Nahj al-Balaghah Sermon 3

      Sermon 3: By Allah, the son of Abu Quhafah….

Known as the Sermon of ash-Shiqshiqiyah1

ومن خطبة له (عليه السلام) المعروفة بالشِّقْشِقِيَّة

وتشتمل على الشكوى من أمر الخلافة ثم ترجيح صبره عنها ثم مبايعة الناس له

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).

أَمَا وَالله لَقَدْ تَقَمَّصَها ابْنُ اَبى قُحافَةَ ، وَإِنَّهُ لَيَعْلَمُ أَنَّ مَحَلِّيَ مِنهَا مَحَلُّ القُطْبِ مِنَ الرَّحَا، يَنْحَدِرُ عَنِّي السَّيْلُ، وَلا يَرْقَى إِلَيَّ الطَّيْرُ، فَسَدَلْتُ دُونَهَا ثَوْباً، وَطَوَيْتُ عَنْهَا كَشْحاً، وَطَفِقْتُ أَرْتَئِي بَيْنَ أَنْ أَصُولَ بِيَد جَذَّاءَ، أَوْ أَصْبِرَ عَلَى طَخْيَة عَمْيَاءَ، يَهْرَمُ فيهَا الكَبيرُ، وَيَشِيبُ فِيهَا الصَّغِيرُ، وَيَكْدَحُ فِيهَا مُؤْمِنٌ حَتَّى يَلْقَى رَبَّهُ.

Proposes Patience in Absence of Supporters

ترجيح الصبرعلى فقد الاعوان

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

فَرَأَيْتُ أَنَّ الصَّبْرَ عَلَى هَاتَا أَحْجَى، فَصَبَرتُ وَفي الْعَيْنِ قَذىً، وَفي الحَلْقِ شَجاً، أرى تُرَاثي نَهْباً، حَتَّى مَضَى الاْوَّلُ لِسَبِيلِهِ، فَأَدْلَى بِهَا إِلَى ابْنِ الْخَطّابِ بَعْدَهُ. ( ثم تمثل بقول الاعشى):

شَتّانَ ما يَومي عَاى كُوْرِها * و يَوْمُ حَيَّانَ أخي جابِرِ

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.

فَيَا عَجَباً!! بَيْنَا هُوَ يَسْتَقِيلُها في حَيَاتِهِ إِذْ عَقَدَهَا لاخَرَ بَعْدَ وَفَاتِهِ ـ لَشَدَّ مَا تَشَطَّرَا ضَرْعَيْهَا ! ـ فَصَيَّرَهَا في حَوْزَة خَشْنَاءَ، يَغْلُظُ كَلْمُهَا، وَيَخْشُنُ مَسُّهَا، وَيَكْثُرُ العِثَارُ فِيهَا وَالاْعْتَذَارُ مِنْهَا، فَصَاحِبُهَا كَرَاكِبِ الصَّعْبَةِ، إِنْ أَشْنَقَ لَهَا خَرَمَ، وَإِنْ أَسْلَسَ لَهَا تَقَحَّمَ، فَمُنِيَ النَّاسُ ـ لَعَمْرُ اللهِ ـ بِخَبْط وَشِمَاس، وَتَلَوُّن وَاعْتِرَاض.

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 group4 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 wealth5 like a camel devouring the foliage of spring, till his rope broke down, his actions finished him and his gluttony brought him down prostrate.

فَصَبَرْتُ عَلَى طُولِ الْمُدَّةِ، وَشِدَّةِ الْمحْنَةِ، حَتَّى إِذا مَضَى لِسَبِيلِهِ جَعَلَهَا في جَمَاعَة زَعَمَ أَنَّي أَحَدُهُمْ. فَيَاللهِ وَلِلشُّورَى! مَتَى اعْتَرَضَ الرَّيْبُ فِيَّ مَعَ الاْوَّلِ مِنْهُمْ، حَتَّى صِرْتُ أُقْرَنُ إِلَى هذِهِ النَّظَائِرِ! لكِنِّي أَسفَفْتُ إِذْ أَسَفُّوا، وَطِرْتُ إِذْ طَارُوا، فَصَغَا رَجُلُ مِنْهُمْ لِضِغْنِه، وَمَالَ الاْخَرُ لِصِهْرهِ، مَعَ هَن وَهَن. إِلَى أَنْ قَامَ ثَالِثُ القَوْمِ، نَافِجَاً حِضْنَيْهِ بَيْنَ نَثِيلهِ وَمُعْتَلَفِهِ، وَقَامَ مَعَهُ بَنُو أَبِيهِ يَخْضَمُونَ مَالَ اللهِ خَضْمَ الاْبِل نِبْتَةَ الرَّبِيعِ، إِلَى أَنِ انْتَكَثَ عَلَيْهِ فَتْلُهُ، وَأَجْهَزَ عَلَيْهِ عَمَلُهُ، وَكَبَتْ بِهِ بِطْنَتُهُ.

Allegiance paid to ‘Ali

مبايعة علي (عليه السلام(

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 a 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)

فَمَا رَاعَنِي إلاَّ وَالنَّاسُ إليَّ كَعُرْفِ الضَّبُعِ، يَنْثَالُونَ عَلَيَّ مِنْ كُلِّ جَانِب، حَتَّى لَقَدْ وُطِىءَ الحَسَنَانِ، وَشُقَّ عِطْفَايَ، مُجْتَمِعِينَ حَوْلي كَرَبِيضَةِ الغَنَمِ. فَلَمَّا نَهَضْتُ بِالاْمرِ نَكَثَتْ طَائِفَةٌ، وَمَرَقَتْ أُخْرَى، وَفَسَقَ [وقسط] آخَرُونَ كَأَنَّهُمْ لَمْ يَسْمَعُوا اللهَ سُبْحَانَهُ يَقُولُ: (تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الاخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا للَّذِينَ لاَ يُريدُونَ عُلُوّاً في الاَرْضِ وَلاَ فَسَاداً وَالعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ(،

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.

بَلَى! وَاللهِ لَقَدْ سَمِعُوهَا وَوَعَوْهَا، وَلكِنَّهُمْ حَلِيَتَ الدُّنْيَا في أَعْيُنِهمْ، وَرَاقَهُمْ زِبْرِجُهَا! أَمَا وَالَّذِي فَلَقَ الْحَبَّةَ، وَبَرَأَ النَّسَمَةَ، لَوْلاَ حُضُورُ الْحَاضِرِ، وَقِيَامُ الْحُجَّةِ بِوُجُودِ النَّاصِرِ، وَمَا أَخَذَ اللهُ عَلَى العُلَمَاءِ أَلاَّ يُقَارُّوا عَلَى كِظَّةِ ظَالِم، وَلا سَغَبِ مَظْلُوم، لاَلقَيْتُ حَبْلَهَا عَلَى غَارِبِهَا، وَلَسَقَيْتُ آخِرَهَا بِكَأْسِ أَوَّلِها، وَلاَلفَيْتُمْ دُنْيَاكُمْ هذِهِ أَزْهَدَ عِنْدِي مِنْ عَفْطَةِ عَنْز!

(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 al-mu’minin could not finish it as he wished to.)

قالوا: وقام إِليه رجل من أهل السوادعند بلوغه إلى هذا الموضع من خطبته، فناوله كتاباً، فأقبل ينظر فيه، فلمّا فرغ من قراءته قال له ابن عباس: يا أميرالمؤمنين، لو اطَّرَدت مَقالتكَ من حيث أَفضيتَ! فَقَالَ(عليه السلام): هَيْهَاتَ يَابْنَ عَبَّاس! تِلْكَ شِقْشِقَةٌ هَدَرَتْ ثُمَّ قَرَّتْ! قال ابن عباس: فوالله ما أَسفت على كلام قطّ كأَسفي على ذلك الكلام أَلاَّ يكون أميرالمؤمنين (عليه السلام) بلغ منه حيث أراد.

Al-Sharif al-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.”

قال الشريف الرضي: قوله (عليه السلام) في هذه الخطبة: «كراكب الصعبة إن أشنق لها خرم، وإن أسلس لها تقحم» يريد: أنه إذا شدد عليها في جذب الزمام وهي تنازعه رأسها خرم أنفها، وإن أرخى لها شيئاً مع صعوبتها تقحمت به فلم يملكها، يقال: أشنق الناقة، إذا جذب رأسها بالزمام فرفعه، وشنقها أيضاً: ذكر ذلك ابن السكيت في «إصلاح المنطق». وإنما قال (عليه السلام): «أشنق لها» ولم يقل: «أشنقها»، لانه جعله في مقابلة قوله: «أسلس لها»، فكأنه (عليه السلام) قال: إن رفع لها رأسها يعني أمسكه عليها بالزمام .

Alternative Sources for Sermon 3

(1) Al-Mufid, al-Jamal, 62;

(2) Ibn Qubbah, al-'Insaf, see Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh, I, 69, see also `Abd al-Zahra', I, 309-310;

(3) al-Saduq, Ma`ani, 344;

(4) al-Hasan ibn `Abd Allah al-`Askari, from him al-Saduq in Ma`ani;

(5) Ibn `Abd Rabbih, al-`Iqd, IV, see `Abd al-Zahra', I, 311-312 and al-Majlisi, Bihar, vol.8, 160;

(6) al-Ka`bi (d.319/931) - see Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh, I, 69;

(7) Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Manaqib, see Bihar, vol.8, 160; and `Abd al-Zahra', I, 310-11;

(8) al-Mufid, al-'Irshad, 135;

(9) al-Qadi `Abd al-Jabbar, al-Mughni, see al-Ghadir, VII, 83;

(10) al-Saduq, `Ilal, bab al-`illat allati min ajliha taraka Amir al-Mu'minin (A) mujahadat ahl al-khilaf;

(11) Abu Sa`id al-'Abi, Nathr al-durar and Nuzhat al-'adib, see `Abd al-Zahra', I, 313;

(12) al-Murtada, al-Shafi, 203, 204;

(13) al-Haffar, al-'Insaf from him al-Tusi in al-'Amali;

(14) al-Tusi, al-'Amali, I, 392;

(15) Qutb al-Din Rawandi, Sharh, from Ibn Mardawayh and al-Tabarani;

(16) Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, Tadhkirah, 133;

(17) al-Harrani, Tuhaf, 313;

(18) al-Murtada, Sharh al-Khutbat al-Shiqshiqiyyah, seeA`yan al-Shi`ah, vol. 41, p. 195;

(19) al-Tabarsi, al-'Ihtijaj; I, 95; for a detailed discussion of sources, see `Abd al-Zahra', I, 309-324.