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A Living Model

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A Living Model -- Imam Husayn Day
from
"Living Islam East & West"
(Excerpts Only)

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

In every aspect of life there is an outer form and an inner meaning. They are always connected but not always in the right balance. If the form is not joined with the meaning, then the balance in existence has been disrupted. If we do not live according to what we say and teach, our lives will become barren. If the true message of Islam is not adhered to, in both its form and meaning, then it is a distorted message and will end up being yet another religion which is far removed from its source. Thus has the Islamic heritage become diluted and sloppily tolerant. Muslims have become easy-going, open-minded, or injudiciously understanding. The result is that our children are out of place and in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing and we blame them or blame others for our misfortune.

Those Muslims who have inherited the legacy of the Ahl al-Bayt (the family of the Prophet) by birth must yet earn the reward of this legacy by practicing the form of this great heritage.

Of little value is that which is inherited. It is often destructive rather than constructive. It is very fortunate that we have certain occasions to remember, to reactivate, and to relive, so that we become unified, as members of that mystical caravan from time immemorial -- that began with the birth of Adam -- which raises man to the ultimate potential in this experience of life.

Let us look at the Qur`an, that we may share the recognition of the responsibility that is upon our shoulders.

Only Allah is your Protector and Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow. And whoever takes Allah and His Messenger and those who believe for a guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant. (5:55-56)

Most of us know the specific, historical reason for the revelation of this verse. Imam 'Ali was in the bowing position of the prayer in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. A man came in asking for a voluntary contribution of alms. The Imam, while bowing, lifted his hand for the man to take the ring off his finger. Now there is a question here that we all have to settle. How could a man like Imam 'Ali be aware of the fact that there was a beggar, a man seeking material help in the mosque when we have a tradition that his state was so undistracted in prayer that his companions pulled an arrow from his leg? Shaykh al-Tusi described in Kitab at-Shafi the meaning of how these two qualities were combined in 'Ali. In short, he was the greatest of believers in his prayer, yet he was fully aware of what was going on.

We are here in this life in order to follow the caravan led by the blessed Prophet, and by Imam 'Ali, and Imam Hasan, and Imam Husayn, and the nine other Imams. We are here in order to be in Karbala. Not once a year, or once a month, or once a week, or once a day but beyond time, to be in that state.

If we want to belong to the party of Allah, to the party of the Prophet's House, there are several conditions for it, not like most other parties which one can join one day and from which one can withdraw one's allegiance the next. This party is based on behavior, the science of how to be. It is concerned with being-ness. We are brought into this world in order to learn how to conduct ourselves, how to be in glorification of Allah, how to be in Islam which is submission, unquestioning and total submission. This the meaning of tawhid.

Imam 'Ali was a man of tawhid. He was a man who was in this world and did not belong to it, a man who was cognizant of its totality. It was he who said, "You think you are a small universe and within you is folded up the entire cosmos." He was in a state of prayer and yet was aware of who was in front of him. This is the state of a man in total abandonment, in pure, absolute consciousness, unified with the entire creation of reality.

This man was one about whom it was said: "He gives drink and drinks and yet is not distracted by his drunkenness." This drunkenness was due to joyfulness, this drunkenness was abandonment in Allah.

About this state Imam 'Ali said: "His joy in that state does not distract him from his beloved; nor is he distracted by the cup; nor is he distracted by life, by troubles, by goals, or by doing righteous deeds." His drunkenness of his joyfulness was under his control because he was a fully awakened being. He was in the state of completeness. He was the perfect man. He is the man whom we try to emulate, the dust of whose footsteps we seek to follow.

The culture of the family of the Prophet is a complete model, an entire reality. If we want to know aspects of the overall reality then we have no other option but to take to the path that has been trodden by those who have achieved knowledge of that reality. That is the only logical thing that any man with sense and respect for himself would do. As charity starts at home, it must begin with the individual. Entering that party, to be as though he were amongst the Family of the Prophet, to be in fearful awareness, aware of death at all times. One must be willing to face the next life joyfully, knowing that we have done our best and that there is nothing left except to see the face of Allah without any distraction as is invariably the case in this life.

The affliction of Imam Husayn is the affliction of each one of us, except that in our case, since we are not completely dedicated to the path of Allah, we do not see it as sharply as in the case of Karbala. We are all at all times confronted with tests and affliction.

Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, We believe, and not be tried? (29:2)

The purpose of this test is to enable us to sort out that part of us that must be left behind, to be destroyed, that is to say, the lower aspect of the self. Thus, the higher aspects will become habit, and a way of life. Our affliction is, therefore, positive, that we may evolve and move higher and higher into that ultimate realm that leaves us at the final point of tawhid. Here one sees nothing other than the blessedness that comes from the Creator even though, when an affliction is experienced, we may not like it.

A man of submission sees nothing other than goodness in his life which comes to him from his Creator. If he dislikes anything he sees it as deriving from himself or as a result of his own ignorance. Therefore, he is content at all times with his knowledge and behaves outwardly as correctly as possible, balancing between justice and peace.

We have all begun from the point of absolute peace, non-existence. We have come from the unknown, from a point that we cannot remember or describe, but the truth is that it was remembered in the knowledge of Allah.

There surely came over man a period of time when he was a thing not worth mentioning. (76:1)

Everyone of us is a part of the one and only jigsaw puzzle. The entire creation is entire because of all that it contains, and we are an aspect of it.

So trial and affliction, fitna, is for our own benefit, for our own training, because it helps us to evolve, and if it happens in a revolutionary way, then that evolution is faster. If we are afflicted and every door is closed, as was the case for Imam Husayn in Karbala, then we should praise and thank Allah for we truly must depend upon Him. At such a time we are given the opportunity to say and to act upon "There is no power nor strength except with Allah the Most High, the Mighty." We cannot turn anywhere. We cannot depend on our family, neighbors, or friends.

Year after year we are given opportunities to reach the point of Karbala experientially so that we can go beyond the description of the moment. Not everyday is Karbala nor every moment, rather Karbala is beyond time. We are already with the eternal martyr who turns the name of destruction upside down and causes it to mean everlastingness.

The affliction of Imam Husayn is our affliction. His affliction has always afflicted mankind. The outward condition of his affliction was a result of man's apathy and complacency. The Muslims reverted to their old social habits of nomadic life. In nomadic life there was a hereditary leadership, but ultimately it was based on the ability of the best man to raid and fight, to be cunning, and to exhibit the highest level of courage and adventurousness. Also, compassion and generosity were qualities considered important.

The way of Muhammad elevated that culture into a much higher form, into the only fitting way for a man to exist in this life. Everybody was given the opportunity to worship. A man in a state of tawhid (unification with Allah) does not even recognize that he lives in jihad, that is to say, fighting in the way of Allah. He does not wait for someone to come and give him the answers. He is in a state of inner, constant revolution. He is attached to the world. He is free and yet constrained by his Creator. He is leashed by a leash which gives him his freedom: the freedom of no choice. He does not have to wonder or think. It is not a process of thought that is in time -- that is electromagnetically, chemically and otherwise biologically constricted. It is spontaneous, innate, and instinctive. It is by Allah, from Allah, to Allah, because he is a man of Allah.

An enlightened member of the Prophet's family, in our time, once remarked that the birth of Imam Husayn was not on his birthday, which was the 3rd of Sha'ban in the 3rd year after Hijrah, when Islamic culture was at its pinnacle. Rather it was really the 10th of Muharram in the 61st year after the Hijrah, because that was when he was born to live forever.

Imam Husayn was a man who had no option. He sought peace as we all do, but he had no option in what he did. He already knew in his heart what was going to happen, but yet, as a human being like all of us, he had to go through the forms still thinking that something might happen, that somehow the hearts of the brutes he was confronting might turn. He lived every moment in that moment. He did not abandon any possibility. He followed the entire model to the fullest extremity until he realized the truth of the prophecy and the truth of his destiny. By his blood the ever-blossoming tree of Islam is able to grow in our hearts.

That is the model of Karbala. To know that model we must strive and go through it, and the master of that journey is the Prophet Muhammad. This is a state that we can, at all times, attain. Nothing ever changes. The pattern merely repeats itself and continues, until man is finally evolved to such a degree that he is ready for the final justice of the Imam al-Mahdi. After his appearance mankind will experience complete peace on this earth. Until that time we are in the process of evolving to a situation where everybody will live the justice that is inherent in his heart. Each of us is first and foremost the judge of himself, not judging others until he corrects himself.

The Prophet Muhammad said: "Injustices are of three types: one type is that from which we will never be forgiven and it is association with Allah." The Qur`an says about this:

Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases; and whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin. (4:48)

If we worship or adore anything other than Allah, depend on anything other than Allah, wish anything other than the knowledge of Allah, then we have associated with Allah. The Prophet, describing association with Allah in a most profound and graphic way, said: "The creeping of association with Allah into my community is more hidden than the creeping of the black ant on a massive rock in the dark night." The meaning is that there are aspects of association, some gross, some much more subtle. Muslims tend to think that when they have eliminated the gross aspects there is nothing more to look for.

<snipped>

Imam 'Ali, in a tradition regarding nature of what is decreed, quotes the Qur`an:

No evil befalls the earth nor your own souls, but it is in a book (decreed) before We bring it into existence; surely that is easy to Allah. So that you may not grieve for what has escaped you, nor be exultant at what He has given you; and Allah does not love any arrogant boaster. (57:22-23)

Whatever afflicts us, in the earth or in ourselves, it is already in the Book, in the Eternal Book, the Book of Reality. It was there in the absolute, total decree before it was created. It was decreed in the sense that laws that govern this cosmos eventually will result in what you and I will experience -- not decree in a superstitious sense. We are both free and chained. We are chained to the laws that govern existence and we are free to act within these constraints. The interaction of the two is what results in the dynamism of life. The Imam said this affliction was already there -- it was already in the Book and we should not be sorry for what has happened. This world is a theatre, a facade. The test in this world is not to look back. Thus, the man of faith has all of his energies preserved. He is not sorry for what has happened for he has done his best.

The Prophet in response to being told about an occurrence, regardless of how distorted it was, would say not to look back upon it, do not feel sorry about it. Clean your heart and live in the present. That is the only contact point you have with Allah who is beyond time: now, now, now. The smaller that now is, the less it is in time.

Ignorance of how Allah's decree works is well explained in the following Qur`anic verse:

And among men is he who says: We believe in Allah; but when he is persecuted in (the way of) Allah he thinks the persecution of men to be as the chastisement of Allah; and if there comes assistance from your Lord, they would most certainly say: Surely we were with you. What! Is not Allah the best Knower of what is in the breasts of mankind. (29:10)

Affliction is from the injustice of mankind. Man has the option as Allah's deputy on earth to handle or mishandle his representation so that he brings about justice or injustice. So, if we are afflicted by injustice it is our own doing. We have abused our authority, and we have not recognized that authority of Allah. We have not kept within the bounds of Allah, nor have we been in fearful awareness. The Prophet was asked on one occasion, "Who are the people of the (Prophet's) house?" He responded, "He who is in fearful awareness embraces that party."

The affliction of Karbala was the injustice of man upon man. All over the world people are constantly remembering events that help us to move more and more towards tawhid (unity), and one of the most remarkable of them all is the reactivation of Islam by the blood of the master Imam Husayn. Entry into his magnificent companionship can only be obtained by unifying the outer law of Islam with the inner reality. One must be a man of Allah inwardly and the most kind, gentle, understanding, compassionate, patient, and courageous man outwardly, willing to lay down one's life at any moment. When a person's will unifies with the will of God, then he enters into fighting in the way of Allah, the path of Imam Husayn. Then he is with the Imam at all times. His love of the Imam is transformed into the love of Allah, an uncompromising, absolute love born of total surrender.

Back Up Next

The Recovery of Spiritual Values ] Remembrance of Allah ] Living Real Islam ] Remembrance of the Prophet ] Freedom from the Chain of Desires ] Good News ] Accountability ] Inner Meaning of The Qur`an ] Keys to the Kingdom ] Praising the Lord of Creation ] The Witnesser and the Witnessed ] The Spiritual Nature of Man ] The Path of Unity ] The Ecology of Unity ] In Pursuit of True Knowledge ] [ A Living Model ] The Meaning of Life and Death ]