From The Return To Being (Risalah al Wilayah), Allameh Tabatabaei, introduction by S.K Toussi
From The Return To Being (Risalah al Wilayah), Allameh Tabatabaei, introduction by S.K Toussi
Excerpt from Albert Camus’, La peste (translated in English to ‘The Plague‘) written in 1947:
‘Perhaps the easiest way of making a town’s acquaintance is to ascertain how the people in it work, how they love, and how they die. In our little town (is this, one wonders, an effect of the climate?) all three are done on much the same lines, with the same feverish yet casual air. The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits. Our citizens work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich. Their chief interest is in commerce, and their chief aim in life is, as they call it, “doing business.” Naturally they don’t eschew such simpler pleasures as love-making, seabathing, going to the pictures. But, very sensibly, they reserve these pastimes for Saturday afternoons and Sundays and employ the rest of the week in making money, as much as possible. In the evening, on leaving the office, they forgather, at an hour that never varies, in the cafes, stroll the same boulevard, or take the air on their balconies. The passions of the young are violent and short-lived; the vices of older men seldom range beyond an addiction to bowling, to banquets and “socials,” or clubs where large sums change hands on the fall of a card.
It will be said, no doubt, that these habits are not peculiar to our town; really all our contemporaries are much the same. Certainly nothing is commoner nowadays than to see people working from morn till night and then proceeding to fritter away at card-tables, in cafes and in small- talk what time is left for living. Nevertheless there still exist towns and countries where people have now and then an inkling of something different. In general it doesn’t change their lives. Still, they have had an intimation, and that’s so much to the good.’
Seventy years have gone by. Same Old Plague.
Shaykh Mahmud Shabistari has described this reality in a very accurate and expressive way:
From Shabistari’s English translation of Gulshan-i Rāz, (translated by E H. WHINFIELD, M.A. 1880)
[A man] once said, “It is thirty years that I have been seeking forgiveness for one phrase, ‘Praise be God’s’, that I allowed to pass my lips.”
When asked to explain he replied, “One night the marketplace caught fire, and I left my house to see if the fire had reached my shop. When I heard that my shop was safe, I said, ‘Praise be God’s’.
Instantly I was brought to my senses with the realization that, granted my shop was unharmed, should I not have been thinking about others’?
Source: Love and Concern for Others
“The prayer of Munajat Sha‘baniyyah, attributed to Imam Ali, is a highly regarded whispered prayer recited by all the Imams. It has been mentioned by several great scholars in their books: Sayyid ibn Tawus in his al-Iqbal, Allamah Majlisi in Bihar al-Anwar, Samahiji in Sahifat al-Alawiyyah and Shaykh Abbas Qummi in Mafatih al- Jinan.
The late Imam Khomeini, in many places and on several occasions, had emphasized the significance of this prayer. In one of his sayings he mentions that whilst there are many important mystical poems and prayers that one can extract from the Qur’an and from the whispered prayers of the Imams, the Munajat Sha‘baniyyah is unique, and that though philosophers and mystics may be able to understand some aspects of these whispered prayers, those who truly understand them have actually achieved a high level of closeness to Allah, with a taste or experience of the prayer’s content. Hence, a wayfarer or a traveller to Allah, who has reached at least some level of what is described in these prayers and has achieved closeness to Allah, can have some grasp of the ideas, although they certainly are not understandable by a beginner in philosophy and mysticism.
Imam Khomeini also says that Munajat Sha‘baniyyah is one of the special whispered prayers to which, if someone pays attention, performs reflection, and follows its advice, that person can reach a notable position and can achieve some levels of perfection. The late Mirza Agha Maliki Tabrizi, one of the teachers of Imam Khomeini, especially in the fields of ethics and spirituality, says that Munajat Sha‘baniyyah is a well-known whispered prayer, and that ‘It contains a wealth of knowledge.’
The meaning of perfect detachment
O Allah give me perfect detachment from everything, [and then attachment] to you.
Our problem is that we, claiming to be believers (mu’mineen), who believe in Allah (swt), are still attached to many things rendering us not truly monotheistic. We believe in Allah while at same time think people or material techniques we use are independent of Allah. Many of us think that our success comes either from Allah or from the various worldly means. There is a kind of polytheism (shirk) that unfortunately exists in the minds of many believers:
And most of them do not believe in Allah without ascribing partners to Him. (12:106)
The majority of the believers are in a sense suffering from hidden polytheism and this is caused by giving independent positions to creatures of Allah, such as our own efforts, skills, and talents. We think our success will come through the efforts of our mother, father, tribe, party, community, government, doctor, boss, and so forth, and hence we have attachment to many things alongside Allah; we also have an attachment to Allah, but it is mostly in a polytheistic way.
At this point in this munajat we ask Allah to give us completedetachment from everything other than Him. This is not in the sense that we forget, neglect, or fail to properly use other things, or neglect them, or that we live in a cave, but in the sense that we do not put hope and trust in them, and that our hope and trust remains only in Allah. So, we continue to act and behave as reasonable people act, and we do not ignore worldly means and the cause and effect system of the world, but neither do we place our hope and trust in them. Muslims are to strive for excellence. They are to be the best they can in any field they are employed in, whether it be farming, constructing, business dealing, resaerching, or parenting.
We must try to use all the techniques available to us, employ the best technology, methods, plans, while simultaneously doing this whilst knowing clearly that this will not guarantee our success; Our success rests only in Allah (swt). We must not even have trust in our own works, prayer, fasting, or public service. Indeed, we must not have trust in our own righteous deeds, if there are any, or in our good qualities, if there are any good qualities. We should even not have trust in the Ahl al-Bayt as independent from Allah. Our trust is in our Lord, Allah, and this is the true meaning of:
O Allah give me perfect detachment from everything, [and then attachment] to you.
Therefore, we must begin to detach ourselves from what is bad, and then from what is neutral, and then from what is good, and then from what is holy. This is a process of refinement, and anything other than Allah should be left aside. This is pure monotheism (tawhid), to have our hope only fixed on Allah. Once this is achieved, we can proceed and ask for what is mentioned in the next line, because there is a connection between the first sentence and second sentence.
Illumination of the eyes of the heart
Once we are detached from everything, we will no longer be interested in other things. Hence, we first require a proper orientation. Whenever you want to see something, you will require a proper orientation to face the right direction to see that thing. For something physical, a physical orientation is required, and for something spiritual, a proper spiritual orientation is required, which is measured by the orientation of the heart. Therefore we need to ask: what is filling our heart? What is giving it energy? What is making it busy and preoccupied? For what is the heart yearning? That will allow us to understand the orientation of the heart. Hence,we ask Allah (swt) to illuminate the eyes of our hearts:
And illuminate the eyes of our hearts with the light of observing You.
Our eyes are too little to enable us to look at Allah, but there are eyes of the heart that are capable of seeing Him, because this heart is the best thing we have, with unlimited capacity, given to us by Allah, in which He has called His spirit:
So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him. (15:29)
Therefore, this unlimited capacity of the heart renders it capable of looking at Allah. Of course, we cannot contain Him or claim to understand everything about Him, but at least we can have immediate and direct encounter with Him. Anything other than this would be through something else, but it is through the eyes of the heart that you can come to a direct encounter with Allah.
O Allah give me perfect detachment from everything [and then attachment] to you.
But if we reach the stage of kamal al-inqita then the light of looking at Allah should come from Allah Himself and not from anything other than Him. Therefore, we say:
And illuminate the eyes of our hearts.
And the way this is done is:
With the light of observing you
From Reflections on Munajat Shabaniyah, by Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali
In the next line, Imam Ali mentions what it is, that the wayfarer lost in the path of God wants to ultimately reach, that which is sought through detachment from anything other than God, and through the illumination of the heart:
Until the vision of our hearts penetrates the veils of light And reaches the Source of Grandeur And set our spirits to be suspended by the glory of your sanctity.
If there was only prayer, one paragraph, one piece of wisdom that I was able to keep with myself through the entirety of my existence; if everything else was to perish, all my faculties lost for good, all my memories vanished for ever. If everything was taken from me or voluntarily given away, my Lord, through your grace and penetrating light, I ask you to let me whishper those words till the end of times and most importantly, I ask you to help me detach myself from anything other than you, to help me penetrate the veils of light, such that I can reach the source of your Majesty.
Note: During L.I.F.E summer course 2016, Hujatul Islam Sheikh Ammar Haider, mentionned that this part of the Dua is one of the favorites of Mystics and spiritual wayfarer, and is one of the supplications Ayatollah Jawadi Amoli recites in his Qunoot.
If it is asked what is meant from seeing the Night of Power (Lailatul-Qadr) and its pleasure? The reply is that seeing the Night of Power means witnessing, whatever is being revealed during that night, seeing the descent of angels and destination of affairs, exactly as they are seen by the Imam of the Age (Walial-Asr [a]) during this night.
Here it should be briefly explained that Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), has created between the Worlds of Spirits’ (Arwah) and the ‘World of Bodies’ (Ajsam) another world known as the ‘Psychic World’ (Barzakh or Mithal) which neither possesses the darkness and narrowness of the World of Bodies nor has the brightness and vastness of the World of Spirits. It is neither like the World of Spirits which is completely separate and abstract from the darkness of matter, confinement of physical bodies, and limits of quantity, nor it is like the ‘Material World’ which is completely confined into the darkness of matter, confinement of physical bodies and quantitative limits, rather it is free from the darkness of matter, but still is confined to the limits of shape and quantity, it is a world free from matter but with shape andquantity and in itself contains many worlds.
Every existence which exists in the ‘Material World’, in addition to the physical and material existence of his own world, also possesses different kinds of existences in the ‘Psychic Worlds’. And every existence before his being created in this ‘Material World’ possessed relevant existence in the ‘Psychic World’ and before that in the World of Spirits in its appropriate form. In other words every existence, first exists in the hidden divine treasures as has been described in the following verse:
“And there is not a thing but with us are stores thereof.
And We send it not down save in appointed measure.”
– Holy Qur’an (15:21)
From there this existence descends into the ‘Psychic World’ and from there, through divine angels further descends into the ‘Material World’, i.e. whatever exists in this ‘Material World’ was descended from the ‘Psychic World’ and whatever exists in the ‘Psychic World’ was descended from the hidden divine treasures.
Therefore, every human being whatever destiny or gains he possesses, are from these three worlds; although, majority of the people are negligent about their own ‘Psychic’ and ‘Hidden Worlds’, and are not even aware of their negligence, i.e., they neither know about the existence of these hidden Worlds nor are they aware that they themselves the possess existence in these worlds, except those upon whom Allah (Glorious, the Exalted), has bestowed His special grace to recognize them and their selves, and through the path of self-recognition could also recognize their psychic and spiritual hidden existences.
Because the reality of human self is rooted in the Spiritual-World, therefore, from this consideration, the one who has received the divine grace, is able to remove the material curtain from his spirit and self, thus, seeing the self’s reality, without matter, in the psychic from, and may go even further deeper than this stage, whereby being able to see the spiritual reality of his self without any shape. Such recognition of the self is the meaning of the following narration quoted from the Commander of [a] the Faithful Imam ‘Ali:
“Whoever has identified his self in reality has recognised his Creator.”
Therefore, only those who have discovered the reality of their selves in this manner may truly appreciate the link and interface between the self’s identification (khud shanasi) and Allah’s identification (khuda shanasi).
People long ago, their bodies now disintegrated, fasted for the sake of God. They did not have the same variety and access to foodstuffs that we do today, yet still they restrained from eating and drinking in order to cultivate their spirits. Why?
It states in a book by Fayd Kashani: “It has been said that were there no benefit to fasting except ascension from the low point of the animalistic soul to the spiritual summit like the angels, this would have been enough of a virtue and merit for fasting.” (Spiritual Mysteries and Ethical Secrets, p. 535) God created us with bodily needs and desires, and fulfilling them is what makes the world go around. All of human civilization is built upon having a surplus of calories and successful reproduction. In short, without food and sex, the traces of humanity would long ago have disappeared from the Earth.
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To be the son of Hussain (A.S) and to lose a father, an imam, a leader like him.
To have an uncle like Al Abbas (A.S) , and to see a warrior, a servant, a lion like him hit the ground.
To have a brother like Al Asghar (A.S), and to see an angel, a rose, a fragrance like him dissipate in the air.
To be the brother of Sakina (A.S) and to witness her grief, her smile, her dreams shattered over and over, and over again.
To have an aunt like Sayyadah Zainab (A.S) and to bear the assaults of laughters, stones and foreign eyes and yet.
To have the faith, certainty, and resilience to whisper those words*:
‘The uninterrupted flow of your favors has led me to be distracted from expressing my thanks to you!
The overflowing flood of your blessings has made me incapable of counting your praises. The succession, one after the other ,of your kind acts has diverted me from mentioning all your praises!
The continuous rush of your benefits has obstructed me from spreading the news of your good favors!
Has there ever been a love (not the love that is possessed, but the love that posseses) for the beloved purer than this?
I have often wondered about those who worshipped our imams as God, and was amongst those who always thought that out of the two, between considering our Imams as fellow human beings or as God-like creatures (a bit like the concept of Jesus (pbuh) under the doctrine of the Trinity), the former was more logical.
But as times goes on I realize that, the more one falls in love with our Imam, the more one actually falls in love with the truest manifestations of nothing but God. There is so much of tawhid within them that one can easily leave the world of multiplicities, drowning in their universe, not knowing that stopping at the doorstep of Imamah without yearning for Allah, is just another way of living one’s life through layers of polytheism (shirk). A life that is perhaps lived through a thinner veil and therefore one that is more permeable to light, but a layer leading one to a limited experience of the attributes more than the essense nonetheless.
And to ponder over the matter of Tawhid a bit more, there is one question that often leaves me speachless: Is it possible to experience true and sincere love for the One and only, while failing to do justice to the love one ought to have for God’s purest manifestations on earth?
I left, looking to quench my thirst for the meaning of Wahdat
I came across the tavern of your wilayah, Ya Sajjad, and have never left onwards.
*from the whispered prayers of the thanful, by Imam Sajjad (a.s)
Is your current knowledge of God based on acquired knowledge or through knowledge by presence? Give answer based on personal experience.
I find this question to be very interesting and I would like to say that as much as I would have liked to know God by presence the way the great urafas have, I have merely known God (if ever I have known Him) through knowledge.
The reason why I say I have known him through knowledge is because it is through witnessing his signs in nature and realizing, while studying biology, sciences and the orderly world in which we live that my mind submitted to the truth that this universe cannot be the fruit of a mere coincidence. My intellect has never been able to accept this fact, as much as I tried to be unbiased. From this perspective, it was more, at the beginning, a choice by default, after failing to accept other alternatives.
According to Ayatollah Misbah, the author of theological instructions, the book that made me ask myself this question, there exists within us, a minute knowledge of God by presence but it is not enough for us to aquire a worldview. I have been thinking about this question whether or not I have bits and pieces of this presence within me.
The most honest answer I can give is the fact that I do not have this presence the way I think it exists. An example of it is the following. From my understanding, someone who knows God by presence is one who acts the same, whether or not he is in public or private, whether he is surrounded or not by friends and family, whether or not he is in a place of worship or not. The reason I say that, is because most of us, and I using myself at the forefront of this example, tend to need reminders of Allah through manifestations. We are reminded of Allah and his worldview when meeting people that are pious. We are more aware of Allah when in mosque, we are most concerned of our behavior in public. This means that although we believe in Allah through rational arguments and our worldview is correct and firm, it needs witnessing manifestations and reminders in order to fill the gap left by not being able to know Allah by presence.
One who has known Allah for himself by presence, does not need outer manifestation or reminders for him to establish any kind of connection. He sees Allah with his heart all the time. Imam Hussain(a.s) mentioned that in Dua Arafah :
‘O Allah when have You ever been absent so that You may need [to make] a sign?”
We all need signs to come to God, but Imam Husayn says he does not need a sign
This is perhaps an allusion to Ilm al Huduri (presence) according to sheikh Shomali. In any case, the best example I can come up with when it comes to knowing how much of the presence of Allah I have in me as opposed to how much of Him I know through knowledge takes me back to an analogy mentioned by Aytaollah Jawadi Amoli. Ayatollah mentions that there is a difference between one who sees smoke and infers that there is a fire, and one who is burning in its heat. If anything I have just seen the smoke and have concluded that there is indeed fire. Inshallah one day I can come closer to see the fire myself, and burn in it with Allah’s inspiration.
Imam al-Baqir (A) said:
“There is a white spot inside the heart of each believer. Once he commits a sin or repeats it, a black spot appears inside it. In case of the persistence of sins, the black spot increases gradually in size filling the entire heart with blackness. When this happens, the owner of such heart never returns towards goodness, and this is what God meant in the verse:
‘Nay, but that which they have earned is rust upon their hearts.’
– Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 73, p-361.
I am a black heart.
Darkness is what fills my soul. Each day, as I wake up from the sound of keen sighted birds, soaring towards higher suns, I gaze towards their hovering life, wanting to catch a reflection of the rising sun’s rays on their striking feathers, but darkness is what fills my soul and so my eyes cannot see light.
“There are three kinds of hearts:
The first type is a reversed heart which lacks feelings for any sort of righteous deeds. Such heart is the heart of an unbeliever.”
Every morning becomes the repetition of a play, all too familiar. I am walking on an icy plain. Each of my steps disturbs the bewitching silence of the north. I can feel the thin layer of ice cracking under the weight of my darkened soul, while my eyes (or what remains of them) are blinded by a thick fabric I had woven myself. I am moving forward, waving my hands like the child I once was, playing an innocent game where I had to find my siblings hiding in the house, all of that, with eyes closed.
And as I make my way on this desolate land, in the absence of any light, any hope, any clue, I somehow know that I cannot settle for this existence. I must move on, I must carry on, for settling here would mean death. Not the ‘death’ which we all have been promised to taste, rather the death which coincides with the absence of a life which we all have been promised to experience.
I am a black heart. Still.
Almost everyday, but not always in the same way. There are days when I am so entangled with my dark side that I cannot differentiate between darkness and my heart. And there are days when I can instantly separate darkness from the absence of light, such that darkness in itself doesn’t seem to have a reality of its own, rather that it has taken the space left empty by the true owner of my heart.
There are even moments when I am the least black in my blackness. Moments so unexpected and brisk they never fail to catch me off guard. Whenever they occur, they seem to emanate like a prophecy, from a higher realm, but at the same time, always leaving a deeper and more perpectible mental remnant of themselves, as if to make sure I would not question their fleeting reality, like the fragrance that stays long after all petals have fallen.
And in those quiet, somehow hardly moving times, I can consciously grasp my dark side and acquaint myself with its feeble and fleeting nature but in a way that I cannot really articulate in words and perhaps even less comprehend in thoughts. When the trance vanishes and I am again left battling my way in the many folds of my darkness, a bittersweet realization strikes me: I have lived a lifetime shrouded in my darkness’ somehow comfortable misery and yet, I know that there is more eternity within me than the transient hollow it had fed me with thus far.
“The second type is the heart which contains a black spot in which a war is being waged between the truth and falsehood, and whichever becomes victorious will take over the heart’s control.”
I am black heart.
But today was different. I was still lingering in these endless icy plains, battling my hands in all directions, as if to deceive my soul that I was somehow aware of where I was heading. But amidst the repetition of a passive existence that had become all too familiar, I felt a spark wavering in my vicinity whose presence I was most uncertain of. I did not know where it arose from, and more importantly how my darkness had been able to feel it.
‘My eyes were blinded, and my heart was dark’. And yet, there was a spark; and the more I tried to get my soul accustomed to its warmth, striding towards where I thought its sound had come from, the more its quivering oscillation was turning into a continuous beam of light.
I am still a black heart.
But it seemed that not all black hearts are the same. My tone of black had changed. I was now consciously black, which is perhaps the least black one can be. I was still dying, but I was now aware of it. And that had made all the difference. I was still battling, still panting, floundering against the wind with my fingertips in order to hang unto that beam of light, but now, I had a purpose, and that purpose gave me what I had unknowingly searched for all along; it gave me hope and a reason to survive another day.
I am (not quite) a black heart.
But not entirely. My core was shaken. It only takes a raindrop to ripple through an entire ocean they said. It was hard to believe, but it was true nonetheless. One drop against an entire sea. One spark against decades of darkness. Numbers didn’t matter, just like size did not. What mattered was the essence. Motion had always trumped stilness, and light, light had always outshined darkness.
I am (not really) a black spot.
But that is not my reality. There was enough light for me to have an intrinsic knowledge of where I stood. My eyelids which had been resting for far too long on their self erected tombstones were now peeking through the fabric, which in turn had become thinner, and more permeable to light. I was feeling lighter, despite not quite flying yet. I could sometimes feel the grass, under the melting snow. And for once, in the longest of time, the peculiar absence of fragrance winter had effortlessly carried in each of its folds, had now vanished, giving way to subtle and transient scents of life.
I am (not quite) light (yet).
But I am not darkness either. I am the constant swaying of my desires oscillating between hope and despair. I am part light, part absence of light, such that my reality changes every day, if not every minute, with each and every choice that I make consciously (enough). There was a battle taking place within myself. Thoughts clashing against each other, actions constantly fighting over the throne of my existence. And amidst the deafening concert of their clashing swords, I stood calmly on a hill overlooking my past, present and future. And then I knew where home was.
Home is where I choose to become what I wished. The place where one is able to carry on towards higher realms of existence. Home is where the battle is won for the sake of one’s own self. Home is where one ought to be at any given time in one’s life, such that one’s home today would be different from one’s home tomorrow.
And when I turned back overlooking the icy valley which I had just crossed, I heard the sound of keen sighted birds, soaring towards the setting sun. And as I gazed towards their hovering life, wanting to catch a reflection of the dying sun’s rays on their striking feathers, a silhouette of their flock was now peacefully floating over the sun’s horizon such that their flapping wings kept bringing me from darkness to light.
I kept looking at these birds until they disapeared in the clouds. And when I was left alone with the sun, I knew my exile had ended, for I had now reached home.
For Home is and will always be, that one place when hearts ascend from darkness to light.
The third type is the conquered heart in which there is a lighted lamp which is never going to be turned off. Such a heart is the heart of a believer.”
(Bihar ul Anwar: Vol 70, page 51)