In the path of the Imam (76)
In the last episode, we discussed the importance of keeping midnight vigil and worship from the viewpoint of the noble Qur’an and the statements of the Prophet of Islam and his Infallible Successors (Blessings of God upon them). We also talked about this characteristic in Imam Khomeini (God’s mercy upon him).
Some scholars of ethics maintain that keeping midnight vigil is not limited to prayer, supplication and recitation of the Qur’an; but it includes such acts like serving the people and acquiring knowledge. It is mentioned in the history of Islam that the Imams of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt used to go to the doors of the poor and the needy with bags of dates, bread and meat and distribute the items among them. However, prayer and supplication has been highly emphasized in midnight and the great ulema always try to adhere to this habit. The 5th Infallible Successor of the Prophet, Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS), says, “Almighty God has a caller who calls before dawn if there is any appealer so that God grants him.”
It is mentioned in the narrations of the Prophet and the Imams that midnight prayer is the cause of superiority and adornment for the faithful in the Hereafter just as property and children are the cause of adornment in this world. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) has been narrated as saying to Imam Ali (AS), “O Ali! Do perform midnight prayer.” It has also been narrated elsewhere that if someone seeks forgiveness 70 times in the last Rak’at of the midnight prayer, and continues this for one year, God will reckon him among the seekers of forgiveness and will forgive him his sins. Midnight prayer is a strong factor for forgiveness of sins. It is mentioned in the Hadiths that this prayer not only strengthens the individual spiritually but it also makes him healthy and makes his will powerful. According to the narrations, it makes the face beautiful, helps the individual discharge his debts, overcome his sorrow, and opens the way for sustenance.
God orders the Prophet to perform midnight prayer as it is a powerful tool for a great responsibility, namely, his mission as a divine messenger. God says in ayah 79 of surah Isra’, “And during a part of the night, pray beyond what is obligatory for you; soon your Lord will raise you to a position of great praise.”
The exegetes of the noble Qur’an maintain that the position of Mahmud (praised) means the status of intercession. In fact, these exegetes reiterate what Imam Baqer and Imam Sadeq (Peace upon them) have said. The ayah stresses that this position will certainly be granted to the Prophet so that everyone will praise him. Perhaps, this is because every faithful will benefit from this position. Some exegetes, however, are of the opinion that the position of Mahmud means proximity with God whose result will be intercession. Although the ayah addresses Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), it can be generalized to all who pray in midnight in proportionate to their status. Great Source of Emulation, late Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, said on Imam Khomeini’s performing midnight prayer in all his life, “The Imam’s midnight prayer was continuous. He did it for 70 years.”
Late Ayatollah Tavassoli, also, said, “I heard from an old friend that Imam Khomeini had two characteristics that were outstanding among all his friends. One was that he would never sit in a place of backbiting as he would seriously prevent from it; and second was that he used to perform midnight prayer.”
The Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran was very careful not to awaken others when he was performing midnight prayer. Hojjatol-Eslam Qarehi was with the Imam during his staying in exile in Iraq. He says, “During the times that the Imam used to go to Karbala for pilgrimage, he had stayed at the home of an Iranian. Some seminary students were there, too. At midnight, Imam Khomeini used to wake up for prayer. Although it was summer and everyone would sleep in the yard, no one would wake up and notice. I noticed this as I was at his service for several years. He would get up very quietly for midnight prayer.”
Imam Khomeini used to cry in his midnight prayer while supplicating to God. Ayatollah Bani Fazl says, “Prior to the year 1962, I was the guest of Haaj Aqa Mostafa [Imam Khomeini’s elder son]. We sat for a long part of night discussing scientific matters. We had just slept. Suddenly, we woke up with scare because of the voice of crying. I awakened Haaj Aqa Mostafa and asked him if someone had died in the neighborhood. He said this is the voice of my father as he is performing midnight prayer and crying to God.”
Ayatollah Tavassoli mentioned another memory, “The Imam was in remembrance of God at every affair and condition. His (zekr) remembrance, supplication, prayer and crying at midnight had never been disrupted. Although the last moments of his life have been filmed, many parts of it have not been broadcast to see how he cries and moans.”
The Imam’s younger son, Haaj Ahmad Aqa also said, “The night that we were to leave for Iraq the following morning, my mother, sisters and everybody were in unusual state. I had fixed my attention to the Imam. He slept on time like the previous nights and woke up one hour and a half before the call for dawn prayer, to perform midnight prayer. Even in the night that the Imam was coming to Iran from Paris, he performed his midnight prayer.”