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Nahjul Balaghah: Sermon 3 Known as Al-Shiqshiqiyya

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[It includes complaints about the matter of the caliphate, then the preference of his patience over it, then the people’s allegiance to him]

By Allah, indeed the son of Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) donned it[1], and he certainly knows that my position in relation to it is like the axis in the grinding mill; the flood descends from me, and no bird can ascend to me. I, therefore, draped a cloak over it[2], folded away from it my flank [3], and I began to ponder whether to attack with a severed hand or to endure the blinding darkness, where the elder grows decrepit, the young goes gray, and the believer toils until he meets his Lord.

[Preferring patience]

I then saw that patience in this is wiser [6], so I endured with grit in my eye and a thorn in my throat [7], watching my heritage being plundered, until the first one went his way, and he cast it [9] down to another after him.

Then he recited, reflecting on the words of the poet Al-A’sha:

How different my day as I face its distress [riffing a camel’s back] *** And the day of Hayyan, the brother of Jabir.

Oh, what a wonder! While he was asking people to excuse him from it in his life, he arranged for someone else to take over it after his death – how much her udders have split apart! He then placed it in the care of a coarse guardian, whose speech is harsh, touch rough, and whose errors and excuses are frequent. Its keeper is like one riding a difficult mount; if he tightens its reins, he will split its nostrils, and if he loosens them, it will plunge him. Indeed, by the life of Allah, people have been afflicted with confusion and hardship, and with changes and opposition.

I endured the long duration and the severity of the ordeal, until after his passing [the second caliph], he put it in a group, claiming I was one of them. Oh Allah, and to the council! When did doubt about me arise the first of them, until I was paired with these peers? But I lowered myself when they did, and soared when they flew, so one of them yielded to his grudge, and another inclined towards his kinship, and other matters I don’t want to mention.

Until the third of the group stood up, inflating his chest between his fodder and his feed, and with him stood the sons of his father, devouring the wealth of Allah like camels devour the spring’s vegetation, until his thread snapped upon him, his deeds hastened his end, and his own belly overthrew him.

Allegiance to Ali (peace be upon him)

What astonished me was that people flocked to me like the bristles of a hyena, converging on me from every side, until even Hassanain were trampled, and my shoulder garments were torn, gathering around me like a sheepfold.

But when I took charge of the affairs, one group broke their pledge, another defected, and others became openly disobedient, as if they had not heard Allah, the Exalted, saying: ‘That home of the Hereafter We shall assign to those who seek neither high-handedness nor mischief on earth, and the end is for the God-fearing.’ Yes, by Allah! They did hear it and understood it, but the allure of this world adorned their eyes, and its glitter pleased them!

By the One who splits the seed and creates the soul, were it not for the presence of supporters, the establishment of proof through the existence of helpers, and what Allah has taken upon the scholars not to acquiesce to the oppression of a tyrant nor the hunger of the oppressed, I would have thrown the reins of the caliphate over its back (and let it go) and quenched its end with the same cup as its beginning, and you would find this world of yours has less value to me than what comes from the sneeze of a goat!

They said: And a man from the people of Al-Sawad (Iraq) approached him when he reached this part of his speech and handed him a letter. He began to read it, and when he finished, Ibn Abbas said to him: ‘O Commander of the Faithful, would that you had continued your speech from where you left off!’ To which he (peace be upon him) replied:

‘Far it is, O Ibn Abbas! That was a camel foam bubble that burst and then settled!’

Ibn Abbas said: ‘By Allah, I have never regretted any speech as much as I regret that speech, that the Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) did not continue it to where he intended.’[3]


[1] The caliphate

[2] Ibd

[3] This statement by Ibn Abbas expresses a deep sense of regret and longing for what the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (peace be upon him), might have said or intended to convey in his speech.

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