In Memory of Ayatullah Behjat
These have been sad days for Muslims across the globe, as a candle which was lit from the luminescence of the love of His Majesty and burned with Ikhlas (sincere and pure intentions), and spread light to the hearts of truth seekers, had finally ceased to glow. Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Behjat was not only an eminent Islamic scholar of jurisprudence and Islam, he was also a teacher of some of the highest, well-renowned, and most knowledgeable scholars and Mujtahids of our time. He was also a true Arif or mystic in every sense of the word. He offered the extension of luminosity through the path of the Ahlul Bayt of the Noble Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny). His desire to control his desire and carnal soul in order to achieve proximity toward the Most High became evident for all those around him from a very early age. He guarded his eyes from evil and sin and became able to see unveiled realities.
One of my Akhlaq (Islamic morals/ethics) teachers (may Allah bless him) encouraged me to visit Ayatullah Behjat and to take advantage of his presence, wisdom, and insight. At the time I was a young teenager, about 15 or 16 years of age (in the late ’90s), and really had no idea about the persona of such a man. I began to realize how much respect and admiration this great scholar had attained when I tried several times to go and pray behind him. Each time I showed up exactly at the Adhan time, only to find that the mosque which was almost adjacent to the shrine of Lady Masooma (peace be upon her), in the bazaar area of Qom, was packed all the way into the street. Each time he prayed it seemed as if it were Friday prayer. Each time he led prayers, the mosque would be filled with Muslims wanting to get a glimpse of this man best known for his character and piety. Eventually I realized that in order for me to have the opportunity to pray behind Ayatullah Behjat, I would need to try to come much earlier than the actual prayer time…which I did.
Alas! I am standing there captivated, feeling the emotion and spirituality which prayer truly offers when done properly, only leaving me to wonder what I had been doing all along – perhaps yoga, Pilates, or some other rare celestial exercise. I began to comprehend the tradition which refers to the prayer as the Me’raj (ascension) of a believer. When we pray, often so many thoughts and imaginations begin to awaken and stir up that we often aren’t exactly connected or quite sure what occurred between Takbiratul Ihram (the initial Allahu Akbar for prayer) and the final Salam. It is like we are looking at a book, but not actually reading it, or perhaps just skimming through the pages. When Ayatullah Behjat began to pray, his focus was uninterrupted, sincere, aware, constant, and very intense. He would usually cry so much that sometimes it would be difficult for him to continue his recitation, as he was so choked up. I was completely spellbound and marveled by his aura. From that point on, I took a great interest in his mannerisms and character. I was blessed to meet and talk with him on several occasions and was given wise and valuable guidance. I found his advice to be tools and pillars based on Islam to live by and to help along the path of reaching nearness to Allah.
I once read a book about Ayatullah Behjat. This book was the testimony of several current scholars and individuals who had experienced unique instances of extraordinary events and karamat (phenomenal acts) performed by Ayatullah Behjat. I can vouch based on my own experiences that there is no question about some of these external effects of his inner purity. However, too often people are distracted by the outward and apparent achievements and fail to realize that these are only a mere by-product of self-purification and not the goal itself. Should one decide to follow the path his Lord has set for him, then surely he will attain a sound heart and levels of comprehension and understanding foreign to most men, yet common amongst the true believers and the pious. Of course, there are those of us who become preoccupied with supernatural abilities and attaining superficial results, which frequently causes us to lose sight of the aim of achieving taqwa or piety. “Certainly, the most noble of you is the most pious of you.” Allah has described his standards, and it is up to us to achieve it.
I was a translator in a meeting with several other brothers and sisters who came from the US and had the rare opportunity to sit and ask this great source of knowledge question. The question was posed, “How can we achieve these higher levels of spirituality?” His reply was very profound and timeless and in direct accordance with the traditions of our faith and the teaching of the Holy Prophet of Islam. He answered, “Do not commit sin. Do not commit sin. Because when you do it knocks you back one thousand steps.” So for someone who is climbing the ladder trying to reach nearness to Allah, every sin sends you right back to the bottom.
He simplified the first step of the wayfarer’s journey to combat one’s carnal soul (nafs) to simply be in control of one’s self and to break free from the chains of evil.
Now it all makes sense. Jesus (peace be upon him) walked on water as a result of the power of his Lord and the strength of his faith. The prophets, the Prophet of Islam, the AhlulBayt, and the Imams were all sinless. Yes, they chose to be free of the shackles of Satan while they set their course for implementing divine laws and attaining His favor.
We have a choice to make every time we meet that fork in the road, Halal or Haram, right or wrong, just or unjust, truth or lie. What choice will we make? Will we take the path of our beloved AhlulBayt and join the ranks of the Sabiqoon (the foremost) in this life and the next?
Ayatullah Behjat, may Allah bless him and have mercy on his soul, was not only a personal inspiration to me, but a beacon of light and a ray hope for the Muslim world as a whole. He proved and implemented the potential that each and every one of us possesses. May Allah help us to continue to strive on this same path and become true believers and ready followers of the Imam of our time, Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance).