By Judy Bryant,2014-06-26 18:36
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    Issue No.7 [FRIDAY 25-7-2008 ]

Have you not regarded how Allah has drawn a parable? A pleasant word is like a pleasant tree: its roots

    are steady and its branches are in the sky. (14:24)

    One of the thought provoking dictums of Imam „Ali („a) is al-mar‟atu rayhana wa laysat bi qahramana (a woman is an aromatic plant and not a dominator). A comprehensive and detailed

    exposition of this brilliant hadith is beyond the scope of the present writeup. However, it would

    be worth appreciating the tip of the iceberg: obviously this dictum does not imply that a woman is

    physically fashioned in such a way that she always emanates aroma. One‟s physical aromatic

    condition depends on how one physically conditions oneself. In Islam, however, there are

    occasions when a woman is not allowed to condition herself with perfume. This however does

    not imply that she should not keep herself tidy and clean. Applying perfume that would attract

    the opposite sex who may not be a lawful partner in one‟s life is one thing and observing cleanliness to avoid any kind of unpleasant smell in one‟s body is another. What actually does the

    expression „aromatic plant‟ then denote in the abovementioned dictum? Scholars of insight opine

    that the way there is a physical aroma that attracts those whose olfactory senses are sound, there

    is a metaphysical fragrance that only attracts those who can appreciate the scent of spiritual

    realities. Let us deliberate on the following noteworthy traditions to appreciate this truth: The

    Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: (1) There is nothing more pleasant than the scent of a

    believer (al-mu‟min); and indeed his fragrance can be felt in the horizons…” (Al-Muttaqi, Kanz

    al-„Ummaal, v.1, p. 165) (2) There is nothing that stinks more than the stench of the disbeliever

    (al-kafir), and surely his [unpleasant] odor can be felt in the horizons…‟ (al-„Uqayli, Dhu„afa al-

    „Uqayli, v.4, p.289). (3) Imam al-Sadiq („a) reports from his forefathers, who report from Imam „Ali

    („a) who said: Inna al-„Aalim al-kaatim „ilmuhu yub„athu antanu ahl al-qiyama rihan, yal„anuhu kullu daabba, hatta dawaab al-ard al-sighaar (A scholar who hides his knowledge would be

    resurrected as the most foul smelling among the people of resurrection, and every beast including

    the small beasts of the earth would curse him. (Al-Barqi, Al-Mahasin, v.1, p. 231). (4) The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: Inna al-walad al-saalih rayhaanatun min rayaahin al-janna

    (Surely a virtuous and good offspring is an aromatic plant among the aromatic plants of the

    Paradise) (Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, v.6, p.3) (5) Imam al-Baqir („a) is reported to have narrated a part

    of what was revealed to one of the Prophets of Allah. In it some of the evil characteristics of a

    certain creation who are attached to the world is described. One of their description is,

    „…alsinatuhum ahla min al-„asal wa a‟maaluhum al-baatina antanu mina al-jiyaf…' (“Their

    tongues are sweeter than honey, whereas their inner actions stink worse than corpses) (Al-

    Himyari al-Qummi, Qurb al-Isnaad, pp. 28-29) (6) The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: I

    swear by the one in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad the smell that comes out from the

    mouth of the fasting one near Allah is more pleasant than Musk. (Al-„Amili, Wasa‟il al-Shi‟a, v.10,

    p.400) (7) Imam al-Baqir („a) is reported to have said to one of his companions called Maysar: Do

    you gather in private, and discuss and speak what you want [of the truth]? Maysar says: Yes

    Indeed, by Allah, we do gather in private and discuss and say what we want. Thereupon Imam al-


    Baqir („a) said: I swear by Allah, I love to be with you in some of these places. [And] I swear by

    Allah, I love your scent and your spirits…‟ (Al-Mazandarani, Sharh Usul al-Kafi, v.9, p. 69). (8)

    The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: “Whosoever backbites a Muslim, his fast is

    invalidated and his minor ablution (wudhu) is void, and he would come on the Resurrection Day,

    while a stench more foul than that of a corpse would come out from his mouth, which would

    disturb the people of Resurrection . (Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-Faqih, v.4, pp. 14-15). All the aforesaid traditions clearly depict that beyond the physical aroma there is a spiritual fragrance that only

    those endowed with inner apprehension can comprehend and appreciate. They also enlighten us

    about the path of attaining a pleasant spiritual aroma in oneself. Perhaps Imam „Ali („a) by stating

    that a woman is an aromatic plant wanted to teach us that if she really assumes the role of a

    woman as guided by the Divine law and the path, her entire being would constantly emanate

    sweet fragrance and she would actually be a Rayhana (an aromatic plant). If the woman prepares herself before, while, and after she practically serves as the manifestation of Allah‟s Khaliqiyya

    (power of creation), if she embellishes her inner being with the beautiful traits of Allah and

    manifests the Divine Attributes of Jamal (Divine Beauty), if she starts feeding the child, in the

    Name of Allah and entirely for His pleasure and manifests the Divine Attribute of Raziqiyya

    (Sustainer), and if she rears the fundamental faculties of intellect, passion and anger in her

    offspring and moderates them and brings them into the state of their equilibrium, and hence

    manifests the Divine Attribute of Rububiyya (Trainer) why can‟t she really be a Rayhana? Small

    wonder it is that the Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said: I have been made to love three

    things from your world: women, perfume, and the apple of my eyes is in prayer. Love for women,

    contrary to how the materialists conjecture does not mean physical intimacy between man and

    woman. It is the Divine role that a woman plays on this earth: she can potentially manifest

    attributes of perfection in herself and thus emanate the Divine aroma which only the insightful

    can comprehend.

History tells us that once „Uways al-Qarni had come to see the Prophet (s), but the Holy Prophet

    (s) was away. So he returned back to Yemen. When the Holy Prophet (s) he is reported to have

    said: “Inni la ajidu nafasa al-Rahman min jaanib al-Yaman” (Indeed I can sense the breath of the All-compassionate from the side of Yemen) (al-Fannari, Misbah al-Uns, p.69).

[Note: The Holy Prophet (s) who can appreciate spiritual sensations, here describes the breath and

    aroma that „Uways had left before leaving. The interesting point worthy of reflection in the

    tradition is the phrase “breath of the All-compassionate” which alludes to the reality of „Uways‟

    spirit of all-comprehensive mercy.

The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have addressed Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn

    („a) saying: “Innakuma min rayhani Allah” (Surely you two are among the aroma of Allah).

    (Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib, v.3, p. 154)

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