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News Letter January 2006 

the Message Continues ... 8/53

Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3 - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12




by Abdulaziz Sachedina
Ferdowsi  /   University of Mashhad, Iran

As I looked out of the window of our residence in Mashhad I saw the two minarets of the shrine of Imam Reza (peace be upon him) reminding me of his blessed presence in this city. I greeted him as "the son of the Prophet" and my mind searched for the authentic link for such a greeting. Of course, there came the assuring voice from inside: "He is indeed the son of the Prophet, through the daughter of the Prophet, Fatima (peace be upon them all!)." She is a link to the Prophet for all her children through her marriage to Imam `Ali b. Abi Talib. Through her all the eleven Imams share their spiritual and biological connection to the Holy Prophet. She is the nucleus of their spiritual station,
held collectively, as the Fourteen Infallible ones. Fatima Zahra relates these Imams to the Prophet as she relates the entire community of believers to the Prophet through her spiritual station (/wilaya/) and her sacrifice for the religion of Islam.

Fatima Zahra is the source of inspiration for all mothers, who aspire to devote their lives to serve the higher purposes of God, the Almighty. She inspires all women with her dedication to the teachings of her father, the Prophet. Much has been and continues to be written on her history and contribution to the Prophet's mission in all parts of the Islamic world. Scholars have noticed the affection and high esteem with which the Prophet held his daughter and her household. There are amazing accounts about her sacrifices that continued to dominate Islamic history until it reached the climax in the year 61/680 in Karbala, where her children demonstrated their nobility and ability to withstand the most difficult circumstances to save the religion of Islam from perdition. And yet, there is one dimension of her life that I find extremely relevant in light of Imam Reza's relation to her and our relation to our Imams and to the Lady of Light, az-Zahra.

The point of our relationship to the ahl al-bayt, that is, Fatima Zahra's household, is through wilaya. Wilaya (our love and devotion to the ahl al-bayt) is the spiritual link between us and the holy family. This link is important in giving meaning to our religious life, which sometimes becomes overburdened with ritualistic performances, done with good intentions but void of accruing spiritual benefits. Spiritual upliftment is the goal of ritual performances. But the objective way of measuring this uplifting is the inspiration that such performances provide for our ethical development - our sense of right and wrong in our actions. Religious acts are a source of moral reflection and it is because of this reflection that our conscience becomes sharpened and our sense of right and wrong becomes properly anchored in our moral development. Such a development is necessary if we are to avoid immorality and unethical life style. Our love of ahl al-bayt is also a source of many rituals that we perform alone or in the community. The major objective of these performances is to seek purification of our inner self so that at the end of the performance we can engage in self-reflection and self-assessment to evaluate the impact of the ritual, whether it is ziyarat or majlis-e aza or sufra of Imam Sadiq/. What has happened to us as the result of these ritual performances which are rooted in the /wilaya/ of the ahl al-bayt? This question must become the focal point for all our religious activities.

Imam Reza's famous tradition declares with confidence that the wilaya of `Ali b. Abi Talib is like a fort of God. Whoever enters this fort is immune from God's punishment. Is this entrance in the Fort of God - the wilaya, simply a ritual or a source of purification? Certainly, it is a source of purification otherwise it could not provide immunity from God's punishment. By "purification" I mean our ability to become morally conscious and clean in our life as we deal with relations and our own selves. This is the true meaning of taharat. This meaning is further demonstrated in a short salutation that we offer Fatima Zahra, peace be upon her. In this ziyarat we testify that God had tested her from the beginning of her life and she proved herself to be patient and deserving of God's special providence for her. After testifying that regarding Fatima Zahra we ask God to bear witness that we, her followers, accept the Prophet's message and Imam `Ali's station - Fatima's father and husband, respectively. At this point in this salutation we ask God to grant us high spiritual station with them all, so that we can ascertain that "it is because of their wilaya that we have become purified." Witness with care that wilaya of Imam `Ali connects the entire family of the Prophet to one another, and relates them all to us their followers, through our testimony about the role Fatima Zahra plays in the family of the Prophet. As the lady of /wilaya/ she holds the family together and relates the family to the entire community of the faithful.

In the final analysis, Fatima Zahra, with her dedication to Islam has contributed to our understanding of the true meaning of the wilaya, the critical source of our faith in God and His Prophet, and a major source of our spiritual and moral development in upholding the Imama of `Ali and his descendants. It was in this meaning that the Prophet had declared: "Anyone who causes pain to her (Fatima) causes pain to me; and the one who causes pain to me causes pain to God." Not to acknowledge the wilaya of Fatima is to ignore one's spiritual and moral well being. It is her wilaya and the wilaya of her family that can purify us and give us immunity from God's wrath and punishment, because, this /wilaya/ is the true source of human religious life that teaches us to pursue the good and avoid the evil.
As the month of Jamadi al-Akhar sets in we are reminded about the anniversaries connected with Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her), whose death is recorded on the 3^rd and her birth on 20^th of this month. Her remembrance is time to reflect on our achievement through our contribution to her cause. Her cause has been to cultivate Muslim moral and spiritual values on the foundation of /wilaya/, that devotion and dedication to the principles taught by the Ahl al-Bayt. I have always found myself inspired with Fatima Zahra's remembrance. She has been always there to inspire us with the true understanding of the Holy Prophet's mission as exemplified in the lives of the ahl al-bayt. With dedication to that mission we can all prove worthy of her /wilaya/ and her continued support for the mission of the ahl al-bayt (peace be upon them all!) today.


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