Shaykh Rajab Ali Khayyat (Nikuguyan)
The pious man of God, Rajab Ali Nikuguyan known as the Reverend Shaykh and Shaykh Rajab Ali Khayyat was born in Tehran in 1262 S.H./1883 CE. His father, Mashhadi Baqir was an ordinary worker. When Rajab Ali was 12, his father passed away and left Rajab Ali alone with no full-blooded brothers and sisters. There is no more knowledge at hand about the Shaykh's childhood. However, he quoted his mother himself as saying:
"One night when I was pregnant with you your father- who was then working in a restaurant - brought home some wholesome Kebabs. When I proceeded to eat, I found that you began to stir and beat my belly with your feet. I felt I should not eat from this food. I refrained from eating and asked your father why he had brought wholesome Kebabs that night, whereas the other nights he used to bring the customers' leftovers. He said he had actually brought these Kebabs without permission! So, I did not eat from that food."
This story indicates that the Shaykh's father did not have worth mentioning features.
Shaykh had five sons and four daughters. One of his daughters died in childhood.
The Shaykh's House
His simple brick house that was bequeathed to him from his father was located on Mawlawi Avenue, Siyahha (presently Shahid Muntazari) Alley. He lived in this small house the rest of his life. His son says:
Whenever it rained, the ceiling began to drip. One day, an army general, along with some other governmental officials, came to our house. We had placed some basins and bowls under the rain dripping from the ceiling. Having seen our condition of living, he bought two pieces of land and showed them to my father, and said he had bought one for himself and one for him. My father replied: What we have is sufficient for us.
Another of his sons says: When my life condition changed for the better I said to my father: Dear father! I have got four tomans and this brick house can sold for sixteen tomans. So let me buy a new house on Shahbaz Avenue.
The Shaykh said:
"Whenever you wish go and buy one for yourself; for me, this one is good enough!"
He goes on to say: After my marriage, we prepared the two rooms upstairs and said to our father: High-ranking people come to visit you; so, please arrange for your meeting in these two rooms. He replied:
"No way! Whoever wants to see me, let him come to sit in this dilapidated room."
The room he was talking about was a small one carpeted with a simple coarse mat made of cotton. With a table for tailoring.
Interestingly enough, several years later, the reverend Shaykh let one of his rooms to a taxi driver named "Mashaddi Yadullah" for twenty tomans a month. Later on, when the latter's wife gave birth to a daughter, the late Shaykh gave the name "Ma'suma" to her. When he recited adhan and aqama into the baby's ears, he placed a two toman bank-note in the corner of her swaddling clothes, and said:
"Aqha Yadullah! Now your expenses have increased; from this month instead of twenty tomans pay only eighteen tomans [for rent]."
The Shaykh's Clothing
The reverend Shaykh's clothing was very simple and neat. The type of clothing he used to wear was a set of clothes like that of Ulama including a cloak, a skullcap, and a robe.
What was interesting about him was that even in his dressing; too, his intention was to attain God's pleasure. The only time he put on a robe to please others; he was reproached for that in his spiritual state.
His account of this event is as follows:
"Nafs (carnal desire) is a strange thing; one night I found I was veiled [in darkness] and was unable to achieve divine grace, like I attained before. I probed into the matter, and upon humble requesting, I found out that the previous afternoon, when one of the nobles of Tehran came to visit me, he said that he like to perform the evening and the night prayers with me [as prayer leader]. So, in order to please him, I put on my robe while performing prayers...!"
The Shaykh's Food
His reverence never cared for delicious meals. Most often, he used such simple foods as potatoes and puddings. At the tablecloth, he would kneel down facing the qibla and kind of bending over the food.Sometimes he would also hold up the plate in his hands while eating.
He would always eat with full appetite. Sometimes he would put some of his food in the plate of a friend that he could reach out [as a sign of respect]. While eating, he would not talk, and the others would also keep silent out of respect for him.
If someone invited him to a feast, he would accept or reject it with some deliberation. Nevertheless, he would most often accept his friends' invitations.
He would not mind eating out; however, he was conscious of the effect of food on one's soul, and regarded some spiritual changes as a consequence of eating certain foods. Once, while he was traveling to Mashhad by train, he felt some spiritual contraction. He made an appeal [to Ahlul Bayt (A.S.)], then after a while he was informed by intuition that the spiritual contraction had been the consequence of drinking of the tea served be the train's restaurant.
Tailoring is one of the praiseworthy professions in Islam. "Luqman the Sage" had chosen this as his occupation.(Rabi al-Abrar, II: 535.)
It is quoted from the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) who said:
"The job of the righteous men is tailoring and the job of the pious woman is spinning".
(Mizan al-Hakmah. IV, 1628:5478.)
The reverend Shaykh had chosen this job as a means of livelihood. Hence he was known as Shaykh Rajab Ali Khayat [the tailor]. Interestingly, his simple small house, as described before, was his tailoring workshop, too.
In this respect one of his children says: At first, my father had a room in a Caravanserai, where he pursued his tailoring profession. One day the landlord came to him and asked him to leave the place. The next day without any arguing or demanding any due rights, my father packed up his sewing machine and sewing table, brought them home, and gave the room back to the landlord. Ever since, he worked at home in a room near the entrance as his tailoring workshop.
Perseverance in his Work
The reverend Shaykh was extremely serious and persevering in his work. He worked hard to the last days of his life to earn his living through his own endeavors. Although his devotees were whole heartedly ready to provide for his simple livelihood, he would never accept.
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said in a Hadith:
"Whoever earns one's own living; they will be ranked among the Prophets and rewarded as Prophets."
(Mizan al-Hakmah, V, 2058: 7209.)
And in another hadith, he said:
"Divine worship has ten parts, nine of which comprise earning lawful daily sustenance.")
(Mizan al-Hakmah, V, 2060: 7223.)
One of Shaykh's friends says: I never forget the day I saw the reverend Shaykh in the market who was pale in the countenance out of fatigue. He was going home carrying some tailoring tools and material that he had bought. I told him: Agha have some rest, you are not feeling well.' He replied:
"What should I do with the wife and the children then?!"
The Passing Away of Shaykh Rajab Ali Khayyat
Finally on twenty second of Shahrivar of 1340 Solar Hijra/September 13, 1961, the blessed life of the reverend Shaykh came to end and the bird of his soul departed this life after a lifelong spiritual self-building and enriching others. The story of his radiant soul's departure from the world to the sublime abode is interesting and instructive to hear.
The Day before his Heavenly Departure
The Shaykh's son describes the day before his passing away as follows" The day before his death, my father was well and healthy, my mother was out, and I was alone. In the afternoon, my father returned home, made wudu (minor ablution) and called me, saying:
"I feel a little ill, if that servant of God [a certain customer] comes to pick up his clothing, the scraps (1) are in the pocket, and he has to pay thirty tomans as a wage."
Extra pieces of cloth left over after tailoring.)
My father had never told me before that if someone came to pick up his clothes how much the wage would be. But that day I did not grasp what would happen.
A Dream by One of his Disciples
One of the Shaykh's devotees, who had foreseen his heavenly departure the night before his death through a "true dream", told the story as follows:
The night before the Shaykh left this world, I dreamed they were shutting down the shops on the west side of Masjid-i Qazvin. I asked: What has happened? They said Agha Shaykh Rajab Ali Khayyat has expired. I woke up perplexed and worried. It was three hours past midnight. I regarded my dream as true one. After morning adhan, I said prayer and left for Agha Radmanish's house right away. He enquired surprisingly of my untimely visit and I told him about my dream.
It was five in the morning, at twilight, that we set out the Shaykh's house. The Shaykh opened the door; we went in and sat down. The Shaykh sat, too, and said:
"What have you been up to at such an early morning?"
I did not tell him my dream. We talked for a time and then the Shaykh lay down on his side and placed his hand under his head, saying:
"Tell something, recite a poem!"
There is no time more joyful than the love days.
There is no night to the day of the lovers.
The delightful hours were the time spent with the Friend,
The rest was all fruitlessness and ignorance.
The Shaykh on his Deathbed
In less than an hour I noticed that the Shaykh's condition got worse. I asked him whether to call a doctor for him - I was sure that he would pass away that day. The Shaykh replied:
It's up to you.
The doctor wrote a prescription and I went out to have it filled. When I returned I saw the Shaykh was taken to another room. He was sitting facing the qiblah with a white sheet covering his legs; he was touching the white sheet with his thumb and forefinger.
I was very attentive to see how a man of God departs from the world. All of a sudden there was a change of state in him as if someone was whispering something in his ears. He said:
Insha'Allah (God willing).
Then he said:
"What day is today? Bring today's supplication!"
I recited that day's supplication. Then said:
Have it read by Agha Sayyid Ahmad too.
He recited it, too. Then the Shaykh said:
Raise your hands to the sky and say:
Ya Karim al-afw Ya Azim al-afw (O Noble! Forgive me, O Great! Forgive me), may God forgive me.
I looked at my friend and said: Let me go to bring Agha Suhayli, as it seems my dream is coming true and he is meeting his end, and I left.
Welcome my Dear Master!
The Shaykh's son related the rest of this story as follows: I saw my father's room was crowded. They said the reverend Shaykh's condition was serious. I entered the room right away and saw my father-who had made ablution few moments before and came into the room-was leaning in his bed facing the qibla; but all of a sudden he sat up and said while smiling:
Welcome my dear master!(The late Suhayli was quoted as saying: What he meant by Agha Jan (my dear master) was Imam al-Asr (AJ) who had come to visit the Shaykh at that moment.)
He seemed to shake hands with someone, lay down, and passed away while having the same smile on his lips!
The First Night after the Burial
Another of his friends said: In a dream, I saw the Shaykh on the first night after his burial. I saw that a grand station was bestowed upon him by Mawla Amir al-Mu'minin Ali (A.S.). I approached that station; as soon as he saw me, he took a very tender and fine glance at me like a father who admonishes his son and the son is paying no attention. His glance reminded me that he always would say:
Do not want other than God.
But we were still encumbered by our vain desires. I got further close to him. He said two sentences:
The first sentences:
The joy of life is intimacy with God and the friends of God.(In the supplication 21 of Sahifa al-Sajjadiya (Psalms of Islam.P.79) we read: "And give me intimacy with Thee, Thy friends, and those who obey Thee!")
And the second sentence:
He [Imam Ali (A.S.)] lived [such a true life] that his wife [Hadrat Fatima (A.S.) gave away his shirt [in self-sacrifice] on the night of consummation in the way of God.
The Elixir of Love