Lecture commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a.s)

Sun 3 June 2018 (18 Ramadaan 1439) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider.

We are once again present in these probable nights of Qadr and have been blessed with the opportunity to beg at the door of forgiveness of Almighty Allah.

The 19th, 21st and 23rd nights of Ramadaan are very crucial nights and considered to be among the most probable nights of Qadr. These are extremely sacred hours wherein the gates of Divine Mercy are wide open.


The date 4 June also reminds us of the demise of Imam Khomeini (r.a) in 1989 whose existence in this world completely changed the map of this world. For us in South Africa, he is our door to the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and we would not necessarily have enjoyed this guidance if he was not around. The South African community of followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) owe a great deal to Imam Khomeini. 

Imam Khomeini was privileged to have loyal followers and thus his mission and vision continued after him and despite the weaknesses of his followers, they still shine and stand at the forefront of resistance – this they never compromised. 

But with all his greatness, when looking at the relationship of Imam Khomeini to Imam Ali (a.s), we see a person who genuinely feels like nothing before Imam Ali (a.s). And this is not just protocol or some sort of exaggeration when Imam Khomeini considers himself not worthy of being the dust under the feet of Imam Ali (a.s).

In his wasiyyah (will) he writes that we are proud servants and followers of Imam Ali (a.s).

But the reality is that we still very far from Imam Ali (a.s)’s standards and we are only at the start of our journey, though we are moving in the right direction at least.


Looking at the personality and level of thinking of Imam Ali (a.s) we can’t imagine who he is and how low we are.

Someone commented to one of the Imams on one occasion claiming that they are Shia of Ali. The Imam asked what you mean you are Shia of Ali (a.s)?? He then told the person that Imam Hassan and Husayn (a.s) are Shia or Ali (a.s) – thus rather say you are “lovers” of Ali (a.s). 

So we are not even Shia of Ali (a.s) in reality who is truly our “Mawla” or “Master”.

People often have a problem with the use of the word “Mawla” Ali. There’s a speech on social media by the Head of Deoband School, Mowlana Taariq Jameel who says he does not understand why people have an issue with the use of the term “Mowla” Ali. He says we are fine with the title “Imam” or “Hazrat” Ali or “Sayyidina” Ali but from all these titles he prefers saying Mowla Ali (a.s). 

Then he says “you should be surprised and worried that the use of this term amounts to “shirk” or something like that. But then he explains that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) himself says “whoever’s Master I am, then Ali is his Master.” And then Mowlana Tariq Jameel says don’t think “Mowla” in this Prophetic narration is saying Ali (a.s) is your friend, but rather it means your master – our master is Ali – so don’t hesitate to say Mowla Ali.

He is Mowla al-muwahhideen – Master of believers in one God.


One point of about the personality of Imam Ali (a.s) that I want to highlight tonight is actually inspired by my experience at the event this afternoon at Masjidul Quds in Gatesville where the values espoused in the Cape Accord was adopted.

After listening to an array of great speeches, I noticed one central fibre permeating through all the speeches delivered and that was that Islam has given utmost respect and dignity to the human being.

Hate speech is a form of dehumanization which seeks to strip the human being from this God-given dignity. 

When declaring others kaafir, such proponents of hate speech are saying that you are an inhumane, lowly being and thus your blood can be shed and your reputation can be destroyed and insulted. 

And the criterion for the supposed “acceptability” of hate speech is not about one person being on the right path and another being on the wrong path. The follower of any religion or school of thought believes he is right. 

But this belief does not mean that you can now think of others to be less than human. You might think that you know people are lost or misguided, but that gives you no authority to think and act towards others in a manner which demonstrates a belief that others are lower than you. This self righteousness attitude is not Islam!!


In Surah Isra verse 70 we read:

وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي ءَادَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرّ‌ِ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِنَ الطَّيّـِبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَي كَثِيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلاً 

“And, indeed, We have honoured the children of Adam, and We carried them on the land and the sea; and We provided them with sustenance of the good things; and We preferred them greatly over many of those We created.” 

This verse is first saying that “and indeed we have honoured the children of Adam”.

Who is honoured? Sunni human beings? Shia human beings? Wahabi human beings? Deobandi human beings? Who is honoured? The human being – free from any of these adjectives – that is the one who is honoured. And it is a great honour.

And the rest of the verse highlights various preferences that the human being has been given which all reinforce the understanding that the human being had been given great honour. Furthermore, since human beings are created in the best form, we thus have honour and dignity which is is essential for all human beings itself. 

Yes Muslims also have a special honour – but that honour is over and above this essential honour given to the human being. 

Thus you can’t insult and lower another human.


In the life of Imam Ali (a.s), this principle of dignity of human beings is the foundation of his political rule and strategy. 

This sounds like a very general concept, but studying Nahjul Balagha reveals the level to which it was manifested in the life of Imam Ali (a.s).

There are sermons where he is reported to have said that Allah created us free and we should take care of this freedom. The logic of Imam Ali (a.s) is like this this.

Elsewhere Imam Ali (a.s) says that Prophet Adam (a.s) never gave birth to a slave – we are all born free with the honour of being human.

Thus in his few years of governance, this is his approach.

And there are a plethora of examples to demonstrate the amazing sensitivity that Imam Ali (a.s) had about dignity of human.


In this regard he was firstly sensitive that human beings should never humiliate themselves and thus Imam Ali (a.s) was very sensitive about beggars and hated this phenomena in society of begging.

Imam Ali once visited a big city and found an old man begging and got upset with the governor of the city. The governor said this old man is a Christian – and Imam got even more upset when hearing this. Imam Ali (a.s) said that same old man was once upon a time young and during that age paid tax to the state and now that he is old he must beg and compromise his dignity – this is simply unacceptable.

The idea of extending your hand was found to be abhorrent by people like Imam Hassan (a.s) who once gave a beggar a huge amount of money. People criticized Imam Hassan (a.s) for giving this beggar so much money, yet the Imam said that what he gave was nothing in relation to what the beggar sold – the beggar sold his whole dignity whereas Imam Hassan (a.s) had only given him a few bags of gold in return!

This is honour of human of human beings that the Imams were so sensitive about. 

In Anbaar city there is a story narrated by the Scholar ibn Abil Hadid who says that when Imam Ali (a.s) during his reign as khalif arrived in the city, the people ran in front of the khalif’s horse to lower themselves to display the fact that they are his subjects. Imam Ali (a.s) became very angry at this sight and repeated the advise to them that Allah did not create them as slaves to behave in that manner. Whereas kings enjoy this type of scene, but not Imam Ali (a.s) – he cannot see you loose your dignity .

Upon entering another city, Imam Ali (a.s) was addressed with big titles and Imam Ali (a.s) responded that he had already divorced this world three times, so people should not try to fool him with these titles. 

In the story of another city, news came to Imam Ali (a.s) that soldiers of the Bani Umayya army robbed a Muslim woman and a non Muslim woman (Jewish lady) and snatched their jewelry. Imam Ali (a.s) was so shocked as he was over sensitive about the dignity of women – even more than the dignity of men. He remarked that if this news were to cause a Muslim who hears it to die out of shock, he will not be surprised.


So what do we know of Imam Ali (a.s)? He treats his enemies with the greatest respect – even though he opposes them, but never strips their dignity.

In the battle of Jamal – which was a great trial wherein thousands of Muslims were killed – when it had finished, Imam Ali (a.s) said Ummul Mu’mineen Aa’iesha must go back to Madina. However, he was sensitive that she should return safely and in a dignified manner and thus appointed a special envoy to safely escort her home together with a special group of women to be with her. Moments before they were in war with each other, but now that the war was over, Imam Ali (a.s) kept her honour in tact.

And the same can be see in the approach of Imam Ali (a.s) towards the Khawarij – the very people who would end up killing him. Imam Ali (a.s) never allowed his own people to insult them even though they openly insulted Imam Ali (a.s) while he was delivering the khutbah of jumuah when they would recite verses of the Quran that relate to the punishment of Allah and allude to those verses referring to Imam Ali (a.s). Though Imam Ali (a.s)’s guards grabbed this person who uttered this abuse, Imam Ali (a.s) stopped and aloud the Kharijite to speak. 

This is the huge heart that Imam Ali (a.s) has. A poet says I passed through the city and see children swearing at Ali, but look at the grace of Ali who says “I listen to this and assume they talking of another Ali”!! 


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