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Al-Qasi'a Sermon

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This article is an introduction to the al-Qasi'a Sermon; to read its text see text:al-Qasi'a Sermon.

Al-Qāṣiʿa sermon (Arabic: الخطبة القاصعة) is the longest sermon in Nahj al-balagha. It is mostly about morality. As bias had become prevalent among the Kufis towards the end of Imam Ali (a)'s life, in this sermon he rejected snobbishness and social division, encouraging people to engage in the enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

In this sermon, Imam Ali (a) mentions his war with the Nakithun (the oath-breakers), Qasitun (the cruel), and Khawarij (the rebels), as well as his braveness in his youth when he conquered the Arab heroes. Then, he points to his own upbringing by the Prophet (s), his close friendship with the Prophet (s), one of the Prophet's miracles, and some of his own attributes.

Number in Different Versions of Nahj al-balagha
Version Number
Al-Mu'jam al-Mufahras, Subhi Salih 192
Fayd al-Islam, Ibn Maytham 23
al-Khoei, Mulla Salih commentaries 191
'Abduh 185
Mulla Fath Allah 273
Ibn Abi l-Hadid 238
Fi Zilal 190

The sermon is ordered differently in different editions of Nahj al-balagha.

Name

The commentators of Nahj al-balagha have enumerated several reasons for the name "al-Qasi'a." Here are three reasons, according to Qutb al-Din al-Rawandi:

  1. "Qas'" (Arabic: قصع) literally means the camel's rumination. This sermon is called by this name because a few admonitions are repeated throughout the sermon, just like camel's rumination.
  2. "Qas'" also means to kill and grind. In this sense, the sermon kills the devil.
  3. "Qas'" also means to despise and disgrace. This sermon disgraces the arrogant people, who may even be Muslims.

Motivation and Purpose

It is said that the sermon was produced because towards the end of the Imam Ali (a)'s lifetime, different tribes in Kufa had turned to corruption. It frequently happened that a man went out of his neighborhood to other tribes. Being offended by them, he shouted the name of his tribe, for example "O Nakha'!" or "O Kinda". So there were riots. Some of the youth gathered and called the name of their tribes and beat that man. Then, the beaten man would come to his tribe and ask for help. In this manner, they fought with each other for no reason. When they repeated it several times, the Imam (a) came to them on a camel and preached this sermon.

Content

The al-Qasi'a Sermon is decorated with social, theological, and moral themes:

Moral

  • Rejecting snobbishness: In this sermon, snobbishness is strongly disapproved of. The snobbish, arrogant people are called the followers of the Satan.
  • Praising humility: God tests humans with difficulties in order to establish humility in their hearts and pave the path for their forgiveness.
  • The positive side of snobbishness: After rejecting snobbishness, the Imam (a) suggests that occasionally one feels that one should be snobbish. These should be limited to good deeds, tolerance, respect towards neighbors, keeping oaths and covenants, following the good-doers, disobeying the stiff-necked, proceeding with goodness and avoiding cruelty and bloodshed, justice towards people, suppressing one's anger, and avoiding corruption on earth.

Social

A part of al-Qasi'a Sermon

Beware! Beware of obeying your leaders and elders who felt proud of their achievements and boasted about their lineage. They hurled the (liability for) things on Allah and quarrelled with Allah in what He did with them, contesting His decree and disputing His favors. Certainly, they are the main foundation of obstinacy, the chief pillars of mischief and the swords of pre-Islamic boasting over forefathers. Therefore, fear Allah, do not become antagonistic to His favors on you, nor jealous of His bounty over you and do not obey the claimants (of Islam) whose dirty water you drink along with your clean one, whose ailments you mix with your healthiness and whose wrongs you allow to enter into your rightful matters.

  • Unity: A monotheistic society, which has been formed after the Prophet's (a) call, is characterized by unity and lack of division or chauvinism. This makes it different from the society before it, when people were always fighting with each other.
  • Division in the Society: We should learn from the past societies which dissolved due to divisions, hatred, and strife.
  • Tolerating the persecutions for the love of God, and keeping up with difficulties for the fear of him leads to honor and respect. A united society is full of honor and power, while division leads to dishonor and dissolution.

Theological Points

  • God tests some of his servants with cases that they do not know in order to negate their arrogance.
  • The prophets' poverty: If the prophets had been wealthy, powerful, and respected by everyone, there would not have been any trial or reward. Hunger, difficulties, and fear were the prophets' trials.
  • The Ka'ba was located in a dry desert, so that the servants would be tried. If it had been in the middle of green gardens, the reward of its pilgrimage would have been very little.
  • The rationale of the rituals: Arrogance enters everyone's heart. Rituals such as prayer, zakat (alms-giving), and fasting were set up to increase humility, although zakat also helps with the poor of the society.
  • Trying the faithful with difficulties: The difficulties and evils among humans are arranged to try their faith.

Upbringing of the Prophet (s) and Imam (a)

In this sermon, the Imam (a) describes upbringing of the Prophet (s):

When the Prophet (s) was weaned, God made the greatest of angels his companion so he walked on the paths of greatness, and learnt the best characteristics of the world.

Imam 'Ali (a)] also mentions his relationship with the Prophet (s):

When I was a child he kept me with himself, put me on his chest, let me sleep in his bed so that I adopted his good smell. Sometimes he put in my mouth something which he had chewed. He did not hear any lie from me nor did he see any wrong from me. I was with him when he was at home or travel like a young camel following its mother. Everyday, he taught me something new from his behavior to follow. He retreated to the Hira' cave every year, and it was only me who was able to see him. At that time, the only house which had any Muslim was the house of the Prophet (s) and Khadija (a), and I was the third of them. I could see the light of revelation and feel the prophethood."

Hearing and Seeing What the Prophet (s) Saw and Heard

Imam 'Ali (a) also said,

When revelation came down to the Prophet (s), I heard the voice of the Satan. I asked, 'O the messenger of God, what is this voice?' He answered, 'This is the Satan, who is disappointed that people will no longer worship him. You hear what I hear and you see what I see, except that you are not a prophet, but only a vizier, and go on the path of goodness, and you are the commander of the faithful.

Miracle of the Movement of the Tree

In this sermon, the Imam (a) mentions one of the miracles of the Prophet after a request by the Quraysh elites:

'I was with him, when one of the elites of Quraysh came over and said, "O Muhammad! You are making a big claim, which your fathers or relatives had not made before. If you show us the thing that we are asking, we will know that you are a prophet and a messenger, not an impostor or a magician. The Prophet (s) asked them about that thing. They said, "Call this tree to come to us with its root and leaves." He said, "God can do anything and everything. If God does this for you, will you believe and testify to the truth?" They said, "Yes." He said, "I will show you what you have asked. But I know that you will not return to the path of the good. There are those among you who will then fall into the well of difficulty[Note 1], and those who will gather groups to fight[Note 2]." Then he turned to the tree, saying, "O tree, if you believe in God and the doomsday and you believe that I am sent by God, come to me with your root and leaves, by God's commandment." Then, by God who had sent him, the tree took off its root and leaves, and raising a high sound and fluttering like birds, came to the Prophet (s), spread its high leaves on his head, put its other branch on my shoulder, when I was on his right side. Seeing the miracle, the opponents said that now half of it should go and half of it should stay. Then, he commanded the tree to do so. Half of it came over, in a surprising way, with a loud sound. It was as if the tree was going to embrace the Prophet (s). Then, they said that it should go back to the other half. And then Prophet (s) commanded it to do so. That half returned. I said, "There is no god but Allah. O the messenger of God! I was the first person to believe, and I am the first to declare that the tree obeyed your commandments in order to testify to your prophethood and glorify your words." Then they said, "No, he is but an fraudulent magician. That is why it was so easy for him. And who would testify to you other than 'Ali?"

See also

Notes

  1. It is a prediction of the prophet (s) about the Battle of Badr in which the corpses of the polytheists of Mecca were thrown down into a well
  2. It is a prediction about Abu Sufyan who gathered groups in the Battle of Khandaq to fight Muslims

References