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:
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 naïve 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)]
[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.]
[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
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).