Tawakul, Fana and Soul Conversation

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Listen to the sweetness of Nabi Yusuf’s loneliness while praising the Almighty in the depth of the well. Look at the smoothness of Nabi Ibrahim’s arm as it came down when he chose the love of God over the love of his son. Experience Nabi Yunus’ whispers echoing in the depth of oceans. Gaze at Nabi Nuh’s shining eyes when remembering his Lord in the middle of the storm.

Love the way we have known it is not enough my dear soul, for Allah fully reveals himself only to those who put their trust in him. Tell me, was Nabi Nuh saved because of his reliance on his physical ability to navigate through stormy weathers?  Far from it! Nabi Nuh was saved by Allah because he had ‘tawakkul’ on the promise his Lord had made to him. Allah saved him because unlike others, he relied on the creator of the storm more than he relied on the laws of nature regulating the storm itself.

Remember that It is because Nabi Nuh had the capacity to have tawakkul while navigatng through his internal storms, that Allah made him conquer them in the external realm. So if you ever find yourself lost, my deal soul, in the hollow of your own depth, wandering aimlessly on an endless night, do not rely on the sole vision of your eyes to guide you towards His light. Remember that some deserts are only crossed when relying on the sight of your heart and the sincerity of your trust.

So love your Lord dearly my friend, love him sincerely. Drown yourself in this ocean of mercy, for in this ocean of love, drowning only will bring you back to life.

Painting : ‘Là où vivent les corps sauvages’ by Amanpreet Badhwar

Seeking God in The Extraordinary

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With each passing day, when you stare at memories accumulated on the blackboard of your existence, you realize that most if not all moments worth writing were simple in nature.

 These moments are often so benign and seemingly empty of any meaning that you don’t even live them fully when they actually occur. You greet them like one replies to salutations from a stranger on the street, not letting those experiences penetrate the core of your being. More often than not, it is only when the stranger has long but walked by, that you stop and smile. And when you look back, to decipher the silhouette of the face you just ignored, its reality has already faded and it is now alive only through a roughly painted picture on the canvas of your past experiences.

How unfortunate is it that we live moments through their memories more than we do when do they actually occur. How can we live words written more than we live words when writing them. How can one live a life living each moments only when they are all but gone?

Sometimes, I feel like we have defined our existence in measures that do not suit its reality. It’s as if we were all but waiting for a miracle to take place, for an extraordinary story to happen to us. And in the longing of this prophecy we have self written and read, we ignore the present, thinking about a brighter future, only to realize that there was something extraordinary, in the ‘ordinary’ we just ignored. Life itself is a miracle. You walking on the earth is nothing but extraordinary. Every breath of yours is a gentle stroke of God on the book of your life. And If you listen carefully to the promise God has made with your soul, in each seemingly ordinary moment that passes by, you will realize that He has hidden enough wisdom for you to write a lifetime about it.

The quest to Allah may be unlimited, but your time on earth surely isn’t. So cherish every moments of your life my friend. Do not look for God only where you think he is for He is the most present where you expect him the least. Right in those tiny, little, insignificant moments you have been ignoring all your life, in between every breath you took for granted, remember him sincerely and the breeze of mercy will surprise your existence. Call upon him and He will answer. This is the only truth one always needs to remember, in the meantime, in between time.

The Story of Little Mahdi and the Tree

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On the night of a full moon
A child with shining eyes
Was walking up the hill
Leading to the street of Iman

While whispering stories
Of lights that once shined
Of kindness and smiles
He uttered few words
That had travelled for years
Across lands and seas

‘Yeki Bood Yeki Nabood
Gheyr Az Khoda, Kasi Nabood’

As the child was passing by
An old tree heard his footsteps
And woke up from his sleep
And smiled at the boy.

The three bowed down in reverence
And waived at this innocent soul
Whose curious eyes kept looking
At the trees swaying beard

‘Peace be upon you little one’
Said the tree to his new friend
‘I am sure such a blessed child,
Must have a blessed name’

The boy was shy but smiled
To the stranger he had just met
And although he did know the tree
He remembered his mother’s words
Not to leave salutations of peace
To ever remain unanswered
So he stopped next the tree and said:

‘Peace be upon you too, Mr tree,
My blessed name is Mahdi
It is written the way it sounds,
With an M like Mother.
My name is just like me,
It is from a distant land,
None of my friends know its meaning
Nor the story behind it’

The aged tree smiled and with
Its branch took the child closer
And while offering him
One of its ripest berries to eat
He asked the boy to count him
The story of his name

The boy sat on the top
Of the tree’s curving lap
And with the name of God
Started to share with the tree
The long story of his name:

‘Yeki Bood, Yeki Na bood,
Gheyr Az Khoda, Kassi Nabood’
‘Some were, and Some were not.
God was there, when others were not’

And when the moon and the sun
Both were still resting
In the cradle of creation
Allah created ‘Nur’
And the light upon light
And from its finest rays
God molded five stars
And named them Muhammad and Ali
Fatimah, Hassan, and Hussain the last one

The boy continued the story
And said that ‘each light gave birth
To a new light, so that the world
Would always have two suns
One shining in the skies
And one walking on the earth’

The boy started counting
Looking at his fingers
And said to himself
While looking in the skies

The brightest of all stars
Is resting in Madina
And so is his daughter
The queen of all lights,
Along four of her sons,
All buried in Baqi.

The Prince of the believers
Is shining in Najaf
Whereas the king of the hearts
Rests in peace in Karbala

Two of Zahra’s sons, together
Have bloomed in the city of Kadhmain.
While two others are standing
Facing the winter of Samarah

Another one of her progeny
Came as a stranger in Tus
Until he became, the King of Khorassan

The boy continued and said
‘Al Mahdi is the name of
The last and the fourteenth
Of the Godly created lights
That is still shining on the earth
As other have all returned
To the light, which gave, them birth

When the child was done counting
The journey of his name,
A journey of lights
The tree remained silent
And looked at the child
While combing his beard
With a branch of wisdom

He then asked the boy a question
About the story of his name:

‘If Mahdi is the name,
Of a star that enlightens
The earth and its people
Shouldn’t the light of this star
Be known by every heart
That has also witnessed
The majesty of the sun,
And the peace of the Moon?

The boy started thinking
And did not know what to answer

If the Mahdi was the name
Of the walking sun on earth
Why was it so, that only few eyes
Were looking for his light?

When the tree realized
That the child was silent
He brought the boy closer
And whispered in his ears

‘From his existence we benefit,
Like radiant sun,shining behind a cloud’

The boy remained silent
And suddenly smiled
Realizing the truth
Behind the story of his name

And while he embraced the tree
Thanking him for his answer
The boy became curious
And asked a question in return

‘I thank you Mr. tree,
I thank you dearly,
But I have a question,
That remains unanswered:

I don’t understand how
You know about my name
Much more Than I do,
That you know about Al Mahdi
Much more than I do?

The tree hugged the boy
Even more and said

‘Remember that Al Mahdi
Is a blessing for All,
For the progeny of Adam
As much as the progeny of djinn

He is a Blessing for trees,
and flowers alike
He is a blessing for
Every creation on earth

From the tiniest stone buried
In the palm of your hand

To the most majestic mountains
Neighboring the skies

And if you listen carefully
To the songs of the birds
While they unfurl their wings

To the sound of raindrops
Gently caressing the earth

To the whispers of roses
When sensing the coming spring

To the cracking of branches
When conversing with the wind

You will hear that each one of them
Has one name in their heart
The name, which you carried
From the day you were born

For tonight is the night
That splits Shaban in half
The night when in a distant land
The last of its kind was born’

The boy remembered the lesson
And bid farewell to the tree
Both parted with peace and blessing
On the light upon light
And their best reflections on earth

And while he was walking up the hill
Leading to the city of love
The boy stopped one last time
And said, looking at the tree

‘I have told you my name
But forgotten to ask yours.
How shall I call you from now?
Tell me your blessed name?

The tree smiled at the boy
And whispered in the wind
The name he had been
Concealing all along

The boy never forgot
The name of his new friend
And as the moon was shinning
Brighter and brighter in the sky
Little Mahdi had just met,
A tree called ‘Intezar’*

*Intezar means The Waiting

The Last Farewell: From Husayn to Zainab

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*This is a creative piece written eulogizing the final good bye between Imam al-Husayn (as) and his sister, Sayyida Zainab (as). This is not based on traditions in history.

At last, a steady wind was carrying a distinct chill whistling through the ranks of an army who had gathered in circle surrounding the remaining pieces of a man who had died in solitude. This tender breeze had come as if to appease the earth of the bloodshed it had witnessed, to calm down agitated waves of a crying river, and to bring solace to a lady standing outside her tent, holding onto her black veil, not certain of when the time would come when she would have to part, with the piece of cloth she was born with.
Lady Zainab was contemplating the battleground.  The gentle airstream was brushing her eyelids letting her know that a storm was slowly going to take over the plains of Nainawa. Amidst the flying grains of sand hovering over her sight, she kept looking at the chest of her beloved brother desperately waiting for it to move, for it to breathe, even if for a last time. She wanted to witness the last moments of her brother’s existence, as if aware of the hardships that would befall on her as soon as the beheaders of Husayn would realize that the bodies of all men of Banu Hashim were now either deeply buried under the ground, or their pieces scattered all over the battlefield.

“Indeed, Allah is with those who are patient”

Lady Zainab lifted her rosary and kept reciting the same verse again and again. After a while she heard the footsteps of a child approaching her. She turned back and saw the face of Sakina. At first she couldn’t recognize her. Sakina had grown weak. Thirst had exhausted the face of al-Husayn’s daughter. The absence of her father had taken away the once shining brightness of her playful eyes. She came closer to her aunt and when Lady Zainab tried to caress her, Sakina remained still and handed her a letter.

“Ya Ama Zainab, Baba left this letter for you to my brother Sajjad,” she said.

Lady Zainab took the letter. She immediately recognized the writing of her beloved Husayn. As she was trying to open the sealed letter from which could smell the fragrance of her brother, she heard the breath of Sakina, which had grown faster. She gazed upon her niece and realized that her niece’s crying eyes were staring at the letter she was holding.

“What is it my beloved Sakina; don’t you know that your tears come down as arrows on my heart? Oh you who were the peace of my brother’s nights.”

Lady Sakina did not move. She couldn’t bear her life anymore. Everyone reminded her of her father. A father she knew she would not see again. A pain she couldn’t share with her brothers, for they had all but left her alone.

“Ya Ama, can I ask you a question?’ she said with a trembling voice, her eyes facing the very ground beneath which her father was now resting.

“Of course Sakina, ask my beloved. Ask Oh light of my eyes.”

“Did baba love me as much as he loved you and brother Sajjad?” she asked staring at the letter with her innocent eyes.

“Oh my beloved Sakina, he loved you more than he loved anyone else, my princess.”

“Ya ama Zainab, then why is it that he left you and brother Sajjad a letter, and didn’t write me anything?”

That question brought more pain to Zainab than the pain she felt when she saw water dripping from the pierced flask of al-Abbas. She took her niece in her arms and hugged her with the little strength that was still left in her body. It is when she tried to embrace her niece tighter that she realized she couldn’t hug her more, for Sakina had grown so weak that her ribs couldn’t behold the proximity of a sincere cuddle.

“Brother Sajjad had told me to leave you alone after giving you the letter, ya Ama,” Sakina said.

“But if Baba says anything about me, ya Ama, promise me you will make me read it,” she said looking at the face of Zainab.

“I promise Sakina, I promise I will,” Lady Zainab replied.

As Sakina was making her way back into her tent, not knowing that the only place in which she was still able to gather her thoughts in peace would soon be burnt to ashes, Lady Zainab (as) breathed deeply and opened the letter Sakina had handed her. Tears had filled her tired eyes. Tears so heavy they blurred her vision making it impossible for her to decipher her brother’s handwriting. Lady Zainab kept rubbing the last corner of her veil which wasn’t already drenched by tears shed on each and every men of her household. She kept rubbing her eyes in order to prevent her tears from falling over the last remaining words of her beloved brother. Finally, when her eyes became as thirsty as she was, she started reading the letter from her Imam.

“Peace be upon you, oh my beloved sister. Peace be upon you, who are the rightful heiress of our mother’s modesty. Peace be upon you, ya Zainab, the one whose name brought solace to the heart of our father Ali.

How fortunate must I be? As you are reading those words, my head must surely be on the spear of my enemies, but my soul must have already reached our beloved grandfather in heaven and there, I will finally be able to rest my head on the laps of our mother, Zahra (as).

Just like Baba had left a letter for us before he departed, I would like to take this opportunity, Oh Zainab, to bid my last farewell. My beloved sister, the time has come for you to look at my body one last time. If they haven’t beheaded me, then call on Sakina to kiss my face one last time. If they haven’t marched their horses on my body then call my daughter for her to lie down on my chest one last time. Like every father, my wish was for al-Sajjad to envelop me in a shroud so that I could face my Creator with dignity. But I know that those who didn’t shed a tear at the sight of my beloved Ali Asghar, will never allow my son to pray after me. Oh my beloved sister, my state is such that I do not even know if I will be buried. Ya Zainab, my state is such that I do not even know whether I will be united with every part of my being in my grave. Oh my sister, I do not know if ever my head will rest in Karbala. I swear on the Creator of this world and the hereafter that I pray for my enemies for they will taste the fire of hell because of me. But what shreds my heart to pieces Ya Zainab, is what my father had told me would happen to you, after I no longer exist.

Ya Zainab you will be made a prisoner. The very community of our grandfather who set fire the door behind which our mother was standing, will set our tents on fire, ya Zainab. Oh my beloved sister, they will forget your name, and the name of your father. Do not cry my sister for your tears will only bring peace to their hearts. Remember what our father had taught us. You must be strong, ya Zainab. You must be the flower that gives fragrance even to the hand that crushes it.

Oh my sister, they will not let you go to Madina. They will take you to Shaam where people will welcome you with stones and laughter. But you will remain steadfast my beloved sister, for you are a lion and the daughter of a lion, and no matter what they call you, no one will change your name and the name of your father. Remind everyone of who you are. Do not let them make you forget your name and the blood that rushes in your veins.

Ya Zainab, a time will come when they will call you by your name and ask for your allegiance, and the allegiance of al-Sajjad. You will be alone and you will have to face them. Oh my sister, at that time you will feel my presence in your heart. You will feel the presence of Abbas by your side. And when you do feel our presence, you will roar. Your voice will revive the eloquence of our father and each and every word of yours will befall on the face of your enemies like a piercing dhulfiqar. You will not shiver. You will rise above the rank of every living human being on earth, as you will become the voice of the Imam of your time.

Ya Zainab, if I had but one request, It would be that you do not stop commemorating and reviving the events of Ashura. Let every young man know that Ali Akbar’s voice did not shake when he gave his last call to prayer. Tell every mother holding a baby how they pierced the throat of my thirsty Ali Asghar. Describe to my followers, wherever they are, the certainty on the face of Qassim when he took his last breath. Tell every elderly man how youthful was Habib when he entered the battlefield.  When you meet Dhuljana, whisper in its ear how my enemies have marched their horses on me. And whenever you drink water, ya Zainab, remember the thirst of my beloved Abbas whose utmost loyalty did not let him quench his thirst even when he reached Furat. Allah has blessed you with the honor of being the first mourner of this tragedy. You will be the first from our lineage that will commemorate my martyrdom till my grandson al-Mahdi avenges our blood.

Ya Zainab, believing in Allah comes with a hefty price. Do not feel saddened for the greatness of man’s reward goes with the greatness of suffering, and God did not love a people but that He subjected them to suffering. Do not feel saddened, ya Zainab, for our mother Zahra had informed me that Allah would fill the hearts of millions with our love as they will keep the legacy of our tragedy alive. Do not feel saddened, Zainab, for you will be remembered. By God, our followers will come to visit your shrine wherever it is that Allah decides that you may rest. Your veil will inspire millions to walk on the footsteps of our mother. You will attain such a level of piety that our followers will name their daughter after you as much as they will name them after our mother Zahra.

My beloved sister, the time has come for me to bid my last farewell as it is my last night and I must spend time praying to Allah for I wouldn’t want to meet Him empty handed. I have learnt from our father never to stop praying, even if death was to strike in the middle of prostration. You are the queen of Banu Hashim and as much I worry for you, I know that nothing can shake the pillars of your faith. But Zainab, Sakina is a child. She might ask for water. She might cry in front of them. She is very weak. By God, she is the dearest soul to my heart. Ya Zainab, hold her tight. Ya Zainab, do not mention my name in front of her. Ya Zainab, do not mention the name of Abbas in front of her. Ya Zainab, do not drink before her. Ya Zainab, do not let her sleep on the ground. Make her sleep on your chest or on the chest of Sajjad. Ya Zainab, take off her earrings delicately before they snatch them forcefully from her. Ya Zainab, my last wish is that you protect my daughter so that I can recognize her when she meets me in the skies.

I pray to Allah that He does not make anyone experience the pain that our family went through. I will conclude this letter with the words of Allah, for there are no words dearer to me, than the words of the Almighty himself.

“O you who believe! be patient and remain steadfast, and be careful of your duty to Allah, so that you may be successful.”

Your Imam and loving brother,

Husayn ibn Ali”
Lady Zainab couldn’t bear the pain. Tears dripping from her eyes had watered the letter she was holding. But it did not matter. Words she had read were engraved in her heart and nothing in this world could make her forget the voice of her brother, which echoed and resonated in her depth long after she had finished reading them.

Lady Zainab gathered herself. A growing noise had reached her ears. The distinct sound of cracking branches amidst a blowing wind. Conscious of the fact that there was no vegetation around, Lady Zainab turned around and saw Sakina running towards her. And behind the waiving flap of Sakina’s veil, Lady Zainab saw disappearing in ashes, the tent in which her brother had last spent his night. When she took Sakina in her arms and buried her face in the intimate layers of love, she had unknowingly buried with it, her last hope of  reaching Medina and sending her salutations over the grave of her mother, Zahra.