and how Imam Ali (a.s) is connected every step of the way

The institution of dua is the foundation of worship and is a topic which has been presented in the Quran in the most unique manner to demonstrate it’s primary importance. It has consequently been the subject of much discussion and interpretation by scholars over the ages with continuous fresh insight being presented on the topic.

One of the issues relating to dua which most people are interested in is what are the causes for dua to be mustajab or responded to.

In response to this question Allamah Tabatabai explains in Tafseer Al-Mizan that it’s the dua which is made exclusively to Almighty Allah with absolute sincerity that is mustajab. Human nature is making such dua all the time and such dua is being responded to all the time and thus much more dua is travelling through the universe at any point in time than the dua made through the movement of our tongue.

So you will understand that when a dua is made by a Prophet who is from the ulul atham Prophets and obviously purified and who has been given the station of Imamate in addition to his Prophethood and that the Imamate given to him will be passed on through his progeny and that Prophet has named the monotheists Muslim and that Prophet’s worshipping rituals will remain and that Prophet’s sacrifice will be replaced by a greater sacrifice in his progeny….when such a Prophet makes a dua, then it most certainly is mustajab as that Prophet has travelled beyond the spiritual station of making dua exclusively to Almighty Allah.

And when the time had arrived for that dua to be responded to, then nothing could come in its way from being fulfilled.

Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) made this dua which I refer to for the sending of a future Prophet from the people of Mecca and the fulfilment of that dua occurred in the month of Rabi ul Awwal in the year known as the year of the Elephant on the 9th or 12th of that month according to most Sunni resources or on the 17th of Rabi ul Awwal according to most Shia resources.

So Abraha’s attempt to destroy the Ka’ba failed miserably as the one who was going to purify the Ka’ba once more was about to be born.

In the past we have listened to great and deeply philosophical discussions by Mowlana Aftab Haider on topics like the Haqiqat or Truth/Reality/Fact of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) or how the Mi’raj demonstrates the unmatched status of the Prophet (sawa).

If one wants to capture the Essence of Prophet Muhammed (sawa) himself then it’s best captured in Almighty Allah’s words about him that he is Rahma personified as we understand from the verse “We have not sent you except as a Mercy unto the universe.”

However for this year it’s my intention to use the time available tonight and during jumuah as well as our program on the night of the 17th of Rabiul Awwal and the jumuah of 1 January Insha’Allah to analyse this dua of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) when he prayed for the sending of a Prophet and how this dua was answered.

And while doing this to examine how Imam Ali (a.s) is present every step of the way as this dua is answered.

Prophet Ibrahim (a.s), after having built the Ka’ba, made certain duas which are recorded in the Quran. From among those duas he prayed for the sending of a Prophet from the people of Mecca and even requested that this Prophet should have a very particular program entrenched in his mission.

This dua is captured in surah 2 verse 129 when it says:

رَبَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ العَزِيزُ الحَكِيمُ

“Our Lord! Raise from among them a Messenger who will recite for them your signs, and will teach them the Book and Wisdom and will purify them, Verily thou art the Mighty, the Wise.”

In this verse, besides making dua for the sending of a Messenger, the proposed outline of the program of the Messenger’s mission is requested in this order:

  1. Recite for them your signs;
  2. Teach them the Book;
  3. And the Wisdom;
  4. And purify them

So this dua mentions 4 broad but specific outcomes for the mission of this Messenger.

However, when Almighty Allah introduces the program of the Messenger’s Mission, it is introduced with the same elements as captured in the Dua of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) but with a slight change in its sequence.

Thus this program from the perspective of Almighty Allah is introduced in 3 different verses in the Quran.

In Surah Baqarah Verse 151 it says:

كَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِيكُمْ رَسُولاً مِّنكُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِنَا وَيُزَكِّيكُمْ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ

“Like we sent among you a Messenger from among yourselves who recites to you our signs, and he purifies you and he teaches you the Book and the Wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know”

In this verse the program of the Mission of the Prophethood of Muhammed (sawa) has the same 4 specific outcomes but in a slightly different sequence as follows:

  1. The reciting of the signs of Allah to the people is still the first required outcome.
  2. The second outcome is to purify them
  3. The third outcome is to teach them the Book after they have been purified
  4. And the fourth and final outcome is to teach them the Wisdom.

And all of the above mentioned 4 specific outcomes achieves one overall outcome and that is to teach us that which we would never have known other than if the Messenger was sent to us. As much advancement we have made and will still make scientifically, the knowledge that we were to receive through the Messenger is of such a unique nature that we would not otherwise receive in any other manner.

Whereas in the proposed sequence by Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) for the Prophetic program; purification is the final outcome, but in Allah’s sequence it’s a preliminary requirement for being taught the Book and Wisdom.

This same sequence of the program for the Messenger’s Mission is contained in Surah Jumuah Verse 2 when it says:

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ

“It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and Wisdom”

In this verse, besides presenting the program of the Prophetic Mission, in the same sequence, the responsibility for having sent the Messenger is attributed to Almighty Allah when it says:

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ

“It is he who has sent”

And furthermore the verse makes mention of one important description of the Prophet (sawa) which serves an important purpose for all mankind until the day of judgement and that is that he is a Messenger from the unlettered people and in other places even he himself is described as being unlettered – for a very specific reason.

This sequence of the program for the Messenger’s Mission is contained in one other verse in the Quran and that is in Surah Aali-Imraan Verse 164 which says:

لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ

“Certainly did Allah confer a special favour upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and Wisdom”

You may ask what is the reason for the change in sequence in the program for the Prophetic Mission as proposed by Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) compared to the one outlined by Allah, and we will try to answer this question later on.

But for the purpose of tonight’s program I would like to first discuss the manner in which the Messenger (sawa) has been introduced and the preliminaries of his program and the discussion will then be continued in the next two jumuahs and on the night of the 17th Rabiul Awwal Insha’Allah.

In the verse of Surah Jumuah that we quoted earlier wherein Allah takes the responsibility upon Himself for having sent the Messenger, there are many philosophical explanations for this, but I will share with you a beautiful hadith of Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s) in this regard.

In the book Al Kafi, under the subject “Book of Divine Proof” and the Chapter “the Need for a Divine Proof” in Hadith 2:

Muhammad ibn Isma‘il (–) al-Fadl ibn Shadhan (–) Safwan ibn Yahya that Mansur ibn Hazim said:

“I said to Abu Abdillah (Imam Sadiq) (a.s): ‘Verily Allah is too Majestic and too High to be known through His creation; rather, His creation knows Him through Him.’ He replied: ‘What you say is true.’ I said: `Whoever has realized that there is a Lord for him, should also realize that his Lord has things which please (Him) and things which displease (Him), and that His pleasure and His displeasure cannot be known except through revelation or through His Messenger. Thus, whoever receives no revelation should seek out the Messengers, and when he finds them he should know that they are the Proofs, and that to them belongs binding obedience…”

This hadith has a second portion which I will share with you in a moment, but the hadith ends with Imam Saadiq (a.s) acknowledging the accuracy of the description of Mansur by saying to him “May Allah be Merciful to you.”

Almighty Allah has taken the responsibility upon Himself to send His Messenger as we do not have the ability to know Allah except through His proofs. But the need for proofs does not end with the Messenger.

Thus the hadith continues when Mansur says to Imam Saadiq (a.s):

“I have said to the people: “Do you know that the Messenger of All?h (peace be upon him and his progeny) was the Proof of Allah for His creatures?” They have said: “Yes.” I have said: “When he (sawa) passed away, who was then the Proof?” They have said: “The Qur’an.” So I have looked at the Qur’an, and I have found that it is used as a Proof by the Murji’ites, the Qadarites, and the Zindeeqs who do not even believe in the Qur’an but only use it to defeat the arguments of others in disputation. Thus I have come to know that the Qur’an cannot be regarded as a Proof unless there is a custodian, such that whatever he says is true. So I asked the people: “Who is the custodian of the Qur’an?” They replied: “Ibn Mas‘ud knew it, ‘Umar knew it, and Hudhayfah knew it.” I then asked: “All of it?” They said: “No.” So I have not found anyone who says that he knows all of it except ‘Ali (a.s). If a problem arose between the people (concerning the Qur’an), and one said “I do not know”, and another said “I do not know”, and another said “I do not know”, this one (i.e., ‘Ali) said “I do know”; thus I avow that ‘Ali (a.s) was the custodian of the Qur’an. Hence, obedience to him was binding and he was the Proof for mankind after the Messenger of Allah (sawa); whatever he has said concerning the Qur’an is certainly true.’

While Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as Messenger was the Proof of Allah on earth, after him the Proof of Allah on earth was Imam Ali. Thus Imam (a.s) is present with the Messenger from the day Imam Ali (a.s) was born.

The mentioning of the Prophet (sawa) as an unlettered Prophet and in the verse of Surah Jumuah which refers to him having been sent to an unlettered people itself serves as a proof of the truthfulness of the Prophethood of Muhammad (sawa).

We are at that time of the year when school has closed for countries in the Southern Hemisphere and children have received their reports on their progress during the year and educators and parents reflect on the past year. In the primary school system in South Africa, the 7 years spent at primary school is essentially divided into 2 parts, i.e. the Foundation Phase is from Grade R to Grade 3 and the Intermediate and Senior Phase is from Grade 4 to Grade 7.

So a Grade 3 teacher made a comment recently that caught my attention. She said that in Grades 1 to 3, the learners are required to do oral presentations 4 times a year but they prepare for it at home. And even though instructions are given that children should substantially prepare on their own, it’s obvious that in most cases the parents virtually wrote the entire oral for the children and they then do excellent presentations. But when they get to Grade 4 and now have to do the preparation for the orals on their own at school, then suddenly you see the quality of the orals crash.

That is because we as human beings rationally understand, that when you see a young child presenting a piece of information that is of such superior quality which is beyond the average level of education at that age, then you immediately conclude that the child was most likely assisted by an adult or a knowledgeable person.

The repeated reference in the Quran to the Prophet (sawa) as an unlettered Prophet has that effect on anyone who reads the Quran, and that is that it was impossible for one who was not traditionally educated in regular schools to have produced a message with such sublime content without Divine Assistance.

But from deeper reflection you will actually realize that the sending of the Messenger to the Universe was not only to complete the Proof of Allah on us, but it was more than that.

Thus in the verse of Surah Aali-Imraan, the sending of the Messenger is introduced in an even more profound way when it says:

َقَدْ مَنَّ اللّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ

“Certainly did Allah confer a special favour upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves”

Here the sending of the Messenger is considered to be more than a proof of Allah on us but a very special favour.

The use of certain words in Quran to relate very specific meanings is one of the jewels of the Quran.

So when it comes to the favours of Almighty Allah on us, in many places in the Quran Allah reminds us about those favours and reminds previous nations about those favours through the use of the word “ni’mah”.

So for example in relation to the Bani-Israeel to whom Allah had sent so much blessing Allah reminds them in the following manner in various places in Quran:

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ

“O Children of Israel, remember My favour which I have bestowed upon you.”

We are continually reminded of Allah’s “ni’mah” and favours upon us in the Quran and this reminder is then concluded with the advice that we do not have the capacity to ever count and enumerate all the favours of Allah when we are told in Surah Ibrahim Verse 34:

وءَاتَاكُم مِن كُلّ‌ِ مَا سَاَلْتُـمُوهُ وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لاَ تُحْصُوهَآ إِنَّ الإِنسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ

And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favour of Allah , you could not enumerate them”

Remember my introductory point about the reality of dua…. here Allah says He gives you whatever you ask of Him, we are asking Allah all the time through our tongue of nature… and Allah is giving us all the time in response to our asking, and these favours or “Ni’amatillah” are such that they are innumerable.

So Imam Ali (a.s) says in the opening lines of Khutbah number 1 in Nahjul Balagha:

“Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, and whose favours cannot be counted by calculators”

This is the status of Allah’s favours upon us in a general sense and we are unable to thank Him for it as He ought to be thanked.

But when it comes to Prophethood and Messengership, the sending of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is not introduced as Allah’s ni’mah or favour on us, but it’s introduced as Allah’s “manna” on us or extremely special or great favour

If regular favours of Allah to us cannot be enumerated, then we have very little or even no clue of how great a favour and Lutf or Grace of Allah we received through the sending of Muhammad (sawa).

And the only other favour of Allah that is referred to as “manna” or “special favour” of Allah on us is in the Quran besides the Messengership is with reference to Imamate when Allah says in Surah Qasas Verse 5:

وَنُرِيدُ أَن نَّمُنَّ عَلَي الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا فِي الاَرْضِ وَنَجْعَلَهُمْ أَئِمَّةً وَنَجْعَلَهُمُ الْوَارِثِينَ

“And We wanted to confer a special favour upon those who were oppressed in the land and make them leaders and make them inheritors.”

Just as the Messengership of Muhammad (sawa) is a special favour to us, so the institution of Imamate which starts with Imam Ali (a.s) is a special favour of Allah unto us.

Now this Messenger, whose Messengership is proven beyond doubt, who is Allah’s most special favour unto us, who is the personification of Mercy or “Rahmatan lil aalamin” has a programme with specific outcomes or in our contemporary terminology “KPA’s”, i.e. “Key Performance Areas.”

The first specific outcome is “He recites to them His verses.”

This first outcome of “tilawah” of the “ayaat” or reciting the verses or signs of Allah is a very interesting discussion and deserves an independent lecture by itself, but just for the purposes of our discussion I will mention a few points.

Reciting the ayaat or verses of Allah refers to reciting the verses of the Quran to us.

But ayaat also refers to signs of Allah as every verse in the Quran has the quality of being a “sign” of Allah.

The Prophet (sawa) has to recite the ayaat of Allah to us because the Quran itself says what is the outcome of a recital when it’s done as it out to be done:

الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَتْلُونَهُ حَقَّ تِلاَوَتِهِ أُوْلَـئِكَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَمن يَكْفُرْ بِهِ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

“Those to whom We have given the Book recite it as it aught to be recited. They are the ones who truly believe in it.”

True recitation or tilawah of the Quran is bound to bring Iman and belief in the Quran.

Some people believe that true recitation means to uphold the laws of tajweed…. and on one level that certainly has its place and impacted the hearts of many who accepted Islam through purely listening to the beautiful recitation of the Quran without yet having understood much of its details.

But true recitation of the Ayaat of Allah also means to uphold its laws and regulations.

And true recitation of Ayaat of Allah does not only bring Iman but causes an increase in Iman:

وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا

“and when His verses (ayaat) are recited to them, it increases them in faith” (Surah Anfaal Verse 2).

So the first responsibility of the Mission of Prophethood is to recite the Ayaat of Allah to us to ignite the spiritual light of Ruhaniyyat in us and in our next lecture during jumuah we will expand further on very important issues on this topic of how the Prophet (sawa) recites the Ayaat of Allah to us.

And let me say a closing word on world happenings at the moment. However sad we feel about the happenings in places like Nigeria where its people and leadership are killed and arrested, or the assassination of Samir Quntar from Lebanon who spent 29 years in an Israeli prison or the rocket attack again on the shrine of Imam Askari in Sammara, the light of the Prophetic Mission and the Rise of the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is getting stronger day by day. The spreading of the message of Islam and the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is becoming so much more established beyond the Islamic Republic where the revolution sparked its spread.

During these decades people were even saying ridiculous things like why are there only Iranian Marja’s and so on. But leadership has naturally evolved in the communities of followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) such that today you see this school on centre stage not only in Iran, but in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and now Nigeria which is the heart of the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Africa.

And what we not very familiar with is that the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is strong in many African countries.

From Abraha to Yazied to present day ISIS who thought they could crush the followers of the Ka’ba and Ahlul Bait (a.s), they disappeared and will disappear into history and their victims became the victors and will become the victors.

Before the incarceration of Ayatullah Nimr Baqir al Nimr, many did not even know that there are hundreds of thousands of followers of the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

The exile once upon a time of Imam Khomeini to different parts of the world caused him to become famous and led to the eventual victory of the Islamic Revolution.

And I really believe that with the arrest of Sheikh Zakzaky, the reality of the existence of followers of the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Africa at large in tens of millions has been propelled to centre stage.

This great country of Iraq which is a dominant player in the world today and thus ISIS was planted there to reduce its influence, it sacrificed some of its best ulama like Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir Sadr to be in this position today.

And in Nigeria, with the arrest of Sheikh Zakzaky who is the de facto leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, we can only see a greater future for the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Africa.

One of the amazing phenomena about Africa is the huge number of Sufi Tariqahs that exist in Africa with huge followings that go into tens of millions. And the relationship between the Shia and the leaders of the Sufi tariqahs in Africa has been a good one. So you have often seen how many times high ranking Sunnis would pray behind Sheikh Zakzaky.

Now the fear that the Nigerian reality creates is this, that if leaders of these Sufi tariqahs start accepting the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s), then you will see the people of Africa accepting the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) en masse!

And that possibility is not far fetched at all as Nigeria has already proven it with over 10 million people becoming followers of this School at the hands of Sheikh Zakzaky.

And with this potential in Africa, this continent is not only ripe for economic growth, but is ripe for the spread of Islam from the perspective of the true custodians of the Quran which is the Ahlul Bait (a.s).

We pray to Almighty Allah for the protection of our ulama and leaders world wide and those in prison including Sheikh Zakzaky, Ayatullah Nimr Baqir al Nimr in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Ali Salman in Bahrain and all oppressed worldwide.

Insha’Allah in jumuah and on Monday night 28 December 2015 and jumuah of 1 January 2015 we will continue with this theme and discuss the rest of the program for Mission of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).