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Story 111: Asleep Or Awake?

That night Habah Ibn 'Arani and Nauf al-Bakali slept in the courtyard of the residence of the Caliph in Kufah.

After the mid-night, they saw Imam 'Ali ('a), "The Commander of believers", coming out slowly from his residence, entering the courtyard, in an unusual state, incapable to keep his balance, bending downwards and leaning against the wall, advancing slowly step by step while murmuring the last verses (l90-194) of the chapter of 'The Family of Imran':

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لِّأُوْلِي الألْبَابِ

"Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, there are signs for the possessors of intellects." (Surah ‘Ali-Imran, 3:190).

الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ

"Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and mediate on the creation of the heavens and the earth, (seriously saying) 'Our Lord! You have not created (all) this in vain! Glory be to you! Save us then from the torment of the Fire'." (Surah ‘Ali-Imran, 3:191).

رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ مَن تُدْخِلِ النَّارَ فَقَدْ أَخْزَيْتَهُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ

"Our Lord! Anyone You cause to enter the (Hell) Fire, surely You have put him to disgrace; and the unjust will have no helpers." (Surah ‘Ali-Imran, 3:192).

رَّبَّنَا إِنَّنَا سَمِعْنَا مُنَادِيًا يُنَادِي لِلإِيمَانِ أَنْ آمِنُواْ بِرَبِّكُمْ فَآمَنَّا رَبَّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَكَفِّرْ عَنَّا سَيِّئَاتِنَا وَتَوَفَّنَا مَعَ الأبْرَارِ

"Our Lord! Verily we have heard (the invitation of) a Crier calling to the faith, saying: 'Believe in your Lord!' So we did believe. 'Our Lord! Forgive us therefore our sins, and cover of us our evil deeds, and make us die with the righteous'." (Surah ‘Ali-Imran, 3:193).

رَبَّنَا وَآتِنَا مَا وَعَدتَّنَا عَلَى رُسُلِكَ وَلاَ تُخْزِنَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّكَ لاَ تُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ

"Our Lord! And grant us what You have promised us through Your Messengers, and do not disgrace us on the Day of Resurrection. Verily You do not break any promise." (Surah ‘Ali-Imran, 3:194).

No sooner did he ('a) end the recitation of verses then again he ('a) began to repeat them. He ('a) repeated and recited these verses many times; it seemed that he ('a) was not in a normal status.

Habah and Nauf both were lying down on their beds, contemplating on this strange incident. Habah, stupified, stared at him ('a) while Nauf was not able to keep hold of his tears and wept steadily.

'Ali ('a) reached where Habah was lying down and asked him: "Are you asleep or awake?"

Habah replied: "Yes! I am awake, O Commander of believers! Since you fear Allah to such an extent, woe be upon us, the unfortunates!"

The Commander of believers, 'Ali ('a), closing his eyes, began to weep; then he ('a) said: "O Habah! One day we all will appear in presence of Allah, while none of our deeds will be hidden from Him. He is closer to me and you than our jugular vein. Nothing can interpose between us and Allah."

On addressing Nauf, he ('a) asked: "Are you asleep."

Nauf replied: "No! O Commander of believers! I am awake, shedding tears since a long time."

'Ali ('a): "O Nauf! If you weep too much today for the fear of Allah, tomorrow on the day of judgement, your eyes will be refreshed. O Nauf! Each drop of tear shed from the fear of Allah will extinguish the seas of Fire. O Nauf! No one has higher rank and degree than the one who weeps for the fear of Allah and loves for His sake. O Nauf! The one who loves Allah and loves what he loves for the sake of Allah, and prefers nothing else except the love of Allah, and the one who hates what he hates for the sake of Him receives nothing of this enmity but the goodness. When you reach such an extent of degree, you will perceive perfectly the reality of belief."

He ('a) then exhorted Habah and Nauf for a while; then his last words were as follows: "Fear Allah. I am reminding you of that."

He ('a) left both of them alone while continuing his prayers: "My Allah! I wish I knew, when I forget You, whether You abandon me or You still pay attention to me? I wish I knew how my condition would be by You in such a state of my long sleep and of my negligence in praising You?"

Habah and Nauf narrated that He ('a) did not stop being in the same state till dawn.1

  • 1. Bihar al-Anwar, v. 9, p. 589.