'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

Monday, 13 August 2012

Understanding al-Iftitah Part 4 of 4

Shaykh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali
Excerpts from the commentary of Dua al-Iftitah

Dua al-Iftitah is a well-known supplication and is generally recited during each night of the month of Ramadan. 

[Towards the end of the du'a,] we make a very beautiful and important request to Allah (swt) for ourselves:

اَللَّهُمَّ مَا عَرَّفْتَنَا مِنَ ٱلْحَقِّ فَحَمِّلْنَاهُ
وَمَا قَصُرْنَا عَنْهُ فَبَلِّغْنَاهُ
O Allah, let us bear out that which You make known to us as the truth
and let us attain that which we fall short to do.

This concept of 'bearing' is very important. Regarding this, Chapter 62 Verse 5 reads:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا ۚ بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ 
The likeness of those who were charged with the Taurat, then they did not observe it, is as the likeness of the ass bearing books, evil is the likeness of the people who reject the communications of Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.

Thus someone may be given a divine book but it does not mean that they will necessarily be able to 'bear' it, meaning that they may not be able to take it on board. Therefore, it is important to carry and uphold the truth that we know, to take it on board, and whosoever is able to do this enjoys a high position. 

Furthermore, we ask Allah (swt) to inform us about the parts of the truth of which we are unaware. It is surely enough for us if this part of the du'a is answered, because we will then know the truth about which we were previously and unaware and we will be able to commit ourselves to and implement the truth which we already do know. It would seem that these are actually the only two things which we really need because in Islam everything is facilitated by commitment to the truth and so if we are committed to the truth then everything else will be sorted out.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Understanding al-Iftitah Part 3 of 4

Shaykh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali
Excerpts from the commentary of Dua al-Iftitah

Special salutations to Imam Mahdi (a)

The salutations to Imam Mahdi (a), the Imam of our time, are not limited to simple salutations but instead are expanded on in several phrases and then attention is focused on the last Imam until the end of the du'a.
Firstly we read:

اَللَّهُمَّ وَصَلِّ عَلَىٰ وَليِّ امْرِكَ
ٱلْقَائِمِ ٱلْمُؤَمَّلِ
وَٱلْعَدْلِ ٱلْمُنْتَظَرِ
وَحُفَّهُ بِمَلائِكَتِكَ ٱلْمُقَرَّبِينَ
وَايِّدْهُ بِرُوحِ ٱلْقُدُسِ
يَا رَبَّ ٱلْعَالَمِينَ
O Allah, (please do) send blessings to the custodian of Your commandments,
the vigilant guardian, the reliable patron,
and the awaited establisher of justice.
And (please) surround him with Your favorite angels
and assist him with the Holy Spirit.
O Lord of the worlds!
In this passage we ask Allah (swt) to support our Imam (a) with the Holy Spirit. The concept of the Holy Spirit (Ruuh al-Qudus) is very important, especially for Shi'a Muslims. According to the glorious Qur'an and various narrations, one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to support and guide good people. For example, the Qur'an says that the Holy Spirit supported Prophet Jesus (a) and thus we read in Chapter 5, Verse 110:

إِذْ أَيَّدْتُكَ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ
when I strengthened you with the holy Spirit, 

If we are good and pious people, we too can hope that Allah (swt) will support us and one of the ways in which He (swt) does this is to ask the Holy Spirit to help us.

It should be mentioned that whilst Sunni scholars normally identify the Holy Spirit with the archangel Gabriel, Shi'a Muslims, as taught by the Holy Imams (a) hold that the Holy Spirit is a creature at a higher level than Gabriel. Abu Basir, a great companion of Imam Sadiq (a), says:

'I asked Imam Sadiq (a) about the verse 'They question you concerning the Spirit. Say, 'The Spirit is of the command of my Lord' (17:58).' He responded that the Spirit is a creature greater than Gabriel and Michael.' [Kulayni, Muhammad Ibn Ya'qub, Usul al-Kafi, vol.1 (Tehran Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, 1388 AH) p. 273, no.3].

As confirmation of the fact that the Holy Spirit is not the same as Gabriel, one may refer to Verse 4 of Chapter 97 of the Glorious Qur'an which reads:

تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ أَمْرٍ 
The angels and Gibreel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair,

The verse explains that on the night of Qadr, the Holy Spirit descends along with the angels. This suggests that the Holy Spirit is different from the angels which include Gabriel and Michael.