17 December 2021 (12th night of Jamadil Auwal 1443)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid,
Ottery, Cape Town
by Sheikh Dr Agha Muhammadi
I was asked the following question: In this world, we do good actions, like charity, and we gain pleasure from these good deeds. Now, what would happen in Heaven where there is no poor person to help? We will miss this pleasure. So then, what is going to happen there in Paradise?
The answer to this question is very vast. We need to understand the nature of life in Paradise, and what the Heavenly rewards are. This discussion can indeed be the subject of a detailed course!
SALAAH: AMONGST THE GREATEST PLEASURES OF SUBMITTING TO ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
It is not only the good physical deeds in this world, such as caring for your parents, Salaah, etc. As we know from the Prophetic Seerah (lifestyle), Salaah is from the highest pleasures for Rasulullah (SAWA), since he would say to Sayyidina Bilal (r.a) to remove the pain and bring relief to them by reading the Adhan (call to prayer) and prepare for Salaah!
One of our contemporary Urafa (grand mystics) of the 20th century was Grand Allama Qazi Tabataba’i (r.a). One of his very dear students was Ayatollah Najabat. He narrates an interesting story that one day he was visiting Allama Qazi Tabataba’i (r.a) and saw him very upset. Allama Qazi Tabataba’i (r.a) explained that something has been bothering him for a few days.
Now, one can imagine the level of their mind occupation versus ours! Our minds are consumed with managing bills, whereas their minds are consumed by matters of much greater importance! Allama Qazi Tabataba’i (r.a) had a big family and was poor, so he was in a constant financial scramble. However, he said that his mind was bothered by thinking that if they go to Heaven and are not allowed to perform Salaah, then what are they going to do there???
SALAAH: REMEMBERING ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) BRINGS ULTIMATE PEACE AND TRANQUILITY
For us mere mortals, Salaah is a burden! When we complete it, we feel free, but for people like Allama Qazi Tabataba’i (r.a), Salaah is very different. For him, it is truly about the remembrance of God (SWT) bringing a heart to be at peace, as we know from verse 28 of Surah Ra’ad (chapter 13 of the Holy Quran):
أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
Now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest.
We can see that the emphasis at the beginning of this verse gives the exclusivity ie. the only (and only) way that we will receive peace and tranquility is in the remembrance of Almighty Allah (SWT). This is what Allah (SWT) is confirming through this verse, since He is the One who created us. Now, it is up to us whether we want to accept this formula for real peace and tranquility, or not.
Similarly, the Holy Quran confirms that Salaah is a dhikr (remembrance of Almighty Allah (SWT). Verse 14 of Surah Taha (chapter 20) refers:
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي
Surely I am Allah, there is no god but I, therefore serve Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance.
So then, when this heart is at rest in remembrance of Allah (SWT) through Salaah, such people have the Paradise in this world, and will receive the call from Him, as described in verses 27 – 30 of Surah Fajr (chapter 89 of the Holy Quran):
يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ
O soul that art at rest!
ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَرْضِيَّةً
Return to your Lord, well-pleased (with him), well-pleasing (Him),
فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي
So enter among My servants,
And enter into My garden.
PEACE AND TRANQUILITY IS THE STATE OF CERTAINTY ONE ACHIEVES
This is the reason such people perform Salaah, to taste the pleasure of Paradise in this world through a heart at rest from Salaah! That is why Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 56 of Surah Dhaariyat (chapter 51 of the Holy Quran) that He has not created human beings and jinns other than to worship Him:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.
But the point is that worship is an act, and an act cannot be the ultimate goal for a human being. Therefore, worship cannot be the ultimate goal for Allah’s (SWT) creation of the human being either. There is always a purpose behind performing an action. It is only reasonable for someone to ask you why you are doing a certain action, and you will respond with a proof or reason.
Here is a simple everyday example to illustrate the point:
- Someone may ask: Why are doing grocery shopping? Your response: To cook.
- The next question will be: Why are you cooking? Your response: I am cooking to eat.
- The follow up question will be: Why are you eating? Your response: I am eating not to be hungry.
Now, not to be hungry is a state, it is not an act! Any human being who knows what it means to be hungry and what it means to be full, will not ask any further questions!
So then, we conclude that human beings look for a state in their actions. Almighty Allah (SWT) says in the last verse (99) of Surah Hijr (chapter 15 of the Holy Quran) that the state of Ibadah (acts of worship) is the level of certainty you will reach, and this state of certainty is one of peace and tranquility:
وَاعْبُدْ رَبَّكَ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ
And serve your Lord until there comes to you that which is certain.
This state of certainty is where you will truly enjoy the life. And the function of Salaah is to let you reach this stage.
CELEBRITIES FILL THEIR INTERNAL VOID THROUGH PHILANTHROPIC ACTS
In Jannah (Paradise/Heaven), we are not only deprived of helping poor people, but also deprived of greater actions like performing Salaah. But this does not mean we are losing. In fact, we are gaining, as we are progressing to a greater realm of life. This means greater things are waiting for us!
One very important point to be mindful is why we pay charity? I am going to lose the pleasure of paying charity in Paradise, so then, why am I paying charity now? It is a psychologically proven fact that one feels internal satisfaction when we help others, particularly the poor and marginalized in society. This means that it is not necessarily done Kurbatan ilallah, because the main driver is our internal satisfaction.
Many rich people in the world tend to do philanthropic acts after having accumulated their wealth. They refer to it as humanitarian acts, but it is incorrect to refer to it this way…depending on what it means to be humanitarian. If you mean helping another human being, then it is a plausible use of the term humanitarian. But, if you say you are doing these philanthropic acts because you are human, then that is not correct, because even animals do such good actions!
So, performing such philanthropic acts is not a point of distinction between human beings and animals, when we think that we are doing these acts in the spirit of being human beings, because animals help other animals as well!
Grand Ayatollah Jawadi Amuli, who is amongst the leading Islamic philosophers of our time, says that the departure point between human beings (Insan) and animals is that human beings look for their Lord (SWT)!
Moral of the story, often people do these philanthropic acts because they feel the need to satisfy their conscience. Human beings in the liberal life may be wealthy, but they are not happy! I am not trying to say that you cannot be happy when you are rich, but wealth is not a necessary condition to be happy. Indeed, you do not need to be rich in order to be happy, because happiness is the state of one’s heart.
IS HAPPINESS “TO HAVE OR TO BE”?
Happiness is a skill you have in your heart, no matter what is happening in the outside world.
Ziyarat Ashura is indeed a dua (supplication) of a superior class. You ask for things in Ziyarat Ashura which you do not necessarily ask for in any other dua. The trend in other well-known duas from the rich legacy of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is that we ask Almighty Allah (SWT) for various spiritual things, worldly wishes, forgiveness and many other things. However, in Ziyarat Ashura, all the demands are very high!
We claim to want to be in the Maqam-e-Mahmud of Imam Hussain (a.s). It is my personal belief that if someone recites Ziyarat Ashura at least once with full sincerity and honesty from the depths of the heart, then such a person will indeed be successful. I am not just merely referring to uttering the terms, I am referring to having the purest of intention with our hearts, and that is indeed very difficult, because you want to reach the state where you do not feel separated from the pain of Imam Hussain (a.s)!
Anyway, coming back to the point, the reason people do these good actions is because they are empty inside. They are not happy in their life, and after a while, they get tired of enjoying the material life, looking for something greater to give taste to their lives – something spiritual. This is what leads them to do these philanthropic acts to gain some internal happiness. They need it…
There is a very good book published in 1976 titled “To Have or to Be?” The author explains that in the past, people use to be. People then were not necessarily academically superior with multiple degrees or PhD level education. However, they were WISE! They knew how to live ie. TO BE!
But now, in today’s life, people HAVE! We have our certificates to prove our academic achievements and then our assets accumulated as well. We HAVE so many things, but we are naught! At the end, we are NOT HAPPY! This again adds further credence to the fact that many people who are consumed in this material world perform philanthropic acts, which in its essence is nothing more than a reflection of their internal poverty!
Such people are therefore in need of poor people to satisfy their internal poverty! However, a true believer is one who helps others out of Karama (dignity)! If I am helping others due to considering the dignity of human beings, then I will enjoy it more. It will bring more happiness to me when I see nobody suffering.
TRUE INNER PEACE IS WHEN OUR ACTIONS ARE PURELY FOR ALLAH (SWT) AND NOT WORLDLY APPRECIATION
A developed person has dignity and self-respect and the respect for human beings. Such a person gains pleasure in seeing the success of others. So, if you are helping others out of the dignity of human beings, then to see people happy will make you even happier! You do not need to then find poor people to give handouts to, in order to feel happy! It is out of people’s weak character when they seek out the poor to help them!
What matters is to do things purely for the sake of Almighty Allah (SWT). Our actions, whatever they are, if done for the sake of Almighty Allah (SWT), will indeed help us. Almighty Allah (SWT) makes reference to this in verse 7 – 11 of Surah Insaan (chapter 76 of the Holy Quran), describing the famous narration of the Ahlul Kisa giving charity each day at Iftar time when they were fasting for three days.
Verses 8 and 9 read as follows, to illustrate the point about the Ahlul Bait (a.s) giving charity purely and purely to please Almighty Allah (SWT), and not because they need to satisfy their internal happiness:
وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا
And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive
إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنْكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا
(Saying),”We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.
It often happens to us where we do good actions and we do not expect payment for it, but we do expect appreciation, even though we claim that we are doing it for Almighty Allah (SWT). And if I do not receive the appreciation, then I will feel quite bitter inside. This is not Ikhlas (sincerity) or li wajhillah (for the sake of Allah (SWT)), because doing something good with an expectation of appreciation means we are doing it for ourselves and not Him!
Almighty Allah (SWT) speaks about this in the subsequent verses, from verse 11 – 21 of Surah Insaan, describing the rewards for those who do good actions for His pleasure. And then He reaffirms His Promise in verse 22:
إِنَّ هَٰذَا كَانَ لَكُمْ جَزَاءً وَكَانَ سَعْيُكُمْ مَشْكُورًا
Surely this is a reward for you, and your striving shall be recompensed.
Now, interesting to note, that the rewards from Almighty Allah (SWT) are detailed in these verses from 11 – 21, but Allah (SWT) does not go into detail about how He will indeed recognize our good actions. He will appreciate what we have done if we do it purely for His Pleasure.
WAJHULLAH IS ENDLESS!
In Paradise, Wajhullah (the Pleasure of Allah (SWT)) is endless. Everything in this world will come to an end, but Wajhullah will never perish! We read this in verses 26 and 27 of Surah Rahman (chapter 55 of the Holy Quran):
كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ
All that is on earth will perish.
وَيَبْقَىٰ وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ
But will abide (for ever) the Face of thy Lord, full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour.
Almighty Allah (SWT) mentions in the Holy Quran that there are Nafakhat for us.
The first is Nafhatul Ula, as explained in verse 29 of Surah Hijr (chapter 15 of the Holy Quran), which the Urafa (grand mystics) refer to as Nafasur Rahman. This is in reference to Almighty Allah (SWT) blowing His soul (in a metaphoric way) into that of mankind and all beings.
فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ
So when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down making obeisance to him.
The second is Nufikha Fissur, as explained in verse 68 of Surah Zumar (chapter 39 of the Holy Quran), referring to all existence coming to an end except for a few which Allah (SWT) pleases:
وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ
And the trumpet shall be blown, so all those that are in the heavens and all those that are in the earth shall swoon, except such as Allah please.
Now, verse 88 of Surah Qasas (chapter 28 of the Holy Quran) gives further insight into the exception made from this verse, noting that everything will perish except the Wajhullah ie. metaphorically referred to as the face of Allah (SWT).
وَلَا تَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ ۘ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ
And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no god but He. Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face.
IS WAJHULLAH REALLY THE FACE OF ALLAH (SWT)?
Important to note that face in this sense is metaphorical and does not imply Allah (SWT) having a face in the human sense. In Arabic, “Waj” does not mean face, but refers to what you can easily recognize one thing through another.
In the context of human beings, the easiest way to recognize another person is to look at his/her face. Any other way of recognition will take longer. Hence, the face is a direct definition of what or who it is you are looking at. Similarly, in a material sense, the face of your car, for example, easily distinguishes what type of car it is.
We can therefore accept that the face of everything is the clearest defining sign which introduces the particular thing. This is “Waj”. So then, Wajhullah means that looking at the particular thing reminds you of Almighty Allah (SWT). And verse 115 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran) reminds us that whichever way we turn are indeed the signs of Allah (SWT):
وَلِلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ۚ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
And Allah’s is the East and the West, therefore, whither you turn, thither is Allah’s purpose; surely Allah is Amplegiving, Knowing.
FINDING GOD (SWT) IN EVERYTHING WE DO WILL MAKE US WAJHULLAH!
This point is also re-emphasized in verse 53 of Surah Fussilat (chapter 41 of the Holy Quran):
سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
We will soon show them Our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?
Commentators of the Holy Quran explain that “Shaheed” in this verse refer to the one who witnesses. However, amongst the foremost commentators of the Holy Quran in the 20th century, Allama Tabataba’i (r.a) and our contemporary great thinker, Ayatollah Jawadi Amuli, have a different view, which I believe is more accurate and suits the context of this verse.
They say that that “Shaheed” in this verse means that you can see Allah (SWT) in everything! This makes everything to be Wajhullah, to the extent where we have the most supreme spiritual luminaries able to reflect the Light of Almighty Allah (SWT), making them Wajhullah!
ALLAH (SWT) HAS PRIVILEGED HUMAN BEINGS OVER ALL OTHER CREATIONS TO BE WAJHULLAH
Amongst all of the creation of Almighty Allah (SWT), nothing can reflect the Light of Almighty Allah (SWT) better than human beings can reflect! This is because Almighty Allah (SWT) has privileged human beings with a specific, elevated capacity to reflect His Light, meaning for us to be Wajhullah.
We read in verse 31 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran) that Almighty Allah (SWT) concludes the superiority of human beings over the angels, through the test which He presented to the angels:
وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنْبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَٰؤُلَاءِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
And He taught Adam all the names, then presented them to the angels; then He said: Tell me the names of those if you are right.
This test apparently does not appear to be a fair test, because Allah (SWT) says in this verse that He taught the names to Nabi Adam (a.s) but did not teach the angels, yet He is putting the angels to the test, challenging them to say the names He taught Adam (a.s) if they think they are better than him.
Surely, this cannot be claimed to be a fair test, because Allah (SWT) taught Adam (a.s) and not the angels, so why put the angels to the test, expecting them to answer like Adam (a.s)? The point is that these names are not some terms to memorize and repeat.
The Holy Quran explains that the angels very well found what Almighty Allah (SWT) means and what the human being had, namely Nabi Adam (a.s). And based on this, the angels prostrated before Adam (a.s). It was the capacity of Nabi Adam (a.s) which allowed him to reflect the names of Almighty Allah (SWT).
OUR BELOVED PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) IS THE GREATEST EXEMPLIFICATION OF WAJHULLAH
In Dua Joshan Kabeer, we read the 1000 names for Almighty Allah (SWT). These are not only His names. These are our names as well, since Allah (SWT) is an absolute, and His names therefore find meaning when He faces human beings.
As human beings, we have to manifest these names of Almighty Allah (SWT), and the more we are able to do so, the more we can also be regarded as Wajhullah! And we know, the highest amongst people to be Wajhullah is our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA)!
Nobody reflects the light of Almighty Allah (SWT) better than Rasulullah (SAWA), since he is the highest amongst human beings, affectionately referred to as Rahmatan lil aalameen (mercy unto all creation).
SALAWAAT DEMONSTRATES THE MAGNANIMITY OF RASULULLAH (SAWA)
Verse 43 of Surah Ahzaab (chapter 33 of the Holy Quran) is very deep, because Almighty Allah (SWT) and His angels are sending their blessings (salawaat) upon us, and the function of Salawaat is that it takes us out of darkness into light.
هُوَ الَّذِي يُصَلِّي عَلَيْكُمْ وَمَلَائِكَتُهُ لِيُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۚ وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا
He it is Who sends blessings on you, as do His angels, that He may bring you out from the depths of Darkness into Light: and He is Full of Mercy to the Believers.
Now, when it comes to His best of creation, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 56 of the same Surah Ahzaab that He and His angels are constantly (present and future) sending Salawaat (blessings) on Rasulullah (SAWA):
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ۚ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا
Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O you that believe! Ask blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.
If we think about it, this Salawaat on Rasulullah (SAWA) has been active for the past 15 centuries, and in fact, earlier, since Hadith says that Rasulullah (SAWA) was the first to be created, but the final divine Prophet to be sent to the earth. This gives us a glimpse into how long this Salawaat by Almighty Allah (SWT) and His angels has been alive for!
Commensurately, Rasulullah (SAWA) has this never-ending capacity to receive the divine Light and blessings of Salawaat! Such is the magnanimity of his spiritual status! In his dua (supplication), Rasulullah (SAWA) says “Oh Allah, let me taste a drop of the pleasure of mentioning Your name”!
In Farsi, Rasulullah (SAWA) is described as drinking from the expansive ocean, but it is still like a drop to him. Our capacity as human beings is clearly the opposite, because we are full very quickly on the little drop we receive to taste spirituality. But for Rasulullah (SAWA), the ocean is like a drop to him. This is how he can be Rahmatan lil Aalameen, that ocean of mercy unto all of creation.
AHLUL BAIT (A.S) ARE THE MANIFESTATION OF ALLAH’S (SWT) BEAUTIFUL NAMES
Nobody can therefore reflect the Light of Almighty Allah (SAWA), the Wajhullah, the way that Rasulullah (SAWA) does. He is clearly the highest, followed by Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) and the Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
In fact, our 5th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s), explains that they, the Ahlul Bait (a.s) are the manifestation of the Asma-ul-Husna referred to in verse 180 of Surah A’araaf (chapter 7 of the Holy Quran), and we human beings can call Almighty Allah (SWT) through the Ahlul Bait (a.s), as they are the best reflection of His beautiful and noble names:
وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا
And Allah’s are the best names, therefore call on Him thereby.
Once you have reached the status of Wajhullah, then Almighty Allah (SWT) promises that this status will not perish. This means that what we do for Almighty Allah (SWT) has endless rewards!
The key hallmark of whatever Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a) did was its exceptional quality, and quality matters to Almighty Allah (SWT). So then, if we do just one act “li wajhillah” (for the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT), it will be enormous help for us to succeed.
The problem unfortunately is that our actions tend to be for the sake of attaining praise and admiration. Unfortunately, this is how Satan comes to destroy our good actions. Conversely, if our good actions are done “li wajhillah” then it is going to stay there forever. This is why the memory of Karbala will never end, nor will the memory of Lady Fatima (s.a), as their sacrifice was done “li wajhillah”!
That is also why the title of Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) is referred to as Wajhullah!
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