Visiting the holy Shrines of Imams (A.S.), an act of "nearness to Allah"
The following article is a translation of an excerpt from "Ruh-e-Mojarrad", a biographical account of a major Shi'i mystic, Sayyid Hashem Musawi Haddad, as narrated by Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Hussain Hussaini Tehrani - Quddisa Sirrruh (May his tomb be heavenly blessed), translated by Ali-Quli Qarai, the editor of Al-Tawhid theological quarterly.
No particular miracle was observed to have been performed by Hadrat Imam Reza( A.S). during the ten days of the Sayyid Haddad's stay in the holy land so that this nondescript may write about it. But the people who had come from distant places seeking relief from their illness sat around in one special area of the shrine's courtyard and many of them had tied themselves to the lattice within the shrine or to the one in the large courtyard. One day the topic of miracles related to the Eighth Holy Imam came up during his conversations. He gave an explanation whose summary is as follows:
The Station of Wilayah
The very existence of the Imams is a miracle, and all their acts, in life and death, are miraculous. One should not look for their miraculous character in unusual events or view their greatness from a tiny window.
One who attains to the station of wilayah-not in theory but in practice- and becomes the Wali of God, and God his Wali, all his actions, character, and attributes become the actions, character, and attributes of God. Not that he becomes God, or that God separates from Himself something to give it to him, or - without separating it from Himself - He bestows upon him something similar to what He has and gives that to him. All such ideas are wrong and incorrect. Rather, due to the intensity of the purity and sincerity attained by the servant, he emerges from his metaphorical and imaginary being to become annihilated in the Divine Essence and God becomes manifest in him. That, his existence, reality and inner being become a clear mirror and a complete reflection of the Perfection, Beauty and Glory of the Essence of the One, becoming Godlike. However high a contingent being should rise it is impossible for it to receive anything from God or to be attributed with it. Basically, the meaning of sublimation and edification is no other than getting rid of the taints of (contingent) being and attaining to "Khulus" and "Ikhlas" in the path of God and traversing the degrees and stations of annihilation in Allah. It means nothing other than realization of pure servanthood and absolute prostration and unlimited humility.
Wilayah does not mean obtaining Divine attributes in a station of independence and personal honor. Such an assumption is invalid, in conception and share in His attributes. This is also incorrect, in conception and reality.
Wilayah means absolute slavehood vis-a-vis His absolute Lordship. It means absolute himility vis-s-vis His absolute Majesty. Wilayah at the plane of its absolute, perfect and complete degree means realization of all the ranks of servanthood and absolute annihilation and dissolution in His Sacred Essence. The limited and partial Wilayah mean realization of some of the stations of servanthood and annihilation in Divine Act, Name or attribute, or a temporary and partial dissolution in His Essence that has not reached the stage of complete actuality and has not completely traversed the phases of potentiality and receptivity.
Hence the Wali of God who has realized complete Wilayah has no desire, will or choice of his own. Whatever desire, will or choice he displays are identical with the Attributes and Names of God, which are manifested in him. They are like the rays and light of the sun reflected in a mirror or clear water. This is the right and correct meaning of Wilayah.
Hence the fact that the Imams possess the station of absolute and universal Wilayah does not mean that they can do whatever they like by themselves even if it is different and separated from the will of God. It also does not mean that they have a will similar to the will of God and wishes which they realize in the external world, as a gift from God, separately from the Divine will. Rather it means that there is no will in reality except one, and that is the will of God, that's all. To the majority of people, who, being blind and having diseased eyes, are veiled from the truth, the world appears as a dispersion of separate entities, isolated pieces and parts cut off from one another, to each of which they ascribe an independent being, and attribute an independent will, knowledge, power and life to each and every individual existent. But to individuals who have awakened from the slumber of neglect and emerged from the torpor of nature, concupiscence, anger and imagination, and who have cured their ailing eyes with the kohl of the vision of reality, the fact is revealed to them that:
"There is nothing that has any efficiency in the realm of being except God; there is no knower in the realm of existence except God; there is none who is powerful in the realm of existence except God; there is no living being in the realm of existence except God; and there is no independent entity in the realm of existence except God."
On this basis, all their will, knowledge and power are identical with the will, knowledge and power of God. All existent, from the lowest to the highest, from the beings of mulk to those of malakut, physical and spiritual, outward and inward, worldly and otherworldly, and, from among the existent of the world of nature, primal matter to the ultimate apex of actuality and perfection - all that exists, existed and will exist, are objects of their own creation (makhluqat), determining (maqdurat), and knowledge (ma'lumat), as all of them are the creatures of God. At this stage of Wilayah there is nothing that is conceivable except God. They do not exist, and God does, and their absolute being amounts to absolute non-being.
Accordingly one should not look for mere performance of certain extraordinary feats and stupendous miracles from the station of Wilayah. Open your eyes and look at the sky and the earth, the stars and the heavens, trees, rocks and clay, the worlds of men, animals, plants and minerals, the realms of angels, demons and fairies - whatever you see and hear, all of them derive from Wilayah and are effects and aspects of Wilayah, its growth, its intelligence and excellence, open your eyes to the movements of the sun and the earth, the moon, the planets, and the stars, the Milky Way and all the other galaxies - all of them with their wonderful and splendid order derive from Wilayah and its characteristics. Open your eyes to your self, your beginning and your end, your development, your outward and your inward being, your sleep and awakening, your pauses and movements, your knowledge, power, and life - all of them derive from Wilayah and its properties.
Hence should we see Wilayah only in the splitting of the moon, or the tasbih of the pebbles, or the laments of the pillar Hannanah, or in Amir al-Mu'minin Ali's raising of the dead, or the other miracles narrated of the Infallible Holy Imams, may Peace and God's benedictions be upon all of them, how shortsighted, superficial and unworthy a view that would be? It is like the ant in the knig's garden which, not seeing its flowers and basil, nor his vast kingly glory and majesty, nor his extensive sovereignty and authority, sees the king's beneficence in a grain that it draws towards its nest and his wrath in a drop of dew that descends into its nest.
"What does the gnat know who is the master of this garden Born in springtime and fated to last till winter?
Yes, here becomes manifest the truth of the words of the Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi concerning the vision of the people, who are blind to the cosmic character of the Divine Wilayah:
"Truth, that King who created the pure and displayed so many crests in thee,
Who hath kept thee so flourishing and lasting that the materialist hath thought thee (existent) from eternity.?
Thanks (to God) we have come to know thy beginning: the prophets have told that sectet of thine.
A man knows that a house is made (at some time or other); the spider which plays idly in it (knows) not (this).
How should the gnat know of what date this garden is? - for "twas born in spring. and is death is in the (following) winter.
The worm, that is born miserably in (dry) wood - how should it know the wood at the time when it was a (Sappy) shoot?
And if the worm should know (this), it would be intellect in its essence; the worm would be (only) its (outward) form.
Intellect shows itself (in many) guises, (but) like the Jinn is leagues removed them (in its real nature).
It is above the angels - what occasion is there for (comparing it with) the Jinn? (But) you have the wings of gnat, you are flying downwards.
Although your intellect is flying upward, the bird of your conventional notions is feeding below.
Conventional knowledge is the bane of our souls; it is a borrowed thing, but we rest (at ease in the belief) that it is ours. It behooves us to become ignorant of this (worldly) wisdom;(rather) must we clutch at madness.
Always flee from whatever you deem profitable to your (lower)self: drink poison and spill the water of life.
Revile any one that praises you: lend (both) interest and capital to the destitute.
Let safety go, and dwell in the place, of fear (danger): leave reputation behind and be disgraced and notorious.
I have tried far-thinking (provident) intellect; henceforth I will make myself mad.)
Or in the beautiful opening verses of Mathnavi which prefigure the entire diwan:
(In every company I uttered my willful notes, I consorted with the unhappy and with them that rejoice.
Every one became my friend from his own opinion; none sought out my secrets from within me.
My secret is not far from my plaint, but ear and eye lack the light (whereby it should be apprehended).
Body is not veiled from soul, nor soul from body, yet none is permitted to see the soul.)
The Works of the Awliya of God
Accordingly, the works of the Awliya' of God are the work of God and they can do everything, including curing the sick, raising the dead, and performing miraculous and extraordinary feats, dispensing in the materials of nature, as well as such works as can never be apprehended by empirical reason.
But the important point is that then do not do anything that is not right and contrary to wisdom and expediency, and they do not take any step that might be harmful and detrimental for man. Because they are the Name of God, and God does not do anything that is futile, useless or frivolous. The acts of the awliya' of God are so subtle and precise and carried out namelessly and without any personal identity or display that, at times, they are themselves unaware of their own actions. They work while their own souls and imaginable bodies are unaware of it. A wali of God will not do anything that is contrary to the will of God and His pleasure even if he were to be cut to pieces and every limb of his body were to be mutilated and he were to be flayed alive.
On this basis, when we see that the Infallible Holy Imams, may God's benedictions be upon all of them, with that greatness and their expansive spiritual and existential power, do not fulfill all the requests and desires of the people, that is for several reasons:
Firstly, most of the prayers of the people are not serious and do not come from their hearts. Their prayers often arise from habit, imitation, reliance on outward causes and belief in imaginary notions. As a consequence their requests are not true prayers coming from their innermost selves; otherwise those same prayer would be answered were they to arise from a condition of destitution and total submission "Or He who answer the prayer of the destitute when he calls upon Him and removes his affliction?" (27:62)
Secondly, their prayers are made mostly for the sake of personal benefits and in ignorance of general interests. That is, the person making the prayer seeks something specially for himself, and the answering of his prayer would imply that he should be divested of it. For example, someone makes recourse to the Holy Imam and appeals to him to be relieved from the oppression of his neighbor, while at home he himself constantly oppresses his own wife in a worse manner and no one knows about his misconduct. In this case, if God were to answer only his appeal concerning the neighbor and take him away, that would be an injustice towards the poor wife of this unjust man, for his oppressive conduct towards her would be left to continue. And were He to answer it in relation to all the oppressors, as required by the encompassment of his Names of Glory (asma' jalaliyyah), He would take away this man in the first place for oppressing his wife in his own house. But as men have always a good opinion of themselves, they do not consider their wrongdoing as evil. Rather, they do not see their own wrongdoing while they pray for relief from the wrondoings of others. This knid of prayer, too, is not answered, for its outcome will be destruction of all oppressors, including one making the prayer.
Thirdly, the prayers made by people go mostly against their own interests. That is, they seek something and insist upon their needs on the basis of their own ideas and fancies, which if granted would be detrimental for them. But as they are veiled from reality and unaware of its secrets they imagine them to be to their benefit. People are mostly ignorant of spiritual and real benefits and harms; they conceive their profits and losses on the basis of their indulgent appetites, base worldly pleasures, and their greed for wealth, property and the like, regardless of whether that would bring them any peace of mind, liberate their spirits, or embroil them in further troubles and, on the whole, regardless of whether that would raise their rank and their degree of knowledge and proximity to God, whereas such thinking is contrary to their interests. It might be that a spoonful of sweetmeat would produce poison in one's body, and an excess of property and wealth would make one rebellious and unruly. It might be that a condition of health would lead one onto neglect, frolic and conceit and bodily power and strength might lead one to defeat his rival with consequent self-conceit and pride. Many examples can be given of such things. In such cases a greater and lasting harm would result from a small and passing benefit, and the people are themselves ignorant of it.Poor folk, they are after sport and play and in pursuit of passing pleasures, while they are ignorant of the pain, weariness and suffering of their own souls.
Hadrat Haddad, may God sanctify his spirit, use to say: "I observe that in all the noble shrines, the people press themselves against the 'Zari' (the latticed chamber covering the tomb) and plead and pray with laments and tears; "Add one more patch to my patched garments and make them more cumbersome. Nobody says, "Take away these patches so that I become lighter and my dress simpler and finer!"
The appeals made by the people mostly pertain to material things, although they are legitimate and lawful, like repayment of loan, need for working capital, purchasing house, marriage of a young daughter, cure of a sick person, giving of feast in the month of Ramadan, and the like. They are all good if they bring one closer to God and contribute to one's spiritual liberation, but not if they augment one's ego and personality and strengthen one's (worldly) being. Because this augmentation of one's being leads to the soul's heaviness and increases its separation from God, instead of bringing one nearer to Him and making the soul lighter and buoyant.
An act is good and to a human being's real benefit if it leads to his nearness to God and liberates his soul, whether or not it is accompanied with natural and physical benefits. In other words, the human totality is not a totality like that of animals, plants and inanimate objects, in which all that matters is body and physique.
The human being has a rational soul and possesses the capacity to rise to the highest of spiritual stations (a'la illiyyin), and hence were he to put all his concern in his body that would be a great loss, as that would amount to selling off the reality of one's being and the fruit of one's life for a paltry price and to be a loser in the competion of this world.
In such cases, should the Holy Imams fulfill everyone's requests and answer the prayers of all, that would amount to working against their very interests. The Holy Imams are the reformers of the world of humankind. They are like physicians who prescribe an unpleasant diet, or hunger and abstinence and occasionally bitter medicines, injections and surgery. The wise do not violate the doctor's prescriptions, but the ignorant slaves of appetites or guardianless children do not follow them and dig their own graves with their own hands.
However, as the very act of prayer and supplication is something desirable, those who resort to prayer do partake of spiritual reward and they come to feel relief, joy and vigor at the sublime thresholds of these shrines, receiving the benefit of worldly joy as well as worship. And occasionally we do observe that their appeals are answered if that is in their interest and sick persons at the verge of death recover fully and the blind and the paralyzed get cured and they return to their homes with their needs fulfilled.