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Would we step inside the Tandoor?
Standing outside the Arz Lebanon restaurant a couple of days ago, I could not help but be reminded of a nagging thought that has been lurking in the back of my mind.
Many of you will be familiar with the set-up of most Lebanese restaurants, where the tandoor, or open-oven, is in full view of the customers in order for them to see their fatayers and pizzas being baked in front of them.
Many of you will also be familiar with the famous story of our 6th imam, when Sahl Ibn al-Hasan al-Khurasani, a follower of the Ahlul Byat, asked the Imam why he did not rise against the corrupt regime at the time when he had so many faithful Shia’s willing to fight for him here in Khurasan.
To respond to Sahl, Imam Sadiq (AS) heated an oven inside his house and said, “O Khurasani, step into the oven and sit in it.”
Sahl al Khurasani began sweating profusely and stammered, “My master, O son of the Messenger of Allah! Do not punish me by fire and make it easy for me!”
At around the same time, Harun al Makki, another follower of the Imam, entered the room. After exchanging greetings with Imam Sadiq (AS), Harun too was instructed to take off his shoes, and sit inside the oven. He did so without objection and closed the door of the oven behind him.
The Imam proceeded to enquire about Sahl’s health, and talked to him as if nothing had happened. After a short while Imam told him to check inside the oven and much to Sahl’s amazement, he found Harun al Makki sitting cross legged in the heart of the blazing oven, as fresh as a daisy, thumbing the sacred tasbeeh of Fatema Zahra (AS).
At seeing Sahl’s expression, Imam asked him, “How many individuals do you know in Khurasan like this man?” to which Sahl replied, “By Allah, not even one.”
If our Awaited Savior were to make his second-coming tomorrow, would we hasten to adhere to his every command without a shadow of a doubt? Or would we simply offer rich lip-service to him, but when the time comes to follow a direct order, shy away?
As I watched the flames lick the stone interior of the oven at Arz Lebanon, and saw my cheese and zaatar fatayer slowly getting baked by it, I thought to myself about what I would do if my Imam came to me at that moment and said to me, “O Mohamed, step into the oven and sit in it.”
To believe is one thing, to have faith, is another. Faith and belief must rise together in a stunning crescendo if we are to harbor any thoughts of standing for the truth alongside our Awaited Imam.
Let us attempt to be like Harun al Makki, whose unwavering faith was complemented by airtight belief and certainty in the right path.
Mohamed Kazim Suleman