Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III

Life - An Exalted Destiny - Aga Khan III Life is a great and noble calling; not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can, but a lofty and exalted destiny.

Layla tul Qadr — Islam’s Birthday Anniversary

Prophet Muhammad on his prayer rug Persian Amaana.orgLayla tul Qadr — The Night of Destiny and Power

The Holy Quran was revealed on the 23rd night of Ramadan celebrated as Layla tul Qadr — the Night of Power when Angel Gabriel descended to deliver God’s message to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him:

Iqra, bi-ismi rabbika allathee khalaq
Khalaqa al-insana min AAalaq
Iqra, warabbuka al-akram
Allathee AAallama bil qalam
AAallama al-insana ma lamyaAAlam
Read in the name of your Lord Who created.
He created man from a clot.
Read and your Lord is Most Honorable,
Who taught (to write) with the pen
Taught man what he knew not.

Surat Al-Qadr – The Power, Quran 97 – سورة القدر

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ ٱلْقَدْرِ
أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ وَمَآ
لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
تَنَزَّلُ ٱلْمَلاَئِكَةُ وَٱلرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
سَلاَمٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ ٱلْفَجْرِ

For the last 1400 years, now over 1.5 billion Muslims throughout the world, the believers pay special attention to the esoteric (batin) matters by practicing the exoteric (zaher) fasting by refraining from dishonesty, stealing, unethical actions, and other activities that would lead one astray.  A Momin’s (believer’s) life is a journey to become one with the Essence and her daily life is a mirror of her spiritual beauty. A Muslim lives a daily life of piety which includes practice of faith and taking care of life, that means, working for the family, earning and taking part in society whilst also maintaining a relationship with the Creator-on-high. So the tasbi (rosary) is in constant use to remember God and recall the link with the Spirit and Soul.

Sunnata man qad arsalna qablaka minrusulina wala tajidu lisunnatina tahweela

(This was Our) way with the messengers We sent before thee: thou wilt find no change in Our ways. — Quran 17:77

Audio Quran 17:77

 The above Ayat is retold by Imam Hazrat Ali in his Khutbat Iftikhar so beautifully and powerfully!

I am the meaning of Ramadan and the night of Qadr (Quran 97:1-3) mentioned in the Mother Book. My utterance is decisive, for I am the Surah of Praise (Hamd). I am the purpose of prayer itself, whether at home or when travelling. I am the purpose of fasting, and the sacred anniversaries in the months of the year. I am the Lord of Resurrection and Judgement, the One who can remove the yoke that lies heavy on the people of Muhammad. I am the Gate through which all shall pass who worship God; I am His worshipper, and one created by Him. I am both the witness and the One witnessed to, the possessor of the green canopy, He Whose name is mentioned in the heavens and the earth, Who is the travelling companion of the Messenger of God throughout the heavens, for with Me is the Book and the sacred Arc.

Hazrat Khidr Greenman

Throughout the ages, God has referred to Hazrat Kidhr, (Khidr, Khizr, Khezr) the Green Man who is illusive but appears throughout the time and is described in all the scriptures, trying to show us the way and the esoteric meanings of our physical life. God has not left us without a guide on earth and Imam Hazrat Ali makes this declaration above quite vocally! Everyone knows the story of Moses and Kizhr in the Holy Quran and here I wanted to quote Professor Reza Shah-Kazemi’s speech on this subject which highlights the cardinal error made by man in glorifying himself and therefore committing the same mistake that Iblis made for which he was thrown out of favor with God. Many lessons to learn here, please read:

You may say that the  surat al Qaf (No 18)  is  completely dominated by the theme of wilayah. The way  Kidhr relates to Mousa, the answers he gives, the fact that wilayah is described in one of the verses as pertaining only to God and then talking about two men who possess gardens which are described.

I just want to talk about one of these subtle relationships as an intimation of the kind of thing that becomes accessible to us if we bear in mind some of the teachings of Imam  Ali on the tawil and the hermeneutical approach to the Qur’an.

In this surah Al Qaf two men are speaking about their gardens and one of them says mine is much greater than yours. And I do not believe that any of this will perish and even if I am brought back to God he will give me better than this.

This man is a believer in God but he is proud of what he possesses and he deems of little significance his friend,  his neighbour who has much less than him. Now this neighbour says to him don’t be a disbeliever. Don’t engage in kufir and don’t be a mushrik. This is confirmed as soon as the man’s garden is destroyed. He says if only I had not engaged in shirk. If only I had not associated with my Lord anything else meaning that his act of pride is pride for possession of his garden was implicitly an act of shirk of association, of polytheism. Hidden shirk is something which all of us have to be aware of.  This is defined as being more difficult than a black ant over a dark stone on a moonless night. That is how subtle that is to detect within oneself.

It is not overt shirk of worshipping a stone or an idol. The  shirk hafi is worshipping your own hawa, your own whimsicality, your own caprice. Possibly the best  translation of hawa is egotism — selfishness.

The Qur’an in two places tells us do you see the one who takes his hawa to be his Allah, do you see the one who takes his own egotistical desires to be his God. In another place — do you see the one who takes his God to be his desire? The same idea but put the other way around.

So the extent to which we establish our own egotistical desires and the object of devotion for ourselves. We are devoted to what gratifies us we are falling into the very opposite of the waliyah of Allah. It is the waliyah of the shaitan.  Imam Ali gives a kind of commentary on what the Qur’an does again in the surat Al Qaf warning us not to take shaitan, iblis, the devil and his progeny as friends, as our patrons.

When Iblis refuses to prostrate before God, God warns us, do not take this iblis, this being and his progeny as your ulwiyah.  They have a kind of waliyah as well. The waliyah of Shaitan can sometimes be summed up in one word ‘pride’.

When Imam Ali comments on the various verses that refer to satanic pride, refusing to obey the commands of God he draws us deeper into the meaning of that disobedience. On the surface God says prostrate to Adam. All the angels prostrate. Iblis who is not an angel who is a jinn, refuses. And Imam Ali helps us to see that this refusal is not just a disobedience of his manifest plane. It is also a disobedience based on pride. The Qur’an tells us that Iblis said you made him out of clay and you made me out of fire so Iblis is taking pride in his creation of fire just as the man in the surat Al Qaf is taking pride in  the fact that he possesses a greater garden than his neighbour. In the end he says if only I had not been a polytheist by associating my possession with myself and my hawa and therefore becoming a polytheist. If only I understood all this as belonging to God.
So when Shaitan refuses to obey this command, takes pride in his being made out of fire rather than clay, Imam Ali tells us that this gives Iblis a wonderful description. He is defined as the abasement. He becomes the leader of the fanatics really drawing our attention to something very important about fanatical psychology. It is inherently a form of pride of shirk of making one’s hawa so intense, so much so that one insists that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

So Iblis is described as the leader of the fanatics and the forebearer of the proud people. Imam Ali tells us in this sermon beware in case he infects you with his disease through his whisperings, his encouraging, his incitement.

Satanic insulation is directed at that dimension within our souls which is receptive to the same prideful, self glorification that resulted in the fall of Iblis himself.  That is what the insulations are all about, be proud, elevate yourself, do not lower yourself before others.

Back to the sermon “be resolute” the imam tells us “in placing self abasement above your heads, casting self glorification beneath your feet, removing from your necks”.

In other words let self abasement be what you consider a goal. Abase yourself before God. Let self glorification be something contemptuous to you. Do not seek to glorify yourself because that is going to ruin your soul. It will be your perdition. Then he says remove pride from your necks and take up humility as the fortified watch tower between you and your enemy.

And that really is a message worth thinking about deeply and acting on with all our hearts.  Let us take up humility as the fortified watch tower. If you are on watch for your enemy, if you are really doing what the Qur’an tells us to do which is to beware of the enemy, the adornment of the enemy adorns things for you and the biggest adornment for you will be your pride.

So if you are really in the greater inner jihad to fight against the enemy what is your fortified watch tower. To see what is coming from the enemy is humility. Take up humility as the fortified watch tower between you and your enemy. If you are humble shatan has no hold over you. The enemy cannot get to you if you have humility. And that is why the Imam’s sayings are so full of calls for total humility.

He says the sin that grieves you is better in the sight of God than virtue which makes you proud. The sin that will make you unhappy is much better in the eyes of God, is much better than the virtue that makes you proud. That is how important it is to be virtuous. And he says that every act of your showing off, every act of riyah is an act of shirk. It is an act of association or polytheism.

Why? Because when you show off you take pride in what you know instead of saying I know nothing. God alone is the knower and if I have any access to that, it is by virtue of that and has nothing to do with my ego. So if I show off because of what I possess I am falling foul not just of this relatively innocent thing called pride of conceit. I am falling foul of that which shaitan wants from me and that which gives him victory over me. The enemy has won to the very extent that I show off. This is the importance of this virtue of riyah.

— Reza Shah-Kazemi

Full speech can be accessed here – Imam Ali and the Quran

More on Khidr by Dr. Diana Steigerwald

What is the reason to discuss these issues on this Layla tul Qadr article? I brought these items up for everyone to reflect upon and think for themselves. The Night of Power can be a beautiful encounter where one could merge with the beauty of The One! God is Beautiful and free of blemish and so we have to become humble and God-like if we are aspiring to merge with Him. This is what the fasting in Ramadan is all about, to clean our hearts more than our stomachs, as God does not want us to suffer. A true fast is when you are helping others while you live your own life and want for others what you have. By keeping the physical fast during the day and falling asleep due to hunger pangs and not doing the work where an income is earned is not fasting as it would have been better to go to work, earn the income and give it away to help those who don’t even have a job. This is another reason the Imam of the Time is so necessary, to guide people to do the right thing. There is no compulsion in religion but we are to use our intellects and use our resources to bring about God’s peace on earth for everyone as we are His creation.

Layla tul Qadr is upon us. I have had a lot of personal prayers answered on this holy night over the years, without a doubt. These have been personal victories but the heart is still yearning for the happiness of the thousand months worth of Salamun, Peace! Inshallah!

We are told this peace, this Ocean of Allah is within us but our thoughts come in the way. Allah says He is closer than our jugular vein. Our Imam says He is always with us! Yet, why so far away? We are also told it is something given and not demanded and so as we sit in all humility and try to calm our thoughts in meditation, in Zikr, Dhikr (remembrance of God) and allow the Ocean’s waves to enter within and experience this merging, this Night of Power. Of course, I am not the first to think of this concept of going within as Amir Khusraw’s epic Qawaali Man Qunto Mowla, has a sweet refrain of going within which sounds so beautiful:

Dara Dil E Dara Dil E Dar E Dani
Hum Tum Tanana Nana, Tana Nana Ray
Om Tum Tanana Nana, Tana Nana Ray
Yalali Yalali ala, Yala Ray
Tanana Tanana Tanana Tanana
Tum Tanana Nana, Tana Nana Ray…

Enter into the heart,
Enter into the heart,
Melt therein, You and me
Sing inside in sweet melody.

Maula Ali Maula
Maula Ali Maula

Master is Ali,
Master is He.

I get the same spiritual upliftment listening to the above as from the melody and words of

Please visit and listen to these two chants and you will see that music is indeed a universal soul language that does not hesitate to stir the spirit in us. Let me know what you think.

O mankind, truly We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Truly the most noble of you, in the sight of God, is the most Godfearing. Quran 49:13

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

Ya ayyuha alnnasu inna khalaqnakum min thakarin waontha wajaAAalnakum shuAAooban waqaba-ila litaAAarafoo inna akramakum AAinda Allahi atqakum inna Allaha AAaleemun khabeerun

Audio Quran 49:13

Please also read my past Layla tul Qadr articles too! Mubarak!



2 Responses to Layla tul Qadr — Islam’s Birthday Anniversary

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Quran, 13:28

ألا بِذِكْرِ اللهِ تَطمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Verily! In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment.” - Quran, 13:28

Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad:

‘Ali is ‘as my own soul’ (ka-nafsi).

He said to ‘Ali, ‘You are from me and I am from you (anta minni wa ana minka).’

‘Truly, ‘Ali is from me and I am from him (inna ‘Ali minni wa ana minhu), and he is the wali (patron/spiritual master) of every believer after me.’

Hazrat Ali

12. When some blessings come to you, do not drive them away through thanklessness.

13. He who is deserted by friends and relatives will often find help and sympathy from strangers.

Imam Ali Sayings

Imam Jaffer Sadiq

لاَ يَكُونُ شَيْءٌ فِي اْلاَرْضِ وَلا فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلاَّ بِهذِهِ الْخِصَالِ السَّبْعِ: بِمَشيئَةٍ وَ إِرادَةٍ وَقَدَرٍ وَقَضَاءٍ وَ إِذْنٍ وَكِتابٍ وَأَجَلٍ. فَمَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّهُ يَقْدِرُ عَلى نَقْضٍ وَاحِدَةٍ، فَقَدْ كَفَرَ.

“Nothing occurs in this earth and in the heaven except with the following seven stages: Will, intention, destiny, decree, permission, book and implementation. Then whoever thinks that he can reduce any of these stages, then indeed he has disbelieved.”

- Imam Jaffer Sadiq, Usul al Kafi, vol. 1, p. 149

Rumi on Ramadan

The month of fasting has come, the emperor’s banner has arrived; withhold your hand from food, the spirit’s table has arrived. The soul has escaped from separation and bound nature’s hands; the heart of error is defeated, the army of faith has arrived. Fasting is our sacrifice, it is the life of our soul; let us sacrifice all our body, since the soul has arrived as guest. Fortitude is as a sweet cloud, wisdom rains from it, because it was in such a month of fortitude that the Koran arrived. …Wash your hands and your mouth, neither eat nor speak; seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.


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99 Beautiful Names

Asma-ul Husna


Aga Khan jokes

Aga Khan Speech Brown University May 1996:

"Looking around this colorful gathering, I recall helping in the choice of the Aga Khan University's regalia. Our research into Islamic traditions of academic dress revealed that an academic's rank determined the height of his hat. The higher the rank, the taller the hat. The senior most professors therefore appeared taller than their students even when sitting down. I have just learnt that my friend Neil Rudenstein, the President of Harvard has given instructions that all Harvard hats are to be heightened by at least a foot. This has caused havoc in the Ivy League which is now debating resolution MAHH96, standing for Maximum Allowable Hat Height. My academic standing and that of President Gregorian, should be evident from the hats that we are presently wearing!"

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