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“According to the Holy Qurʾān and mutawātir traditions, all the sins which humans commit are pardonable if they repent sincerely. It is wrong to say that such a sin can never be pardoned. Allāh says in the Qurʾān, in Sūrah Ash-Shūrā verse 25:

And it is Allāh who accepts repentance from Allāh’s servants and pardons evil deeds, and Allāh knows what you do.

وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِى يَقْبَلُ ٱلتَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِۦ وَيَعْفُوا۟ عَنِ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ

Elsewhere in the Qurʾān, Allāh has mentioned Allāh’s Names as:

Tawwāb (The Constantly Turning to accept repentance)

  • Ghaffār (Intensely Forgiving)
  • Ghafūr (Completely Forgiving)
  • Ghāfir al-dhanb (Forgiver of sin)
  • Qābil al-tawb (Acceptor of repentance)

Allāh has given a general invitation to all the people to turn towards Allāh and seek forgiveness for their sins. If we study the meaning of the 54th verse of Sūrah al-Zumar we find that sinners have no cause to lose hope. This āyah is also known as “Āyat al-Raḥma (The verse of Mercy)”:

“Say: O My servants who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the Mercy of Allāh – Surely Allāh forgives all sins; surely Allāh is the Completely Forgiving, Especially Merciful.”

قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

A few points must be noted from the above verse.

  • Allāh says, ‘O My servant’ and not ‘O sinners!’ Even though he is addressing the sinners he addresses them as ‘My servants,’ so that the hopelessness of the servants may be transformed into hope in Mercy.
  • Allāh says, “who have acted extravagantly.” This denotes a soft approach. Allāh does not say, ‘O you who have acted blatantly,’ so that the sinners may not lose hope of obtaining pardon.
  • Allāh has told the sinners, “do not despair of Divine Mercy.” The use of a negative term signifies the prohibition of hopelessness. Also it means that to lose hope regarding salvation is forbidden!
  • Allāh did not stop at this, and further adds, “surely Allāh forgives all sins,” signifying that the statement covers every possible sin.
  • The addition of the word ‘altogether’ at the end signifies that the statement includes all sins without any exception.
  • At the end of the verse, Allāh repeats, “surely Allāh is the Completely Forgiving, Especially Merciful,” to stress upon the fact that Allāh desires and wishes to forgive those who repent.”

[from a text by Shaykh Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ḥusayn Dastghaib Shīrāzī رحمة الله عليه]

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ya Husayn

my baby is asleep

the night is quiet

a little warm

but there is no thirst here

blessing upon blessing


my mind wanders to desert sands

burning and pain

tears and longing

how history treated you differently

there was no quiet for rest

there was where innocence was lost

the young who witnessed the slaughter

had no earthly hope for redress

trauma met only with certainty

tribulation met only with perseverance

i can only hope that my children

use their comfort and ease

to light Husayni fires

and invite all to share

in the light and warmth

you have given us

the undying hope

that dispels all darkness

ya Husayn

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There is a lot of passion out there right now.

White people ready to fight and die for “relatively civilized” people.

Palestinians/Rohingya/Kashmiris/etc. and their allies pointing out the hypocrisy that now all of a sudden “the West” pulls out all the stops.

Shi’is suffering yet another attack in a masjid killing dozens of people, and no one really cares.

And myriad other things going on that would just prove my point even further.

So what are we to do?

The same thing we are always called to do by the Qur’an: stand out for justice even if it is against our own selves.

It is wrong for the West to be so hypocritical and so Westerners need to have a more global perspective, stop invading countries and sending drones to blow their people up, and generally be less racist.

It is wrong to back the invasion of another country, the destruction of its infrastructure, and the killing of many civilians simply because it fits your foreign policy agenda, so show solidarity somehow with the Ukrainians who are fighting and dying.

It is wrong to turn a blind eye to Shi’i suffering because you think Shi’i theology is wrong or you just don’t have the time or whataboutism. So just do something – really anything is a good step in the right direction – to affirm that Shi’i Muslims are just as Muslim as Sunni Muslims and are your brothers and sisters in faith and/or humanity.

As a rule, just don’t listen to any government in the world all the time. Russia is sometimes right when they point out the militarism of the West, but that doesn’t make them right when they unilaterally choose to invade Ukraine. The USA is sometimes right when they point out Chinese mistreatment of the Uyghur people, but that doesn’t make them right when they sanction Iran over nuclear weapons that they do not have (but Israel has 200 of them). India is sometimes right when it speaks about the mistreatment of Hindus in neighboring countries, but that doesn’t make them right when they turn a blind eye to violence against Muslims within India and pass laws based on Islamophobic concepts like “Love Jihad.”

No government in the world is the source of perfect justice. They are all flawed institutions that are locked in a system of mutual cooperation and competition, and which seek their own interests in a way that often puts morality aside. In my opinion, this is why the Shi’i and and Sunni legal traditions have historically been skeptical of government service (for example, by serving as a qāḍī [judge] appointed by the ruler). Once you are part of the system, the system may force you to do something that is hard to justify, and no government takes kindly to dissent from its own employees (especially if you are in the military).

Of course, anarchism is not a solution either (just read about the atrocities committed by anarchists on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939). Pure liberation from the system, at least as the last 100 years have proven, has meant just committing more immorality in the name of utopian liberation. So we are stuck where we are by God’s decree, but we still have to be the best we can be.

Since I am not Russian, I don’t have to make amends for the Russian invasion the way I have to for American invasions of Afghanistan, and Vietnam and so on. As a White American, I am morally obliged to grapple with the meaning of my own whiteness. I don’t know what you struggle with, but the point is that we have to look within and struggle. And not just as individuals, but as nations. I can speak to collective American spiritual problems since I am American. Russians will have to teach me what they need to do to correct their nation.

Of course, I and probably you have very little influence. The world moves without our consent and we just react. I may learn something new tomorrow that changes my perspective. But since God is just, God will not judge me based on something I do not yet know. I can only be judged based on what I know today, and this is the best I can do right now.

I hope it has been helpful for you in some way, and you are all welcome to share with me your insights on how to be better.

May Allah make us people who make this Earth a better place to live, and keep us from being people that contribute to injustices upon the land and sea, animals and humans, Muslims and all peoples, āmīn.

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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.”


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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I am sitting after prayer, wanting to reflect in writing. No need for polished prose or an attempt at well-constructed arguments. Just thoughts.

I feel more balanced right now than I have since August. Yesterday I was reminded of something very very deep in my relationship with God, something that I will never be able to fully convey to others. But that is how it should be – the intimacy (uns) of the bed is not meant for the chatter of the street.

And this morning I spent time centering my process of rectification (islah), both in terms of God’s Rights (huquq Allah) and the rights of God’s servants (huquq al-‘ibad). I know what I need to do and am doing it, and insha’Allah it will lead me to what I should do next.

In a conversation once with Michael Dann, he surmised that the following section of a verse in the Qur’an was a good summation of Islamic spirituality:

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ

Be aware of God such that it positively impacts your behavior, and God will teach you

I think that was a wise observation, masha’Allah, and pretty much sums up how I approach this process.

So then I had some space to just unwind. I read about the Korean War and Augustine. I looked up information about Vietnam, and wondered what it would be like to travel there. I didn’t realize that Vietnam is the 14th most populous country in the world, and has over 90,000,000 souls. Subhan Allah. May God grant them all good in this world, good in the Hereafter, and save them from the punishment of the Fire, ameen. I don’t know if I’ll ever met any of them, but I would like to insha’Allah.

I am truly grateful to be alive, and ask God for well-being (‘afiya) in my religion (din), my worldly life (dunya), and after death (‘akhira), ameen.

اللهم صل على محمد و آل محمد

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The Goal

On your birthday, you are reminded of your years and why you have done what you have done.

The goal is clear: Paradise.

The means to the goal: striving to know the best inward states and outward actions at any given moment, embodying them, and if best, teaching that to others.

“The best remembrance of Allah is when a person is faced with something forbidden (which he has the ability to perform), however because of the remembrance of Allah, he prevents himself from falling into sin.”

– Imam ‘Ali عليه السلام (as quoted in Weapon of the Believer: A Manual of Daily Prayers & Supplications, trans. by Saleem Bhimji, p. 82)

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zakat of knowledge

I have tried to carve out time in the last 3 years to study, in order to move forward towards God with greater clarity. Simultaneously, I have played a far less active role in the American Muslim community during that time. So in order to fulfill my obligation to give out of what Allah has given to me, I am going to share some of the best things I have read. Of course, every text is open to criticism, with the exception of the Qur’an. But I can only give you what I know – perhaps there are better things to read, but I have not read them yet! One must pay the zakat due on the knowledge one has been given, but those with less on the bookshelf (such as myself) can only pay a little.

A contemporary reworking of the classic genre of “The Lives of the Prophets (qisas al-anbiya).” Takes into account concerns such as evolution and our lack of knowledge regarding prehistory. Well-written and engaging, with full citations for those interested in checking the sources upon which the narrative is based.

Arastu, Shaykh Rizwan; God’s Emissaries: Adam to Jesus (I.M.A.M.: 2014)



An academic study of the contours of Christianity before the advent of Islam. Provides insight into the faith worlds of those who tried to follow the teachings of Jesus, upon him peace.

Kelly, Joseph F.; The World of the Early Christians (The Liturgical Press: 1997)



A translation of the Qur’an that breaks both the Arabic and English into parallel phrases, allowing the reader familiar with Arabic to easily compare the translation with the original text.

Qarai, Ali Quli; The Qur’an: With a Phrase-by-Phrase English Translation, 2nd ed. (ICAS Press: 2005)



Prayers attributed to the Prophet’s great grandson, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. If the Qur’an teaches one how to listen to God, this text teaches one how to talk to God.

‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn, Imam Zayn al-‘Ābidīn; The Psalms of Islam: al-Ṣaḥīfat al-Kāmilat al-Sajjādiyya, trans. by W. C. Chittick (Muhammadi Trust: 1988)



Historical overview of the events of Karbala and their universal significance in world history. Text is neither overly academic nor overly devotional.

Naqvi, ‘Allamah ‘Ali Naqi; The Martyr for Mankind (Shahid-e-Insaniyyat): An Abridgement, trans. by S. ‘Ali Akthar (Muhammadi Trust: 1986)



Section of a longer theological treatise that tries to analyze the way God will judge people’s good deeds vis-a-vis the beliefs they hold. Takes into account atheism, other religions, and divisions within Islam. Author’s approach is compassionate yet precise, while acknowledging the inherent pitfalls of any such analysis. The whole book is valuable, but this final section is particularly noteworthy.

Mutahhari, Murtada; Divine Justice, trans. by S.H. ‘Ābidī, M. Alīdīnā, and S.A. Mīrzā (Kitab al-Islamiyyah: n.d.) pp. 260-350



A contemporary articulation of the shari’ah meant to be practiced on a daily basis, with reflections on the meanings and wisdoms of the outward rules. There are more lengthy books in Arabic that explain the author’s perspectives in greater detail.

al-Modarresī, Grand Āyatullāh Sayyid M. Taqī al-Ḥusaynī; The Laws of Islam (Enlight Press: n.d.)


A journalistic analysis of how we determine price for various tangible (homes) and intangible (faith) goods. Easy to read, yet based on scholarly academic research documented in the endnotes. Provides numerous insights into human behaviors and why the capitalist economy functions the way it does. Particularly insightful (and scary) chapter on the economics of climate change.

Porter, Eduardo; The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do (Portfolio: 2011)


ربنا زدنا علما

و نعوذ بك من علم لا ينفع

اللهم لا علم لنا إلا ما علمتنا إنك أنت العليم الحكيم

Our Lord, increase us in knowledge!

And we seek refuge in You from a knowledge the brings no benefit!

O Allah! There is no knowledge except what You have taught us! Truly You are the All-Knowing, All-Wise

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Laylat ‘Ashura

on this night

standing before the tent of Zaynab

was the only place to be

so i beseech You

Creator of New York City

Sweller of the Atlantic Ocean

Lord of Jupiter and Mars

to place me in the service of Your beloveds

in whatever land You wish

in whatever time You desire

there is no god but You

لبيك يا حسين

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Everything is philosophy (‘ilm) and politics (‘amal). Sincerity (ikhlas) in both is the basis of salvation and connected to the depths of one’s realizations of Allah’s Oneness (tawhid).


The most valuable thing in the whole world is free: “I believe in what has come from Allah as it was intended by Allah, and I believe in what has come from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) as it was intended by the Messenger of Allah.” (al-Shafi’i)


The Qur’an implies that those in history most likely to reject Allah’s rights over them are propertied men with male offspring.


There are those that are trying to get to Paradise, those who do not know there is a Paradise, and those who obtain a lot of this world by oppressing those trying to get to Paradise. Seek the first with sincerity, teach the second with mercy, and oppose the third with courage.


Every valid criticism you have ever made of another person, and every valid criticism you have ever heard another say or seen in print – look inside yourself and apply it to your own self.


Every moment is Divine Intervention.


If we were to give every breath from now until the moment we die for the sake of Allah, it would not be equal to the blessings we have already been given prior to this breath.


Whatever we do, we should try to obey Allah, and however we choose to do it, we should try to not become an excuse for others to hate Islam.


Islam is about opportunity cost: there will never be anything more valuable than choosing what Allah wants from me at any given moment.


I don’t know my own state with Allah, and you don’t know your own state with Allah, so let’s not pretend anymore that I know your state and you know my state.


We can’t speak of desiring only Allah unless we actually desire nothing except Allah: not food, sleep, sex, companionship, housing, clothes, job, social life, family, study opportunities, respect, honor, dignity, and so on. Allah has described Jannah in deeply physical and social ways. So if we are not willing to give up something in this life for its superior mirror image in the hereafter, then we are definitely not truthful about giving up the rewards of the hereafter for the Creator of the hereafter alone.


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love the prison

there is a swirling tempest in my soul

and there is no escape

it cannot let itself out

a prison of duty and empathy

have shut the doors

respite is temporary

and the waves surge

and yet

on the outside nothing moves

nor sound is made


i must quiet the fury

and find peace

in the reality of this day

dissolve the craving

for different people

different places

different activities


يا سلام


You are with me here

shouldn’t You be enough

for this seemingly unbreakable will

that dreams when imprisoned

unable to fully embrace

what You have decreed


يا غني


forgive this selfishness

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