The Sacred Effusion

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The Sacred EffusionAll spiritual wayfarers who desire to be true human beings are in need of the knowledge shared by Shaikh Khalfan in this book.

The Sacred EffusionThe Sacred Effusion is a commentary of Ziarat Ashura written by Shaikh Muhammad Khalfan and published by the World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities. It is also available online as a PDF. Hopefully this work will be published soon in more than one volume.

The currently available volume includes commentary up through the verse of the Ziyarat, “O Aba ‘Abdillah, I swear by Allah, the loss is great; and the calamity on us and all the enthusiasts of Islam because of what befell you is great and severe. And the calamity that befell you is reckoned by all the inhabitants of the heavens as great and severe.” It consists of substantial preface material which teaches proper understanding of and approach to reciting Ziyarat, followed by nine chapters, each one dedicated to a single verse of Ziyarat Ashura.

In the preface, the author notes that the numerous rewards and worldly benefits associated with regular recitation of reciting Ziyarat Ashura should not be the true goals in reciting. “The rewards of the Ziyarat which are both sacred and sublime should not be the only factor[s] to lead us to recite it. It is the natural love for the Imam, who exemplifies the Divine Attributes in himself, that should transport us to recite this humble presentation…. Another important point to bear in mind is that because the reciter of this Ziyarat has been guaranteed by the Imams that his needs would be fulfilled, he must be very careful in distinguishing ‘that which is really a need’ from ‘that which is not really a need’.” The meaning of the word Ziyarat is to draw oneself “away from the corporeal world and incline towards the world of spirit”, “to color oneself with the attributes of the visited one”, and to “flee from imperfection while struggling for perfection.”

Ziyarat is an opportunity and program for a believer to incline towards Allah by means of approach through an Imam, who is the human exemplar of numerous Divine Attributes. It is one means of communicating and communing beyond the worldly veils, to return to one’s true, pure nature (Fitra). But mere recitation cannot accomplish this. Elevation of one’s spirit out of worldly murk requires knowledge about what one is aiming toward – knowledge about the great status of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and knowledge about the Divine Attributes of God that we desire to approach in our pursuit of human perfection.

The nine commentaries on the first nine verses are a beginning of such knowledge. “Peace be unto you, O Aba ‘Abdillah” may seem to be a very simple greeting, with little to reflect upon in its meaning. However, the author shares knowledge of the many layered and significant meanings of this short phrase that enable a person reciting this Ziyarat to obtain a much deeper appreciation and understanding of the true power in these words. The Arabic language and its verbal root constructions allow for complex multiple meanings to coexist perfectly in a short utterance. Even the single syllable “Ya” has significant meaning: it stresses the exaltedness of the visited relative to the visitor, a confession of the relative lowliness of the zair, the way a lover calls the beloved. In common speech it is used to call someone who is at a distance, but that meaning is not meant here, because the Imam is in fact near and can hear the reciter. Rather, the distance emphasizes the high spiritual stations obtained by Imam Hussain that the visitor wishes to get closer to.

A common theme throughout the work is a relationship between knowledge of Allah’s Divine Attributes, their human counterparts modeled in perfection by the Prophet and Imams, and the attributes that a believer should inculcate in himself in order to get nearer to the Ahlul Bayt and ultimately to God. This commentary educates the reader on how the Ziyarat both teaches this spiritual improvement program and serves as one of its means.

All spiritual wayfarers who desire to be true human beings are in need of the knowledge shared by Shaikh Khalfan in this book. The few typographical errors and occasionally terse transitions it contains will hopefully be corrected in future edits, but they do not detract from the beauty and importance of this work or its potential benefits for the reader. Obtaining a hard copy may be difficult, but worth the effort – this is a book I think many will treasure for years to come.

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