The Signs of Being a True Servant of Allah, and the Nature of True Knowledge

Our Efendi said:

Bismillah ir‑Rahman ir‑Rahim

A saint by the name of Basri tells:

I had studied long years under Malik ibn Anas. I heard that the Imam Ja’far al‑Sadiq (r.a.) the honored member of ahli‑bayt il‑Mustafa, was visiting Medina. With the intention of receiving the wisdom of the descendants of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), I went to visit him. He told me, "My son, my work occupies the whole of my days and nights. As you tell me that you are a man of knowledge yourself, let me be; keep on learning under your teacher Anas ibn Malik."

I was heartbroken. I thought that if that holy man had seen any good in me, he would not have denied the gift of his wisdom to me. I went and prayed at the tomb of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) that Allah might make me worthy to be brought into the presence of the venerable Shaykh and that his heart might be changed to accept me.

With bowed head I went and knocked at the door of Imam Ja’far (r.a.) once more. This time, by the grace of Allah, he let me into his presence asked me what I wished to know.

I asked him about knowledge. He answered, "Oh, Abu 'Abdullah, Knowledge does not come through learning. Knowledge is such a holy light that Allah alone can make it appear in the heart of His servant whom He chooses to guide to the Truth. So if your goal is knowledge, first seek the truth of servantship in you. If you are truly a servant of Allah, then seek knowledge with the firm intention and promise that you will put this knowledge into action as soon as you receive it. Then pray and beg from Allah almighty that you may understand what you learn, and that your actions may be in accordance with your knowledge. If Allah so wishes, he alone will teach you."

Then I asked him about the signs of being a true servant of Allah. He answered: "There are three signs of a true servant of Allah:

  1. He does not feel that he is the owner of anything that has been bestowed upon him, and especially not of things which are given to him by people. That beloved of Allah knows that all belongs to Allah, and all that has been given into his care should be spent according to the orders of the giver of these gifts, and for the ones whom he indicates.
  2. The true servant of Allah never acts according to his own thoughts, opinions, and judgment, but acts according to Allah’s orders, lovingly, without ever feeling resentment, and diligently avoids actions which Allah has forbidden
  3. Whatever happens to the true servant, whatever precautions he takes, are with the full trust that Allah’s will shall be done; he accepts and is satisfied with everything. These true servants therefore are immune to the pains and pangs of this world. Neither arrogance, show‑offishness, nor hypocrisy are possible for them."

Then I asked him, "What should one do to be protected from the devil, the evil of the world and the evil in men?"

He answered:

  1. Do not wish for the worldly, to accumulate wealth and property, to be secure, to be haughty, to be proud in your being free of need.
  2. Do not wish to reach a station of power and fame, to be looked up to and respected by men.
  3. Know the value of your time. Do not pass a minute of your time in vain.

He said that if one followed these pieces of advice they would bring one to the first degree of servantship, the level of fear and love of Allah. As Allah promises in the 83rd verse of Surah al-Qassas, "We offer the home of heaven to those who are not haughty and proud, who do not oppress others with injustice and who do not cause harm. The good future is for those faithful who follow Allah's orders and avoid that which he has forbidden."

I asked for more advice. Imam Ja’far al‑Sadiq said (r.a.), "I will give you nine final counsels. These are also my bequest to those who wish to follow the Path of Truth. I pray that all who wish to follow this Path make these rules a part of their life. 


  1. Do not eat things for which you have no appetite, because to allow things for which one has no appetite to enter one's being brings idiocy and imbecility.
  2. Do not eat before you are hungry.
  3. Learn what is lawful to eat and eat only what is lawful. Start eating by reciting Bismillah ir‑rahman ir‑rahim.


  1. If someone tells you 'the one who says one negative word will receive ten negative words,' tell him and show him that even if he calls you ten bad names, he will not hear a single bad word from you.
  2. If someone indeed calls you bad names and criticizes and insults you, say that if his words are true, may Allah forgive you, that you repent; but that if his words are false and he is lying, may Allah forgive him.
  3. If someone threatens you, tell him that all you can do is try to give him good advice and pray for him.


  1. Try to learn the things you need to know from the ones who know, whoever they are, but the questions which you ask must not be blemished with the thought of testing the one from whom you expect an answer or of getting into a discussion with him.
  2. Do not act in accordance with your own ideas and choice. Always be cautious not to interpret the laws of Allah in your favor.
  3. Escape, as if running from a lion, from passing a judgment based on your own opinion about what is right or wrong for somebody else.”

May Allah Ya Sami'u the Hearer of All, Ya 'Arifu the Knower of All, let us hear and understand and do what He wills. Amin. Bi hurmati Sayyid al-Mursalin.