Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Appeal of Graveyards

1) It is a quiet place which lends itself to introspection and reflection on what life is about and what is important. It puts us in touch with our own mortality. If we understand the fragility of life, we are better able to appreciate it. We get away from TV, computers, stress, responsibility, superficiality and the unimportant things that invade our lives. A graveyard promotes a level of introspection and reflection that not many other places can.

2) Graveyards are beautiful.

3) The mystery and supernatural atmosphere that surrounds graveyards is alluring. People often feel a spiritual or supernatural presence there. We generally tend to focus on the supernatural.

a) It reminds one of death and afterlife, and makes him draw a lesson from it for his afterlife. (Muslim, Janaiz, 108; Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 59; Ibn Majah, Janaiz 47-48; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, I, 145).
b) It directs one to asceticism and taqwa (God-Consciousness). It prevents over-ambitiousness for worldly life and committing harams. It directs one to commit good deeds. (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 47).
c) Visiting graves of saintly people - especially that of our Prophet’s - refreshes one’s soul and helps to evoke supreme feelings in them. It is mandoob to travel to the graves of our Prophet and Allah’s saintly slaves in order to visit them. The Prophet states in a hadith: “Whoever visits me after I die, it is as if he visited me when I was alive.” (Mansur Ali Nasif, at-Taj, al-Jamiu’l Usul, II, 190).
d) Visiting graves helps the strengthening of one’s relations with his past, religious culture and history.   

Death Fixation

I am surprised at the arrogant as yesterday he was a drop of water and tomorrow he will become a decaying corpse. I am surprised at one who doubts the existence of God while he sees His creation all the time. I am surprised at him who forgets death while he sees the dead. I am surprised at one who having seen this life denies the life to come. I am surprised at him who builds for this transitory world and forgets the world that is eternal –Imam Ali (A.S.)

They only know the palpable life of this world, and are oblivious of the Hereafter. (Surah ar-Rum, 30:7)
The visit to the graves is recommended so that we should be reminded of our death. We all know that during day and night we recite the following Qur'anic verse several times in our obligatory prayers so that we are reminded of the Resurrection day:

Master of the Day of Judgement. (Surah Fateha, 1:4)

Imam Ja'far Sadiq, our sixth Imam, says about the effects of remembering Death and the Resurrection day:

o Remembering of death suppresses the inordinate desires

o It uproots the very foundation of negligence and apathy.

o With the reminding of Allah's promise, it strengthens man's heart.

o It softens the hard mentality of man.

o It demolishes the banners of inordinate desires and transgression.

o It suppresses the evil of greediness and makes the world humble before one's eyes.

We read in the Islamic traditions that the most wise and thoughtful are those who keep remembering death all the time. (Biharul Anwar, vol. VI, p. 135)

When the Holy Prophet said that hearts also get rusted like iron, the people asked, "With what substance can it be cleansed?" The Holy Prophet replied: "By remembering death and reciting the Holy Qur'an".

Another tradition that is narrated from the Holy Prophet is this: "Remember death frequently for it has four effects.

o It washes off your sins.

o It reduces your keen fondness for the world.

o It checks your indulgence in bad practices and improper use of wealth during the period of affluence.

o It makes a man content with whatever little quantity of wealth he has as during poverty his remembering of death makes him realize how easily he will account before Allah because he sees that when he has a small quantity of wealth his accountability also would be less". (Nahjul Fasahat, saying, 444)

Imam Ali in connection with a tradition says, "He who remembers death frequently will remain content with whatever little quantity of wealth he has. He never craves for more and he neither becomes greedy nor miser". (Biharul Anwar, vol. VI)

Actually, the world deceives its own lovers. Anyone who after having the thought of death and the Resurrection Day diverts his heart to the next world, this world's hypocrisies, pomp and show do not allure him towards it.

Imam Ali says, "Anyone who remembers death frequently saves himself from the hypocrisies of the world".

In another tradition which is about the impact of remembering death, we read: "Anyone who sees death in front of him and awaits it, will never lay behind in his daily performances because he knows that the time at his disposal is short and death can overtake him any movement. He gets busy in doing the noble deeds as much as is humanly possible".

Imam Ali reminds the people of how death overtook the people of the past generations and prepares them for it and says, "Where are now the kings of Yemen and Hejaz and their offsprings? Where have the Emperors of Iran and Rome gone? Where are the tyrants and their progenies? Where are those people who had built strong fortresses and decorated them with gold? Where are those people, whose life span was greater than that of yours and whose signs were greater than those of yours?"

Actually those mothers, who are anxious for the future of their daughters, prepare their dowries, little by little, from their very childhood. Those traders who think of their future debts and liabilities start saving something from the beginning.

Similarly those people who are concerned about death and the Resurrection day from today give up their bad deeds and start performing noble deeds so as to present them on the Resurrection day.

Some people asked a known religious scholar, who was an erudite scholar of Karbala: "If a credible man tells you that you are going to die in a week's time what will you do in the remaining few days?" He replied, "I will continue doing what I have been doing since my youth, because from the days of my youth whenever I intended to do a thing, I thought of the explanation to give on the Resurrection day and, therefore, for me to die at any moment is no worry at all".

Such people are the dedicated followers of that exalted person, Imam Ali (A.S.), who on the 19th of Ramadan, after receiving the fatal wound of the sword of Ibn Muljam said, "By Allah I have become triumphant". This very exalted personage in his sermon in Nahjul Balaghah advises his son to remember death at all moments so that by the time death overtakes him, his deeds are with him intact and he may not be questioned for his negligence. (Vide, Peak of Eloquence, ISP, 1984)

We read in many Qur'anic verses that when you think that you are a self-made person and you are pious and honorable before Allah, you should not be afraid of death; rather you should be desirous of it.

Remembering of Death in Supplications
Remembering death and the Resurrection day is the integral part of supplications. As for example in the Supplication of Abu Hamza Thamali we read as follows:

O Lord! At the time of my dying bestow Your Mercy on my sorrow and helplessness.

O Lord! Bestow Your Mercy in the loneliness of my grave and in my fear and restlessness.

O Lord! On the Day of Judgement Bestow Your Mercy at the time of the scrutiny of my deeds when I am disgraced for failing to give explanation.

O Lord! Bestow Your Mercy at the time when my friends take my coffin to the graveyard.

Imam Ali's Supplication in Masjid Kufa

O Lord! Protect me from that day and put me under Your shelter, when the tyrant will be chewing his own flesh and would be repenting and saying, 'Would that I had not followed those who misguided me to go astray and instead had adopted the path as shown by the Holy Prophet'.

O Lord! Bestow Your Mercy and protection on me on the day when the parents would not be able to help me; when the repentance of the tyrants will be of no avail; when man will run away even from his father, mother, brothers sons and friends when man will be singularly responsible for his own deeds

O Lord ! Protect me on the day when the sinners would wish that their sons, brothers, friends and the entire family might be caught instead of them, and save me from the torment of Hell.

Reciting of these supplications cures the sick and brightens the darkness of the soul. They purify the souls, broaden our mental horizon and enlighten us.

However the sinners and the transgressors are those who do not believe in the accountability and the Resurrection day or if they have belief in it they are spiritually bankrupt.  

Sunnah of Applying Surma/Antimony

To apply Surma is a blessed Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). When he would go to sleep at night he would apply Surma in his blessed eyes. We should also try to practice this Sunnah as we will gain the reward and benefit in following the Sunnah and the worldly benefits too.

Best type of Surma
'Abd-Allah Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that, 'The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that, ''among the best types of collyrium you use is ithmad, it clears the vision and makes the hair sprout.'

When to put Surma on
Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) has related that, 'The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) had a collyrium container out of which he applied collyrium every night, in each eye three times.'
It is the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) to apply Surma when going to sleep. It stays in the eyes for longer and makes it more effective.

Benefit of Surma
Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) has related that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that, 'Apply antimony regularly, as it clears the sight, makes the eye lashes grow and is the best of things beautifying the eyes.'

How to put Surma on
Imran Ibn Abi Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) has related that, 'The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) would apply antimony thrice in the right eye and twice in the left.'

The application of Surma is Sunnah for both men and women and be done at night, three times in each eye.

Imam Shafi (may Allah's mercy be upon him) states that four things that strengthen the eyesight, to sit towards the Qibla, to use Surma before sleeping, to look towards something with green colour, and to keep the clothes clean.

Manners of applying the Surma

Supplication for applying Surma
'Allahumma Mat-Ti'Ni Bissam-e Wal Basar'.

'O Allah (The Exalted) give me benefit in listening and seeing'

Thereafter apply some Surma in the right eye once then the left and so on three times.