الإيثارُ أشرَفُ الإحْسانِ۔
Self-sacrifice is the noblest benevolence.
— 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. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
The Arabic Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) states, "الإيثارُ أشرَفُ الإحْسانِ۔" This can be translated into English as,
Self-sacrifice is the noblest benevolence.
Let us delve into the meaning of this Hadith in light of the teachings of the Quran.
The word (i'thar) "إيثار" in this Hadith refers to self-sacrifice or preferring others over oneself. It is an act of putting the needs and well-being of others before our own. This concept is deeply rooted in the teachings of Islam and is considered to be one of the highest forms of benevolence.
Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) emphasizes the importance of self-sacrifice in the Quran. In Surah Al-Hashr (59:9), Allah says,
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 selflessness of the Ansar (the residents of Madinah) who welcomed and supported the Muhajirun (the emigrants from Makkah). Despite their own needs and difficulties, the Ansar preferred the well-being of the Muhajirun over their own. This act of self-sacrifice is praised by Allah and serves as a powerful example for all Muslims.
Another verse that supports the concept of self-sacrifice is found in Surah Al-Insan (76:8-9), where Allah 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.'
These verses highlight the selflessness of the believers who give food to the needy, orphan, and captive, solely seeking the pleasure of Allah. They do not expect any reward or gratitude from those they help. This exemplifies the essence of self-sacrifice, where one's actions are solely driven by the desire to please Allah and benefit others.
Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), known for his immense knowledge and wisdom, emphasizes the noble nature of self-sacrifice in this Hadith. By stating that self-sacrifice is the noblest form of benevolence, he highlights the elevated status of those who prioritize the well-being of others over their own desires and needs.
Self-sacrifice has profound implications in our daily lives as Muslims. It encourages us to be selfless, compassionate, and empathetic towards others. It motivates us to actively seek opportunities to help and support those in need, even if it means sacrificing our own comfort or resources.
When we practice self-sacrifice, we create a ripple effect of goodness and kindness in society. Our actions inspire others to follow suit, fostering a culture of compassion and care. Additionally, self-sacrifice strengthens the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood among Muslims, as it fosters a sense of unity and solidarity.
Moreover, self-sacrifice is not limited to material possessions or resources. It extends to our time, knowledge, and skills. We can selflessly offer our time to volunteer for charitable causes, share our knowledge to educate and empower others, and utilize our skills to uplift and support those in need.
In conclusion, the Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) reminds us of the importance of self-sacrifice in Islam. It encourages us to prioritize the well-being of others over our own desires and needs. By practicing self-sacrifice, we embody the noblest form of benevolence and contribute to the betterment of society. May Allah grant us the ability to embody this beautiful virtue and may He bless us all with His mercy and guidance.
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