‘Those who have faith and do righteous deeds —happy are they and good is their [ultimate] destination.’
It’s Christmas Eve in London, and though I don’t celebrate the holiday as such, I wasn’t expecting to be filled with sadness during one of the merriest periods of the year. The sad news of Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi (Shahroudi)’s, a revered cleric and life long political figure, leaving this world, introduced an unexpected tone to my night. Continue reading “Memories of Sayyid Mahmoud”
‘My dear son! Though my life does not measure the lives of those who have come before me, I have studied their behaviour and actions, contemplated the reports of that which befell them, and walked among their relics and ruins as if I were one of them. In fact, by the virtue of their affairs that have become known to me, it is as though I have lived among them from their first to their last.’
The above quote is from a letter penned by one of the most celebrated individuals of the seventh century, Ali son of Abu Talib, to his oldest son, Hasan. Continue reading “Living With Legends”
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot
In my first year at the seminary I had a simple yet powerful experience that has stuck with me since. I went with a friend to visit a scholar. We travelled to the other side of the city to see the scholar in his home. The scholar knew my friend as a young child and they were close family friends. When we arrived at his home he greeted us and welcomed us in. We briefly engaged in formalities and then he turned towards my friend and asked if he had a bag on him. My friend replied in the negative. The scholar became very upset. He said in a very displeased tone ‘haven’t I told you that you should always carry a book with you wherever you go? There are so many moments in the day where small pockets of time are wasted waiting around. On the bus, in a queue, while waiting for someone or something. If you carry a book with you at all times, you can make use of these moments. Always have a book with you when you leave the house.’
Though the scholar was addressing my friend, and spoke to him in this way because of their close connection, I was deeply impacted by these words, and act on them until today. Books truly are the best of companions.
One day, I was walking through the narrow alleyways known as ‘Guzarekhan’ or the ‘Arab-Bazaar’ in Qom, searching for some collarless seminarian shirts. The alleys were filled with shops selling dates, olives, a variety of pickles and other edible products. The bazaar was just across from the shrine of the lady Ma’suma. It was a pit-stop for lovers of Iraqi tea to refuel themselves before continuing the day, but you couldn’t walk through the passage without a few goat skulls staring brazenly into the depths of your soul from the butchers windows. Continue reading “The Sweet Old Tailor”
On this day (April 9th) almost forty years ago, one of the most remarkable scholars in the Shi’ite tradition, Al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr, was murdered. Thinking of him and going through some of his essays this weekend reminded me of a special memory from Qom. Continue reading “What Fearlessness Looks Like”
Among my most vivid memories from Qom is the first time I attended the miscellaneous evening discussions of Sayyid Shubayri Zanjani. The Sayyid would come to his office every day half an hour before the evening prayers (or a while after, depending on the time of year) and have discussions on miscellaneous issues with his students and other researchers who had gathered in the L-shaped room. I remember waiting for the Sayyid to enter the room. I was filled with excitement and every moment added to the weird nervousness that I was also experiencing. When he finally entered, everyone stood to greet him in respect. As he was a lot shorter than myself, I had to wait as he passed to get a proper glimpse. He sat down and, greeted all those around him in a fashion particular to people of the seminary.
Continue reading “First Exposure”