The Characteristics of the Just and Rightly Guided Imam in Nahjul Balaghah There is a famous tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) recorded by both - the Shias and the Ahle Sunnah traditionalists: Two kinds of Imams The Imam of the Hellfire Imam of light and guidance The Ahle Bait (a.s.) Chain of guidance The most important work of al-Radi is the compilation of selected sermons, letters and sayings of Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (as). He selected 241 sermons, 79 letters, and 489 sayings. Those numbers vary in different editions of Nahj al- balaghah. The number of sermons varies from 238 to 241 and the number of letters varies from 77 to 79, whereas sayings vary from 463 to 489. Al-Radi, in the introduction to Nahjal-balaghah, gives an account of the circumstances that led him to compile the utterances and writings of 'Ali (as). According to this account, while busy in writing Khasa'is al-A'immah he planned to devote the last part of the book to the sayings and writings of Amir al- Mu'minin (as). These are my forefathers O Jarir Sources of Nahj al Balaghah Existence of sources prior to al Radi Other contemporary Scholars engaged in the collection
'One who dies without recognizing the Imam of his time, dies the death of ignorance.'
This means that even if a person accepts and conforms to all the Islamic beliefs and puts in practice all the edicts, but dies without recognizing the Imam of his time, his death will be on ignorance and apostasy. Such a person is condemned to eternal Hellfire regardless of his deeds in this world. This is because good deeds will only benefit a person provided his beliefs are correct, as espoused by the Quran and traditions. Hence, any person, who wants to secure himself from the raging fire of hell, should necessarily possess the recognition of the Imam of his time and not simply rely on his worship and virtuous deeds.
The Holy Quran has mentioned two types of leaders (Imams). The first type is the one who leads the people towards Hell. Allah declares in Surah Qasas, verse 41,
'And We made them Imams who call to the Fire, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall not be assisted.'
It means that the end of the one who accepts such an Imam will be in Hell.
The second group of Imams guides the people by Allah's command. Surah Sajdah, verse 24 points out
'And We made of them Imams to guide by Our command when they were patient, and they were certain of Our communications.'
'Say: Is there any of your associates who guides to the truth? Say: Allah guides to the truth. Is He then Who guides to the truth more worthy to be followed, or he who himself does not go aright unless he is guided? What then is the matter with you; how do you judge?'
(Surah Yunus, Verse 35)
Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) has described the characteristics of both kinds of Imams in his orations. 'The reality of people is not understood by their names but by the pattern of their behavior and mannerisms. Just as clothes hide the defects of the body, external manners cloak the defects of the soul. A connection of the soul is a necessity between the Imam and the follower. If a person (i.e. Imam) is not pious in his own heart, he will not be able to guide his followers towards piety and servitude. Hence if we desire Heaven and want to safeguard our eternal life from the chastisement of the Hellfire, then we have to search for an Imam whose inner and outer selves both are complete manifestations of divine command. Such an Imam must necessarily be adorned with piety completely, i.e. must be an infallible.
We will discuss the characteristics of the Imam of Hellfire and the Imam who guides to the truth, in the light of the sermons of Hazrat Ali (a.s.).
'…certainly, the worst man before Allah is the oppressive Imam who has gone astray and through whom others go astray. He destroys the accepted Sunnah and revives abandoned innovations. I heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) predict - On the Day of Judgment the oppressive Imam will be brought without anyone to support him or anyone to advance excuses on his behalf, and then he will be thrown into Hell, where he will rotate as the hand-mill rotates. Then eventually he will be confined to its hollow.'
(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 164, vol. 1, pg. 608-609, Ansariyan Publications)
An oppressor is not only the one who usurps the rights of others and persecutes others. The Quran declares,
'…and whoever exceeds the limits of Allah these it is that are the unjust.'
(Surah Baqarah, Verse 229)
These include those disobedient of Allah's commands, who have violated His edicts and exceeded His limits. The Quran further proclaims,
'and whoever did not judge by what Allah revealed, those are they that are the unjust.'
(Surah Maidah, Verse 45)
If somebody makes additions to the religion or forbids an obligation, he has violated the divine command which tantamount to injustice.
Therefore, any person who has not been appointed an Imam by Allah and he claims this position for himself, he has transgressed the limits of Allah and has disregarded Allah's orders. He is a tyrannical and an oppressive leader, whose end has been described above in Hazrat Ali's (a.s.) sermon.
Indeed the Holy Quran condemns even those people as oppressors who befriend such persons -
'…and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust.'
(Surah Mumtahenah, Verse 9)
Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) outlines the characteristics of the just and rightly guided Imam,
'You should know that among the creatures of Allah, the most distinguished person before Allah is the just Imam who has been guided (by Allah) and guides others. So, he stands by the recognized ways of the Prophet's (s.a.w.a.) behavior (Sunnah) and destroys the innovations. The (Prophet's (s.a.w.a.)) ways are clear and they have signs, while innovations are also clear and they too have signs.'
(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 164, vol. 1, pg. 608, Ansariyan Publications)
In another sermon, Hazrat Ali (a.s.) declares,
'Certainly the Imams are the vicegerents of Allah over His creatures and they introduce Allah to His creatures. None will enter Paradise except he who recognizes them (Imams) and knows Allah, and no one will enter Hell except he who rejects them and denies Him.
(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 152, vol. 1, pg. 554, Ansariyan Publications)
He elaborates on this further,
'O my Allah! You know that it was neither our (Ahle Bait) objective to seek power, nor to acquire anything from the treasures of the world. Rather we wanted to restore the signs of Your religion and to spread prosperity into Your cities so that the oppressed among Your creatures may be safe and Your forsaken commands could be established. O my Allah! I am the first who was inclined (towards Thee) and who heard and responded (to the call of Islam). No one preceded me in prayer except the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).'
'You certainly know that he who is in charge of honor, life, booty, (enforcement of) legal commands and the leadership of the Muslims should not be a miser as his greed would aim at their wealth. Similarly he should not be ignorant as he would then mislead them with his ignorance, nor should he be rude as he would estrange them with his rudeness. He should not be unjust in distributing wealth by preferring one group to another, nor should he accept bribes while taking decisions, as he would forfeit the rights of some and decree without decisiveness, nor should he ignore the Sunnah as he would ruin the people.
(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 131, vol. 1, pg. 496, Ansariyan Publications)
By referring to these brilliant sermons, it becomes abundantly clear that the leader and Imam who possesses the following characteristics can alone guide the people towards the truth.
1. He is guided.
2. He guides others towards the true path.
3. He enlivens the Sunnah.
4. He destroys innovations.
5. His recognition is the cause of deliverance for the people.
6. His rejection is the cause of eternal chastisement.
7. He does not desire worldly power and authority.
8. He does not crave for the treasures of the world.
9. He makes manifest the signs of religion.
10. He establishes peace and tranquility in Allah's cities.
11. He provides shelter to His oppressed servants.
12. He revives the forgotten commands.
13. He is not a miser.
14. He is not ignorant.
15. His traits and mannerisms are not evil and wicked.
16. He is not a coward.
17. He is not a corrupt.
18. He does not destroy the Sunnah.
Imam Ali (a.s.) highlights the above points in another sermon,
'Certainly, there is no obligation on the Imam except what has been devolved on him from Allah, namely to convey warnings, to exhort and advice, to revive the Sunnah, enforce penalties on those liable and issue shares to the deserving.'
(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 105, vol. 1, pg. 400, Ansariyan Publications)
If we search for the characteristics of the rightly guided Imam, we find that these traits are present only in the pure and infallible members of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Hazrat Ali (a.s.) exhorts,
'Look at the people of the Prophet's (s.a.w.a.) family - Ahle Bait (a.s.). Adhere to their direction. Follow their footsteps because they will never misguide you, and never throw you into destruction. If they sit down, you too must sit down, and if they rise, you also rise. Do not go ahead of them, as you will go astray and do not lag behind them, as you will be ruined.
(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 97, vol. 1, pg. 378, Ansariyan Publications)
'Where are those people who have lied and have tormented us and have deceitfully claimed that they are 'the ones firmly rooted in knowledge' and not us? (They lie against us and covet over position) because Allah, the All-Merciful has exalted our status and has made them inferior to us. He has conferred upon us an eminence from which He prevented them from surpassing us. He allowed us entry to the transcendental sphere of divine revelation, which He denied them. Remember that guidance could be acquired and ignorance could be dispelled through us only. Undoubtedly the Imams shall be from the Quraish, from the Bani Hashim. This divine appointment has been made for this august progeny, and none else deserves this sublime and sacred rank.'
(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 144, vol. 1, pg. 528, Ansariyan Publications)
These assertive and decisive statements make it abundantly clear that the rightful possessors of Imamat and Caliphate are the Ahle Bait (a.s.). No one else is deserving of this honor and station. Only the Ahle Bait (a.s.) can direct the people to the path of guidance and lead them to paradise. If somebody considers a person other than them as his leader, guide and Imam, he has deviated and is far from guidance.
When Imam Ali (a.s.) appointed Janab Mohammad Ibne Abi Bakr as governor of Egypt, he (a.s.) wrote a letter to him in which he said:
'The leader towards guidance, and the leader towards destruction, the friend and the enemy of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), can never be alike.'
(Nahjul Balagha, Letter No. 27, vol. 2, pg. 314, Ansariyan Publications)
Imam Ali (a.s.) has tried to awaken the consciousness of man with this powerful statement. The statement appeals to the people to open their eyes and refer to their intellects and then decide with deep reflection - Are the leaders of guidance and the path bearers to paradise equal to the guides towards the hell fire and darkness? Never! Awaken and decide for yourselves.
It is crystal clear that Imamat is the exclusive right of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and anyone who claims this right for himself/themselves is a liar and an oppressor. There is a well-known tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) widely narrated by all scholars and traditionalists in their books. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prophesied,
'This nation will have twelve leaders and guides and all of them will be from the Quraish. The one who leaves them will not harm them.' (i.e. the one who has distanced himself will be among the losers, because his death will be that of ignorance).
(Musnad-e-Ahmad b. Hanbal, vol.5, pg. 312)
The tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) clearly highlights that there will only be twelve Imams till the Day of Judgment and all these leaders will be from the tribe of Quraish. Within the Quraish, the Imams will be from Bani Hashim. From the traditions mentioned above we conclude that after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) till the Day of Resurrection, this nation will have twelve Imams and all of them will be from Bani Hashim.
Regarding the tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) -
'I leave among you two weighty things (Saqalain), the Book of Allah and my progeny',
Imam Ali (a.s.) was asked - Who is the progeny? He (a.s.) replied:
I, Hasan (a.s.), Husain (a.s.) and the nine Imams (a.s.) from the progeny of Husain (a.s.), of whom the ninth one will be the Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) and the Qaem (a.t.f.s.). Neither will they separate from the Book of Allah nor will the Book of Allah separate from them, till they meet the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) at the Pool of Kausar.'
(Kamaluddin, vol.1, pg. 240-241)
Aamir bin Kasir asked Imam Ali (a.s.): O Ameerul Momineen (a.s.)! You have made us aware of the guides of disbelief and the caliphs of evil, now introduce to us the guides of truth and the real guides after you.' Imam Ali (a.s.) informed him,
'Yes, surely it is the promise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to me that this religion will have twelve Imams and leaders, nine of whom will be from the progeny of Husain (a.s.). The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has narrated, 'When I went to the heavens for Meraj, I saw written on the pillar of the Arsh
'There is no god except Allah, Mohammad (s.a.w.a.) is His Messenger, and I have aided him through Ali (a.s.) and I have helped him through Ali (a.s.)'
And I saw twelve Lights. I asked:
O My Lord! Whose lights are these?
The reply was -
These lights are of Imams from your progeny.
Then I (Ali (a.s.)) asked:
O Messenger of Allah, will you not tell me their names?'
The Holy Prophet replied,
'Yes, certainly. You are Imam and Caliph after me, you will repay my debts and fulfill my promises. After you will be your two sons, Hasan (a.s.) and Husain (a.s.), and after Husain (a.s.) will be his son Ali - Zainul Abedeen (a.s.), after Ali (a.s.) will be his son Mohammad (a.s.) whose title is Baqir. After Mohammad (a.s.) will follow his son Jafar (a.s.) whose title is Sadiq. After Jafar (a.s.), will be his son Moosa (a.s.) whose title is Kazim. After Moosa (a.s.), will be his son Ali (a.s.) whose title is Reza. After Ali, his son Mohammad (a.s.) will succeed him and his title is Zaki. After Mohammad (a.s.) will follow his son Ali (a.s.) whose title is Naqi. After Ali (a.s.) will come his son Hasan (a.s.) whose title is Ameen and Askari. After him will be the son of Hasan (a.s.), Qaem (a.t.f.s.), whose name will be my name and who will bear maximum similarity with me. He will fill the earth with justice and equity as it would have been filled with oppression and injustice.'
(Vol. 1, pg. 138, Imam Ali (a.s.) narrated about the condition of Imam Mahdi (a.s.))
There isn't just one tradition like this. We find several traditions on these lines and the number goes up to 20. For instance, Imam Ali (a.s.) recounts from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who has categorically stated that from the time of his (s.a.w.a.) death till the Day of Qiyamat there will only be twelve Imams, and then each has been mentioned by his name.
The entire arrangement was made so that people would know that Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had already selected the Imams. It was not that anyone could be an Imam according to the wishes of the Islamic nation. It was not that an Imam who was supposed to follow his father in the chain of Imamat, died in his father's lifetime, leaving the chain of Imamat suspended until the people appointed the deceased's son as the Imam in his place.
All the above traditions, were narrated when Janabe Ismail b. Jafar Sadiq was not even born. The list of Imams (a.s.) narrated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Imam Ali (a.s.) does not show Janabe Ismail's name. Therefore, if he was never destined to be an Imam then where does the question of usurping his Imamat arise?
Another thing that is evident is that the twelve Imams (a.s.) enumerated in the prophetic tradition mentions the first Imam as Imam Ali (a.s.) and the twelfth and last Imam as Hazrat Wali-e-Asr (a.t.f.s.), who is the Imam of our time and is alive on this earth today and is amongst us but we are deprived of his meeting due to our sins and disobedience.
Asbagh bin Nubata (r.a.) a very reliable companion of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) narrates, 'I presented myself before Hazrat Ali (a.s.). I saw that he was engrossed in some thought and marking with his blessed finger on the earth. I queried, 'O Ameerul Momineen (a.s.)! What is the matter, I find you today in some perplexity, making signs on the earth, do you love this earth? He (a.s.) replied:
I swear by Allah that it is not so. I have never befriended this world, rather I was reflecting about that son, the eleventh one from my progeny. He is the Mahdi (a.t.f.s.), who will fill the earth with justice and equity as it was filled with injustice and tyranny. There is an occultation for him in which some people will be deviated while others will be guided.
(Kamaluddin, vol.1, pg. 288-297, A'laamul Wara, pg. 400)
How clearly Hazrat Ali (a.s.) has described and illuminated the chain of guidance and Imamat. Who could be more unfortunate and wretched that despite such a clear and illumined chain of guidance and Imamat, rejects it for those deviated guides who have usurped Hazrat Ali's (a.s.) right? Those who have harassed and persecuted Janabe Zahra (s.a.), burned down her door and waged war against her husband - the rightful Imam and celebrated on his martyrdom and were the main protagonists of the incident of Karbala. Their sons killed Imam Husain (a.s.) in Karbala, they made captives the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and martyred them one after the other. Their lives were devoid of Islamic teachings, they opposed the Quranic commands secretly and publicly, they were steeped in sins and prohibited acts and abandoned the religious obligations completely. They were prisoners of their carnal desires and neglected the hereafter and in this manner deprived themselves of guidance. Then how was it possible for them to guide others?
Guidance has only one path and that path is the way of Hazrat Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a.s.), finally terminating in Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) who is the Imam today. There is no other path leading to true guidance and there is no other guarantee for success and happiness in the world and the hereafter.
We end this discussion with the declaration of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) inviting everyone to leave aside prejudices and rise above personal interests, to purify the intellect and consciousness, to decide about one's own end, lest the coming of the Angel of Death finds us perplexed and uncertain. Today there is time and tomorrow could be too late. Our decision will take us either to Paradise or to Hell. Let us not spoil our hereafter for this fleeting world.
'Observe this world, which you desire, towards which you move with desire and proximity, which sometimes angers you and at other times makes you happy. It is neither your actual abode nor the station for which you were created, nor is it the place towards which you are invited.'
'Take lesson, for it is not going to remain for you, nor are you in it forever. If it has beguiled you with its charm then it has also made you fearful with its wickedness. Do not be influenced by its scare and do not seek it greedily out of its fear.'
'Advance towards that abode towards which you have been invited and turn your hearts away from this world. None of you should lament like maids on deprivation of a thing of this world. Be patient on the obedience of Allah and wish for the completion of the bounties by safeguarding that which has been commanded by our Book to be safeguarded.'
'Pay heed, if you have safeguarded your religious beliefs then loss of anything of this world will not harm you. And if you have wasted and destroyed your religion then none of the worldly things, which you have safeguarded, can bring you any benefit.'
(Nahjul Balagah, Sermon 173, vol. 1, pg. 644, Ansariyan Publications)
May Allah turn our hearts towards truth and give us the blessing of patience!
This task was so absorbing and fascinating that his friends and brothers-in-faith desired that he should compile a book covering all the forms of 'Ali's utterances such as letters, lectures, counsels, moral admonitions and aphorisms, for, they would prove to be masterpieces of eloquence, rhetoric, aphorisms and jewels of wisdom, probably the best after the Quran and hadith of the Prophet (as) in Arabic language and literature.
... And these were not collected in any other work, nor found together in any other book ... Amir al-Mu'minin (as) was the fountain of eloquence and (his utterances) the source of rhetoric. Through him hidden delicacies of eloquence and rhetoric came to light, and from him were learnt its principles and rules. Every speaker and orator had to tread on his footprints, and every eloquent preacher availed of his utterances. Even then they could not equal him, for the credit for being the first and foremost remained with him, because his utterances were those that carried the reflection of Divine knowledge and savour of the Prophet's utterances. Accordingly I acceded to their request, as I knew that it meant great reward, handsome reputation and a treasure of recompense. The object of this compilation is that I should bring forth Amir al-Mu'minin's greatness and superiority in the art of rhetoric which is in addition to his countless qualities and innumerable distinctions, and to show that he has risen to the highest pinnacle of this attainment, is singular among all those predecessors whose utterances are quoted here and there, whereas his own utterances are like an onrushing and irresistible stream, and such a treasure of subtleties in language is unmatched. Since I proudly trace my descent from him I feel pleasure in quoting a couplet of al-Farazdaq:
When we get together, can you cite any as their equals?
In my view Amir al-Mu'minin's utterances are divisible in three categories: firstly sermons and decrees, secondly letters and communications, and thirdly maxims and counsels. Allah willing I intend to compile first the sermons, then letters, and then maxims and counsels, and propose a separate chapter for each category, leaving blank pages in between each of them so that if anything has been left out and is found afterwards it may be inserted there in ...
Apart from al-Radi's assessment of 'Ali's utterances and their literary as well as philosophical aspect, the important point to be noted is his reference to other sources. This is in itself enough to counter the allegations of the later writers like Ibn Khallikan and Ibn Hajar that a major portion of Nahj al-balaghah was falsely ascribed to 'Ali (as).
Before coming to those allegations I would like to quote another passage from al-Radi's introduction to Nahj al-balaghah which far more explicitly refers to the earlier sources from which al-Radi selected the contents of his compendium:
In this compilation in some places there is repetition of words or subject matter. The excuse for this is that Amir al-Mu'minin's utterances have been related in numerous forms. Sometimes it happened that a particular utterance was found in a particular form in a tradition and was taken down in that very form. Thereafter the same utterance was found in some other tradition either with acceptable addition or in a better style of expression. In such a case with a view to further the object of compilation and to present a beautiful utterance from being lost it was decided to repeat it. It has also happened that a particular utterance had appeared earlier but due to remoteness it has been entered again. This is through omission, not by intent. In spite of all this I do not claim that I have collected Amir al-Mu'minin's utterances from everywhere and that no single sentence of any type or construction has been left out. In fact I do not rule out the possibility that whatever has been left out might be more than what has been collected, and what has been in my knowledge and use is far less than what has remauned beyond my reach. My task was to strive to the best of my capacity and it was Allah's part to make the way easy and guide me to the goal; Allah may will so.
Though al-Radi has not furnished a bibliography of the sources from which he collected the writings and sayings of Amir al-Mu'minin (as) he has referred occasionally to certain books and their compilers in his explanatory notes on various sermons, letters and sayings.
Several scholars have sought to trace back the sources of different utterances and letters collected in Nahj al-balaghah to the works compiled centuries before the birth of al-Radi. The most painstaking research in this context was done by an Indian Sunni scholar Imtiyaz 'Ali 'Arshi, who died a few years ago.
He succeeded in tracing back the early sources of 106 sermons, 37 letters and 79 stray sayings of Amir al-Mu'minin (as) in his book Istinad-e Nahj al-balaghah, originally written in Urdu, subsequently translated into Arabic in 1957, then into English and Persian.
The translator of the Persian text adds very useful notes, which usually provide further knowledge about the sources of Nahj al-balaghah and occasionally point out 'Arshi's errors in some matters.
However, this work still stands as the most valuable research in this field. Besides this work, some others deserve special mention such as 'Abd al-Zahra' al-Husayni al-Khatib's Masadir Nahj al-balaghah, Hibat al-Din al-Shahristani's Ma huwa Nahj al-balaghah, Sayyid 'Ali al-Naqawi al-Nasirabadi's introduction to the Urdu translation of Nahj al-balaghah by Mufti Ja'far Husayn, and al-Mu'jam al-mufahras li alfaz Nahj al-balaghah, a joint work of al-Sayyid Kazim al- Muhammadi and al-Shaykh Muhammad Dashti. Sayyid Muhammad 'Askari Ja'fari and Sayyid 'Ali Rida also dealt with the issue of basic sources of Nahj al- balaghah in their prefaces to their separate translations of the book into English. Here follows with some minor corrections and additions 'Arshi's list of the early sources containing the utterances and writings of Ali (as)
1. Khutab Amir al-Mu'minin 'ala al-manabir fi aljuma' wa al- 'a'yad wa ghayriha; by Zayd ibn Wahab al Jahni (d. 96/714-15). This book was available till the fifth century H, for Abu Ja'far al-Tusi (d. 460/1067) has quoted from it in his writings.
2. Kitab khutab Amir al-Mu'minin, by Abu Ya'qub Isma'il ibn Mahran ibn Muhammad al-Sakuni al-Kufi (d. circa 148/765).
3. Abu Mikhnaf Lut ibn Yahya al-'Azdi (d. circa 157/773-74) has quoted Amir al-Mu'minin's utterances in the following works of his own: Kitab al Jamal, Kitab ahl al-Nahrawan wa al-Khawarij, Kitab al-gharat, Kitab maqtal 'Ali, Kitab maqtal Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr wa al-'Ashtar wa Muhammad ibn Hudhaybah, and Kitab al-shurd wa maqtal 'Uthman. (Here may be added another work: al-Khutbat al-Zahra'li Amir al-Mu'minin.)
4. Kitab khutab Amir al-Mu'minin by Abu Muhammad Mas'adah ibn Sadaqah al-'Abdi al-Kufi (d. 183/799). He was a pupil of al' Imam Musa al-Kazim (as), and Ibn Shadhan has narrated traditions on his authority.
5. Kitab khutab 'Ali by Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn al-Hakam ibn Zahir al-Fazari al-Kufi (d. 177/793) Abu al-'Abbas al-Najashi (d. 450/1058) has narrated on his authority.
6. Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Sulayman Hashami (Nahami) al-Khazzaz al-Kufi (third century H.) besides compiling al-Khutab li Amir al-Mu'minin, eompiled other books such as Kitab al-dua, Kitab khalq al-samawat, and Kitab maqtal Amir al-Mu'minin. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi has quoted from his works.
7. Kitab khutab 'Ali Karram Allah wajhah by Abu Mundhir Hisham ibn Muhammad ibn Sa'ib al-Kalbi (d. 206/821). He also wrote Maqtal 'Uthman, Kitab al Jamal, Kitab Siffin, Kitab al-Nahrawan, al-Gharat and Maqtal Amir al-Mu'minin. His book containing al-Imam 'Ali's khutab was studied by al-Najashi.
8. Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn 'Umar al-Waqidi (d. 207/823) al'Imam 'Ali's writings and sermons in many of his books such as Kitab al Jamal, Kitab Siffin and Kitab al-sunnah waal-jama'ah wa dhamm al-hawa wa tark al-Khawdrij fi al-fitan. Al-Radi has referred to some of his works. He also compiled Khutab Amir al-Mu'minin (as).
9. Abu al-Fadl Nasr ibn Muzahim al-Manqari (d. 212/827) compiled a number of books, all of which contain utterances of 'Ali (as). Al-Najashi has mentioned these works: Kitab Siffin, Kitab al- Jamal, Kitab al-Nahrawan and al-Gharat. He also compiled Khutab 'Ali (as), Kitab al-manaqib, and Kitab akhbar al-Mukhtar.
10. Abu al-Khayr Salih ibn Abi Hammad al-Razi (214/829) compiled a book Khutab 'Ali (as). He was among the companions of al- Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (as), and his book is mentioned in al-Najashi's al-Fihrist.
11. Abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn Muhammad al-Mada'ini (d. 224/839) compiled Khutab 'Ali (as) wa kutubuh ila 'ummalih and some other books including Ta'rikh al-khulafa.
12. Abu al-Qasim al-Sayyid 'Abd al-'Azim ibn 'Abd Allah ibn 'Ali al-Hasani (d. 250/864), popularly known as Shah 'Abd al-'Azim, whose tomb at Shahr Ray is a place of pilgrimage. He also compiled Kitab Khutab 'Ali (as).
13. Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Sa'id al-Thaqafi al-Kafi (d. 283/896) compiled different collections of al'Imam 'Ali's utterances and letters, which are: Rasa'il 'Ali, Kalam 'Ali fial-shura, al-Khutab almu'arrabat, Kitab al-Saqifah, Maqtal 'Uthman, Kitab bay'at Amir al- Mu'minin, Kitab al-hakamayn, Kitab al-Nahrawan, and Kitab maqtal Amir al-Mu'minin. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi says that he came to know of all these books through Ahmad ibn 'Abdun.
14. Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Rustam al-Tabari, one of the contemporaries of the famous historian Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (circa 226-310/840-41-922), collected the sermons and letters of Amir al-Mu'minin in two of his books: al-Ruwat 'an Ahl al-Bayt and Kitab al-mustarshid.
15. Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni (d. 328/939) quoted a number of al-Imam 'Ali's sermons and utterances in Usul al- Kafi, Rawa'at al-Kafi and Rasa'il al-'Aimmah.
16. Abu Ahmad 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Yahya ibn Ahmad ibn 'Isa al Jalludi (d. 320/932), besides Kitab al Jamal, Kitab Siffin, Kitab al-hakamayn, Kitab al-gharat, Kitab al-Khawdrij and Kitab hurub 'Ali, compiled ten volumes containing al-Imam 'Ali's writings and utter-ances: Khutab 'Ali, Kitab shi'r 'Ali, Rasa'il 'Ali Mawd'iz 'Ali, Dhikr kalaam 'Ali fi al- malahim, Qawl 'Ali fi al-shura, Kitab ma kana bayna 'Ali wa 'Uthman min ai-kalam, Kitab qadd' Ali, Kitab al-du'a 'an 'Ali, Kitabal-'adab 'an 'Ali.
Hibat al-Din al-Shahristani has mentioned the following other books: Kitab dhikr 'Ali li Khadijah wa fada'il Ahl al-Bayt 'Alayhim al salam.
17. Abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn 'Ali al-Mas'udi (d. 346/ 957), the author of the famous book Muruj al-dhahab, has collected numerous sermons and sayings of al-'Imam 'Ali (as) in Hada'iq al- 'adhhan fi akhbar Al Muhammad and Mazahir al-'akhbar wa zara'if al- 'athar.
18. Abu Talib 'Ubayd Allah ibn Abi Zayd Ahmad ibn Ya'qub ibn Nasr al-'Anbari (d. 356/967), author of one hundred and forty books, compiled a collection of supplications of the Imams (as) Ad'iyat al- 'A'immah, in which supplications of Amir al-Mu'minin (as) are also included.
19. Abu 'Abd Allah Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn Abi Rafi' al-Kufi al-Baghdidi, a teacher of al-Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413/1022) has collected the utterances of al-'Imam 'Ali (as) in his books al Kash fi ma yata'allaq bi al-Saqifah and al-Diya' (al-Safa') of tarikh al-'Aimmah. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi says he was introduced to his works through al-Mufid, al-Husayn ibn 'Ubayd Allah, Ahmad ibn 'Abdun and others.
20. Abu al-Abbas Ya'qub ibn Ahmad al-Saymari, probably son of Abu 'Abd Allah Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn Abi Rafi', mentioned above,compiled a collection of al-'Imam 'Ali's utterances and sermons.
21. Abu Sa'id Mansur ibn al-Husayn Wazir al-Abi (d. 422/1031) collected aphorisms by al-'Imam 'Ali (as) in Nuzhat al-'adab fi al- muhadarat, and subsequently brought out and abridged this book under the title Nathr al-durar.
A number of other works were also compiled before al-Radi that contained al- 'Imam 'Ali's writings and utterances. A selected list of those may be added to the above-mentioned books:
1. Abu 'Uthman 'Amr ibn Bahr al Jahiz (d. 255/869) compiled in a book, Mi'at mukhtarah min kalam Amir al-Mu'minin, one hundred aphorisms selected from the utterances of 'Ali (as). His major work al-Bayan wa al-tabyin also contains the words of Amir al-Mu'minin (as).
2. Ibrahim ibn Hilal al-Thaqafi (d. 283/896) edited a book entitled Rasa'il Amir al-Mu 'minin wa akhburuh wa hurubuh.
3. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid al-Barqi (d. 270/883 or 280/893), in his famous work al-Mahasin, considered to be the fifth Shi'i compendium of hadith after the Four Major Compendia (al- Kutub al-'arba'ah), has quoted al'Imam 'Ali's writings and sermons. He was a companion of al' Imam Muhammad al-Taqi al Jawad (as) and al' Imam 'Ali al-Naqi al-Hadi (as). Al-Shaykh al Saduq benefited from his works to a great extent.
4. Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn 'Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Shuibah al-Harrani al-Halabi (d. 320/932 or 380/990) collected some sayings and speeches of the Imam (as) in Tuhaf al-'uqul. He writes: If we desire to quote all his ('Ali's) sermons and utterances only in regard to the Unity of God, leaving all other themes, it would equal this very book.
5. Al-Qadi Nu'man al-Misri (d. 363/973) compiled a book Khutab Amir al-Mu 'minin.
6. Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Muslim al-Kufi al-Maruzi al- Dinawari known as Ibn Qutaybah (213-276/828-889) in 'Uyun al- 'akhbar and Ghara'ib al-hadith quoted utterances of al-Imam 'Ali (as).
7. Ahmad ibn Wadih al-Ya'qubi (d. 276/889) quoted al-Imam Ali's utterances in his well-known history Ta'rikh al-Ya'qubi.
8. Abu al-'Abbas al-Mubarrad (d. 285/898) in his al-Fadil and al-Kamil.
9. Tarikh al-rusul wa al-muluk by Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d. 310/922).
10. Al-Hasan ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'id al-'Askari (d. 382j992) narrated from al-'Imam 'Ali (as) some of his sermons in al-Mawa'id wa al-zawajir.
11. Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Durayd al-'Azdi (d. 321/933) quoted some utterances of al-'Imam 'Ali (as) for furnishing examples of Arabic idioms, proverbs, and aphorisms in his major lexicon al- Jamharah fi al-lughah.
12. Al-'Iqd al-farid by Ibn 'Abd Rabbih (246-328/860-940).
13. Kitab al-'aghani and Maqatil al-Talibiyyin by Abu al-Faraj al- Isfahani (284-356/897-967).
14. Kitab al-nawadir by Abu 'Ali al-Qari' (d. 356/967).
15. Ibn Babawayh al Shaykh al Saduq (d. 381/991) quoted extensively from al-'Imam 'Ali's utterances in Man la yahduruhu al-faqih, I'lal al-sharayi', 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, al-'Amali, Ma'ani al- 'akhbar, al-Tawhid, al-Khisal, al-I'tiqad, Thawab al-'a'mal and other books.
16. Al Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413/1022) quoted al-'Imam 'Ali's writings and sayings in many of his books, particularly devoting a lengthy section of al-'Irshad to Amir al-Mu'minin's sermons, judicial judgements, decrees, letters, and sayings. Among the extant works of that period al-'Irshad is the most systematic and comprehensive record of al-'Imam 'Ali's words after Nahjal-balaghah.
Among the contemporaries of al-Radi, several other scholars were engaged in collecting and quoting Amir al-Mu'minin's utterances in their works. The following can be named here: Ibn Miskawayh (d 421/1030) in Tajarib al-'umam, Hafiz Abu Na'im al-Isfahani (d. 430; 1038) in Hilyat al-'awliya', Shaykh ai-Ta'ifah al-Tusi (d. 460/1067) in al-Tahdhib, al-'Istibsar, al-'Amali and otherworks. Al-Qadi Abu 'Abd Allah Mukammad ibn Salamah al-Shafi'i(d. 453/1061) in Ma'alim al-hikam.
'Aziz Allah 'Utaridi has prepared a list of sources which includes many a name not found in other lists. Such names are as follows:
1. Harith al-'A'war al-Hamdani: He compiled a collection of Imam 'Ali's khutab before Zayd ibn Wahab. Al-Kulayni through Abu Ishaq al-Sabi'i has quoted him as narrating the sayings of the Imam (as).
2. Asbagh ibn Nubatah.
3. 'Ubayd Allah ibn Hurr al Ju'fi: The famous Sunni muhaddith al-Bukhari has mentioned a collection of al' Imam 'Ali's words compiled by him. He was a poet and an admirer of al-'Imam 'Ali (as), who never submitted to Mu'awiyah and was involved in anti-State activities. Al-Imam al- Husayn sought his help, but he declined to come to his side. Afterwards he repented his failure to help him. Al-Najashi has referred to him in his al-Rijal.
4. Husayn ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Ibrahim al-Ghada'iri (d. 411/1020).
5. Sa'sa'ah ibn Sawhan, a companion of al-'Imam 'Ali (as), who narrated the Imam's instructions to Malik al-'Ashtar at the time of his appointment to governership of Egypt.
6. Faraj ibn Farwah compiled a collection of the Imam's sayings on the authority of Mas'adah ibn Sadaqah, who narrated from al-'Imam Ja'far al Sadiq (as). Al Sayyid 'Ali ibn Tawus wrote at the back of a manuscript of this compilation that it was written after 200/815. This manuscript was in possession of Hasan ibn Sulayman al-Hilli, from which he has quoted in his works.
7. Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Saffar al-'Ash'ari al-Qummi, author of Basa'ir al-darajat, had compiled al-'Irshad containing the utterances of al- 'Imam 'Ali (as); not available now.
8. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad Abu 'Ubayd al-Harawi (d. 401/1010) compiled a book of the uncommon words used in the Quran and hadith, in which he quoted from Amir al-Mu'minin also.
9. Abu 'Ubayd al-Qasim ibn Salam al-Harawi also wrote a book on the vocabulary of hadith, in which he referred to the utterances of the Imam 'Ali (as). Al-Sayyid al-Radi has referred to this work.
10. Ahmad ibn Yahya Tha'lab (d. 291/903), the grammarian.
11. Abu al-Qasim 'Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Ka'bi al-Balkhi (d. 319/931) has quoted al-Khutbat al-Shiqshiqiyyah in his book al- 'Insaf.
12. Abu Ja'far ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Qubbah al-Razi has quoted al-Khutbat al-Shiqshiqiyyah on the authority of Abu Ja'far ibn Battah in al- 'Insaf.
13. Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Bayhaqi (d. 225/839) has quoted extensively from al-'Imam 'Ali (as) in al-Mahdsin wa al-masawi'.
14. Muhammad ibn Tayyib Abu Bakr al-Bahri al-Baqillani (d. 403/1012) has quoted from al-lmam 'Ali (as) in I'jaz al-Qur'an.
15. Muhammad ibn Habib al-Hashimi al-Baghdadi (d. 245/859).
16. Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah Hakim al-Nishaburi.
17. Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-'Abbas al-Shirazi, popularly known as Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi, an eminent scholar, quoted from al-'Imam 'Ali (as) in al-Basa'ir.
18. Abu 'Abd Allah al Marzabani al-Khurasani, a scholar of literature and literary sciences, was one of the teachers of al-Mufid. His work al- Muwaffaq contains the utterances of al-Imam 'Ali (as).
19. Ahmad ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al Jawhari; Ibn Abi al-Hadid quoted from him in Sharh Nahj al-balaghah, particularly from his valuable book al- Saqifah.
20. Abu Ja'far al-Baladhuri (d. 279/892), author of Ansab al-'ashraf and Futah al-bulddn, has quoted the words of al-lmam 'Ali (as) in his works.
21. Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilali was among the first to compile a collection of hadith, in which he quoted numerous traditions from al-Imam 'Ali (as).
22. Abu Hanifah al-Dinawari (d. 290/903), a very authentic narrator and an authority in literary sciences, quoted a number of sermons and sayings of al-Imam 'Ali (as) in al-'Akhbar al-tiwal.
23. Abd al-Rahman ibn Ishaq Abu al Qasim al-Zujaji (d. 339/950), the author of al Jamal, in his other work, al-Amali, narrated the utterances of al-Imam 'Ali (as).
24. Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad al-Tha'alibi (350-429/961-1037), author of Yatimat al-dahr in al-Ijaz wa al-'Ijaz, quoted many an utterance of al-Imam 'Ali (as).
25. Abu 'Umar ibn Yusuf ibn Ya'qub al-Kindi (d. 350/961) in his book al- Wulat has narrated the words of al-lmam 'Ali (as).
26. Abu Talib 'Ubayd ibn Ahmad ibn Ya'qub al-'Anbari has narrated some supplications of al-'Imam 'Ali (as) in his Kitab al-'ad'iyah.
27. Abu 'Abd Allah Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn Abi Rafi' authored two books, one entitled Kashf dar akhbar wa ta'rikh Saqifat Bani Sa'idah and Ta'rikh al-Aimmah, in which he quoted the utterances of al 'Imam 'Ali (as).
28. Abu Muhammad Ahmad ibn A'tham al-Kufi (d. 314/926-27) in Kitab al-futuh narrated the sermons and words of al-Imam 'Ali (as).
29. Abu Muhammad Husayn ibn Sa'id ibn Hammad ibn Mahran al- 'Ahwazi collected some of the sermons and sayings of al-lmam 'Ali (as).
30. Ali ibn al-Wasiti, the author of 'Uyun al-hikam, compiled a book on Fadail Ahl al-Bayt in 457/1065, from which al-'Allamah Baqir al-Majlisi has quoted in the seventeenth volume of Bihar al-anwar. This book contains the utterances of al-Imam 'Ali (as).
31. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Washsha', author of a twenty- volume work Zuhrat al-Riyad, in his other work Zarf wa zurafa, has quoted from al-lmam 'Ali (as).
32. Abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn Ibrahim ibn Hashim al-Qummi, one of the earliest Shi'i exegetes of the Quran, has quoted extensively from al-Imam 'Ali (as).
33. Yazid ibn 'Abd al-Malik ibn al-Mughirah ibn Nawfal ibn Harth ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib (d. 167/783) is one of the authorities among narrators of hadith. He narrated in his works the sermons of al-'Imam 'Ali (as). In one of his works entitled Tuhfat al-'ahbab wa ma'rifat imamat sayyid uli al-'albab, he has copied in full a sermon of al- Imam 'Ali (as) that was delivered on the occasion of the assassination of the Third Caliph and al-'Imam 'Ali's taking reigns of the caliphate into his hands. This risalah is included in a collection of rasa'il owned by Imam Yahya of Yaman. At the present it is in the British Museum Library, London.
For many centuries, Shi'i, Sunni, Mu'tazili and other scholars continued their pursuit to trace and collect the sayings and writings of al-Imam 'Ali (as). The early sources from which al-Radi selected the contents of Nahj al-baldghah seem to be inexhaustible. Recently some letters of al-Imam 'Ali (as) were edited and translated into Urdu by a Sunni scholar 'Abd al Salam of Rampur. All these letters were addressed to different Companions of the Prophet (as), and were published with replies by their addressees.
However, Nahj al-balaghah remains among all such collections, compiled before and after al-Radi,the most outstanding of all due to its philosophical depth, literary excellence, and the penetrating historical insight reflected in its contents.
The book has always been a source of enjoyment and inspiration for scholars and thinkers of successive generations irrespec-tive of their faith and creed.
The Characteristics of the Just and Rightly Guided Imam in Nahjul Balaghah
There is a famous tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) recorded by both - the Shias and the Ahle Sunnah traditionalists:
Two kinds of Imams
The Imam of the Hellfire
Imam of light and guidance
The Ahle Bait (a.s.)
Chain of guidance
The most important work of al-Radi is the compilation of selected sermons, letters and sayings of Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (as). He selected 241 sermons, 79 letters, and 489 sayings. Those numbers vary in different editions of Nahj al- balaghah. The number of sermons varies from 238 to 241 and the number of letters varies from 77 to 79, whereas sayings vary from 463 to 489. Al-Radi, in the introduction to Nahjal-balaghah, gives an account of the circumstances that led him to compile the utterances and writings of 'Ali (as). According to this account, while busy in writing Khasa'is al-A'immah he planned to devote the last part of the book to the sayings and writings of Amir al- Mu'minin (as).
These are my forefathers O Jarir
Sources of Nahj al Balaghah
Existence of sources prior to al Radi
Other contemporary Scholars engaged in the collection