On Murāqabah | ʿAllamah Tabataba’i

On Murāqabah

A short letter from ʿAllamah Tabataba’i in response to a young student who felt that his lower-self had overtaken him; he sought practical instructions from ʿAllamah.

Translation is Shaykh Shomali’s.

In the Name of God, The Beneficent, The Merciful,

Salam Alaykum,

In order to be successful and achieve the goal you have written on the reverse of this paper it is necessary, summoning up will-power and manifesting repentance, for you to turn to self-vigilance (muraqiba) and self-introspection (muhasiba). In the following manner: Every day in the morning when you wake up from sleep, make a firm and serious intention that you will consider in any action that you will perform the pleasure of God – exalted be His Name. Then in that case, what ever action you want to perform you will consider it’s otherwordly benefits, such that if there is no otherworldy benefit, you will not perform it – regardless of whatever it may be. And you will continue this state till the night, the time for sleeping. At the time of sleeping, you will spend 4 or 5 minutes thinking about the actions you have performed during the day, considering each one by one – whichever you found was accomplished in conformity with the pleasure of God, express gratitude, and whichever was a transgression, seek forgiveness – and continue this procedure every day.

This method despite being difficult in a whimsical state [at the beginning], and bitter to the taste of the carnal self – but it is the key to salvation and liberation.

And every night, before you sleep if you can, read the ‘musabbahat’ chapters [the chapters which start with praising God] that is: The chapters Hadid, Hashr, Saff, Jum`a and Taqabun, and if you couldn’t, recite only the chapter of Hashr and after 20 days of being occupied in this manner, write the states of yourself in a letter for me.

Insha`Allah you will be successful.

Mohammad Hussain Tabatabai

Success and its Discontents

Frontline: Poor Kids


The pangs of hunger, depression, missing growth spurts, dishonor, broken friendships, strained hearts.

These stories, from the eyes of young people, makes me wonder how much of these situations could be helped with communal ties; all of these stories revolve around families that seem radically separated from others.

How much of the fear could be blunted, to a small extent, by the ability to grow food in your own space?

How much could be fixed through the support of extended family?

Where can the force of Prophetic wisdom be placed in a society whose members are so incredibly isolated? Are food-banks and other institutions enough? Or does there need to be a more fundamental shift in social structures?

Who knows?


Summoning the Recluse



Short, interesting mini-doc about young Chinese people who are searching for meaning beyond the daily school to career track of contemporary urban life. I respect them for their search though I find some of their conceptions of the spectrum of technology, modern/ancient, etc. a little fuzzy. However, I imagine their experience will teach them much more than those of us who take up the journey.

The comment that previous hermits would often take up their hermitage due to political reasons while their particular journey is an individual choice was insightful—though I don’t know anything about past reasons for becoming a hermit—in that it illustrates a powerful theme in our post/industrial, modern places; personal choice and the desire for personal meaning sometimes pushes us away from communal acts of seeking. And our reliance on “new” technology vs ancient “non-technological” life—which is a mistaken conception, but we can leave that aside—is due to the lack of communal searches for meaning, Truth; we pass down much less in the way of communal experience, knowledge, tools, etc.; so the renewal of the search is somehow disconnected from a “native,” easily-digestible constellation of information and skills.

The Search then, often, seems unfathomable.

Or something.


Vertical Disruptions

Confounded, we deny the importance of the “otherworldly”—the Vertical—on the material horizon; we imagine a strong dichotomy. We wonder about—doubt—the efficacy of developing Islamically-informed responses to dilemmas on the material plane; this, even when the material is vaguely such, such as when we consider the constellation of human emotional and mental states. There are likely many approaches to this concern. Here is but one sketch:

It seems that to effectively respond to ethical challenges and human concerns  one must have significant knowledge of the material, horizontal situation—the “ground reality.” With this we can properly illustrate the myriad relevant variables that shape a particular concern—sociologically, historically, psychologically, etc., while retaining a critical eye to the assumptions of the relevant disciplines’ approaches.

Thereafter a critical analysis of the potential Vertical elements from scripture and wisdom;  an analysis of the moral imperatives with their considered priorities from an Islamic legal and ethical perspective—or whatever other discipline or approach is relevant to the concern at hand.
Thus, scripture is brought to bear on well-analyzed material scenarios. The vertical disrupts the horizontal; it leaves an imprint of the Real on the fleeting.

Q. 13:17

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّماءِ ماءً فَسالَت أَودِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِها فَاحتَمَلَ السَّيلُ زَبَدًا رابِيًا

He sends down water from the sky whereat the valleys are flooded to [the extent of] their capacity, and the flood carries along a swelling scum.


Don’t Be Afraid. Be Strong.

A Mercy Case

You can’t have Abraham, peace be upon him, without Nimrod.

You can’t have Moses, peace be upon him, without Pharaoh.

You can’t have Jesus, peace be upon him, without Pontius Pilate.

You can’t have Muhammad, peace be upon him, without Abu Sufyan.

You can’t have Husayn, peace be upon him, without Yazid.

Divine authority has never rested with majority rule. The majority often supports tyranny and cruelty in human history, and stands behind leaders who are at the forefront of opposition to Truth and Justice. What Muslims in the United States of America are going to face in the years to come is nothing different than what believers have faced throughout history.



Do the people suppose that they will be let off because they say, ‘We have faith,’ and they will not be tested? Certainly We tested those who were before them. So Allah shall surely ascertain those who are truthful, and…

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