Imam Ali meets al-khizir (4)
“Ask me before you lose me”
Never in the recorded history of mankind that any man, intellectual, philosopher, or any human social ranking, have the confidence to say to people “ask me before you lose me, that I know about the paths of heavens more than I know of the paths of the Earth(1)”; this statement was uttered by Imam Ali at the Mosque before many Muslims, during the occasion of his election as a forth Caliph. He has not only said such profound statement but surely he has substantiated it with a vast ocean of wisdom which is still being considered the main source of spiritual guidance for all truth seekers from all denominations. It is worth noting here that it seems that all types of people want to claim some kind of relationship to Imam Ali.We find the Shi’a Muslims take him at the center of their doctrine, the average Sunni Muslims also make claims to him but of a different intensity which is not as central as with the Shi’a Muslims. However many Sunni Sufis take Imam Ali an essential guide for their spiritual journey. And Sufis in general, from various denominations, also take Imam Ali as a spiritual beacon of light in their quest for human perfection.
I believe that this unique fact, and that is Imam Ali being claimed by many groups as a symbol of hope and tranquility of man’s search of the Ultimate Truth of the cosmos, would only project his greatness and the important role in acquiring the divine wisdom of God and its various deeper dimensions within the the human soul.
It is important to be conscious of one important fact that all of those who wish to take Ali at the center of their spiritual journey ought to remember that he was only a divine mirror of the reality of Prophet Muhammad (sAaww). He was like the moon which reflects the light of the Sun of Prophet Muhammad’s inner reality and he draws his cosmological knowledge from the divine reservoir of Prophet Muhammad’s wisdom. Imam Ali has often stated that he has accompanied the messenger of God like a shadow follows its object or like a baby lamb following its mother(2). And he also stated that the messenger of God has taught him the hidden divine knowledge of God “al’ilm alilahi” on a continuous bases from a very early stage, when he stated “la’qad za’qqni rasoolulallah al’ilma za’qan za’qa(2)” which literally means”verily the messenger of God has fed me the knowledge bit by bit” In this particular statement, Imam Ali has employed a very interesting Arabic term;”za’qqani-he fed me” which is used, in the Arabic literature, in respect to the feeding process of the baby bird by its mother. This beautiful statement certainly signify the depth of Imam Ali’s knowledge which seem to have began from an early age just as the baby bird when it is fed by its mother; as his statement implies.
In this short post I will not go into details of Ali’s importance to Islam and his essential relationship to the messenger of God, but I chose a short story which refer to beautiful encounter between Imam Ali and the mysterious personality of Islam who is known as “al-khizir”, who has been a very important figure in the Sufi doctrine and he represents the mystical aspect of God’s knowledge. This beautiful encounter is between two divine lights of the cosmos which through their public meeting some of the sublime knowledge of God was revealed to mankind. The beauty of this story is that none of them was seeking knowledge from the other- this can be seen when “alkhizir” replied at the end of their conversation“..you have told the truth, O commander of the faithful”, rather the purpose of their conversation was to teach man some of the important aspects of life; to warn man of the consequences of his evil actions and bad choices; and to encourage man to sincerely bring out his divine aspects of God vested within him in order to preserve the human consciousness which is a fundamental principle to society progress and prosperity.
This conversation has touched upon the main causes of poverty in the world which was summed up in three different types of people; the scholar, the rich and the poor, if any one of these principles do not make attempts to pursue the universal values of humanity and to adhere to the calls of human consciousness. He alluded to the serious consequences of man’s selfish desire in accumulating wealth without having regard to the less fortunate people and it suggested that the main culprits of this negative human conduct are committed by various elements of society members; the wealthy people who hold back in spending portion, of their God given blessings, to the poor and desperate of society, big corporations, and corrupt political systems. When we allow ourselves to become complicit in this crime of poverty then we have in essence abandoned God and embraced infidelity. Neglecting the poor is another form of denying God even though we are unaware of it, and we are also denying that God is the Ultimate giver and the source who bestows upon us blessings and wealth out of which a portion of it is to be given to the poor. And that is how Imam Ali would suggest that we might be returning back to the state of infidelity even though we may maintain our belief in God verbally;
“and the second one is by a wealthy person who do not hold back spending for the righteous people of the world,…..and the wealthy become a miser, …then the world would return to its original state that is from belief to infidelity...”
He also alluded to another type of poverty in this world and that is “the poverty of knowledge” or it is often called “ignorance.” Certainly this kind of poverty has more devastating consequences on the peace and stability of society. Ignorance will keep people in darkness which is the main cause of all social, economic, political oppression in society. This notion is seen in his statement;
“Therefore if a scholar conceals his knowledge …… then the world would return to its original state that is from belief to infidelity.”
Furthermore this conversation present to us, in addition to the obligations of the rich and the scholar towards society, the essential obligation upon the poor that is to be patient, because patience is the remedy for the pain and agony of poverty. The poor should not only expect people to act upon their obligations that is to spend a portion of their wealth to them, which could be a long wait and as result they will be subjugated to pain and sufferings which may not be endured. So patience has the secrets of the Divine which would manifest, into the heart of the poor, in the form of divine knowledge, which would assist him to endure hardship and to pursue after what is good and abstain from what is bad;
“and the third one is by a poor person who is patient. Therefore …..if the poor person loses patience then the world would return to its original state that is from belief to infidelity…..”And as for the patient one, if his heart desires something and he succeeds in getting what he desires for then he is able, through his knowledge, to abstain from that which has evil consequences.”
Here is a meeting between two people who have been swimming in the divine sea of love. Both have seen and experienced the Glory of the cosmos in its purest form. There was no part of this conversation committed to their persons and personal affairs rather it was purely geared towards the human family’s future and the essential elements for its prosperity, and to warn mankind from the elements which lead to its failure and misery.
We find in this conversation Imam Ali has presented the gloomy future of Muslims, when he said;
“O inquirer, do not be impressed by the multitudes of the Mosques nor by the multitudes of communities whose bodies are together but their hearts are dispersed.”
These words are not a mere predictions for Imam Ali is not psychic nor a fortune tell rather he has access to the divine knowledge of Prophet Muhammad. So he was simply divulging some of that knowledge for the benefit of mankind.
Aren’t these words true representation of the Muslim community today? There are thousands of Mosques throughout the world today and being attended by millions of worshipers, and unfortunately many of them teach Muslims hate, bigotry, and racism; although many others teaches tolerance and peace. Therefore these facts are not allegations rather they are a true facts and I personally testify to them before God. Just look at the current situation of many Muslims today then you will recognize the consequences of such social and spiritual diseases which are being preached and taught by many deviated Muslim scholars through the pulpits of the many Mosques throughout the world. Why can’t we, Muslims, acknowledge such flaws in our teachings which are not true representations of Islam and the teachings of the messenger of Islam? Certainly Imam Ali here did not make accusations against the Muslims of later generations, but rather this was a divine knowledge which was taught to him by the messenger of God. In this particular incident we see that no one at the Mosque actually had any useful question to ask Imam Ali which could be relevant to their spiritual and physical well being, but God had to order one of His servants to appear before Imam Ali in the mosque so that these important facts are revealed to mankind. But we, Muslims do not seem to ponder about these predictions which represents a grim reality of Muslim situation today which is caused by our own mishaps and evil doings and the deliberate attempts to distort the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and the Quran:
5:41 ..those who say with their mouths, “We believe,” the while their hearts do not believe;…. They distort the meaning of the [revealed] words, taking them out of their context,”
And in addition Muslims do not make a sincere efforts to take a different direction than the current one which has proven its failure. Muslims today seem to think that “everything is fine Walhamdullilah” but the fact of the matter is that “everything is NOT fine and is NOT Alhamdullilah” rather we should acknowledge our serious flaws of our approach towards life and our fellow man. Muslims today have surrendered to their miserable situation and are impotent to stand up against the dogmatic religious establishment who have a complete control over their minds and soul. Many Muslims today, seem to retire the idea of change to the awaited Saviour whom we call “almahdi” This is certainly an easy way to escape from our responsibility of making a positive change in our direction and our outlook to this life and towards our fellow man. This total reliance on this mysterious element of change “the divine reformer- almahdi” represent our failures and inability to initiate a new course in this life and to embrace the philosophy of life and not death; the philosophy of love and not hate-against the infidels!!!!
Now here is the meeting between two Galaxies of devotion and love; Ali and alkhizir (Allah’s blessings be upon them)
“…While Imam Ali was addressing the Muslims in the mosque of Kufa upon his nomination for the leadership, after the demise of Uthman bin ‘affan, the third Caliph, one man sitting at the back of the mosque, behind the crowed, when he heard the Imam saying “ask me before you lose me” he got up using his cane and began finding his way, slowly through the crowed towards Imam Ali at the pulpit. Finally he came close to Imam Ali and asked him a question; O ameerulmu’mineen-commander of the faithful, guide me to an act that which acting upon it would save me from the Hell fire. Then Imam Ali replied:
… O inquirer, … know that the world has been raised by three principles; one is by a scholar “’alim” whose knowledge is shared and disclosed to others, and the second one is by a wealthy person who does not hold back spending for the righteous people of the world, and the third one is by a poor person who is patient. Therefore if a scholar conceals his knowledge and the wealthy becomes a miser, and the poor person loses patience then the world would return to its original state that is from belief to infidelity. O inquirer, do not be impressed by the multitudes of the Mosques nor by the multitudes of communities whose bodies are together but their hearts are dispersed. Know that the people are of three types; zahid-hermit, pursued by desire and patient. As for the hermit one he does not get excited for his gains in this world nor does he feel distressed for his loses. And as for the patient one, if his heart desires something and he succeeds in getting what he desires for then he is able, through his knowledge, to abstain from that which has evil consequences. But the one who pursues his desires, for worldly reasons, he will have no regards to the legitimacy and lawful means of what he gets and gains. Then the inquirer asks Imam Ali, what would be the signs of a believer in such times? Then the Imam replied “his signs would be that when he ponders about the rights “’huqoo’q” which are commanded by God he would honour them, and he would disassociates him-self from anything that which opposes God’s commands even if it was a dear beloved, next of kin, to him. Then the inquirer said “you have told the truth, O commander of the faithful”. And then the inquirer walked away from the mosque quietly and vanished. At that point of time the crowed wanted to meet this inquirer but he could not be seen anywhere, then Imam Ali smiled to the crowed and said; “this was my brother “alkhizir as”(3)
Adill Hissan(1) Sunni and Shi’a sources reported this statement, “ask me before you lose me, that I know about the paths of heavens more than I know of the paths of the Earth”, such as, tirmidti, tabari, bukhari, and nahjulbalagha, alkafi, biharulanwar, and others. (2) tirmidi, tabari, alkafi, nahjubalgha. (3) This story was taken from “altawhid for aamli alsudoo’q page 205”; translated from the Arabic to English by “Adill Hissan” (4) Wikipedia “Al-Khidr (Arabic: الخضر, literally “the green one”, also transcribed: Khidr, Khidar, Khizr, Khizar) has a disputed status amongst scholars; some say he is a Saint (`Abdan Saalih) while others say he is a Prophet in Islam. He is assumed to be referred to in Qur’an sura Al-Kahf (18:65-82), in an encounter with Moses, where Moses (Nabi Musa), the Biblical prophet, meets Al-Khidr, referred in the Quran as one of Our servants, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our own Presence..[Qur’an 18:65]. Moses asks him for permission to accompany him so Moses can learn from the Green Man’s knowledge. Al-Khidr, realizing that Moses had the Torah and divine knowledge to draw upon, informed him in a stern manner that their knowledge is of different nature and that Moses would not bear to observe him without asking questions. Moses promised to be patient and they agreed to travel together.”