Inside a Shi’a Women’s Majlis
The word majlis literally means meeting or gathering. Shi’a Muslims hold majlis ashura during their 40 day commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as).
On Saturday 2/26, I did a women’s english language majlis. Meaning I gave a lecture and recited the details of the events at karbalaa. It was a women’s majlis in English. I did the majlis and my best friend did a wonderful job on the poetry and then the latmiyya/ma’tam. It began with recitation of hadeeth kisa
, which a young woman (probably in her late teens) from Saudi Arabia did beautifully. Then an American Romani sister read a poem. With a loud salawaat (prayers and blessings on the Prophet and his family) and an impromptu lesson on the virtues of Fatima As Zahra (Salaam Allah alayha) from a Lebanese sister the majlis began.
It was the 26th of Muharaam, the day after the shahaadat (martyrdom) of the fifth Shi’a Imam, Imam Ali ibn Al Hussain. I spoke on the virtues of the one who was called Dhul Thafanaat, and Sayyid Al Abideen and Zayn Al Abideen and As Sajjad all of those names in recognition of the intensity of his worship. I also focused the part of the majlis where we recount the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) from the perspective of Imam Ali As Sajjad. I did that from my heart, I didn’t have anything written, so unfortunately, this post does not have all of the recounting of the story, the part that has all of us sobbing our hearts out.
MashaAllah. It was really amazing. A baby started crying (there were lots of babies) and the mom was feeling uncomfortable, but it inspired me. I looked at that fat healthy baby, then looked at my own and thought of poor baby Abdullah. He was only a few months old and his mother’s milk had dried up from starvation and dehydration in the desert of karbalaa. He was dying and Imam Hussain held him up and begged the army on the other side to have mercy at least on the baby and let him go to the river and give the baby water. In response to his plee, one of the soldiers from Yazid’s (la) army shot an arrow that pierced the baby’s neck and killed him. I said that I felt ashamed that my own child should be healthy while the child of Imam Hussain (as) died such a cruel death. How could I, on this day, drink water while my Imam died thirsty?
I’ve put my own comments in italics. The thing about speeches and lectures is that you are bound to omit some things and expound on others, so this is by no means a transcript. I am also adding some things here that were not originally written, but I remember saying them. Alhamdullilah, it was a powerful, beautiful and moving experience. I left feeling cleansed, optimistic, and bonded to my sisters. One sister came to me today and said, “i felt like ahl al bayt (as) was there.” and you know, I think they were too. Alaa Muhammad wa ahle Muhammad salwaat!
Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Rahim
As salaat wa salaam alaal Imam Ar Rahma, Al Khatm an Nabiyeen wa habeebi quloobeena, nabeeyana Muhammd wa ahl al baytihi at tayyibeen at tahireen.
As salaamu alaykum Jami’an wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu,
I want to begin this majlis with a hadith. It is the hadith most dear to my heart. It was the hadith most influential in my conversion from Sunni Islam to Shi’a Islam and it was the first time I felt that I truly had a path toward developing love of ahl al bayt (as).
Please be patient with me, because neither my words nor the translation can do full justice to the power and beauty of this hadith, but there is so much to be gained from it that I hope you’ll give it your full attention.
This hadith is from the book “The Lantern of The Path” by Imam Ja’far As Sadiq (as). If you don’t have this book, get it. It’s a book that every Shi’a should have.
It is related with a sound chain of authority from Salman al-Farsi, ‘ I visited the Messenger of Allah who looked at me and said, ‘
“O Salman, Allah (SWT) does not send a Holy Prophet or messenger unless there are with him twelve chiefs.”
‘ “O Messenger of Allah, I know this from the people of the two books.”
‘”O Salman, do you know my twelve chiefs, whom Allah (SWT) has chosen to be leaders after me?”
‘ “Allah (SWT) and His Messenger know best.”
‘ “O Salman, Allah (SWT) created me from the quintessence of light, and called me, so I obeyed Him. Then He created ‘Ali from my light, and called him, and he obeyed. From my light and the light of ‘Ali He created Fatimah : He called her and she obeyed. From me, ‘Ali and Fatimah, He created al-Hasan and al-Husayn . He called them and they obeyed Him. Allah has named us with five of His names: Allah is al-Mahmud (the praised) and I am Muhammad (worthy of praise); Allah is al-’Ali (the High), and this is ‘Ali (the one of high rank); Allah (SWT) is al-Fatir (Creator out of nothing), and this is Fatimah; Allah (SWT) is the One with Ihsan (beneficence), and this is Hasan; Allah (SWT) is Muhsin (the Beautiful), and this is Husayn. He created nine Imams from the light of al-Husayn and called them and they obeyed Him, before Allah created either Heaven on high, the out-stretched earth, the air, the angels or man. We were lights who glorified Him, listened to Him and obeyed Him.”
‘ “O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be your ransom! What is there for the person who recognizes these men as they should be recognized?”
‘ “O Salman, whoever recognizes them as they should be recognized, and follows their example, befriends them and is free of their enemies, by Allah (SWT)! he is one of us. He will return to where we return, and he will be where we are!”
‘ “O Messenger of Allah, is there belief without knowing their names and lineage?”
‘ “No, Salman.”
‘ “Messenger of Allah, where will I find them?”
‘ “You already know al-Husayn; then there will be the master of the worshippers, ‘Ali ibn Husayn (Zayn al-’Abidin); then his son Muhammad ibn ‘Ali, the piercer of the knowledge of the early and the later Holy Prophet (al-Baqir); then Ja’far ibn Mujammad, the truthful tongue of Allah (al-Sadiq); then Musa ibn Ja’far, the one who kept his rage silent through patience in Allah (al-Kathim); then ‘Ali ibn Musa, pleased with the secret of Allah (SWT) (al-Rida ‘); then Muhammad ibn ‘Ali, the chosen one from the creatures of Allah (al-Mukhtar); then ‘Ali ibn Muhammad, the guide to Allah (al-Hadi); then al-Hasan, son of ‘Ali, the silent, trustworthy guardian over the secret of Allah (al-’Askari); then mim ha’ mim dal , called Ibn al-Hasan , the announcer who establishes the right of Allah (SWT).”
‘ Salman said, ‘I wept. Then I continued, ‘ “O Messenger of Allah , let my life be deferred until their time! ”
‘He said, “O Salman, recite this:
When the promise for the first of the two came, We sent over you our servants of mighty prowess, so they went to and from among the houses, and it was a promise to be accomplished. Then We gave you back the turn to prevail against them, and aided you with wealth and children and made you a numerous band. (Q. 17:5-6)(Here I stopped to explain the context of this verse for clarity).
“I wept a lot,” said Salman, “and my yearning became intense. I said, ‘ “O Messenger of Allah, is it a pledge from you?”
‘ “Yes, by the One Who sent me and entrusted me with the Message; it is a pledge from me and from ‘Ali Fatimah, al-Hasan, al-Husayn , and the nine Imams descended from the children of al-Husayn, to you and those who are with us, and those of us who are wronged. Whoever is truly sincere in his belief, then by Allah (SWT), Salman, let Iblis and his armies come. Whoever has pure disbelief will be punished by retaliation, torture and inheritance (i.e. by others rather than them). Your Lord will not wrong anyone. It is we who are indicated in this verse:
We desired to bestow a favor upon those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them the leaders, and to make them the heirs, and to grant them power in the land, and to make Pharoah, Haman and their armies see from them what they feared.” ‘ (Q. 28:5-6)
Salman said, ‘I took leave of the Messenger of Allah, completely unconcerned as to how Salman would meet death, or how death would meet him.’”
(I then told the story of how I became a shi’a, something I RARELY do, but it seemed very right and it proved very moving for everyone and a powerful reminder to myself, we were already in tears at this point subhanaAllah, just in awe of Allah’s (swt) rahma)
My dear sisters. At this same time last year, I sat amongst many of you and recited the story of our beloved guides and examples of true Islam who stood up to tyranny, spoke truth to power and had no fear except the fear of Allah (swt). I discussed those who hate ahl al bayt (as) even though Allah (swt) has ordered us to love them, even though the Prophet (saawas) has ordered us to love them. And I come to you today, not only with the sadness of mourning for our beloved Sayyid As Shuhadaa Hussain, not only in mourning for my own failure to live up to the powerful example of Sayyida Zainab or the shuhadaa of karbala, but also with a heavy heavy heart, a hurting heart.
Two days ago men took the time to pack powerful explosives and drive out to Samarra. Two days ago these men took the risk of handling these explosives powerful enough to blow off a dome of gold, they took the risk of fighting individuals who are guarding the sanctity of the burial place of our beloved Imams. Imam Ali Al Hadi An Naqi grandfather of the Imam Al Asr, the Imam of our time. And Imam Hassan Al Askari, father of the Imam of our age, Mim Ha Mim Dal ibn Al Hassan (ajala allah ta’ala faraja). They took these considerable risks so that they could plant a bomb, and blow apart the last shreds of unity holding the Muslims of Iraq together.
This is Samarra not only the final resting place of the bodies of our beloved Imams (as), it is the place where Mim Ha Mim Dal ibn Al Hassan (ajal allah ta’ala faraja) left us to await the time when we had the strength, the bravery, the unwavering faith and conviction to assist him in the battle began by his beloved grandfather Imam Hussain.
This is the place where Imam Al Asr left us to await the time when there would be enough of us, who would not simply whine for him, who would not simply wail for him, who would not simply moan for him every time an enemy of justice, an enemy of beauty, an enemy of truth reaches out to stomp out the light of Islam. This is the place where Imam Al Asr left us to wait the time when we would rise up and be powerful beacons of truth and justice. We can’t do that when we put our tribe, our clique, before our ummah. We can’t be the army that Mim Ha Mim Dal ibn Al Hassan (ajil allah ta’ala faraja) needs to succeed while separating ourselves into native born and immigrant cliques in these here United States. Allah (swt) says to us in Surah Al Anbiya Aayat 92 A’utho billahi min ash shaytan al la’een ar rajeem Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Rahim “Inna haatha ummatukum ummatan WAAHIDA wa ana rabbukum fa’budoon.” Surely, certainly, this is your Ummah. ONE ummah and I am your Lord so serve me. Fa’budoon which comes from the same root as ibadah is often translated as worship, but it comes from the same root as the word abid or abd which means servant. We are servants of Allah (swt). And it is our service that is worship.
And so, someone has attacked this Ummatan WAAHIDA. Someone has attacked a part of our history. Someone has attacked our present.
Now, these shrines are just buildings, and buildings can be rebuilt. Look at what they have done to Jannat Al Baqi, the burial place of our own beloved Prophet Muhammad (saawas), the best of Allah’s creation, created from the light of God! But that has not burned out the torch in our heart. Buildings can be rebuilt. The lives taken, though, from this madness can not. The shuhadaa can not be returned to us. So yes, they are just buildings, not nearly as important as human lives, or the hearts that burn with love for Allah (swt) and those that Allah (swt) loves.
But they are 3atabaat muqaddasah. This is the Arabic word for these holy shrines. 3atabaat muqaddasah. Can anyone tell me what Muqaddasah means? It means holy. 3atabaat means steps, literally steps. They are a means of our spiritual elevation. Not just dry buildings, but the love, the effort the service to Allah (swt) that was put into this edifice of dirt and metal are 3atabaat, steps toward Allah (swt), toward ahl al bayt. Toward becoming the true Shi’a of Ali. Ya Ali! Toward being worthy of the presence of our beloved Imam Al Asr.
Salwaat alaa Muhammad wa ahle Muhammad.
This was an attack on qur’an, because the intention was to further tear apart this Ummatan Waahida. This one ummah. This one ummah is one body and someone has planted a bomb in our right hand. But this body regenerates. This body will never die so long as we have love of Allah(swt) so long as we have the fire in our hearts of Imam Hussain (as). We can heal this ummah.
We start by reaching out to our brothers and sisters, with sincerity and love for Allah (swt).
I know we’ve been hurt.
I know how much it hurts to reach out and be rejected over and over again. Every year we hold yawm al quds out of respect and love for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are overwhelmingly sunni. We invite our sunni brothers and sister to speak at this gathering, to make du’a with us, to march with us in solidarity for a common cause. And every year we are disappointed.
I know what it means, as a convert, to reach out to our sisters and brothers who were born into Muslim families, only to be disrespected and treated as if we are second class citizens. I know how it hurts to be rejected because of black skin, because of brown skin, because you’re Latina, because you’re white because, you’re a convert, because you’re an immigrant, because you’re a woman. I see how ugly it is when we turn around and reject others for fear that we’ll be hurt again. But, taking on the title of Shi’ite Ali, means having the ability to love even those who have hurt you, especially your brothers and sisters in this deen. Turn the other cheek! That’s right, it’s what An Nabi Isa (AS) said, when you are amongst believers turn the other cheek. An Nabi Muhammad said give your brother 70 excuses. Hold on to the THAQALAYN. The two ‘weighty things’ these are heavy. It’s not easy. Thaqalayn An Nabi Muhammd said “hold on to the rope of Allah” (swt). Sisters, when your hand are calloused and your fingertips bloody and your nails peeling apart from the flesh HOLD ON. Hold on to the rope of Allah (swt). Hold on to the qur’an which Allah orders us, tells us we are UMMATAN WAAHIDA and to the ahl al bayt (as) who suffered years in prison, theft, hatred, murder, torture to preserve this ummatan waahida. Even After A’isha went to battle against Imam Ali, even after she was willing to spill the blood of the man most beloved to the Prophet our beloved Imam treated her with respect. He treated here better than many of us treat her today. That is the example of ahl al bayt (as).
Alaa Muhammad wa ahle Muhammad
Let’s do ziyaara sisters, my beloved sisters. Let’s do ziyaara. Let us revisit our beloved ahl al bayt (as). Come with me sisters to the land of shuhadaa. Come with me on a journey from Kufa, to Karbala, through Syria.
Yesterday was the 25 of Muharram, the shahadat of our beloved Imam Ali ibn Al Hussain (as) who was called Zayn al abideen, and Sayyid Al Abideen, and As Sajjad, Ibn al Khiyaratayn and Dhul Thafanaat.
Zayn Al Abideen.
Zayn is beauty, ornament, decoration. Zayn Al abideen is the beauty of the worshippers. If you have a copy of As Sahifat as sajjadiya, which every shi’a should have; if you don’t have it please, do your soul the favor of getting this beautiful collection of du’a. If you’ve read those du’a, then you know why he was called Zayn, beauty, ornament, of the worshippers. Because when his soul cried out to Allah (swt), it was pure, it was more beautiful than the praise of the angels because it was true and sincere.
They called him Sayyid Al Abideen because his while his worship exhausted his body, it elevated his soul. They say our beloved Imam was small, dark skinned, and short in stature. He was dark skinned, but his son Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) said that when he used to see him his skin would have a yellowish cast and his forehead bruised and nose smashed in from sujood, and his eyes dry from weeping in worship, weeping in awe of Allah (swt)! His feet and legs would be swollen. THIS is the example Allah (swt) has set for us! This is Sayyid Al Abideen. And you know, even with that kind of intense meditation and conversation with his Beloved, he said in exasperation “Who is strong enough to perform the worship of Ali ibn Abi Talib (as)?”
Alaa Muhammad wa ahle Muhammad Salawaat
Come with me to Kufa the birthplace of our beloved Imam. He was born in the hijra year of 38 A.H. He was born 38 years after the hijra to the daughter of an Iranian king Yazdigard. Her name was Shahzanaan, or sometimes she is called Shahrbaanawayh. He was born 38 years after the hijra to Imam Hussain (as) ibn Ali. And Prophet Muhammad (saaws) called him Ibn Al Khayratayn because in the words of our beloved prophet (saawas) he was “Son of the best of the Arabs and son of the best of the Iranians.” His hardship began at birth, his mother got an infection and died while he was still a newborn, not even one month old.
He spent the first two years of his life living with his grandfather Imam Ali (as) and it is said that he resembled him more than anyone. But his next tragedy came when his beloved grandfather died. This sweet baby, this poor child beloved of Allah (swt), beloved of Rasulallah (saawas) lost his mother before he could know her then lost his grandfather, his first father figure when he was only two years old. He then went to live with his uncle Imam Hassan (as) until he was 14 and his beloved uncle was poisoned by his own wife. So just as he was entering manhood he lost another dear one. Many people, suffering that kind of loss turn to drugs. They turn to alcohol, or some other addictions. Our Imam turned to Allah (swt). At that time he went to live with his father Imam Hussain (as) by whose side he would stand for the next 23 years of his life, until his father died.
Come with me sisters, to Karbalaa.This is the land of the Shi’a of Ali. How is it that this land so cursed could be so blessed? How it that this land of dictator after dictator from Yazid to Saddam, this land ravaged by the evils of an evil occupation can be so blessed, so resplendent with the power of some of the best human beings to ever walk this earth? An Nabi Adam visited this place. It is the final earthly resting place of Imam Ali (as), Imam Musa Al Kathim(as), Imam Ali At taqi ul Jawad(as), Imam Ali Al Hadi un Naqi(as), Imam Hassan Al Askari(as), and Imam Hussain (as). The pains of Iraq are the pains of our ahl al bayt. They are there with you Ya Shi’a of Ali. Don’t lose hope of our victory, don’t lose hope of your victory “fa innah hizb Allah hum al ghaalibun” surely those in the hizb, the party, of Allah (swt) will succeed. Hold fast to ahl al bayt (as).
Come with me to Samaraa, to kadhimain, to the cities where the Imams lay each of them slain, tortured, madhloom. Today a father held is little daughter in his arms and kissed her sweet cheek like Imam Hussain caressed the cheek of his beloved sukayna. A brother teased his little sister as Imam Ali Zain Al abideen may have done with sukayna. This is the place, where just this morning as that family, loving much like the holy family we mourn today was gunned down. Like Shimir al mal’oun like Umar ibn sa’ad (la) sliced the head of the lion of Allah, Sayyid as shuhadaa Imam Hussain, they took out guns and sprayed this family fo 13, THIRTEEN with bullets. They murdered them all, for being lovers of ahl al bayt (as). They fear the power of ahl al bayt, they hate the intensity of our devotion. They say we are mushrikeen for mourning our Imam, but was An Nabi Muhammad a mushrik for loving his own grandson!? Astaghfirullah! Didn’t he hold our beloved Imam as a small child and kiss his neck and weep for what the munafiqeen would do to him?
Imagine yourself so sick that you can not move. Imagine yourself in an abandoned desert.
Come with me to karbalaa sisters. To the tent of Imam Ali As Sajjad, sick and shivering on his bed, sweating with fever in a desert tent. Listen to this grandson of Asadallah Imam Ali (as) the mighty warrior of the Arabs. Imam Ali As Sajjad heard the cry of his brother Ali Akbar as he uttered his last words when his dying body, pierced with arrows from head to foot slid off his horse. As salaam alayka ya Imam Hussain! As salaamu alayka minni Ya Imami, Ya Hussain, Ya Baba. Imam Ali Zain Al abideen heard his brother’s last words and his father’s he his father crying out Waladi Ali, Waladi Ali, Waladi Ali. (this is recited in a particular way, that really can’t be described unless you’ve heard it)
Come with me to that tent where Imam Ali As Sajjad lay too sick to even stand. He couldn’t even stand. This is sabr sisters, this is sabr! Imagine even now when we hear what Shimr mal’ooun did to our Imam we want to avenge his death. Imagine how much sabr it took for our Imam to lay there too sick to move, and know that he could do nothing to protect his family as they were slaughtered one by one.
There lying in this tent, shivering from feaver and the intense heat of the desert, was Imam Ali As Sajjad (as) with his aunt Sayyida Zainab. Imam Hussain came in after burying the last of the shuhadaa to say his last goodbyes to his only surviving son and his beloved sister Zainab.
Zainab reportedly said to him “Would death deprived me of life? My mother Fatima, is dead, and my father, ‘Ali, and my brother, al-Hassan and now my brother Al Hussain?”
“Ukhti,” al-Husayn said to her as he looked at her with his eyes full of tears, “don’t let Satan take away your sabr.”
There was significantly more, but this is where I left off the speech in writing and continued from memory.
Chorus: Ya Rabb, Ya Rabb
Karbala is calling you and Martyrdom has come
The pool of Kawthar’s longing for you
Stunned by what you’ve done
My *master’s like noone else
He leaves us all beside ourselves
He told us all that we could go,
But who could leave him by himself?
He blew out candles with his breath
And told us all to flee from death
They wanted none but Prophet’s son
They found his soldiers true instead.
Zuhayr spoke out and made it plain,
No matter what I will remain,
I wish to die and live and die
For you a million times Husayn.
You are my Ka’ba and my soul,
You are my Mina and my goal
You are my marwa and my sa’y
For you I live, for you I die
Husayn the heavens cry for you
And our children are all born for you
Courageous men and lives were made
In hopes they might be sworn for you.
Courageous men and lives were made
In hopes they might be sworn for you.
The soldiers went out one by one
None will be left before it’s done
Husayn looked at Ali Akbar
And knew the time for him had come.
He watched his son go out to die
He fought before his father’s eyes
He came back once before his death
The Thirst! The Thirst!
Was what he cried
But could it be that what he sought
Was just to say his last goodbyes
Not water cool
Not for his throat
But for his baba Husayn’s eyes?
Oh Ali Akbar let us see
The face of truth and prophecy
Your smile’s the universe to us
Your eyes are paradise to me.
But now his body lies there dead
Husayn it’s all just as he said
The one who looked just like Rasool
His turban’s bloody on his head
His turban’s bloody on his head
How did they strike those lips and head?
Which spoke the truth through cruel, cruel death
Just like your father as a child
The unknown words of God had read
The Ka’bas welcome refugee
You named your sons for him, all three
and had you had 500 more
You would have named them all Ali
How did they leave you without clothes?
How did they pierce young Ali’s throat?
How could they look at you, and worse:
How can I drink while you’re in thirst?