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Advice for Muslim Men

Marry one Muslim woman.

Try to make her happy.

Have kids.

Try to be a good father.

Serve your parents and your wife’s parents if they are still alive. Also honor all the aunts/uncles/cousins on your side and your wife’s side, so that you are a source of benefit to both extended families.

Do what is obligatory (farḍ/wājib).

Avoid what is forbidden (ḥarām).

If you have any energy and time left over after doing all this consistently, maybe do some extra fasting (ṣawm), or memorize some more Qurʾān, or pray the recommended night prayer (ṣalāt al-layl), or if you have extra wealth give recommended charity (ṣadaqa) to the best organizations you can find.

It’s not that complicated.

But it isn’t easy.

This is your struggle (jihād).

الله

“The best of you is the one who is best to their family, and I am the best of all to my family.”

Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ

the undying hope

ya Husayn

my baby is asleep

the night is quiet

a little warm

but there is no thirst here

blessing upon blessing

uncountable

my mind wanders to desert sands

burning and pain

tears and longing

how history treated you differently

there was no quiet for rest

there was where innocence was lost

the young who witnessed the slaughter

had no earthly hope for redress

trauma met only with certainty

tribulation met only with perseverance

i can only hope that my children

use their comfort and ease

to light Husayni fires

and invite all to share

in the light and warmth

you have given us

the undying hope

that dispels all darkness

ya Husayn

Hail, Maryam

Hail, Maryam, full of grace,

peace be upon thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, ʿĪsā.

Holy Maryam, Servant of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death,

ameen.

growing up

i thought i had something then

but i didn’t have you

i thought i was something then

but where were you

our Lord’s Mercy made it possible

so i could enjoy for many years

the hero of my own story

then i was told of Karbala

and my heroics were washed away

in blood and tears

nothing but a child i was

lost in his own fantasy world

dreaming of courage and insight

better to be nothing more

than a dying body riddled with arrows

to keep you safe

noble grandson of humanity’s peak

blessings and peace upon you both

Surah al-Shura, Chapter 42, Verses 19-25

Abridged from commentary project led by Sayyid Kamal Faqih Imani (d. 2021)

Verse 19

اللَّهُ لَطِيفٌ بِعِبَادِهِ يَرْزُقُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ الْقَوِيُّ الْعَزِيزُ

19. Allah is very Gracious and Kind to His servants. He gives provisions to whom He wills. And He is the All-Strong, the Omnipotent.

Grace embodies gentleness and consideration. Allah is Most Gracious, that is, He is All-Aware of the minutest affairs and is the Omnipotent Lord Who does anything with facility. Divine Omnipotence and Grace guarantee provision of sustenance for God’s servants. Divine Might is Invincible.

“Laṭīf” (“the Gracious”) is one of the Most Beautiful Names of God Almighty which is cognate with “luṭf” (“gentleness, grace, compassion, mercy”). Grace may indicate that God Almighty provides everyone with his daily sustenance in a manner unbeknownst to him. Divine Grace and Bounty is infinite and enlarging and straitening provision solely depends upon Divine Will. Divine provision is based on His Wisdom and consideration of common good and He is the Omnipotent, the Dominant, and the Victorious.

Verse 20

مَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الْآخِرَةِ نَزِدْ لَهُ فِي حَرْثِهِ وَمَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ نَصِيبٍ

20. Whosoever desires the reward of the Hereafter, We give him increase in his reward, and whosoever desires the reward of this world, We give him thereof, and he has no portion in the Hereafter.

The value of man’s deeds depend upon his intentions as well as his long term and short term goals. All rewards shall be granted by God Almighty. Such rewards shall be granted proportionate to man’s intention and choice. The Arabic word “ḥarth” indicates earning and acting as it is said “so and so works to earn a living for his family.” The agricultural land which is plowed for sowing is figuratively called ḥarth, since benefits will be gained from working on it as farmers plow their land in autumn and sow the seeds such that they reap the crops in summer.

Actions are likened to seeds, since they are supposed to be scattered onto the land, penetrate into it, remain there for some time, sprout through sunshine and irrigation, and grow and bear fruit and crops. Likewise, righteous good deeds are sown in the farmland of man’s soul and turn into permanent dispositions of mind through recurrently acting upon them and they will bear fruit in this world and/or the Hereafter. It should be known that any deed will bear fruit whose quality depends on intent and will of the agent.

One who sows the seeds of good deeds in the farmland of his heart and removes the weeds and impurities from it through the hoe of fearing God Almighty and irrigates it with the pure water of faith and devotion aspiring to reap the harvest in the Hereafter, he has done good deeds with perfect faith and devotion. As God Almighty has said regarding expending in His Cause, He will reward him seven-hundredfold or more. To reap the crops of the good deeds in this world depends upon Divine Mercy and Grace, but it will entail being deprived of the portion of rewards to be granted by God Almighty in the Hereafter.

Verse 21

أَمْ لَهُمْ شُرَكَاءُ شَرَعُوا لَهُمْ مِنَ الدِّينِ مَا لَمْ يَأْذَنْ بِهِ اللَّهُ وَلَوْلا كَلِمَةُ الْفَصْلِ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

21. Or have they partners with Allah who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not ordained? And had it not been for a decisive Word [as to giving respite to sinners], the matter would have been judged between them. And verily, for the wrong doers there is an excruciating torment.

Man is in need of Divine Laws and such need may solely be met by God Almighty rather than anyone else. Divine Laws are solely realized through Divine Permission without which it shall be devoid of legitimacy and lawfulness…There shall be excruciating torments for wrong doers who wrong their own selves and act upon laws besides Divine Laws.

Verse 22

تَرَی الظَّالِمِينَ مُشْفِقِينَ مِمَّا كَسَبُوا وَهُوَ وَاقِعٌ بِهِمْ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فِي رَوْضَاتِ الْجَنَّاتِ لَهُمْ مَا يَشَاءُونَ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْكَبِيرُ

22. You will see [on the Day of Resurrection] the wrong doers fearful of that which they have earned and it will surely befall them. But those who believe and do righteous deeds [will be] in the flowering meadows of the Gardens. They shall have whatsoever they desire with their Lord. That is the supreme Grace.

Resurrection is now invisible, but it is as if it is evident. Man’s vicious deeds entail nothing other than Hellfire. Although people of Paradise are believers and do righteous good deeds, but all those Favors are the consequences of Divine Bounties rather than the Rewards of their deeds. The Arabic word “rawḍa” is applied to a place abounding in water and trees. Addressing the Noble Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, the blessed verse says that the Prophet sees wrong doers who are afraid of their acts and are aware of the viciousness of their deeds, but they do not desist from committing evil deeds. They are unaware of the fact that they will pay for the evil consequences of their evil deeds, as if their eyes and ears are filled with muddy water hindering them from perceiving the viciousness of their deeds.

The blessed Verse is explicitly saying that wrong doers’ hearts are darkened by the viciousness of their deeds and they pay for the consequences of their sins in this world and the Hereafter; au contraire, committing righteous good deeds has illuminated believers’ hearts as if they stroll in the meadows of Paradise and whatever they desire will be provided by their Lord. It is the consequence of their faith and righteous good deeds, but they will be granted the true reward on the Day of Resurrection.

Verse 23

ذَلِكَ الَّذِي يُبَشِّرُ اللَّهُ عِبَادَهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ قُلْ لا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْراً إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَی وَمَنْ يَقْتَرِفْ حَسَنَةً نَزِدْ لَهُ فِيهَا حُسْناً إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ

23. That is [the great Bounty] whereof Allah gives glad tidings to His servants who believe and do righteous good deeds. Say [O Muhammad]: “No reward do I ask of you for this except to be kind to my close relatives.” And whoever earns a good righteous deed, We shall give him an increase of good in respect thereof. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Ready to appreciate.

The preceding Verse treated of the reward of beneficent believers, e.g. gardens in Paradise and attainment to all desires and Divine Bounties. The blessed Verse in question is about the Reward of the Noble Prophet of Islam (S) who has guided hundreds of millions of people to these Gardens and Bounties. Giving a flower to someone as a gift requires a favor in return, delivering mankind requires a far greater Reward…“That” (dhalika) is a reference to the preceding blessed Verse, saying that the great Bounty promised to Godfearing believers is God’s glad tiding to His righteous servants as it is also reflected elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an:

“For them are glad tidings, in the life of this world and that of the Hereafter.”

In short, these Verses indicate that the perfect believer is happy in this world through the illuminations reflected on his heart at all times as if he is in Paradise…To express the greatness of this reward, the blessed Verse in question further adds:

“That is [the great Bounty] whereof Allah gives glad tidings to His servants who believe and do righteous good deeds.”

Such glad tidings aim at alleviating the pains of obedience to God Almighty, struggling against concupiscent desires, and jihad against enemies. They also encourage them to proceed with more vigor in vicissitudes and hardships in this life for the attainment of Divine Satisfaction…

Fakhr al-Dīn al-Razi states regarding “my close relatives” that,

“The family of the Prophet (S) are those to whom they shall return, those people whose relationship is firmer and more perfect are regarded as the ‘family’ and it is evident that Fatima, ‘Ali, Hasan, and Husayn (as) had the firmest relationship with the Messenger of Allah (S)….This fact is substantiated by consecutively transmitted traditions. Thus it is incumbent upon us to call them as the family of the Prophet (S)….

In terms of traditions, Shi’i and Sunni sources unanimously reveal that the blessed Verse in question is revealed concerning the Noble Prophet’s (S) family (Ahl al-Bayt) loving them is obligatory and enmity against them is forbidden. To sum up, all Sunnis and Shi’is, friends and foes, are unanimous in saying that it is incumbent upon all Muslims to love and support the Noble Prophet’s (S) family…

Verse 24

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَی عَلَی اللَّهِ كَذِباً فَإِنْ يَشَأِ اللَّهُ يَخْتِمْ عَلَی قَلْبِكَ وَيَمْحُ اللَّهُ الْبَاطِلَ وَيُحِقُّ الْحَقَّ بِكَلِمَاتِهِ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

24. Or say they: “He has invented a lie against Allah?” If Allah willed, He could have sealed up your heart. And Allah wipes out falsehood and establishes the truth by His Word. Verily, He knows well what [secrets] are in the chests.

Regarding the question of Prophetic Call disbelievers and heretics said that the Noble Prophet of the Islamic faith (S) was a man like them and his Prophetic Call was an accusation against God Almighty; likewise they voiced the same accusation regarding the question of Imamate.

Those who did not intend to regard the love for Ahl al-Bayt as a Prophetic Call said:

“Muhammad invents lies against God by saying that his reward is that people love his next of kin.”

The blessed Verse in question is saying had the Messenger (S) invented a lie against Allah, He would vent His Wrath upon him by sealing up his heart. It is worthy of note that the blessed Verse in question resumes the subject matter of the preceding Verses concerning Prophetic Call and the Reward thereof, love for his next of kin and the Family of the Prophet…

The blessed Verse is in fact an allusion to the well-known logical argument as per which if someone claims to be the Prophet and works miracles and signs and is supported by God, but invents lies against Him, Divine Wisdom will necessitate that the miracles and His Support be taken away and he will be disgraced as it is reflected elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an.

“And if he had forged a false saying concerning Us, We surely would have seized him by his right hand [and would have cut the vessel of his heart].”

It is also noteworthy that one of the false accusations made by disbelievers and polytheists was that they said that he had regarded the love for his kith and kin as the reward for his Prophetic Call and had thus forged a false saying concerning God. Taking into account the preceding Verses, the blessed Verse in question rejects such false claim…

It rests with God Almighty to disgrace falsehood and make truth appear. Thus, He never allows anyone to forge a lie against Him and render him assistance and allow him to make miracles at the same time…

Verse 25

وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَقْبَلُ التَّوبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَعْفُو عَنِ السَّيِّئَاتِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ

25. And He it is the One Who accepts repentance from His servants, and forgives sins, and He knows what you do.

It solely rests with God Almighty to accept the repentance of His servants and forgive their sins. There are no deadlocks in Islam and the path of return is open at all times. God Almighty forgives all sins, but repentance is supposed to accompany change of words and attitudes unless it would be a kind of dissimulation and hypocrisy known by God Almighty. Since God Almighty leaves the path of return open at all times to His servants, following reproaches as to sinners’ and polytheists’ vicious deeds, the Holy Qur’an repeatedly makes reference to the path of repentance at all times and adds:

“He is the One Who accepts repentance from His servants and forgives sins.”

The point is that if man pretends repentance but keeps on committing vicious deeds, he should know that nothing is concealed from Divine Omniscience, since

“He knows what you do.”

It was mentioned above that following the Revelation of the Verse of loving Prophet’s (S) family, some hypocrites and those of frail faith said that Muhammad (S) had invented a lie against God intending to belittle them before his kith and kin following which the Verse:

“He has invented a lie against Allah?” If Allah willed, He could have sealed up your heart”

was revealed; as a consequence of which some of them regretted their words, grieved, and wept. Thus, the blessed Verse in question was revealed to bear them glad tidings that if they sincerely repent, God Almighty will forgive their sin…

my dear friends

my dear friends

seth, usama, sohaib

where are you now

what is life like for you

we are still here on earth

and your names still cross our lips

and i can still see your faces

in my minds eye

but i feel so distant from you

i cannot hear you

i cannot see you standing over there

i cannot put my arms around you

so that we can embrace

as we once did

there is no body left for you

that i can perceive

and so i type these words onto the screen

and i hope you just received

the Fātiḥa and Āyat al-Kursī I sent

as a gift

we are still debating and building and giving

worshipping our Lord in community

deeds without recompense

but you are where

there is only recompense and no deeds

so i hope your past deeds give you comfort there

but i also hope my gifts make a difference

and the day that i enter the world where you are

i will know

just as you have known

what i did right and what i did wrong

but you must know now more than you ever did before

and so it would be great if you could come teach me

a little bit about what you have learned

i learned from all of you while you were alive

it would be great to learn from you again

now that you are dead

for Allah is al-Mumīt

and Azrael has scheduled my appointment

so if you can

beseech our Lord

to help me make the most of the time i have left

i would deeply appreciate it

love you all

see you soon

beyond this world

“The prayer (al-ṣalāt) is the ascension (miʿrāj) of the believer.”

There was a night unlike any other night in the last 2000 thousands years. The night that the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him and his family, journeyed through the heavens and earth. It is known as “The Night Journey and the Ascension (al-isrā wa’l-miʿrāj).”

In the month of Ramadan, when we are focused on our prayers (al-ṣalāt), we are constantly putting ourselves in touch with this special night. This was the night the 5 daily prayers of the Muslims was made obligatory. But it was more than that. It was the moment when the veil was lifted for one of us so that they could see everything we cannot.

Our daily lives in this world sometimes lead us to feel that this Earth is all there really is for us, and that the best we can hope for in the future is Elon Musk’s rhetoric about Mars. But someone has already gone far further. Ayatollah Ja’far Subhani has captured this eloquently in his book on the prophetic biography (sīrah) and I recreate it here (with various edits) for our reflection.

*)

The darkness of night had spread in the horizon and silence reigned over the face of nature. The time had arrived when the living creatures take rest and sleep so that they might recuperate for their activities on the following day. The Prophet was also not an exception to this law of nature and he wished to take rest after offering his prayers. However, he suddenly heard a voice. It was the voice of the Archangel Jibreel who said to him: “This night you have to perform a very unique journey and I have been ordered to remain with you. You will have to traverse different parts of the world mounted on an animal named ‘Buraq’.”

The Prophet commenced his grand journey from the house of Umm Hani (sister of the Commander of the Faithful) and mounted on Buraq proceeded to Baytul Maqdis, situated in Jerusalem, which is also called Masjidul Aqsa. After a very short time he dismounted there and visited different parts of the mosque as well as Bethlehem which is the birth place of ‘Isa and also saw various other places associated with different Prophets. At some of these places he also performed two rak’ats of prayers.

Thereafter he commenced the second part of his journey and proceeded from that place to the skies. He then observed the stars and the system of the world and conversed with the souls of the previous Prophets and also with the angels of the heavens. He saw the centers of blessing and torture (Paradise and Hell) and also saw the places of the dwellers of Hell and Paradise from close quarters, and consequently became fully aware of the secrets of creation, the extent of the Universe and the signs of the Omnipotent.

Then he continued his journey and reached ‘Sidratul-Muntaha’ (the Lote Tree of the Utmost Boundary) and found it fully covered with splendour, magnificence and grandeur. At this time his journey came to an end he returned through the way he had gone. During his return journey also he first came to Baytul Maqdis and then proceeded to Makkah. On the way he met a trading caravan of Quraysh who had lost a camel and were making a search for it. He drank some water from a container of theirs and threw the remainder on the ground and according to another narrative placed a cover on it.

It was before daybreak when he dismounted in the house of Umme Hani from the animal which had taken him to the heavens. She was the first person to whom he related this matter and on the day following that night he made it known to the assemblies of Quraysh as well. The story of his ‘ascension’ and grand journey which was considered by Quraysh to be something impossible spread from mouth to mouth in all centres and made the chiefs of Quraysh all the more perplexed.

According to their old habit Quraysh decided to refute him and said: “Even now there are some persons in Makkah who have seen Baytul Maqdis. If what you say is correct then give an account of its structure”. The Prophet not only described the structure of Baytul Maqdis but also mentioned the incidents which had occurred between Makkah and Baytul Maqdis and said: “On my way I met the caravan of such and such tribe who had lost a camel. They had a container full of water which was a part of their equipment. I drank some water from it and then covered it. At another place I met a group of persons whose camel had run away and had broken its leg”. Quraysh said: “Tell us about the caravan of Quraysh”. The Prophet replied: “I saw them at Tan’im (a place from where the ‘Haram’ commences). A brown camel was going ahead of them and they had placed a litter on it and are now entering Makkah”. Quraysh became very much excited on account of these definite news and said: “We shall now come to know about your truth or falsehood”. However, it was not long before Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan, appeared and people made known to him in detail what the Prophet had said.

The above account is a gist of what has been stated in the books of exegeses and traditions.

The event of the miʿrāj of the Prophet in the heavens has been mentioned clearly in two surahs of the Qur’an and has also been alluded to in other surahs. We give here briefly the verses which clearly make a mention of the miʿrāj. In Surah al-lsra’ it has been said: “Glory be to Him Who made His servant go by night from Masjidul Haram to Masjidul Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He alone hears all and observes all.”

سُبْحَنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًۭا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ

This verse apparently mentions the following points:

1. In order to tell us that the Prophet travelled through these worlds in a short time, not with human strength but through Divine strength, the Almighty commences His statement with “Glory be to Him!” which points to the fact that Allah is free from all defects and needs. He has also not contented Himself with this and has introduced Himself as the Agent of the journey by saying ‘Asra’ (Allah made him perform the journey). This favour was bestowed upon him so that the people might not think that the journey was performed according to natural laws and with usual means, and might, therefore deny its possibility. It has therefore, been clarified that it was undertaken through Divine Will and special favour of the Allmighty.

2. This journey was undertaken at night.

3. Notwithstanding the fact that this journey commenced from the house of Umme Hani, daughter of Abu Talib, the Allmighty has mentioned its starting place to be Masjidul Haram. This is perhaps due to the fact that the Arabs consider all of Makkah to be the House of Allah and as such all its places are treated to be ‘Masjid’ and ‘Haram.’ Hence, Allah’s saying that: “He made him journey from Masjidul Haram” is perfectly in order. According to some narratives, however, the journey started from Masjidul Haram itself.

4. The Prophet performed the journey with his body and soul together and not with his soul only. The words ‘to His servant’ bear testimony to this, because the word ‘servant’ applies to ‘body with soul’. In case the miʿrāj had been only spiritual the proper words to be used would have been ‘to His servant’s soul.’

5. The object of this grand journey was to make known to the Prophet the various aspects of the existence of the great Universe. We shall elaborate this point later.

The other surah which clearly mentions the event of is ‘Surah al-Najm’ and the verses which you will read below were revealed in this connection. When the Prophet told the Quraysh that he had physically seen the Archangel Jibreel, when he brought the first revelation, they disputed with him. The Holy Qur’an replies thus to their objection: “Why do you contend with the Prophet about his having seen Jibreel? He beheld him once again near Sidratul Muntaha which is in the proximity of Paradise, which is the abode of good ones. It was when Sidratul Muntaha was covered with grandeur. His eyes did not wander, nor did they turn aside, for he saw some of his Lord’s greatest signs”.

The exegetes and the traditionalists have quoted many things about the miʿrāj and the things observed by the Prophet but all of them are not final and indisputable. The great Shi’ah commentator and expert Qur’anic exegete, the late Allamah Tabrasi, has divided these narratives into four groups:

1. One group of the narratives is final and indisputable, for example, the fact of the miʿrāj and some of its particulars.

2. The reports which have been quoted in a correct manner but have not reached the stage of finality, although they conform to the principles and verdict of wisdom, for example, survey of Paradise and Hell, journey in the skies and conversation with the souls of the Prophets.

3. The reports which are not apparently acceptable but are capable of interpretation, for example, the Prophet’s conversation during the night with the dwellers of Paradise and Hell which can be explained away by saying that he observed their phantoms, figures and qualities.

4. Exaggerated reports coined and circulated by the liars. For example, it is said at times that the Prophet sat that night with the Almighty or that he heard the sound of His pen.

Though it was appropriate that this grand event should have been properly recorded in all respects, yet, for some reasons, differences have risen about it and one of them is about the date of its occurrence. Two great historians of Islam (Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham) say that this event occurred in the tenth year of the Prophet’s prophethood. The renowned historian Bayhaqi believes that it took place in the twelfth year of his prophethood. Some say that it occurred in the early days of his prophetic mission, whereas others say that the time of its occurrence was the middle period of the prophethood. And at times, in order to add up all these statements, it has been said that the miʿrāj of the Prophet took place more than once. However, we are of the view that the miʿrāj in which daily prayers were made compulsory took place after the death of Abu Talib which occurred in the tenth year of the prophethood of the Prophet.

We conclude this, because it is one of the established facts of history and tradition that during the night of miʿrāj the Allmighty ordered that the Prophet’s followers should offer prayers five times a day and it is also learnt from history that prayers had not been made obligatory till the death of Abu Talib, because when he was on his deathbed the chiefs of Quraysh approached him to settle the dispute between them and his nephew and to prevent him from his activities and to take whatever he wanted as a recompense for it. The Prophet who was present there addressed the chiefs thus: “I don’t want anything from you except that you should confirm that there is no god but Allah and give up worshipping the idols”. He uttered these words and did not at all mention ‘salat’ (prayers) or other articles of faith. This in itself shows that prayers had not been made obligatory till then, for, otherwise, mere declaration of faith devoid of a compulsory action like prayers would have been useless. And as regards the fact that he did not mention his own prophethood, it was because witnessing of monotheism implicitly means confirming of his prophethood...

Those who think that the miʿrāj took place earlier than the tenth year of the prophethood of the Prophet are very much mistaken, because from the eighth up to the tenth year he was economically boycotted and sought refuge in the ‘Valley of Abu Talib’ and the pitiable condition of the Muslims did not make it expedient that they should have been subjected to an additional responsibility like ‘prayers‘…

The quality of the miʿrāj of the Prophet has been a subject of discussion for long and much has been said about its being physical or spiritual, although the Qur’an and the traditions clearly state that it was physical. However, some scientific notions have prevented a group of persons from accepting this reality. Consequently they have resorted to their own interpretations and considered the miʿrāj of the Prophet to be purely spiritual and have said that only his spirit travelled through all the worlds and then returned to his sacred body. Some have gone a step further and say that all these events were a vision and the Prophet saw different places and travelled through them in a dream. The statement of the last group is so distant from logic and reality that it should not at all be considered as a part of the traditions and opinions relating to the miʿrāj. The reason for this is that when Quraysh heard that Muhammad had claimed that he had travelled through all these places during a night they became very uneasy and got up seriously to give him the lie, so much so that this event became the subject of discussion in all the assemblies of Quraysh. In the case that his traveling through these worlds had been only a vision there was no point in Quraysh rising up to refute him and to create all the tumult. This is so because if a person says that one night, while asleep, he has dreamt this and that it cannot become an object of dispute and strife, for a dream is after all a dream and many impossible things can be seen in it…

Spiritual miʿrāj means meditation about the things created by the Almighty and observation of His Grandeur and Beauty and absorption in thoughts about Him and glorifying His name and eventual freedom from material ties and worldly interests and crossing through all possibilities and entering into internal and non-material stages. And after going through all this process a special proximity to Allah is acquired, and it is not possible to define it. If spiritual miʿrāj means meditation about the Grandeur of the Almighty and the extent of the creation, such a miʿrāj is undoubtedly not peculiar to the Prophet of Islam as many Prophets and other enlightened and pure-hearted persons have also enjoyed this position, whereas the Qurtan mentions his miʿrāj as something peculiar to him and an extraordinary distinction for him. Furthermore, the Prophet had been in the aforesaid condition during many nights whereas the miʿrāj has been proved to be related to a particular night...

If the scholars of the past have said something on account of their belief in ancient astronomy, they can be excused and are not much to blame, but it is not proper for us, during the present times, to ignore the Qur’anic realities on account of a hypothesis which has been refuted by contemporary science. Some of those interested in natural sciences, who are anxious to fix a natural cause for every event and a physical agent, for every phenomenon, have chosen to deny the very basis of the miʿrāj and think that modern natural and scientific laws do not confirm to the miʿrāj of the Prophet…

But the Prophet of Islam went on the miʿrāj with the blessing of Allah to Whom the entire creation belongs and Who is the Creator of this wonderful system. It is He who has given gravity to the earth and cosmic rays to the sun, and has created different layers in the atmosphere. And He can take these things back and control them whenever He likes. In the event that the historical journey of the Prophet was accomplished under the command of Allah all these laws decidedly surrender before His absolute Will and are in the grip of His power every moment. In these circumstances, what difficulty should there be if the Lord who has given gravity to the earth and cosmic rays to the heavenly bodies should take His chosen servant out of the centre of gravity with His unlimited power and without any apparent means? Allah who has created oxygen can certainly create air for His chosen Prophet in the areas where air does not exist.

The efficacy of a miracle is basically different from that of the natural causes and the strength of man. We should not consider the strength of Allah limited like our own. If we cannot perform a job without means we should not say that the Omnipotent cannot also perform it. From the point of view of difficulty and its solution the bringing to life of the dead, the transformation of a rod into a snake, and keeping Prophet Yunus alive in the belly of a fish in the depth of the sea, the events which have been confirmed by the Heavenly Books and have been narrated for us, are not unlike the miʿrāj of the Prophet of Islam. In short all the natural causes and external impediments are controlled and conquered by the Will of Allah. His Will does not concern only that which is an impossibility, but besides that He can do whatever He likes, whether or not man possesses strength for it or not…

A person asked the fourth Imam: “Is there a particular place for Allah?” He replied: “No”. The man said: “Then why did He make His Prophet journey through the skies?” The Holy Imam replied: “He made him ascend so that he might become aware of the expanse of the Universe and see and hear wonderful things, the like of which had not been seen and heard by the eyes and ears before.”

It is no doubt necessary that the last Prophet should enjoy such a position that he should rely on this vast information and should be able to send a message to the people of the 21st century, who are still thinking of traveling to Mars, that he did this journey without any means and his Creator was kind to him and made him fully aware of the system of creation.

There is a lot of passion out there right now.

White people ready to fight and die for “relatively civilized” people.

Palestinians/Rohingya/Kashmiris/etc. and their allies pointing out the hypocrisy that now all of a sudden “the West” pulls out all the stops.

Shi’is suffering yet another attack in a masjid killing dozens of people, and no one really cares.

And myriad other things going on that would just prove my point even further.

So what are we to do?

The same thing we are always called to do by the Qur’an: stand out for justice even if it is against our own selves.

It is wrong for the West to be so hypocritical and so Westerners need to have a more global perspective, stop invading countries and sending drones to blow their people up, and generally be less racist.

It is wrong to back the invasion of another country, the destruction of its infrastructure, and the killing of many civilians simply because it fits your foreign policy agenda, so show solidarity somehow with the Ukrainians who are fighting and dying.

It is wrong to turn a blind eye to Shi’i suffering because you think Shi’i theology is wrong or you just don’t have the time or whataboutism. So just do something – really anything is a good step in the right direction – to affirm that Shi’i Muslims are just as Muslim as Sunni Muslims and are your brothers and sisters in faith and/or humanity.

As a rule, just don’t listen to any government in the world all the time. Russia is sometimes right when they point out the militarism of the West, but that doesn’t make them right when they unilaterally choose to invade Ukraine. The USA is sometimes right when they point out Chinese mistreatment of the Uyghur people, but that doesn’t make them right when they sanction Iran over nuclear weapons that they do not have (but Israel has 200 of them). India is sometimes right when it speaks about the mistreatment of Hindus in neighboring countries, but that doesn’t make them right when they turn a blind eye to violence against Muslims within India and pass laws based on Islamophobic concepts like “Love Jihad.”

No government in the world is the source of perfect justice. They are all flawed institutions that are locked in a system of mutual cooperation and competition, and which seek their own interests in a way that often puts morality aside. In my opinion, this is why the Shi’i and and Sunni legal traditions have historically been skeptical of government service (for example, by serving as a qāḍī [judge] appointed by the ruler). Once you are part of the system, the system may force you to do something that is hard to justify, and no government takes kindly to dissent from its own employees (especially if you are in the military).

Of course, anarchism is not a solution either (just read about the atrocities committed by anarchists on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939). Pure liberation from the system, at least as the last 100 years have proven, has meant just committing more immorality in the name of utopian liberation. So we are stuck where we are by God’s decree, but we still have to be the best we can be.

Since I am not Russian, I don’t have to make amends for the Russian invasion the way I have to for American invasions of Afghanistan, and Vietnam and so on. As a White American, I am morally obliged to grapple with the meaning of my own whiteness. I don’t know what you struggle with, but the point is that we have to look within and struggle. And not just as individuals, but as nations. I can speak to collective American spiritual problems since I am American. Russians will have to teach me what they need to do to correct their nation.

Of course, I and probably you have very little influence. The world moves without our consent and we just react. I may learn something new tomorrow that changes my perspective. But since God is just, God will not judge me based on something I do not yet know. I can only be judged based on what I know today, and this is the best I can do right now.

I hope it has been helpful for you in some way, and you are all welcome to share with me your insights on how to be better.

May Allah make us people who make this Earth a better place to live, and keep us from being people that contribute to injustices upon the land and sea, animals and humans, Muslims and all peoples, āmīn.

that tree

that tree is older than me

when i entered this world

it was already here

as i journeyed through life

discovering Gita and Qur’an in my teens

it was here

waiting

and now here i am

privileged to gaze upon its beauty and majesty

for God has made this tree

and this poem was written by a fool like me

will it still be here

standing watch

as I exit this life

and begin a new journey

into realms of its Creator’s design

only One knows

and I simply say thank You

for this brief moment

when our paths have crossed

ya Muhyi

As anyone who actually knows me knows, I embrace the fact that I am an American, but am also very critical of the nation state called the United States of America.

One of my longest held criticisms has been the presence of military bases run by the USA throughout the world. I have spoken with my own father about this on many occasions. His father, my grandfather, served in the Navy during WWII on a battleship. I am proud of my grandfather’s service, but it has been over 85 years since that necessary but devastating struggle came to an end. We live in a different world.

Since high school, I have often wondered how Americans could pressure the USA to dismantle its bases. I have read books about it like the one whose picture comes at the end of this post. But now I realize that my thinking has been all wrong. It is the people in the countries with bases that need to dismantle them.

This has happened on multiple occasions.

The North Vietnamese defeated the USA, created the political structure of a contemporary unified Vietnam, and there have been no bases there since 1975.

In 1979, Iran had a revolution and made it impossible for the USA to maintain a military presence within its borders.

And now Afghanistan is free from bases controlled by the military of the USA.

The people of Vietnam, Iran, and Afghanistan have succeeded where the dissenting voices within the USA such as myself were completely ineffective.

The relative political/economic/cultural merits or dismerits of these countries is not the issue here. I am an American citizen, not a citizen of any of the aforementioned countries. In other countries, like South Korea, it seems like there is a great deal of public support for the American military presence. Each country should decide for themselves whether or not they want American soldiers on their soil. I have my hands full here, dealing with the myriad social, political, economic, and environmental responsibilities that come with being an American citizen.

I wish well for the people in all of those countries, and I hope to one day be able visit and learn a little about what it is actually like to live there. I would like to spend my money in all of those countries as a tourist, helping to support the local economy. I would like to atone for the ways in which I may have contributed to harming innocent civilians in all of those countries, through the tax dollars I am forced to pay every year. I would like to see the Other, face to face, as brothers and sisters in humanity. Because, let us to be clear, Americans would never allow Vietnamese, Iranians or Afghans to open a military base over here.

Until the time it is safe again to travel around the world regularly, I pray that God blesses the people of these countries, blesses the people of my country, and blesses the people of all the countries of Earth, amen.

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