Jumuah lecture delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim on Friday 12 April 2019 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
We are in the beautiful month of Shabaan wherein the Mercy of Allah upon us is in abundance as we extract inspiration from the fact that various members of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) who are our role models were born in this month. This includes:
– 3rd Imam Husayn (a.s)
– Abil Fadlil Abbas
– 4th Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
– Ali Akbar
– the Imam of our time, 12th Imam Mahdi (a.s)
And I extend my congratulations to all on the occasions of these celebrations of the personalities through whom we seek nearness to Almighty Allah and who showed us through their teachings and practical lifestyles how this nearness to Allah is achieved.
ULTIMATE OUTCOME OF OUR PURPOSE IN LIFE
As we slowly journey towards the Holy Month of Ramadaan and become a little more inward focused than usual, one of the concepts that is important to focus on is where our whole journey in life is heading.
This life that is so precious which can end in an instant….literally.
Last Saturday we saw a video that went viral of the murder/execution of a person in a car at a petrol station in Kenilworth. Four people suddenly descended on this car from nowhere and fired their guns at the occupant. I calculated by replaying this video several times that the crime took approximately 10 seconds to execute, but the person that was killed already laid motionless (which probably means dead) already after 2 seconds.
So that’s how quick and even quicker than that our precious journey through life can end.
We all know that our purpose in life is to worship Almighty Allah. But that purpose has an outcome. The outcome is Ma’rifat or inner knowledge of Allah that brings us closeness to Almighty Allah. The ultimate outcome of the purpose of our creation is closeness to Almighty Allah.
Each and every day when we perform ritual acts of worship we do it with an intention of قربة الا الله or to “seek closeness to Allah”. And the question really is what does this closeness mean?
CLOSENESS OF ALLAH TO CREATION
When we examine verses of the Quran to try to understand the concept of closeness we see that various verses make reference to different degrees of the closeness of Almighty Allah to us. And I am sure by now that you are familiar with these verses.
In one verse Almighty Allah is referred to as closer to us than others are.
In another verse Almighty Allah is referred to as closer to us than our jugular vein.
And yet in another verse Almighty Allah is referred to as being between man and his very heart.
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ
“and know that Allah stands between a man and his heart” (Surah Anfal Verse 24)
This closeness is from the perspective of Almighty Allah to us and it exists for everyone, irrespective of our belief in Allah or not.
MAGICIANS CLOSENESS TO PHIROWN
However what is even more of interest and requires our focus is understanding the concept of closeness from the perspective of OUR relationship to Allah. And this is a very interesting discussion.
In the Quran, one story that is probably repeated the most is that of Phirown at the time of Prophet Musa (a.s).
The Quran informs us that after Almighty Allah commanded Prophet Musa (a.s) to go with his brother Prophet Haroon (a.s) to Phirown to give him da’wah and invite him to believe in Allah, Phirown was sitting in the company of his advisors and was taken aback by the message of Prophet Musa (a.s).
He was however intrigued and asked Prophet Musa (a.s) whether he has a sign to corroborate his truthfulness. And the Quranic narration then says that Prophet Musa (a.s) threw down his stick and it turned into a snake. And since Phirown was going to be a difficult customer to convince, Prophet Musa (a.s) put his hand in his pocket and then took it out and it was suddenly shining white – brighter than the sun which left the onlookers in amazement.
When Phirown saw this he consulted with his advisors about how to respond as this was a very new challenge that Phirown had to deal with. Phirown suddenly had a major need to keep his supposed status of being “their Lord most high” which is how he described himself to his subjects.
So the advisors said postpone the matter in relation to Prophet Musa (a.s) and his brother. Let’s put a plan in place first.
What was that plan? The advisors said send messengers out into the cities and let them gather every knowledgeable magician as they believed that Prophet Musa (a.s) was a learned magician who wanted to overthrow Phirown.
And so all the knowledge magicians from the outskirts of the cities were gathered. And these magicians were also smart as they realised that Phirown was actually in trouble and this was their one best opportunity to cash in on his desperate need. They thought let us milk him for what it’s worth!
So Surah A’raf Verse 113 tells the story further from this point onwards:
وَجَآءَ الْسَّحَرَةُ فِرْعَوْنَ قَالُوا إِنَّ لَنا لاَجْراً إِنْ كُنّا نَحْنُ الْغَالِبِينَ
“And the magicians came to Phirown, they said: ‘will there surely be a reward for us if we are victorious’.”
The magicians had a private meeting with Phirown before the time to discuss the situation and while they had this opportunity they tried to secure for themselves a return for their services.
Now the response of Phirown to these magicians is most interesting. Verse 114 says:
قَالَ نَعَمْ وإِنَّكُمْ لَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ
“He said: ‘Yes! (of course!….but for you there’s something more!) and you will surely be of the close ones (to me)’.”
REFLECTING ON THE CONCEPT OF CLOSENESS
Though these are said to be the words of Phirown, at the end of the day EVERY word in the Quran is the word of Allah and thus the choice of every word is meaningful and has its own importance.
There are some profound points that our ulama extract about the concept of closeness from our perspective in this story of the magicians of Phirown.
– when you are Muqarrabun or close ones then the question of reward for your services is a forgone conclusion. There’s no question about it. Regular people first have to prove themselves and show what they did before they get rewarded. But Muqarrabun don’t get questioned as they have a status where they enjoy much more than just normal reward. Their reward is already reserved plus they enjoy something more!
– Muqarrabun, just like Mutahharun, and just like Mukhlasun are statuses that one cannot give to yourself but are statuses that are given to you! Understand this! One can seek to become “close” through ones actions which need to be very special which are particularly loved by your Lord, one can seek to become “pure” through ones actions, one can seek to become “sincere” through ones actions, but you can’t crown yourself with the titles of Muqarrabun or Mutahharun or Mukhlasun as these titles are given to you – you don’t have a right over them!
– the magicians were always far away as they lived in the cities from which they had no contact or even access to Phirown, but were now always going to be close to Phirown which means they would always have access to Phirown whenever they wished!
– when the magicians lived like normal people far away, they did not get to see Phirown from close by, but now would get to see his face besides having access to him!
– by being close the magicians could have private “face time” for a meeting with Phirown when they wanted to or at least by appointment while others never had this privilege!
– by being close and virtually in the palace of Phirown, the magicians would get to know the secrets of Phirown that only the close ones know and outsiders don’t have access to!
– with the status of closeness the magicians would now have the power to intercede on behalf of outsiders with Phirown due to their close proximity and status!
OUR CLOSENESS TO ALMIGHTY ALLAH
And in the understanding of our closeness to Almighty Allah, we have a similar view of what closeness to Allah means:
– it’s where Allah rewards you beyond what you do as you are trusted to always do good
– it’s a status that Allah crowns you with
– it’s where you have special spiritual access to Allah
– it’s where you get to see Allah with the eyes of your heart
– it’s where you can have private time with Allah whenever you wish
– it’s where Allah shares His secrets with you
– it’s where Allah gives you power of intercession on behalf of others with Him
Now in the famous Hadith Qudsi of Qurbun Nawafil, Almighty Allah says to us:
“And My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have obligated upon him. And My servant continues to draw near to me with Nafila (recommended) deeds”
Of course this Hadith is much longer, but I want us to think about what that Nafila or recommended deeds are? And how does Shabaan assist us in getting closer to Almighty Allah?
MUNAJAT SHABANIYAH – WHISPERED PRAYER IN SHABAAN
There are various recommended good deeds which would qualify for Nafila. Salatul Layl, fasting, sadaqah, reading Quran, reconciling families and communities, and much more.
One of the great legacies that the Ahlul Bait (a.s) left for us which has an element of uniqueness as we don’t find this present in other schools of thought to the extent that it truly flourishes in the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is the narrations of their Duas.
Duas for every ocassion… daily, after salaah, weekly, monthly, special ocassions, Ramadaan, nights of Qadr, day of Arafah in Haj, you name it….
And all of these Duas are great and filled with profound meaning.
But among them are a selection of Duas that are truly favourites among the mystics and people of spirituality. And one of these which is related to the month of Shabaan is Munajat Shabaniyyah or the Whispered Prayer of Shabaan.
Imam Khomeini says that Munajat Sha‘baniyyah is unique, and that though philosophers and mystics may be able to understand SOME aspects of these whispered prayers, those who truly understand them have actually achieved a high level of closeness to Allah, with a taste or experience of the prayer’s content.
He says if someone pays attention, performs reflection, and follows its advice, that person can reach a notable position and can achieve some levels of perfection.
I would like to leave you all with an open challenge for the rest of Shabaan, take 15 minutes every day and read this whole Munajat with attention to its meaning and you will see something different in your spirituality!
OUR CONDITION DURING DUA
It’s not possible to speak about the details of this Munaajat in a few minutes. But I would like to highlight a few things in it to consider.
Munajat Shabaniyah which is traced back to Imam Ali (a.s) starts by highlighting the three conditions that we seem to be in when we try to communicate with Almighty Allah. After Bismillah and Salawaat it says:
وَاسْمَعْ دُعائي اِذا دَعَوْتُكَ، وَاْسمَعْ نِدائي اِذا نادَيْتُكَ، وَاَقْبِلْ عَليَّ اِذا ناجَيْتُكَ
“Listen to my prayer when I prayer to You, and listen to my call when I call You, and attend to me when I whisper to You”
Scholars say that this is what the state of our relationship seems to be with Allah. When we say “dua” or prayer we mean that you calling Allah who is close by and in a sense we make such a dua with a mildly audible voice.
When we say “nidaa” or call Allah we mean one who is far in distance and you thus call out loud.
When we say “Munajat” or whisper softly we mean Allah is very close to have a very intimate conversation with.
And each of these three states has it’s place.
COMBINATION OF EXTRAORDINARY HOPE AND FEAR
So what is this Whispered Prayer or Munajat all about?
We have heard before that a believer is someone who is always in a BALANCED condition of hope and fear. When we read this Munajat Shabaniyah it seems that this hope and fear is expressed in a most extraordinary manner. Since a true believer has a deep understanding of his position of being needy, this must be counter balanced by an extreme high hope and view of Allah’s Mercy – otherwise his hope and fear won’t be in balance!
فَقَدْ هَرَبْتُ اِلَيْكَ، وَوَقَفْتُ بَيْنَ يَدَيكَ
“Indeed I have escaped to You and I stand in front of You.”
I have basically run away from everything that has struck fear in my heart and know that I have come to the right place where I can get help. What is it that strikes fear in my heart that I have run away from? It’s my absolute hopeless situation when I honestly reflect on my own life and how I spent it.
So if I truly and sincerely deeply reflect on my life then it strikes fear and a feeling of hopelessness in me that I want to run away from.
How often is it not that when one has done something bad in life and feel ashamed and embarrassed about and somehow you are in a situation where you get reminded about that moment in your life that you absolutely not proud of – how do you feel? You feel like wishing that the world can just swallow you up at that moment.
And our honest reflection of our life should instill this in us – great fear.
And this fear has reached an amazing level:
When you say “miskeen” it means one who is needy. But the truth is that I am “mustakeen” which means I am in DESPERATE need of you Oh Allah.
Have you ever felt desperate in life? Sometimes we desperate to pay our bills. Sometimes we desperate to put food on the table. Sometimes we desperate to get married as we can’t find a compatible spouse. Sometimes we desperate as we have done something wrong and nobody wants to help us out. How does it feel? You feel rock bottom. That’s how the real readers of this Munajat feel when they whisper to Allah.
But at the same time what is it that instills hope in me while I feel hopeless? It is my view of your extreme magnanimity and generosity Oh My Lord!
And then the Munajat brings various reasons why you feel that hope!
اِلـهي اِنْ كُنْتُ غَيْرَ مُسْتاْهِل لِرَحْمَتِكَ فَاَنْتَ اَهْلٌ اَنْ تَجُودَ عَليَّ بِفَضْلِ سَعَتِكَ
“My Lord! If I am not fit for gaining Your Mercy, You are certainly fit to be generous to me by virtue of Your Magnanimity.”
وَاِنْ كانَ قَدْ دَنا اَجَلي وَلَمْ يُدْنِني مِنْكَ عَمَلي فَقَدْ جَعَلْتُ الاِقْرارَ بِالذَّنْبِ اِلَيْكَ وَسيلَتي
“If the time of my death has come near and my deeds have not still brought me close to You, I make this confession of my sins as a means (waseela) of approaching You”
، اِلـهي كَيْفَ آيَسُ مِنْ حُسْنِ نَظَرِكَ لي بَعْدَ مَماتي، وَاَنْتَ لَمْ تُوَلِّني إلاّ الْجَميلَ في حَياتي
“My Lord, how can I lose hope of Your looking kindly at me after my death, when you have always been good to me during my life.”
اِلـهىِ اعْتِذاري اِلَيْكَ اعْتِذارُ مَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَغْنِ عَنْ قَبُولِ عُذْرِهِ، فَاقْبَلْ عُذْري يا اَكْرَمَ مَنِ اعْتَذَرَ اِلَيْهِ الْمُسيئُونَ
“My Lord, my apology to You is the apology of him who cannot afford his apology being not accepted. Therefore accept my apology, You the Most Magnanimous of those to whom the evildoers tender their apology.”
It’s like saying Oh my Lord I really can’t take no for an answer. I am shattered if you don’t accept my apology. In life you have the capacity to accept rejection from many people, but there’s always the one or two from whom you can’t accept rejection. But in reality the only one whose rejection we can never handle is Allah.
And then the Munajat gives more reasons for hope and some of it says:
اِلـهي لَوْ اَرَدْتَ هَواني لَمْ تَهْدِني، وَلَوْ اَرَدْتَ فَضيحَتي لَمْ تُعافِني
“My Lord, if You had wanted to disgrace me, You would not have guided me; and if You had wanted to expose my faults and vices, You would not have kept me safe and sound”.
And that is how the conversation goes still for a while from different angles to truly balance out the hope and fear in an extraordinary way.
PRECONDITION FOR ULTIMATE CLOSENESS IS PERFECT DETACHMENT
This Whispered Prayer then teaches us something very important if we want to achieve the real intended outcome of our creation which is closeness to Allah and that is the issue of detachment.
We started by saying that “verily I have escaped to you” which means I have started the most important preliminary process of achieving closeness to Allah and that is that I have escaped from the world which chains me down and prevents my spiritual progress.
But the reality is that even if we are believers and have started this process of being detached from this world, our worship which is meant to bring this closeness to Allah is still filled with hidden shirk and polytheism that we don’t realise.
Thus the Quran says to us in Surah Yusuf Verse 106:
وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ بِاللَّهِ إِلَّا وَهُمْ مُشْرِكُونَ
“And most of them do not believe in Allah without ascribing partners to Him.”
And so the Munajat really reaches its climax when it says:
اِلـهي هَبْ لي كَمالَ الانْقِطاعِ اِلَيْكَ
“My Lord give me perfect detachment from everything, [and then attachment] to you”
Perfect detachment from everything means even to not be attached to the good work you did in life thinking it MUST bring you close to Allah. We asking for perfect detachment from everything other than Allah.
This will then usher in a new reality in our lives where the spiritual lights switch on. In this month we see some political slogans “vote for xyz to keep the lights on”. No that’s an empty slogan. Shabaan and this Munajat Shabaniyah teaches us that once we achieve perfect detachment from everything other than Allah then He will switch the lights on spirituality for us Himself.
وَاَنِرْ اَبْصارَ قُلُوبِنا بِضِياءِ نَظَرِها اِلَيْكَ
“And illuminate the eyes of our hearts with the light of observing You”
And when these lights are on, we experience the ultimate:
حَتّى تَخْرِقَ اَبْصارُ الْقُلُوبِ حُجُبَ النُّورِ
to the extent that they penetrate the veils of light
فَتَصِلَ اِلى مَعْدِنِ الْعَظَمَةِ،
and reach the Source of Grandeur
وَتَصيرَ اَرْواحُنا مُعَلَّقَةً بِعِزِّ قُدْسِكَ
and let our souls get suspended by the glory of Your sanctity.”
May Almighty Allah grant us Tawfeeq to spend these precious moments in Shabaan to get closer to Almighty Allah and to earnestly prepare ourselves for the great month of Ramadaan which lies ahead
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