Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Importance of Love for Imam Mahdi (A.S.)
Every living being is overwhelmed with emotions of love and attachment. These are emotions that man is very familiar with, and everyone has experienced these strong emotions at some stage in his life. However, those who reflect on these emotions are few. Even fewer are those who comprehend the reality and foundation of the emotions. We all understand that love can increase and decrease as well. An intense feeling of love and attachment can melt the most hardened of hearts. It can make a person weep and it can also make a person smile. Love can be witnessed in the battlefield, over there it can be heard from the resonance of swords and spears striking each other. It can also be witnessed in more peaceful and secure times. Indeed love can have a powerful influence on an individual.
An incident in this regard from the highly acclaimed compilation - Najmus Saqib (by Muhaddiss-e-Noori) is worth mentioning over here. Once a group of people belonging to a nomadic Qazaak tribe had lost its way in the desert. They were totally exhausted from trying to find a way out of the desert. Suddenly they saw some smoke emanating from a hillock at a distance. Out of curiosity they went towards the hillock and saw a caravan on the other side. The leader of the caravan was very benevolent and generous and seeing their worn out condition invited them for a meal. When the Qazaaki group had their fill they left. But seeing the wealth of the caravan, they were tempted and they turned back in order to plunder the caravan. The leader of the caravan was quick to discern their intentions and he drew his sword from its sheath. He drew a line on the ground and announced in an awesome tone, 'If anyone tries to cross this line, I will behead him.' His voice was so terrifying, that the group of Qazaakis fell down from their mounts. May the lives of our parents be sacrificed upon the benevolent and generous leader of the caravan. O the avenger of Imam Husain's (a.s.) blood!
Love can be an overwhelmingly powerful emotion. Love has in it the ability to drown the person with its intensity and force. However, love has several levels and grades. It has ways and it has gateways; each gateway has its own peculiarities and a different approach should be adopted for every gateway. Likewise, the gateway of Imam's (A.S.) love has its own peculiarities and requires a completely different approach. We must try to discern the path towards Imam's (A.S.) love and attachment. We must try to gauge the different levels of his love and the difficulties involved in the path of his love. We must try to assess the requirements and prerequisites of the love and whether we find those criteria in ourselves. Only after understanding all the prerequisites and conditions involved in Imam's (A.S.) love, we might claim - We love Imam-e-Zamana (A.S.). But if negligence overpowers us, then it can expel us from the domain of Imam's (A.S.) love and attachment. That is why it is crucial that we understand this love and its criteria.
The love of Imam (A.S.) resides in the heart. For this love to grow and be nurtured, the heart must be clean and pure from all corruption. We have to see how Allah, the Benevolent and the Merciful, has guided us towards his love. Imam Mahdi (A.S.) is the last successor and vicegerent of the Chief of the Apostles (a.s.) and the Seal of the Prophets (a.s.). He is Allah's Proof upon His creatures. Therefore we should also assess the relationship between love and the raising of Prophets (a.s.). We should see how Imam (A.S.) reminds men of Allah's signs, how he purifies the souls, how he illumines man's existence with the radiance of love. We should see how our teachers and guides have prepared us for purification with love and how they have awakened us for this love. Only then will we understand that we can never adequately return Imam's (A.S.) love for us and fall woefully short in this regard.
However, history does throw up instances of several personalities who were from an immaculate and cultured background, who possessed amazing prowess and had remarkable accomplishments to their credit and were supported by an unseen force in their efforts. These personalities tread the path of love and affection for Imam (A.S.). It is not easy to tread on the path which they strode, however it is not impossible either. That's why we say - we can never 'adequately' return Imam's (A.S.) love.
However, even the inadequate love and attachment that we have for Imam (A.S.) is very powerful and carries tremendous impact. To reach that position requires a Herculean effort. Let us take a look at what the scholars have had to say in this regard.
Scholars assert that love is an emotion that can only be experienced. It is inherent in man's nature. It is an emotion that cannot be defined by mere phrases. Love is too profound for that. However for the sake of litterateurs and writers we can state the definition of love in dictionary is described as, 'Love is an emotion that introduces gentleness and harmony in man's nature'. That emotion which inculcates harshness and severity in man's nature is called hatred, Love flows from recognition and comprehension. Therefore as recognition increases, love also increases.
The above definition outlines the meaning of love and hatred. Both these emotions are closely linked to man's conscience and heart. It is a widely accepted fact that Allah has introduced love to the human heart. Here we are discussing two emotions - love and hatred. To sustain love it is important that man refrains from certain actions and performs others. So every despicable act must be condemned and one must not think of performing such actions, since it will have a destructive effect on man's ability to love. On the other hand, every praiseworthy act must be lauded and man must try his best to rush towards that action, as this will give a fillip to love in his heart. The illustrious scholar and prolific writer Allamah Murtuza Mutahhari (a.r.) has dealt with this topic in detail in his renowned book, "Polarization around the character of Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a.s.)". However, to discuss details of the book over here is beyond the scope of this short treatise. In brief, it is imperative for us to act on the obligations and necessary conditions of love, to identify the pre-requisites of love and to discharge them in the best possible manner. Indeed these are the necessary qualifications of love and we must abide by them if we want love to blossom in our hearts. At the same time, we must not ignore the other prerequisite of love - avoiding all such actions that support and give a fillip to hatred. These actions not only further hatred in a person, but also inhibit the emotion of love.
Mankind, Allah's most noble creation has derived its Arabic term - Insaaniyat from Uns. Allah, Who has created man, has outlined adequate means for his survival and progress. Let us glance at the Holy Quran and see what it has indicated in this regard.
Allah, the Almighty, has announced in the Quran
"Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam" (Surah Aale Imran, Verse18)
In order to proclaim His path and religion, Allah, the Almighty, raised a number of prophets (a.s.), who guided man towards the divine command. Finally, Allah raised His greatest Apostle, Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.a.) and announced in the Quran
"He it is Who raised among the illiterates an Apostle from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error." (Surah Jumah, Verse 2)
In Islam, it is important to purify the self by reciting the Quranic verses. If the self is not purified, then wisdom and Quranic teachings will be of no benefit. Indeed only if the self is purified, will the brilliance of wisdom and the Quran will permeate in the self and illumine the dark recesses of the heart. With this, man's faith and certainty in Allah increases manifold. With the increase in certainty and faith in Allah, man testifies to Allah's Word and his nature is overwhelmed with love for Allah. Allah declares,
"...Those who believe are stronger in love for Allah." (Surah Baqarah, Verse 165)
This is the reason why Imam Husain (a.s.) most willingly sacrificed his life in the way of his Lord out of sheer love and devotion. His face bore a striking radiance with the love of his Lord. Since our discussion is veering from Islam to faith (eemaan) and from faith to love, it is imperative to see how often Allah has discussed love in the Holy Quran. Love (Mohabbat) and attachment (Mawaddat) are two words very closely linked to each other. Both these terms have been used in the Quran extensively. We see the word love appearing in the Quran 115 times, while attachment is repeated 28 times. And these words are always used in relation to and as an interpretation of faith and love. Another version of the love Ishq has not been used in the Quran at all. However, we see this word appearing in the traditions of the infallibles (a.s.). For instance, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) declares
'The best of men is the one who loves worship.' (Usul-e-Kafi, vol. 2, Chapter of Worship, tradition 3)
The word Ishq means 'excessive love'. Litterateurs believe that this word is more often used to convey illicit and forbidden love. However, the prophetic tradition we have narrated earlier negates this view, as the word has been used to convey love for excessive worship, which is a commendable action. We have also used this word to convey similar implications, never alluding to the illegitimate form of love.
Love for Imam-e-Zamana (A.S.) is the cause of our existence, the most important objective of our lives and the aim of our creation. We love our Imam (A.S.) and are intensely attached to him. Indeed this is what the religion of Islam instructs us. When the early Muslims wanted to thank the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) for his efforts in the way of Islam, they approached him (s.a.w.a.) and said, 'O Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.a.), indeed you have taken us out from the darkness of ignorance and we had the taufeeq of accepting Islam at your hands and thereby we were illumined with the light of faith. We were disgraced but you honored us. We were deviated but you guided us. With your grace and favors, Allah gave peace to our distressed hearts. How can we repay you for your efforts in the propagation of the prophetic message?' Allah revealed to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.),
'Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives' (Surah Shura, Verse 23)
Then those who understood the underlying message behind this Quranic verse acted upon it. There were others who ignored this command.
But the true lovers did not let anything come in between their love and attachment for the Ahle Bait (a.s.). One such group of lovers were in Karbala. They were so intense in their attachment, that Imam Husain (a.s.) proclaimed, 'I have got companions that neither my grandfather (s.a.w.a.), nor my father (a.s.) nor my brother (a.s.) could get.'
These were the companions who repaid the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) for his efforts towards Islam, by attaching themselves to his progeny. They acted on this Quranic verse
'those who believe are stronger in love for Allah' (Surah Baqarah, Verse 165)
In fact, they gave ample proof of this by shedding their blood in the way of Islam.And Allah addressed their leader (Imam Husain (a.s.)) as Al-Nafsul Mutmainnah
Allah, the Almighty, declares in the Quran that a favor can be repaid only with another favor. The grace and favor of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his propagation of Islam is something that can never be truly repaid by us. Love is the only thing that makes understand the importance of this favor and helps us adorn our character. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to beseech Allah
'O Allah! Don't let a transgressor confer a favor upon me, thereby introducing his love in my heart.'
This tradition highlights an important fact that conferring a favor leads to love, even if that favor is from a disbeliever. Indeed humanity and Islam owe their existence to Imam Husain (a.s.). If the incident of Karbala had not occurred, Islam's appearance would have changed completely and it would have been unrecognizable from the Prophet's (s.a.w.a.) Islam. If Karbala had not been there true faith would have been considered as what Yazid was observing, Allah forbid! Many of the prohibited acts would have been made permissible and many of the permissible acts would have been made prohibited.
Indeed love for Imam Husain (a.s.) is the reward of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This is because Imam (a.s.) rescued Islam, Allah's chosen religion, which was propagated by his grandfather, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). O lovers of Imam Husain (a.s.)! The criterion for love is to follow the beloved in letter and in spirit and to give preference to his wishes and desires over our own. We should pay attention to what Imam Husain (a.s.) has said concerning his ninth son, Allah's last proof, and we should try to act upon it. We should mould our behavior and disposition according to it and we should be careful that we are not accounted among the ungrateful ones.
Abdul Rahman bin Sulait narrates that Imam Husain (a.s.) said, 'There will be twelve guides from amongst us. The first one is Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) - Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.), while the last one is my ninth son the Qaim (A.S.). Through him Allah will enliven the dead earth and will make the rightful religion subdue all other religions even if this displeases the apostates. There is an occultation for him, which will be the cause of one group of Muslims rejecting him and returning to disbelief after belief, while another group will continue to believe in him and will remain steadfast in their faith. Those who will remain steadfast will become the target of taunts and it will be said to them, if reappearance is indeed a promise then when will the promise be fulfilled. Those who are patient and steadfast on the intense difficulties of occultation will attain the status of a warrior who has done jehad alongside the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) against the infidels." (Kamaluddin, vol. 1, chapter 30)
The above tradition related by Imam Husain (a.s.) highlights a few very pertinent points.
a) Allah's final proof will be the ninth son of Imam Husain (a.s.).
b) He will rise one day after his occultation.
c) His occultation will be prolonged.
d) Allah shall subdue all other religions with the religion of truth.
e) He shall enliven the earth after its deterioration.
f) The nation shall be divided in two sections. One shall steadfastly believe in him while the other shall reject him.
g) The steadfast ones shall be subjected to intense difficulties and calamities.
h) The steadfast group shall enjoy the same position as that of the early Muslims who did jihad alongside the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) against the apostates.
This tradition underlines the importance of love for Imam Mahdi (A.S.). The bond of love must be firm and resolute. It should not be that we accept Imam (A.S.) by our tongues and fall short in our actions. It should not be that we become despair about the rise of the nation. Even if we aren't struck by pessimism and doubt, it should not be that we believe in Imam (A.S.) as if it is folklore of a person who will rise one day and will establish truth and justice and will usher in an era of goodness where no evil will exist and in this entire affair we don't have to do anything except sit and watch.
This is the time when we should sit back and reflect on ourselves. We should for a moment consider the loyal companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who accompanied him (s.a.w.a.) in the battles and willingly gave up their lives to attain martyrdom. Indeed their character, certainty, determination, faith, love for Allah and love for His Apostle were so firm and unshakeable that we get some idea of what is expected from us. Then we realize that we have not fulfilled the obligations of love. We have not honored the pre-requisites of attachment. And if it is not so then why is the occultation of Imam (A.S.) being prolonged to such an extent? Imam's (A.S.) reappearance depends upon the steadfast ones of the Islamic nation who are being disgraced but are patient and steadfast on difficulties and everyday recite the verse
'I bear witness in letter and in spirit that certainly you are Imam Mahdi (A.S.).' (Ziyarate Salaamullahil Kaamil, Mafaateehul Jenaan)
To perform religious obligations today is a Himalayan task. To strive and struggle with the self against the calamities and disputes in this age and to nurture love and affection (for Imam (A.S.)) is indeed difficult. We are passing through the era about which Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had said "when the earth shall be filled with injustice and oppression". Satan is working overtime to deviate the people. Man is involved in all kinds of diseases, related to the body and the soul. There are new calamities emerging every day. The prophesies of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) about the last era are unfolding in front of our eyes. There are a thousand means of deviation and destruction but hardly any source of survival. Man's intellect is stumped and the whole society is engulfed in this epidemic and is unable to decide on a particular course of action, no matter how simple it is.
Let us have a glance of the past and the present. We are living in an age far worse than the age of the Ummayads and the Abbasids. Despite the torment and persecution of those eras, the people had the good fortune of witnessing the Imams (a.s.) in their midst. They could approach the Imams (a.s.) and reap the benefits of their radiant teachings. The glorious traditions of the infallibles (a.s.) and their guidance illumined the darkest recesses of their existence. The love of the Imams (a.s.) in the hearts of the Shias overcame every other distraction, be it wealth, status or the love of this world. The Shias ignored everything else in favor of the Imams (a.s.) and their teachings.
There was a poor and destitute companion of Imam Sadiq (a.s.). One day in the presence of Imam (a.s.), he made mention of his poverty and compared it to the wealth of the attendants of the Abbasids. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) on hearing of this comparison removed a bag of gold coins and gave it to the companion and said, 'You can take this, however, I would like you to return the love and attachment that you have for me in your heart.' The companion immediately realized the fallacy in his comparison (between himself and the Abbasid attendants) and continued to lead the rest of his life in poverty and thanked Allah for the love of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Similarly the companions of Imam Husain (a.s.) must have been deeply stirred and roused by this statement of their master, 'O Allah! Indeed what has one gained by losing You? And what has one lost after gaining You?' (Dua-e-Arafah)
Today the comparison between the lovers (of the Ahle Bait (a.s.)) and the rich will show even more disparity and the lovers will be outnumbered by the rich by a large margin.
However, the chain of Aal-e-Mohammad (a.s.) is continuing till date. It is not over as yet. Not only are the Shias saying this, but even the renowned and illustrious scholars of the Ahle Sunnah have admitted this in their compilations. They have recorded thousands of traditions to support their belief. Today Allah's Proof on the earth exists and is a means of security from disasters. Those who hold on to his support understand this only too well. Those who don't understand it can try taking the name of Imam (A.S.) and they will also see the results. Indeed the lovers of Imam (A.S.) have found a strange soothing effect in his name that helps them overcome the most trying of calamities.