Jumuah lecture on Friday 17 July 2020 (25 Dhul Qa’dah 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) commands us in verse 58 of Surah Nisaa’ (chapter 4 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَنْ تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ نِعِمَّا يَعِظُكُمْ بِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا
Surely Allah commands you to deliver the trusts to their rightful owners and that when you judge between people you judge with justice; surely Allah admonishes you with what is excellent; surely Allah is all Seeing, all Hearing.
Almighty Allah (SWT) commands us on 2 very important issues in this verse:
1. Trustworthiness – to deliver the trust to its rightful owners;
2. Judiciary based upon justice – judge fairly in matters of the people
Almighty Allah (SWT) then says that this is the best advice for us, and He is all Hearing and all Seeing. In fact, these two very important principles are the foundation for stability in any society. This applies even in a society which is not Islamic, as the stability and sustenance of a society depends on these very crucial principles.
JUSTICE IS A REQUIREMENT ON ALL LEVELS OF SOCIETY
Justice in society in addressing disputes or challenges of the people is so important, especially if you are in the position of being a judge or have decision-making powers.
There is a very interesting Hadith from our first Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s), where he explains an experience which his son, Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s), needed to opine on justly. The situation was that there were two kids who each brought a paper written in their handwriting and wanted to know from Imam Hasan (a.s) whose handwriting he believed is better.
Now, this experience helps us understand the great sensitivity involved in judging something. In this situation, we learn from the Hadith of Imam Ali (a.s) that he cautions Imam Hasan (a.s) about how he should judge, because this judgement will be tested by Almighty Allah (SWT) on the Day of Qiyamah. Hence, we can imagine how sensitive this issue of judging is, when there are disputes arising from differing scenarios at play.
IMAM ALI (A.S) ESTABLISHES THE FRAMEWORK OF JUSTICE IN GOVERNANCE
In that beautiful letter which Imam Ali (a.s) writes to his governor in Egypt, Maliki Ashtar, he goes into extensive detail on the philosophy and principles of the judiciary. Here Imam Ali (a.s) summarizes the critical role of the judiciary in society by saying that people and countries cannot be reformed without having a proper judiciary.
The reform of people and nations and countries is not possible without a proper judiciary. In fact, there is a direct dependence on it for a proper functioning society.
Imam Ali (a.s) then goes into great amount of detail on the conditions required to become a judge. In one sentence he addresses a judge, and this shows the great deal of sensitivity of Imam Ali (a.s) to the judicial process. Imam Ali (a.s) asks the judge whether he knows the supreme level he (the judge) is occupying? Imam Ali (a.s) tells the judge that he is sitting either in the seat of the Prophet (a.s), successor to the Prophet (a.s), or in the seat of a terribly oppressive person. There is no grey area!
FOUNDATIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR JUSTICE RESULTS IN A HEALTHY SOCIETY
The whole issue of the judiciary during the governance of Imam Ali (a.s) is a crucial subject to unpack to gain some glimpse of its superiority. For example, he presents various requirements for the judiciary to operate effectively and prerequisites for being a judge, but we will delve into a couple of them here.
The first requirement which Imam Ali (a.s) emphasizes in that of INDEPENDENCE. A judge and the judicial system must be far from any influence. Imam Ali (a.s) goes to the point where he establishes that the wages of a judge should never be paid by the people, but rather, it should be paid from the public treasury (Baitul Maal).
Interestingly, Imam Ali (a.s) encourages Maliki Ashtar to pay judges very generously from the public treasury! The reason for this approach is to ensure that judges are not inclined towards bribery and corruption. This is how judges will maintain their independence.
The second requirement which Imam Ali (a.s) emphasizes is FAIRNESS. Lack of discrimination between rich and poor, ethnic backgrounds etc.
The third requirement which Imam Ali (a.s) explains is that the judiciary must be sufficiently POWERFUL TO IMPLEMENT its decisions and sentences. A judiciary which is at the mercy of other people or other authorities in society is useless.
IMAM ALI (A.S) BECAME CALIPH TO RE-ESTABLISH TRUE JUSTICE IN SOCIETY
Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) is so sensitive about the position of the judiciary, and we know the stance he took with his disagreement with those in political authority before him, with his refusal to pay allegiance for quite a long time. Then, after he gave his allegiance, he still maintained his reservations with the ruling establishment.
Despite this position, Imam Ali (a.s) comes to help out in certain situations on judicial matters, and rescues people in the process. While Imam Ali (a.s) is not interested in governance, he explains that the reason he decided to intervene is due to him seeing the judiciary deviating in this Islamic system. He explains that he intervened out of concern for people gradually leaving the religion of Islam and the path of Almighty Allah (SWT) due to losing faith in the judiciary.
When Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) accepted the position of leadership as the 4th Caliph, he established from the onset that he does not desire power. He explains his reason for accepting leadership to be for one reason only, and that is to re-establish the credibility of the judiciary, protecting the oppressed from the oppressor. Imam Ali (a.s) said at his inauguration that he wants to ensure that the rights of the weak in society are not wasted and usurped by others.
The position I have explained thus far is in relation to an Islamic system. But the logic of Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) in Nahjul Balagha (not only in this letter to Maliki Ashtar) but in various other sermons recorded, is that a system cannot survive until justice is manifested therein. Imam Ali (a.s) gives insight into this point by saying that a system can be sustained and survived with kufr (disbelief) but cannot be sustained or survive with injustice!
CONFIDENCE OF THE MASSES DEPENDS ON THE HEALTH OF THE JUDICIARY
Another crucial point which Imam Ali (a.s) explains on the matter of justice is that the trust and confidence of the people in the governing system of leadership depends on the performance of the judiciary. This is a crucial point which I would like to connect with our problem at hand with the Durban Mosque Attack accused walking free.
What Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) is explaining here is that people will tolerate all kinds of hardships and difficulties. However, people will not tolerate discrimination, lack of justice and the absence of a just, independent judiciary!
Yes, I may be ready to sleep hungry, but if I am oppressed and my rights taken away, with nobody ready to rescue me or acknowledge my rights, then this system will not survive, in the words of Imam Ali (a.s).
Confidence of the masses in the system of governance and the leadership depends on justice in society.
ISIS MOTIVATED TERRORISTS ACCUSED OF DURBAN MOSQUE ATTACK WALK FREE
Today, I would like to draw your attention to the very tragic situation we are facing in our own country of South Africa, where the judicial system of our country has created the same lack of confidence and trust. The performance of the judicial system is a major cause for concern. This is the unfortunate reality.
We are all aware what occurred last week with the case against the 12 accused of the terrorist attack on the Imam Hussein (a.s) Mosque which resulted in the killing of our dear brother, Shaheed Hafiz Abbas Essop and injuring two others, and the burning down of the Imam Hussein (a.s) Mosque in Durban. This case was struck from the roll by the magistrate.
It is indeed a very, very upsetting situation because we, as followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and Shia community, feel that we have been abandoned. Our rights have been violated and simply ignored. This is the reality.
Such a heinous crime was committed inside the house of worship, a most sacred place, and then for more than 2 years, this case was stalled whereby the magistrate eventually decides to remove the case from the roll. The result is that the accused walk away victorious in a sense. This is without any doubt a great wound in the community which everyone is feeling.
We do not want to point fingers and accuse anyone of corruption. Of course, certain members of our community and the family of Shaheed Abbas Essop very strongly feel this way and it is the natural, obvious reaction. Such a horrible crime was committed and simply abandoned. In other words, at this present moment, there is no accused! This is a really extreme situation, without any doubt.
DURBAN MOSQUE ATTACK IS A VIOLATION OF NATIONAL SECURITY
Without getting into all the details, the principle question is: What is the judicial system of our country offering us? What is their response to our quest for justice on this heinous crime which was committed on 10 May 2018?
We have repeatedly mentioned that what occurred on that fateful day of 10 May 2018 was not only the murder of one individual who was extremely dear to us all, and whose life was extremely precious. The situation at hand is not confined to this killing alone. This whole situation is totally different to the killings we witness on a daily basis in our country, so much so that we have become immune to this scourge unfortunately.
It goes beyond the killing of this man and it also goes beyond the burning down of one building (being the mosque). It is a very serious issue in that it is a threat to peaceful coexistence of different religions. It is a threat to freedom of practicing religion, which is guaranteed by our constitution. Terrorism and religious extremism with this heinous crime is therefore not a joke!
We can say what we like, but it was evident when the accused walked out of the court victorious last week, they were shouting slogans which are synonymous with ISIS. What message is this?
Whether the evidence against the accused is sufficient or not is best for the lawyers, prosecutors, investigators and finally the court to argue. That being said, the well-established fact is that this group of people were connected to ISIS. They were indeed motivated by religious extremism to attack the mosque of the Shia community of Durban and to commit the murder of a young man who they believed was a deviant according to their polluted doctrine.
The manner in which this case was handled is a huge concern. It is not an issue of the Shia community of Verulam, Durban. Instead, it is an issue about the security of our whole country.
We clearly see what is happening right next door in Mozambique, with ISIS infiltration. Why are we keeping our eyes closed to the threat that this poses to our country?
There are unconfirmed reports that those investigators and prosecutors involved in this case received death threats. This is clearly again an indicator of a major problem in our society and a challenge we need to all take heed of.
WE APPEAL TO ALL TO VOICE SUPPORT FOR THE CASE TO BE REINSTATED
As the Shia community of South Africa, we have always acknowledged the support which we received from the broad spectrum of leadership from our Sunni brothers, after the incident occurred. This includes the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), Jamiatul Ulama, etc.
They all unanimously condemned this heinous crime and stood firmly alongside us supporting religious freedom, our right to practice and our right to differ in faith. Similarly, we received great support from a broad spectrum of leaders from other faith traditions, ranging from Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and even atheists. Their solidarity in those dark moments was truly commendable and highly appreciated.
Similarly, we received great support and messages of solidarity from the broader civil society.
Today, in this difficult situation, I would like to really appeal once again to them to stand with us and raise their voice in support of this particular case to be addressed properly and justice must be served. The perpetrators, murderers, criminals and all those responsible for this crime must be brought to justice. They MUST be given what they deserve as this is a matter of national security.
As I said, justice in this matter is crucial, for us and the family of Shaheed Abbas Essop, and the community of Imam Hussein (a.s) Mosque in Durban, and for the whole Shia community across the country and for the entire broader South African society.
HATE SPEECH TENDENCIES AGAINST SHIA MUSLIMS IS STILL ALIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA
The challenge is not that of an isolated crime. Unfortunately, the tendencies of that religious extremism still continue to flourish in different corners of our country.
After that incident in May 2018, we noticed the hate speech against us Shia Muslims calmed down. However, the same religious extremism and hatred rears its ugly head every now and again in different corners of our country, with blatant provocation towards violence unfortunately there.
You will not believe how low people would go, in that our closure of the mosque because of the Covid-19 pandemic was even linked by these extremists to Sunni-Shia differences! This shows that the roots of this problem in society need to be addressed. If they are not challenged, then it gives a very terrible message about the state of our judiciary.
So, this is how very strong appeal to the government for justice in this matter. The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, personally visited the mosque and promised us that justice will be served. Similarly, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, personally visited the mosque and promised justice in this matter. A number of MECs, MPs and other public office bearers came to the mosque and promised us that the perpetrators will face justice.
Unfortunately, we stand today with a very precarious situation in front of us, after more than 2 years since the tragedy. We once again call on civil society, and the religious leadership across the spectrum to support us and raise their voice for this particular issue. We cannot leave this matter in the current state, and justice must be achieved.
We would like to make it abundantly clear, that we are not going to relax until justice is served, with those responsible for this heinous crime being appropriately punished. This is our promise. Our commitment is that we cannot simply let this go. Together with the family of Shaheed Abbas Essop, we are evaluating all the legal options to pursue this matter further by getting it reinstated and bring these criminals back in court, Insha Allah.
Your support is absolutely crucial, and we will keep you posted in this regard.
SOUTH AFRICAN SHIA COMMUNITY LOSES AN INSTITUTION IN AUNTY AZIZA ALLIE
I would also like to express our most sincere condolences on the passing away of a very dear mother, Aunty Aziza Allie, from our Cape Town Shia community. This Allie family has a proud history of struggle against injustice and oppression, in the form of their role in our country’s liberation struggle against Apartheid.
This family, with its history of sacrifice and standing for truth and justice. This family has proven their commitment and devotion to truth and never to compromise on any level. Indeed, this was possible only with the training and grooming from the parents of this family.
The father, Marhoum Abduraghmaan Allie (r.a), affectionately known as Boeta Maan, who passed away 20 years ago, and today we are burying the mother, Aunty Aziza (r.a). Indeed, we also remember their son, Abdurauf and his wife, who were martyred in the liberation struggle. The crucial role of these pillars has made the family what it is today.
For us, in this community and mosque, Aunty Aziza was really a mother. She was really a caring, compassionate figure for each and everyone.
The past few months have been very challenging to bear, as we have lost a number of senior, pioneer figures of the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in our community. Boeta Hiema (r.a) and his wife Aunty Shahieda (r.a), brother Cassim Christians (r.a) and then a few other members of our community who passed away before them.
It is indeed a very sad occasion and we can only ask Almighty Allah (SWT) to grant all the departed souls from our community, and especially our mother Aunty Aziza, a place in the service of Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a). I do not have any doubt about the love of Aunty Aziza towards Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a), and similarly, her love for Imam Husain (a.s)!
I am sure that today, they are the ones who will receive her, and she will enjoy their intercession, without any doubt. As you can see, it is very difficult for me to speak about this great lady of our community, while I normally don’t have difficulty speaking. This is one of those situations where one is lost for words.
I can only make this dua and ask Almighty Allah (SWT) to grant sabr and strength to the family and the community and friends, as Aunty Aziza was family to all of us! Let us continue making dua for her and let us continue that spirit of compassion and care which she continuously showed in our community, Insha Allah.
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