“I Wish I’d Been There”
By Jalaledin Ebrahim
A solemn ceremony on August 8, 1164 AC, was organized at the foot of the castle of Alamut, set deep in the Alborz mountains. It was the 17th day of Ramadan in the noon day sun. There was not a single solitary cloud in the sky and the mountain air was fresh and pure.
Those of us in the volunteer corps were apprehensive that day because we were asked to prepare for some announcement that might alter the course of history. I, for one, was aware of my limitations of not having strictly observed self-discipline and purity that were called for during the month of Ramadan. I felt the least I could do was to make myself available to support those guests who had traveled great distances on foot to gather for this extra-ordinary event.
The royal trumpets sounded to silence the whispers and fleeting conversations amongst the delegates and traders who had not seen each other in years because travel had been restricted due to severe security concerns. People had sometimes disappeared without a trace as they traveled incognito between settlements and in the surrounding areas. Quiet! Listen!
A beaming representative of the Imam, dressed in a ceremonial robe, slowly ascended the special pulpit erected on the public prayer ground for this momentous and auspicious occasion. He was sent here to deliver an announcement on behalf of the fourth Lord of Alamut. It was a declaration of new instructions for the Jamat. The murids began to recite the salwat which washed over this sacred venue like powerful sonic waves. Allahumma salli alla…. A hush came over the gathering as the Imam’s Da’i and Hujja, Hasan, sword in hand, began to project the Imam’s instructions in a loud voice. Fortunately the acoustics of the mountain fastness made it possible for all to hear the Imam’s words admonishing the Jamat to follow Hasan, obey his commands in all spiritual and temporal matters, and treat his words as that of the Imam. He announced that the Imam had relieved all of those gathered there of the burdens of the shari’a and that the Imam had brought all who had been steadfast murids to the Qiyama, a special day of resurrection.
It felt as if the ground beneath us began to tremor for just a moment, and I could have sworn that celestial music came wafting through on a sweet and gentle breeze. There was a spiritual fragrance in the air that reminded me of rose, jasmine and sandalwood. I felt like I had been reborn, that some overpowering force had wrenched my soul out of my breast and washed it clean. I felt light headed and a little dizzy. I almost dropped the silver tray I was holding. The stress and tension I had been holding seemed to vanish in the mountain air.
A khutba was then delivered by Hasan in Arabic with a simultaneous translation in Farsi for all the Persian-speaking delegates. After completing his address, the Da’i performed two rak’ats reserved for festive occasions and declared that this Eid-i Qiyama was to be a festive occasion. Some thing mystifying and incomprehensible had just occurred. Murids had been speechless during the pronouncements but the weariness of travel and fasting seemed to disappear as some of the murids joined in heartily breaking their fasts. But there were some who could not bring themselves to physically eat or drink because their hearts were weeping, and their tears were flowing through glistening, light-struck eyes. Theirs was an internal celebration that moved me to my core. They too were eating and drinking but their food and drink was not what I could serve up on a platter.
As we volunteers scurried around offering our services, I could over hear many speaking in hushed tones of the profound significance of what had just happened. Some even declared that the Da’i was no other than the twenty-third Imam himself. How was this event possible? What did that say about the nature and authority of the Imam?
There were heartfelt expressions of rejoicing and al-Hamdullilah could be heard at every turn. Yet there was also a collective feeling of spiritual peace and uplift that was palpable, surreal, mysterious and regrettably quite impossible to capture in poetry or prose. You had to be there.
Was this the beginning of a new day or the end of an epoch? How will it be remembered?
Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad, Ya Ali, I Wish I’d Been There that day!
Note: In this contribution, Jalaledin has used an imaginal approach to the setting of the event.
About the Writer: Jalaledin Ebrahim is a doctoral candidate in Depth Psychotherapy. He has a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked as a mental health clinician with at risk youth for 9 years. He is currently preparing for state licensure in Santa Barbara, CA as a psychotherapist. Jalaledin is a certified life coach.
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