Jumuah lecture on Friday 27 September 2019 (27 Muharram 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) defines the attributes of His servants in verses 63 onwards of Surah Furqaan (chapter 25 of the Holy Quran):
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!”
وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا
Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing
These attributes of Ibadur Rahman continue to be defined in the subsequent verses, and then in verse 72, Almighty Allah (SWT) makes an important point about these people:
وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا
And those who will not witness vanity, but when they pass near senseless play, pass by with dignity.
These are the great qualities of the Ibadur Rahman, (servants of the most Merciful), as defined in the Holy Quran, especially on Akhlaq (manners and etiquettes). You will recall that we conducted a Jumuah series last year on the Ibadur Rahman, but I just want to draw your attention to the most important quality of Ibadur Rahman, is that these noble attributes manifest in their behaviour and interaction with the people.
Their general attitude and behaviour in society is based on humility, and when they come across people who are ignorant and rude, they do not stoop themselves to engage on the level of such people. Instead, they simply pass by saying “salaam” (peace) instead of engaging in any debate.
Then verse 64 explains their deep connection with their Lord (SWT) and Akhlaq (noble, moral character). Verse 72 again draws reference to the fact that the Ibadur Rahman pass by gracefully, in a dignified manner, when they witness falsehood or meaningless behaviour at play.
IMAM ZAINUL ABIDEEN (A.S) SPENT HIS LIFE UNDER OPPRESSION FROM THE DESPOTIC UMAYYAD RULE
In the light of these beautiful verses of Surah Furqaan (chapter 25 of the Holy Quran), which defines the attributes of the Ibadur Rahman, I would like to draw your attention to a great personality from the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), whose martyrdom is recorded in these days (25 Muharram). I am referring to none other than the 4th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn al Hussain, Zainul Abideen (a.s), who is also the son of Imam Hussain (a.s).
There are many angles to explore on the personality of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), but I would like to focus our attention to understand this noble Imam in the light of these verses from Surah Furqaan.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) fought back and resisted against his enemies with spirituality and Akhlaq (morality), as defined in the above verses. The most important part of morality is humility and how to interact with the people, particularly those with lower levels of ethics and lower levels of knowledge.
It is really important to note the graceful, dignified manner in which the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s) dealt with such people. We see these attributes flourishing in the life of this great 4th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s).
As we are all well aware, Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was present in Karbala, but was very ill and therefore did not participate in the war. He is the adult male survivor from the tragedy of Karbala. Naturally, after Karbala, he played a pivotal role in conveying the message of Imam Husayn (a.s) and Karbala to the people, in exposing the heinous crimes of Bani Umayyah and the real face of this brutal regime.
The point I want to elaborate on is how did Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) do this? What was his method? Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) lived for approximately 34 years after the tragedy of Karbala. It is reasonable to believe that he lived under the most difficult and challenging times, compared to the other Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
IMAM ZAINUL ABIDEEN (A.S) FACED PHYSICAL AND IDEOLOGICAL OPPRESSION
Our analysis of history would suggest that none of the Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) lived under the harsh, extreme oppression which Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) lived under. There was an awakening after the tragedy of Karbala from every corner of the Islamic state, and Bani Umayyah used the most repressive tactics to crush this uprising. This is what Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) lived through.
Now, realising the magnitude of the tragedy of Karbala, they employed all methods to crush this awakening and awareness, ranging from physical repression as well as ideological methods. Ideological methods were used by promoting false ideologies and by fighting with spirituality and taking away this sacredness of Imaan (faith) and religious commitment from the people.
They replaced this with materialistic culture in the society and introducing dunya (worldly pursuits) as the final goal. A life of luxury, without any fear of the Akhirah (hereafter) was promoted to the masses by Bani Umayyah. Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) fought back against this.
Of course, in the aftermath to the tragedy of Karbala, Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) faced Yazid’s rule for a couple of years, which was obviously a very terrible period. During this period, the main purpose of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was to keep the memory of Karbala alive, by repeatedly conveying this message to the people.
An uprising started after this news spread about the tragedy of Karbala, and people started to gradually digest it. Another terrible enemy of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) by the name of Marwan ibn Hakam came into power for a very short while. Basically, power transferred from the Sufyanis to another branch of Bani Umayyah, namely the Marwanis. This occurred when Yazid’s son Mu’awiya rebelled against his father (ie. Yazid).
IMAM ZAINUL ABIDEEN (A.S) LIVED IN THE ERA OF THE MOST VICIOUS TYRANTS
This is how Marwan came into power for a short while, to be succeeded by his son, Abdul Malik ibn Marwan. Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) lived under the rule of Abdul Malik ibn Marwan for 21 years. He was apparently very pious, whom people referred to as the “pigeon of the mosque”.
History has recorded that he was reading the Holy Quran in the mosque when he was handed the reign of power by the Marwanis. At this point he immediately closed the Quran, and uttered this recorded sentence:
“This is my farewell to you, O Quran!”
He placed the Holy Quran on a shelf and left. All that piety, spirituality and Ibadah (acts of worship) was left behind in the mosque. He came in power and appointed the worst governors across the country. It is in his time, that Mecca was attacked and the Ka’bah burned down.
Also, it was in his time that the terrible character by the name of Hajjaj ibn Yusuf was appointed as governor of Kufa! This man use to drink blood and he killed more than 120,000 people at the time! Nobody has any doubt or dispute regarding this blood thirsty character. He was the master at crushing any form of opposition. You can imagine what his level of animosity towards Ahlul Bait (a.s) was!
This Abdul Malik gave a sermon when he came into power. As is customary in a sermon (khutbah), we start off by saying that “I remind myself and all of you to observe Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT)”. However, Abdul Malik started his sermon by saying “whoever reminds me of Taqwa from today onwards should know that I will kill him”!
This is the ghastly situation which Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) finds himself in. Mass killings were happening everywhere in different parts of the Islamic State. Examples are the mass killings at the hand of Abdul Malik in Syria itself, and in Mecca, Madina, Yemen and various other parts. People were crushed, and then as we know, the worst crimes were committed in Kufa.
This was over and above the absence of spirituality and Akhlaq, as Madina became a city for singing and parties and amusement, instead of being a city for Ibadah.
Those who still have sympathy for Yazid and ilk, and Bani Umayyah, should realise that Yazid did not only kill Imam Husayn (a.s), but he went further with imprisoning the family of Rasulullah (SAWA). Yazid is also the one who attacked Madina and killed hundreds of Sahabah (companions of Rasulullah (SAWA)) in Madina and also burned down the mosque of Rasulullah (SAWA) and changed it into a horse stable!
Then as we all know, Yazid took these savage attacks to Mecca, where they attacked the Ka’bah and burned it down. These monsters from Bani Umayyah levelled the Ka’bah to the ground! Yet we still find people having sympathy towards Bani Umayyah!
Despite this level of demonic behaviour on display, where Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) had to live through such brutality and fear from the merciless dictatorship, he showed the highest level of Akhlaq (noble moral character).
IMAM ZAINUL ABIDEEN (A.S) INFLUENCED THROUGH SPIRITUALITY AND SUPPLICATION
There was a governor in Madina who was very terrible towards Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) and the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). His name was Hisham ibn Ismail and was so bad with his torture, to the point where the ruler decided to remove him, saying that people can now come forward and take their revenge. Naturally, people came forward to beat him up and take revenge for the injustice he committed towards them.
This is the same governor who tortured Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) the worst. Despite this, Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) did not raise his voice in anger towards him when he now had the opportunity for revenge. Instead, Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) told him that despite all the terrible crimes that this man committed towards them, he is making an offer to this man for any assistance he may need during this time of difficulty where people are taking revenge on him (Hisham).
Hisham ibn Ismail said that he could not expect this level of Akhlaq from Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), given what hardship Hisham inflicted on him. It is at this point where Hisham ibn Ismail complemented Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) by saying that ”surely Almighty Allah (SWT) knows where He must place His message.”
There is lots to discuss when it comes to the relationship of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) towards slaves. Bani Umayyah, in a trend which was consistent with their forefathers, were very racist. In fact, they divided the society between slaves and masters, and they would treat the slaves in the worst manner. Bani Umayyah then also further divided the slaves into different levels eg. Slaves from Sudan, Persia etc.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) showed extreme compassion and respect towards these slaves. He would find any excuse for them to be freed.
IMAM ZAINUL ABIDEEN (A.S) LEFT A RICH LEGACY OF DUA AS A CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION WITH ALLAH (SWT)
Along with fighting back against the brutal Umayyad dynasty through his amazing Akhlaq, he also drew the attention of the people towards spirituality, in such a sublime manner. In the same city of Madina, where music parties and gatherings of sin were common, we find that traffic would come to a standstill when Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) would recite the Holy Quran, as people wanted to listen to his recitation.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was under embargo from interacting with the people, and as a result, he was not allowed to give public sermons or classes. This is where he focussed on dua as the method to impact the people. His strategy was therefore based on a dual focus of spirituality along with education.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) left us such a rich treasure in the form of Sahifa Sajjadiyya, which is a compilation of his duas (supplications). These duas are not simply to ask from Allah (SWT). Instead, these duas are an institution of education and training and intellectual development.
One of these duas is Dua Makarimul Akhlaq (Supplication of noble moral character), where we see the philosophy of ethics and morality on a most remarkable level.
His compilation of duas is so vast, ranging from Tauheed to seeking for rain, or his dua about those taking care of the borders of the Islamic state or his dua about the companions of Rasulullah (SAWA)! People often accuse us Shia of being anti-Sahaba. These people should read this dua of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) about the Sahaba!
His duas go further to explain Imamat and how serious this position of leadership is in the Ummah. This gives one a taste of the rich legacy which Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) left for us, in the form of Sahifa Sajjadiyya. Unfortunately, this religious hate which we have for each other does not allow us to even benefit from these unique pearls of wisdom and treasures of knowledge left by the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Ayatollah Marashi Najafi was a great Marja (religious authority) in Qom, and one day he sent a copy of Sahifa Sajjadiyya to the Grand Mufti of Al Azhar in Cairo, Egypt. The Grand Mufti of Egypt wrote a letter of appreciation to Ayatollah Marashi Najafi, saying that he cannot believe how ignorant, unaware and negligent they are about this rich book.
He continued in his letter by saying that he feels ashamed to say that an institution like Al Azhar has never given attention to the rich legacy of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in the form of Sahifa Sajjadiyya for example.
50TH MARTYRDOM ANNIVERSARY OF SHAHEED IMAM ABDULLAH HARON (R.A)
We are commemorating another very, very day in the history of our own country and history of our own city. It is of course, the martyrdom of a great man by the name of Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a). We are all aware of his life and struggle, and the conditions under which he was detained and finally killed in detention.
It is now 50 years since the martyrdom of this great hero and great leader from our own city and community. May Almighty Allah (SWT) shower his choicest blessings upon his soul.
I would like to reflect upon a few important lessons which we can learn from this great man, who lived long before his time and had foresight way deeper than his comrades and colleagues. The vision which he had was unfortunately not present in most of the people.
SHAHEED IMAM ABDULLAH HARON (R.A) UNDERSTOOD THE ROLE OF CLERGY TOWARDS SOCIAL JUSTICE
The first point I would like to elaborate upon is the responsibility of Ulama (religious leaders) when it comes to social justice. This is truly unique about Shaheed Imam Haron (r.a). Remember, this was long before the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Hence, this responsibility towards social justice was not very high on the agenda compared to the prominence it received through Imam Khomeini’s inspiration after the success of the Islamic Revolution.
The realisation of this responsibility to stand for justice required a great vision at that time. Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) taught us that the responsibility of religious leaders is not confined to simply teaching us to read the Holy Quran, and to lead Salaah and funeral proceedings and other associated rituals in Islam.
Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) taught us that leadership also has a responsibility towards society. This is one very important point we learn from Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a).
Everybody talks about it, but how much of this character of Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) have we adopted in our society? This is a question for us all to reflect on. We are not facing Apartheid today, but we are facing numerous other evils in our society, such as gender-based violence, gangsterism and drugs, corruption etc. These are also social challenges, and again, the responsibility of religious leadership is to stand up and take a lead.
SHAHEED IMAM ABDULLAH HARON (R.A) STEPPED OUT OF HIS COMFORT ZONE TO FIGHT FOR NON-MUSLIMS
The second point I would like to reflect on is that many scholars and many people can comfortably understand the need to stand for the rights of Muslims if they are oppressed, be it inside South Africa or internationally. However, when it comes to a community or a group of people of which the demographic of the victims of the oppression is majority non-Muslim, they feel it is not their responsibility. It is a little out of their range.
Now, Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a), at that juncture of history, realised that one should stand for the rights of the oppressed regardless of colour or creed, religion or faith. This is truly amazing and highly commendable. This is again another very, very important lesson we learn from Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a).
SHAHEED IMAM ABDULLAH HARON (R.A) STRONGLY UPHELD SOCIAL COHESION IN AN ERA OF SEPARATION
The third point I would like to draw attention to from the life of Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) is that of interfaith solidarity in the struggle for justice and the common good. We recently celebrated Heritage Day, which is the celebration of the diversity of our society.
We live in a society where different religions and faith traditions, different cultures and backgrounds live peacefully in mutual co-existence. They are all supposed to respect each other and also be united for the common good.
Again, this is the beauty of this man, that he was in no way sectarian. He was not bogged down with a narrow mindset. Hence, we read in history that the reaction to the martyrdom of Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) did not only come from Muslim circles, but in fact, there was an outpour of grief from the non-Muslim community and an even more prominent response of tributes and respect from the clergy of other religions.
It is noted that even while Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) was being illegally incarcerated, the Christian clergy were at the forefront of protesting against his detention, together with services being conducted in tribute to him after his martyrdom. This all shows how he interacted with these people who were not Muslims, but they were together for the common good. He interacted with them and they shared solidarity, which resulted in the response we saw upon his martyrdom.
Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) was really someone who rose above his own situation and conditions at play. In this way, Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a) was indeed a unique visionary and we should all be proud of a personality like this great man.
There are numerous other angles of his life. Example, his outreach to the poor and downtrodden.
AHLUL BAIT (A.S) MASJID PROUDLY REMEMBERS SHAHEED IMAM ABDULLAH HARON (R.A)
It is really crucial for our communities to remember Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron (r.a). In the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), we rise above any sectarian lines and pay our utmost respect to this great hero and great martyr of the Muslim community of Cape Town and South Africa.
As you know, all of the classrooms in this mosque complex have been named after iconic personalities, who played an influential role in shaping the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in this community. Alhamdu Lillah, we as the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid can very proudly say that one of the rooms have been named after Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron, to recognise his contribution to awakening and leading this community towards the genuine path of Islam and the Holy Quran and standing for social justice and offering the ultimate sacrifice of his life.
May the infinite mercy and blessings of Almighty Allah (SWT) be on his soul.