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Preface of Nahjul Balaghah (Part: I)
By: Ali Naqi-un-Naqvi

Visits 842 categorization: Nahj Al-Balagha
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With the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Praise be to Allah, the Sustainer of the Worlds, and Peace be upon the Chief of Prophets and Messengers and his pure and chaste descendants.
Nahjul Balaghah is that most reputed collection of the utterances of Amirul Momineen Ali Bin Abi Talib, (peace and greetings be upon him) which was compiled by Sayyid Razi, brother of Sharif Murtaza, the ensign of guidance, towards the close of the 4th century of Hijra. Thereafter in the first decade of the fifth century he died, and from the style of writing of Nahjul Balaghah it appears that he had collected the utterances of Amirul Momineen from various places.
He left blank pages in between which must have taken a long time while the work of additions therein must have continued till his last days, so much so that if an utterance reached him after the compilation of the book he inserted it in haste in a place other than its due without looking for its proper location, but gave a note that according to some other tradition this utterance has been placed somewhere else.
This mode of collection and compilation is in itself enough to convince an unbiased person that Sayyid Razi's own style of writing or power of expression has nothing to do with it, but that he has confined himself to collecting Amirul Momineen's utterances from various places and putting them together. This diffusion and detraction which is a defect of compilation has become a source of confidence in the matter of trustworthiness.
He has devoted so much care to the copying of words in accordance with various scripts or the memory of different traditionalists that sometimes it bores the taste of the reader who feels what is the good in copying a statement that has already occurred just earlier.
For example, in regard to the vilification of people of Basra, the mention of its being flooded or the description of its Mosque, different statements such as Niamat al-Jathema or Kajuetair-in-filujjat al-Bahr or similar other words. This caution in copying correctly is the same as is done now-a-days by publishing photo-stats of books where in the mistakes of composition are left uncorrected and only on the margin it is indicated that such or such a word is apparently wrong and the correct one should be so and so.
The reader, of course, wishes that the wrong version in the original should have been struck off and the correct one inserted but the practice in view is adopted to indicate exactness of copying. For example, in the Holy Quran where the calligraphist of the uthmani compilation committed mistakes of writing such as in the word "Laa azbahannahu" where the second Alif is wrong because the "la" is not for negative but it is the "lam" for emphasis followed by "Azbhannahu."
But the Muslims of later ages considered the removal of even such mistakes as against exactness of copying. In this way the script of the Quran has become slavishly rigid. In some places the word Ta in "Rehmat" is written in long, in some "Jannat" is written without "alif" in some even singular verbs like "Yadoo" have that "alif" which is written in plural verbs though not pronounced.
All these peculiarities are adhered to with intent to create weight in authenticity of copying. Similarly Sayyid Razi had inserted every sentence in the same form as he found it, so that the writing should not suffer any intermeddling. This is factual aspect which puts an end to the idea that this book is the product of Sayyid Razi.
The next aspect relates to the existence of the words "Minha" or "Minhu" i.e. "from the same" occurring in-between any two addresses wherein generally the later part is almost unconnected with the earlier one. In fact, it has also occurred that the first part relates to pre-Prophethood or early Prophethood period while the later part belongs to the period after the Prophet's death. This is also annoying to the reader's taste but it also strengthens this very purpose.
Had it been Sayyid Razi's product, naturally there should have been continuity, or in case the intended writing were on two subjects he would have written them in two separate addresses. Nevertheless what could he do when he had only to present the collection of the utterances of Amirul Momineen?
Thus wherever the first and the next part of an utterance differ in subject-matter and the intervening matter has not been inserted for some reason, he can neither fuse them into one whole nor retain them as two separate addresses but he has to distinguish them by "wa minha" (and from the same).
I think in some places this is due to selection, while in some places the reason may be that formerly the material existed in no other form than manuscript books while most copies of manuscript books were confined to individuals.
Now, if the intermediary part had been eaten by worms or the pages had been destroyed or the ink had spread due to moisture making the writing illegible, then at such places Sayyid Razi has been unable to copy the intermediary part. Yet in his anxiety for collection and preservation he has sought for the earlier, later or intermediary lines which carried some sustaining sense and recorded his failure in inserting them by writing "wa minha" (and from the same).
It is also a fact that at that time a large collection of knowledge rested in the bosoms of the memorizers, literatures and traditionalists. Suppose Sayyid Razi heard the earlier part of some address from his teacher or a traditionalists according to suitability of the occasion and put it down in writing, then on another occasion he heard some other sentences from the same address and preserved them but could not find chance to enquire about and record the middle portion.
In this way he filled the gap by "wa minha". This is also a strong proof of the fact that he has attempted only to collect and preserve the writing of Amirul Momineen, and has not allowed any interference by himself.
The third witness to this is Sayyid Razi's own brief comments inserted here and there at the end of certain Sermons containing indication of his own feelings and ideas about them, or the explanations of words which he thought necessary to insert in some places. The contents of these comments being in close proximity to the speeches have made it definitely easy for anyone having taste of Arabic to realize that the author of these comments cannot certainly be the same who is the author of the speeches.
Just as Sayyid Razi has himself shown in his pride-worthy commentary of Quran titled Haqeeq-ut-Tanzi as a proof of Quran's miraculousness, that although Amirul Momineen's eloquence and expressiveness is super-human yet where there occurs a Quranic Verse in his speech it shines as a brilliant jewel among pebbles.
In the same manner Sayyid Razi was the most eloquent of his time and enjoyed the zenith of perfection in Arabic literature yet whenever in the Nahjul Balaghah his own words appear after those of Amirul Momineen every observer feels that his eye has fallen down in the deep.
Although Sayyid Razi has used his literary power and shown his ability to the full in these writings yet the greatness of the writing that precedes manifests itself clearly as an appreciable fact. This is also a great internal proof to falsify the impression that it is Sayyid Razi's composition.
The fourth point is that Sayyid Razi was not an unknown man of his times. He occupied responsible positions both secular as well as religious, and the period was one that was full of religious and national literates.
Baghdad, as the capital of the Abbasid Empire was also the centre of learning and literature. Sayyid Razi's master Shaikh Mufeed was himself living in the period of compilation of Nahjul Balaghah, because Shaikh Mufeed lived till after the death of Sayyid Razi as the pupil had died during the life time of his master. And contemporaries are, of course, in search of faults in a man.
Then, Sayyid Razi had also incurred opposition by the government of time by not signing the document prepared by the government against the Fatimids of Egypt, and which even Allama Razi's elder brother and his father had signed under pressure from Government; but Allama Sayyid Razi had refused to sign it not caring for the consequences.
Apart from the fact that a man of this character who maintained truth against such strong factors cannot commit an irresponsible act by writing a whole book himself and passing it as that of Amirul Momineen, whose being wrong could not remain hidden from the learned of those days, and even if he had done so then in his own days the learned of the time and those holding rein of government would have made much of it and criticized it vehemently.
We have before us books by the learned of his very time and writings of authors up to a few centuries thereafter. They do not contain, even in the slightest form, among the accounts of his life any blame of this kind or any criticism in this connection.
It is clear from this that it is just a concoction of some fanatic individuals who finding some of the assertions in the Nahjul Balaghah being against their views, have tried to declare Nahjul Balaghah as the composition of Sayyid Razi. Otherwise in the days of Sayyid Razi himself its contents were accepted as the composition of Amirul Momineen without distinction of party or creed; and so no blame was leveled against him in this connection.
The fifth point is that it is not that before Sayyid Razi (may Allah heighten his position) the speeches of Amirul Momineen did not exist in the Islamic world. In fact a study of books on history and literature shows that an authentic collection of Amirul Momineen's speeches did exist before Sayyid Razi (r.a.).
Thus, historian Masudi who was in the period preceding Sayyid Razi, but had rather died before the latter's birth, since Sayyid Razi died in his youth in the year 406 Hijra whereas Masudi had died in 340 Hijra when not only Sayyid Razi's master Shaikh Mufeed was living but the latter's master Shaikh Saduq Muhammad bin Ali bin Babwaih Qummi was also alive, writes thus in his history Murawwij-uz-Zahab:
"The speeches of various occasions of Ali Bin Abu Talib memorized by the people number something more than 480. They were uttered extempore, and people have related them continuously as his sayings and have extensively utilized extracts there from in their speeches and essays."
It is evident that if these more than 480 speeches are collected together, they would make a book bigger than Nahjul Balaghah. When such a big mass was in existence from before Sayyid Razi's birth, what was the need for Sayyid Razi not to use this collection and to write a book like Nahjul Balaghah himself?
Such a thing is done for one who is nameless or who has no recorded performance of his own, and his successors or those attached to him produced some work on his behalf in order to make him conspicuous without rhyme or reason.
Only Allama Masudi's above quotation should be enough to prove the existence of this collection, whereas it also proves that this collection did not form part of some far-flung museum as an archaeological relic or the property left by some dead divine, difficult of access, but the words "memorized" by the people or "related continuously" clearly show that it was commonly available and current among the learned.
Besides, Allama Ibn Abil Hadeed has quoted in the commentary on Nahjul Balaghah, the following statement of the reputed Secretary of the Abbasid period Abdul Hamid-bin-Yahya died 132 A.H. "I have memorized seventy speeches of Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) and their advantages and blessings on me are quite evident."
After this, comes the admission of Ibn Muqaffa (d. 142 A.H.), quoted by Allama Hasan-an-Nadobie in his comments on Jahiz's Kitab-ul-Bayan wat Tabyeen. About Ibn Muqaffa he writes:
"Most probably in power of expression Ibn Muqaffa derived benefit from the speeches of Amirul Momineen Ali bin Abi Talib, that is why be used to say that he drank to satisfaction from the springs of the speeches and did not confine it to any single way, consequently the blessings of this spring grew and continued growing."
After this is Nabata (d. 374 Hijra), he also preceded Sayyid Razi and he says thus:
"I have memorized a treasure of speeches whose blessing multiplies as much as it is taken advantage of. I have crammed hundred divisions from the sermons of Ali bin Abi Talib". This statement of Ibn Nabata has also been mentioned by lbne Abil Hadeed.
In Rijal al-Kishi it is written in connection with the description of Abu-us-Sabah Kinani that Zaid bin Ali-bin-Husain who is known as Zaid the martyr and was martyred during the Imamate of Imam Jafar-us-Sadiq (a.s.) used to listen to tile speeches of Amirul Momineen regularly.
Abu-us-Sabah says: "he used to listen to speeches of Amirul Momineen from me." This relates to the second century A.H. and from it is evident that a collection of such speeches was in existence at that time, and it was admittedly taken as that of Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.).
In all these places the reference to the speeches of Ali as an accepted item shows that in those days, no doubt was felt in the matter. It was a few centuries later when writers thought it necessary for some purpose to cast doubt on this reality that they started saying "related to Ali", but in the earlier period no word indicative of doubt or questioning of this is found at all.
From Rijal al-kabir it is seen that Zaid bin Wahab Jehni (died 90 A.H.) who is himself one of the traditionalists of Amirul Momineen had compiled his speeches and thereafter several individuals compiled his speeches and sayings before Sayyid Razi, such as:
(1) Hisham bin Muhammad Saeb Kalbi (d. 146 A.H.). His collection and compilation is referred to at page 251, chapter 7 of the "Catalogue" by Ibn Nadeem.
(2) Ibrahim bin Zubair Faraazi. He is referred to in the Catalogue of Toosi as follows: "Wrote several books, including Kitab ul Malahim and Kitab al-Khutab al-Ali (The Book of Speeches of Ali A.S.). A reference to him exists in Rajal al-Najashi as well.
(3) Abu Muhammad Museda bin Sadaqa Abadi. About him Rijal al-Najashi says:
"To him belong several books including one speeches of Ali (a.s.)."
(4) Abul Qasim Abdul Azim bin Abdullah Hasani, whose tomb at a small distance from Teheran is known as Shah Abdul Azim; He was among the companions of Imam Ali Naqi (peace be upon him.) The speeches collected by him are referred to in Rijal al-Najashi as follows: One of his books is "Speeches of Ali (a.s.)."
(5) Abul Khair Saleh bin Abi Hamad Raazi. He too was among the companions of Imam Ali Naqi. Najashi says: "Among his works is the Book of speeches of Amirul Momineen (a.s.)."
(6) Ali bin Muhammad Bin Abdullah Madaineea (d. 335 A.H.). He collected his speeches and those of his letters which he wrote to his officers. This is mentioned in Mujam-ul-Udaba of Yaqut al-Hamavi, Part 5, page 313.
(7) Abu Muhammad Abdul Aziz Jalowi Basri (d. 320 A.H.). His compilations include Sermons of Ali (a.s.) the Book of letters, the Book of Preachings of Ali (a.s.) the Book of Ali's addresses on lighting and Book of Ali's supplications. Shaikh Toosi has mentioned them in his Catalogue and Najashi has mentioned them in his Allah in connection with his large number of writings.
(8) Abu Muhammad Hasan bin Ali bin Sha'ba Halabi (d. 320 A.H.) writes in his famous book Tuhuf-ul-Uqool (Published in Iran, p. 13), after recording some sayings, proverbs and speeches of Amirul Momineen:
"If we desire to write his (Ali's) speeches and utterances only in regard to Unity of God, leaving all other subjects, it would equal this very book."
Now when a glance is cast at the above details it is observed that:
In the first century Zaid bin Wahab had prepared a collection of the speeches of Hazrat Ali. In the 2nd century in the days of Abd-ul-Hamid bin Yahya, the Katib and of Ibn Muqaffa that collection was admittedly in existence, while in the mid-period of that century those speeches were recited and heard as has been known from the account Zaid of martyr, and men of letters memorised them as has become apparent from the details given by Abdul Hamid and Ibn Muqaffa.
And in the 3rd century several authors compiled the speeches which had reached them. In such conditions what was the need of Sayyid Razi to ignore all these collections and exert his mind to write something himself in the name of Amirul Momineen.
The sixth point is that from the earlier existence of these collections it is evident that it was not possible for Sayyid Razi to get all these collections destroyed and to circulate what he had produced as the work of Amirul Momineen.
This was impossible, because it could be possible only if this collection had existed with one single author at some far-flung place, just as it is said that Shaikh Bin Ali Sena got all the works of Farabi from some individual and destroyed them, and then appropriated all of them to himself. Here this course was impossible as the utterances in question were secure in the bosoms of men of letters, were current throughout the bounds of the Muslim World and a number of authors had compiled them.
Then, since these collections would have existed along with the product of Sayyid Razi, if Sayyid Razi's collected work was different from such collections or different only in style all the learned men of the time, the speakers of the days and the scholars of the age who had already seen those collections, or read them or memorized them would have raised a cry of protest.
There should have been an upsurge among them and Sayyid Razi would have earned bad name throughout the world. In the least some scholar out of his contemporaries might have written a book on the subject criticizing that the work of Amir-ul-Momineen.
But that was very different from the real opinion on Sayyid Razi, and the reason that prompted a group to create doubts and misgivings on his collected work, detail of which would be mentioned later on, was that Nahjul Balaghah contains objections or critical references to some personalities held respectable among the majority of Muslims.
It is apparent that Nahjul Balaghah was written in the capital of the Abbasi Kingdom which was the centre of Sunni learning. At that time there were very big scholars, memorizers (of Quran), men of letters, speakers, biographers and traditionalists among the Sunnis and their big crowd was concentrated within Baghdad.
If Amir-ul-Momineen's utterances that existed in the times of Ibn Muqaffa, Abdul Hamid bin Yahya Jahiz and other proved scholars were devoid of these objections and such subjects were not contained in them and naturally in such a case their contents could only be otherwise, then the Sunnis of that time would have created hell over it, would have faced it as an attack on their religion and would have torn it asunder.
But no such thing happened. Not the smallest voice was raised against it. This is a definite proof of the fact that there was nothing new in the compilation collected by Sayyid Razi, rather it was the same as was existent, current and preserved before that. The scholars felt no strangeness towards it, but were familiar with it and were used to hearing it and memorizing it.
They esteemed this literary treasure for its literary utility and were not victim to the narrow mindedness that since it 'contained material against their belief they should declaim it or evince strangeness to it.
The seventh point is that numerous books of the period before Sayyid Razi still exist which contain appropriate references of Amirul Momineen's sayings or speeches of various occasions such as:
Al-Biayan wat Tabyeen of Jahiz (d. 255 A.H.)
Uyoon-ul-Akhbar and Gharib-ul-Hadith of Ibn Qateeba Dayanwari (d. 276 A.H.)
The reputed history of Ibn Wazeh Yaqubi (d. 276 A.H.)
Akhbar-ut- Tiwal of Abu Hanifa Dayanwari (d. 280 A.H.)
Kitab-ul-Mubarrid of Abul Abbas-al-Mubarrid (d. 286 A.H.)
Tarikh Kabir of the famous historian Ibn Jarir Tabari (d. 310 A.H.)
Kitab-ul-Mujtana of Ibn Duraid (d. 321 A.H.)
Iqd-ul-farid of Ibn Abd Rabbeh (d. 328 A.H.)
The famous book Kafi of Siqat-ul-Islam Kulaini (d. 329 A.H.)
The history Murawwijaz Zahab of Mas'udi (d. 346 A.H.)
Kitab-ul-Aghani of Abul Farj Isfehani (d. 356 A.H.)
Kitab-un-Nawadir of Abu Ah Qari (d. 356 A.H.)
Kitab-ut-Tauheed and other collections of traditions of Shaikh Sudduq (d. 381 A.H.)
Kitab-ul-Irshad and Kitab -ul-Jamal of Shaikh Mufeed (d. 416 A.H.) who with reference to the date of death is of later period than Sayyid Razi, but being his teacher is deemed of the earlier era.
When the speeches of Amir-ul-Momineen in these books are compared with those recorded by Sayyid Razi they often tally together. If there is anything in Nahjul Balaghah which is not in these books or these books contain any material not included in Nahjul Balaghah, then it certainly tallies with it by way of the mode of expression, style of speech, continuity, high-soundness forcefulness and truth of expression.
Wherein no one knowing Arabic can have any doubt that the work of Amir-ul-Momineen recorded in Nahjul Balaghah tallies fully with the works attributed to him and included in other books. And, as a corollary to this mentioned earlier, that it completely differs from Sayyid Razi's own writings which find place in Nahjul Balaghah as foreword or as commentary is enough to prove to an unbiased person that it is really Amirul Momineen's own word which Allama Sayyid Razi has merely compiled.
The eighth point is that Allama Sayyid Razi's own contemporaries or numerous persons of contiguous period made their own attempts to collect Amirul Momineen's works, and a few of them included the material in supplements of their books; such as:
Ibn Maskawaih (d. 421 A.H.) in Tajaribul Umam;
Hafiz Abu Naeem Isfahani (d. 430 A.H.) in Huliat-ul-Aulia;
Shaikh-Ut-Taifa Abu Jafar Toosi (d. 460 A.H.) who through pupilship of Shaikh Mufeed is a contemporary of Allama Razi and being pupil of Sayyid Murtaza Alam-ul-Huda, and also by virtue of the year of His death is of later period, in his book Tahzeeb and the Kitab-ul-Amali.
And Abdul Wahid bin Muhammad bin Abd-ul-Wahid Amedi, who belonged to the same period, in his regular book Ghirar-ul-Hekam wa Durar- ul-Kelam, which covers short sayings of Amir-ul-Momineen and has been published in Egypt, Sudan and India. Its Urdu Translation has also been rendered.
Also Abu Saeed Mansur bin Husain Aabi Wazir (d. 422 A.H.) in his book Nuzhat-ul-Adab wa Nasr-ud-Durar which is mentioned in Kashf-uz-Zunoon: under the chapter "Noon";
and Qazi Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Salamah Qatai Shaafei (d. 453 A.H.) whose grand book on this subject is by the name of Ma'alem-ul-Hekam which has been published in Egypt.
All these are almost contemporaries of Sayyid Razi. The researches of all of them are before us, except the book of Abu Saeed Mansur which is mentioned in Kashf-uz-Zunoon. All the other books are published and current. The text contained in them is essentially similar or tallies in style with that recorded by Allama Sayyid Razi.
Then if it is supposed about Sayyid Razi that he himself composed the text, what should be said about all other compilers and those who inserted it as supplements to their books. The same should be imagined about them since most of them certainly do not appear to excel Allama Sayyid Razi in greatness of position, righteousness and fear of Allah.
If this is thought about them, well and good; but Allama Sayyid Razi was the wisest of God-seekers, while books on biography show him at the top with regard to literary qualities, eloquence and power of speech. But it is definitely wrong to imagine that all these people were equal to Allama Sayyid Razi in literary capacity. As such why should not there be the same difference in their mental efforts and pen-production as certainly exists in their extent of learning.
The people who have collected the compositions differ like heaven and earth but the material they have collected is of one and the same status. Seeing this, no one except he who is bent on refusing fact can have any doubt or misgiving that the work of these people is merely collection and compilation in which their own style and taste shows itself only in the manner of arrangement and mode of compilation. But their personal ability, wit, extent of learning and literary standard has not a lot of concern in it.

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