أَلاَ وإِنَّ مِنَ الْبَلاَءِ الْفَاقَةَ وَأَشَدُّ مِنَ الْفَاقَةِ مَرَضُ الْبَدَنِ، وَأشدُّ مِنْ مَرَضِ الْبَدَنِ مَرَضُ الْقَلْبِ أَلاَ وإِنَّ مِنَ النِّعَم سَعَةَ الْمَالِ، وَأَفْضَلُ مِن سَعَةِ الْمَالِ صِحّةُ الْبَدَنِ، وَأَفْضَلُ مِنْ صِحَّةِ الْبَدَنِ تَقْوَى الْقَلْبِ۔
Beware that destitution is a calamity, but worse than destitution is ailment of the body, while worse than bodily ailment is the disease of the heart. Beware that plenty of wealth is a blessing, but better than plenty of wealth is the health of the body, while still better than the health of the body is the chastity of heart.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Nahj al-Balagha — Peak of Eloquence: Hadith #388)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
In this profound hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), he highlights the different types of calamities and blessings that can befall a person. He begins by stating that destitution, or extreme poverty, is a calamity. This refers to the state of lacking basic necessities and struggling to make ends meet. It is a difficult trial that tests a person's patience, resilience, and reliance on Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ).
To further emphasize the severity of calamities, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) states that the ailment of the body is worse than destitution. Ailments and diseases can cause immense physical pain, discomfort, and limitations. They can hinder a person's ability to carry out their daily activities, affect their overall well-being, and even lead to a decrease in their quality of life.
Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) then goes on to say that the disease of the heart is worse than bodily ailments. Here, he is not referring to physical heart diseases, but rather the spiritual diseases that affect the heart, such as jealousy, arrogance, greed, and hatred. These diseases of the heart can corrupt a person's character, damage their relationships, and distance them from Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ).
To balance the discussion, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) then highlights the blessings that Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) bestows upon us. He states that plenty of wealth is a blessing. Wealth provides us with the means to fulfill our needs, support our families, and contribute to the welfare of society. It is a resource that, when used wisely and in accordance with Islamic principles, can bring about great good.
However, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) reminds us that even though wealth is a blessing, it is not the ultimate goal. He states that better than plenty of wealth is the health of the body. Good health allows us to enjoy the blessings of life, engage in worship, and fulfill our responsibilities. It is a gift from Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) that should not be taken for granted.
Finally, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) concludes by stating that better than the health of the body is the chastity of the heart. Chastity here refers to purity and righteousness of the heart. It is the state of having a heart that is free from impurities, such as envy, greed, and hatred. A chaste heart is one that is filled with love for Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) and His creation, and seeks to do good and avoid evil.
To support the exegesis of this hadith, we can look to the Quran for further guidance. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:155),
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.
This verse reminds us that trials and calamities are a part of life, and it is through patience and reliance on Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) that we can overcome them.
Furthermore, in Surah Al-Isra (17:80), Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says,
And say: My Lord, cause me to enter a sound entrance and to exit a sound exit and grant me from Yourself a supporting authority.
This verse highlights the importance of seeking good health and protection from harm, both physically and spiritually.
In conclusion, this hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) serves as a reminder for Muslims to reflect on the different types of calamities and blessings that can befall us. It teaches us to prioritize the well-being of our hearts and souls, as they are the essence of our being. May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) grant us the strength to overcome trials with patience, and bless us with good health, wealth, and purity of heart.
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