Among the most important of your preoccupations as you live in strange lands is mixing with the people of those lands and socializing with them, because:
Firstly: This is the requirement of the obligation which Allah Almighty imposed on you, the manners with which His great religion, honorable Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and Imams of guidance (peace be upon him) disciplined you; so, you should not neglect or fall short of taking charge of it.
Secondly: Your conduct reflects on your religion and its holy personalities:good conduct will reflect well, and bad conduct will reflect poorly, because people, by nature, attribute the good or bad things in the principles and religions to those who bear them and to whom they are attributed, making no distinction between one and the other, ignoring the natural distinctions of those who bear them and belong to them, their personal inclinations, general and private circumstances. You are the messengers of Islam in these lands, the representatives of faith and guidance in these societies, and they both are trusts in your hands. So, you must work hard to invite others to embrace them through your righteous way of life and good conduct. Do not be the reason for bringing your religion and its holy personalities shame and affliction.
Thirdly: It has the greatest impact on your success in life and on how your affairs go, especially in the long run, because keeping good companionship and socializing is one of the most important causes for people to love you, to trust you, to open up to you and for their being responsive to you.
From this onset, we would like to attract your attention to important matters related to the above:
1. One of the most important ethical principles, which is dictated by nature and which great Islam emphasized in the Holy Qur'an and in the traditions of the Trusted Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and the Imams from among his Progeny (peace be upon them), is to speak the truth, to safeguard the covenant and to return the trust to the righteous or to the open sinners, to avoid cheating, cunning, conniving and treachery.
Allah Almighty has said, "…for them there is a painful chastisement (waiting for them) because of the lies which they were telling” (Qur'an, 2:10).” And He said, "… and fulfill (every) promise, for inquiries will be made (on the Day of Reckoning) regarding (every) promise (which you made)” (Qur'an, 17:34) and also, "Allah commands you to return the trusts to those to whom they belong” (Qur'an, 4:58). The Almighty has also said, “O you who believe! Do not betray the trust of Allah and of the Messenger, nor should you knowingly misappropriate things entrusted to you” (Qur'an, 8:27).
Imam al-Baqir (peace be upon him) has said that Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain (peace be upon them) used to say to his sons, "Beware of small and big lies whenever you are serious or jesting, for if one lies about small things, he will dare to lie about big things. Do you not know that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) had said, 'A servant of Allah keeps telling the truth until Allah writes him down as a truthful one, and a servant of Allah keeps telling lies until Allah writes him down as a liar'?"[i]
In the reliable tradition Anbasah ibn Mus'ab, Imam al-Baqir (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said, "There are three things about which Allah does not accept any excuse: not giving the trust back to the righteous as well as to the openly sinner, non-fulfillment of a promise made to the righteous as well as to the openly sinner, and showing no kindness to parents, be they benevolent or openly sinners."[ii]
In the authenticated narration of al-Hussain ibn Abul-Alaa, Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said, "Allah, the most Exalted One, the most Great, did not send any prophet except to emphasize saying the truth, giving the trust back to the righteous as well as to the openly sinner."[iii]
In the authenticated narration of Abu Hamzah al-Thumali, he says, "I heard the master of worshippers, Ali ibn al-Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib, peace be with them all, saying this to his Shi’ites (followers): 'You must return the entrusted, for by the One Who sent Muhammed (peace be upon him and his progeny) with the truth as a Prophet, had the killer of my father, al-Hussain ibn Ali (peace be upon him), entrusted me with the sword with which he killed him, I would have returned it to him."[iv]
In a tradition narrated by Abu Kahmas, the latter says that he said the following to Imam Abu Abdullah Al-Sadiq, (peace be upon him): "Abdullah ibn Abu Ya`fur greets you.” The Imam (peace be upon him) said, "Peace be with you and with him. If you see Abdullah, convey my greetings to him and say this to him: 'Ja'far ibn Muhammed tells you to observe the status reached by Ali (peace be upon him) in respect of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) and to uphold it: Ali (peace be upon him) did not reach such a status in respect of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) except through telling the truth and returning the trust’."[v]
In the authenticated narration of Abdul-Rahman ibn Sayyabah, Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) asked the narrattor, "Shall I advise you?” The narrator answered in the affirmative, whereupon the Imam (peace be upon him) said, "Speak the truth, give the trust back to its rightful owner, and you will thus share wealth with other people!"[vi]
In one of the traditions narrated by al-Asbagh ibn Nubatah, he says, "The Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) was delivering a sermon from the pulpit of Kufa. He said, 'O people! If it were not because of the hatred to treachery, I would have been the shrewdest of all people. Indeed, with every act of treachery is open transgression, and with every open transgression is disbelief. [The commiters of] treachery, open sinning and betrayal are all in the Hellfire."[vii]
Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said once to a man selling flour: "Beware of cheating, for one who cheats will in return be cheated of his wealth; if he has no wealth, he will be cheated of his family."[viii] And there are numerous other such texts.
2. Islam stresses treating all people in general with good manners, keeping others good company, the performance of obligations, the saying of what is nice and always wearing a smile. Allah Almighty has praised His great Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) on this account saying, "And you (stand) on an exalted standard of moral character” (Qur'an, 68:4). Thus are characterized his righteous Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) who are known to be as such, providing the most glorious of examples and the most sublime of such moral characters. Nay! Even their Shi’ites and supporters are known to be as such.
Ibn Abul-Hadid, in his biography of the Commander of the Faithful, peace of Allah be with him, after having stated some of the Imam's well-known virtues and famous merits, says the following: "As for the loftiness of manners, the pleasant face, the warm welcome, the smile…, he is proverbial in all of that, so much so that his enemies faulted him on their account! Amr ibn al-Aas said this to the people of Syria, 'He very much loves to be humorous.' Amr ibn al-Aas quoted it from Umar ibn al-Khattab: When people decided to select him [Ali] for the caliphate, Umar said to him, '[You would be the best], had it not been for your humor!' Umar was contented with this much, but Amr added to it and made it worse. Sa'sa'ah ibn Sawhan and other Shi’ites and companions have said, “He [Imam Ali (peace be upon him)] was among us like one of us, affectionate, extremely humble and docile. We were in awe of him like one tied for the executioner who is standing to behead him.” Such manners have been inherited and transmitted among those who love him and are loyal to him until now, just as their being an aversion, roughness and crudeness in the other side. One who knows the least about people's manners and traditions knows this.”[ix]
Statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and the Imams (peace be upon them) urging the above are numerous. For example, in the reliable narration of al-Hassan ibn Rashid, Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) is quoted as having cited the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) as saying, "O descendants of Abdul-Muttalib! You will not win people over with your money; so, meet them with a pleasant countenance and with an optimistic attitude."[x]
The Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said, "Mingle with people in a way that when you die, they will grieve over you, and when you are out of their sight, they yearn for you."[xi] And in the reliable tradition narrated by Samma'ah, Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said, "If one returns to Allah with one of three things, Allah will grant him Paradise: Spending by way of charity even when he has very little to spend, maintaining a pleasant countenance with all people of the world, and being fair with his own self."[xii] And there are many such statements.
3. You are in lands the residents of which are accustomed to respecting the law, abidingorder and holding both law and order as sacred, condemning those who violate or take them lightly. They look at you as their guests and settlers in their land. They see that they have been good to you when they welcomed and hosted you, consoling you in your time of adversity. Whenever they see you having respect for the law and observant of order, neither violating them nor willing to ignore them, you will rise in their eyes, impose your character and respect on them. You will consequently impose on them respect for your great religion, honorable principles and holy figures. But if they see that you violate the law, take order lightly, seizing any opportunity to violate them for the sake of some quick financial gains, seeking opportunities for illegitimate earning according to their standards, you will fall down in their esteem, your image will be distorted among them, and your reputation among their circles will be bad.
Moreover, hostile media, behind which huge forces stand against you, may take advantage of it to magnify and exaggerate matters, increasing their ugliness. This will reflect a bad and repulsive image about you, your religion, principles and holy symbols.
Thismay complicate matters against your interest, and it may be a cause to impose precautionary restrictions on you which increase your troubles and problems and you will find it difficult to surmount and come out of them.
Having reviewed these three matters, let us now turn to the teachings of our Imams, Allah's blessings with them, to the believers from among their followers and loyalists in the way they deal with people in general so we may derive light from them to underscore what has been indicated above and to make it clearly visible.
In the authenticated tradition narrated by Abdullah ibn Sinan, the latter says that he heard Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) saying, "I commend you to fear Allah; do not carry people on your shoulders so you may thus humiliate yourselves; Allah, the most Exalted and the most Great, says in His Holy Book, '… Speak fairly to people' (Qur'an, 2:83).” Then the Imam (peace be upon him) said, "Visit their sick, attend their funerals, testify for or against them and pray in their places of worship."[xiii]
In a tradition narrated by Marazim, the Imam (peace be upon him) says, "You should pray at mosques, be good neighbors for people, bear testimony and attend funerals. You need people. Nobody can do away with others in his lifetime, and people need each other."[xiv]
In the authenticated tradition narrated by Mu'awiyah ibn Wahab, it is stated that the latter asked the Imam (peace be upon him), "How should we fare with each other, with our own people and with people who do not espouse our beliefs?” The Imam (peace be upon him) said, "You should look up to your Imams whom you follow and do as they do. By Allah, they visit their [non-followers'] sick, attend their funerals, testify for or against them and return the trust to them."[xv]
In a tradition narrated by Katheer ibn Alqamah, the latter says that he asked Imam Abu Abdullah [al-Sadiq] (peace be upon him) to advise him, so the Imam (peace be upon him) said, "I commend you to fear Allah, to be ascetic, to adore Him, to prolong your prostration, to give the trust back, to speak the truth, to be a good neighbor. This is what Muhammed (peace be upon him and his progeny) brought us. Pray among their [non-Shi’ites'] tribes, visit their sick, attend their funerals, be an ornament for us, and do not bring us shame; let people like us, do not let them dislike us; send every type of love our way, and shun every evil from our way…"[xvi]
In the authenticated tradition narrated by Zaid al-Shahham, the latter says that Imam Abu Abdullah Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said once to him, "Convey my greetings to whoever among them who obeys me and listens to what I say; I commend you to fear Allah, the most Exalted One, the most Great, to be pious while practicing your faith, to struggle in the way of Allah, to speak the truth, to return the trust, to prolong your prostration, and to be good neighbors, for this is what Muhammed (peace be upon him and his progeny) has brought us. Return the trust to those who entrusted you with it, be he righteous or openly a sinner, for the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) used to order the return of [even] the thread and the needle.
"Stay in contact with your tribes, attend their funerals, visit their sick, perform your obligations towards them, for if a man among you is pious with regard to his creed, speaks the truth, returns the trust and has good manners when dealing with people, it will be said that he is a follower of Ja'far, and this will please me and make me happy. And it will be said that such is the etiquette of Ja'far. But if he is not like that, his affliction and shame will reach me, and it will be said: Such is the etiquette of Ja'far.
"By Allah, my father [Imam Muhammed al-Baqir (peace be upon him)] has told me that a man in a tribe may be a follower of Ali (peace be upon him), so he becomes the best in returning the trust, the most keen about rights, the most truthful. People convey their wills to him and their trusts. If you ask the tribe about him, it will say to you, "Who is like so-and-so?! He is the most keen among us to returning the trust and the most truthful when he speaks."[xvii]
And there are many such texts which establish the duty of the faithful, leaving no excuse for them.
[i]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 8, p. 577; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 69, p. 235.
[ii]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 15, pp. 206-07.
[iii]Ibid., Vol. 13, p. 223.
[iv]Ibid., Vol. 13, p. 225.
[v]Ibid., Vol. 13, p. 218.
[vi]Ibid., Vol. 13, p. 219.
[vii]Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 41, p. 129; Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 11, p. 52.
[viii]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 12, p. 309.
[ix]Ibn Abul-Hadid, Sharh Nahjul-Balagha, Vol. 1, pp. 25-26; al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 41, p. 147.
[x]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 8, p. 512.
[xi]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 404.
[xii]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 512.
[xiii]Ibid., Vol. 8, pp. 399-400.
[xiv]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 400.
[xv]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 399.
[xvi]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 400.
[xvii]Ibid., Vol. 8, pp. 398-99.