On Fasting

A Mercy Case

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.

View original post 734 more words

Those Who are Thankful

IMG_20170423_144620_504

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)

An honest introspection after reading theological instructions on Ilm Hudhuri

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.

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.

The space in between. A journey through solitude and self-realization.

IMG_20150809_142539

Reading by the lake

Sitting on a damp crescent of sand next to a lake at the outskirt of the forest surrounding the Mount Tremblant, I found myself contemplating the setting sun while blinking at the rhythm of wave’s caressing the wooden trunk peacefully resting on the shore.

The farewell of the sun to the earth I was experiencing was a beautiful sight and I could not resist taking out my phone in order to immortalize this scenery. Right after I tried taking the best possible shot I could with my smartphone in order to share it with my friends, I realized the sun had almost entirely set and I had missed a significant part of its setting. I turned off my phone and sat there smiling at myself when realizing the bitter truth of the tendencies of the society I had started to reflect through my behavior.

In a society where we are used to sharing every thought and moment of our lives, where we are expected to react on social media almost instantly after anything happens in the world, these moments spent in solitude are a good reminder of the very nature of our creation: the fact that one’s existence on earth does not depend on others and that ultimately the purpose of our creation is to know the Almighty and to experience his light, a purpose that is a personal one, and one that will always prevail over ties that bind us to our social identity for it will exist even if we were the only remaining souls living on earth.

Often when I would find myself in a secluded place in the middle of nature, I would think of a life spent in solitude in a wooden house “à la Henry Thoreau”, a life in which simplicity would prevail over any other state and for some reason, the thought of such a life always brought about a sense of spirituality in me which in turn made me question the link between simplicity, solitude and spirituality.

The idea that solitude ultimately leads towards a simpler life is perhaps tied to materialism. Often, philosophers that have written about solitude and seclusion such as Thoreau or Emerson, have almost immediately experienced a newly acquired taste of simplicity through the negation of the never-ending pursuit of a material life, the only pursuit through which many of us identify ourselves and remain alive.

In other words, it seemed as though seeking simplicity was a reaction to an overstimulation of the senses expressed through materialism in societies whose foundations were built upon consumption and the fulfillment of human desires. The negation of such a life pushes one to search for another balance, one in which spiritual needs are placed above physical one. Therefore, the link between spirituality, solitude, and simplicity is one that is tied to our own nature. The quest for spirituality leads one to negate materialism, which brings about simplicity and in turn, seeking simplicity often leads one to live away from centers of materialistic societies, in relative solitude.

Another explanation for the spiritual high one experiences when alone in nature, is perhaps tied to the realization of oneself in the scale of the universe. When you end up staring at oceans and mountains, or experiencing the depth of a forest, you often understand better how insignificant your physical reality is in the entire scheme of God’s creation. At this point, your ego flattens and you end up experiencing a shift in your perception of your own reality. It is when you stare at the countless stars that witness your existence from above that you end up identifying yourself with the infinity of your soul more than through the nothingness of your physical being.

This shift in the perception of who we are is a critical one in one’s quest for meaning for it is through this shift that ones gains a greater sense of responsability. It is only when we identify ourselves through our spiritual existence that we can pretend to understand better, words of the great Arif that Imam Ali (pbuh) was, when he mentions that ‘Human beings should not see themselves as insignificant beings, for within them, is buried an entire universe’.

When I wrote these thoughts down on a paper in order to make some sense from all of which I had experienced in that little time away from home, I reached out my copy of Walden and started re reading Thoreau’s essays on solitude. I found it fascinating that I could connect with some of his words after only half a day spent in nature, a realization that made me think about the universal truth that unites every human being that has ever set foot on earth in the true nature of their creation. This universality in creation not only meant that we shared a common purpose, it also meant that there had to be common realities which regulated every living being’s spiritual quests no matter how different each and every wayfarers lost in the path of God could be. And if this universality was indeed a fundamental truth, one could expect these principles found in western philosophy to be expressed, validated or completed by other schools of thought, especially one as rich and exhaustive as Islamic philosophy.

The idea that solitude impacts one’s spirituality is not a thought that is uncommon within Islamic tradition. On the contrary, it is actually a subject that features in almost every treatise of spiritual wayfaring. Amongst the greatest mystics and modern philosophers that Islam has been blessed to have under its banner and who have written about this topic, Allameh Tabatabaei often stands out as the perfect example of a man who had understood and manifested principles of the Quran in his personality and life.

In his book Kernel of the Kernel, Allameh beautifully explains how his journey towards light passed through several stages and how relative seclusion (khalwat) was an integral part of his spiritual ascension. Allameh identifies spiritual wayfarers to be unlike ‘the group of people [who] have no will power of their own, [a group which is] totally submissive to the will of society and follows [it]. On the contrary, according to Allameh people seeking spirituality have a tendency to distance themselves from certain people, they busy themselves in ‘dhikr’ and often avoid crowds, attention and noisy places.

There are indeed similarities in both western and Islamic schools of though when it comes to the role solitude plays in spirituality. But are the two schools of thought really equal? Can one live a life like Thoreau; a spiritual life spent in the woods, in solitude and silence and still follow Islam?

While I got more and more interested in those topics, and tried to grasp and absorb essays on solitude from western and Islamic philosophers I realized how their writing were starting to profoundly impact my personality. I had always been a lively person, the kind of person that would crack a joke in order to make other feel comfortable and light up a conversation. But the more I read Thoreau and others, the more I became quiet. The more I spent time in nature, the more I appreciated silence. Interestingly, others often perceived this newly acquired sense of tranquility, which expressed itself through silence, as a state of worry, worry, stress or anxiety. It always brought a smile on my face when people thought I was lost exactly when I started to find where my existence laid in God’s entire scheme of creation.

IMG_20160121_200404

On a train, somewhere between Qum and Mashhad.

While keeping these thoughts in my mind, and forever seeking the balance required between solitude and society, between simplicity and materialism, this spiritual journey brought me to Qum in Iran where I spent few weeks amongst scholars from the hawza and students from the west. I remember having travelled from Qum to Mashhad in a night train accompanied by Agha Amini, a teacher of Akhlaq that Ayatollah tahriri, himself a student of Allameh had advised to consult for spiritual growth.

In the middle of the night, I asked my question to Agha Amini and tried to understand where the middle ground laid. On the one hand, it is often narrated that Allameh Tabatabaei had reached a certain level of spirituality after successfully detached himself from materialism, distancing himself from elements of society which were detrimental to his spiritual growth. Other mystics such as Ayatollah Mutahari had also emphasized on the impact of a materialistically driven society on one’s spirituality. But on the other hand, there were also countless advantages and benefits that could solely be acquired in the presence of other individuals, be it learning from scholars, helping others, teaching and the refinement of one’s morality all of which one could not benefit from if one was to live a life in the woods like Thoreau. And because Islam emphasized so much on social and family ties and responsibilities that a one could easily find himself lost, eternally looking for the right balance required to grow spiritually without neglecting its Islamic duties.

Agha Amini listened and understood the matter. He gave me an advice, which I engraved in my mind ever since. He acknowledged the fact that temporary seclusion and solitude were indeed a practice that was common amongst mystics and it is a well-known fact that they do bear a spiritual significance, but they are not the most important. The most important aspect of attaining higher level of spirituality follows a much simpler formula: perform your wajibat and avoid your muharammat. From this perspective, one can only distance himself from certain social elements only as long as it does not lead one to infringe on his/her social duties.

This sentence made a lot of sense to me and I find it interesting that this advice was actually the first one that Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini, may Allah give him a high rank in Jannah, mentioned in his book on self building and spiritual growth when he says that ‘monasticism, renunciation of worldly affairs, and unacceptance of social responsibilities are not pre requisite for undertaking a self-purification program, on the contrary, as will be shown in the book later on that seclusion and relinquishment of individual and social responsibilities are inconsistence with the spiritual self-building and self-purification program.’

Allameh Tabatabaei himself draws a sharp contrast between true seekers of spirituality and people who have made solitude, seclusion and the negation of all social customs, norms and responsabilities to be the principles around which their lives are built. Allameh mentions in his book that the true spiritual seeker must always observe moderation and adopt a middle position.

When I think about this quest for meaning and spirituality, this journey seeking the middle ground and how it had impacted my perception of life, I realized how these writings had made me rely on my sole company more than I ever had before. And since I had learnt how to appreciate life through my own existence, I was now able to find a greater sense of satisfaction from my life experiences, for they did not rely on anyone else’s approval or acceptance.

Pragmatically, this realization made me distance myself from social media. I am not against the use of Facebook or twitter and I do realize that there are countless advantages of being able to connect and share content with likeminded people within seconds no matter where they live. As a matter of fact, I am not even sure you would be reading this essay if it wasn’t shared on social media.

There are several reasons why one distances himself from these platform, especially while seeking greater realms of self awareness. The first one is a very simple one. When one learns how to appreciate moments of his life for what the truth they inherently bear instead of how great they would look once immortalized, one does not feel the need to experience them through the appreciation of others.

The second reason is perhaps a more subtle, and is the fruit of a deeper realization, one that makes one question the miserable value we tend to assign to our thoughts and reasoning.

When one ponders over the matter a little more, one soon realizes that most of us have a tendency to judge the validity of our thoughts and experiences through the popularity they generate on social media. The more likes a post gets, the more one feels he has written something worthy of being read. This reliance on others not only feeds one’s ego, it also makes one to exist solely through foreign eyes. This behavior not only forces our existence to express itself through likes and comments, it pushes our souls to surrender their most valuable god given right, the right to be free and to exist through our sole dependence on Allah’s mercy justice. And to be fair with all other injustices committed by past and previous societies, I found this caging of our identity to be the greatest form of enslavement of modern times for I don’t think we have ever knowinglyconsciously and willfully belittled our existences any lower.

The greatest challenge in this quest of spirituality is to find a balance between the sweetness of solitude, and the tenderness of friends and family, the balance between the soothing tranquility of silence and the thrill of exchanging with likeminded people. With time I have realized how far greater Islamic mysticism and philosophy are to ideas of Thoreau, no matter how brilliant they are, for Islamic mysticism allows one to attain its true potential without hindering the spiritual growth of others. It allows the likes of Allameh Tabatabaei to enlighten societies they live in, to share their knowledge and train future generations of thinkers, all of which are responsibilities without which they themselves couldn’t have attained the level of understanding and wisdom they have attained. Islamic mysticism lets you enter greater realms of spirituality using a balance that suits the entirety of one’s reality, which is not only a spiritual one, but a social and physical one also. And it is at the junction of these three realities that one can truly fulfill the purpose of its own creation.

One wonders how to call this balance. This place where one is just alone enough to be free yet, present enough to serve others. I guess I’ll just call it the way I picture it in my mind: a place stuck between Muir’s mountain and Thoreau’s house in the woods; a place that offers a tiny bit of flexibility in order to experience silence the way Allamah did. Often, when I think about this place, I think of Frost and the road diverging in a yellow wood. While he chose to take the one less travelled by, I chose to create my own. Somewhere between a path leading to total seclusion and one leading to a complete immersion in society, I decided to walk on my own unpathed trail. And when I stopped after a while in order to observe where I stood in comparison with the two other paths, I found myself exactly where I had intended to be, in the space that lied in between them.

Work Cited

Allameh Tabatabaei, Kernel of the Kernel

Ayatollah Amini, Self Building

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

John Muir, Mountains of California

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi, Provisions of the Journey

Robert Frost, The road not taken

The promise I made with my soul in Qum.

hazrat-masoumeh-6

Often in Islamic traditions, narrators have mentioned that the virtue of a believer can be measured by his truthfulness. A believer is one, whose words are true and one who acts upon them. From that perspective, one can somehow deduce that a believer is one that fulfills promises he has made to others. A very relevant hadith from Imam Ali (AS) that somehow validates this assumption mentions that ‘the fulfillment of promises is the highest form of integrity’.

Shrine of Sayyah Masoomah, Qum, January 2016

The night is long only for those who do not understand its sweetness. And it is the shortest for those whose time of parting from their beloved has arrived, bearing a distinct taste of unfulfilled promises.

I wonder what promises to the self are worth. Those words uttered in your heart that no one except yourself know, what are they worth in the eyes of God? If the integrity of a believer is measured by his capacity to act upon commitments made to others, what can be said about pledges a believer makes with himself ?

Standing near the vicinity of Sayyadah Masooma’s Zarih, I keep staring at the outer dimension of believers coming in and out to convey their salutations to the Lady of Qum. Each one of them must be bearing a request. Some must be longing for marriage, some must be asking for a blessed child, some students must be seeking guidance in order to achieve a better understanding of the holy scripture and here I was still thinking about how to best formulate what lay in my heart.

I sat down on the cold marble floor and took a rosary in hand. I kept reciting the same divine sentence that has always brought about a sense of serenity and certainty whenever I felt the unbearable weight of my soul’s nothingness would fail to elevate me towards higher realms of spirituality.

 

….And Allah is the best of planners.

….And Allah is the best of planners.

….And Allah is the best of planners.

Surely, Allah knows what lies in our heart. And surely, he must have been aware of this conflict that was growing within me, one that my intellect alone could not seem to process and integrate. And how could it ever pretend to do so? How can a mind that has been trained to critically analyze information flowing from its environment, assess realities from tangible experiences which can be measured and repeated, and most importantly, act according to known concepts limited to the physical existence, how could such a mind ever understand matters of the heart? How could I use my mind to formulate realities it couldn’t even grasp?

Often, when you see yourself walking on the path of your past experiences, you tend to realize that most of your decisions have been either predictable or following an intelligible scheme. That reality is a fact for most of us, and when you ponder over it, there seems not to be anything wrong in it. We are bound to a physical world regulated by predictable laws and since we ourselves possess a physical dimension, the only dimension through which most of us identify ourselves with, we end up embodying laws of the nature. Like gravity, we fall when we lose hope. Like forces of magnetism we let our nafs drive our bodies towards its lowest level of existence, a station in which we end up making our desires to be our master.

Yes. It seems a plausible explanation. It is because we end up living our lives only through its physical reality that we end up living lives that are in most part, as predictable as laws that regulate the world we live in. Much of the truth that lies in this explanation is also applicable to our mind. We think through the information that is conveyed to us by our limited senses. We see through the optics of our eyes, which can only perceive a narrow spectrum of visible hues. We hear only that which can be heard. And yet, despite knowing how fallible our senses can be, we deny any other source of inspiration to enlighten our soul and in doing so, we perpetuate our enslavement and negate our soul its most fundamental right: the right to be free and to experience the light of its creator.

And this is where my restlessness laid. My physical reality was somehow aware that its supremacy was now questioned and that the pen with which it had so far effortlessly written my own destiny was about to change ownership. This transitional phase was characterized by smooth handover of power between the mind and the spirit. I was about to make a promise to myself that could not have been predicted from the path my life had taken so far.

When you end up acting upon a spiritual inspiration, one that does not follow popular logic and expectation, it is better not to share your position with just anyone for they will fail to grasp its meaning, and will convince you to continue acting upon your physical reality.

Upon my return home, I took some time preparing the grounds for the day when I would go back to Qum and write in cursive letters and endless spirals, using an alphabet that best suited the loftier realms my soul was aspiring to reach.

With time, I mentioned my plans to my close friends and family. Some understood, and some did not. I became used to judgmental sighs and sarcastic smiles blooming out of some of their shortsightedness.  They were used to a predictable way of life, one that explained their inability to see beyond the comfortable familiarity of their repetitive age-old cognitive processes.

When I thought about it long enough, it was not their choice to live a life confined to what was expected of them, which made me uncomfortable. What was however stranger and somehow frustrating, was the fact that eyes which had fed only from the sneaking twinkling light perceived from the tunnel of a narrowed existence deny the need of others to want to fly to the moon and stars.

The frustration laid not, by any means, in their self imposed celibacy with their own destiny and the fulfillment of their own existence. What was depressing however was their inability to understand that beyond living a life when one exists only through the approval of foreign eyes laid a life that did not happen, but that chose to become.

And in order to experience this gift, which everyone has not only a right to experience but also a duty to do so, one must rise above those judgmental sighs and sarcastic smiles and climb the mountain of their own fears and doubts in order to be bewildered by the infinite depth of their own imagination.

Like every one of us, I am not immune to doubts, and often, when I question my own capacity to act upon the promise I made with myself when I took Sayyadah Masoomah as a witness in front of God, I often think of the following words

 

Rise!

Rise from your ashes and

walk on the dust beneath

which you will sleep forever.

Stare!

Stare at the sun

And fly towards light for

There’s no truth in shadows.

And above all,

Do not!

Do not judge yourself in measures

Foreign to your soul!

You were made out of light,

And only light can carry you higher.

 

Indeed, a believer in one who fulfills promises. And the most important promises of all are those, which are made with the self. Those promises do not rely on spoken words just like they do not need the presence of another human being in order to exist. Promises made with your soul are unique for they will live on as long as you do. And since your soul is eternal, those promises shall never die.

I would like to thank the organizers of the Bab Al Ridha course 2015 as well as my teachers and mentors during my stay in Qum, all who have been critical in my spiritual growth and in the realization of those promises I made in Qum.

 

 

Live not, but let live.

(A bit) Sick and (really) tired of judgemental sighs and sarcastic laughters blooming our of people’s short-sightedness  and their inability to grasp differences and to see beyond the comfortable familiarity of their repetitive age old cognitive (so to speak) processes.

More often then not, it is not their choice to live a life confined to what was expected of them (a painful reality around which their own expectations of their lives have been built) which is frustrating. What is frustrating is when eyes which fed only from the twinkling light somehow perceived from the tunnel of their narrowed existence deny the need of others to want to fly to the moon and stars. What is frustrating is not, by any means, their self imposed celibacy with their own destiny and the fulfilment of their own existence. What is depressing however, is their inability to understand that beyond living a life when one exists only through the approval of foreign eyes, lies a life that does not happen, but that chooses to become. And in order to experience this gift, which everyone has not only a right to experience but a duty to do so, one must rise above those judmental sighs and sarcastic laughters and climb the mountain of their own fears and doubts in order to bewildered by the infinite depth of their own imagination.

Rise from your ashes, walk on the dust beneath which you will sleep forever, burn in the light for there’s no truth in shadows, and above all, do not judge yourself in measures foreign to your soul. You were made out of light, and only light can carry you  higher.

And never read again

Letterpoem.png

In the tenderest of night
Of the winter that passed
A hopeful letter had met
A pair of waiting eyes

Its words had stared
Patiently under the sky
The silence had been long
But not all indifferent

When stars twinkled
From afar, and as the day
Began to break
The letter unveiled itself

With shades of days that went by
Of stories of the fall
Of laughters of spring
And prayers of a cold night

While the parchment bled
And let ita fragrance waft
The wall stood strong
And the wind kept blowing

Beneath an empty sky
As the letter walked away
Words written kept lying
Where fallen leaves were buried

The letter had learnt by the wall
A lesson it wrote on itself
That there’s nothing one can do
About what has been written
And never read again

The King of Khorassan

Labbaykyaimamreza.jpg

In few days, I will embark in a journey of Wayfaring and self discovery that will inshallah take me back to the land of Imam Reza (a.s) in Mashhad.

Conscious of the fact no light can enter a heart darkened by strokes of a self woven ego, a soul filled with grudges and heavied by resentment, I request everyone of you to forgive me for any unkind word that I might have uttered, or any behavior that would make my imam disapprove of my presence in his holy abode.

You will all be in my thoughts and prayers. If you have any specific request I will be more than humbled to convey them. Needless to say that if you need anything from Iran, be it a book, a flying carpet, a magical ring or just the regular sohan halva/zaffron combination, I will try my best to fulfill your wish. 

I will finish with a poem written for Imam Reza:

The King of Khorassan
Ya Ar-Ridha! How can you be the Stranger of Tus
When every Soul I met called you the King of Khorasan

How can you be ‘Al Gharib’ – The stranger
And Yet inspire every soul passing by your shrine

Ya Imam, how can you be known as the loneliest of the twelve
And yet, your name is the cure for our utmost sollitude

Ya Mawla, My greatest wealth, is to be named after you
My greatest achievement is to have sent blessings upon you

My heart longs to sit besides you, in the mosque of GoharShad
To be able to gaze at your shrine while whispering those words

On a blessed Thursday night, My heart and my tears together united
Would join millions of others, on your gate, Ya bab al Hawaej

My love for you is so deeply entangled with my soul ;
That my blood circumbulates my heart at the rythm of your name

Each of my tear carries an unspoken prayer
Each of my breath writes in the wind my last will

I want to sail on the oceans my eyes have shed on our separation
Like flying petals I want to be carried towards your gardens ya Imam

My spirit is entranced as I dream of the golden dome
Like a wandering fragrance aching for the flower it came from

I read Rilke, I thought Rumi.

In my mind, I have often defined and sometimes reduced mystical poetry in its more lyrical form to sufi poems from the likes of Rumi, Hafez, Emre, Iqbal, and so on. Yet, after broadening the horizons of my literary readings, I realized that themes that were introduced, developped or expended in sufi poetry are very much universal, and are often shared by other faiths, and hence, by non muslim/sufi poets. If I had to choose a book that would best represent this similiraty between mystical poems written by non-sufi poets, I would definately choose ‘The Book of hours’ by Rainer Maria Rilke. And If I had just one poems to pick out of this book, it would be : ‘I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone’ (shared below).

“I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
to make every moment holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action;
and in those quiet, sometimes hardly moving times,
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
and I never want to be blind, or to be too old
to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
and I want my grasp of things to be
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that carried me
through the wildest storm of all.”

If I didnt know who had written this poem, I would have thought it to be a Coleman Barks translation of Rumi in english.