Shi’ite (or Shia) is the second largest branch of Islam after Sunni. Both are similar, but Shi’ite considers that Ali bin Abi Thalib is more righteous than Abu Bakar, Umar bin Khattab, and Utsman bin Affan after the death of Mohammed the Prophet. Ali’s followers gain their momentum at the death of Husayn bin Ali in Karbala, Iraq. They commemorated the tragic death of Husayn on every Muharram 10th annually through performances, festivals, or religious gatherings. Shi’ite (or Twelver Shi’ite) has the tradition of following the descendants of Ali bin Abi Thalib up to now, and we can find them mostly in Iran and Iraq, an area previously belonged to the Persian Empire.
In addition to the Holy Quran, Shi’ite has one more book of religious compilation named Nahjul Balagha which means Peak of Eloquence. The book is compiled by Sharif Radi (970-1026) and consists of sermons, letters, and sayings of Ali bin Abi Thalib. Composed and compiled hundreds of years after the death of Ali bin Abi Thalib, Sharif Radi, the compiler, gains his credibility by being descendant of Shi’ite Imams. From his father’s side, he descended from Musa al Kazim; while from his mother’s side, he descended from the famous al Nasir al Kabir who also known as Nasir al Haqq, who descended from the second son of Ali Zainal Abidin bin Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Thalib. In Shi’ite, there is no one more righteous and truthful to deliver religious speech and or teaching other than the descendants of Ali bin Abi Thalib. Thus, Sharif Radi is unquestionably true in his compilation.
In general, Nahjul Balagha contains history, religious teaching, wisdom, philosophy, even practical science. Readers will find it fascinating since the Imam is not only talking about wisdom and philosophy in captivating words, but also guidance and strategies while at war or battle. The Shi’ite Imam also delivers Q & A session in the compilation, and gives philosophical cum wise answers.
For example, “Do you know how far is the distance between True and False?” The answer is, “It’s only four fingers in distance. It is true if you perceive it with your naked eyes, and false if you have it through your ears.” In one occasion, the Imam said, “Never attending a gathering in which you aren’t allowed to speak up your words.” While dealing with ignorant persons, the Imam reminded, “If one’s intellect is unable to help him, then another intellect will not provide more help.”
Nahjul Balaghah is fascinating and intriguing. But readers will find similar contents, in terms of philosophy or wisdom, in other book such as Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Gita is surely much older than Nahjul Balagha. It is something possible if Sharif Radi was inspired by the content of the book. Otherwise, the similarities between both in some texts can be seen as ‘same wine in different flasks’.