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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Stations’ Category

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 عمل 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)

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looking down on the earth

what can be seen

blue and green

lights at night

clouds swirling

 

the sun in the distance

does not move

rather

the earth spins

one half bathed in light

 

right now

the sun is about to rise

on baghdad

while new york city

has settled in for the night

 

so let me pray

to the One who knows all this and more

that this new day brings good

to every human soul

in iraq

 

39,203,499

that is how many souls are estimated

to be in iraq right now

 

i only know a few of their names

and those whose names i know

i barely know the faintest outline

of their life story

 

most of all

i wanted to move there

but my intention could not pierce

the wall of the Decree

 

but i am thinking right now

of certain faces

who i may have known

if i had been given the chance

and i am wishing them well

 

these are the times

when i realize my dependence on my Lord

because i do not have billions of dollars

to spend on your wellbeing

i do not have the power

to make you safe

i do not even have the opportunity to move there

and get to know you

and learn from you

but i can pray for you

 

i can pray to the One who knows

each and every one of your names

and the joys and tragedies of your stories

and the shape of your fingertips

and everything your eyes have seen

 

the One who can teach me everything i need to know

and protect me from every harm i have ever feared

and grant me every longing i have ever felt

and more

 

i can pray to the One that made all of this possible

and caused the sun to rise upon you

and the darkness to cover me

to give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter

and to save us from the punishment of the Fire

 

for even though i feel in exile

from my heart

the truth is that i am a servant

and there is no real loss

when one serves the Master of the tigris and the euphrates

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This is the third and last video on spirituality. In it I discuss the concepts of Beauty (جمال) and Majesty (جلال) and our hope and fear in God. I pray that you find benefit in it, and that God accepts it from me, ameen.

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how can a son honor his father

it seems impossible so why even bother

 

but the truth of gratitude can only be found

through trying to count the blessings that abound

 

without him there would be no David standing here

neither I nor my son on this Earth would appear

 

so with that fact so clear we can see it is true

that every blessing that I have has flowed through you

 

but more than just biology you have engendered in me

there are the years spent teaching this man that you see

 

basketball and baseball, my father was there

leaving work early to show that he cares

 

striving to win but also accepting defeat

for strength and gentleness, in my father they meet

 

taking me to Colorado’s mountains and Kenya’s great plain

showing me the world instead of seeking more gain

 

he could have worked more and achieved a higher lot

but his family came first, something I never forgot

 

even when at Andover, or Princeton or Brown

I always knew he’d be there if I ever felt down

 

and when my life’s work took me places he did not know

he never stopped trying to help me grow

 

He taught me to do right and give it my best

but his actions spoke louder than all the rest

 

for I have never doubted he wants the best for me

and he has done right by us, for all to see

 

so on his birthday we honor our father and friend

and try to pay a little back on a debt that never will end

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My father, me, and my grandfather at my high school graduation.

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In this second video, I discuss the concepts of taklīf and taqwā and their foundational role in our spiritual life. The upcoming fast of the month of Ramadan is highlighted as a practical example of the reality we are trying to understand and embody.

 

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for You

You need nothing

and yet

let me offer this to You

Creator of my soul

Provider of my consciousness

Giver of a promise to all

 

i cannot even fathom what lays hidden

but what i have heard and seen and felt

is already so beyond words

 

so let my gratitude flow through these words

using what You have given me for Your sake

to glorify You to the extent that You have opened my heart

to understand You

 

only You know Yourself truly

for us the approach has no end

so bless my works in this short life

for how can i claim anything

when i did not create my hands or my mouth or my mind

 

 

You

forever You

always You

never me

 

have mercy on David

for he is who You chose me to be

and were i to thank You

with every breath remaining in my time on earth

it would not even approximate

the reality of Your Generosity

 

يا كريم

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