Friday, 25 January 2008

HOW TO GET CLOSE TO ALLAH (8)

SERMON 1

In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful

Salamun ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

[Praise be to Allah, the Creator of all the created beings, Who makes sustenance freely available, starts the day, the owner of glory, might, favors, and bounties, Who is far away, invisible, and nearest, so near that He is fully aware of the whispered secrets, the Blessed, the Praised. Praise be to Allah, Who has no equal to challenge Him, nor is there an image comparable to Him, nor a helper to assist Him. He tames the powerful by His force, and disgraced are the terrible before His greatness; so He, through His power, fulfils that which He wills.]

Aspiration for the Best

Dear brothers and sisters in Islam, I advise you all as I advise myself to observe taqwa (abstaining from sin), for it is only taqwa that truly has a brilliant future. The Holy Qur’an is vocal about this reality when it says “…wal ‘aaqibatu lil muttaqeen.” (…and the outcome will be in favor of the God-wary) (7:128). We however should always realize that it is in our nature to soar and not remain still. Those who attain levels of intellectual and spiritual perfection and thereafter stop and get satisfied with their stations should be considered unwell and spiritually ill, for the innate human nature always aspires for the Infinite; and the path from the finite to the infinite is perpetual. Therefore when struggling for taqwa we must seek and pray for the best of its kind. Almighty Allah in different places of the Qur’an informs us of such kind of taqwa. For example, in chapter 3 verse 102 He says, “O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah with the wariness due to Him… (ittaqu Allaha haqqa tuqaatih…)”(3:102). When asked about the meaning of “haqqa tuqaatih” (wariness due to Him) in the verse, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: “[It is when] He is obeyed and thereafter never disobeyed, remembered and never forgotten, and thanked and never unthanked”. And in chapter al-Furqan (25), Almighty Allah enumerating the qualities of the servants of the All-Beneficent, says that they supplicate as follows “…waj’alnaa lil muttaqeena imaaman” (...and make us Imams of the God-wary” (25:74) which reveals how exalted their aspirations are: they do not just ask for taqwa, but seek to be “Imams of the muttaqoon” (leaders of the God-wary). There is a similar expression in the supplication of al-Iftitah where Imam al-Mahdi (‘aj) teaches us to pray “...wa taj‘aluna feeha min al-du‘aati ilaa taa’atika wal qaadati ilaa sabilik…” (…and include us among those who invite people unto Your obedience, and lead them to Your path). Observe here that we are taught to ask Allah to make us qualify to be leaders of His path. In Du‘a Kumayl likewise Imam ‘Ali (‘a) teaches us to have the same exalted spirit when he prays “waj‘alni min ahsani ‘abeedika naseeban ‘indak wa aqrabihim manzalitan mink wa akhassihim zulfatan ladayk…” (and assign for me a place in Thy presence with the best of Thy bondsmen and nearer abode to Thee...)

The Future is for the Muttaqoon

A very significant allusion in the verse we read in the beginning "...wal ‘aaqibatu lil muttaqeen..." (…and the outcome will be in favor of the God-wary) (7:128), was the reality of the future belonging to those who safeguard themselves against evil and observe taqwa. The issue of “observing and increasing” one’s taqwa is quite different from the issue of “maintaining” and “protecting” the state of one’s taqwa. The muttaqi is not one who merely observed taqwa in the past, but “always observes” taqwa. This is why many scholars are reported to have highly emphasized to repeat the following prayer and sincerely ask for their end result to be brilliant and felicitous: “Allahummaj’al ‘awaaqiba umoorina khayran” (O Allah make the final consequences of our affairs to be good). The Holy Qur’an and the Holy traditions vocally reveal examples of people who at the onset were well-known for their perfection and excellence, but later due to following their mundane desires, fell down spiritually and totally ruined their future. For the sake of brevity, we would only narrate one example mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: Bal’am bin Baa’ura was known to be a scholar of high caliber and a devout worshipper during the time of Prophet Musa ('a). According to a tradition, Almighty Allah had even taught Him al-ism al-‘a’zam (the Great Name of God) and the Holy Qur’an informs us that Allah had given him some of His signs. But, having not maintained his state of perfection, and following his mundane desires, he finally ended up to be the example of a dog. The Holy Qur’an says: “So his parable is that of a dog” (…fa mathaluhu kamathali al-kalb…) (7:176). It is important for us to understand that when Allah speaks of a person in a deprecating way, He is not overcome by any kind of emotion, personal rancor, etc. Far is His Exalted Essence from the deficiencies of the world of contingency! When Allah compares him with a dog, He knows the fact that Bal‘am’s inner makeup was united with the qualities of a dog. In our case, due to an angry nature or the like we may be overcome with uttering insulting remarks to our enemies. Almighty Allah, however, is beyond these states. In the stories of ‘Ulama too we do have examples of those who excelled in the beginning but finally ended up in wretchedness. In fact this is a phenomenon of history and there are abundant examples that one can cite. We, however, must sincerely pray to Almighty Allah to protect us from such a wretched future. The Holy Qur’an tells us : “…wal ‘aaqibatu lil muttaqeen.” (…and the outcome will be in favor of the God-wary) (7:128)”. One of the succinct supplications where both the felicity of this world as well as the Hereafter is sought is as follows: “Rabbana aatina fiddunya hasanatan wa fil aakhirati hasanatan…” (O Lord, give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter…) (2:201). If this supplication is accepted, there is assurance of one’s brilliant future. This is because the felicity of the Hereafter would only be apparent after one has departed from this world. Unless however, the curtains of matter tear off and we behold the Hereafter as is the case with people of inner vision.

Now let us continue our reflections on the tradition of ‘Unwan al-Basri, the masterpiece instruction of how to attain closeness to the Only Beloved.

HADITH OF 'UNWAN AL-BASRI (VIII)

[When I could bear it no longer, I put my shoes and my cloak on, and made my way to Ja’far’s (AS) house after the ‘Asr (afternoon) prayer.

When I arrived at his house, I sought permission to enter, and a servant of his came out and asked me what I wanted. I replied: “I’ve come to extend my salutations to the noble one. He said that the Imam was busy praying. So I waited on the doorstep, and it wasn’t long before the servant came out again and said: “Come in by the grace of Allah (swt)”. So I entered and greeted the Imam, and he returned my greeting, saying: “Take a seat and may Allah (swt) forgive you”. So I sat down. Then he bowed his head, looking down for quite a long time before he asked me my teknonym, to which I replied: “Abu Abdallah”. He said: “May Allah (swt) establish your teknonym and enable you to succeed in doing what pleases Him”. Upon hearing this, I thought to myself that if I were to take away nothing of benefit from this visit except this prayer (that he had wished for me), it would be more than enough.]

This section of the tradition is very meaningful and Insha Allah we shall try to tackle some of its subtle allusions.

There is a beautiful Arabic dictum that says "Man jadda wajad, wa man lajja walaj" (Whosoever puts effort finds what he seeks, and whosoever is persistent to enter finally enters). ‘Unwan’s spirit was a persisting spirit. He knew that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is a close servant of Allah, and pinned his hope on Allah to avail him once again of the opportunity to enter in the gracious presence of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a). Now was the time for him to see whether his supplication was accepted or not. And obviously, one must not expect the Imam (‘a) to come at his doorstep and inform him of that. The Infallible Imam (‘a) resembles the Ka’ba. In the brilliant words of Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a): “Al- Imamu kal Ka’ba, yu’ta wa la ya’ti” (The Imam resembles the Ka’ba: he does not go to people but people come to him). Unless however, the ailing one who needs the Imam's support, out of ignorance or some other acceptable reason, does not do what is required of him. In this case, resembling the Prophet (s) who in the expression of Amir al-Mu’min (‘a) is “...Tabeebun dawwaarun bitibbih…” (A traveling physician who goes to people to treat them) he ('a) goes to the ailing one.


‘Unwan says that his patience in being away from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) was exhausted and he was impelled to go to the Imam (‘a) and once again request him to accept him as his student. As the narration above is clear, ‘Unwan al-Basri knocks at the door of the Imam (‘a) and the Imam’s servant comes out and asks him about his need. ‘Unwan requests to see the Imam (‘a), and he is told that the Imam (‘a) is busy praying. The spirit of persistence does not leave ‘Unwan and he prefers waiting until the Imam (‘a) is finished with his prayer. So he waits outside the doorstep. As can be observed in the tradition, due to his deep respect and veneration, he employs the word Shareef (the noble one) when referring to the Imam (‘a).

Then ‘Unwan al-Basri says that it did not take long when the servant returned, and employing a humble etiquette welcomed him to enter the house. This is reminiscent of the Holy Prophet (s)’s attitude: He (s) would normally shorten his prayer if someone would come and wait for him. This also reveals how venerated a believer is. Despite what the Imam (‘a) engaged in was prayer- the pillar of religion, but if a believer is waiting outside, then he is venerated and respected by Allah himself. He must be attended to. Unless however there are genuine circumstances when the owner of the house cannot see the visitor.

Thereafter ‘Unwan al-Basri enters the presence of the Imam (‘a) and greets him, and the Imam (‘a) responds to his greeting and says, “Take a seat and may Allah forgive you”. Here there is a point worthy of reflection. The Imam (‘a) gives a better response to the salaam of ‘Unwan al-Basri. And this was the normal Qur'anic etiquette of the Imams (‘a). When the source of expressions like “May Allah forgive you” originate from the mouth of an infallible leader, it means real prayer, and not pleasing expressions that are exchanged when some people meet others. In fact, analysts of the tradition believe that perhaps the Imam (‘a) had a very significant purpose behind praying for ‘Unwan al-Basri to be forgiven: spiritual preparedness for receiving what he wanted to communicate to this ninety four year old yearning student. The tradition then continues saying that after ‘Unwan al-Basri takes a seat the Imam (‘a) looks down for a certain period which apparently was encompassed with a halo of meaningful silence. What the Imam (‘a) was contemplating on or spiritually visioning is only known by him and his Beloved. The silence of the Imam (‘a) however was very meaningful and constructive. Did it concern the Imam (‘a) or ‘Unwan al-Basri? Was he communicating with the Angels or whispering to the Beloved? We are reticent here for in order to perceive these realities we need evidence. In short, as I just said, the silence was both meaningful and constructive. In fact every moment of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are full of meaning.

The first thing that the Imam (‘a) asks ‘Unwan al-Basri is his kunya (teknonym). A teknonym is name for an adult derived from that of a child, especially that of the eldest child. In English, for example, names like Johnsdad is a teknonym. Sometimes in the Arabic a teknonym carries another meaning. If for example a person is open handed (jawad), he is known as Abu Jawad (the father of the openhanded). Here his son is not necessarily a person called Jawad, but he has the trait of open-handedness (jood).

When the Imam (‘a) asks ‘Unwan al-Basri what his teknonym is, ‘Unwan responds saying “Abu ‘Abdillah”. Thereupon the Imam (‘a) says: “Thabbata Allahu kunyatak” (may Allah preserve your teknonym). Here there are two possible interpretations: (1) The Imam (‘a) considers the fact that ‘Unwan is a believing servant (‘abd) of Allah, and that is why it is appropriate to call him Abu ‘Abdillah. Therefore the Imam (‘a) prays to Allah to maintain this state of servitude that he possesses. (2) The Imam (‘a) prayed for the protection of his offspring. This is because if he did not have an offspring by this name he would not be called Abu ‘Abdillah in this sense. And Allah is All-knowing.

Another thing that the Imam (‘a) prays for ‘Unwan al-Basri is the succor to attain Allah’s pleasure. To quote the exact expression narrated from the Imam (‘a): “…wa waffaqaka limardhaatihi(...and may Allah bestow on you the succor to attain what He is pleased with) This supplication is extremely exalted and when a master the like of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) prays for a novice like ‘Unwan the prayer is accepted. As a result, ‘Unwan turned euphoric and overjoyed. He thought to himself: if I were to take away nothing of benefit from this visit except this prayer, it would be more than enough.

It is possible that the Imam (‘a) sought the station of ridha for ‘Unwan al-Basri, which is when the servant enjoys the state of contentment and serenity of the heart. The last verses of Surat al-Fajr vocally speak of the station of ridha. Actually the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) having themselves attained the zenith of excellence, yearned for the others to join them. And when the Imam (‘a) prays for one to achieve the maqaam of ridha, what more does one anticipate?

Nevertheless, the journey to the Beloved does not stop when meeting the Beloved. This is because when one meets the Beloved, his entire being blots out and he yearns to see others join the Beloved too. Therefore he returns to the world of plurality and takes the others to join the Beloved. His spirit has lost the specks of I-ness and selfishness. He wants all to be hosted by the All-Lover.

Let us stop here. Insha Allah we shall continue with our discussion on this brilliant tradition next week

Indeed, the best conversation and the most penetrating of counsels is the Book of Allah. Today we shall recite Surat al-Kawthar. So brilliant is this chapter, that one feels like reciting it constantly and inculcating its values in himself. Indeed Allah (swt) bestowed abundance to His Messenger when He was Blessed with a daughter like Bibi Fatima al-Zahra (‘a). The esteemed Sunni scholar Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in his magnum opus of the Exegesis of Qur’an mentions one of the brilliant extensions of kawthar to be Bibi Fatima (‘a), whose progeny are abundantly scattered in the world and have enveloped it with their abundant light. These are moments when we commemorate the heart breaking tragedy of the kawthar of Karbala, whose very name rents the heart asunder and causes a flow of Divine Grace from one’s cheeks. Almighty Allah says:

[In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful’. Indeed We bestowed you with abundance; therefore pray to your Lord and offer sacrifice; indeed it is your enemy who is without posterity.]


SERMON 2

[Praise be to Allah, Who breaks everything belonging to the oppressors; puts an end to the tyrants; watches over the fugitives; brings assistance to those who cry out for help; meets and clears up the demands of the needy beseechers; supports the faithful.]

A Week of Turmoil for the Palestinians

The past week has been a week of turmoil for our Muslim brethren in Palestine. It has been a week of chaos, faithless destruction, and oppression. The very nature of those who have always oppressed the innocent Palestinians according to the holy Qur’an is "ashaddu 'adaawatan lilladheena aamanu" (of intense enmity against those who believe) (5:82). And on the other hand we have their supporters who despite displaying concern, serve their base interests. Perhaps the most beautiful expression for them in the Qur'an is "...ashaddu kufran wa nifaaqan" (most intense in disbelief and hypocracy) (9:97). If we remain indifferent of these events and totally concentrate on selfish needs, a time of regret would surely come. If we are not affected today, our generations due to our indifference would surely be affected. Supporting the helpless of the world is not a complicated phenomenon today. The astute of our communities have known how, when, and where to channel support. They have also realized the various methods and platforms of support. Therefore if we would like to protect our identities as Muslims, we must express our support today. The very obligation of amr bil ma’ruf and nahy ‘anil munkar (commanding good and forbidding evil) which Imam al-Husayn (‘a) practically manifested in the plains of Karbala, teaches us how to support the Husains of Today and condemn the Yazids of the contemporary era. Indeed Muslims are not sleeping today. However, what is important is resolution and quick action. May the Almighty enable us to do the right things Insha Allah.

Improving Our Institutions of Commemoration

Let us continue our discussion on how to improve the forms of commemoration that the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) taught us, so that we may be able to revive the goals and values of Imam al-Husayn, fundamental of which is the primacy of religion in every dimension of human life.

We have already covered briefly the institutions of majaalis (narrations of tragedy) and elegies (maraathi and niyaah). Today we shall try to briefly look at the Maatam and chest beating that we always practice as we mourn the tragedy of Karbala and remember the calamities that Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his noble family and companions had to undergo. This in fact is always a part of niyaah (elegies recited after narrations of tragedy).

What is important for us to do is to struggle and make this practice a natural expression. True expression of intense sorrow is when someone beats his chest as a natural expression of mourning.

Beating one’s chest as an expression of mourning is recommended and must continue. However, today we witness some forms of expressions that may contradict the very institution of Karbala. These must be avoided and regulated. It is interesting to note that a brother recently asked the office of the grand Marja’ Ayatullah al’Uzma Sayyid ‘Ali al-Seestani (may Allah perpetuate his exalted shadow) about expressions of mourning and the following beautiful response was given:

"The principal objective of mourning and lamentation during 'Ashura, is to respect the signs and symbols of Religion and remember the suffering of Imam Hussain (a), his companions, and his uprising to defend Islam and prevent the destruction of the religion by Bani Umayyad dynasty. These rites must be done in such a way that in addition to serving that purpose, it draws the attention of others to these loft goals. Also, its ritual aspect should be preserved. So those actions which are not understandable for the enemies of Islam and non-Shia Muslims and causes misunderstanding and contempt for the religion must be
avoided."

We pray to Almighty Allah (swt) to enable us revive the institution of Karbala through methods accepted by the Holy Prophet (s) and his infallible progeny.

Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke Peace upon him in a worthy manner. (33:56)

Invoking Allah's Blessings of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a)

[O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad,Thy servant, Messenger, confidant, friend, beloved intimate, mercy unto all the created beings, bearer of Thy sacraments, quotient of Thy messengers, the most superior, the exquisite, the most handsome, the most perfect, the upright, the more prospering, the more pleasant, the thoroughly purified, the sublime; who has more and better blessings, advantages, mercies, affections and salutations than Thou made available to any one of Thy servants, prophets, messengers, friends, and those honoured by Thee from among Thy created being.O Allah send blessings on 'Ali the Leader of the Faithful, the successor to the Messenger of the Lord of the worlds, Thy servant, Thy beloved representative, brother of Thy Messenger, Thy decisive argument over mankind, Thy most important sign, the great news from Thee.O Allah, send blessings on the truthful pure Fatima, the chosen leader of the women of the worlds.O Allah, send blessings on the sons of 'the mercy unto the worlds',the leaders and guides, the Imams al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the leaders of the dwellers of Paradise. O Allah, send blessings on the Leaders of the Muslims, 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, Muhammad ibn 'Ali, Jafar ibn Muhammad, Musa ibn Jafar, 'Ali ibn Musa, Muhammad ibn'Ali, 'Ali ibn Muhammad, al-Hasan ibn'Ali, and his son, the rightly guided Guide, Thy decisive argument over Thy servants, Thy trustworthy confidant on Thy earth; blessings, numerous, and for ever. O Allah, send blessings on the Custodian of thy commandments, the vigilant Guardian, the reliable Patron, the awaited Justice, surrounded by Thy favourite angels, assisted by the Holy Spirit.]

Supplication

[O Allah indeed we eagerly seek from Thee a Noble Government, by which you bestow veneration to Islam and its people, and degrade hypocracy and its people, and you make us in it from the callers to your obedience, and leaders to your path, and bestow us with it the nobility of this world and the Hereafter.]

Friday, 18 January 2008

HOW TO GET CLOSE TO ALLAH (7)


SERMON 1

In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful

Salamun ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

[Praise belongs to God, for the true knowledge of Himself He has given to us, the thanksgiving He has inspired us to offer Him, the doors to knowing His Lordship He has opened for us, the sincerity towards Him in professing His Unity to which He has led us, and the deviation and doubt in His Command from which He has turned us aside...]

The Taqwa of the Hearts

Dear brothers and sisters in Islam, I advise you and myself to observe taqwa [abstaining from that which religion has forbidden], for indeed taqwa is the yardstick to decipher one’s true love and ‘ishq (fervent attachment) for the beloved. Those who feel that they love Allah, His Messenger and the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) but live a life of sin, must reassess their love, and purify the same.

The Holy Qur’an tells us “Wa man yu ‘azzim sha ‘aa’iralLah fa innahaa min taqwal Quloob” (…And whoever venerates the sacraments of Allah indeed that arises from the God wariness of hearts.) (22:32). This calls us to venerate and hold in esteem all that which makes us remember Allah and draw closer to Him. The word sha‘aa’ir in the verse, says ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i in his monumental al-Mizan, refers to ‘signs of demonstration’ (al ‘alaamaat al-daalla). The entire movement of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is one of the greatest demonstrations of intense love for Allah. It shows how an ‘aashiq (amorous lover) sacrifices himself for the Ma’shuq (the Beloved). In fact it is this very term ('ishq) that some of our traditions employ for Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his unique companions. Before the tragedy of Karbala, when Imam ‘Ali (‘a) happen to pass by the place where the companions of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) would later fight, he is reported to have said, This is the place where two hundred Prophets and their grandsons were killed, all of who were martyrs; and it is the halting place of horsemen and the battle ground of intense lovers (‘ushhaaq) and martyrs, whom neither those who came before them or will come after them can prevail [in status]. Therefore commemorating the revolution of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is in fact commemorating the revolution of a true lover. Imam al-Husayn (‘a) practically taught us the culture of love by giving away all what he hand with full consciousness and volition. The late ‘Allama Muhammad Taqi Ja’fari (may Allah elevate his status) when asked what made the tragedy of Karbala unparalleled in history, is reported to have said: Unlike the other tragedies, the victims of which would be killed not out of their free will and volition, the companions of Karbala already knew what would transpire and welcomed the same with open arms. Obviously it was not a matter of love for death per se, but an unfaltering volition, that loudly echoed “Whatever transpires, we simply would not give our hand of harmony to Yazid and his culture.” This is when death becomes sweeter than honey!

Dear brothers and sisters, the price of love is not a small one. Imam al-Husayn (‘a) informed us that his movement is that of religion and purely religion. He aspired for a complete religious government, so that the society can be emancipated from perpetual destruction and ignominy. We on our part should work hard for an affinity with Imam al-Husayn (‘a). The hard fact is that if by commemorating the tragedy, we become more religious, refrain from sin, and struggle for the betterment of others, then we have achieved something. Commemoration can never be divorced from religion. It in fact is the spirit that should revive religious values in the individual as well as the society.

If we venerate the gatherings of commemoration that instill the message of al-Husayn (‘a) and cause inner revolutions, then indeed we have maintained the taqwa of the hearts. I repeat the beautiful verse that I quoted in the beginning. Almighty Allah says: “Wa man yu‘azzim sha ‘aa’iralLah fa innahaa min taqwal Quloob” (…And whoever venerates the sacraments of Allah indeed that arises from the God wariness of hearts.) (22:32)

Let us now look at the radiant instruction of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) to ‘Unwan al-Basri:

Hadith of ‘Unwan al-Basri

[…I then went to the mosque of the Holy Prophet (s) and I gave my salutations to him, then I turned from the grave and prayed two units of prayer at the rawdhah (the area near the Prophet’s (s) grave which is considered to be a piece of paradise) and said supplicating Allah (swt): “O Allah (swt)! O Allah (swt)! I beseech You please make Ja’far’s (‘a) heart incline towards me, and grant me from his knowledge that which will guide me on the right path”. Then I returned home, sad and upset, and did not even attend Malik b. Anas’s study circles for my heart was filled only with love for Ja’far (‘a). I did not leave my house except to attend congregational prayers, until I finally ran out of patience.]

A very important point we can learn from the above paragraph is the significance of congregational prayer (salat al-jama‘a). ‘Unwan al-Basri says that due to his intense love for Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), he never thought of returning back to Malik. And he never left his house save for congregational prayer. There are many traditions that speak of the great benefits of congregational prayer, and in Insha Allah when we discuss about the subject we shall cover them in detail. In his epistle about supplication called “Noorun ‘Alaa Noor”, Ayatullah Hasan Zadeh Amoli alludes to something worthy of reflection. He says that as a general principle a united gathering of souls has the effect of a powerful universal Divine spirit. In a gathering of prayer, dhikr or du‘a, each individual may have one or more perfect attributes (kamalaat) in him. When there is one perfect human being he enormously serves as an intermediary of Divine blessings. A gathering of human beings in prayer, dhikr or du‘a resembles one perfect human being, or his shadow or example. Consequently, it would be a gathering where Divine blessings would descend.” [See Nurun 'Ala Nur Dar Zikr o Zakir o Mazkur, p. 107]

Therefore let us not take congregational prayer lightly and understand that it has a vital role to play in our lifetime.

Insha Allah we shall continue with the commentary of this tradition in our forthcoming sermons.

Indeed, the best conversation and the most penetrating of counsels is the Book of Allah. Today we shall recite Surat al-Tawhid. It is important to know that monotheism in its most practical form was brilliantly manifested in the plains of Karbala, where Imam al-Husayn (‘a) preferred the pleasure of Allah to the pleasure of any other entity. His companions likewise, who had learnt the lesson of tawhid (monotheism) followed his noble footsteps and achieved the state of spiritual union. Almighty Allah says:

[In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful’ Say He Allah is Non-composite One, Allah is the All-embracing, Neither does He beget, nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him (112:1-4)]

SERMON 2

[Praise be to Allah, Who breaks everything belonging to the oppressors; puts an end to the tyrants; watches over the fugitives; brings assistance to those who cry out for help; meets and clears up the demands of the needy beseechers; supports the faithful.]

Before we continue with the subject that we had begun last week on how to make our gatherings of commemoration more meaningful, let us consider a few words on the situation that prevailed in Karbala this day. Today is Taasu‘a (9th of Muharram al-Haraam). The battle of Karbala had actually begun today when ‘Umar bin Sa’d ordered his men to attack the ranks of Imam al-Husayn (‘a). In this situation, the Imam (‘a) asks his brother ‘Abbas to tell the enemies to avail them one night. In the historical masterpiece of Sayyid Radhi al-Din Ibn Tawus called al-Luhuf, the reason behind this respite is beautifully depicted. In fact it alludes to the true personality of Imam al-Husayn (‘a). He tells his brother: “Inistata’ta an tasrifahum ‘annaa fi hadhal yawm faf‘al fa innahu ya’lam anni uhibbussalaata wa tilaawata kitaabihi” (If you can avert them from us today, then do so, for surely He (Allah) knows that I love prayer and the recitation of His Book). In Surat al-A’raf Almighty Allah mentions two fundamental qualities of a reformer: “As for those who hold fast to the Book and maintain the prayer indeed We do not waste the reward of the reformers.” (7:170). Notice the mention of the Book and prayer. Imam al-Husayn (‘a) both maintained prayer and held fast onto the Book. This was a humble analysis of this nondescript. However, the main reason why Imam (‘a) seeks respite for the night although he was daa’im al-dhikr (constantly in the state of dhikr) is better known to him and His beloved. Why should he wait for the night when the lover is always yearning to unite with the beloved? What is the secret behind this transition? What kind of preparedness is Imam al-Husayn (‘a) after? The stations of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are such lofty that however deep we dive the treasure trove of their reality cannot be exhausted.

Now let us consider the discussion on the manifestations of commemoration that we must try to improve. Last time we had mentioned that one of the manifestations that needs improvement is the gathering of historical narration, which must always be within the framework of authenticity.

HOW TO COMMEMORATE THE TRAGEDY OF KARBALA

2. Another form of commemoration that was highly encouraged by the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and served as a means of propagation of the message of al-Husayn (‘a) is the poetical lamentations called maraathi (elegies) and nawhas. Alhamdu lillah these continue up until today in so many languages. The Muslims participate in such lamentations with zeal and fervor. Many also take interest in recitation. However, there is need to improve this institution. Apart from authentic narration, about which we have already discussed, there is need for an accurate appreciation of the events. Poetry is a world full of emotion. However if emotion is driven by mundane interests and corporeal attachments, it has very little value in the culture of sacrifice. If we start comparing Imam al-Husayn (‘a)’s sacrificing sentiments with our worldly feelings we are actually engaging in injustice. If losing a son makes a mother sad because she did not witness his marriage, is it proper for us to impose the same thoughts in the minds of the sacrificing spirits of Karbala? Have we known who Imam al-Husayn (‘a) actually is? One can well appreciate how difficult it is for al-Husayn (‘a) to separate from his son, but who am I to think beyond this? If you observe some of the maqatil, you will find that as soon as Hadhrat ‘Ali Akbar (‘a) seeks permission, the Imam (‘a) immediately allows him to go. The expression employed is “…fasta’dhana abaahu fil qitaali fa adhina lah…” (he sought permission of fighting from his father and the Imam (‘a) gave him the permission). Then the Imam (‘a) laments. Why? What does he say? Instead of imagining what he felt or what we would feel were we to part with our young son, let us read what Imam (‘a) himself felt. According to one narration, the Imam (‘a) looks at the sky and says with sorrow: "O Allah be a witness over these people, for a youth has set out to fight with them who resembles Your Prophet (s) the most in terms of body, spirit, and speech. Whenever we would yearn to see the prophet (s) we would look at him”. Now look at the logic of al-Husayn (‘a). Poetry can be immersed with emotions, but emotions driven by meaning and intellect, emotions of al-Husayn (‘a) himself, not our mundane emotions, or emotions out of ignorance.

Another adversity that this institution has been afflicted with is that those who write the lyrics of the elegies sometimes employ the tune of songs that are in harmony with gatherings of worldly pleasure, dancing, etc. Our esteemed scholars who are authorities of Islamic law do not permit such recitations. Therefore we must be careful not to engage in what is prohibited.

This subject is vast, and due to the limitations of this sermon, I wish to stop over here. Insha Allah we shall continue with our discussion on how to improve the different manifestations of commemorating the revolution of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) in our forthcoming sermons.

Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke Peace upon him in a worthy manner. (33:56)

Invoking Allah's Blessings of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a)

[O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad,Thy servant, Messenger, confidant, friend, beloved intimate, mercy unto all the created beings, bearer of Thy sacraments, quotient of Thy messengers, the most superior, the exquisite, the most handsome, the most perfect, the upright, the more prospering, the more pleasant, the thoroughly purified, the sublime; who has more and better blessings, advantages, mercies, affections and salutations than Thou made available to any one of Thy servants, prophets, messengers, friends, and those honoured by Thee from among Thy created being.O Allah send blessings on 'Ali the Leader of the Faithful, the successor to the Messenger of the Lord of the worlds, Thy servant, Thy beloved representative, brother of Thy Messenger, Thy decisive argument over mankind, Thy most important sign, the great news from Thee.O Allah, send blessings on the truthful pure Fatima, the chosen leader of the women of the worlds.O Allah, send blessings on the sons of 'the mercy unto the worlds',the leaders and guides, the Imams al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the leaders of the dwellers of Paradise. O Allah, send blessings on the Leaders of the Muslims, 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, Muhammad ibn 'Ali, Jafar ibn Muhammad, Musa ibn Jafar, 'Ali ibn Musa, Muhammad ibn'Ali, 'Ali ibn Muhammad, al-Hasan ibn'Ali, and his son, the rightly guided Guide, Thy decisive argument over Thy servants, Thy trustworthy confidant on Thy earth; blessings, numerous, and for ever. O Allah, send blessings on the Custodian of thy commandments, the vigilant Guardian, the reliable Patron, the awaited Justice, surrounded by Thy favourite angels, assisted by the Holy Spirit.]

Supplication

[O Allah indeed we eagerly seek from Thee a noble state, by which you bestow veneration to Islam and its people, and degrade hypocracy and its people, and you make us in it from the callers to your obedience, and leaders to your path, and bestow us with it the nobility of this world and the Hereafter.]

Friday, 11 January 2008

HOW TO GET CLOSE TO ALLAH (6)

SERMON 1

In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful

Salamun ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

[Praise belongs to Allah whose decree none may avert, and whose gift none may prevent. No fashioner's fashioning is like His fashioning, and He is the Generous, the All-embracing. He brought forth the varieties of unprecedented creatures and perfected through His wisdom all He had fashioned. Hidden not from Him are harbingers, nor lost with Him are deposits. He repays every fashioner, feathers the nest of all who are content and has mercy upon all who humble themselves. He sends down benefits and the all-encompassing Book in radiant light. He hears supplications, averts afflictions, raises up in degrees, and knocks down tyrants. For there is no god other than He, nothing is equal to Him, "Like Him there is naught, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing", the subtle, the Aware, and "He is powerful over all things"...]

Dear Brothers and sisters in Islam, this month is the month in which Imam al-Husayn (‘a) revived taqwa [refraining from what is forbidden] in the most radiant of its manifestations. Bearing this in mind, I advise you all as I advise myself to observe taqwa, for it is the key towards the treasures of the heavens and the earth- the realms of matter and spirit.

Cultivating Meaningful Love for Imam al-Husayn (‘a)

We are in the holy month of Muharram now. It is a month that reminds us of Imam al-Husayn ('a) and his supreme sacrifice. Imam (‘a) being infallible and spiritually united with the Qur’an, has so many examples of taqwa for his lovers. We who mourn for his tragic martyrdom and separation, experience and vehemently confess our utmost love for his unparalleled sacrificing spirit. Such love is undoubtedly invaluable and priceless, but still needs to be enhanced and moderated. According to both the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), love is equal to obedience (itaa’a). The Holy Qur’an says: “Say [O Messenger of Allah]: If you love Allah, then follow me, and Allah will love you and forgive you your sins…” [3:31] In fact if one carefully ponders over the reality of love, he would understand that it is an experience of attraction to the beloved. And when the reality of our beloved who is Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is taqwa in all its dimensions, our actions must reveal our inner feelings. Otherwise we would benefit very less from such kind of superficial love. In a tradition, Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said to his companion Jabir al-Ju’fi: “O Jaabir whosoever obeys Allah and loves us, then he is our friend, and whosoever disobeys Allah, our love would not benefit him.” [Allama Majlisi, Bihaar al-Anwaar, v.68, p.179]. Therefore it is important for us to develop meaningful and beneficial love for Imam al-Husayn (‘a). And it is only the love that is coupled with taqwa [total obedience to God] that bears this quality. May the Almighty enable us to successfully achieve such love as we commemorate the matyrdom of Imam al-Husayn ('a) whose supreme sacrifice revealed the most exalted level of taqwa in the history of humankind.

Let us now continue with the commentary of the tradition of ‘Unwan al-Basri, which indeed serves as a prescription of how to attain the proximity of Almighty Allah:

THE TRADITION OF 'UNWAN AL-BASRI (VI)

'Unwan al-Basri continues:

[…I then went to the mosque of the Holy Prophet (s) and I gave my salutations to him, then I turned from the grave and prayed two units of prayer at the rawdhah (the area near the Prophet’s (s) grave which is considered to be a piece of paradise) and said supplicating Allah (swt): “O Allah (swt)! O Allah (swt)! I beseech You please make Ja’far’s (‘a) heart incline towards me, and grant me from his knowledge that which will guide me on the right path”. Then I returned home, sad and upset, and did not even attend Malik b. Anas’s study circles for my heart was filled only with love for Ja’far (‘a). I did not leave my house except to attend congregational prayers, until I finally ran out of patience.

Having been a student of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) for a substantial period of time, ‘Unwan al-Basri very well knew that there was hope of being able to draw knowledge from him. He also knew how effective it was to convey his salutations to the Holy Prophet (s) and how beneficial it was to pray two units of prayer in the rawdha, before supplication. Hence, he did the needful and finally resorted to the Ultimate Teacher to convince His student to accept him.

In the aforementioned paragraph of the tradition, following are points worthy of consideration:

1- Ziyara (visiting the Holy Prophet (s)) , which in various traditions is highly emphasized, is one of the powerful means of self-preparation. It can cleanse and widen the heart of the zaair (the visitor), so that he can be receptive enough to bear the light of knowledge. And according to some traditions, visiting the Holy Prophet (s) after his demise is like visiting him during his life time. The most important point in ziyara, however, is seeking harmony with the mazur (the one visited). Our salutations (salaam) should stem from the depths of our hearts and serve as a means of uniting with the mazur. Therefore it is possible that 'Unwan al-Basri, in visiting the Holy Prophet (s) with a broken heart and utter sincerity and expressing salutations to him may have qualified to enjoy the presence of the master of his age once again.

2- Reciting two rak’as of prayer in the rawdha which according to a narration is known to be a garden from the gardens of Paradise. Some insightful scholars opine that Hadhrat Zahra (‘a) is buried in that place, and Allah is All-Knowing. Our prayers in this blessed area however must serve as vehicles of ascension. Attention in prayer therefore is extremely important.

3- Supplication for a master of gnosis is fundamentally significant. When one comes to realize that the very purpose behind his creation is to attain the proximity of Allah and traverse the spiritual journey, he is constantly led to seek a master for the path.

For the sake of brevity we would suffice with the aforesaid. Insha Allah we shall continue with the commentary in our forthcoming sermons.

Indeed, the best conversation and the most penetrating of counsels is the Book of Allah. Surat al-Fajr according to a tradition from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is known as Surat al-Husayn (a) due to the concluding verses of the chapter. Hence we prefer to recite the same over here: Almighty Allah says:

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful. By the Dawn, by the ten nights, by the Even and the Odd, by the night when it departs! Is there an oath in that for one possessing intellect? Have you not regarded how your Lord dealt with [the people of ] 'Aad, [and] Iram, [the city] of the pillars, the like of which was not created among cities, and [the people of] Thamud, who hollowed out the rocks in the valley, and Pharaoh, the impaler, those who rebelled [against Allah] in their cities and caused much corruption in them, so your Lord poured on them lashes of punishment. Indeed your Lord is in ambush. As for man, whenever his Lord tests him and grants him honour and blesses him, he says,"My Lord has honoured me." But when He tests him and tightens for him his provision, he says,"My Lord has humiliated me." No indeed! Rather you do not honour the orphan, and do not urge the feeding of the needy, and you eat the inheritance rapaciously, and you love wealth with much fondness. No indeed! When the earth is levelled to a plain, and your Lord and the angels arrive in ranks, the day when hell is brought [near], on that day man will take admonition but what will the admonition avail him? He will say,"Alas, had I sent ahead for my life!" On that day none shall punish as He punishes, and none shall bind as He binds. "O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! Then enter among My servants! And enter My paradise!" [90: 1-30]

SERMON 2

[Praise be to Allah, Who breaks everything belonging to the oppressors; puts an end to the tyrants; watches over the fugitives; brings assistance to those who cry out for help; meets and clears up the demands of the needy beseechers; supports the faithful.]

HOW TO COMMEMORATE THE TRAGEDY OF KARBALA

Muslims throughout the world commemorate the Islamic Revolution of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and the tragedy of Karbala in different ways taught to them by the infallible Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Alhamdu lillah all these methods are alive up to this day, and will definitely survive perpetually, for it is the promise of the Holy Qur’an that truth in all its manifestations will always survive.

What is important however is to better the quality of our gatherings and bring them nearer to their fundamental goals. Why remember the tragedy of Karbala? why mourn for Imam al-Husayn (‘a)? Why express sorrow for the captives of Karbala? The gist of all the answers is: so that we may revive Islam. Islam, as it was in the beginning is indeed a forsaken religion today. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: “Inna al-Islama bada’a ghareeban wa saya’udu ghreeban” (Indeed Islam began while it was isolated and forsaken, and it would return to the same state…” Therefore we, the slumbering masses, must revive it in our spirits, before trying to think on how to revive the same in the society. If our commemorations do not serve as elements of spiritual wakefulness, then we are not commemorating the Imam (‘a)’s movement. In short the gatherings must have results and the results must correspond with the goals of Imam al-Husayn (‘a).

Some of the manifestations of commemoration that we must always struggle to improve are:

1- Gatherings of Historical Narration. This is normally termed in many circles as majaalis (sittings). The origin of such gatherings date back to the time of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) who would highly encourage them. Consider the following tradition: Bakr bin Muhammad narrates from Abu ‘Abdillah al-Saadiq (‘a) that he said to Fudhayl: Do you sit together and discuss? He said: Yes, may I be your ransom. The Imam (‘a) said: Surely I love those gatherings, therefore revive our matter O Fudhayl; may Allah have mercy on whosoever revives our matter. O Fudhayl, whosoever speaks about us or hears about us and a tear as small as the wing of the fly comes out of his eye, Allah would forgive his sins, even if they be more than the foam of the ocean.

A very important and fundamental element in such gatherings is authentic narration. The speakers must habituate themselves in referring to the authentic texts that narrate the revolution of Imam al-Husayn (‘a). Secondary narrations, whose original references are unknown must be avoided. A great deal of interpolation creeps in such gatherings due to the negligence of the speaker. Hence those who invite the speakers must inform them what the audience is hungry for. If narrations remain ambiguous and inauthentic, then the basis of mourning would unsound. The insightful scholars greatly suggest the narration compiled by the brilliant Shi‘a scholar Sayyid Radhi al-Din bin Tawus, called al-Luhuf ‘ala Qatlaal-Tufuf, for gatherings of commemoration. I have personally seen a saintly scholar reading directly from the said book in order not to interpolate the event, and authentically remind the audience of what transpired in Karbala, so that tears of sorrow and love may descend from their cheeks, as it uplifts them to join the spirit of Imam al-Husayn (‘a).

An important point to bear in mind is that there must be dialogues and we should not limit our gatherings to monologues. The above tradition clearly talks of a dialogue that involves tears for the Ahlal-Bayt (‘a). We should therefore arrange seminars that can enhance the knowledge of the participants and instill in them the spirit of struggle as taught by Imam al-Husayn (‘a).

Another very important thing is to realize that these gatherings are opportunities of change. Therefore those scholars who are invited to speak must decipher the problems of the audience and speak about subjects that may cure their maladies and revive them religiously.

Due to the extensiveness of the subject, we would like to stop here, and we shall continue to explore the other manifestations of commemoration as we present our humble suggestions on how to instill quality to our mourning gatherings.

Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke peace upon him in a worthy manner. (33:56)

Invoking Allah's Blessings of the Ahl al-bayt ('a)

[O Allah, send down Thy blessings on the master of your apostles, Muhammad; and send down Thy blessings on the Commander of the faithful, Ali bin Abi Talib, the masters of the successors; and send Thy blessings on the most truthful of women, the pure, Fatima, the radiant and the mistress of the women of Paradise; and send down Thy blessings on al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the two leaders of the youth of Paradise; and send down your blessings on 'Ali bin al-Husayn, the Ornament of worshippers; and send down Thy blessings on Muhammad bin 'Ali, the cleaver of knowledge; and send down Thy blessings of Ja'far bin Muhammad, the veracious, one whose word and deed are approved; and send down Thy blessings on Musa bin Ja'far, the swallower of anger, the door of the fulfillment of needs; and send down Thy blessings on 'Ali bin Musa, one whom Allah is pleased with and He is pleased with Allah; and send down Thy blessings of Muhamad bin 'Ali, the God-wary, the Benevolent; and send down Thy blessings of 'Ali bin Muhammad, the guide, and the immaculate; and send down Thy blessings on Hasan bin 'Ali, the one who has been specifically ennobled by Allah; and send down Thy blessings on the Proof, the One who would Rise.]Supplication[O Allah indeed we eagerly seek from Thee a noble state, by which you bestow veneration to Islam and its people, and degrade hypocracy and its people, and you make us in it from the callers to your obedience, and leaders to your path, and bestow us with it the nobility of this world and the Hereafter.]

Friday, 30 November 2007

HOW TO GET CLOSE TO ALLAH (5)

SERMON 1

In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful

Salamun ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

[Praise belongs to Allah, whose laudation is not comprehended by speakers, whose bounties are not counted by reckoners, and whose rightfully due is not discharged by those who strive. Grand aspirations perceive Him not and deep-diving perspicacities reach Him not. His attributes possess no determined limits, no existing description, no fixed time and no extended term. He originates the creatures by His power, looses the winds by His mercy, and fastens the shaking of His earth with boulders.]

Brothers and sisters in Islam, taqwa should always be our aspiration in life. Therefore I advise you and myself to observe taqwa so that Allah is pleased with us, and we are availed with felicity in this world as well as the Hereafter.

Hajj & Taqwa

One of the important places in Qur’an where taqwa is mentioned is when speaking of Hajj. After mentioning those things that are forbidden for those pilgrims on whom Hajj has become wajib, Almighty Allah concludes saying “And seek provisions; for indeed the best of provisions in taqwa.” (Fatazawwadu fa inna khayra al-zaad al-taqwa). Here Almighty Allah makes us realize that the fundamental provision for the journey of hajj is not the physical requirements that one carries with oneself so that he may have an easy journey. Rather it is the spirit of abstaining from what is forbidden by Allah and adhering to what He has made obligatory. It is the spirit of gaining the color of Allah, about which the Holy Qur’an says, “The coloring of Allah, and who colors better than Allah….” (sibghat Allah wa man ahsanu minallahi sibgha…). Indeed many go to hajj and cover the horizontal physical journey, but very few get the succor to traverse the vertical journey, many behold the cubic structure of the Ka’ba, but very few comprehend the Ka’ba of their unsullied heart where Allah resides. Shaykh Ja’far al-Shushtari in his brilliant book al-Khasaa’is al-Husayniyya, which indeed is a unique masterpiece, when comparing Imam al-Husayn (‘a) with the House of Allah says, “Indeed He (al-Husayn) is the Real House of Allah.”. He then explains saying that Almighty Allah is far greater than place and its occupation. The reason why we consider a certain place as His House is due to a certain sanctity it possesses because of being made a place of His worship, due to frequent worship in it, etc. Thereafter he says, “The Real House, however, is what is mentioned in the sacred tradition (al-hadith al-qudsi): “Neither My earth, nor My heaven contains me, but the heart of my believing servant contains Me.”

Therefore we must opt for the realization of the real Ka’ba. The brilliant cubic structure should act as a runway to the Real House, which contains Almighty Allah.

Let us now continue with the commentary of the tradition of ‘Unwan al-Basri:

THE TRADITION OF 'UNWAN AL-BASRI (V)

[‘A ninety-four year old man named ‘Unwan al-Basri narrates, saying: “I had been studying under Malik ibn Anas for a number of years. When Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) came to Madina, I went to visit him and was interested in learning from him just as I had been learning from Malik. He said to me one day: “I am a man much sought after and am also occupied by various supplications throughout the day and the night so please do not disturb me in my state of supplication and go and learn from Malik and study under him just as you were doing before”. I became sad on hearing this and left the Imam’s presence, and said to myself, “If the Imam had perceived any good in me he would not have prevented me from studying under him and learning from him”. ..]

Secrets of Times During the Day

In our previous discussion we said that we would mention a program of time that our learned scholars have presented in their prayer manuals. The noble Shaykh Baha al-Din al-‘Aamili, in his well-known prayer manual Miftaah al-Falaah (the Key to Salvation) says that according to a narration there are twelve different periods during the day that relate to the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a): The first period, which is between dawn and sunrise, is related to Amir al-Mu’minin (‘a).The second period, which is between sunrise and the disappearance of redness in the sky, is related to Imam al-Hasan (‘a). The third period, which is between the disappearance of the redness seen in the sky until the rising of the day, is related to Imam al-Husayn (‘a). The fourth period, which is between the rising of the day until zawaal (the beginning of the setting of the sun), is related to Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (‘a). The fifth period, which is between zawaal and the time essential for reciting four units of prayer, is related to Imam al-Baqir (‘a). The sixth period, which begins after the period essential for reciting four units of prayer and ends at the time of zuhr prayer, is related to Imam al-Sadiq (‘a). The seventh period, which begins at the time of zuhr prayer and ends when the time essential to pray four raka’aats remains prior to the time of ‘asr prayer, is related to Imam Musa al-Kazim (‘a). The eighth period, which starts when the time of four rak’aats remain before the ‘asr prayer and ends at the time of ‘asr prayer, is related to Imam al-Ridha (‘a). The ninth period which is from the time of ‘asr prayer until two hours elapse, is related to Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (‘a). The tenth period starts from two hours following ‘asr and ends before the sun appears yellowish, and this time is related to Imam al-Haadi (‘a). The eleventh period is from before the sun appears yellowish until the sun appears yellowish, and this is related to Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (‘a). And the twelfth period is from the yellowish appearance of the sun until sunset, and this period is related to Imam al-Hujja (‘a).

Shaykh Baha’i also mentions the respective supplications for each and every aforementioned period. Observing brevity, we would not like to reproduce them here. We suggest however that you to refer to the books Miftaah al-Falah of Shaykh baha’i and al-Baaqiyaat al-Saalihaat of Shaykh ‘Abbas Qummi or some websites where they have been mentioned [http://www.m-alhuda.com/showthread.php?t=8667] for the details.

We also have a weekly program of supplications that is linked to the Imams (‘a) and for every day there is a specific ziyaara to be recited. All these supplications were given to us out of great wisdom, and taking into consideration the secrets of time. Therefore if we struggle and grab the opportunity to program ourselves accordingly we would undoubtedly reap spiritual fruits. The key to success, however, is “continuity”. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: ‘The best action is that which is more lasting, even if it is less.’ [Mizaan al-Hikma, v.3, p. 2026]. And it is reported from Imam al-Baqir (‘a): "There is nothing more lovable to Allah, the Invincible and Majestic, than a deed that is constantly done, even if it is small." [Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-Kaafi, v. 2, p. 82]. Therefore it is highly significant to maintain the action even if it be very small. There is another important element we should not be oblivious of. The quality of action is of fundamental importance. Despite the constancy, if the action is devoid of a certain level of quality, even if that be of a moderate nature, it would not be of benefit. There is an allusion to both “constancy and quality” in a tradition narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a). He is reported to have said: “Constant little action with conviction is better near Allah than much action without conviction.” [Muhammad al-Rayshahri, Mizaan al-Hikma, v.3, p. 2124].

The Insight of a Believer

’Unwan al-Basri in saying that he became sad on Imam’s response mentions a very important point worthy of discussion. He says “If the Imam had perceived any good in me he would not have prevented me from frequenting to him…” (Law tafarrasa fi kharan lama zajarani ‘anil ikhtilaaf ilayhi…). This statement depicts a truth that the insightful scholars have mentioned in their works. Al-firaasa is a condition which enables one to know a person from his apparent state. Scholars of this important discipline speak of two kinds of firaasa: (1) The ability to know someone from his physical structure, and (2) The ability to know someone due to one’s spiritual insight. In a well-known tradition, the Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said, “Beware of the perspicacity (firaasa) of a believer, for surely he always visions with the light of Allah” (Ittaqu faraasat al-mu’min fa innahu yanzuru bi nurillah). Thereafter he read the following verse of Qur’an: ‘There are indeed signs in that for the percipient (al-mutawassimin).’ (15:75) ( [Al-Saffaar, Basaa’ir al-Darajaat, p. 375]. And in another tradition, commenting on the verse 15:75 Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) says, “They are the Imams (‘a)” (humul a’imma). And in a very interesting tradition of Imam al-Ridha (‘a) we read, “There is no believer save that he has an acumen because he visions with the light of Allah according to his belief, enlightenment, and knowledge, and indeed Allah has gathered in the Imams among us, what he has scattered in all the believers…Therefore the foremost of the mutawassimin (perspicacious) is the Messenger of Allah (s), followed by Amir al-Mu’minin; then comes al-Hasan, and then al-Husayn, then come the Imams from the progeny of al-Husayn until the Judgment Day…” [al-Hilli, al-Muhtadhar, p. 166].

‘Unwan it seems had realized the sharp vision of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) and thus thought that due to his low disposition, the Imam did not find him fit to continue to benefit from his noble presence.

Perhaps, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) wanted him to enhance his receptivity so that he can absorb what the Imam (‘a0 wanted to teach him, and the Imam (‘a) knew that if he were to stop the lesson, ‘Unwan would be led to some spiritual mortification, to gain better receptivity, and be prepared for the instruction the Imam (‘a). And Allah is All-knowing.

‘Unwan’s attitude I feel was natural, for to be deprived from the lesson of an exalted and immaculate torch of guidance of the caliber of Imam al-Sadiq is an inexpressible and unparalleled calamity.

We shall continue with the discussion in our forthcoming sermons Insha Allah.

Indeed, the best conversation and the most penetrating of counsels is the Book of Allah. Almighty Allah says:

[In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful’ Say He Allah is Non-composite One, Allah is the All-embracing, Neither does He beget, nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him (112:1-4)]

SERMON 2

[Praise be to Allah, Who breaks everything belonging to the oppressors; puts an end to the tyrants; watches over the fugitives; brings assistance to those who cry out for help; meets and clears up the demands of the needy beseechers; supports the faithful.]

THE OCCASION OF DAHW AL-ARDH

The 25th of Dhul Qa'dah, according to a tradition of the Holy Prophet (S) is the day when the earth was spread for the advantage of human beings. The phrase Dahw al-Ardh literally means "The spread of the earth". In another tradition it is reported that the first rahmah (mercy) and blessing descended on this very day.

THE HOLY QUR’AN alluding to the spread of the earth, says: “…and after that He spread out the earth.” (79:30). One of the highly recommended acts of celebration this day is to fast. In a tradition narrated from the Holy Prophet (s), fasting this day equals to the reward of seventy fast. Therefore we should try to make a point and fast, so that we may reap its spiritual benefits.

We should however try to enhance our vision, and understand the occasion well: what is the earth? Why was the earth created? Do we benefit from the earth for the purpose it was created? Are we making the earth a shelter of peace, or an arena of disunity, war, and pollution? If we try to respond to these fundamental questions and do the necessary, we would have celebrated the occasion as anticipated from us. Whereas the well-known Earth Day was officially proclaimed by the UN on February 26, 1971, after the idea was first brought up by John McConnell at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969 and later asserted by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970, Dahw al-Ardh, has been an occasion celebrated for more than 1400 years now.

The Holy Qur’an informs mankind the earth was created as a place of livelihood, but the human beings do not pay heed to the purpose: “Certainly We have established you on the earth, and made in it [various] means of livelihood for you. Little do you thank.” (7:10) In this verse the phrase “qaleelan maa tashkurun” (little do you thank) tells us that the human beings do not take advantage of the earth for the purpose it was created. This is because shukr as we normally conjecture is not a mere verbal expression of thanks, but a practical revelation of gratitude. In simple words, shukr (lit. “to unveil”) means to use the blessing for the purpose it was created. And when one does that, he would “unveil” God’s blessing and practically reveal how great the blessing of earth is. Almighty Allah, showing how unthankful have some of the people been, tells us: "Corruption has appeared in land and sea because of the doings of the people's hands, that He may make them taste something of what they have done, so that they may come back." (30:41)

In this verse we are clearly told about the situation of the earth. Instead of facilitating peace and making it a place to live, many people have misused this blessing and brought about corruption.

The kinds of corruption vocally mentioned by the concerned environmentalists usually pertain to the physical environment such as the depletion of ozone layer, contamination of water, contamination of air, etc. Have they ever contemplated on the depletion of the intellectual layer, the contamination of knowledge, the contamination of thought, etc.? The human being is a spiritual entity more than a physical being. In fact, if we look at the kernel of the matter we would come to realize that even the physical dangers created by the human being on the earth is due to the contamination if his mind and thought.

Therefore, it is imperative for us to decipher what are causes of the major problems of the earth, and how can we contribute to their solutions.

Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke peace upon him in a worthy manner. (33:56)

Invoking Allah's Blessings of the Ahl al-bayt ('a)

[O Allah, send down Thy blessings on the master of your apostles, Muhammad; and send down Thy blessings on the Commander of the faithful, Ali bin Abi Talib, the masters of the successors; and send Thy blessings on the most truthful of women, the pure, Fatima, the radiant and the mistress of the women of Paradise; and send down Thy blessings on al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the two leaders of the youth of Paradise; and send down your blessings on 'Ali bin al-Husayn, the Ornament of worshippers; and send down Thy blessings on Muhammad bin 'Ali, the cleaver of knowledge; and send down Thy blessings of Ja'far bin Muhammad, the veracious, one whose word and deed are approved; and send down Thy blessings on Musa bin Ja'far, the swallower of anger, the door of the fulfillment of needs; and send down Thy blessings on 'Ali bin Musa, one whom Allah is pleased with and He is pleased with Allah; and send down Thy blessings of Muhamad bin 'Ali, the God-wary, the Benevolent; and send down Thy blessings of 'Ali bin Muhammad, the guide, and the immaculate; and send down Thy blessings on Hasan bin 'Ali, the one who has been specifically ennobled by Allah; and send down Thy blessings on the Proof, the One who would Rise.]Supplication[O Allah indeed we eagerly seek from Thee a noble state, by which you bestow veneration to Islam and its people, and degrade hypocracy and its people, and you make us in it from the callers to your obedience, and leaders to your path, and bestow us with it the nobility of this world and the Hereafter.]

Friday, 23 November 2007

HOW TO GET CLOSE TO ALLAH (4)

SERMON 1

In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful

Salamun ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

[Praise be to Allah. None can disclose anything hidden by Him; none can shut the doors kept open by Him; no one who makes a request is sent away disappointed by Him; and no one who looks long and attentively is deluded in his hopes. Praise be to Allah, Who gives protection to the frightened; comes to the help of the upright; promotes the cause of the weak and the enslaved; annihilates the autocrats; destroys rulers and appoints the 'awaited savours' in their place.]

Taqwa & Prior Knowledge

Now then, O brothers and sisters in Islam, I invite you all, as I invite myself to observe taqwa, which although is highly rewarding, is a goal in itself. Taqwa, however, is not a superficial state, but a state of consciousness. That is why it loses its identity without knowledge and wisdom. The reason is crystal clear: when do we actually observe taqwa? When we have knowledge of what is good and what is bad, what is lawful and what is unlawful, what is harmless and what is harmful, what pleases Allah and what displeases Him. If we conjecture that we are muttaqun (God-wary ones) since we adhere to the apparent rituals of religion despite being ignorant of their depths and realities, we are mistaken. History has displayed so many examples of those who due to ignorance faltered from the path of guidance and thought that they were among the most pious of their time. In this limited sermon we cannot go into details, but it would be proper to cite one example worthy of consideration:

The Kharijites

During Imam ‘Ali (‘a)’s caliphate there was a group of people, who constantly engaged in the apparent rituals of worship, but were oblivious of the kernel of religion. Their steadfastness in the apparent forms of worship, it seemed, had blinded them so much that they deemed their speculations to be the revealed law. Despite the explicit directions of the Holy Prophet (s) with regard to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) this naive group had the audacity of challenging Imam ‘Ali (‘a) with reasons that every sound human being would laugh at. They were known as Kharijites. Due to their na├»ve demeanor and ignorant disposition they were easily duped when in the battle of Siffin Amr bin ‘Aas advised Mu’awiya to order his army men to raise tablets of Qur’an, and announce to the Imam’s army that the battle [which Imam ‘Ali (‘a) was about to win] should be stopped and the Qur’an should be a judge between them. The harebrained Kharijites were not able to decipher the deception of Mu’awiya. So ignorant were they, that they could not differentiate between a written Qur’an and a practical Qur’an. They had the audacity of ordering Imam ‘Ali (‘a) to stop the war or else they would kill him. The Imam (‘a), who was an epitome of Qur’an (al-Qur’an al-Naatiq) did not want to stop the war, but eventually was forced to do so. Another slogan of theirs was the Qur’anic verse La hukma illa lillah” (there is no rule, save of Allah). This statement was completely correct, but highly misinterpreted. Their slogan was in reality a Satanic ruse for relieving them from the legal Islamic government of Imam ‘Ali (‘a). Eventually when they started producing their own laws and executing them, they had to appoint people to do it. Imam ‘Ali (‘a) tried to explain to them that although the statement was correct, they misinterpreted its meaning. Obviously Allah is the Absolute Sovereign, but He sent His Messengers to execute His laws and regulate the affairs of the people. And according to the Holy Prophet (s) the most befitting of people after him was Imam ‘Ali (‘a). When one contemplates over the situation Imam ‘Ali (‘a) had to confront, he understands the true meaning of the following recital of his ziyara: 'Assalamu 'alayka yaa awwala mazloom.' (Peace be unto you, O the foremost of the oppressed ones!) Unfortunately we do have a group similar to the Kharijites in our contemporary era who can stipulate laws of their own and brand any Muslim group as disbelievers, and even order their slaughter and execution. This, brothers and sisters, is not Islam at all. Hence the group cannot be known to be Islamic whatsoever. May the Almighty emancipate us from ignorance, and enable us decipher the subtleties of religion, so that we may enjoy the higher levels of taqwa.

Now let us continue with our discussion on the well-known tradition of ‘Unwan al-Basri which encapsulates secrets of the path worthy of contemplation:

THE TRADITION OF OF 'UNWAN AL-BASRI (IV)

The first part under discussion was as follows:

[‘A ninety-four year old man named ‘Unwan al-Basri narrates, saying: “I had been studying under Malik ibn Anas for a number of years. When Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) came to Madina, I went to visit him and was interested in learning from him just as I had been learning from Malik. He said to me one day: “I am a man much sought after and am also occupied by various supplications throughout the day and the night so please do not disturb me in my state of supplication and go and learn from Malik and study under him just as you were doing before”. I became sad on hearing this and left the Imam’s presence, and said to myself, “If the Imam had perceived any good in me he would not have prevented me from studying under him and learning from him”. ..]

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a)'s statement, “I am a man much sought after and am also occupied by various supplications (awraad) throughout the day and the night...” alludes to a reality worthy of consideration: those who enjoy exalted stations have certain recitals (awraad) during the night and the day. Can one choose to recite whatever he loves and feels to be very good? What are the kinds of awraad that we should practice?

Delicacy of Recitals (Awraad)

Briefly, we must understand that recitals (awraad) can be classified into two: (1) Those recitals that the Holy prophet (s) and his infallible progeny (‘a) advised for all the believers, and (2) Those recitals that they advised for specific people. The saints who adhere to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (s) likewise give the wayfarers two kinds of instructions: (1) Those that everyone can engage in, and (2) Those that only a select should recite.

The contemporary insightful scholar Ayatullah Muhammad Shuja’i, a student of the late ‘Allama al-Tabataba’i, in his monumental Maqaalaat, when discussing about the subject of wird (recital of remembering Allah) says: Selecting recitals of remembering Allah (awraad) that are in harmony with one’s state (haal) and station (maqaam), considering the necessity of observing such harmony, must be undertaken through the guidance and instruction of a perfect human being, who is perfect in the real sense of the word. And one should not do it by himself, for it is possible, due to lack of harmony, not only would the desired result not follow, it would also bring about blunders, deviations, and different problems. Likewise one must not act according to the speech and teachings of the incapable claimants of gnosis, the false high-way robbers, and the unaware ignorant people, who exist in great number today. For in general, adopting their speech and teachings and taking them as your guides for the path would result in nothing save deviation from the truth, and loss in every dimension.

Thereafter Ayatullah Muhammad Shuja’i tries to explain how important and determining is the kind of recital, the time of recital, the state of recital, and number of repeating the recital. He says that it is possible that a wird recited for a certain of times during a specific time be detrimental for a wayfarer to Allah. There have been cases of how people due to having practiced such awraad have faltered from the path and gone extremely astray. For example, it is from this channel that many were led to claim deviant beliefs like God has entered into them (hulool), they are united with God (ittihaad), they have been excused from the laws of worship, they themselves are God, etc. [http://balagh.net/persian/akhlaq/books/books/05/06.htm]

Therefore, so long as we have not yet found the right person for the journey, we should always try to observe those recitals that can be recited by all. With Allah’s grace we do have such general instructions of awraad narrated from our well-known saints, whose origin is the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Hence we can and are advised to practice such recitals to be availed of its positive effects. This is not the place of discussing such awraad. Those interested can look at the relevant texts. Just for the sake of citing examples, however, we here below mention three general directions by well-known ‘urafaa (saints) for your perusal:

Warding Off Spiritual Unrest

a) Ayatullah Sayyid ‘Ali Qadhi al-Tabataba’i, the mentor of 'Allama al-Tabataba'i would advise: If you have spiritual unease, you may recite the following:

La ilaha illallahu wahdahu laa sharika lah; lahul hamdu wa lahul mulk wa huwa ‘alaa kulli shay’in qadeer; a’udhu billahi min hamazaatishhayaateen wa a’udhu bika Rabbi min an yahdhuroon; innallaha huwassamee’ul ‘aleem.

Other than Allah alone there is no god; He has no partner; to Him belongs praise and to Hium belongs the sovereignty; and He has power over all things; I seek protection of Allah from the insinuations of the Satans; and I seek Your protection O Lord, from them being present in me; Indeed only Allah is the Hearing and Knowing.

Memory and Retention

b) Ayatullah ‘Ali Qadhi al-Tabataba’i would advise one to recite Ayat al-Kursi [2:255-257] and Ma’udhatayn (Surat al-Falaq and Surat al-Nas) for strengthening one’s memory

Intellectual Life and 40 Days

c) Ayatullah Hasan Zadeh Amuli in his brilliant epistle Nurun ‘Ala Nur (Light upon Light) says: “The Gnostic Mawla ‘Abd al-Razaaaq in his commentary on Manaazil al-Saa’irin says: ‘And indeed the wayfarers have experienced that reciting the dhikr 'Yaa Hayyu Yaa Qayyoom, Yaa man la ilaha illa Anta' frequently, brings about intellectual life (hayaat al-'aql). Then Ayatullah in his epistle continues saying that frequency in recitation is indispensable for attaining the result. Thereafter he says that a dhikr that is continued for less than forty days does not have that much of effect. Thereafter he establishes how important it is for one to at least continue the act for one year so that he may have performed it on the night of destiny (Laylat al-Qadr)-[Ref: Nurun ‘Alaa Nur, p. 126]

We would like to suffice ourselves with these. However, there is a short program our great Shi’a ‘Ulama have mentioned in their prayer manuals worthy of consideration. They have narrated different periods of the day specific to the Infallibles of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).

Insha Allah we shall consider those times and give references for the awraad they advise. It must be understood that every minute, or rather every time of the day and night has its own significance, and only those well-grounded in knowledge are able to decipher the subtleties of time.We wish to stop over here.

Insha Allah we shall continue with the exegesis of this radiant tradition next week.

Indeed, the best conversation and the most penetrating of counsels is the Book of Allah.

Almighty Allah says:[In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.Indeed We sent it down on the Night of Ordainment. What will show you what is the Night of Ordainment? The Night of Ordainment is better than a thousand months. In it the angels and the Spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, with every command. It is peaceful until the rising of the dawn.(97:1-5)]

SERMON 2

[Praise be to Allah, Who breaks everything belonging to the oppressors; puts an end to the tyrants; watches over the fugitives; brings assistance to those who cry out for help; meets and clears up the demands of the needy beseechers; supports the faithful.]

Birth of Imam al-Ridha ('a)

Yesterday the 11th of Dhul Qa’da marked the birthday of Imam al-Ridha (‘a). The life history of the Imam (‘a) is full of lessons to learn. The entire Shi’a world celebrates the birthday with joy and cognition. Sermons together with feasts are held to remember this great Divine leader who has left a great heritage for us to understand and contemplate. If we look at the radiant traditions narrated from Imam al-Ridha (‘a) on issues pertaining to Islamic ideology, we are wonderstruck about its accuracy and depth. On issues pertaining to Islamic law, Imam al-Ridha (‘a) also has a very vital role to play. According some traditions, Imam (‘a) represents the “fundamental link” between the preceding and succeeding Imams. Many different sects of Shi’as were formed such as, Zaydis, Isma’ilis, Fatahis, etc. Those however who obeyed Imam al-Ridha (‘a) adhered to all the rest of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Thus their faith would be stronger than those who stopped at seven or before that. Their ziyara likewise would be accepted, for the foundation of our actions is imaan (belief). There is a tradition that alludes to this reality:

Ibn Mahzyaar is reported to have said: I said to Abu Ja’far Imam al-Taqi (‘a), “May I be made your ransom; is the ziyara of al-Ridha (‘a) more meritorious or the ziyara of Abu ‘Abdillah?” He said, “The ziyara of my father is has more merit. And this is because all the people visit him. However, none save the specific Shi’as (the twelvers) visit my father.”

This in reality alludes to the fact one whose wilaya is not complete does not earn the same merit as one whose wilaaya is complete. That is why some exegetes say that perhaps this tradition was to inform us that the criteria of merit is complete faith. And therefore even if a Shi’a Ithna ‘Ashri were to visit Imam al-Husayn (‘a) he would get a similar reward. Visitation, however, must accompany gnosis and ma’rifa.

There an interesting tradition that explains what this knowledge should be:

Hamza bin Hamraan is reported to have said: Abu ‘Abdillah (‘a) said: My grandson would be killed in the land of Khurasan in a city known as Tus, whosoever visits him therein, knowing his sanctity, I would take him by my hand on the Day of Judgment and would make him enter Paradise, even if he were among those who have committed major sins. I said: May I be made your ransom and what is the meaning of knowing his sanctity? The Imam (‘a) said: He should know that the Imam is (1) Muftaradh al-taa’a (it is compulsory to obey him), (2) He is a ghareeb (stranger), and (3) He is a shaheed (martyr). Whosoever visits him knowing his sanctity, Allah would give him the reward of seventy martyrs who have been truly martyred while being in the company of the Holy Prophet (s) [Bihar al-Anwaar, v. 99, p. 35]

A commentary of this tradition is beyond the scope of this limited sermon. Nevertheless I feel some ambiguities must be cleared:

(1) Muftaradh al-taa’a should not be merely taken as a legal kind of submission. Exegetes explain that the Imam being united with the Muhammadan light has power to affect influence in existential entities. Hence not only it is compulsory to obey him, but all those entities that are inferior to his exalted state, are ontologically submissive to him.
(2) Ghareeb, according to some insightful scholars, has two meanings: (1) Since he was forced to move from Madina and brought to Marw, he was a stranger in the town; and (2) His exalted sanctity and proximity to Allah was matchless. The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) according to a tradition cannot be compared to other people. Hence, despite being among his lovers, the Imam was a stranger between them: whereas he enjoyed great sanctity, they were remote from him.
(3) Shaheed, can either refer to his martyrdom through poison, or his exalted state of witnessing. The Imam ‘a also witnesses the actions of the believers. The holy Qur’an establishes this reality very clearly. We pray to Almighty Allah to unite us with Imam in this world as well as the Hereafter.

Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke peace upon him in a worthy manner. (33:56)

Invoking Allah's Blessings of the Ahl al-Bayt ('a)

[O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad,Thy servant, Messenger, confidant, friend, beloved intimate, mercy unto all the created beings, bearer of Thy sacraments, quotient of Thy messengers, the most superior, the exquisite, the most handsome, the most perfect, the upright, the more prospering, the more pleasant, the thoroughly purified, the sublime; who has more and better blessings, advantages, mercies, affections and salutations than Thou made available to any one of Thy servants, prophets, messengers, friends, and those honoured by Thee from among Thy created being.O Allah send blessings on 'Ali the Leader of the Faithful, the successor to the Messenger of the Lord of the worlds, Thy servant, Thy beloved representative, brother of Thy Messenger, Thy decisive argument over mankind, Thy most important sign, the great news from Thee.O Allah, send blessings on the truthful pure Fatima, the chosen leader of the women of the worlds.O Allah, send blessings on the sons of 'the mercy unto the worlds',the leaders and guides, the Imams al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the leaders of the dwellers of Paradise. O Allah, send blessings on the Leaders of the Muslims, 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, Muhammad ibn 'Ali, Jafar ibn Muhammad, Musa ibn Jafar, 'Ali ibn Musa, Muhammad ibn'Ali, 'Ali ibn Muhammad, al-Hasan ibn'Ali, and his son, the rightly guided Guide, Thy decisive argument over Thy servants, Thy trustworthy confidant on Thy earth; blessings, numerous, and for ever. O Allah, send blessings on the Custodian of thy commandments, the vigilant Guardian, the reliable Patron, the awaited Justice, surrounded by Thy favourite angels, assisted by the Holy Spirit.]

Supplication

[O Allah indeed we eagerly seek from Thee a noble state, by which you bestow veneration to Islam and its people, and degrade hypocracy and its people, and you make us in it from the callers to your obedience, and leaders to your path, and bestow us with it the nobility of this world and the Hereafter.]

A WORD ON THE FORMAT

The Friday Sermons that precede the Friday Prayer are normally two in number. In the first sermon, the Imam of the prayer greets every one, praises Allah, and advises the faithful to observe piety, and finally concludes the sermon with a chapter from the Holy Qur'an. Thereafter he sits for a moment and then once again stands and addresses the praying ones by once again praising Allah. He then continues his sermon with the important reminders, and then invokes blessings on Muhammad and his infallible progeny, and finally prays for the believers. Thereafter he goes to the mihrab and leads the Friday prayer. We, likewise, in our postings will follow the same pattern, and kindly request the readers to post their feedback, queries, ambiguities, as well as suggestions. We pray to Almighty Allah to enable us establish a fertile atmosphere for the arrival of the 12th decendant of Prophet Muhammad (s), Imam al-Mahdi ('aj).