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Tears of piety and faith – Part I


Muslim pilgrims / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI

Brethren, I guess the last time tears of faith cascaded your cheeks was probably during the last Ramadan. I guess that was probably the time your awareness of the inimitable powers of the Almighty moved you to tears. Thus your hearts trembled. Your soul shook.

You experienced momentary annihilation of the self in you. You suddenly became aware of your nothingness in the ocean of His majesty.

You were listening to the Quran and suddenly you realized that you were like a dot in the diagram in the plans of the Almighty; you are like a pebble in the ‘’desert’ of His majesty. Then your soul became illuminated with that light- the light of what the Sufis would refer to as the logos- the Marifah. You could not resist the outpouring of your inner emotions. Your eye duct began to drip.

You began to shed tears of love mixed with fear; tears of fear mixed with hope.
We often experience instances like the above during the month of Ramadan. In the Kaaba. In the Haram.

Millions of His servants who had “lost” their ways usually come to the Kaaba to rediscover themselves. That was probably the last time you she shed tears. She raised up her hands to the heavens.

She wanted to be admitted, at that numinous moment, in that hallowed space, to the celestial munificence of the Almighty. To the right was a man who was soaked in tears. Beards have turned white out of fear. Grey hairs turned purple out of humility.

During those wonderful moments, men and women of discernment were aware of His special presence in the audience. If the soul would be taken, hardly would anybody care if he loses his at that particular moment. Can there be a better death than inside the Kaaba at a moment when celestial powers are watching in admiration of that which only the angels could do better.

But why is it that as soon as we step inside the plane on our way to the backwaters of these cities, of these villages, our hearts usually begin to be darkened once again? Why is it that we sometimes feel as if we have lost the connection again and therefore we must come back to the Haram one more time? I guess the answer to this question nests in the question itself. The solution lies in the problem.

The loss we experience each time we step out of the Haram is actually not a loss but a desire. It is probably a manifestation of the acceptance of our prayers: the prayer that we be returned several times more to the Haram. To remain in a state of purity is to lose the desire to be cleansed afresh.

To have a heart that is completely pure of impurities is to ascend to the status of the angels. Someone once told me this: to think you have no fault is itself a fault in utter need of purification.

Those who live with the consciousness of their predilection to commit sins constantly shed tears over their situation.
Perhaps the above does not apply to you.

Perhaps the last time you shed hot tears was when you lost someone dare to you. I once mentioned it in this column- nothing is ‘sweeter’ than the loss of the irreplaceable. Whenever we lose those who we desire to hold on to, what we do is shed tears.

Tears like that of Prophet Yaqub (a.s) over his son Prophet Yusuf (a.s). Hot tears. Involuntary tears. Thus, I have long learnt the hard lesson- to not hold on to him or her as if my life depends on that; to hold on to the Almighty in whose pillar everything finds strength. I have long learnt the hard lesson that when we say we love the Almighty, then He desires the love to be total. Our love for Him should admit of no rival.

The space in our hearts should be occupied by none other than Him whose mightiness is seen in the seed that becomes the Oak tree. He is so mighty that He works in us in ways we cannot decipher.

Perhaps you are actually not like him or her. You are the type who never experiences any emotional break down; you do not shed tears at all no matter the situation or circumstance. Your heart is made of iron. You are as hard as the rock; or even harder than the mountains. But I know that iron, when subjected to heat, do melts; I equally know that rocks do shed ‘tears’.

Yes. Mountains are usually humbled by the munificence and the magnificence of the Almighty to such a point that they melt, crumble and celebrate His might and power. “…For, behold” so says He, “there are rocks from which streams gush forth; and, behold, there are some from which, when they are cleft, water issues forth; and, behold, there are some that fall down in obeisance to the awesomeness of the powers that hold the heavens and the earth together. (Quran 2: 74). The heart which betrays no emotion is probably sick.

The soul that experiences no humility and the awesome powers of the Almighty is indeed dis-eased.

But why would you suffer hardness of heart? Why would your heart and mine become harder than the inner core of the mountains? Why would your eyes not shed tears whenever you come face to face with His signs? You 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.
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