by Hojjatul Islam Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider,

Ahlul Bait (AS) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town, South Africa

Following a recitation from the Holy Qur’an, Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider’s lecture was preceded by two short items. There were a poems of lamentation in honour of the martyrs of Karbala by Ammarah Mohammad, a student of Madrasatul Imam Husayn (AS) and a brief talk by Moulana Abdurahman Seagers, a scholar in our Shi’ah community who does a tremendous amount of work in the township of Mitchells Plain.

After pointing out the differences between Banu Hashim and Banu Ummayah as far as kindness towards fellow human-beings is concerned, Moulana Seagers said that the Ahlul Bayt (AS) present a natural path for humanity. Delivering a very practical message to the audience, Moulana Seagers urged us to promote the teachings of Ahlul Bayt (AS) in our local communities through our actions. He concluded his message by quoting the eighth Imam, ‘Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (AS), saying “Be silent inviters to our path”.

Moulana Sayed Aftab Haider began his discussion for the evening in line this social emphasis. Moulana introduced the first of the ideals of Imam Husayn (AS) which he broadly referred to last night, namely that of “Islah” or “reform”. Moulana referred to this ideal of reform as the “title of the story of Karbala” and the “subject of Imam Husayn’s revolution”.

Illustrating that reform was at the very core of Imam Husayn’s stance, Moulana cited a few passages from Imam’s letter to Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyyah which outline the reasons behind Imam marching to Karbala. He quoted sentences in which Imam clearly mentions reform as central to his movement. Moulana quoted the following famous sentence, “I did not come out to create chaos in the society or to seek power or to oppress people and propagate corruption. I came out with the only purpose of seeking reform in the Ummah (community) of my grandfather (SAWA)”.

Moulana then went on to discuss the concept of reform or “Islah’ in the context of the Qur’an. He asserted that revival and reform enjoy a status in the Qur’an, hence Allah introduced his Prophets as “reformers”. After citing the examples of Prophets Shuaib (AS) and Moosa (AS), Moulana termed reform as the “slogan” of the Prophets of God. He added that this concept of reform is of such importance in the Islamic tradition that even the hypocrites have claimed to be reformers. Moulana cited Qur’anic verses to bolster his particular point.

Introducing his attempt to define reform in the Islamic tradition, Moulana said that the Qur’an always employs the term “reform/islah” in opposition to the term “corruption/fasaad”. Moulana added that in order for us to understand Karbala we must understand what Islah or “reform” means. In this context he referred to a variety of Arabic linguistic definitions of Islah. Overall, Moulana emphasized the point that the concept of reform in Islam is inspired by a general sense of social responsibility, which is not purely political.

Focussing on the centrality of the broader social responsibility in the Islamic tradition, Moulana said that in Islam, even if you are a pious individual, you still have a responsibility towards your fellow human-beings. Illuminating the distinction between personal piety and social responsibility, Moulana asserted that Imam Husayn (AS) is not only a pious individual (Rajulun Salih), but is at the same time a reformer (Muslih). Moulana further emphasized this point by citing the late Ayatollah al-Shaheed Sayed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (RA). He said that according to al-Sadr, on the day of reckoning, we will be asked about two types of actions by Allah (SWT). These are: how we treated ourselves? What we did for our societies?

Linking this idea of a social responsibility-based reform to the movement of Karbala, Moulana stated that if Imam Husayn (AS) only wanted to be a pious believer focussing on individual spirituality, he would not have posed a threat to Yazid. In order to underline this point, Moulana narrated Imam’s interaction with Abdullah ibn Abbas in Makkah on route to Kufa.

Moulana pointed out that when Imam Husayn arrived in Makkah, ibn Abbas urged him not to travel to Kufa, but to proceed to Yemen instead. Ibn Abbas told Imam that he would be much safer if he stayed in seclusion in the mountains of Yemen, as many of the Yemeni people loved the Ahlul Bayt (AS). Imam Husayn, however, turned down this particular advice and told ibn Abbas that to protect himself was of much less importance than protecting the honour of the Ummah from the tyrant Yazid.

Moulana concluded this particular point with the following emphatic statement, “Hussayn taught us that if you are a Hussayni you can never say ‘none of my business’ when people are suffering. You always have a social responsibility, even if it means giving your life for it”.

Moulana concluded his discussion by raising questions as to the actual scope of reform for Muslims. He asked the audience if the actual religion of Islam is open to reform. If it is society that requires reform? Moulana asked what Imam Husayn (AS) was referring to when he said that reform in the Ummah was required. Moulana told the audience that tomorrow evening he will discuss what Imam Husyan (AS) saw as the possibilities of Islamic reform.

Moulana’s majlis ended with an emotive narration of the martyrdom of Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqil (AS) in Kufa at the hands of Ubaydallah ibn Ziyad. The impeccable conduct of this lone soldier of Imam Husayn Muslim ibn Aqil in the face of adversity touched the hearts of the mourners and brought tears to the eyes of many.

This recital of the masaaib was followed by the recitation and performance of the ma’tam, led by the youth and elders of our community.