In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
And from Him we seek assistance
Praise be to Allah on his abundant favours, and blessings and peace be upon Muhammad and his progeny.
This is a polite counsel, a noble exhortation, useful suggestions, inclusive of benefits, which this indigent Muḥammad bin al-Ḥasan al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī has written for his son Muḥammad Riḍā al-Ḥurr at the time of his departure, heading towards the visitation of the authorities of Allah – may Allah grant him success for his satisfactory deeds, and make his future better than his past – it is appropriate, rather it is obligatory upon him to contemplate over its meanings and act on that which is in it. All of it is that which the sound intellect guides towards and the explicit transmission signifies. Thus, I say:
I advise you, O my dear son – may Allah grant you success:
Firstly: To be sincere in all acts of worship, the most significant of them being the seeking of knowledge, learning it and teaching it. In all kinds of worship, your intent should be to seek the satisfaction of Allah, His closeness, His obedience, and the fulfilling of His commands. Be careful of ostentation, for ostentation is associating partners with Allah. Do not seek the satisfaction of any of the people through anything you do from it, nor seek anything from the worldly benefits.
Contemplate over His words: [42:20] Whoever desires the harvest of the Hereafter – We increase for him in his harvest. And whoever desires the harvest of this world – We give him thereof, but there is not for him in the Hereafter any share.
Know that there is no good in relying on people, hence, come forth towards Allah with your heart – as it has been narrated: Whoever corrects that which is between himself and Allah, Allah will correct that which is between himself and people. Whoever corrects his secret affairs, Allah will correct his public affairs. He who fears Allah, Allah will make everything fearful of him, and one who does not fear Allah, Allah will make him fearful of everything.
The traditions praising sincerity and condemning ostentation are more than what can be enumerated, and the intellectual judgement is a support for those reports.
Secondly: Strive and struggle in acts of worship, such as the learning of divine knowledge, teaching it, reading abundantly, memorizing and explaining, conversing with the scholars, sitting with them and questioning them, being mindful of the obligatory prayers at their earliest times and the supererogatory prayers of the obligatory ones and other supererogatory prayers, especially Ṣalāt al-Layl and Ṣalāt of Jaʿfar, recitation of the Qurān, abundance in supplications, remembering Allah with the taḥlīl, taḥmīd, tasbīḥ, takbīr,1 seeking forgiveness, sending blessings upon Muḥammad and his progeny, repenting, performing the obligatory and recommended fasts, giving charity, giving food and water, performing the religious visitations, visiting the sick, participating in the funerals, visiting the believers, fulfilling their needs and bringing them happiness, performing good acts, fighting against the self and preventing it from the prohibited and detested acts, preventing it from wasting time, and commanding it to perform all its moving and stationary acts in the way of knowledge and worship.
You should learn them, teach them, read their books, and memorize its issues and principles. They possess all that one will require with respects to religious knowledge and most of the popular sciences, except that which is from the innovated and invented matters, such as that which reached the Muslims during the time of Ma’mūn from the knowledge of the ancient philosophers.4
The aforementioned subjects, especially the science of ḥadīth, contains all that is needed. Rather, it is the most reliable of them, since the traditions of the Imams (a) contain all that which humans are in need of, and in fact contain more than what is needed and adequate, inclusive of both intellectual and transmitted arguments, and on both religious and worldly matters. You must extensively investigate and read the books of ḥadīth, and I have given you the license to transmit them from me, through the well-known chains. I have mentioned some of these chains at the end of Wasā’il al-Shīʿa, while the rest are in the books of Rijāl and Ijāzāt.
The aforementioned books of knowledge contain a lot of benefits and arguments that are in accordance with the traditions. They (i.e. the hadith) act as a support for them (i.e. the books of knowledge), thus they can rightfully be considered probative and binding against the people of falsehood. Perhaps they have taken matters from there, but have mixed it with suspicion, falsification, deception, and fraud. It is better, rather obligatory, to be careful of them, and guard against them.
Fourthly: Having good conduct with people, as there is no choice but to mingle with various groups of people, because humans are social by nature and cannot live on their own. Rather, they are in need of assistants and helpers, so it is better to live alongside them with good conduct, a pleasant tongue, with respect and goodness, being forgiving of mistakes, tolerant against the vulnerable, granting the rights, commending that which is good, sympathy with the brothers, refraining from evil conduct and an abusive tongue. It has been transmitted in a narration that: One whose tongue people fear, then he is from the people of the fire, and it has been transmitted: The evilest of people is one who people respect out of fear of his evil.
It is appropriate to love for people that which you love for yourself and detest for them that which you detest for yourself. Repel harm from people and do not abuse them with your hand or your tongue. Your efforts should be in doing well-known acts and goodness, not in causing harm and oppression.
Fifth: Be attentive towards alimony and the various types of spending – it should be done without extravagance and stinginess.
[17:29] And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent.
[25:67] And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly] moderate.[The spending] should be calculated and budgeted. Refrain from squandering and wasting, for the wasteful ones are from the brothers of Satans.
[65:7] Let a man of wealth spend from his wealth, and he whose provision is restricted – let him spend from what Allah has given him. Allah does not charge a soul except [according to] what He has given it. Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease.
In a tradition it says: I [Imam al-Ṣādiq] guarantee that whoever is frugal will never become poor. Stinginess is from the evilest of evils.
Sixth: To contemplate on the consequences. Do not do anything without contemplation and do not say anything without thinking and reflecting. You should consult and perform istikhārah for important things whose consequences you fear. One who does not consult is regretful. You should have reliance on Allah, but be careful of being over cautious as that leads to cowardice.
In a tradition it says: the consequence of fear is disappointment and of bashfulness is frustration.
Have determination and energy in important matters, as in a tradition it says: nobody is weak in that about which his decision is firm.
And it has been narrated: Whoever seeks out something with zeal shall find it, and whoever knocks on a door and is stubborn shall enter.
Excessiveness and negligence in all things are condemned, the best course of action is moderation.
Seventh: Persisting in the recitation of the transmitted liturgies and supplications, abundantly reading the books of worship, supplications, memorizing most of the supplications and being consistent with them, especially the smaller supplications, and the rest of the supplications of the morning and evening, and the supplications after Ṣalāt and for the important matters and for repelling harm.
Care and attention should be given to supplication because it is a great means, rather it is the strongest means of achieving the goals. Man should seek all that he needs from Allah, rely on Him, strive towards Him and be positive towards Him. Seize the opportunity to supplicate, seek your needs from Allah in all the noble times like the month of Ramadan, the night of Friday and its day, the day of Ghadīr, and in the noble shrines especially in the shrine of al-Ḥusayn – for Allah has compensated for his killing by granting cure in his soil, the fulfillment of supplications under his dome, placing the nine Imams in his progeny, and not counting the days of their visitations to his shrine from the days of their life-span. Humans should seek from Allah and be persistence in supplications as that is more likely to be accepted.
Eight: Remaining patient in times of calamities and being satisfied with the Divine Will and Decree – patience has also been narrated.5 There is no choice but for calamities and hardships to occur, but surely Allah is with the patient ones. The praise of patience and condemnation of worry are mass-transmitted (mutawātir) in the reports.
Ninth: Struggling in the fight against the self, repelling away the whispers of Satan from it, keeping corrupt thoughts and attention of the world away from the heart to the extent possible, being attentive towards the hereafter, the important matters of the world, and the necessities that have been commanded by the Divine law. Fighting the self is obligatory, because the self commands towards evil, since it has an affinity towards being idle, carefree, wasting life, engaging in worldly lusts and bodily pleasures, and the mundane worldly things. It is obligatory to follow the Divine law and the intellect and oppose the desires and the self. The success of the world and the hereafter is in that.
[79:40-41] But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, Then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.
Tenth: To perform all your moving and stationary acts with the intention of seeking closeness and conducting acts of worship. Eat with the intention of preventing the harm of hunger and protecting the body, acquire strength for knowledge and worship, and likewise drinking, sleeping and all other moving and stationary acts – because verily the actions are with the intentions.
O my son, you must refer to the wills of the Prophet and the Imams (a) and act on that which is in them.
May Allah grant you success in that through the right of Muḥammad and his pure progeny.
Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.
- Taḥlīl is saying Lā Ilāha Illā Allah, Taḥmīd is saying Alḥamdulillah, Tasbīḥ is saying Subḥānallah, and Takbīr is saying Allah Akbar.
- Ma’ānī is the study of tropes and Bayān is the study of figures of speech. Both are studied within the science of rhetoric and are important for the study of the Qurān.
- Shaykh Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī does not mention Uṣūl al-Fiqh (legal theory) as he was an Akhbārī and was against legal theory. For more information on the differences between an Akhbārī and Uṣūlī, see The Nature of the Akhbārī/Uṣūlī Dispute in Late Ṣafawid Iran. Part 1: ‘Abdallāh al-Samāhijī’s “Munyat al-Mumārisīn” by Andrew J. Newman.
- Shīʿī scholars have always had a love-hate relationship with philosophy and mysticism. Up until the middle of the 20th century, many Shīʿī scholars not only remained opposed to the study of philosophy and mysticism, but they would condemn it, classifying the books as Kutub al-Ḍālal (books of misguidance). Some would even debate the mere jurisprudential permissibility of studying these subjects. Such positions are prevalent amongst Sunnī scholarship today. Philosophy and mysticism therefore never completely became part of the mainstream Shīʿī seminary curriculum until the end of the 20th century through the insistence of scholars like Imam Khumaynī, ʿAllāmah Ṭabāṭabāī and few others. This opposition was even truer during the period of dominance by the Akhbārīs in the Shīʿī seminaries, to the extent that Shaykh Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī himself had written a treatise against the Ṣūfīs, where he dedicates a section critiquing Ibn ʿArabī – someone whose works went on to influence Mullā Ṣadra in developing his Transcendent Philosophy. While this opposition still exists today in circles of scholarship within the seminaries of Qom and Najaf, particularly amongst traditional jurists and theologians, severe condemnation of both can be witnessed openly in the seminary of Mashhad amongst the anti-philosophy school of thought called Maktab-i Tafkīk. Extensive historical research has been done on this topic and material can easily be found online – for a simple overview of contemporary debates, consider reading: Maktab-i tafkīk and the debate on philosophy in Iran by Dr. Sajjad Rizvi.
- Meaning: in a tradition it has been narrated that one should remain patient in face of Divine Will and Decree, as opposed to satisfied.