When the mountains ‘shed’ tears – Part 2
Remember Imam al-Ghazalli’s perspectives on the wonders of the heart and what usually plagues it; you remember the popular Shaykh al-Imam Abdul-Wahab al-Shirani’s posture in regard to this matter too. You remember that of that scholar and those of other eminent jurists. Let me cite that of Imam Shirani today. In his famous work titled Kashf al-Gummah an Jami’ al-Ummah, Imam Shirani quotes a tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w) in which he is reported to have said thus: hardness of the eyes (i.e eyes that shed no tears) is usually a product of hardness of the heart; hardness of the heart usually results from excessive commission of sins; excessive commission of sins usually result from souls that have forgotten the imminence of death; none would forget death but those who have become hostages to unbridled earthy ambitions; unbridled pursuit of this world would occur from incontinence; incontinence and lack of contentment would happen to those whose sole object of love is this world is this world; love of this world is the ken of all iniquities.
My teachers taught me this, and may the Almighty minister to their penitence: all eyes shall shed hot tears of lamentations on the day of resurrection except three eyes: the eye that remembers the Almighty, His wonderful ways and His awesomeness and therefore shed tears in admiration; the eye that sees the forbidden, the unlawful, the baleful, the odious and the distasteful and avert same; and the eye that keeps vigil for His sake. This tradition of the Prophet remains as instructive today as it was over a thousand four hundred forty-one years ago. I refer to a time in which modesty is the synonym for femininity; a time when chastity is the other name for masculinity. The eyes that see the forbidden and take caution, is only posturing to experience the beatitude in the sight of the Almighty on the day of resurrection.
Brethren, I was in that of moment of contemplation of the above when a thread containing the story of a companion of the Prophet (s.a.w) found its way to my table. He was named Muhammad ibn al Munkadir. One night he suddenly began to cry. The noise of his emotional breakdown and wailings became so unbearable that Imam Abu Hazim had to be invited to remonstrate with him.
Abu Hazim (r.a) asked Muhammad: “My brother what has made you cry so much, and you have made your family worry about you?” Muhammad (r.a) replied: ‘I read an ayah in the book of the Almighty and it brought me to these tears’. He was then asked what the ayah was. Muhammad responded: ‘It is the statement in which the Almighty says: “And there will appear unto them from the Almighty that which they had not taken in to account.’ Upon hearing this ayah, Abu Hazim, who had come to assist calm the situation equally began to cry.
That there shall appear for our reckoning on the day of resurrections issues we thought were of no value while we were on earth; statements we made that we considered trifle, actions we took while on earth that we thought were not important. Though this portion of the Quran begins by addressing those who have unjust to themselves while on earth- aladhina dhalamu- these two forebears of ours were sufficiently aware that its referential framework excludes nobody. To walk on the earth is to be subject or object of injustice.
Brethren, the report credited to Abdullah bn Abbas (r.a) about Umar b. Khattab takes this reality to another level. He said: “I have not seen a person better than Umar. He spent his nights praying; his days fasting and fulfilling the needs of people. After he died, I asked the Almighty to show him to me in a dream. He did. I saw Umar walking through Madinah. I asked him “what did you find after death?”. Umar replied “I have just finished being questioned; my throne (position as a ruler) almost caused me to fall, except that I found a Merciful Lord”.
Abdullah bn Umar equally saw his father in a dream and asked him how long his questioning had lasted in the grave, and Umar (r.a) responded: ‘it has just finished”!. When Abdullah bn Umar woke up, he realized it had been twelve years since the death of ‘Umar, his father! In other words, for twelve years, Umar, who is reputed for his excellence as a man and for his piety as a ruler had spent twelve years in his grave answering questions about his sojourn while on earth. Imagine how many years it would take earthly authorities of today to give account of their infamy while on earth.
The above reminds me of one other fact that usually caused Umar b. Khatab to shed tears while on earth: whereas paradise and hell are places of abode for men and women, the graves are usually spaces of loneliness. Nothing would be there with you and me except the good we did, the Salah we observed, the family we cared and catered for. Though there are reasons for us to be merry and laugh here in this dream – yes, this world is a dream- there are a thousand and one reasons for us to ponder our station and location here on earth, shed tears of regret over our infirmities and thereafter begin to find our ways back to Him by choice before we are returned to Him by force.
Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria