Words Hasan Safiuddin
Illustration Alifiya Z. and Sakina K.
My head throbbed. Only a few days ago, I was running a fever and almost collapsed. Today, I was dehydrated, tired, and squished. All I wanted was a nap. Actually, I’m not sure if it’s the nap I craved, or just the opportunity to unhinge my sore knees and stretch the crushed legs below. The problem, of course, was that I was surrounded by thousands who likely wanted the same.
This was ‘Ashura.
Yet, there was nowhere else I would have rather been. Amidst the physical struggle, I witnessed the greatest display of devotion and spiritual fervor in my life. Each individual was fixated on Maula, internalizing every word of his sermon, experiencing the sorrow and sacrifice of Imam Husain. For many, tears streamed effortlessly. For me, it took work. Looking back, it’s possible this represented some larger spiritual weakness on my part, but at that moment, I didn’t have time to think about it. I just wanted to cry, and time was running out.
I stopped. Instead of worrying about whether I cried or not, I decided to tread the path of my fellow devotees. I chose to fixate. As if following some New Age self-help book, I decided to be present.
At that moment, Maula removed his glasses. I don’t know if there’s something customary about removing the glasses before reciting shahadat, or if it was something he chose to do in that instance. Either way, it shook me – for the first time, I saw Maula’s tears. Like pearls on a string, each drop coursed from eye to beard, sparkling as it passed the arc of his cheek. Stirred by the image, my own began to fall. I cried.
This was ‘Ashura.
Since then, I’ve wondered what this experience meant, and more specifically, what Maula’s tears meant. For answers, I turned to my tried and true source of comfort – qasaa’id. Nestled within the pages of Kanz-al-maghaani, I came across a line that has stayed with me: “Your tears in Husain’s remembrance are gifts from the garden of paradise for all those who love you”. Written by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin in honor of his beloved father and predecessor, this line captured the essence of my experience. But it also spawned a new question. What is the nature of this paradise?
What I’m about to say is not based on any thorough philosophical argument or advanced theological treatise; it rests on observations of myself and the people I’ve encountered—to love and to be loved, fully and completely, represents the highest form of fulfillment in human life. For me, this is the legacy of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. He would remind us countless times that he had sheltered us in his heart. His every breath, he would say, prayed for us. And through both life and death, he promised to remember us. The legacy of Burhanuddin Maula was the legacy of his love, of granting its transcendence to those who were undeserving. At times, he went as far as to say that we were nestled in his eyes, their protective gaze ever present on his mumineen.
Maybe that’s what Maula meant. Maybe that’s the paradise from which those gifted tears came. Like Al-hajar-al-aswad falling from the sky as a sign of God’s majesty, Maula’s tears fell from his loving eyes as a sign of God’s mercy.
In the end, the image of Maula’s tears had sparked my own, granting me access to Rasulullah’s promised paradise.