Source: Islamic Thought
Everyone is bound by rules regardless of their situation. Even in a child's daily routine, a certain code of etiquette is followed at home. Who enforces and conveys these rules?
This has been the method of our ancestors throughout the ages and is demonstrated through the Holy Quran. The advice of Luqman to his son pleased Allah to the extent that He mentions it within the Holy Quran. "Luqman exhorting his son..." (Quran 31:13)
Noah's final plea of salvation for his sinful son is also included in the Holy Quran. "Oh my son, embark with us." (Quran 11:42)
Jacob never hesitated to advise his sinful sons who were the cause of his grief even on the smallest of matters. "Oh my sons! Do not enter through one gate...." (Quran 12:67)
Joseph shared his dream with his father who in turn offered his guidance. "Jacob said: Oh my son, do not relate your dream to your brothers." (Quran 12.05)
Abraham related his dream to his son. "Oh son! I truly saw in my vision that I sacrificed you." (Quran 37:102)
Zechariah who lovingly raised Mary found her provided with food. "He said: Oh Mary where has this come from? And she said: From God, who gives food in abundance to whomsoever He wills." (Quran 3:37)
From Allah to his servants, Prophets to their nations, wise men to their close ones and from a father to his son such advice has been given through the ages. Letter 31 is therefore the continuity of a system, from a father to his son. Not just a father but the representative of the Prophets and the leader of humanity who himself says "with us guidance is to be sought and blindness (of misguidance) is to be changed into brightness." (Sermon 142). Furthermore, he says in Sermon 55: "I did not put off war even for a day except in the hope that some group may join me, find guidance through me and see my light with their weak eyes."
It is this noble man that expresses the importance of his advice when he proclaims "ask me before you miss me because by Allah who has my life in His hands, if you ask me anything between now and the Day of Judgement or about the group who would guide a hundred people and also misguide a hundred people, I would tell you." (Sermon 91)
Likewise in Sermon 187, he proclaims "Ask me before you miss me, because certainly I am acquainted with the passages of the sky more than the passages of the Earth."
The will in question was not written with only his son in mind, but for anyone who wishes to seek advice as he says "I advise you (both) and all my children and members of my family and everyone who my writing reaches."
Letter 31 further demonstrates that it is the duty of a father himself to guide his children through life's experiences. The importance of these words of advice is evident to Imam Ali when he says in Saying 82 of the Nahjul Balagha "I impart to you five things which if you ride your camels fast in search of them you will find them worth it."
Nahjul Balagha is a collection of sermons, letters and sayings of Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Imam himself states "Certainly we are masters of speaking" (Sermon 230). The collection of these pearls of wisdom was completed in 400 AH by Syed Razi. Letter 31 was written for Imam Hassan, when Imam Ali encamped at Hadirin on his way back from Siffin. At the time, Imam Hassan was above 30 years of age.
This will can be found in many sources preceding Syed Razi's compiling of Nahjul Balagha such as "Aqd-ul-Fareed: Vol 3" under the title of "Advice of fathers to their sons" and in "Tohfalqool: Pg 52".
The advice found in Letter 31 are a complete code of practice for success both in this world and the hereafter. Each sentence holds the key to purifying the soul, training the spirit and a basis on which we can build ourselves. Many of the sentences require a commentary to be fully understood for which tens of books have been written, some of which are more than twenty volumes long. Several scholars have written commentaries based entirely on this will.