Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Pillar of Hannana Moans

While I write these words, my ears are caressed with the sweet and melodious sounds of the birds chirping in our neighborhood in the Kizingo area in Mombasa. Are they communicating, supplicating, or glorifying Allah? Indeed most of us are oblivion of our own material realm, leave alone the higher planes of existence. The Holy Qur’an tells us: ‘There is nothing but that it glorifies Allah and praises Him, but you cannot comprehend their glorification. Indeed He is forbearing and forgiving.’ [17:44] In expounding this verse, ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i in his monumental al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an says that the glorification mentioned in the verse should not be mistaken with ontological glorification, which refers to the natural expression of Allah’s Absolute and Perfect Reality through the ‘limited and deficient nature’ of every other thing in the universe. The mention of the Names “Indeed He is forbearing and forgiving” according to one of the strong opinions, is that ‘not being able to comprehend the tasbih of the other creatures’ is an offense, which Allah bears and forgives. We are told in different traditions that it is our tainted heart that hampers us from beholding the malakut (the inner realm of existence) and appreciating the tasbih of the creatures. The pebbles doing tasbih in the hands of the Prophet (s) is a day to day phenomenon witnesses by those endowed with pure hearts, but perhaps when the hearts of a group of Muslims are influenced by Allah’s Messenger “to forcefully be receptive to their tasbih” it is taken as a miracle. The pillar of Hannana is an unforgettable event in the history of the mosque of Madina. It has been narrated in our traditions that when the Prophet of Allah (s) built his mosque in Madina, there was an old dried date palm pillar besides the mihrab (place where the Imam leads prayer). Whenever he (s) would deliver a sermon or speak to the people he would lean on it; but when a mimbar was brought for him, and he ascended it, a cry was heard from the date palm the way a she camel cries when it separates from its offspring. So the Prophet (s) descended the pulpit and embraced the dry date palm, until it went into silence, and the Prophet (s) returned back. Illustrating this in very beautiful poetry Rumi says: Ustune Hannane az hajre Rasul Nale mizad hamchu arbabe uqul (the pillar of Hannana due to Prophet’s separation, lamented like those endowed with intellect); Guft payghambar che khwahi ay sutoon? Guft jaanam az firaaqat gasht khoon. (The Prophet asked the pillar: what do you want? The pillar said: Due to your separation my soul has turned into blood); Masnadat budam az man taakhti, bar sare minbar tu masnad saakhti (I was your support; now you have run away from me; you have devised a place to lean against upon the pulpit)…In the end Rumi hits in the center of our hearts and says: “Hearken, O heedless one! Be not thou less than a piece of wood! Indeed such phenomena are utter realities for those endowed with insight.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Miqdad, one of the noble readers of this blog, asked me a question on how to cultivate love for the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) in ourselves. In order to understand the answer to this fundamentally important query, we must realize that love is an offshoot of knowledge. So long as one has no knowledge of the beloved, how can any kind of love and yearning ever come into being? Therefore knowledge of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is very essential. And knowledge about them is not all about historical dates and places. Rather it is the appreciation of their excellent traits and characteristics. When one understands the lofty traits of Imam ‘Ali (‘a) and Abu ‘Abdillah al-Husayn (‘a), he naturally gets inclined to them and intensely yearns to encounter them. Knowledge, however, is not always conceptual. If we clean the taints of sin that we have accumulated in our hearts, and rear the noble traits of the Imams in ourselves, our love for them would rage. It is such kind of knowledge and love that leads Maytham al-Tammar to water the tree where he is to be later hanged due to love and support of Imam ‘Ali (‘a). It is such knowledge and love that intoxicates Zuhayr bin Qayn to say, “I swear by Allah, I love to be killed, then resurrected, then killed, [then resurrected,] until I am killed like this a thousand times and that Allah thereby protects you and these youth of your family.” The secret of attaining such kind of raging love is in strengthening one’s faith and devotion. The Holy Qur’an alludes to this reality when it says, “…and those who have faith have more intense love for Allah.” [2:165]

A Memorable Encounter in Makka

In one of my journeys to Makka al-Mukarrama for hajj, I and a noble companion happen to visit the late martyr Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. I can still visualize those moments. He had a sparkling face that had so much to narrate. We sought some advise from him, and the great scholar informed us of a brilliant interpretation of the tradition ‘Min tamaam al-Hajj liqaa al-Imam’ [The completion of hajj is in meeting the Imam]. One of the possible interpretations of the tradition is that the pilgrims who come to perform hajj must know the proper way of undertaking the ritual in its different dimensions. Therefore they should approach the leader (Imam) who has a good understanding of the same. And the leader(s) of the contemporary era [who represent the Imam of the time] are the Muslim scholars, who should be approached [and their advise sought]. I felt enlightened. Indeed in order for one to derive utmost benefit from hajj, he should go to the different places of the ‘ulama in Makka, who are well-grounded in the laws and secrets of hajj.

The Heart is the Haram of Allah (Part 2)

There is a beautiful anecdote that illustrates the kernel of hajj and the aspirants of hajj would really be able to touch the core if they understand it well. In BOOK II of his celebrated Mathnawi, Rumi narrates an incident worthy of contemplation: We hereby reproduce the translation before expounding it: [Bayazid [a spiritual sheikh], on his journey (to the Ka'ba), sought much to find someone that was the Khizr of his time. He espied an old man with a stature (bent) like the new moon; he saw in him the majesty and (lofty) speech of (holy) men;…He (Bayazid) sat down before him and asked about his condition; he found him to be a dervish and also a family man. He (the old man) said, "Whither art thou bound, O Bayazid? To what place wouldst thou take the baggage of travel in a strange land?" Bayazid answered, "I start for the Ka’ba at daybreak." "Eh," cried the other, "what hast thou as provisions for the road?" "I have two hundred silver dirhams," said he; "look, (they are) tied fast in the corner of my cloak." He said, "Make a circuit round me seven times, and reckon this (to be) better than the circumambulation (of the Ka'ba) in the pilgrimage; And lay those dirhams before me, O generous one. Know that thou hast made the greater pilgrimage (hajj) and that thy desire has been achieved; (That) thou hast (also) performed the lesser pilgrimage ('umra) and gained the life everlasting; (that) thou hast become pure and sped up (the Hill of) Purity (Safa). By the truth of the Truth (God) whom thy soul hath seen, (I swear) that he hath chosen me above His House. Albeit the Ka’ba is the House of His religious service, my form too, in which I was created, is the House of His inmost consciousness. Never since God made the Ka'ba hath He gone into it, and none but the Living (God) hath ever gone into this House (of mine). When thou hast seen me, thou hast seen God: thou hast circled round the Ka'ba of Sincerity. To serve me is to obey God and glorify God: beware thou think not that God is separate from me. Open thine eyes well and look on me, that thou mayst behold the Light of God in man." Bayazid gave heed to those mystic saying, and put them in his ear as a golden ring. Through him (the old man), Bayazid came into an increase (of spiritual endowment): the adept at last attained unto the end]. Rumi would like to explain to us the spirit of hajj. The house of Allah is where He truly resides. It is not the cubic structure that we behold but the heart of the perfect human being. The cubic structure symbolizes His unity and is required to transport to us realization. Perhaps the reason why we are told Min tamaam al-Hajj liqaa’ al-Imam (‘a)’ (and the completion of hajj is to meet the Imam) is that meeting the Imam would transform us and unite us with him, and thus enable us realize and behold the true Ka’ba, where none save Allah resides. In fact the Imam (‘a) being a perfect human being whose heart is the sanctuary of Allah, is the Ka’ba himself. Small wonder it is that we read in our traditions that visiting the domes of Sayyid al-Shuhadaa or Imam al-Ridha (‘a) is equivalent to performing a thousand hajj or more. Indeed they are the epitomes of salaat, sawm and hajj. In the brilliant words of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), 'Nahnu al-salat fi Kitabillah ‘azza wa jalla wa nahnu al-zakaat, wa nahnu al-siyaam wa nahnu al-hajj.” (We (the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)) are prayers mentioned in the Book of Allah, and we are the zakaat, and we are fasting, and we are hajj…’ [Allama Majlisi, Bihaar al-Anwaar,v.24, p. 303] These allude how they brilliantly exemplify the realities of all these acts of worship in the best way possible. May the Almighty make us understand the devotions that we perform better before our wings of knowledge and action lose their effectiveness.

The Heart is the Haram of Allah (Part 1)

All the branches of religion are runways of spiritual ascension to the Divine. Hajj is no exception. Rather its very literal meaning conveys its profound reality. Hajj in the Arabic means ‘qasd’ (to intend). From the Islamic legal point of view, however, it refers to ‘intending the House of Allah’ for rites that are obligatory on all the human beings. The Holy Qur’an says: “And escape to Allah…” [51:50]. Commenting on this phrase, Imam al-Baqir (‘a) says that it means Hujju ila Allah’ (Perform hajj [and journey] to Allah) [al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, v.4, p.256]. In other words, the reality of performing hajj is to escape to Allah. And escaping to Allah means to adopt His Beautiful Attributes. In a well-known prophetic tradition we are told, “Takhallaqu bi Akhlaaqillah" (and adopt the character traits of Allah). Obviously this does not imply any sort of deification. Whereas Allah’s Attributes are Infinite, the human being is only able to reflect them according to the mirror of his capacity. Such reflection also is utterly by Allah. The Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) in their traditions clearly allude to the fact that Allah has tested the pilgrims with mere stones in the holy precincts. They should, however, reflect on the kernel and migrate to the same. The stones symbolize realities that can cause an inner revolution and totally overhaul us. In a well-known tradition, Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (‘a) explains to a devout pilgrim called Shibli about the subtle realities of every rite in hajj thus informing him that there is a meaning to every obligation that we perform. We should therefore not to limit ourselves to the periphery but embrace the center as well. If we have to journey to the house of a beloved, circumambulate around it seven times, but finally depart without meeting and seeing Him, every sound human being would wonder in astonishment. The verse we just quoted above does not say Fa firru ila baytillah…" (And escape to Allah’s House), but says “ila Allah…” (to Allah…) thus clearly and distinctly informing us about that the main aim and goal of every aspirant of hajj is Allah Himself. Obviously, visiting the House of Allah must prepare us for the real ascent, and cannot be divorced from its kernel. It is interesting to note that the insightful scholars who expound the secrets of Hajj say that the purified human heart is the House of Allah. The hajj of the wayfarers is to spiritually emigrate and attain a level of comprehension of his unsullied and pure heart which can really serve as a haram of Allah (swt). Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘Al-qalbu haramullah, fala tuskin haramallah ghayrallah’ (the heart is the sanctuary of Allah, therefore to do not let other than Allah inhabit in it). Perhaps the following brilliant dictum of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) would increase our vision and understanding: 'Nahnu Ka’batullah, nahnu Qiblatullah…' (We are the Ka’ba of Allah, we are the qibla of Allah) [Allama Majlisi, Bihaar al-Anwaar,v.24, p. 303]. And in another brilliant tradition from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) we read, ‘Nahnu Haramullah al-Akbar' (And we are the greatest sanctuary of Allah) [Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, v.1, p. 221]

Monday, November 26, 2007


[above shows the Mt. Safa of the Mas'aa [place of sa'y]
While some of us are preparing for Hajj in our hometowns, 116 thousand pilgrims are reported to have already entered the holy precincts of Makka and begun the first phase of their rites. The true meaning of preparation, however, must be understood so that we may be able to accomplish the purpose of this ecstatic journey. In a brilliant tradition narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), we are told that there are three kinds of results one can anticipate from Hajj: (1) Utter freedom from Hell Fire, (2) Forgiveness of all sins, (2) Protection of wealth and family on return[ Al-Kafi, v.4, p. 253]. Placing these results in mind, we should try to aspire for the best. Aspiration, however, is not a kind of conceptualization or inculcation; rather, it is a resolution, struggle and hardship. And these need preparation. One of the areas we must struggle to attain is “a state of receptivity”. We should try to widen the containers of our hearts in order to benefit from the Divine Banquet while we are the guests of One who perpetually and abundantly bestows with no expectation of any kind of return whatsoever. Two important areas we must work hard on are (1) Repentance (tawba) and (2) Acquiring knowledge about the secrets of the journey. These are factors that would enhance our receptivity and enable us accomplish a certain level of perfection. When we speak of tawba, the most important element that we should try to achieve is “the state of no return”. Regret should not be an emotional state that does not reap any fruit. It should rather act as a catalyst to overturn our deviant ways and change our states, so that we do not think of going back to sin. Understanding the secrets of hajj would make the journey very meaningful and if we are fortunate to have been given the succor to attain the desired preparation and readiness, we may achieve the apex of Hajj, which is human perfection and Divine proximity. One of the subtle meanings of the hadith of Imam al-Baqir ('a), ‘Min tamaamil Hajj liqaa’ al-Imam’ (The completion of Hajj is in meeting the Imam) is that the perfection and completeness of Hajj is in encountering the characteristics of the imam who is a perfect human being. In other words, the completeness of hajj is to exemplify the attributes of a perfect human being in oneself. Small wonder it is that one is able to achieve the purpose of Hajj through the ziyara of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) if one is in the state of knowledge of their sanctity and status.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


One of the well-known sacred traditions (hadith qudsi) that Imam al-Ridha (‘a) communicated to a great crowd in Nishapur who had asked him to narrate a hadith before his departure is ‘La ilaha illa Allah hisni wa man dakhala fi hisni amina min adhaabi' (La ilaha illa Allah is my fortress, and whosoever enters in it is safe from My punishment). Thereafter as the Imam (‘a)’s horse left, he called saying bi shurutiha, wa ana min shurutiha” (on [some] conditions and I am one of them). Exegetes of the tradition say that the Imam (‘a) here meant that his wilaya (guardianship) was an essential condition for La ilaha illa Allah to serve as a fortress. In simpler words, the true meaning of La ilaha illa Allah is not detached from the wilaya of the Imam (‘a). The latter rather is a part of the former. La ilaha illa Allah, is not merely a clause to be uttered but a program to be understood and adhered. If we look at it painstakingly we find that it is summed up in ‘tawalla’ and ‘tabarra’; in simple words, “La ilaha” alludes to seeking remoteness from all false gods, which include false beliefs and ideologies, false cultures, etc. and Illa Allah refers to affirming the source of all the attributes of perfection, and adhering to whatever He and His Messengers say. If one would like to expound the practicalization of this clause, he would say “fleeing from imperfection and running towards perfection” is what La ilaha illa Allah is all about. And in doing so, we need guidance. We cannot just seek the means of perfection from anyone chosen by the public or selected by someone who himself has to refer to those well-grounded in knowledge. The Holy Prophet (s) before departing this world clearly said that he leaves behind two weighty sources of guidance: The Book of Allah and the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), the latter being the epitomes of the former. They are the sources to tell us what would make us perfect and what would distance us from perfection. Obeying them therefore is in reality fulfilling a fundamental condition of the statement La ilaha illa Allah. Here I am transported to the beautiful poetry of the well-known saint Mu’in al-Din Chishti who says “Haqqa ke binaye la ilah ast Husayn” (Indeed Husayn is the edifice of “La ilaha”). In other words Imam al-Husayn (‘a) practically opposed and deserted all kind of deities other than Allah. And scholars of insight consider the ego and nafs to be umm al-asnaam (mother of all idols). Rumi in his Mathnawi alludes to this reality when he says, “Maadare buthaa bute nafse shumast” (the mother of idols is the idol of your nafs). In conclusion, we should try to realize that even the literalists vocally express the kalima. The challenge however is to understand its profound and accurate meaning, implication, and practical connotation, where they falter and make others follow suit. In several traditions, we are told, whosoever adheres to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) , who are the ships of salvation would always be protected from different kinds of dangers. May the Almighty enable us to persist in their ships so that we may finally reach the destination of the Only Beloved.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


[Pic: The radiant dome of Imam al-Ridha ('a) in the Holy City of Mashhad]
The first ten days of the lunar month of Dhul Qa’dah are celebrated in some Muslim countries like Iran as Daheye Karamat (ten days of nobility). This is because they start with the birthday of Hadhrat Ma’suma (‘a) on the 1st of Dhul Qa’da [173 AH] and meet with the birthday of her sibling, Imam al-Ridha (‘a) on the 11th [148 AH] of the same month. Both are epitomes of spiritual greatness and nobility. Their life histories are brim with lessons for us to learn and emulate. Celebrating such occasions is to remember their personalities and instill in us the spirit of obedience to Almighty Allah. When one beholds the tomb of Hadhrat Ma’suma (‘a) in the holy city of Qum, which in reality serves as its fundamental source of light, one should be overtaken with the purity it exemplifies. Her radiant shrine constantly echoes a very important message for all her lovers: protect yourself from sin and struggle for infallibility. She was known as al-Ma’suma by her infallible brother Imam al-Ridha (‘a) due to her immaculate personality. If we are receptive enough to absorb her message, we would struggle for purity. Celebration in reality is an act of commitment and pledge. We must resolve to flee from sin, in order to celebrate this occasion of joy. Imam al-Ridha (‘a) likewise gives a similar message but in another language: the language of Divine pleasure. The word al-Ridhaa connotes both al-Raadhi (the pleased one) and al-Mardhi (the one whom one is pleased with). In other words He is pleased with what Allah does, and Allah is pleased with Him. He thus enjoys the state of a contented soul (al-nafs al-mutma’inna), whose status is so high, that Almighty Allah addresses it thus: “O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! Then enter among My servants! And enter My paradise!” (89:27-30) The word “jannati” (my Paradise) in the verse refers to the loftiest kind of Paradise, which scholars of authority call “Jannat al-Liqa’” (the Paradise of encountering Allah). Such a station is what has to be experienced and words do not qualify to express. Fortunate are those who are able to visit the radiant shrines of Imam al-Ridha (‘a) and her noble sister Hadhrat Ma’suma (‘a). Mere visitation, however, is not enough. We need reflective minds who are able to draw a world of information by beholding such edifices of light, that can transport every receptive heart to the true meaning of belief, action, love, steadfastness, extinction in the Divine, absorption, revolution, emancipation, concern, etc.

Friday, November 16, 2007


As we approach the final moments of Friday, I recall my teenage days in the Holy city of Qum, when after having read about how some saints would recite two units of prayer and do istighfar, I would do the same. In those days, these prayers, I feel, had such a satisfying effect in my broken soul, that words are beyond expression. The last hour of Friday is so important that Hadhrat Fatima Zahra (‘a), the daughter of the Holy Prophet (s), would eagerly wait for this time in order to supplicate to the All-loving Beloved, who at each an every moment invites us all to His proximity. In our traditions it is termed as sa‘at al-ijaaba (the period of acceptance of prayer). Due to the eclipse of our hearts, we unfortunately are not able to receive Divine grace. Otherwise, the Bestower constantly bestows. We always recite the following prayer on Thursday evenings : “Ya Daa’imal Fadhli ‘ala al-Bariyya.” (O one who perpetually bestows grace on the creation.) There is a tradition, which reveals how constant are the opportunities of ijaaba (Divine acceptance), while we are in oblivion: The Holy Prophet (s) narrates a sacred tradition in which Almighty Allah says: 'Whosoever does something that breaks his wudhu, and then does not perform wudhu (minor ablution), surely He has turned away from Me; and whosoever does something that breaks his wudhu, and performs wudhu, but does not pray two units of prayer, then indeed He has turned away from Me; and whosoever does something that breaks his wudhu, performs wudhu, prays two units of prayer, and then supplicates to Me, and I do not accept His prayer for what He asks me of matters pertaining to his religion and the Hereafter, then I have turned away from him; and I am not a Lord who turns away.' Therefore let us humbly beseech Allah for “the receptivity” to change and totally transform our imaginal past before the opportunity of this life, whose final point we are not aware of, comes to an end, and regret is of not benefit to us.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Here is another important query. And this time it from a brother called Miqdad. Again, the benefit, I feel, would be for many, and thus I hereby present my answer to all the esteemed readers. The question first: "Where is the balance between arrogance and self-confidence? Or put it this way: when can I say I'm teaching him humility or destroying his self-esteem?" Clearly, as experience has shown, humility is built and transferred through humility. Likewise is the case with humiliation, which is transferred through humiliation. Humility, however, does not contradict self-confidence. A teacher or parent can interact with utter humility, yet instill self-confidence in the child. If the child, for example, fails in a subject, he can humbly introduce ways and means for the future improvement of the child, but confer confidence of getting good marks next time. Contrarily, he can reprimand the child and call him a failure, and dishearten and perhaps create despair in him. The process of transfer of habits is so beautifully depicted in a tradition of the Holy Prophet (s), who says that an offspring is a master (sayyid) for the first seven years, and then a slave ('abd) for another seven years, and finally a minister (wazir) for the third seven years. The reason why, exegetes of the tradition say, a child is a master (sayyid) for the first seven years, is that he must be obeyed and whatever he actually needs must be given to him. When he orders the parents, and the parents say “yes” and “ok” or substitute that with soft and kind words, they have practically taught him the lessons of obedience and soft spokenness. The child registers and understands all the reactions of his parents, and learns from them for the first seven years. At the age of eight, when the parents start requesting him to do things for them, he has already learnt the language of obedience and thus obeys them with no problems whatsoever. If he encounters some problem and cannot obey them, he explains to them in the soft language of love, or even introduces substitutes to what they require. In reality he has learnt his lesson for the first seven years well. Then after having had the practice of obedience for the seven years, he comes to a level of already knowing what His parents prefer and can therefore represent them in their absence. In this stage, without the father telling him to off the lights at 9:30 pm, for example, he runs to do so. This is because he already knows the likes and dislikes of his noble parents. Miqdad also asked, “How can I be sure that when I stand up for something, it is not out of arrogance, and if I don't stand up or say or do something, it is not because I don't believe in myself but rather out of humility.” I feel this is a matter of self-awareness and human intention. Both arrogance and humility have roots-causes and motivations. If one is able to decipher them, he would be able to know whether he is arrogant when he speaks up and humble when he is quiet. The definition of arrogance, however is so explicit, that many an arrogant person would clearly know about his arrogance. Arrogance is defined as “overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward inferiors” The feeling of pride and superiority is something that one presentially witnesses in his heart, and thus can well appreciate his arrogant stance. Many at times, however, humbleness and humility have been misinterpreted and mistaken with cowardice. If truth is attacked and one is powerful enough to support it, then the question of humility does not arise. Rather the sheer support of truth displays utter humility to truth. But support for the truth has to be done as taught by the truth, which sometimes requires diplocmacy, soft encounters, etc. before any kind of aggressive encounters.The subject is vast, and it has been comprehensively covered in books of ethics where the Divine scholars speak of the equilibrium of the faculties of the soul, which needs Divine help to distinguish. May the Almighty assist us in our noble endeavors.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


One of the esteemed readers of this blog wrote to me this morning asking me to expound more on the following statement of my previous writeup: “It is high time we try to decipher how some maladies of personality appear in our children!" In order to benefit the other esteemed readers as well I thought of responding to her important query as separate article: The natural course, I feel, would be first to identify the maladies that our children have thus far developed. Since we always interact with our children we know when exactly do they stumble. Do they keep their promises at home? Do they quote events exactly and with authority? Do their expressions manifest optimism or pessimism? Do they show bravery or cowardice in situations that can be handled by children of their age? Can they sift between an act of rashness and an act of bravery? Do most of their conversations display the color of hope or despair? What do their likes and dislikes portray? These are some of the very many keys to open the door of understanding them. Thereafter we should search for the causes of the negative traits in them. The first area of search is at home: How do we behave with them? Is our encounter humiliating or respectful? In cases of sound pollution, do we shout at them, or do we explain them the consequences of their behavior? Do we deprive them of their healthy likes or do we offer them substitutes? Do we praise them for their good works, even if their flaws cover them, or do we focus on their flaws and negative results? Do we entrust them with work that gradually instills confidence in them or do we undermine them? If we always struggle in the positive direction, and still find the negative traits, we should try to contemplate on their school environment: Who are his teachers? Who is his class teacher? Which teacher does he like the most? Why does he like the teacher? Who are the teachers he hates? Why does he hate them? Is he humiliated in the class by any teacher, because of which he has developed the malady of inferiority complex? Does his low grades and low level of cognition compel the teacher to encounter negatively with him? Who are his friends in class? Why does he like them? Who are his so-called enemies? What do they do? What does the teacher say about him? What does the teacher say about his friends? How do their friends support him? What are the complains of his so-called enemies? Does their information tally with the personality you encounter at home? How can I as an individual with very limited power and resources better the situation in the school? Will the school environment make my child to be respectable in future or despicable? Am I not religiously duty bound to facilitate a better educational environment for my child? These issues are so serious that if we do not attend to them now, future regret would be of no use. If at all we do observe such traits in our children that instead of developing them is literally crushing their personalities, we must immediately and seriously take steps for rectification. One of the motivating forces of training them as human beings is to understand that they are a replica of ourselves. Whatever they do substantially reflects us. These are some of my humble suggestions. The subject is vast, and the foundation starts in the warm laps of the forbearing mother who enjoys a spacious heart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sacrifice Personality for Mental Perfection?

Many parents, due to genuine limitations, prefer to send their children to schools where they can get both quality and affordable education. This undoubtedly is something that even the wealthy would prefer if they come to realize that their children would grow and develop in an environment which actively taps the different dimensions of their human potentials. Today a substantial number of schools actively concentrate on two fundamental dimensions which undoubtedly deserve the attention: (1) Mental abilities, and (2) Physical abilities. Other areas are not totally disregarded, but given marginal importance. When we speak of mental abilities, we refer to the abilities to focus one’s attention, retain what one has already learnt, analyze and compare the same, rephrase and produce it in one’s own words, etc. Most of the fundamental areas of the mental dimension are taken very seriously. With regard to physical perfection, facilitating the amenities of sports and physical exercise has become an important segment of nearly every school today. There is a fundamentally determining dimension, however, which if not tapped properly and actively, can facilitate the perpetual ruin of our children. Qualities such as authority, dignity, steadfastness, selflessness, etc. are traits that can either be developed or hampered in the aspiring student. The encounter of every teacher tremendously influences the student, especially because the latter is not facing a mere individual, but rather a small society which consists of the teacher and students of his age. A substantial number of maladies like inferiority complex, emotionally reactive behavior, lack of responsibility, lack of interest in education, etc. stem from such educational setups, which despite its fame of excellence portrays a Darwinic image of “the survival of the fittest” instead of the Muhammadan image of “the emancipation of the weakest”. The success of every school is determined not by its first grades and As, but rather its collective excellence. It is high time we try to decipher how some maladies of personality appear in our children!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007


Today I received a letter from one of the diligent Shaykhs from Canada, whom I had known in the Holy City of Qum where we both studied some years ago. In his letter he had attached a very beautiful picture of his library with his young daughter. The picture, which was symbolically revealing, reminded me of a tradition of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a), in which he said: "Al-banaatu hasanaat wal banuna ni’ma.” (Daughters are beautiful deeds and sons are blessings.) [Al-Kafi, v.6, p.6]. The hadith continues to say “...wa innama yuthabu ‘ala al-hasanaat wa yus’alu ‘an al-ni’ma” (...and indeed one is only rewarded for good deeds and interrogated for blessings) which reveals how fortunate the parents of female offsprings are. Firstly, since they are good, they produce good, and secondly, because they produce good they are rewarded. In monotheistic terms, Allah gifts them with a female offspring first and then rewards them again for having accepted the reward. The challenge however, is to “maintain” the identity of one’s female offspring as “hasana” (good deed). If we take things for granted and be lax in training our “cutie” little daughters by not giving them a suitable environment to develop in matters of cognition and morality, they can lose their identities and instead of “cuties” turn into “snooties”. According to mystic scholars, a woman has the potential to brilliantly manifest Divine Attributes of Beauty if she struggles and travels on the path to Allah. We as parents, therefore, must assist our daughters in this journey. How? In facilitating a foundation that would motivate them to aspire and struggle for Immaculate Beauty. How euphoric it is when one realizes that her daughter is the foundation of an entire radiant generation! In a hadith, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) explaining the verse “So We desired that their Lord should give them in exchange one better than him in respect of purity and closer in mercy” [18:81] says “[After the death of the child, Allah bestowed the parents with a female offspring from whom came seventy Prophets.” [Tafsir al-Burhan, v.3, p.656] Only a brilliant daughter can be the source of seventy Divine Prophets! This is how we should raise our cuties!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Enlighten Your Hearts, Don't Burn Them!!!

Divali or Deepavali is a Hindu Festival celebrated annually by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs throughout the world. The Sanskrit word Deepa [feminine of deep] means earthen lamps and the word avali means “a row”. Hence Deepavali which was later shortened as Divali literally means "rows of clay lamps". According to Hindus there are different stories affiliated to it, the mention of which is beyond the scope of this blog. The crux of the celebration, however, lies in “the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance”. In reality, therefore the cause of celebration stems from an innate attraction towards good and repulsion from evil, something which all the heavenly religions highly encourage. The way it is celebrated, however, is worthy of consideration: many people, as it is clearly witnessed, light fire crackers to enhance the festivity and joy of the occasion, or perhaps to symbolically reveal the “inner light” of the victory of good over evil. Past history, however, has clearly taught us the dangers and threats such fire crackers have on innocent people. So many have ended up in the hospital with incurable injuries. According to a recent report houses were burnt due to the use of such fire crackers. Besides all these, the disturbance caused in the neighborhood due to the sound pollution is inexpressible. If the Hindu nobles which are remembered in this occasion were present today, and they would witness the impact such sounds can have in young children, the old and the physically weak of the community, wouldn’t they have prohibited it and advised them to employ means that would instead of covering the true meaning of Deepavali, manifest it better? Furthermore, as the Hindu scholars believe, Deepavali is the celebration of "inner light". The human being must therefore light the inner lamp of his being. The most pathetic situation is that some Muslims likewise spend a lot of time and money to finally light these crackers and thereby crack the hearts of so many in the neighborhood. Some years back, when I lived in Daressalam and my son Muhammad Zaynul Abidin was very young, we had witnessed one of the most agonizing moments of our lives: people in our neighborhood, disregarding the impact these fireworks can have in children continually kept on cracking “their own hearts” and “extinguishing the inner light of their beings”. My family and I know what actual moments of fear our son, who was very young at that time, experienced, until he finally went to sleep. Is this truly Deepavali? Should we the Muslims encourage our children to light firecrackers and spend the night in wasting time and money, which if collected from all those Muslims who join in this celebration, can feed so many of the deprived people? Does it behoove of us to spend the night in cracking the hearts of others instead of lighting the lamp of our beings. The night, we are told, is a great opportunity for transformation. The Holy Qur’an says: "Indeed that which transpires at night is deeper in impression and better in harmony with one’s speech”

Friday, November 9, 2007


[Photo: Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli (right) Meets Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi]
One of the distinguished figures presently living in Mombasa is a Lebanese scholar by the name of Shaykh Baydhun who leads prayer in the Bahman Shi’a Mosque every day. He has a comely disposition, and my first encounter with him reminded me of a dictum I cannot forget: Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: “Call people [to the truth] without using your tongues.” In other words, our actions should the propagators of truth. When I shook hands with him, he never released his hands until I finally had to release mine. This, I said to myself, is a spirit that should always accompany every believer. Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni in his al-Kafi mentions a tradition worthy of consideration: Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said: “If a person shakes his hand with his companion, the one who adheres to the shaking receives greater reward than the one who releases his hand first. Indeed know that sins are erased between them, until no sin remains.[v.2, p.181]. On another note, a guest from Iran had recently visited Mombasa. He narrated an interesting incident that he had encountered with the late ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i. He said: Some months prior to his demise, I had the privilege of meeting the great philosopher ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i. After the meeting, We shook hands and he never released his hand from mine, [for he was waiting for me to release mine first]; Despite realizing this, I decided to do the same and kept on shaking his hands for some time, until a thought crossed my mind: “I might not get another opportunity to meet ‘Allama, and thus let me kiss his hands.” He said: “The moment this thought came to me, ‘Allama quickly withdrew his hand!!!’

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Yesterday my family was chatting with a friend from California. The latter had been a student in the Holy city of Qum some years ago. One of the most inspiring statements she had made in her conversation was “This year I am planning to go to Hajj and our visas are ready.” "Wow!" I said to my self. "How fast was that!" One of the most common remarks many of us make when asked whether we would be going for Hajj is “The sound of labbayk has not yet come. When it comes, we will go.” After I came to realize that it is we who must respond to the Divine Call of Hajj by saying “labbayk” in the miqat [the place where we wear our ihram], I would disregard such statements and consider them as ignorance, until one day when I found the philosophy of this common statement, which is aptly expressed in the Holy Qur’an and our traditions and beautifully expounded in philosophical and mystical works as well. Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi in his poetical masterpiece Mathnawi illustrates the reality with a beautiful anecdote. He says that one night a person started doing dhikr and calling “Ya Allah” for a long time. Satan, finding the opportunity, came to him and reprimanded him saying “What is wrong with you? Your calling Allah is of no use, for you have done that for a long time, but have not heard even one “labbayk!” as an answer from Him." This greatly discouraged the person and he was overcome by grief. Then he went into a swoon and saw Khidhr (‘a), who said to him: “Why did you stop saying Ya Allah?” The man replied that he had not heard even one labbayk as an answer from Allah and felt that he was rejected by Him. Khidhr (‘a) said to him: “God is telling you, "The "Ya Allah" of yours is the "labbayk" (Here I am) of Ours, and that need, pain, and burning of yours is in fact Our message to you. Your fear and love are the lasso for Our Grace: under every "O Allah" of yours are (the prior responses of) "Here I am" (from Us). In simple words, Khidhr ('a) was trying to explain to the man that it is Allah who inspires, motivates, and enables one to begin to say "Ya Allah". Therefore, in reality He already has responded long before our call. What better response are we after? In the brilliant supplication of ‘Arafa of Imam al-Husayn (‘a), we cry to Allah, “Anta al-Dhakir qabla al-Dhakirin…” (You are the Rememberer before your rememberers). In other words “You remember them so that they may remember You”

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


[Photo: Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli, the great contemporary exegete of Qur'an]
One of the remarkable scenarios I recently witnessed in Mombasa’s esteemed Jaffery Academy is that two of our brilliant young boys would engage in long prostrations after zuhrayn prayers. Indeed, I said to my self, this is the age when such prostrations must start. ‘Ibada (worship) is not for a later age. When a youth lives a life of sincerity and prostrates in this way, Almighty Allah is proud of him near His angels. And the Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: ‘Whosoever worships Allah well during his youth age, Allah would place wisdom in him during his old age.’ If we consider the past of all the noble people of the world, we would observe that they treasured their precious opportunity of youth age and spent every moment constructively. Sajda, we must appreciate, is the peak and zenith of the human journey to Almighty Allah. Those who pray out of presential knowledge and wisdom, literally behold that nothing save the Infinite One whose very existence cannot accept a second, exists. The ladder is before us. All we have to do is exercise in order to be able to climb it and attain Divine proximity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


[[Photo: 'Allama al-Tabataba'i]
Constructive contemplation followed by appropriate action can salvage the human being for a very long time. One of the inspiring dictums narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) reads: “An hour’s contemplation is better than a year’s worship.” If one reflects on the transient and passing nature of this world, and how people after enjoying a good number of years have eventually to depart and emigrate to their graves, he may overhaul himself and change his attitude and prepare for the next world. Reflection of “how one’s past has ruined one’s present”, “how one can derive the utmost from the limited opportunity of his life”, “what is the best intention for every action and worship?” are some keys that can open perpetual doors of happiness and salvation. That worship that is directed by constructive contemplation and accompanied by attention would abundantly reap spiritual benefits. In sharp contrast, excessive worship without a strong foundation and base is remote from its very purpose.

Monday, November 5, 2007


One of the most excellent traditions of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq ('a) reads: “The possessor of intellect (al-aaqil) is one who does not consider anyone as insignificant.” Indeed the radiance of these words penetrate the depths of our hearts, and make us understand two significant realities: (1) The meaning of being intellectual ('aaqil). To be intellectual is not simply to theoretically decipher the truth, but also to practicalize the same. In another tradition, when asked about the meaning of intellect ('aql), Imam al-Sadiq ('a) said: "Intellect is that with which the All-Beneficent is worshipped, and by which Gardens of paradise are attained". (2) Every human being is worthy of esteem and worship. The Holy Qur'an says: "Indeed we ennobled (karramna) the children of Adam...[17:70]". Hence the human being in essence is made worthy of respect and veneration. To guage people, therefore, according to man-made criteria is to undermine the integrity of Divine law. Unless, however, the human being himself loses his identity and degenerates to animal or plant life. Such people lose their respect due to their intentional loss of human identity. Superiority and excellence, however, is weighed according to how careful one is before God. The Holy Qur'an says: "...Indeed the most noble (akramakum) among you is the most God-wary...[49:13]". In fact one who is God-conscious would be so caring for others that every one would naturally show humility before such a figure.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Friday is an opportunity which has no equal in the entire week. Every moment of this day is precious. Every good action therein is multiplied, for the treasure of Almighty Allah can never be exhausted. Let us therefore appreciate this blessing and engage in the dhikr (remembrance) of Allah to which the Holy Qur’an emphatically invites us. It employs the expression "fas'aw ila dhikrillah" (then struggle toward the remembrance of Allah). One of the subtle interpretations of the verse, “O you who have faith! When the call is made for prayer on Friday, hurry toward the remembrance of Allah, and leave all business. That is better for you, should you know.(62:9)” is that ‘to leave business’ not only refers to physical transactions but also spiritual transactions, when the human being prays in anticipation of reward from Allah. In the words of Imam ‘Ali (‘a), “I did not worship you in fear of your Hell Fire, nor in anticipation of Your reward, but found You worthy of worship, and thus did I worship You”. Hence, let us indulge ourselves in the remembrance of the Absolutely Beautiful Beloved “for Him” and not “for food, clothes, amenities of life, Hereafter reward, etc.” This is a key for every kind of remembrance of Allah. It should however be known that if there is true remembrance of Allah in prayer then a practical transformation would follow; otherwise, it would be nothing but the “movement of the tongue and the limbs”. We pray to Almighty Allah to enable us take the right steps in life.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


The Holy Qur’an says: ‘Then let the human being look at his food!!!’ [80:24]. One of the brilliant principles that can positively regulate and direct our lives is the relationship between the human body and the human spirit. Unlike the proponents of Dualism, who consider the human being to be a dichotomy of spirit and body such that there is no kind of interaction whatsoever between the two, theosophers of insight hold that the human body is a lower manifestation of his spirit, and the latter is a perfected level of the former. In fact the spirit was born succeeding the movement of perfection of the human body. The Holy Qur’an alludes to this reality in [23:14]. Therefore there exists a unity between the body and the spirit, and whatever happens to the body affects the spirit, and vice versa. Small wonder it is that various traditions emphasize, the quality, quantity and the source of the food that we consume. For example, in one of the traditions we are notified and told that the influence left by earning unlawful sustenance are so far reaching that they also affect our “progeny” too [Al-Kafi, v.5, p.125]. The contemporary master of 'Irfan Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli (may Allah protect him and elevate his status) in one of his masterpiece works Surat wa Sirate Insan Dar Qur’an tells us that never can unlawful food and drink turn into sound intellectual reasoning and theoretical gnosis, thus indicating the link between “physical food” and “metaphysical thought” [Ref:, p.23-24]. Dear readers, this nondescript has availed you with a principle that if observed would facilitate your salvation in this world and the Hereafter.


Scholars of insight define “recitation” as “existential absorption”. In a prophetic tradition we are told that ‘On the Judgment Day” (which in actuality is the higher reality of this very low realm of existence) the reciter of the Holy Qur’an would be told, “Iqra’ warqa” (Read and ascend) denoting the process of how reading is a force of absorption. In simple words, “to read a verse of the Qur’an” is to “absorb” the verse, and thereby ascend. There are many traditions mentioned about the merits of reading different chapters of the Qur’an. One of the principal keys that can open the locks of ambiguity of how “mere recitation” can bring about unimaginable benefits, is this very radiant tradition: “Read and ascend!” Otherwise constant recitation without spiritual absorption, realization and practicalization, would render us far from the main purpose of the Qur’an.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Consider not “who” said it, but rather “what” is being said. This is one of the brilliant dictums of Imam ‘Ali (‘a)- the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Despite its brevity in encapsulates the key to access the vast treasures of knowledge. It literally unlocks the prejudice of so many people, and emancipates them from the dungeon of partial judgment.


At the moment my ears are embraced by the sound of abundant rain in the Island of Mombasa. Rain is a manifestation of the All-Embracing Mercy of the Only Beloved. Despite the mischief and disbelief of so many of His creation, the All-Beloved constantly embraces them with His Mercy. So long as the arrogant disbelievers subsist in this macrocosm, the All-Merciful perpetually hugs them this way, thus availing them the opportunity to wake up. Is there any one to wake up?

Monday, October 29, 2007


So long as we lurk in the darkness of oblivion, Divine Oneness would always be misconstrued. It needs self-effacement to Realize Oneness. Hence we are advised to "die before we die"; in other words, we are told: "strip off the illusory veils from your hearts to behold the Only Beloved Who WAS while nothing was with Him and IS NOW as He WAS.


If you would like the vestibules of comprehension that God has bestowed you with, to develop, the key to its door is: "Use every vestibule (eyes, ears, etc.) for the purpose it was given." This is a guarantee!!! (Holy Qur'an, 14:7). Observe that there are people who even at the age of 80s and 90s or above that, have a powerful mind. How? By luck? O O, "luck" in the crux of its meaning is a non-entity. The answer is: "Struggle and right usage!!!!"


If one is able to control his passion, anger, and imagination, by the bridle of his intellect and direct them for his physical and spiritual advantage, one would always be the most prosperous. All the selfish wars, mischief, disturbances, etc. caused by people return to the mismanagement and disequilibrium of these faculties. This is a word which serves as a principle for those who have minds to reflect!!!


"The bravest is one who can control his anger." This is one of the beautiful dictums of a great man whose name is "Loftiness". If we reflect a little on it, we would come to realize how powerful a statement it is. Usually bravery is established in front of an outer enemy. What if the enemy would like to attack from within? This is when it becomes most challenging!! If the attacker is human anger, and we are able to arrest and render it subservient, we would have practically established our bravery and courageousness. This is because the enemy is right inside "us"!!!!