Three Prescriptions From the Pharmacy of ‘Alī (‘a)

By: Shabbir Agha Abbas

As it is the birth month of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a), Rajab al-Murajjab, it would be more than beneficial to revisit the vast pharmacy of wisdom that is the collection of sayings, exhortations, and advice of our beloved Imām. The way it is routine to make monthly visits to dispensaries to refill one’s prescriptions for the ‘ilāj (remedy) of their bodies, it should also be imperative for one to revisit the verses of the Qur’ān and the ahadith for they too are remedies for not just the individual’s physical selves but also that of their souls. The special status of Amīr al-Muʾminīn is that his prescriptions are not just dual in the sense that they remedy both physical and spiritual ailments, but that they are dually relevant to believers and disbelievers alike, beneficial for all who possess intellect.

Of the many written collections of our Imām’s wisdom, there is none more notable than the Nahj al-Balāghah compiled by al-Sharīf al-Raḍī. However, the Nahj is not all encompassing, therefore it is crucial for both students of knowledge and those seeking healing to search for his wisdom wherever one can find it. As mentioned above the relevancy of his wisdom is transcending so scholars from a wide array of schools and ideologies within Islām have all partaken in this quest to find and record this unquantifiable source of wisdom that is our Imām. Therefore, we find some of the greatest of works on the life and legacy of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib to not have been produced by just his Shī’ah, but by others such as the Khaṣāʾiṣ Amīr al-Muʾminīn of Imām al-Nasā’ī (al-Nasā’ī being one of the six compilers of the Sunni Ṣiḥah al-Sittah/Authentic Six); this Khaṣāʾiṣ is an extremely important collection of the virtues and individual merits of the Imām. Likewise, the work Dastūr Ma’ālam al-Hikam of the Shāfi’ī scholar al-Qāḍī al-Quḍā’ī [employed by the Fatimids] is a compilation of the wisdom of Amīr al-Muʾminīn in the guise of his literary and oratorical brilliance. Luckily, these two works have been translated into the English language, the former by Shaykh Michael Mumisa and the latter by Dr. Tahera Qutbuddin, respectively. It would be quite valuable to obtain these two translations and keep them alongside one’s copy of the Nahj al-Balāghah.

Nonetheless, returning to the prescriptive function of the narrations of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib three from the Dastūr Ma’ālam al-Hikam have been chosen for the benefit of those reading.


  1.   دع عنك اظن واحسب وارى

Avoid saying “I guess,” “I suppose,” and “I reckon”

Speaking without knowledge is one of the greatest follies of mankind, not only is it sinful but it can lead to serious ramifications in not just one’s own life but that of other’s as well. Assumptions are dangerous, because they aren’t typically based on facts but largely based on emotions and personal biases. It is best if one thoroughly searches for the truth, and if one cannot attain it then at least admit to not knowing. Saying, ‘I do not know’ is a good practice for one to remain humble, and humility is a good trait for a Muslim to possess.

2.   تخير لوردك

Choose carefully where you water your camels.

In the time of Amīr al-Muʾminīn camels served as the source of livelihood for many a people. Not only were camels important vehicles for transportation, they too provided revenue for their owners by means of their fur (textiles) and milk (dairy); hence they were tools of economic sustenance. But as any business requires capital to grow, camels need to be fed and watered, however even in the water-starved deserts of Arabia a camel cannot be made to drink from any pond or well, the source of water must first be deduced that it is not tainted. Likewise, when we search for our rizq (sustenance) we too must thoroughly ensure that its source is pure, lest we suffer the consequences.

3.   لا تقض وانت غضبان ولا من النوم سكران

Do not judge when you are angry or intoxicated by sleep.

Many a times in life we make irresponsible and even irreparable decisions while not in a proper state of mind, especially in times of rage and impairment. When one is angry their inhibitions are lowered, and thus more likely to hurt others and to take risks. Therefore we are seeing more and more companies offering anger management courses to its employees, for an angry state of mind poses not just an unsafe environment but also risks the success of that business. As anger is inappropriate for the workplace, it too is inappropriate for our personal lives. Similarly, intoxication whether by the depravity of sleep or the consumption of drugs can result in horrible consequences, the disasters related to intoxicated driving are enough for one to comprehend.
The above three are simple short phrases that one could easily impress into their minds, and like the above there is no shortage of prescriptions from the Imām. So gather a few compilation books, however, not to just read, but to make the wisdom of the Imām as found in these books an active participant in one’s life, make it regimen to jot down and memorize these sayings if not daily then at least monthly. Surely, doing so will lead one to both a complete and fulfilling life and a successful hereafter.

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