'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

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Laylat al-Qadr and the Prophet's Heart

(5 minute read featuring an exceptional dimension of Laylat al-Qadr)
Reza Shah-Kazemi

Outwardly, Surat al-Qadr describes the revelation to the Prophet of the Qur'an, in its entirety, in synthesized form, on one of the odd nights during the last ten nights of Ramadan; inwardly, or esoterically, the 'Night of Power' is interpreted as an allusion to the very soul of the Prophet.
Exoterically, the particular verses of the Qur'an are deemed to have descended 'upon' the heart of the Prophet (26:192-194); but esoterically the essence of the Qur'an is deemed to have descended 'into' the heart of the Prophet.

Kashani, for example, tells us that the Night of Power is 'the Muhammadan constitution in a veiled state' - that state in which, alone, he can receive Revelation, after having had 'essential vision', that is, of the Essence beyond forms, and thus, beyond Revelation (Kashani, Tafsir Ibn Arabi, vol. 2 p. 447). What this kind of interpretation alludes to is the spiritual power inherent in the absolute receptivity of the state of the Prophet's soul. This receptivity can also be considered as total emptiness, and thus as faqr; and, at the highest level, as fana'; a state of total extinction from oneself. Applied analogically, it can be said that every soul must make itself into a kind of 'Laylat al-Qadr', by emptying itself of egotism and worldliness, in order to be 'full' of receptivity to the divine; one aims to become a vessel made empty for the influx of divine grace.

For emptiness of the qualities of the ego implies fullness of the qualities of God. It is for this reason that the heart of the Prophet is compared in Islamic spirituality to a spotless mirror; there is no 'spot' or trace of individualism or egocentricity which might prevent the qualities of God from being reflected by the heart of the Prophet.

The manifestation of divine reality through the spiritual 'constitution' of the Prophet - through him as the Laylat al-Qadr - by no means entails a reduction of the divine to the human. It does not, in other words, imply shirk. Rather it implies the most radical display of tawhid. For the Prophet's soul, being utterly effaced before God, allows the oneness of God to display its various modes of perfection, unimpeded by any individualistic veils; those perfections of unity, or divine qualities, which can be manifested will be manifested - and to perfection - through the effaced soul of the Prophet. The human manifestation of virtue becomes but an appearance; the reality of this manifestation is purely divine: 'And thou didst not throw when thou threwest, but God it was who threw' (8:17), God tells the Prophet.

The Prophets virtues, then, are not his own; they must be seen as the reflections of qualities which are ultimately, or metaphysically, God's own Names and Attributes. These virtues are human and created in form, but divine and uncreated in essence. When, therefore, he is described as ra'uf, 'kind', and rahim, 'merciful' (9:128), one cannot but see these traits, according to the metaphysical logic of tawhid, and in the light of the effacement of the Prophet, as being reflections of the divine qualities, al-Ra'uf and al-Rahim. Herein lies one of the meanings of the 'tremendous character' (khulqun azim) ascribed to the Prophet (4:68); one should note that al-Azim, also, is one of the Names of God.

The spotless mirror, the Prophets heart as the Laylat al-Qadr, not only reflects faithfully the light of the Qur'an revealed to him, it also reflects the very Face of God, that Face which the Qur'an tells is visible, in principle, wherever we may turn (2:115).

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Degrees of Fast observers at Sahri and Iftar; and a prescription for those times

Haj Mirza Javad Agha Maliki Tabrizi

Fast observers from the point of view of their intention (niyyat) for eating at dawn (sahri) and fast breaking (iftar) may be classified as follows:

1. Those who do not make any special intention for eating sahri and iftar and simply eat to enjoy the food taste as well as to make up for the hunger during the fasting.

2. Those who eat sahri and iftar with the intention of enjoying the food taste and make up for the hunger, but at the same time with the intention that eating sahri and iftar are recommended (mustahab) and help a person in his worshipping.

3. Those who eat sahri and iftar because, it is recommended, Allah likes it, and it helps a person in worshipping, but in addition to that also pay due regard to special etiquette and instructions about sahri and iftar - etiquette such as recital of Holy Qur'an, engaging in special supplications before, after, and during sahri and iftar, and praising and thanking Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted).

Special Etiquette
One of the most important etiquette and instruction is the recital of Surah al-Qadr (Power) before taking sahri and iftar as well as recital of the illustrious and illuminated supplication:
"Allahuma rabb al-nur al-'adheem" (Allah is the possessor of great illumination)
which has been given in the book of Iqbal written by the most esteemed and famous scholar Sayyid ibn Taoos.

About this supplication it has been narrated from Imam al-Sadiq [a] that the Holy Prophet [s] has recommended recital of this prayer to Commander of the Faithful [s] Imam 'Ali [a] and said that Archangel Gabriel came to me and said:
"Whoever in the Holy Month of Ramadhan before iftar recites this prayer, Allah answers his prayer, accepts his prayer and fasting, grants his ten requirements, forgives his sins, removes his grief, makes his heart at ease, grants his wishes, makes his deeds to ascend upward with the deeds of prophets and righteous saints, and on the Day of Judgement brings him to His presence with a face illuminated like bright moon."

Suluk-i Arifan; Haj Mirza Javad Agha Maliki Tabrizi

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Fast of the Prophet (s)

When the Month of Ramadhan entered, the Noble Prophet (s) freed all the prisoners and gave (something) to all the beggars. [al-Faqih 2:99, Amali al-Saduq: 57]

In the second volume of Tarikh al-Nisabur, from Khalf ibn Ayyub al-’Amiri in his narration about the Holy Prophet (s): When the month of Ramadhan would enter, he would grow pale and his prayers would increase and he would supplicate and beseech Allah entreatingly. [Iqbal al-A'mal: 20]

'The Holy Prophet (s) had a drink with which he would break his fast and a drink for sahr. Sometimes he would have only one (drink) - sometimes it would be milk and sometimes it would be a drink with soaked bread.' [Makarim al-Akhlaq: 32]

From 'Abdillah ibn Maskan from Abi 'Abdillah (a) who said: When the Prophet of Allah (s) opened his fast, he started with a sweet dish, and if he did not have it, he would partake some sugar or dried dates and if he did not have any of these, he would open his fast with lukewarm water. [al-Kafi 4:153]

Abi 'Abdillah (a) said: 'The first thing that the Noble Prophet (s) broke his fast with in the season of fresh dates was fresh dates and in the season of dry dates was dry dates.' [al-Kafi 4:153, Da'im al-Islam 2:111]

Ja'far (a) from his fathers (a): When the Holy Prophet (s) fasted and did not find anything sweet (to break his fast with), he would break his fast with water. [al-Kafi 4:152]

In some narrations: 'He (s) would sometimes break his fast with raisins.' [Tahdhib al-Ahkam 4:198]

Narrated from the family of the Holy Prophet (s): It is recommended to have the suhur (the Last meal before daybreak during the month of Ramadhan) even if it is only a glass of water. Also: It is narrated that it is better to have dry dates and ‘al-Sawiq’ (A dish made from wheat or barley mixed with sugar and dates) because this is what the Holy Prophet (s) used to have in his suhur. [al-Muqni'ah: 316]

From 'Ali (a) who said: The Holy Prophet (s) would roll up his mattress and intensify his worship on the last ten days of the month of Ramadhan. He used to wake his family on the twenty-third night and he would sprinkle the faces of those who were asleep with water on this night. And Fatimah (a) did not let anyone in her family sleep on this night and in order to enable them to remain awake, she gave them less food and prepared them from the morning saying: “The one who does not benefit from the blessings of this night is surely deprived.” [Da'im al-Islam 1:282]

In his narration from Abi Bakr who said: When the last ten nights (of the month of Ramadhan) would enter, he (s) would prepare himself, leave his wives, keep awake at night and occupy himself with worship. [al-Kafi 4:155]

In his narration from Ja'far from his fathers from 'Ali (a): 'When the Holy Prophet (s) wanted to go for the prayer on the day of Fitr, he would (first) have a breakfast of dates and raisins.' [al-Ja'fariyat: 40, Nawadir al-Rawandi: 39, Bihar al-Anwar 91:122]