16 December 2021 (11th night of Jamadil Auwal 1443)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid,
Ottery, Cape Town
by Sheikh Dr Agha Muhammadi
May Almighty Allah (SWT) give us the best of opportunity and Taufeeq to benefit from these days of Ayyam-e-Fatimiyyah: remembering the martyrdom anniversary of Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a).
As human beings, we depend on food. We eat all different things, and whatever we eat is for a specific purpose. Example, you may drink milk for calcium, or eat oranges for Vitamin C, carrots for Vitamin A etc. So, we eat different things for different purposes, and at the end of it all, we can make a long story short by concluding that we eat in order to gain energy and sustain ourselves.
Almighty Allah (SWT) has created food in abundance for us to generate the desired calories.
Now, when we move to the next stage of life in the hereafter, we are dependent on a different type of food. When we were in the womb of our mothers as a foetus, our food was blood. We just mentioned a moment ago that we have diverse range of foods available to us in this material world.
LIGHT IS OUR MEANS OF SUSTENANCE IN THE HEREAFTER
From this material world, we will migrate to a greater womb, which is the barzakh (afterlife). Again, we have specific food for that life awaiting us. The Holy Quran reveals that the food we will need there is Noor (Light). Whatever acts of worship we do has a Noor. The calories we need from this life is light in that realm of life to sustain us in the Hereafter. Our structure will change in a way that the energy we receive is the light we have accumulated in this material world (Dunya).
So, everything in that realm of life revolves around light, and different acts have their own type of light. We have the famous Hadith recorded in Usul al-Kafi, which states that when a person is placed in the grave, six lights come to the grave from different directions.
The Hadith goes on to explain that each of the lights will introduce themselves. The one light will say it is the light of Salaah, the other will say it is the light of fasting, the other will say it is the light of Hajj, the other will say it is the light of zakat, the other will say it is the light of helping your brethren, and the light which shines the brightest will introduce itself as the Noor of Wilayat of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his purified Ahlul Bait (a.s).
So, the greatest light one can have in that life is the Wilayat (guardianship) of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). It is our grave misfortune that we do not see the necessity of this light in this material world. However, everything revolves around this light in the afterlife. Otherwise, we would be in darkness, and darkness is annihilation.
GOOD ACTIONS WILL CREATE LIGHT ONLY WHEN WE ARE IN THE PARADIGM OF WILAYAH
People go through so many challenges in this material life, such that we do not specifically identify this gap in our life. But in that realm of life, everything will be abundantly clear that we need light to survive, and this light is generated from this material world (Dunya).
This light of Wilayat (guardianship) is a fundamental paradigm that Almighty Allah (SWT) describes in the latter part of Ayatul Kursi, specifically verse 257 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran):
اللَّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُخْرِجُهُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ
Allah is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light.
Almighty Allah (SWT) continues this verse by explaining that those who do not believe in Him have evil as their guardian, removing them from light into darkness:
وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَوْلِيَاؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُمْ مِنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ
And (as to) those who disbelieve, their guardians are Shaitans who take them out of the light into the darkness.
These are the two separate paradigms established in this verse. We are in darkness when we get into the paradigm of Satan, and here, no light will be created no matter how much good actions we do. One can perform Salaah, recite Quran and do all good acts, but no light is created because we are in the Wilayat (guardianship) of Taghut (evil).
We will only receive the light when we are in the Wilayat of Almighty Allah (SWT). Only then will our good acts generate the light. This is the declaration of the Holy Quran in the above verse. Those who are on the path of evil (Taghut) do not have the light, regardless of how much good actions they may be performing.
CHALLENGE OURSELVES TO COMPLETE GREAT ACTIONS AT LEAST ONCE IN OUR LIVES
Every act has its own light. That is why we have been recommended to do all the good acts of worship at least once in our lives. An example is the Salaat Jafar Tayyar, which we never dedicate time towards, but we should try to do it at least once in our lives.
Similarly, Salaatul Layl is very important in creating this light. If we do not have a chance to read it every night, then we should at least try to do it once a week, and if not, then once a month, even once a year, or at the minimum once in our lives.
The reason I am highlighting this is because we may well be going to Heaven, but we will not be rewarded with the enjoyment of certain pleasures in Paradise for some of these highly recommended noble acts if it was not done in this life. We understand this from verse 39 of Surah Saaffaat (chapter 37 of the Holy Quran):
وَمَا تُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
And you shall not be rewarded except what you did.
Now, this is a very delicate point. Your actions are in fact your rewards. Any rewards FOR your actions are additional, but your main reward is your good actions you committed.
Let me explain this further with a simple example. A child is sick and the mother cares for the child, but the child is naughty and does not want to take the medication. What the mother would then do is offer a reward to the child if he/she takes the medicine. The real reward for the child is the medicine itself, as that is going to heal you. The reward the mother offers for taking the medication is additional.
This point then delves into something much deeper in the subsequent verse, namely verse 40 of Surah Saaffaat, where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
إِلَّا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ الْمُخْلَصِينَ
But the sincere (and devoted) Servants of Allah.
It is a very detailed discussion on who are the “Muhlaseen” referred to in this verse, but in summary, it refers to those selfless souls before Almighty Allah (SWT). They do not only have reward for specific actions. Instead, the whole of Jannah (Paradise) is open for them!
However, those other than the “Muhlaseen” will benefit from their good actions.
That is why I am highlighting that we ought to do all the good actions at least once in our lives, in order to enjoy the beauty and light of those actions in our lives. And indeed, we need to be equipped with this light when we transition to the next realm of life, the Akhirah.
IMAMAT IS A SPECIAL STATUS OFFERED BY ALLAH (SWT) TO SOME OF THE DIVINE PROPHETS (A.S)
We read in the first verse of Surah Ibrahim (chapter 14 of the Holy Quran) how Almighty Allah (SWT) refers to the Holy Quran as the light.
الر ۚ كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَمِيدِ
Alif Lam Ra. (This is) a Book which We have revealed to you that you may bring forth mankind, by their Lord’s permission from utter darkness into light– to the way of the Mighty, the Praised One.
The function of Allah (SWT) and the Holy Quran is to remove us from darkness to light, but the way that Allah (SWT) presents this function in the above verse is that He is entrusting our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) with the Holy Quran to remove humanity from darkness into light (and not the Holy Quran itself). This means that without our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), it will simply not happen.
This is a specific guidance, by the permission of Almighty Allah (SWT), which is very different to the general guidance offered to all of us, which we act upon based on our free will. We know from our interpretation of the Holy Quran that not all of the Prophets (a.s) were granted the special status of Imamat.
Alhamdu Lillah, Almighty Allah (SWT) has granted me the opportunity to write a book about this, which was recently published, specifically focusing on verse 124 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran), regarding the concept of Imamat. It is an analytical book and the views of the leading commentators of the Holy Quran from our Sunni brethren are analysed therein, to understand what the true function and meaning of Imamat from this verse is:
وَإِذِ ابْتَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ۖ قَالَ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي ۖ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ
And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.
IMAMAT IS GUIDANCE BY THE COMMAND OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
Some of the Prophets (a.s) were Imams, and Almighty Allah (SWT) explains this in different parts of the Holy Quran. An example is “yahduna bi-amrina” i.e. they guide by Our Command, as referred to in verse 73 of Surah Anbiyaa (chapter 21 of the Holy Quran):
وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا
And We made them Imams who guided (people) by Our command.
This is very explicit. It is not towards Our Command, but by Our Command. What is the Command of Allah (SWT)? The answer is in verse 82 of Surah Yaseen (chapter 36 of the Holy Quran), which states that something can occur in the blink of an eye if Almighty Allah (SWT) wants it to happen.
إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَنْ يَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ
His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it: Be, so it is.
In fact, it can happen in even less than the blink of an eye, and we learn this from verse 50 of Surah Qamar (chapter 54 of the Holy Quran), as the blink of an eye is the most tangible analogy for us to understand His Power and Might:
وَمَا أَمْرُنَا إِلَّا وَاحِدَةٌ كَلَمْحٍ بِالْبَصَرِ
And Our commandment is but one (commandment), as the twinkling of an eye.
OUR AWAITED SAVIOUR IMAM MAHDI (ATFS) LEADS BY THE COMMAND OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
Allah (SWT) doesn’t need to still plan to make something happen. If He wants something to happen, then it will simply happen immediately.
That is why “yahduna bi-amrina” is a special Hidayah (guidance) by the command of Almighty Allah (SWT), which He has offered to some of the divine Prophets (a.s), and not all of them. One of the Prophets whom Almighty Allah (SWT) has granted the status of Imamat is Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) and for his progeny to achieve the status of Imamat if they are infallible.
This is one of the crucial functions of the Imam of our time, our awaited saviour Imam Mahdi (atfs). He is the guide by the Command of Almighty Allah (SWT). I have come across numerous people who make a 180-degree shift towards piety after being stooped in corruption.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, there are limitations placed, such as Hijab being compulsory, alcohol not available etc. There are many people who wish they can move out of Iran in order to be “free” in the Westoxic sense, where they can do whatever they want ie. animalistic freedom.
Now, funny enough, I saw some people like this outside of Iran who became religious after leading corrupt lives. The point I am trying to make is that it is sufficient for our Imam Mahdi (atfs) to look at someone’s heart and cause an internal revolution for that person. This is Hidayah bil Amr (guidance by Our Command, entrusted with the infallibles) as Almighty Allah (SWT) describes above.
BISHR HAFI TRANSFORMED THROUGH ONE SENTENCE FROM IMAM MUSA KADHIM (A.S)
Us mere mortals have to crack our heads to provide guidance through books, lectures and so on, and at the end it is not clear whether it will have any effect or not. However, if our Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s) wish to change a person, then their intention is sufficient for it to be done.
Amongst the many classic examples of this in history, I wish to draw attention to the revolutionary story of Bishr Hafi. He was a very rich guy, with an ostentatious lifestyle, driven by opulence and lavish parties. He was very well-known in Baghdad for this. One day, the 7th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Musa ibn Jafar al-Kadhim (a.s) was walking in the streets of Baghdad and happened to be passing the house of Bishr.
The house of Bishr was “rocking” from the loud party, and as Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) was passing, a slave woman who worked in the house of Bishr came out to throw away the garbage. Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) looked at this slave woman and asked her what appeared to be a strange question. Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) asked her whether this house belongs to a free man or a slave?
This woman looked at Imam Kadhim (a.s) perplexed at what she thought was a rather silly question. She responded by saying that this huge mansion, with loud music and lavish party can obviously not be from a slave! She said that this house belongs to Bishr, one of the richest guys in Baghdad, and we are enjoying and having a good time. Where can a slave host all of this?
Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) responded to her with one statement and then continued walking. He said that this is a free man, but if he was a slave of His Lord (SWT) then he could not have been like this. After uttering this sentence, Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) moved on.
This slave woman went back inside the house and Bishr (the boss) asked her why she took so long. She narrated to Bishr what transpired outside, and the revolutionary statement of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s). Bishr started to shout and repeated this statement over and over. He rushed out of his house and did not even put on his shoes.
Bishr ran barefoot behind Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s), trying to track him down. Bishr eventually caught up with Imam Kadhim (a.s) and appreciated the revolutionary statement which transformed his life, as his whole existence was in the Hellfire if he were to continue with this lifestyle.
Bishr realised that if he was a servant of Almighty Allah (SWT) then he could not continue operating like this. He made a sincere repentance and became one of the most renowned pious mystics of Baghdad in the second century, known as Bishr Hafi!
The reason why he was called Hafi is because this refers to someone who is barefoot. Since he made a sincere repentance while he was barefoot, he retained this status and never again wore shoes. This is the true essence of Hijra – the internal migration, which we all need to focus on, to transform from sin and bad habits to obedience of Almighty Allah (SWT).
This is the function and impact of attracting the attention of our Imams (a.s), taking people out of darkness into light, as established by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) with the Holy Quran.
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REIGNITE THE INNER LIGHT BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE
This light is the sustenance we depend on for the next life. We read in verse 12 of Surah Hadid (chapter 57 of the Holy Quran) how this light will act like the lights on the car, enlightening the path that the true believers will be walking on towards Heaven:
يَوْمَ تَرَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَسْعَىٰ نُورُهُمْ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَبِأَيْمَانِهِمْ بُشْرَاكُمُ الْيَوْمَ جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
On that day you will see the faithful men and the faithful women– their light running before them and on their right hand– good news for you today: gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide therein, that is the grand achievement.
This point continues in the next verse, namely verse 13 of Surah Hadid, referring to the hypocrites who were hanging out with the pious in this material world, but unfortunately do not have light (as they were hypocrites). These hypocrites will be asking from the true believers to borrow some of their light, but the true believers will respond by saying that it is not available there, and they need to return to the material world to acquire it (which is obviously not possible). Needless to say, it is too late to go back to the material world then.
يَوْمَ يَقُولُ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا انْظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِنْ نُورِكُمْ قِيلَ ارْجِعُوا وَرَاءَكُمْ فَالْتَمِسُوا نُورًا فَضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُمْ بِسُورٍ لَهُ بَابٌ بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ وَظَاهِرُهُ مِنْ قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ
On the day when the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women will say to those who believe: Wait for us, that we may have light from your light; it shall be said: Turn back and seek a light. Then separation would be brought about between them, with a wall having a door in it; (as for) the inside of it, there shall be mercy in it, and (as for) the outside of it, before it there shall be punishment.
Let me give an example. In this Dunya (material world), we may find children born with deformed eyes. Doctors may explain this as being a Vitamin A deficiency with the mother during the pregnancy. Now, it is not going to solve the problem if the mother decides to increase her Vitamin A intake after the child is already born. But it is impossible to turn back the clock, as you have entered another realm of life, and you cannot go back to the previous one.
REIGNITING THAT INNER LIGHT REMOVES US FROM THE SHACKLES OF DARKNESS AND SLAVERY
The hypocrites who do not have the light in this life will unfortunately not have the light granted to them in the next life.
However, it is very interesting to note from verse 8 of Surah Tahrim (chapter 66 of the Holy Quran) that the true believers (mu’mineen), who have attained the light from this world through their good actions, will be asking from Almighty Allah (SWT) for increased light in the next world. And we know that when something is mentioned in the Holy Quran and is not rejected by Almighty Allah (SWT), it means that He will honour it ie. grant the increased light to the mu’mineen in this case.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمْ أَنْ يُكَفِّرَ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيُدْخِلَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ يَوْمَ لَا يُخْزِي اللَّهُ النَّبِيَّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ ۖ نُورُهُمْ يَسْعَىٰ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَبِأَيْمَانِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
O you who believe! turn to Allah a sincere turning; maybe your Lord will remove from you your evil and cause you to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow, on the day on which Allah will not abase the Prophet and those who believe with him; their light shall run on before them and on their right hands; they shall say: Our Lord! make perfect for us our light, and grant us protection, surely Thou hast power over all things.
This is also one of the functions of Shafa’a (intercession), and according to our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), all the great Prophets of Allah (SWT) need the intercession of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) to increase their light!
COMPETE FOR PRIME LOCATION IN THE ETERNAL LIFE THE WAY IT MATTERS IN THIS TRANSIENT LIFE
We pick up a similar point in the Ziyarah of Lady Fatima Ma’suma (s.a) where we acknowledge her as the one who will increase our stature in Jannah. This goes beyond simply trying to get there. Once we are there, she will elevate our status in Paradise! We pray to receive the intercession of Lady Fatima Ma’suma (s.a) and our dearest mother Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a) when we are in Jannah! INDEED, we have the HOPE!
Our 5th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) says that we should reach the status of piety where we are not only working towards attaining Paradise, but rather, we compete to gain a higher place or special status in Paradise.
It matters a lot to us which area we reside in during this transient life in this material world. Now then, what about the eternal life? It should surely matter to us which area we will reside in Paradise, for that eternal life. It should therefore matter to us how far our house in Paradise will be from the house of Imam Husain (a.s)! Similarly, how often I will be able to visit Imam Husain (a.s) in Paradise should matter.
So, the point is that we should not only work towards attaining Paradise, because where we reside in Paradise matters. It would be very ignorant of us to simply be satisfied with being let in, because we are unaware of the grandeur awaiting in that realm of life.
Who our neighbours will be in Paradise certainly matters, and it all comes down to our relation with Wilayah. That will allow us to ascend on the Day of Judgement. This is the function of Rasulullah (SAWA) and his purified Ahlul Bait (a.s), to increase our light!
LADY FATIMA ZAHRA (S.A) MESMERIZING DESCRIPTION OF THE LIGHT OF HER SACRED CREATION
There is a Hadith from our dearest mother, Lady Fatima (s.a), where she speaks to her husband, Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) about her own creation. It is a long Hadith, but at the end of the Hadith she says that Almighty Allah (SWT) created her light, which was doing Tasbih (glorification) of Allah (SWT) in Jannah!
Lady Fatima (s.a) then says that Allah (SWT) transferred her light to the trees of Paradise, and when Rasulullah (SAWA) entered Jannah, he picked a fruit from the tree and ate it. Lady Fatima (s.a) then says that her mother, Lady Khadija al-Kubra (s.a) gave birth to her thereafter. She then says that her light illuminates her knowledge of what has happened before her and what is still to happen.
Lady Fatima (s.a) concludes this Hadith by saying to her husband, Imam Ali (a.s) that a mu’min (true believer) has a vision which is lightened by the light of Almighty Allah (SWT). We read this in verse 8 of Surah Tahrim cited earlier, specifically the reference to “nuruhum yas’a baina aidihim”.
True mu’mineen have earned the light in this material world. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) described Lady Fatima (s.a) as the perfect existence in Jannah.
We are in different wombs throughout our existence. First, we are in the wombs of our mothers waiting to be revealed into this material world, which is another womb. Thereafter, we move to the Barzakh, which is a greater womb. This is when we are well and truly born, in the eternal life of the Akhirah, which is described as the most perfect form of life.
During this material life of creation and graduality, Lady Fatima (s.a) is said to have the perfection with her. She could see things which others could not see. Hence, she said she could see what has happened and what will happen and what will not happen!
Through this deep knowledge, Lady Fatima (s.a) dedicated herself to Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s), standing by him unflinching when he was all alone.