In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful
Hudhayfah, the Yemenite companion of the Holy Prophet (s), in a narration says: I saw the Prophet (s) holding the hand of Husayn (‘a) whilst he said ‘O people, this is Husayn ibn ‘Ali (‘a). Therefore, know him (fa‘rifuhu); for I swear by the One in whose hand is my soul, indeed He is ‘in the Garden of Heaven’ (innahu la fi al-jannah) and his lovers are in the Garden of Heaven and the lovers of his lovers [likewise] are in the Garden of Heaven.’ [Shaykh Saduq, al-Amali, p. 693]
Despite the brevity of this hadith, it overflows with subtleties of meaning: Introducing Imam al-Husayn (‘a) to the people in general, asking them to gain ma‘rifah (recognition) of Imam Husayn (‘a) despite his young age during the Prophet’s time, swearing by Allah with a weighty oath before stressing his point, informing them emphatically that Husayn is “in” Jannah, not that he ‘will go to” Jannah as the narration explicitly reveals, employing the article ‘al’ for al-Jannah, which potentially signifies ‘a specific level of Jannah’ or ‘all the levels of Jannah’, employing the same expressions for ‘his lovers’ and ‘the lovers of his lovers’, alluding to the close relationship of knowledge of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and love for him, and finally, alluding to the kind of knowledge and love that makes one really deserving to be in the Garden of Heaven while he still resides in this world, depict a world of information worthy of discussion.
This is the little my broken pen was able to draw from this profound hadith. Otherwise it has much to unravel for those who have receptive hearts (qulub wa‘iyah). We must understand that in the same way that the Qur’an has different levels of meaning, and one is only able to comprehend the level that corresponds to his perfection and receptivity, the speeches of the Infallible Imams (‘a), who are epitomes of Qur’an, likewise have levels of meaning, and the higher one is able to soar, the deeper his understating of the profound meanings of their speeches.
The well-known philologist Abu Hilal al-‘Askari (d. 1005) in his al-Furuq al-Lughawiyyah which is a lexicon of differences between words that apparently seem to be synonyms but contain subtle noteworthy differences, says that the difference between ‘ilm and ma‘rifah both of which are rendered as ‘knowledge’ is that whereas the latter is preceded by ignorance of what was known before, the former has no such condition. [Abu Hilal al-‘Askari, al-Furuq al-Lughawiyyah, p. 502]. In other words, if we say that we have attained the ma’rifah of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) it means that we already had knowledge about him in the preceding realms of existence, forgot the same and now are slowly and gradually regaining it. That is why some scholars render the word ‘irfan or ma‘rifah as ‘re-cognition’ and not simply ‘knowledge’.
The reason for this lexical discussion is to understand the aforementioned prophetic statement ‘Hadha al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali fa‘rifuhu’ (This is Husayn, son of ‘Ali; therefore know him.). Note the phrase employed is not fa’lamuhu but fa’rifuhu, which does not mention ‘ilm (knowledge) but ma’rifah (re-cognition). In other words, that knowledge that you already knew in the higher realms, re-cognize and regain it. Such knowledge, however, cannot be conceptual as some of us may conjecture. It is knowledge of the heart; the heart beholds the light of the Imam (‘a). Insightful scholars, drawing inspiration from some profound hadiths in this regard, call this kind of knowledge as ‘al-ma’rifah bi al-nuraniyyah’ (recognition through illumination).
However, it is impossible for us to jump and lay our feet on the highest step of a ladder before gradually going through the lower steps. Hence, we begin with the steps of ‘ilm al-yaqin (conviction through conceptual knowledge), and gradually soar to haqq al-yaqin (which is a very high level of vision and conviction).
In order to get a general idea of how to begin, let us consider the following noteworthy points:
- One of the subtle meanings of the well-known narration of thaqalayn, is that the meaning of inseparableness of Qur’an and Ahl al-Bayt is the unity of their realities. The Qur’an is the written infallible Imam (‘a) and the Imam (‘a) is the embodiment of Qur’an. Realizing this, if we study the Qur’an carefully, we will understand what lofty character does the Imam have. This would make us understand who Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is. One of the chapters of Qur’an worthy of reflection to understand the personality of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is Surat al-Fajr. Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) adviced his followers to recite it in their obligatory and supererogatory prayers so that they are resurrected with the Imam (‘a).
- Narrations from the Holy Prophet (s) and the Imams (‘a) themselves about the stations of the Imam (‘a) is another source of knowing Imam al-Husayn (‘a). A very good example of this is a lengthy tradition of Imam al-Ridha (‘a) that discusses the lofty station of an Imam. A part of this hadith that is narrated in the Usul al-Kafi is as follows: ‘The Imam is like the risen sun which illuminates the world by its light…The Imam is an intimate friend, kind father, and a brother who resembles oneself. He is like a mother who is extremely kind and virtuous to her young offspring. The Imam is a refuge for the servants in calamities and great difficulties. The Imam is a trustee of God on earth, His proof over His servants, His vicegerent in His cities…’ [Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, v.1, p. 492]. This hadith is so beautiful and profound that if one contemplates over it he would realize the towering personality of all the Imams, including Imam al-Husayn (‘a).
- Another noteworthy source of knowing Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is to refer to salutational recitals narrated by the infallible Imams themselves. One of the most profound and meaningful ziyarat that describes the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is Ziyarat al-Jami’ah al-Kabirah. Many of our esteemed scholars have written powerful commentaries on this lofty recital. A recent masterpiece is the Adab-e-Finaye Muqarraban of the towering exegete of our time, Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli. Other than this meaningful ziyarah, it is noteworthy to look at other ziyaraat, which mention the outstanding characteristics of Imam al-Husayn (‘a)
- An authentic history of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is very essential for that would enlighten us about some of the particular challenges the Imam (‘a) faced during his time and all the moves of wisdom that he made. Some scholars have struggled to write authentic and purposeful works and hence we are duty-bound to refer to them. Likewise, an authentic account of the movement and tragedy of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is very essential, so that tears are shed when listening to authentic accounts. One such reliable work mentioned by a number of scholars is the well-known al-Luhuf of Sayyid ibn Tawus. Its reliability overshadows its brevity, for tears due to authentic accounts is clearly essential.
After knowing the station of the Imam (‘a) even in the rudimentary stages – and this month is when the lecturers should focus on this vital subject — love will settle in the heart and permeate the entire being, and ‘abarat (transporting tears) will naturally flow from our eyes and a true sense of ‘missing the presence of Imam al-Husayn (‘a)’ will be felt in the core of our beings. Perhaps this is when the the fruit of our supplication in the Ziyarat Ashura that “O Allah unite us with Husayn in this world and the Hereafter” would be realized. It is in such case that a believer would naturally address Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his loyal companions saying: “I wish I would have been with you, so that I would have been successful with a tremendous success”. It is here that the supplication “Here I am O Husayn…” is uttered sincerely.
How beautiful would our states be when our lamentations are filled with gnosis and love for the Leader of Martyrs!
Peace be unto you O Husayn, and on your loyal companions who settled in your proximity…