Monday, November 30, 2009

Ottomon Defenders part 2

On the second Friday in April 1918 after the prayers in Madinah, a Turkish officer slowly ascended the steps of the pulpit, draped in the Ottomon flag. Omer Fahruddin Pasha (also spelt as Fakhri Pasha or Umar Fakhr ud-Din Pasha) was the general commanding Ottomons in Madinah. Halfway up the steps, the general turned to face the congregation, which included many officers and men. A witness described the scene like this - "Stillness reigned in the Mosque. Waves of amber and musk rose from the silver censers behind the railing surrounding the Apostle's grave. For a moment, the General's eyes seemed absorbed in the contemplation of the candles burning besides the mausoleum. Then he raised his right hand and declared 'Apostle of God, I will not abandon you'. Turning to the uniformed men he said "Soldiers, I appeal to you in the presence of the Apostle who lies in his grave, but hears the words spoken here. I invite you to engage yourselves to defend him, to our last cartridge and our last breath, no matter how strong our enemies may be. God help us, and may the Apostle's spiritual aid be with us!" You officers of the heroic Turkish army and you little Muhammads (appellation for Turkish soldiers) who are used to paying your debt to your faith with your lives, come, take with me this engagement before our Lord.'"

Immediately, the Turkish soldiers rushed towards the Prophet's (peace be upon him) grave to make their pledge.

The defense of Madinah from Arab forces had become next to impossible for the Ottomons as they besieged from all sides of the empire. Emil Esin in her book mentions that Jamal Pasha (Commander in Damascus) asked his men whether they should give up on Madinah. Mustafa Kamal Pasha, now known as Ataturk, replied that he did not want to go down in history as the man who abandoned Madinah. Ironically, he abandoned the religion! Emil Esin is Turkish and perhaps Ataturk is shown positively, or maybe he did actually think so back then.

Back to Fahruddin Pasha. This man was continued to ignore orders from his superiors to surrender - even that of the Ottomon Caliph. His men had started eating locusts due to shortage of food and supplies from Damascus. But, he was oblivious to his situation. He had started building and repairing the Mosque and other surrounding areas. Women and children had already evacuated the Holy City.

One night while Fahruddin Pasha was keeping long vigils, a group of officers overpowered his comrades and and came in to the Pasha's quarters. They begged him to surrender and end this senseless resistance, especially when they had received orders from the Caliph. Sharif Husain's party had specified that the surrender of Fahruddin Pasha was necessary and thus the officers forced him out, but he broke free from them and rushed towards the Apostle's grave and laid down his sword, thus claiming sanctuary.

Emel Esin writes, that unfortunately, Fahruddin Pasha lived in an age when Knightly behavior could be mistaken for lack of judgement. The broken-hearted man and now silent man was taken away to captivity and exile, watched by the crowds who shouted their farewells to him.

The last Ottomon was thus relieved of his watch in the Apostle's mosque. And an era came to an end.

More on Pasha and his picture:

More details of the event here, including the letter he sent to Sharif Hussein, and the vision he had of the Prophet (peace be upon him) :

Ottomon Defenders part 1

Around 1916, Sharif Husain's forces launched attacks on Turkish garrisons at Taif and Makkah. During this period, a young Turkish officer began to bombard the Sharif's palace in Makkah, when a stray shell landed in the  courtyard of the Ka'bah, and the curtains caught fire.

The Turks rushed out of the fort and managed to extinguish the fire, but the Makkans believed that this was a deliberate attempt at sacrailege and set upon them. The entire Turkish garrison was massacred and the body of the young officer was dragged through the streets.

(From Mecca the Blessed, Madinah the Radiant by Emel Esin. This book is a treasure and I was fortunate to have found a copy of it on Amazon. It is brief, but has enough details that an average person would not have read or known. Especially, the history following Ummayad attack on Makkah and Madinah.)

I cannot judge the Turkish soldiers who were massacred that day, but I feel - and it is just a feeling - that they were defending the Holy City from rebellion. A rebellion that must have been difficult to understand, especially in a day and age where rumors got around fast and where there were no reliable sources of information.

How ironic for them to have died at the hands of their fellow Muslims after having put out the fire that they had accidentally set. To have been considered sacrilegious when in fact they were wholeheartedly defending the sacred. Oh Fate, how cruel thou art!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ali and the Angels

Ali and the Angels
"The Imam Ali, Lion of the Faith,
Have ye not heard his giving?
What he had the poor had,
for he held his gold and goods
As Allah's almoner. Ali it was
Who in the Mecca mosque at evening prayer-
Being entreated by some needy one -
Would not break off,
yet would not let the man
Ask him in vain for what he asked of God,
Favor and aid; wherefore - amid the words -
He drew his emerald, carved with Allah's
From his third finger, giving it; and prayed
With face unturned ...
by Edwin Arnold

Above is an excerpt from Ali and the Angels by Edwin Arnold, which appeared in Seasons Journal . Edwin Arnold praises the two events in Imam Ali's life:
1. Charity while bowing in prayer
2. His business transaction with Angels after having helped a needy person.

The first one is actually mentioned in the Quran:
"Your patron is God only, and His Messenger, and the believers who establish prayer and pay the alms, bowing down"
Quran (5:55) Translation by Royal Ahl-e-Bayt Institute (from
"He (Prophet peace be upon him) saw a beggar in the mosque and he asked him: ‘Did you get something from anyone?’ The beggar replied: ‘Yes, I got a ring of gold’. The Prophet asked him: ‘Who gave it to you?’ The beggar said: ‘That person who is standing in prayer’, and he pointed to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. The Prophet asked him again: ‘In which position did he give it to you?’ The beggar said: ‘He gave it to me while bowing in prayer’."
Al Wahidi in Asbab Al Nuzul (for details see link).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

what ails thee ...

"O thou grave, to thee I resort for paying homage to thee.
O thou, the repository of my beloved, thou answer me not.
O thou beloved tomb, what ails thee-
Thou respondeth not to my supplications.
Art thou of humor, because of the love that I bear thee?"
Imam Ali r.a.

One of the many verses by Imam Ali for his honorable wife.
Book of Character by Camille Helminski


Allah is our Lord
Muhammad is our Leader
The Koran is our Constitution
Jihad is our Way
Martyrdom is our Desire

The above was sticker Ed Husain had in his early days of  "radicalism". His father once saw this sticker and broke down in tears. He said, "My son, the Prophet was not leader, he is our master, the source of our spiritual nourishment. Leaders are for political movements, which Islam is not. The Koran is his articulation, as inspired by God, not a political document. It is not a constitution, but guidance and serenity for the believers heart. Jihad is a just war against tyranny and oppresion, fought by the Prophet after persecution, not a way. Why do these people call for martyrdom when their sons are in the best universities across the West?"

"Beware of extremism in religion; for it was extremism in religion that destroyed those who went before you"
A Hadith quoted in the Islamist by Ed Husain.

An Ummayyad Anomaly - Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

Son of Abd al-Aziz! Were eye to weep
for an Umayyad, I would weep for you.
You rescued us from insult and slander.
If reward were possible, I would repay you.

Saying of Al-Sharif Al-Radi. (This could be the Shia author of Nahjul Balagha, but not sure about it).

From Knowledge and Wisdom by Imam Al Haddad. 

Divorced the world thrice ...

It has been related that Mu'awiya asked Dirar ibn Damra to describe Ali to him. "Exempt me, O Commander of the faithful!" Dirar said. But Mu'awiya said, "I shall not exempt you!" He then replied:

Then I will say this. He was, may God be pleased with him, farsighted and of mighty strength. His words were decisive, and his judgement just. He liked coarse food and short clothes, felt estranged from the world and its beauty, and was intimate with night and its darkness. I bear witness that I once saw him when night had fallen, and the stars had risen, wakeful in his prayer niche, like a man that had been stung, restless as though wounded, weeping sorrowfully, holding his beard, and saying, "O world! Deceive other than myself! Is it for me that you beautify yourself? Is it for me that you manifest yourself? I have divorced you thrice; there can be no return, for your span is short, your worth insignificant, and your danger great! Ah! The scarcity of provision, the length of the way, and the estrangement of travelling!"

Mu'awiya wept raising his sleeve to his face to stem his tears as best as he could, and then said, "May God have mercy on Abu'l Hasan. He was, by God, truly so!"

There is evidence to indicate that Mu'awiya regretted opposing and warring with Ali, and others regretted it too, like Aisha and al-Zubayr, may God be pleased with them. Abdallah ibn Umar (married to the grand daughter of Ali r.a.) regretted his abstention from fighting alongside Ali r.a. "but the command of God was a destiny decreed" Quran 33:38. May God be pleased with every companion of the Messenger of God.

From Knowledge and Wisdom by Imam Al-Haddad

Imam Ali Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Ali bin Hussain al-Baqir

Note: The book Kashful Mahjub relates this incidence to Imam Al Baqir; however, Shaykh Ninowy in his lectures has associated the story of Yaqub a.s. (mentioned below) to Imam Zain ul Abidin. The translation of Kashful Mahjub may have some inconsistencies. Also, the beautiful prayer below and the story of Yaqub a.s. all point towards Imam Zain ul Abidin as he was known to have recited the most beautiful prayers, and it was he who was present at the battle of Karbala.

One of his close friends has said that when a portion of the night had passed Imam Baqir would finish his recitations (awraad) and invoke God's mercy loudly in the following words:

"My Lord God! Night has fallen; the reign of the Kings is over, the stars are up in the sky; all mankind has gone to sleep and disappeared; quiet prevails; the needy have stopped knocking at the doors of the rich. The Ummayyad rulers are resting, with watchmen guarding their gates; and those who wanted benefits from them have retired. But my Lord thou art the Eternal, the Living, the Knowing, far from sleeping and dozing. He who does not believe in these qualities is not worthy of receiving anything from Thee. There is nothing which can stop Thee from doing what Thou intendeth to do; the doors of Thy treasures are open at all times, and day or night do not make any difference. He who comes to Thy door never goes empty handed. Thou art the Lord who drives none away from Thy court, nor can any one else in the world stop him from knocking at Thy door. How can I rest when I remember death, grave and accountability on the day of judgement!
Therefore, I beg everything of Thee as there is none else to give; I beesech Thee to allow me to rest in the grave free from torture, and I implore Thee forgive me on the Day of Judgement."

The whole night Imam Baqir would pray like this and weep. His friend said to him "Sir, why do you weep and cry like this?" His reply was, "Prophet Yaqub lost just one son and wept till he went blind. How can I help weeping when I have lost eighteen members of my family, including my grandfather Hussain at Karbala. Have I suffered in any way less than Prophet Yaqub which caused his blindness?"

From Kashf ul Mahjub by Syed Ali Hujweri

Imam Zain ul Abidin and the Emperor of Ignorance

The Ummayyad emperor, Hisham bin Abdul Malik visited Makkah for Hajj. He wanted to kiss the Holy Stone, but was unable to reach it due to the great number of people present. And then came our Imam Zain ul Abidin with "his face shining like the moon, his cheeks glowing with light and his garments fragrant with perfume". When he moved towards the Holy Stone to kiss it, the crowd moved to make room for him and he was able to kiss the stone with perfect ease.

A friend of the Hisham Bin Abdul Malik asked him "Who is that person who commands so much respect among the people?" "I do not know", said he out of jealousy.  This provoked the anger of Al Farazdaq, the poet, who came forward and said "I know who the personage is, listen to what I say about him and his family." He then recited the poem.

From Unveiling of the Veiled (Kasful Mahjub) by Syed Ali Hujweri.

He is the man whose feet,
The lands of Arabia know well.
He's the man whose face
Makkah and Ka'bah aspire to see.
He's the man dearest to Zahra,
He's the man whose grandfather the Prophet is,
Whose face is the candle of night,
Like the sun which tears darkness,
His grandeur men could bear not,
His smile would give bliss to all,
His position none could reach,
His dignity none could covet,
Best among Prophets and all men, 
Is his grandfather thou knoweth not?
Holy Stone which emperors miss,
His hand would Ka'bah covet to kiss. 

Al Farazdaqwas imprisoned by the King midway between Makkah and Madinah. Imam Zain ul Abidin felt sorry for him and sent him 12,000 dinars saying he was sorry he could not do more. But, Al Farazdaq returned the money saying, "I have amassed enough wealth by falsely eulogizing kings and nobles and sinned. What I have said in your praise is the result of the love which I bear for God and for the sons of the Prophet peace be upon him, so that the Almighty may be pleased, and forgive me." But the Imam sent the money back to him saying, "If you love us, do not force me to take back what I have once parted with.". Al Farazdaq accepted the gift.

"Speak to me, oh Aishah!"

"No one degrades women except vile and contemptible men."

"I was made to love three things from your world: women, perfume, and the comfort my eye is in prayer."

- Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

"Made attractive to men is love of desires...
God has made (woman) attractive, so how can men escape her?
Even if a man is Rustam and greater than
Hamza, still he is captive to his old women's command.
The Prophet, to whose speech the whole world
Was enslaved, used to say, "Speak to me, oh Aishah"
The Prophet said that women totally dominate men of intellect and possessors of heart
But ignorant men dominate women, for they are shackled by the ferocity of animals.
They have no kindness, gentleness, or love.
Since animality dominates their nature ...
She is the radiance of God, she is not your beloved. She is the Creator -
you could say she is not created."
Maulana Rumi

Ibn Arabi writes:
"In relation to the Prophet, women are as the Universal Nature is to God in which He revealed the forms of the Cosmos by directing toward it the divine will and command, which, at the level of elemental forms, is symbolized by copulation ... Whoever loves a women this way loves with divine love, while he whose love for them is limited to natural lust lacks all true knowledge of that desire ...
... a man is really in love with pleasure itself and, in consequence, loves its repository in women, the real truth and meaning of the act being lost on him. If he knew the truth, he would know whom it is he is enjoying and who it is who is the enjoyer; then would he be perfected."

The preceding text are quotations that Hamza Yusuf used in his scholarly piece titled: Climbing Mount Purgatorio, which was presented at a conference on the harmful effects of pornography.

Futuwa'a of Ahl-e-Bayt

If you want to understand the Ahl-e-Bayt and to love those who love the Ahl-e-Bayt, you have to understand their rid'a and you have to understand their futuwa'a (chivalry) 
- Imam Jafar as Sadiq

Futuwa'a has been associated with Imam Ali's r.a. sword, the zulfiqar - the sword of futuwa'a, the sword of the zahir and the sword of the batin. (It was a two bladed sword).

(from Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad's Khutba at

There is no hero, but Ali 
and no sword except Dhu'l-Fiqar
- a very famous saying.