Jumuah lecture on Friday 13 November 2020 (27 Rabiul Awwal 1442)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
In verse 28 of Surah Ghaafir (chapter 40 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) speaks about the history of Nabi Moosa (a.s):
وَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مُؤْمِنٌ مِنْ آلِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَكْتُمُ إِيمَانَهُ أَتَقْتُلُونَ رَجُلًا أَنْ يَقُولَ رَبِّيَ اللَّهُ وَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ يَكُ كَاذِبًا فَعَلَيْهِ كَذِبُهُ ۖ وَإِنْ يَكُ صَادِقًا يُصِبْكُمْ بَعْضُ الَّذِي يَعِدُكُمْ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ مُسْرِفٌ كَذَّابٌ
“A believer, a man from among the people of Pharaoh, who had concealed his faith, said: “Will ye slay a man because he says, ‘My Lord is Allah’?- when he has indeed come to you with Clear (Signs) from your Lord? and if he be a liar, on him is (the sin of) his lie: but, if he is telling the Truth, then will fall on you something of the (calamity) of which he warns you: Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and
This verse was revealed when Fir’oun decided to kill Nabi Moosa (a.s), and totally wipe him out. It was at this point where someone, referred to in this verse as a believing man from amongst the tribe of Fir’oun who was concealing his faith, questioned Fir’oun on his decision to kill Nabi Moosa (a.s) purely because he said his Lord is Allah (SWT)?
This person further warns Fir’oun about the consequences facing him if Nabi Moosa (a.s) is indeed truthful.
TACTICAL NEGOTIATIONS USED THROUGHOUT HISTORY TO PROTECT PROPHETHOOD
Today, I would like to reflect on this verse, in the situation where Nabi Moosa (a.s) is alone, and hardly anybody supports him, especially from the people of Fir’oun. They are determined to kill him. In this situation, we see a believing man from the same clan emerge and challenges the authority on why Nabi Moosa (a.s) is going to be killed, since all he has done is call Fir’oun to his Lord (SWT).
I would like to take the explanation of this verse further. The history of divine Prophets (a.s) shows that there were always people who were not openly pronouncing their allegiance or faith in the Prophet of their time. Rather, they were great supporters behind the scenes.
This is one of the divine traditions in the history of Prophethood. Sometimes, Almighty Allah (SWT) supports his apostles through people who are undoubtedly true believers, but they are not publicly pronouncing their faith. However, they are the ones who support, resist and protect the Prophet of Allah (SWT) during their time.
Another example would be the people of the cave (Ashaabul Kahf).
LESSONS ON TACTICAL NEGOTIATIONS FROM NABI MOOSA (A.S) AND FIR’OUN
Beautiful is the above quoted verse of the Holy Quran. Look at the logic used by the true believer in how he defends Nabi Moosa (a.s). He says to Fir’oun that he is from the same clan ie. he does not say he is a follower of Nabi Moosa (a.s). This way, he is hoping that Fir’oun will give him a hearing, as Fir’oun thinks that this man will be advising in his best interests.
He starts his discussion with Fir’oun this way, hoping to convince Fir’oun that what Nabi Moosa (a.s) is presenting makes sense, in that he is only inviting towards Almighty Allah (SWT) as the Creator and therefore questions Fir’oun on why the need to kill him.
Another important point to highlight, which we understand from the Quranic narrative, is that they did believe in some form of deity during the time of the Pharaohs. This true believer tried to convince Fir’oun that the arguments of Nabi Moosa (a.s) are concrete.
We learn in this verse that this person then presents the proof of existence of God (SWT) using probability theory. He says to Fir’oun that there are only two possibilities. Either Nabi Moosa (a.s) is a liar, or he is truthful.
So then, if Nabi Moosa (a.s) is a liar and we do not kill him, we will not lose anything. In fact, this person tries to convince Fir’oun in the succeeding verse 29, that he will not lose anything if Nabi Moosa (a.s) is a liar, as ultimately Fir’oun is ruling the empire. His line of argument is that it will only come back to haunt Nabi Moosa (a.s) if he is a liar.
Having said that, this true believer then presents to Fir’oun that he risks losing everything if Nabi Moosa (a.s) is indeed truthful. The severe consequences of denying Nabi Moosa (a.s) will be felt in this world and the hereafter.
This is how the true believer presented a rational argument to Fir’oun in the above mentioned verse, noting that Fir’oun has nothing to lose if Nabi Moosa (a.s) is a liar, but everything to lose if he is indeed truthful but we choose to kill him.
So, this man tried to convince Fir’oun not to kill Nabi Moosa (a.s). This man ends his argument with something thought provoking for Fir’oun to consider, saying that if Nabi Moosa (a.s) is a liar and exploiting the situation, then surely Almighty Allah (SWT) will punish him. Hence, this man is trying to convince Fir’oun that there is no need for him to kill Nabi Moosa (a.s).
In this most rational manner, the true believer from Fir’oun’s clan defends Nabi Moosa (a.s), while concealing his faith. This is strategy which the Holy Quran teaches us, that there are times when the prevailing conditions are not conducive for us to reveal our full identity. However, we use a tactical approach to further our aim, as illustrated by this verse 28 of Surah Ghaafir (chapter 40 of the Holy Quran).
This is the history of Nabi Moosa (a.s), which was similarly experienced by other divine Prophets too.
ABU TALIB – THE COVERT TRUE BELIEVER WHO WAS THE GUARDIAN OF RASULULLAH (SAWA)
In this last Jumuah of Rabiul Awwal, being the month of the auspicious birth of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), where we have benefitted from a wide range of programs to honour this celebration, I would like to expound upon the above verse in the context of the Prophetic Seerah (lifestyle).
History shows that he had the most terrible enemies, without any doubt. They were thirsty for his blood, ready to kill him before he could achieve any success in propagating the divine message of Islam. This is where we once again observe the above divine tradition, established by Almighty Allah (SWT) with previous Prophets, that there was a true believer supporting our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) covertly ie. without exposing his faith.
Who was this person who stood like a steel shield and concrete wall in front of Rasulullah (SAWA), protecting him from the assaults and dangers? Who was this person who protected Rasulullah (SAWA), when there was nobody to protect him? This was a person with unrivalled commitment and challenged the enemies of Rasulullah (SAWA) amongst the Quraysh, thereby ensuring that Rasulullah (SAWA) would not be harmed.
This true believer was the main protection of Rasulullah (SAWA) during that early period, and was none other than his uncle and guardian, Abu Talib. This is another important chapter in the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), which has so many angles.
ABU TALIB ACCEPTS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GUARDIANSHIP OF HIS VERY DEAR NEPHEW
This relationship between Rasulullah (SAWA) and Abu Talib is a very long relationship. I do not think anybody was as close to him in the early years of Islam than Abu Talib. As we know, Rasulullah’s (SAWA) father (Abdullah) passed away before his birth, and his grandfather (Abdul Mutallib) was his guardian until the age of 8, when he passed away too.
Upon the departure of his grandfather from this world, Abdul Mutallib said to his son, Abu Talib, that he is leaving this special grandson in his care ie. in the special care of Abu Talib. Abu Talib was instructed by his father to take special care of Rasulullah (SAWA), as nobody would be able to take care of him any better.
In fact, Abdul Mutallib conveyed this responsibility to Abu Talib through beautiful poetry. It was a culture amongst the Arabs, including Quraysh and Bani Hashim, to express their views in poetic prose. One of the best ways to understand these influential personalities from Arab society, pre-Islamic and even after the advent of Islam, is through their poetry.
Amazing is the poetic statement of Abdul Mutallib (the grandfather of Rasulullah (SAWA)) to his son Abu Talib, conveying the responsibility of guardianship, saying that Rasulullah (SAWA) is unique. He cannot be replaced! Abu Talib similarly replied to his father Abdul Mutallib in poetic form, saying that there is no need to make a will on the guardianship of Rasulullah (SAWA), as he is indeed the apple of his eye and soul of his body.
Interestingly, history also relates that the two brothers, Abdullah (father of Rasulullah (SAWA)) and Abu Talib, were from the same mother and father.
EXTRAORDINARY CARE OF ABU TALIB TO RASULULLAH (SAWA)
Rasulullah (SAWA) was under the custody of this great man, Abu Talib, from the age of 8. The special status of Abu Talib is that he is also the father of Imam Ali (a.s), in addition to being the guardian of Rasulullah (SAWA). And this explains where the issue becomes political!!!
Therefore, when we speak about Abu Talib, people do not see his as being the guardian and uncle of Rasulullah (SAWA). Instead, they only focus on him being the father of Imam Ali (a.s). On this point, let me challenge this approach by noting from the resources of those who believe that Abu Talib was not a true believer. These same people have recorded that Abu Talib went to extraordinary lengths in taking care of Rasulullah (SAWA).
Abu Talib had children of his own and he was also very poor. It is recorded in Sunni resources that Abu Talib preferred our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) over his sons! Not only that, history has recorded that he never allowed Rasulullah (SAWA) to be separate from him, even for a day. In fact, Abu Talib took Rasulullah (SAWA) along with him on his travels too.
Also, Rasulullah (SAWA) slept in the same room as Abu Talib. These are examples of the extraordinary care which Abu Talib had for Rasulullah (SAWA).
EXTRAORDINARY CARE OF FATIMA BINT ASAD TO RASULULLAH (SAWA)
Who is this man, whose wife is Fatima bint Asad, the mother of Imam Ali (a.s)! She was in the camp of Rasulullah (SAWA) all the time, and also migrated to Madina along with him. She passed away in the year 4AH. Rasulullah (SAWA) visited her while she was on her deathbed, and he uttered the following words, as recorded in Sunni resources:
“May the mercy of Allah (SWT) be upon you, oh my mother.
You were my mother after my mother.
Oh mother, I know that you stayed hungry, but instead fed me.
Oh mother, I know that you did not have enough clothing to cover yourself and your children, but you somehow found a way to cover me.
And in those difficult days, oh mother, if there was a chance when there was good food available, I remember you feeding me this good food, instead of your own children.
You did this great sacrifice to attain the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) in this life and the hereafter.”
This gives us a glimpse into the esteemed status of Fatima bint Asad, and through these narrations we understand how Rasulullah (SAWA) describes the guardianship he grew up in. Abu Talib kept his own children hungry but fed Rasulullah (SAWA)!
SPECIAL RESPECT OF RASULULLAH (SAWA) TOWARDS FATIMA BINT ASAD’S JANAZA
History recorded that Rasulullah (SAWA) used his own shirt as the kafan (burial shroud) for Fatima bint Asad when she passed away. This is because Fatima bint Asad heard Rasulullah (SAWA) say during her lifetime, that everyone will be naked on the Day of Judgement (Qiyamah).
This is where this great lady of chastity asked Rasulullah (SAWA) with anguish, whether there is any way for her to be covered on the Day of Qiyamah. On this point, Rasulullah (SAWA) promised her that he would ensure she is covered in his shirt, as nobody would be able to remove this sacred shroud from her. This gives us a glimpse of who Fatima bint Asad was.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) led the Janaza of Fatima bint Asad. As we know from our jurisprudence (Fiqh) we read four Takbiraat in the Janaza salaah (or five according to Shia Fiqh). However, the books of history on the Prophetic lifestyle records that on the Janaza of Fatima bint Asad, Rasulullah (SAWA) recited 70 times Takbir!
History recorded that he entered her grave and cleaned it, preparing the grave for the new resting place of Fatima bint Asad. There are also Hadith which state that Rasulullah (SAWA) slept in the grave as part of the preparation, before placing Fatima bint Asad there.
History further records that he then came out of the grave, shedding tears like pouring rain. The second caliph, Umar ibn Khattab, came forward to Rasulullah (SAWA), stating that he has never seen him go to this extent for anybody’s funeral. Rasulullah (SAWA) explained that Fatima bint Asad was like his own mother to him!
ACADEMIC RESPONSE TO THOSE WHO CHALLENGE THE FAITH OF ABU TALIB
Rasulullah (SAWA) narrates that Abu Talib would go out and work and bring some food home. However, it was the practice of Abu Talib and Fatima bint Asad that they would first ensure Rasulullah (SAWA) is fed before distributing the rest of the food amongst their children. Now we know who these foster parents of Rasulullah (SAWA) were, yet people question their faith!!!
This shows the love and care of Abu Talib towards our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Yes, he did not explicitly announce that he is a Mu’min (true believer) but the way that he defended the Prophetic mission was no different to the true believer from the clan of Fir’oun who fiercely defended Nabi Moosa (a.s).
When there were various assassination attempts on our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), it was Abu Talib who was his greatest encouragement to continue with his Prophetic mission, taking an oath by Allah (SWT) that he will never hand him over to the enemies. This is Abu Talib who was so uncompromising in his defence and protection of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
I would like to end the first khutbah with this statement of Rasulullah (SAWA). He says that until Abu Talib was alive, the Quraysh could not harm him! We all know how Rasulullah (SAWA) mourned when he was presented with the news of Abu Talib’s passing from this world.
There are 3000 couplets of poetry recorded from Abu Talib. Ibn Abi’l-Hadīd al Mutazilī was a great Shafi’i scholar, and he said that 90% of this poetry is in praise of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), and his noble, moral character and mission.
It therefore defies logic and is quite reprehensible why certain Muslims refer to him as a kaafir (non-believer)!!!
Will Rasulullah (SAWA) be in extreme mourning on the passing of his supposed “kaafir” uncle??? These false claims of Abu Talib not being a believer is based on a weak Hadith reported by a hardcore enemy of Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s) by the name of Mughira ibn Shu’ba.
Amazing it is for these Muslims who believe that the worst conspirator, Abu Sufyan, is Muslim, while Abu Talib is a non-believer!!! Amazing it is for these Muslims who believe that the slave who chewed the liver of Sayyidina Hamza is Muslim, and a Sahabi too, while Abu Talib is a non-believer!!!
There is so much to discuss on this great personality of Abu Talib, but let me conclude with something to think about: Who made it possible for our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) to marry Lady Khadijatul Kubra (s.a)? Indeed, it was none other than Abu Talib.
Without doubt, we are deeply indebted to this man, Abu Talib, for his highly significant influential role in the establishment of Islam. We need to reflect on this great man and how he used this strategy of not revealing his full faith publicly but doing the most crucial job of protecting our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his Islamic mission.
To add further food for thought on the mighty status of Abu Talib, Rasulullah (SAWA) declared the year that he died as Aamul Huzn ie. the year of mourning. So then, the question is, do you announce this on the passing away of a non-believer?
SECOND KHUTBAH – CORRUPTION, RACISM AND COVID SPIKE DOMINATE NEWS HEADLINES THIS WEEK
I would like to mention a few headline issues without elaborating on the details, due to time constraints.
1. Firstly, it is indeed encouraging to see some developments in the fight against corruption in our country. We hope that justice will prevail above political alliances.
2. Secondly, the rise of the ugly scourge of racism in different venues of our society is a very serious problem. We need to address this challenge honestly, which is not confined to one particular community or class of society, as it is a widespread problem.
3. Besides racism is the reactionary, populist politics of exploitation. This is what we always see with politicians ever ready to exploit any situation for their own agenda.
4. We are seeing an increase in the coronavirus infection rate, which is again a reminder of the necessary precautions we all need to exercise regarding this very serious challenge facing the entire world.
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