Ziyarah and Salaams
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Ziyarah and Salaams



Salaams.
This last post should conclude the series of 6 questions surrounding nature of Saints and Dua.
 
Q6. What is your view on saying Salaams in a ziyaret (for exmaple ziyarete warisa) ? Does it reach Imam Husain (a) according to your concept of nature or cause and effect ? Can this nature or cause or effect be different for other human beings ?
 
Thanks once again for the questions that allowed for a window of exploration and composition.
We've already been over nature, cause-n-effect, and related issues. Let us now turn to Ziyarah.
 
Ziyarah literally means visitation. Infact even the Hajj is a kind of Ziyarah because it is a visitation to Allah's house. Ofcourse there is no (residential) house of Allah (swt) and the Ka'ba is simply a symbol of centrality, unity, purity and common annual gathering of those who have submitted their will to Allah (swt). This is just one example of Ziyarah i.e. visitation.
 
Ziyarah to most people is understood as the visitation to the burial ground of the Prophet (sawa). Similarly, the visitation to graves and shrines of saints, especially the Holy Masoomeen (as) who comprise the Prophet's Ahlul-Bayt, is also known as Ziyarah. Now before we go any further, we have to ask: What is the purpose of Ziyarah? Why would one want to go to Ziyarah? What is the benefit of Ziyarah? The answers of these questions should help us understand the importance and concept of Ziyarah.
 
Whenever someone wants to give importance to someone or something, he executes an act that gives recognition to the target entity or item. To ignore the entity or item, is tantamount to not giving recognition. This is why in geo-political disputes, to skip mention of a people when discussing their region, is considered one of the biggest, if not the biggest insult. For example, if politics of the middle-east and israeli-arab relations are discussed without any reference to the palestinian people, this will surely be taken as an insult. Similarly, discussion of India - Pakistan northern border dispute without any reference to Kashmiri people would also be considered insult. Or the reconciliation between bitterly split muslims factions without reference or solution to the inter-sectarian killings .. and so on and so forth...
 
Therefore recognition plays a central role in giving importance to someone or something. The recognition we mentioned above was the lowest level, because it is a necessary recognition for an impending issue that one or more parties desire to sideline. However a higher level of recognition relates to academic evaluation. Examples are progress reports and awards for academic excellence, technological advancements, scientific discoveries, societal reformation, sacrifice, saving lives, public service, etc. Recognition of such acts based on an unbiased research-oriented analysis, can be termed as a fair and academic recognition.
 
The highest level of recognition though, is the one that stems out as an Expression of Love. Standard example - the best thing that one can express to one's spouse, is their love. Irrespective of how this love is expressed (doing something for them, being a support, cooperative, etc.) what matters most is that the act represents a recognition of love of the entity. The expression out of love is perhaps the strongest of recognitions, and this is why Allah (swt) has said in the Holy Qur'an that the Momineen do not love anyone more than Allah (swt). Love should be a most important factor in a human's, and more so in a muslim's life. The believers should be soft of heart and loving towards one another. They must even approach their enemies with love like how the prophet (sawa) reached out (until he was forced to defend against their stubborn aggression). Infact (supportive) love of his close ones (qurba) is what Muhammad (sawa) was commanded by Allah (swt) to ask as recompense for his effort in bringing the message to mankind.
 
The Supportive love (Muwaddah) is what constitutes not only a heartfelt attachment, but rather a practical love exemplified in the deeds and actions of the lover. Practical love is possible and sustainable only if the lover truly believes in the ideals of the beloved. We love the Ahlul-Bayt (as) because we truly believe in their Ideals and their perfection in Humanity (Insaan-e-Kaamil). Since we practically love them, it is our wish and desire to express our love in best possible legitimate manner that can be. So we look to the guidance of our Holy Prophet (sawa) and his Ahlul-Bayt (as) as what this manner should be? And we find that a very high emphasis (and logically so) has been put on salawaat (sending of blessings) and Ziyarah (visitation). When they are amongst us (neither passed away nor in ghaybah) then we try to visit them (as any lover would revel in paying a visit to their beloved). And when they are gone, we use the opportunity of visiting their graves to express our recognition of them and their ideals.
 
These acts of recognition keep alive their ideal and the importance of their guidance in our hearts. Or at least it should (otherwise it would be empty love and not muwaddah). Also, this love for them as a recognition of their service to Allah (swt) must increase our love and honor of service to Allah (swt) and love of Allah (swt), the Most Merciful, Himself. But how do we best express our love on these visitations?
 
Firstly, the visitation itself is an expression of Love, a recognition. Many people in this world mark a moment of solemn silence in recognition. This is because the time and effort for visitation, is itself a recognition. However, the Prophet (sawa) and his Ahlul-Bayt (as) taught us an even better way - i.e. the sending of blessings (a.k.a Salaams). So when we visit their places of expiry in this world, we invoke salaams (peace and blessings of Allah(swt)) unto them. This is why the invoking of blessings unto them has also commonly come to be known as Ziyarah, even though it is really Salaam. If we are unable to visit them or their final places of rest (of their bodies) in this world, then we are taught to substitute it with recital of the salaams from wherever we might be. There is nothing more loved (for beloved) than the invoking of Allah's blessings upon one's beloved. Allah (swt) Himself blesses and the Angels too send blessings (of Allah(swt)) upon the best of the righteous. Infact, we are mandated to send blessings on the Holy Prophet (sawa) and righteous servants (Saaliheen Ibaadi) a minimum of 5 times a day (once for each mandatory prayer).
 
To return to the question, do the Imams hear these blessings sent upon them? What must first be asked here is, what is the value in the Imams hearing of the blessings being sent upon them? None. Whether Allah (swt) decrees to inform saints of the blessings being sent upon them is immaterial, especially as regards the sender. And if it holds value to the sender, then it means that the sender has automatically added a degree of selfishness (even though legitimate) to his sending of blessings. We learn from Imam Ali (as) that the best devotion to Allah (swt) is to recognize and worship Him for His sake, and not for the sake of reward, or protection from punishment (even though these are also worship). So we must send blessings upon the Saints for their benefit and in their love and not to desire a recognition, even though this is okay and acceptable to have this wish (we are human after all). Having said that, if a barzakhi (one who has passed away from this world) is made aware of a particular salaam recited by a particular person for him, then this is knowledge between Allah (swt) and him.
 
What is important to note is that we cannot say what or how much of, or if even any of this is shared with the barzakhis, or the different levels thereof. After all, the salaams relate more to us who are the senders in recognizing the personalities based on their ideals. This is also why Salaams (or Ziyarats as they are known) taught by the Masoomeen (as), (in similarity to duas) are etched with knowledge, lessons and wisdom, so that we could learn by reciting them. Thirdly, the Ziyarah is the recognition of the Leadership that Allah (swt) decreed in Imamate, and recital of them is tantamount to a pledge of allegiance to following the ways, ideals and guidance of the Holy Masoomeen (as), May Allah (swt) be pleased with them.
 
One final point to make -
A brother earlier brought up the point of Salaams in Salaah and how could the Prophet (sawa) recite salaams to himself ? (Assalaamu alaika ya ayyuhan-nabiyo). The clarity was fully shared that it is because sending salaams is a figurative speech intended to invoke the blessings of Allah (swt) upon the target entity. So Muhammad (sawa) when he prayed Salaah, like everyone else, he invoked Allah's blessings upon the holder of the Station of Prophethood (who in this case would be himself). Some people bring up the naive theory that salaams must have an answer back... But in that case we must ask that did the Prophet (sawa) reply to himself? When we send blessings upon the Saaliheen Ibaadi, are they replying back? We know many Saaliheen Ibaadi exist in this world of ours. Are they hearing the millions of Salaams that are sent unto them by the muslims in Salaah? No ! This is just one more example of the figurative nature of Salaams. Also when we write letters to friends, we sometimes say salaams to all their community or their family. But it is not important for this salaam to be communicated. It is a recognition salaam. There is no relationship whatsoever in sending a salaam and its being received. Therefore the question of hearing does not even arise.
 
Ultimately, the Salaams and Ziyarah are a best way of recognition, and as such, a beautiful way of expressing love. It has nothing to do with hearing. The purpose of Ziyarah is neither communication nor expectation of position (counter-recognition of self) by the entity upon whom the figurative speech of salaams is sent. Salaams are recognition by sending of blessings and this continuous identification of their position (upon whom be salaams) encourages us to strive to be as close to them (i.e. their ideals) as possible.
 
May Allah (swt) help us to succeed in achieving the goal of following in the path and footsteps of the Prophet (sawa) and his Ahlul-Bayt (as) and to help others achieve the same purpose Inshallah. May He cause us to get and utilize the chance for Ziyarah to the shrines of the holy personalities as a sign of our respect and recognition of their services to Allah (swt) and our desire to emulate them. May His choicest blessings be upon Muhammad (sawa) and his Aal, and may Allah (swt) bless us too Inshallah and those of our families that have passed away and indeed all the momineen Inshallah.
 
Was-salaam,
~Ali..

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