Tuesday 21st of May 2024
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Two historical accounts

1. Bilāl al-abashī, who was the caller to prayer [mu‘adhdhin] of the Holy Prophet (), would pronounce “sh” [shīn] as “s” [sīn] in the recital of the sentence, “ﺍﷲ الاّ الٰه لا اَن اَشْهَدُ” “Ashhadu an lā ilāha illa’llāh” as he had a defect in pronunciation. The people criticized it, but the Prophet () said: “The sīn of Bilāl is shīn for God.”[1]

 Although outwardly his work was defective, since he had the motive for nearness [qurbah] and good intentions, he received the reward.

2. ‘Abd Allāh ibn Maktūm was one of the sincere Companions of the Prophet () and a blind man. One day, this great Companion entered into an assembly where the Prophet () and some people were busy talking. As he could not see the other people in the assembly, he talked loudly. Being annoyed, one of those who were present in the assembly frowned at him.

In spite of the fact that frowning and smiling do not make any difference to a blind person as he cannot see, the Qur’an revealed a whole sūrah on account of that very frowning, and reproached the person who frowned in ten successive verses [āyāt]:


٭ وَ ما يُدْريكَ لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكّى ٭ أَنْ جاءَهُ اْلأَعْمى ٭ عَبَسَ وَ تَوَلّى ﴿

٭ فَأَنْتَ لَهُ تَصَدّى ٭ أَمّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنى ٭ أَوْ يَذَّكَّرُ فَتَنْفَعَهُ الذِّكْرى

﴾ فَأَنْتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهّى ٭ وَ هُوَ يَخْشى ٭ وَ أَمّا مَنْ جاءَكَ يَسْعى ٭ وَ ما عَلَيْكَ أَلاّ يَزَّكّى


“He frowned and turned away when the blind man approached him. And how do you know, maybe he would purify himself, or take admonition, and the admonition would benefit him! But as for some one who is self-complacent, you attend to him, though you are not liable if he does not purify himself. But he who comes hurrying to you, while he fears [Allah], you are neglectful of him.”[2]


So, the criterion of a deed is not its usefulness or harmfulness with which we would evaluate it and say: “If an action gives benefit to others, it is a righteous deed and if it renders harm then it is an impious act.” Instead, we have to assess the relationship of the action with the person himself—what were his motives in doing it? Or, how is the action per se if it renders neither benefit nor harm to others?

Yes, in the school [maktab] of the prophets (‘a), morality [akhlāq] has essential [dhātī] value and not merely accidental [‘araī] value. It is not like the morality of a person which is meant to attract customers, maximize the volume of production and gather people around him.

In the episode of the ‘abasa [he who frowned], the criticism is anchored on this: Why did you frown at the blind man? Although the blind man cannot see you, frowning at a believer is in itself an abhorrent act.

In any case, the motive for nearness [qurbah] means that all actions must be done according to divine criteria and should not have dire political and social impact upon others.

The motive for nearness [qurbah] means that an act must be done for the sake of God regardless of its resultant joy or pain. In describing the true believer, the Qur’an states:


﴾ يُجاهِدُونَ في سَبيلِ اللّهِ وَ لا يَخافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لائِمٍ ﴿


“(They) wage jihād in the way of Allah, not fearing the blame of any blamer.”[3]

The motive for nearness [qurbah] means that one must say the truth and not be concerned about anything or anybody except Him, just as the Qur’an thus describes the divine propagators:


الَّذينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسالاتِ اللّهِ وَ يَخْشَوْنَهُ وَ لا يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللّهَ ﴿

﴾ وَ كَفى بِاللّهِ حَسيبًا


“Such as deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and fear no one except Allah, and Allah suffices as reckoner.”[4]


A recollection

One day, I was engrossed in doing supplication [du‘ā] and paying homage [ziyārah] in the holy shrine of Imām ar-Ridā (‘a). One of the pilgrims [zā’irīn] sat beside me and as he recognized me from my TV program every Friday night, he gave me a sum of money, saying: “Āqā Qarā’atī! Give this money to the poor.” I said: “Like you, I have also come here for ziyārah and (here) in Mashhad I do not know of any poor people. You give it to the poor yourself.”

After sometime, he pleaded with me again and I also repeated my argument, and then I resumed supplication.

He repeated his plea for the third time. I was annoyed and said: “Today, with twenty tumans[5] you disturbed my concentration three times. Please do not disturb me. You yourself have to give this money to the poor.” He said: “Āqā Qarā’atī! This is not twenty tumans; it is one thousand tumans.”

I was thinking that he wanted to give twenty tumans to the poor. I reflected for sometime and my anger faded away. I said to him: “There is an institution here for helping the orphans.” He said: “It is up to you. You spend it as you deem it appropriate.” He gave the money to me and left.

I put down the book of supplication and started reflecting. If it is for the sake of God, what is the difference between twenty tumans and one thousand tumans? I realized that this scene was a test for me, reminding me that the motive for nearness [qurbah] had not yet become alive in me.

One of the signs of sincerity is that the volume of work, the individuals involved, the places, types of work, and situations make no difference for the person. His only concern is to seek the pleasure of God regardless of whether he benefits from it or not, or the people would know or not, support it or not.

Of course, humanitarianism and doing something for the people is nobler than egotism, but in the absence of a divine motive, it has no divine value.

In the words of Shahīd Mutahharī, the motive for nearness [qurbah] is an essential condition [shar-e dhātī] and not a contractual and delegated condition; it is a creational [takwīnī] condition and not a ceremonial [tashrīfātī] one.[6]

If we say: The condition for reaching Mecca is traversing the way to the city, this is a natural and essential condition, and not a contractual one. Similarly, the condition to attain the station of nearness to Allah is to have the motive for nearness [qurbah] and this is an essential condition.

[1] Mustadrak al-Wasā’il, hadīth 4696.

[2] Sūrah al-‘Abasa 80:1-10.

[3] Sūrah al-Mā’idah 5:54.

[4] Sūrah al-Azāb 33:39.

[5] Tūmān: every tūmān is equivalent to ten Iranian rials. [Trans.]

[6] See Murtadā Mutahharī, Wālā-hā va Wilāyat-hā, pp. 290-293.

For this book’s English translation, see Murtadā Mutahharī, Master and Mastership (Karachi: Islamic Seminary Publications, n.d.), chap. 7, “Walā of Control,” available online at http://www.al-islam.org/mastership. [Trans.]

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