Jumuah lecture delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town on 20 September 2019 (20th Muharram 1441 AH)
After Praising Almighty Allah and seeking His Choicest Blessings of His Beloved Messenger (sawa) and the Holy Ahlul Bait (a.s), we remind ourselves to observe Taqwa of Almighty Allah in being Conscious of His Pleasure and Anger before executing any action.
As much as we offer and contemplate on this reminder, it has a different impact on different people as the veils separating us from Almighty Allah are too many for us to really appreciate the meaning of being Conscious of the Pleasure of Allah before executing an action.
In our spiritual journey to Almighty Allah, there are well known narrations that state that there are 70 000 veils between Allah and His Creation. This number of course is not necessarily meant to be taken literally, but it is a reflection of the level of spiritual separation from our perspective between us and Almighty Allah
So in this journey of spiritual growth we continuously seek to strip away at these thousands of veils. In Surah Nur Almighty Allah states this idea a bit differently and speaks about people being in layers and layers of darkness such that in this darkness they would not even be able to see their own hand. (Surah Nur Verse 40).
Now in stripping away at these veils, the list of veils we need to pierce is endless.
Our uncontrolled desires veils us from Almighty Allah.
Our uncontrolled anger veils us from Almighty Allah.
The beauties of this world can veil us from Almighty Allah.
Our dark inner negative qualities veil us from Almighty Allah like jealousy and conceitedness and so on.
Our knowledge can sometimes be among the biggest veils that separate us from Almighty Allah. We seekers of knowledge should really be on the guard to ensure that the little insignificant amount of knowledge that we acquire which is not even equivalent to a drop in the ocean should not become the greatest veil between us and Almighty Allah.
And then besides all of these, there is one veil that is particularly addressed in the Quran which in itself is a creation of Allah but can be a great veil even in the lives of good people and that is the veil of time.
Time is a creation of Allah and simultaneously is a great veil for virtually most of us.
ALWAYS CONSIDER THE LONG TERM VIEW
We live in a world of instant gratification (I want everything now) and individualism and this really prevents us from seeing the future – we often can’t even see the impact of our actions in one month’s time or less than that.
People sometimes fall prey of their desires and don’t realize that I can be breaking up my whole family in the process, or I could have an unwanted pregnancy as a young person that will leave me and another human being scared for life or I could supposedly tell one little lie that can then cause me to become a habitual liar for the rest of my life. The examples are endless.
It is this veil of time that can often prevent us from doing the right thing.
Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli quotes a very beautiful hadith in his Book “Mafatihul Hayaat” or “Keys to Life”. We are all familiar with the book Mafatihul Jinan of Sheikh Abbas Qummi that we use for duas and different rituals and prayers. That book really is our companion relating to matters of the Hereafter and virtually every household has a copy of this book.
But Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli believed that we also need a book as a companion to keep by our side for matters relating to our daily life and thus had his students produce this very valuable resource called “Keys to Life”.
In this book, close to the beginning, he quotes a narration of the 6th Imam Saadiq (a.s) wherein he says that someone came to Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and asked him for advise.
In response the Prophet (sawa) did not immediately give him advise and rather asked him “will you follow my advise” and the person said “yes Oh Messenger of Allah”. And the Prophet (sawa) literally asked him the same question three times “will you follow my advise” to which he replied “yes Oh Messenger of Allah”.
So clearly this was going to be a critical piece of advise that the Prophet (sawa) was about to give with far reaching implications.
And let me say at this point – if ever I was to live my life all over again, then I would try very hard to live my life by this piece of advice of Prophet Muhammad (sawa)! Truly!
So on the basis that the man seeking advice promises to follow the advice, Prophet (sawa) then said to the man:
فإني أوصيك إذا أنت هممت بأمر فتدبر عاقبته فإن يك رشدا فامضه وإن يك غيا فانته عنه
“Then I advise you that when you want to do something, contemplate deeply about its (future) end. If it’s leading to good (or its guided), then continue. If it’s leading to bad, then keep away from it”.
This is a very deep piece of advice that should be inscribed in gold as it is extremely relevant to young and old alike and everyone in between.
Never be short sighted in anything. Whenever we do something, look through your mind’s eye long into the future to decide is this a good thing or not.
Sometimes something looks good in the near term or on the face of it, but will bring you a life of misery in the long term.
Sometimes we do something only considering the impact on ourselves, yet our actions could have far reaching negative impact on our society, our family and our very own relationship with Allah.
But having said that, the veil of time is what we often struggle with and consequently we do actions that we deeply regret for years to come.
WHAT APPEARS FAR FOR US IS NEAR IN REALITY
In the Quran this issue of piercing the veil of time is discussed in different places.
For example disbelievers would taunt the Prophet (sawa) and even previous Prophets (a.s) to challenge them regarding when is the Hereafter and when is it’s punishment coming and that if it’s real, in reality it is something very far away.
We ourselves live life like that sometimes. We commit sin thinking we are still young and there’s enough time (the great veil) to repent and recover afterwards to become good people.
In Surah Ma’arij Verse 6 and 7 Almighty Allah says:
إِنَّهُمْ يَرَوْنَهُ بَعِيدًا
“Indeed they see it to be far away (Hereafter)
And We see it nearby”
Why do disbelievers see the Hereafter or its punishment far away? Because their knowledge of it is superficial.
But why is it near from Allah’s perspective? Because Allah’s Knowledge of it is Real and Eternal as Allah already sees it existing now and that knowledge makes it near from His perspective.
Then there is also a hadith quoted by Allamah Tabatabai in his Tafsir Al-Mizan of the Prophet (sawa) stating that:
“Anything that is bound to come is near (practically)”.
This hadith needs to be repeated for emphasis. Anything that is inevitable like the death, the barzakh, the Hereafter, accountability, victory of truth over falsehood, return of Imam Mahdi (a.s), the just rule of Islam across the whole world, and more are examples of realities which are inevitable and since they are inevitable, they are near, not far!!
So the issue then is that it is the quality of our knowledge that determines how thick or thin this veil of time appears before us.
THE PROPHET WHO WAS MADE TO DIE FOR 100 YEARS
Now an important point in relation to the quality of our knowledge, Almighty Allah provides us guidance primarily through our intellect and reinforces this guidance with the sending of Prophets.
This knowledge which is obtained is intellectual knowledge on the one hand and transmitted knowledge from a reliable source on the other (Aqli and Naqli).
And we are generally most familiar with these forms of guidance.
But Almighty Allah sometimes provides us knowledge through demonstration by practically showing us something – this demonstrative knowledge is even greater and would then potentially take our level of guidance to a much higher level.
There are different examples of this type of guidance by demonstration in the Quran in relation to lifting the veil of time for someone to see the future reality.
In Surah Baqarah Verse 259, there is the story of a Prophet of Bani Israeel who was travelling and passed through a town that was destroyed and asked the question wondering how they would againt be resurrected from that condition. Almighty Allah then demonstrates to him how He does it. So the verse reads:
فَأَمَاتَهُ اللّهُ مِئَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِئَةَ عَامٍ فَانظُرْ إِلَى طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ وَانظُرْ إِلَى حِمَارِكَ وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَانظُرْ إِلَى العِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“So Allah made him die for a hundred years, then He raised him up and said: ‘How long have you lingered (in this state)? ‘ He said, ‘ (Perhaps) I have lingered a day or a part of a day.’ He said: ‘Nay, you have lingered (thus) a hundred years. But look at your food and your drink – they show no effect of age; and look at your donkey; and that We may make of you a sign for people; and look at the bones, how We assembled them together and then clothed them with flesh! So, when it became clear to him, he said: ‘I know that Allah is All-Powerful over all things.”
This Prophet himself was made to die and was brought back to life. On a side note this is one of the Quranic proofs of the possibility of Raj’ah where those who died can be brought back to life (as will occur with some people when Imam Mahdi (a.s) returns).
100 years of time was made to appear to this Prophet as the length of a day. He was shown that his food could be kept fresh while his donkey that was already dead for 100 years and decayed could be brought back to life in front of his very eyes.
So Allah demonstrated on him to actually experience death and resurrection from it in this world – so the veil of time that makes the Resurrection in the Hereafter look far away was instantly lifted.
This knowledge by demonstration that we achieve is much higher than the intellectual knowledge and makes us more steadfast in our real purpose in life.
LIFTING VEIL OF TIME FOR AYATULLAH KHOEI
There is a story narrated about the life of the Great Scholar, the Late Ayatullah Khoei when he was still studying in the Hawza in Najaf in the early 1900’s.
It is said that one night in the blessed Month of Ramadaan, Ayatullah Khoei visited his illustrious teacher, Allamah Qazi Tabatabai who was a grand aarif. His teacher lifted the veil of time and showed Ayatullah Khoei a vision of his future.
Suddenly Ayatullah Khoei saw a man who resembled himself, appear in front of him; the man slowly began to age until his beard turned white. He saw the man teaching students of Hawza at the highest level in the Masjid in Najaf. He saw him beginning to issue edicts (fatawa) and then saw that his treatise of fiqh (risalaye amaliyyah) was printed. After a long time he heard the loudspeakers in the mosque of Kufa announce, “The grand Ayatullah al-Khoei has passed away”.
When the vision was over, Allamah Qazi turned to Ayatullah Khoei and said, “This was your life, from now till your death. You have a good future; now you may go.”
And most of us know that Ayatullah Khoei went on to become a Grand Marja who trained around 1000 students who reached the level of ijtihaad.
LIFTING THE VEIL OF TIME FOR COMPANIONS OF THE CAVE
These are all examples of how guidance by demonstration happens. There is yet another even more fascinating example of how Allah lifted the veil of time for a group of people instead of an individual and that relates to the story of the Companions of the cave.
This is referred to in Surah Kahf. This group of young men lived in an oppressive society of idol worshippers. Though they believed, they were forced to hide their belief and practice Taqiyyah as the Quran states. They would even participate in the actual idol worshiping rituals, though they believed in Tauheed. Can you imagine how awkward that was?
These young believers used to think how long still will this oppression and idol worshiping continue?
So in short the Quran says they were put to sleep for 300 years and awoken so they could see for themselves that the oppressive society was completely wiped our and a new government and people and system was in place and their religion was being commonly practiced instead of idol worshiping being the norm.
Allah lifted the great veil of time for this group of young believers. This story of course is very fascinating and has multiple angles to explore on another occasion Insha’Allah.
HEAD OF IMAM HUSAYN (A.S) RECITES VERSE OF SURAH KAHF
Since we are still in the Days of Muharram wherein we remember the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s) and his family and followers in Karbala, I want to mention a very interesting story which occurred after Ashura in relation to Surah Kahf and this narration about this incident is reliable.
It says that after Ashura when the heads of the martyrs were paraded in the streets of Kufa, Zayd bin Arqam says that, I was on my terrace when the Head of Imam Husayn (a.s) passed by me placed upon a lance.
When it came close to me, I heard it recite:
أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ ءَايَاتِنَا عَجَباً
“Or do you think that the Companions of the Cave and (of) the Inscription (which) were of Our wonderful Signs (Miracles)?” (Surah al-Kahf, 18:9).
The hair of my skin arose and I said, “O son of the Prophet of Allah! Your mystery, as also your task, is most astonishing, and yes most astonishing”.
The companions of the cave rose against the unjust system of their time and were persecuted and they escaped and were made to sleep to wake up after 300 years to see how Allah changed the system for a better one. From Allah’s perspective it’s easy but for us it is very astonishing as we are veiled by time and can’t see the future.
The martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s) and his rising up against the most unjust system will bear an eventual turn around in the governance of this entire world which is more astonishing than what the companions of the cave were made to see but it is the veil of time that makes most of us think that there’s no end to the misery in the world.
When Imam Husayn (a.s) was martyred he was outnumbered in material terms but today his memory far outnumbers the memory of his killers and their likes. This veil of time is practically slowly being lifted before our very own eyes when we see tens of millions of people flock to the shrine of Imam Husayn (a.s) annually to seek inspiration from him.
PATIENCE IS OUTCOME OF SEEING THE FUTURE
Now my concluding point is that when our perspective on the future changes, and the veil of time is at least lifted in our minds, then it results in us having graceful patience or sabr. Because we can see success on our doorstep, we don’t behave like frustrated people who react to every little matter and challenge in a way as if the world is ending tomorrow. We respond to our challenges in life and our society with graceful patience.
In the verse before the ones I recited earlier which says:
إِنَّهُمْ يَرَوْنَهُ بَعِيدًا
“Indeed they see it to be far away (Hereafter)
And We see it nearby”
Because of this reality that anything inevitable is actually bound to occur and is actually thus nearby and not far off, Almighty Allah says in the preceding verse to Prophet Muhammad (sawa):
فَاصْبِرْ صَبْرًا جَمِيلًا
“So be patient with a patience that is graceful”.
Patience itself is a very good quality. But because the inevitable is something nearby, don’t spoil your patience by even complaining though you have a right to complain and don’t be agitated by the arrogance of others even if you have the right to be agitated. Their arrogance will sort itself out – very soon! So don’t only be patient. But have graceful untainted patience!!
May Almighty Allah grant us this vision to see the future so that we gracefully remain focused on the task at hand in our life each day without becoming side tracked in any way.
THICK VEIL OF TIME LEAVE SAUDI’S BLINDED
In terms of what is happening in the world, I don’t think that Saudi’s were able to see through the very thick veil of time before their eyes that a country like Yemen that they sought to crush, and certainly did so to some extent in material terms, would actually be able to respond in a manner that would hurt them the most to reduce their oil production to half its capacity like they did this past week.
The oppressed overcoming the oppressor is something inevitable and anything inevitable is practically near and not far and at the end of time it will come in it’s most perfect form through Imam Mahdi (a.s).
Oppressors actually know that it is inevitable that they will be destroyed and this is something they ALWAYS fear – and when it suddenly happens, their regret does not help.
In Quran Almighty Allah says that the oppressed will be made the Imams who inherit the earth and they will be established in power on the earth and all of this has one purpose –
وَنُرِيَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا مِنْهُم مَّا كَانُوا يَحْذَرُونَ
“and to show Pharaoh and Haman, and their hosts, what they were dreading from them.” (Surah Qasas Verse 6)
SEEING THE FUTURE IMPACT OF NEGATIVE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
Also very importantly I want to ask how do we see the future that is on our very doorstep in relation to the economic crisis and bleak outlook that our country and province is experiencing.
This previously thought of wonder of uncontrolled capitalism bringing us all prosperity is doing the exact opposite – it’s bringing us serious harm.
Very few people might know that our National Debt as a country is at an all time high.
It really means that we are continuously getting into a situation that more and more of our money as a country annually goes into only paying interest to the wealthy capitalists who are the last to ever lose out – because that is the system that we live by as a country.
Government itself is forced to reduce it’s expenditure which leaves us with less money for investment in infrastructure like building schools, hospitals and roads.
Some of the oldest construction companies are in serious financial trouble. In the Western Cape, and many of our own people who frequent this mosque, they rely on the construction industry for jobs – and their businesses are folding.
Against this back drop there continues to be an increase in the demand for schooling in the Western Cape as annually tens of thousands of learners with their parents flock from other provinces to our province in seeking for work and our existing facilities does not provide the space to accommodate them.
Besides getting into school, a very small percentage of those who actually get into school eventually leave university with a degree and still don’t get a job – so what happens to the majority of our citizens? How are they going to survive?
In facing such a reality, the existing purely materialistic approach to life will collectively bring us more misery. To be able to survive, we will ALL have to change our outlook to life and become less dependent on material things.
Religious institutions will have to seriously re-look how it can fill this ever increasing need to address social challenges that is getting wider all the time as a result of these economic realities.
May Almighty Allah grant us the foresight too see our future in the very long term and guide us to make the correct strategic decisions today to make that future a success, Insha’Allah.