Or when Imam Ali (A.S.) asked Prophet Mohammad to pray for him, the prophet, in a cryptic and contemplative remark, replied, “O God, forgive Ali for Ali’s right”. Now who dares to claim that they can do justice to Ali’s right and talk about Imam Ali (A.S.) in a way that suits his life-style? Imam Ali’s life, his character and his words are so unequalled, unique, and full of unveiled secrets that fill one with wonders, excitement and regrets. The marvel and awe is more vivid, especially for those newly familiarized with Imam Ali’s character. His eternal book, Nahj
al-Balagha, makes the depth of this historically unique man’s thoughts and beliefs known to us more profoundly. To this end, we have talked with several people who have newly been acquainted with Islam or Shia, or have witnessed such events.
A man speaking to me from beyond the history/ Imam Ali’s patience and insight shook my heart
Melanie Franklin (known as Marzieh Hashemi) is an American documentary filmmaker and an English TV announcer in Iranian Press TV. She was born in a Catholic family in Louisiana, and studied Radio and Television at the University of Colorado. She was a student when the victory of Islamic Revolution of Iran shook her heart. After knowing about Islamic revolution and having discussions with Iranian Muslim students at the US, she converted to Islam. Later, she married an Iranian Muslim student, Ehsan Hashemi, and traveled to Iran several times during that period. Now, she works in Press TV as a news anchor. When I asked her to talk about her feelings about Imam Ali (A.S.) and how she felt when she turned the pages of Nahj al-Balagha for the first time, she was excited and speaking influent Farsi with so many English words, she replied: “To me, Imam Ali (A.S.) is like a dream, as if he is a man coming from distant myths, but his words are so intertwined with truth and beauty that when I read his Nahj al-Balagha, I feel a man beyond history is talking to me”.
When I converted to Islam, I heard a lot about Imam Ali’s (A.S.) life style. As a human-being, I like him very much. But as I read about his life, I felt Imam Khomeini’s thoughts are very much like Imam Ali’s. I read that Imam Ali (A.S.) went through a lot of difficulties, so did Imam Khomeini; he had suffered many difficulties for the Islamic Revolution to gain victory. I also remember Imam Ali’s bravery, but his patience meant something different to me. Such a great man tolerates difficulties with patience in order to make an Islamic society, because Islam was of more importance to him. To me, as a new Muslim, it seemed very important and engaging. As a matter of fact, then, I felt his greatness. Imam Ali’s patience and insight shook my heart, and I spent hours thinking about him and his path.
About Nahj al-Balagha, it is worth mentioning that when I converted to Islam, my friends told me that I should first read deeply about Islam, and then I should turn to Nahj al-Balagha. They said that there are expressions in Nahj al-Balagha, whose meanings are incomprehensible to you, like the notions about women, unless you have enough information about Islam. Therefore, it took time for me to start reading Nahj al-Balagha. But as I read Nahj al-Balagha, I found it very fresh!
The content was new, and when I read the sentences, I wondered with myself whether they have been stated years ago or right now. Nahj al-Balagha is written to be eternal, as if time dis not pass for this book. It is always a question for me as to why this book is so fresh and interesting to read, and why it is up to date whenever we start reading it. There are some sentences in Nahj
al-Balagha that I might have read 100 times, but each time I have come up with a different interpretation. However, there are stories in Christianity which are now old and outdated; the difference between Islam and Christianity lies in this freshness.
Head of Indian Marxist party of Peru named his son Ali after reading Nahj al-Balagha
Lebanese- Argentinian Dr. Edgardo Robin, known as Soheil Asad was born in Buenos Aires and raised in this Latin American country.When 23, he went to Iran to study at Qom Seminary; therefore, in addition to Spanish, English, and Arabic, he speaks Farsi pretty well. It is more than a decade that he goes to different Latin American countries to talk about Islam as a new Muslim. His memories are narrated on a program titled “Residents of Global Cities” broadcasted on Channel 3 of Iran National TV. His main profession is Philosophy and Mysticism, and he got his PhD of Theology from Islamic Civilization University of Beirut, Lebanon.
Qods Journalist had an interview with him when he had attended Imam Reza (A.S.) International Festival in Mashhad, during Imam Reza’s birth anniversary a while ago.
During his interesting speech, I asked him to tell us a memory about new Muslims, and he told us a story about the head of a Marxist party of Peru who, having read Nahj al-Balagha, had converted to Islam. He said, “I visited the head of a Marxist Party in Peru, who was a native Indian. He asked me to give him some information about Imam Khomeini and Islamic revolution of Iran. I told him that Imam Khomeini is the greatest man of contemporary history of Islam, and added that if Imam Khomeini had not guided the revolution under the influence of Ahl al-Bayt, it would have never gained victory. At the end of this session, I gave him a Nahj al-Balagha. Having read the book, he was so impressed by it that he named his new-born son Ali. He told me that we had leaders like Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Hugo Chavez, but none had Ali’s justice. After he converted to Islam, 80 others converted to Islam too, and 5 Indians are, now, students of Islamic seminaries.
Interesting story of a Canadian woman becoming Shia
Ms. Lin Serena Gueeb is from Canada, and lives in Ottawa. She had been Catholic, and later she turned to Islam, and became a Shia. She is a teacher in the coastal city of Ottawa. We visited her in Imam Reza Holy Shrine, as she attended Imam Reza (A.S.) International Festival in Mashhad.
Ms. Gueeb narrated her story of converting to Islam as follows: I always asked God for knowledge, and repeated it in all my prayers. One day, somebody gave a book to me, and it was Quran. I was not acquainted with Quran at that time, but I came across a sentence, which was a trigger for a great change in my life. The sentence read as follows: “This is a book in which is science and knowledge for intellectuals.”
When I read the whole Quran, and contemplated over the verses, I found it a right guide to life and decided to follow Quran, so I covered to Islam.
Now I am Shia, but at first I was not, because my husband was from Morocco and was not Shia either. But I became familiar with Shia through my job, and finally after reading many books and reflected deeply on them, I converted to Islam on my own choice.It also has its own story as to how I became a Shia.
She narrated the story of her becoming a Shia as follows: After I had converted to Islam, I started teaching at an Islamic school in Canada, and my main career was to tell different stories of the Prophets’ and great religious men’s lives. I had read many instructive stories about Prophet Mohammad’s life in different books which I told the students. Besides the stories of the Prophet, I had read stories about the 4 Caliphs in Sunnis’ books. But there were not that many stories about Imam Ali (A.S.), so I had to look for reliable stories in other sources.
There was a Yemeni clergy who introduced the Islamic sources and books to me, and I provided the Islamic stories for the students with his help. After a time, that great man passed away, and I had difficulty finding reliable sources. Every day, the school children asked me for new stories, so I decided to look for them on my own.
One day, I went to a local bookstore in Ottawa, and asked for Islamic books. The owner of the store told me that most of his books are Shia books. At that time, I had no idea of Shia Islam, and it was the first time I heard the word Shia. Eagerly, I took one of those books and went home. I gave the book to my 5 year old son to read, then I read it myself. I have to say that book was a start for me to become a Shia. It was about Karbala events, and after reading that I became interested in the prophet’s descendants, Shia cult, and tried to learn about it more. After reading the book, I went to the same store again and asked for more Shia books. Finally, having read a book titled “when I was guided” written by Dr. Tijani, which was about his own life and how he had converted to Islam and Shia, I was deeply impressed and decided to become a to Shia.
Now I have a son named Mahdi. I asked God for him with all my heart, and when I gave birth to him, I named him Mohammad Mahdi. Mahdi is the name of Shias’ Savior; as if it had been written in my son’s destiny to be a Shia. However, it was not imposed on him, but it was his own choice. One day he asked me; what is my denomination? I asked him: Do you like to be one of Ali’s disciples in the Day of Judgment? “Yes” he replied after thinking for a while. Mahdi chose to be a Shia himself.
Reported by Sedigheh Rezavani Nia