Jumuah lecture on Friday 3 July 2020 (11 Dhul Qa’dah 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
11 Dhul Qa’dah is the birthday of the 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s), and I extend my congratulations to all the lovers and followers of the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the Islamic Ummah (nation) on this auspicious occasion when we celebrate a personality like Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s).
Imam Ridha (a.s) lived in the 2nd century after Hijra and was martyred in the early years of the 3rd century. His life was full of challenges, ranging from political, social as well as ideological, philosophical and theological challenges in establishing true Islam in society. Imam Ridha (a.s) flourished on all these fronts, protecting the Islamic ideology, values and principles.
WHY DO MAINSTREAM MUSLIMS NOT KNOW IMAM RIDHA (A.S)?
Imam Ridha (a.s) lived in the so-called golden era of the Abbasid dynasty. This is when Islamic civilization and academic excellence in the Islamic empire reached almost its peak, during the reign of Harun Rashid to Ma’mun Rashid.
Naturally, in this era, we see that Imam Ridha (a.s) has his own serious socio-political challenges. I’m not going delve into great detail about this here. Mainstream Muslims are generally familiar with the names Harun Rashid and Ma’mun Rashid. This is where we often hear about the great civilization they have developed and how many academic institutions they founded and the scientific advancement they are responsible for. This is why their reign is regarded as the golden era of the Islamic Khilafa.
Amazingly, the same mainstream Muslim masses hardly know about, or have heard about, the contemporary Islamic personality of that time by the name of Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s), who is a direct descendent from the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Then, if you do mention this name, then their minds drift towards this auspicious name of Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s) being linked to a particular sect, namely Shia.
WHY DID MA’MUN IMPOSE UPON IMAM RIDHA (A.S) TO BE HIS CROWN PRINCE?
For mainstream Muslims, unfortunately, this great personality by the name of Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s) has nothing to do with mainstream Islam and Islamic history.
I would like to provoke one point of reflection for us to ponder. If this personality of Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s), at the peak of the golden era of Islam, was so insignificant, then why did the emperor of this vast Islamic empire, Ma’mun Rashid, force upon him to accept the position of Crown Prince? It is a simple point of reflection!
Why does a powerful emperor do this, when he is ruling over continents, all the way from North Africa to South East Asia, to the Arabian Peninsula! It was a huge empire at the time of Ma’mun Rashid! Why would he be so inclined to the point of begging Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s) to stand next to him? Why would Ma’mun threaten to kill Imam Ridha (a.s) when he refuses to accept the position of Crown Prince?
Why is the powerful Ma’mun dependent on the presence of the grandson of Rasulullah (SAWA) to stand next to him for his legitimacy? This is something to really reflect on.
Last night (Thursday 2 July), we had a very beautiful program led by my respected brother and friend Mowlana Syed Arif Rezaei. He explained what was the background of Imam Ridha (a.s) becoming the Crown Prince of Ma’mun. He presented 3 possible reasons in the historical records with his insightful analysis, which is highly recommended to watch in our videos page if you have missed it.
IMAM RIDHA (A.S) IS AT THE FOREFRONT OF PRESENTING TRUE ISLAM
I would like to draw your attention to the one point, namely how crucial this personality by the name of Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s) was, to the point where the whole Abbasid empire is begging and bowing before him. This is an important point of reflection on the status of Imam Ridha (a.s).
Whenever there is an academic challenge for Ma’mun, we read in the historical records about his dependency on Imam Ridha (a.s). The pen documenting these historical records was not in the hands of followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s). It was in the control of the state, controlled by the Khilafa and its appointed governors. Despite this, these are the pens which recorded the debates and discussions and academic gatherings in the court of Ma’mun.
On the one side was Imam Ridha (a.s), and on the other side were the religious scholars and academics from different schools of thought within the broader house of Islam and even outside the fold of Islam. Non-Muslim philosophers came to debate the Islamic philosophy and ideology, and Ma’mun finds nobody more equipped to defend the Islamic position than Imam Ridha (a.s).
This is the oppressed 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s), who is unfortunately unknown and left strange amongst the greater Muslim population up until today!
If you study the debates of Imam Ridha (a.s) on various key issues, such as Tauheed, Nubuwwat, Qada and Qadr, interfaith dialogue, and many others, we find that Ma’mun relied extensively on Imam Ridha (a.s) to present and defend the Islamic position.
This is particularly important to note against the backdrop of Ma’mun being the most educated Khalifa of the Abbasids. He is the one who was very much inclined to the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and Imam Ridha (a.s), at least in an academic sense.
MA’MUN EXPLAINS HIS INCLINATION TOWARDS AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
One day, someone asked Ma’mun what is it with his inclination towards Shiaism. Ma’mun replied by saying that the influence came from his father Harun Rashid. The person asking the question was totally shocked by this response, as Harun was responsible for the killing of the father of Imam Ridha (a.s), namely Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s). This is the same Harun who imprisoned Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) for many years!
Despite this person citing these examples to challenge how it is possible for Harun to be the key influence in Ma’mun’s inclination towards Shia Islam, Ma’mun again confirmed this. The person asking the question was naturally perplexed, and then Ma’mun explained what happened one day, when they were on their way to Hajj. They stopped at a certain point to take a break, en-route to Hajj.
Ma’mun explained that at this point, his father (Harun) came to know that there was another caravan passing by. Harun sent a message to this caravan requesting them to stop as well. Now, at this stoppage point, there was a big reception in a decorated tent for the king, Harun, as the Khalifa.
Ma’mun then narrates that he saw Imam Ridha (a.s) enter the tent from this other caravan that was passing by – but stopped by Harun to join them. Ma’mun narrates that his father, Harun, stood all the way in respect of this personality and rushed to welcome him at the entrance to the huge tent.
Ma’mun goes further to explain that this personality (Imam Ridha (a.s)) had amazing Nur (Light) shining from his face. Ma’mun relays that he was also very much impressed by this. When Imam Ridha (a.s) entered the tent, he started to remove his shoes before stepping on the carpet. Ma’mun explains that his father, Harun, insisted that Imam Ridha (a.s) should walk with his shoes.
Harun then brought Imam Ridha (a.s) by the hand all the way to the front of the tent and made Imam Ridha (a.s) sit in his lofty chair, and Harun decided to sit on a lower chair.
HARUN & MA’MUN’S INSATIABLE LUST FOR POWER HAD NO LIMITS
After all the ceremonial formalities and show of respect to Imam Ridha (a.s) was completed, Ma’mun asked his father (Harun) who this highly respected personality is.
Harun replied to his son Ma’mun, asking “don’t you know who he is?” Harun explained with high praise that this is the son of Imam Musa ibn Jafar al-Kadhim (a.s)! Harun continued with his praise, saying this is the grandson of Rasulullah (SAWA) etc.
Ma’mun explained that his father praised Imam Ridha (a.s) in a manner that he could not believe. Ma’mun, naturally confused by what he is experiencing, then asked his father Harun, that if Imam Ridha (a.s) is such a great personality with supreme virtue and noble character, then why are you (Harun) taking the position of leadership of the Muslim Ummah (nation)?
Harun replied to his son that power does not recognize anything! It has no relationships and is driven by an insatiable lust! Harun explained to his son (Ma’mun) that if he (Ma’mun) were to one day plan something against him (Harun), then he (Harun) won’t think twice about having him eliminated, despite him being the beloved son!
This was the principle of the Abbasids. This same Ma’mun killed his own brother Amin in order to usurp the power! This in itself warrants a detailed discussion.
Despite Ma’mun believing in the status of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in theory, and being a sound academic presenting insightful arguments about the virtue and priority of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and in particular the position of Imam Ali (a.s) over other Sahaba (companions) and the first three Caliphs, we find the disease that Ma’mun suffered from was power on any price!
Power does not recognize anything. This insatiable lust for power rendered Ma’mun’s academic stature into oblivion!
History is full of records, where people attested to Imam Ridha (a.s) being the best of his time, when it came to God-consciousness (Taqwa), noble character, knowledge, worship to Almighty Allah (SWT), etc. Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s) was a leader respected by each and every one.
IMAMAT IS THE PRE-REQUISITE TO ACHIEVING THE LOFTY STATIONS OF TAUHEED
Last night (Thursday 2 July) our respected scholar Mowlana Syed Arif Rezaei explained the Hadith of Golden Chain (Hadith al-Silsilah al-Dhahab), which Imam Ridha (a.s) delivered in the Sunni predominant city of Nishapur. This was the centre of academia for Sunni Muslims at the time, and Imam Ridha (a.s) delivered this great Hadith to them, which explains the Imamat of Ahlul Bait (a.s) as the condition for Tauheed!
There is a beautiful Hadith Qudsi where Almighty Allah (SWT) explains that Tauheed is His castle, and whoever enters it is protected from His punishment. Imam Ridha (a.s) added that entry to the castle of Tauheed requires conditions to be fulfilled, and he is one of those conditions. He explains that Imamat of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is the condition!
Tauheed has levels and you cannot reach the peak of Tauheed without Imamat ie. leadership which is based upon Tauheed!
ATROCITIES ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE WHILE THE WORLD’S FOCUS IS ON COVID-19
I would now like to highlight some important matters of current affairs, globally and in our own country.
Naturally, the coronavirus pandemic continues to create havoc around the world, bringing serious challenges to confront. Behind the scenes, there are numerous other crimes being committed which people may not even be taking note of, since we are all consumed in Covid-19.
One of the most serious issues is the continuous injustice and oppression on Palestinians and the annexation of Palestinian lands which we see on the news. No matter how bad the situation is in the world today with Covid-19 and the socio-economic pressures it is causing, we cannot forget what is happening in Palestine, and the reign of terror that the Zionist entity is inflicting on the oppressed people in this Holy Land.
We see a similar trend of aggression, exploitation and gross violation of human rights continuing in Kashmir, India, besides the spread of this coronavirus.
The brutality of the police and those responsible for law enforcement is another serious challenge which we have discussed a few weeks ago as a religious leaders forum. We have once again witnessed this brutality in our own city over the past week, where we have seen how these law enforcement agencies dragged a person naked out of his shack. This is now a really extreme level. I don’t have words to express this brutality.
IT IS COMPULSORY FOR US TO FOLLOW MEDICAL INSTRUCTIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC
Once again, I would like to remind you all about our responsibilities in facing this coronavirus pandemic. As the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Foundation of South Africa (AFOSA), we have taken a very clear position from day one. The prolonged nature of lockdowns is posing a serious challenge for humanity as a whole, and we are feeling the terrible effects of this virus in our communities too.
The only way to face this challenge is to follow the guidelines of the medical professionals and experts in this field. We are responsible to take care of our lives and that of other people whom we interact with on a daily basis.
Our Islamic leadership, Ayatollah Khamenei, made the religious position very clear, that medical advice shall be followed, and he practices it accordingly. Similarly, other Maraji’ (grand spiritual authorities) like Ayatollah Sistani and Ayatollah Fayyaz in Najaf made it clear that it is compulsory to follow the medical guidelines on face masks etc.
According to the latest statistics, which is not a secret, we are now entering the eye of the storm and need to be prepared for the long haul. This was the key message coming out of a detailed briefing when we, as the religious leaders forum, met with leading medical and disease control experts.
FIGHTING COVID-19 REQUIRES A BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE
Nobody can predict what lies ahead of us in this storm. Therefore, we have to adhere to medical instructions as the key solution. We cannot lockdown everything forever, as people will die out of hunger. At the same time, we also cannot allow this virus to spread like wildfire and potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people.
We are facing serious economic challenges with almost 30% loss of GDP. This is the gravity of the problem at hand! The only way that we can survive through this is to fight back with a behavioural change. If we can follow the medical guidelines, then we can defeat this virus and manage.
It is a very frightening story, but also a great deal of hope. Indeed, we as believers, trust in Almighty Allah (SWT) and with His help, we can overcome this serious challenge.
We pray to Almighty Allah (SWT) to grant the whole humanity success and victory over this serious challenge. At the same time, this is a callout to change our behaviour, as we are responsible for ourselves and the lives of everyone else. This is the religious decree (fatwa) of our religious scholars.
This is a repeated request to adhere to the medical expert advice, and to engage in supplication (dua) to Almighty Allah (SWT) seeking His mercy to alleviate us from the current misery.
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