Brothers and sisters, the days approaching us can change our lives forever.
The entire Muslim world will be flung into a metaphysical camp in which the opportunity for growth will be endless. Words cannot stress what power these days hold. We must be ready for these days. We must take advantage of these days. They are the days of light within the months of light. They are the upcoming three months of the Islamic calendar, Rajab, Shaaban, and the month of Ramadan, and this camp will commence this week.[pullquote]Words cannot stress what power these days hold.[/pullquote]Over the course of the last thousand years the lovers of God have anticipated these months like nothing else. The Prophet (S) and the Imams (as) never wasted a fragment of a second once this camp had started. There is not a hint of exaggeration in my words when I tell you that the course of our lives may very well change if we immerse ourselves in the moments of infinity these upcoming days and nights will provide. And to immerse ourselves in these moments of infinity, a programme has been set out for us.
If you were farming on a field for hours on end just before meeting with the greatest personality you can think of, what is the first thing you would do after you finished farming? Anyone would answer the same thing: Naturally, you would shower, you would clean yourself. Afterwards, you would get ready for this meeting by dressing yourself up in the best clothes you have. The programme set out for the change of our lives is no different. There are three stages to this programme: ‘takhlia’ which is to empty, ‘tahlia’ which is to decorate, and ‘tajlia’ which is to manifest.
This metaphysical camp begins with the month of Rajab, the month where we engage in the first stage. Here, takhlia takes place in that we must empty our hearts from everything other than Allah (swt). If you had a cup held out under the sky waiting for the rain to come down, you would want this cup to be clean. Otherwise, if the dirty stain marks were still in the cup then the water would still fill it, but that water will be dark. The rain is coming. We want the water in our cups to be clear. Pure. This month is where we get rid of our impurities, those sins holding us down for all these years. The main thikr to use in this month is the thikr of istighfaar: to seek forgiveness. One must focus completely on protecting his/her heart from anything negative that may enter it in order to instantly banish it from himself. To closely observe his behaviour. To refrain from any sin. To seek forgiveness for every sin. Observing the fast on these days is highly recommended, to the extent that on the day of judgement God calls out: ‘Where are the Rajabiyoon?’ This group known as the Rajabiyoon consists of those people who fasted during the days of this month. This is Rajab, this is takhlia.
The second stage of our programme is then engaged in Shaaban. After we have emptied our hearts through our tears in Rajab, we move onto the stage of tahlia and decorate our now purified hearts for our Beloved. We would immerse ourselves in duas, contemplation and reflection. The known dua books of Mafateeh al Jinan and Sahifa Sajadiya should always be at hand, as we immerse ourselves in the multiple prayers and whispers of yearning to our Lord. The translations for these prayers are widely available online for those who cannot read or understand Arabic. Our main thikr to be used in this month is Salawat, which is to send peace and blessings upon our Prophet (S) Muhammad and his holy family (as). With every single salawat we would be catapulting ourselves to the most perfect of all creations, always trying to get closer to his shining light. By now we should be fasting consistently, at least every Monday and Thursday as is recommended by our scholars. This paired with the recurring salawats throughout the day and the increasing actions of our generosity, charity, positive ethics and morals will decorate our hearts. To be in the remembrance of the holy household is to know what it means to be a true slave of Allah (swt), and to truly allow love to enter your heart.
After these stages of takhlia and tahlia have been completed in Rajab and Shabaan, what is left is tajlia within the month of all months. Now just like any other camp, we would not want to jump to the extremes straight away. If it were a military camp, the soldiers would not be asked to run three hours and do a thousand push-ups on the first day. They would be eased into their training, slowly building themselves up. A fifteen-minute run on the first day, a twenty-minute run on the second day, and so forth. They would not be training for the last day of camp either, that is the day they give out their prizes and honourable mentions. Likewise in the month of Ramadan, we want to have been eased into our worship with the training and purification of the previous months. Usually people try to begin this life-changing programme at the start of the month of Ramadan and that is why you find them feeling so dizzy in the first ten days or so. By the end of the month they would have barely finished the stage of takhlia. How can they ever truly witness the favours of God in their lives if they never go past the first stage? If we really want to change our lives we begin now, from Rajab. In the month of Ramadan you offer Allah (swt) your heart after you have cleansed it and decorated it for Him, and this is where He will manifest Himself to you in all that you see. The main thikr used in this month is: (yehp, you guessed it) – the Quran. Imam Al-Sadiq (as) states that:
“Allah has manifested Himself to His creation through His words, but they do not see”.
You would have been building up for two months and a half for one special night, the night where you could finally see. It all culminates on the 23rd of the month of Ramadan, Laylatul Qadr, or the Night of Power. It is this night that you would have been working towards, the night that Allah (swt) says is greater than a thousand nights, where your purified and decorated heart may be ready to witness the truth of reality behind the veils of heedlessness we are so used to. If we truly seek to reap the benefits we so often read about, we must be ready for this night. We must begin our camp this week in the same way that The Prophet (S) and the Ahlulbayt (as) prepared for Laylatul Qadr, two months and a half prior.
With each stage, you grow closer and closer to the Beloved. For example, when it comes to forgiveness, you would be seeking forgiveness from your sins in Rajab. By the time Shabaan comes around, you would be seeking forgiveness for those acts which are not forbidden, but that are merely not liked by Allah (swt). By the month of Ramadan, you would be seeking forgiveness for merely giving attention to anything other than Allah (swt).
In the Noble Quran, the chapter of Qadr states that ‘we have sent it down on the night of Qadr’. ‘Inna anzalna –hu’. I have lived for 24 years, and thinking back to all the nights of Qadr that I have participated in, I still do not know what the ‘hu’ in ‘Inna anzalna-hu’ is. I don’t know what the ‘it’ that has been sent down on the night of Qadr is. That blessed light of Infinity, that witnessing of manifestation that can change our lives forever, that ‘hu’, why do we not see it? Upon thinking back to my youth I realise that when all those old timers from the village would talk about seeing a tree on Laylatul Qadr prostrating to God in the position of Sujood, they weren’t kidding.
“The seven heavens and the earth and all that is in them exalt and praise Him. And there is not a thing but that it exalts and praises Him, but you do not understand them.” Chapter Israa – verse 44.
If we were to lift the veil in front of our eyes, what we think are miracles wouldn’t actually be miracles. Every single thing, to the tiniest atom, exalts and praises its Creator and is in constant praise and glorification of Him. That is the real world; a veil is merely covering it in front of our eyes. For the one who prepared for the Night of Qadr that veil is lifted. The old man may still be looking at the same tree that I am looking at, but we would be seeing something completely different.
It may seem so far away from us, but it is truly possible. We were born for this very reason: ‘The heart is the shrine of Allah’, ‘The heart of the believer is the throne of the Merciful One’. These narrations prove so, if not the following one:
“The heart is the home of Allah (swt), so do not allow anything to enter the home of Allah (swt) except for Allah (swt)” – Imam Sadiq (as)
If we say Allah (swt) is the All Wealthy, the All Generous, and the All Giving, then why would he hold any of what He has away from us, especially that what He has to give us is infinite in that it never ends? No, Allah’s (swt) blessings are all around us, but our hearts are blind. We do not see because we do not allow ourselves to. We are blind because of the blocks and barriers we have placed within ourselves, which prohibit us from this majestic witnessing of His eternal favours from entering our hearts. Let us lift the barriers. This Rajab, in these coming days, let us embark upon our journey and allow our hearts to truly return to our Beloved. Whoever you are, whatever you have done, this is your chance. Each and every single one of us has a heart surrounded by endless opportunities and infinite possibilities. Allow Infinity to enter you, and love all infinitely.
‘You are an infinite creation, so act in terms of infinity.’ – Allamah Tabatabaie
An excerpt from the daily Dua of Rajab
“O He who gives much in exchange of little.
O He who gives to one who asks Him.
O He who gives to one who does not ask Him and does not know Him out of His affection and mercy.
Give me, for my request is only to You alone, All the good of this world and all the good of the Hereafter.
Keep away from me, for my request is only to You alone, all the evil of this world and the evil of the Hereafter. For indeed whatever is given by you is never diminishing. Increase for me from Your bounty, O Generous One.”
(Then the 6th Imam (as) held his beard in his left hand and said)..
“..Save my grey hairs from the fire.”