Nahjul Balagah and its Lessons for the Mankind
It is necessary, at the beginning, to provide our brothers and sisters with a brief introduction to the Nahj-ul-Balagha. As you know, the Nahj-ul-Balagha is a collection of Sermons, Letters and miscellaneous Sayings left as a memorial from the Master of the Pious, the Commander of the Faithful, All, peace be upon him. This book is divided into three sections of Sermons, Letters and short Sayings or' wise Sayings' (hikam), as they are usually called, some of which have been selected from among the Sermons and Letters.
The Nahj-ul-Balagha dates back to about one thousand years ago when the late Seyyid Radi compiled these Letters and Sermons at the end of the third and the outset of the fifth century (400A.H.) the Hejra after. It is, thus, a one thousand year old book. It is to be noted, however, that before Seyyid Radi made efforts in compiling All's Sermons and Sayings, they were scattered in the books of the Traditions' and history. Other scholars had also begun to perform this task in one way or another, but no one succeeded in accomplishing what Sayyid Radi did. Therefore, we are indebted to the endeavors and initiatives of this great scholar who left the Nahj-ul-Balagha for us.
Another point to be noted here is that, in addition to the contents of the Nahj-ul-Balagha, a number of Sermons, Letters and short Sayings of Ali, peace be upon him, can be found in different books which recent scholars have tried to compile and introduce as appendices to the Nahj-ul-Balagha. Therefore, in addition to the N2hjal-Balagha which is, in itself, a rich and invaluable treasure, here are some other books of All's Sayings which shall later be introduced to the readers in detail so that they may obtain a general acquaintance with the bibliography of the Nahj-ul-Balagha and its related books.
Another point to note about the Nahj-ul-Balagha concerns the invalidity of this book, a claim made by some people over the years. The motive behind such a claim can easily be surmised, that is, the subject matter of the Nahj-ul-Balagha threatened the interests of some groups or classes of people who therefore found the best device, to be discrediting the book itself. It is also true of the personality of individuals, and for this same reason those who considered the personality of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, peace be upon him, to be against their personal or group interests, naturally tried to distort it. In the same manner, they claimed that the Nahj-ul-Balagha was invalid on the grounds that they said it was without any authority (sanad).
It is clear that the Nahj-ul-Balagha is in the category of Traditions upon which we depend for the understanding of Islamic teachings, as well as the Traditions of the Prophet and the Book (the Holy Qur'an). There is no doubt as to the authority of the Holy Qur'an, but as to the Traditions, valid authorities are needed to remove any doubts, i.e., the narrators of a certain Tradition, including the Imams and the Prophet, should be known and trustworthy. This has always been the main concern of our great narrators and jurisprudents in eliciting and understanding the divine ordinances.
Thus, we have the 'science of rijal' which deals with the recognition of narrators of Traditions and the 'science of diraya' which concerns the recognition and analysis of Traditions and which determines the correct and the unreliable Traditions. Thus, this attention to detail that a Tradition must have an authority and that authority must be valid, is necessary. It is because of this that today great emphasis is put on expertise in understanding Islamic sciences. An individual, who is not an expert, accepts the Traditions which accord with his own intellect, understanding and mental background and rejects all others. This leads to the weakening of the religion.
When an expert wants to rely on a Tradition, he first tries to acknowledge its authority and validity through his special expertise. This necessity has been taken care of by our jurisprudents in their recognition and understanding of Islamic laws and regulations. Now, some people asserted that the Nahj-ul-Balagha, as a collection of Traditions which should be based on valid authorities, was without any authority and, therefore, was invalid and unreliable.
As a matter of fact, in one way these people were telling the truth for no chain of narrators are mentioned in the Nahj-ul-Balagha in any of the Sermons so that they can be attributed to the Commander of the Faithful and the truthfulness of such narrators could be sought. However, in the books of Traditions such as Vasa-al-Shi'a, al-Kafi and the like, as well as in the old history books. such as those of Tabari, ibn Athir and Ya'qubi, no chain of authorities can be found concerning the contents of the Nahj-ul-Balagha.
Firstly, although the Nahj-ul-Balagha itself does not mention the chain of authorities and narrators, this can be checked in the Shi'ite and Sunni books of Traditions where from the Sermons, Letters and Sayings of this book have been extracted and compiled. Several years ago, one of the Arab writers wrote a book entitled Madarik Nahj-ul-Balagha wa Masanidu (The Documents and Authorities of Nahj-ul-Balagha) which may later be introduced to the readers in an analysis of the books written about the Nahj-ul-Balagha. In this book, the writer has quoted the authentic authorities of the Sermons, Letters and Sayings of the Nahj-ul-Balagha from the books of the Traditions. it is therefore, concluded that the content, of the Nahj-ul-Balagha should not be considered to be without authority on the mere ground that the book itself does not mention any authority.
Secondly, although the authorities of Traditions are proper means of reliance or vice versa, the text of Traditions can also be a means of obtaining confidence for one who undertakes research, i.e. when you study a text and find its contents miraculous (as you will, God-Willing, observe when interpreting Ali's words), when you see that in one sentence the writer has referred to something beyond the prevailing mentality of his own time, which others have been able to understand only in the course of centuries, when you are faced with a saying that predicts future events which cannot be presaged except by the likes of Amir al-Muminin who are in contact with endless divine knowledge and, in addition to all these merits, when you observe the highly eloquent words and expressions of the writer, it becomes quite clear to you that he is not an ordinary human being and that his saying cannot be but those of an immaculate Imam.
A Liar, Not Different From A Dead Body
Lying, Ruins People’s Faith