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  • 12/18/2015

The Approach of the Nahj al-balaghah

imam ali (a.s)

What approach and attitude is adopted by the Nahj al-balaghah towards worship? The Nahj al-balaghah takes an enlightened view of worship, or rather, it is, after the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the main source of inspiration towards the enlightened approach to worship in the Islamic tradition.
As we know, of the most sublime and imaginative themes of Islamic literature, both Arabic and Persian, is relationship between the ardent love of the devotee for the Divine Essence expressed in delicate and elegant passages in the form of sermons, prayers, allegories, parables, both in prose and verse.
When we compare them with the pre-Islamic notions prevalent in the regions which subsequently constituted the domains of Islam, it is surprising to observe the gigantic leap that was taken by Islam in bestowing depth, scope, sweetness, and delicacy to human thought.
Islam transformed a people who worshipped idols, images, fire, or degraded the Eternal God to the level of a human 'Father', and whose flight of imagination prompted them to identify the 'Father' with the 'Son', or who officially considered the Ahura Mazda to be a material form, whose statues they erected in every place, into a people whose intellect could grasp and evolve the most abstract of concepts, the most sophisticated ideas, the most elegant thoughts and most sublime notions.
How was human intellect so radically transformed? What revolutionized their logic, elevated their thoughts, refined their emotions and sublimated their values? How did it happen? The al-Mu'allaqat al-sab'ah and the Nahj al-balaghah stand only one generation apart.
Both of those generations of Arabs were proverbial in eloquence and literary genius. But as to the content, they stand as far apart as the earth and the sky. The former sing of the beauty of the beloved, the pleasures of love, of gallantry, horses, spears, nightly assaults, and compose eulogy and lampoon; the latter contains the sublimest ideas of man.
In order to elucidate the approach of Imam Ali (A.S) towards worship, now we shall proceed to cite few examples from the Nahj al-balaghah, beginning with a statement about the differences in various approaches of people towards worship.

The Worship of Freemen

A group of people worshipped God out of desire for reward; this is the worship of traders. Another group worshipped God out of fear; this is the worship of slaves. Yet another group worshipped God out of gratitude; this is the worship of freemen. 1

Even if God had not warned those disobedient to Him of chastisement, it was obligatory by way of gratefulness for His favours that He should not be disobeyed. 2
My God, I have not worshipped Thee out of fear of Thy Hell and out of greed for Thy Paradise; but I found Thee worthy of worship, and so I worshipped Thee. 3
God's Remembrance
The roots of all spiritual, moral, and social aspects of worship lie in one thing: the remembrance of God and obliviousness towards everything else. In one of its verses, the Holy Qur’an refers to the educative and invigorating effect of worship, and says: The salat protects from unseemly acts. (29:45)
Adhere to salat in order that you remain in My remembrance. (20:14)
This is a reminder of the fact that the person who prays remembers God and lives by the knowledge that He is always observing and watching him, and does not forget that he himself is His servant.

The remembrance of God, which is the aim of worship, is burnishing of the heart and an agency of its purification. It prepares the heart for the reflection of Divine Light in it. Speaking of the remembrance of God and the meaning of worship, Imam Ali (A.S) says: Certainly God, the glorified, has made His remembrance burnishing of the hearts, which makes them hear after deafness, see after blindness, and makes them submissive after unruliness. In all periods and times when there were no prophets, there were individuals to whom He spoke in whispers through their conscience and intellects. 4

These sentences speak of the wonderful effect of Divine remembrance on the heart, to the extent of making it capable of receiving Divine inspiration and bringing it in intimate communion with God.

1. Nahj al-balaghah, No. 237
2. Ibid, Hikam, No. 290
3. Source of reference not indicated (Tr.)
4. Ibid,. Khutab, No. 222

Source: imamreza.net

Other links:

The Meaning of God’s Creation of Adam in His Image (Part 1)

The Meaning of God’s Creation of Adam in His Image (Part 2)

The Value of Certainty

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