'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

Friday, 16 March 2012

Worldly positions more insignificant than we think

Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi

Dear brothers and sisters, during my short lifetime I tasted the joys and the sorrows of life and I saw its ups and downs. I experienced its greatness and humiliation, its wealth and poverty and its ease and hardnessAt last, I felt this Quranic truth with all my heart and soul:
«و ما الحیوة الدنیا الا متاع الغُرور»
"And the present worldly life is nothing but the joy of delusion" 
(Quran, Chapter of 'Al-Imran, verse 185)

Yes! Worldly life is the enjoyment of delusion and deceit and it is more empty and meaningless than we all think, as the poet says:
Life is not too mysterious,
Just a change of days and nights,
Bitterness and saltiness called life,
That truly, it does not worth it at all,

Only the belief in the eternal life in hereafter can give meaning to the present worldly life, and without that belief the life on the earth would not have any goals, no senses.

Throughout my life I found nothing more precious than what ends in spirituality and true human values, all worldly values are in fact a miragepeople are in a dream, in their glancing fantasiessuffering constantly from hardness and difficulties.

Yesterday's children, now young men. Today's youth, tomorrow's elderly. And tomorrow our elderly will lie in their graves; their bodies will rot in the ground, as if they never existed!

Passing by the houses of some great personalities, scholars and the distinguished men of the past, I remember how crowded these houses were, how much ruction! How many eyes gazed on these doors! But today the dust of oblivion covered them all, serene and silent! It reminds me of what Imam Ali (P.B.U.H) said in Nahj-al-Balaghah:

«فَکَأَنَّهُمْ لَمْ یَکُونُوا لِلدُّنْیا عُمّاراً وَ کَاَنَّ الاْخِرَةَ لَمْ تَزَلْ لَهُمْ داراً»
"It seems as if they never lived in this world and as if the next world had always been their abode" 
(Nahj-al-Balaghah, sermon 188)

I see some old friends, with bent bodies, leaning on their canes, walking and stopping every few steps to catch their breath and move on. Suddenly their youth flashes before my eyes! How strong were their bodies! How much cheer and spree! How healthy and active! What laughters they had!

But now the dust of sorrow has covered their faces, and they are so depressed as if they have never passed by the alley of happiness.
Now I can feel the concept of this awakening divine verse with all my heart, and I am sure that everyone who reaches my age can feel the same after a little deliberation: 

«وَ مَا هذِهِ الحَیوةُ الدُّنْیا اِلاّ لَهْوٌ وَ لَعِب"
"This worldly life is naught but a diversion and a play" 
(Quran, chapter of Ankaboot (spider), verse 64)

In spite of this, I wonder why are there that much breakneck enthusiasm to wealth and high position? Whom are they accumulating for? Where is the root of such negligence? Especially in our era when the changes and transformations take place wildly and faster than ever.

I know families which used to live together in their own world, but now they are scattered, one lives in America, another in Europe, one here, another there, but the elderly parents are left alone and forgotten in their house, sometimes it passes months without having any news of each other. It reminds me of the valuable saying of Imam that says:
«إنَّ شَیْئاً هذا آخِرُهُ لَحَقیقٌ اَنْ یُزْهَدَ فى اَوَّلِه»
"The thing that ends like this does not worth to be started with avarice and greed" 
[Bihar-al-Anwar, Vol.70, Page 103, Narration 91 (from Imam Musa-al- Kazim)]

When I go to cemetery, especially when I visit the graves of scientists and scholars, I wonder to see how many friends of mine now slept down into their graves; their pictures still look familiar, taking me deeply to my past. I ask myself, am I dead like them while I think I am alive? Then I recall the poem of that pious poet who says:
Whoever you are, and wherever you reach,
The final abode of this world is here!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Practical Polytheism

There is an ignorant tendency among some people when it comes to appreciating the help they receive from their friends. A well-wisher may support a person and his family, and thereby emancipate him from many obstacles in life. Then, having attained the state of affluence, the person would say I thank Allah first and then so and so, for had it not been for his assistance I would not have reached where I am. Such kind of thinking in our traditions is termed as practical polytheism. This is because the helper is just an intermediary of grace (wasitah) and has no independence whatsoever, and thus cannot be taken as a second independent helper.

The great saint Ibn Fahd al-Hilli in his well-known prayer manual ‘Uddat al-Da’i narrates the following tradition:
“Imam Abu ‘Abdillah (al-Sadiq (as)) is reported to have said about the verse (And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others (with Him)) (12:106)’ that it refers to when a man says: ‘Was it not for so and so, I would have perished, and was it not for so and so I would not have got such and such a thing, and was it not for so and so, my family would perish. Don’t you see that he has made a partner for Allah in His Kingdom, who sustains him and averts [evil from him]? [The narrator says:] I said: ‘What if he were to say if Allah would not have Blessed me with so and so I would have perished. The Imam (as) said: Yes, there is no problem in this and the like.” [‘Uddat al-Da’i, pg. 99]

The above however should not lead one to overlook the traditions of expressing gratitude and thanks to whosoever has done good. Such traditions emphasize the ‘nobility’ of the agent of Allah’s Grace. But gratitude should never be mingled with polytheism and words of ignorance. In fact the good doer is required to express gratitude to Almighty Allah for having given him the succor (tawfiq) to do all the good, and hence be availed with the Godly spirit.

Sh Muhammad Khalfan