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Nahj Albalaghe

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The Nahj al-Balagha (Arabic: نهج البلاغة‎‎ Nahj-ul Balāgha(h), Arabic pronunciation: [ˈnahdʒul baˈlaːɣa]; "The Peak of Eloquence") is the most famous collection of sermons, letters, tafsirs and narrations attributed to Imam Ali , cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. It was collected by Sharif Razi, a Shi'i scholar in the Tenth century (fourth century AH) Known for its eloquent content, it is considered a masterpiece of literature in Shi'i Islam.
Nahj al-Balaghah comprises various issues that cover major problems of metaphysics, theology, fiqh, tafsir, hadith, prophetology, imamate, ethics, social philosophy, history, politics, administration, civics, science, rhetoric, poetry, and literature. The book not only reflects the spirit of early Islam and the teachings of the Qur'an and the Islamic prophet Muhammad, but also serves as a guide to traverse the future in the light of these teachings.
Nahj al Balagha is a collection of 241 sermons, 79 letters, and 489 utterances. As per each new publishing versus past volumes, the number of sermons, letters and utterances has varied from 238 to 241, 77 to 79, and 463 to 489, respectively.

The book narrates from Ali on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the creation of the World, the creation of Adam, end of the Universe and the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi.

Knowledge of the creation in general, and of this World in particular, is emphasized by Ali ibn Abi Talib in the Nahj al-Balaghah as a prerequisite for making use of freedom in the right direction and for the purpose willed by God. Knowledge, if used properly, helps man in winning God's favour and bartering his deeds with Divine Will, as the Qur'an declares:

And among men is he who sells his self for seeking the pleasures of Allah. . .. (al-Baqarah: 207)

Those who attain such a stage are few, and as many mufassirun point out Ali as one of those chosen few who bartered his self with Divine Will, according to the interpretation of this Qur'anic verse. When human will becomes one with Divine Will, man attains the highest stage of freedom: now there is no compulsion, and whatever a man wills or does is in conformity with what God wills and wants man to do. Rightly guided knowledge helps in attaining this stage.

After expressing his view on human freedom, Imam Ali proceeds to highlight the value and importance of knowledge. We find after the saying 78 about freedom, his views about knowledge and wisdom in the saying 79, or in his saying 130 we come across his views on the significance of acquiring knowledge and contemplating the signs observable in the World after his description of the World as the best place for making proper use of human freedom. Knowledge is held by Ali to be the light of reason, a treasure, the root of all good, and that which emancipates man; it is a power (saying: 146), and one's supremacy is in proportion to the extent of one's knowledge and wisdom (Sayings: 175).

From his many sayings about knowledge it may be rightly inferred that knowledge is itself freedom, for it saves man from ignorance, which is the cause of man's slavery to false beliefs, unfounded fear of nature and his superiors. It is at the same time a key to attain and safeguard freedom accorded to human beings. The Holy Qur'an is unique among the scriptures in encouraging the believers to acquire knowledge and to verify the fundamentals of faith rationally. There are 704 verses in the Qur'an where the word 'ilm or its derivations are used. Book, an essential aid of 'ilm occurs in the Qur'an 230 times, while the total number of verses in which words related to kitab and kataba have occurred is 319. The Qur'an itself is mentioned as kitab on 81 occasions in its text. It is not possible in this brief article to quote even a few of the relevant Qur'anic verses and the sayings of Ali. However, it would not be out of place to point out that the right to acquire knowledge and freedom of enquiry forms an essential part of the laws and guiding principles governing human rights in Islam. In this matter, no distinction is made between Islamic and non-Islamic sources and Muslim and non-Muslim teachers. Ali says:

"Acquire knowledge and truth from whomever you can, because even an apostate can have them, but unless they are passed over to a faithful Muslim and become part of wisdom and truth that he possesses, they have a confused existence in the minds of apostates." (Sayings: 79).

Another saying of Ali an elaboration of the Prophet's famous tradition, according to which knowledge is the lost property of Muslims:

"A wise saying is a lost and long-sought article of the believer. Therefore, acquire it even if it is to be found with hypocrites". (Sayings: 80).

The right to acquire knowledge has been always accorded to non-Muslims also in Muslim States. An important point made by Ali is as to how an infidel uses knowledge, which remains in a confused state in his mind.

Being fully aware of the dangers of the abuse of knowledge, Ali claims that God will always appoint some Imam as the guardian of Divine revelation and he, openly or hidden from the eyes of the World, will guide men till the end of this World. (Saying 146 addressed to Kumayl)

 

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