Fatā: spartan self-less person

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Abi Talib was a nobleman of the Quraish but he was not noble due to his wealth or conquests, he was a noble man due to this piety and his wisdom and his nobility passed down to the later generations whether someone famous like Imam Ali, his son, or many unknown in our history.

The elixir of their nobility has been preserved in some of the most affectionate poetry ever and we can still learn much from this noble family:

What Abi Talib feared the most for the Prophet, peace be upon him, was where he stayed in the night, he would wake him up and replace him with his son Ali, and in one such a night Ali told his father: Consider me murdered! And his father replied:

Patience my son that patience is most lofty
Every living being shall eventually voyage into death

We are so generous with your life in this trouble
A sacrifice for the beloved and the son of the beloved

The Prophet the enlightened chieftain of his nation
Utterly noble generous most virtuous indeed so precious

If death is to befall you flying arrows are in successions
Some targets shall be hit for sure and some shall be spared

Every living being with false-hope for the longest life
Finally grasped at by her hypocrisy for his certain due share 

(Source Divan Abi-Talib)

Note: 'her' in the last verse refers to death.

Here is a fine youngster suffering from the daily hardships of desert life and persecution at the hands of his countrymen, perhaps had not eaten properly for days at a time, asked night after night to lay in the Prophet’s bed in order to face the Prophet’s assassins single handedly. Finally it is all getting into him and he assures himself that this night is his night of slaughter. In hearing the frustration of his loving son, Abi Talib consoles him spiritually that patience is the virtue, the loftiest indeed and above all shall bare the fruit.

However in this spiritual solace Abi Talib does not mention the rewards of martyrdom and virgins of paradise and all that we hear nowadays forced fed to our youth. Instead he acknowledges that Ali is indeed a hefty sacrifice but for ‘the beloved the son of the beloved’ i.e. Mohammad the son of Abdullah, each a beloved to Abi Talib.

Here Abi Talib exhibits the core competency of the Sufism at its best: to enter into a conflict for the sake of one’s beloved who is indeed the beloved of Allah as well. Not to enter into the conflict for the sake of personal gain or anger, or for the sake of future rewards that are kept in sort of an accounting manner: you did this you get that, if you do it twice you get twice in return…

To enter into a conflict for the sake of one’s beloved single-handedly with no consideration for the preservation of the Self. This term as we hear later on in Imam Ali’s own poetry called Fatā in Arabic or Jawānmard in Farsi. Indeed this is a concept essential to proper maintenance of the Sufi Nation where almost on daily basis such sacrifices are required on individual or group level to forward the spiritual cause of the Nation.

The term Fatā has its origins in the Qur’an Surah Al-Khahf (The Cave):

13. We relate to thee their story in truth: they were Fatā (youths) who believed in their Lord, and We advanced them in guidance:

14. We gave strength to their hearts: Behold, they stood up and said: "Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth: never shall we call upon any god other than Hu: if we did, we should indeed have uttered an enormity!

إن أبا طالب كان كثيرا ما يخاف على رسول الله صلى الله عليه البيات فكان يقيمه ليلا من منامه و يضجع ابنه عليا مكانه فقال له علي ليلة يا أبة إني مقتول فقال له أبو طالب:

إصبرن يا  بني  فالصبر أحجى                كل   حي   مصيره   لشعوب
‏قد   بذلناك   و   البلاء   شديد                لفداء  الحبيب و ابن  الحبيب
‏لفداء الأغر ذي الحسب الثاقب                و  الباع   و  الكريم النجيب‏
إن تصبك المنون فالنبل تبرى                 فمصيب منها و غير  مصيب‏
كل  حي  و   إن   تملى  بعمر                 آخذ   من    سهامها بنصيب

Here you can see the echoes of the father’s teachings in Imam Ali’s own poetry and again the term Fatā is used:

There are two states: hardship and comfort
Two vying competitors: blessings and afflictions

The quick witted spartan knows for sure
While the life betrays there is no betraying by consolations

When the ache of some misfortune pains me, for sure
I am like a hard cliff facing the misfortunes’ afflictions

Equipped with the knowledge while in trouble
Both shall not last forever: blessings or afflictions 

(Source: Divan Imam Ali)

من الديوان المنسوب إلى أمير المؤمنين علي رضي الله عنه:

هي حالان شـدة ورخـاء          وسجالان نـعـمة وبـلاء
والفتى الحاذق الأريب إذا ما   خانه الدهر لم يخنه العزاء
إن ألمت ملمة بي فـإنـي        في الملمات صخرة صماء
صابر في البلاء علماً بـأن     ليس يدوم النعيم والبـلـواء

And again in Imam Ali’s poetry we read the loving words of his father:

Be weary of this world that her courtyard
Not a place to last but a place for disappearance

Her purity immixed with her impurity
And her comfort right next to her sufferance  

تحرز من الدنيا فإن فناءها   محل فناء لا محل بقاء
فصقوتها ممزوجة بكدارة     وراحتها مقرونة بعناء

© 2006-2002,  Dara O. Shayda