How can we truly be great human beings without knowing what divine rights we owe…
In a famous and oft-quoted narration, the Holy Prophet (pbuh&p) states, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim, verily God loves the seekers of knowledge.”1 Increasing our knowledge is emphasized a great deal in the teachings of the Prophet and his family (pbut), and we have an abundance of traditions that speak to its merit. One of the best ways to acquire knowledge is to spend a small portion of our days reading. Today, we have access to thousands of books at our fingertips. Reading helps us grow, expand our ability to think, and helps with our concentration, stress, and vocabulary.2
There are many kinds of books to choose from, from poetry and fiction to history and non-fiction. There is something to be learned from everything that we choose to read, and it is vital for us to expand our areas of knowledge into different avenues. It goes without saying that at the forefront of all texts, we must first read and contemplate the Holy Quran, Almighty God’s final revelation to mankind. But afterwards, we should also study texts such as Nahj al-Balagha, which is a compilation of sermons and letters by the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (p).
What is Nahj al- Balagha?
Nahj al-Balagha is a compilation of the sermons and letters by the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (p). The text was compiled a few centuries after the martyrdom of the Imam (p) by one of the most important scholars in Islamic history, Sharif al-Radi in the 10th centry AD. This beautiful work is organized in a way that it contains various sermons, letters, and sayings of the Commander of the Faithful (p). Spending some time every so often with the words of the Imam can truly be a transformative experience.
The significance of the legacy given to us by Imam Ali (p) is on par with the words of his chosen Prophet (pbuh&hp). He demonstrates to us an intellectual way of thinking and reflecting upon this universe. In addition, his words explain Islamic theology and offer insight into the characteristics of the believers that we should all aspire toward. Furthermore, the Imam clarifies aspects of Islamic law and gives us practical advice for this life that should be implemented to tame the soul and perfect our etiquette.
As popular and acclaimed as Nahj al-Balagha is in Shia communities, it remains understudied, with regard to the insight it gives us about Islamic history and the events that occurred after the passing of the Prophet (pbuh&hp), specifically during the time of the caliphate of the Imam.3
Bits of Advice.
1. Read a little bit of Nahj al-Balagha during your free time. We should devote some time during the day to read this inspiring text, reflect upon its words, and even memorize parts of it so that we learn more about our beautiful religion. Imagine if we spent some time with our family memorizing one saying of the Imam every week and incorporating his teachings into our daily lives? Not only would that transform our family dynamic but also greatly improve our outlook on life since the words of the Imams are a light that can illuminate the world!4
2. Act upon the advice we read. Nahj al-Balagha is full of wonderful advice. We should take the words of the Imam and implement them. By doing so, we will slowly begin to see the positive impact it will have in our lives.
3. Share these beautiful words with others. If something stands out to us while reading Nahj al-Balagha, we should share it with others. We never know who might read it and benefit from the beautiful worlds of our Imam.
1. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 30
2. “The Importance of Reading.” University of the People, December 13, 2021. https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/why-its-important-to-read/.
3. “موقع مكتب سماحة المرجع الديني الأعلى السيد علي الحسيني السيستاني (دام ظله).” ابحث (نهج البلاغة). Accessed January 18, 2022. https://www.sistani.org/arabic/qa/search/815/.
4. Ibid ۱. روي عن النبي (ص): “طلب العلم فريضة على كل مسلم، ألا إن الله يحب بغاة العلم”