Imam ‘Alī (a) said: A lady came in the presence of Fāṭima al-Ṣiddīqa (s) and said, “I have an elderly mother, and she has gotten confused over a ruling in prayers. She has sent me to you to ask about it.”
She (s) answered her question, so the lady asked her a second time. She (s) answered again, and the lady asked her a third time until she asked her ten times. She (s) answered her, and the lady became embarrassed for having asked the same question many times. She said, “I did not want to burden you O daughter of the Messenger of Allah.” Fāṭima (s) said to her, “Come and keep asking me whatever you want. What do you think about a person who is hired for a day to carry a heavy weight to the roof, while his wage is a hundred-thousand Dinar. Will it get burdensome for him till he stops working?”
The lady responded in the negative. So she (s) said, “For every question that is asked, I am given the wage of pearls more in quantity than all of that which is between the earth and the Throne. It is more appropriate that such a matter does not become burdensome for me.”
My father (p) would say, “The scholars of our followers will all be gathered, and they will be robed with robes of honour for their knowledge and efforts in guiding the servants of Allah. So much so that each of them will be given thousands of robes of light, and a caller of our Lord (azwj) will call out, ‘O the caretakers of the orphans of the family of Muhammad, those who revive them while they are cut off from their fathers – their Imams – these are your students and orphans whom you took care of and revived. So, cover them with robes just as you covered them with knowledge in the world.”
The scholars will then robe each one of those orphans to the extent of that which they learned from them until they (the orphans) will be robed with hundred-thousand suits of heavenly clothes. Likewise, these orphans will also robe those who learned from them. Then Allah will say, “Return back to those learned ones, the caretakers of the orphans, so that they can finish robing them multiple times more.” So, they will finish robing them multiple times more, and the same will be done by them to their disciplines.
Fāṭima (s) said, “O maidservant of Allah, o single strand of that robe is greater than what the sunlight shines on, by hundred-thousand times. That which the sun shines upon is nothing but spoiled with impurities.”1
This short report is cited by al-Shahīd al-Thānī in his Munyat al-Murīd fī Ādāb al-Mufīd al-Mustafīd 2 and one can offer a few reflections on it:
1) This is one of many narrations within the Islamic corpus that signifies the reward for both asking questions and as well as answering people’s questions.
2) The report tells us that for all questions we are able to answer and alleviate people’s needs and inquiries, Allah (swt) rewards us immensely. In this report, the reward is more than what exists between the earth and the heavens.
3) The woman who continuously asks Lady Fatima (s) questions is eventually embarrassed, but Lady Fatima’s (s) reaction to that is worthy of attention. If someone were to ask us a question ten times, and due to their shortcomings were unable to understand your response, requiring them to ask you for further clarification, it is only a matter of time that we would lose our temper. In this story, Fatima (s) does not lose her temper and instead shows kindness and empathy, helping the lady with her questions. The absence of anger and the presence of perseverance (ḥilm) is depicted in this report, and the great reward one receives for this act.
Realistically speaking, one can excuse themselves from others by informing them they will get back to them later, or respond later, or let them know they are not feeling well etc. if they are unable to answer inquiries. However, these responses are different from one resorting to anger and frustration. This is a key point for both students and teachers; one should have perseverance and the energy to listen to their teachers or those more learned than them, to hear them out fully. If we do not understand something, we should ask for clarification, and if it just so happens that we do not understand what they are saying, not only should the teacher not get angry and frustrated, we as students should also not get angry or frustrated. Frustration shows one is losing control of their patience. This is a simple etiquette that is to be followed in learning and teaching – ‘ilm is to be accompanied with ḥilm. Many a time, students and teachers lost their God-given opportunities to both learn or teach, due to lack of perseverance.
- This report is from Tafsīr attributed to Imam al-‘Askarī, however its attribution to him (a) has been thoroughly refuted. Some contemporary researchers (such as the unpublished research work in over 550 pages written by Kāẓim Ustādī, called Tafsīr ‘Askarī Uṭrūsh.) have attempted to prove that the work is authored by the famous scholar and ruler, Ḥasan al-Uṭrūsh (230-304 / 845-917), who was also the maternal grandfather of Sharīf Murtaḍa and Sharīf Raḍī. Sharīf Murtaḍa and Najāshī considered him to be an Imami scholar, however many others considered him to be a Zaydi.
- The work has been translated and published by Islamic College, as Desire of the Aspirant: On the Etiquette of the Teacher and the Student.