Jumuah lecture on Friday 10 September 2021 (2 Safar 1443)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) draws our attention to a very important reality pertaining to human nature, in verses 63 and 64 of Surah An’aam (chapter 6 of the Holy Quran), where He commands our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) to challenge the idol-worshippers, regarding who they call out to in response to being overpowered by difficulties and hardships.
قُلْ مَنْ يُنَجِّيكُمْ مِنْ ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ تَدْعُونَهُ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً لَئِنْ أَنْجَانَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ
Say: Who is it that delivers you from the dangers of the land and the sea (when) you call upon Him (openly) humiliating yourselves, and in secret: If He delivers us from this, we should certainly be of the grateful ones.
قُلِ اللَّهُ يُنَجِّيكُمْ مِنْهَا وَمِنْ كُلِّ كَرْبٍ ثُمَّ أَنْتُمْ تُشْرِكُونَ
Say: Allah delivers you from them and from every distress, but again you set up others (with Him).
We immediately shout for help, and we also secretly call upon Allah (SWT). In that moment of desperation, we even commit to Allah (SWT) that we will be amongst the grateful if He helps us emerge from that difficulty and hardship. However, these verses explain the reality, that the moment all is resolved, we immediately turn back to our old habits of committing Shirk (associating partners with Him)!
These verses are indeed most thought-provoking, even more so now in these days when good news is very scarce! There are so many challenges we are constantly faced with, as the Covid pandemic has changed our entire routine and way of life. There are certainly great lessons we can draw from these two verses.
DESOLATE NATURE OF DARKNESS TRIGGERS THE LIGHT BULB OF GOD’S SALVATION
There is something natural in our creation when we are stuck in darkness, which wakes us up, and that is the attention we devote towards Almighty Allah (SWT).
Darkness can also be in the material sense, namely the absence of light (gloomy). Why has Almighty Allah (SWT) drawn specific reference to darkness in these verses? The reason is because darkness is an expression of hopelessness, since you cannot see.
An example is being in the middle of a stormy ocean or desert at night versus the day. The night experience is obviously a lot more frightening, because you can see nothing, whereas you can still navigate your way out during the day, by virtue of being able to see.
Therefore, the night is symbolic of being lost and unable to find your way out. Hence, the Holy Quran draws this analogy to darkness in these verses, in the material and non-material sense. In the non-material sense, sometimes a bright day in front of you can be feeling like a dark night!
Challenges, hardships, difficulties, diseases, economic challenges, and the list goes on and on. The picture looks very dark and gloomy whichever direction you turn your head. Every direction seems to be a cul-de-sac. This creates a sense of hopelessness and depression.
Now, the Holy Quran is saying that in this position of doom and gloom, we need to realize that there is a divine light which our hearts and minds automatically divert attention towards.
WAKING UP TO THE REALITY OF GOD IN THAT MOMENT OF DESPERATION
One of the commentators of the Holy Quran explains when a human being faces a very serious challenge, one which can be described as stuck in a dark night where you are completely desolate. In this desperate situation, he beautifully explains that there are four conditions in light of the above referenced verses of Surah An’aam.
- Realization of the need of another power. This need awakens one in the face of challenges and difficulties.
- Making dua (supplication) and calling out to Almighty Allah (SWT) for Him to rescue you.
- Making dua secretly. One may rightfully question why secretly, and the reason is that dua is regarded as more sincere when done secretly. It is very easy to make dua loudly in front of people as a means of showing off, but true sincerity is when you are speaking very secretly on your own to your Lord (SWT).
- Being thankful.
So, whenever a person comes across a challenging situation, the above four conditions come to mind ie. the need for divine help, calling out to Allah (SWT) for help, approaching Him with full sincerity, and then being thankful to Him.
The challenge, as presented in the above verses, is whether we are going to forget everything the moment we emerge from the difficult challenge, hardship or calamity! Will we quickly forget that Almighty Allah (SWT) is the One who rescued us, and delivers us from every pain?
We therefore learn from these deeply reflective verses of the Holy Quran that difficulties make us feel as though we are lost in a dark, gloomy, depressing night.
However, there is a great jewel hidden there, which refines and enlightens our inner soul with the LIGHT OF HOPE and the realization of our DEPENDENCY on that LIGHT which we call upon, and express our sincerity towards, with full commitment in that desperate time that we will be thankful to Almighty Allah (SWT) if we can emerge from the desperate situation.
We need to hold onto this great gift of Almighty Allah (SWT) which appears in the face of challenges.
We noted in the first Khutbah (sermon) that challenges in life sometimes overwhelm us like a dark, gloomy, depressing night. However, the silver lining is that amongst this desperate situation, the light of hope is our trust in Almighty Allah (SWT), and our response is to call him loudly and secretly.
We call on Him loudly because it is a natural reflex. And we call on Him secretly because it reaches a greater level of sincerity. Therefore, we find in numerous Hadith narrated from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his holy Ahlul Bait (a.s) that the best of worship and supplication is conducted in secret.
This is because it is much easier to control our intentions and focus in secrecy, whereas our motivation and mindset very quickly drifts somewhere else when in public. This is when our minds play games with us, on whether we are making dua to impress others and be regarded as pious…
Naturally, dua in private has greater likelihood of achieving purity of intention and sincerity in our attention towards achieving the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Having said that, the Holy Quran explains that the true believers (mu’mineen) are those who conduct their duties openly and privately (sirran wa’ala niyyatan).
AFGHANISTAN UNDER TALIBAN RULE CONTINUES TO ATTRACT MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
The unfolding situation in Afghanistan continues to be worrisome and very difficult to really predict where things will move. Taliban came in power by categorically declaring that they are not in for revenge or bloodshed.
However, contradictory to this, the way they acted in their takeover of the Panjshir Valley in the north, by ruthlessly crushing the opposition with the help of external agents, to capture the last area of resistance, closing the doors of any negotiations or any lines of communication, sends a dangerous signal indeed.
This so-called peaceful appearance does not look very genuine, but rather it is a pretext to establish themselves, and then the scene will be very different thereafter.
We pray for the oppressed people of Afghanistan. It is very difficult, for me at least, to believe that the Taliban can change their ideological trend of thinking. When one looks at their background, where they were trained, what type of ideological school they have been groomed in, makes it very hard to believe that they have suddenly changed for the better. Hence why I believe it is simply a tactical ploy to gain some form of acceptance, rather than a genuine change from the Taliban everyone fears.
One sign of this phenomenon is that all of a sudden in neighbouring Pakistan, we see the rise of very extreme, hardcore Wahhabis raising slogans against the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). They are demanding that all the religious programs, like processions and affiliated programs connected to the current period of mourning for Imam Husain (a.s) and the tragedy of Karbala should be banned!
They are also calling for “Ash-hadu anna Aliyan wali-ul-lah” (I bear witness that Ali (a.s) is the vicegerent of God (SWT)) to be banned in the Adhan (call to prayer) on loudspeakers, recited by Shia Muslims, as they claim it is an assault on them! How is this possible, because there is no difference or dispute on the status of Imam Ali (a.s) as the vicegerent.
The big question is, where do these movements in Pakistan get this courage from?
AYATOLLAH HAKIM’S PASSING FROM THIS WORLD IS A MASSIVE LOSS TO SHIA ACADEMIC LEADERSHIP
We have lost quite a few high-ranking religious scholars over the past few weeks. The most notable amongst them is Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Saeed al-Hakim, this Marja (grand spiritual authority), in Najaf, Iraq.
Najaf is known for its pedigree of outstanding scholars, but there are four who are very highly acclaimed spiritual authorities (in Najaf). Of course, the most senior amongst them is Ayatollah Sistani. And there is also Ayatollah Fayyaz and Ayatollah Bashir Najafi.
The fourth amongst this supreme group from the religious clergy in Najaf was Ayatollah Hakim. His passing last week is undoubtedly a great loss. We offer our condolences to the Imam of our time, Imam Mahdi (atfs) and the Islamic Seminary of Najaf and all the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s).
He was indeed a great man, who stood against injustice and had to endure long periods of imprisonment and torture during the tyrannical reign of Saddam. He never gave up though, and stayed with his people and led them. May Allah (SWT) shower His blessings on his departed soul.
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