Death, the Leveller

It was the reign of the Abbasid ruler, Mutawakkil. He was notorious for his tyrannical behavior and vicious habits. One night, he was enjoying the company of his confidantes with wine in plenty, when one of them mentioned the regard and respect the Muslims had for Imam Ali an Naqi al Hadi (‘a). The mere mention of his(‘a) name drew an angry look from the king. He was always being informed by people how the Muslims obeyed the Imam (‘a) and how there were chances of a rebellion being planned in his house.
Mutawakkil, intoxicated with power and wine, ordered his assassins to take some guards and search the house and person of the Imam (‘a) immediately.
The royal guards set off, well armed to carry out the search. They reached the house of the Imam (‘a). They found him on his prayer mat, spread on the hard stony floor, communicating with his Lord. However, they first searched him and then every nook and corner of his house. They found nothing at all. Disappointed, they insisted that the king had summoned him to his court.
They reached his palace and took him to the drinking parlour. Everyone was relaxing with a glass of wine in hand. Mutawakkil ordered them to make the Imam (‘a) sit next to him. The Imam (‘a) sat down. Mutawakkil offered him a drink. He refused, saying he had never touched it in his life.
‘Let’s hear some verses of poetry from you, then.’
‘I am not a poet, but I do remember some verses of a poet, if you insist.’
‘It doesn’t matter whose verses they are, I want to be entertained, so go ahead.’
The Imam (‘a) recited the following verses:
Their homes they built, walls high and strong,
Heavily armed guards to protect them along;
But, all stood helpless before death, you know!But, all stood helpless before death, you know!But, all stood helpless before death, you know!
And lost in their struggle to survive, you know!
Dragged into graves from those castles were they Dragged into graves from those castles were theyDragged into graves from those castles were they
Into narrow, dark depths where, unfortunate, they lay;
‘Gone is your glory, your splendour, O where?’‘Gone is your glory, your splendour, O where?’‘Gone is your glory, your splendour, O where?’
Cried a voice, ‘your throne, your crown, O where?’
Luxury and lust were certainly not new Luxury and lust were certainly not new Luxury and lust were certainly not new
Thick parlour curtains always hid them from view;
Defeated, despised, stinking corpses today Defeated, despised, stinking corpses today Defeated, despised, stinking corpses today
In graves of dust, were they left to decay;
The dust they spat on, now above them lay,
Those faces of lust, just buried away;
Their bellies they filled with rich sumptuous food,