Masterpieces of Rhetoric Methood (Nahj Al-Balagha)

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Masterpieces of Rhetoric Methood (Nahj Al-Balagha)

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Masterpieces of Rhetoric Methood (Nahj Al-Balagha)

Masterpieces of Rhetoric Methood (Nahj Al-Balagha)

Publisher: Imam Ali Foundation

Masterpieces of Rhetoric Methood (Nahj Al-Balagha)

Selected, prepared, and introduced in a broad study by

George Gerdak

Al-Ghadeer Center for Islamic Studies

Translated by

Salam Judi and Abu Haydar Al-Husseini

روائع نهج البلاغة باللغة الانكليزية

Title: Masterpieces of Rhetoric Methood

Author: George Gerdak

Publisher: Imam Ali Foundation

Translator: Salam Judi &

Abu Haydar Al-Husseini

Imam Ali Foundation, Iran - Qom

Imam Ali


Of Nahj Al-Balaghah

Selected, prepared, and Introduced in a Broad study by

George Gerdak

Al-Ghadeer Center for Islamic studies

Table of Contents

Preface 7

On Imam’sBorders between Mind and heart 9

Existential Unity 17

Style and Oratorical Genius 26

The Cosmic Justice And what Ali Represents of it 35

The Equivalence in Existence 35

The Profound affection 51

Truthfulness of life 57

The goodness of Existence 63

and Revolutionary nature of life 63

The Allawiyah Foreward 73

A Group of His letters, sermons, Pledges and Advices 75

The worship of free men 75

His wonderful speech on the meaning of worship 75

O’ People 75

O’ Abu Dharr 75

Whenever someone feels secure 76

O’ prophet of Allah, peace be upon you 76

The Best and the Worst of People 76

He Appropriated (Wealth) and did it excessively 77

I am like anyone of you 77

The right cannot be invalidated by Anything 77

Low persons Become High 78

May Allah forgive your past sins 78

The Bribe 78

If you do not Remain righteous 79

Behave Justly with people 79

Do I seek victory by unjustice 79

People are equal in the right 79

To the parties of (the Battle of) Al-Jamal 80

Come out of your Den 80

The Clear Argument 80

I am their same challenger 81

To What I has to Responded? 82

In a Deep area of sea 82

They killed them in Captivity and by Treachery 82

Those Who Fought Against Me 82

Dumb with speaking 83

Do Not Revenge on an Enemy 83

The Women 84

Bad Masters 84

No Bricks nor Wollen Tents 84

A broad-pharynxed person 84

Greediness of the Wealthy 84

With the right 85

The Carrier of Dates to Hajar 85

Fear Allah 85

You have Ruined A generation of people 85

The fraud of child 86

Glory be to God how strange O’ Mu’awiyah 86

He Deceives and Commits Evils 86

The Price of Swearing Allegiance 86

Eaters of bribe 86

You have Ruined Your this and the next World 86

I shall Inflict Upon you 87

Enjoying Comforts 87

Beware of Mu’awiyah 87

All men to us are Equal 87

O’ you semi-men 87

Even If I Strike Him With My Sword 88

Will There Be Talk Without Action 88

I Don’t Improve You By Corrupting Myself 88

Determining Without Hurry 89

I Am Tired Of Rebuking You 89

The Continuity Of State 89

Peace Is Prior 90

The Honourable Instruction 90

O’ my Allah! Save the Victor From Excesses 91

O’ my Allah! Reform relaiton between us and them 91

He Spoke with Their Tongues 91

They Made Them Officers Over The Heads 91

Two Kinds 91

Just Leaders 92

If I Am Given The Domains Of The Seven Stars 92

Moved By Storms 93

Were it not for the dyespepsia of the Oppressor and hunger of the Oppressed 93

People of Tirck 93

You and your brother, the Human being 93

Listen To My Saying 94

They Abandoned The Right Despite Their Seeing It 95

I Am Your Herald 96

Where are the Amalekites? 96

Where is Ammar? 96

Pride, Fanaticism, and Transgression 96

The world is being Wrapped From Behind you 98

The Law of Governors 98

Limits of Tax 103

The silly and Traders 104

The Bribed in Judgement 104

Along with the Oppressed 104

Money is for People 104

A Trust 105

I shall strike you with my Sword 105

The Ruler and Bribe 105

The Ruler and Desires 106

Behave Humbly 106

Teach the Ignorant 106

The Treacherous Rulers 106

Noble Morals 106

People of Greed and People of poverty 107

The ignorant Judge 107

He Judges According to His view 107

Their learned Man is Hypoerite 108

They act through doubts 108

Scold the self 108

Beware 108

Agreement And Disagreement 108

Hypocrisy and Injustice 108

The Tribe 109

The dispostions 109

Time and its people 109

Many a Fasting Person 109

Categories of People 109

With every wind 110

Many a small person overcomes a big one 110

His lamp at Night was the Moon 110

Like Christ’s Manner 111

Do not say of what you Do not know 111

Their speech is to the point, their Gait is Humble 111

The Hypocrites 112

It Has Become Eternal For Them 112

Carrying Them Towards Their Dangers 113

They Were Of Longer Ages 113

Woe to your inhabited streets 113

O’ my Allah! Our mountains have dried up 114

Backbiting 114

Today Goes and Tomorrow Comes 114

Alas! The Journey is Far 114

The Nature Of Existenc 115

He Has Run in it A Luminous Moon 115

The Rising Of Water 115

Creation Of Bat 115

Creation of the Peacock 116

Creation of the Ant 117

Creation of the Locust 117

Forgive Me 117

What have I suffered 118

Forgiveness of the killer 118

Oppressed 118

The three Oxen 118

A Group of Imam’s Wonderful Proverbs 119

This Book 132


Imam Ali bin Abi Talib may Allah’s greeting be to him - is the Imam of eloquents and scholastic as he is the Imam of the pious; the masterpiece of whose is Nahj Al-Balaghah that represents, on the grounds of Arabic style, a rank coming after that of the Holy Quran. Throughout thirteen centuries, the Arab styles have related to it, have built up on its foundation, have quoted their firebrands from it, and that their good styles revive within the framework of his magic eloquence.

Imam Ali was improvising his speeches, reciting them at people meetings as summeries of a contemplations and at their circles as addresses increasing inside the self; the tongue utters them spontaneously and thus come precise (under the Creator’s speech and above that of the created).

At the end of the fourth century A.H. Al-Sharif Al-Radhi chose samples of his sermons, letters, and short sayings, and gathered them in a book called Nahj Al-Balaghah. The name indicates that these chosen samples represent a method in eloquence and performance that leads, if taken as an example, to rhetoric as it is a revelation of the self and reality, and a delivery to the receiver. This is the objective of the great creative literature.

From the day the book was selected, scholars and literary men devoted themselves to reading and explaining it; thus the expla-nations became numerous and various, some of which reached several volumes that requires, only to be acquainted with, time and effort people often do not have within these days. Hence came the need for a book that facilitates knowledge of the “Nahj” for the common reader by selecting samples and explaining them.

The famous author George Gerdak attempted to carry out this task: he works throughout years to simplify difficulties for the reader so as to collect within a book masterpieces of Nahj Al-Balagha; he classifies them according to its topics on them one hand, and according to time of appearance on the other hand, and explains what is strange and difficult out of their expressions.

Once more, throughout these masterpieces which he chooses, organizes and explains, he introduces an excellent study on the “Allawiyan Personality” adding it to his well-known five-study series.

This book satisfies a need for the common reader, the students of schools and universities, and the specialized reader as well, at this time when man does not find an opportunity for reading, amid several businesses and the control of audiovisual mass media.

Al-Ghadear Center for studies is interested to introduce this book in its new dress after its edition has been sold out wishing to achieve the benefit it aims.

Al-Ghadeer Center for Islamic Studies

On Imam’sBorders between Mind and heart

He has been hard rumbling, roaring like thunder during woe nights. The fountain is a fountain, day and night are not considered in its run.

Anyone who traces memoirs of true great men in history, apart from being from the Orient or the Occident, or being ancient or contemporary, he realizes an unhidden phenomenon: that they, despite the diiferences in their intellectual fields, the varieties of their beliefs in subjucts of mental activities, are talented literary men, varying in strength and weakness. They vary in being a creative producer, to being taster whose taste draws him near to production and creation, as if literary sense in its wide horizons, meanings, and forms, is linked to every overwhelming talent in every kind of great activities.

A single sight at prophets, for example, is enough to decide this phenomenon in minds. David, Sulaiman, Ishiya, Irmiya, Jacob, Jesus christ, and Mohammed are nothing but literary men granted a literary talent as being one of their gifted other special talents, Those are they, Napoleon the leader, Plato the philo-sopher, Bascal the mathematician, Pastor the biologist, Al-Khayam the arithmaticain, Nehro the statesmen, Dighol the Politician, Ibn Khaldoon the historian, they are literary men having in literature what raises them to the high level of its leaders. Each one of them has a kind of some mental activities determined by nature and talent; then the aesthetic tendency cultivated the forms in which it was expressed all of sudden, it is of pure literature.

This truth becomes strikingly evident in the personality of Ali bin Abi Talib, then he is the Imam in literature, as he is the Imam in the rights he affirmed what he taught and guided, his evidence in that is “Nahj Al-Balagha” on the grounds of Arabic rhetoric, a rank coming after that of Holy Quran; the Arab styles, throughout thirteen centuries, have related to it, have built up on its construction, have quoted from it, and that their good styles revive within the framework of his magic eloquence.

As to eloquence Ali connected its last to its next; he joined the masterpieces of the pure pre-islamic eloquence which is united directly with nature sound with the purified clear islamic one which is united with sound nature and storng logic: in a union whose elements can not be separated from one another. He had gained the rhetoric of the pre-Islamic era as well as the charm of prophetic eloquence - which made some to describe his speech as (under the Crator’s speech and above that of the created).

But it is not a surprise as Ali had been prepared by all means that fit him to this status among people of eloquence. He grew up in an environment where hurrey nature becomes sound and pure. He also lived with the wisest man Mohammed bin Abdullah, being addressed from the Prophet his message in its all ardour and strength. Add to that his massive predispositions and great talents; and so reasons of excellence get together firm instinct and environment likewise.

As for intelligence, exceeding intelligence, one finds, in every expression of Nahj Ab-Balagha, a great work, it is a living intelligence, able, broad, doesn’t miss fathomless Depths. When he works on a topic he encompasses it in every dimension, so that no side escapes, no much or little is passed over; he dives into its depth, and turns around it highly, scours it heavily, and he realizes the hidden causes and what is the farthest mystery; as he also recognizes the truest results caused by these reasons; what is the most in closeness and the most remote in farness.

On of the conditions of rare Allawiyan intelligence is this logical sequence that one can see in Nahj Al-Balaghah wherever he heads for. This cohesion between the idea and the other one is to the extrent that every one of them is the natural result of the precedent and the cause to the follower to its next. In these ideas one does not find what can be dispensed with in the topic he treats. Rather one can not find any idea which the research can stand erect without it. He, owing to his huge extent, does not use a word unless that word entails one to contemplate and scru-tinize, and no phrase unless it opens, before the sights, horizons beyond horizons.

What vast roads of contemplation and sight his speech reveals to you: “People are enemies of what they do not know”, or his saying: “The worth of every one is in the things he does well”, or “Impiety is a weak fortress.” What a marvellous summerized one is that: “One who keeps light will overtake! “What grand meaning in the four phrases, and what they contain of words classified highly, or rather say revealed directly.

What sharpness of intelligece, a comprehension of the topic, and a depth in recognition shows this fantastic revelation on the nature of envier and description of his self, and the truth of his condition: “I have not seen a wrongful person more like the wronged such as the envier, continuous breath, worried heart, accompanying sadness. Furious at the one who has no sin, a stingy with what he does not possesses.”

The generating of ideas continues in Nahj Al-Balagha from ideas, and so you find an end less collection nonetheless they do not accumulate; rather they get together and be resulted from one another. No difference between what he writes and what he improvises. A fountain is a fountaing night and day are not considered in his run.

His improvised sermons are miracles of ideas determined by a wise mind, accuracy and sound logic. You get surprised before this amount of great precision and accuracy, when you know that Ali did not prepare his sermons even before their delivering in minutes or moments.

They are raising in his mentality, going ahead upon his tongue, spontaneously, without hardship or effort, like flash which gleams without taking or giving evidence before glimmering and like athunder bolt when it roars without preparing itself for storming or roaring. And like the wind when it blows, twists, tends, and sweeps, and orients to a goal, then it returns to its devious ways and nothing pushes it to go and come but the law of occurrence and logic of occasion in its existing limits, neither before nor after.

One of the phenomena of strong accurate intelligence in Nahj Al-Balaghah is those limits within which Ali was curbing the sentiments of deep sadness when it agitates and storms His large emotion does not drown him in a surrounding of sorrows and far depressions before the power of reason appears clearly and glit-teringly, and then it is an obeyed commander.

As to Ali’s exceeding intelligence, comprehensive in his method, he varies the research and description and masters in every topic, does not restrict his intellectual effort to one topic or means of research. He speaks with the logic of the experienced wise about circumstances of this world and people’s affairs, natures of individuals and societies. He describes lightening, thunder, the earth and the sky. He elaborates his speech on living nature phenomena, he describes the secrets of creation of bats, ants, peacock, grasshopper, and likes. He put codes for societies, and laws for morals. He excels in speaking on the cosmos creation and masterpieces of existence. You do not find in all Arabic literature this amount you find in Nahj Al-Balaghah of where masterpieces of sound intellect and accurate logic in such a rare style.

As for imagination in Nahj Al-Balaghah it is broad, long, fluttering winged at all horizons. And owing to this strong imagination of which many wise men and nations’ intellectuals are deprived, Ali was taking, out of his intelligence and experie-nces, his pure objective meanings; then he utters them glowing, moving in a frame on whose sides the kinds are fixed in a wonderful colours. The meaning, whatsoever it is dryly intellec-tual, it does not pass Ali’s mentality except it grows wings crushing the feature of its stagnation and grants it with motion and life.

Ali’s imagination is an example of genius one based on the ground of reality; it surrounds this reality, shows and reveals it, and makes for it extensions out of its source and nature, and shapes it with many colours of its material and colour; hence the truth increases evidently and that seeker falls on it or it falls on him!

Ali was distinguished with by strong far - sightedness, then by conscious memory storing and expanding. He undergoes, during his life stages, sentiments caused by the crudge of the ill-willed and slyness of cheaters; and also compassionate sentiments he was surrounded with by fedelity of good people and faithfulness of the sincere. Strong elements were made easy for him, nourishing his inventive imagination so they co-operate to serve this imagination and get togther in wonderful living portaits, in its prominence and activity, concentrating on pure realism, which extend and twigs with leaves and fruits.

Then you can, if you like, change the elements of the strong imagination in Nahj Al-Balaghah to coloured portraits, for its intense realism, its broad field, its wing’s extension, and its lines’ prominence. What a wonderful imagintion the Imam has when he addresses people of Basrah; he had a pain from them after the battle of Al-Jamal, saying: “Your city would certainly be drowned so much as though I see its mosque like the bosom of a bird in a deep sea. Or like this magical simile: “troubles like the parts of dark night.” Or this moving picture. “I am but like the axis of the mill. It rotates around me while I remain in my position.”

Or this grand portrait which he likens the extensions of the houses of Basrah’s people to trunks of elephenats and that balconies appear to him like vultures’ wings: “Woe to your inhabited streets and decorated houses with wings like the wings of vultures and trunks like the trunks of elephants”.

One of the features of broad imagination is the power of likening. Likening in Imam’s literature is a quality filled with life. If you want an example, see the condition of the person in power who is envied by people and they wish to what he enjoys, but he better knows his dangerous and tearful and warning; though he terrifies others with what he mounted, yet he is afraid of being assassinated by him. Then see afterwards to Ali, how he depict this meaning, saying: “the holder of power is like the rider on a lion - he is envied for his position but he better knows his place”.

If you want another example, listen to him likening the condition of a man who was, as Imam sees, attempting against an enemy with what makes hurt to himself, saying: “you are like one who pierces a spear through himself in order to kill the person sitting behind him”. The rearman is the man sitting at the back of the rider. Take then this outstanding manner in likening the liar: “You should avoid making friends with a liar because he is like a mirage, making you see far thing near, and near things far.”

As to the artistic theory syaing that whatever is ugly in nature becomes beautiful in art, if it is right, the indication of which lies in the speech of Ibn Abi Talib in his description of those who deserted this world, How terrifying is death, and how ugly its face. How wonderful is the speech of Ibn Abi Talib and how beautiful is its effect. It is a saying which takes much portion of deep passion, and much more of fertile imagination. Thus it becomes a portrait out of great art pictures so that nothing approached to it but the portraits of art genius in Europe when they depicted death and its fear with colour, tune and peotry.

After Ali reminds living people of death, and establishes the relaiton between death and them, he awakens them telling they are drawing near to the house of solitude, uttering this in astate with loneliness full of dark colour and sad tone: “It is as though every one of you has reached the place of his loneliness. So what a place of loneliness it is what a solitary place of staying, and a solitary exile.” Then he shakes them with what they are coming across quickly, but unconsciously using broken successive phrases as if they have the whant gings of beating drums warning, saying “How fast are the hours in the day, how fast are the days in the month, how fast are the months in the year, and how fast are the years in life. “Afterwords he gives off, in their intellects, that wonderful picture which the mind bids and emotion lights, and that jumping imagination incarnate its elements; then he gives these successive movements: it is consistant of tearing eyes, bemoaning sounds, and ailing organs, saying: “days between them and you are also bemoaning you and reciting elegies over you”. Then he returns and gives off his imagination and emotion, hence they create this ever-lasting protrait as one of the living poeticul portraits.

But they have been quenched the cup of death

Which has changed their speech into dumbness, their

Hearing into deafness and their movements into stillness.

It seems as though they are fallen in slumber. They are

Neighbour not entertaining each other, or

Friends who do not meet each other. The bonds of

their knowing each other have been worn out and

the connection of their friendship have been cut

asunder. Everyone of them is therefor alone although

they are a group, and they are deserted, even though

friends. They don’t hope to see a morning after a night

or an evening after a day. The night or the day

in which they departed has become eternal for them.

Then he says this terrifying speech: “They do not know who comes to them; do not pay heed to those who weep over them and do not respond to those who call them.”

Have you ever seen this creativity in picturing the horror of death, solitude of grave, description of its inhabitants in his saying: “They are neighbours not entertain each other, or friends who do not meet each other.” Then have you realized this terrifying picture of the eternity of death which nothing can draw but Ali’s genius: “The night or the day when they departed has become eternal for them.” And like these masterpieces in the Nahj much more.

This sharp intelligence fertile imagination in Imam’s literature are unified as the unity of nture to nature with the roaring emotion which provides them with flame of life. So the idea moves, and bloods run through its veins much hotly. Thus it addresses in you your emotion so much as it addresses your mind because it rises from a mind which is provided with warmth by emotion. It is difficult for man to enjoy a work of imagination or thought in the fields of literature and other lofty arts, if emotion does not have an active participation in producing this work. The human nature can not be satisfied, naturally, unless it is a production of this overal of complex. This complete literary work can be seen in Nahj Al-Balagha. You find yourself pushed in a sweeping current of hot emotions when you move from place to another in Nahj Al-Balagha.

Does it not soak your heart with sympathy and kindness when you listen to Ali saying: “if a mountain loves me it will crumble douwn.” Or” “the forfeiture of friends is a dreariness”.

Or “O’ my Allah! I beseech thee to take revenge on Quraysh and those who are assisting them, for they have cut my kinship and overturned my cup, and they said to me it is just to take your right and it is right to be deprived of it so endure it with sadness or kill yourself in grief” I looked around but found no one to assisst me, protect or help me except my household.

Take this speech on the occasion of the burial of Supreme Lady Fatimah, addressing his cousin the Holy prophet:

“O’ Propthet of Allah, Allah’s greetings are sent by me and your daughter who has resided behind you has hastened to successed you. O’ Prophet of Allah, my patience on your pure (daughter) has been exhausted, and my power of endurance has weakened, except that I have ground for consolation in having endured the great hardship and heart - rending event of your demise!” “As to my grief, it knows no bonds, and as to my nights, they will remain sleepless till Allah chooses for me the abode in which you are now residing.”

Then take this news:

It has been narrated by Nawf Al-Bikali that Amir Al-Muminin Ali delivered this sermon at kufa standing on a stone which Ja’dah Ibn Hubayrah Al-Makhzumi has placed for him. He had a woolen apparel on his body, the belt of his sword was made of leaves, and the sandals on his feet too were of palm leaves.

“Beware, what has been approaching of this world has fled, what has been fleeing is approaching behind, are going ahead. The virtuous people of Allah have made up their minds to leave and they have purchased, with a little perishable (pleasure) of this world, for a lot of such (reward) in the next world that will remain. What loss did our brothers whose blood was shed in Siffeen had suffered by not being alive today? Only that they are not suffering chocking on swallowings and not drinking turbid water. Surely they have met Allah and He has bestowed upon them their rewards and he has lodged them in the safe residence after their fear, where are my brethren who took the (right) path and trod in rightness. Where is Ammar? Where is Ibn Al-Tayyihan? Where is Dhu’sh - Shahadatayn? And where are their likes and their comrades who had pledged themselves to die for the goal.

Then he wiped his hand over his honoured beard and wept for a long time!

Zirar ibn Hamzah Al-Zabi related and said: I stand witness that I have seen him - namely Imam - on several occasions when night had spread and he was standing in his niche holding his beard, groaning like a man bitten by a snake and weeping as a grieved man, saying.

O’world, O’world! Give me up. Why do you present yourself to me? Or are eager for me? You may not get that opportunity to impress me. Deceive some other person. I have no concern with you. I have divorced you thrice whereafter there is no restitution. Your life is short, your importance is little and your hope is mean Alas! The provision is little, the way is long, the journey is far and the goal is hard to reach.

This hot emotion, which Imam has known in his life, accompanies him wherever he goes and tends to in Nahj Al-Balaghah. It accompanies him when he bears upon anger and resentment as it does when it arouses sympathy and content.

When he saw his champion’s disappointment at supporting the right, while the others support the wrong and surround it with weapons and spirits, he anguishes, complains, blames and scoldes, and was hard, shattering, roaring like thundr in the woe nights! Sufficient is to read the sermon of Al-Jihad which begins with his saying:

“O’ people, your bodies are together, but your desires are divergent. Your talk softens hard stoned mountains etc,” to realize what a revolting, agonized emotion that which provides this sermon with the outburst and beating of life.

It is inadequate to mention examples of the pouring of living emotion which diffuses warmth in Imam’s deeds. It is in his doings, his sermons and sayings - which is an essential criterion. You are not to do anything but to open this book so that you can know colours of Ibn Abi Talib’s emotion, with pouring strength and deep depth.