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A PHASE OF

THE SHI’A MYSTICS

Mansour Leghaei

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A PHASE OF THE MUSLIM MYSTICS
(al-Urafa‟)

1. Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Ali


Shah-Abadi (May the Mercy of God be upon him)
(1875-1950)
Purification of the soul and struggle for its perfection is
a fundamental Islamic concept. The Holy Quran in an
absolutely unique style emphasises on self-purification
as the only way to eternal success and salvation.
“Indeed he succeeds who purifies his own self.
And indeed he fails who corrupts his own self.” 91:9-10

The path to this success is a lifetime struggle and the journey of self purification will end
when lovers meet.
“O man! Verily, you are endeavouring towards your Lord an endeavour until you meet
Him.”
84:6
The methodology of how to successfully pass the trip is the subject of Islamic mysticism
(Irfan). However, Islamic Irfan like many other Islamic sciences has been on occasion
misused and misrepresented and hence those who fail to distinguish the authentic from
the forged tend to deny the whole subject. The weakness of this approach is similar to
denial of Islamic jurisprudence (al-Fiqh) for the reason that some so-called jurists have
utilised analogy and inference in their deduction or relied on non-authentic Hadiths!

From the rise of Islam to this present day many devoted Muslims have struggled on the
Path of nearness to the Almighty Allah. Among them, the true followers of the Imams of
Ahlul-Bait (a.s) who were satisfied from the pure prophetic fountain of Kauthar; through
the holy hands of Ahlul-Bait.

What makes the Shia mystics distinguished whilst acknowledging the Tareqeh (path) and
the Haqiqah (Truth) istheir absolute obligation to the Islamic Shari‟a law according to the
pure and authentic teachings of Ahlul-Bait (a.s) and living in moderation far from either
side of extremes.

This article aims at sharing some phases of the mystical personality of one of the great
Shia mystics of the 20th century; Grand Ayatollah Mirza Sheikh Muhammad Ali Shah-

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Abadi, the main teacher and mentor of the late Imam Khomeini who without doubt had a
grave impact on the mystical and spiritual personality of Imam Khomeini.

The late Ayatollah Shah-Abadi was originally from Isfahan-Iran. He was an expert in
Islamic jurisprudence, Philosophy and Irfan. In philosophy and Irfan he was the student
of the late Ayatollah Mirza Abul-Hasan Isfahani (1823-1897AD) known as Jelweh and
one of the four most celebrated philosophers in the history of Islamic philosophy. Apart
from Jurisprudence and philosophy and Irfan, the Grand Ayatollah Shah-Abadi was
acquainted with Mathematics, al-Jafr and mastered the French language too.

Imam Khomeini & Ayatollah Shah-Abadi


The blessings of the Almighty Allah upon Imam Khomeini (r.a) are indisputably the most
significant of all Muslim scholars in the history of Islam. The Islamic Revolution in Iran
and the establishment of an Islamic state under the full authority of Muslim jurists only is
a favour that the Almighty Allah did not bestow upon any other scholar throughout the
history of Islam.
In the entire blessed life of Imam Khomeini (r.a) two decades are the most significant of
all. The first is the decade of studying Irfan under Ayatollah Shah-Abadi (r.a)
commencing from 1928 and the other, the last decade of his life commencing from
February 1979 during which he established the Islamic government in Iran.
Experts assert that the first decade was a causing factor to the latter.

Ayatollah Shah-Abadi was one of the main teachers of Imam Khomeini (r.a) in Irfan 1.
The late Imam Khomeini was very much influenced by his teacher and repeatedly quoted
from him in his books referring to him as “The Perfect Arif Sheikh Shah-Abadi.”
Imam Khomeini in acknowledging the impacts of his teacher said in one of his speeches:
“Indeed, our honourable Sheikh had the right of spiritual life on me that my hands and
tongue are insufficient to appreciate.” [27 April 1984]

The son of Imam Khomeini; the late Seyyed Ahmad said:


“I asked my father what he studied under Ayatollah Shah-Abadi, he replied: Sharh
Fosoos2 and Mesbahul-Ons3 and Manazelu-Saa‟erin4.
-I asked how many classmates did you have? Imam Khomeini replied: Three students if it
were crowded otherwise usually it was only me.”
The late Imam Khomeini (r.a) studied Irfan under Ayatollah Shah-Abadi for about 6
years although he was saying: “If Ayatollah Shah-Abadi would teach for seventy years, I
would still attend his classes, for every day he had new wisdom to offer.”

Ayatollah Shah-Abadi & The Love for Ahlul-Bait (a.s)


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Another important teacher of Imam Khumeini in Irfan was Ayatollah Mirza Jawad Maleki.
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Sharh Fosoos by al-Qounawi, the second most advanced textbook in Theoretical Irfan, is an explanation
on Fosoosul Hekam ( the Gems of Wisdom) by Ibn al-Arabi.
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Mesbahul-Ons (the Light of Intimacy) by Ibn Fanari, the most advanced textbook in Theoretical Irfan, is
an explanation for „Meftahul-Ghayb‟ by al-Qoonawi
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Manaselu Saa‟erin by Khaje Abdullah al-Ansari with its most famous explanation by al-Kashani is the
main textbook in Practical Irfan.

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Ayatollah Nasrullah; one of the sons of Grand Ayatollah Shah-Abadi quoting from his
father says: “The foundation of Islam is the love for Fatima (s.a). The foundation of Islam
is to dislike the enemies of Fatima (s.a). Whoever loves Fatima (s.a) and dislikes her
enemies, is a (true) Muslim.”

His Worshipping
Ayatollah Shah-Abadi was the Imam of the grand mosque in the Bazaar of Tehran-Iran.
When he was standing on his prayer mat to lead the prayer he would become detached
from this world and when he was sitting up from his Sujood (Prostration) tears flowed
onto his cheek and beard.
His recitation of Do‟a Kumail was very significant. He used to recite the Do‟a of Kumail
in the same mosque about two hours before Fajr prayer at dawn with a few people who
were enthusiastic to attend such a spiritual supplication.

Some of His Recommendations


 His son, Ayatollah Nasrullah narrating from his father says:
“My father always reminded us of the Salawaat of Fatima (s.a) before the Fajr prayer.5
And even if you are not spiritually prepared to pray the night Prayer make sure you are
awake at its time even for a cup of tea!”

 “One day he was invited to give a lecture at one of the mosques in Tehran. To
save his time and the time of others he made his speech very short but proposed to
the audience that if anyone was really interested in self-purification and self-
building they should come and see him later.
One of the businessmen from the audience came to him later and requested a
prescription for self purification. Ayatollah Shah-Abadi gave him three orders: 1)
Be mindful of Salaat in its fixed times especially in congregation as much as
possible. 2) Be fair in your transactions and don‟t be greedy. 3) Although the
obligation of Khums payment is annual, try to pay it monthly.
I followed his instructions for a couple of months until on one occasion I was
praying behind a Sheikh in one of the mosques in Tehran and during the prayer, to
my astonishment, I noticed that the Imam was momentarily disappearing.
Immediately after the prayer I shared my observation with him. With a big
surprise he humbly replied that before he attended the prayer he had been
involved in some family problems and hence could not fully focus on his prayer at
all times. It was only then that I realised I had my first mystical experience. The
Imam had been disappearing from his position every time he lost his
concentration during the prayer.”
 Imam Khomeini (r.a) said: “My teacher, the late Shah-Abadi was recommending
to me to frequently recite Surah al-Hashr (59) especially from Ayah 18 to the end
of the Surah.”

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Salawat of Fatima (s.a) is to say: “ Allahumma Sallé Alaa Fatima Wa Abiha Wa Ba‟leha Wa Baniha Wa
Serrel Mosta‟da‟e Feeha Be Adadeh Maa Ahata Behi Elmok.”

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The Perfect Arif; Grand Ayatollah Shah-Abadi departed this temporary world to his
eternally dwelling in nearness to his Beloved One; the Almighty in 1950 (1875AH) and
his body was buried at the shrine of Hazrat Shah-Abdul-Azim in Tehran.

References:
1. Arif Kaamel by Research Department of the Cultural Institution of Shahid Shah-
Abadi
2. Shah-Abadi Bozorg; the heaven of Irfan, by Mohammad Ali Mohammadi

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A PHASE OF THE SHI’A MYSTICS
(al-Urafa‟)

2. Ayatollah Mirza Jawad Maleki Tabrizi


(May the Mercy of God be upon him)
(Died in 11/11/1343AH)
(3 July 1925 AD)

A wayfarer is in inevitable need of a well educated and


experienced teacher and mentor who can guide the new
and inexperienced wayfarer step by step towards his/her
perfection. Stepping into the lifetime journey of
self-purification and perfection by reading the mystical
texts is more dangerous than self-treatment by reading
a medical book.
Some experts in mysticism assert that what lead al-Hallaji; to publicise his ambiguous
statements was the lack of a proper mentor. Thus, learned mystics consider it quite
mandatory for a wayfarer to work under the full supervision of a learned and experienced
mentor and guide.

Imam Khomeini (r.a) enjoyed the company of the best teachers of Irfan during his
studying period. Ayatollah Mirza Jawad Maleki Tabrizi (r.a) was the second important
teacher of Imam Khomeini in Irfan.
The late Ayatollah M.J. Tabrizi known as „The Beauty of Wayfarers‟ (Jamalul-Salekin)
used to hold two types of Irfan classes; one for the public in „Faydiyeh School‟ in Qom
and another, a private one, in his home. Imam Khomeini (r.a) was among his handful of
private students.
The lessons of Ayatollah Tabrizi were so influential that as he was talking his students
were in tears crying out loud. Sometimes the power of his sincere talks would penetrate
the hearts of his students so deeply that they would feel faint.

 The Teachers of Ayatollah Tabrizi

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The main teacher of Ayatollah M.J. Tabrizi in Fiqh was the late Ayatollah Hajj Agha
Reza Hamadani, and in the Fundamentals of Fiqh he studied under the late Ayatollah
Akhond Khorasani. In Irfan he was the honoured student of the late Ayatollah Mollah
Husain-Qoli Hamadani. About his Practical Irfan studies under Mollah Hamadani he
said: After two years of asceticism I said to my mentor Mullah Husain-Qoli: “It has been
two years that I have attended your lessons yet I have not gained any tangible mystical
experience.” My mentor told me: “Then you need to set the shoes of those whom you
disagree with before them.”

 The Works of Ayatollah Tabrizi


Successful teachers are those who have two types of products; their literature and
their students. If the life of Ayatollah Tabrizi did not have any result other than his
share in building the mystical personality of Imam Khomeini (r.a) it would be enough
for him.
Among the best celebrated books of Ayatollah Tabrizi three books are the most
famous.
1) Asrarul-Salaat (The Secrets of Daily Prayers)
2) Moraqebatul-Sanah (Observation of the Yearly Devotions)
3) Leqa‟u-Allah (Meeting with God) which is the best mystical book written on the
topic.

 Personal Characteristics
1) Early Bird
Irfan with no practicality and worshipping is rather just a bunch of expressions
and hence a public fraud. In the school of Ahlul-Bait (a.s) it is impossible for
one to gain any spirituality unless by means of worshipping God in its divine
prescribed method. The more spiritual the Shi‟a mystic becomes the more
they observe and practice the Shari‟ah law.
Observing Night Prayers before dawn was a mandatory condition to be
admitted to the lessons of Ayatollah Tabrizi.
The late Shaalchi one of his students narrated: “He (Ayatollah Tabrizi) was
very strict about early rising for Night Prayers. I requested if I could be
exempt as I believe that would make me weak and would reduce my sleeping
hours. Ayatollah Tabrizi said: Find a way to gain their consent. Tell them: “At
dawn some elite people are in a sociable gathering with the Almighty God, do
you want me to miss it?”

Ayatollah Jawad Tabrizi in „Al-Moraqibaat‟ with regards to Night Prayers


says: “The appointed angels will wake man up for the Night Prayers but he
ignores the angelic call and continues his sleep again. They wake him up
again. These wake ups are not by chance, they are heavenly awakenings. If
man took advantage of them and left the bed for Night Prayers, those calls
will be stronger and more permanent. But if he ignores them, the angels will
also give up.”

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The angelic call may appear to you in the voice of your mother, your friend,
or even in the voice of Azan all for the purpose of inviting you to a private
heavenly meeting at dawn. For those who are interested in waking up for the
Night Prayers it is also very much recommended to recite the last Ayah of
Surah al-Kahf (18) in Arabic.

2. Thikr Yunusiyah (The Call of Jonah)


It is narrated from the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w) that whoever invocated to the
Almighty God with the „Call of Prophet Yunus‟ [holy Quran 21:87-88] his
call will be granted. A man asked the messenger of Allah (s.a.w) if that call
would be only for Prophet Yusuf? The Messenger of Allah (saw) replied: If
was for Prophet Yusuf then it will be for every Mo‟men. Don‟t you see that
the Almighty Allah states: ‘And thus We do deliver the believers.’
Ayatollah Tabrizi in his „Asrarul-Salaat‟ says: “I asked my mentor, who was
the best philosopher, Arif and experienced teacher and the most perfect
spiritual physician I have ever seen in my life; which one of the physical
worshipping from your experience is more effective to the heart? He replied:
long prostration for about an hour or ¾ of an hour in which you repeatedly
say: “Laa Elaaha Ellaa Ant Sobhanaka Enni Konto Mena zZalemin. [Thikr
Yunusiyah] When you recite it you should observe your soul imprisoned in
the jail of this world fastened with the chains of immoral behaviour. During
the prostration you should glorify Allah and confess that you have been unfair
to yourself not your Lord.”ii

3. Nearness to Imam Zamaan (a.j)


Seyyed Jawad Shahroodi one of the students of Ayatollah Tabrizi narrated:
“Once in my dream I saw Imam Zamaan (a.f) with a group of people as if they
had attended the prayer of the Imam. I went forth to visit him and kiss his
blessed hand. When I went closer I noticed a very honourable Sheikh beside
the Imam on whose face the signs of magnanimity were apparent. When I
woke up from my dream I was wondering who that Sheikh was until I met
Ayatollah Tabrizi and recognised the face and more surprisingly he also
recognised me too.

4. Sincerity
Ayatollah Musa Shobairi one of the students of Ayatollah Tabrizi narrates:
“Ayatollah Tabrizi said: I had just written a book on a subject when I noticed
that the late Faydh Kashaniiii has also written another book on the same subject.
I was wondering whether I should still publish my book. I offered a special
prayer to visit Imam Sadiq (a.s) in my dream and asked him if with the book of
Faydh Kashani I had to still publish my book. I saw Imam Sadiq (a.s) in my
dream and asked him the question but he was silent. I insisted and he calmly
told me: “The book of Faydh is sufficient.” I then destroyed my book!

The Prescription of Ayatollah Tabrizi for Ayatollah Isfahani (Kompani)

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Ayatollah Muhammad Husain Isfahani known as Kompani was an outstanding Muslim
Jurist and philosopher of his time. In a letter to Ayatollah Tabrizi he requested him to
write a practical prescription for his spiritual perfection.
I quote parts of the prescription from my teacher Ayatollah Hasan-Zadeh who quoted it
from his teacher Allamah Tabatabaei:
“ … The beneficial way in knowing the self is to endeavour in reducing your
animality by the following disciplines:
1. Reducing your meals in that you don‟t have more than two meals
a day and not to have meat more than two or three times in a
week.
2. Reducing your sleeping hours in that you don‟t sleep more than
six hours.
3. Endeavour in safeguarding your tongue and abstaining from
heedless people. These three will be very helpful in reducing the
animality of man.
As for accelerating and reinforcing your spirituality:
1. Permanent grief of the heart (not facial) in fear of not reaching
your destination.
2. Thikr (remembrance of Allah) and Fikr (to think and ponder) as
these two are the wings of flying to the heaven of knowledge. As
for the Thikr the Thikr of Yunusiyah in the morning and at night
is very much experienced and brings about many blessings. The
minimum times of reciting it is 400 times. As for the Fikr for a
beginner the best is to ponder upon death.”iv
Ascension to his Lord
Nearing the end of his life, Ayatollah Tabrizi was very ill and he could no longer even
use water for his Wudu.
According to Seyyed Fatami-Nia one night before the demise of Ayatollah Tabrizi
about 250 Sheikhs in Qom had dreamt that the funeral of Ayatollah Tabrizi was
processing and Imam Husain (a.s) was walking in front of his coffin.
The following day on the 11th of Thil-Hajjah in the year 1343 A.H. he made his
Tayammum for his Noon and Afternoon prayers. He stood up and made an intention for
his Noon prayer and as he raised his hands in the middle of his Takbiratul-Ihram his
body collapsed and his soul ascended to his Lord to continue the rest of his prayer at the
presence of Allah forever. May God bless and elevate his status in Paradise.
Ayatollah Tabrizi (may God cover His mercy on him) is buried in a small cemetery in
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Qom near the Shrine of Ma‟soomah (s.a) known as „Sheikhan‟.

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i
Mansour Al-Hallaj was an Iranian famous Sufi lived between 858-922 AD who was persecuted for his
ambiguous heretical statement: “I am the Truth”.
ii
Asrarul-Salaat p.46
iii
Faydh Kashani was one of the outstanding Shia scholars died in
iv
Ayatollah Hasan-Zadeh, 1001 Words, Word 301
v
Tabib Delha, compiled by Sadiq Hasan-Zadeh.

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