Story #7: Ascetic’s Advice


The summer heat had become intensified. The sun rays beat down Madinah”s city, garden and farms around it. In such a critical weather condition, a man named Muhammad ibn Munkadar – identified himself as one of the ascetics, pious and anchorites – arrived in Madinah. His eyes cast over a corpulent man who had obviously come out to visit and inspect his farms at that time. Because of his fatness and tiredness, he was treading by his side with the help of a few persons, certainly his friends and relatives.

He thought: “Who is this man in this hot weather of the day leading a busy worldly life?” He came nearer to this person. To his surprise, he was Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (Imam al-Baqir)! 

He thought: “Why does this noble man indulge in this world?! I must give him an advice and dissuade him from this way!” He came forward and greet the Imam.

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, out of breath, sweating, returned his greetings.

He said: “Is it suitable for such an honorable personality like you to come out at this hour of the day and in such a hot weather in order to indulge in this world, particularly, with this stoutness which certainly makes you suffer much?”

He continued, “Who is informed of death? Who knows when he will die? The death might over come you right now; may Allah protect! For instance if death overtakes you in such a condition, what would be your destiny? It is not worthy of you to be after the world, endure so much pain, and suffer with this fat body in these hot days! No! No! It is not worthy of you!”

Imam al-Baqir, removing his hands from his men’s shoulders, leaning against the wall and said: “If death overtakes me just now, and I die, I will leave this world while I am performing my duties and worshiping Allah. Regarding this work, it is just like obedience and submission to Allah. You have imagined that worship is confined to invocation, prayers and supplication. I have to live and maintain my family. If I do not work nor endure pain, I will have to stretch out my hands towards you or people like you to help me out. I am working for livelihood so that I may not be in need of any person. I must be afraid of my death when I have committed sins, violated and disobeyed the Divine Commandments and not in such a state obedience to the Orders of Allah the Almighty Who has ordered me not to be burden to others, but rather, to gain my own daily bread.”

The ascetic said: “I made a big mistake! I thought that I would make an advice to guide others, but now, I have come to understand that I had been mistaken and that I was following a wrong way and was totally in need of advice myself.”

Source: Murtada Mutahhari, THE NARRATIVES OF THE VERACIOUS, Story 21.

Financial Lessons of the Story:

  1. To be self-reliant and not to rely on others even for a small thing.
  2. To engage in worship cannot be an excuse to abandon one’s physical necessities and social obligations.
  3. Both attachment to material things and abandonment of the good things in this world are condemnable in Islam.
  4. Looking for livelihood for one’s family in order not to depend on others is a form of worship (‘ibadah).


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