IMAM HUSAYN (A.S) – HEIR OF THE PROPHETS (Analyzing the phenomenon of deviation as witnessed by the Prophets)

By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 4 October 2016 (Muharram 1438) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)

In our previous discussion the factors involved in the phenomenon of deviation in the history of mankind were explained. We concluded that this disease of deviation from the right path and resistance against the message of truth is a repeated phenomenon in the history of mankind from start to present and we reflected on why it is this way.


Our previous discussion focused on the internal factors which result in this behavior, but there are some external factors and elements which play a very important role in deviation as well.

We discussed the need to understand what is a human being (Insan), both individually and communally, in order to understand why human beings rebel and become corrupt, resulting in it creating the worst disasters imaginable.

Almghty Allah (SWT) explains in the Holy Quran how He regards humanity as the best and most honorable of creations. There are many verses of the Holy Quran which refers to this point, such as verse 70 of chapter 17 (Surah al-Israa) for example:

وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ 
“We have honoured the sons of Adam”

Plenty of verses guide us to this point of superiority of human beings. Our previous discussion explained why, and also the arguments presented by angels.

In summary, human beings are better because they have:

1. Free will;

2. Power of thinking, learning and teaching, together with capability of analyzing;

3. A sense of acceptance of its responsibility, which is not in other creations of Allah (SWT).

These qualities which make Insan distinguished results in Insan being able to reach much greater heights than angels.

However, these same positive powers are the grounds of trouble when misused and exploited. The result of free will is that there is no compulsion. The path is open for you to choose which direction you want to go. So these are the internal factors to understand deviation.


According to the Holy Quran, the first and most crucial external factor which causes human beings to go astray and far away from truth is Shaytaan.

In verse 34 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) says:

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ

“And when We said to the angels: Make prostration to Adam they did prostrate, but Iblis (did it not). He refused and he was proud, and he was one of the unbelievers.”

Quran says they all made Sajdah, except Iblis. He avoided and showed arrogance and he was among the disbelievers.

So, in sequence, Almighty Allah (SWT) first discusses the internal qualities of human beings in verses 30 – 33 of Surah Baqarah (refer to the previous lecture for a comprehensive discussion on this).

Thereafter Allah (SWT) moves to introduce Shaytaan in verse 34. Without knowing Shaytaan we won’t be able to understand deviation!

Imam Ali (AS) taught us that to know your enemy is as important as knowing your friend, because if you don’t know your enemy you will never be able to fight with him.

In a hadith from Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he says that whoever recognized himself has recognized his Creator.


Shaytaan in Arabic is a common noun that can be applied to any of a number of members, whether Jinn or human who are mischievous due to being misguided. Iblis however is a proper name that refers to a particular satan who refused to bow to Adam (AS).

The Holy Quran explains that Iblis was not an angel, but rather was a Jinn. Remember we said that angels are always good. There is no clash amongst them. Therefore in philosophy we say that angels have pure intellect.

The above verse 34 of Surah Baqarah could be misinterpreted to believe that Iblis was part of Mala’ika (angels), but that is not correct.

Almighty Allah (SWT) commanded all the angels to bow to Nabi Adam (AS), but in the same verse He says that Iblis refused. So this makes some to conclude incorrectly that Iblis was part of angels.

Iblis was a Jinn and not an angel (Mala’ika). Jinn are a creation between angels (Mala’ika) and human beings. They have some form of purity from materialism, but at the same time they have a connection to matter. Therefore, we find that in Jinn there is conflict, similar to human beings.

Commentators of the Holy Quran (Mufassireen) have explained that the above-mentioned verse actual indicated that EVERY creation must bow down before Nabi Adam (AS), not only Malaika. Iblis was the one who refused.

Iblis was amongst the most pious and worshipping creation of Almighty Allah (SWT).

Imam Ali (AS) says in Nahjul Balagha that Iblis worshipped Allah (SWT) for circa 6,000 years. 
Bear in mind that the years in this context were different to our calendar year. Their year is different ie. not 365 days.


This crucial question can best be explained through the following verses of the Holy Quran, from Surah Saad (chapter 38), verses 71 – 74:

إِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِنْ طِينٍ 
“Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man from clay”

فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ
“When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in prostration unto him.”

فَسَجَدَ الْمَلَائِكَةُ كُلُّهُمْ أَجْمَعُونَ 
“So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together”

إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ اسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ 
“Not so Iblis: he was arrogant, and became one of those who reject Faith.”

These same points were covered in the verses referenced from Surah Baqarah (chapter 2) in the previous lecture.

Now, Allah (SWT) asked from Iblis what stopped him from making Sajdah for something which He has created. This is covered in verse 75 of Surah Saad:

قَالَ يَا إِبْلِيسُ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَنْ تَسْجُدَ لِمَا خَلَقْتُ بِيَدَيَّ ۖ أَسْتَكْبَرْتَ أَمْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الْعَالِينَ

Allah said: “O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with my hands? Art thou arrogant? Or art thou one of the high (and mighty) ones?”

Iblis replies in verse 76:

قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْهُ ۖ خَلَقْتَنِي مِنْ نَارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِنْ طِينٍ

Iblis said: “I am better than he: thou created me from fire, and him thou created from clay.”

Almighty Allah (SWT) responds angrily in verse 77:

قَالَ فَاخْرُجْ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّكَ رَجِيمٌ

(Allah) said: “Then get thee out from here: for thou art rejected, accursed.”

After sooo much of Ibadah (worship) and being in the service of Allah (SWT), Iblis refused to surrender to the call of Sajdah by Almighty Allah (SWT). This particular statement of Iblis is the start of external trouble, because he basically said he is not going to accept Insan. What he is therefore saying is that he is not going to allow Insan to be successful and will fight Insan.

There are plenty of verses where the same issue is repeated. We need to explore what was the reason for Iblis’s refusal. Quran answers this matter at least 4 times. The main reason is ISTIKBAAR (ARROGANCE)! All the trouble in the history of humanity started from a disease called Istikbaar (arrogance).


It is no exaggeration that there is no other disease which played a bigger role in the troubles of mankind more than arrogance.

Almighty Allah (SWT) has spoken about this disease 48 times in the Holy Quran, 4 times referenced directly to Shaytaan, and the remaining 44 times to the rest of humanity. As Imam Ali (AS) says, the original problem was Iblis, but this disease of arrogance has infiltrated to the rest of humanity.

Arrogance means when you see yourself as greater. One of the Ulama has dissected arrogance into 3 elements:

1. Person believes he is someone;

2. Person believes other person is someone; but

3. Person believes his status is higher than the status of others

These are the ingredients and recipe for arrogance.

Shaytaan said in verse 76 above, that he is better since he is created from fire, and human beings are created from clay.


Shaheed Ayatullah Sayed Muhammad Baqir Sadr explains in his thought-provoking book Trends of History in Quran that some of the problems are common between individuals and societies, and arrogance is one of them. This means that an individual can be arrogant, leading to his destruction, and a society will also self-destruct through its communal arrogance.

What we learned tonight is that 6000 years of Ibadah becomes nullified when the smallest element of arrogance comes in one’s heart.

A question was asked from the Imams of Ahlul Bait (AS), seeking clarity on what is arrogance, to which the example was given that if someone is sitting and others are standing, and he regards this as fine, then it is one of the levels of arrogance!

Ghayath ibni Hafs was a very pious person who came to the 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (AS), Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (AS). He says to Imam Sadiq (AS) that he does not commit sin, so when he looks at other people committing sin, he feels better, because he is not bad like them. Imam Sadiq (AS) responds by saying this is arrogance (Istikbaar)!

Ghayath ibni Hafs was perplexed, saying to Imam Sadiq (AS) that it is crystal clear, namely, that he avoids sin and the other person indulges in sin, so surely he is better than the sinner? Imam Sadiq (AS) replies by asking Ghayath ibni Hafs what guarantee does he have that his Ibadah is accepted and that the sinner is not forgiven??

In the next lecture we will expand this discussion on arrogance of an individual and arrogance of a society, together with why does it happen and where does it come from, considering that Almighty Allah (SWT) raises this issue 48 times in the Holy Quran which results in even Ibadah becoming worthless.


Karbala is a war against the arrogance of Bani Umayyah, which reaches to the highest limits in the way they treated people with disdain. Fighting this arrogance of Bani Umayyah is humility of Imam Husayn (AS) and his followers. Their humility reaches the point of truly believing that they have nothing and are nothing before Almighty Allah (SWT).

In Karbala, Imam Husayn (AS) has examples of this humility, and we remember a great Sahabi, a dynamic personality and loyal companion of Rasulullah (SAWA), namely Habib ibni Mathahir.

History recorded that one day Prophet Muhammad found a group of children playing and approached them. He pulled one of them from this group and expressed great love and affection to this child. The father was close by and asked Prophet Muhammad that we know you love children but why such a special treatment to this child? Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) says he saw him walking behind Imam Husayn (AS) and used to put the dust of Husayn’s (AS) footsteps on his forehead. This child was none other than Habib ibni Mathahir!

Habib was Imam Husayn’s (AS) dear friend from childhood, who was 75 years old when he was martyred in Karbala. 2nd Muharram also marks the day when Imam Husayn (AS) arrived in Karbala, where Habib joined the camp from Kufa. Habib was one of those who wrote a letter to Imam Husayn (AS) explaining the dire situation under Yazeed.

Habib fought bravely on the day of Ashura and became a martyr as a 75 year old warrior of Imam Husayn (AS) who was entrusted with protecting the left wing of the battlefield.

To be continued…….

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