The (same old) Plague

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.

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The Whispered Prayer of Imam Ali (For Spiritual Wayfarers)

“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.’

[…]

Commentary

[…]

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.

Witnessing the Night Of Power

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).

Ayatollah Mirza Jawad Tabrizi, Suluk Al Arifan (Spiritual Journey of the Mystics p72)

Those Who are Thankful

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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.

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?

**

Ya Ilahi,

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)

Black to light

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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.

Imam Al-Baqir (as) said:

“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 hadeeth continues:

“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, I thought.

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 hadeeth ends:

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)

Brotherhood or A father’s letter to his son

Dear peace of my heart,

I have been waiting for this moment to come from the day I have held you in my arms. I still remember the look of yours when you first hold my finger, clinging onto the only soul you trusted back then.

Ever since you have entered my life dear Son, I have always tried to learn from you as much as I have tried to teach you what I had learnt from my father. You have been a good son and by Allah I swear that I will stand on the day of reckoning as a witness over your deeds and will testify that you have always been kind to your mother and me and for that I will pray that Allah rewards you justly.

You are a successful young adult in the eyes of the world and you might not need any advice from an old man like me. You have seen many more landscapes than I did and have achieved in this life many more accomplishment than I ever wished to dream. You have turned into gold whatever you have touched and for that you should always be thankful to Allah.

However, despite being a mature individual, one that knows how to sail oceans of life, there are many, many lessons of life that you haven’t learnt yet, for they are not lessons that one learns in an academic setting.

Life, my son, is not as relatable as it seems. You have been blessed to have parents that cared about you and a family that looked over you, that stood before you whenever a hardship would befall over you to protect you and your faith from temptations they could not have handled back then. You have lived amongst your parents, in a house that was blessed by the remembrance of Allah and that in itself, has enabled you to blossom the way you did.

You are now about to leave Home, in order to acquire further knowledge and there is not greater pride for your mother and I to have a son like you, a son that wishes to act upon the Prophet’s saying (pbuh) to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.

As you embark on this journey of self-discovery, your mother and I would like to give you a piece of advice:

A moment will come in your life,
Perhaps, more than once,
Certainly, often enough,
When you will be lost,
You will be battled,
You will struggle to navigate
In these seemingly Shoreless Oceans.

You will look for yourself and for your Lord
But life will seem to you
Like a desert devoid of any meaning.

You will often drown,
People will come and go,
You will be questioned,
You will be tired,
And more importantly,
You will tested.

Hardships are a reward from God
And only a manifestation of his trust
And while these hardships will befall on you
And you alone,

Allah in his infinite compassion
Will bless you with a light,
That will guide in the darkest of nights.

My son,
Whenever you find yourself,
Lost, battled, drowning, buried and forgotten

And see a shining face,
Whose mercy reminds of Muhammad,

A helping hand,
Whose secrecy reminds you of Ali,

A sincere eye,
Whose patience reminds you of Hassan,

A radiant smile,
Whose certainty reminds you of Hussein,

A silent worshiper,
Whose prayer reminds you Al Sajjad,

An enlightened scholar,
Whose knowledge reminds of Al Baqir,

A voice whispering you secrets
Whose truthfulness reminds you of As Sadiq

A calmness of being,
Whose forgiveness reminds you of Al Kadhim

An undying love,
Whose generosity reminds of Ar Ridha

A certainty in faith,
Whose piety reminds of Al Jawad

A light of guidance,
Whose clarity reminds you Al Hadi

A content soul,
Whose hardships reminds of Al Askari,

And most importantly,
If you ever meet a patience,
Whose destiny reminds you of Al Mahdi,

If you ever meet such an individual my Son,
Be known that you will have just met the greatest gift of God.

Do not worry about finding this soul my son,
For wayfarers in the path of God are always looking for one another,

When you will meet this sincere heart,
Be known that he will look for you as much as
You will have looked for him.

He will be pleased to be in your company
As much as you will be pleased to be in his.

You will both rise together,
Forever unveiling shadows
That separate you from reaching
The light upon light.

I was blessed my son to have met
Many of these souls in life,
Sincere lovers of the prophets whose
Morality have always reminded me of Allah,
And whose conduct has always reflected the Quran.

When you will meet such a soul my son,
You will ask yourself how to call it.
Society will tell you to call it a friend,
A neighbor, an acquaintance,
A companion, a confidant,
Schoolmate, a classmate,
Or a study partner.

But deep within yourself,
You will hear the voice of a Lady,
Whose utmost purity,
No shrine could ever withstand.

Yes,
Az Zahra (pbuh) herself will speak to you
And will tell you,

That there is only once word
That unites in faith
All lovers of Hussein
Wherever they are
Whoever they are,
Whenever that is,
In the meantime,
In between time,
Forever and ever.

And the only word
That Allah himself has deemed
worthy to describe this bond
Is the word ‘Brother’

 

My only request regarding this letter, my dear son, is that you keep it with you and read it whenever you feel the need. And when Allah himself blesses you to become a Father, and your own progeny becomes as worthy as you are today, remember to teach them this truth, even if it is the last thing you will ever teach them.

I will leave you my dear Son, with these words of wisdom, hoping that you will meet in your quest, other sons of Zahra as you will come together and strive in the path of Allah while remembering The Hussain of your time.

Your loving Father,

Father.

I would like to dedicate this letter to all my brothers and sisters of the KLC family and more importantly to my esteemed teacher Dr Shomali whose dedication alone is an unspoken lesson of humilty. I have chosen the word ‘brother’ because it reflects better my own reality. However, ‘brother’ in this context is not restricted to the male gender as its essence can be found just as equally in sisterhood for sincere women wayfaring in the path of Allah.

With those who know secret things

L.I.F.E Intensive course. Summer 2016 Chicago

“It is befitting if an individual spends half of his life searching for insane kamil (one of the special friends (awliya) of God)”

What is it that one  feels when meeting for the first time, the person that in your eyes, is the closest manifestation of an Awliya?

I have asked myself this question several times, and I often find it difficult to come up with words that might give justice to the sweetness one might feel when finally meeting a person that mirrors the essence more than the multiplicity. When I think about this question, I often end up picturing Allameh’s first meeting with Seyyed Qadhi. I wonder what pleasure must have overtaken Allameh the when he finally laid his eyes upon the physical manifestation of his suluk to come.

Everyone’s spiritual journey is unique, and from this perspective, an awliyah can perhaps be defined in terms relative to one’s station of Marifat. From this standpoint, a person whom one will consider to be an awliya (as a generic term) would be one whose behaviour best mimics the demeanour of the prophet in light with the Sunnah and the Quran with regards to his or her’s own knowledge and spiritual awareness. In order words, when you meet someone whose etiquettes and morals almost instantly reminds you of Allah and who is willing to share with you, some of his or hers knowledge of the path, you have met the bridge that might help you go through the various layers of multiplicity.

‘I have met eyes that knew about tawhid much more than I have ever known. I have met smiles that revealed secrets. Meeting him was the sweetest thing that happened to me. Our encounter reminded me of Rilke’s verse*, and for the first time, it was more about being with those who know secrets than being alone. Alhmadullillah.’

*I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.

 

L.I.F.E and The journey ahead

Montréal Airport, July 2016

Hours before embarking on a journey of knowledge to be aquired, friendships to be made, and moments to be remembered, we often find ourself thinking about the new person we will become after having familiarized ourselves with the new realities we’ve been exposed to

Often while embarking on a journey, whether to aquire formal education, on a business trip, or for leisure purposes, we tend to set standards and goals for ourselves in order to then judge the success of our journey based on them. While these goals can be quantified rather objectively and /or quantitatively for most trips involving a material purpose, the task becomes more difficult when one tries to assess the impact a spiritual trip can have on one’s soul and behaviour. After all, how does one set finite and achieavable goals that can be both realistic and challenging when dealing with the infinity of one’s spirit?

One might say that knowledge holds the key. Any journey involving the study of Islam should primarly be based on knowledge (from a theoretical standpoint), and what one remembers after the journey defines how succesful this individual has been on the path towards light. The more one remembers Ahadith mentionned by scholars, verses cited by and explained, or  lessons from our Ulamas, the more one can be sure that his or her trip has been beneficial.

Others might say that the key is to spark the intelect, to enable our mind to think crticially and assess our realities. That beyond theoretial knowledge that is just delivered, what matters the most is to instigate in one’s mind the capacity to create content, to awaken one’s cognition.

But what if the ultimate goal, the so called destination, although bearing an intellectual component was actually measured in terms of actions and behaviour? What if the proximity of a person in relation to the light he or she seeks could be assessed in measures of ethical enlightenment?

Often in Islamic traditions and cultutre, the question of whether a spiritual journey has been ‘accepted’ (or not) by Allah is tied to the concept of change. I have personally heard countless times how one can judge whether one’s Hajj (pilgrimage) has been accepted or not by judging his or her’s behaviour. If the trip was able to revive in an individual, a desire to constantly watch over his or her action (Muraqabah) such that people surrounding him or her notice a positive change in his or her’s akhlaq and demeanour, than that person can consider that his or her Hajj has been accepted.

From this perspective, the goal that I have set for myself on this journey besides learning, is to let the knowledge aquired to change me in a way that reflects the certainty of the passing time.

To become a living manifestation of Surah Al Asr to the best of one’s ability.

That is perhaps what defines the path of light.

 

None but You

 

Ya Mahdi,

There is none in the progeny of Adam except you, that my eyes have looked for with such intensity. My soul shivers at the thought of meeting you, for if ever we do, Ya Imam, how will my unfaithful eyes gaze towards the very love they have betrayed? Ya Mawla, If it wasn’t for your mercy, I would have no hope of ever seeing you, but I know for a fact that your generosity, by far, exceeds my heedlessness, just like your perfection has always been greater than the imperfection of my soul.

I have looked for you in the depth of my heart and in the infinity of skies. I kept waiting for a sign of yours behind every cloud, at the corner of every turn my life took since we met. By God, there is no wish in my heart that is dearer to me than to put my head in your hands and to join the kingdom of your servitude.

Ya Imam, there are countless reasons why I seek you, and each one of them is mentionned in the beautiful supplication of Nudbah. But if I had to add just one Ya Mawla, I would say that my eyes cry and weep for you for I am an orphan in your absence, and every orphan longs to meet the Ali of its time. I seek you for you are the son of Fatima and only through you can I ever witness the purity of my Lady. I seek you ya Mawla for whenever I read from the peak of Eloquence, I look for the source of its light, and that light leads me towards you. Whenever my soul has longed to witness the presence of Ali, My eyes have looked for You and for the oceans of your love.

I have tied myself to the Quran in this blessed month of Ramadhan, hoping that it would soothe my longing for you. But everytime I open it, the book of God whispers to me, that  it is itself waiting to be delivered by the one soul that will embody its wisdom and give a voice to its truth.

‘There is none but you Ya Mawla, none but you oh Quran al Natiq’

Fasting in a jungle of concrete: Experiencing ramadhan in the west.

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New York, Summer 2016

Standing at the corner of one of New York’s busiest intersection right across Penn Station, I found myself contemplating the city like one ends up analyzing a complex composition in a Museum Art Gallery. It is difficult to describe in words the vibe one feels when standing still amidst a stampede of workers, especially right after working hours. But whether you’re from London, Paris, New York or any other metropolitan city that has a business district, I am sure you can relate to what I am trying to describe.

‘Saturation. That’s the word I was looking for. The continuous stimulation of the senses to the point that they cannot relay any meaningful perception to the self, a state where ‘more’ and ‘less’ feels just quite the same.’

With a rosary in hand and making my way out of this concrete mess, I found an oasis of peace in a small park right in the middle of the city. I was fortunate enough to grab a chair and a table and gather my thoughts again. I thought about how exhausting and depleting this walk had been both from a physical and spiritual standpoint and how I thought evolving around areas of extreme density could somehow affect one’s quest of spirituality and balance. If God was to be perceived by our senses, implored with our tongue, sought through our eyes and experienced in tranquility, I wondered if it was even possible to find such a God when the soul was suffocating amidst such an effusion of sounds, lights, motion, conversations, people, colors and emotions.

And because this conundrum wasn’t really a question of ‘if’ such a God could be found but rather ‘how’ such a God manifested in this urban chaos, this led me to formulate the main question around which this essay is articulated: How can one find peace in the absence of peace? How can one find the Unity of Allah in a world seemingly devoid of any harmony? And consequently, given the nature of the month coming of Ramadhan coming ahead of us, how could one welcome the month of Allah, fasting in a jungle of concrete?

Ramadhan and the spiritual geometry

As a child living in Europe, I met a lot of people who would travel during Ramadhan. Most of them would either go back to their home countries in areas vastly populated by Muslims, or they would visit Holy places for Ziarat or Umrah. In both cases, the idea was to ‘experience’ Ramadan and its spirituality, an experience that somehow seemed either impossible or highly difficult when staying in the west.

If one was to visit any metropolitan area of a largely populated city in Northern America or Europe, anyone would argue that this assumption might have been, on the surface level, an accurate one. After all, how could one experience God, and fast properly in a environment devoid of any spirituality per se. How could one experience Ramadhan when when fasting alone at work or amongst friends at university? How could one fast and stay focused on Allah when everything around one’s surrounding, be it people eating in restaurants, ‘not so mahram’ billboards, constant advertisement driving one towards materialism? And pushing the rhetoric a bit further, how could one ever reach any kind of Zohd (islamic asceticism), living in a city which is defined by the absence of it.

Part of the answer to this question comes from a better understanding of our purpose of life and perhaps, from a better understanding of the attributes that surround Allah’s unicity. From a theological perspective, the unicity of Allah implies that he is one and indivisible. And because His existence is not bound to time and space, Allah is everywhere. He is as much present in the Kabah, as He is on wall street. And this realization brings us back to one of our original question : How can one experience God in an environment which is devoid of Him?

If we follow our argumentation, we soon realize that the question we’re asking is a contradiction in itself. There is no environment that is devoid of God. If we’ve established the fact that God is everywhere, the only thing that can happen, is that we might feel that God is absent, but this feeling is a function of the self, of our own imperfection, not of Allah’s absence in any case. Therefore, one must conclude that in spiritual geometry, even if there are seemingly great distances that might separate a soul from its creator, the creator is never far from its creation. We might not perceive him in our vicinity, but even then, he is closer to us than our jugular vein. And from this perspective, there is no reason why on theoretical level, one cannot experience Allah while fasting regularly and following an urban routine we have known while living in a place in which things do not seem drive us towards towards Him.

Now that we have established the fact that Allah is present everywhere and that it in fact impossible to dissociate ourselves from him,  one must conclude that it is indeed possible to fast and attain higher realm of spirituality during Ramadhan even if one to fast in the tallest building of a financial discrtict or any other symbol of capitalism, for it would be against Allah’s Justice to create a Human being at a given time and space and not give him the opportunity to actualize its purpose of creation which is to strive towards Him and his perfection.

The question that remains unanswered though, is how? how could one fast while being fed materialism from the streets? How could one constantly think of the month of God in a society that seems to have forgotten God? How could one pray the the lord of the skies standing in Manhattan, when skies are actually what you couldn’t see?