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 from your ashes and
walk on the dust beneath
which you will sleep forever.
Stare at the sun
And fly towards 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.
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.