Peace, one and all…
At a recent sohbet, we commemorated the sacrifice and martyrdom of beloved Imam Hussain (as). We explored some of the key events leading up to his death at Karbala, as we have done in previous years. I felt myself incredibly moved, as we recounted the Imam’s story, as though I could see it happening in front of me. There are many moments of tragedy in his story, and there are also moments of bravery and sacrifice. This year I was particularly struck by the story of the initial Umayyad commander, Hurr ibn Yazid al-Tamimi, who chose to fight and die beside the Imam, rather than continue in the service of corruption. Imam Hussain forgave Hurr and told him that he was free (a play on words, as Hurr means ‘free’). Returning to truth from error brings freedom from the false imprisonment of the ego’s unhelpful desires.
After this commemoration a beautiful prayer (munajaat) was shared. Its author was Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin (as), Imam Hussain’s son and a survivor of the massacre at Karbala. As you can see from the text offered below, the Imam’s focus here was on the wayward self, the nafs. The prayer seeks God’s protection against the ego’s tricks and reminds us that only God has the power to truly deliver us from ourselves. Therefore, we must earnestly seek insight into our habits and patterns of behaviour, if we are to become, like Hurr, truly free.
The profundity of this prayer was immediately clear, although I wasn’t sure quite why at the time. In the time since this powerful sohbet answers have begun to emerge. An unrestrained nafs can be dangerous, not only to us ourselves but also to everyone around us. If we allow our egos to become inflated then we can become like the tyrant Yazid ourselves. That is, if we don’t struggle against our nafs we become our own Yazid, slaughtering our own inner Imam. If we don’t root out the evil in our own souls, we’re doomed to repeat the horrors of the past, regardless of the scale and scope of our personal reach. And thus Imam Zayn al-Abidin’s words are exactly the right words in light of the horror of Karbala. This is precisely the greater struggle (jihad al-akbar) that the beloved Messenger of God (as) spoke of.
Wa akhiru da’wana an il hamdu lillahi rabb al-alameen.
Munajaat (Intimate Conversation with Allah)
O my Beloved to You I complain of my Nafs. It commands me to harm, it drives me towards vice, it is infatuated with disobedience, and it exposes me to Your wrath. It carries me towards perdition, and makes it so easy for me to be irredeemable with You. It has so many excuses, and is full of so much wishful thinking! When it is touched by what it dislikes it is full of anxiety and when it is touched by what it likes it withholds blessings. It inclines me towards idleness and dissipation, and it is so full of heedlessness and forgetfulness. It rushes me diligently towards sin and makes me procrastinate about repentance.
O my Beloved, I complain to You of this enemy that misguides me, this devil that seduces me. It has filled my breast with whispering doubts and surrounded my heart with its negative premonitions. It urges me towards vain desires, and it adorns for me the love of this world. It comes between me and obedience and nearness to You.
O my Beloved, I complain to You of a hardened heart that is perturbed by doubts, that is covered with rust and bound by habits. And eyes that cannot weep in awe of You but are eagerly seeking what gives them pleasure.
O my Beloved, I have no means or power except through Your ability, no salvation for me from the vicissitudes of the world except through Your protection. I ask You by the completeness of Your wisdom and the fulfillment of Your will do not expose me to anything but Your goodly generosity, and do not drive me towards sedition. Be my support and succor against my enemies, and protect me from shame and faults and keep me safe from calamity, and defend me from disobedience by Your tenderness and compassion, O You who are the most merciful of those who show mercy.