Letter to My Son by Hazrat Ali (a.s.)

Introduced by Azeem Maherali

In celebration of Father’s Day, I wanted to salute all fathers, grand fathers and father like figures in their continuing efforts to keeping their families strong, safe and happy. In addition to being great role models, they have in their many ways inspired us to be better individuals, make a difference with our lives and in turn, in time, be good fathers and mothers.

I know my Dad (and my late Mom) made a huge impact on me, making many sacrifices for the betterment of my and my sibling’s future. On this occasion, many things come to mind, especially his commitment to make a difference – his long Jamati Institutional Service (Arusha-Moshi Regional & Tanzania National Ismaili Councils, and various other jamati entities) in addition to his service outside the jamat through Lions Club International of which he was the president in Arusha, receiving many accolades for his health, education and safe drinking water projects. More than anything else, proud as he was of my and my brother’s personal accomplishments, he never gave us a “big head”; on the contrary expected us to surprise ourselves by pushing our envelopes in achieving our personal bests. Even today, I continue to learn more from him.

In my personal search for inspiration and tribute, I kept returning to Hazrat Mawlana Murtaza Ali’s letter to Hazrat Hassan (a.s.) or Hazrat Imam Hussein (a.s.). It is filled with a father’s love of his son(s) and the accompanying advice in all spheres of life, din and duniya.

Now that I am a father, it draws me even more because it exhibits many compelling sentiments that a father feels for his children.

I hope you enjoy this short excerpt from the book, “When you hear hoofbeats think of a zebra” by Shems Friedlander. The full version is on pages 141 to 161.

Happy Father’s Day.

Azeem Maherali
Atlanta, Georgia.
June 15-16, 2013.


Letter to my son by Hazrat Ali (a.s.)

These advices are from a father, who realizes the mortality of life, who is getting old, who has patiently borne reverses and calamities, … and who is shortly going to pass out of this world, to his son, who is young, who has the desire to lead the world to sober ways of thinking and better ways of life, … a son who is mortal and is bound by nature to follow the steps of all mortals.

My dear son, you are part of my body and soul, and whenever I look at you, I feel as if I am looking at myself. If any calamity happens to you, I feel as if it has happened to me. Your death will make me feel as if it were my own. Your affairs are like my affairs. Therefore I commit this advice to paper. I want you to be attentive to it and to guard it well. I may remain longer in your life or I may not, but I want this advice to remain with you.

Develop patience against suffering, calamities, and adversities. This virtue of patience is one of the high values of morality and nobility of character, and is the best habit that one can develop. Trust in Allah and let your mind seek His protection in every calamity and suffering. Because you will thus entrust yourself and your affairs to the Best Trustee and to the Mightiest Guardian. Reserve your prayers, your requests, your solicitations, your supplications, your entreaties for Him and Him alone. Because to grant, to give, to confer, and to bestow, as well as to withhold, to deprive, to refuse, and to debar lie in His and only in His Power.

Remember that this world is working under the laws ordained by Him, and it consists of the totality of actions and reactions, causes and effects, calamities and reverses, pains and pleasures, rewards and punishment.

Therefore, the best thing for you to do is to seek guidance of the One Who created you, Who maintains and nourishes you, Who has given you a balanced mind and a normally working body. Your prayers should be reserved for Him only, your requests and solicitations should be to Him, you should be afraid of Him and nobody else.

My dear son, carefully, very carefully remember these sayings of mine, that the lord, who is the Master of death, is also the master of life. The Creator is the Annihilator. And the One who annihilates has the power to bring everything back to existence again. The One who sends you calamities is the One who will bring you safely out of them.

Remember that all that you give out in charities and good deeds are like loans that will be paid back to you. Therefore when you are wealthy and powerful, make use of your wealth and power in such a way that you get all that back on the day when you will be poor and helpless: the Day of Judgement.

Therefore, it is wise to send your things beforehand, so that your good actions arrive before you; prearrange the place of your stay before you reach it, because after death there is no repentance and no possibility of coming back to this world to undo the wrong done by you.

Realize this truth, my son, that the Lord Who owns and holds the treasure of the heaven and the earth has given you permission to ask and beg for it, and has promised to grant your prayers. He has told you to pray for His favors that they may be bestowed. He has not appointed guards to keep your prayers from reaching Him. Nor is there any need for anybody to intercede with Him on your behalf.

Think that by simply granting you the privilege of praying for His Favors and Mercies, He has handed over the keys of His Treasures to you. Whenever you are in need, you pray and He confers His Favors and Blessings.

Be it known to you, my son, that you cannot have every wish of yours granted, you cannot expect to escape death. Therefore control your expectations, desires and cravings; be moderate in your demands; earn your livelihood through scrupulously honest means; be contented with what you get honestly and honorably; do not let your desires drive you madly, because there are many desires that will lead you toward disappointment and loss. Remember that everyone who prays for a thing will not always get what they prayed for, and everyone who controls their desire has self-respect. So, do not bring down your self-respect; do not be mean and submissive, and do not subjugate yourself through vile and base traits, though they may appear to make it possible for you to achieve your heart’s desires; because nothing in this world can compensate for the loss of self-respect, nobleness of mind, and honor.

Take care my son; be warned that you do not make yourself a slave of anyone. Allah has created you a free man. Do not sell your freedom in return for anything. There is no actual gain or real value in benefits that you derive from selling your honor and self-respect. There is no real good in wealth and power acquired by foul means. If you can succeed in having only Allah as your benefactor, He will grant you your share.

Remember that the little given to you by Allah is going to be more useful, serviceable, honorable, and respectable than what is granted by man in copious and abundant quantities. What can a man give you but part of that which Allah has granted him?

The best knowledge is that which benefits the listener. The knowledge that does not benefit anyone is useless and not worth learning or remembering.

Wisdom is the name of the trait of remembering experiences and making use of them. The best experience is the one that gives the best warning and advice.

By keeping company of good people, you will develop goodness in your character.

Advise your friend sincerely and to the best of your ability, though he may not like it.

Do not disappoint a person who holds a good opinion of you, and do not make him change his opinion.

The strongest relation is the one between you and Allah.

My dear son, after having given this advice, I entrust you to the Lord. He will help, guide, and protect you in this world and the hereafter. I pray and beseech Him to take you under His protection in both worlds.

Date posted: Saturday, June 15, 2013.
Date updated: Friday, June 21, 2013


About the writer: Azeem Maherali, originally of Ottawa, Canada, is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia. His previous contributions on this website are:

1. Titles, Decorations and Honours Conferred on 48th Ismaili Imam
2. Honorary Degrees Conferred on His Highness the Aga Khan since 1967
3. Part II – Worldwide Honours For Prince Karim Aga Khan
4. Part I – Worldwide Honours For Prince Karim Aga Khan
5. Azeem Maherali’s Thank You Letter Inspired by Prince Amyn Mohammad Aga Khan’s Exceptional Service to the Imamat

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6 thoughts on “Letter to My Son by Hazrat Ali (a.s.)

  1. Beautiful letter! What a beautifulbond between father & Son!!

    Rashida Kanji

    Totonto, Canada

  2. I cannot but wonder at the words of advice in Hazrat Imam Ali’s letter, which truly are timeless and evergreen pearls of wisdom, beyond compare. The translated words contain a piercing underlying acumen, today as much as they did during that formative period in which the letter was written.
    The example of a father is a powerful influence and also a sign of Almighty Allah’s Rahma. Perhaps nowhere is this better symbolized than in Hazrat Imam Ali’s legacy, from the dawn of Islam and through the ages. It lives on in the profound respect and veneration accorded in various forms and invocations – Ya Ali Madad, Amirul Mumineen, Mast Qalandar, Sakhi, Shahe Marda, Ahle Bait, Asadullah, Al Murtaza. Words simply fail to do justice to the bond between father and spiritual children.

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