The present short treatise on the spirit of the fundamental principles of Ismailism forms a useful introduction to the study of the Ismaili doctrine in general, and especially as it developed in the Nizari school of the sect. It was intended by its author to reach everybody, the learned as well as the people of no great education, and therefore all technicalities or abstract and difficult theories have been carefully avoided. The author shows on many occasions a deep insight into the nature of the religious life of the human soul, and here and there lays open the most hidden psychological springs of the movement, in fact more than many works extant do.
The author, the late Shihabu'd-din Shah, the son of the 47th Imam of the Nizaris, Shah Ali Shah, was expected by many to succeed his father in his high office. He is still remembered by the old men in Bombay and Poona as a young man of outstanding ability and exceptional learning. Not only was he greatly loved by the followers of his community, but he also commanded the high esteem of a wide circle of Muhammadan society, enjoying great respect even of his religious opponents. His premature death in the end of Rajab 1302/beg. of May 1885, while he was still under forty, did not permit the great expectations which were cherished by his followers to materialize.
His present treatise was left unfinished. According to the author's own statement in the end of it, it had to be divided into two parts. Only the first, dealing with the explanation of the true conception of the Ismaili principles, is found in the present autograph copy, which, most probably, is a fair copy from the original drafts. There is no information as to whether the second part, which was to explain the rules of the pious and righteous life, was written. The first part forms a complete treatise by itself, though there are found here and there details which apparently were to receive a fuller treatment in the second part. The style of the work generally bears many traces of hurry, and contains many oversights. It is found on many occasions that a sentence begins in Plural and ends in Singular, and vice versa, or begins in the second person, and ends in the third; some sentences are not quite smooth. There are also occasional orthographical oversights, as, for instance, occasional ki for ki, or khwastan for khastan, etc., though, on the whole, they are very rare.
There are no subdivisions into babs or fasls in the original; in order to facilitate the handling of the contents auxiliary headings indicating the subject of each of the more or less self-contained sections have been introduced in the translation.
The style of the treatise is remarkably plain and unpretentious. It has the form of a long sermon rather than of a religious pamphlet. So much was simplicity of style valued by the author that he omitted the Arabic text of the numerous Coranic and hadith quotations, giving them in Persian translation only.
But though completely dispensing with the bombast and stiltedness which were so much cultivated by the Persian writers of his time, the author did not give up the Sufic form, or tone, of his speculations. For many centuries Ismailism in Persia had perforce to disguise its literature in the Sufic garb. This tradition lasted for a long time, and Persian Ismailis were probably quite accustomed to decipher its conventional expressions, which could not mislead anyone. Conditions have since changed very much. Though only a comparatively short period of sixty years separates us from that of the author, a complete change has taken place, and the modern generation is no longer familiar with Sufic symbolism. When the author calls upon his followers to renounce the world and to sever their connection with worldly pursuits, he by no means recommends that all Ismailis should abandon their homes, and wander forth as religious mendicants. What he means by his call to abandon the world is that his followers must control their dependence upon material comforts may easily become far in excess of what is proper. He explicitly regards the proper discharge of one's duties and the honest earning of one's subsistence by hard and meritorious work as highly commendable ways of worshipping God.
Or, in another place (p. 68 of the autograph copy), the author advises his followers "to abstain from acquiring the knowledge which is incompatible with true piety," or "the science of the enemies." What that "knowledge" is the author, unfortunately, does not specify, and as he constantly advises his followers to take up religious studies, the impression may easily be created that he advocates abandoning the study of everything except the Coran and the hadiths. But this is again only a conventional form of expressing the idea that one should not devote his thought to acquiring the information which is directed against the foundations of piety and righteousness and emanates from the enemies of Ismailism, and generally from the enemies of religion and morals. It does not mean that the advice which he gives prohibits the study of mathematics, chemistry, medicine, and the other sciences which promote the welfare of human society.
Such seeming inconsistencies can obviously be ascribed to the circumstance that the treatise was never properly finished and revised. Most probably they would have disappeared had the author lived to complete his work and give it its final form.
The autograph copy, preserved in the library of Haji Musa Khan, one of the attendants of the late Shihabu'd-din Shah, is an oblong note-book, of the type which the Persians call bayad, comprising about 200 pages of yellowish machine made paper, of which only 75 are occupied with the treatise, the remainder being blank sheets. It is 8 3/4 by 4 1/4 inches outside, the place occupied with the text measuring 6 1/2 by 2 3/4 inches.
In the translation which is here offered the original pagination has been preserved, and carefully marked. An index of the names of persons and of principle technical terms is appended in which references are made to the original pagination.
The Persian text of this work, together with an English translation, was published by myself in 1933 as No. 3 in the series of the Islamic Research Association, Bombay. It evoked considerable interest in Ismaili circles as can be seen from the fact that already in 1935 an Arabic translation of it was published in Lattaquie, Syria, by Shaykh Ahmad b. Muhammad of the village Khurbatu'l-Faras, in the district of Tartus (32 pages in demy 8). As only a very limited number of copies has been printed, the edition has long since become a bibliographical rarity. Later on a Gujrati version, by Mr. Gwadarwalla, was published in monthly instalments in the "Nizari," an Ismaili monthly in Gujrati, Bombay. The whole translation was recently (10 August 1946) reprinted in another Bombay Ismaili Gujrati magazine, "Al-Islah" (in the Africa Diamond Jubilee Memorial issue).
"The Ismaili Society" of Bombay, whose aim is the promotion of the study of Ismailism in general, have decided to publish a facsimile edition of the autograph copy, and reprint a revised version of the English translation with a new Gujrati version. The humane approach and deep psychological insight of the author make his work extremely attractive to the general reader while at the same time valuable to the serious student who wants to understand the spirit of modern Ismailism as it developed in Persia towards the close of the last century.
I have to acknowledge my feelings of profound gratitude to the President and the Executive Committee of the "Ismaili Society" who very kindly accepted this new publication for their series of the "Ismaili Works and Translations."
Bombay, October 1946.
True Meaning of Religion (Risala
dar Haqiqati Din)
by Shihabudin Shah
(Translation by W. Ivanow)
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! Says the humble slave of Hadrati Shahinshahi Agha Ali Shah, — may my spirit be sacrificed for him! — Shihabu'd-din al-Husayni. Some brethren in religion, whose desire I regard myself obliged to fulfill, have asked me to write, in the form of a concise book, the principles which should guide them in their lives, showing them the right way of moving amongst their brethren in this world, that they may know, and, if God pleases, comply with all counsels, thus obtaining peace of mind.  With the help of God I was enabled to comply with their request.
1. (STRUGGLE WITH ONE'S OWN PASSION)
The great Lord of Lord's (Mawla Ali), - upon whom be the blessings of God, the King the All-High! — said that once the Prophet (blessings of God be upon him) sent a party of his companions on a military expedition. On their return, when they participated in a jihadi asghar, or the smaller war in the cause of religion, and said that they still had to take up the jihadi akbar, the greater war. Whereupon they inquired from the Apostle of God: "What is the jihadi akbar?" And he replied that the most glorious war is that which a man wages against his own vile instincts. This is, indeed, the truth, the blessings of God be upon him who said it! Brethren in religion, ye who aspire to attain love and affection  for the Lord, listen to me a while, hearken to the real meaning of the words of the Prophet, and then reflect a little upon your own existence. Perhaps some one amongst you may therein find some truth (falah) which shall bless his life.
The real meaning of the great jihad is a war against one's own vile instincts to bring them under control, so that those low passions which constantly endeavor to deviate one's feet from the path of rectitude, in opposition to the behest of reason, may cease to mislead one into acting against the prescriptions of the true religion. It is one's duty to bring the impulses of one's instincts under the control of one's reason, training nature always to obey and to comply with the dictates of reason. This constitutes the substance of what is called "salvation": in this lies the true meaning of the expression siratu'l-mustaqim, i.e. the bridge narrow as the edge of a sword which leads to Paradise. To bring these instincts under control is to walk along the right path. If God pleases,  we will explain this in the present treatise.Brethren in religion! There are very many verses in the Coran, and very many hadiths that deal with this question of purifying the instincts and of correcting them. Amongst them is one in which God says: "He acquireth the peace of mind who refineth his own nature". And verily this is so, for there is no matter of greater importance than to purify one's own self. Only by this may one hope to progress along the path of rectitude, because there is no greater obstacle against success in this direction than one's own lower instincts, which obstruct one's fulfillment of the dictates of religious philosophy and the commandments of the Divine religion. It is only when you bring this self under control, carefully watching its movements,  lest it overpowers you unaware, and tempts you to take a false step, that you are able to advance slowly in the life of true virtue.
Hadrati Mawla explains what should be the devotion, obedience, and the loyalty to the guiding principles amongst his followers, how they should walk in the right path and bring their lower selves under control. He says: "O, Creator, this is my disobedient self which I must force to kneel (before Thee) just as I force to kneel an (obstinate) camel, tying its knees by the rope of Thy will, so that it may not do anything that does not coincide with Thy desire".
Remember, therefore, friends, that one must keep one's self under the keenest surveillance, so as not to let it have one single moment of opportunity to escape from control, and force its will upon one. If this is not done, it may take one out of the way, overpower one's will, raising its head from the Hell, and thus prevent one from attaining the position of communion (maqami qurb) with God. It will not permit one to attain all the good which the righteous can attain. For this reason one has to make effort in order to find the proper way.  It is said in the Coran (IX, 19): "Those who fight in the way of God, We guide them on Our way". It is this way which is the siratu'l-mustaqim. One has to keep away and restrain his nature from the worldly things that it may covet, thus building up for oneself a kind of spiritual treasure (dhakhira), never deviating from the main path into which religion directs him.
2. (LIFE IS THE MOST PRECIOUS THING THAT MAN POSSESSES)
Bear in mind, brother, that everyone, even those of little intelligence, should, in accordance with the behest of the Coran and the hadiths, if he cares even a little about the future life, on rising from sleep each morning, reflect upon his actions, taking account of his passions. Thus he may realize, after reflecting a little, and seeing the world around, how precious,  like the rarest pearls and jewels, is every moment of his existence, nay, rather priceless. Once lost, it is irretrievable, indeed, and never returns. You can never imagine anything as precious as life, each moment of it. Who can regain even a moment of life that has passed? This is why I say that it is priceless, for what can replace it? It is a kind of capital (naqd), by the investment of which one can acquire the treasures of the mercy of God for oneself. You can build your own salvation (akhirat) upon a single moment. In a single moment, of which one makes a proper use, one can place oneself near to God, and one can attain the possibility of contemplation of Food, just as he sees (the ordinary things) in this world.
If you realize the value (of life), and keep yourself ready,  you can make a bargain with such a single moment, gaining imperishable profit. It will never be lost for you, never diminishing. So do not waste time, do not live in a state of perpetual indebtedness. If you waste your time, or throw your energy in paths which do not lead to anything good, wasting opportunities in a foolish manner, you will lose everything. Have you ever heard of a clever merchant who spent his time in trade which did not bring him any profit, and even involved the loss of his capital, or actually lost it? Think, therefore, for yourselves, friends, and say to yourselves : I want  my capital (to be used) in the trade by which I can obtain the profit of eternal life. What are these few days of life which pass, and from which nothing substantial can be derived? Really, all that part of my life which has past so far, is nothing but a loss from my original capital; this day, this very moment must I value as the most precious advantage, because it is still another day, holing of my end, which is postponed. If this day, or moment, were not given to you as a respite, would not you too be amongst the dead, and then would not you covet this very day, this very moment as many people would do who now are dead while only yesterday they were living. Have you any doubt that if you would have died yesterday, you would regret very much about the life which you had lost? Appreciate, therefore, while you still have it, the priceless gift which  today God has given you. Do devote it to the worship of God, because this short period of your life may reduce to nothing all that was before. Seize the opportunity to perform some righteous deed that will be your justification, so that in the next life you may not be in the same position as those who feel ashamed of themselves.
Do you not in this world see that many who commit a shameful act, which
becomes known to others, how much they are tortured by feelings of shame
and disgust? How then will you feel when everyone, even the prophets and
the angels, will know all the shameful acts which you have committed during
forty years or more of your life, what will be your feelings then?
3. (HOW TO LIVE?)
But what should you do to avoid this? That I will explain to you further on, if God please.
Taking up this question, we may mention that it is said in the Coran  (XX111,102), that on the Day of Judgement some of the sinful will say to God: "O, Creator! Let us go again into the world, this time we will be devout and obedient". But God will reply to them that they are deceivers, for as soon as they return to life they will do the same things. Tell yourselves therefore, that this very day is the day which God has granted as a respite to you, sending you back to the earth to rectify your misdeeds, complying with your prayer to return you to this world. Regard every moment as a precious jewel of great price, and do all that you would do if you lay at the point of death, —do not postpone it.
Brother, think not that I tell you these things merely to harass you; think not that you are unable to do anything as you have to attend the matters of the affairs of this world, of the daily bread and domestic affairs.  No, you can do this. You can remain faithful to the command of God, to be His servant while keeping the affairs of this world in a flourishing condition, even in a better order than usual.
The great religious authorities have divided the day and the night into three equal parts, each eight hours long. And if you do the proper things which are prescribed for each part of the day and night, you will succeed in your spiritual progress as well as in your worldly affairs. One part is assigned for sleep, food, and domestic affairs. One is to be spent in following the occupation in earning one's subsistence. And one part is to be devoted to the worship of God, whose object is the attainment of the salvation and eternal life.
It is said in a hadith: "Ye, mankind, are  created for perpetuating creation, not for its annihilation and destruction". For this reason you must sever the ties which bind you to the affairs of this world, and hasten to attain that world, to do some work which may become the "capital" of your future salvation, when you will collect the profit accruing on it, in the future life. This world is the earth, and the future life is the crop. Whatever you have sown in this, that you will reap in the next (life). Therefore, if you have failed in your resolve, permitting yourself to swerve from obedience to God, you have wasted your opportunity, and from this field you will not reap any crop. Your position will then be like to that of a bankrupt, who deplores his folly when it is too late to do anything.
 How much does such a condition differ from that of those who have in their lives built a sound hereafter (akhirat), by obeying all the commands that have been laid upon them. They reap the harvest of their pure and meritorious lives, and receive priceless jewels for their former efforts. They can see that these are much better than those which they sacrifice. They have made a profit, gained much, gathered the results of their labors, and know where they are.
4. ('Aql-REASON, OR CONSIOUSNESS, AND NAFS, —LOWER SELF, OR SELFISHNESS)1
Know also, brother, that there is a great difference between reason ('aql) on the one side, and instinct, or the subconscious mind, nafs, on the other. If you know this difference, and realize it at the right time, you will never meet with any difficulty in any matter, because you will know how to act, always remaining on the "direct path", the siratu'l-mustaqim. Reason,  'aql, is the faculty which always shows you the right way, not permitting you to stray from it. Reason is what you have to worship God with, gaining the blessing of eternal life, of entrance into Paradise, and a permanent abode in it.
Nafs, or the subconscious and emotional self, is the opposite of Reason. If you consider it properly, and reflect a little, you will find that it is the real enemy of your entire self, not only of Reason, —a powerful adversary. Though ordinarily one must obey the dictates of Reason, one's nafs distracts him, obstructing the way and keeping one in conflict with the dictates of one's Reason, preventing one from becoming nearer to God. Even if sometimes the nafs shows one the way of devotion, this may be against the will of God. It is an inimical principal, which does not permit one to attain the desired goal. It invents all possible obstacles  in the path. It come up in the dress of a friend, a real wolf in a lamb's skin. Insinuating itself, it persuades you to commit mischief. Of what use are then yours woes and wails?
God has left amongst you a Guide, or "Proof", hujjat, who shows the right way which you have to follow. If you do not follow it, this is your own fault. Understand then once and for all the difference between these two, between the friend and the enemy, and then do not step off the road. It is said in the Coran: "We have shown thee the way of good and the way of evil". And in another place there is another reference to the same matter: "We have pointed to the man the way on which he may be restful". Thus either accept with profound gratitude this great blessing  and follow the right way, or, if you fail to realize its value, you have to be with the unbelievers (kafir), who close their eyes to the necessity for the grateful appreciation of the blessing of God, and thus go the wrong way.
Verily, what blessing is greater and more desirable than to feel oneself on the right path, the "straight road" (siratu'l-mustaqim), and thus being safely guided, saved from errors, clearly seeing the right (haqq) from the wrong (batil), and abstaining from it? If you realize the great value of this, and if you apply this your knowledge whenever you are in a difficult position, you will never act wrongly, always knowing what to do.
It is for you to decide, which way you will follow, reason ('aql), or the lower self (nafs); it is for you to choose. Only realize that what deviates you from the right way, and keeps you from obedience to God, is the nafs.  And you cannot image what misfortunes may come from following the temptations of the nafs.
If you stray into the path of evil, if you do not observe the prescriptions of religion, if you be ungrateful for the great blessing of life, or existence, which is given to you, and even go so far as to hold religion in contempt, committing the sin of obstinate ingratitude, kufran, or suppose that the way suggested by the desires of your lower self is the right way of acting, then, after all this, you may stray so far as to become one of those who are outside the true religion. The more you follow the impulses of your lower self, nafs, the more you will stray from the only true way, so far, indeed, that gradually you may come to the state when you act contrary to your own avowed intentions. The poet says well: "It is the mirror which is turned to the West, Thy face is turned towards the East. So I am, alas, going away from Thee."Thus, if you have the power to see, or think properly about yourself, you may notice that you are not followers of the religion, because  worship really means obedience to its dictates. And if you obey the impulses of your lower self, this means that you worship it; but if you worship it, it means that you do not worship God. This is why I said that your lower self is an enemy, pretending to be your friend, but in reality misleading you. The Coran speaks clearly about this: "Hast thou seen those who have taken as their deity their own instincts and impulses, which are the same as the habits of beasts?" You obey them, and worship them, giving up following reason, which cause you to follow the right way and abandoning the manner of angles.
If you do this, then see what happens, and how much shame and disgrace you invoke upon yourselves. Think over this carefully. How many people condemn the Hindus  for their worshipping idols. They do not know what the Hindus worship. But to worship one's own bad habits is thousand times worse than to worship a stone. These bad habits are the same as those of beasts, and it is these that you worship.
This is why I said that it brings complete ruin, like complete bankruptcy in trade, just as it is said in the Coran (IV, 118): "He loses with a manifest loss".
Do realize, brother, that your way is one only, viz, the right way. Those whom you see in this world, they have strayed from it. It is quite immaterial whether one strays a little, or much, just as it is quite immaterial for a man who is drowned whether there is very little water over his head, or as much  as in the deepest sea.
Strive not to deviate from the right path even a little, do not permit the devil to deceive. If the lower self overpowers you, subjecting you to its caprices, then you will become miserable, a helpless toy in the hands of a wicked enemy, worshipping it, and slavishly complying with its unceasing demands. What reply then will you give to the voice of God what will you answer to the words of God (XXXVI, 60): "Men, did not I make a covenant with you that you will not serve the devil? He is verily your open enemy".
Everyone who easily obeys the caprices of his lower self, the Evil one, must be prepared to answer this question of God. Therefore, brother, do not become  infatuated with the things of the world that you possess. Suppress the impulses of your lower self, and do not tie up so much your thought with the matters of the worldly life. Realize that if you do not permit the external world to trample you under its feet, you will command it. It is said in the Coran that all that is found in the heaven and the earth, is under your command. This means that those who can understand properly can see that this is true.
Reflect, brother, and understand what great wealth is given to you, for which you must be thankful. And if you cannot make yourself obedient, and want to cease further efforts, I will tell you that man must have in this world a leader (pishwa). But above this more will be said in its proper place. If I say: keep away from the matters of this world, this means that you must take hold of the assistance of the person, for whose existence  all the things of this world have been created. With his help they may be subdued to you. Reflect, what is better, to covet these things which, after all, will master you, or to be obedient to one person only, and, by the means of this obedience, to become the master of all things.
5. (Ma'rifat, OR SPRITUAL KNOWLEDGE)
It is said in the hadith: "O, Muhammad, if not for thy sake, We would not have created this world". This means that all was created and came into existence for his sake. And in another place it is said: "If there was no Ali, We would not have created thee (Muhammad)". Thus it is clear that the purpose of the creation of the world was to make known that manifestation of the Divine Beauty and Perfection who is in possession of all His attributes. Where is the eye to see and to understand this, following the path of reason?
It is plainly stated in the Coran that if the Prophet would not have openly professed his (Ali's) walaiat, i.e. that is Saintship,  his prophetic mission should remain incomplete: "O, Prophet bring to humanity the message that We entrusted to thee, and if thou dost not deliver it, thou wilt not fulfill thy mission". Thus the creation of the world, the sending of the prophets, the revelation of the sacred books, all these were intended in order that humanity could know him, "about whom We have spoken, through every Prophet, and who became manifested at the time of Muhammad". This matter will also be discussed in its proper place.
Now it would be best to explain to you, brothers in religion, what is the "higher knowledge", ma'rifat, in order that everything should be clear, if God please, so that you may understand the matter in following which even the reason of the clever can become perplexed.
Do realize, brother, that (in every nation) nobody is equal to the sultan, indeed; his subjects  know for certain that for them there is no choice to obey him. Surely, sultans in this world possess the wealth and power to reward and punish. But as the world itself is frail and transient, so is their authority also transient. They can only reward one with wealth which is not eternal, or punish one with penalties that are not eternal, for all that is in their power is transient.
On the other hand, the kings of ma'rifat, i.e. those who posses the Divine knowledge, have their own subjects who have to follow their command. These (have to follow the orders) to attain the benefits of eternal life; they have His promise of future life (akhirat), which is an everlasting treasure, or eternal Divine mercy. Is there  then anyone who is sane, to prefer things transient to things eternal, or to accept some temporary advantage in exchange for eternal punishment? It is said in the Coran (IX, 112): "Verily God hath bought of the faithful their souls and properties, giving them Paradise in exchange".
Brother, do not underestimate that priceless gift, —of life; look properly what you give and what you receive in exchange; see that they take from you what is frail, and give in exchange what is lasting. You must be glad, therefore, to have such a transaction with God. You know that it is useless to grasp the things that are transient, losing all in the eternal life. But you spurn attachment to the things of this world, all of them come under your control, because your renouncement  is dictated by obedience to God. Not by fear, or expectations of reward. This is said by those who are in love with the beauty of the truth. Understand this, and remember this.
The lord of martyrs (i.e. Imam Husayn) says: 'O, God, I have given up my life (zamana) and my family out of love for Thee; I came to thee, dooming my wives and children to remain widows and orphans. i e wanted to see the vision of Thy Perfection. And even if Thou wilth crush me to pieces, my heart, full of affection will never be hardened for anything except for Thee.'
Think properly and note, how steadfast was he in his resolution, and neglect of this world; to what extent was he determined. This is the meaning of the real overpowering of the world.
Now you have seen that one must be obedient subject of his King, God, whose commands one has to obey. Now that we are speaking about ma'rifat, or higher religious wisdom, listen to this, about obedience.
Brother, obedience (ita'at)  is the same thing as devotion ('ibadat), and devotion is the basis of the religious knowledge (ma'rifat). In the created world devotion and religious wisdom constitute its (spiritual) basis. It is said in the Coran itself (LP, 56): "And I have not created the jinn and mankind save that they may worship Me". And it is also related that God said: "I was a hidden treasure, and wanted to become manifest, so I created the mankind in order that they may acquire knowledge of Me".
Great men of religion regarded worship and religious wisdom (ma'rifat), as one and the same thing. And now we come to our original question. I do not know how and what should I tell you so that you may understand it. Brother, know that the world is overcome with darkness, oppression by enemy, everything has to go through hard trials, people are in turmoil, all are being scattered in different directions, each man conceiving his own idea. Some people follow ignorant men who are merely thieves and swindlers on the  highways. Whatever was righteous and true, they adopted a hostile attitude towards it. Hearts gradually became black, ears deaf; the language of reason ceased to be understood, it is impossible to address a crowd of the deaf, as they will not hear. But, brother, there is the voice of reason, and if you can hear it, come and hear it, come and hear, for otherwise you cannot understand the real meaning of religion: "Words are as penetrating as sharp as steel swords; if thou hast no shield, better run back".
Now, with the help of God, I will tell you what has come down to us about the higher religious wisdom, ma'rifat, from the great saints of the religion.
One has to follow them in the questions of ma'rifat; and this is what they said: "Do not discuss vainly the question of the Substance of God". Now, brothers, summon all your intelligence, concentrate all your attention, —and let  God help me to explain this; to you— to understand this: it is an important and very difficult matter. No one can dispute that there is a great difference between different people with regard to their intellect, just as there is great difference between them with regard to their appearance. You can see that some are taller or shorter than others, some have darker or lighter complexions. Just in the same way they differ in the principal and secondary features of their character, as you may see. They are das different with regard to their inner features as they differ in the outer form, the outside (zahir) always depends on the inside (batin). How is it possible to talk to a child in the same way as one would talk to a clever adult? The child will never have patience nor intelligence to listen to this, and to understand this: "How can a jug comprise the sea?" And "one builds his home to suit his taste".
It is owing to this difference of the mentality of different individuals  that many hadiths which have come down to us, on this subject, are so extremely difficult. None can understand them properly except a prophet on his mission (nabi-i mursal), or a cherubim (malaki muqarrab), or a really faithful devotee (mu'min) whose heart has been tested by God for its faith. If you try yourself in your hearts and your souls, then, as is said, —"come through our door, if thou art a seeker after eternal love".
It is prohibited in religion to meditate on the subject of the attributes (sifat) of God. If you imagine something so lofty that you cannot think of anything beyond it, this means that it is the limit of your own fantasy, not that you have really attained some final idea:
"All that is beyond thy imagination,
Is merely the limit of thy fantasy, not God".
"Wisdom can attain a knowledge of His Substance only in the case if a piece of straw can sink to the bottom of the sea." Attribute, or property (sifat) means something in any one that can be noticed  and described as being attributed to the person. Thus you can recognize one by this sign, as explained. And if you are ordered not to meditate (about the nature of God), it is in order that you should not become confused, as, in any case, you are unable to know His properties.You see that in reality people speaking about God (Haqq), attribute to Him any such (perfections) as they can imagine. For instance, regarding blindness as a defect, they say about God that He sees everything. They regard stupidity as a defect, and thus say that God is Wise. Thus whatever they find in themselves as a vice and defect, they attribute to God a perfection opposite to that. Imami Sajjad (i.e. Zaynu'l-abidin) says in a hadith, which he relates from the Prophet, that people became too inquisitive towards the end of Muhammad's life, and then the chapter of the Coran (CXIV) "Say: God is One" was revealed. All those things that you attribute to God from your imagination come out your fantasy. Most probably even animals create  their own God free from their own defects, ascribing to Him (the opposite) perfections. Imam Muhammad Baqir says that the tiny ant probably imagines his god as having two stings, because it regards the possession of only one sting as a defect.
If so, it is necessary (wajib) to follow those religious Leaders (pishwayan), who simply say: "We are the properties of God". Realize, brother, that it is they who see, they who listen. The ordinary mortals are unable to do anything except obey orders. It is said: "who knows me, knows God", —note this properly, brother. We need here a clear example which should make it easy to understand this: the light that emanates from the lamp obviously is not the lamp itself; but if there were no light,  would you know what a lamp is, and where it stands? Thus it is (only) through the light that you can perceive the lamp, you know the lamp from the light.
I will give you another example, still more obvious: whenever you want to explain what is the sun, what can you do except simply show the sun? The sun is the only example of its kind. Thus if you want to see the sun, see itself:
"If you ask for a proof, do not disregard it".
Thus they, the Saints of God, are the manifest form of God (surati zahiri Khuda). Facts contain indications, but people read about them, and do not understand. They say: "blessing be on Thee, O shining image of God, O Thou, the generous hand of God! O Thou, the blood of God (sic!), the son of the blood of God (sic!)". Thus it is obvious that they are the properties of God  and that you are ordered to know them, as recognition of them exactly means the knowledge of God.
Then realize the meaning of the hadith in which it is said that any one who dies without having known the Imam of his time, dies as an unbeliever, or idolater. Who does not know his Imam, does not know God. As we have seen, people are different, and it is with regard to the difference of their mentality that any one talks to them in accordance with their capacity of understanding. Thus it was said to some of them that no eye can see Him, or that He is beyond comprehension even of the wisest, just as He is invisible. It is simply because their capacity of understanding does not grasp the truth. But that manifestation of the Greatness and of the Perfection of God, i.e. the Commander of the Faithful, "Ali, says: "I would never worship God if I had not seen Him". And if you realize the difference between the intellects and personalities  of different people, you may listen to some imbeciles who, having no means to understand this, talk pretentiously about ma'rifat, or the higher religious wisdom. It was said to them: O ye, mud, mixed with mud, and never rising above mud, and with face covered with mud, ye, whose nature is mud, who are born and living in mud, what can you understand in the world of purity? Yes, the body of dust, which in its every atom consists of dust, composed of dark and solid elements (tira wa zulmani), even conceiving a very great idea, can only imagine things that are connected with his body of dust, i.e. physical self. Everything that he imagines above this, also belongs to the created world, like himself. He cannot imagine or know anything beyond this. Only those people who have purified their reason, heart, and imagination, by a long struggle with their nafs, or lower self, may attain more vision for their inner eye, may make their ears capable of listening to what others do not hear, and may see, understand and hear (what ordinary people cannot). How can one  say things to everybody, and how can they all listen to, see, and understand everything? Only those can do this who could witness this by the "eye of Truth".
What may be a satisfactory attainment for an ordinary man, and what may be his pride, may be a poor achievement for others. It is said that what may be acceptable from the good, may be regarded as a sin when done by the chosen ones. People of no spiritual vision are quite virtuous when they merely attest the existence of God, and (life after) death. But this is entirely insufficient, and even sinful, when those who possess the higher religious knowledge (ma'rifat), are concerned. Just as when a baby does something, it may be very clever for its age, and quite natural to it. But it would be quite a different matter if an adult does the same thing, —his action surely will appear utterly ridiculous and stupid. Imam Husayn in one of his prayers says: "O, Creator, is there any one manifest by the side of Thee  who should make Thee manifest? How can Thou be hidden so that Thou shouldst need some special proof of Thy existence? How canst Thou be so distant from man that now people should call me to Thee, and try to make me to attain Thy presence? Let every eye be blind that cannot see Thee! Ruined be the capital in the trade of the man who, owing to his own selfishness, has not given in his heart a place and attention to his Friend."
Imam Ja'far Sadiq once replied to a man who asked him whether it is true that at the Day of Resurrection God will become visible to all?" Yes", said he, "He is visible even before that day. He is visible to His slaves from the day when He asked them: "am I not your Lord?" Do not you see Him?" The man who asked the question then replied: "O my Lord, I see thee! Give me the permission to tell this (to others) on thy authority". The Imam replied: "do not tell this to anybody, because people are stupid and ignorant,  they shall disbelieve you, regarding this as impiety (kufr)".
Seeing with one's heart is different from seeing with one's eyes. Know, brother, that his matter was always kept hidden from the unreliable people, and only a few trusted ones were admitted to learn it. And if one who is in possession of the Truth (ahli haqiqat) were found somewhere, the people would abuse him, or ridicule him. This is because, as we said above, the ears of people have become deaf, and the tongue of persuasion has become silent.
Imam Zaynu'l-abidin, explaining a verse of poetry, says: "I always hide the precious jewel of my knowledge because the ignorant do not see or recognize the truth, they are incapable of realizing its value. In the past my grandfather Abu'l-Hasan (i.e. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib) possessed this knowledge, but kept it hidden, and bequeathed this to Imam Husayn, and before him to Imam Hasan,  to keep it secret. There are many precious and pure jewels of knowledge, but if I devulge them I may be charged with idolatry. Perhaps some fanatics may even attempt to murder me, thus committing a heinous crime. They may murder me under the impression that they are doing a good thing."
The Commander of the Faithful (Ali ibn Abi Talib) said: "I know many things which, if divulged, would appear to you so exciting that they would stir you like a lose rope, which is lowered into a deep well, stirs water in it, yet fails to reach its bottom".
He added: "I treated the people of this world as a bird that follows a flight of other birds: started when all  started, flew in a formation so that none obstructed the other". But consider what he suffered in spite of all this from the people of his time! and yet in spite of his concealment of his knowledge, it spread as you may see as the light of Divine greatness and glory. This matter demands much consideration.
If you consider this matter dispassionately, and think over it properly, you will find a strange thing. The knowledge was concealed by himself (i.e. by 'Ali) and his descendants: his supporters, even if they could learn anything, would keep it secret from fear of molestation at the hands of his enemies; and his enemies, even if they could learn anything, would keep it secret from hatred and envy. Yet in spite of all this concealment the mystery became known from the heaven to the earth! Where is the eye which is so blind as to be unable to see this, to realize this, and to know this.
Brothers, I do not know what was this Manifestation, and how it came into existence.  O our Lord, O Ultimate Cause of Creation, O final Purpose of Creation, what wert Thou, O impenetrable Mystery? How didst Thou bring Thyself into existence? Thou, Light of Truth, how didst Thou reveal Thyself in such a way that every thought in the world became astounded! What substance dost Thou manifest that from Thy emanations the voice of the praising angels was created from the atoms of the limitless space! Blessed be Thou, O Eternal Beauty! Blessed be Thou, who hast concealed Thyself, and yet art so universally apparent! So much that many called Thee God! Verily, if Thou wouldst lift this veil from Thyself, even the eyes of the blind would be opened, and they would become wizards by this light. How then would humanity find Thee, how could they see, and what should they say!
Though poets are generally very blind, yet there are some corners under the Divine Throne to which the tongue of poets is the key. This is the meaning of the hadith in which it is said that some topics are suitable  subjects of their fantasy.
Brother, this instructive treatise is written by me for the people who possess the faith. I have no other purpose except to show them the right path. I do not address it except to the people who follow Truth (ahli Haqq). If my forefathers had not spoken addressing the believers in Truth (ahli Haqq), I would not address them also. But as my forefathers (the blessing of God be upon them!) did so, so I also had to speak. I do not argue with any one about the truth of his religious persuasion, let everyone believe in what he likes.
God the Almighty says: "Verily God is not dependent on the world", i.e. He is not in need of anything from His creatures. And if they have no need of Him, it is their own business.
Our Lord (i.e. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib) says that the Prophet had delivered his message, and, being entrusted with the outer side of religion (zahir) he carried on the war for religion (jihad). "And I (i.e. Mawla 'Ali) am concerned with the batin, or the deeper meaning of religion." He explained the meaning of batin in different ways.  As is found in the well-known tradition, -"if Abu Dharr would know what is in the heart of Salman, he would regard him as an unbeliever', or, as is said in another place, - he would kill him. It suffices to know that in every epoch or a (millennial) period of time there is, and always was a manifestation of the Deity, from the time of Adam, and even before Adam, and till the time of the Final Prophet (i.e. Muhammad). It is present even now in the world, as it was said to you. Only the accursed ones and the devils posing as pious men strictly attached to religion, always prevent people from seeing this, misleading them from the right path, and dooming them to damnation.
Brother, to walk by circuitous paths (often) means not to reach the destination. Whoever deviates from the straight road, never reaches his aim. It is the same whether he deviates from it for the distance of many thousand years, from its first station, or he abandons it later on, and strays from it. People are different in their destiny:  some of them do not strike the right road at all, others go along it for a distance, and then stop as the lame. The Jews stopped on it, being persuaded by their religious leaders who were concerned only with their own material advantage. They revealed some knowledge, but later on they misled the people from the road, and never struck it again. The Christians also erred in their way, and remained behind.
If you look properly, you will see that every one was misled both by the incorrectness of religion, but by the ill-will of the lovers of material pleasures. These unfortunate people strayed, not knowing what was the purpose of creation, who they were themselves, from where they came, and where they had to go.
The Arabian Hashmite Prophet (God bless him and his posterity) said that his successors, the members of his family (ahli Bayt), cannot be separated from the Coran which is (the book) showing the difference between what is right (haqq) and what is wrong (batil); by these his people may return to him, at the tank of Kawthar. He said:  "And these two sacred and pure things I leave amongst you as a security. So long as you cling to these, you will never be lost on you way after me." But in spite of this commandment of the Prophet the selfish people became preoccupied with other matters, forgetting all about the command concerning the 'close relatives', 'itrat, of the Apostle of God, straying away from the right path and falling for ever into the pit of temptations and depravity. They did not realize whose manifestations were Adam and the other Prophets, and for what purpose they were sent. They followed their way blindly, and lost it ultimately, thus missing their destination.
This is why it is said: "I was hidden with all the Prophets, because the world was not yet ready. But now that the world is prepared, and the people are capable of understanding, I became apparent with Muhammad" O God, my purpose is to express myself in such a way that my words should be clear and easy to understand, concisely and plausibly conveying my meaning. I am afraid  that this subject may be somewhat long to deal with. Because even if I write on it till the day of the Resurrection, how can I do justice to a subject of such importance?
Do understand that the Word of God (kalima'i Haqq) is only one. Open your ears and eyes, and then you will be able to understand not only a single book, but thousands of books.
Ye who are in love with the Truth! Only out of affection for you did I begin speaking to you, praying for His help! Look at the sun, the moon, and the stars which continuously move in their eternal paths; the day goes, and the night arrives, and again the morning dawns, and evening descends; the world becomes old, and then revives; those who must come, come and pass on, and things that did not exist come into existence. Every day new workers come to the task regardless of how many of them were not there, and come but to go again.
If it were destined that a Manifestation (zahur) of the Divine Substance should take place at some time, what should be the fault of those who were not yet born at that time?  Or of those who lived befor it, or did not recognize it? What have they to do, and how can people find the way of Truth, how can they follow it?
7. ('Itrat, OR 'CLOSE RELATIVES')
It is obvious, therefore, that there must be in the world a Supreme Leader (rah-nand) at every time, every moment. Humanity are like children, they may be clever in their own way, and yet there are many things that are beyond their power of comprehension. Therefore they need a teacher, who may give them necessary knowledge. Even as an adult, however aged he may be, needs a guide in the matters in which he had no previous experience. Thus there is a great need for a guide to help the people at every time or moment, if God wishes to lead all who are continuously being born, to the knowledge of His light. And He Himself revealed that he does wish this; "God leads to His Light those whom he wants to lead". Times differ one from the other, every period of time has its own destinies and history. The leader of humanity is one who commands some things and prohibits other things in accordance with the requirements of the time.  But in the continuous change of life which never stops, if the Divine Manifestation (Zuhur) is to take place in an ordinary mortal body, the latter, inevitably, has to become old and worn out, like clothes of man, and ultimately it would be necessary to replace it with a new one.
Ordinary people whose duty is only to obey the command of God, have no capacity to act as they wish or to elect (as their leader) any one whom they want, disregarding the real one. Leadership, which is the real meaning of the term Imamat, obviously is a matter of the greatest importance, which cannot be left to the decision of the mob.
Muhammad and 'Ali both were manifestations of one and the same Divine Light, but they came in two different persons (libas, -dress) in order to uphold each other's mission amongst humans, and in order to introduce each other to other people. However, the people did not recognize them. Salman Farsi said in Persian, on the day when Abu Bakr was in appearance (zahir) elected khalif: "kardid-na-kardid", i.e. "you have done this, and yet you have not done it". He meant that they had appointed a lieutenant to the Prophet, and yet,  in reality, nothing had been done. But this is a long story, O, God!
The sacred Light which manifested in Muhammad and 'Ali continued in the world through Fatima, in her sons, Hasan and Husayn, and no power in the world can extinguish this Light. It is said: "they wanted to extinguish the Light of God, but God brings His light through, to the end", i.e. to the completion of its mission.
Even if traitors and apostates dislike this, how can this Light disappear from the world? Or how should it return to its Source without accomplishing what it was destined to accomplish?
Therefore those people who are born later, what have they to do, and whom have they to follow, so as not to stray from the right path? And even if they do not recognize it, and want only go on a wrong path, God, nevertheless, has to send a Guide (hujjat) who should be always with them.
Brother, the word of the Truth is one, and the road to the Truth is one. The prophet said at the time of his demise: "this book (the Coran), and this my posterity ('itrat) should never be separated, till the day of Resurrection." 
Do not imagine, however, that all members of the Hashimite tribe, or even all descendants of the Prophet, the Sayyids, are the 'itrat, the "close relations". In truth, many Sayyids have become Sunnites, —what have they to do with the Imamat and the leadership on the right path? Imamat is a matter of a different nature. When Abraham received his title of the Friend of God, Khalilu'l-lah, he was told: "We have appointed thee the Imam of the people". He asked: "Should the office remain also with my posterity?" The reply was: "My covenant with regard to the Imamat will not fall into the hands of the wicked. All people who claim to be your close associates cannot be appointed Imams, for many of them have no real piety."
Therefore the meaning of the 'itrat, or the (rightful) successors, belongs only to the legitimately appointed successors, awsiya. It is they who can show the right path, and who rightfully, from father to son, have inherited their rank of leader.
As you can see every day, the crowd flocks after some individual, for no other purpose than to show its hostility to us. It is the devil who mixes with the crowd which is as stupid as a calf,  cheats them and destroys their faith, in one after another.
Verily, if every one could be treated as a lieutenant (wasi) of the Prophet, and a member of the 'itrat, then why was it that at the time of the Imams, when there were also many other Sayyids, the latter were not regarded by the faithful as their leaders? It is Shaytan who sometimes disguises himself as a pious man, who strictly follows the prescriptions of sharia't, devoting much time to prayer, fast, etc. But in spite of this, he sees that there are many faithful who, nevertheless, follow the rightful successors of the Prophet (awsiya), as is their right, and as it was appointed by God. His (Devil's) innate envy, and constitutional hatred towards them prevents him to come in their guise, and to cheat and mislead people, directing them to Hell. See, how many people are seduced from the covenant of the Prophet by Shaytan, who appears to them in so many disguises, helped by his associates; see how he nets the unfortunate dupes in his snare, making them all perish and go to Hell.
O, God, these words (about the 'itrat) were the last words that the Prophet has uttered before he died.
And then  the people who were entirely absorbed in the matters of this world, and who might be expected to be its real masters, could do nothing better than to mislead a number of fools. Even now you can see how these wolves in lambs' skins treat the unfortunate and stupid sheep. The people are like a flock of sheep, and the shepherd is to show their way. But those who worship nothing but material pleasures, and who hate those who seek after the Truth (ahli Haqq), they, whenever there is an opportunity, seduce the people, coming like thieves disguised like the shepherd of the flock, or wolves who appear like lambs. They are devout in appearance, exhibit all the signs of piety, all only in order to deceive the people. There is no scarcity of villains, cheats and thieves in any dress; they steal the faith in such a dexterous way that you do not even notice it, and you follow them with all confidence.
If the  unfortunate bird could distinguish between the ordinary seed, and that which forms the snare, why should it come into the net, and even lead other birds after itself, those who flock into the snare seeing there one of their species? Brother, do not stray from the right path at every slight provocation. If you cannot see properly where is the road and where the pit, you will surely fall into the pit. Do not take off your hand from your guide until the heard has reached the tank of kawthar to quench its thirst. Only then can you see how many in the herd have followed the shepherd, and quenched their thirst at last, and how many followed the thief pretending to be the shepherd, and perished never reaching the water. Do you really think that these people have anything true in the position? They pretend to know the right path by uttering (the formula of) four words in Arabic, by the mere movement of their tongues.  All this is a lie, —they are mere tricksters, showing you something that does not really exist. But when you watch them, you cannot get away from the impression that what you see really is so. If you had their implements and knew their art, you would realize that there is nothing in it; but, as you do not know this, you believe that they posses some special ability which other people have not, and that what they say is true.
My friend, listen to what the real Leader (rah-nama) says, and never disobey his orders; do not permit the tricksters and thieves to fool you, they are nothing, but thieves. The Commander of the Faithful said: "Not everyone who has courage (qalb) is acute. You cannot tell a thief from his appearance, he has the same head, eyes, ears, etc., as other people have, and you have yourselves, then  are not you thieves? It is said: not every daring man is reasonable, just as not everyone who has good sight can see the mysteries of religious knowledge, nor everyone who hears well can hear the truth of ma'rifat. I may tell you even more: these wicked people are even below the level of the ordinary man. It is said in the Coran: " They have hearts with which they do not feel anything, they have eyes which do not see, and ears which do not hear. They are like beast, nay, more miserable, and more stupid than beasts" (VII, 178). Why then should you follow them, who are like beasts or imbeciles, and why should you not follow Perfect Men (Insani kamil)? I cannot understand the people who did not follow the Prophet, and do not obey his lieutenant. They follow only their bestial impulses, and think that the Divine orders are only those which they know. All that they cannot understand,  they entirely reject. They represent the Divine Will as if it follows their own inventions (khayal-ha), everyone inventing something of his own, falsifying a hadith, or tradition (naql), attributing his own falsehoods to Imams. What enormous mischief have these people really done! They neglect the indications (hujjat) given by God, inventing a profusion of proofs themselves.
It is related that Our Lord (hadrati Mowla) said: "Did God command these people to introduce so many differences into religion, and have they obeyed His command, or did God command them to avoid these differences and discord, and have they disobeyed Him? Or did God reveal the religion (din) incomplete so that the people may perfect it? Or are they companions of God who may introduce whatever they like, and God should consent to this, and what they say should also be regarded as a command  of God? Or is it that though God did not reveal the religion incomplete, but quite perfect the Prophet did not convey it properly to the people, and did not bring to them complete what God ordered?" Brother, verily the hand of Shaytan is strong, and how difficult he makes life of people!
All this disobedience on the part of the people, who became mislead, was due to the opposition to the command (qawl) of the Prophet; it began at the earliest time when they dissociated themselves from the 'itrat, or the rightful lieutenant, and did not obey the last will (wasyyat) of the Prophet. God did not give them His help, and they will never be saved. Thus it may appear that the Arabian Hashimite Prophet of God came to this people suffering difficulties, insults, hostility, and injustice which he experienced more than any other Prophet, for nothing. He himself said: "No other Prophet experienced so many difficulties as myself from the people". He delivered the people from the desert of despair and hopelessness  brought them to the abode of righteousness (hidayat). He has given them a pure and easy (i.e. human) religion, as he said himself: "I came bringing the people an easy religion", he delivered the people from idolatry. And yet at last the sword of the Lord became necessary, and only by blows of his sword did the people come to some extent to the right path. And what was at last the reward of the Prophet? The people made himself suffer continuously so long as he lived, and after his death they treated his descendants and legitimate lieutenants (awsiya) in the way which everyone knows. Whenever they could, they killed them, they calumniated them and their supporters, submitting them to tortures wherever they were found. In spite of this they thought that they worshipped God, only because they heard the name of the Coran. But even those thieves who dissociated themselves from the 'itrat, used to say that they accepted the Coran. O ye, impudent liars, if you accept the Coran of the Prophet, who said that this Coran cannot be divorced from his 'itrat,  which you reject, then how do you accept the Coran? And if you really accept it, why do not you follow his legitimate lieutenants? Or do you follow someone whom you do not know yourselves? Realize that all these false ideas already existed at the time of Abu Bakr, when it was believed that there would be khalifs from amongst them, one after another, to the last day.
The khilafat started by them, which would be expected to continue uninterrupted to the Day of Resurrection, came at once to the end, as is known; but, if they were real khalifs sent for the guidance of the people, they should always be in existence. But where are the legitimate successors of Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman? And if these impious and ill-starred people wanted to give the khilafat, after these first khalifs, to the descendants of the Prophet, why did they trample under their feet his direct descendants, giving the authority to the Abbasides, because 'Abbas was an uncle of the Prophet, and was a Hashimite. Thus the khilafat was given to a family on whose behalf rights were never claimed at the demise of the Prophet, by a single of  the different Islamic groups. But if they were the real legitimate lieutenants (wasi) of the Prophet, why does no trace of their authority remain nowadays? Where are now the Abbasides? But if they have disappeared, this is an unshakable proof of their claims having been false, —what other proof is required? They were not the members of the line of the real khalifs, whose continuity cannot be interrupted till the day of Resurrection. This means that the ignorant people were duped and fooled by the Devil. By God, a (real) lieutenant (khalifa) of the Prophet must always be present in this world, regardless of the fact whether the people recognize him, or not, obey him, or not. He is to be here for the guidance of those who obey the commandments of God (muti'an), and for the introduction of order into this world, with its affairs. The people should know and recognize his descent from the Prophet and from the Lord ('Ali), generation after generation. Otherwise no one can know whether they really descend from the Prophet, probably nowadays there are many desendants of 'Uqayl or 'Abbas who are known as the descendants of the Apostle of God: but though they are real Sayyids, they must be only subjects (muti'), just like  ordinary descendants of the Lord ('Ali), who were obedient to him (and to the Imams).
No one should claim any right by fraud or false pretenses, nor should any one claim to do whatever he pleases, adopting a hostile attitude towards the descendants of the Prophet, just as the Abbasides did. Those whom you can see were really enemies of the Path of Truth, and of the legitimate Lieutenants of the Prophet, as the Abbasides were, —this is why they cannot do anything nowadays except abusing (their opponents). But had they any authority nowadays, they would surely not care about any consideration, and would kill all descendants of the Prophet, just like they used to kill our ancestors.
At the time of the Prophet only Hasan and Husayn were his 'itrat, or legitimate successors, and not all the members of the Hashimite tribe. Gracious God! How should I describe how the people treated them. Immediately after the death of the Prophet the people began to disregard the Coran. Nobody even remembered about the 'itrat, or the legitimate successors of the Prophet, who used to keep away from the public gaze. As soon as they snatched authority, they forgot about all these things. The Prophet  had predicted the capture of the cities of Persia and of Byzanthium, and so it happened. Many cities were occupied till the time of 'Uthman, when the people began to think about the 'itrat, but the envy and hatred of enemies did not permit the people to install them in their rightful place.
8. (THE CORAN)
It is recorded in all histories, and every one knows how the Coran was written down. It was not yet in the form as it is now. Every one possessed some portions of it, which he recited. Under 'Uthman the authorities selected some portions, rejecting others. It would be too long to narrate this in detail. Then they seized by force all the other copies, and burnt them.2 Thus the knowledge of the original Coran, which was really left by the Prophet, and which remains in the hands of his 'itrat, or legitimate successors, was taken from the people. But these legitimate lieutenants of the Prophet still remained. Therefore they, the enemies, tried their best (to annihilate them), but the will of God had to be fulfilled, and the 'itrat remained. They used to kill and torture the successors of the Prophet, and yet they still exist in the world, and, if God the All High wishes, they  will remain till the end of the world, showing the right path to those who follow the Prophet. And those who do not follow him, they have to take the responsibility upon themselves. They worshipped a stone idol, or a cow, and they still remain in the same position, their belief still remains the same, only now they worship their own lower self, or some other beast, as was explained above.
They have opposed the 'itrat of the Prophet, and whenever they find an opportunity, they do their best to seduce the more ignorant amongst their followers, coming amongst them in the disguise of piety, with their foreheads bearing the e marks of having hit the earth at their prostrations, and they mislead them and cause them to perish. Brother, there is no doubt that those who after the demise of the Prophet usurped the leadership, in contravention of his last will (wasiyyat), never had any real faith (din), otherwise, by God, how could such a thing have happened? They knew some of his commandments, such, for instance,  as regards prayers (namaz), or fast, etc. But they have not heard other commandments, such as concerning the appointment of the Lord ('Ali) as his lieutenant, and other things, these they have not heard! Surely, this is nothing but fraud, intended for misleading the people.
Brother, do not make a mistake: I do not say: "do not pray", or "do not fast"; what I say is: do not permit yourself to be cheated by those who ostentatiously pray much, or talk much about fasting. Their show of piety is intended only to deceive others, who are not clever enough to understand this, and only follow uncritically what they see. They hear that so-and-so continuously lives only on barley bread, and vinegar, praying much, or fasting, or performing many pilgrimages. All these things are very proper, and very laudable, but if these people have no love for the Lord (Mawla), all this will scarcely help them.
9. (THE TRUE RELIGION)
Now that we come to matters like these, we have to see what is the true religion? What is the true worship ('ibadat), and the true religious knowledge (ma'rifat).
Brother, profession of Islam is the assertion in two formulas of profession (shahadatayn). The uttering of these belongs to the outward side of piety,  which has nothing to do with the real, genuine faith. The Prophet in the Coran itself says to the dissemblers (XLIX, 14): "Do not say: we believe; but say: we profess Islam. Only God can put faith in your hearts." There is a difference between faith (iman), and the mere outward profession (islam), as the Prophet emphasized. We may complete, with the help of God, the examination of this subject.
10. (FORMS OF WORSHIP)
If you want to find this difference, brother, know that, as mentioned above, the day and the night should be properly divided into three equal sections, each devoted to some special purpose. Each has its own form of devotion, which is prescribed for it.
Worship with one's own body is the discharge of one's ordinary (zahiri) duties (a'mal). The worship with one's thought (khayal) consists of abstention of vile thoughts, prohibited by God, of concentration on good and pious subjects as found in the examples of saints (mahbuban); one must even keep their vision (surat) continuously in his heart, and cultivate disregard  for the enemies of the religion, whom God rejected. Gradually your whole body will be filled with adoration for them, and you will yourself become one of the friends of God, who has nothing to do with His enemies.
This permanent thinking about the saints of God does not form one of those duties which are prescibed for outward piety ('amali zahir) but, if you consider this properly, it is all-important: it is the thought which in all its ways and forms gradually brings man to ruin, and it is in the thought that the hands of the Devil is particularly active; just as if fire is set inside a house, it makes its walls and doors black of smoke, even if it does not burn completely. Do realize this, and strive to attain 'piety of thought'. Is it not true that one is attached to what he possesses, and even sees it in his dreams? It is said in a hadith: 'On the Day of Resurrection God will make every one  rise amongst the things to which he was attached, even if these were simply stones'. Therefore, every one who is particularly attached to Muhammad and to the Family of Muhammad, will be associated with them on the Day of Judgement, and thus it will become apparent to everybody that he was attached to them during his life, as otherwise he would rise amongst other people.Worship by instincts of the lower self (nafs) consists in abstaining from knowledge which may appear as ordinary knowledge, but in reality is intended to undermine religion. One has to avoid it, as otherwise one will have to fear the wrath of God.
Do not say: there is no such thing as Resurrection of the dead. There is, and the One Who avenges and punishes, will avenge. This fear of displeasing God is characteristic of His (real) friends. Thus you must abstain from acquiring learning that is incompatible with true piety. One must not adorn oneself with the sciences of enemies, thus estranging the friends of God from himself.
It is said "One who doubts is a liar. He is one from amongst us, but disguised in the form (sifat) of enemies, in every respect clinging to others rather than to ourselves."
One of the Israelite Prophets  received an inspiration (wahy): "Tell my friends: do not mix with My enemies, lest they, by chance, should themselves become hostile to Me"; therefore one must mix only with the friends of God. Did not you see how many ignorant people perish by acting otherwise?
Worship by reason ('aql) consists in permanently being in the state of strong conviction (yaqin), never permitting any doubt to crawl in. The Lord (Mawla) said: "Never permit yourselves to have a doubt (in religion); as soon as you permit one to arise, you become unbelievers (kafir), deprived of the mercy of God, because doubt is the feature of His enemies; so, let you always be firm in your religious opinion".Worship with the heart (dil) consists in always feeling great affection for the Five Members of the Prophet's Family (Panj tani ali'aba), never abandoning love for the Mawla and his descendants, recognizing them in your hearts as leading lights, they should be your (only) Truth. Whenever you feel love for Muhammad and his Family, you have worshipped God in your heart.
God regards  all those who do not act in this way as His enemies. God never created anything bad, the people became bad by their own actions. Did you not hear a hadith, related from Imam Ja'far Sadiq, that someone prayed God in his presence, repeating: "God, let me enter Paradise!" The Imam said: "Do not pray in this way, but say: God, do not expel me from Paradise." The reason is that so long as you do not do anything punishable by expulsion from Paradise, you remain in Paradise. And you have left it as soon as you have done something wicked.
11. (FAITH, Iman)
It is clear now that faith (iman) is nothing but love in the heart. And, in order to make it quite easy to understand, we may give here an example.
Faith (iman) is like a tree, the roots of which go into the heart; its trunk is in reason, and its branches are in the instincts, while imagination is its new shoots and leaves —(senses of) the body. The foundation (asl) of faith is love for the Mawla. And if this  foundation, i.e. this love, and the roots of faith are strong and in good condition, all other parts of the tree, such as its trunk, its branches and leaves, can be expected to continue to flourish even if they are (accidentally) damaged. If, however, on the contrary, the roots are not well grounded, or even rotten, the whole tree will soon dry, and then will become good for nothing except to be used as fuel. Thus love for the Mawla is everything, being the root of faith. If it is not strong all the acts of outward piety (a'mali zahiri) which are like leaves of the tree, will fade. If you have a thousand mans of leaves, fresh and of good color, they will dry in a short time, and then a very small fire will be sufficient to burn them completely.
If you have love (for the Mawla), even if you do not show much outward piety, you, nevertheless, remain a mu'min, faithful, as your nature is not yet bad, and it is only your behavior which is not good; it may be hoped that God may forgive this. But if it is otherwise, woe to you! Then thousands fasts and prayers will be  of no use. Do you not see that if a building has no sound foundations, it will fall down at the first blast of wind, even if you gild all its walls, and paint them with beautiful patterns, making all your labors and expense a waste. On the contrary, if the foundations are reliable, and only the walls have no paint on them, the building is indeed, strong. It only shows that you have not kept it clean, but the structure itself is reliable.
The same is the case with love for the Mawla which is the foundation of faith (iman), and of worship with the heart, your truth (haqiqat). No sin can ruin it, so long as it is alive. But if there is (in the heart) any feeling of hostility towards 'Ali, no meritorious act will be of any help, love of 'Ali only obliterates all sins.
It is narrated that someone said to an Imam: "Your followers create disturbances, and therefore we regard them as villains and rioters". The reply was: "No, our followers (Shi'a) are our friends, and our friends never leave this world without their sins having been forgiven. In this  world the villain and the rioter is only he who is our enemy."There are, indeed, stupid friends, whose actions may be objectionable or harmful, but their intentions and purpose are good and pure. On the Day of resurrection they will rise clean (ru-safid), as their sins will be forgiven in this world, having been punished by illness, or losses in trade, or by the oppression of the wicked; there are also the minor sins of the faithful, for which they will experience a dreadful dream.With regard to this a hadith is related from the Prophet, but we shall omit it for the sake of conciseness.
Now you see that your every action, whether spiritual or ordinary (batini wa zahiri), is concerned with some special form of worship. But worship is nothing but knowledge, ma'rifat, they are inseparable one from the other, nor can they be different. Thus the higher knowledge (ma'rifat) of your eye is to recognize the image of that human face in the pupil of your eye, which is that of one who guides you to the right path, knowing that he is exactly that person. He, the Guide, comes  with all the features of the ordinary man.
But with eyes alone you cannot hold his image in the heart too, the inner vision, of the heart, is different from the vision of the eye; what the heart sees is Luminousness (nuraniyyat). I cannot tell you more about its meaning, this is a secret matter which you are unable to understand.
Thus, with the help of God, in labor and worship, in the struggle with your own evil impulses, with the spiritual knowledge kept alive in your heart, with certainty in reason, with study and acquisition of a religious education ('ulumi din), with the vision of the saints of God and of their example in the heart, by the discharge of your duties, you will attain a high degree of spiritual refinement, as it has been systematically explained. If you do all this, you may attain the degree which you seek. You have to seek it, and it depends on Him not to leave you without a chance.
Brother, you have to note two things: first, that in this short treatise I have spoken concerning high spiritual subjects, explaining them in plain and simple terms,  which are not overburdened with quotations of hadiths or verses from the Coran. Secondly, that it was of no use to address all this to everybody, and the treatise was intended only for those who follow the commandments of God and of His Prophet, recognizing him as such. I have nothing to do or argue about with others. And even if those who are concerned, after reading this will not realize how great a blessing God gives them, it is their own business. What I say is addressed to those who have the capacity to understand this.At the beginning of this book I promised to deal with two questions: one of them was the knowledge (ma'rifat) and the truth (haqiqat) of the religion. The second was about the ways of living piously among brethren in religion. But before starting the question of the rules of such life, I had to explain the matter connected with the Day of Resurrection, and the shame that some people will have to feel, as this subject was connected with my discussion, which was outside the scope of the work.God help us in this. Brother, remember what is said: settle your own accounts before others demand this from you, and the questions of accounts is raised.
1. The term 'aql in the context like this, i.e. in the works dealing with religion and ethics, covers much of the ground comprised in the Western idea of 'consciousness' (in ethical sense), though it does not coincide with it completely. Similarly nafs, which in purely psychological context means 'subconscious self' (in a broad sense), here may mean 'selfishness', 'egotism', in fact, something that should be the opposite of consciousness, and for which there is apparently no special term in European languages. It implies unceremonious self-assertion, disregard to everything that is non-ego, and, at the same time, catering for the lower, sensuous sides to one's nature.
2. As is well known, the question of the origin of the version of the Coran, as it is at present, is a difficult matter, full of rather doubtful points. It appears as if there was not very much interest towards it immediately after the death of the Prophet. Abu Bakr entrusted the work of collecting the Coran to Zayd b. Thabit. Later on we find that what was collected was in private possession of Hafsa, the daughter of 'Umar (ef. Ibn Sa'd, III/I, 212). Practically nothing was done in this respect by 'Umar. At the time of 'Uthman there already were several versions in existence, one, by 'Abdu'l-lah b. Mas'ud, in Kufa; another by Abu Musa 'Abdu'l-lah al-Ash'ari, in Basra; the third, by Miqdad b. 'Amr, in Hims (syria); the fourth, by Ubay b. Ka'b, in Damascus (ef. Ibn Sa'd, III/I, 114-6). This difference in the text of the sacred book caused great inconvenience in practical life, and, under pressure from the side of the local governers, 'Uthman appointed a sort of a 'commission', using the modern term, for the revision of the text, consisting of the same Zayd b. Thabit, mentioned above, 'Abdu'l-lah b. Zubayr, Sa'id b. al-'As, 'Abdu'r-Rahman b. al-Harith, and others (Ibn Sa'd, V, 19-24). What were the functions of every one amongst them, and what they really have done, is not clear. Ultimately the present version came into existence, and the different versions, as is usually narrated by even the most orthodox historians, were collected and burnt. Quite probably, of course, some isolated copies escaped the destruction; some of such instances are known. We have no information whether there existed a special version preserved amongst the Alides, and their supporters. The usual tradition, preserved by the Shi'ites, about the omission of all references to 'Ali and his rights, originally contained in the Coran, cannot be verified at present, but seems to be highly probable, if we consider the attitude of the circles in which the official version was prepared. The author, quite naturally, accepts the tradition which is regarded as absolutely true by all Shi'ites.
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