23 December 2021 (18th night of Jamadil Auwal 1443 – Ayyame Fatimiyyah)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid,
Ottery, Cape Town
by SHEIKH DR AGHA MUHAMMADI
Almighty Allah (SWT) mentions the following very important point in verse 38 of Surah Muddaththir (chapter 74 of the Holy Quran):
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ
Every soul is a pledge for its own deeds.
This verse is saying that, as human beings, we are captives of our past – our thoughts, our relations, our deeds, our affections. These four elements make us what we are today. We are captive/in the bond of what we have collected in these four categories, which makes us what we are.
OUR BODIES FUNCTION ON A PERFECT TANGIBLE SYSTEM OF CAUSE AND EFFECT
You know, when we eat a specific food, it is bound to have some consequences. There is bound to be a reaction if your body is sensitive to some specific foods. You could break out into a rash in this case, which is unavoidable. Similarly, you cannot eat that food if you are diabetic, for example.
Reality is that you cannot cheat your body because there is a perfect system working in your body. This system is very truthful! So, it is what it is exactly, and you cannot change it. We cannot cheat our souls, the same way that we cannot cheat our bodies!
Our bodily system described above is very much tangible. We can easily see it in operation, through the reaction of eating something I am not supposed to. This means we can be the best doctors to ourselves! Nobody knows what we are physically, better than ourselves.
The experience of life has taught us what to eat and more importantly, what not to eat.
OUR SOULS FUNCTION ON A PERFECT INTANGIBLE SYSTEM OF CAUSE AND EFFECT
When it comes to our souls, we do not physically see this system operating, as it is not that much tangible. It is quite complicated, and that is why we need revelation. We are dependent on spiritual guides to inform us what to do and what not to do.
Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verses 7 and 8 of Surah Zalzala (chapter 99 of the Holy Quran):
فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ
7. So. he who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it.
وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ
8. And he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.
The good and bad we do make us who we are. It is therefore very important to reflect on what we have accumulated within us. Sometimes, we see kids chewing their nails. This could be habitual, and the parents will seek alternatives as they do not like this practice of the kids.
This habit is unfortunately the symptom of something going on inside of the child. In order to remove this bad habit correctly, we need to understand the root cause of the symptoms. This child maybe doesn’t like this bad habit of nail-biting, but it is what it is.
OUR PAST DEFINES AND CLARIFIES WHAT AND WHO WE ARE
If there is something negative in our past, then we are not free from it, and sooner or later, we will come to see it. So, it is best to solve it as soon as possible, otherwise we will be confronted with it, sooner or later.
One day, someone offered our 4th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), a garment as a gift. Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) wore it, and after a while he commented that he is not himself in this garment. He said that it does not suit him. He is infallible but says that this garment is going to negatively affect him!
Similarly, whatever we eat is going to affect us. Almighty Allah (SWT) has created an endless variety of foods, each with its specific effect on us. Let us take fruit as an example – all the different types of apples, and the different types of peppers and the different types of everything that He has created!
Each type has a different impact, example, a green pepper has a different effect on your body from the red pepper, and it has a different effect from the yellow pepper, etc.
The point is that what we eat and drink, and what we wear has an impact on us. Yes, the colour of our clothes has an impact on us, whether we know or not! The same principle applies to our thoughts – it has an impact on us.
OUR MINOR AND MAJOR TESTS ALL CULMINATE INTO DEFINING OUR CHARACTER
Teachers often present ongoing tests to their students, but at the end of the course, there is the main final exam that students are required to pass. Similarly, Almighty Allah (SWT) is testing us 24 hours a day. Indeed, every moment of our lives is a test, but as the Holy Quran states, we have one or two “final” exams every year. Verse 126 of Surah Tauba (chapter 9 of the Holy Quran) refers:
أَوَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّهُمْ يُفْتَنُونَ فِي كُلِّ عَامٍ مَرَّةً أَوْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ لَا يَتُوبُونَ وَلَا هُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ
Do they not see that they are tried once or twice in every year? Still they turn not in repentance, neither pay they heed.
This verse confirms that Almighty Allah (SWT) sends us a major test every year, and the second part of this verse insinuates that people usually fail this test, highlighting the weak points we have. The failures in these tests begin with the small things in our lives.
I remember we had teachers who taught us an important lesson about paying attention to the smallest mistakes or transgressions. As students in the Islamic seminaries (Houza), we would be four or five students in a single room, living as roommates for a few years.
Our teachers would say that if we are sitting at the dining table but take a piece of bread extra than what your friends have taken, then it will not be strange when you become an Imam of a Masjid whom people look up to, or the mayor of the City, and end up wasting millions if not billions. It all begins with that small piece of bread!
You do not notice the impact, because it is only a tiny piece of bread which you have taken unjustly. However, it is an indication of the type of character you have. And this will perpetuate when you grow in your socio-political stature, and you have access to wealth as a result.
Quite simply, you will not be able to control yourself!
That is why the Holy Quran describes us as captives of what we are, because we are surrounded by our acts – all of us! So, if we wake up and do not find a serious test in our lives, then there is good reason to doubt the way we are living!
Hence, as a true believer, one has to feel the challenges in life. To put this another way, if we live in a way where we are not confronted with difficult choices, then we have to doubt the way we are living. This is precisely how the nature of life is, and how Almighty Allah (SWT) has created the system of this transient existence.
THE HEART IS THE ENGINE POWERING OUR CHARACTER
For us human beings to succeed in this, to be able to overcome these dark thoughts and deeds, the key struggle is to purify our hearts, as this is the storage room for our cumulative acts and thoughts.
Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) said that the heart is the leader (Imam) of our sensations, and our sensations are the leaders (Imams) of our organs! This means that it is the heart that commands the senses. Example, I have the sense of sight, and this sense of sight commands the eyes. It is my heart which commands the senses, and the senses command the eye to look at something.
The same applies with all other parts of our body.
So, the heart is the commander in charge! And this commander in charge is formed through what we have collected in our character and our personality.
We all agree that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is the source of mercy and compassion (Rahma). You cannot find any human being greater than Rasulullah (SAWA). Despite this, there were people around him who did not end with a good result, because as human beings, we are captives of what we have collected in our hearts.
This means that if we do not have a good gaining of the past, even being with Rasulullah (SAWA) is not going to automatically bring so much light to you, as he could not change people like Abu Jahl or Abu Lahab, and so many others. Rasulullah (SAWA) is therefore the greatest person who can give light to people but provided also that the hearts are likely to receive it.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) AND DIVINE PROPHETS ON PURIFYING THE HEART
Sometimes we come across people who undergo a revolution through reading or hearing something which triggers a spark for reformation, while others will not be impacted at all by it. This is because of what they have gathered in the character and collected in their heart.
It is therefore very important to observe the heart and to see what type of heart we have formulated.
There is an interesting narration between Almighty Allah (SWT) and Prophet Dawood (a.s). Allah (SWT) said to Nabi Dawood (a.s) to establish a house for Him and then He will settle in the heart of Nabi Dawood (a.s). Dawood (a.s) responded to Allah (SWT) saying that He is greater than settling in a house. Allah (SWT) replied asking Dawood (a.s) to purify and empty his heart from all the ailments accumulated, only for His Pleasure!
Similarly, there is a Hadith from our 11th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s), where he explains the dialogue between Almighty Allah (SWT) and Prophet Moosa (a.s) in the Holy Quran, specifically verse 12 of Surah Taha (chapter 20):
إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ ۖ إِنَّكَ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى
Surely I am your Lord, therefore put off your shoes; surely you are in the sacred valley, Tuwa.
Imam al-Askari (a.s) explains that Almighty Allah (SWT) is expressing in the metaphoric sense here, that Nabi Moosa (a.s) should get rid of anything except His love.
The context of this is that Nabi Moosa (a.s) was very worried about his pregnant wife. Against this backdrop, Almighty Allah (SWT) asked Nabi Moosa (a.s) to empty his heart from any form of anxiety, and anything other than Him!
FIRST STAGE OF WORSHIPING ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) IS TO BE THANKFUL TO HIM
To what extent we can empty our hearts for Almighty Allah (SWT) depends on how much we have collected. We like to be good, honest people and we like to be in the good books of Almighty Allah (SWT), but it is not sufficient to only wish for this, because our hearts are a product of what we made. Every “ingredient” to forming our heart is our deeds, thoughts, actions and relations we had in the past.
So then, how much can I feel the pleasure of being with Almighty Allah (SWT)? Salaah is a key criterion itself to evaluate. How much do we enjoy Salaah?
Of course, the enjoyment of Salaah is not the correct approach when teaching our children how to pray, because they will not understand the pleasure of Salaah and may decide not to continue because they are not enjoying it. Therefore, with our children, our approach to getting them to understand Salaah is about expressing gratitude to Almighty Allah (SWT).
Almighty Allah (SWT) speaks about parents in the Holy Quran, describing what great pain the mothers have endured for the kids, and then commanding us to be thankful to our parents. Once we are thankful to our parents, then we are also thankful to Almighty Allah (SWT) who has given us parents and He is indeed more kind than our parents. Verse 14 of Surah Luqman (chapter 31 of the Holy Quran) refers:
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ
And We have enjoined man in respect of his parents– his mother bears him with faintings upon faintings and his weaning takes two years– saying: Be grateful to Me and to both your parents; to Me is the eventual coming.
We should therefore identify all those in our life who have given us things or contributed to who we are. One of the worst qualities to have is not to be thankful. So, when you learn to be thankful, then you will naturally also worship Almighty Allah (SWT) because of being thankful to Him. That being said, when you grow spiritually, it is not only about being thankful to Him, but rather, also the pleasure you derive from worshipping Almighty Allah (SWT).
WORSHIPING ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) EVENTUALLY BECOMES BEAUTY AND PLEASURE
Anyone will admire and praise beautiful flowers, regardless of your ideological persuasion, because beauty is beauty! We all know that most beautiful Hadith of Imam Ali (a.s) when he speaks about acts of worship (Ibadah), saying that:
– He does not worship Almighty Allah (SWT) out of love for Paradise, as that is the worship of a businessman.
– He does not worship Almighty Allah (SWT) out of fear of Hell, as that is the worship of a slave, afraid of his master.
– Instead, Imam Ali (a.s) is saying that He worships Almighty Allah (SWT) as only He is worthy of worship!
So, if someone is admiring a flower, it is out of its beauty and nothing else. It is unrelated to religiosity or lack thereof. Salaah should give us a similar feeling of refreshment, joy and pleasure as what a flower brings. If it does not give us this feeling, then it is because of the problems we are facing in our lives.
TRAIN OUR SOULS TO ENJOY SPIRITUAL PLEASURES
Salaah is an indicator and criteria about the type of life we are leading.
We therefore need to have plans about how we can enjoy Salaah. Amongst the greatest of mystics from the 20th century is Allama Qazi Tabataba’i (r.a). He advises that sometimes you may have to “cheat” your desires.
He says that we should, for example, keep the food that we love most, for the time of Salaah! He advises this is also a good way to train yourself to get out of bed in the middle of the night for Salaatul Layl, and then reward yourself with your favourite food upon waking up. This way you give your ibadah a form of refreshment!
The nafs (our desires) is like a baby which you are trying to wean off breastfeeding. Training your nafs is a similar gradual process, as it will gradually begin to enjoy the spiritual pleasures. And because of this importance placed on the heart and what it can achieve, we see that there is a great emphasis on loving the Ahlul Bait (a.s), because the love of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is the first level of spiritual love we can experience.
Us mere mortal human beings cannot really enjoy the pleasure of speaking with Almighty Allah (SWT). Hafez, the great Persian poet of the 14th century, has a deeply mystical saying in reference to the last part of verse 21 of Surah Insaan (chapter 76 of the Holy Quran):
وَسَقَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ شَرَابًا طَهُورًا
and their Lord will give to them to drink of a Wine Pure and Holy.
Hafez addresses Almighty Allah (SWT) in reference to this verse, saying:
“Give us a glob or two from Your divine wine,
then make it Ramadan for the whole year (make everything Haraam to us).
If I taste that pleasure and love of Your divine wine, then there will be no pleasure in my life other than Your remembrance!”
We have this from the grand mystics (Urafa), that when they experienced such pleasure, it was so intense, to the point where they could not digest it, leaving them in a dance, the way that children dance from excitement!
The great 13th century poet and mystic, Rumi, explains that he dreams of such a dance, meaning he dreams of the greatest pleasure in talking to Almighty Allah (SWT)!
This is something reserved for the special people, who have the added value. We normal people cannot get it.
LOVING THE AHLUL BAIT (A.S) IS THE MAJOR HIGHWAY TO ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
We CAN taste the spiritual pleasures, of knowing the kind of pleasures they are and what is the essence of them. This is where Almighty Allah (SWT) has commanded us to love the Ahlul Bait (a.s), as noted in verse 23 of Surah Shura (chapter 42 of the Holy Quran), where He commands Rasulullah (SAWA):
قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ
Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives.
Then, in verse 57 of Surah Furqaan (chapter 25 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) commands Rasulullah (SAWA):
قُلْ مَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ إِلَّا مَنْ شَاءَ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ سَبِيلًا
Say: “No reward do I ask of you for it but this: that each one who will, may take a (straight) Path to his Lord.”
Let us understand this crucial point. Rasulullah (SAWA) is commanded by Almighty Allah (SWT) to say two different statements about reward for his Prophethood, in the first verse being love of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and in the second verse being moving towards Allah (SWT).
Now, this may leave one confused, because on face value, Rasulullah (SAWA) is saying two different commands about the same thing ie. reward for his Prophethood. This would, on face value, imply that Rasulullah (SAWA) and Almighty Allah (SWT) either made a mistake or are lying, as both statements cannot be correct. Clearly, Rasulullah (SAWA) and Almighty Allah (SWT) cannot make a mistake or lie!!!
Therefore, these two statements by the same sources, Almighty Allah (SWT) and Rasulullah (SAWA), can only mean one thing and not two different things. The conclusion we draw from this is: the journey towards Almighty Allah (SWT) is only possible through loving the Ahlul Bait (a.s)!
And then in verse 47 of Surah Saba (chapter 34 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) commands Rasulullah (SAWA):
قُلْ مَا سَأَلْتُكُمْ مِنْ أَجْرٍ فَهُوَ لَكُمْ
Say: Whatever reward I have asked of you, that is only for yourselves.
So, this love of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is the beginning of the purification of the heart and feeling that spiritual pleasure.
LOVING THE AHLUL BAIT (A.S) IS OUR SAVING GRACE IN THIS WORLD AND HEREAFTER
Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) is the servant of Almighty Allah (SWT). There is a beautiful, thought-provoking Hadith from our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), where he says that if people like Salman the way that angels like him, then none of them would go to Hell! Imam Sadiq (a.s) then says that this status of Salman is because of his undivided love towards Imam Ali (a.s)!
Now we can see what the impact of the love of Imam Ali (a.s) is, as described by the love of Salman, which will result in Hell being off limits for such a person! This love will therefore cover you throughout your life. This love is not separate from actions, our deeds and our thoughts. This love will encompass ALL aspects of our life!
If this is the love for Imam Ali (a.s), then what about the love of Allah (SWT)?! Hence, what I mentioned earlier, that we require special added value for the love of Almighty Allah (SWT). But for us humble souls, we can derive great value from the first stage towards this love of Allah (SWT), and that is the love of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
WE FIND THE LIGHT OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) THROUGH THE HOUSE OF ALI (A.S) AND FATIMA (S.A)
Almighty Allah (SWT) explains His Light through analogies in verse 35 of Surah Noor (chapter 24 of the Holy Quran):
اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not– light upon light– Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.
Then, interestingly, Almighty Allah (SWT) describes in verse 36 where His Light can be found:
فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ
(This lamp is found) in houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them; there glorify Him therein in the mornings and the evenings.
It is recorded in various commentaries of the Holy Quran, amongst both Sunni and Shia resources, such as the classical Sunni Tafsir al-Tha’labi as an example, that someone asked Rasulullah (SAWA) what houses are these houses where the Light of Almighty Allah (SWT) is?
Rasulullah (SAWA) responded saying that it refers to the houses of the divine Prophets (a.s). Then, Abu Bakr asked Rasulullah (SAWA) whether the house of Imam Ali (a.s) and Lady Fatima (s.a) is from these houses, to which Rasulullah (SAWA) confirmed that their house is from the highest of these houses of His Light!
Hence, this is the only door which was not closed, when all the other doors to the Masjid al-Nabawi were closed, because verse 33 of Surah Ahzab (chapter 33 of the Holy Quran) confirms that there was no impurity on them. Therefore, their door was always open to the Masjid, 24/7!
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا
Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying.
MAJALIS OF IMAM HUSAIN (A.S) IS THE GUIDING LIGHT TOWARDS THE LOVE OF ALLAH (SWT)
The Light of Allah (SWT) is found in this purified household, the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). If it is difficult for us to love Almighty Allah (SWT) and to understand this love for Him, then at our level, we can at least relate to the love of Imam Husain (a.s), which is so extensive that it can include ALL! That is why we believe that Imam Husain (a.s) is one of the gates of Paradise.
Being with Imam Husain (a.s), Lady Fatima (s.a) and the Ahlul Bait (a.s) will naturally impact you. I am sure we have all heard various stories of people deeply impacted by the Majalis of Imam Husain (a.s). I had a friend who was arrested by the Communists, when the Communist Parties were active in Iran at the beginning the Islamic Revolution. They worked on his mind for a few months, ensuring that they have totally brainwashed him.
The day they let him free happened to be the Majlis of Imam Husain (a.s). Now, when the Masa’ib (narration of the calamity) and Maatam (lamentation) began, everything that they indoctrinated this guy with was gone when he shed tears and started beating his chest.
Again, referring back to verse 38 of Surah Muddaththir (chapter 74 of the Holy Quran), which I opened this discussion with, it is clear that in the past, this person’s love of Imam Husain (a.s) has created some impact on his heart, such that whatever the atheists tried to indoctrinate him with was immediately washed away, and the light of guidance (hidayah) will show up again and wash away all the dirt:
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ
Every soul is a pledge for its own deeds.
We ask Almighty Allah (SWT) to give us the opportunity and Taufeeq to purify the self and to observe what we collect in our Nafs, as we are indebted to it. Whatever we have gathered in our character will come up, the moment we depart from this world, both good and evil.
We therefore implore Almighty Allah (SWT) for that moment to be all goodness and Rahma, Insha Allah, and to be among the true mu’mineen (believers) who are able to keep Imaan (faith) stabilized within their hearts after their death.
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