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]
[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, 11 January 2008
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).