Story #5: ‘Ali and Assem

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After the end of the battle of Jamal, Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib arrived in Basrah. During his stay in Basrah, once he went to visit one of his companions named ‘Ala ibn Zaid Haressi’. This man owned a very big and luxurious residence with all comforts. ‘Ali, after traversing his eyes on such big and magnificent building, said: “What is the use of such big residence in this world while you are in more need of a vast abode in the hereafter? If you wish to make use of it as a means to attain a spacious residence in the hereafter, you must welcome and entertain guests, be friendly with your blood relatives, clarify the rights of Muslims, take an advantage to vitalize and reveal the rights of others and neglect your personal greedy monopoly and individuality in its use.”

‘Ala said: “O Leader of the believers! I complain to you of my brother, Assem.”

Imam ‘Ali: “What is the complaint?”

‘Ala: “He has started the life of a recluse, dressed himself in rags, isolated himself from this world, and deserted everything and everyone.”

Imam ‘Ali: “Bring him in front of me!”

Assem was brought before the Imam, who turned the face towards him and said: “O enemy of your own life! The devil has stolen your sense. Why don’t you have sympathy for your wife and children? Do you believe that Allah, Who made the pure bounties of life licit for you, will be displeased with you if you benefit them? You are smaller than that before Allah.”

Assem: “O Leader of the believers! You are also like me, imposing the difficulties on yourself! You do not cover your body with soft dresses, nor eat delicious meals. Therefore I am doing the same thing which you are doing, and I am following the same path which you have chosen.”

Imam ‘Ali: “You are making a mistake. There is difference between me and you. I shoulder responsibilities of Leadership of Government but you do not. The duties of a Leader and Governor are something else. Allah made incumbent on the just leaders to take the weakest social classes of people as an example of their own personal lives and live in the same manner as the most empty-handed ones survived so that poverty and indigency does not leave impression on them. Therefore, I am having responsibilities and you have another obligation.” (Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 208)

Source: Murtada Mutahhari, THE NARRATIVES OF THE VERACIOUS, Story 16.

Financial Lessons of the Story:

  1. To engage in worship cannot be an excuse to abandon one’s physical necessities and social obligations.
  2. Both attachment to material things and abandonment of the good things in this world are condemnable in Islam.
  3. The Leader is supposed to serve as a model and to consider the condition of the lowest class in society.

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