خَيْرُ المَكارِمِ الإيثارُ۔
The best of noble traits is self-sacrifice.
— 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 the worlds, and blessings and peace be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure Ahl al-Bayt, and his noble companions.
The Arabic Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) states, "خَيْرُ المَكارِمِ الإيثارُ۔" This can be translated as,
The best of noble traits is self-sacrifice.
In this enlightening Hadith, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) highlights the importance and excellence of selflessness and putting others before oneself.
To delve deeper into the meaning of this Hadith, let us first understand the key words used. "Makarim" refers to noble traits or virtues, while "i'thar" means self-sacrifice or giving preference to others. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) is emphasizing that among all the noble traits one can possess, the greatest of them is the willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others.
This concept of self-sacrifice is beautifully echoed in the Quran. 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 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 gave preference to the Muhajirun, demonstrating the virtue of self-sacrifice.
Another example from the Quran can be 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.'
These verses illustrate the selflessness of the believers who provide food to those in need, without expecting anything in return. Their motivation is solely to seek the pleasure of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ), without desiring any reward or gratitude from the recipients.
Imam Ali's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) statement encompasses both of these Quranic examples and goes beyond them. It emphasizes that self-sacrifice is not just a commendable act, but the pinnacle of noble traits. It is the trait that encompasses all other virtues and elevates the character of a person.
When we embody the spirit of self-sacrifice, we prioritize the needs and well-being of others over our own desires and interests. This can manifest in various ways, such as giving our time, wealth, or resources to help those in need, supporting the oppressed, or even forgiving those who have wronged us.
Self-sacrifice is not an easy virtue to cultivate, as it requires us to overcome our ego and selfish tendencies. However, the rewards and blessings associated with this trait are immense. By putting others before ourselves, we not only fulfill our duty as Muslims but also attain spiritual growth and closeness to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ).
Moreover, self-sacrifice has far-reaching consequences in society. When individuals prioritize the well-being of others, it fosters a sense of unity, compassion, and empathy within the community. It creates an environment where everyone looks out for one another, and the needs of the vulnerable are met. This, in turn, leads to a harmonious and just society.
In conclusion, the Hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) teaches us that self-sacrifice is the best of noble traits. It is a virtue that encompasses all other virtues and elevates our character. By giving preference to others and putting their needs before our own, we emulate the examples set by the Ansar and the righteous believers mentioned in the Quran. May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) grant us the ability to embody this noble trait and inspire others to do the same.
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