Archive for March, 2016

When I was a kid, I used to hang out in the science section of the library. I would pull the books off the shelf, and look at pictures of Red Giants, enormous suns much larger than our own. I remember becoming freaked out at the idea that one day our own sun would become a Red Giant and engulf Earth in a fiery apocalypse. These were the first stirrings of my imagination through the expanses of spacetime, and the concomitant challenges in conceiving of a beginning and an end to the universe. Beyond the Big Bang, no human mind can penetrate. Across the event horizon of a black hole lies undiscovered realities. The truth is, we are locked in our little place in spacetime. Our intellects can only travel so far, but our imaginations can take us much farther.

Most young lovers of science naturally gravitate to science fiction. It is the way the imagination takes us beyond the limits of what is actually knowable. We fantasize about distant worlds with sentient life, even though none has been detected. We project our own earthly troubles onto intergalactic empires as a way to humanize the dead cold of space. In some forms of science fiction, there is nothing but meaninglessness and despair to be found beyond our solar system, but in most, humanity is on a continual process of discovering the meanings of the vast universe. The creation of this narrative is natural in a secularized world – if we abandon the idea that the Heavens come down to us on Earth, then our only hope for purpose in the long run is that we go forth from Earth into the unknown heavens. It is a mythical crutch that helps the secularized mind deal with the unavoidable meaninglessness of human existence that results from describing spacetime in a purely materialistic and empirical fashion.

In college, I took an astronomy course, because I wanted to learn the real science behind my youthful readings and teenage sci-fi movie binges. It was wonderful, but it also made me realize how trapped we really are on Earth. It is only the imagination that can take us much farther, and it was in college that my imagination was ignited by the Qur’an and the life story of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him and his family be blessings and peace). Of all stories on Earth, it has been the one that makes me feel closest to the Heavens.

In short, astronomy brought me incredibly far, science fiction brought me even further, but faith has brought me to the realm of eternal meanings behind the observably beautiful universe.

لا إله إلا الله


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For Sayyida Fatima

السلام عليك يا سيدة نساء العالمين

People often wonder why I care so much about the Sunni-Shi’i divide. Perhaps I should explain.

Before I was a Muslim, I spent as much time and energy as I could learning about the religious traditions of humanity, as well as secular perspectives on religion. I read everything from Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian” to Srila Prabhupada’s “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is.” I don’t know why I was so fascinated by religion. Some people think about math all day. I thought about religion.

In the process, I realized that my default assumptions were secular humanist. I know human beings exist. I know the Earth exists. But religion – well, there are a lot of different ways of looking at it. Perhaps it is “the opiate of the masses,” per Marxist analysis. Perhaps it helps society function smoothly, as Durkheim would argue. Perhaps one religion was true, pace Evangelical Christianity. Perhaps all culturally-conditioned religious traditions point to a higher metaphysics, as Schuon tried to explain. Perhaps it is all made up, as Richard Dawkins would have it. My secular humanist assumption was that, most likely, none of them were true, although each of them might reveal something about the human condition. I found beauty and wisdom in much of it, perhaps most of all in the Vaisnava traditions of India and Roman Catholicism, but nothing that changed my fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality: Big Bang>Formation of Galaxies>Earth>Origin of Life>Dinosaurs>Humans>Star Trek.

Into this intellectual melee came Muhammad, the son of Abdullah. A historical figure, without a doubt. A founder of a major empire. Someone whose efforts led to hundreds of millions of people learning his native language, Arabic. And for Muslims, the Messenger of God (rasul Allah). It was Muhammad, as both the conveyor of the Qur’an and the exemplar of lived Islam, that changed my life. In short, I felt like Muhammad was a proof (hujja) over me – how could I question the existence of God after I had learned about the life and teachings of Muhammad!?

Indeed, I could not. As a skeptical person, before I became Muslim, I asked myself many questions as to why I might reject Muhammad. Perhaps he was in it for the money – “that seemed unlikely,” I surmised. Perhaps he wanted more sex – “nope.” Perhaps he craved power – “doesn’t seem to be the case.” Perhaps he was delusional – “don’t think so.” For every objection I could think of, Muhammad’s life and example undermined my skepticism. He won the war of ideas, and I submitted. That was 1998.

So as I began trying to live as a Muslim, I did the same thing that I did before I became Muslim: ask myself every question that came to mind. Yes, I believe that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God (la ilaha ill Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah),” but what else do I believe in? And so my studies continued, and I was open to everything. The Aga Khan says he is Muhammad’s living representative – “I don’t think so,” I concluded. The Tablighi Jama’at says they are the only solution to the crisis of contemporary Islam – “nope.” Ibn ‘Arabi says he is the Seal of Muhammadan Saints – “what does that mean?” Some say the Ba ‘Alawi’s of Yemen can read the unseen and know how to navigate contemporary political situations through unveiling (kashf) – “how does one even verify such a belief?”

In short, the entirety of Islamic intellectual diversity was at my disposal, and I felt obliged to delve into it. I learned along the way that God created me in a unique way – I don’t think most people could do what I have done and not become overwhelmed. It is so much easier to just be secular, or to imbibe a developed religious tradition uncritically, or to just make it up yourself. To be clear, there have definitely been times when I have been overwhelmed, and wanted an easier approach to the Divine. But as much as I wanted to just be a Muslim and read the Qur’an and fast and so on, I couldn’t avoid these realities. God kept on bringing the complexity of it all into my life, forcing me to examine it and make choices.

I try to be very honest about what I know and what I do not, even when there is choice to be made. For example, I am convinced that praying with your hands at the sides (a position known as sadl) is the Sunnah, which is the ruling of the Maliki, Imami, Zaydi, and Ibadi schools of fiqh. But my conviction has more to do with my understanding of the historical development of Islamic law than it does on any particular narration (for there is nothing about the issue in the Qur’an). The initial sectarian division in Islam is the split between the Shi’is, the Kharijis, and the masses who eventually identified with the catch-all term, “The People of the Prophetic Example and the Wider Community (ahl al-sunna wa’l-jama’a),” or Sunnis for short. As these three sectarian identities coalesced in the 8th and 9th centuries, varying positions on belief and law became symbols of one’s sectarian identity. For example, saying the qunut (a du’a in the ritual prayer) in the second rak’ah became a symbol of being an Imami, one of the groups of the Shi’a (see the chapter on the qunut in Najam Haider’s work “The Origins of the Shi’a” for further information). And holding the right hand over the left in prayer (a practice known as qabd) became a symbol of Sunni identity, as only the Hanafis, Shafi’is and Hanbalis emphasize qabd. The sadl, however, is preserved not only in the early Sunni school of Malik, but also the Shi’i schools and the Ibadis (who are the only surviving school of the Kharijis). As such, it would seem that this practice was what all Muslims had typically done in the earliest times, following the lived example of the Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. And God knows best.

Now, of course, one would have to write a PhD dissertation to examine the historical development of all the narrations on where to place the hands in prayer, in all of the juridical literature, to prove whether or not my belief is historically correct. As Umar Abd-Allah mentions in the introduction of Malik and Medina,” comparative study of Shi’i, Khariji, and Sunni sectarian literature on early Islamic law has not really been done yet. Insha’Allah, someone will take up this important topic, but in the meantime, I still have to pray the best way I can discern. Since I am convinced that sadl is the way that the Messenger of God taught us how to pray, then I pray that way, even though I don’t have a PhD dissertation to prove it.

But that is one small issue – where I hold my hands in prayer – amongst many. So when it comes to the foundational split between the Kharijis, the Sunnis, and the Shi’is, I try to be even more cautious. They all fast in Ramadan, following the clear instructions of the Qur’an. They all read the Qur’an and write commentaries on it. They all pray fajr, although they may differ on certain details regarding it. And for someone like me, born and raised in a post-Christian/secular environment, that is a lot to work with in practical terms. As the wise saying goes, “act on what you know, and God will give you knowledge about what you do not know.” That has been my guiding motto for over a decade, and it has served me well, by God’s grace.

But many questions still remain. For example, did Abu Bakr disinherit Fatima from the lands of Fadak? The answer is unequivocally yes – in my studies, I have yet to come across a source that says this did not happen. Why did he do so? According to the Sunni tradition, it is because he heard the Messenger of Allah say something about this issue, and thus he was acting on prophetic knowledge. But simultaneously in the Sunni tradition, we see that Fatima vehemently disagreed with Abu Bakr’s perspective. In the most widely-regarded Sunni source for prophetic teachings, the Sahih of al-Bukhari, we see the following narration:

Fatima and al-‘Abbas came to Abu Bakr, seeking their share from the property of Allah’s Messenger and at that time, they were asking for their land at Fadak and their share from Khaibar. Abu Bakr said to them, “I have heard from Allah’s Messenger saying, ‘Our property cannot be inherited, and whatever we leave is to be spent in charity, but the family of Muhammad may take their provisions from this property.'” Abu Bakr added, “By Allah, I will not leave the procedure I saw Allah’s Messenger following during his lifetime concerning this property.” Therefore Fatima left Abu Bakr and did not speak to him till she died.

Now, keep in mind while reflecting on this single narration that both Sunnis and Shi’is believe that Fatima is one of the four best women who ever lived. According to this hadith, she completely disassociates with Abu Bakr for the rest of her life. In the Shi’i sources, of course, there is even more detail given about her position on this issue, and why she did so. One cannot read such a statement and wonder what was going on. It is not a minor issue for one of the four greatest women in all of human history to stop speaking to the first ruler of the Muslim community after the death of her father, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family. Many Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr is the best Muslim after the Messenger of God, peace and blessings upon him and his family, so in that context his spiritual status would supercede Fatima’s. And ultimately for Sunnis, both are acting on their ijtihad (learned but ultimately fallible judgement call about what is best to do), and so neither should be blamed for their choices. The Shi’is however see it clearly as an example of a powerful man in search of more power acting unjustly towards an oppressed woman who has no means to get her financial rights vindicated. In addition, the Imami Shi’a believe Fatima is infallible (ma’sum), and therefore she is always on the side of Truth.

Of course at this point, someone will interject, “who are you to be talking about such great people?” And the answer is that I am nothing but a seeker after God. Before I was Muslim, I did not know Muhammad, and through God’s grace and my consistent effort, I discovered Muhammad and learned that he truly was and is the Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. But before reaching that point, I had to honestly ask myself all the questions I mentioned before that a pious Muslim should never even think, let alone say out loud (such as whether or not Muhammad’s career was driven primarily by an urge for more sex or power). The only reason I read about Abu Bakr and Fatima is because I cannot follow Muhammad directly. I live in the year 2016, and Muhammad was buried in Madinah in the year 632. There are centuries of history between he and I, and I have to understand that history if I am going to make a claim about who he was and what he taught (read Jonathan Brown’s “Misquoting Muhammad” for more details). As such, I cannot avoid the question of Abu Bakr’s caliphate and the decisions he made in the two years after the death of the Messenger of God. For the Sunnis, his rule is unquestioned and full of wisdom. For the Ibadis, he is revered. For the Shi’is (except for some Zaydis), he misrepresents the teachings of Muhammad and commits a variety of injustices against the prophetic family. And what one thinks about him has an impact on one’s beliefs and practices, and thus can have an impact on one’s otherworldly fate.

So if Fatima disassociated from Abu Bakr, that is something I have to take seriously, as both Sunni and Shi’i narrations claim that to anger Fatima is to anger her father, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family. And these are very serious issues for someone like me who believes in the reality of Hell, due to the Qur’an’s vivid insistence on its existence and the hundreds, if not thousands, of narrations in both Sunni and Shi’i texts that discuss its details. It is not just a matter of historical interpretation – there is also an internal spiritual battle that accompanies the intellectual struggle to discern the Truth. Of course, the Sunni mystic will claim that spiritual purity will lead to understanding Abu Bakr’s wisdom, and the Shi’i mystic will claim that those closest to God are unanimous in shedding copious tears for Fatima. As for what I think…I am still trying to figure that out. I have never met Abu Bakr nor Fatima; I only know them through texts transmitted in history. And those texts have different contexts and points of emphasis.

But there is one key point for me – both rival historiographical traditions, Sunni and Shi’i, claim to love Fatima. My studies are an attempt to know Fatima – maybe once I know her better, I can understand what it might feel like to love her. But what I do know of her makes me feel sad. She was buried at night in an unmarked grave, apparently according to her own instructions to her husband ‘Ali. In the words of Denise Soufi, who wrote a PhD dissertation at Princeton entitled “The Image of Fatima in Classical Islamic Thought”:

“[Stories about her] involvement in the events which took place after the death of the Prophet seem to contain some truth despite their partisan biases. This is due to the fact that the Sunnis were unable to completely suppress what was so obviously detrimental to their reconstruction of religious history: namely, that Fatima quarreled with Abu Bakr over his seizure of the caliphate and the Prophet’s properties, that she never forgave him for his actions and that her death was kept secret for some time, probably at her request, in order to prevent him from presiding over her funeral rites.” (p. 206)

Clearly she felt deep alienation from the community built by her father, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. As someone who has worked with a variety of Muslim women who felt wronged and alienated by powerful male voices in the community, I can’t help but feel the similarity. And the image of a man of position quoting a singular hadith to silence a woman’s perspective is eerily familiar. Every one of those pastoral care situations that I have experienced personally has made me ask myself, “have I failed the women of our community, or this woman in particular?” In grappling with that question at one point, I wrote a sermon which invoked the memory of Fatima. But now I ask myself one of the most painful questions I have ever faced – have I failed Fatima?

I don’t know. I just don’t know. It makes my heart hurt inside my chest just to think about it. How could I ever be worthy of supporting “the master of the women of all realms (sayyida nisa’ al-‘alamin),” and yet how could I ever hope for mercy if I did not?

In the study of history, the truth is often elusive, but because I believe in God, and the Messenger of God (upon him and his family peace), and Heaven and Hell, as long as I breathe I must continue to seek the truth as best as I know how. It is part of the human condition, as creatures created by God and put to the test in this life. Ultimately, God has never disappointed me, even when it has taken years of “living in the tension,” as I like to say. Moments of hardship lead to ease, questions lead to answers, and then new hardships emerge and new questions as well. All I can do is trust in what God said, and keep trying my best:


“And for those who strive [towards] Us, we will surely guide them to our paths, and God is most certainty with those who do good.” (29.69)


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I found this piece of writing in my files from 2007. It is as if I was writing back then to give advice to myself today.


In the Name of Allah, The Merciful, The Giver of Mercy

All praise is due to Allah

may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad, His last prophet and messenger, who was a mercy to all the worlds


Now, in this moment, on this day, in this place, what do you choose? Do you choose this life or the next? Do you choose obedience to your evil desires or obedience to Allah and His Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)? For perhaps you will die in a few hours. So although the choice does not seem so urgent, perhaps there is an urgency that you yourself are unaware of. No one knows when they will die, and when the moment comes, there will be no time left to change one’s decisions. Everything that one has done in life will be with one at that moment, for better or for worse.

“He who loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him, and he who dislikes to meet Allah, Allah dislikes to meet him…” (Reported in Sahih Muslim)

How many sins do we persist in doing on a daily basis? On a weekly basis? Or worse, for years and years? How many good deeds do we pass by?! Or ignore?! Or worst of all, obstinately refuse to do?! How long will we remain where we are, as weak believers?

“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both. Guard over that which benefits you, seek Allah’s assistance, and don’t lend yourself to things which do not benefit you. If something befalls you, then don’t say, ‘If I had only done such and such,’ rather say, “Allah ordained this and He does what He wills,’ for verily saying, ‘If I had only done…’ makes way for the work of Shaytan.” (Reported in Sahih Muslim)

We cannot change the past. At this moment, in this place, you are what you are, and you have done what you have done. But Allah is available at every moment, and waiting for us to ask Him for forgiveness, and He can wipe our slate clean.

“Allah the Allmighty said, ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.” (Reported in Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

What more can we want than to hope that the Lord of all the worlds, the Creator of Heavens and Earth, the Master of the Day of Judgement, The Living One who does not die, the Knower of that which is in the hearts, The All-Seeing, The All-Hearing, The Eternal Refuge, The King of Humanity, The Lord of Humanity, The Overwhelming, Who is closer to us than our jugular veins, The One is whose hands are our souls; that He will shower us with a mercy that is far greater than the mercy that a mother shows to her child? He will forgive us our weaknesses, our selfishness, our evil inclinations, our doubts, our worrying, our wicked actions; and He will reward us for the best that we have done, however little it may be. Allah’s generosity is far greater than we can imagine, for all we have to do is muster some gratitude for His gifts, and He will give us even more.

“And when your Lord made it known: If you are grateful, I would certainly give you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe” (Qur’an, 14.7)

We can never catch up to the mercy of Allah by our own deeds. We can never repay him. But beware lest Shaytan uses this as an excuse to keep you from struggling in Allah’s way. He might come to you, mixing truth with falsehood, whispering, “Allah’s mercy is far greater than your insignificant good deeds. Why work hard for Him?” In order to dispel the whispers of Shaytan, we need only look to our guide, our imam, the mercy to the worlds, our beloved, whom we should love more than anyone else, Muhammad, the final Prophet and Messenger of Allah to humanity.

‘Ata’ reported: “I entered the presence of ‘A’isha and said: ‘Tell us about the most amazing experience you ever had in the company of Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).’ She wept at first, but then she said: ‘Was there anything at all about him that was not a marvelous wonder? He came to me one night, and snuggled up beside me in my bed until his skin was touching my skin. But then he said: “O daughter of Abu Bakr, let me go, so that I may devote myself to the worship of my Lord.” So I told him: “I love your nearness, but I prefer to respect your dearest wish.” I therefore allowed him to take his leave of me. He got up, found a skin container full of water, and performed his ritual ablution, pouring a considerable amount of water in the process. Then he stood erect, and started to perform the ritual prayer. He wept as he did so, until his tears were streaming down onto his chest. Then he went into ruku’, and shed more tears. Then he made sajda, and again he wept. Then he raised his head, and wept still more. He went on like this until Bilal arrived on the scene, and so he told him about the upcoming prayer. I then said: “O Messenger of Allah, what causes you to weep, when Allah has forgiven you your earlier and later sins?” To this he replied, ‘”Should I not be a thankful servant? Why should I not do it, since Allah has sent down to me the words of revelation: ‘Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, and the ship that runs upon the sea with that which is of use to human beings, and the water which Allah sends down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and the distribution of the winds, and the clouds set in orderly array between heaven and earth–surely these are signs for people who can understand. (Qur’an, 2:164).”’” (Narrated in the Chapter on Thankfulness in al-Jilani’s al-Ghunyah)

How beautiful was the conduct of the Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with both His Lord and the creation of His Lord! How aware he was of the realities of Allah’s greatness, and of the realities of our position in this world, as we wait to meet Him. And although our lives can never match the perfection of his life, and our deeds can never match the beauty of his deeds, and our states can never match the magnificence of his states, we must try to be true followers of him, so that Allah will love us. For it is one thing to love Allah, and another to be loved by Him.

“Say: If you love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. For Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (3.31)

Are we up to this challenge? Do we truly believe in the call of Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who called us to life, in order to bring us out of the darknesses and into the light? Or are we deluded by this world, groping after the trinkets that it offers us? Or are we blinded by our passions, preferring the call of our own desires to the call of the man whose whole being submitted to his Creator? Has Shaytan won in relation to us, or have we subdued him, as strong believers?

Whatever happened before does not matter. What matters is what we choose now, and what we plan to achieve in the future based on that choice. Allah alone can determine the outcome of our plans, but if our hearts change, and become full of sincerity to struggle for His sake alone, then we can hope in our rectification, and become the strong believers that He loves so dearly.

“…My success in only from Allah. In Him do I trust, and to Him do I turn.” (Qur’an 11.88)


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Two quotes

Two quotes have been swimming around inside my head and heart. I tried to turn them into posts, but then I thought perhaps it is just better to share them with everyone as they are. Perhaps they will mean different things to different people, and so I shouldn’t try to use them for my own purposes.


The first quote:

“To understand that the belief in the existence of the Sublime and Supreme Source is innate in human nature, one needs to understand certain preliminaries. One of the qualities innate in human nature is the love and yearning for perfection. It is something which pervades the entire chain of humanity’s generations and not a single individual in the entire human species can be found without it. No custom or tradition, religious or legal institution can transform or obstruct this tendency. The natural inclination to seek perfection is so universal that if all the eras of human existence are probed and each of human individuals, no matter to what group or nation he may belong, is questioned, a love of perfection will be found to be part of his nature and his heart will be found to be pulled towards it. In all the pauses and activities, in all the efforts, endeavors and earnest toils which engage the energies of the individuals of this species in various fields of life, it is the love of perfection which drives them onwards.

Although people vary regarding their identification and understanding of perfection, and although there is the greatest conceivable variance in what they regard as perfect and whom they regard as the beloved, yet each of them, having perceived his beloved in something and deeming it his ideal; turns his attention towards it. He serves it with all his heart and with the utmost love of which he is capable. Whatever the field to which he belongs and whatever the object of his love, since he identifies perfection with it, he concentrates his attention upon it. In the same manner, the men of science and crafts, each of them seeks what he considers as perfection and loves what appears to him as the beloved. The same is true of the other-worldly and of those who give themselves up to reflection and meditation.

In brief, all of them are turned towards perfection, and since they see it in a real or imaginary object, they love it earnestly. But it should be remembered that in spite of it all, their infatuation and obsession is really not for those ideals or objects which they imagine to be their beloved. The object of their love and the ka’bah of their hopes is not that which they have fancied. For, if he were to ponder over his nature, he will realize that to whatever object his heart is devoted, if he attains something superior to it his heart turns away from the original ideal and towards another, a higher one. And when he attains that higher one, he turns towards one which is higher and more perfect, and the fire of eagerness grows more intense day by day and his heart does not settle down at any one of the stages.

For example, if you are in love with physical beauty and see it in some beauty, your heart drives you towards her abode and alley. But if you happen to see a face more beautiful, and you find it to be so, you will inevitably turn your attention towards it, or, at least, both of them will now hold your attention, and the fire of your passion will not cool down…Not only this, even a probability may excite your eagerness. If you have an inkling that there is someone prettier in a certain place, your heart may take you on a journey to that place and your state of mind will be like him who said, “Though in the midst of the crowd, my heart is somewhere else.” Mere wish will add to your eagerness. If you listen to the descriptions of Paradise and about the enticing beauties therein, even though, God forbid, you should be a disbeliever in it, nevertheless, your natural instinct will make you say, “O that such a heaven did exist and such lovely dames would fall to my share.”

In the same manner, a man who seeks perfection in domination, power and expansion of territories and develops eagerness for such things, if he is given the possession of one country, he will turn towards another; when that too comes under his domination, he will desire for some more territory. If he is given a quarter of the earth, he will try to own the remaining ones also. Rather, the intensity of his desire grows more and more, and if the whole planet is brought under his domination, he will contemplate about the possibility of expanding it to other spheres of the cosmos as well.

His heart views the celestial spheres with the desire of conquest: “O that man could fly towards those worlds, that I could annex them to my empire.” Similar is the case of men of science and craft and that of the entire human species. Whatever the activity and field of their concern, their eagerness grows with achievement and is directed towards the higher degrees of perfection. The more they progress and advance, the more their eagerness grows for the higher degrees of perfection; its fire is never extinguished and becomes more intense every day.

Thus, this light of nature guides us to the fact that the hearts of all the members of human species, from the people inhabiting far-flung regions of the world to the dwellers of civilized countries, from believers in materialism to the followers of various religious creeds, all yearn by nature and from the core of their hearts to attain immaculate perfection.

They long for an absolute beauty and perfection which has no defect, for a knowledge that has no trace of ignorance in it, for a power and domination that is not accompanied with impotence and weakness, for a life that has no death, and, ultimately, the Absolute Perfection that is the beloved of everyone. All the existents and the entire human species declare unanimously with one heart and in eloquent and lucid terms: We are lovers of Absolute Perfection; we are enamored to Absolute Beauty and Majesty; we are in search of Absolute Knowledge and Absolute Power.

Does anyone know of any being in the entire realm of existence, or in the spheres of fancy and imagination, or in the realm of rational abstractions, which possesses the attributes of absolute perfection and absolute beauty, except the Sacred Essence of the Supreme Majestic Source of the cosmos? Does anybody know of any absolute, immaculate beauty, except that of the Absolute Beloved?

O wanderers of the valley of regret! O the lost ones in the wilderness of error! Rather, O lovers of the lamp of Absolute Beauty! O Seekers of the immaculate and the eternal Beloved! Look again into the book of your nature; turn the pages of the book of your being. Look, the pen of Divine creation has written into it:

إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِي لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًا

I have turned my face towards Him who created the heavens and the earth.
فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا
(It is) God’s nature upon which He originated mankind. (6:79; 30:30)

That nature is innate attention to the Absolute Beloved, and it is unchanging. It is a nature which seeks the knowledge (ma’rifah) of God. How long will you lavish this natural God-gifted love and this trust of God on this or that beloved on account of your misconceived ideas? If the object of your love were these imperfect beauties and these finite perfections, then why doesn’t the fire of your love subside after reaching them and why does the flame of your love grow fiercer on attaining them? Now wake up from the slumber, receive the glad tiding, and rejoice that you have a beloved who has no decline, no defect, no infirmity. The Light you seek is one whose brilliance illuminates the Universe:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. (24:35)
Your Beloved is such that He encompasses everything. Thus, this actual love of yours seeks the Actual Beloved. It cannot be an imaginary beloved of your fancy, since every imaginary thing is imperfect, and your nature yearns for perfection. Thus an actual lover and an actual love is not possible without an actual beloved. And there is no other beloved except the Perfect Being, towards whom human nature is directed. Hence the prerequisite for the love of absolute perfection is the existence of the Absolutely Perfect Being. And, as mentioned earlier, the laws of nature and their necessary correlatives are the clearest, the most self-evident and the most obvious of prepositions. Hence it has been said:
أَفِي اللَّهِ شَكٌّ فَاطِرِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ
Can there be doubt concerning God the Creator of the heavens and the earth?! (14:10)”
[This quote is taken from the “Forty Hadith” of Ayatullah Khumayni]
The second quote:

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i have so little

no, i have nothing

i sit on Your grace

in the grace of Your time

in the place of Your mercy

and i acquit myself of the ‘right’ to use my self

there is no self that is mine

without Your prior decree

even these words that i type

are done with borrowed fingers

“In fact, We can reshape his very fingertips.” (75.4)

i am sorry for every moment i thought

or think

there is a me that exists without You

that i can walk this way or that

on ‘my’ legs

so let me dispose of whatever ‘i’ have

for You

let my life be the truth of these words

writ into flesh and bone

i lay it all before You

and ask that Your grace allow me to know

what to do with it

every day

every hour

every breath that manifests in the cosmos due to You


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