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trying to speak to God

Last night, I felt so close to God that I felt like I was not real – a fading shadow, soon gone from the world. For hours, I was trying to put into words what I was feeling, but nothing felt adequate. Then I read the words attributed to Imam al-Sajjad, upon him peace, and they expressed it better than I ever could.

 

O God,

if You will

You will pardon us through Your bounty

and if You will,

You will chastise us through Your justice.

So make our ways smooth to Your pardon through Your kindness

and grant us sanctuary from Your chastisement through Your forbearance,

for none of us has the endurance for Your justice

and none of us can reach deliverance without Your pardon!

O Richest of the rich!

Here we are, Your servants, before You.

I am the neediest of the needy toward You,

so redress our neediness through Your plenty

and cut us not off from our hopes through Your withholding,

lest You make wretched him who seeks felicity through You

and deprive him who seeks help from Your bounty!

Then to whom would we return after You?

Where would we go from Your gate?

Glory be to You!

We are the distressed,

the response to whom You have made incumbent,

the people from whom You have promised to remove evil

That thing most resembling Your will

and that affair most worthy for You in Your mightiness

is showing mercy to him who asks You for mercy

and helping him who seeks help from You.

So show mercy upon our pleading with You

and free us from need when we throw ourselves before You!

O God,

Satan will gloat over us if we follow him in disobeying You,

so bless Muhammad and his Household

and let him not gloat over us after we have renounced him for You

and beseeched You against him!

 

[modified translation of du’a #10 from al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya]

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dear God

i am so tired

the world’s woes pile up in my heart

which cracks and cracks

until

the idea that i have a heart

seems like a delusion

rather

there is an essence of who i am

somewhere deep below

that i can only reach

if i let You wash away everything

other than it

 

names like al-Naqi

al-Sajjad

and others

are “names along with other names”

but they speak to me of essences

beyond the quark

transcendent yet historical links in a chain

back to the burial of Your Prophet in 632 AD / 10 AH

send him and his family blessings and peace!

back to You beyond time

but also

traveling companions for 2017 AD / 1439 AH

whispering to me

that one day

every tear will make sense

but also

forms encasing meanings

each an ocean

from which every time i take a sip

i am satiated

but also

dreams of another world

the resting place of human hopes

from the time of Adam

unto the end of the world

 

and i long for the one who carries their living legacy

who can speak to fire and make it cool

strike at the sea and provide safe passage

tell the dead to walk

and unfold every meaning of the Qur’an

for behind him

we would have no doubt in our direction

infallible commands

worthy of every cent under our control

more valuable than every drop of blood in our veins

the living leader of billions of embodied essences

attesting to Your oneness

so why suffice

with anyone less

 

my Lord

what i know is insignificant to what i do not

this is the best i have

no

this is how i feel You have washed me away

i planned none of this

wave upon wave of al-thaqalayn

has battered me

and asked me to consider it all

from beginning to end

the whole cosmos

my place in it

the reason we are

and where we hope to be

so that when ‘Allamah says

everything in itself is no more than a tale and a dream”

i feel my heart let go

my entire story

the last 38 years and whatever remains

as my essence gently settles

upon the soft petals of roses

upon them all blessings and peace!

rising upon a Divine wind

carrying me home to You

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When they tell you your life is naught but breath in the passing wind

That your history holds no beauty—show them from your end, you begin

Tell them your soil cradles seeds that when planted in blackened hearts

Are embraced by the sun’s touch, and at once from them darkness departs

That budded mouths that seem muted, blossom with sweet melodies

And hum heartbreaking tunes of a trampled garden’s tragedies

Tunes of beautiful flowers that once lived, looked on all with soft eyes

Gentle lions that in death are immortal, souls to heaven, they rise

But upon passing, broken petals have left a trail, a fluttering scent

Of minds empowered by love, of hearts that to the brim are content

There are gardens, but few roses, and the few that are found

Were long ago buried, abused, crushed deep into the ground

But called true Roses for having rose, risen after every demise

Lost everything but their God, so everything did they find

“Frangrance of the Found” by Aqeela Naqvi

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“The message of Shi’ism to the world can be summarized in one sentence: ‘To know God.’ Or in other words, it is to instruct man to follow the path of Divine realization and the knowledge of God in order to gain felicity and salvation. And this message is contained in the very phrase with which the Holy Prophet commenced his prophetic mission when he said: “Oh men! Know God in His Oneness (and acknowledge Him) so that you will gain salvation.”

As a summary explanation of this message we will add that man is attached by nature to many goals in this worldly life and to material pleasures. He loves tasty food and drink, fashionable dress, attractive palaces and surroundings, a beautiful and pleasing wife, sincere friends and great wealth. And in another direction, he is attracted to political power, position, reputation, the extension of his rule and dominion and the destruction of anything that is opposed to his wishes. But in his inner and primordial God-given nature, man understands that all these are means created for man, but man is not created for all these things. These things should be subservient to man and follow him and not vice versa. To consider the stomach and the region below it as a final end of life is the logic of cattle and sheep. To tear-up, cut and destroy others is the logic of the tiger, the wolf and the fox. The logic inherent in human existence is the attainment of wisdom and nothing else.

This logic based upon wisdom with the power which it possesses to discern between reality and the unreal. It guides us toward the truth and not toward things our emotions demand or toward passions, selfishness and egoism. This logic considers man as a part of the totality of creation without any separate independence or the possibility of a rebellious self-centeredness. In contrast to the current belief that man is the master of creation and tames rebellious nature and conquers it to force it to obey his wishes and desires, we find that in reality man himself is an instrument in the hand of Universal Nature and is ruled and commanded by it.

This logic based upon wisdom invites man to concentrate more closely upon the apprehension he has of the existence of this world until it becomes clear to him that the world of existence and all that is in it does not issue from itself but rather from an Infinite Source. He will then know that all this beauty and ugliness, all these creatures of the earth and the heavens, which appear outwardly as independent realities, gain reality only through another Reality and are manifested only in Its Light, and not by themselves and through themselves. In the same way that the “realities” as well as the power and grandeur of yesterday have no greater value than tales and legends of today, so are the “realities” of today no more than vaguely remembered dreams in relation to what will appear as “reality” tomorrow.

In the last analysis, everything in itself is no more than a tale and a dream. Only God is Reality in the absolute sense, the One Who does not perish. Under the protection of His Being, everything gains existence and becomes manifested through the Light of His Essence.

If man becomes endowed with such vision and power of apprehension, then the tent of his separative existence will fall down before his eyes like a bubble on the surface of water. He will see with his eyes that the world and all that is in it depend upon an Infinite Being who possesses life, power, knowledge and every perfection to an infinite degree. Man and every other being in the world are like so many windows that display according to their capacity the world of eternity which transcends them and lies beyond them.

It is at this moment that man takes from himself and all creatures the quality of independence and primacy and returns these qualities to their Owner. He detaches himself from all things to attach himself solely to the One God. Before His Majesty and Grandeur he does nothing but bow in humility. Only then does he become guided and directed by God so that whatever he knows he knows in God. Through Divine guidance he becomes adorned with moral and spiritual virtue and pure actions that are the same as Islam itself, the submission to God, the religion that is in the primordial nature of things.

This is the highest degree of human perfection and the rank of the perfect man (the Universal Man; al-Insan al-kamel), namely the impeccable Imam who has reached this rank through Divine grace. Furthermore, those who have reached this rank through the practice of spiritual methods, with the different ranks and stations that they possess, are the true followers of the Imam. It becomes thus clear that the knowledge of God and of the Imam are inseparable in the same way that the knowledge of God is inextricably connected to the knowledge of oneself.

For he who knows his own symbolic existence has already come to know the true existence that belongs solely to God who is independent and without need of anything whatsoever.

“Shi’ite Islam” by ‘Allamah Tabataba’i, pp. 195-6

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thank You for making me

وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ

and as for your Lord’s blessing, proclaim it! (93.11)

I exist. Is there anything more remarkable than that?! That in the approximately 14,000,000,000 years that this Universe has been developing, at this moment it has given rise to me right now?!

Has there been for man a period of time when he was not anything worthy of mention? (76.1)

Subhan Allah! سبحان الله

Ya Musawwir (O Fashioner)! يا مصور

It is literally impossible for my mind to encompass the entirety of the material processes through which I have come to exist, and sit typing these words.

If you enumerate Allah’s blessings, you will not be able to count them. Indeed Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful. (16.18)

Of all that could have been created, I am one of the possible existents that has form. What a joy that You have made me exist, my Lord, and blessed me to worship You! I wish I could bottle this feeling. I wish I could let every single human being know that they are an expression of Love. That their fingers were chosen specifically by the Creator of all that has ever existed.

Yes indeed, We are able to proportion [even] his fingertips! (75.4)

Ya Wadud (O Loving)! يا ودود

You made me! You opened my eyes to the wonders of the world You created! You gave me a tongue through which I can taste every marvelous miracle You have invented! You make the heart beat in my chest every day so that I can walk around this planet that You have spread out for us!

O You who gave rise to my creation, to the remembrance of me, to the nurture of me, to goodness toward me and to nourishment on me, Bestow upon me for the sake of Your having given rise [to me] with generosity and Your previous goodness to me! (Du’a Kumayl)

How could anyone be described with generosity in light of Your generosity! You share with us something of Being that is inherent to You alone, and by that gift everything we have ever known is made possible! Every lover’s love! Every dreamers dream! Every hopers hope! It is all with You, by You, through You!!!

…Surely it is said of a thing that was not, and then was, ‘When was it?’ But my Lord-blessed is He and high exalted – was ever-living without ‘how’ and had no ‘was’. His Being had no ‘how’, nor had it any ‘where’. He was not in anything, nor was He on anything. He did not bring into existence a place for His Being. He increased not in strength after bringing things into being, nor was He weak before bringing things into being. And He was not lonely before creating things. He resembles nothing brought into being…His Being has no ‘how’, nor has it any ‘where’, nor has it any limit. He is not known through anything resembling Him. He ages not through the duration of His subsistence…He was the First, without ‘how’, and He will be the Last, without ‘where’. And “All things perish, except His Face” (28.88). “His are the creation and the command. Blessed be God, the Lord of all beings!” (7.54)… (narrated from Imam al-Baqir, upon him peace)

Allah Allah Allah! الله الله الله

In this moment, my Lord, I beseech You to grant the best of this life and the next to all living human beings! Those I know and those I do not and those I never will! For You know them all, because You created them!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for the gift of life!

Ya Hayy (O Living) Ya Muhyi (O Giver of Life)! يا حي يا محيي

I have no words left. There is nothing I can say that even begins to express these truths. So let me end with Your Words.

O people! If you are in doubt about the resurrection, [consider that] We indeed created you from dust, then from a drop of [seminal] fluid, then from a clinging mass, then from a fleshy tissue, partly formed and partly unformed, so that We may manifest [Our power] to you. We establish in the wombs whatever We wish for a specified term, then We bring you forth as infants, then [We rear you] so that you may come of age. [Then] there are some of you who are taken away, and there are some of you who are relegated to the nethermost age, so that he knows nothing after [having possessed] some knowledge. And you see the earth torpid, yet when We send down water upon it, it stirs and swells, and grows every delightful kind [of plant]. That is because Allah is the Reality and it is He who revives the dead, and He has power over all things (22.5-6)

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I just completed re-reading the Qur’an translation I had been using in the months before I converted to Islam in 1998. I formulated this personal goal in response to a question that consumes me: how does God guide people?

When I face reality as clearly as I can see it, I accept that I was not guided to Islam by a Muslim with beautiful clothing and impeccable manners. I did not travel abroad and experience a “traditional” culture. There were no scholars who had spent decades studying at the feet of bearded masters, nor mystics performing miracles and serving the downtrodden. Rather, there was a book in my hand as I sat in the Canadian wilderness. Surrounded by myriad signs of the Creator, this one book made me feel that The Author of the universe has a Voice.

And ever since then, I have listened for that Voice as best I can. I am not a scholar of the Qur’an by any standard, but I have read and pondered it far more than anything else in my time on Earth. While there is much that I desire to learn and experience, the Qur’an always triumphs in the long term, like a deep love from the past that can never be replaced. We were meant for each other, from time immemorial and for time everlasting.

For what is faith but a feeling you have when you hold a book in your hand?

Allah has (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat does tremble the skins of those who fear their Lord, then their skins and their hearts soften to Allah’s reminder. Such is Allah’s guidance, wherewith He guides whom He will. And him whom Allah sends astray, for him there is no guide.*

When God tells us about a place of everlasting beauty where all sadness will disappear like a dream, do we feel motivation in our hearts to change our lives for it?

And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil)

When a place of just retribution filled with pain and suffering is described, do our eyes shed tears at the possibility we and our loved ones may end up there?

O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire whereof the fuel is men and stones, over which are set angels strong, severe, who resist not Allah in that which He commands them, but do that which they are commanded

When the fact that we once did not exist is mentioned to prove that we will live again after we die, can we taste that certain truth?

How disbelieve you in Allah when you were dead and He gave life to you! then he will give you death, then life again, and then unto Him you will return

When stories of men and women from ancient civilizations are brought forth to show us the sacrifice it takes to succeed, are we inspired to walk in their footsteps?

In their history verily there is a lesson for men of understanding. It is no invented story but a confirmation of the existing (Scripture) and a detailed explanation of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for folk who believe

In 1998, I was probably sitting in a cafe at some point reading these same pages, and feeling the whisper of faith enter my heart. It is now 2017, and I again sit in a cafe feeling the reality of God. Human history is coming to an end. Final Judgement is real. July 16th, 2017 is just a moment, and then it will be gone. But our intentions, choices, and deeds will remain. Forever.

When Earth is shaken with her (final) earthquake

And Earth yields up her burdens,

and man said: What ails her?

That day she will relate her chronicles,

Because your Lord inspires her.

That day mankind will issue forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds.

And who does good an atom’s weight will see it then,

And who does ill an atom’s weight will see it then.

The Qur’an confounds our humanly-constructed notions of time and space. Pre-creation, the distant past, the present, and the eternal future are all weaved together. God knows everything there is to know, and what we understand is so little.

And with Him are the keys of the invisible. None but He knows them. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, nothing of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a clear record.

It is not my intention to tell you what the Qur’an means. I have but one goal: to encourage you to pick up the Qur’an again for yourself. To embrace it into your being as best you can. It is meant for you in a unique way that I will never know. What verses will cause your heart to burn inside your chest and your body to shake are not up to me. As far as I can tell, that is God’s domain alone.

He it is Who sends down clear revelations unto His slave, that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and lo! for you, Allah is full of Pity, Merciful

May the Author of the universe and the Qur’an bring us from darkness unto light.

*all translations of Qur’anic verses from the text in the picture

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Muhammad is only a messenger before whom many messengers have been and gone. If he died or was killed, would you revert to your old ways? If anyone did so, he would not harm God in the least. God will reward the grateful. (3.144)

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Dear Messenger of God

May the peace and blessings of God be upon you and your family

I am longing for you

In this night my heart sinks at the memory of how far away I am from you

It is not that I want to revert to my old ways

As there is so much for which to be grateful

But is it okay to simply say that I wish I could see you

I wish I could hear you

I wish I could walk beside you

For when my friend spoke of you

He spoke of the love that is both a means and an end

And every day I take the means that you called us to take

Like fasting

Like prayer

Like avoiding the forbidden

But there is a place in my heart whose end is simply your face

The face of the man who has changed my life more than any other

The face that God chose for you

And I yearn to see that face

for no other reason than my love for you

My Messenger

My Prophet

My Master

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“The provisions required for this spiritual journey consist of spiritual and ascetic practices to discipline the soul. Since relinquishing material attachments is very difficult, the traveler begins to cut the binding chains of attachment to the realm of multiplicity little by little and leaves the world of physical nature behind.

Hardly before the traveler recovers from the exhaustion of this journey, he enters the intermediate world, which is the world of psychic multiplicity. Here, he clearly realizes how precious are the treasures that material and external multiplicities have stored within his corporeal nature. These are the same imaginal psychic beings that come into being as a result of the traveler’s encounter with and interest in external multiplicities and are considered its outcome and by-products.

These thoughts and preoccupations hinder the travelers wayfaring and take away his serenity and peace of mind. When he wants to take repose in the remembrance of God for a short while, they besiege him like a deluge and threaten his whole being…

It is obvious that the pain and distress caused by psychic multiplicities are more powerful than multiplicities of the physical world. For one can willingly and deliberately retreat and isolate oneself and be saved from disturbance of and encounter with external multiplicities. But one certainly cannot free oneself from the disturbance of temptations and imaginations of the carnal soul, for those enticements always accompany one closely and intimately.

The traveler…is determined to leave behind the realm of temptations that is usually called the intermediate world. However, the traveler must be very alert and careful lest there remain any of those tempting thoughts in the corners of his heart. Because it is a characteristic of these imaginal elements to hide in the most obscured corners of the heart in such a way that the traveler is deceived when he wants to cast them out. He may be fooled to believe that he has freed himself of their evil presence and has been relieved of all remnants of the [the intermediate world]. But when the traveler reaches the spring of life and wants to quench his thirst from the fountains of wisdom, suddenly they attack him and finish him off…

The example of such a traveler is like that of a person who has filled a pool in his house with water but has not touched it for some time. Therefore, all the dirt and impurities of the water has settled down at the bottom of the pool and the water seems clean and clear to him. He assumes that the clarity and purity of the water is permanent. However, as soon as he wants to enter the pool or wishes to wash something in it, suddenly all that dirt and sediment contaminates the clear water again and spots of dirt reappear on the surface. Therefore, through persistent spiritual combat and ascetic practices the traveler must acquire such a degree of certitude and inward peace that imaginal psychic elements are subjugated and cannot disturb his mind when he turns attention to the Beloved Lord.

When the traveler passes through the realm of physical nature, and the intermediate world, he enter the world of spirit…”

‘Allamah Tabataba’i, Kernel of the Kernel, pp. 15-17

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Dear Layla

Dear Layla,

All I want is You.

I sat on the bumper of a car because my legs could not hold me anymore, and I cried tears of desperation. Heaving, shuddering, buckling under the weight of separation.

Then suppose, My God, my Master, my Protector and my Lord that I am able to endure Your chastisement, how can I endure separation from You?

You are so beautiful. So intoxicating. So perfect.

I want to spend forever with You.

And I cannot endure the pain of Your withdrawal.

Do not walk away from me.

Do not turn away from me.

Do not ever leave me to be in this world without You.

I cannot bear it, Layla.

I am just a man. A simple man. And You are You. Magnificent You.

I smell You in the evening wind.

I feel You against my skin.

I taste You in every joy.

And the yearning.

The yearning.

You are the One who started this.

I am only responding to Your smiles.

Your promise.

If I cannot trust that You will not break Your promise to this weak man than I have nothing.

Nothing.

So…

I will cry to You with the cry of those crying for help; I will weep to You with the weeping of the bereft; And I will call to You, ‘Where are You!’

looking up at Your apartment window

the soft glow of the light of Your home

so far from my grasp

while I am cold, wet, and shivering on the street below

heart burning

yearning with every desire I have ever had

for one moment in Your embrace

 

There is nowhere else to go

I will stand on this street until I pass out

and even then

I will hope that You will come pick up my motionless body

and bring me into Your home

because that is all I want

all I have ever wanted

expressed in a million ways

in moments remembered

forgotten

and yet to come

لا إله إلا الله

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