الإيثارُ شيمَةُ الأبْرارِ۔
Self-sacrifice is a trait of the virtuous.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Ghurar al-Hikam: Self-Sacrifice)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds. Peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, the Ahl al-Bayt, and his noble companions.
The Arabic Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) states, "الإيثارُ شيمَةُ الأبْرارِ۔" This can be translated as,
Self-sacrifice is a trait of the virtuous.
Let us delve deeper into the meaning of this impactful saying in light of the Quran.
The word (Ithar) "إيثار" refers to the act of preferring others over oneself, selflessness, and sacrificing one's own needs and desires for the benefit of others. It is a quality that reflects the highest level of righteousness and moral excellence. The word (Shimah) "شيمَةُ" means a distinguishing characteristic or a mark of distinction. And (Al-Abrar) "الأبْرارِ" refers to the righteous and virtuous individuals.
The Quran emphasizes the importance of self-sacrifice and putting others before oneself in numerous verses. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Hashr (59:9),
And [also for] those who were settled in the Home [i.e., Al-Madinah] and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul - it is those who will be the successful.
This verse highlights the exemplary behavior of the Ansar (the residents of Madinah) who welcomed and supported the Muhajirun (the emigrants from Makkah) during the early days of Islam. Despite their own hardships and limited resources, the Ansar selflessly gave preference to the needs of the Muhajirun, demonstrating the essence of self-sacrifice.
Another verse that emphasizes the virtue of selflessness is found in Surah Al-Insan (76:8-9), where Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) describes the righteous believers, saying,
And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, [Saying], 'We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.'
This verse highlights the selflessness of the righteous believers who provide food to those in need purely for the sake of Allah, without expecting any reward or gratitude from the recipients. Their act of self-sacrifice is driven by their love for Allah and their desire to please Him.
Imam Ali's statement,
Self-sacrifice is a trait of the virtuous,
encapsulates the essence of these Quranic teachings. It reminds us that true righteousness is not merely confined to performing acts of worship, but also extends to selflessly serving and prioritizing the needs of others.
Self-sacrifice has profound implications in our personal and communal lives. On an individual level, it helps us develop humility, empathy, and compassion. By sacrificing our own desires and needs for the sake of others, we cultivate a sense of selflessness and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood within the Muslim community.
Furthermore, self-sacrifice has far-reaching consequences for society as a whole. When individuals prioritize the well-being of others over their own, it leads to a more harmonious and just society. It fosters a culture of generosity, cooperation, and mutual support, where everyone strives to alleviate the suffering of others and work towards the betterment of humanity.
Reflecting on Imam Ali's statement, we are reminded of his own exemplary character and his unwavering commitment to knowledge and justice. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was known for his selflessness and willingness to sacrifice his own comfort and safety for the sake of Islam and the welfare of the Muslim community. His life serves as a shining example of the virtue of self-sacrifice and its transformative power.
In conclusion, the Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) teaches us that self-sacrifice is a distinguishing characteristic of the virtuous. It reminds us of the importance of prioritizing the needs of others over our own and embodying the spirit of selflessness and compassion. By practicing self-sacrifice, we not only fulfill our moral obligations but also contribute to the establishment of a just and compassionate society. May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) grant us the ability to embody this noble trait and follow in the footsteps of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).
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