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.]

3 comments:

otowi said...

Thank you for your posts, I look forward to them and am enjoying them and trying to learn.

Shaykh Muhammad Khalfan (mkhalfan@gmail.com) said...

Thank you for your comments. May Almighty Allah Enable all of us to appreciate the kernel of religious values and practise them.

Anonymous said...

Salaamun Alaikum
Amazing. Especially, pondering upon why Imam (as) asked that one night for rememberance, when we know 1) that he (a.s) is in constant remembrance and 2)the meeting of the Lord is of more value to Imam a.s !
Makes one think - Would it be because, he cared so much for his companions, he (as) would allow them the night for preparation and help them achieve even greater perfection ?

The distortions of the events of Kerbala is quite sad. Allama Muttahari has a set of sermons on this, which is very tought provoking and enables one to realise the true story of Kerbala. However, even in his book, he quotes that for instance the mother of Ali Akbar wasn't present at Kerbala, something that is not agreed by all (I've heard that authentic books say she was present). So it's hard to judge.

Regarding the poems, would it make sense to say that it's all imagination and not the reality. For instance, imagining a companiong falling from his horse, we may say "he's calling for help" even though he hasn't. Would that be wrong ? what if before the poem, we may remind the listener that this is not a recall of the true events, but what my imagination, mixed with feelings, draws from the facts ?

Jazakallah
with loads of duas.

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).