SERMON 3 | Nahj Al Balagha Sermons


Known as the Sermon of ash-Shiqshiqiyyah(1)

Beware! By Allah the son of Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) (2) dressed himself with it (the caliphate) and he certainly knew that my position in relation to it was the same as the position of the axis in relation to the hand-mill. The flood water flows down from me and the bird cannot fly upto me. I put a curtain against the caliphate and kept myself detached from it.

Then I began to think whether I should assault or endure calmly the blinding darkness of tribulations wherein the grown up are made feeble and the young grow old and the true believer acts under strain till he meets Allah (on his death). I found that endurance thereon was wiser.

So I adopted patience although there was pricking in the eye and suffocation (of mortification) in the throat. I watched the plundering of my inheritance till the first one went his way but handed over the Caliphate to Ibn al-Khattab after himself.

(Then he quoted al-A`sha's verse).

My days are now passed on the camel's back (in difficulty) while there were

days (of ease) when I enjoyed the company of Jabir's brother Hayyan. (3)

It is strange that during his lifetime he wished to be released from the caliphate but he confirmed it for the other one after his death. No doubt these two shared its udders strictly among themselves. This one put the Caliphate in a tough enclosure where the utterance was haughty and the touch was rough. Mistakes were in plenty and so also the excuses therefore.

One in contact with it was like the rider of an unruly camel. If he pulled up its rein the very nostril would be slit, but if he let it loose he would be thrown. Consequently, by Allah people got involved in recklessness, wickedness, unsteadiness and deviation.

Nevertheless, I remained patient despite length of period and stiffness of trial, till when he

went his way (of death) he put the matter (of Caliphate) in a group(4) and regarded me to be one of them. But good Heavens! what had I to do with this “consultation”? Where was any doubt about me with regard to the first of them that I was now considered akin to these ones?

But I remained low when they were low and flew high when they flew high.

One of them turned against me because of his hatred and the other got inclined the other way due to his in-law relationship and this thing and that thing, till the third man of these people stood up with heaving breasts between his dung and fodder.

With him his children of his grand-father, (Umayyah) also stood up swallowing up Allah's wealth(5) like a camel devouring the foliage of spring, till his rope broke down, his actions finished him and his gluttony brought him down prostrate.

At that moment, nothing took me by surprise, but the crowd of people rushing to me. It advanced towards me from every side like the mane of the hyena so much so that Hasan and Husayn were getting crushed and both the ends of my shoulder garment were torn. They collected around me like the herd of sheep and goats. When I took up the reins of government one party broke away and another turned disobedient while the rest began acting wrongfully as if they had not heard the word of Allah saying:

That abode in the hereafter, We assign it for those who intend not to exult themselves in the earth, nor (to make) mischief (therein); and the end is (best) for the pious ones. (Qur'an, 28:83)

Yes, by Allah, they had heard it and understood it but the world appeared glittering in their eyes and its embellishments seduced them. Behold, by Him who split the grain (to grow) and created living beings, if people had not come to me and supporters had not exhausted the argument and if there had been no pledge of Allah with the learned to the effect that they should not acquiesce in the gluttony of the oppressor and the hunger of the oppressed I would have cast the rope of Caliphate on its own shoulders, and would have given the last one the same treatment as to the first one. Then you would have seen that in my view this world of yours is no better than the sneezing of a goat.

(It is said that when Amir al-mu'minin reached here in his sermon a man of Iraq stood up and handed him over a writing. Amir al-mu'minin began looking at it, when Ibn `Abbas said, “O' Amir al-mu'minin, I wish you resumed your Sermon from where you broke it.” Thereupon he replied, “O' Ibn `Abbas it was like the foam of a Camel which gushed out but subsided.” Ibn `Abbas says that he never grieved over any utterance as he did over this one because Amir almu'minin could not finish it as he wished to.)

ash-Sharif ar-Radi says: The words in this sermon “like the rider of a camel” mean to convey that when a camel rider is stiff in drawing up the rein then in this scuffle the nostril gets bruised, but if he lets it loose in spite of the camel's unruliness, it would throw him somewhere and would get out of control. “ashnaq an-naqah” is used when the rider holds up the rein and raises the camel's head upwards. In the same sense the word “shanaqa an-naqah”

is used. Ibn as-Sikkit has mentioned this in Islah al-mantiq. Amir al-mu'minin has said “ashnaqa laha” instead of “ashnaqaha”, this is because he has used this word in harmony with “aslasa laha” and harmony could be retained only by using both in the same form.

Thus, Amir al-mu'minin has used “ashnaqa laha” as though in place of “in rafa`a laha ra'saha”, that is, “if he stops it by holding up the reins.”

(1). This sermon is known as the sermon of ash-Shiqshiqiyyah, and is counted among the most famous sermons of Amir al-mu'minin. It was delivered at ar-Rahbah. Although some people have denied it to be Amir al-mu'minin's utterance and by attributing it to as-Sayyid arRadi (or ash-Sharif ar-Radi) have laid blame on his acknowledged integrity, yet truth-loving scholars have denied its veracity.

Nor can there be any ground for this denial because `Ali's (p.b.u.h.) difference of view in the matter of Caliphate is not a secret matter, so that such hints should be regarded as something alien. And the events which have been alluded to in this sermon are preserved in the annals of history which testifies them word by word and sentence by sentence.

If the same events which are related by history are recounted by Amir al-mu'minin then what is the ground for denying them? If the memory of discouraging circumstances faced by him soon after the death of the Prophet appeared unpalatable to him it should not be surprising.

No doubt this sermon hits at the prestige of certain personalities and gives a set back to the faith and belief in them but this cannot be sustained by denying the sermon to be Amir almu'minin's utterance, unless the true events are analysed and truth unveiled; otherwise just denying it to be Amir al-mu'minin's utterance because it contains disparagement of certain individuals carries no weight, when similar criticism has been related by other historians as well. Thus (Abu `Uthman) `Amr ibn Bahr al-Jahiz has recorded the following words of a sermon of

Amir al-mu'minin and they are not less weighty than the criticism in the “Sermon of ashShiqshiqiyyah.”

Those two passed away and the third one rose like the crow whose courage is confined to the belly. It would have been better if both his wings had been cut and his head severed.

Consequently, the idea that it is the production of as-Sayyid ar-Radi is far from truth and a result of partisanship and partiality. Or else if it is the result of some research it should be brought out. Otherwise, remaining in such wishful illusion does not alter the truth, nor can the force of decisive arguments be curbed down by mere disagreement and displeasure.