Lecture 3 of Arba-een 2016 series
By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 19 November 2016 at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
We have thus far stated that the movement against truth throughout history occurred in the following stages:
– It firstly took the form of verbal and similar forms of non-violent resistance. In the case of Imam Husayn (a.s) this included demanding his pledge of allegiance to the corrupt ruler, Yazid;
– Secondly it took the form of violent resistance. In the case of Imam Husayn (a.s) it resulted in his martyrdom and that of his family and followers;
– Thirdly it took the form of efforts to conceal the historical event.
– Fourthly, when the attempt to conceal the historical event failed, it took the form of distortion (tahreef) of the event and the message of the movement of truth.
In Karbala, this included fabrications of ahadith to reduce the significance of the day of Ashura together with promoting interpretations of this event indicating that Imam Husayn (a.s) erred in his judgement to rise up against Yazid. This was distortion of the event of Karbala which was caused by the enemies of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) themselves.
But further distortion occurred from within among certain of the followers of Imam Husayn (a.s) when they attributed his martyrdom as having served the purpose of redeeming us for our sins.
This internal distortion of the message of Karbala also took the form of orators fabricating stories of what actually happened at Karbala in an attempt to cause people to cry during gatherings to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s) .
Of course shedding tears for Imam Husayn (a.s) is considered to be one of the highest forms of worship, but when it is done with fabricated stories, then it becomes false tears as Imam Husayn (a.s)’s martyrdom is not elevated any further by false narrations but actually does a major disservice to this sublime institution.
THE ENEMY FROM WITHIN
The name of Imam Husayn (AS) itself is extremely magnetic like nothing else and the memory of Karbala attracts millions of people. Unfortunately there are those waiting to exploit this reality and these people are not necessarily enemies of Imam Husayn (a.s). These are the superficial friends, like the people of Kufa who loved Imam Husayn (AS) but were not ready to sacrifice for Imam Husayn (AS).
When Imam Husayn (AS) left Makkah and was travelling to Kufa and stopped people on his way wanting to know from them what the situation in Kufa is like, they replied by saying: “Their hearts are with you, but their swords are against you”. This means they like you but they are not ready to stand with you, because it will clash with their worldly pursuits.
Imam Husayn (AS) analyzes this issue so accurately on the day of Ashura when he says:
“People are slaves of this (material) world and religion is like saliva in their mouth. They rotate it inside their mouth, as long as their life is comfortable, but when they are surrounded by tests and hardships, very few are those who are committed to religion.”
Naturally, lots of people love Imam Husayn (AS), because of his message of humanness, love and compassion, but are not ready to disband from their worldly pursuits and rather sacrifice in his name. It is important for us to reflect on whether this applies to us…are we ready to separate from the luxuries of this world??
IMAMS OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S) RETAINED THEIR ACADEMIC AND SPIRITUAL SUPREMACY THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Shia, or the followers of the Holy Household of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) i.e. Ahlul Bait (AS) were always in the minority, and always in the opposition, except for a few limited periods.
Examples are limited to the period of governance of 4 years of Imam Ali (AS) and the 6 months of governance of Imam Hassan (AS). Furthermore, mainstream Shia never enjoyed power, although there were some offshoots of Shia who established themselves in North Africa, like the Fatimids, but mainstream Shia were always in the minority.
The central leadership of Shia under our infallible Imams (AS) were always targeted and were never allowed to expand and establish themselves. This is a historical fact which nobody can deny, but despite this nobody could challenge the centrality of Ahlul Bait (AS) in spiritual and academic excellence.
Let’s review one simple example. The sixth Imam of Ahlul Bait (AS), Imam Jafar Sadiq (AS) and his followers were very few in number, but amazingly scholars from ALL walks of life were present in his class. The followers of Imam Jafar Sadiq (AS) are a distinct minority, but those who are his students basically cover everybody.
Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) and other great scholars of Sunni ideological position are students of Imam Jafar Sadiq (AS). So they did not accept Imam Jafar Sadiq (AS) as their leader but they could not deny the cultural, academic and spiritual superiority of Ahlul Bayt (AS).
If one analyses the mystical approach or Tasawwuf, which is a Sunni phenomenon, we find that it survives on its link to the Ahlul Bait (AS). They found their masters to be Ahlul Bait (AS)!
Now, the opposition of Ahlul Bait (AS) like Umayyad were openly fighting with Ahlul Bait (AS) but the Abbasid dynasty were shrewd enemies of Ahlul Bait (AS). They infiltrated, with the aim of destroying the image of Ahlul Bait (AS) with the intention of removing the attraction of the people to Ahlul Bait (AS).
With all the opposition they could not remove the authority of Ahlul Bait (AS) on cultural, academic, and spiritual fields of excellence. Thus the Abbasid Dynasty used strategies of internal infiltration in order to defame this superiority of Ahlul Bayt (AS).
VERY IMPORTANT ADVICE OF IMAM ALI REZA (AS) TO IDENTIFY DISTORTION (TAHREEF) WITH RESPECT TO THE AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
It is narrated that the eighth Imam of Ahlul Bait (AS), Imam Ali ibn Musa Reza (AS) is recorded to have issued the following advice to one of his students by the name of Ibrahim ibn Abu Mahmud.
Ibn Abu Mahmud stated to Imam Reza (AS):
“We have some traditions which praise the virtues of Imam Ali (AS) and you Ahlul Bait (AS), but these narrations are not coming from your supporters, but rather from your opposition. We don’t know similar traditions coming from your support base. These narrations speak very uniquely about you, beyond what your supporters speak about you. Can we accept them, because they are portraying you in a very positive manner?”
Imam Reza (AS) responds by saying:
“My father informed me through his authentic ancestry up to Rasulullah (SAWA) that he who listens to a speaker worships him. If the speaker talks on behalf of Allah (SWT), he serves Allah (SWT). If the speaker talks on behalf of Satan, he worships Satan.”
Imam Reza (AS) is saying that qualities of the speaker are critical and the speaker must practice what he preaches. If person is a man of God, then you are worshipping Allah (SWT), otherwise you are worshipping Satan. One should thus not listen to just anybody!
Imam Reza (AS) then crisply responds by saying those who oppose us, distorted our virtues in 3 different methods of fabrication:
– creating ahadith of exaggeration;
– creating ahadith which degrade us;
– creating ahadith which speak explicit bad things about the crimes of our enemies
The purpose of these exaggerations (ghuluw) is such that people will think that the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) are disbelievers when they listen to exaggeration about us. Exaggeration to the point where they will promote ideas that Ahlul Bait (AS) are God, like what happened in the time of Imam Ali (AS).
The purpose of degrading the status of Ahlul Bait (AS) is to cause the common man to not appreciate the supreme status of Ahlul Bait (AS).
And when people will listen to explicit bad things about our enemies, they will speak explicit bad things (abusive language) about us Ahlul Bait (AS)!
Imam Reza (AS) says that Almighty Allah (SWT) says do not use abusive language about the gods of those who create partners with Allah (SWT), because they will use abusive language about Allah (SWT)!
Then Imam Reza (AS) concludes his advice by saying:
“Son of Abu Mahmud, when men go to left and right, then cling to our way, for we cling to him who clings to us and separate ourselves from him who separates himself from us. Son of Abu Mahmud, keep in mind what I have told you, for I have gathered for you the good of this world and the next.”
Let’s now briefly analyse the 3 challenges which Imam Reza (AS) highlighted.
EXAGGERATION (GHULUW) WITH RESPECT TO VIRTUES OF THE AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
This is a serious problem which existed in religions before as well, and even in the time of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) in different forms. This is also how Kharijites came into existence, through exaggerated pseudo-piety.
It is reported from Abu Said Khudri who narrates that:
“Once we were in the presence and company of the Holy Prophet (SAWA). He was distributing spoils of war when a person named Zul-Khawaisara, who was from the tribe of Bani Tamim addressed the Holy Prophet (SAWA) “Oh Muhammad Be Just!”
The Prophet (SAWA) replied: “A Great pity that you have doubts, if I am unjust then who will be just? You are a loser and a failure.”
Zul-Khawaisara is the founder of the Kharijite movement!
Now, the earlier Hadith from Imam Reza (AS) says these are the innocent people who love Ahlul Bait (AS), but there are people ready to exploit this love for their mischievous gains.
Exaggeration was a very big problem in the history of Ahlul Bait (AS). When Imam Ali (AS) went to Basra, there were people from Sudan who came and told him that he is God. Imam Ali (AS) warned them to repent for this ghastly belief they had, but they refused, and Imam Ali (AS) had them punished.
This problem of exaggeration intensified after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (AS) and it became even stronger among unknown people.
There are plenty of hadith from the Imams of Ahlul Bait (AS) where they condemn this exaggeration and extremism in love of Ahlul Bait (AS). They repeatedly warned that they are “creation”, and not the “Creator”.
Though there are no longer such people, but it is important to understand this issue from its intended purpose.
We are innocently accused on a daily basis by our enemies, claiming that we have exaggerated positions when it comes to our love of Ahlul Bait (AS). However, there is no more purer explanation of Tauheed beyond the Shia understanding of Tauheed which we obtain as explained in such a pristine manner by Imam Ali (AS) in Nahjul Balagha.
So even if you hear a Shia scholar saying on Youtube the Imams have the actual Attributes of Allah, then you should not be misled by such speeches as its Ghuluw and its purpose it for our enemies to declare us as non-believers.
Ahlul Bait (AS) warned us about fabricated exaggeration in their name. The intended purpose of exaggeration is to declare Shia Kafir, and therefore legitimizing for Shia to be killed and ostracized like we see today.
Ayatullah Shaheed Muhammad Baqir Sadr explains that exaggeration has 3 levels:
1. Attributes of Allah (SWT) are applied on Ahlul Bait (AS).
2. Making Imam Ali (AS) higher than Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
3. Considering Ma’rifat of Ahlul Bait as sufficient, which absolves one of all religious responsibilities like Salaah, Hajj, etc.
Imams of Ahlul Bait (AS) responded very strongly against such people!
UNDERMINING THE STATUS (TAQSIR) OF AHLUL BAIT (AS)
This is exactly opposite to exaggeration, where the aim is to reduce the status of Ahlul Bait (AS) down to a common man.
This is another very serious problem. In some of the hadith, Ahlul Bait (AS) taught us that we will not be able to understand who they are and what their status is. Their status is extremely unique!
ENEMY INFILTRATES AND OPENLY PROMOTES EVIL ABOUT OUR ENEMIES
This has become a serious problem today with open access to vile propagation by Shia speakers like Yasser Habib from UK, whom all leading Maraji’ have categorically denounced.
Shiasm of London is not Shiasm of Najaf and Qum! The path of this poisonous speaker Yasser Habib is not the path of Ahlul Bait (AS). It is critical to remember that the manners and etiquette, and ethics and morality of Ahlul Bait (AS) is not to abuse anyone.
The institution of Tabarra or dissociation from the enemies of Allah or even cursing should not involve abusing sacred symbols of others including the Ahlus Sunnah. This includes the sahabah and wives of the Prophet (sawa). Even though we are critical about certain personalities in history, we are not allowed to abuse them.
In current times, social media outlets like Facebook, WhatsApp and others are places where people taunt the Shia to push them to say something abusive about the personalities in history that we differ with, and once we are caught out, it is used as leverage against us! So be very careful of this trap!!
When Imam Zainul Abidin (AS) was called a Kharijite in Syria, he challenged their conscience and inner voice rather than responding with abusive language. This is the manner in which people were invited to true Islam!