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On Ziyara

I have been blessed to make ziyara to the graves of many righteous Muslims. Ziyara is an act of worship which both Sunni and Shi’i ‘ulama agree brings spiritual benefit and openings. The only dissenters are people like ISIS, who instead of asking God to bless them in the presence of the righteous, would prefer to detonate explosives.

I have visited the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him and his family), as well as the first three caliphs who are also buried in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. But I have yet to visit the fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, in Najaf, Iraq. It is my firm intention, relying upon Allah, to make ziyara to him.

In a time when men with guns openly proclaim their intention to destroy the tomb of Ali, as well as to massacre Muslims who believe in the efficacy of doing ziyara to him, this post is a public act of defiance. I have changed the pictures on this blog and on my related Twitter account to continuously remind me of Najaf until the time comes when Allah blesses me to walk upon its soil.

Ali ibn Abi Talib is unanimously agreed upon by both Sunni and Shi’i ‘ulama to be one of the denizens of Paradise, and an example to be followed. They agree that the Prophet said about him, “Whoever has me as his master, then so too is Ali his master,” although they differ on the interpretation of its meaning. From Ali come the spiritual lineages of all the Sufi communities except one. And so he is not a divisive figure, as some would have it. He is a actually a centralizing figure whose depth is so great that from him hundreds of millions draw inspiration, guidance, and spiritual unveiling.

So the ziyara to Najaf is the heritage of the entire Ummah of Muhammad, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family. And at a time when there are people who want to completely destroy this heritage, it is important to state so boldly and loudly.

May Allah accept this from me, count it amongst the righteous deeds I have done for His sake, bring benefit to humanity through it, correct my mistakes, forgive my sins, and guide me to the path of righteous, ameen.

sobriety does not suit me

i am drunk on reflections of You

faces filled with seeking’s agony

words laced with hope’s sweetness

each carrying traces of You

Eternal Refuge of the love lorn

Universally Sought of the yearning heart

to this one…give!

to that one…give!

to all…give give give!

what role do i play in the fulfillment of anyone’s request

- You fulfill them all from a spaceless space filled with Your provision! -

ya Kareem ya Kareem ya Kareem

i want to run through the streets of this city tonight

screaming Your name

ya Wahhab ya Wahhab ya Wahhab

come to the feast of hearts!

come to the banquet of souls!

come to the bed laid out with roses for every longing!

there is no fear nor grief

only Love’s enchanting inebriation

nurtured by the warm glow of salawat’s Grace

amidst a banquet of seekers

with secret truths

shining forth from honored hearts

with the slightest space

for la ilaha ill Allah

963A4E84-1196-41DA-B025-AE2E46E426B7

how could i ever get my fill of speaking to You

You know me better than anyone else

You understand every tear i have ever shed

You are the only refuge from my greatest fears

You are You

Merciful You

Majestic You

i feel You in my fingertips

delicate and gentle decrees

manifest in this world of form

but i know that i will answer for the words i type

i

am

the

one

who

types

but i could have erased that

but i didn’t

still, i could erase it

but i won’t

the liminal space between You and me

but the truth is

i want whatever is me that keeps me from You

to wither away

to fade

to dissolve

until You are the fingertip with which i type

الله

i feel so helpless

i feel so weak

i am swimming in Your good grace

indebted recipient

of the eyes that allow me to see these words on the screen

and the hands that do what my brain tells them to do

flurblat!!!

my brain just told my hands to type that

schmikameroo!!!

there it goes again

a brain that You built

in a momentless moment with You

that to us seems like 14 billion years

الله

with You

i am already in paradise

or hell

only You know

ya Rahman ya Raheem ya Salam ya Rafi’ ya Mu’izz ya Kareem ya Wahhab ya Samad ya Ahad ya Ra’uf ya Ghafur ya Ghaffar

make it paradise

that is the only option

and You are the only Chooser

and so choose me for paradise

so that i can unfold in time that which is already in your pre-eternal decree

ya Qahhar ya Jabbar ya fa’al li ma yureed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i

robert david coolidge

the composite of chemicals

neurons firing

am utterly Your slave

what basis is there for self-centered pride

in a form that was fashioned purely by You

let my words be glorification of You

praise of You

for it is all about You

the One who brings the cold down upon New York City

the One who puts the flavor in my crunchy cereal

the One who i believe will resurrect Deah, Yusor, and Razan

the One who put the light yellows and oranges into the twilight clouds

the One who has already created Hell

and warned us of its existence

in the book revealed

on the tongue of Your messenger

may Your peace and blessings be upon him and his family

and preserved it for 1400 years

in the hearts of millions of women and men

so that it could reach these ears that You created

to hear Your speech breathed into history

and terrify me

for oblivion is sweet

when compared with the tree of Zaqqum

New York Winter Night - East Village Snow-XL

yā Zayn al-‘Ābidīn

I believe you are alive in the barzakh

and perhaps Allah will permit you to know these words

I am approaching you through two books

one conveys words of prayer attributed to you

the other conveys a wealth of information about you

I am not learned enough to judge the authenticity of anything attributed to you

I am dependent on Dr. Chittick and Shaykh al-Qarashī (Allah grant them entrance into Jannah!)

but it is the best I have access to right now

it is the means that Allah has given me to know something about you

and through them I feel myself falling in love with you

What would I pay to be able to see you inside the tent at Karbalā’ with my own eyes?!

What would I give to hear you speak in the court of Yazīd with my own ears?!

What would I do in order to be present at your return to Madīna with my own body?!

But I cannot

Even if I had all the wealth of the Earth

I am trapped in this time – 1436

I am trapped in this place – New York City

and all I have is my God-given imagination to form an image of you

and the blessing of my mind to perceive the beauty of the words attributed to you

and the secret of my heart to tremble at the thought of sitting next to you

learning from you

asking for your du‘ā

serving you for the love of your father

your grandfather

and your great grandfather (O Allah, bless him and his family!)

so that through you

I might know my Lord better

just as your collected prayers have taught me so much already

you are the light in the darkness for all those who have suffered

those who have witnessed tragedies

the Imam of the degraded

the one who lets us know through station, deed and word

that nothing in this world can strip us of the dignity that Allah placed within us

and get between us and the Most Merciful

the One who rules beyond time

and through time

and in time

and after time

and before time

and has prepared that which no eye has ever seen

no ear has ever heard

and nothing that we have ever conceived

to wipe away every tear

console every heart

uplift every soul

with manifestations of Mercy untold

so let me be one of your students and servants

let me be somehow

someway

connected to you in the most real of ways

by the permission of the Lord for whom I feel what I feel

the Lord who permitted me a glimpse of who you are

the Lord who decrees all things

such as this moment of longing and patience

at the barrier between my self and your majlis

yā Fattāḥ I can do nothing but what You decree

and am seeking You with the means that You have given me

so please bless Muhammad and his family

and forgive this simple boy with his books

for the lack of adab in his dreams

āmīn

I humbly request the reader to make a du’a for me

that Allah bless me with a true connection for His sake

to al-Sajjād ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn Zayn al-‘Ābidīn

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fathers and sons

yā Allāh yā Qahhār yā Jabbār yā Qawī

I am terrified at this moment.

You know that I have been a Muslim for 16 years

and I have tried to prepare myself to be a father

who could raise a righteous child.

I thought I was ready

but now I am not so sure.

For if Mu‘āwiya b. Abī Ṣufyān

and S‘ad b. Abī Waqqāṣ

were not able to raise their sons Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya and ‘Umar b. S‘ad

to stay their hands from shedding so much sacred blood

then what hope is there for me?!

I want my son to love and honor al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī

the beloved of Your beloved

and his son ‘Alī al-Akbar

so where shall I find that tawfīq?!

I can only come as a beggar to Your Door

weeping and pleading

for You to grant my son what You granted to al-Ḥurr al-Riyāḥī

for through his story I now know more deeply

that You alone guide whom You will.

yā Hādī yā Karīm yā Wadūd yā Allāh

Obliterate the misguidance that comes from me

and replace it with the Guidance that comes only from You

and save my son and I from the punishment of the Fire.

Allāhumma ṣalli ‘alā Muhammadin wa ālihi wa sallim

ya_hussain_ibn_ali__by_wewanttobe-d5lc8nm

bismillah.

here i am.

age 36.

with a baby almost at his first birthday.

being with him roots me to this world, but at the same time he is a daily miracle.

his face was molded by a power beyond sight

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“and He is the One who fashions you in the wombs however He wills. There is no god but Him, The Mighty, The Wise.” (3.6)

and yet all I see is his face – his laughs, his cries, his blank stares

his face is what I see before my eyes, not the One who fashioned it

I can go into a mystical state and see that the Real is more real than the time-bound reality that I am witnessing

but there is certain level of abstraction there

the constancy of his face – day in and day out – is what is overwhelming

he brings me back to the time before I was even worried about the meaning inherent in reality

when life was primarily about play

it all reminds me of the nihilistic strands of my youth, the ones that were overcome by being a seeker

like Abraham, upon him peace

“In this way We showed Abraham [God’s] mighty dominion over the heavens and the earth, so that he might be a firm believer. When the night grew dark over him he saw a star and said, ‘This is my Lord,’ but when it set, he said, ‘I do not like things that set.’ And when he saw the moon rising he said, ‘This is my Lord,’ but when it too set, he said, ‘If my Lord does not guide me, I shall be one of those who go astray.’ Then he saw the sun rising and cried, ‘This is my Lord! This is greater.’ But when the sun set, he said, ‘My people, I disown all that you worship beside God. I have turned my face as a true believer towards Him who created the heavens and the earth. I am not one of the polytheists.’” (6.75-79)

Look beyond the “reality” of things to the Reality of the Maker of things.

But things are still there.

I read recently in a book by ‘Allamah Tabatabai that even after the annihilation of the self, things remain. That really got me down. I want to look into a thing, and look past it to the cells that make it up. And look past the cells to the quarks and so on that make them up, and all the way past to the base of reality and beyond that veil to the Infinite Beauty and Majesty and Power and Glory that pervades this entire realm of creation.

لا إله إلا الله

I can say the words, and my mind can travel to the edge of the observable universe, and I can reflect on the manifestations of Mercy (al-Rahman al-Raheem) and Justice (al-‘Adl al-Hakam) and Expansion (al-Basit) and Contraction (al-Qabid) and Fashioning (al-Musawwir) and Bringing Together (al-Jami’) that I have witnessed, and ponder God until the point of bewilderment (hayra). But I cannot rend the veil of the world – the same world that existed without reference to the Divine from when I was a little boy until I began to ponder meanings in my teenage years. 15 or so years the world was a stable entity, as it is.

يا قيوم

Perhaps that is one reason the story of the cave of Hira is so powerful. For 40 years, Muhammad lived in the same world as the rest of us. And then one night, it all changed. Forever.

If I ever see an angel, I’ll let you know.

Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad wa ali Muhammad

I converted to Islam in 1998, full of zeal.

I could have gone to Chechnya and fought, but I didn’t.

I could have gone to Afghanistan and fought, but I didn’t.

I could have gone to Iraq and fought, but I didn’t.

I could have gone to Somalia and fought, but I didn’t.

I could have gone to Yemen, or Pakistan, or Syria, but I didn’t.

I came into this religion because I heard God speak to me in the words of the Qur’an and the life example of the Prophet Muhammad, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family. I didn’t know there would be so many wars in which I had to choose a side. I have watched Aukai Collins, John Walker Lindh, Adam Gadahn, and others make different choices along the way. At the end of the day, we will all stand before God and answer for our choices, for better or for worse.

My parents forbade me from going to Syria to study after I graduated from Brown in 2001. If it hadn’t been so instilled in me that obedience to parents, even those who are not Muslim, is a central teaching of Islam, perhaps I just would have gone anyways. But it is Islam that made me stay, and that decision changed my life. It is Islam that leads me to Florida every December to hang out with my parents during the holidays – it is their sacred right over me. It is Islam that makes me refrain from killing other human souls out of an awareness of the immense sanctity of all life. It is Allah that has brought me to Manhattan, both through His decree and also through my choice – a choice made after study, prayer, and spiritual consultation – to start raising my family here.

I may not be newsworthy, in either the secular Western media or in the various counterpublics of the global Muslim community. I spend the day with my son. I read books. I pray. I try to refine my soul in various ways. I try to respond to requests over email or Facebook or Twitter in a timely fashion. I look for noble organizations that are helping people so that I can make donations to them as zakat or sadaqa. It is all so mundane.

The mundaneness of my existence sometimes makes me think that my choices are not truly authentic. “If I were a real Muslim,” I think to myself, “I would be off galavanting around the world as a holy warrior like the days of yore.” “If I were a real Muslim,” I ponder, “I would be living the alternative to Western modernity in a remote region of the Muslim world as a hidden saint.” “If I were a real Muslim,” my mind suggests, “I would be immersed in the worldview of a religious seminary, unlearning the myriad heretical ideas and spiritual poisons of the West that have infected my mind and heart.” Because isn’t that what we are being told, day in and day out? Doesn’t the Muslim counterpublic and the mainstream media conspire to tell us that the real Muslim is the erudite scholar, the charismatic mystic, the fierce warrior, the tireless leader, the courageous reformer – all the men and women engaged in the drama of the great struggle of our time?! Isn’t the message clear – everyday people need not apply?

So I guess I am not a real Muslim. Next week, God willing, I am going to Florida. To play golf with my Dad. To take my son to the beach for the first time. To sit next to my Mom at a restaurant some night. To fall asleep to the sound of the ocean like I did when I was 12 years old on Christmas Eve. Nothing newsworthy about that.

But my hope is that maybe, just maybe, the greatest idol I have yet to smash is the image of the real Muslim that keeps me from embracing what God and His Messenger actually want from me, Robert David Coolidge, no matter how mundane it may seem.

A man said to the Prophet, “Shall I participate in jihad?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Are your parents living?” The man said, “Yes.” the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “They are your jihad.” (Bukhari)

IMG_20131223_064803026

Dawn at my parents’ house in Florida

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