The Use of Other People’s Experiences

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SHAFAQNA- There are many pieces of knowledge which are gained through experience and trial, either through personal experiencing or by the experiences of others, but neither through perception nor scientific analysis.

When the child draws his hand for the first time towards the fire and perceives the feeling of burning, he experiences it for the first time. He learns in this way not to come very close to fire.
When the child observes that his playmate crosses the street without attention and gets involved in an accident and loses his hands and feet as the result and even he might die, this experience teaches him to be cautious in crossing the street.

When the youth sees that, through his trials, he can pass the entrance exam to the university, this success makes him bolder. On the other hand, when he sees a youth, through his communication with addicts, may not continue his education and even gets into prison, he will gain a lot of experience and will distinguish bad from good. Imam ‘Ali (as) says that the value for the correctness of people’s ideas and affairs is determined by the amount of their experiences.8 In another place Imam ‘Ali (as) says that a person who does not learn from experiences cannot be advised.9 In the last case, for Imam ‘Ali (as) wisdom is to collect experiences and take lessons from them.10 In another place, Imam ‘Ali (as) emphasizes:

“اِستَدَلَّ على مَا لَم يَكُن بِمَا قَد كَانَ فَاِنَّ الاُمورَ اَشبَاهٌ”

“Draw conclusions about what has not yet occurred on the basis of what has already occurred. This is because occurrences are similar to one another.11

Imam ‘Ali (as) elsewhere teaches us:

لا يُلْسَعُ او لا يُلْدَغُ المُؤمِنُ مِن جُحْرٍ مَرَّتَينِ”

“A believer is not bitten twice from one hole.”12

الايام تفيد التجارب

“The days of our lives teach us experiences”.13

And experience teaches man ethics and how to select the right path and how to take lessons. A raw man is gullible.14

Notes:

8. Ghurar al-Hikam, pp.423, 719, 630.

9. Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter No 78; Mustadrak, vol.3, p.177.

10. Ghurar al-Hikam; Bihar al-Anwar, vol.77, p.231.

11. Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter No 31.

12. Ibn Athir’s Al-Nihaya, vol.4, p.248.

13. Ghurar al-Hikam

14. Ghurar al-Hikam; Bihar, vol.77

Adapted from: “Imam ‘Ali’s First Treatise on The Islamic Ethics and Education” by: “Zainol Aabideen Qorbani Lahiji”

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