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.