A Letter from a Father to a Son
From: A father who is getting old
To: A son who is subject to passage of time
… O My son! Subjugate your nature with the vision of death; make it see the mortality of life and of all that it holds dear. Force it to realize the actuality of misfortunes and adversities, and the changes of circumstances and times; and compel it to study the lives of past generations. Persuade it to see the ruined cities and dilapidated palaces, decaying signs and relics of fallen empires of past nations. Then meditate over the activities of those people. Consider what they have all done when they were alive and were in power, what they achieved, and from where they started their careers. Where, when and how were they brought to an end? Where they are now? What have they actually gained out of life, and what were their contributions to the human welfare? If you carefully ponder over these problems, you will find that each one of those people has parted company with the others and with all that he cherished and loved, and he is now in a solitary abode, alone and unattended. You will also be like him. Then take care to provide well for your future abode. Do not exchange eternal blessing for pleasures of this mortal and transient world ?
My dear son, so far as your behavior with other human beings is concerned, let your ‘self’ act as scales to judge its goodness or wickedness. Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you. Whatever you like for yourself, like for others, and whatever you dislike to happen to you, spare others from such happenings. Do not oppress and tyrannize anybody because you surely do not like to be oppressed and tyrannized. Be kind and sympathetic to others as you certainly desire others to treat you kindly and sympathetically. If you find objectionable and loathsome habits in others, abstain from developing those traits of character in yourself ? Remember, son, that vanity and conceit are forms of folly. These traits will bring you serious harm and will be a constant source of danger for you ?
My dear son, through this message of mine, I have explained everything about this world, how fickle and fleeting its attitude is, how short-lived and evanescent everything is that it holds or offers, and how fast it changes its moods and favors. I have also explained about the hereafter, the pleasures and blessings provided there, and the everlasting peace, comfort and happiness arranged for in Paradise. I have given enough examples of both aspects of life, before and after death so that you may know the reality and lead your life on the basis of that knowledge.
As a matter of fact, those people who have truly recognized the world, pass their days as if they know that they are travelers, who have to leave a place which is famine-stricken, unhealthy and uncongenial. They have to proceed towards lands which are fertile and congenial, where there is abundant provision for comforts and pleasures. They have eagerly taken up the journey, happy in the hope of future blessings and peace. They have willingly accepted the sufferings, troubles and hazards of the way, separation of friends, scarcity of food and comfort during the pilgrimage so that they may reach the journey’s end – a happy place. They do not refuse to bear any discomfort and do not grudge any expenditure for the cause alms and charity, or helping the poor and the needy. All steps which they put forward towards their goals, however tiring and exhausting they may be, are happy events in their lives.
On the contrary, the condition of those people who are solely engrossed in this world, sadly engulfed in its short-lived, quickly fading and vicious pleasures, is like that of travelers who are staying in fertile and happy regions and who have to undertake a journey, knowing fully well that the journey is going to end in a rough, arid and infertile land. Can anything be more loathsome and abhorring to them than this journey? How they would hate to leave the place where they are and to arrive at a place which they hate so much and which is so dismaying, dreadful and horrifying!
? O my son! Death is following you. You cannot run away from it. However hard you may try to avoid it, it is going to catch you sooner or later. Therefore take care that it may not catch you unawares or when you are not prepared, having no choice to repent for the vices and sins you have committed and not being able to undo the harm you have done to yourself. If death catches you unawares, then you are eternally damned.
Therefore, my dear son, always keep three things in mind: death, your deeds and the life in the Hereafter. In this way you will always be ready to face death, and it will not catch you unawares. My dear son, do not be carried away and allured by the infatuations and pleasures of the worldly people in this vicious life and its pleasures, and do not be impressed by the sight of their acute struggle to possess and own this world. Allah has very mercifully explained to you everything about this world. Not only the Merciful Lord but also the world has also told you everything; it has disclosed to you that it is mortal; it has openly declared its weaknesses, its shortcomings and its vices…
I entrust your religion and world to the Lord. I beseech Him His best wills for you in both the worlds.
These are phrases from sincere advice of a kind and aware father and leader to his son, Imam Hassan (PBUH). Now after the passage of many years, it seems these phrases are addressing the freemen and truth seekers and making them ponder about this world.
(Selection taken from “Nahj al-Balaghah”, Letter 31, translation provided by Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project)
On behalf of the Roshd Website, we congratulate all Muslims, especially you, dear friend, on the 13th of Rajab, the birth anniversary of the leader of the pious, Amir al-Mu?minin, Imam Ali ibn Abitalib (PBUH).
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