One day Imam ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam set out to the outskirts of Madinah in search of some work by which he could earn something with which he could subdue his hunger. He found a woman who was preparing to build a house, so he made an agreement with her that he would fetch water for her from the well and that she would pay him one date in exchange for each bucket of water that he drew. Under the burning rays of the sun, he placed his chest against the edge of the well, and began to pull on that coarse rope whose coarseness could be like a branch of thorns, tearing the skin off his hands. He continued in his work until he drew 16 buckets of water, upon which the woman gave him 16 dates. He took these dates and went to eat them with the most beloved of people to him, Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Imagine that! The Imam, working until his blessed hands began to tear, all for only 16 dates?
The Imam was a person of nobility, and of a dignified spirit, one whose dignity refused him from accepting favours from anyone. He would not accept anything besides eating from the labour of his own sweat and blood. It was unacceptable to him to exploit his religious or societal position in acquiring any wealth from anyone.
He would often say:
The afterlife is facing towards you and the worldly life has turned its back, and each of them has children; be from the children of the afterlife and do not be from the children of the worldly life. Today there is action without any reckoning, and tomorrow there is reckoning with no chance to act.
All of this for only 16 dates, O Imam!
How do you compare that with those who make their living off the livelihoods of other people, all in the name of affiliation to Ahlul Bayt? How do you compare those who amass millions at the expense of the hungry and poor?
Ah! Just16 dates? O Imam, you are truly as the poet describes:
You are the truth and all people are lies.
You are the Qur’an of the Qur’an, the seal of all sorrow, the Gospel of all Gospels.
Here are only those whose pass-time is in drama.
You would be treated with the shiniest turbans for the evening performance, with the most exquisite cosmetics.
Here are the Mullah’s of the pipes and the Sheikhs of oil-barrels.
Today they are in Piccadilly, Kufah, and then on the shores of the Nile.
To shed tears for your sacrifices they perform,
Yet they hold fast a wash line
Many years back, I went with one of my relatives to the house of Sheikh ‘Abdul Hamid Al Bayabi, in al Mahdud district on Tarut Island. His sitting-room was filled to the brim, there was no place to sit.
The sitting room was more or less rectangular, with light brown carpets and red cushions, and no furniture besides a table with some vases, as well as some books and scattered papers on it. I later discovered that these papers were papers on which people had recorded their assets so that the Sheikh could calculate the Khumus they were obliged to pay.
Close to the Sheikh was an impoverished person who had come to seek financial assistance from him. The Sheikh maintained silence for a while before addressing him, “How many times have I helped you?” He went on to speak to someone else, only to return to the person and say “I will help you, but for how long am I going to keep on looking after you?”
I was overcome by a feeling of extreme anxiety, as well as one of embarrassment. The Sheikh’s reaction troubled me, even though his speech was not directed to me. I asked myself, “What must this person be feeling while he is receiving these condescending remarks?”
The reason for my relative’s visit was to calculate the Khumus due on the “huge fortune” that he possessed. He was only a student at university, and his father was barely able to provide his family with the bare minimum. Were it not for the university stipend, he would have been eligible for charity.
I was intrigued to find out how much this pauper owned for him to be able to calculate a Khumus. I took the paper from him on which he had recorded his fortune, and I found that he even recorded his clothes and shoes in the list, along with other necessities of his. I thought that the Sheikh would prohibit him from calculating Khumus on the limited items that he owned! Why not, seeing as he was a miserable pauper!
However, strangely enough, the Sheikh took the paper and began to calculate this fortune, as if it were Aladdin’s treasure.
My relative asked about the apartment that he was renting with some classmates close to the university, to which the Sheikh replied “Calculate the cost of the rent, then divide it by the amount of roommates, and calculate the Khumus from your share!”
I looked at the stack of papers on which Khumus calculations were recorded, piling up on the desk, and I began to wonder what the total sum that would be given to the Sheikh was. I then looked at those around the Sheikh, and realized the look of misery and neediness on their faces.
I do not know whether I should blame these poor souls for being so naïve, or whether I should feel sorry for them. They only did whatever they did believing that it was an act of worship for Allah, Lord of the worlds!
These Sheikhs realized that they could embezzle people exploiting their good nature and their love for Ahlul Bayt. In the name of religion, they would amass fortunes. The question is whether these people would ever wake up from their slumber and smell the coffee? When would they abandon the deification of personalities, and start following the word of their Lord? For how long will they allow themselves to be the prey to those fiendish predators who use the tragedy of Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam to exploit people so that they may live in luxury? For how long will they allow themselves to be patsies whose conscience will be played on by those whose dramatized renditions of the thirst of Imam Hussain ‘alayh al Salam will legitimize their sucking the blood out of the poor and needy?
For how long will they have to be taken advantage of by those who seek their livelihood through their vocational titles of Sheikh, ‘Allamah, etc., with no means of income aside from his being called a Sheikh?
He gives you in the jurisprudence of women nobility,
and his tongue is concealed from the impoverished.
So, ask him regarding the Khumus when they are made permissible,
and come to meet me to see if he answers or gives any news.
 Sayed Hashim Al Bahrani: Hilyat al Abrar, 2/250.
 Al Mufid: Al Amali, pg. 208; Al Majlisi: Bihar al Anwar, 74/423.
 One fifth, 20 % of one’s annual income, which every Shia is religiously bound to pay to the Shia clergy – translator.Back to top