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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

muharram___wallpaper_for_mobile_by_ahmedmakky-d81axtw

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حسبنا الله و نعم الوكيل

In the fall of 1994, I left my parent’s home in Illinois to go to boarding school at Phillips Academy (often referred to as “Andover”) in Massachusetts. From that point up until I moved to our current apartment in Manhattan, I never lived in the same place for more than a couple years. But from December 2013 until August 2018, my wife and I (and subsequently our son) have had no other home except our place in Greenwich Village.

I write this in an empty apartment. The movers came the other day to take our stuff to Oakland, CA, where we will live at least for the next 2 years insha’Allah. My wife and son have gone to Cape Cod to vacation with her brothers. And I am about to board a plane to Bangladesh, to visit the Rohingya refugee camps outside Cox’s Bazar with my friend Khalid Latif. We will return to NYC for Eid, and then move out West.

I am leaving the first place that has truly felt like home in my adult life. It is impossible for me to describe the two-year process that led to this momentous change. There are clearly definable choices made for me, such as my wife’s rejection of my proposal that we move to Oman for a year so that I could become fluent in Arabic. There are structural issues, such as my realization that my career in higher education had to move outside the secular university (such as my past three employers – Dartmouth, Brown, and NYU). And there are audacious hopes, such as the belief that God is guiding me, and closed certain doors and opened others for reasons known only to God.

A friend’s blog said it better than I can, through quoting Imam ‘Ali عليه السلام:

“I attained realization of God, may He be glorified, by the dissolution of resolutions, and by the solution of complexities.”

My resolve has dissolved in the face of the much larger structural and historical complexities that I am a part of. I have inherited the story of “Muslims in the United States” and “Islam and Hinduism” and “the Rohingya Crisis” merely by the billion choices I have made in my life that led me to this moment in August 2018. All three of those phenomena existed before I was born, and I merely found my way to them as I freely explored this Universe to the extent that I have been able to. This is assuredly a matter of “destiny (qadr).” Yes, I chose my path, but my path has led me to confront my lack of agency in the face of realities beyond my ability to control. I may fly to Dhaka to continue working on behalf of my Rohingya brothers, I may move to California to study with Hindu scholars, my wife and I may buy a house together to continue building our American Muslim family, but what can I really accomplish in the long run? It is all so much bigger than me, and I am just one human being.

My friend writes:

Imam Ali (as) is talking about feeling of disorientation, of being pained and agitated – and yet moving. with grace that behind all these events is the face of God – shining beyond what feels like our faltering and collapsing. The trials Imam Ali (as) faced during his own life time were extremely difficult to digest – someone with fervor and love for Truth at heart, and yet a political and community leader that tried his best to preserve and unite the Muslim community, often despite himself. It takes an immensely liberated spirit to take on such roles, and basically – keep it together when so much around you falls apart. From losing your beloved role model, your wife, betrayals, violence and isolation and yet giving a helping hand and honoring unity above all else. Through all this, Imam Ali (as) says that it was through the adversities that he attained realization of God 

Is there any doubt that Imam ‘Ali عليه السلام would tackle these projects if he were here today? Of course he would yearn to liberate the Rohingya from their oppression, to respond to the theological challenges of Hinduism, and call to Islam throughout the United States. In addition, he would confront so many more problems that I cannot work on full-time: Yemen, Iraq, Palestinethe continued theological challenge of Christianity, and so on.

But whether one is Sunni or Shi’i, one accepts that one can never be as great as Imam ‘Ali عليه السلام, let alone the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و آله و سلم. I felt that so vividly after my first ziyara in Najaf. I remember it so clearly, as it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I did my ziyara, prayed two rak’ahs, and just broke down in uncontrollable tears. The entirety of what I knew of Imam ‘Ali’s life came flooding into my heart. All the trials and tribulations and hardships. His loyalty and steadfastness and determination to continue doing what needed to be done, no matter how hard. And I knew then, and I remember now, that if I gave every breath I have in the paths of righteousness, it will be but a drop from the ocean of Abu Turab عليه السلام.

And so I keep moving forward. Where I will die is known only to my Lord. But while I am still blessed with the ability to do so, I set out to work on the challenges I believe Allah wants me to address as best I can.

Just another servant of the servants of the servants of ‘Ali.

Meshed_ali_usnavy_(PD)

 

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Yemen

infographic

I am not even going to pretend that I know what to do.

Our Lord, You alone have authority over all the Earth. I ask You by Your Names al-Ghani (The Rich), al-Qawi (The Powerful) and al-Khabir (The All-Knowing) to help those suffering in Yemen. For I am poor and weak and ignorant.

لا إله إلا أنت سبحانك إني كنت من الظالمين

اللهم صل على محمد وآل محمد

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If God wants there to be a caliphate, then the Muslim Ummah is in a state of sin because it does not exist.

If God does not want there to be a caliphate, then the early Muslim community innovated something in the religion that was not part of it.

If God alone has the right to appoint the leader of the Muslim community, then that leader is the leader whether or not they are recognized by the Muslim community.

The leader has always been the axis of Muslim unity, the expression of Islam’s universal claims over the Earth, and the focal point of the prophetic legacy. As such, I renew my allegiance to Imam Mahdi. There is no one else who can lead a billion Muslims. There is no one else who can unite over 50 nations. There is no one else who can truly change history.

هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ

It is He who has sent His Apostle with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all religions, though the polytheists should be averse. (9.33)

This has clearly not come to pass.

So when and how?

The only clear answer in our tradition I have ever found is Imam Mahdi. Left to our own devices, we are miserably failing. How many decent, good Muslims have been killed in violent conflicts over the last 10 years? How many decent, good Muslims are living in exile from their lands? How many decent, good Muslims have no recourse in this world to anything even resembling justice?

Muslim unity is a farce. Muslim power is gone. If a second-rate army, like that of Myanmar, wants to push a million of us out of our homes, then they face no resistance. If they want to gang rape hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslim women, they face no resistance. If they want to burn masjids, they face no resistance.

Spiritually, it should make us sick to our stomachs. It should fill us with righteous anger. It should make us weep for the suffering of our sisters and our brothers, and our own shortcomings in assisting them. And it should drive us closer to Imam Mahdi, for only someone appointed by God can lead this Ummah.

In the meantime, there is more work to do than we have the power to accomplish. There is more injustice than we can ever hope to overcome. There is more struggle to undertake than we can bring our selves to endure.

اَللَّهُمَّ ٱكْشِفْ هٰذِهِ ٱلْغُمَّةَ عَنْ هٰذِهِ ٱلامَّةِ بِحُضُورِهِ

وَعَجِّلْ لَنَا ظُهُورَهُ

«إِنَّهُمْ يَرَوْنَهُ بَعِيداً وَنَرَاهُ قَرِيباً»

بِرَحْمَتِكَ يَا ارْحَمَ ٱلرَّاحِمِينَ

O Allah, relieve this community from grief through presenting him

and expedite his advent for us:

“Surely, they think it to be far off, and We see it nigh.”

In the name of Your mercy; O most merciful of all those who show mercy.

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when, like me, you face the reality of your shortcomings in the middle of the month of Ramadan, then perhaps you will feel what i felt when i read this prayer a friend sent me:

 

My God, if You do not forgive in this honored month anyone except the one who sincerely purified himself for You, in his fasting and his prayers, then who will be there for the negligent sinner, when he drowns in the sea of his sins

My God, if You do not have mercy on any except the obedient, then who will be there for the disobedient

And if You do not accept from anyone except the performers of good actions, then who will be there for those who fall short

My God, those who fast have profited, those who stay up in the prayer have won, and those who are sincere have succeeded

but we are Your sinful servants

so be kind to us through Your Mercy

and save us from the Fire through Your Forgiveness

O Gracious, O Most Merciful of those who show mercy

 

begging

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An important Islamic belief is believing in the Barzakh, the realm where everyone who has ever died is currently existing.

It is mentioned in the Qur’an:

When death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord! Take me back, that I may act righteously in what I have left behind.’ ‘By no means! These are mere words that he says.’ And ahead of them is a barrier (barzakh) until the day they will be resurrected.

Commenting on the Barzakh in his book entitled Sabīl al-Iddikār, a widely respected Sunni scholar Shaykh Abdullah al-Haddad رحمة الله عليه remarks:

The Intermediate Realm is the abode which lies between the world and the life-to-come. It has more affinity with the latter, and is in fact a part of it. It is a place where spirits and spiritual things are predominant, which physical bodies are secondary but share with the spirits in their experiences, whether felicity and joy, or torment and grief.

In another book entitled Manāzil al-Ākhirah, the widely respected Shī‘ī scholar Shaykh Abbas al-Qummi رحمة الله عليه states:

A question may arise in the minds of people as to where does such a vast event of Barzakh take place. A human’s intellect is beyond its understanding. In narrations this universe is compared to the mother’s womb, and the state of Barzakh to the expansive world outside it. If a child in the mother’s womb is informed about a vast and expansive world outside, it will be difficult for it to grasp it. In the same manner human intellect cannot understand the state of the expansive Barzakh.

As we grow spiritually, we find our minds and hearts returning to the Barzakh. Why? Because it is the place where our deeds become manifest. Fasting in the month of Ramadan, praying obligatory prayers, avoiding what has been forbidden by God – these actions are not only meant for the Day of Judgement. They are also ways of seeking mercy in the Barzakh.

It is often said in the Islamic tradition:

الدنيا دار العمل والآخرة دار الجزاء

This world is the realm of action, and the next world is the realm of recompense.

When we finally reach the Barzakh – something that we all will face – there will be nothing that we can do to save ourselves then. All that we can hope in, after the mercy of God, are the deeds that we did for God’s sake while we were still alive.

Billions upon billions of individuals exist in the Barzakh. Anyone specific that you know who lived and died on Earth – Einstein, Paul of Tarsus, Joan of Arc, al-Ghazali, Mulla Sadra, and so on an so forth – is there now. Every Muslim on earth says in their prayers

السلام عليك أيها النبي و رحمة الله و بركاته

Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of God and His blessings

Where does that greeting go? Our belief is that it goes to the Barzakh, to be heard by the Messenger of God, blessings upon him and his family. Practically speaking, one scholar has put it this way: “You don’t have to be in Madinah for the Prophet to hear you!”

There are innumerable stories about the barzakh in our Muslim literary heritage. In the aforementioned Manāzil al-Ākhirah it states

During my days in Najaf, there broke a severe famine. I left my house leaving behind my children who were crying with hunger and thirst so as to search some sustenance for them. I passed through Wadi-us Salaam [a famous graveyard in Najaf] and entered there in with the intention of reciting Fatiha for the departed souls, as this act would pacify me and make me forget my sorrow. I saw some people in the graveyard with a bier, and they requested me to join them in the funeral. Being an act of great reward I accompanied them. They carried the bier and suddenly we entered into a vast garden. They took the bier in a huge and beautiful place therein, which had all the amenities of luxury. I entered through the door and saw a handsome youth wearing splendid attires seated on a golden throne. As soon as he saw me, he addressed me by my name and saluted me. He signaled me to go near him and I replied in the negative. He said “I am the same person whose funeral you are attending. I am a native of so and so town and the people you saw in my funeral were the blessed Angels, who brought me from my town to this Paradise for the intermediate (Barzakh) period.” When I heard these words from the lips of the person, I forgot my sorrow and started adoring the beauties of the garden. When I came out of the garden, I saw some other places, and when I observed carefully I saw my departed parents and relatives standing at the doors. When they saw me, they invited me to enter in. I entered therein and they invited me for food, which was very delicious. While eating I suddenly remembered my wife and children who were dying of hunger and thirst and my face turned pale. My (father) understood and said, “O my son Mahdi! What is the reason for your sorrow”? I replied, “O father! While eating, I suddenly remembered that my wife and children are dying of hunger at home, and that made me sad.” He pointed towards a stock of rice and told me to take as much as I desired. I spread out my cloak and filled it to the full. And as soon as I got up, I found myself standing in the same place in Wadi-us-Salaam. With my cloak filled with rice, I hurried towards my house and we ate to our full. Quite some time passed, but the stock never got over. One day my wife asked me as to where I had got it from. She forced me to tell her, and I had to narrate the whole incident to her. She got up in excitement to take some rice from it so as to eat it, but it had disappeared.

These stories give comfort to our souls. They help us imagine a place that is literally beyond our dreams. It is important for all of us to cultivate a connection with the Barzakh. One can do so by visiting graves, giving charity on behalf of those in the Barzakh, and many other means.

It is reported that when the Messenger of God, blessings upon him and his family, would visit the graveyard he would say to the people in the Barzakh, “You have gone on ahead of us and we will follow you.”

How undeniably true.

We are all on our way there right now.

 

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O Allah,

You Who have clothed us,

Your weak servants,

with the dress of existence

through Your grace and favor and pure mercy and generosity,

prior to any service and worship on our part,

and without needing our worshipping and servitude.

You have bestowed upon us diverse kinds of spiritual and corporeal favors,

and different sorts of internal and external mercies,

although our non-existence causes no flaw

in Your power and strength,

nor our existence adds anything

to Your greatness and prestige.

Now that the headspring of Your beneficence gushed forth,

and the sun of Your Beautiful Beauty effulged,

drowning us in the seas of mercy

and illuminating us with the lights of Your Beauty,

make up for our shortcomings,

sins

and failures

with the light of internal success

and Your secret help and guidance,

and relieve our fully attached hearts from mundane attachments,

and make them cling to Your Holy Might.

 

(Prayer at the end of Ādāb aṣ-Ṣalāt: The Disciplines of the Prayer)

Rouhollah_Khomeini_in_exile,_Najaf,_Pilgrimage_the_shrine_of_Imam_Ali_(6)

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