Removing the Hurdles of Lamentation

7th of Muharram 1439

In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful

The Holy Qur’an says:

‘…Then your hearts hardened after that; so they are like stones, or even harder. For there are some stones from which streams gush forth, and there are some of them that split, and water issues from them, and there are some that fall for the fear of Allah. And Allah is not oblivious of what you do.’ [2:74]


Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘There is no good in a heart that has no humility, an eye that does not shed tears, and knowledge that does not have benefit.’ [Àmadi, Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, p. 793]


In a supplication narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), we are taught to say, ‘O Allah, I seek refuge in you from the soul that is not content, the belly that is not satisfied, and the eye that does not shed tears (wa ‘aynin la tadma‘)’. [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.83, p. 109]


Gatherings of lamentation, as we learnt earlier, are opportunities for one’s exposure to the divine breaths of mercy (nafahat ilahiyyah) that infinitely rain down upon everyone throughout their lifetimes. We must therefore treasure the opportunities and try to benefit from them as much as possible. Unfortunately, however, some of us, despite participating in such sacred gatherings, do not benefit from them. This is because despite listening to the authentic events of the atrocities of Karbala, we are not able to shed tears. Does this mean that there is something wrong with us? If that is so, how should we rectify the situation?


Our narrations allude to a malady that is known to be the fundamental cause of our states of insensitivity and cold-heartedness: Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘Tears did not dry up except due to the hardness of the heart, and the hearts did not become hard, save due to ample sin.’ [Shaykh Saduq, ‘Ilal al-Sharayi‘, v.1, p. 81]. In this meaningful hadith, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) tells us two important things: (1) the reason why one cannot shed tears, and (2) the main cause behind the reason. Those who have habituated themselves in sin and as a result hardened their hearts will not be responsive even to the most moving incident that transpired in history. Indeed, this is not an easy state, for it painful for one to be exposed to the treasures of spiritual perfection, and not be able to draw any benefit due to one’s inability to receive any of these treasures. In fact, the state of hardness of the heart (qaswah) is the worst state a person can ever have. Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘The servant of God has not been stricken with a punishment greater than the hardness of the heart.’ (Ibn Shu‘bah al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, p.296]. The tone of this narration tells us that the matter is serious, and one must not take things lightly if one senses that he experiences such a state.


The first hadith that we quoted generally teaches us that ‘sin’ in its different manifestations causes the hardness of the heart. Other narrations give us more details worthy of reflection. If we understand them and avoid the causes of the hardness of the heart, we will not suffer the state of insensitivity and indifference. As a result, listening to the gatherings of lamentations would cause ‘abarat (transformative tears) to flow from our eyes.


The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: ‘Do not talk too much without the remembrance of Allah, for indeed talking too much without the remembrance of Allah is [the state of] the hardness of heart (qaswat al-qalb). Indeed, the most distant of people from Allah is the hard-hearted.’ [Shaykh Tusi, al-Amali, Assembly 1, p.3]. The condition ‘without the remembrance of Allah’ in this hadith informs us that too much speech that is coupled with the remembrance of Allah does not reveal ‘the hardness of the heart’.  Therefore, we must struggle to bridle our tongues and engage in speech that would be upright, beneficial, and in line with the remembrance of God.


The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: ‘Whosoever is habituated to a lot of food and drink, his heart will become hard.’ [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.59, p. 293]


The Holy Prophet (s) is also reported to have said: ‘Whosoever eats meat for forty days continuously, his heart will harden.’ [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.59, p. 294]


Allah once whispered unto Musa saying: ‘Do not prolong your hopes for worldly things in this world, for your heart would become hard; and the one whose heart is hard is distant from Me.’ [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.13, p. 332]


The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: ‘Disengage yourself from the sorrows of the world as much as you can, for whosoever’s aspiration is the world, his heart becomes hard…’ [al-Daylami, Irshad al-Qulub, v.1, p.66]


There are other narrations in this regard, but we would like to suffice ourselves with these. The most important point is to know that we must try our best to abstain from sin, attachment of the world, and excess in the material enjoyments of the world, so that our heart does not harden and we can lament and weep for Imam al-Husayn (‘a) without any problem.


Our narrations have also enumerated causes that soften the heart and enable one’s tears to flow. Consider the following noteworthy hadiths:


  1. Eating lawful food: The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: ‘Whosoever eats lawful sustenance, his heart would become pure and soft and his eyes would shed tears and there would not be a veil for his supplication.’ [Turayhi, Majma‘ al-Bahrayn, v.5, p. 353]


  1. Remembering Allah abundantly in privacy: Imam al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘And expose yourself to the softness of the heart, through abundantly remembering God in privacy…’[Ibn Shu‘bah al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, p. 285]


  1. Giving food and showing love to the orphan: It is narrated that a man complained to the Holy Prophet (s) about the hardness of heart, and the Prophet (s) said: If you want that your heart becomes soft, then give food to the extremely poor, and caress the head of the orphan.’ [Shaykh Tabrasi, Mishkat al-Anwar, p. 167]


  1. Hunger: Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘I sought the softness of heart, and I found it in hunger and thirst.’ [al-Nuri, Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, v.12, p. 173]


  1. Remembering Death: Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘Remembering death kills the desires, severs the roots of negligence…and softens one’s nature.’ [‘Allamah Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, v.6, p. 133]


  1. Eating lentils: A man complained to the Holy Prophet (s) of having a hard heart, and the Prophet (s) said to him: ‘Have lentils, for it softens the heart, and quickens the shedding of tears…’ [ al-Barqi, al-Mahasin, v.2, p. 504]


In light of the aforesaid, one who suffers the hardness of heart, regardless of its intensity, must struggle to soften it and maximize the opportunity of lamentation and other acts of devotion which involve weeping such as seeking forgiveness and expressing one’s love for Allah.


We must try to align ourselves with our Imams in all our dimensions of life, including the ceremonies of lamentation. In a well-known hadith Imam al-Ridha (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘Indeed the day of al-Husayn (‘a) wounded our eyelids (aqraha jufunana) and made our tears flow heavily…’ which reveals the kind of weeping that is required of us. When are one’s eyelids wounded? When he engages in continual weeping. If we make our hearts ready and refrain from sin, our tears will flow abundantly and transport us to the heights of perfection.


Those, however, who despite having sinned, experience sincere tears, must know they do possess relative softness of heart. Through lamentation and sincere tears, they can purify themselves from the sins they have committed.


May Allah’s peace and abundant mercy be on Imam al-Husayn and his valiant companions who sacrificed themselves with utter sincerity.

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