Saturday, February 12, 2005

Seeking the Karbala within

It has been two or three years since I've attended a Muharram talk/majalis in Urdu. For the past couple of years, I've had a Shia masjid just minutes from where I live, and they've had a wonderful resident scholar who gave talks in English.

This year, the masjid close to me has their program in a language I don't quite understand, and so I've been going to an Urdu majalis. And, I must say - these talks have been very insightful. The topics have been about journeying within, knowing one's self, and based on a saying attributed to Imam Ali: "Do you consider yourself to be a small body? While the great cosmos is contained in you?"

Not only do we have this cosmos contained within, we also have this spirit of Allah that was blown within us - what incredibly amazing beings we humans are! And truly, how sad - that we can be so cruel towards ourselves.

We experience such grief, and feel such a deep loss when we listen to how the Imam, his family, and companions were treated in Karbala.

But what about Yazeed - why was he such an abject person, so as to inflict such cruelty? Perhaps the answer lies in that first part of Imam Ali's hadith: "Do you consider yourself to be a small body?" - Perhaps Yazeed only saw this "small body," had not even the slightest knowledge about the spirit, or ruh.

The alim/scholar tonight mentioned how this ruh yearns for Allah, and can never be satisfied with this world (dunya).

As Maulana Rumi says in the mathnawi - the song of the reed's separation:

"Now listen to the reed-flute's deep lament
About the heartache being apart has meant:
'Since from the reed-bed they uprooted me
My song's expressed each human's agony..."

Perhaps, while we all have this ruh, this entire cosmos within, we must also listen. Without listening - all that appears is the body.

What do we listen to? Maulana Rumi says, listen to the deep lament --- perhaps, for those more psychologically inclined, a more contemporary word might be: conscience.

A person who refuses to listen to that "inner v
oice" "inner conscience" "that lamenting reed flute" --- perhaps, then such a person has no qualms about becoming a Yazeed. And what a terrible terrible state that would be!

How do we begin to listen to that part of ourselves that yearns for Allah? This is the work of "knowing one's self" - knowing that we have this ruh within. The scholar made an observation about the work of Irfan, or self-knowledge within the context of the ahle bayt, that what we have are the duas, or "prayer manuals" such as dua Kumayl, and the "Psalms of Islam." These help us towards a relationship with Allah, in a way that we can listen to that yearning within.

And inshallah, we might also find that space within that will help us through all of our fears that Leila and Sayoko talked about earlier in this blog. And, towards where we might find the strength of Imam Hussein, his family, and all his companions in Karbala.

4 comment(s):

  • I just love that, Altaf. IT also reminds me of not only recognizing the microcosm within, but also... the signs, or ayat-ullah in the reflection... Beautiful

    By Blogger Leila M., at 2/12/2005 11:00:00 AM  

  • As Salaam U Alaikum,


    also reminds me of Isa (as) saying in the Bible:

    "And when the Pharisees demanded to know when the kingdom of God should come, Isa answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God does not come with visible signs: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.'"
    -Luke 17:20-21

    although similarly, there a hundred and a thousand Yazids within us too....

    By Blogger malangbaba, at 2/12/2005 11:19:00 AM  

  • Thanks Altaf, for this entry. So Imam Ali was the first “Jungian” psychologist (just kidding)! Jung said the same thing about the psyche—that we have everything that exists in the universe within ourselves. It follows then, that there is a noble part like Imam Ali within each of us. And there is also a tyrant part like Yazid within us, too because the universe contains everything. Jung asks, “Do you want to be good or do you want to be whole?” If we try to be good, we split up our psyche into good and bad and only own what we consider good. The parts we consider ‘bad’ are rejected and disowned like they are not a part of us. Jung calls these rejected parts as shadows and say that we tend to ‘project’ these rejected parts onto others (since we think we don’t have these ‘bad’ qualities) and gets furious when others display these characteristics. The task is to shed light on these shadows within ourselves and get to know and accept these qualities within. Each part or quality has a function and a gift even the ones we think are horrible. In order to be whole, we need to embrace not just ‘good’ but what we thin are ‘bad’ as well. Debbie Ford explains this beautifully in her book called “The Dark Side of the Light Seekers.”

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/12/2005 01:04:00 PM  

  • I can dig it.

    By Blogger Chanad, at 2/12/2005 02:56:00 PM  

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