(It is reported that a man named Abbad ibn Qays asked Ali, “Commander of the Faithful, tell us: What is faith?” Ali replied with the homily, in which he presented faith as an edifice grounded in a number of fundamental religious and humanitarian virtues. Parsing faith into Essential elements of forbearance, conviction, justice, and struggle against evil, he parsed each of the four further into sixteen supporting characteristics, intertwining the spiritual with the humanitarian. This is the text of the sermon by Ali ibn Abi Talib.)
“Faith, Abbad, stands on four pillars: forbearance, conviction, justice, and struggle against evil.
Forbearance stands on four columns: Longing, fear, rejection of worldliness, and expectant waiting. Whoever longs for the garden is diverted from indulging desires. Whoever fears the fire retreats from forbidden things. Whoever rejects worldliness makes light of calamities. And whoever awaits death hastens to perform good deeds.
Conviction also stands on four columns: Perceptive sagacity, counsel offered by this world’s lessons, interpretation of God’s wisdom, and following the practice of the earlier prophets. Whoever perceives with sagacity interprets God’s wisdom. Whoever interprets God’s wisdom recognises these lessons. Whoever recognises these lessons also recognises the path trodden, by earlier prophets. And whoever recognises the path trodden, by earlier prophets, is like someone who has lived with them and been guided to the steadfast faith.
Justice in its turn stands on four columns: Deep comprehension, abundant knowledge, blossoms of wisdom, and flowerbeds of restraint. Whoever comprehends understands particulars from the generalities of knowledge. Whoever knows the path of wondrous wisdom is guided to the repositories of self-control and does not stray. And whoever possesses restraint eschews extremes in his affairs and lives among people respected and loved.
Struggle against evil stands on four columns: Enjoining good, forbidding evil, valor in battle, and abhorring the corrupt. Whoever commands good strengthens the believers’ resolve. Whoever forbids evil cuts off the hypocrites’ noses. Whoever is valorous in battle has discharged his duty. And whoever abhors the corrupt has been roused to anger for the sake of God- so God will be roused to anger on his behalf.
This is faith, Abbad, and its columns and pillars.”