We are currently meditating upon the value of our soul. In this meditation, we will focus upon the Islamic definition of freedom that we discussed in our previous meditation, which is the freedom to make the choice and the decision that pleases Allah (SWT) and brings us closer to our creator. In order to do this, we first need to free ourselves from that which would cause us to decide based on anything other than the pleasure of Allah (SWT), especially the lure of this temporal world.

As Imam Hussein (AS) is the father of freedom, it is important that we use his days as a time in which we free ourselves from this. In this meditation, we will look at the practical ways in which we can do this, so that we can begin to apply this within our own lives and build a closer relationship with Allah (SWT), in sha Allah.

The most important way in which we can get closer to Allah (SWT) is through salaat, which is the pillar of the pillars of Islam. Imam Hussein (AS) emphasised the importance of salaat, especially on the night before Ashura. The Imam (AS) asked Abbas (AS) to ask the enemy for one night of peace, so that he could perform the two things that he loved most, performing salaat and reciting the Quran Majid.

The easiest way in which we can ensure that we base our decisions on the pleasure of Allah (SWT) is to become strong and punctual with our salaat. Imam Ali Zainulabedeen (AS) stated that our salaat has a right upon us and, therefore, it is our duty to perform this right towards salaat. Furthermore, he (AS) used a very strong word regarding salaat, wifada (ambassador). We should prepare for our salaat as if we are preparing to meet an ambassador, as in salaat, we are in fact going to the very fresh hold of Allah (SWT), the ambassador of the ambassadors.

Once we adopt this habit of salaat, this will then begin to affect the time in between each salaat, as we will know that in just a short period of time, we will again be in front of Allah (SWT).

The second way in which we can get closer to Allah (SWT) is through strengthening our connection with the Quran Majid. Amirul Mumineen (AS) taught us that no one leaves sitting with the Quran Majid without having gained one thing and losing another. The gain is knowledge and the loss is ignorance.

The Quran Majid is the book of wisdom and this wisdom is that which we should live our life by. After all, how can we not get closer to Allah (SWT) and making the choice and decision that pleases him the most, if we use his book and his wisdom to make these choices and these decisions?

The third way in which we can get closer to Allah (SWT) is by being grateful for all of the blessings that he has given us with. In the Quran Majid, Allah (SWT) tells us that it is impossible to count these blessings. When we realise and appreciate how generous Allah (SWT) is, how can we not be grateful to him?

There is a beautiful parable that reminds us of this. If we were to walk into a home and find everything that we needed and wanted, with fresh food every day and a beautiful environment in which to live, how grateful would we be to the one who has given us this? Allah (SWT) has given us this and much more, so how can we not be grateful to him and choose to do that which would please him in gratitude?

Even on the Day of Ashura, when the Imam (AS) lost so much and had so much pain on his body and in his heart, Imam Hussein (AS) always remained grateful. Let us use these days of Imam Hussein (AS) to turn towards gratitude and take our choices and decisions from this gratitude.

The fourth way in which we can get closer to Allah (SWT) is by not wasting these blessings that Allah (SWT) has given us. The greatest of these blessings is time. In the 10th Ayat of Surah Al-Munafiqun, Allah (SWT) stresses how important time is and how we cannot delay death, in order to do more of what we wanted to do to please Allah (SWT). Therefore, it is imperative that we make use of all the time that we have been given, as it is in itself this time is so limited.

This is why Shaitan (LA) wants us to be lazy and idle, so that we waste this time. Allah (SWT) has created us to work hard and to be of value, so that we make the most use of this time.

The most effective way in which we can prevent wasting time is by creating a schedule and routine by which to live, whereby we have time allocated for our work, our family, our rest and our remembrance of Allah (SWT).

The fifth way in which we can get closer to Allah (SWT) is by giving to charity and being part of a community. In Islam, we are on two journeys, the personal journey and the social journey. The personal journey is the journey of the self towards Allah (SWT) and the social journey is the journey of society towards Allah (SWT). Both of these journeys are related and cannot be separated.

Imam Jaffar-us Sadiq (AS) explains the social journey with the following example. The Imam (AS) says that we should imagine ourselves as drops of water falling from the sky into a stream. These drops started separate but when they reach the land, they form together and join a stream, in which all of these drops are together. They stay together, move together and reach one destination.

Furthermore, the Imam (AS) says to imagine a field of animals. These animals may appear to be together, as a flock, but if one animal is taken away, the other still continue as they are content with what they have. Although they give the appearance of being together, they are merely a collection of individuals who are close together physically, but not connected beyond that.

The best way in which we can ensure that our decisions and our choices please Allah (SWT) is to work together to ensure we help others to do so, especially those who are less privileged or suffering hardships. On the day of Ashura, the 72 shohoda were like the stream, united and joined together towards one mission. The 40,000 enemies on the other side were like the herd of animals who were close physically, but each had their own motives and purposes that divided them and, most importantly, these motives and purposes were not to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT).

In order to please Allah (SWT), we also need to understand our social responsibility of being with and strengthening a community of people who are also moving in the same direction as you, who are like a stream moving towards Allah (SWT).

This is the true meaning of walayat, where there is a pure connection without a boundary, where this connection is not just physical and superficial, but at a deeper level, emotional and spiritual as well.

Lastly, as we approach Ashura, we can reflect upon a parable which can teach us how to apply the lessons of Imam Hussein (AS). There was once a rich man who had bought some bread. As he was walking home, he saw a poor man who was crying, as he had no food. This rich man decided to sit next to the poor man and cry with him.

Soon after, another man walked passed and asked the rich man what he was doing. The rich man explained that the poor man was crying because he was hungry, and he decided to cry with him. The third man then said that the poor man is crying because he is hungry, you have bread in your hand, if you give him some bread, he will not be hungry any more.

The rich man then said that I cannot give him my bread, I can only give him my tears.

As we approach Ashura, we should try to reflect upon this. We will all shed tears for Imam Hussein (AS) but those tears will soon dry up. How many of us will give something more than that, the effort to attain the freedom that the Imam (AS) gave his and his family’s life for, that freedom to make the decision that pleased Allah (SWT) the most?

May Allah (SWT) help us to achieve this freedom by strengthening our connection to him through Salaat, by living by the values he has taught us in the Quran Majid, by being grateful for all of the blessings he has given us and appreciating his generosity, by using our greatest gift, the time we have been given, as well as possible and to move towards him both personally and socially, through the true meaning of walayat. May we shed tears for our Imam (AS) but, along with these tears, also gain the freedom to base our choices and decisions upon that which most pleases Allah (SWT). Aamin.