Sunday, November 29, 2009


The Holy Qur'an says: "And We ransomed him with a Great sacrifice.” (37:107)

Eid al-Adha is the day when Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was ready to sacrifice his own son in submission to the will of Allah. Despite Satanic insinuations, he took his noble son, and resolved to undertake what Allah wanted from him. As he was about to move his knife, Allah commanded him to stop, and placed a ram and ordered him to slaughter it instead of his son. Ibrahim passed the Divine Test. The Holy Qur’an narrating this scenario employs the expression ‘wa fadaynahu bi dhibhin ‘azim’ (and we ransomed him with a great sacrifice (37:107)). Exegetes of the Qur’an opine that, as is apparent, “the great sacrifice” mentioned in this verse refers to the ram placed for slaughter instead of Ismail (peace be upon him). This is the apparent extension (misdaq) of the verse. There is however a deeper and more perfect extension of the ransom which some exegetes draw from the radiant teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them). In fact they believe that a ram cannot be termed to be “a great sacrifice” for a great human being like Isma’il (peace be upon him).

Shaykh al-Saduq narrates the following tradition in his ‘Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha: Mufaddhal bin Shadhaan narrates: I heard al-Ridha (peace be upon him) saying: When Allah (Blessed and Exalted is He) ordered Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to slaughter the ram that He sent down, instead of his son Isma’il (peace be upon him), Ibrahim (peace be upon him) wished that he would have slaughtered his own son Isma’il (peace be upon him) with his hand and was not ordered to slaughter the ram instead, so that he experiences in his heart that which a father who sacrifices the dearest of his sons with his hand experiences, and as a result, deserves the highest of the stations of the people of reward due to calamities. So Allah, the Invincible and Majestic, revealed unto him: O Ibrahim, who is the most beloved of my creation to you? Ibrahim (peace be upon him) replied: O Lord, you did not create a creation which is more beloved to me than your beloved Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny). Thereupon Allah, the Invincible and Majestic, revealed unto him: O Ibrahim, is he then more beloved to you, or yourself? Ibrahim (peace be upon him) replied: Rather, he is more lovable to me than myself. Allah (the Invincible and Majestic) said: Is then his son more lovable to you, or your son? He said: Rather his son is more lovable. Allah said: Does the slaughter of his son in oppression by his enemies agitate your heart more, or slaughtering your son with your hand in my obedience? He said: Rather, the slaughter of his son in the hands of his enemies agitates my heart more. Allah said: O Ibrahim, indeed a people who conjecture that they are from the umma of Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) would soon kill al-Husayn (peace be upon him), his son, after him, in oppression and enmity, in the way a ram is slaughtered, and as a result, they would earn my wrath. This agitated and hurt the heart of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and he started weeping. Thereupon Allah, the Invincible and Majestic, revealed unto him: O Ibrahim, I have ransomed “your agitation for your son Isma’il (peace be upon him) if you were to slaughter him”, with “your agitation for al-Husayn (peace be upon him) and his martyrdom”, and have made incumbent for you the highest of the stations of the rewarded ones due to calamities. And that is the word of Allah, the Invincible and Majestic: “And we ransomed him with a Great Sacrifice”. (37:107). And there is no power nor strength except through Allah, the Exalted, and Great.

Imam al-Husayn (peace be upon him) not only sacrificed himself, but sacrificed, his sons and family as well as his possessions in the way of Allah. This is the lesson of Eid al-Adh-ha. It is a celebration that should rejuvenate in us the spirit of self-sacrifice. We should carefully examine ourselves in order to decipher whether we have actually returned (Eid is from the word ‘awd which means “to return”) to the sacrificing spirit that Allah has naturally endowed us with. If not, then we are indeed distant from the real Eid of Sacrifice. This is the message of Eid al-Adh-ha.

Friday, November 13, 2009


In one of my visits to al-Madina al-Munawwara, when I was honored to visit the graves of the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) in the well-known cemetery of Jannat al-Baqi, an old woman happen to meet me and asked in the Urdu language: Qubure Fatima kaha hai? (Where are the graves of Fatima?) I immediately thought that her sentence was wrong, and what she meant was qabre Fatima kaha hai (Where is the grave of Fatima?).

Obviously there is a difference of opinion on where she actually has been buried. Is it near the Prophet’s house in the Rawdha (the Aromatic and Paradisal Garden) as some traditions allude, or is it in Jannat al-Baqi’? Until now most of us are oblivious of the actual place. Perhaps, as some scholars opine, Fatima (peace be upon her) intentionally wanted her grave to be unknown, so that the future Muslims are led to question whether it is possible for the grave of the daughter of the noblest Messenger of Allah to be hidden. What do the books of history say? Why did Fatima (peace be upon her) not allow some of the contemporaries of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) to participate in her burial ceremony? Why did she prefer to be buried in secret? These are questions history has already answered. Those curious search for the truth.

Today the situation is worse than before. The graves of the four immaculate leaders of the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) among other esteemed members of the Prophet’s family are blocked in such a way that the lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) cannot even go near them or sometimes even utter any salutational prayer, just because a group of misinformed watchmen have been ordered by the Wahhabi leadership to discourage and even disturb anyone who does so.

Why all this disturbance? Is it really because of their concern for the people not to get astray or is it because of a kind of vacuum and jealousy they have been taught to harbor against the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them)? Or is ziyara a catalyst to ignite sparks of revolution and unity of the Umma? These are questions we must try to ponder upon and try to answer.

However, coming back to the question of the old woman, I must say that what she said was not grammatically improper. Yes Fatima does not have one grave. She has several graves: the heart of every lover of Fatima encapsulates Fatima (‘A). However much the kuffar try to spoil, destroy, and insult the edifices of the graves of the Ahl al-Bayt, as long as they reside in the hearts of their lovers, they would remain eternal.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quality is the Criterion

One of the most remarkable events of Islamic history where the peak of sincerity is revealed is the incident of Bibi Shutayta, a spiritually effulgent woman, who lived during the time of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) and Imam al-Kazim (‘A) in the Nishapur area of Iran.

A group of people led by Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Naishapuri left Naishapur for Medina to deliver people’s money to Imam Al-Sadiq (‘a). He was entrusted with 30,000 dinars, 50,000 dirhams, and 3,000 pieces of clothes to take to the Imam of the time. An old woman called Shutayta gives a dirham and a piece of raw cotton material spun by herself for the Imam (‘A). Muhammad bin Ibrahim tells the woman: O woman, I feel ashamed to give one dirham and a piece of cloth to Abu ‘Abdillah [al-Sadiq (‘a)]. She said: Wouldn’t you deliver [it to the Imam]? Inna Allaha la yastahyi min al-haqq (Indeed Allah is not ashamed of the truth). Muhammad bin Ibrahim takes the dirham from her, bends it, and places it in a bag which had lots of money [to be taken to the Imam (‘a)].

On the way, he learns that Imam al-Sadiq (‘A) had left this world, and Imam Musa al-Kazim (‘A) had become his successor. So he goes to Imam al-Kazim (‘A). When he arrives in the Imam’s presence, the Imam (‘a) asks for the bag of money that he had brought. Then he tells him to turn the bag, and drop the money, and he only picks up the bent coin of Shutayta. Then he (‘A) asks for the bag of clothes to be opened, and only takes the raw cotton material of Shutayta, and addressing Muhammad bin Ibrahim says “Surely Allah is not ashamed of the truth” (the same words that Shutayta had told Muhammad bin Ibrahim when the latter felt ashamed to take her coin).

Then he tells Muhammad bin Ibrahim to convey his salams to Shutayta and gives him a bag of 40 dirhams for her as well as a piece of cloth among the pieces of clothes of his kafan which his noble sister Halima bint Imam al-Sadiq (‘A) had spun.

The Imam (‘a) also tells him to tell her that she will live for 19 days after Muhammad bin Ibrahim’s arrival; she can spend 16 dirhams from the money for herself and give the rest as sadaqa…and informs his that he in person will come to bury her.

Then he told Muhammad bin Ibrahim to return back the wealth that he had brought to their owners…[Later on his return he realizes that except for Shutayta the rest had not accepted Imam al-Kazim (peace be upon him) as the next Imam of the time.]

On her demise, Imam Musa al-Kazim (peace be upon him) travels through tayy al-ardh (traversing of the earth) to Naishapur and prays for her funeral, and also places the earth of shifa (the earth of al-Husayn bin ‘Ali (‘A)) in her grave. When the Imam (‘A) finishes the burial ceremonies he mounts on his camel and facing the people says:

Make your companions know and greet them on my behalf and say to them: Indeed I, and whosoever is in my position among the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) must attend your funerals wherever you may be. Therefore be God-wary in yourselves and make your actions qualitatively beautiful so that you may assist us in your emancipation and your freedom from the Hell Fire. [Ref: ‘Allama al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v. 48, pp. 73-75]

Dear readers, this is the story of reality. The quality of one’s action is the mizan and balance to sift between the valuable and the valueless. The Holy Qur’an says: “…Who created death and life that He may try you- which of you is best in deeds (ahsanu ‘amalan)”. Hence let us struggle to establish ourselves in this level of sincerity (ikhlas) so that we are gradually overtaken by Divine attraction (al-jadhba al-ilahiyya) and instead of merely being from the mukhLISun (in the sense of the active participle), we are transported to the level of the mukhLASin (in the sense of the passive participle), a level in which Satan can never lay any kind of influence. Satan swears in the Qur’an: “…and I will certainly cause them all to deviate except Thy servants from among them, who are mukhLASin ( purified (by Yourself)) [15:39-40].

Friday, October 16, 2009


The Sacred Effusion is a commentary on Ziyarat ‘Ashura, one of the well-known ziyaaraat (recitals of salutation) that many of us frequently recite with great zeal and devotion. Most of the Shi’a Muslims express their veneration and sorrow when they recite this sublime ziyara on the day of Ashura. The Infallible Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them), however, have taught us to recite it very often. Besides its ample merits, it is a program of revolution for the sleeping masses. The crux of the ziyara is al-tabarri and al-tawalli, which can correctly be translated as ‘fleeing from imperfection’ and ‘seeking perfection’, or in the beautiful words of every Muslim La ilaha illa Allah-Besides Allah- the Only Beloved, there is no ilah (beloved). If one inculcates its teachings in himself, he can unite with the thoughts, deeds and endeavors of a perfect human being.

Those interested can purchase their copy from the World Federation of KSIMC-UK

Sunday, August 30, 2009


One of the beautiful Names of Allah is Sattar al-‘Uyub (One who frequently covers defects). This Name is revealed so brilliantly when our actions are hidden even from the two angels who record our deeds. In the supplication of Kumayl we speak of sins which Almighty Allah hides even from the Kiraaman Kaatibin (the Noble Writers). The exalted saint, Mawla Faydh al-Kashani in his ethical masterpiece al-Mahajjat al-Baydhaa' narrates the following thought provoking sacred tradition: The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have asked his Lord about the sins of his nation saying: O Lord, place the [responsibility of] accounting [of their deeds] on me, so that none other than myself knows their evil deeds. Thereupon Almighty Allah revealed unto him: They are your nation, whereas they are My servants, and I am more merciful to them then you are. I will not place the [responsibility of] accounting [of their deeds] on other than Myself, so that neither you nor others see their evil deeds. [Mawla Faydh al-Kashani, Al-Mahhajat al-Baydhaa', v.7, p. 260]. In one of his sermons on Laylat al-Qadr, Grand Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli, after mentioning the aforesaid tradition said that Allah would take such accounting in his hands so that the people are not ashamed of their sins near the Prophet. How can they solve the problem of shame near Allah? In response, he mentioned another sacred tradition where Almighty Allah says that in order for them not be ashamed near Him, He would make them forget their sins

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sinners are Most Welcome

Six days of the Holy Month of Ramadhan have elapsed like a flash of light. Have we begun our self-purification or has the habit of procrastination overwhelmed us? Twelve days are left to embrace or be embraced by the mercy of the nights of Qadr. Have we thought of transformation, change, and emancipation? Or has despair overcome us, and we have no hope to turn to the All-Forgiving? Some traditions serve as sparks that penetrate into the heart so deep, that they shake the human being and transform him completely. Perhaps the following sacred tradition (hadith qudsi) can serve as such a spark and enlighten our beings forever: Once Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) called upon His Lord in Mount Sinai, “O God of the worlds!” And Allah responded, “Labbayk (Here I am)”. Musa continued and called, “O God of the obedient ones!” And Allah responded, “Labbayk (Here I am)”. Then Musa said, “O God of the sinners!” Upon this Allah said: “Labbayk, Labbayk, Labbayk!” So Musa asked Allah, “O God, what is the wisdom behind responding to me only once when I called You with the best of Your names, and thrice when I said “O God of the sinners?” Allah said: “O Musa, surely the knowing ones rely on their recognition, the virtuous upon their virtue, and the obedient upon their obedience. But the sinful have none save Me. So if they despair from Me, with whom can they take refuge?”

Saturday, May 23, 2009


He was known as Bahjat al-‘Aarifin (the splendor of the Gnostics) and profusely emanated the light of devotion, such that lovers throughout the world were fascinated by his noble spirit. He was well-known for his absorption in prayer, where the true munajat (mutual whispering) between the lover and the Beloved is clearly revealed. In most cases, the awe and veneration of the Infinite would apparently overcome him and he would weep from the depths of his heart in prayer. Although the world came to know him after a long period of his life of splendor, this elevated spirit was known to enjoy great stations of spiritual perfection since his youth. He personified religion in both its exoteric as well as esoteric dimensions. Exoterically he revealed his brilliance as a faqih (referral authority in Divine laws), and esoterically he exhibited the splendor of an absorbed mystic in the alley of the beloved. One of the significant things which powerfully emanated from that great ‘aarif was his steadfastness on the path of the only Beloved. The Holy Qur’an says: “Indeed those who say our Lord is Allah, and then are steadfast, angels descend on them saying: Fear not, nor be grieved, and receive good news of the garden which you were promised…” (41:30)
Some of his spiritual teachings to those thirsty in pursuing the path of spiritual development are as follows [see:]:

1- There is no litany [ dhikr - word of remembering God] more exalted then the litany of action; and there is no litany of action higher than abandoning sin in [one’s] beliefs and acts of devotion. And apparently, abandoning sin in the absolute sense without continual self-vigilance cannot take place.

2- Among the dictums of ‘Ali (‘A) is: “Know that every action of yours is according to your prayer (sala).” You must protect your five times daily prayer in the beginning of their times and with total inclination to Him (Almighty is He), and God-willing you will not lose felicity.

3- We must deal with [the holy] traditions and read them, for [the] cure is in them.

4- If a person realizes the purpose of creation, he would find it extremely sweet to [die as a martyr and] be restored back to life seventy times.

5- The prayer of night (salat al-layl) is the key to occasions of Divine succor (tawfiqaat)

6- It is these very supererogatory (mustahabb) acts that make the human being attain a great station.

7- The reason why we are left behind is our consumption of doubtful wealth; and doubtful wealth brings about doubts and ambiguity.

8- God knows when a human being send greetings to Muhammad and his progeny (i.e. recites salawat) one time and gifts that to the deceased soul, what kind of meaning, form and reality it has!

When a scholar of the caliber of Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Bahjat (may Allah elevate his noble spirit) tears the curtains of this material world and releases the bird of his spirit from the cage of the corporeal body, the moths of love residing in this terrestrial realm suffer a loss which cannot be recuperated. Bahjat al-‘Arifeen not only served as a lamp for expounding the Shari’a (the Islamic laws), but also as a master for guiding towards the tariqa (the path) which leads to the haqiqa (the Ultimate Reality). The human being fundamentally has been brought in this transient world for this very purpose. The word shari’a which we commonly translate as the Islamic law literally signifies mawrid al-maa’ al-jaari (‘the entrance of flowing water’). When we say shari’at al-Furat, for example, we mean “the entrance of the flowing waters of Euphrates”. But Religion only serves as the shari‘a for those of us who would really like to “enter the flowing spiritual waters” and benefit from the same so that we may attain the haqiqa (Absolute Reality).

Although Bahjat al-‘Arifin is not among us, the brilliance of his splendor can still be felt. Rather, when does the splendor of such a lamp ever fade? Which lamp was lit by the teachings of Muhammad and His infallible progeny (peace be upon them), and did not turn immortal and eternal?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A sister is Islam wrote to me reminding me that calling Allah for other worldly matters is not abhorred, and hence we cannot take the verse Ud’uni Astajib lakum (call "ME" and I shall respond to your call) [40:60] to signify that we should always call Allah for Allah. I would like to thank her, and remind the readers that although the literal connotation of the verse is what we had discussed previously, the reality is that there is nothing wrong is seeking other than Allah for Allah. Many of us have the tendency to seek our selfish needs when it comes to supplication. Very few think about the fundamental aim behind creation which is to attain the proximity of Allah. And a substantial number of us do not consider whether the need is “a means” for the fundamental goal behind their creation, or a satisfaction of a material attachment that is firmly rooted in themselves even if it is be spiritually dangerous. Hence we must try to make our supplications meaningful. Whether we directly ask for other needs or Allah, the goal should always be “Him”. If we seek a long life, wealth, position, etc. it must be “for Allah’s obedience, worship, and proximity”. Therefore the crux of the issue is to fundamentally seek Allah. And this is realized either by seeking the MEANS such as health, wealth, marriage, etc. so that one can attain Divine proximity, or directly ALLAH Himself. In some supplications, we are taught to seek “THE MEANS of THE GOAL” while in others we are taught to seek “THE GOAL” directly. An example of the former is: “Waj’al yaa Rabbi Rizqaka li waasi’an…” (So provide me, O my Lord, with an extensive provision….” [‘Isha Du’a: Mafatih al-Jinan]. An example of the latter is: ‘O Allah I ask you for that beauty of Yours which is the most beautiful, and every beauty of Yours is the most beautiful, O Allah I ask you by Your entire beauty” [Supplication of Sahar: Mafatih al-Jinaan]. Hence we should not misconceive and surmise that it is improper to seek other than Allah from Allah, even if it be the means that assist us in approaching His neighborhood. May the Almighty enable all of us to journey to and achieve perfection.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The Holy Prophet (s) was once asked, “Ayna Allah?” (Where is Allah?), and he said “ ‘Inda al-munkasirati qulubuhum” (He is with those who hearts are broken) [Al-Rawandi, Al-Da‘awaat, pp. 119-120]. This brilliant statement unfortunately has sometimes been misconceived and misinterpreted. A common understanding is to focus mainly on the state of the broken heart, regardless of its cause and level of excellence. If this was the case, many hearts break due to the petty issues of material world. Does this dictum also refer to them? A better and more profound understanding of this hadith is gotten when we consider another similar tradition, which specifies the nature of the heart and the cause of its breaking: Amir al-mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a) is reported to have said: “Tuba lil munkasirati qulubuhum min ajli Allah” (A pleasant final state be to those whose hearts are broken for Allah) [Al-Aamadi, Ghurar al-Hikam, tr.5937]. The phrase ‘min ajli Allah’ (for the sake of Allah) here clearly depicts that the principal cause of the brokenness of hearts must be related to Allah. For example, because one has not yet achieved one’s principal goal in life which is Divine proximity, one’s heart is broken!

One of the subtlest meanings of the verse “Ud‘uni astajib lakum” (Call Me and I shall respond to you) [Qur’an, 40:60] is that we are told to seek Allah only. Ud‘uni (Call “ME”). How selfish and degenerate of us to call the only Beloved for our material and selfish motives. Ask one who is engaged to someone for marriage, the reason why he tends to call her constantly? Is it because of her wealth? Is it because of her position and fame? Is it because of the physical enjoyment he anticipates from her? If these are the reasons, then in reality he is engaged with them and not with her. Let us call the Beloved for the Beloved, and nothing else. Let us stop approaching Him as an intermediary for our mundane goals. Let us understand that He is THE GOAL. If we tangibly observe that our hearts are broken “min ajli Allah” (Because of missing Allah), then we should most surely guarantee His Presence! “I am in the presence of the broken HEARTS”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Surely al-Husayn is the lamp of guidance and the ship of salvation - The Holy Prophet (s). We herebey would like to announce that we have launched a new page AL-SAFINA, which would cater for broadcasting small clips on issues pertaining to Imam al-Husayn ('a) and Muharram. This page would be updated from the beginning of Muharram 1430.

Friday, November 7, 2008


When prophet Musa (‘a) went to Mount Sinai and had a secret mutual conversation with Allah for thirty nights [Wa waa‘adna Musa thalathina laylatan (and And We made an appointment with Moses for thirty nights- Qur’an 7:142], they actually were the thirty nights of the holy month of Dhu al-Qa’da [Ref: ‘Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.13, pp. 213-214], a month when those who aspire to meet the Beloved, and not merely His house (ka’ba), engage in spiritual pursuits in preparation for the fundamental vertical (spiritual) journey to the Beloved. Then Allah says wa atmamnaahu bi ‘ashr” (And we completed them with ten [more days]-Qur’an, 7:142). Almighty Allah confers ten more days to Musa (‘a) for munajat. And these ten days are the very first ten days of the holy month of Dhu al-Hijja when the hajis are busy in their spiritual excursion. Having undergone specific stages of spiritual change through the help of his Lord, Musa (‘a) finally asks for vision. He says, Rabbi arini anzuru ilayk” (My Lord, show [Yourself] to me, that I may look at You!’- Qur’an, 7:143). Insightful scholars like Imam Khumayni say that Musa (‘a) did not aspire for vision through the physical eye, free from such kind of thinking are the Prophets of Allah [Ref: Imam Khumayni, Notes on Nubuwwat, p. 352]. He yearned to see the Beloved through the heart. Such vision obviously is not “complete comprehension” which presumes the comprehending one to encompass the object of comprehension. It rather is a limited comprehension of the Divine Attributes according to the capacity of the beholder. And this can only be achieved through self-purification, whose fundamental stages according to authoritative divine sages are as follows:

1) Al-Tajliya (Strictly adhering to the apparent Islamic laws and refraining from whatever Islam has prohibited)
2) Al-Takhliya (Cleaning oneself through the water of repentance and tawba)
3) Al-Tahliya (Beautifying oneself with the perfections of the Absolutely Beautiful according to one’s capacity)
4) Al-Fana (Dissolution in the Beloved, such that one visions that no identity exists save that of Allah)

Aspirants of hajj should try to journey through these stages, so that on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijja they deserve to put on the Ihram of Musa (‘a) and sincerely yearn for the vision of the Only Beloved.

What is so captivating is to behold the Musa of Karbala, who in the Mount Sinai [Bihar al-Anwar, v.98, pp. 108-109] of Ghadhiriyya (another name for Karbala), is reported to have said:

I left the entire creation in Your Desire
And made my family orphans so that I may see You
So even if you cut me into pieces in my love for You
My heart would not incline to other than You

This peerless Musa of history was so intensely sacrificing, that the Beloved bestowed him with peerless bestowals, one of which is:
Al-sujud ‘ala turbat al-Husayn (‘a) yakhriqu al-hujub al-sab‘ (prostrating on the clay of al-Husayn severs the seven veils [‘Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.82, pp. 153]). A probably meaning of the seven veils is ‘the seven levels of existence’, the highest of which is in the close proximity of the All-Beloved.

But the Beloved’s love is so special for this Moses of Karbala. According to a tradition narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) [Ref: ‘Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.98, pp. 87] Allah on the day of ‘Arafa begins with the visitors of the grave of al-Husayn first, and then the lovers stationed in the sacred plains of ‘Arafa.
We pray to Almighty Allah to enable us comprehend the secrets of Hajj better as we cross the stations of our transient life.

Friday, August 29, 2008


There is well-known dictum that scholars of ethics and gnosis remind us- who have gone into the slumber of negligence and need to wake up: The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: “al-naasu niyaamun, fa idhaa maatu intabahoo” (people are asleep, when they die, they would wake up). Scholars believe that this tradition can allude to two different levels of death:

(a) Forceful Death (al-mawt al-idhtirari) tears off the veils of the reality of our thoughts, belief, way of life and actions. Hence when we are forcefully transported to barzakh, which is the higher realm of existence, we wakes up from our deep slumber of negligence and realize how unthankful we had been in the lower realm of existence.
(b) Volitional Death (al-mawt al-ikhtiyari), which comes about after we clear ourselves from the sins we have committed, and untie the knot of attachment of this world. Great saints the like of Ayatullah Haddaad Musawi (a contemporary of ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i) is said to have attained such a station after maintaining extreme endurance vis-à-vis the predicaments of his personal life. This is known as khal’ al-badan (stripping of the body from the soul).

We have such a potential in us that we can vision beyond this world and see our stations in barzakh even before our souls are taken by the angel of death. A very interesting anecdote is narrated about ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i while he was busy engaged in the remembrance of Allah in the Mosque of Kufa in ‘Iraq. His mentor in Gnosis (‘irfan), Ayatullah Sayyid ‘Ali Qadhi al-Tabataba’i warned him from paying any attention to whatever comes about while he is busy in his remembrance of Allah. ‘Allama is reported to have said that once while he was immersed in the remembrance of Allah (dhikr Allah) in the Mosque of Kufa, he suddenly saw a beautiful heavenly damsel (hour al-‘in) appear before him with a cup of heavenly wine. Observing the instructions of his mentor, he paid no attention to her. So she appeared to him from the other side and persistently requested ‘Allama to accept her offer, but the latter did not pay attention to her again. ‘Allama writes in his personal memoirs that due to his inattention, she was so frustrated that he can still remember her state. This scenario obviously was not in the present realm of al-dunya, for Houris are damsels of Paradise, and hence, do not have material existence. In reality ‘Allama, was visioning what was beyond this world. Analysts believe that what ‘Allama saw was perhaps the result of his own dhikr, which in our traditions can be the cause of the creation of such rewards. What his mentor, however, said was very important and meaningful, because attending to the All Beloved is loftier than attending to the result of one’s own actions (hour al-‘in). Further more, it is due the remembrance of the Only Beloved, that makes a loving houri magnetized to ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i and frustrated when he pays no attention to her. According to a beautiful dictum of a great saint, “Agar behisht shireen ast, behisht afreen shirintar ast’‘(If Paradise is sweet, the Creator of Paradise is even sweeter’).

Small wonder it is that ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i would advise his students to recite the famous supplication of Imam al-Baqir (‘a) during the predawn moments of the month of Ramadhan, where there is no mention of the enjoyments of Paradise (Allahumma inni as’aluka min Bahaa’ika bi abhaahu wa kullu bahaa’ika bahiyy (O Allah, I ask you that brilliance of yours which is the most brilliant, and every brilliance of Yours is the most brilliant…). There is only mention of Allah and His Attributes. And that is why the human being has been created. He does not live to be a happy animal, but lives to soar to the station of a perfect human being, who exemplifies the qualities of Allah.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Ayyuha al-nas, innahu qad aqbala ilaykum shahr Allah bi al-barakati wa al-rahmati wa al-maghfira…’ (O people, Indeed the Month of Allah has approached you with blessings, mercy and forgiveness…). These are the beginning words of a radiant sermon the Holy Prophet (s) once delivered to his companions on the last Friday of Sha’ban al-Mu‘azzam, as they approached the Holy month of Ramadhan. Basically, the Holy Prophet (s) spoke about how fundamental an opportunity is this month, what are the most important things one can do therein, who is a loser in this great month, etc. In short: It is an invaluable opportunity, which every intelligent believer should struggle to safeguard. At one point of this sermon Amir al-mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a) stands in humility and asks the Holy Prophet: ‘What is the best of actions in this month?’ and the Holy Prophet (s) responds saying: ‘The best of actions is al-wara’ ‘an mahaarim Allah’ (the best of actions is to refrain from what Allah has forbidden). If one ponders over this statement, one would come to realize that ‘to refrain from’ in reality is quite different from ‘to engage in’. It is the reality of ‘not doing something’. However in this sermon it has been conferred the station of a deed, or rather ‘the best of deeds’ (afdhal al-a’maal). The secret behind this is ‘In order for the mirror to reflect all the different shades of the Beauty of the Beloved, one must polish and clear the stains it has gathered, so that when the Beloved appears before it, His Beauty is depicted in the best possible manner’. In order for us, who have been bestowed with the capacity of manifesting the Attributes of Allah in ourselves, to reflect and exemplify Divine Beauty and Majesty in our beings, we need to first clean the mirror of our hearts through the water of repentance. Sin, in the expression of the Holy Qur’an, is known as ‘rayn’ (‘rust and stain that settles over a shiny object and covers it’). The Holy Qur’an speaking of the sinful says,‘Kallaa bal raana ‘alaa qulubihim maa kaanu yaksibun’ (No indeed! Rather their hearts have been sullied by what they have been earning. Qur’an, 83:14). It is by refraining from accumulating such stains (al-wara’ ‘an mahaarim Allah) that enables one to experience and enjoy the precious and spiritual moments of the Holy month of Ramadhan, when the Beloved constantly calls every lover to Himself and facilitates a quicker process for achieving His proximity. Another very important point in the Holy Prophet (s)’s sermon is when he says, ‘al-shaqiy man haruma ghufran Allah fi hadha al-shahr’ (the wretched is he who is deprived of Allah’s mercy in this great month ). The tone of this statement is such that it should be enough to alert and shake every Muslim who is aware of the sins that he has accumulated so far. ‘Despair’ (al-ya’s) must be blotted out of the dictionary of our spirits. We must fully anticipate to be embraced with the blanket of Divine forgiveness in this month well-known as ‘the month of maghfira’. Anticipation and hope, however pre-requires us to prepare ourselves by harmonizing our spirits with the true meaning of ‘hope’, a manifestation of which is to carry out those things that make us near to the object of our hope. These final glowing days of the Holy month of Sha’ban should therefore motivate us to start preparing. In a beautiful tradition narrated from Imam al-Ridha (‘a) some of the fundamental steps of preparation are as follows: (1) Recite (with understanding and serious intention) the following supplication: Allahumma in lam takun gharafarta lana fee maa madhaa min Sha’ban faghfir lana fee maa baqiya minhu (O Allah, if you have not forgiven us in what has passed of the month of Sha’ban, then forgive us in the remaining month).’ In reality if the stains that we have accumulated are totally effaced, we would be able to benefit better from the approaching month of grace. (2) Pay the rights of those whose rights are on your shoulders, for that is one of the fundamental conditions of tawba. [Those who can take even the beginning steps will find change in the holy month] (3) Seriously remove any kind and degree of hatred for any Believing Muslim (regardless of whether he/she hates you, declares himself/herself as your enemy, belittles you, etc…). Obviously so many queries come about here. The hard fact is that ‘we, who would like to qualify to be in a horizon of understanding and compassion of the people of Paradise must remove this rancor from our hearts’. In the Holy Qur’an this is known as ghill. Those who aspire for Paradise cannot enter therein if this impediment exists in their hearts. The Holy Qur’an says that Allah removes it from their hearts: Wa naza’na maa fi sudoorihim min ghill…(‘We removed whatever rancor there is in their breasts…’ (Holy Qur’an, 15:47)) (4) Join the last 3 fasts of the month of Sha’ban with the Holy month of Ramadhan, for that is equivalent to having fasted two months continuously. Furthermore it reveals how the believer in honor of the month of Ramadhan begins fasting in welcoming this great month. (5) Recitation of Qur’an, which, according to a well-known prophetic tradition, also enables a person to shine his spirit. Recitation, however must be a way for spiritual ascension. These are not very difficult ventures, and hence let us throw away the impurities of our hearts and welcome this great holy month, in anticipation of transforming ourselves and starting the spiritual journey to Allah, which if we delay, would earn us nothing but intense and perpetual regret in the Hereafter.

Friday, August 15, 2008


One of the excellent whisperings of Sha’ban reported to have been recited by all the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is the well-known al-Munajat al-Sha’baniyya. The climax of the supplication is as follows: “O God, bestow me perfect connection to Thee, and enlighten the eyes of our hearts with the light of Thy vision, until the sights of the hearts tear the veils of light and reach the Source of Greatness, and our spirits become suspended to the invincibility of Thy sanctity…” In order to understand this verse we must know that the source of the human being is from an exalted plane of existence. Almighty Allah says, “wa nafakhtu fihi min Ruhi” (I blew unto him from My spirit (15:29)). The human descent to the lowest realm of existence al-dunya (thumma radadnahu asfala saafilin (then We relegated him to the lowest of the low- 95:5) was to enable him undertake a volitional journey through knowledge and action back to his origin where there is no curtain between the lover and the Only Beloved. The fundamental impediment the human being faces is the material attachment of this world. If he clears himself from sin and worldly attachment, and allows the soul to reign over his body, he tears off the curtains of darkness, and enters a world of light which despite being encouraging can also be deceiving. Whereas the world of light allows one to vision the Only Beloved according to one’s existential limitations, it veils one to apprehend the perfect and ultimate possible vision of the face of the Only Beloved. The wayfarer to Allah conjectures that he has finally attained the zenith of his vision, a vision which does not entail any curtain between him and the Beloved, whereas in reality he has still got to severe some veils of light. Gnostics say that the veils of light are nothing but one’s limitations of existence. Hence one has still got to struggle to rid away himself from the curtains of light, and continue on his path of perfection, to attain perfect connection to Allah (kamaal al-inqitaa’). This supplication narrated by Amir al-mu’minin (‘a) in the holy month of Sha’ban al-Mu‘azzam must wake us up from the slumber of negligence that has taken deep roots into our beings.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spiritual Aroma Yet to Be Discovered

One of the thought provoking dictums of Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is al-mar’atu rayhana wa laysat bi qahramana (a woman is an aromatic plant and not a dominator). A comprehensive and detailed exposition of this brilliant hadith is beyond the scope of the present writeup. However, it would be worth appreciating the tip of the iceberg: obviously this dictum does not imply that a woman is physically fashioned in such a way that she always emanates aroma. One’s physical aromatic condition depends on how one physically conditions oneself. In Islam, however, there are occasions when a woman is not allowed to condition herself with perfume. This however does not imply that she should not keep herself tidy and clean. Applying perfume that would attract the opposite sex who may not be a lawful partner in one’s life is one thing and observing cleanliness to avoid any kind of unpleasant smell in one’s body is another. What actually does the expression ‘aromatic plant’ then denote in the abovementioned dictum? Scholars of insight opine that the way there is a physical aroma that attracts those whose olfactory senses are sound, there is a metaphysical fragrance that only attracts those who can appreciate the scent of spiritual realities. Let us deliberate on the following noteworthy traditions to appreciate this truth: The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: (1) There is nothing more pleasant than the scent of a believer (al-mu’min); and indeed his fragrance can be felt in the horizons…” (Al-Muttaqi, Kanz al-‘Ummaal, v.1, p. 165) (2) There is nothing that stinks more than the stench of the disbeliever (al-kafir), and surely his [unpleasant] odor can be felt in the horizons…’ (al-‘Uqayli, Dhu‘afa al-‘Uqayli, v.4, p.289). (3) Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) reports from his forefathers, who report from Imam ‘Ali (‘a) who said: Inna al-‘Aalim al-kaatim ‘ilmuhu yub‘athu antanu ahl al-qiyama rihan, yal‘anuhu kullu daabba, hatta dawaab al-ard al-sighaar (A scholar who hides his knowledge would be resurrected as the most foul smelling among the people of resurrection, and every beast including the small beasts of the earth would curse him. (Al-Barqi, Al-Mahasin, v.1, p. 231). (4) The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: Inna al-walad al-saalih rayhaanatun min rayaahin al-janna (Surely a virtuous and good offspring is an aromatic plant among the aromatic plants of the Paradise) (Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, v.6, p.3) (5) Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have narrated a part of what was revealed to one of the Prophets of Allah. In it some of the evil characteristics of a certain creation who are attached to the world is described. One of their description is, ‘…alsinatuhum ahla min al-‘asal wa a’maaluhum al-baatina antanu mina al-jiyaf…' (“Their tongues are sweeter than honey, whereas their inner actions stink worse than corpses) (Al-Himyari al-Qummi, Qurb al-Isnaad, pp. 28-29) (6) The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: I swear by the one in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad the smell that comes out from the mouth of the fasting one near Allah is more pleasant than Musk. (Al-‘Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’a, v.10, p.400) (7) Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said to one of his companions called Maysar: Do you gather in private, and discuss and speak what you want [of the truth]? Maysar says: Yes Indeed, by Allah, we do gather in private and discuss and say what we want. Thereupon Imam al-Baqir (‘a) said: I swear by Allah, I love to be with you in some of these places. [And] I swear by Allah, I love your scent and your spirits…’ (Al-Mazandarani, Sharh Usul al-Kafi, v.9, p. 69). (8) The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: “Whosoever backbites a Muslim, his fast is invalidated and his minor ablution (wudhu) is void, and he would come on the Resurrection Day, while a stench more foul than that of a corpse would come out from his mouth, which would disturb the people of Resurrection . (Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-Faqih, v.4, pp. 14-15). All the aforesaid traditions clearly depict that beyond the physical aroma there is a spiritual fragrance that only those endowed with inner apprehension can comprehend and appreciate. They also enlighten us about the path of attaining a pleasant spiritual aroma in oneself. Perhaps Imam ‘Ali (‘a) by stating that a woman is an aromatic plant wanted to teach us that if she really assumes the role of a woman as guided by the Divine law and the path, her entire being would constantly emanate sweet fragrance and she would actually be a Rayhana (an aromatic plant). If the woman prepares herself before, while, and after she practically serves as the manifestation of Allah’s Khaliqiyya (power of creation), if she embellishes her inner being with the beautiful traits of Allah and manifests the Divine Attributes of Jamal (Divine Beauty), if she starts feeding the child, in the Name of Allah and entirely for His pleasure and manifests the Divine Attribute of Raziqiyya (Nourisher), and if she rears the fundamental faculties of intellect, passion and anger in her offspring and moderates them and brings them into the state of their equilibrium, and hence manifests the Divine Attribute of Rububiyya (Trainer) why can’t she really be a Rayhana? Small wonder it is that the Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: I have been made to love three things from your world: women, perfume, and the apple of my eyes is in prayer. Love for women, contrary to how the materialists conjecture does not mean physical intimacy between man and woman. It is the Divine role that a woman plays on this earth: she can potentially manifest attributes of perfection in herself and thus emanate the Divine aroma which only the insightful can comprehend.