Delivered on 25 June 2016 by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
In continuation of our discussion about the qualities of Ibadur Rahman, we said humility is the first quality and the second quality is forbearance and tolerance.
The third quality that the Holy Quran speaks about is that their Ibadah is exclusively for their Lord. They spend the night in this Ibadah, because it is the most peaceful and quiet and secretive part of the day.
Therefore, concentration and focus during Ibadah at night is much better than during the day, as there are no distractions. It is only you whispering with your Lord, with nobody else watching. This is the time wherein purity of one’s intention is more possible.
Spending the night in Sajdah and Qiyam means a great sacrifice, because night time is meant for rest and relaxation, so they sacrifice this for the sake of Allah (SWT), and they enjoy it!
Even more so, since it is not wajib, you leave your bed to make Sajdah to communicate with your Lord.
Nobody better than Imam Ali (a.s) presented to us the example of spending the night in Sajdah and Qiyam. As Imam Ali (a.s) said, he never missed a single night of night prayer from the time he heard our Holy Prophet (sawa) inform them about the Nur of night prayer.
Zarar ibni Hamza was a notable companion of Imam Ali (a.s), and one day Muawiya asked Zarar to define to him who was Ali (a.s).
At first he was extremely reluctant, but upon Muawiya’s insistence and command he provides a lengthy definition of Imam Ali (a.s).
A striking feature in his definition is when he describes Imam Ali (a.s) as the one who is in the middle of night in his arch of Ibadah, while everywhere else was pitch dark and he saw Imam Ali (a.s) holding his beard and shaking and shivering like somebody who has been bitten by a snake.
He was too stressed and sad, and use to say: “O Dunya, I have divorced you 3 times and I will never turn back to you.”
Furthermore, he would cry: “O Allah, how long is this journey to Akhirah, and how little sustenance I have to take along for this journey.”
Muawiya, this worst enemy of Imam Ali (a.s), burst into tears after listening to what Zarar narrated.
As a poet beautifully says, in the middle of the night in Ibadah, there is nobody who cries more than Ali, and in the heat of the battlefield, when swords are wielding, there is nobody smiling more than Ali. This is exemplification of:
وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا
“And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing.” (Surah Furqaan Verse 64).
FEAR OF THE DAY OF ACCOUNTABILITY
The next verses speak about the fear of the Servants of Allah of the day of Qiyamah:
وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا
“And they who say: O our Lord! turn away from us the punishment of hell, surely the punishment thereof is a lasting” (Surah Furqaan Verse 65)
إِنَّهَا سَاءتْ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَمُقَامًا
“Surely it is an evil abode and (evil) place to stay.” (Surah Furqaan Verse 66)
Now, this expression of Ibadur Rahman, is asking from Almighty Allah (SWT) for refuge from Jahannam. Remember what we discussed earlier, Imam Ali (a.s) never worshipped Allah (SWT) out of fear of Jahannam, nor out of greed of Jannah, but rather because he found there to be none other who is worthy of worship except Allah (SWT).
This does not mean that Imam Ali (a.s) did not fear Jahannam, despite his supreme level of spirituality, infallibility and closeness to Almighty Allah (SWT).
Abu Darda, who was one of the well-known companions of our Holy Prophet (sawa), narrates the following mesmerizing personal experience with Imam Ali (a.s). He says:
“One night it was too dark and in the middle of the night I passed through an oasis and while I was walking through palm trees of dates, I heard somebody crying in supplication. Hearing this I moved closer and realized it was Ali, sitting far from his home in the middle of the night. I hid myself behind a tree, not wanting Ali to see me, and I wanted to hear what Ali is saying to his Lord.
I found Ali to be drawn in fear of Allah (SWT), crying intensely and shivering out of the fear of the fire of Jahannam. He was seeking forgiveness from Almighty Allah (SWT).”
Abu Darda further narrates that Ali cried until his voice choked. He had become unconscious and fell down. Abu Darda thought that it was late at night and Imam Ali (a.s) might have fallen asleep. He went closer, touched him and found his body as motionless as a dry branch of a tree.
He feared that Imam Ali (a.s) had died, so he rushed to his house and told Lady Fatima (a.s) about her husband’s condition.
Lady Fatima (a.s) enquired from Abu Darda about what Imam Ali (a.s) was doing. He explained he was in deep state of Ibadah and then he collapsed. She replied: “Don’t be astonished! Ali is in such a state many a time when he supplicates to Allah!”
Here we see really, how the fear of Allah (SWT) has taken over Ali’s existence.
ARROWS OF SATAN
Last night I said that Ali is Abid, he is Zahid, a completely devoted worshipper about Allah (SWT), undoubtedly.
But there are plenty of people who are devoted worshippers of Allah, praying through the night, fasting whole day, etc.
So what is the difference between Imam Ali (a.s) and them? It is the QUALITY of Ibadah! Ali’s Ibadah is absorbed in that deep understanding of Tawheed.
As we discussed previously, the killers of Imam Ali (a.s) were also so called very pious. But they were the worst people on the earth while Imam Ali (a.s) is Imam al Muttaqeen.
They were the worst of the worst, because Ibadah for them was in their quantitative form, but qualitatively was absent. They have no understanding of Islam and what Ibadah really is.
Nobody can define them better than Imam Ali (a.s). They were never trained by our Holy Prophet (sawa), nor were they among the prominent companions. They just came into Islam taking Deen into their own hands in their short-sighted understanding.
Imam Ali (a.s) says they became arrows of Shaytaan. This exemplification by Imam Ali (a.s) is still very accurate today!
What is an arrow? It is weapon with no power of its own. It is being shot by the operator. Shaytaan hunts his victims through these arrows. Shaytaan uses these pious frauds (arrows) to fool us, and today we see virtually the whole Ummah fooled by this type of people. It was Imam Ali (a.s) who was able to see right through this so called pious face.
If you open Nahjul Balagha, you will understand the meaning of Ibadur Rahman. Imam Ali (a.s) enlightens the minds and hearts for people to emerge with the vision and inner part of Islam, and not be stuck in the shell.
One of the most important titles of Imam Ali (a.s) after Amir al Mu’mineen is Imam al Muttaqeen. In Imam Ali (a.s)’s logic and school of thought, everything should be based on one principle, namely TAQWA!
The Holy Quran speaks so much about Taqwa. From the start of the second Surah, “hudan lil muttaqeen” i.e. Quran is guidance for the people of Taqwa.
We see the same in Nahjul Balagha, which is nothing but a reflection of the Holy Quran, that there are more than 10 sermons of Ali (a.s) dedicated to Taqwa. Among those sermons is an amazing one called “Khutbatul Muttaqeen”.
Someone who is capable comes to Imam Ali (a.s) asking to define the qualities of Muttaqeen. How do we identify Muttaqeen? Imam Ali (a.s) was reluctant, but the person did not renege on insisting that Imam Ali (a.s) explains it to him. Imam Ali (a.s) then started to define 100 qualities of Muttaqeen. After listening to this Khutbah, this person collapsed and passed away, as he could not bear it.
But what is Taqwa, and how does Imam Ali (a.s) understand it? Normally when we read in Quran, it means fear and to be mindful of Allah (SWT). That is what is normally translated. But if a person deeply reflects based on Imam Ali(a.s)’s understanding of Taqwa, it is not fear, or isolation or avoidance. In Ali (a.s)’s eyes Taqwa is something else.
To be continued………