(Jumuah khutbah delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town on 23 October 2015; 9 Muharram 1437)
This evening we will once again commemorate Lailatul Ashura or the eve of Ashura, Insha’Allah and tomorrow we will commemorate Yawme Ashura or the Day of Ashura wherein we reconnect our souls to the greatest sacrifice in history, and that is the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (a.s) and his 72 family and exemplary companions on the plains of Karbala.
An event that occurred exactly 1376 years ago that absorbs our attention to the extent that it seems like its happening at this very moment.
The Muslim ummah and humanity at large have for centuries studied this great event and have connected to it in different ways due to the Universality of the Personality and Mission of Imam Hussain (a.s).
It’s an event that has left:
• Philosophers contemplating;
• Urafaa or mystics yearning;
• Revolutionaries strategizing;
• Poets composing;
• Sociologists conscientising;
• Politicians politicising;
• Lovers loving; and strangely it has left
• Haters hating;
• Psychopathic rulers murdering;
• Misguided scholars misguiding; and
• The jealous ones conniving
While a great sufi like Khawja Mu’inuddin Chisti considers Imam Hussain (a.s) to be “the foundation of Tauheed”
And while the great Iranian Revolution was born out of the institution of Azadari, or commemoration of Karbala,
You have the other extreme of people who dedicate their lives to obliterate the memory of Imam Hussain (a.s) like various rulers in history including Abbasid rulers like Mutawakkil and in contemporary times Saddam in Iraq
You have those who dedicate their lives to dilute the memory and impact of Karbala like those scholars who come for lecture tours to South Africa for the third time with the sole purpose of promoting the discourse that the blame for the brutal murder of Imam Hussain (a.s) should be equally shared between Yazeed and the Shia; or rather calling the Shia “the real villains of Karbala”.
This phenomenon of extreme opposite approaches to connecting with Karbala leaves the serious thinker somewhat confused and deeply reflecting on the possible reasons for this.
In today’s khutbah I would like to offer an understanding of this phenomenon in the light of the Quranic view of the “Nature of Truth.”
Almighty Allah says to us in Surah Ra’d Verse 17 something very profound which mufassireen or commentators of the Quran consider to be a “jewel of a verse.” The verse says:
أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ مَآءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةُ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَداً رَابِياً وَمِمّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَآءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِثْلُهُ كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ فَاَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَآءً وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الأَرْضِ كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الأَمْثَالَ
“Allah sends down water from the heavens and the watercourses flow, each according to its measure, and the torrent carries along a swelling foam. In like manner, from that metal which they smelt in the fire to make ornaments and utensils, there arises scum like it. Thus does Allah compare truth and falsehood. As for the scum, it passes away as a worthless thing; but that which benefits mankind abides on the earth. Thus does Allah explain (the truth) through examples”.
This verse is using an example from the material world to explain the Reality of Truth in comparison to Falsehood.
It says that the rain comes down from the heavens, and then the rivers or streams in the catchment area capture the rain, according to their size.
So a big wide river like the Nile or the Ganges for example will capture a huge amount of rain, whereas a small narrow stream will only capture a little rain, though it does capture some of it.
And when the water flows in the river or stream or whatever channels it flows in, through the movement that we witness we also see a swell of foam that forms on top of the flowing water.
Then this blessed verse takes our mind to another daily occurrence referring to the process wherein metal is melted. In this process we see that the melting causes a type of scum to form on top of the melted metals.
So our attention goes to moving water with a swelling foam on it and melted metals with a scum like formation on top of the melted metals.
At this point in the verse Allah explains why the verse was revealed when it says:
كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ
“Thus does Allah compare truth and falsehood.”
The comparison of rain coming from the sky with the foam like formation on the running water together with the scum that appears on melted metals is supposed to explain to us the nature of truth versus falsehood.
So the verse then explains something very important…..
What happens to the swelling foam on the water and the scum on the melted metals?
In reference to both of these the verse says:
فَاَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَآءً
“As for the scum, it passes away as a worthless thing”
And what happens to the running water and the melted metals?
In reference to both of these the verse says:
وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الأَرْضِ
“but that which benefits mankind abides on the earth”
The water which is of benefit to us and the melted metals which are of benefit remains behind on the earth for us to use and enjoy.
And then to conclude the verse, there is a repetition of the purpose of the verse when it says:
كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الأَمْثَالَ
“Thus does Allah explain (the truth) through examples.”
It is not always when Allah explains realities to us by way of examples in Quran that Allah reminds us twice that He is explaining something to us.
This emphasis by way of repetition causes us to relook at this verse to try to see what is further hidden in this example that we should take heed of?
Allamah Tabatabai beautifully explains that this jewel of a blessed verse is explaining to us certain Universal Concepts of the Divine Sciences.
And I will share with you two of the points that he makes.
1. The existence descending from Allah to that which exists other than Him is not limited in any way. It only takes on a limitation from the point of view of that which exists besides Him, like the rain water that becomes measured in terms of the size of the stream or river.
Therefore existing things take from the Divine Infinite Bounty based on their capacity, the Bounty coming down to us from Allah is infinite, it is us who are limited in our capacity to absorb that bounty.
2. The spreading of this bounty through the channels of this world is not free from scum and waste that sits on it and becomes apparent. But this scum has no value and very soon vanishes.
Truth which descends from Allah to us comes in its infinite form. And it is us who have absorbed this Infinite Truth to different degrees based on our capacity.
There are people in this world who absorbed that Haq or Truth in its Most Perfect form, and they are the Ahlul Bait (a.s) which includes Imam Hussain (a.s).
In the incident of Mubahilah, which was a challenge posed to the Christians of Najran when the Quran commanded Prophet Muhammad (sawa) to bring with him his women, his sons and his selves to earnestly pray and bring the curse of Allah upon the liars, even though the verse of the Quran states in plural form that he should bring 3 or more women, selves and sons, the Prophet (sawa) could not find anyone at the time who was capable to be the real representative of Haq and truth and thus only brought with Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain (Blessings of Allah upon all of them).
Study this incident in detail together with the verse of Quran that was revealed in relation to the incident of Mubahilah and you will see that the only real representatives of Truth who existed at the time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was these five members of the Ahlul Bait. That does not mean others were not truthful, it simply means that their capacity to have absorbed the Truth was limited and they thus did not absorb the Truth in its most complete form.
At the time of Ashura in the year 61AH, Imam Hussain (a.s) was the only surviving member of this group who are referred to in the Quran and thus demonstrated to us on the highest level what this Haq means by giving his life in the most sublime way.
And we who look at Imam Hussain (a.s) have absorbed the Haq from Allah and the Reality of Imam Hussain (a.s) in our own limited way.
And that is why you see that for some people they just don’t know what the fuss is all about when they see us commemorate Ashura and they continue to have a party tomorrow, while others were able to realise that “Every Day is Ashura and Every Place is Karbala” see immense spiritual benefit in these commemorations.
Why this difference in approach? Because our channels to this Haq and Reality of Hussain (a.s) is so limited.
But when you look at those who were martyred with Imam Hussain (a.s) then you see people who had the most complete ma’rifat of the Reality of Imam Hussain (a.s).
Among the companions of Imam Hussain (a.s) were highly learned and articulate people, most of whom gave speeches on the day of Ashura when they came out to fight. In their speech they announced who they were and what their background was.
And some went much further than just explaining who they were but gave speeches which reflected their level of absorption of the Reality of Imam Hussain (a.s) when they said that they were willing to be killed and brought back to life and killed again for Hussain (a.s) 1000 times.
So what is the Truth about Imam Hussain (a.s)’s revolution?
This is a topic which has been manipulated in recent times to cause confusion in the ummah.
Imam Hussain (a.s)’s revolution first started when he was in Madina and received the demand to pledge allegiance to Yazeed. I must emphasise that chronologically, the event starts here. In response to the demand for allegiance, Imam Hussain (a.s) refused and left Medina that very same night as he had no intention to pledge allegiance to a corrupt ruler.
Only then when Imam Hussain (a.s) was in Mecca, did he receive invitations from the people of Kufa to come and take the reins of power. Imam Hussain (a.s) did not just respond but first sent Muslim ibn Aqeel to check the situation on the ground.
Eventually the people of Kufa pulled back, but Imam Hussain (a.s) continued to Karbala.
So I have given two possible reasons so far for the Hussaini Revolution, one of which already was null and void by the time Imam Hussain (a.s) reached Karbala.
So what was the primary reason for his Revolution?
It was to rise up to “enjoin the good and forbid evil.”
And when you realise that this was the central theme, then there is no place for false theories that the blame for the killing of Imam Hussain (a.s) should somehow be shared with Yazeed. I repeat, Imam Hussain (a.s) arose against Yazeed irrespective of the supposed support of the people of Kufa.
It is this practise of “Amr bil ma’roof wa nahi anil munkar” or “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil” that Imam Hussain (a.s) demonstrated in its most perfect form.
So many of us today claim that we practise this very important branch of faith, but our understanding of this institution has not gone beyond:
• some misguided claims against others for supposedly practising bid’ah or innovation;
• or brutal murder of others for no reason like you still see with ISIS;
• or our sectarianism when it comes to political issues affecting the Muslim World
When you say that Imam Hussain (a.s)’s sacrifice is the greatest sacrifice, then people ask what about all the martyrs in the battles during the time of Prophet (sawa).
And we simply say that they are all blessed, but show me a battle:
• Where Prophet Muhammad (sawa) cried for the martyrs before they were even martyred?
• Where people were informed before the time that they were guaranteed to die and that they will not have any material gain?
• Where the body of the leader was crushed with the sharpened hooves of the horses?
• Where the body of the leader’s clothes were robbed and he was left naked?
• Where the martyrs did not get a burial for two days?
• Where their women were imprisoned and robbed and their tents were burnt with the intent to kill them?
• Where they were starved of water in the burning heat for three days?
• Where children of six months old were murdered and young of ten and twelve years old were soldiers?
• Where 18 members of the family of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) were killed in one afternoon?
• And so much more……….
There is no battle comparable to Karbala in history or in the future.
The value of an individual is determined by the quality of his action. In Surah Mulk Verse 2 it says:
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ
“He who created death and life to test you to see who of you are excellent in action”
On the individual level, the excellence of our actions gives value to our persona.
But from among these excellent actions, the value of this ummah is determined by the extent to which they practise “Amr bil ma’roof wa nahi anil munkar” or “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.”
Thus Quran says in Surah Aali Imraan Verse 110:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
“You are the best nations evolved for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.”
When you practise this institution in the most perfect manner like Imam Hussain (a.s) and his followers did, then you become the best of nations.
Thus we see Imam Hussain (a.s) describing his companions to be the best of companions. I repeat, he says that his companions are the best of companions, because there was no possibility that their intention could have been tainted in any way.
In other battles in Islam you found that Quran speaks out against those who drag their heels to come to the battlefield, or they run off in the middle of the battle chasing the booty, or they return from a battle arguing with Imam Ali (a.s) about the booty.
In the army of Imam Hussain (a.s) there was no possibility of any mixed intentions as they were very clear about their destiny.
This is the Reality of Imam Hussain (a.s) and the Reality of the martyrs of Karbala that we are challenged to absorb into our existence and emulate and to participate in those programs that promote this Reality and not those programs that dilute the Reality of Karbala.
In conclusion I invite all of you with your families and friends to join us tonight to commemorate this great event and to connect our souls to the one who absorbed the Truth in its most complete form, Imam Hussain (a.s).
Peace be upon you, Oh Abu Abdillah
And on those souls who came to your camp to put themselves at your disposal
So far that I am alive and the days and nights follow each other, I invoke Allah to send blessings on you forever and ever
May Allah not make this pledge of close physical and spiritual association with you to be my last.
Peace be upon Hussain
And on Ali the son of Hussain
And on the children of Hussain
And on the companions of Hussain
Who sacrificed everything they had for Hussain (peace be upon him)