'O God, carry us in the ships of Thy deliverance, give us to enjoy the pleasure of whispered prayer to Thee, make us drink at the pools of Thy love, let us taste the sweetness of Thy affection and nearness, allow us to struggle in Thee, preoccupy us with obeying Thee, and purify our intentions in devoting works to Thee, for we exist through Thee and belong to Thee, and we have no one to mediate with Thee but Thee!' Imam Sajjad ('A); Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Calamities vs. Divine Beauty

Have we ever wondered why we praise Allah for the calamities that befell the warriors of Karbala as we conclude the sacred ziyaara of ‘Ashura? We say: Allahumma laka al-hamdu hamda al-shaakirini laka ‘ala musaabihim; alhamdu lilLahi ‘ala ‘azeemi raziyyati… (O Allah, praise be to You, the praise of those who thank You, for the calamities that befell them (the martyrs). Praise be to Allah, for my great loss…”

One of the possible interpretations of these brilliant verses is that we praise and thank Allah for having conferred Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his companions the succor of bearing the great calamities that befell them.

Another interpretation is to thank Allah for the kernel and reality of these calamities, which as the daughter of Ali al-Murtadha (‘a) explicitly said, was nothing save beauty.

Consequently, it is a call for every reciter of this ziyara to spiritually prepare himself to appreciate this reality in order to be able to naturally express the same. Whereas undoubtedly Bibi Zaynab (‘a) did encounter the hardships of this material world and tangibly felt the same, her penetrating spirit, understood how victorious her brother and the valiant martyrs of Karbala were.

Therefore one should not misconceive and think that there is no need for us to mourn and lament for what transpired in the plains of Karbala. Rather, as the 12th Holy Imam (‘a) is reported to have said in his well-known Ziyarat al-Naahiya: “…I will, therefore, lament you morning and evening, and will weep blood in place of tears, out of my anguish for you and my sorrow for all that befell you, until I meet death from the pain of the catastrophe and the choking grief…”.

In fact there are many traditions that encourage us to weep and lament, and thus we should remove the misconception from our minds. However, what is important for us to realize is that, as expounded by the Holy Qur’an, traditions of the Ahl al-bayt (‘a), and Divine theosophy, the world of reality consists of a hierarchy of existence, and the result of what transpires in the lower realms is exhibited in the higher realms.
Karbala had visionaries who could comprehend this tangibly. In one of the salutational recitations (ziyaraat) we address them saying: ‘…I bear witness that most surely Allah unveiled for you the curtain….’
And in a tradition Imam Husayn (‘a) reports that the Holy Prophet (s) said to him: “…And surely you shall be martyred there (in Karbala) together with a group among your companions who would not sense the pain of the touch of iron. Then he read the verse: ‘O Fire, be cool and peaceful for Ibrahim (21:69)’. The war [similarly] will be cool and peaceful on you and them.”

Small wonder it is that some traditions clearly indicate that the martyrs of Karbala would warmly welcome the arrows that were rained at them. Again one must not misconstrue and think that the companions were death lovers per se.

It was rather their unwavering stance of not submitting to Yazid and his forces that brought them to the state of confronting death, which when they encountered was “sweeter than honey”.

In the well-known Ziyarat Waarith we employ expressions such as Ahibbaa’ Allah (heart lovers of Allah) and Awidda’ Allah (constant lovers of Allah) for them. They were virtually drunk and intoxicated with the wine of Divine love. It seems that the cup-bearer (saaqi) constantly availed them with sips of sharaaban tahoora (wine of purity).
The Holy Qur’an speaks of the near ones that, “Wa saqaahum Rabbuhum sharaaban tahoora” (And their Lord made them drink a pure sharaab (76:21)).

According to a tradition narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) this pure drink is such that “yutahhiruhum ‘an kulli shay’in ma siwa Allah” (it purifies them from everything other than Allah).

If Allah himself is the intoxicator (saqaahum Rabbuhum), when would the lover ever return to the state of consciousness?

Here I am transported to the brilliant poetry of Mulla Ahmad Narraqi in his poetical masterpiece Mathnawiye Taaqdees when speaking about the great spiritual state of annihilation in God (al-fana fi Allah):

In fanaaye bande dar mawla buwad (this is the annihilation of the servant in his Master);
In fanaa az sad baqaa awla buwad (this annihilation is better than hundred kinds of subsistence);
Fahme un khwaahi boro taa Karbala (if you would like to know the reality of this then go to Karbala)

[Mathnawiye Taaqdees, p.273].

Al-Naraaqi would like to tell us that the most suitable arena for this kind of exalted spiritual state of beholding the fact that only the Beloved Exists, is Karbala.

In the end I would like to quote the words of Ayatullah Maliki Tabrizi about the bilateral experience of Sayyid al-Shuhada. He says in his Al-Muraqibat that although Imam al-Husayn (‘a) was apparently struck with such injuries that no Prophet, Divine Successor, or human being, is heard to have encountered, such as his thirst which cannot be intellectually apprehended, his spirit would experience, the delights of the manifestations of the lights of Divine Beauty and the Revelation of Divine Majesty, as well as the eagerness to meet and reach the proximity of God.
All this would diminish those difficulties; rather, it would change their severity into pleasure.

by Sh Muhammad Khalfan

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