SHAFAQNA- In the same sermon are explained the various spiritual states and levels attained by the worshippers in the course of their devotional search. Imam Ali (A.S) describes such men in these words: The angels have surrounded them and peace is showered upon them. The doors of heavens are opened for them and abodes of blessedness, of which He had informed them, have been prepared for them. He is pleased with their struggle and admires their station. When they call Him, they breathe the scent of His forgiveness and mercy.5
Nights of the Devout
From the point of view of the Nahj al-balaghah, the world of worship is another world altogether. Its delights are not comparable with any pleasures of the three-dimensional corporeal world. The world of worship effuses movement, progress, and journey, but a journey which is quite unlike physical travel to new lands.
It is spiritual journey to the ‘nameless city’. It does not know night from the day, because it is always drenched in light. In it there is no trace of darkness and pain, for it is throughout purity, sincerity, and delight. Happy is the man, in the view of the Nahj al-balaghah, who sets his foot into this world and is refreshed by its invigorating breeze. Such a man then no longer cares whether he lays his head on silken pillow or on a stone: Blessed is he who discharges his duties towards his Lord, and endures the hardships they entail. He allows himself no sleep at nights until it over whelms him. Then lies down with the palm of his hand under head as his pillow. He is among those whom the thought of the Day of Judgement keeps wakeful at nights, whose beds remain vacant, whose lips hum in God’s remembrance and whose sins have been erased by their prolonged earnest supplication for forgiveness They are the ‘Party of God’; “surely God’s Party-they are the prosperers!” 6
The nights of the men of God are like shiny days, The gloomy nights do not exist for the enlightened.
The Profile of the Pious
In the last section we discussed the viewpoint of the Nahj al-balaghah with respect to worship. We found that the Nahj al-balaghah does not regard worship as a series of cut-and-dried, lifeless rituals. The bodily movements constitute the apparent body of worship, while its soul and meaning is something else. Only when endowed with meaning and spirit is worship worth its name. Real worship means transcending the three-dimensional world into the spiritual sphere, which is a world of perpetual delight and sublimation for the soul and the source of vigour and strength for the heart, which has its own pleasures.
At times it discusses the role of worship in lifting from the human soul the pall of sins and black deeds, and often points out to the effect of worship in curing moral and psychic diseases. At other times it speaks about the unadulterated, unsurpassable and pure delights and ecstasies of the followers of the spiritual path and sincere worshippers of God.
During the night they are on their feet reciting the verses of the Qur’an one after the other, tarrying to deliberate about their meaning, and thereby instilling gnostic pathos into their souls and by means of it seek remedy for their spiritual ailments. What they hear from the Qur’an seems to them as if they are witnessing it with their own eyes.
If they come across a verse arousing eagerness (for Paradise) they lean towards it covetingly and their souls cling to it avidly as if they are approaching their ultimate goal. And when they come across a verse that instills fear, their heart’s ear is turned in attention to it as if they themselves hear the cracking sound of the flames of Hell Fire.
Their backs are bent in reverence and their foreheads, palms, knees and toes rest on the ground as they beseech God for deliverance. But when the day dawns, they are kind, patient, scholarly, pious and righteous. 7
The Spiritual Experience
He has revived his intellect and slain his self, until his body became lean and its bulkiness shrunk, and stubborness turned into tenderness (of heart). Then effulgence, like a thunderbolt, descended his heart and illuminated the path before him, opening all the doors, and led him straight into the gateway of Peace. Now his feet, carrying his body, are firmly rooted in the position of safety (on the Sirat) and comfort because he kept his heart busy with good deeds and won the good pleasure of his God. 8
As we observe, this passage speaks of another kind of life, which is called ‘the life of intellect’. It speaks about struggle against the carnal self (al-nafs al-‘ammarah) and its destruction; it speaks about exercise of the spirit and the body, about lightening, which as a result of exercise illumines the being of the follower and brightens his spiritual world; it speaks about the stages and targets that the devotee’s earnest soul reaches on his way until it attains the last and highest stage of man’s spiritual journey.9
The Qur’an says: “O man! Thou art labouring unto thy Lord laboriously, and thou shalt encounter Him.“ (84:6)
In the sermon 228, Imam Ali (A.S) describes the significance attached by this class of devotees to spiritual life-the life of the heart: “They see that the worldly people attach great importance to the death of their bodies but they themselves attach much greater importance to the death of hearts of those who are living.” (Sermon 230)
Imam Ali (A.S) describes the ecstatic eagerness of the earnest souls which impels them to move onwards on the path of spiritual perfection in these words: They lived in society and participated in its affairs with their bodies, while their souls rested in the higher spiritual spheres.10
Had there been no preordained time of death for each of them, their spirits would not have remained in their bodies even for the twinkling of an eye because of their eagerness for the Divine reward and their fear of chastisement. 11
He did everything only for God, and so God also made him His own. 12
The esoteric knowledge and emanated insight, revealed to the heart of the follower of the spiritual path as a result of self-education and self-refinement, is described in these words: The knowledge that bursts upon them and surrounds them is endowed with absolute certainty, and their soul attains the highest degree of conviction. They easily bear what the easy-going regard as harsh and unbearable. They endear what makes the ignorant recoil with horror. 13
5. Ibid,. p. 343
6. Ibid,. Rasail, No. 45
7. Ibid,. Khutab, No. 193
8. Ibid,. Khutab No. 220
9. Ibid, Khutab No. 230
10. Ibid, Khutab No. 230
11. Ibid, Hikam, No. 147
12. Ibid, Khutab No. 193
13. Ibid, Khutab No. 87
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Murtuza Mutahhari