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 PREFACE -  By the Compiler of Nahjul Balagha

al-'Allamah ash-Sharif ar-Radi


In the Name of Allah, the Merciful the Compassionate.

So now, praise is due to Allah who has held praise as the price of His bounties, protection against His retribution, pathway to His paradises and means for multiplica­tion of His good treatment, and blessings be on his Messenger, the Prophet of Mercy, the torch of the people, the chosen one from the origin of greatness and family of long­standing honors, the plantation of all-engrossing glory and the branch of sublimity full of fruits and foliage, and on the members of his family who are lanterns of dark­ness, protection of the peoples, brilliant minarets of religion and high standards of greatness, Allah may shower upon them all blessings befitting their distinction as re­ward for their actions and suitable to the chastity of their lineage so long as the morning dawns and the stars twinkle.

In my early age at the dawn of youth I commenced writing a book on the characte­ristics of the Imams covering the account of their virtues and masterpieces of their utte­rances.  The purpose of the compilation was stated by me in the beginning of the book.  Therein I completed the portion relating to the account of Amir al-melanin 'Ali (peace be upon him) but I could not complete that part concerning the other Imams due to impediments of the time and obstacles of the days.  I divided the book into several chapters and sections, in a manner for its last section to comprise whatever had been re­lated to 'Ali's (p.b.u.h.) short utterances such as counsels, maxims and proverbs but not long lectures and detailed discourses.

A number of my friends and brothers-in-faith, while wondering at its delicate and blossoming expressions, admired the contents of this particular section, and desired me to complete a book which should cover all the forms of the utterances of Amir al-mu'minTn, including diverse materials such as lectures, letters, counsels, ethics, etc., as they were convinced that the entire proceedings would comprise wonders and surprises of eloquence and rhetoric's, brilliant jewels of Arabic language and shining expres­sions about faith; collected in any other work, nor found together in any other book, because Amir al-mu'minin was the fountain of eloquence and the source of rhetoric's.  Through him the hidden delicacies of eloquence and rhetoric's came to light, and from him were learnt its principles and rules.  Every speaker and orator had to tread on his footprints and every eloquent preacher availed of his utterances.

Even then none could equal him and so the credit for being the first and foremost remained with him, because his utterances are those that carry the reflection of Divine knowledge and savor of the Prophet's utterance.  Accordingly, I acceded to their re­quest as I knew that it meant great reward, handsome reputation and a treasure of re­compense.

The object of this compilation is to bring forth Amir al-mu'minin greatness and superiority in the art of rhetoric's, in addition to his countless qualities and innumerable distinctions, and to show that he had risen to the highest pinnacle of this attainment; was singular among all those predecessors whose utterances are quoted here and there, whereas his own utterances are such an on-rushing stream that its flow cannot be en­countered and such a treasure of delicacies that cannot be matched.  Since I proudly trace my descent from him I have a pleasure of quoting a couplet of al-Farazdaq:

"These are my forefathers O' JarTr.  "

When we get together, can you claim forth their equals?

In my view Amir al-mu'minin utterances are divisible in three categories: firstly Sermons and Decrees, secondly Letters and Communications and thirdly Maxims and Counsels.  Allah willing I have decided to compile first the Sermons, then Letters, and finally the Maxims and Counsels, whilst proposing a separate Chapter for each cate­gory, leaving blank pages in between each so that if anything has been left out and be­comes handy afterwards it may be inserted therein, whereas any utterance which is rou­tine or in reply to some question or has some other aim does not fit in with any of my divisions should be included in the category for which is most suitable or to which its subject matter is most akin.  In this compilation, some sections and sentences have crept in whose arrangement savors of disarray and disorderliness.  This is because I am only collecting the most representative brilliant utterances but do not wish to arrange or ar­ray them.

The characteristic of Amir al-mu'minin in which he is un paralleled and is shared by no one, is that his utterances on reclusion, piety, remembrance of Allah and admo­nition are such that when a person peruses them without bearing in mind that they are the words of a man who enjoys great and ruling position and who controls destinies of men he can have no doubt that it is the utterance of a man who has no interest other than reclusion and no activity save worshipping; who is confined to the interior of some house or the valley of some mountain where he hears nothing save his own murmur and sees no one except himself.  He would not believe that this is the utterance of one who plunges in battles with drawn sword severing heads and vanquishing the heroes and comes back with his sword dripping with blood and heart's fluid.  And despite all this he is supreme among the recluse and chief among the saints.  This distinction is one of those astonishing characteristics of Amir al-mu'minin with which he collected in him­self contradictory qualities and patched together diverse greatness, I often mention these to my brethren-in-faith and put them wondering over it.  It is indeed a subject to ponder over and think about.

Within this compilation, some repetition of words or subject matter are to be ex­pected, as the utterances of Amir al-mu'minin have been known to be related in nume­rous forms.  Sometimes it happened that a particular utterance was found in a particular form in a tradition and was taken down in that very form.  Thereafter, the same utterance was found in some other tradition either with acceptable addition or in a more at­tractive style of expression.  In such a case with a view to further the object of compila­tion and to preserve the beautiful utterance from being lost it was decided to repeat it elsewhere.  It has also happened that a particular utterance had appeared earlier but due to remoteness it has been entered again.  This is through omission, not by intent.

In spite of all this I do not claim that I have collected Amir al-mu'minin utteran­ces from all sources and that no single sentence of any type or construction has been left out.  In fact I do not rule out the possibility that whatever has been left out might be more than what has been collected, and what has been in any knowledge and use is far less than what has remained beyond my reach.  My task was to strive to the best of my capacity and it was Allah's part to make the way easy and guide me to the goal; Allah may will so.

Having completed my work, both in the collection and compilation of this manu­script; Nahj al-baltighah, the pathway of rhetoric's would be the appropriate title of the book, in that it would open the doors of eloquence for the reader and shorten its ap­proach for him; the scholar and the student would meet their needs from it while the rhetoricians as well as the recluse would find their objectives in it as well.  In this book would be found a wonderful discussion on Allah's One-ness, Justness and His being free from body and form, that would quench every thirst (for learning), provide cure for every malady (of un-belief) and remove every doubt.  I seek from Allah succor, protection against straying, correctness of action and His assistance.  I seek His protection against mistakes of heart before mistakes of tongue and against mistakes of speech before mistakes of action.  He is my reliance and He is the best Trustee.