Jumuah lecture on Friday 20 August 2021 (11 Muharram 1443)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town

Once again brothers and sisters, in this sacred hour of Jumuah, I wish to remind myself and all of you about exhorting towards Taqwa (God-consciousness) of Almighty Allah (SWT).

Taqwa, and our consciousness constantly that we are accountable for our actions, and mindful of our responsibility before Almighty Allah (SWT), is indeed the core message of Karbala and Imam Husain (a.s), for which we commemorated his martyrdom yesterday (10 Muharram – Day of Ashura).

The primary challenge which Imam Husain (a.s) faced was the increased absence of Taqwa in society. Therefore, it was so easy for them to change their loyalties from one person to another, as their criteria was love of this world. Hence, whichever side was more profitable determined how they will chop and change.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE WITH TAQWA AS THE GUIDING CRITERIA

18,000 people paid allegiance to Muslim ibn Aqil, the ambassador of Imam Husain (a.s) in Kufa. These same people who paid allegiance then left him isolated, high and dry and was killed by the Governor of Kufa, ibn Ziyad. Yet, these same people who paid allegiance did not say or do anything!

Moral of the story is that the choices we make in life is vitally important, and Almighty Allah (SWT) has given us the freedom to make choices. However, this freedom to make choices does not mean that we are free to decide whatever we want without considering Taqwa first and foremost ie. out of all the choices, which one will take me closer to Almighty Allah (SWT).

Indeed, this privilege of freedom of choice is underlined in the Holy Quran, specifically verse 3 of Surah Insaan (chapter 76):

إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا
We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (rests on his will).

Imam Husain (a.s) never imposed on anyone who came along with him, to support him. We see this consistently, all the way until the night of Ashura where Imam Husain (a.s) categorically told all those with him that they are free to stay and also free to leave if they wish.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE GONE HORRIBLY WRONG WITH THE PEOPLE OF KUFA

Ultimately, a person makes a choice out of his/her own conscience. Freedom of choice does not mean that whatever choice you make will be the right choice. Rather, it means that we are ALLOWED to make decisions, but the consequences of the choice are on our own shoulders.

The people of Kufa are a classic example of this. They made a choice to call Imam Husain (a.s) and when he moved towards them, accepting their invitation, they changed their choice to ibn Ziyad.

Then, on a day like this, 11th Muharram, the women and children of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) were taken as prisoners to Kufa, while the heads of the 72 martyrs, including the head of Imam Husain (a.s) were being paraded in the streets of Kufa.

Guess what – the same people of Kufa who deceived Imam Husain (a.s) were the ones crying at witnessing this! Some even repented, but the reality is it was too late. The damage from their wrong choice was already done.

Making the right choice at the right time is most important. This is what Taqwa is ie. the internal consciousness and awareness that Almighty Allah (SWT) is watching us, and we are accountable for our actions in His court. Taqwa is the realization of the presence of Almighty Allah (SWT) in every condition we are in.

PEOPLE OF KUFA IS A TIMELESS REMINDER OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF BAD CHOICES

The example of the people of Kufa in the revolutionary stand of Imam Husain (a.s) is crucial to constantly reflect on, because we are given the freedom to make choices in our own life every day.

The question to each of us is whether we are making choices based upon Taqwa, faith, reason, rationality, and the clear guidelines of Islam and the Ahlul Bait (a.s). Or are we on the opposite side, making choices based on our own personal fantasies, prejudices, ignorance and egos?

Those who refused to join Imam Husain (a.s) gave a very clear message. Indeed, nobody imposed on them, but does it mean that they are also correct, and everybody is correct? Clearly NOT, as the wrong choice has a terrible destiny.

The destiny of the people of Kufa is spoken about throughout history, which included great leaders such as Sulayman ibn Surad al-Khuza’i. This man was a very prominent leader from Kufa, who was even a supporter in the camp of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), but made a wrong choice unfortunately, in that he did not stand with Imam Husain (a.s) in defence of truth at the right time.

What is the destiny of this senior man, who was regarded as a sober leader of Kufa? His destiny is answered by the fact that Imam Husain (a.s) was left high and dry, and ultimately killed brutally on the plains of Karbala on the Day of Ashura.

This man made endless repentance thereafter, and only Almighty Allah (SWT) knows whether it will be accepted or not, as he was martyred subsequent to the tragedy of Karbala. However, the reality is that this was simply too late, as he was not with Imam Husain (a.s) when it mattered most!

BEING GUIDED BY TAQWA TAKES AWAY CONFUSION

In summary, we are free to make choices, with Taqwa (fear of God) being our main factor in deciding which direction to pursue. As a result, Taqwa also grants us vision (baseerat) to distinguish clearly between right and wrong. This means that someone with real Taqwa is never confused or lost!

There are always people in society who love to please everyone. They want to justify and prove themselves to everyone. The reality is if a person is guided by Taqwa, then you do not need to prove anything to anybody, as the only criteria is the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT). This was the slogan of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), which Imam Husain (a.s) uttered on that tragic Day of Ashura:

رضى الله رضانا أهل البيت
The Pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) is our pleasure Ahlul Bait (a.s)

After the great commemoration of Imam Husain (a.s) for the past 10 nights, here and all across the world, we hope that we will learn this very important lesson, to make the right choices in our lives.

This freedom of choice reached its climax when the people all across the Islamic Peninsula left the Wali of Allah (SWT) ie. the Imam of the time, Imam Husain (a.s) all alone on the plains of Karbala.

However, on our micro level, we need to learn from the people of Kufa and the revolutionary stance of Imam Husain (a.s). The critical need to make the right choice at the right time, which should not be based upon racism, nepotism, wanting to please everyone, etc.

The primary criteria for making the correct choice should be based upon Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT) and clear vision, rationality and reasoning, as we will be accountable for the choices we make in this life, on the Day of Judgement.

SECOND KHUTBAH – TALIBAN TAKEOVER IN AFGHANISTAN

It is rightfully expected that we discuss the developments in our beloved Muslim country of Afghanistan, which has suffered for decades. What has occurred over the past week in Afghanistan with the Taliban takeover and American exit is a very serious and important development for the people of Afghanistan and the entire Ummah (Muslim nation).

There are various issues related to this subject.

DEPENDENCY ON WESTERN POWERS WILL ALWAYS LEAVE YOU WORSE OFF THAN BEFORE

Firstly, this change in Afghanistan, in the form of the dramatic end of the Afghan government and takeover by the Taliban has very important lessons, especially for politicians as well as people in general. A key lesson is directly from verse 11 of Surah Ra’ad (chapter 13 of the Holy Quran):

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition.

Outsiders cannot come and change your conditions, and especially when you depend on Americans! Your destiny will be doomed, and this has shown up once again. The Western powers, and the USA mainly, have no value for their own supporters, and will run when it suits them, and not you!

The world has once again seen that any country wanting to achieve anything, with the hope of the Americans backing you, is living in a fool’s paradise. Condoleezza Rice, the former USA Secretary of State during the Bush presidency, use to say that “we want to make a new Middle East”, but we now see that this “new Middle East” is without America!

So, this is a very clear point, that reliance on Western powers, and especially Americans, results in a doomed destiny. This equation keeps repeating itself over and over again!

HOW COULD THE TALIBAN TAKE OVER SO EASILY?

This is the second very important point. The Taliban took over power so easily, with hardly any resistance. How is it possible that they could achieve this? Hopefully, time will reveal the details of what had gone on in the background to result in this dramatic fall and the Taliban taking over control of the whole country.

The big question is, was this possible without some backdoor deals taking place between various parties? Yes, one party responsible is clearly the corrupt government of Afghanistan under the leadership of Ashraf Ghani. However, this is not sufficient.

How is it that all of a sudden, the Americans did not show any serious reservation regarding the takeover by the Taliban? Afterall, according to their definition, the Taliban is an extremist, terrorist, uncivilized, anti-human rights, anti-women, etc. How is it that the Americans have accepted the Taliban takeover so comfortably?

Clearly, lots of question marks over here!

IS THIS VERSION OF THE TALIBAN IDEOLOGICALLY DIFFERENT THAN BEFORE?

This is the other aspect of the problem to address – the Taliban itself. With the Taliban coming into power this past week, they have announced the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It has created great excitement amongst the people, with messages of congratulations being shared, including from some Ulama bodies in South Africa as well.

The very difficult question is, who are the Taliban? More specifically, is the Taliban of today different to the Taliban of 20 years ago? At the present moment, the face of Taliban appears very soft, accommodating, peaceful and forgiving. They have already announced that they have forgiven everybody and have no problem with women working, eg. on TV stations, etc. This appears very different to 20 years ago!

They have also announced that they DO NOT have a problem with us Shia, the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s)!!!

Since their takeover on Sunday, they have also not shown any particular hostility towards Shia, especially since these are the sensitive days of Muharram and mourning for the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s). Shia Muslims are spread across Afghanistan, but these programs of Aza took place across the country as normal, without any Taliban interference and suppression.

Apparently, it is reported that they also visited the Shia mosques and provided security and facilities.

In all honesty, this attitude displayed by the Taliban should be appreciated, no doubt!

So, it begs the very serious question once again, has the Taliban changed? The one point to be mindful of, is that people, organizations and movements change their political stance, but their ideological stance does not change. At least not that easily.

ARE THE TALIBAN PRACTICING TAQIYYAH?

The problem is the Taliban’s ideology! Their ideology is absolutist, which means that according to them, only they are Muslim, and those who believe differently to them are disbelievers. Now, while they accuse us Shia Muslims for practicing Taqiyyah (concealing your faith), they are the ones now practicing Taqiyyah by presenting themselves in a soft manner, to strengthen their rule and take full control and establish themselves!

Thereafter, we will see them unmasked, imposing their ideology on the people! This is the very serious question on the true Taliban identity, which only time will help clarify. In my personal view, I do not believe the Taliban have undergone an ideological transformation.

Interestingly, while the Taliban made it clear that they will accommodate women’s rights, they have also been specific that the role of women will be decided by Islamic law (Sharia). Now, this can be open to interpretation, and we all know what their interpretation of Sharia is, which is very different to our interpretation!

It is very nice to give these slogans at the beginning, when nothing is established as yet. However, once their real life in government starts and the challenges arise, then we will see which interpretation of Sharia they are referring to when it comes to women, minorities, Shia, and a whole host of other socio-political issues.

TALIBAN VISIT SHIA GATHERINGS MOURNING FOR IMAM HUSAIN (A.S)

When the Taliban visited certain Shia mosques during these important days of Aza (mourning), they even issued a statement saying, “we believe that the Shia of Afghanistan respect the Sahaba and the Ummahatul Mu’mineen (companions and wives of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), respectively) and therefore do not have a problem”.

These are delicate sensitivities which can be played around with to try and score points. The fact of the matter is that we Shia Muslims always respect the Sahaba and the Ummahatul Mu’mineen, but it does not take two minutes to use this sensitivity as an excuse to fight and create the biggest intrafaith explosion!

Yes indeed, we do respect the Sahaba and the Ummahatul Mu’mineen, but we clearly differ as well! Our difference of opinion or our critical approach can be viewed as an insult by the Taliban and then very easily used by them as an excuse to cause a fight.

So, these sensitivities can be played with and exploited, and we know this very well from our experience here in South Africa, despite us never showing disrespect towards the Sahaba and the Ummahatul Mu’mineen from this platform, but we are always the accused.

Then, there was a compromise from those who oppose us, in the aftermath of the Durban mosque attack, resulting in sensitivities cooling, and an apparent façade of togetherness, and then again, we see some people reigniting their vitriolic path of provocation, promotion of hatred, division and disunity in the Ummah and local communities.

It is not an issue of only Sunni-Shia polemics, as the Taliban carries a very strong Pakhtun tribal identity. What we see of the Taliban today is only Pakhtuns ie. only one ethnic community of Afghanistan. What about the rest of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic population? Where is their representation?

These are the challenges ahead of us in Afghanistan. Time will answer the many questions we all have currently. We can only make dua for all the people of Afghanistan.

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