but being constantly rebuffed by him.

tired

of being

hampered,

and

you

happened

shout

to

you;

but

he

would

then

be

severely

warning example to others -

not

disapprove!

How

can

to

appear

so

in

public,

he

he

might

would

a

would

beaten

that

be

0

meanwhile, you would be looking on and you

Islam

continue

to

exist

with

all

this happening?

THE BOOK OF THE EMERALD

71

Commander of the

been

bitterly and his

said, 'I am not weeping because of weeping for a wronged person who

Then

to all people that no one should

act of injustice.' Henceforth, the king used to

evenings, and go about looking for

this

for polytheists

member of His Prophet's family, and

not overcome the avarice of your

your son,

coming out of his mother's womb,

by

came to have a great desire to God who gives what He likes to

hands;

I

Faithful,

that

its

I

used

king

when

wept

He

I am rather

hear his voice.'

Proclaim

complaining of an

mount an elephant, mornings and

whether he could see a wronged person. N?w

a polytheist and his compassion

to travel

had

often

to China.

with

One time,

deafness;

he

was

there, I

found

afflicted

companions urged him to bear his

'Truly,

affliction with patience.

the tribulation I am afflicted with.

may yell at my gate but I can't

gone, but my sight has

not.

he

added,

my hearing has

wear a red robe but a person

was

and you

[king], O Commander of the Faithful,

reached

God has

tight-fisted

that

great extent;

soul!

are a believer

in

God and

a

yet your compassion for the Muslims does

If you believe you are gathering

[what happened to]

wealth for

a baby who,

all wealth being held

to that baby until people

it is

wealth

happened

horses