In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful
In a well-known hadith, it is narrated that Imam ‘Ali (‘a) once looked at his son Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and said: ‘O tear of every believer’ (ya ‘abrata kulli mu’min). Thereupon al-Husayn (‘a) asked: ‘I, O my dear father?’ Imam ‘Ali (‘a) responded: ‘Yes, O my dear son.’ [Ibn Qulawayh, Kamil al-Ziyarat, p.108)
In another hadith Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘I am the martyr of tear; no believer remembers me save that he weeps’ (Ana qatil al-‘abrah, ya yadhkuruni mu’min illa baka) [Ibn Qulawayh, Kamil al-Ziyarat, p.108)
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) addressing Imam al-Husayn (‘a) says in the Ziyarat of Arba‘in: ‘Peace be unto the captive of occasions of intense grief and martyr of tears’ (al-Salamu ‘ala asir al-kurubat wa qatil al-‘abarat) [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.98, p.331]
The first level of spiritual wayfaring to God (al-sayr ila Allah) begins with a transformative state of ‘spiritual vigilance’. Authoritative scholars of mysticism call such a state ‘al-yaqzah’ (wakefulness) [al-Ansari, Manazil al-Sa’irin, p.35]. The Holy Prophet (s) in a narration transmitted by the Shi‘ah as well as Sunni narrators of hadith, is reported to have said: ‘People are asleep; when they die, they wake up’ (al-nasu niyam; fa idha matu intabahu) [al-Warram, Tanbih al-Khawatir, v.1, p.150]. The state of yaqzah is not merely a state of mental vigilance, but rather a powerful state of transformation of the soul that highly motivates a person to change and steadfastly pursue the path of his perfection that leads to the realm of infinity and absoluteness.
Our meaningful lamentations can serve as the best opportunities for inner transformation in this holy month of commemorating the ascension of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) to the realm of the Only Beloved. In fact, if we consider the subtle allusions of the abovementioned traditions, we realize that crying for Imam al-Husayn (‘a) actually transforms the human being, and is able to elevate him to very high levels of perfection. Our emphasis however is to revise our lamentations and motivating factors of our sorrowful tears.
Lexically speaking, the word for ‘tear’ employed in the above hadiths is ‘abrah and not simply dam‘ah. Although both signify to mean ‘tear’ but ‘abrah is that tear that gives the implication of ‘penetration and entering deeper into something’ [Ibn Faris, Mu‘jam, v.4, p. 206]. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209) in his Tafsir al-Kabir, says that ‘abrah was called ‘abrah because it moves from the eye to the cheeks (li annaha tantaqilu min al-‘ayn ila al-khadd). This is the story of ‘abrah in the apparent world of the human being. It actually reveals an inner penetration and transfer, that takes place in the human soul and elevates it to higher levels of perfection. Imam Husayn (‘a) being the ‘abrah of every weeping believer is united with him, and carries him to higher levels of reality by the permission of Allah.
The phenomenal effect of a single tear for Imam al-Husayn (‘a) as narrated in our hadiths, makes us realize how powerful is the institution of commemorating the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (‘a). Following are some narrations worthy of consideration:
- In the well-known hadith of al-Rayyan ibn Shabib, Imam al-Ridha (‘a) tells him: ‘O son of Shabib! If you weep over the afflictions of Husayn (‘a) such that tears flow from your eyes and fall upon your cheeks, Allāh will forgive all your sins whether small or big, few or many…’ [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.44, p. 285, h 23)
This hadith has much meaning to reveal for every reflective soul. It informs us that the result of weeping is ‘purity from sin’, which obviously would facilitate the expansion of one’s heart and increase receptivity in accepting the secrets rained upon all believers every moment.
- Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘Whosoever recites a poem about al-Husayn and cries and makes others cry Allah makes the Garden of Heaven obligatory for him, and forgives him’ [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.44, p. 283)
- Imam al-Ridha (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘Whosoever remembers our calamities and weeps for what has been committed against us, he will be with us in our station in the Hereafter…’ [Shaykh Saduq, al-Amali, p. 73]
Consider the phrase ‘He will be with us’ and do not reckon it superficially. It reveals how lamentation refines the spirit and makes it in harmony with the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). If our lamentations are performed with its essential conditions, transformation would be a natural effect.
Today marks the second of Muharram. Weeping for the Leader of Martyrs (‘a) never ceases. It is due some of the people’s ignorance of the towering and all-merciful personality of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) that they ask the reason why there is no stop to lamentation. Rather the insightful scholars encourage lamentation every day throughout the year. Their emphasis can be well understood by the sincere lamentation of the Imam of our time who in the well-known Ziyarat al-Nahiyah says: ‘‘But as I have been hindered by the course of time and as (Allah’s) decree has prevented me from helping you…I will, therefore, lament you morning and evening, and will weep blood in place of tears, out of my anguish for you and my sorrow for all that befell you…’
The intensity and gravity of what transpired on the plains of Karbala and its aftermath can be understood from some narrations, an example of which is as follows:
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have once said to his companion Abu Basir: O Abu Basir, when I look at the progeny of al-Husayn (‘a), I am overcome due to what happened to their father and his family; O Aba Basir, indeed Fatima (‘a) constantly weeps for him (al-Husayn (‘a)) and sighs [out of deep sorrow] …So the angels constantly sympathize and weep due to her weeping and pray to Allah and express their humility to Him…. Abu Basir said: May I be made your ransom. Indeed, the matter is great. Thereupon the Imam (‘a) said: What you have not heard other than this is even greater. Thereafter the Imam (‘a) said: O Abu Basir: Don’t you want to be among those who make Fatima (‘a) happy? Abu Basir says: When the Imam (‘a) said this, I started weeping and could not utter a word, nor could I speak due to my weeping… [Shaykh al-Nuri, Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, v.10, p. 314]
This tradition clearly hints to us that whatever we have so far heard and known about Imam al-Husayn (‘a) cannot be compared to that which we do not know.
Peace be unto the captive of occasions of intense sorrow and the martyr of tears…