In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful
The Holy Qur’an says:
‘…My mercy embraces all things. Soon I shall appoint it for those who are God-wary…’ [7:156]
In a lengthy hadith from Imam al-Ridha (‘a), the Infallible Imam is described as follows: ‘…The Imam is a rainy cloud, heavy rain, and radiant sun…’ (…al-Imamu al-sahab al-matir, wa al-ghaythu al-hatil wa al-shams al-mudhi’ah…) [Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, v.1, p. 492]
In the well-known Ziyarat Aali Yasin which is addressed to the Imam of our time (‘a) we are taught to say: ‘Peace be upon you, O the fixed banner…and the all-comprehensive mercy (wa al-rahmat al-wasi‘ah)…’ [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.53, p. 171]
One of the outstanding characteristics of the fourteen infallibles of the Ahl a-Bayt (‘a), including Imam al-Husayn (‘a), is their all-comprehensive mercy (al-rahmah al-waasi‘ah). They sacrificed their lives for the sake of their Only Beloved. Every creature’s felicity was their concern. The spiritual downfall of their enemies would extremely hurt them. They yearned for the salvation of every human being. They actually were the manifestations of the All-Merciful. That is why when we address Imam al-Husayn (‘a) we say, ‘O Allah’s all-comprehensive mercy and O door of the salvation of the nation!’ (Ya rahmata Allah al-waasi‘ah wa ya baaba najat al-ummah). This verse alludes to two kinds of Divine Mercy: the all-comprehensive Divine Mercy known as al-Rahmah al-Rahmaniyyah and the special Divine Mercy known as al-Rahmah al-Rahimiyyah. The first is like the rain and the sun that cover everything and every human being, regardless of whether he is a believer, disbeliever, hypocrite, etc., whereas the second is specific to those who have the capacity of receiving the special grace which is belief, piety, spiritual perfection, the Garden of Heaven, etc.
The reason why Imam al-Husayn (‘a) as well as the rest of thirteen infallibles of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are manifestations of the all-comprehensive mercy of Allah, is their station of mediation which Allah has bestowed on them. They are the intermediaries of Divine Grace (wasa’it al-fayd al-ilahi) of the different realms of existence. Hence they provide everyone with their existence, perfection, subsistence, etc. However, they do not do so independently or out of their own power. Whatever they do and whatever they provide is entirely through Allah. They in fact are manifestations of Divine Mercy and thus have nothing of their own independently.
Concerning them being manifestations of special Divine mercy, it must be known that such mercy which reveals Divine guidance is a state experienced only by the believers. The Imams by Divine command guide the receptive believers through the bestowal of conviction, gnosis, love, attention, etc. Exegetes of Qur’an refer to such specific guidance when commenting on the verse ‘We made them Imams, guiding by Our command…’[Q,21:73]. The phrase ‘yahduna bi amrina’ (guiding by Our command) speaks of ontological and existential influence on the part of the Imams and not mere verbal communication. Obviously it does not mean that Allah needs them for the task of guidance because they along with their possessions are totally the actions of Allah, or to use the mystical jargon, sheer manifestations of Allah’s attributes. Such a system of intermediaries is essential because the intensity of Divine Grace cannot be poured directly into a receptacle that has no capacity of receiving abundant grace at one go. It must pass through receptacles of different levels until it is benefitted by the human beings. This is the system of the All-Wise Creator, whose every action brims with wisdom, despite ignorance on the part of a people.
It is the lights of the Imams that are united with the Muhammadan light from which every grace descends. Hence the universe in its different levels secondarily return to the Muhammadan light although primarily they return to God. In fact, the reality is much deeper, but words can sometimes serve as sharp swords which instead of being used for defense can be mishandled. Hence we prefer to avoid going into the subtle details here.
When we say that Imam al-Husayn (‘a) is a manifestation of both kinds of Divine Mercy, we must understand that it actually means that He is the ship of salvation. He can, by Divine permission facilitate all kinds of human prosperity, and thus drawing inspiration from his movement and speeches and asking him for a rapid inner transformation can really change our states. The history of lamentation has many examples in this regard, but mentioning them here is beyond the scope of this short article.
Imam Husayn (‘a) was a burning spirit, seeking the good of everyone, including those who despised him out of ignorance, jealousy, sin, etc. It would actually hurt him to see the eternal ignominy of a group of people who due to petty attachments were ready to fight against the vicegerent of God on earth. On the night of ‘Ashura we observe that he (‘a) calls ‘Umar ibn Sa‘d and advises him to leave the camps of Yazid and join his camp, but despite acknowledging the truthfulness of the Imam (‘a), he brings different pretexts and does not heed to what the Imam (‘a) says, until the Imam (‘a) leaves him alone.
On the Day of ‘Ashura, before Shimr severes the blessed head of Imam al-Husayn (‘a), the Imam (‘a) has a powerful conversation with him, in which he asks him whether the gift that he anticipates from Yazid is more lovable to him or the intercession of his grandfather- the Holy Prophet (s), and Shimr, having lost the ability to change, says that even a small portion of the gift of Yazid is more lovable to him than Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his Grandfather. (s).
These are vivid manifestations of the all-comprehensive mercy of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) who yearns for the emancipation of everyone, even his die hard enemies.
Realizing the aforesaid, as we lament for Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his noble family, we must understand that he (‘a) is the ship of salvation. Whatever problems we encounter in life, whether spiritual or material, Husayn (‘a) is always ready – rather always craving to make us board his ship, so that we attain eternal felicity. Rather, Husayn (‘a) is the bird of sanctity (ta’ir al-quds) that spiritually transports all those who really aspire to undertake the spiritual journey to Allah.
In the well-known ziyarah al-Jami ‘ah al-Kabirah we address the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) including Imam al-Husayn (‘a) as follows: ‘…it is through you that spiritual wayfaring to the station of Divine Pleasure is undertaken (bikum yuslaku ila al-Ridwan) [Ibn al-Mashhadi, al-Mazar al-Kabir, p. 532]. In other words, they are the one who transport the spiritually steadfast and resolute ones to the high levels of perfection.
May Allah enable us draw maximum benefit from the commemorative gatherings of this enlightening month, so that we begin our spiritual journey while we still have the great bounty of this transient life.
Peace be unto you, O totally obedient servant of Allah, and on your loyal companions who descended in your proximity.