- Mohammad Taghi Bahjat Foumani
AyatollahMohammad Taghi (Taqi) Bahjat Foumani (born in 1917) is an Iranian Twelver Shi'a Marja. He was born in Fouman, Gilan Province, Iran. At the age of 14, he moved to Karbala, Iraqto continue his religious studies. Four years later, he moved to Najafto complete his studies under Ayatollah Taleghaniand Ayatollah Naeini. He currently resides and teaches in the Seminary of Qom, Iran. [http://www.salehin.com/fa/bahjat]
He was a student of Abul Hasan Isfahani, Mirza Naini and Taqi Shirazi.
It is said that he has deep knowledge in mysticism (Ilme Irfan). [http://www.bahjat.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=137&Itemid=45]
His Character and Qualities
1. Piety and Self-Building
From his youth, Agha Behjat was constantly engaged in self-purification and self-building. In his ethical instructions, he always insists that one should work hard at this task and forego and abandon many luxuries in order to make headway against the endless demands of the soul.
He is of the opinion that in order to succeed in this jihad al-akbar, ethical purity (akhlaq) and knowledge (‘ilm) go hand in hand. In fact he considers knowledge without self-purification, to be the more damaging than anything else. His famous advice to youths is ‘to read and practise one hadith daily from the Chapter of Jihad al-nafs in Wasail al-Shi’a of Shaykh Hurr al-Amili.
By his deeds and words, this great scholar has always directed himself to God alone. A great mujtahid has said about Agha Behjat, “It cannot be just said about him that he is a man of piety; in fact he is the true essence and manifestation of taqwa.”
Ayatullah Shaykh Javad Kerbalayi says about him, “One of his close students (in
Najaf) reports that every night, or in fact at most times, Agha Behjat sits alone, deep in thought and contemplation. He never wastes a moment of his time, and does not participate in vain gatherings. When the time comes for his class, or his ziyarat of Amirul Mu’mineen (A), he gets up abruptly, puts on his cloak and leaves the house without interfering in the activities of others. He is extremely reserved and does not like to reveal anything about himself, especially about the special favours and extraordinary spiritual powers that God has granted him.”
Asceticism(Zuhd) and Simple Lifestyle
The close servants of God always look at the reality of this world, contrary to other human beings whose eyes are fixed on its pleasures and luxuries. By foregoing material comforts, they attain spiritual strength, and while the rest of the people stumble in this dark world, these awliya soar in the illuminated heights in proximity to God.
Agha Behjat is one of the most glowing examples of these awliya in our times. He is a mystic and scholar who has always lived a simple life, without the remotest material attachments. He has understood more completely than others the reality of this world and the worthlessness of its pleasures.
He lives in a simple, small and old house and has resisted the many offers from relatives and well-wishers to move to more comfortable accommodation. Ayatullah Misbah says, “For many years, he has lived in a rented house with two rooms. One of the rooms has a curtain, which he would draw when we would visit him. On the other side of the curtain his family would carry on with their household chores. We would sit on one side of this curtain and benefit greatly from his wisdom. Although simple, the atmosphere was always full of a special nur and spirituality…”
Ayatullah Mas’udi says, “Many times people would sincerely offer to purchase a better house for him, but he would not agree. I myself told him, “Agha! This house is damaged, I doubt if even the sharia allows for a man to live in this sort of accommodation!”, but he would not pay any attention.”.
3. His Worship
Agha Behjat’s students report that he has a special closeness to God, that is immediately evident in his manner of worship. Those who have prayed behind him have described it ‘as a spiritually uplifting and unique experience’. In fact, the Fatimiyyah mosque at the end of the Guzarkhan market, where he has led prayers three times a day for the last 40 years, is always full at prayer time. High ranking scholars make a special effort to come and pray behind him. Allamah Tabataba’i would come here to pray. Almost as soon as Agha Behjat begins his prayer, tears flow from his eyes - frequently he has to pause because his voice is choked with emotion - such is his awe in God’s presence.
One of the scholars remarks, “In the early days, Agha Behjat would go to the undeveloped part of Qum, past some farms, and recite his evening prayers with some companions in that remote location. One day, after the maghribain prayers, he commented, “If only the kings of this world realised how much pleasure a servant experiences in worship, they would never even glance at the worldly delights…”
Ayatullah Shaykh Javad Kerbalayi says, “Agha Behjat never misses his late night prayers (namaze-shab) and spends a long time weeping in the middle of the night, especially on the night preceding Friday.”
A scholar reports, “I came upon him one Thurday night in Madressay-e-Sayyid in Najaf. I saw him weeping and crying in prostration. He was repeating in a broken voice over and over, “Ilahi! Man li ghayruk, asaluhu kashfa dhurri, wan-nazara fi amri?! (My Lord! Who have I got besides You, Who I can ask for relief and support?)”.
4. His Ziyarat and Tawassul (Saluting the Ahlul Bayt (A.S.)
Despite his advanced years, the daily routine of Agha Behjat has remained unchanged. Early every morning (exactly at 7.00am), he presents himself at the shrine of Lady Fatima Masuma (A.S.) to pay his respects and send salutations. With the greatest of humility, he stands near her Zarih, and recites the Ziyarate Ashura of Imam Husain (A.S.).
Sayyid Muhammad Husein Tehrani, in his book, Anwar al-Malakut, quotes Ayatullah Shaykh Abbas Quchani, the great scholar and spiritual successor of the famous Mirza Ali Qadhi Tabataba’i, as narrating: “While he was in Najaf, Agha Behjat would often go to Masjid-e Sahlah and spend whole nights alone there in worship and contemplation. On one very dark night, when the lights in the mosque were not lit either, he needed to go out to refresh his wudhu.
He went out of the mosque towards the wudhu area to the east of the mosque. Suddenly he experienced some anxiety and fear, perhaps due to the total darkness. Immediately, a light appeared next to him, by which he could clearly see his way. This light accompanied him while he went out, made wudhu and returned to his place in the mosque. Then it disappeared.”.
5. His humbleness
One of his noticeable traits is his humbleness and simplicity, despite his fame and status as a leading contemporary scholar and jurist. For many years he had refused to print his religious edicts (tawdhih al-masail) and he only agreed after much pressure. When he is scheduled to lecture he requests that his name not be mentioned as the lecturer.
A scholar reports, “Once I went with my guest, Shaykh Nasrullah Lahuthi, to visit Agha Behjat. Agha Lahuthi said to his teacher, “Agha! I was in
Mashhadand someone was criticising you, and I became very annoyed.” Agha Behjat responded, “We have reports in the ahadith, that if a scholar pays too much attention to worldly matters, then he will be criticized by others.” I remember thinking, “If the way Agha Behjat lives is called “paying too much attention to worldly matters”, then what about us!”
6. His Mystical Wayfaring (sayr wa suluk) and his Spiritual Station
Ayatullah Behjat has many decades of experience in mystical wayfaring, the special journey through established stations that the soul undertakes to attain proximity to God. He is one of the outstanding pupils of the great master, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Qadhi Tabataba’i and had received special instructions from his teacher. Even as a youth, he had passed many stations of the spiritual path.
His elevated rank in these matters is well known by others who travel this path; immediately after the revolution, one of the first scholars that Ayatullah
Khomeinivisited was Ayatullah Behjat in Qum. Similarly, when Ayatullah Khamene’i assumed the position of Rahbar, he first came to Agha Behjat in Qum for spiritual instructions.
7. His Awareness of the Unseen (Ghayb) and his Wondrous Acts (Karamat)
Unlike the majority of men, who have no idea of the existence or happenings of the unseen world, Ayatullah Behjat has reached a station, by the grace of God, where he frequently witnesses the events that occur in that world.
In fact, a reminder of this ability is his constant repetition of the Divine name “al-Sattaar” - the Concealer. This dhikr and tasbih is constantly on Agha Behjat’s lips, whether he is walking or sitting. Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi says in this regard, “It seems that he is at the level where he witnesses many things from ghayb. Often he is aware of the real nature and inner secrets of those who sit around him, and he invokes God, who is the Concealer of defects - al-Sattaar al-‘Uyub, so that the secrets of the people around him may be concealed from him.”
This is usually the way of these close servants of God. Their humbleness is such that they would not like to display anything, or do anything, that will bring about even a trace of pride in themselves. And in return for their utter humility, God grants them even greater insight and status.
There is no doubt in the minds of those who know Agha Behjat well, that he is one of those for whom many secrets are revealed.Ayatullah Misbah says in this regard, “Those who have been around him for many years have seen things that he has done or said that are truly extraordinary. He sometimes says something that seems quite normal, but on later contemplation, one realises that it was due to some special knowledge that he possessed.
For example, when Imam
Khomeiniwas in exile in Turkey, many of his students would make statements in his defence and get into trouble with the government. They would be imprisoned and frequently tortured. I remember distinctly when Agha Jannati was captured and no one knew where he had been taken. I mentioned it to Agha Behjat, who said, “Inshallah, you will soon inform me of his release.” Of course, some might say this was just a prayer, but in fact, he did not make such statements about every prisoner. Many times we would say, “pray for so and so,” but he would remain silent. Just as he had promised, Agha Jannati was released soon without having been hurt.”
One of his students says, “My wife was expecting a child. It was the month of Ramadhan, and I wanted to go on a journey, so I came to Agha Behjat to say goodbye. He turned to me and said, “In this month, you will be blessed with a baby boy, name him Muhammad Hasan.” This is exactly what transpired.” There are many such episodes that people have related about their encounters with Agha Behjat.
Agha Behjat himself dislikes a lot of fuss made about these episodes but his students occasionally narrate them so the mu’mineen may realise that there exist in our times certain individuals, to whom God has granted special favours.
Certainly, for the one who sincerely strives in God’s way, then He Himself becomes their guide, “And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them in Our ways. (Ankabut, 29/69)”
Drinking from the Fountain of the Wisdom of Ayatullah Behjat
In this section we will examine several examples of the advice and replies of Agha Behjat to questions about different matters.
1. How to counter and cure riya (showing off or trying to impress others while engaged in acts of worship)
A student in the Hawza of
Qumrelates that Agha Behjat was once asked, “Sometimes a person decides to perform a virtuous act sincerely for God, but Shaytan converts his intention and the person starts to think instead about how people will be impressed, how he will become popular, etc., when he performs the act. Are these thoughts counted as riya, and do they nullify his virtuous act and make it worthless?”
Agha Behjat stated in reply, “Riya is only relevant in acts of worship (‘ibadat). And any act of worship that has riya associated with it is a sin, and it makes the act null and void.
However, riya itself can become a counter and cure for riya, by simply changing the focus of who one is trying to impress! If a man can approach a president to sort out his problem directly, would he waste time in trying to convince the president’s servants? In the same manner, if a man has sense, he would raise his sights from the people, and attempt to impress and perfect his actions for God, who is the Creator of man - this attitude would itself become the cure for his riya.”
At another time, he said, “About riya, there is a hadith that says, “Whoever tries to impress the people by his manner of prayers (salat), will be resurrected in the form of a donkey.” And this is quite true because what can be more donkey-like than a man trying to impress the slaves of God instead of directing his attention to God Himself?! Now, if someone calls us a donkey, we feel insulted, but why should we feel insulted, if night and day our acts resemble those of a donkey?”
2. The conditions necessary to obtain presence of heart and pleasure from acts of worship, especially salat
" One of his students says that Agha Behjat was asked, “Our lives have passed away and we still have not experienced pleasure (halaawa, lazzat) from our worship, especially salat. What is your advice so that we can taste some of the pleasures that our infallible leaders (A) have described?”
The esteemed master replied, “This is something that we would all like to experience!” The student replied, “Please, Agha, you have a high status in these matters, while we are empty-handed. What should we do?” Agha Behjat again gave a modest reply, saying, “Perhaps your own status is one that I envy…”.
However, the student was insistent, and so Agha Behjat replied, “This pleasure that you seek in worship has two prerequisites; one outside salat, and one within salat itself. What is necessary before salat and outside of it is that a person abstains totally from sin, and does not blacken his heart with the disgrace of disobedience, because sin will rob his heart of light. As for the second requirement, within the salat itself a man must create a barrier around himself so that no thought other than the remembrance of God can enter. He must not allow his thoughts to stray away from God even for an instant. [In this manner, you will achieve what you seek.] ”
To another scholar who asked a similar question, he responded, “In order to achieve absolute control of one’s thoughts in salat, and to acquire presence of heart, the groundwork must begin outside and prior to salat. One must control one’s fives senses during the day and be careful about what he allows himself to observe, hear, eat etc. This will enable him to achieve presence of mind and heart in salat.”
To a young student, he said in reply to the same question, “Never knowingly let your thoughts drift away from God in salat.”
3 Sincere intention and harmony between knowledge and action
He was asked by a scholar:
“Agha, what should we bear in mind so that our intention in wearing the amamah (turban) is sincere?”
“Your criterion in your acts must be Allah swt’s religion. Always ask yourself whether your words and deeds conform with the shari’a or not. You should make the niyyat that the knowledge (‘ilm) that you possess and will gain in the future, will always be translated into actions. In other words, there should be perfect harmony between what you know and what you do. The greatest misfortune is when scholars act without proper knowledge or possess knowledge but do not act upon it. So make a firm resolve that your knowledge and actions will be harmonious.”
Another student reports that Agha said to him about the same matter:
“An ‘alim who does not act on his knowledge is like the candle that illuminates the path for others but itself burns away.”
4. Trust and reliance on Allah swt
Ayatullah Misbah narrates that Agha Behjat once said to him:
“One day I was sitting in my room and could hear the voices in the street outside. I went out and saw that my neighbour’s son was playing in the street when a beggar approached him saying, “I am a needy person. Can you please go into your house and get something for me?”
The boy replied, “Why don’t you ask your mother if you want something?” The beggar said, “I don’t have a mother. You go and ask your mother to give me something.”
Agha Behjat remarked, “I was struck by this conversation and the innocence of the child who had so much trust and faith in his mother that he felt that she could solve any problem. And then he said, ‘If only we could develop the same absolute trust and reliance on Allah swt that this child had in his mother. Indeed all our problems would be solved if only we sincerely turned to Him for all our needs!”
5. If we constantly think of Imam-eZamana (A.S.),would he not think of us?
Agha Quddus recalls that he once asked Agha Behjat:
“My presence in the village where I have gone for tableegh was very productive. The people have responded positively, treated me with respect and heeded my religious advice.
However, they are very poor and the money that they give me in the months of Muharram and Ramadhan is very little. In other places where I can go, the public is not so receptive, but they pay more.”
Agha Behjat replied, “If you make an intention to enter into the employment of Imam Mahdi (A.S.), do you imagine that he will not look after you?”
6. Care in narrating traditions
Agha Quddus narrates that once he was recounting his program and tableeghi activities performed during the month of Ramadhan to Agha Behjat and he said:
“I do not go on the pulpit in the day time in the month of Ramadhan and only deliver my talks and lectures at night.”
Agha Behjat asked him why, and he replied, “Because I have some doubts about certain ahadith that I recite and I am afraid that if they are incorrect [then my fasts will become invalid] .”
Agha Behjat stated: “Then at night are you certain about these traditions that you feel confident in repeating them?”
Agha Quddus says: “I realised that he disapproved of my actions and was advising me to be certain of the facts before I repeated them to others.”
7. Tabligh by Action (and not only words)
Hujjatu’l Islam Lutfi says: “One day, after the morning prayers I approached Ayat. Behjat and requested him to give me some advice”.He said, “kunu du’atan nasi ilallahi bighayri alsinatikum” “Call people to Allah swt with something other than your speech.”
I understood that although as a scholar, my responsibility was to engage in tabligh (propagating the faith), Agha wanted to draw my attention that the best tabligh was not that which was delivered from pulpits, but that which was demonstrated by conduct.
8. Staying away from Sin
Ayat. Shaykh Jawad Kerbalai, the great scholar of akhlaq remarks:
“I had a great benefit from the many years that I studied under Ayat. Behjat. In that time I also witnessed first-hand many of the wondrous gifts that he has been granted. Among his words of wisdom I recall:
He always insisted that no progress could be made without abandoning sin. He used to say, “The great and special bounties of Allah are available freely to all His true servants, the only requirement is that a person has to qualify for these gifts. The only way to qualify for these special favours is by abandoning the disobedience of Allah swt.
Of course, there must be some commitment to attain proximity to Allah swt as well. The more a person knows the station of God (attains ma’rifat) and the more he loves Him, the more important it is to avoid every sin, even minor ones and even loss of concentration in His presence in worship.
It is because some servants reach this stage of proximity that it is said, “hasanaatu’l abrar, sayyiatu’l muqarrabeen”, or “the virtuous acts of the righteous people are (only) ordinary acts for the close servants”.”
Once a student who had only recently joined the hawza asked Ayat Behjat:
“I have come to the hawza to attain knowledge. What should I do so that I can become a proper scholar?”
Ayat. Behjat lowered his head and remained silent for a while, then he said, “There is no difference between a hawza student and anybody else. What is important is that he does not commit a sin.”
On another occasion he was asked:“What is the best dhikr (invocation)?” He replied, “In the opinion of this simple servant, the best dhikr is the dhikr of action! What I mean is refraining from sinful beliefs (aqida) and sinful conduct (‘amal). Goodness and true success will only come from this way.”
In a letter, he was asked how one could attain proximity to God and also gain closeness to His khalifah, the Imam of our time (AF).
He replied: “Bismihi ta’ala. Refrain from sin and pray the salat at the exact time.”
9. The Secret of Salaat
Ayat Behjat has said:
“Namaz (Salaat) symbolizes the
Ka'ba. The Takbirarut’l Ihram stands for casting aside everything other than Allah swt and entering His haram (sanctuary). The Qiyam represents a conversation between two friends. The Ruku’ symbolizes the bowing of a slave in front of his master and the Sajdah is the ultimate display of lowliness, humility and helplessness in front of the Master. And when the slave returns from such a Namaz, the souvenir he brings back is the greeting of peace (salaam) from his Lord…”
10. Staying Awake at Dawn (Sahr) and in the Night
Ayat. Ahmadi says:
“Ayat Behjat always advised us to stay awake in worship between dawn and sunrise and to rise in the night for prayer, (Namaz-e-Tahajjud/Salaatul Layl). He even said, “I actually believe that it was through these very two acts that the Prophet (S) acquired his perfect gnosis (ma’rifat) of Allah swt.”
Once I asked him about the hadith of the Imams (A.S.) that “We eagerly await Thursday nights so that the gates of Allah’s mercy are opened. We, the family of the Prophet (SAWW), are blessed with an increase in our knowledge on every Thursday night and every night of Qadr.”
Ayt. Behjat replied: “Indeed, these are special times when the mercy of Allah swt is especially available. And one of the best of times is the sahr (dawn). And he repeated these words “sahr, sahr” several times.”
Ayat. Behjat relates from his teachers that whenever they desired to receive greater favour and understanding from Allah swt, they would take advantage of the solitude, peace and abundant blessings that is available in the depths of the night and at dawn. At these times, one can form a connection with God that is not easily possible at other times.
11. The First Steps in the Journey to God (Sayr Ilallah)
Ayat Behjat has said:
“The first step in the journey towards God and in attaining His proximity is for a servant to realise that he has allowed a gulf to form between himself and his Master. He must ensure at all costs that he does not allow this gulf to widen and this must be his first goal. When he has put that control in place, then he may begin the practices that will gradually draw him closer and closer to his Lord.”
12. The Value of Contemplation and Thought
"Agha Shahi remarks:
“Ayat Behjat is constantly stressing the importance of controlling one’s tongue and maintaining silence. He would say, “We must control our speech. We should spend 23 hours of the day in contemplation and thought, and only one hour in speech; in fact, often even that is too much.
13. Being in a State of Constant Dhikr
Ayt. Behjat often advises his students to inculcate the habit of being da’im al-dhikr, i.e. remaining in constant remembrance of Allah swt. He has said, “Someone who is constantly in dhikr, will always perceive himself in the presence of Allah swt and will be continuously communicating with Him.”
For those who want to combat waswasa, (constant suspicion of the motives of others), he recommends highly to continually recite the “tahlil”, which is the dhikr, “La Ilaha Illallah”.
Another great contemporary scholar, Ayt. Hasan Hasanzadeh Amuli has remarked that tahlil is al-dhikr-al-khafi (secret dhikr); i.e. it can be constantly repeated without anyone else being aware of what you are doing, because this dhikr can be pronounced without even moving the lips, unlike other dhikrs like “Subhanallah” or Alhamdulillah”!
14. Not Considering one’s own Virtuous Deeds as ‘Significant’
"Ustad Khusrushahi relates: Ayt. Behjat always considers the virtuous deeds and the worship that he performs as insufficient.
He often says, “How good it would be that when a person performs virtuous deeds and acts of worship, he says to himself, “I have done nothing great”, but when he sees the virtuous acts of others, he admires them, thinking, “what a noble deed they have performed.”
The Ustad concludes, “In other words, his advice is to consider one’s own virtuous acts as insignificant, while regarding highly the good deeds of others.”
15. Getting the Seal of Approval of Imam al-Asr (AF)
"Ayt Behjat once advised the students of hawza: “We students should constantly be thinking about how we can earn the seal of approval of our master, the Wali al-Asr (AF).
All students, whether junior or graduates or preachers, should be concerned about how they learn their lessons, what should their attitude be and how they should conduct themselves.
They should continually ask themselves if their attitude, conduct, speech and actions would please their master when they are presented to him and would he approve of them.
Ayt. Behjat says that: “If this thought is always at the back of our minds, we will never stray in our conduct, speech or deeds.”
16. The Purpose of Higher Islamic Studies
"Ayt. Behjat greatly encourages students who are pursuing higher Islamic studies and frequently advises junior students also by saying, “Whenever you learn something new, immediately apply this knowledge to improve your wajib acts and to help you in staying away from sinful acts. He would remind them of the hadith, “man ‘amila bima ‘alima, warrathahu’llahu ‘ilma ma la ya’lam”, whoever acts on what he knows, Allah swt will teach him what he does not know. 
17. It is the Proximity to Allah swt that matter in the end
"To senior students, his words are more thought provoking. One of his students recalls, “I remember once when I was accompanying him from his house to the mosque where he led the prayers. Ayt Behjat turned to me and asked: “A student starts with “muqaddamat” (introductory lessons) and then studies the “ma’alim” and “mughni” and then where does he go next?” I said, “lum’ah”. He asked, “then what?” I said, “makasib”. He asked, “then what?” I said, “kifayah”. He asked, “then what?” I said, “Dars al-kharij”. He asked, “then what?” I said, “He attains ijtihad”. Once again, he asked, “then what?”
The student continues, “This was a great lesson to me. I realised that knowledge itself was not the goal; it was only the means (to achieve the goal) i.e. to gain the proximity of Allah swt. If at every one of these successive stages, the student did not achieve even a little more proximity to Allah swt, then he has not progressed much at all.”
18. How to Train one’s Soul (Tahdhib al-Nafs)
"Once, some hawza students from Lebanon requested Ayt. Behjat for spiritual and akhlaqi (moral) advice. He replied: “One of the most beneficial actions in these matters is to sit with your fellow students every day and study one hadith from the chapter jihad al-nafs of the book Wasail al-Shi’a of Shaykh Hurr al-Amili.  Of course, the hadith must be discussed properly, pondered over carefully and then transformed into action. This will be a spiritual tonic that within one year, will transform an individual in a way that he will himself see the change.”
19. The Status of Supplication (Du’a)
"Ayt. Behjat believes that du’a has a very great status and insists that du’a governs the outcome of every stage of our lives.
Ustad Hadawi relates: “My daughter was very ill and I came to Ayt. Behjat and asked him to pray for her. He told me, “You yourself recite the following du’a three times every day: “Allahumma ishfiha bi shifaa-ika, wa daawiha bi dawaa-ika, wa ‘aafiha bi ‘aafiyatik” “O Allah, cure her with Your cure, and treat her with Your medicine, and restore her health with Your strength”. Then, after the third time say: “Bi’l Imami’l-Kazim (A.S.), fa innaha amatuka wa bintu ‘abdik”. “By the sake of Imam al-Kazim (A.S.), for she is your servant, and the daughter of your servant.” [http://www.islam-laws.com/marja/AytTaqi%20Behjat.htm]
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