Friday, 25 January 2008



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.


[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.]


[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

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.]


[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.]

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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).