Nahjul Balagha Letter 28

In reply to Muawiya, and it is one of his most eloquent writings

Your letter reached me where you recall that Allah chose Muhammad (pbuh) for His religion and helped him through those companions who helped him. Strange things about you have remained concealed (by irony of fate) from us, since you have started telling us of Allah's trials for us and His bounties to us through our Prophet. In this matter, you are like the person who carries dates to Hajar, or who challenges his own master to a duel in archery.

You think that so-and-so are the most distinguished persons in Islam. You have said such a thing which if it be true, you have nothing to do with it, but if it be not so, then its defect will not affect you. What are you to do with the question of who is better and who is worse, or who is the ruler and who is the ruled? What have the freed ones and their sons to do with distinguishing between the first muhajirs and determining their position or defining their ranks. What a pity! the sound of an arrow is being produced by what is not a real arrow, and he against whom the judgement is to be passed is sitting in judgement. O man, why do you not see your own lameness and remain within bounds, and why do not you realize the shortness of your measure and stay back where destiny has placed you? You have no concern with the defeat of the defeated or the victory of the victor.

You are wandering in bewilderment and straying from the right path. Do you not realize it? I am not giving you any news: I am just recounting Allah's bounty, namely that a number of people from among the muhajirs and ansar fell as martyrs, and that each of them is distinguished (on that account), but when one of us secured martyrdom he was named the Chief of all martyrs, and the Messenger of Allah (pbuh.) gave him the peculiar honour of saying seventy Takbeers (Allahu Akbar) during his funeral prayer. Do you not know that a number of people lost their hands in the way of Allah, and that everyone is distinguished (on that account), but when the same thing occurred to one of us he was given the name "the flier in Paradise"; and "the two winged". If Allah had not forbidden self-praise, the writer would have mentioned numerous distinctions which the believer knows full well and which the ears of hearers do not wish to forget.

Better leave those whose arrows miss the mark. We are the direct recipients of our Lord's favours while others receive favours from us after that. In spite of our old established honour and our well-known superiority over your people, we did not stay away from mixing with you and married and got married (among you) like equals although you were not so. And how could you be so when the position is that) among us is the Prophet while among you is the opposed, among us is the lion of Allah while among you is the lion of the opposing groups, among us are the two masters of the youth of Paradise while among you are the children of Hell, among us is the choicest of all the women of the worlds while among you is the bearer of firewood, and many more distinctions on our side and shortcomings on your side.

Our Islam is well-known and our (greatness in the) pre-Islamic period too cannot be denied. Whatever remains has been mentioned in the words of Allah:

“... And blood relations have the better claim in respect of one to the other, according to the Book of Allah...”( Quran, 33:6)

He also says: “Verily, of men the nearest to Abraham are surely those who followed him and this Prophet and those who believe; and verily, Allah, is the Guardian of the faithful. (Quran, 3:68)

Thus, we are superior firstly because of kinship and secondly because of obedience. When at Saqifah, the muhajir contended kinship with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) against the ansar, they scored over them. If that success was based on kinship then the right would be ours better than yours. Otherwise, the ansar's contention stands. You think that I have been jealous of every caliph and have revolted against them. Even if this be so, it is not an offence against you and therefore no explanation is due to you.

This is a matter for which no blame comes to you.have said that I was dragged like a camel with a nose string to swear allegiance (to Abu Bakr at Saqifah). By Allah, you had intended to revile me but you have praised me, and to humiliate me but have yourself been humiliated. What humiliation does it mean for a Muslim to be the victim of oppression so long as he does not entertain any doubt in his religion, nor any misgiving in his firm belief! This argument of mine is intended for others, but I have stated it to you only in so far as it was appropriate.

Then you recalled my position with Uthman, and in this matter an answer is due to you because of your kinship with him. So (tell me), which of us was more opposed towards Uthman and who did more to bring about his killing; or who offered him his support but he made him sit down and stopped him; or who was he whom he called for help but turned his face from him and drew his death near him till fate over took him? No, no; by Allah:

Indeed know Allah those who hinder others among you and those who say unto their brethren "Come hither unto us", and they come not to fight but a little. (Quran,33;18)

I am not going to offer my excuse for reproving him for (some of) his innovations, for if my good counsel and guidance to him was a sin then very often a person who is blamed has no sin and sometimes the only reward a counsellor reaps is suspicion (of evil). I desired naught but reform what I am able to (do); and my guidance is not but with Allah;

On Him (alone) do I rely, and unto Him (alone) do I turn. (Quran, 11:88)

You have mentioned that for me and for my followers you have only the sword. This makes even a weeping person laugh. Did you ever see the descendants of Abdul Muttalib running away from battle, or being frightened by swords, "Wait a little till Hamal joins the battle" shortly, then he whom you are seeking will seek you and he whom you think to be far away will approach near you. I am (shortly) speeding towards you with a force of muhajir and ansar and those who follow them in virtue. Their number will be great and their dust will spread all round. They will be wearing their shrouds and their most coveted desire is to meet Allah. They will be accompanied by the descendants of those who took part in the battle of Badr, and they will have Hashimite swords whose cut you have already seen in the case of your brother, maternal uncle, your grandfather and your kinsmen.

 Nor are they far distant from the unjust ones. (Quran, 11:83)