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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Stations’ Category

Generosity

i affirm that You are the source of everything

One

Unique

Singular

الصمد

You have always been as You always were

and will always be

Manifest and Hidden

Outward and Inward

الظاهر الباطن

Unfolder of time and space

Giver of bodies

Breather of spirits

الخالق البارئ المصور

this realm is supported by You alone

these words manifest with Your decree

and i am accountable

الغفور الغفار الرحمان الرحيم

You gave me these hands

You gave me these eyes

You gave me this computer

You gave me this floor

You gave me this desk

You gave me this security

You gave me this health

You gave me this reality

i can never pay you back

“The most thankful of Your servants has not the capacity to thank You”

الكريم الوهاب النافع الهادي الباسط

my good deeds add nothing to Your Perfection

and my bad deeds stain no one but me

i seek refuge in Your Eternal Generosity

by which all that i have ever known is

and by which i am

and through which i will live again

after a period where the world goes on without me

just as it went on for so long before i was born

as You have promised

so may Your Beginningless Endless Blessings and Peace

be upon Muhammad and his family

يا أرحم الراحمين

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perspective

“My dear, you have not seen anything except yourself, and whatever you have seen you did not compare it with the world around you. Compare whatever you possess, from your life to the worldly treasures in your possession, with your city, your city with your country, and your country with all the hundreds of the countries of the world, whose names you might not have even heard of, and all those countries with the whole solar system and its vast spheres which are not more than tiny fragments of the sun, and the whole solar system with the Milky Way, of which our sun along with its planets is one of millions of other stars and a part of the huge galaxy, and there are several million of such galaxies like the Milky Way. All these are a part of the physical world, whose vastness is not known to anyone except its Creator and the discoveries of the discoverers have succeeded in revealing only a small fraction of it. Yet this physical world has no significance whatsoever as compared to the supra-physical world, whose realms lie beyond the powers of imagination of the human intellect. In the light of this, let us reexamine the extent and scope of our lives and the share of our fortune in the realm of existence.”

-Sayyid Khumayni رحمة الله عليه

 

Within Reach

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i know now that in the past i was deluded

i know that i thought i had done enough to earn a reward

i thought that i was going to be compensated for my struggles with something that i wanted

and i thought it was all a sign that i was blessed

 

but was i really worshipping God for the sake of God

or was i just doing things to get something better than what i had left

the worship of a capitalist

but my capital is nothing but hope

ارْحَم مَّن رَّأْسُ مَاِلهِ الرَّجَاءُ

 

remember Ayyub عليه السلام

remember Husayn عليه السلام

and know that God is being gentle with me because i am weak

they were better than me in the Heavens

and received worse than me on this earth

 

yes, my Lord, i am weak

i stand before You on this day knowing how weak i am

and i admit that i have not persevered enough in opposing what You do not like

nor have i persevered enough in doing what You like

nor have i persevered enough in accepting what You have decreed

nor have i attained real sincerity in doing that for Your sake alone

 

all i have is the hope that You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy

and where i am weak, You are Strong

where i am sinful, You are Forgiving

لا إله إلا أنت سبحانك إني كنت من الظالمين

 

and Thank You for bringing me to this day

to realize it is a mercy that i am still alive

so that i have some hope to remove these evils from within

before I end up carrying them with me into the barzakh

 

وَمَا تَوْفِيقِي إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ

 

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My favorite gospel is the Gospel of Matthew. I think it is beautifully composed and spiritually moving. Of course, I do not believe that Jesus, upon him peace, was God incarnate. I can appreciate the Jesus of Matthew without confessing the doctrine of the Trinity.

I still cherish the copy of the Bible I was gifted by my childhood church in 1988. In honor of the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, upon him peace, I wanted to share with you selections from the famous Sermon on the Mount. It is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, as rendered in this particular Bible (RSV), and it is full of wisdom for Muslims.

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Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Bless are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you…

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished…

…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell…

…Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven…when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who is in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you…

…And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…

…Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

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the sun sits low in the west

and the shadows lengthen

yet our lips still hymn Your praise

for it is You who gave us life

and it is You who calls us home

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may God send blessings and peace upon the Prophet Muhammad and his family

It is hard to explain the beauty of Azadari (recalling the injustices inflicted upon the family of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him). It is something that needs to be tasted to be understood. Unfortunately, there seem to be so many cultural and theological barriers to tasting the truths conveyed through the various mediums through which Azadari culture is expressed. I hope that this brief reflection can help break through those barriers, and convey to the reader some of what is felt in the heart.

A year ago, a young Pakistani-American poet named Aqeela Naqvi wrote an Azadari poem in memory of al-Qāsim b. al-Ḥasan, one of the great-grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad killed at Karbala. She entitled it “sweeter than honey,” a reference to God sending comfort in the midst of tragedy for those who die “in the way of God (fī sabīl Allāh).” A few years before that, Iranian artist Hassan Roholamin posted a painting he did of the same story and described it using the same words: “sweeter than honey.”

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Between text and image, a moment in historical and sacred time is shared with the world. One artist living in the United States, speaking in English. Another artist living in Iran, speaking through images. Both Azadari. Both exquisite.

These artistic renditions capture both the personal and communal tragedy of ‘Ashura. The love of an uncle for his nephew. The bitter pain of betrayal when Muslim soldiers kill a young Muslim man who is nothing less than the great-grandson of the man they claim to follow. And yet, the hope in God that shines through the darkness.

This art speaks directly to our times of confusion, when people ask how can Islam be beautiful when Muslims have done so much evil. But that question was asked long before “the West” started asking it, and the answer lies with people like al-Qāsim b. al-Ḥasan. Azadari is a light that was started by the family of the Prophet, and history has shown that nothing can extinguish it. And for hearts who have tasted that light, it is sweeter than honey.

 

sweeter than honey

by Aqeela Naqvi

the meeting of swords, the clashing of souls
brought by dawn after silence of night
thousands who fight for darkness to prevail—
less than one hundred warriors of the light

the tenth of Muharram on Karbala’s sands
a battle this morning has bloodily raged
a few hours the length of centuries seems
a grief by which young children are aged

from the first arrow released by the enemy
Imam Hussain’s companions for him have bled
while there is strength remaining in their bones
not a drop of the Prophet’s blood will be shed

men continue to leave, bodies continue to return
as a bloody scene in a weeping desert unfurls
until finally none of these brave souls remains
each companion valiantly departs from this world

yet still, Yazeed’s army continues to advance
Imam Hussain’s family now must enter the fray
brothers and nephews and sons never to return
on burning sands their bodies now lay

of Karbala’s youth there is a brave soul
who has come now to ask his Uncle a question
to take up his sword and to enter the battle
he has come to seek his Imam’s permission

how can Hussain look upon this young face
and let him go knowing the enemy’s plans
that they will not rest until piercing his skin
until his blood flows like rivers in the sands

he refuses but his nephew Qasim is insistent
he kisses his uncle’s hands with this request
to allow him to defend the message of Islam
until then the blood in his veins will not rest

his requests are delivered with such earnest
that Imam Hussain can deny him no longer
he kisses his face and allows him to leave
his face so much like the face of his brother

in youth, wealth or beauty or power or fame
anything we dream of our horizon may hold
our bones are now strong and our blood is fresh
thoughts of death come when we’re frail and old

when it comes to religion, we still have time
when we’re older we’ll learn more of Islam
when we’re older will come the light of our faith
when we’re older will we understand our Qur’an

right now all that matters is being young
all is enjoyment from each dusk to dawn
is that how it is? is this age and youth?
or have we understood living all wrong?

when we see Karbala, we see there are youth
many who are not quite much older than us
there is Qasim and there is Muhammad and Aun
who at such an age put in Allah their trust

youth who come to the aid of their Imam
with no thought to the length of their years
ready to stand for the purity of their beliefs
even if it means facing the enemy’s spears

Hazrat Qasim enters the battle with such valor
the cub no less than his father, the lion, Hassan
a young boy striking fear into soldier’s hearts
showing them how the battle of the soul is won

eager to defend Islam and his Imam Hussain
he does not hesitate in setting off on the plains
the enemy hopes to strike fear in his heart—
forgetting which bloodline runs through his veins

this is the son of Hamza and Haydar!
the son of Abu Talib and Hassan al-Mujtaba!
his is a lineage more radiant than the stars
this is the grandson of Muhammad al-Mustafa!

yet the cruelty of the charge, the cutting of his bones
the army surrounds him – imagine the scene
men racing forward on horses, and his spilling blood
amidst snarling wolves, a young child’s screams…

a soldier coming forward and striking his head
and Hazrat Qasim falling down on the plains
with wounds kissing his skin, this final farewell
“O dear Uncle, come to my aid!”

like a wild falcon, Hussain enters the battle
the enemy from his force scatters and flees
he cradles this young child’s head to his chest
as Qasim’s soul from this world slowly leaves

“By Allah! It is difficult for your Uncle
that he could not come to your aid…”
as he holds him in his arms, these tender words
the master of Martyrs to a young boy says…

in death, Hazrat Qasim’s face holds a smile
and in it the night’s memory comes to mind
an image of a young face in a tent full of men
who knew with dawn, all present would die

of the boy who realized his youth may be at stake
who tomorrow, may life for death have to barter
yet with passion in his voice he had asked his Imam
“Uncle, am I, too, included in the list of martyrs?”

Imam Hussain had responded, “O my dear son!
How do you consider death (in the way of Allah)?”
and Hazrat Qasim had smiled such a sweet smile
and in his answer, this shining lesson history saw

that the human’s true price is greater than this world
that the only thing worth it is eternity

that no oppressor or tyrant can shackle your soul
when God Himself has created you free

that to enter the fray with your honor and die on your feet
is better than living life on your knees

for such death dying for truth
can only be as he said:

for Qasim, such death,
sweeter than honey

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my Husayn

you are for everyone

but you are also just for me

quiet house

sleeping child

and my thoughts are with you

 

where are you now

what does your consciousness perceive

are you alone

or surrounded by other souls

 

what i know

is the ache in my heart

the yearning

the longing

inexorable

 

i am in a new place

doing different things

surrounded by different people

and yet

it is the same

 

my heart is beating

ya Husayn

 

i don’t need anyone

to be with you

i don’t need any place

to feel the cool metal of your dharih

it is all part of me

ingrained

 

i used to think i understood love

but then you came into my life

and turned everything upside down

but i’d do it all over again

for you

my Husayn

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