Chapter Ten: The Last Sermon of the Imam

Encyclopedia of Imam Ali (AS), written by Muhammad Muhammadi Rayshahri, abridged by Mahdi Gholamali, translated by Zaid Alsalami and Safyullah Khan, edited by Hamid Reza Salarkia and published by NORPUB.

526. نهج البلاغة :

526. Nahj al-Balagha:

رُوِي عَن نَوفِ البِكالِيِّ قالَ :

It is reported from Nawf al-Bikali that he said:

خَطَبَنا بِهذِهِ الخُطبَةِ أميرُ المُؤمِنينَ عَلِيٌّ عليه السلام بِالكوفَةِ

Ali - upon whom be peace - delivered the following sermon at Kufa.

وهُوَ قائِمٌ عَلى حِجارَةٍ نَصَبَها لَهُ جَعدَةُ بنُ هُبَيرَةَ المَخزومِيُّ ،

He was standing on a stone that had been set up for him by Ja’dah ibn Hubayrah al-Makhzumi.

وعَلَيهِ مِدرَعَةٌ مِن صوفٍ

He wore an outer garment of wool.

وحَمائِلُ سَيفِهِ ليفٌ ،

His sword belt

وفي رِجلَيهِ نَعلانِ مِن ليفٍ ،

and his shoes were made of fiber.

وكَأَنَّ جَبينَهُ ثَفِنَةُ بَعيرٍ .

His forehead was like the knee of a camel.

فَقالَ عليه السلام :

He said,

 الحَمدُ للِّهِ الَّذي إلَيهِ مَصائِرُ الخَلقِ ،

 “Praise belongs to God, unto whom are the homecomings of creation

وعَواقِبُ الأَمرِ .

and the issues of the affair.

نَحمَدُهُ عَلى عَظيمِ إحسانِهِ

We praise Him for His mighty goodness,

ونَيِّرِ بُرهانِهِ ،

His radiant proof (burhan)

ونَوامي فَضلِهِ وَامتِنانِهِ ،

and the profusion of His bounty and gracious giving;

حَمداً يَكونُ لِحَقِّهِ قَضاءً ،

a praise which might render Him His rightfully due,

ولِشُكرِهِ أداءً ،

accomplish His thanks,

وإلى ثَوابِهِ مُقَرِّبا ،

bring (us) near to His reward

ولِحُسنِ مَزيدِهِ موجِباً .

and cause the fairest of His increase.

ونَستَعينُ بِهِ استِعانَةَ راجٍ لِفَضلِهِ ،

We pray to Him for succour, the prayer of one hoping for His bounty,

مُؤَمِّلٍ لِنَفعِهِ ،

anticipating His benefit,

واثِقٍ بِدَفعِهِ ، مُعتَرِفٍ لَهُ بِالطَّولِ ،

having confidence in Him to avert (evil),

مُذعِنٍ لَهُ بِالعَمَلِ وَالقَولِ .

acknowledging His blessings and submitting to Him in deed and word.

ونُؤمِنُ بِهِ إيمانَ مَن رَجاهُ موقِناً ،

We believe in Him with the faith (iman) of one who hopes for Him with certainty,

وأنابَ إلَيهِ مُؤمِناً ،

turns to Him as a believer,

وخَنَعَ لَهُ مُذعِناً ،

humbles himself before Him in submission,

وأخلَصَ لَهُ مُوَحِّداً ،

sincerely professes His Unity (akhlasa muwahhidan),

وعَظَّمَهُ مُمَجِّداً ،

magnifies Him in glorification and seeks refuge in Him,

ولاذَ بِهِ راغِباً مُجتَهِداً .

desiring and striving (raghiban mujtahidan).”

 لَم يُولَد سُبحانَهُ فَيَكونَ فِي العِزِّ مُشارَكاً ،

“He has not been begotten’ (112:3) - glory be to Him that He should share in Might,

ولَم يَلِد فَيَكونَ مَوروثاً هالِكاً .

and ‘He has not begotten’ (112:3) that He should bequeath and perish.

ولَم يَتَقَدَّمهُ وَقتٌ ولا زَمانٌ .

Time (waqt) precedes Him not, nor duration,

ولَم يَتَعاوَرهُ زِيادَةٌ ولا نُقصانٌ ،

and increase and decrease seize Him not by turns.”

بَل ظَهَرَ لِلعقُولِ بِما أرانا مِن عَلاماتِ التَّدبيرِ المُتقَنِ وَالقَضاءِ المُبرَمِ .

 “Nay, He appears to the powers of reason by the marks He has shown us of (His) perfect directing and certain decree.

 فَمِن شَواهِدِ خَلقِهِ خَلقُ السَّمواتِ مُوَطَّداتٍ بِلا عَمَدٍ ، قائِماتٍ بِلا سَنَدٍ .

So of the witnesses of His creation is the creation of the heavens without pillars, standing without supports.

دَعاهُنَّ فَأَجَبنَ طائِعاتٍ مُذعِناتٍ، غَيرَ مُتَلَكِّئاتٍ ولا مُبطِئاتٍ .

He called them and they answered, obeying, submissive, without hesitation or delay.

ولَولا إقرارُهُنَّ لَهُ بِالرُّبوبِيَّةِ وإذعانُهُنَّ بِالطَّواعِيَةِ لَما جَعَلَهُنَّ مَوضِعا لِعَرشِهِ ،

Had it not been for their acknowledging (iqrar) Him in lordship and their willing submission (to Him), He would not have appointed them the locus of His Throne,

ولا مَسكَناً لِمَلائِكَتِهِ ،

nor the dwelling place for His angels,

ولا مَصعَداً لِلكَلِمِ الطَّيِّبِ

nor the place of ascent of good words

وَالعَمَلِ الصّالِحِ مِن خَلقِهِ .

and the righteous deed of His creation.

جَعَلَ نُجومَها أعلاماً يَستَدِلُّ بِهَا الحَيرانُ في مُختَلِفِ فِجاجِ الأَقطارِ .

He appointed their stars waymarks by which the bewildered traveler is guided in the divergent paths of the lands.

لَم يَمنَع ضَوءَ نورِهَا ادلِهمامُ سُجُفِ اللَّيلِ المُظلِمِ .

The thickness of the dark night’s curtain prevents not the shining of their light,

ولَا استَطاعَت جَلابيبُ سَوادِ الحَنادِسِ أن تَرُدَّ ما شاعَ فِي السَّمواتِ مِن تَلَألُؤِ نورِ القَمَرِ .

and the garments of the black night’s blackness cannot push back the brilliance of the light of the moon that spreads in the heavens.”

 فَسُبحانَ مَن لا يَخفى عَلَيهِ سَوادُ غَسَقٍ داجٍ ولا لَيلٍ ساجٍ

“So glory be to Him, from whom is not hidden the blackness of a gloomy dusk or still night

 في بِقاعِ الأَرَضينَ المُتَطَأطِئاتِ ،

in the hollows of lands low,

ولا في يَفاعِ  السُّفعِ المُتَجاوِراتِ .

nor in the peaks of neighbouring mountains;

وما يَتَجَلجَلُ بِهِ الرَّعدُ في اُفُقِ السَّماءِ ،

 (nor) that with which the thunder reverberates in the horizon of heaven;

وما تَلاشَت عَنهُ بُروقُ الغَمامِ ،

(nor) that from which the lightning of the clouds vanishes;

وما تَسقُطُ مِن وَرَقَةٍ

(nor) the leaf which falls,

تُزيلُها عَن مَسقَطِها عَواصِفُ الأَنواءِ

removed from its place of falling by the gales caused by the stars (al- anwa’)

وَانهِطالُ السَّماءِ ،

and the pouring down of the rain.

ويَعلَمُ مَسقَطَ القَطرَةِ ومَقَرَّها ،

He knows the place where the raindrop falls and where it takes its rest,

ومَسحَبَ الذَّرَّةِ ومَجَرَّها ،

the route by which the tiny ant draws and drags (on the ground),

وما يَكفِي البَعوضَةَ مِن قوتِها ،

what is sufficient food for a gnat

وما تَحمِلُ الاُنثى في بَطنِها .

and what the female bears within her womb.”

 الحَمدُ للِّهِ الكائِنِ قَبلَ أن يَكونَ كُرسِيٌّ أو عَرشٌ ،

“Praise belongs to God, the Existent (al-ka’in) before there was a Pedestal (kursi), or Throne (‘arsh),

أو سَماءٌ أو أرضٌ أو جانٌّ أو إنسٌ ،

or heaven, or earth, or jinn, or man.

لا يُدرَكُ بِوَهمٍ ،

He is not perceived by imagination (wahm)

ولا يُقَدَّرُ بِفَهمٍ .

or measured by understanding (fahm).

ولا يَشغَلُهُ سائِلٌ ،

Petitioners busy Him not

ولا يَنقُصُهُ نائِلٌ ،

and giving diminishes Him not.

ولا يَنظُرُ بِعَينٍ ،

He is not observed by eyes,

ولا يُحَدُّ بِأَينٍ .

nor delimited by location (“where”, ayn),

ولا يُوصَفُ بِالأَزواجِ ،

nor described by pairs.

ولا يُخلَقُ بِعِلاجٍ .

He creates not through application’

ولا يُدرَكُ بِالحَواسِّ .

is perceived not by the senses

ولا يُقاسُ بِالنّاسِ .

and is compared not with man.”

الَّذي كَلَّمَ موسى تَكليماً ،

“It is He who spoke to Moses directly

وأراهُ مِن آياتِهِ عَظيماً .

and showed him one of His mighty signs

بِلا جَوارِحِ ولا أدَواتٍ ،

without members (jawarih), instruments (adawat),

ولا نُطقٍ ولا لَهَواتٍ .

speech or throat.

 بَل إن كُنتَ صادِقاً أيُّهَا المُتَكَلِّفُ لِوَصفِ رَبِّكَ

Nay, if thou speakest truly, O thou who affectest to describe thy Lord,

فَصِف جَبرائيلَ وميكائيلَ وجُنودَ المَلائِكَةِ المُقَرَّبينَ في حُجُراتِ القُدُسِ مُرجَحِنّينَ ،

then describe Gabriel, Michael and the hosts of the angels brought nigh, bowing in the sacred chambers (hujurat al-quds),

مُتَوَلِّهَةً عُقولُهُم أن يَحُدّوا أحسَنَ الخالِقينَ .

their intellects in adoring perplexity to delimit the ‘Fairest of Creators’.

فَإِنَّما يُدرَكُ بِالصِّفاتِ ذَوُو الهَيئاتِ وَالأَدَواتِ ،

Surely only those are perceived through attributes who possess forms and instruments

ومَن يَنقَضي إذا بَلَغَ أمَدَ حَدِّهِ بِالفَناءِ ؛

and who end in annihilation when they reach the limit of their term.

فَلا إلهَ إلّا هُوَ ،

There is no god but He.

أضاءَ بِنورِهِ كُلَّ ظَلامٍ ،

He illumines with His Light every darkness

وأظلَمَ بِظُلمَتِهِ كُلَّ نورٍ .

and He darkens with His Darkness every light.”

 اُوصيكُم عِبادَ اللّهِ بِتَقوَى اللّهِ الَّذي ألبَسَكُمُ الرِّياشَ

“I advise you‚ O servants of God‚ to practise fear of God Who gave you good clothing

وأسبَغَ عَلَيكُمُ المَعاشَ .

and bestowed an abundance of sustenance on you.

ولَو أنَّ أحَداً يَجِدُ إلَى البَقاءِ سُلّماً ،

If there was anyone who could secure a ladder to everlasting life

أو إلى دَفعِ المَوتِ سَبيلاً ،

or a way to avoid death

لَكانَ ذلِكَ سُلَيمانُ بنُ داوُدَ عليه السلام

it was Sulayman ibn Dawud (Solomon‚ son of David)

الَّذي سُخِّرَ لَهُ مُلكُ الجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ

who was given control over the domain of the jinn and men along

مَعَ النُّبُوَّةِ وعَظيمِ الزُّلفَةِ ،

with prophethood and great position (before God)‚

فَلَمَّا استَوفى طُعمَتَهُ ،

but when he finished‚ what was his due in food (of this world)

وَاستَكمَلَ مُدَّتَهُ ،

and exhausted his (fixed) time

رَمَتهُ قِسِيُّ الفَناءِ بِنِبالِ المَوتِ ،

the bow of destruction shot him with arrow of death.

وأصبَحَتِ الدِّيارُ مِنهُ خالِيَةً ،

His houses became vacant

وَالمَساكِنُ مُعَطَّلَةً ،

and his habitations became empty.

ووَرِثَها قَومٌ آخَرونَ ،

Another group of people inherited them.

وإنَّ لَكُم فِي القُرونِ السّالِفَةِ لَعِبرَةً !

Certainly‚ the by-gone centuries have a lesson for you.

أينَ العَمالِقَةُ وأبناءُ العَمالِقَةِ !

Where are the Amalekites and the sons of Amlekites?

أينَ الفَراعِنَةُ وأبناءُ الفَراعِنَةِ !

Where are the Pharaohs and the sons of the Pharaohs?

أينَ أصحابُ مَدائِنِ الرِّسِّ الَّذينَ قَتَلُوا النَّبِيّينَ ،

Where are the people of the cities of ar-Rass who killed the prophets‚

وأطفَؤوا سُنَنَ المُرسَلينَ ،

destroyed the traditions of the divine messengers

وأحيَوا سُنَنَ الجَبّارينَ !

and revived the traditions of the despots?

وأينَ الَّذينَ ساروا بِالجُيوشِ وهَزَموا بِالاُلوفِ .

Where are those who advanced with armies‚ defeated thousands‚

وعَسكَرُوا العَساكِرَ ومَدَّنُوا المَدائِنَ .

mobilised forces and populated cities?”

 ومِنها :

In another part of the same sermon the Imam (AS) said:

قَد لَبِسَ لِلحِكمَةِ جُنَّتَها ،

“He will be wearing the armour of wisdom‚

وأخَذَها بِجَميعِ أدَبِها

which he will have secured with all its conditions‚

مِنَ الإِقبالِ عَلَيها ،

such as full attention towards it‚

وَالمَعرِفَةِ بِها ،

its (complete) knowledge

وَالتَّفَرُّغِ لَها ؛

and exclusive devotion to it.

فَهِيَ عِندَ نَفسِهِ ضالَّتُهُ الَّتي يَطلُبُها ،

For him it is like a thing which he had lost and which he was then seeking‚

وحاجَتُهُ الَّتي يَسأَلُ عَنها ؛

or a need which he was trying to fulfil.

فَهُوَ مُغتَرِبٌ إذَا اغتَرَبَ الإِسلامُ ،

If Islam is in trouble he will feel forlorn like a traveller

وضَرَبَ بِعَسيبِ  ذَنَبِهِ ،

and like a (tired) camel beating the end of its tail

وألصَقَ الأَرضَ بِجِرانِهِ  .

and with its neck flattened on the ground.

بَقِيَّةٌ مِن بَقايا حُجَّتِهِ ،

He is the last of God’s proofs

خَليفَةٌ مِن خَلائِفِ أنبِيائِهِ .

and one of the vicegerents of His prophets.”

 ثُمَّ قالَ عليه السلام :

Then he (AS) continued:

أيُّهَا النّاسُ !

"O’ people!

إنّي قَد بَثَثتُ لَكُمُ المَواعِظَ الَّتي وَعَظَ الأَنبِياءُ بِها اُمَمَهُم ،

I have divulged to you advice which the prophets used to preach before their peoples‚

وأدَّيتُ إلَيكُم ما أدَّتِ الأَوصِياءُ إلى مَن بَعدَهُم ،

and I have conveyed to you what the vicegerents (of the prophets) conveyed to those coming after them.

وأدَّبتُكُم بِسَوطي فَلَم تَستَقيموا .

I tried to train you with my whip but you could not be straightened.

وحَدَوتُكُم بِالزَّواجِرِ فَلَم تَستَوسِقوا .

I drove you with admonition but you did not acquire proper behaviour.

لِلّهِ أنتُم !

May God deal with you!

أ تَتَوَقَّعونَ إماماً غَيري يَطَأُ بِكُمُ الطَّريقَ ،

Do you want an Imam other than me to take you on the (right) path‚

ويُرشِدُكُمُ السَّبيلَ ؟

and show you the correct way?

ألا إنَّهُ قَد أدبَرَ مِنَ الدُّنيا ما كانَ مُقبِلاً ،

Beware‚ the things in this world which were forward‚ have become things of the past‚

وأقبَلَ مِنها ما كانَ مُدبِراً ،

and those of which were behind‚ are going ahead.

وأزمَعَ التَّرحالَ عِبادُ اللّهِ الأَخيارُ ،

The virtuous people of God have made up their minds to leave

وباعوا قَليلاً مِنَ الدُّنيا

and they have purchased‚ with a little perishable (pleasure) of this world‚

لا يَبقى بِكَثيرٍ مِنَ الآخِرَةِ لا يَفنى .

a lot of such (reward) in the next world that will remain.

 ما ضَرَّ إخوانَنَا الَّذينَ سُفِكَت دِماؤُهُم وهُم بِصِفّينَ ألّا يَكونُوا اليَومَ أحياءً ؟

What loss did our brothers whose blood was shed in Siffin suffer by not being alive today?

يُسيغونَ الغُصَصَ ويَشرَبونَ الرَّنقَ .

Only that they are not suffering choking on swallowings and not drinking turbid water.

قَد ـ وَاللّهِ ـ لَقُوا اللّهَ فَوَفّاهُم اُجورَهُم ،

By God‚ surely they have met God and He has bestowed upon them their rewards

وأحَلَّهُم دارَ الأَمنِ بَعدَ خَوفِهِم .

and He has lodged them in safe houses after their (having suffered) fear.

 أينَ إخوانِيَ الَّذينَ رَكِبُوا الطَّريقَ ومَضَوا عَلَى الحَقِّ ؟

Where are my brethren who took the path and proceeded on the truth?

أينَ عَمّارٌ ؟

Where is Ammar?

وأينَ ابنُ التَّيِّهانِ ؟

Where is Ibn al-Tayyihan?

وأينَ ذُو الشَّهادَتَينِ ؟

Where is Dhu al-Shahadatayn?

وأينَ نُظَراؤُهُم مِن إخوانِهِمُ الَّذينَ تَعاقَدوا عَلَى المَنِيَّةِ ،

Where are their peers among their brothers who had pledged themselves to death

واُبرِدَ بِرُؤوسِهِم إلَى الفَجَرَةِ .

and whose [severed] heads were taken to the immoral ones.’

 قالَ : ثُمَّ ضَرَبَ بِيَدِهِ عَلى لِحيَتِهِ الشَّريفَةِ الكَريمَةِ فَأَطالَ البُكاءَ ،

He then wiped his hand over his noble and honoured beard and wept for a long time.’

ثُمَّ قالَ عليه السلام :

Then he said:

أوِّهِ عَلى إخوانِيَ الَّذينَ تَلَوُا القُرآنَ فَأَحكَموهُ ،

‘Alas for my brothers, who recited the Qur’an and consolidated it,

وتَدَبَّرُوا الفَرضَ فَأَقاموهُ ،

thought over its deadened obligations and established them,

أحيَوُا السُّنَّةَ وأماتُوا البِدعَةَ .

revived the [Prophetic] normative rule and the innovation.

دُعُوا لِلجِهادِ فَأَجابوا ،

They were called to strive and fight and they responded

ووَثِقوا بِالقائِدِ فَاتَّبَعوهُ .

and trusted in the leader and followed him.’

 ثُمَّ نادى بِأعلى صَوتِهِ :

Then he called loudly:

الجِهادَ الجِهادَ عِبادَ اللّهِ !

‘Struggle! Struggle! O servants of God!

ألا وإنّي مُعَسكِرٌ في يَومي هذا ؛

By God, I am encamping [for the battle] today;

فَمَن أرادَ الرَّواحَ إلَى اللّهِ فَليَخرُج !

whoever desires to proceed towards God let him come forth.’

 قالَ نَوفٌ : وعَقَدَ لِلحُسَينِ عليه السلام في عَشَرَةِ آلافٍ ،

Nawf said: ‘The Commander of the Faithful (AS) then appointed Husain (AS) to command over [a battalion of] ten thousand,

ولِقَيسِ بنِ سَعدٍ في عَشَرَةِ آلافٍ ،

Qays ibn Sad over ten thousand,

ولِأَبي أيّوبٍ الأَنصارِيِّ في عَشَرَةِ آلافٍ ،

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari over ten thousand,

ولِغَيرِهِم عَلى أعدادٍ اُخَرَ وهُوَ يُريدُ الرَّجعَةَ إلى صِفّينَ ،

and so on, intending to return to Siffin.

فَما دارَتِ الجُمُعَةُ حَتّى ضَرَبَهُ المَلعونُ ابنُ مُلجَمٍ لَعَنَهُ اللّهُ ،

However it was not long before Ibn Muljam struck him. [As a result],

فَتَراجَعَتِ العَساكِرُ ،

the battalions retreated,

فَكُنّا كَأَغنامٍ فَقَدَت راعيَها تَخَتطِفُهَا الذِّئابُ مِن كُلِّ مَكانٍ .

and so we were like sheep that had lost their shepherd, while wolves were snatching them away from all sides.”

نهج البلاغة : الخطبة 182 .

Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon 182.