100 Maxims of Imam Ali (a.s.)

Imam (a.s)’s sayings, full of wisdom, are truly the commentary of the Holy Quran, the interpretations of the sayings of the Prophet (s.a.w) and consequences of Imam’s practical life and experience. He adopted these roles in his life and when wounded by sword before departure from this world, he announced “I Swear to the Lord of Kaabah that I am successful”. We can make our lives successful by obtaining guidance from it.

These are pearls we can donate to someone, perfumes we can fragrant others with, lights we can illuminate in the dark and these are gifts we can contribute. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w) said the best gift and present is the word of wisdom he hears. (Meezan ul Hikmat, Vol 10)

(All the numbered sayings are based on Islamic Thought’s own printed Nahjul Balagha, which is also available on www.islamicthought.co.uk.

  1. Imam (a.s) said: I advise you, O' creatures of Allah, to exercise fear of Allah and to obey Him because it is salvation tomorrow and deliverance for ever.(Sermon no 159)

  2. You should follow your Prophet, the pure, the chaste. In him is the example for the follower, and the consolation for the seeker of consolation. The most beloved person before Allah is he who follows His Prophet and who treads in his footsteps.(Sermon no 158)

  3. Adhere to the rope of Quran and seek instructions from it. Regard its lawful as lawful and unlawful as unlawful. Testify the right that has been in the past.(Letter no 69)

  4. O' people, I have a right over you and you have a right over me. As for your right over me, that is to counsel you, to pay you your dues fully, to teach you that you may not remain ignorant and instruct you in behaviourism that you may act upon. As for my right over you, it is fulfilment of (the obligation of) allegiance, well-wishing in presence or in absence, response when I call you and obedience when I order you.(Sermon no 34)

  5. Look at the people of the Prophet's family. Adhere to their direction. Follow their footsteps because they would never let you out of guidance, and never throw you into destruction. If they sit down, you sit down, and if they rise up you rise up. Do not go ahead of them, as you would thereby go astray and go not lag behind of them as you would thereby be ruined.(Sermon no 95)

  6. Certainly, there is no obligation on the Imam except what has been devolved on him from Allah, namely to convey warnings, to exert in good advice, to revive sunnah, to enforce penalties on those liable to them and to issue shares to the deserving.(Sermon no 103)

  7. Certainly the Imams are the vicegerents of Allah over His creatures and they make the creatures know Allah. No one will enter Paradise except he who knows them and knows Him, and no one will enter Hell except he who denies them and denies Him.(Sermon no 150)

  8. You should know that you will never know guidance unless you know who has abandoned it, you will never abide by the pledges of the Quran unless you know who has broken them, and will never cling to it unless you know who has forsaken it. Seek these things from those who own them because they are the life spring of knowledge and death of ignorance. They are the people whose commands will disclose to you their knowledge, their silence will disclose their speaking and their outer appearance will disclose their inner self. They do not go against religion, and do not differ from one other about it, while it is among them a truthful witness and a silent speaker.(Sermon no 145)

  9. Where are those who falsely and unjustly claimed that they are deeply versed in knowledge, as against us, although Allah raised us in position and kept them down, bestowed upon us knowledge but deprived them, and entered us (in the fortress of knowledge) but kept them out. With us guidance is to be sought and blindness (of misguidance) is to be changed into brightness. Surely Imams (divine leaders) will be from the Quraysh.(Sermon no 142)

  10. They (opposers) have entered the oceans of disturbance and have taken to innovations instead of the Sunnah, while the believers have sunk down, and the misguided and the liars are speaking. We are the near ones, companions, treasure holders and doors (to Sunnah). Houses are not entered save through their doors. Whoever enters them from other than the door is called a thief.(Sermon no 152)

  11. I advise you to fear Allah, O my child, abide by His commands, fill your heart with remembrance of Him and cling to hope from Him. No connection is more reliable than the connection between you and Allah provided you take hold of it. Enliven your heart with preaching, kill it by denial, energise it with firm belief, enlighten it with wisdom, humiliate it by recalling death, make it believe in mortality, make it see the misfortunate of this world.(Letter no 31)

  12. He who adopts greed as a habit devalues himself; he who discloses his hardship agrees to humiliation; and he who allows his tongue to overpower his soul debases the soul. (Saying 2)

  13. Miserliness is shame; cowardice is a defect; poverty disables an intelligent man from arguing his case; and a destitute person is a stranger in his home town. Incapability is a catastrophe; endurance is bravery; abstinence is riches; self-restraint is a shield (against sin). (Saying 3)

  14. The best companion is submission (to Allah's will). Knowledge is a venerable estate; good manners are new dresses; and thinking is clear mirror. (Saying  4)

  15. The bosom of the wise is the safe of his secrets; cheerfulness is the bond of friendship; effective forbearance is the grave of shortcomings and mutual reconciliation is the covering for shortcomings.(Saying 5)

  16. He who admires himself attracts many opponents against him, charity is an effective cure, and the actions of people in their present life will be before their eyes in the next life. (Saying  6)

  17.  Meet people in such a manner that if you die they should weep for you and if you live they should long for you. (Saying 9)

  18. When you gain power over your adversary pardon him by way of thanks for being able to overpower him. (Saying 10)

  19. The most helpless of all men is he who cannot find a few brothers during his life, but still more helpless. is he who finds such a brother but loses him. (Saying 11)

  20. The consequence of fear is disappointment and of bashfulness is frustration. Opportunity passes away like the cloud. Therefore, make use of good opportunities. (Saying 20)

  21. O son of Adam, when you see that your Lord, the Glorified, bestows His favours oil you while you are disobeying Him, you should fear Him. (Saying 24)

  22. Be generous but not extravagant; be thrifty but not miserly. (Saying 33)

  23. If someone is quick in saying about people what they dislike, they speak about him that about which they have no knowledge. (Saying 35)

  24. Ameerul Momineen (pbuh), said to his son al- Hasan:O' my son, learn four things and (a further) four things from me. Nothing will harm you if you practise them. That the richest of riches is intelligence; the biggest destitution is foolishness; the wildest wildness is vanity and the best achievement is goodness of the moral character.
    O my son, you should avoid making friends with a fool because he may intend to benefit you but may harm you; you should avoid making friends with a miser because he will run away from you when you need him most; you should avoid making friends with a sinful person because he will sell you for nought; and you should avoid making friends with a liar because he is like a mi rage, making you feel far things near and near things far. (Saying 38)

  25. The tongue of the wise man is behind his heart, and the heart of the fool is behind his tongue. (Saying 40)

  26. Blessed is the person who kept in mind the next life, acted so as to be able to render account, remained content with what sufficed him and remained pleased with Allah.    (Saying 44)

  27. Even if I strike the nose of a believer with this, my sword, for hating me he will not hate me, and even if I pile all the wealth of the world before a hypocrite (Muslim) for loving me he will not love me. This is because it is a verdict pronounced by the tongue of the revered Prophet, may Allah bless him and his descendants, as he said: O Ali, a believer will never hate you arid a hypocrite (Muslim) will never love you. (Saying 45)

  28. The worth of a man is according to his courage, his truthfulness is according to his balance of temper, his valour is according to his self-respect and his chasteness is according to his sense of shame. (Saying 47)

  29. There is no wealth like wisdom, no destitution like ignorance, no inheritance like refinement and no support like consultation. (Saying 54)

  30. With wealth a strange land is a homeland, while with destitution even a homeland is a strange land. (Saying 56)

  31. Whoever warns you is like one who gives you good tidings. (Saying 59)

  32. If you are met with a greeting, give better greetings in return. If a hand of help is extended to you, do a better favour in return, although the credit would remain with the one who was first. (Saying 62)

  33. If what you aim at does not come about then do not worry as to what you were.      (Saying 69)

  34. Whoever places himself as a leader of the people should commence with educating his own self before educating others; and his teaching should be by his own conduct before teaching by the tongue. The person who teaches and instructs his own self is more entitled to esteem then he who teaches and instructs others. (Saying 73)

  35. The worth of every man is in his, attainments. (Saying 81)

  36. I impart to you five things which, if you ride your camels fast in search of them, you will find them worth it. No one of you should repose hope save in his Lord; no one of you should fear anything save his sin; no one should feel ashamed of saying "I do not know" when he is asked a matter which he does not know; no one should feel ashamed of learning a thing that he does not know; and you should practise endurance, because endurance is for belief what the head is for the body, so that just as there is no good in a body without the head there is no good in belief without endurance. (Saying 82)

  37. If a man behaves properly in matters between himself and Allah, then Allah keeps proper the matters between him and other people; and if a man keeps proper tile affairs of his next life then Allah keeps proper for him the affairs of this world. Whoever is a preacher for himself is protected by Allah. (Saying 89)

  38. The hearts get disgusted as bodies get disgusted; so look for beautiful wise saying for them.(Saying 91)

  39. The most humble knowledge is that which remains on the tongue and the most honourable one is that which manifests itself through (the action of) the limbs and the organs of the body. (Saying 92)

  40. The persons most attached to the prophets are those who know most what the prophets have brought. Then Imam recited the verse: Verily, of men the nearest to Abraham are surely those who followed him and this Prophet (Muhammad) and those who believe (Quran, 3:68). Then he said: The friend of Muhammad is he who obeys Allah, even though he may have no blood relationship, and the enemy of Muhammad is he who disobeys Allah even though he may have near kinship.(Saying 96)

  41. No wealth is more profitable than wisdom, no loneliness is more estranging than vanity, no wisdom is as good as tact, no honour is like fear from Allah, no companion is like the goodness of moral character, no inheritance is like civility, no guide is like promptitude, no trade is like virtuous acts, no profit is like Divine reward, no self- control is like inaction in time of doubt, no abstention is like that from prohibitions, no knowledge is like thinking, no worship is like the discharge of obligation, no belief is like modesty and endurance, no attainment is like humility, no honour is like knowledge, no power is like forbearance, and no support is more reliable than consultation.( Saying113)

  42. What a difference there is between two kinds of actions: an act whose pleasure passes away but its (ill) consequence remains, and. the act whose hardship passes away but its reward stays. (Saying 121)

  43. Whoever falls short of actions falls into grief, and Allah has nothing to do with him who spares nothing from his wealth in name of Allah.(Saying 127)

  44. When Imam returned from Siffin and noticed graves outside Kufa, he said: O residents of houses which give a sense of loneliness, of depopulated areas and gloomy graves. O people of the dust, O victims of strangeness, O people of loneliness and O people of desolateness! You have gone ahead and preceded us while we are following you and will meet you. The houses (you left) have been inhabited by others; the wives (you left) have been married by others; the properties have been distributed (among heirs). This is the news about those around us; what is the news about things around you?(Saying 130)

  45. A friend is not a friend unless he affords protection to his comrade on three occasions: in his adversity, in his absence and at his death.(Saying 134)

  46. He who is moderate does not become destitute. (Saying 140)

  47. Loving one another is half of wisdom. (Saying 142)

  48. Imam said to a man who had requested him to preach: Do not be like him who hopes for the next life without action, and delays repentance by lengthening desires, who utters words like ascetics in this world but acts like those who are eager for it; if he is allowed something from it he does not feel satisfied; if he is denied he is not content; he is not grateful for what he gets and covets for increase in whatever remains with him; he refrains others but not himself; he commands others for what he himself does not do; he loves the virtuous but does not behave like them; he hates the vicious but himself is one of them; he dislikes death because of the excess of his sins but adheres to that for which he is afraid of death.
    If he falls ill he feels ashamed; if he is healthy he feels secure and indulges in amusements; when he recovers from illness he feels vain about himself; when he is afflicted he loses hope; if distress befalls him he prays like a bewildered man; when he finds ease of life he falls into deceit and turns his face away; his heart overpowers him by means of imaginary things while he cannot control his heart by conviction; for others he is afraid of small sins, but for himself he expects more reward than his performance; if he becomes wealthy he becomes self-conscious and falls into vice; if he becomes poor he despairs and becomes weak; he is brief when he is doing a good thing but goes too far when he is begging; when passion overtakes him he is quick in committing sin but delays repentance; if hardship befalls him he goes beyond the cannons of the (Islamic) community; he describes instructive events but does not take instruction himself; he preaches at length but does not accept any preaching for himself; he is tall in speaking but short in action; he aspires for things that will perish and ignores things that will last for good; he regards profit as loss and loss as profit; he fears death but does nothing in its anticipation.
    He regards the sins of others as big but considers the same things for himself as small; if he does something in obedience to Allah he considers it much but if others do the same he considers it small; he therefore rebukes others but flatters himself; entertainment in the company of the wealthy is dearer to him than remembrance (of Allah) with the poor; he passes verdicts against others for his own interests and does not do so against himself for others' interests; he guides others but misguides himself; he is obeyed by others but he himself disobeys (Allah); he seeks fulfilment (of obligations) but does not fulfil his obligations; he fears the people (and acts) for other than his Lord and does not fear his Lord in his dealings with the people.( Saying 150)

  49. Admonish your brother (comrade) by good behaviour towards him, and ward off his evil by favouring him.(Saying 158)

  50. He who acts solely according to his own opinion gets ruined, and he who consults other people shares in their understanding. (Saying 161)

  51. He who guards his secrets retains control in his own hands. (Saying 162)

  52. Vanity prevents progress. (Saying 167)

  53. He who has several opinions understands the pitfalls. (Saying 173)

  54. When you are afraid of something drive straight into it, because the intensity of abstaining from it is greater (worse) than what you are afraid of. (Saying 175)

  55. The means to secure high authority is breadth of chest (generosity).(Saying 176)

  56. The result of neglect is shame, while the result of far-sightedness is safety. (Saying 181)

  57. O, people, fear Allah Who is such that when you speak He hears and when you conceal (a secret) He knows it. Prepare yourself to meet death which will overtake you even if you run away, catch you even if you stay and remember you even if you forget it.(Saying 203)

  58. Whoever takes account of his self is benefited, and whoever remains neglectful of it suffers. Whoever fears remains safe; whoever takes instruction  gets light; and whoever gets light gets understanding, and whoever gets understanding secures knowledge.(Saying 208)

  59. Generosity is the protector of honour; forbearance is the bridle of the fool forgiveness is the levy of success; disregard is punishment of him who betrays; and consultation is chief way of guidance. He who is content with his own opinion faces danger. Endurance braves calamities while impatience is a helper of hardships of the world. The best contentment is to give up desires. Many a slavish mind is subservient to overpowering longings. Capability helps preservation of experience. Love means well-utilized relationship. Do not trust one who is grieved. (Saying 211)

  60. Ignore pain otherwise you will never be happy. (Saying 213)

  61. The tree whose trunk is soft has thick branches. (Saying 214)

  62. Through change of circumstances the mettle of men is known. (Saying 217)

  63. Excess of silence produces awe; justice results in more close friends; generosity heightens position; with humility blessings abound in plenty; by facing hardships leadership is achieved; by just behaviour the adversary is overpowered; and with forbearance against a fool there is increase of one's supporters against him. (Saying 224)

  64. The greedy is in the shackles of disgrace. (Saying 226)

  65. He who is sorrowful for this world is in fact displeased with the dispensation of Allah. He who complains of a calamity that befalls him complains of his Lord (Allah). He who approaches a rich man and bends before him on account of his riches then two-third of his religion is gone. If a man reads the Quran and on dying goes to Hell then it means that he was among those who treated Divine verses with mockery. If a man's heart gets attached to the world, then it catches three things, namely worry that never leaves him, greed that does not abandon him and desire which he never fulfils. (Saying 228)

  66. Contentment is as good as estate, and goodness of moral character is as good as a blessing. Imam was asked about Allah's saying: (Whosoever did good,. whether male or female, and he be a believer, then We will certainly make him live a life good and pure and certainly We will give them their return with the best of what they were doing). (Quran, 16:97) when he said: That means contentment. (Saying 229)

  67. It was said to Ameerul Momineen (pbuh): Describe the wise to us; and he said: The wise is one who places things in their proper positions. Then, he was asked: Describe the ignorant to us; and he said: I have already done so. (Saying 235)

  68. He who is a sluggard loses his rights and he who believes in the backbiter loses his friend. (Saying 239)

  69. Surely in every blessing there is a right of Allah. If one discharges that right Allah increases the blessing, and if one falls short of doing so one stands in danger of losing the blessing. (Saying 244(

  70. If a person has a good idea about you make his idea be true. (Saying 248)

  71. Anger is a kind of madness because the victim to it repents afterwards. If he does not repent his madness is confirmed. (Saying 255)

  72. Have love for your friend up to a limit, for it is possible that he may turn into your enemy someday; and hate your enemy up to a limit for it is possible that he may turn into your friend someday. (Saying 268)

  73. Whoever keeps in view the distance of the journey remains prepared. (Saying 280)

  74. The belief of a person cannot be regarded as true unless his trust in what is with Allah is more than his trust in what he himself has. (Saying 310)

  75. Beware of disobeying Allah in solitude, because the witness (of that situation) is also the judge. (Saying 324)

  76. Not to be in need of putting forth an excuse is better than putting forth a true excuse. (Saying 329)

  77. The least right of Allah on you is that you should not make use of His favours in committing His sins.(Saying 330)

  78. Imam (A.S.) said describing a believer: A believer has a cheerful face, a sorrowful heart, a very broad chest (full of generosity), and a very humble heart. He hates high position and dislikes renown. His grief is long, his courage is far-reaching, his silence is much and, his time is occupied. He is grateful, enduring, buried in his thoughts, sparing in his friendship (with others), of bright demeanour and of soft temperament. He is stronger than stone but humbler than a slave. (Saying 333)

  79. He who sees his own shortcomings abstains from looking into other's shortcomings. He who feels happy with livelihood with which Allah provides him does not grieve over what he misses. He who draws out the sword of revolt gets killed with it. He who strives without means perishes. He who enters depths gets drowned. He who visits places of ill-repute receives blame. He who speaks more commits more errors. He who commits more errors becomes shameless. He who is shameless will have less fear of Allah. He whose fear of Allah is less, his heart dies. He whose heart dies enters the Fire. He who observes the shortcomings of others and disapproves of them and then accepts them for himself is definitely a fool. Contentment is a capital that does not dwindle. He who remembers death much is satisfied with small favours in this world. He who knows that his speech is also a part of his action speaks less except where he has some purpose. (Saying 349)

  80. The greatest defect is to regard that defect (in others) which is present in yourself.(Saying 353)

  81.  Do not regard an expression uttered by any person as evil if you can find it capable of bearing some good. (Saying 360)

  82. Imagination is a clear mirror, and the taking of lessons (from things around) provides warning and counsel. It is enough for improving yourself that you should avoid what you consider bad in others. (Saying 365)

  83. All the virtuous deeds including war in the way of Allah as compared to the persuasion for good and dissuasion from evil are just like spitting in the deep ocean. The persuasion for good and dissuasion from evil do not bring death nearer nor do they lessen the livelihood. And better than all this is to utter a just expression before the tyrannical ruler. (Saying 374)

  84. Words are in your control until you have not uttered them; but when you have spoken them out you are under their control. Therefore, guard your tongue as you guard your gold and silver, for often one expression snatches away a blessing and invites punishment. (Saying 381)

  85. Leaning towards this world despite what you see of it, is folly, and lagging behind in good deeds when you are convinced of good reward for them is obvious loss, while trusting in every one before trying is weakness. (Saying 384)

  86. Beware that destitution is a calamity, but worse than destitution is ailment of the body, while worse than bodily ailment is the disease of the heart. Beware that plenty of wealth is a blessing, but better than plenty of wealth is the health of the body, while still better than the health of the body is the chastity of heart. (Saying 388)

  87. Many an expression is more effective than an attack. (Saying 394)

  88. Put off boasting, give up self-conceit and remember your grave. (Saying 398)

  89. It is good for the rich to show humility before the poor to seek reward from Allah, but better than that is the haughtiness of the poor towards the rich with trust in Allah. (Saying 406)

  90. It is enough for your own discipline that you abstain from what you dislike from others. (Saying 412)

  91. Clemency is (like) a kinsfolk. (Saying 318)

  92. Whoever set right his inward self, Allah sets right his outward self. Whoever performs acts for his religion, Allah accomplishes his acts of this world. Whoever's dealings between himself and Allah are good, Allah turns the dealings between him and other people good. (Saying 423)

  93. Forbearance is a curtain for covering, and wisdom is a sharp sword. Therefore, conceal the weaknesses in your conduct with forbearance and kill your desires with your wisdom. (Saying 424)

  94. There are some creatures of Allah whom Allah particularizes with favours for the benefit of the people, therefore He stays them in their hands so long as they give them to others; but when they deny them to others He takes away the favours from them and sends them to others. (Saying 425)

  95. It does not behove a man to have trust in two positions, health and riches, because there is many a man whom you see healthy but he soon falls sick and many a man whom you see rich but soon turns destitute. (Saying 426)

  96. The whole of asceticism is confined between two expressions of the Quran. Allah, the Glorified says: Lest distress you yourselves for what escapes you, and be over joyous for what He has granted you (Quran, 57:23). Whoever does not grieve over what he misses and does not revel over what comes to him acquires asceticism from both its sides. (Saying 439)

  97. What a breaker is sleep for resolutions of the day! (Saying 440)

  98. Belief means you should prefer truth when it harms you rather than falsehood when it benefits you; your words should not be more than your action and you should fear Allah when speaking about others. (Saying 558)

  99. Forbearance and endurance are twins and they are the product of high courage. (Saying 460)

  100. The fighter in the way of Allah who gets martyred would not get a greater reward than he who remains chaste despite means. It is possible that a chaste person may become one of the angels. (Saying 474)