Let it be known to you that the fuqaha' - may God be pleased with all of them - have offered many definitions of ghibah,whose discussion and close scrutiny is not possible here except with brevity. The blessed martyr and researcher, the Shaykh (Zayn al-Din `Ali, known as al-Shahid al-Thani) in his kashf al-ribah `an ahkam al-ghibah says: "There are two definitions for it. The first one, which is famous among the fuqaha', is:
It is the mention of a person in his absence, ascribing to him something whose ascription he rinds detestable and which is generally considered as harmful (to one's reputation), with the intention of impairing (his reputation) and disparaging him.
The second one is:
Informing about something whose ascription to one is regarded as detestable by him.
The second definition is more general than the first one, if dhikr (in the first definition) be taken to mean oral mention, as it is generally understood to mean, for tanbih has a wider meaning and includes speech, writing, narration and other forms of communication. But if dhikr were taken to mean something wider than oral speech, as it does literally signify, the two definitions become similar. The traditions also suggest these two definitions, such as the one recorded in al-Shaykh al-Tusi'sAmali (Majalis) and narrated on the authority of Abu Basir:
...In (the tradition about) the counsel that the Messenger of Allah (may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his Progeny) gave to Abu Dharr (may God be pleased with him), Abu Dharr is narrated to have said: "I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, what is ghibah?' He replied: '(It is) to mention of your brother that which he detests.' I said, 'O Messenger of Allah, what if that which is mentioned of him should actually be in him?' He replied, 'Know that when you mention that which is in him, you have committed his ghibah, and when you mention that which is not in him, then you have slandered him.' " 
In a famous tradition of the Prophet (S) it is reported:
(The Prophet [S]) asked his companions:) "Do you know what is ghibah?" They said, "God and His Messenger know best." He (S) said: "It is to mention about your brother that which he detests." 
These traditions correspond to the first definition if we take the generally understood meaning of dhikr and to the second one if a meaning wider than oral statement is ascribed to it. No mention was made in the traditions of absence, for it was implicit in the meaning of ghibah and so was not necessary. It is evident that 'brother' here means a brother in-faith not a brother by kinship. `Ma yakrahu' signifies the mention of things which are ordinarily regarded as damaging. As to the intention to harm and disparage, although it is not mentioned either in the noble tradition narrated by Abu Dharr or the famous prophetic tradition, it can be understood from the context. Rather, the opening of Abu Dharr's narration indicates it, and there was no need of an explicit mention. The narration opens in this manner:
(The Prophet[S] said:) "Ghibah is a graver sin than adultery." I said, "How is that, O Messenger of Allah?" "That is because a man commits adultery and repents to God and God accepts his repentance. But ghibah is not forgiven (by God) until it is forgiven by its victim." Then he (S) said, "The eating of his flesh is a sin vis-a-vis God. 
These two sentences reveal that the intention to injure is implicit, otherwise if someone is mentioned with kindness and compassion, it is not an offence against him so as to require his forgiveness, nor it amounts to eating his flesh.
The general character of ghibah is also understandable from the following narration of `A'ishah:
('A'ishah says:) "A woman came to visit us, and when she turned to go away I made a gesture by my hand to indicate that she is short of height. Thereupon, he - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his Progeny - said: 'You have committed her ghibah. ' " 
It may be said that the import of the traditions concerning ghibah, as understood in accordance with usage, does not limit it to linguistic expression. Rather, it extends the prohibition to apply to any such kind of communication. That is, the specific mention of linguistic expression is due to its being the ample common form in which, ghibah is committed, not because it is limited to it.
Another thing is that the general import of many traditions indicates that it is haram to reveal the secrets of the faithful(mu'minun). That is, it is forbidden to divulge and uncover their concealed defects, whether of a bodily, moral or behavioural nature, regardless of whether the person to whom they pertain is willing or not, and irrespective of whether a malicious intent is involved or not. However, an overall examination of the traditions shows that malicious intent underlies the prohibition, except when the act per se should be such that its mention and its publicity are proscribed by the Shari'ah - such as sins against God, which not even the sinner may proclaim and whose admission amounts to publication of indecency - and this does not relate to the prohibition (hurmah) on ghibah. It is not improbable that the revelation of the secrets of the faithful even in case of their willingness should be haram, even when there is no malicious motive involved. In any case, further elaboration in this aspect is outside the scope of our discussion.
You should know that there is consensus about the hurmah of ghibah. Rather, it is one of the essentials of fiqh, being a major and mortal sin. Discussion of its fiqhi aspect and the exceptions that relate to it is outside the scope of these pages. That which is necessary here is to inform about the viciousness of this fatal vice and its consequences, so that, God willing, by reflecting upon them we may abstain from it, and if, God forbid, we commit it, we may desist immediately from it and repent, purify ourselves of its abomination, and not permit ourselves to remain in this filth and the affliction of this faith-consuming mortal sin while departing from this world. This is because this major mortal sin has an ugly, deformed form in the spiritual world hidden behind the veils of the corporeal. In addition(totaling) to its evil, it is the cause of disgrace in front of the Sublime Company (al-mala' al-'ala) and in the presence of the apostles, prophets and the archangels. Its spiritual form is the same as what God, the Blessed and the Exalted, has indicated in His noble book and which has been pointed out explicitly and implicitly in the noble traditions. Allah, the Glorious and the Exalted, says:
...Neither backbite one another; would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abominate it. (49:12)
We are neglectful of the fact that our deeds return to us in the other world as objectified entities, with forms appropriate to their character. We do not know that this act (i.e. ghibah) has the form of cadaver eating. It will return to its perpetrator in the hell in its other-worldly (malakut) form, for he, like a ferocious dog, has torn other people's honour to shreds and devoured their (moral) flesh.
In a tradition it is narrated that once the Messenger of Allah, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him, stoned a man for commission of adultery. One of the persons present remarked to his companion: "This one was finished where he stood, like a dog." Thereafter, the Prophet, accompanied by the two men, passed by a carcass and he (S) said to them, "Now take a bite of it, you two," They said, "O Messenger of Allah, should we take a bite of a carcass?!" The Prophet replied, "That which you have taken of your brother was more putrid than this." 
Yes, the Noble Messenger (S) with the light of his powerful insight saw the greater putridness of their action, greater than that of a decomposed carcass, and the more abominable and repulsive character of its form. It is mentioned in another tradition that the perpetrator of ghibah would devour his own flesh on the Day of Resurrection. In a tradition of al-Wasa'il, cited from theMajalis (Amali) of al-Saduq, may God's good pleasure be with him, Amir al-Mu'minin (A) is reported to have said the following in the course of his advice to Nawf al-Bakali:
Nawf al-Bakali says: "I said, 'Tell me something more.' He (A) said: 'Abstain from ghibah, for it is the food of the dogs of hellfire.' Then he added: 'O Nawf, untrue is the one who claims to be of legitimate birth and yet devours the flesh of people through backbiting.' " 
There is no contradiction between these noble traditions, and all these things are possible. It is possible that the backbiter shall eat the flesh of carcasses, devour his own flesh, have the form of a carcass-eating dog, and, simultaneously, be a carcass that is devoured by the hounds of hell. There, the forms are subject to the efficient dimensions and a being may possess several outward forms - something the proof of which has been given in its appropriate place.
(Al-Saduq) in 'Iqab al-'a'mal, narrates with his isnad from the Messenger of Allah, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his Progeny, that he said in a tradition: "One who walks on the path of the ghibah of his brother and the divulging of his defects, the first step that he takes will be into hell and God shall divulge his defects in front of all the creatures." 
Such is his state on the Day of Resurrection and in hell and that is how God, the Exalted, shall disgrace him amongst the creatures and in the presence of the inhabitants of the celestial realms. In al-Wasa'il, with a chain of transmission reaching al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), the Prophet (S) is reported to have said:
The Noble Messenger (S) said: "whoever backbites a Muslim spoils his fasts and breaks his wudu' and shall come on the Day of Resurrection with his mouth stenching more putridly than a carcass and it shall irk those who are with him in his station (mawqif). If he dies before repenting, his death is like that of one who dies while considering the things prohibited by God, the Exalted and the Glorious, as permissible." 
This is his state before his entry into hell, so that he is disgraced in front of the people of his mawqif and is reckoned among the kuffar, for the mustahill (one who considers haram as halal) of God's maharramat (that which has been forbidden by God) is akafir. The backbiter (mughtab) is, in effect, like him according to this noble tradition. Another tradition has been narrated from the Messenger of God (S) regarding the state of such a one in the Barzakh:
Anas ibn Malik says: "The Messenger of Allah (8) said, 'On the night of my celestial journey (mi'raj) I passed by a people scratching their faces with their finger nails. I said: "O Gabriel, who are these?" He replied: "These are those who perpetrated the people's ghibah and slandered their reputation(renown)." 
This shows that the backbiter suffers disgrace and infamy in the Barzakh and faces humiliation in front of the people of hismawqif. He will dwell in disgrace and dishonour in the hell too. Rather, some of its degrees will bring him disrepute in this world also, as is mentioned in the following noble tradition of al-Kafi
Ishaq ibn 'Ammir reports on the authority of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that the Messenger of Allah (S)said: "O you who have embraced Islam with their tongues but faith has not entered whose hearts, don't disparage Muslims and don't be after their defects. Verily, God will be after the defects of him who is after their defects, and one who has God after his defects will be humiliated even in his own house. 
God, the Blessed and the Exalted, is ghayur (i.e. sensitive about His honour) and the exposing of the secrets and defects of the faithful is tantamount to violation of His honour. If a man surpasses all limits in his shamelessness and violates Divine sanctities, God, the Honourable, exposes his secrets which He had concealed before out of His concealing grace. Such a man is then disgraced in this world before the people and in that world in front of the angels, the prophets and the awliya', upon whom be peace. In a noble tradition of al-Kafi whose isnad goes back to al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) it is stated:
(Al-'Imam al-Baqir [A]) said: "During his celestial journey, the Prophet (8) said to God: 'My Lord, what is the status of the mu'min before Thee?' He replied: 'O Muhammad, whoever insults a friend(mate) of mine, has declared open war against Me, and I am the quickest of all in rallying to the aid of My friends.' " 
There are many traditions in this regard. In a tradition whose isnad goes back to al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), al-Shaykh al-Saduq reports the Imam as having said:
Whoever perpetrates the ghibah of such a person (i.e. of one who conceals his defects and is just in outward conduct, though he should be a sinner in his own eyes) will go out of the wilayah of Allah, the Most Exalted, and enter the wilayah of Satan. 
It is obvious, that one who leaves the wilayah of God will enter the wilayah of Satan and will not be characterized with faith and salvation. As mentioned in the tradition of Ishaq ibn `Ammar, the Islam of the backbiter is merely oral, not having entered his heart. It is also obvious that one who has faith in God and believes in the Day of Judgement and in encounter with the forms of deeds and the reality of sins, such a person will not commit such a major mortal sin which brings disgrace in the apparent and the hidden worlds, in the life of this world as well as in the barzakh and the Hereafter, leads to the evil affliction of hell, and expels him from the wilayah of God and makes him enter the wilayah of Satan. If we perpetrate such a major sin, then we must know that it arises from a polluted(dirtied) source, that the reality of faith has not entered our hearts. Should faith enter the heart, things will undergo a reform and its effects will percolate to all the hidden and the manifest, the outward and the inward realms of one's being.
Hence we must cure the ills of the hearts and the inner self. The traditions reveal that in the same manner as the weakness of faith and lack of its sincerity results in moral and behavioural vices, so do these vices in their turn lead to further deterioration or rather destruction of faith. This is in accordance with rational proofs, as demonstrated in its proper place.
And let it be known to you that this sin is graver and of greater evil consequences than other sins from another aspect. It lies in this that in addition(adding up) to violating the right of God (haqq Allah) it violates the rights of people (haqq al-nas), and God does not forgive the backbiter unless the victim is propitiated by him. This theme is mentioned in the noble hadith through several chains of transmission.
It is narrated in al-Majalis wa al-'akhbar with isnad on the authority of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan from Abu Dharr from the Prophet (S) that in a counsel that he (S) gave to him he (S) said: "O Abu Dharr, beware of backbiting, for backbiting is graver than adultery." (Abu Dharr says:) "I said, 'Why is that so, O Messenger of Allah?' He replied, 'That is because when a man commits adultery and then repents to God, God accepts his repentance. But backbiting is not forgiven until forgiven by its victim.' " 
In the traditions narrated in `Ilal al-sharayi', al-Khisal, Majma' al-bayan and Kitab al-'ikhwan the same or a similar point has been made. If, God forbid, one were to depart from the world with people's rights on his neck, his task would be very difficult. As to the rights of God, one has to deal therein with the Noblest and the Most Merciful, Whose sacred being is free from hatred, enmity, vengefulness, and the urge to satisfy the thirst for revenge. But if one had to deal with creatures, it is quite possible that one may get entangled with someone with such traits, who will not easily forgive anyone or will not be placated at all.
Hence it is necessary for man to be careful of himself and pay due attention to these matters, for the danger of it is very great and the matter is of supreme difficulty. The traditions concerning the serious nature of ghibah are more than can be quoted here and we shall confine ourselves to a few of them.
In a sermon the Prophet (8) spoke about usury and its great evil. Then he said: "Verily, a single dirham earned by a man through usury is greater (in sinfulness) than thirty-six counts of adultery. And verily, more heinous than usury is (violating) the honour of a Muslim. 
The Prophet (8) said: "No fire is faster in consuming dry wood than ghibah consuming a devotee's virtues." 
The Prophet (S) said: "A person shall be made to halt in front of the Glorious and Exalted Lord on the Day of Resurrection and handed over his book. On not seeing his good deeds therein he shall say, 'My God, this is not my book, for I don't see my virtues in it.' He shall be told, 'Verily, your Lord neither errs nor forgets. Your deeds are gone for your backbiting of the people.' Then another person shall be brought and handed over his book. He will see in it many deeds of obedience (ta'at) and he will say: 'My God, this is not my book, for I have not performed these deeds of obedience.' He shall be told: 'So and so committed your ghibah and so his good deeds have been awarded to you.' " 
The Prophet (S) said: "A lower degree of kufr is for a man to hear something from his brother and to commit it to his memory intending thereby to cause him humiliation. Such persons shall have no share (in the Hereafter)". 
The traditions cited here relate specifically to the subject at hand. But in case the backbiter were guilty of other sins and vices besides - such as the insult, humiliation, contempt and disparaging of a believer (mu'min), the revelation and counting of his failings, and his defamation, each of which is an independent cause of one's destruction - the traditions condemning each of them are overwhelming and shattering. We abstain from citing them here for brevity's sake.
The Social Harms of Ghibah:
This greatly heinous vice and highly fatal sin, which is a destroyer of faith and morality, of the outward and the inward, which brings man disgrace and ignominy in the world and the Hereafter as alluded to in the preceding section, has also social evils and in this respect its ugliness and evil are greater than those of many other sins.
One of the great objectives of the teachings of the great prophets, may God's peace be upon them, apart from being an independent goal in itself and a means for forwarding great goals, as well as being completely essential for the formation of a perfect society (al-madinat al fadilah) is unity of belief and creed and solidarity in regard to all important matters, and resistance to the unjust aggressions of oppressors, which cause the corruption of humanity and ruin the foundations of wholesome society. This great objective, on which the reform of individual and society depends, cannot be achieved except in the shadow of unity, solidarity, mutual love and brotherhood amongst the individuals of society and the sincerity of their hearts and their inner and outward purity, so that the human race and its members come to constitute a single person and personality with individuals as its parts and members. All their efforts and endeavours have revolved around this ogle great divine objective and this momentous rational goal, wherein lies the good of individual and society. Should such love and brotherhood be born in a race or tribe, it would dominate all other tribes and nations that do not possess this quality. The truth of this matter comes to light if we study history, especially that of the battles and great victories of Islam. At the advent of this divine faith, since there was a measure of this unity and solidarity amongst Muslims and their efforts were accompanied by sincerity of intention, they could achieve great victories in a short period. In a brief span of time they overwhelmed the great empires of that age, namely Iran and Rome. Smaller in number, they could defeat heavily armed armies with an endless number of soldiers. The Prophet of Islam established the covenant of brotherhood amongst early Muslims and the relationship of brotherhood came to prevail between all Muslims on the basis of the Qur'anic text:
Indeed, the believers are brethren. (49: 10)
The following traditions are recorded in the noble al-Kafi:
Al Aqarqufi says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say to his companions: 'Fear God and be righteous brethren, loving one another for the sake of God, mutually interlinked and merciful into one another. Visit one another, meet one another, remind one another about our affair (i.e. Imamate) and keep it alive.' " 
Abu 'Abd Allah (A) said: "It a the duty of all Muslims to strive in respect of mutual relations, cooperation, kindness and charity to the needy and mutual affection amongst themselves, until you become as God, the Almighty and the Glorious, has commanded you to be (saying): 'They are merciful unto one another.' 
Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) also said: "Cultivate mutual relations, be kind and merciful to one another and be such true brethren as God, the Almighty and the Glorious, has commanded you to be." 
It is evident that that which strengthens this mutual love and brotherhood is desirable, and that which severs this tie of mutual connection and brotherhood and creates disunity is regarded as detestable by the Lawgiver and is opposite to His great objectives. It is quite clear that if this great fatal sin were to become prevalent in a society, would cause enmity, envy, hatred and hostility amongst its people and the roots of corruption will spread through it. Then the tree of hypocrisy and two facedness will take roots in it, which shall grow(prospere) and shatter the unity and solidarity of society, weakening the foundations of piety, which in turn will increase its corruption and repulsive character.
Hence it is obligatory upon every pious and honourable Muslim, in order to safeguard his own person against corruption, to protect his coreligionists from hypocrisy, to preserve the Islamic society, to safeguard its unity, and to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood, to protect himself from this vice and forbid others from this repulsive act. And if, God forbid, he has been guilty of this ugly act, he must repent and - in case it is possible and there is no chance of vicious consequences - seek the propitiation of the victim and his forgiveness; otherwise, he must implore God's mercy for him. He must get rid of this vice and water the roots of sincerity, unity and solidarity in his heart, so as to be amongst one of the sound members of society and one of the vital spokes of the wheel of Islam. And God is the guide of all towards the path of righteousness.
On the Cure of this Malady:
You should know that the remedy of this great vice, like that of other vices, is possible by means of beneficial knowledge and action. As to the knowledge, it lies in this that man should reflect over the benefits resulting from this deed and compare them with its evil consequences and ugly fruits. He must weigh them in the balance of reason and seek a judgement therefrom. Of course, man is no enemy of himself. All his sins arise from ignorance, unawareness and negligence of their basic nature and consequences.
As to the imagined benefit of this vice, it amounts to a few minutes of satisfaction of one's carnal desire arising from the mention of people's defects and divulging of their secrets, or an hour spent in convivial company amid pleasantries and sly gossip inspired(pushed) by bestial or satanic nature and aimed to satisfy the thirst of vengeful hearts.
As to its ugly effects, some of them were mentioned in the earlier sections. Now listen to some more of them, place them in the balance of judgement and draw lesson from it, for, of course, this comparison and reflection shall yield fair results. As to the effects of ghibah in this world, one of these is that it lowers a man in the people's estimation and deprives him of their confidence. The people by nature are endowed with a love of perfection, virtue and goodness and a hatred of defectiveness, baseness and ugliness. Accordingly, they make a distinction between persons who avoid divulging hidden defects and refrain from tearing the veils that guard their honour and safeguard their secrets and others who are not such. Even the backbiter himself, by virtue of his reason and innate moral nature, considers one who avoids such vices as superior to himself. Moreover, should he trespass the bounds in perpetration of this vice and tear the veils that guard people's honour, God will disgrace him in this world itself, as mentioned in the narration of Ishaq ibn `Ammar cited earlier. And man must fear a humiliation brought about by God Almighty, for it will be irreparable. I take refuge in God from the wrath of the Forebearing Lord.
Moreover, it is very possible that the slandering of the reputation of believers and the divulging of their concealed defects' will result in a wretched hereafter for man. For when this act becomes a part of man's conduct it leaves certain effects on the soul, one of which is production of enmity and hatred towards the victim, which increase little by little. At the time of death, when some realities become revealed to man and he observes certain suprasensible realms, the veils of malakut having been lifted, this hatred and enmity may cause him on beholding the station of his victims and the honour and blessings granted them by God Almighty, to hate God Almighty. For it is natural for man to regard his enemy's friend as his own enemy and to rail one who loves one he hates. Thus he will leave this world with enmity of God and His angels and depart to everlasting ignominy and wretchedness.
My dear, be friendly to the servants of God who enjoy His mercy and bounty and who have been adorned with the robes of Islam and iman, and cultivate a heart-felt affection for them. Beware lest you feel enmity towards the beloved of God, for God Almighty is the enemy of the enemies(foes) of His beloved one and He will throw you out of the gardens of His mercy. The elect of God are hidden amongst His servants and who knows if this enmity on your part and your violation of the honour of this man of faith (mu'min) and your divulging of his defects will not be considered an offence against Divine honour?
The mu'minun are the awliya' (friends) of God. Their friendship is the friendship of God; their enmity is the enmity of God. Beware of the wrath of God and the enmity of the intercessors on the Day of Judgement:
Woe to him whose intercessors [i.e. those who were supposed to intercede in his favour] are his enemies.
Meditate for a while about the fruits of this sin in this world and the Hereafter. Reflect for a while about the fearsome, frightful forms that will beset you in the grave, in the Barzakh, and on the Day of Resurrection. Refer to the authentic works of Shi'i scholars, may God's good pleasure be with them, and the traditions narrated from the Immaculate Imams, may God's peace be upon them; for what they have to say in this regard is truly overwhelming. Then compare and weigh a quarter of an hour's pleasantries, idle gossip and satisfaction of the imaginative lust with thousands upon thousands of years of adversity (that, too, when you are amongst those who deserve salvation and depart from this world in a state of faith) or eternal damnation in hell and everlasting painful chastisement (and we seek refuge in God from it).
Furthermore, even if you have enmity with a person whose ghibah you commit, that enmity requires that you should not commit his ghibah if you have faith in the ahadith; for it is stated in the hadith that the good deeds of the backbiter are transferred to the book of deeds of the victim of his ghibah and his sins are transferred to the book of the backbiter. Therefore, your enmity of him boils down to an enmity of yourself. Hence you should know that you cannot fight with God. God has power to make that person endearing and respectable in the eyes of people by the very means of your ghibah of him and humiliate you in their eyes through the same means. He can deal with you in the same manner in the presence of the archangels. He can fill your book of deeds with vices and humiliate you. He can fill the book of deeds of your victim with fair deeds and grant him favour and honour.
Hence understand well the extent of the power of the Omnipotent with Whom you are at war and beware of His enmity!
As to the action, it lies in this that one should for a period muster all one's power and rid his soul of this sin at all cost. He must bring his tongue under control and be fully watchful of himself and make a covenant with himself to abstain from this sin for a certain time, being vigilant and watchful over himself and calling himself to account. God willing, it is hoped that after some time he will find himself reformed and free of its traces. Gradually the task will become easy for him and after some time he will feel that he has a natural disposition to dislike(detest) and detest it. Thereat, he will come to possess spiritual peace and delight in achieving freedom from this vice.
The Priority of Abstinence from Permissible Ghibah:
Let it be known to you that the 'ulama' and 'fuqaha', may God's good pleasure be with them, have excepted certain cases from the prohibition of ghibah, which, according to the statements of some of them, number more than ten. Here we do not intend to enumerate them, for this is not a place for legal discussions. That which is essential to be mentioned here is that man should never consider himself secure from the ruses of his carnal self. He should conduct himself with total carefulness and caution and should not be after fabricating excuses in order to plunge into pleasantries and faultfinding by taking resort in one of the permissible exceptions.
The ruses of the self are most subtle. It may seduce man by fooling him through the Shari'ah and lead him into mortal perils. For instance, it is permissible to do the ghibah of one who does not conceal his violations of Divine commands (mutajahir bi al-fisq), or rather it is even obligatory in some cases when it can help in restraining him and is considered one of the stages ofal-'amr bi al-ma`ruf wa al-nahy 'an almunkar. But one must examine whether his own personal motive by this ghibah is a godly and shari one, or if it is prompted by a satanic and selfish motive. If the motive is a godly one, his act would be reckoned among 'ibadat. Rather, the ghibah of the mutajahir and the sinner with the motive of his reform is one of the most evident cases of expression of kindness and munificence toward him, although he himself may not understand it to be so. But if it is tainted with evil and carnal desire, then one must turn to the purification of his intent and refrain from meddling with people's honour without wholesome intention and purpose. Moreover, to habituate the self to cases of permissible ghibah is also harmful for it, for the self is inclined toward mischief and indecency. It is possible that the absence of restraint in the permissible cases may gradually lead it to another stage belonging to the prohibited cases. This is similar to entry intoshubuhat (cases where doubt exists as to an act's permissibility), which is permissible but not desirable for its proximity to that which has been prohibited (maharramat). For it is possible that man may be led into maharramat through entry into them. Man must restrain his self as far as possible from these matters and refrain from everything when there is a possibility of its becoming unruly.
True, one must certainly act in cases where ghibah is obligatory, as in the aforementioned case and some other cases pointed out by the `ulama'; but one must also purge one's intention of the desire of the carnal self and the promptings of Satan. However, in cases of permissibility, it is better and preferable to abstain from it. Man must not commit everything that is permissible, especially in such matters as these where the seductions of the self and Satan are very effective.
It is narrated that Jesus, may God's peace be upon him, in the company of his disciples once passed by the carcass of a dog. The disciples said, "How badly does this carcass smell!" Jesus, upon whom be peace, declared, "What white teeth it has!" Of course, a teacher of the human species must possess such a purified self. He did not like that one of God Almighty's creations should be mentioned in a disparaging fashion. They saw its defect, and that Hadrat pointed out to them one of its excellences. I have heard that it is narrated in hadith that Jesus, upon whom be peace, said: "Don't be like a fly that sits upon filth. Don't be such that you notice only the defects of people."
It is narrated that the Noble Messenger, may God's peace be upon him and his Progeny, said:
Blessed is the man who has been detained by his own defects from noticing the defects of other people. 
It would be good if one were as inquisitive about one's own defects as he is about the defects of people. How ugly it is of a man with thousands of defects to neglect his own and attend to those of others adding them to the heap(mound) of his own defects! Should man explore his own states, conduct and acts and devote himself to their correction, his affairs would be reformed. But should he regard himself as free of defect, that is the height of his ignorance. For no defect is worse than this that man should be unaware and negligent of his own defects yet be attentive to the defects of others, while he himself is a mass of defects and shortcomings.
On the Prohibition on Listening to Ghibah:
In the same manner as ghibah is prohibited, so also listening to it, being its companion, is .also prohibited; rather, as some traditions show, the listener is like the backbiter in all the evil respects, even in regard to his act being a major sin and the obligation to propitiate the victim.
The Prophet (S) said: "The listener is one of the two backbiters." 
'Ali (A) said: "The listener is one of the two who engage in backbiting." 
Hence one who listens to ghibah is also a backbiter. Sami' here means mustami'. Therefore, as many traditions indicate, it is obligatory to refute ghibah.
In a tradition reported by al-Saduq with his isnad from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), the Noble Messenger, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his Progeny, is once said to have forbidden ghibah and listening to it as well. Then he (S) said: "Lo, whoever does a favour to his brother by refuting his ghibah on hearing it in a gathering, God shall save(salvage) him from a thousand kinds of evils in this world and the Hereafter. And if he doesn't do so in spite of his ability to refute it on him shall be the burden of one who commits his ghibah seventy times. 
In a tradition reported by al-Saduq with his isnad from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), the Prophet (S) is reported to have said to Amir al-Mu'minin (A) in the course of a counsel that he gave him: "O 'Ali! When someone hears the ghibah of his Muslim brother and it is committed in his presence, yet he does not rally to his assistance despite being capable of doing so, God shall humiliate him in the world and the Hereafter. 
In Iqab al-'a'mal, al-Saduq reports with his isnad from the Prophet (S) that he said: "Whoever refutes the ghibah of his brother that he hears in a gathering, God shall turn away from him a thousand kinds of evils in this world and the next. But if he fails to refute it and is even gratified thereat, his burden of sin is like that of the backbiter. 
The `Allamah of the latter-day `ulama', the great researcher and embodiment of the merits of knowledge and deed, al-Shaykh al-'Ansari, may God's good pleasure be with him, says:
It appears that by `refutation' (radd) here is meant something other than forbidding ghibah, and it implies defending and offering assistance to the absent person with something related to the ghibah. For instance, if the defect mentioned is one related to worldly affairs, he may say in his defence, "A defect is one which God Almighty has reckoned as such, such as sin, and the biggest of sins is that which you yourself are committing by doing ghibah of your brother by ascribing to him something which God has not considered a defect of his." And if it is one related to religion, he may explain it in such a way as not to be counted a sin on his part. And if it cannot be explained away, he must defend it by saying, for instance, "A believer is at times guilty of sin, and it is fitting that we pray to God to forgive him rather than expose his faults. Perhaps your exposing of his fault is a bigger sin before God Almighty than his."
At times the listener, besides abstaining from absolving the absent person from the ghibah, induces the backbiter to commitghibah, or he may encourage the backbiter by going along willingly with him by such oft-repeated interjections as "Strange!" Or if he is one of the pious ones, by uttering some sacred formula such as `Astagh firullah' or something else, acts which are in fact the Devil's artifices. It is probable that the noble tradition which mentions the burden of the listener as being seventy times that of the backbiter refers to such persons as these. And we take refuge in God from it!
Conclusion: al-Shahid al-Thani's Discourse:
The honourable shaykh, the precious researcher and the blessed martyr (al-Shahid al-Thani), may God's goad pleasure be with him, has a discourse in this regard and with this noble discourse we conclude this section. He says:
Of the filthiest kind of ghibah is that which is committed by some hypocritical persons in the garb of men of knowledge and understanding, for they carry out their (evil) intentions in the garb of righteousness and piety. They commit ghibah and yet pretend to abstain from it. Due to their ignorance and neglect, they don't know that they are guilty of two indecencies at once:riya' and ghibah. Similar to it is the case of the person who when somebody is mentioned before him says: "Al-humdulillah, that we are not afflicted with the love of office," or "...that we are not afflicted with the love of the world" or that "we do not possess such and such a quality." Or, for instance, he will say, "Na'udhubillah, from lack of shame," or "...from incapability," or he will say, "May God safeguard us" from such and such an act.
Sometimes the praise of God is by itself ghibah if the fault of someone is understandable from it. However, it is a ghibahexpressed in a pious and self-righteous form. This kind of person wanted to mention the fault of someone through an utterance that all at once carries ghibah, riya' and the claim to be free from defect, although he has these defects which are greater than the one he ascribes to another.
One of the ways of ghibah is that at times he (the backbiter) will praise the person whose ghibah he wishes to commit. For instance, he will say, "So and so enjoys elevated spiritual states. He does not fall short in his worships, but due to lack of endurance, which afflicts us all, he has become somewhat lethargic in his ritual duties." In this wary he himself pretends to be blameworthy while he intends to find fault with the other person. In fact his purpose is to extol himself by simulating to be one of the pious through his apparent self-criticism. This man has involved himself in three indecencies: ghibah, riya', and self-righteousness. He imagines himself to be one of the righteous and one who refrains from ghibah. This is how Satan plays games with the ignorant and the unaware who are outwardly involved in the pursuit of knowledge and righteous action without having attained firmness on the path. Hence Satan pursues them and brings their good deeds to nothing and laughs at them.
And to this category belongs the one who. when someone's ghibah is done in a gathering and some of those present have not heard, says "Subhan Allah, what an amazing(surprising) thing!" In order to call their attention to the ghibah. This person makes the remembrance (dhikr) of God a means to realize his corrupt vain purpose. Nevertheless, he imagines having done a service to God Almighty by this dhikr, and this is nothing but ignorance and vanity.
Also to this category belongs the one who says that such and such a thing happened to so and so, or rather, such and such a thing happened to "our friend" or "our companion" and then adds, "May God forgive him and us." This person makes a pretence of sympathy and friendliness and perpetrates ghibah under the cover of prayer. But God knows the wickedness of his heart and the viciousness of his intention. He does not know that God is more wrathful toward him than the ignorant man who commits ghibah openly.
Among the concealed kinds of ghibah is listening to it with amazement, for such a person expresses his amazement in order to make the backbiter more lively in his descriptions and his amazement encourages the latter in his act of ghibah. For instance, be will say, "This really makes me amazed(shocked)!" or "I didn't know that!" or "I didn't know he would do such a thing!" These expressions are meant to affirm the backbiter's statements and to encourage him subtley to add something more, whereas to affirm ghibah is also ghibah ; or rather to listen to it or even to keep silent(soundless) on hearing it is also ghibah.(End of his discourse, may God elevate his station).
At times other vices are also added to ghibah, adding to its perversity, ugliness and punishment, like the backbiting person who expresses friendship and intimacy in front of the victim of his ghibah and praises and extols him. This is a kind of hypocrisy (nifaq) double-facedness and double-tonguedness that have been condemned in unambiguous terms in the traditions:
In the noble al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he said: "Whoever encounters Muslims with two faces and two tongues, he will come on the Day of Resurrection with two tongues of fire." 
Such is the form of this ugly act and the result of such a hypocrisy in the Hereafter. I seek refuge in God Almighty from the evil of the tongue and the carnal self. And all praise is God's, at the beginning and the end.
. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab al-ghibah wa al buht", hadith no. 1.
. Al-Hurr al-'Amili, Wasai'l al-Shi'ah, viii, hadith no. 16312.
. Al-Fayd al-Kashani al-Mahajjat al-bayda, v, 266.
. Wasai'l al-Shi'ah, viii, hadith no. 18312.
. Al-Naraqi, Jami' al-sa'adat, ii, 294.
. Al-Mahajjat al-bayda', v, 263.
. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, viii, hadith no. 16319.
. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, 'Iqab al-'a'mal, 340.
. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, viii, hadith no. 16316.
. Al-Mahajjat al-bayda; v, 261.
. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab man talaba 'atharat al mu'minin", hadith no. 2.
. Ibid., "bab man adha al-Muslimin", hadith no. 8.
. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-'anwar, lxxv, "bab al-ghibah", hadith no. 12, from al Saduq's al-'Amali'
. Wasail al-Shiah, viii, hadith no. 18312.
. Al-Mahajjat al-bayda', v, 263.
. Ibid., 264.
. Jami' al-'akhbar, 171, with some difference of wording.
. A similar tradition in al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab man talaba' atharit al-mu'minin".
. Al-Kafi, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab al-tarahum wa al-ta'atuf", hadith no. 1.
. Ibid, hadith no. 4.
. Ibid., hadith no. 3.
. Sharh Shihab al-'akhbar, 306; al-Mahajjat al-bayda', v, 264.
. Al-Mahajjat al-bayda', v, 260.
. In Ghurar al-hikam, ii, 12.
. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, viii, hadith no. 16316.
. Ibid., hadith no. 16336.
. Ibid., hadith no. 16340.
. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr", "bab dhi al-lisanayn", hadith no. 1.
With my isnad reaching back to the venerable and trustworthy shaykh Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God sanctify his spirit - from 'Ali ibn Ibrahim, from his father, from al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, from al-Minqari, from Sufyan ibn 'Uyaynah, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A), who, explaining the utterance of God Almighty, "That He might try you (to see) 'which of you is fairest in works." (67:2) said: "It does not mean one of you whose deeds are more numerous but one who is more rightful in his conduct, and this rightness is nothing but the fear of God and sincerity of intention (niyyah) and fear." Then he (A) added: "To persevere in an action until it becomes sincere is more difficult than (performing) the action itself, and sincerity of action lies in this that you should not desire anyone to praise you for it except God Almighty, and intention supersedes action. Lo, verily, intention is action itself." Then he recited the Qur'anic verse, "Say, everyone acts in accordance with his character (shakilatihi)"(17:84) adding, "That (shakilah) means niyyah." 
Bala' (mentioned in verse 67: 2) means 'test' and `examination' as pointed out by al-Sihah:
'Balawtuhu balwan' means `I tested him', 'I examined him', and 'balahu Allah bala'an', or 'ablahu ibla'an hasanan' or ibtaluhumeans 'He (God) tested him.'
'Ayyukum' is the second object (maf'ul duwwom) for li yabluwakum, with the sense of knowing being implicit in it, according to al-Majlisi. But this does not seem to fit, because the interrogative pronoun ayy makes the verb conditional on action (`amal). That which is correct is that is a nominal sentence (jumleh-ye mubtada wa khabar) and is the object of the verb balwa. If ayy is taken to be relative pronoun (mawsulah), there is a sense for the statement of al-Majlisi, may God's mercy be upon him. But its interrogative character is more evident.
Sawab is the opposite of khata' (error), as mentioned by al Jawhari. The second 'khashyah' (fear) does not appear in some manuscripts, as mentioned by al-Majlisi, and should it be there, there are several probable interpretations for it, the more evident of which is that the waw here is in the sense of ma`a (with). And this phrase is narrated in the Asrar al-salat of al-Shahid al-Thani, may God's mercy be upon him ('sincere and fair intention'; instead of).
Ibqa' 'ala al-'amal means observance of action and exercising care over it, as pointed out by al-Jawhari, who says:
Shakilah has (also) the sense of tariqah (way), shakl (shape), and nahiyah (region), as mentioned in al-Qamus and al-Sihah. Al-Qamus states:
We will, God willing, explain that which needs explanation in this noble hadith in course of a few sections.
The Meaning of `Test' in Relation to God:
The clause, "That He might try you..." (quoted in the tradition) refers to the utterance of God Almighty:
Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Kingdom and Who is powerful over everything, Who created death and life, that He might try you which of you is fairest in works. (67: 1-2)
The muhaqqiq al-Majlisi, may God sanctify his soul, says: "This noble verse (which refers to the `creation' of death) indicates that death is something which has being, and means either death as something that happens to life or essential non-existence."
The meaning of the noble verse indicates a sense in which creation relates to it (death) as a substance; it does not indicate a sense in which the relation is accidental, as pointed out by the muhaqqiqun. And the possible sense of death as essential non-existence does not apply here, for ascription of being to something essentially(chiefly) non-existent involves a contradiction, with the further observation that to ascribe the sense of essential non-existence to death does not appear in itself to be something correct.
However, that which is correct is that `death' means transference from the apparent corporeal realm (nash'eh-ye zahereh-ye mulkiyyeh) to the hidden higher realm (nash'eh-ye bateneh-ye malakutiyyeh). Or `death' means the second life in malakut (the realm higher to that of physical nature) following the first life in the realm of mulk (physical nature). Both of these senses involve being, or rather refer to a mode of being more complete than that of mulk. This is because life in the world or physical nature is adulterated with lifeless physical materials and their life is an ephemeral accident, as opposed to the substantial (i.e. inherent in substance) life of the realm of malakut where the souls obtain independence (from all elements of lifelessness that characterize the physical world). That realm is the realm of life, life being its essential quality, and the non-corporeal bodies ofBarzakh (abdan-e mithaliye barzakhi) have their existential dependence on the souls, as has been demonstrated in the place proper to it.
Moreover, the life of malakut - which is expressed by `death' (al-mawt, in the verse) in order not to weigh heavily on the ears of the listeners - does relate to creation and is under the power of the Sacred Essence.
The meaning of `trial' and `test' and the character of their ascription to God, the Exalted and the Glorious, was mentioned during the earlier exposition of some traditions. It was explained that ignorance (implicit in the meaning of `trial' and `test') cannot be ascribed to the Sacred Essence, and there is no need of interpretations and studied explanations in this regard. Here we shall briefly explain this issue.
At the beginning of their creation, the human souls are nothing but pure potentialities and are devoid of every kind of actuality inclining either toward felicity or wretchedness. It is only after their coming into the ambit of physical, substantial motion and voluntary actuality that the potentialities and capacities change into actualities and distinctions. Hence the difference between the felicitous and the wretched, the fat and the lean, comes into existence in corporeal life (hayat-e mulki), and the purpose of the creation of life is the distinction and examination of the souls. Thus the relation of trial and creation becomes clear. As to the creation of death, it has also a role in these distinctions, or rather it is the last link in the causative process (of the emergence of distinctions in the realm of actuality). For the criterion in the realm of actuality is the ultimate forms with which man makes the migration (from mulk to malakut); also, the criterion in the distinctions is the other-worldly malakuti forms that are d through the substantial and voluntary bustle(hum)(movements) of the corporeal world. This also makes clear the relation of testing and trial to creation of death and life, without involving any ignorance (on the part of God). An exposition of this issue elaborate enough to dispel all the doubts surrounding it depends on a discussion of God's essential knowledge prior to creation ('ilm-e dhati qabl al ijad) and His actual knowledge accompanying creation ('ilm-e fi'lli ma'a al-'ijad), which is outside the scope of this exposition. And the Divine utterance, "(that He might see) which one of you is fairest in action," as well as the trial relating to the more righteous of deeds, relate to the above-mentioned matter, and hence the noble tradition. This is because the relative fairness of deeds has been interpreted as their relative rightness, which in turn is made to depend on fear and sincerity of intention. These are the inward forms of the soul, which make up the real distinctive features of the souls or are the manifestations of the hidden distinctions among the essences. And because of the fact that outward action affects the heart and the inward self, these distinctions are also brought about by deeds. Hence the testing of deeds is also the testing of the essences. And if the noble verse were interpreted in accordance with its apparent sense and in independence of the exposition of the Imam (A), even then the testing will have the above-mentioned sense, because the life in the present world and the creation of life and death by itself results in the distinctions that characterize good and evil acts. As to the creation of life, its significance is clear, and as to death, its significance in this relation also becomes clear when we know the ephemeral nature of worldly life and the necessity of transition from this transitory life which is, of course, accompanied with distinctions arising from distinctions of deeds.
Fear, Sincere Intention and Rightness of Action:
You should know that in this noble tradition the rightness and goodness of action is made to depend on two sublime bases, which also constitute the criteria of their perfection and wholeness. One of these is the fear and awe of God Almighty and the other is the sincerity of intention and purity of purpose. Now we have to explain the relation between these two principles and the perfection of action and its rightness and rectitude.
The fear and awe of God Almighty leads to the taqwa and piety of the souls and these result in greater effectiveness of deeds. To elaborate, as mentioned in the course of the exposition of earlier traditions, every act, good or evil, has an effect upon the soul. Now if the act is of the category of acts of devotion and worship, its effect is that of making the physical faculties subservient to the intellectual faculties, making the malakuti aspect of the self-dominant over its mulki aspect. As a result of it, physical nature is made subject to spirituality, until the soul reaches the stage of spiritual emotion and attains its essential goal. Every act that increases this effect and discharges this service in a better way is more rightful and more effective in attaining the essential goal. Also, everything that has a role in this effectiveness has also a role in the rightness of action. Largely, this is also the criterion of relative merit in acts and the famous following tradition also refers to this point:
The best of deeds is the most difficult of them. 
These preliminaries show that taqwa purifies the souls from contaminations and obfuscations, and, obviously, if the tablet of the soul is free of the coatings of sins and clear of the obfuscations caused by them, the good actions are more effective- upon it and more conducive to the realization of the goal, thus better fulfilling the great secret purpose of devotional rites, which is the taming of corporeal nature, subjugation of mulk to malakut, and strengthening of the soul's active will power(iradeh-ye fa`ileh-ye nafs). Hence the fear of God, which has a thorough influence on the soul's taqwa, is one of the major agents of spiritual reform with an effective role in the rectitude of action and its beauty and perfection. This is because taqwa,besides being one of the reforming agents of the soul, also affects the influence of inward and outward human actions and is the cause of their acceptability, as declared by God Almighty:
Verily God accepts only from the God-fearing. (5:27)
The second major factor in the rightness and perfection of actions which, in fact, is tantamount to their efficient force (in the same way as the awe and taqwa d from them is equivalent to the condition of their effectiveness and which, in fact, purify the receptor and remove the impediments). It is sincere intention and pure purpose on which depend the perfection and defectiveness of 'ibadat (worships) and their validity and invalidity.
As much as the `ibadat are free from association with non-God and from adulteration of intention, to the same extent they are sincere and perfect. And nothing is as important in 'ibadat as intention and its purity, for the relationship of intention to 'ibadahis like that of the soul to the body and the spirit(phantom) to the corporeal frame. In the same way as their physical form originates in the physical aspect of the self and its body, intention and their spirit originate from the self's inward aspect and the heart. No worship is acceptable to God Almighty without sincere intention and unless it is free from the outward mulki riya'(a kind of riya' which the fuqaha', may God be pleased with them, have mentioned) and shirk, which invalidate and nullify the outward parts (of an ibadah). And unless it is free from inward shirk, in whose presence although an 'ibadah may be correct from the exoteric aspect of the Shari'ah and fiqhi ordinances, it is not valid and acceptable to God Almighty from the esoteric aspect and from the viewpoint of the reality and secrets of worship. Hence there is no necessary relation between the (legal) validity of 'ibadah and its acceptability, a point which has often been mentioned in the traditions.
An exhaustive definition of `shirk in `ibadah' that encompasses all its levels is the inclusion of the good pleasure and satisfaction of anyone other than God, whether it is one's own self or someone else.' If it is for someone else's satisfaction and for other people, it is outward shirk and fiqhi riya'. If it is for one's own satisfaction (rida), it is hidden and inward shirk; this also invalidates the 'ibadah in view of the 'urafa' and makes it unacceptable to God. Examples of it are offering the nightly prayer for increase in one's livelihood, giving sadaqah for safety from afflictions, or giving zakat for increase in one's wealth; that is, when one does these things for God Almighty in order to seek these things from His grace. Although those 'ibadat are valid, and one who performs them is considered to have performed his duty and fulfilled the requirements of the Shari'ah, they do not amount to the worship of God Almighty, nor are they characterized with sincerity of intention and purity of purpose. Rather, this kind of 'ibadat are aimed to achieve mundane purposes and to seek the objects of carnal, mundane desires. Hence the acts of such a person are not rightful.
Similarly, if 'ibadah is for the sake of the fear of hell and yearning for paradise, it is not sincerely for God and is devoid of sincere intention. Rather, it may be said that such acts of worship are purely for the sake of Satan and the carnal self,. The good(favorable) pleasure of God does not enter the intentions of a person performing such a kind of ibadah in order to be considered even shirk. Rather he has worshipped solely the great idol, the mother of all idols, the idol of one's carnal desire. However, God Almighty has accepted(admired) this kind of ibadah from us out of His expansive mercy and on account of our weakness, by allowing a degree of leniency; that is, He has bestowed upon it certain effects and attached certain favours to it so that if man should fulfill the out. ward conditions of its acceptance;. and perform it with the presence of the heart, all those effects will follow and all the related promises of reward shall be carried out.
Such is the condition of the `ibadat of the slaves and mercenaries. But as to the `ibadah of free men (ahrar), performed for the love of God Almighty and to seek the attention given by that Sacred Essence to Its worshippers, the motive of fear of hell and yearning for paradise being absent in it, it is the first station of the awliya' and ahrar. There are other stations and degrees for them which escape description and lie outside the scope of this discourse. As long as the soul's attention is fixed on worship, worshipper and the worshipped one, worship is not sincere. The heart must be vacated of every other thing and there should be nothing in it except God in order for worship to be sincere, as mentioned in a noble tradition of al-Kafi
Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah (the narrator of the earlier tradition) says, "I asked al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) about the utterance of God, the Exalted and the Glorious, in regard to the Day of Resurrection, `(The day when neither wealth nor sons shall profit) except he who comes with a pure(undamaged) heart?' (26: 88-89). The Imam (A) replied, 'A pure heart is one that meets its Lord in a state in which there is none in it except Him.' Then he (A) added: `Every heart in which there is shirk or doubt shall fail. Indeed, He has meant by it (the purity of heart) nothing except zuhd in regard to the world so that their hearts may be made ready for the Hereafter.' " 
Of course, the heart which is occupied with non-God and contaminated with doubt and shirk - whether of the manifest (jali) or the concealed (khafi) kind - has no credibility in the sacred presence of the Lord. To the concealed kind of shirk pertains reliance on means and dependence on anything other than God.
It is even mentioned in tradition that changing the position of one's ring in order to remind one of something is also concealed shirk. To allow other-than-God to enter the heart is considered concealed shirk, and sincerity of intention (ikhlas-e niyyat) is expulsion of other-than God from His sacred abode (i.e. the heart). Similarly, there are various degrees of doubt(shakk), some of which should be reckoned as manifest and some as concealed, which are caused by the weakness of conviction and feebleness of faith. Similarly, hesitation in matters is also on account of doubt. Of the stages of concealed doubt is changeability and absence of stability in tawhid. Therefore, true tawhid means the dropping of relations, limits and pluralities, even the pluralities relating to the Names and Attributes, and fixation in it is purity from doubt. The purity of heart means absolute freedom from shirk and doubt.
In the tradition, the phrase "He has meant by it nothing except zuhd... " is a reference to the fact that the ultimate goal ofzuhd is that the heart should gradually become detached from the world and loathful toward it, with its attention turned to the real goal and the true object of all yearning. From the beginning part of the tradition it appears that the meaning of `Hereafter' is the ultimate limit of the circle of existence and the ultimate destination. This is what `Hereafter' means in its absolute sense. Accordingly, the world constitutes the complete circle of manifestation, and zuhd in regard to it necessarily entails purifying the heart of other-than-God. Hence even one who has other-than-God in his heart and is attached to others - whether they be corporeal, mulki matters, or spiritual ones relating to hereafterly forms, excellences and degrees, and everything other than God - is a man of the world, not zahid in regard to it, being deprived from the true Hereafter and the paradise of Divine communion, which is the highest of the levels of paradise, although he may possess other degrees of spiritual excellences and attain to the sublime levels of paradise in the same way as the people of the world differ in regard to possession of worldly wealth and status but whose stations are far remote from those of the men of God.
The Definition of Ikhlas:
You should know that various definitions have been suggested for ikhlas, to some of which that are prevalent among the people of the mystic path we shall briefly refer here. The honourable `arif' and the wise wayfarer, Khwajah `Abd Allah al-'Ansari, quddisa sirruh, says:
Ikhlas means purging action of all impurities.
And the impurity mentioned here is a general one, including both that which arises from the desire to please oneself and other creatures. It is narrated from the great Shaykh Baha'i that the people of the heart have offered various definitions for it:
It has been said: "(Ikhlas means) keeping action free from other-than-God having a role in it."
This definition is close(nearby) to the former one.
And it has been said: "(Ikhlas means) that the performer of an action should not desire any reward for it in the world and the Hereafter."
And it has been narrated from the author of Ghara'ib al-bayan that the mukhlisun are those who worship God in such a way that they don't see themselves in service nor do they take notice of the world or .its people, nor transcend the bounds of servitude in their vision of Lordship. Hence when the devotee foregoes all gains and stakes in everything from the earth to the Throne('arsh), he comes to traverse the path of din, which is the path of service and devotion on which the soul does not take any notice of the events on account of its vision of the beauty of the Lord. This is the Din that God Almighty has chosen for Himself and cleared it from the taint of association with other-than-God, and He has said:
Lo, to God belongs sincere allegiance (al-din al-khalis). (39:3)
And `sincere religion' is the light of pre-eternity (qidam) that appears after the disappearance of contingency (huduth) in the wilderness of resplendent glory and monism. It is as if God Almighty has invited His servants by indicating and signaling(beckoned) to them that they should purify their souls from others and make them turn exclusively towards Him. And it has been narrated from al-Shaykh al-Muhaqqiq Muhyi al-Din al-`Arabi that he said:
'Lo, to God belongs sincere allegiance,' free from the taints of otherness and egoism. And that your extinction in Him should be total, the Essence; the Attributes, the Acts and the din should cease to be relevant for you. Lo, until the allegiance is not purified by Reality, it will not belong to God.
Until the traces of servitude ('ubudiyyah), otherness (ghayriyyah) and egoism (ananiyyah) remain and as long as there is a worshipper and the worshipped one, worship, sincerity and din, there remain the taints of otherness and egoism, and this is regarded as shirk by the 'urafa'. The worship of the sincere ones is the imprint of the manifestations (tajalliyat) of the Beloved and nothing passes through their hearts except the Essence of the One God. And although the horizons of possibility (imkan) and necessity (wujub) have been joined for them and they have attained proximity to the Essence (tadalli-ye dhati) and absolute nearness to the Real (dunuww-e mutlaq-e haqiqi) and the traces of otherness have been completely wiped out, they still perform the duties of servanthood. And their servitude is not through reflection and thought, but through manifestation - a point indicated by the prayer of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, on the night of his heavenly ascent (mi'raj).
Ikhlas is Subsequent to Action:
You should know that that which is said in the noble tradition, that
To persevere in an action until it becomes sincere is more difficult than the action itself,
is meant to encourage man to exercise care and diligence in that which he does, both at the time of its performance. and after it. For it sometimes happens that man carries out an action faultlessly and without any shortcoming and performs it withoutriya' or `ujb; but after the action he becomes afflicted with riya' through mentioning it, as pointed out in the following noble hadith of al-Kari:
Al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) said: "Perseverance in an action is more difficult than the act itself." He was asked, "what is meant by perseverance in action?" He replied, "A man does some kindness to a relative or expends something for the sake of God, Who is One and has no partner. Thereupon the reward of a good deed performed secretly is written for him. Later, he mentions it to someone and that which was written earlier is wiped out and instead the reward of a good deed performed openly is written for him. Later, when he makes a mention of it again, the vice of riya' is written for him (instead of the reward written earlier)." 
Man is never secure from the evil of Satan and his self until the end of his life. He must not imagine that once he has performed an act solely for the sake of God, without desire for the good pleasure of creatures having played any role in it, the purity of his act shall remain secure from the evil of the vicious self. Should he fail to exercise care and vigilance, the self may prompt him to make a mention of it or, as sometimes happens, to express it in the way of a subtle hint. For instance, wishing to impress people about his nightly prayers, the subtle machinations of the self may prompt him to pass a hint(implication) by speaking about the good or bad weather conditions at daybreak or about supplications or the call for prayer, thus making his acts invalid and unworthy. Man must keep a watch over himself, like a kind physician or nurse, and not let the rebellious self get out of control; for a moment of neglect may give it the opportunity to break its reins and lead man into ignominy and perdition. Hence in all conditions he must take refuge in God Almighty from the evil of Satan and the carnal self:
Surely the self of man incites to evil - except in as much as my Lord had mercy. (12:53)
And it should be known to you that purification of intention from all levels of shirk, riya' and other things, constant vigilance over it, and its perseverance in purity make up a greatly difficult as well as an important(remarkable) task. Rather, some degrees of it are not attainable by anyone except the sincere awliya' of Allah. This is because intention is the efficient motive of action and is subject to other goals. These goals are in turn subject to the spiritual traits that make up man's inward essence and spiritual character. If someone possesses the love of office and position and this love becomes part of his spiritual makeup and character, the end of his desires is to reach that goal and the actions that originate from him are subject to that goal; his motive being the same sought-after object of his spirit, the actions that originate from him are directed to reaching the goal sought. As long as this love remains in his heart, his acts cannot be sincere, and one whose spiritual character and make-up(perfume) are characterized by self-love and egoism his ultimate goal and end is attainment of selfish satisfactions, which are also the motive of his acts, regardless of whether his acts are directed to mundane goals or such otherworldly ends as the houris, palaces, gardens and bounties of the next life. Rather, as long as egoism, self-seeking and egotism are there, even if he takes a step for the acquisition of mystic knowledge and spiritual excellences, these are sought for selfish ends, self-seeking, not God-6eeking, being their aim. And it is obvious that self-seeking and God-seeking cannot go together. Rather, if God is sought for the sake of the self, the ultimate end and goal is the self and the ego.
Thus it is evident that the absolute purification of intention from shirk is a great task that cannot be achieved by every one, and the defectiveness and excellence of deeds is subject to the defectiveness and perfection of intentions, for intention is the efficient and malakuti form of action, as hinted above. The noble tradition also refers to this point where it says:
And intention is superior to action, or, rather, intention is the complete reality of act itself.
And there is no exaggeration involved in this, as some have suggested; rather, it is based on fact, for intention is the complete form of action and its essence itself, the wholesomeness and corruption, the excellence and defectiveness of acts depending upon it. Accordingly, a single act may, on account of the intention that underlies it, at times imply respect and at times insult. Sometimes it may be perfect and sometimes defective. Sometimes it may belong to the highest level of spiritual sublimity, possessing a beautiful, blessed form. Sometimes it may belong to the lower spiritual realm and possess a frightful and odious form.
The apparent form of the salat of `Ali ibn Abi Talib, upon whom be peace, does not differ outwardly in regard to its elements and conditions from that of a certain hypocrite; but whereas for the former it is a means of spiritual ascent toward God (mi'raj ila Allah) and has the highest spiritual form, for the latter it is a means of descent to hell and its spiritual form is incomparably black due to the intensity of darkness.
Because of a few loaves of bread of barley given away by the House of Inerrancy (i.e. The Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt) (A) for the sake of God, God Almighty sent down several verses in their praise. An ignorant person may be led to think that two or three days of hunger and giving away one's food to the poor is a matter of importance, whereas such kind of acts may be performed by anybody and are of not much consequence. Their significance lies in the purity of their (i.e. the Ahl al-Bayt's) purpose and the sincerity of their intention. It is the power and elegance of the spirit of their action, coming forth from their pure hearts, that gives their action so much significance.
The outward appearance of the Noble Prophet (S) was not much different from that of other people. Hence often when he (S) was sitting with a group of people and some strangers from among the Arab bedouins came to meet him (S), they would ask, "Which one of you is the Messenger?" That which distinguished the Messenger (S) from others is the power and elegance of the spirit of that Master, not his blessed body or his noble frame. In the rational sciences it is demonstrated that a thing's thingness depends on its form, not on its matter. Rather, a definition based on species is exhaustive, and it is defective when based on genus and species, because intermingling with that which is strange and foreign to a thing is inimical to its reality, definition, and wholeness, and matter and genus are foreign and strange to its reality, which lies in its form, actuality, and species. Hence the total reality of acts is that of their forms and their malakuti dimension, represented by intention.
This discussion shows that that which al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) says in this noble tradition is, firstly, in view of the form of action and its matter. What he says is that their formal aspect supersedes their material aspect and that, therefore, intention supersedes action, in the same way as spirit is superior to body. And this does not necessitate the validity of an act devoid of intention and the possibility of a body devoid of spirit. Rather, it is the association of intention with action and the attachment of spirit to body that makes action and body what they are. These two are compounds of intention and action, body and spirit and the formal, malakuti aspect of each is superior to its material, mulki aspect. And this is the meaning of the famous tradition:
The intention of the man of faith is better than his act. 
Secondly, that which the Imam (A) says is in view of the dissolution of action in intention, of the mulk in the malakut, and manifestation (mazhar) in the manifest (zahir). Hence he (A) states:
Lo, verily intention is act itself.
Apart from intention there is nothing that is involved, and the totality of act is merged in intention; action has no independent reality of its own. Thereafter, he (A) cites the utterance of God Almighty as witness:
Say: 'Everyone acts according to his character' (shakilatihi) ....(17:84)
Acts are subservient to the soul's character (shakilah) and although the soul's character is constituted by its inward form and the traits (malakat) inherent in it, intentions constitute its outward character.
It may be said that spiritual traits constitute the soul's primary(elementary) character and intentions, to which actions are subservient, makeup its secondary character. Hence the statement of the Imam (A) that shakilah is niyyah.
This shows that the way to the purification of action from all kinds of shirk, riya', etc., is only through the reform of the soul and its malakat, for it is the fountainhead of all the reforms and the source of all the excellences and degrees of perfection. Hence if man expels the love of the world from his heart by means of austerities and exercises based on knowledge and action, the world will cease to be his ultimate goal and his acts will be purged of the biggest shirk, which is the desire to attract the attention of the world's people and to attain respect in their eyes. When that happens, he will be the same in solitude and company, inwardly and outwardly. To the extent that he succeeds in purging his heart of self-love, through spiritual austerities, the love of God shall enter it to the same extent and it shall also be purified of latent shirk. And as long as self-love remains in the heart and man remains in the oppressive habitat of the self, he is not a wayfarer toward God (musafir ila Allah); rather, he is one of those who cling to the earth (mukhalladun ila al-'ard). The first step in the journey toward God is abandonment of self-love and crushing the head of egoism under one's foot. And there are some who say that one of the meanings of the noble verse:
Whoso goes forth from his house an emigrant to God and His Messenger, and then death overtakes him, his wage will have fallen on God..., (4:100)
is that if someone leaves the habitat of the self to migrate to God and sets out on a spiritual journey, and thereafter he encounters complete annihilation (fana'-e tamm), his reward lies with God, the Exalted. And it is obvious that such a wayfarer deserves no reward except the vision (mushahadah) of that Sacred Essence and entry into His court. These words express their sentiments:
None except the Beloved has a place in our heart,
Give both the worlds to the enemy, for the Beloved suffices us.
. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, ii, kitab al- iman wa al-kufr, bab al-'ikhlas, hadith No.4.
. Ibn al-'Athir, al-Nihayah, i, 440.
. Al-Kulayni, op. cit., hadith No. 5.
. The tradition appears in Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, in the chapter on the ahkam of dressing (ahkam al-malabis).
. Al -Kulayni at-Kafi, kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr, bab al-riya', hadith No. 16.
. Ibid., bab al-niyyah, hadith No.2.
Through my continuous sanad going back to the proof of the sect and its leader, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God bless his soul - from Humayd ibn Ziyad, from al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Sama'ah, from Wuhayb ibn Hafs, from Abu Bash, from Abu Ja'far (A) that he said: "One night that the Messenger of Allah .(S) - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - was with 'A'ishah, she said to him, 'O Messenger of Allah, why do you exhaust yourself when God has forgiven you your former and latter sins?' The Prophet (S) replied: 'O 'A'ishah, shouldn't I be a grateful servant?' " The Imam (A) added: "The Messenger of Allah - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny-used to stand on the toes of his feet (in prayer in the night) and so God, the Glorious and the Exalted, sent down the verse: 'Taha. We have not sent down the Qur'an upon thee to cause thee hardship.' " [l] (20:1).
The words (God has forgiven thee) refer to the following utterance of God Almighty in Surat al-Fath:
Surely We have given thee a manifest victory (fath, which also means 'opening'), that God may forgive thee thy former and thy latter sins .... (48:1--2)
The `ulama' - may God be pleased with them - have suggested various explanations for this noble verse so as to reconcile it with the Noble Prophet's infallibility (`ismah). Here we will cite some of those explanations mentioned by the marhum `Allamah Majlisi, may God Almighty's mercy be upon him. Thereafter we will briefly mention that which the `urafa' have said in this regard in accordance with the teachings of the mystic path.
Marhum Majlisi says: The Shi'ah have offered various views regarding the explanation (tawil) of this verse. According to one of these, the `sins' (dhunub; singular dhanb) mentioned there mean the sins of the Ummah which are forgiven by the Prophet's intercession. These sins of the Ummah have been attributed to him because of the connection that exists between him and it. This possibility is supported by the following narration of Mufaddal ibn `Umar from al-'Imam al Sadiq (A):
Mufaddal says: "A man asked the Imam concerning this verse. He replied: 'By Allah, he (i.e. the Prophet) had no sin of his own. However, Allah, subhanahu, has insured that He would forgive the sins, whatever they have committed, of those who followed 'Ali (shi'at 'Ali)."
'Umar ibn Yazid narrates that al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "He had not committed any sin, not even intended to commit any. However, God made him bear the burden of the sins of his followers and then forgave them on his account. 
This author says: This explanation has a significant basis in the teaching of the `urafa' and it would not be without benefit to mention it briefly. You should know that it has been proved, in the place proper to such a proof, that the unchanging essence('ayn-e thabit) of the Perfect Man (insan-e kamil) is the manifestation (mazhar; pl. mazahir) of the Greatest of Divine Names (ism Allah al- a'zam), which is the prototype (imam) of all prototypal names. The essences (a'yan) of all other existents subsist in the shadow of the essence of the Perfect Man on the level of knowledge and the world of essences, and exist therein on the level of being and the world of realization (`alam-e tahaqquq).
Hence the essences contained in the entire realm of existence are the manifestation of the essence of the Perfect Man, and all the existents are manifestations of his beauty and glory in the world of manifestation. Accordingly, every shortcoming that occurs in the world of exteriorization and every sin that appears in the mazahir (manifestations), whether on the level of creation (takwin) or on the level of volitional action (tashri'), is attributable to the zahir (i.e. that which is manifested through the rnazahir) in accordance with the necessary relation between zahir and mazhar. This attribution is not metaphorical, but literal and factual. It is the reality of this relation which is pointed out in the following verses:
...Whatever evil visits thee it of thy self. (4:79)
Say: 'Everything it from God. (4:78)
And reference to this matter occurs a lot in the Noble Prophet's traditions:
We are the foremost and the last ones. 
Adam and whoever that came after him shall stand under my standard on the Day of Resurrection. 
The first thing that God created was my light. 
(Before Adam was created) we glorified (God) and following us the angels glorified (Him We extolled (His) sanctity and following us the angels called Him Holy . 
Had we not existed, God would not have been known. 
(God said to the Prophet:) Had you not been, I would not have created the heavens. 
We are the face of God. 
It is stated in a tradition that "the Messenger of Allah - may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - (in relation to the community of the faithful) has the position of the tree's trunk; the Imams of Guidance, may peace be upon them, are its branches; their followers (shi'ah) are like the leaves of the tree."'  Hence the beauty of the sacred tree ofwilayah is manifested through the mazahir. Should one of the mazahir suffer a shortcoming, that will affect the sacred tree.
Hence the sins of all the existents are the sins of the Absolute Master (al-wali al-mutlaq), and God Almighty, with His encompassing mercy and all-inclusive forgiveness, has showered His grace upon the Noble Prophet - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny -, declaring, `The sins of the former people and the sins of those to come will be covered by My encompassing mercy and the entire realm of being shall attain its ultimate felicity through your shafa'ah(intercession), and:
The last to intercede is the most merciful of the merciful ones. (i.e. God).
According to this teaching the noble verse at hand fulfils the promise given in another verse, which says:
And thy Lord shall soon give thee, and thou shalt be satisfied. (93:5)
And it has been said of this verse that it is:
The most hope-giving of verses in the Qur'an. 
Hence according to this teaching `the former sins' may possibly mean the sins of the earlier ummahs (umam) for all the ummahs are part of the Ummah of this sacred essence (the Prophet) and all the calls (da'wahs) of the prophets represent invitation to the ultimate shari'ah, being the mazahir of al-Wali al-Mutlaq, and `Adam and whoever that came after him' are the leaves of the tree of wilayah.
The second explanation is the one given by al-Sayyid al-Murtada, may God be pleased with him. He says that dhanb is amasdar (verbal noun) and it may permissibly be referred or adjoined to the fall or maful. Here it has been related (in the construct phrase dhanbika) to the maf'ul. Hence the verse (48:2) means, "The former sins of theirs against thee in preventing thee from entering Makkah and al-Masjid al-Haram." The meaning of maghfirah or ghufran (which also means `covering) here, according to this explanation, is the abolishment and removal of the persecution that he (the Prophet [S]) faced at the hands of his enemies. The verse then means: "On the occasion of the victory and through it God would end and cover the humiliation inflicted upon you, and with the conquest of Makkah you would soon enter the city triumphantly." Accordingly ghufran has been made the recompense for jihad and the benefit of victory.
The Sayyid, upon whom be God's mercy, says: If maghfirah here is taken to mean the forgiving of sins, a reasonable meaning cannot be derived from the verse, for forgiveness of sins has no relation whatsoever with victory, nor can it be considered to be the object and benefit of victory. As to the phrase there is nothing objectionable in taking it to mean "whatever of the atrocities that have been afflicted on you and your people in the past."
Thirdly, the verse is explained to mean, "If you have committed a sin in the past or in case you commit any hereafter, I shall indeed forgive you." This is a conditional proposition (of the type `If A then B ) and it is not necessary that its two sides should be factually true.
Fourthly, by `sin' here is meant omission of mustahabbat (supererogatory duties), for the Prophet (S) never defaulted in performing the wajibat (obligatory duties). And it is possible that due to his elevated and exalted station, that which is not considered to be sin for others may be considered sin in relation to him.
The fifth explanation is that this verse is intended to glorify the Prophet (S) and is equivalent to a eulogy, as when one says:
Sixthly, al-Majlisi says:
Al Saduq in 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida has reported with his isnad from 'Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jahm that he said: "I was present in al-Ma'mun's gathering when al-Rida, upon whom be peace, was also with him. There al-Ma'mun said to him: 'O son of the Messenger of Allah, don't you claim that the prophets are secure from error (ma'sumun)?' He replied 'Yes'. Al-Ma'mun said: 'Then what is the meaning of the utterance of God, "Al-Rida, upon whom be peace, replied, 'The polytheists of Makkah did not consider anyone a greater sinner than the Messenger of Allah, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, because they worshipped instead of Allah three hundred and sixty idols. When the Prophet - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - came to them with the call to pure monotheism (ikhlas), it appeared to them as a monstrosity, and they declared: "What, has he made the gods One God? This is indeed an odd thing.... Go! Be steadfast to your gods; this is a thing to be desired. We have not heard of this in the last religion, this is surely an invention." (38:5-7 ).
"'When God Almighty opened Makkah to His Prophet - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - He said to him: "O Muhammad! Surely We have opened for thee a manifest opening, that God may forgive thee what the polytheists of Makkah regarded as thy former and latter 'sins' on account of thy call to the Unity of God." Some of the polytheists of Makkah had embraced(cuddled) Islam and some had left Makkah, and those who remained there had no, power to repudiate the Prophet's call to tawhid. In this way that which was the Prophet's sin in their eyes came to be condoned by means of his domination over them.' Thereat al-Ma'mun said: 'You are wounderful, O Abu al-Hasan!' " 
This writer says: This was the sixth explanation of the blessed verse that occurs in the noble hadith. According to it the meaning of `sin' here is that which appeared to the polytheists as sin in conformity with their corrupt claims.
A Mystical Interpretation:
You should know that there is an interpretation of the noble verse based on the teachings of the gnostics and the people of the path of the heart. In order to describe it, it is necessary to mention what they call the `Threefold Openings' (or the `threefold victories', futuhat-e thalathah). Fath in their teaching means the opening of the doors of gnosis and gnostic experience or. the wayfarer by God after that these doors have remained closed and locked upon him. So long as man remains in the dark abode of the self and tied to its attachments, all the doors of gnosis and gnostic experience remain locked upon him. But as soon as he comes out of this gloomy(uninteresting) habitat by means of the force of austerities and the lights of guidance, and leaves astern the stages of the self, the door of the heart is opened upon him and gnostic truths manifest themselves in his heart, and he attains to the `station of the heart' (maqam-e qalb). This stage is called fath-e qarib(the nearer opening), for the first of the openings is the nearest of them. It is this fath that is referred to in this utterance of God Almighty:
...help from God and a nigh opening. (61:13)
Of course, it is with God's help and assistance and with the guiding light and magnetism of that Sacred Essence that this and other openings take place.
However, as long as the wayfarer remains in the realm of the heart ('alam-e qalb) and is subject to the rituals and duties of the heart, the door of the Attributes and Names remains closed and locked upon him. When, thereafter, the irradiations of the Names and Attributes lead to the dissolution of the `alam-e qalb and when those irradiations bring the heart's attributes and excellences to extinction, that which occurs is the fath-e mubin (the manifest opening). Thereat the door of the Names and Attributes is opened upon the wayfarer, the earlier rituals of the self (nafs) and the latter ones of the heart (qalb) becoming effaced and covered (maghfur) by the covering grace (ghaffariyyat wasattariyyat) of the Names. Hence they say that to this refers the utterance of God, the Exalted:
That is, We have opened for thee the manifest opening to the realm of the Names and Attributes, so that thy sins, relating to the earlier station of the self and the latter station of the heart, are covered by the coating grace of the Divine Names. And this is the opening of the door of wilayah. As long as the wayfarer is behind the curtain of the pluralities of the Names(katharat-e asmai) and the particularities of the Attributes (ta'ayyunat-e sifati), the doors to the irradiations of the Essence are locked upon him. But when he receives the irradiations of the Essence of the One, all the rituals relating to the realms of khalqand amr become extinct, submerging the devotee in essential synthesis, and the fath-e mutlaq (the absolute opening) is attained. Thereupon, the absolute sin (dhanb-e mutlaq) is enveloped (maghfur) and the essential sin (dhanb-e dhati), which is the source of all sins, is covered by the irradiations of the One.
Your existence is a sin to which no (other) sin is comparable.
And, they say, it is to this fath that the following utterance of God, the Exalted, alludes:
When comes the help of God and the opening. (110:1)
Hence it is with fath-e qarib that the doors to the heart's gnosis are opened and the sins relating to the (carnal) self (dhunub-e nafsiyyah) become forgiven. With fath-e mubin the doors of wilayah and Divine irradiations are opened and the remaining traces of the earlier sins of the self and the latter sins of the heart are forgiven. And with fath-e mutlaq the door is opened to the irradiations of the Divine Essence and the absolute essential sin is forgiven.
It should be known that fath-e qarib and fath-e mubin are something which the awliya ; prophets, and `urafa' share with others; but fath-e mutlaq is a station that is exclusively and ultimately theirs, and should anyone succeed in attaining it, it is only through the mediation of those elevated spirits.
This discourse reveals that there are various levels of sin and sinfulness. Some of them are considered virtues for the virtuous but are sins for the immaculate. It is reported that the Noble Messenger, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, stated:
In order that my heart should not gather rust, I seek the forgiveness of God seventy times a day. 
This rusting may be attention to plurality, although it may be on the level of passing, stray thoughts. And it is mentioned in the hadith that the Messenger of God, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, would not leave any gathering without seeking God's forgiveness twenty-five times. 
These traditions show that istighfar is not solely limited to such sins as are contrary to ismah (inerrancy), and 'dhanb' and'maghfirah' here (in the context of the prophets and awliya') do not have their ordinarily understood signification. Therefore, this noble verse is not contradictory to the Prophet's elevated spiritual station; rather, it affirms and confirms it. This is because seeking forgiveness for the sins related necessarily to the various stages of spiritual development are a necessary aspect of spiritual wayfaring and ascent to the heights of human perfection, since every being that exists in this world is the offspring of this corporeal and physical realm and possesses all its accompanying mulki, animal and human functions, some of these potentially and some of these in actuality.
Hence should anyone want to make the journey from this realm to the other realm and from there to the realm of Divine proximity, he should pass through all the intermediary phases and stages. And whenever he attains to a higher stage, he is forgiven the sins of the preceding stage, until he attains to the ultimate station where all his sins are forgiven under the irradiations of the Essence of the One. Thereat, the existential sin (dhanb-e wujudi), which is the source and fountainhead of all sins and sinfulness, is covered and effaced under the shadow of the Majesty of the One. This is the highest point in the ascent of a being towards perfection. It is here that the station of `death' and complete annihilation is achieved. And therefore when the noble verse: was revealed, the Noble Messenger, upon whom be God's peace and benedictions, said: "This surah is the news of my death." And God knows best. 
The Reality of Shukr:
You should know that thankfulness means appreciation of the ni'mah (favour, blessing, bounty) provided by the Provider(Mun'im) and the appearance of the effects of this appreciation in the heart, on the tongue, and in bodily acts and movements(bustle).(hum) As to the heart, the effects there are of such nature as humility, awe, love and the like. As to the tongue, the effects there appear as praise and glorification. As to the bodily members, the effects consist of obedience, the use of the bodily members for the good pleasure of the Mun'im, and the like. According to al-Raghib:
Thankfulness (shukr) is the contemplation of the ni'mah and its expression. 
It has been said that shukr is the (partial) inverse of kashr, meaning kashf (uncovering, discovery), and its antonym is kufr,which means forgetfulness and concealing of ni'mah. Dabbah shakir' (grateful animal) is one which expresses the appreciation of its master and provider by its fatness and robustness. It has also been said that its origin is 'aynun shakra, shakra here meaning mumtali'ah (full). Accordingly, shukr means being full of the mention of the Mun'im (Provider). Shukr is of three kinds: the shukr of the heart, which is the contemplation of ni'mah; the shukr of the tongue, which is praise of the Mun'im; and theshukr of all other bodily members, which is heedful observance of the ni'mah as it deserves to be observed (i.e. recognized, and used for the purpose proper to it).
The confirmed gnostic Khwajah 'Abd Allah Ansari says: "Shukr is a name for the knowledge (marifah) or ni'mah, for it is the means of knowing the Mun'im". The learned interpreter of his work says:
The contemplation of ni'mah as belonging to the Mun'im and the knowledge that it is from Him is shukr itself. It has been narrated that Hadrat Dawud (David), upon whom be peace, said: "O Lord! How can I thank Thee, for my thankfulness is another bounty (ni'mah) of Thee that itself requires thanksgiving!" God revealed to him: "O Dawud, when you have known that every ni'mah that you enjoy is from Me, you have thanked Me."
This author says: That which these scholars have said is based on some lack of correctness(exactness), for shukr is not the heart's knowledge per se or expression of it by the means of the tongue or bodily acts. Rather, it is a psychical state (halat-e nafsaniyyah) which itself results from the knowledge of the Mun'im. The acts of the heart and the body are the fruits of this state. What some scholars have said is close to this, although their statements too are not totally free of loose thinking. They have said:
It should be known that shukr is compensating for ni'mah through word, deed and intention. It rests on three supports.
Firstly, the knowledge (ma'rifah) of the Mun'im and the attributes befitting Him, as well as the knowledge of ni'mah as ni'mah per se. This knowledge does not become perfect unless one understands that all the apparent and hidden bounties are from God Almighty and that it is His Sacred Essence that is the real provider. All the means and intermediaries, whatever they are, are subject to His law and command.
Secondly, it is a state which is the result of this knowledge, which consists of humility, awe, and delight for the bounty as a gift that indicates the Mun'im's care and attention for you. Its sign is that you should not be delighted by the world except for something that causes nearness to God.
Thirdly, it is action that results from this state; for when this state appears in the heart it produces an impulse for action aimed to achieve nearness to God. That action is related to the heart, tongue and other members. As to the heart, its action consists of the veneration, praise and glorification of the Provider, the contemplation of His creation, His acts, the effects of His grace. and His beneficence towards all His creatures. As to the tongue, its action consists of the expression of that beneficence through praising, glorifying and extolling God and declaring Divine unity, as well as through, discharging the duty of al-'amr bi al-ma'ruf wa al-nahy an al-munkar and other duties. As to the bodily members, their thanksgiving action lies in using the outward and inward bounties in obedience, worship and in preventing sin against God and violation of His commands. Thus the eye should be used for studying His creation, reading His scripture, and teaching the traditional sciences of the prophets and the awsiya', may peace be upon them. Similarly for the other bodily members. 
Ignorance and Ingratitude:
You should know that shukr for the inward and outward bounties of God Almighty is one of the obligatory duties of servanthood and creaturehood, which everyone must attempt to fulfil to the extent of his capacity, although no creature can adequately fulfil its obligation of thanking God Almighty. The ultimate limit of thankfulness is the knowledge of the incapacity to satisfy it fully, in the same way as the ultimate limit of servanthood is the realization of the incapacity of fulfilling its demands - and hence the Noble Messenger, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, confessed to his incapacity, although none of the existents has attempted to discharge the duties of servanthood and gratitude to the extent of that holy master -because the perfection or inadequacy of gratitude is subject to the gnosis of the Munim and the knowledge of His bounties. (Since this gnosis and knowledge are never complete), no one can satisfy the rights of gratitude.
The servant becomes fully thankful (shakur) when he knows the relation of creation to the Creator, and has gnosis of the entire spread of Divine beneficence, from its beginning to end, of the interrelations of the bounties with each other as well as of the beginning and end of the stream of existence in its true reality. And this gnosis is not attainable for anyone except the elect of the awliya', the noblest and best of whom is the sacred essence of the Seal of Prophethood, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny. All others are devoid of some or rather most of those stations. Rather, as long as the reality of Divine efficacy does not make an imprint on the devotee's heart and as long as he does not attain conviction that
There is no efficient agency in the realm of existence except Allah,
the darkness and obfuscations of shirk and doubt (shakk) remain in his heart and he cannot thank God as he should. One whose gaze(stare) is fixed(stagnant) on causes and means and one who considers the efficacy of existents to be independent, does not relate the bounties to the Lord of bounty, and here lie the roots of ingratitude to God Almighty. Such a one has carved out idols, each of which he considers to be efficient. At times he relates actions to his own efficacy and even considers himself as having control over events and affairs. At times he considers the natural aspects of the world of existence as being efficient, and at times he relates the bounties to their apparent dispensers while considering God to be bereft of any efficacy, believing God's hands to be fettered, whereas:
Fettered are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said (5:64).
God's dispensing hands are free and the entire realm of being in reality belongs to Him and no other has any role in it. Rather, the entire universe is the manifestation of His power and bounteousness and His beneficence envelopes everything. All bounties are from Him and no one has any bounty of his own that he may be its provider. Rather, the realm of existence owes its being to Him, and others have no (independent) being so that anything may be attributed to be them. However, the eyes are blind, the ears are deaf and the hearts have curtains drawn upon them.
I want a vision that may pierce the (curtain of) causes.
How long shall these dead hearts of ours remain ungrateful toward God's bounties, and relate them to the world, its circumstances and persons? These attachments and attentions amount to ingratitude towards the bounteousness of the Sacred Essence and to Its concealing grace. This shows that fulfillment of the demands of gratitude is not everyone's job, and that Sacred Divine Essence. the Glorious and the Exalted, has declared: That is, there are few servantswho have adequate gnosis of God's bounties or know them as they deserve to be known. And, therefore, there are few servants who stand up to fulfil the duties of gratitude.
The Different Levels of Shukr:
And it should be known that even as the levels of knowledge of the servants of God are different, so also are their levels of thankfulness. The levels of gratitude are also different because shukr is the praise of the Provider for His bounties. Thus the outward kinds of bounties require one kind of gratitude and the inward bounties a gratitude of another kind. If the bounty is of the category of knowledge and gnosis, its shukr is of one kind, and if it is of the category of the irradiation of Divine Names it is of another kind, and if of the category of the irradiation of the Divine Essence, it is of yet another kind. And since all the categories and levels of bounties are enjoyed only by a few of His servants, the effort to fulfil the duties of gratitude at all levels is only possible for a few. Those being the sincere (khullas) awliya', who, in their being, encompass the entire range and levels of being (jami' jami'-e hadarat), being the limit of all limits (barzakh-e barazikh), and encompasses all the exoteric and esoteric levels. Accordingly, their thanksgiving (shukr) is accomplished through all the apparent, inward, and the inmost tongues.
Although shukr has been said to be one of the stations pertaining to the common people because of its proximity to the claim to the requital of the Provider - and this is considered to be irreverence - however, such a proximity exists only for ethers than the awliya', especially the perfect (kummal) among them, who encompass the full range of being and possess the station of unity and plurality. Therefore, the adept gnostic Khwajah `Abd Allah Ansari, who, although he states that shukr is one of the stations of the common people, adds:
That is, the third degree of shukr lies there where the servant does not see anything except the beauty of the Mun'im, being immersed in His beauty. That consists of three stations. First, he observes Him as the humble slave contemplates his master. In this state, unaware of himself in His presence, he is fully immersed in reverence, not setting any worth upon himself. When in this state of humility, if he is bestowed any bounty, he values it greatly, considering himself as insignificant and unworthy of it. Second, his observation is that of a lover observing his beloved. In this state he is immersed in the beauty of the Beloved and whatever he receives from Him, cherishing it, though it be affliction and hardship. Third, he observes Him without the limitations of the Names, or rather has the epiphany of the Essence itself. In this state he forgets himself and others and sees nothing but the Divine Essence, and is conscious neither of any bounty nor adversity.
This shows that the first stage in all the stations of the wayfarers is the one tread by the common people, and the ultimate stages in all the stations pertain exclusively to the sincere (khullas) or rather to the perfect (kummal) (of the awliya').
The Station of Shukr in Hadith:
We shall complete this section with the mention of some traditions relating to shukr.
In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni narrates with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, said: 'One who takes food with gratitude has a reward like the one who fasts exercising vigilance over himself. The healthy person grateful for his health has a reward like the one who bears his (bodily) afflictions patiently. And one who gives thankfully has a reward similar to the one who bears his deprivation with continence.'
Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from 'Ubayd Allah ibn al-Walid that he said: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say: 'There are three things in whose presence nothing can harm one: prayer in affliction, seeking God's forgiveness for one's sins, and thanksgiving for God's favours.' " [l9]
Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu Basir that Abu 'Abd Allah (A) said: "Verily one of you drinks water and God assigns paradise to him on that account." Then he (A) added: "Verily, one who takes the vessel (containing water), brings it to his mouth, then takes God's Name, then drinks from it, then draws it away while desiring it, then praises God, then drinks from it again, then takes it away while he desires it, praises God, then drinks from it again, then sets it aside and praises God, God, Almighty and Glorious, makes the paradise obligatory for him." 
Praise of God is the purveyer of gratitude, and, as has been stated in many traditions, one who says "Al-hamdu lillah' (All praise is God's) has offered his thanks to God. Al-Kulayni, in the noble al-Kafi, narrates this tradition through his isnad from `Umar ibn Yazid:
'Umar ibn Yazid says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allih (A) say: The (adequate mode of) thanksgiving for all favours, however great they may be, is that you praise God, the Almighty and the Glorious, on their account.' " 
Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allih (A) that he said: "Gratitude for God's gifts lies in abstaining from what He has made unlawful. One's thanksgiving is complete when one says: 'Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.' " 
Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Hammad ibn 'Uthman that he said: "Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A)once came out of the mosque to find his mount missing. Thereupon the Imam (A) said: 'Should God return it to me, I will thank Him as He deserves to be thanked.' It was not long before the animal was brought to him. Thereat, the Imam (A) said: 'Al-hamdu lillah.' Someone said to him: 'May I be made your ransom, didn't you say that you will thank God as He deserves to be thanked? Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said to him: 'Didn't you hear me say 'Al-hamdu lillah?' " 
This tradition shows that the praise of God is the best of the ways of oral thanksgiving. Among the effects of thanksgiving is increase in ni'mah, as mentioned unambiguously in the Noble Scripture:
if you are thankful, surely I will increase you .... (19:7)
And the noble al-Kafi has recorded this mustanad tradition of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) in this regard:
Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "One who has been given thankfulness has been also given increase (in ni'mah) Allah, Almighty and Glorious, says: 'If you are thankful, surely I will increase you." 
You should know that `A'ishah had imagined that the motive behind worship was confined to the fear(desperation) of punishment or the effacement of sins. She had imagined that the worship of the Noble Prophet, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, was like the worship of other people. Therefore she had wondered as to why the Prophet (S) took so much pains. This thought was as much due to her ignorance of the station of worship and servanthood as due to the ignorance of the station of prophethood and messengerhood. She did not know that the worship of slaves and hirelings was foreign to the sacred station of that master. The majesty of the Lord and gratitude for His unlimited bounties had made comfort and ease foreign to his holy being. Rather, the worship of the sincere awliya' is the stage of the boundless irradiations of the Beloved, as pointed out in the prayer of the heavenly ascent. The holy awliya', upon whom be peace, while being absorbed in the beauty and glory of the Beloved and effaced in His attributes and Essence, are never negligent of any of the stages of servanthood. Their bodily movements are subject to their spiritual stirrings, suffused with love, which are subject to the quality of the manifestation of the Beloved's beauty. However, to satisfy someone like `A'ishah it is not possible to give any but a perfunctory explanation. Hence, the Prophet (S) cramped himself to mentioning one of the lower stations so as to make her understand that the worship of that master was not aimed at such base purposes. And all praise is God's.
* * *
'Ali ibn Ibrahim, in his tafsir, reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far (A) and Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that they said: "The Messenger of Allah (S) used to pray while standing on his toes, until his feet became swollen. Thereupon Allah, Blessed and Exalted, sent down the verse: 'Taha...' (20:1-2) It meant: "O Muhammad! We have not sent down the Qur'an upon thee to put thee to hardship." 
Al-Saduq in Ma'ani al-'akhbar reports with his isnad from Sufyan al-Thawri from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he said in the course of a long tradition: "As to Taha, it is one of the names of the Prophet, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, and it means: 'O seeker of the Truth (talib al-Haqq) and the Guide towards it (al-hadi ilayh).' "
And it has been narrated from Ibn `Abbas and others that Taha means `O Man'. It has been narrated from some Sunni scholars (`ammah) that Ta refers to the purity (taharah) of the Holy Prophet's heart and Ha refers to its receiving guidance(hidayah) towards God. And it has been said that Ta means the delight (tarab) felt by the inhabitants of paradise and Hasignifies the disgrace and degradation (hawan) felt by the inmates of hell. Al-Tabrisi, upon whom be God's mercy, says: "It has been narrated from al-Hasan that he would read (Ta ha) as Tah () with fathah on the ta and sukun on the ha. Should this reading of his be correct, then it must originally have been ta, with the hamzah having changed to ha. Then the meaning of the verse becomes:
Take the earth under both of thy feet. " 
There is a severe disagreement about the significance of the isolated letters (al-huruf al-muqatta`ah) at the beginning of the Qur'anic surahs. That which seems more likely is that they are of the kind of secrets exchanged between lovers, of whose significance others do not partake. The conjectures advanced by some exegetes in this regard are mostly(mainly) without any source. The tradition narrated by Sufyan al-Thawri also indicates their being secret symbols, and it is not very improbable that they relate to matters which lie beyond human comprehension. Through them God Almighty has addressed His elect, and there is nothing that is mutashabih (in the Qur'an) but that they know its interpretation.  Shaqa' and shaqawah (whosederivative tashqa occurs in 20:1) are antonyms of sa`adah (felicity) and mean hardship and trouble(nuisance). This is what al-Jawhari states:
Al-Tabrisi narrates this tradition in his al-'Ihtijaj:
Al-'Imam Muse ibn Ja'far (A) narrates from his ancestors (A) that Amir al Mu'minin (A) said: "For ten years the Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, stood on his toes (in his prayers) until his feet became swollen and his face turned yellowish. He would stand all the night until he was reproached in this regard. God Almighty said to him: 'Taha, We have not sent down the Qur'an upon you to cause you hardship'. That is, We have sent it down upon you that you may be felicitous and happy thereby.' "
And it has been narrated from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that the Prophet (S) would heave(lurch) one of his blessed feet during worship in order to make it harder upon himself. 'Thereat God Almighty sent down this noble verse. Some exegetes have opined that this noble verse is intended as an answer to the polytheists who said that the Prophet had fallen into hardship by abandoning their faith.
The perfect `arif Shahabadi, may his shadow endure, used to say:
After some time that that blessed being (i.e. the Prophet) invited the people to his creed and it did not prove to be as effective as he wished, that master thought that perhaps there was something lacking in his call. Thereafter he devoted himself to austerities for a period of ten years, until his blessed feet became swollen. Then the noble verse came down: Don't subject yourself to hardship. You are pure, and a true guide. The defect is not in you but in the people, and that:
Thou guidest not whom thou likest, (but God guides whom He wills) .... (28:56)
In any case that which we infer from the noble verse is that the Prophet (S) used to devote himself to austerities and hardships, and this is what we understand on the whole from the sayings of the exegetes, although they differ regarding the exact character of those austerities. This should be an example and a lesson for the Ummah, especially for the learned who wish to call people to God. That blessed being, with his purity of heart and perfectness would subject himself to such austerities and pains until he was asked to relax by the noble verse sent down by the Sacred Divine Essence. And we, with all the gigantic burden of our sins and offences, are never mindful of our hereafter, resurrection and return, as if we have been guaranteed(ensured) immunity from punishment and security from hellfire! The reason of it is nothing but that the love of world has stuffed its cotton into our ears and we no longer listen to the words of the Prophets and the awliya'.
. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr" "bab al-shukr," hadith no.2.
. Bihar al- anwar, xvii, 76.
. Ibid., xxiv, 1-9.
. Ibid., xvi, 402.
. Ibid, xv, 3 ff.
. Al-Saduq, 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, i, 263.
. Bihar al- anwar, xxvi, 247.
. 'Ilm al-yaqin, i, 381.
. Al-Saduq, Kitab al-tawhid, 150.
. Al-Mufid, al- Amali, majlis no. 28, p. 245.
. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan, x, 505.
. Bihar al-'anwar, xvii, 73-76, cf. 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, i, 202, bab 15.
. Sahih Muslim, "kitabal-dhikr'," 41; al-Shaykh al-Bahai, al-'Arba'in, in the exposition of hadith no. 22, with the words, "hundred times" (mi'at marrah)
. Safinat al-Bihar, ii, 322.
. Tafsir Nur al-thaqalayn, v, 689.
. Al-Raghib al-Isfahani, al-Mufradat fi gharib al-Qur'an, p. 265.
. This is a summary of al-Ghazili's discourse from al-Fayd al-Kashani's al-Mahajjat al-bayda', vii, 144-149.
. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr," "bab al-shukr," hadith no. l.
. Ibid., hadith no.7.
. Ibid., hadith no. 16.
. Ibid., hadith no. 11.
. Ibid., hadith no. 10.
. Ibid., hadith no. 18.
. Ibid., hadith no. 8.
. Tafsir al-Qummi, ii, 58.
. Ma'ani al-'akhbar, 22.
. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan; earlier to this command the Prophet (S) used to pray while standing on one foot.
. This refers to verse 28:
source : GREATER SINS by Ayatullah-ul-Uzma Sayed Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi (r.a.)