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.

Friday, July 11, 2008


On Wednesday night, the 9th of July, the holy city of Qum, rather the entire Shi‘a world, lost one of its powerful scholars, who practically lived a life of knowledge and action. Ayatullah ‘Ali Panah Ishtihardi (may Allah elevate his spirit) left this mortal world at the age of 87 after having developed himself spiritually and journeyed through the realms of perfection. He was well-known for his utter humility and excellent morals. Some years ago, I had the privilege of studying a section of Shahid al-Thani’s excellent commentary on the brilliant text of Islamic jurisprudence called al-Lum‘a al-Dimishqiyya with this great sage. Despite his old age, his encounter was like a youth who was extremely astute and full of vigor. Seminarians would gather around him due to his approachable demeanor. Ayatullah ‘Ali Panah Ishtihardi would lead Maghrib and ‘Isha prayer in the well-known Seminary in Qum called Faydhiyya. After having led Maghrib prayer, the Only Beloved invited this great lover to meet Him. He encountered a heart attack, and despite being taken to the Kamkar hospital, he never resisted in responding to the call of the Only Beloved. When one would look at this sage, he would conclude: despite his earthly presence, he was a sage of the realm beyond. We express our heartfelt condolences to our twelfth holy Imam (‘a) on the loss of this fundamental pillar.


According to Islamic cosmology, the universe is not reduced to corporeal and material existence but rather consists of different levels of existence. These levels are closely interrelated and mutually united. Any phenomenon that transpires in the lower realm of existence has a repercussion in the higher level of existence. The lowest level of existence is called al-dunya (fem. gender of al-adna which literally means ‘the lowest’). According to a tradition narrated from Amir al-mu’minin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (‘a), the dunya was known as al-dunya “li annahaa adnaa min kulli shay” (because it is lower than every thing) (Shaykh al-Saduq, ‘Ilal al-Sharayi’, v.1, pp. 1-2). The intermediate level of existence which in reality also encompasses the lowest level, is known in Qur’anic terminology (23:100) as barzakh (barrier), for it serves as a barrier between the lowest of the realms of existence (al-dunya) and the level beyond which the Holy Qur’an terms as al-qiyama (the realm of resurrection). Qiyama therefore is a much higher reality of the dunya than barzakh. It is not a separate parallel realm of existence however, that comes after the end of this world in terms of time as the common man conjectures. Human beings endowed with sharp insight, depending on their level of self-purification and self-development, not only comprehend this material world, but can pierce the veils and vision the levels of barzakh or even beyond. The Holy Prophet (s) and his infallible progeny would tangibly see the reality of sin as fire, and thus would naturally refrain from the same. Although many of us cannot vision our higher states of barzakh and qiyama, if the curtains of material existence are unveiled, we would behold our awful state. No wonder, we clearly seek release from Hell Fire in so many supplications that we recite. We do not seek protection of Hell Fire on the Judgment Day but emancipation from Hell Fire now and here. In the well-known supplication of Jawshan al-Kabir, for example, we employ the phrase ‘khallisna min al-naari yaa Rabb’ (release me from Hell Fire, O Lord’. With this integral principle in mind, let us struggle to release ourselves from the trouble of barzakh and beyond and extinguish the fire we have ignited, through the water of tawba and istighfar (seeking forgiveness).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Months of Spiritual Upliftment

As we embrace the holy month of Rajab al-Murajjab, a group of concerned Muslims throughout the world begin their program of self-purification and self-development. If one tries to study the supplications that the Holy Prophet (s) and his infallible progeny (‘a) would constantly recite in the months of Rajab and Sha’ban, one would realize the fundamental importance of these months: these two months actually serve as preparatory months for the actual Divine feast of the Holy Month of Ramadhan. The Holy Month of Ramadhan thereafter naturally becomes ‘eid (lit. from ‘awd which means “to return” to one’s innate God-seeking nature) for those who were successful in preparing themselves. Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (‘a) in his brilliant prayer manual al-Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya, while bidding farewell to the Holy Month of Ramadhan, addresses the month of Ramadhan as Eid of the Friends of Allah. He says: “Assalamu ‘alayka ya shahra Allahi al-akbar wa ya ida awliyaa’ihi” (Peace be unto you O the greatest Month of Allah and the eid of His close servants). The majority however start their program of self-purification in the Holy Month of Ramadhan. Due to their unprepared state, they cannot enjoy the true spiritual repast that Almighty Allah has prepared for the believers. As a result, the day of eid only serves a day of material enjoyment. They do not comprehend the spiritual state of Return which eid actually manifests. We must therefore ask ourselves whether we would like to be among the minority who can really enjoy the actual spiritual Divine banquet that Allah has prepared for those who have struggled to make themselves spiritually receptive, or the majority, who gain very less due to their laxity and unreceptive nature? The days of this transient life are unpredictable for so many of us. The best resolution therefore would be to start “now”.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


There are ample traditions that characterize the believers (mu’mins) with sweetness and love for sweetness. Following are some examples worthy of reflection: The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: (1) A believer is sweet (al-mu’minu hulwun), and loves sweetness (yuhibbu al-halaawa) [Bihaar al-Anwaar, v.63, p. 285] (2) The heart of a believer is sweet (qalb al-mu’minu hulwun) and it loves sweetness (wa yuhibbu al-halaawa) [Bihaar al-Anwaar, v.59, p. 295] (3) A believer is like a bee (al-mu’mninu ka al-nahla): it eats pleasant food, and provides pleasant food. And Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is reported to have said: (4) Our true followers are like bees (Shi’atuna bimanzilat al-nahl); if people would know what is in their stomachs, they would have eaten the same (law ya’lam al-nas maa fi ajwaafiha la akaluha) [Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-Khisal]. If we reflect over these traditions with a broad sense of vision, we would come to realize that the entire being of a faithful believer is sweet. In the same way that Amir al-mu’minun ‘Ali (‘a) says that some parts of the Qur’an explain others, the words of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), which are commentaries of Allah’s Book, likewise are explained with the help of their other statements. This is because akin to the infallible Book wherein there is no contradiction, the words of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) likewise have no contradiction. Therefore in order to understand their words, we must not look at some of their words and discard others. In our case, due to our intense material tendency, we only try to comprehend sweetness as that which our faculties of taste can appreciate and comprehend. If we were to consider the fundamental dimension of the human being, which is his spirit, the aforementioned traditions would become clearer for us to understand. We must know that the veil of ignorance is from our side, and not from the radiant words of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), about which we express in Ziyarat al-Jami’a as ‘Kalaamukum noor’ (your words are light). Browsing through the brilliant corpus of the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) we come to understand that there is a sparkling realm of sweetness yet to be discovered. Consider the following narrations: (1) In one of his sermons narrated in Nahj al-Balagha Imam ‘Ali (‘a) describing exalted people says: “Indeed they have tasted the sweetness of knowing Him” [qad dhaaqu halaawata ma’rifatihi) (2) Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: “When a believer withdraws himself from the world he soars spiritually high and tastes the sweetness of the love of Allah” (idhaa takhalla al-mu’minu min al-dunya samaa wa wajada halawata hubbillah) (3) Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: Justice is sweeter than water that a thirsty person gets (al-‘adlu ahlaa min al-maa’i yusibuhu al-zam’aan) [Al-Kafi, v.2, p. 146], (4) In one of the brilliant supplications of Imam al-Sajjad (‘a) he prays to Allah “And make me taste the sweetness of Your forgiveness” (wa adhiqni halaawata maghfiratik) [Al-Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya, p. 103] (5) In yet another supplication, Imam al-Sajjad (‘a) prays to Allah: “And make us taste the sweetness of Your constant love and proximity” (wa adhiqna halawata wuddika wa qurbika) [Al-Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya, p. 411] (6) In a tradition Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: “And whosoever from among the umma of Muhammad (s) knows the compulsory right of his Imam, would find the taste of the sweetness of his faith” (faman ‘arafa min ummati Muhammad (s) waajiba haqqi Imamihi wajada ta’ma halaawati imaanihi) [Basaa’ir al-Darajaat, pp. 432-433] (7) In a conversation with Prophet Dawud (‘a) Almighty Allah speaking of the worldly scholars, says: ‘The least I will do to them is that I will remove the sweetness of munajat from their hearts” (inna adna ma ana saani’un bihim an anza’a halaawata munaajaati ‘an quloobihim). (8) In the well-known Du‘a Jawshan al-Kabir we address Almighty Allah as “O One whose remembrance is sweet” (yaa man dhikruhu hulwun) [Mafatih al-Jinaan, p.93].Therefore as it is correct in the physical plane of existence to say that a believer naturally loves to eat sweet things, it is correct to say in the plane of his spirit that he loves spiritual sweetness. What literally jerks a human being is when a youth of tender age like Qasim bin al-Hasan (‘a) who deeply aspires for martyrdom is asked by uncle, Sayyid al-Shuhada (‘a), “O my dear son, how is death to you?”, he responds, “Yaa ‘amm ahla min al-‘asal” (O uncle, it is sweeter than honey!). [Madinat al-Ma’aajiz, v.4, p. 228]. This clearly reveals how exalted a station had this young boy achieved.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Munajat is a conversation between the lover and the Beloved. It is therefore no ordinary kind of conversation. It is a mutual conversation that entails secrecy and intimacy. Only those who are close to each other secretly whisper to one another. Our holy traditions introduce the canonical prayer as munajat. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: “O mankind surely when the worshipper (musalli) prays, he whispers (yunaaji) unto his Blessed and Almighty Lord; therefore he must know that with which he whispers.” Whispering to Allah is a phenomenon both encouraged as well as understood. However, very few qualify to be whispered by Allah. Imam al-Sadiq ('a) is reported to have said: "When the Prophet (s) was taken for the nocturnal ascent (mi'raj) and he reached the station where Almighty Allah wanted him to, his Lord Whispered to him." [Bihar al-Anwar, v.18, p.341]. Jabir bin 'Abdillah al-Ansari narrates that the Holy Prophet (s) called Ali ('a) in the battle of Ta'if, and whispered to him. So the people complained and said 'The Prophet (s) whispered to Ali alone, and did not whisper to us.’ Thereupon the Prophet (s) stood and praised Allah and said: ‘O people, surely you claim that I whispered to 'Ali; I swear by Allah, I did not whisper to him; rather it is Allah Who Whispered to Him.’ [Bihar al-Anwar, v. 39, p. 153]. These were examples of the infallibles, for whom such states are understandable. Can other human beings too attain a level in which they have the privilege of being whispered by Almighty Allah? Imam 'Ali ('a) is reported to have said: “In all the periods and times when there were no prophets, there have been persons with whom Allah, precious are His bounties, whispered in their hearts and spoke in the essence of their intellects”. Therefore it is feasible for other human beings to experience such moments of ecstasy as well. One of the instances that raises a person so high that Allah whispers to him is when one sincerely embarks to visit the grave of Imam al-Husayn ('a). If he enjoys sufficient receptivity, he would have the privilege of being whispered by his All-Beloved Creator. Imam al-Sadiq ('a) is reported to have said: “Surely when a person comes out to visit the grave of al-Husayn ('a), for the first step that he takes when leaving his family, his sins are forgiven; thereafter for every step that he takes, he is sanctified until he comes to the grave. When he reaches al-Husayn's grave, Allah Whispers to him, and Says: My Servant, ask Me, and I shall give you, and call me and I shall respond to your call…[Wasa'il al-Shi'a, v.14, p.420]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Understanding the Etiquette of Greeting

In different Muslim societies when the day of 'Ashura (10th Muharram) is commemorated, a substantial number of people are clad in black clothes, and as advised by the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a), are overcome by sorrow. We are also told by Imam al-Sadiq ('a) to meet our people with the expression "May Allah magnify our reward due to our calamity because of what happened to Imam al-Husayn ('a)…" This however does in no way absolve us to greet or respond to the greeting of those who sincerely say "Salamun 'Alaikum". According to the strict Islamic Shari'a, whosoever among the Muslims greets you with peace then respond with a better greeting of peace or repeat the same (4:86). One who does not do so is religiously reprehensible and sinful as well. Don't we realize that on the very day of 'Ashura, we employ the same greeting for Abu 'Abdillah al-Husayn ('a), saying "Assalamu 'alayka yaa Aba 'Abdillah…" An innocent and sincere brother happened to meet one of my acquaintances on the day of 'Ashura, and when the latter greeted him with "Salamun 'Alaikum", instead of responding to the greeting, he loudly said "Azzamallahu Ujurana…" Indeed his intentions were undoubtedly pure, but his response was incorrect. He would have responded with 'Wa 'alaikum Salam…" and then have expressed his condolences "Azzamallahu…." which is highly recommended. In fact this is how we express our condolences to the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) in the well-known Ziyarat of Ta'ziya that we recite on Ashura Day. We first express salam "Asslamu 'alayka Yaa Rasulallah" (Peace be unto you O Messenger of Allah) and then continue with "Ahsana Allahu laka al-'Azaa' fi waladika al-Husayn" (May Allah grant you the best of consolation on [the loss of] your son Husayn). Notice "first salam" and then "condolences". It is important for us to understand the whyness and whatness of sorrow and express the same as it must be expressed. All the ambiguities clear out when we understand who are we missing and what are we missing him for?


One of the beautiful dictums narrated from Amir al-Mu’minin (‘a), is "Irham turham" (have mercy and you shall get mercy). This informs us that if we are merciful to people, a time would come that people would be merciful to us. Other traditions also have similar demonstrations about this reality. However, most of us, due to our limited consciousness that is habituated to vision the action ('amal) and retribution (jazaa') as separate entities, always anticipate to see two different phenomena to understand this reality. For example, when we are told "have mercy, and you shall get mercy" we feel that if we show mercy, a time will come when we would be in trouble and others will show mercy on us. Obviously this is correct. However, there is another deeper and loftier understanding of this tradition, which considers the action to be the very retribution. When we say 'Irham, turham" (have mercy and you will get mercy) we are speaking of a single phenomenon that establishes both one's bestowal as well as reception of mercy at the same time. In clearer words, by having mercy on others you are actually receiving mercy yourself". And what greater mercy can one anticipate when he is able to bestow mercy on others! One needs to be loftier to be merciful than to receive mercy. Our aspirations, however, must be more exalted: we must yearn to unite with Imam al-Husayn ('a) and manifest the All-embracing mercy of Almighty Allah. This is what the Imam ('a) manifested. And that is why we address him as: Ya Rahmatallah al-Waasi'a (O the Comprehensive Mercy of Allah)…"

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Ecstatic Dimension of Karbala [Part 2]

Have we ever wondered why we praise Allah for the calamities that befell the warriors of Karbala as we conclude the sacred ziyaara of ‘Ashura? We say: Allahumma laka al-hamdu hamda al-shaakirini laka ‘ala musaabihim; alhamdu lilLahi ‘ala ‘azeemi raziyyati… (O Allah, praise be to You, the praise of those who thank You, for the calamities that befell them (the martyrs). Praise be to Allah, for my great loss…” One of the possible interpretations of these brilliant verses is that we praise and thank Allah for having conferred Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his companions the succor of bearing the great calamities that befell them. Another interpretation is to thank Allah for the kernel and reality of these calamities, which as the daughter of Ali al-Murtadha (‘a) explicitly said, was nothing save beauty. Consequently, it is a call for every reciter of this ziyara to spiritually prepare himself to appreciate this reality in order to be able to naturally express the same. Whereas undoubtedly Bibi Zaynab (‘a) did encounter the hardships of this material world and tangibly felt the same, her penetrating spirit, understood how victorious her brother and the valiant martyrs of Karbala were. Therefore one should not misconceive and think that there is no need for us to mourn and lament for what transpired in the plains of Karbala. Rather, as the 12th Holy Imam (‘a) is reported to have said in his well-known Ziyarat al-Naahiya: “…I will, therefore, lament you morning and evening, and will weep blood in place of tears, out of my anguish for you and my sorrow for all that befell you, until I meet death from the pain of the catastrophe and the choking grief…”. In fact there are many traditions that encourage us to weep and lament, and thus we should remove the misconception from our minds. However, what is important for us to realize is that, as expounded by the Holy Qur’an, traditions of the Ahl al-bayt (‘a), and Divine theosophy, the world of reality consists of a hierarchy of existence, and the result of what transpires in the lower realms is exhibited in the higher realms. Karbala had visionaries who could comprehend this tangibly. In one of the salutational recitations (ziyaraat) we address them saying: ‘…I bear witness that most surely Allah unveiled for you the curtain….’ And in a tradition Imam Husayn (‘a) reports that the Holy Prophet (s) said to him: “…And surely you shall be martyred there (in Karbala) together with a group among your companions who would not sense the pain of the touch of iron. Then he read the verse: ‘O Fire, be cool and peaceful for Ibrahim (21:69)’. The war [similarly] will be cool and peaceful on you and them.” Small wonder it is that some traditions clearly indicate that the martyrs of Karbala would warmly welcome the arrows that were rained at them. Again one must not misconstrue and think that the companions were death lovers per se. It was rather their unwavering stance of not submitting to Yazid and his forces that brought them to the state of confronting death, which when they encountered was “sweeter than honey”. In the well-known Ziyarat Waarith we employ expressions such as Ahibbaa’ Allah (heart lovers of Allah) and Awidda’ Allah (constant lovers of Allah) for them. They were virtually drunk and intoxicated with the wine of Divine love. It seems that the cup-bearer (saaqi) constantly availed them with sips of sharaaban tahoora (wine of purity). The Holy Qur’an speaks of the near ones that, “Wa saqaahum Rabbuhum sharaaban tahoora” (And their Lord made them drink a pure sharaab (76:21)). According to a tradition narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) this pure drink is such that “yutahhiruhum ‘an kulli shay’in ma siwa Allah” (it purifies them from everything other than Allah). If Allah himself is the intoxicator (saqaahum Rabbuhum), when would the lover ever return to the state of consciousness? Here I am transported to the brilliant poetry of Mulla Ahmad Narraqi in his poetical masterpiece Mathnawiye Taaqdees when speaking about the great spiritual state of annihilation in God (al-fana fi Allah): In fanaaye bande dar mawla buwad (this is the annihilation of the servant in his Master); In fanaa az sad baqaa awla buwad (this annihilation is better than hundred kinds of subsistence); Fahme un khwaahi boro taa Karbala (if you would like to know the reality of this then go to Karbala) [Mathnawiye Taaqdees, p.273]. Al-Naraaqi would like to tell us that the most suitable arena for this kind of exalted spiritual state of beholding the fact that only the Beloved Exists, is Karbala. In the end I would like to quote the words of Ayatullah Maliki Tabriz¢ about the bilateral experience of Sayyid al-Shuhada. He says in his Al-Muraqibat that although Imam al-Husayn (‘a) was apparently struck with such injuries that no Prophet, Divine Successor, or human being, is heard to have encountered, such as his thirst which cannot be intellectually apprehended, his spirit would experience, the delights of the manifestations of the lights of Divine Beauty and the Revelation of Divine Majesty, as well as the eagerness to meet and reach the proximity of God. All this would diminish those difficulties; rather, it would change their severity into pleasure.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Ecstatic Dimension of Karbala [Part 1]

One very important dimension of the Institution of Karbala overlooked by so many of us is its spiritual dimension. Scholars of gnosis (‘irfaan) however have contemplated over this dimension and narrated so much for us to learn and benefit. In order to make us closer to tangibly perceive the inner dimension of the Karbala event, perhaps the most eloquent revelation is that of Hadhrat Zaynab (‘a), the daughter of Imam ‘Ali (‘a) when asked by Ibn Ziyad how Allah dealt with her brother (Husayn ('a)) and family. It is narrated that when this was asked, she said: Maa ra’aytu illa jameela (“I did not vision save beauty”). O Zaynab (‘a), when we narrate the tragedy of Karbala nothing but sorrow develops and increases in our hearts. What other version of Karbala do you have? What beauty is this that whereas you were able to comprehend, most of the narrators of the tragic incident were in oblivion? It is here when we come to realize that beyond this material realm of plurality and conflict (tazaahum), is a realm of unity, harmony, love and beauty which can only be perceived by those who are spiritually united with that realm. Sayyid Muhammad Husayn al-Tehrani in his Spirit Immaterial (Ruhe Mujarrad) quotes his mentor in ‘irfaan (Divine gnosis), Sayyid Haddad al-Musawi to have said: “Ashura is a day of which if only a fraction were to be unveiled for the spiritual wayfarers and ardent lovers, it would keep them in a state of bewilderment out of extreme ecstasy until the end of their lives, and they would fall into the state of prostration until the judgment day, out of gratitude to Allah.” (http://www.maarefislam.com/). Here is Zaynab (‘a) with a lofty spirit, and here is Karbala with all the different calamities. Whereas others beheld what apparently transpired, her penetrating vision tore the veils of this transient realm and apprehended the kernel which according to her was nothing save beauty. She was of a personality who would tangibly understand and experience the prophetic tradition “Paradise is under the shadows of swords” (Al-jannatu tahta zilaal al-suyoof). She had complete realization of her father’s statement “calamities are bestowals of Allah” (Al-masaa’ibu minhun min Allah”)

To be continued soon Insha Allah…

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ali al-Murtadha Karrama Allahu Wajhahu

One of the most spectacular experiences of my recent journey to the Masjid al-Haraam [Dec 2007] was to behold the pillar opposite the door of the Ka’ba adjacent to the women’s entrance of the place where the water of the spring well of Zamazam is drawn. The inscription on the pole was so symbolically revealing that I thought of taking a picture of the same. It read “Ali al-Murtadha karrama Allahu wajhahu”. The entire inscription contained a world of meaning to me. Unlike the names of the other sahaba (companions of the Holy Prophet (s)) inscribed on other poles of the environs of the Sacred Haram, wherever the name ‘Ali came, I found it to be followed by al-Murtadha and karrama Allahu wajhahu. Ibn ‘Abbas is reported to have said that Imam ‘Ali (‘a) was known as al-Murtadha because he would follow what Allah and His Messenger is pleased with in all is matters. In other words, Allah’s pleasure would be his pleasure. And one who has attained such a lofty station, Allah is already pleased (raadhi) with him. Perhaps the most succinct expression so far used is that of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) when he says “Ridha Allah Ridhaana Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)” (the pleasure of Allah is our pleasure- the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)). In fact, ontologically speaking, it is Allah Himself who confers the succor of ridhaa (pleasure) to His servant. Therefore, in this case, when Allah is already pleased with His servant, there is no need to supplicate and say “radhiya Allahu ‘anhu” (may Allah be pleased with him) after his name. What is unique about that is whereas in the case of the other sahaba the prayer “radhiya Allahu ‘anhu” (may Allah be pleased with him) is always mentioned, al-Murtadha reveals that the prayer has already been accepted and that Imam ‘Ali is already one with whom Allah is pleased. And the phrase karrama Allahu wajhahu testifies that Imam ‘Ali (lit. exalted) never bowed down before any idol. It should be noted however, that unlike “radhiya Allahu ‘anhu”,“karrama Allahu wajhahu” is not a supplication but a declaration and narration. It means “Allah ennobled his complexion (from bowing down to any idol (‘an an yasjuda lisanam))” and not “May Allah ennoble his complexion”. However, if we are speaking of higher levels of karama (nobility) then there is no problem. This is because only Allah (swt) is al-Karim al-Mutlaq (the Absolute Noble One), and the path to His Nobility is endless. What is so symbolic about this picture is that it is adjacent to the Masqa (place where one’s thirst is quenched) of Zamzam: In the way we witness the water place of Zamzam adjacent to the pole that manifests ‘Ali (‘a), we shall Insha Allah witness Imam ‘Ali (‘a) beside the water place of kawthar on the Judgment Day. Rather for people of inner revelation and insight, the Day of Judgment is not a parallel plane of existence that would follow this world, but a higher plane of existence to appear for those who due to the veils of the hearts are devoid of the penetrating vision. O the offspring of Ka’ba, this is an ecstatic moment for this nondescript!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Pigeon of Haram

Kabutar-e-Haram- Ahmad Abdollahzadeh- wrote to me through the Lisan Scratch Pad Blog, and suggested that I should have a look at his weblog [http://www.pigeonofharam.blogspot.com/], which I enthusiastically did and benefited as well. What pierced the depths of my heart is his brilliant epithet of being a pigeon of the Haram. By Haram (sanctuary) here he meant the Haram of Imam al-Ridha (‘a) in the holy precincts of Mashhad-Iran, whose brilliance can only be appreciated by those with receptivity. What was remarkable of him was that in his Persian weblog he said that he called himself a pigeon of haram if the Imam (‘a) did accept this title. These, I sincerely feel, must be the pure sentiments of a true lover who relatively understands the exalted character of Imam al-Ridha (‘a), and the privilege of being able to be called a kabutar-e-haram. I am transported here to my days in Qum when my family and I were pigeons of the haram as well. We had rented a small house near the haram of Hadhrat Ma’suma (‘a) in Qum, which once upon a time belonged to the author of Mafaatih al-Jinan, Shaykh ‘Abbas Qummi. So brilliant and serene was our stay in that house, that I feel that we have had no similar experience in our lifetime. It is in that house that I began the first volume of the book Manifestations of the All-Merciful. It took a very small period of time to complete the entire book, which in the beginning was in the form of an ezine called Horizons of Thoughts. Being a kabutar-e-haram is indeed recommended and highly advantageous, but being the haram itself has greater excellence. Living in the proximity of the harams and beholding the magnificent structures of monotheism must constantly inculcate in our beings the lesson of being a haram itself. The Holy Qur’an introduces a group of people whom the angels are attracted to. The angels are privileged to be the kabutars of their harams, which is their hearts. The Holy Qur’an says: Indeed those who say, “Our Lord is Allah!" and then remain steadfast, the angels always descend upon them, [saying,] "Do not fear, nor be grieved! Receive the good news of the paradise which you have been promised.”(41:30)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Majaalis- Reviving Religion Itself

One of the brilliant masterpieces of poetry is the famous couplet written by the Sufi saint Mu’in al-Din Chishti, which starts with “Shah ast Husayn Paadshah ast Husayn Din ast Husayn Din panah ast Husayn…” What is so remarkable in this poetry is the phrase “Din ast Husayn” (Husayn is Religion). All those who commemorate Imam al-Husayn (‘a)’s Divine movement, participate in the mourning sessions of Muharram, and lament for Imam al-Husayn (‘a)’s tragic martyrdom, must inculcate this important phrase in their minds and make it their yardstick for deciphering whether the gatherings truly commemorate this unparalleled and unique event in the history of mankind or not. Imam al-Husayn (‘a) represents religion in all the dimensions of human life. He is the epitome of Islam and his aim likewise was the salvation of Islam. If our gatherings facilitate the revival of religion within ourselves and the society at large, we must satisfactorily say that we do commemorate the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (‘a), but if they do not serve the aforesaid purpose and are reduced to gatherings for merely earning thawab (Divine Reward), we must struggle to change and render them to be a means for what al-Husayn (‘a) actually rose: Shah ast Husayn paadshah ast Husayn Din ast Husayn Din panah ast Husayn sar daad nadaad dast dar daste Yazid haqqa ke binaaye la ilah ast Husayn (Husayn in the king, the king of kings; Husayn is Religion; Husayn is the Protector of Religion; He gave his head, but not his hand to Yazid; Truly Husayn is the foundation of negating all deities other than Allah.’ Therefore if one majlis were to ignite our hearts to change our sinful life to that of obedience to Allah, we have really commemorated the tragic martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (‘a). If one marthiya (elegy) were to make us resolve to pray on time with concentration, establish good relations with our near ones, pay our religious dues, respect our parents, refrain from unlawful deeds and reform the situation of the afflicted ones, we truly have commemorated Husayn’s movement. If participating the majaalis (gatherings of commemoration) revive our inner selves and enable us to relinquish our tarnished past, and begin the life of taqwa, then we truly have mourned for Imam al-Husayn (‘a). Din ast Husayn, Din ast Husayn Din ast Husayn…(Husayn is Religion! Husayn in Religion! Husayn is Religion!)