The Bible says it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel pass through the eye of the needle. It may indeed be most difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet, the Bible does not say it is impossible. Hence, there must be ways of overcoming the difficulty. Below is the story of a very rich man, Hajji Agha, who had the foresight to see the seriousness of the problem and took the necessary measures to provide for his afterlife as agreeably as he had for his earthly life. This account shows that it is indeed possible to be rich and, at the same time, assure oneself of admission into heaven.
My younger brother Hassan died suddenly. It shocked me, Hajji Agha, and made me think about where Hassan has gone and what is happening to him now. Did he go to heaven or did he go to hell? I have not heard from him. It is far too late to worry about him. I must think about myself. I have been greatly occupied to concern myself about death and what comes with it. I know that I am going to die eventually. Everyone dies. What I do not know is what happens to me after I die. I have heard bits and pieces about hell and heaven, but have paid them little mind. I have been too busy with the things of life, not death.
Mullahs and morticians deal with death and I am neither. The thought of death has caused me great troubles. I am not enjoying life as before. I do not sleep well and have nightmares. I must seek the help of the people who can come to my aid. When I become sick, I go to the doctor. He knows how to treat my illness. With matters religious, I must consult the high religious divines. They are the ones who can help relieve my anguish. Fortunately I know just the right person, Hujat-ul-Islam (Islamic Jurist/ Scholar, high-ranking mullah) Jafari. Hopefully he would deign to see me, since he served as the Spiritual Guide to our late father. I am religiously negligent indeed. I have not even chosen a Spiritual Guide for myself. I have, instead, pursued a life of worldly comfort and pleasure. I shall, forthwith, beseech His Holiness to guide me in ways he deems necessary to provide for my next life. ***
Hajji Agha dispatched his servant to His Holiness at the central mosque with a letter, together with a substantial sum of tribute, requesting the honor of attaining his presence. His Holiness granted Hajji Agha’s request and offered to personally prepare him, in as many sessions as necessary, to become an exemplary Muslim and thereby guarantee him eternal life in paradise, as he has done so with Hajji’s father. His Holiness assured him. Below is a condensed report of what transpired as Hajji Agha embarked on his schooling to become a true Muslim worthy of admission into the promised paradise. ***
Hajji Agha. Your Holiness, words are far too inadequate to convey my gratitude to you for consenting to personally undertake the task of transforming me from a sinner to an upright Muslim…
His Holiness. No need. I am pleased you are following in the footsteps of your late father, bless his soul, and striving to live a true Muslim life to join, after a hundred years, your father in paradise. I am certain that he is a valued resident of paradise, having led a saintly life while on earth.
Hajji Agha. Thank you Your Holiness. As for me, I am immersed in sin. I cannot even begin to list all my failings. I need your guidance to mend my ways. I promise to follow all your instructions to the letter…
His Holiness. You must tell me all about yourself, with complete truthfulness, so I know which aspects of your life need attention, with what urgency and to what extent. Are you in the same line of work as your late father?
Hajji Agha. Yes. Yes. I spend every hour of my days helping the needy. I particularly assist widows and orphans who are in dire financial need, the unfortunate ones who have no chance of securing badly needed loans from banks.
His Holiness. Yes. Continuing the family tradition, huh? That is admirable. It is good that you help the neediest of God’s children. Now, first things first, do you unfailingly take time off from your charitable work to perform your obligatory prayers? It must be most difficult for you to interrupt caring for your clients to discharge your sacred duty. You must, per force, miss saying some of your prayers on designated times, am I not correct? Missing any of the five-times-a-day prescribed prayer assuredly condemns the person to the inferno of hell.
Hajji Agha. Yes, indeed I often fail to perform my prayers on time and as prescribed, due to unrelenting demands of my work. Is there any way I could satisfy that sacred religious obligation and make up for my failings?
His Holiness. Of course execution of all that has been prescribed by the Prophet is the obligation, nay privilege, of every devote Muslim. Yet, we are fallible human beings and the Prophet in his infinite kindness has provided remedies for our failures…
Hajji Agha. Please, please, Your Holiness, tell me how can this humble servant of the beloved Prophet make amend for my frequent failure of saying my obligatory prayers?
His Holiness. Deputization is the provision. You fail to say your prayers as prescribed, you deputize someone—preferably an upstanding man of God—to perform the prayers on your behalf.
Hajji Agha. Would I be able to deputize someone, an upstanding man of God, to pray on my behalf?
His Holiness. Yes. Every believer to the one and only faith of God is entitled to partake from this generous provision. The problem is in finding upstanding men of God in this day and age.
Hajji Agha. Allow me to kiss your hands, Your Holiness. You have relieved me of my torment. I need not look anywhere outside of this chamber for a deputy. I cannot fathom anyone more virtuous and dear to God than you. Your prayers assuredly are the ones that God will accept. Would you complete your generosity to this lowly one by accepting to serve as my prayer deputy, please I beg of you?
His Holiness. My dear fellow, if I were to accept the request of the multitude to serve as their prayer deputy, I would have no time at all to attend to any other matter…
Hajji Agha. Your Holiness, you have always been so kind to my late father. He frequently spoke glowingly of your magnanimity. I will be eternally indebted to you if you would accept my desperate supplication…
His Holiness. I indeed wish to honor any request, particularly when they are of God-fearing people who are serious about their religious duties. Pragmatic considerations, however, make it impossible for me to accept your request at this time. When I make a commitment, I honor it even if it were to cost me my life. The Prophet always emphasized that a true believer can never enter paradise if he fails to honor his commitments…
Hajji Agha. [Almost in a state of panic, rushes to His Holiness, throws himself at his feet, reaches for his hands to kiss them]. Please, Your Holiness, the death of my brother Hassan has delivered a powerful awakening blow to me. Although my junior by five years, he was, he died suddenly and without even running a fever. As you know Your Holiness death comes unannounced and that worries me greatly. Please I beg of you to reconsider and honor me as my deputy.
His Holiness. My dear fellow, there is no need for you to plead. I would have accepted your request if I could honor it. However, I might be able to help you…
Hajji Agha. Yes, yes, anything you command, Your Holiness.
His Holiness. I know a true man of God, a man who is other-worldly. Although he is physically in this contingent world, his soul resides in the limitless expanse of the spirit. He lives in complete seclusion in a remote mountain cave. I find it my honor and privilege to see to his meager personal material needs as well as that of his large family he has left behind. I can, under pressing circumstances and on extremely rare occasions disturb his seclusion momentarily. I shall try to visit him personally and ask him if he would undertake the task of serving as your prayer deputy. He is such a sanctified man of God that I have him pray on my own behalf. A true saint he is.
Hajji Agha. [Tears of joy glide down his huge multi-layered cheeks]. I am so grateful Your Holiness. Is there anyway I can contribute to the expense of this holy man? I am certain that you have a large number of the needy faithful under your care. We all know of you and your assistants’ unceasing charity work. It is our honor and privilege to be allowed to have a share in your work of God…
His Holiness. No need. No need, please. One of the great torments of my life and burden of my office is in dealing with financial concerns. It is regrettable that I am forced to address the financial needs of our work. Yet, we live in a material world and material means are needed for this material life.
Hajji Agha. Yes indeed, Your Holiness. It is precisely for this reason—the securing of material means that I often fail to live up to my religious obligations. As you so wisely point out, we must address material needs…
His Holiness. Please, that is quite sufficient speaking about this topic. If there is anything that you wish to discuss on this subject, please see my Chief Assistant on your way out. I must attend to other matters. You may make an appointment on your way out for the next session. Go in the care of God and be assured that I will pray on your behalf and will inform you of my attempt on the subject of prayer deputization. *** Hajji Agha, as instructed by His Holiness, stopped by the Chief Assistant’s chamber. The Chief, in contrast to His Holiness, was in no hurry at all and had no compunctions discussing finances. He took a great deal of time explaining the dire need of their charity work for funds. He reminded Hajji Agha about how good Muslims must offer zakat—tithe—sharing their wealth with God’s needy children. That all wealth belongs to God and the rich must not forget this. To lead a good Muslim life, the rich who are in effect trustees of God’s wealth must generously contribute to God’s work. And as the sacred scripture repeatedly remind the faithful, once a believer in the unity of God and his beloved Prophet makes a commitment, it is imperative that he honors the commitment, come what may. Thoroughly moved by the Chief Assistant’s presentation and the promise of His Holiness to personally enlist the holy man as his prayer deputy, Hajji Agha commits himself, in writing, to a substantial monthly donation to the work of His Holiness. ***
Hajji Agha. Greetings to you Agha. I pray that you are well and so is your family.
Chief Assistant. Greetings to you Hajji Agha. Thank you. Complaining does nothing but add to unhappiness. It is said telling of your problems saddens your friends and gladdens your enemies. And of course, you, Hajji Agha, are a dear friend and I need not sadden you with the inordinate problems that His Holiness and his staff face daily in helping the poor, the elderly and the infirmed. It is a task that His Holiness has taken upon himself and we have the honor of serving under this exemplary holy man of God. I am thankful to God and the Imams that I have been honored to work under the guidance of His Holiness. No matter what this wicked life throws at us and the people we have to minister to, a moment in the presence of His Holiness dispels my sorrows the same as the rays of the sun shatter the clouds.
Hajji Agha. Yes, yes. It is indeed so, Agha. And as you recall I am here to meet with His Holiness…
Chief Assistant. My deepest apologies Hajji Agha. His Holiness left for the mountains of Lorestan two days ago. Before leaving, he reminded me of your appointment for today and assured me that he would make every effort to be back for the meeting. I am sorry that I do not know the exact purpose of his journey, but since you are so dear to him and to me I can hazard a guess. I believe he has gone to meet a very saintly person on behalf of a particularly dear suppliant. I beg you to make yourself comfortable in the lounge, have some tea and sweets. His Holiness never fails to honor his commitment. He will, God willing, arrive before long. ***
Chief Assistant. [Telephoning His Holiness]. Your Person, I apologize for disturbing you. Hajji Agha is here for his appointment.
His Holiness. [Having frolicked the night at his secret apartment with a very young exciting seeghe—religiously sanctioned temporary wife—His Holiness had finally fallen into a deep sleep when the Chief Assistant's call woke him up]. Yes, make him comfortable. I shall be there before long. [He slams the phone for having to go and squeeze Hajji Agha instead of the delightful person stretched next to him gently kissing his beard]. ***
Chief Assistant. Aah, Hajji Agha, good news. I just received a telephone call from His Holiness. He asked me to offer you his salutation and assure you that, God willing, he will fight the abominable traffic and arrive for the meeting shortly. Would you care for more fresh tea and sweets, fresh water pipe, anything Hajji Agha?
Hajji Agha. [Hajji Agha never ever turns down anything free]. Yes, if it is not too much imposition.
Chief Assistant. Not at all. Not at all. His Holiness would be most displeased if we fail to extend our highest hospitality to his very special people like your person. ***
His Holiness. [Bleary-eyed and exhausted from his night of full exertion, returns Hajji Agha’s greetings]. And salutation unto you Hajji Agha. I am a bit late, but I had a terribly demanding night—driving all night without the help of my chauffer to make our appointment. Our holy man is so taken to seclusion that he would not permit anyone, not even my chauffer, to accompany me to his presence. Hence, I undertook the arduous journey to fulfill my promise to you…
Hajji Agha. Again, I am speechless. How can I possibly thank you for what you have done and continue to do for me…
His Holiness. No matter. The holy-ones have advised that the reward of a good deed is the deed itself. I feel a large measure of satisfaction when I manage to perform a good deed, even when it costs me a sleepless night.
Hajji Agha. Yes indeed, yes indeed. A true man of God, you are…
His Holiness. I have good news—as a matter of fact, very good news. Prior to meeting the holy man, I performed an accurate calculation regarding the number of times you have likely neglected to say your prayer on time or you have failed to say it altogether. I do not wish to embarrass you and I will not share the figure with you. However, I gave the figure to our holy man to say all the missed prayers of the past and say additional four each day after having finished the arrears. The idea is that you must, no matter what happens, try to say at least one of the five daily prayers each day. It is a blessing that you do not want to miss, no matter what. In case, God forbid, for reasons beyond your control you miss some, then you must make note and report them to my Chief Assistant so that the holy one can make amend for you.
Hajji Agha. Your Holiness what can I say. As a point of personal favor, please allow me to kiss your feet—the blessed feet that have journeyed to the mountains to help a sinner like me…
His Holiness. That would void the little service I performed and it is completely out of the question. [He embraces the Hajji Agha, they peck on each other’s cheeks and the tearful-grateful Hajji Agha backs out of the chamber—an exit form that avoids turning one’s back toward the greatly respected person.] ***
Hajji Agha, deeply comforted, dances his way out like a drop of oil rolling down a hot skillet. In fact, there is an uncanny resemblance between Hajji Agha and a drop of oil, both physically as well as His Holiness smoothly works his victims. His poor clients pay him through the nose, yet end up praying for him for being such a caring man of God. He has a way of making them feel terrific while he is bleeding them. Physically he is rotund. Every part of his huge mostly fat body is almost equidistance from his belly button. His shaven head rests on an invisible neck, while his face is covered with six-day-old stubble. [Good Muslim men sport stubbles as public display of their piety. Mullahs, on the other hand, keep longer flowing beards since they are much holier than the run of the mill Muslims.]
Working his cell phone, Hajji Agha summons his chauffeur and glides in the back seat of a late model Mercedes limousine, virtually out of breath for having walked a few steps to the front door of the mosque. Happily humming, Hajji Agha orders the chauffeur to take him to his office to attend to business. He had missed half a day’s work. That translates to a substantial income not generated. And that is absolutely intolerable to him. Perhaps he would work an hour or so longer today and make up for the lost time. He keeps humming his happy tune. Life is nice. He can do all the things he likes, while others are working for him to make sure once he is dead, he would indeed go to heaven and continue enjoying himself in a life eternal. A stray thought suddenly disrupts his celebratory mood. Some unwelcome voice whispers inside his head: Hajji Agha, discharging the duty of the daily obligatory prayer is only meeting one of the pillars of the faith.
You cannot go to heaven without satisfying all five pillars. Shehadat—testifying that there is no God, but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet. Fine, that one is easy. I have satisfied that. Salat—performance of five times a day obligatory prayer. The holy man in the mountain cave is taking care of that. Who is better than him? Would God want my prayers or his? Of course his when he is saying them for me. Somm—fasting. This one causes me problems to no end. I do not believe I have been able to fast even one day all my life. I always eat and drink something. No way have I ever been able to go from before sunrise to after sunset without food or drink. That is terrible. Zakat—tithe. I believe I am good on that front since I committed myself to give substantial sums to the charity work of His Holiness. Hajj—pilgrimaging the birthplace of Islam and performing the prescribed writ during the designated time. Well. I have not done that.
But people call me Hajji Agha, just the same. All people in my trade are Hajji Agha. Do I have to be a real Hajji by going through that tortuous trip to Saudi Arabia? People tell me it is a hardship and my system is thoroughly averse to hardship of any sort. I must talk to His Holiness about this problem—and of course about fasting. *** The sanctifying and preparation of Hajji Agha under the unerring tutelage of His Holiness continued, at first once a week and eventually settled down to once a month. The proceedings are too voluminous to be reported in details here. Hence, a summary should serve adequately the rich men who seek to lead a charmed life in this world and not to have to worry not making it into paradise. There is a sure way around the problem—the Islamic solution.
His Holiness assured Hajji Agha that the reason he had not and could not observe the fast had nothing to do with the man’s gluttony, lack of discipline and the desire to indulge himself. The Hajji is afflicted with a metabolic disorder. The condition constitutes a valid reason for not observing the fast. [Neither the Hajji, nor His Holiness felt it necessary to obtain a doctor’s views on the diagnosis]. However, as is the case with the obligatory prayer, Hajji Agha would do well to deputize someone to do the fasting on his behalf—of course someone who is saintly. His Holiness would enlist such a man, from among the horde of the poor in his charge. The poor have no problem with not eating and drinking. Starvation is their life-long fare. Furthermore, the poor will happily fast on another man’s behalf as an act of charity, since even the poor must perform charity for their salvation.
The rich, however, will do well to express their gratitude financially so that the poor deputy can meet his family’s basic living needs. His Holiness solved the problem of the Hajj in no time at all. Again, deputization was the answer. Send someone on the Hajj on Hajji’s behalf. It is done all the time. As long as the Hajji finances the journey and generously compensates the deputy, the requirement of Hajj can be fully satisfied. His Holiness was willing to assist in locating such a man for the purpose. There were numerous other problems that had to be addressed to fully prepare the Hajji for admission into paradise. Space limitation precludes discussing them all here. Many of these issues had not even occurred to the Hajji. It took the wisdom of a sanctified man, His Holiness, to point them out and suggest remedial. One major problem was Hajji’s line of work. He was a usurer—a very heartless one at that. All usurers usually are. It is a prime requisite for the job. Usury is severely sanctioned in Islam. His Holiness pointed out the problem, yet as always, he also supplied the solution. He opined that in actuality the Hajji was not a usurer. He was a sole-proprietor small banker. And in order to cover expenses of his office and support his family, the Hajji requested commissions from the desperate people he so generously helped—people who stood no chance of obtaining financial assistance from banks. Hence, the Hajji was indeed performing a charitable service to the neediest of the needy. And just to make sure that Hajji’s charitable work achieved its maximum effect, he was to allocate a fifth of his commissions for the care of the poor and the maintenance of the mosques where His Holiness reigned. *** Are you rich and want to be assured of a spot in heaven? If so, you may want to trust yourself to the care of heaven’s representatives on earth—the Muslim clergy—they will remake you into a good Muslim, prepare you so well that you will be admitted to paradise with a 21-gun salute, an honor guard of angels and a thousand strong band celebrating your arrival.