Jumuah lecture on Friday 28 December 2018 (20 Rabi-u-Thani 1440) by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
The year 2018 is drawing to a close, and these last few days are a great opportunity to review and rethink what we have accomplished in this year and what we would like to achieve in the coming year.
These days and months, with discipline in our time is basically an opportunity for us to go back and reflect, and ultimately realize the opportunities which are ahead of us and also the opportunities which we missed. This will also allow us to evaluate how effectively we use our time, which is running away very fast, in relation to the opportunities which are coming and going!
I would like to draw your attention to this letter or will of Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) to his son, Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s). This is letter number 31 of Nahjul Balagha, where Imam Ali (a.s) addressed his son, Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s), upon his return from the Battle of Siffin.
This letter as a whole is really something to ponder and reflect upon, since it has great messages of Tarbiyyah and advice on how to groom and develop our children. Anyway, I would like to draw your attention to the following passage from this particular letter, as we are coming to the end of one portion of time in our life and looking forward to a fresh start with the new year.
MAKE THE MOST OF OPPORTUNITIES – YOU SNOOZE YOU LOSE!
Imam Ali (a.s) writes to his son, Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s), the following deeply meaningful and reflective passage:
“O my child, never, ever rely on vain hopes, because they are the assets of fools, while wisdom is the name of the trait of remembering, saving and protecting experiences, and making use of them. The best experience is the one which gives the best warning and advice.”
Imam Ali (a.s) then continues with this golden sentence, where his extreme eloquence is once again demonstrated with him using only a few words to articulate a most comprehensive message:
“Take advantage of opportunities before they turn into regret.”
The key point that Imam Ali (a.s) advises to his son Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s) in this letter is that OPPORTUNITIES DO NOT COME BACK! Therefore, Imam Ali (a.s) says that it is extremely crucial to look at your past, present and future. This means that we need reflect on the opportunities we missed, what opportunities are with us right now to take advantage of, instead of living in a dream world based upon vain hopes and ambitions.
According to Imam Ali (a.s), the method to take advantage of opportunities is by taking account of yourself regarding what you have accomplished. Imam Ali (a.s) says that we should evaluate ourselves before we are evaluated by Almighty Allah (SWT).
OUR SCORECARD FOR OUR PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL
On this point I want to share a narration from our 11th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Hassan al-Askari (a.s). He narrates that someone came to Imam Ali (a.s) and asked for the best method on how we should take account of ourselves.
Imam Ali (a.s) replied that when someone wakes up in the morning and passes through the day until it is bedtime at night and realizes that the day will never come back, we should ask the following questions of ourselves, because Almighty Allah (SWT) will evaluate us on our actions for the day:
1. The first point of evaluation is whether we remembered Allah (SWT) and praise Him?
2. The second question we should ask ourselves is whether we gave the rights to our Mu’min brother and did we remove his pain?
This question has the following components:
a. Did we take care of his belongings when he was not around?
b. Did we take care of his loved ones after he passed from this world?
c. Did you try to prevent people from speaking bad about your fellow Mu’min brother?
d. Did you help any Muslim?
Each of these questions requires deep reflection, as Imam Ali (a.s) says this is the scorecard to measure ourselves against on a daily basis.
PERSONAL AMBITIONS SHOULD BE CONNECTED WITH COMMUNAL SUCCESS
There are clearly 2 very important messages emanating from this for us to evaluate ourselves, as a prelude to taking advantage of opportunities:
1. What was your connection with your Lord Almighty (SWT)?
2. What was your connection with humanity?
So, as the year draws to a close, it presents the ideal opportunity for us to reflect and review what we did over the past year, in our individual capacity with our connection with our Lord Almighty (SWT) and also our connection with the people ie. what did we do for the community?
This second question on what we did for the community is a most important one. Many people achieve great things financially, academically and on other individual fronts. However, the fundamental question is what have we done to invest in our Akhirah? What did we share from our individual earnings and success with the people in our community and beyond?
This letter 31 of Imam Ali (a.s) to his son, Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s) is therefore so important for us to study, because it provides the scorecard for us to conduct our own performance appraisal at the end of every day, or at the end of every year at the bare minimum.
So, with this message, I remind myself and all of you to observe Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT), which is only possible with these 2 very important points which Imam Ali (a.s) advised his son, Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s):
1. Take advantage of opportunities by understanding the precious value of time! Don’t let opportunities slip, resulting in them becoming regrets.
2. Take account of ourselves, in connection with our Lord (SWT) and with the creation of our Lord (SWT).
Let us end 2018 with this evaluation, and start 2019 with the fresh commitment to take the opportunities that present themselves.
2018 ENDS WITH A GLIMMER OF HOPE IN THE DECIMATED SYRIA
Alhamdu Lillah, we are witnessing the changing waves in Middle East politics, where the people who wanted to destroy the forefront of Islamic resistance and the general resistance against the Zionist regime are admitting their defeat by opening their embassies and establishing diplomatic relationships with this same Syrian government that they wanted to topple. One should remember that Syria is the only Arab country which opposes Zionist Israel.
This same Hafez al-Assad (and now his son Bashar al-Assad) was the worst creation on the earth for these opponents with their devious intent, labelling him the murderer, dictator, Alawi mushrik etc.
There is a very important lesson in this whole saga, especially since we are now also seeing a reshuffle in the Saudi cabinet with the “leader of this movement”, their foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir being replaced! Those who threatened to remove others forgot that there is a time for them too!
PASSING AWAY OF AYATOLLAH SAYYID MAHMOUD HASHEMI SHAHROUDI
One very important event which occurred during this week for which we also issued an official statement on, is the passing away of a great scholar and Mujtahid, Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer our condolences to his family and the people he served in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq, his students and his institutions on this great loss. At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to this institution of Ijtihad in the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s).
The reason I am drawing this particular reference to Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi (r.a) is because this great man and scholar represented a particular school of thought inside Shia academic seminaries. This particular school of thought I am referring to was founded and established by his teacher, amongst the greatest philosophers and thinkers of the 20th century, Shaheed Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a).
This great man reflects the beauty of the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), and in no way should this be misconstrued as a sectarian statement belittling anyone else. Instead, I am trying to explain how this institution of Ijtihad flourishes in the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) and how it produces people of this exceptional caliber and science.
A MOST MESMERIZING ANECDOTE ABOUT A MEETING WITH AYATOLLAH MUHAMMAD BQIR SADR
One of the greatest scholars and writers from Al Azhar University in Egypt, which is the foremost centre of academic authority in the Sunni world, came to attend a conference in Iraq during the time of Saddam oppressive rule. After the conference, he requested from the organizers that he wants to go to Najaf, because he wants to meet a man who has written such remarkable books titled “Falsafatuna” (Our Philosophy), “Iqtisaduna” (Our Economy – Islamic bank without interest), amongst many other of his brilliant academic works.
This man Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a) has brought Islamic teachings, principles and values to the modern era. Naturally, the tyrannical regime of Saddam did not like him, and he was a hardcore enemy of this regime, who ultimately had him assassinated. However, this great scholar from Al Azhar University was reluctantly allowed by the regime to meet Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a).
So he went to Najaf, the city of Imam Ali (a.s), whom Rasulullah (SAWA) referred to as the gate to the city of knowledge. This man is enters Najaf and asking around for directions to where he can meet Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a). Anyway, he was directed through alleyways to some corner where Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a) lives.
This man knocks on the door of the little dwelling, requesting if it is possible to meet Muhammad Baqir Sadr. So he was graciously invited in and sent upstairs to where Muhammad Baqir Sadr was working in his little library.
This great scholar from Egypt was completely taken aback by the level of simplicity in this very basic house. He says that the library room which Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr used did not even have proper shelving for his books. All his books were strewn on one shelf. There was no proper air-conditioning, or not even a fan to counteract the overpowering, burning heat of Najaf in that room.
He goes further to say that he saw this man Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr sweating and busy with his work. This great scholar from Egypt was completely flabbergasted at witnessing this and resorted to various questioning to validate whether this is in fact the great Islamic intellectual luminary by the name of Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr!
After being sufficiently convinced, he explained to Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr why he was totally confused, because he expected a writer of his esteemed caliber to have a huge office with multiple secretaries, cars and people at his beck and call. He is therefore completely gob smacked by the remarkable level of academic excellence which Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr has achieved despite such primitive conditions.
So, after knowing the simplicity and Taqwa of Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr, this great scholar from Egypt asks him which university did he graduate from, because he has so deeply analyzed the philosophies of the West and the economic systems and theories of the West and East in his celebrated works such as “Falsafatuna” (Our Philosophy), “Iqtisaduna” (Our Economy – Islamic bank without interest). He asks Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr whether he is a graduate from Harvard, Oxford or similar prestigious academic institutions!
Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr smiled and responded that he has never left Iraq, except once to Lebanon to visit his family! Again, this great scholar from Egypt shook his head in disbelief, and asked him whether he studied in the highly regarded University of Baghdad! Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr responded that he has students in the University of Baghdad but he has never studied there.
It was truly unbelievable that Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr educated himself in that little room where this great scholar from Egypt was meeting him, especially since he studied the philosophies of Marx and Hegel and others so deeply and accurately from this same room! Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr said that whatever he has learnt is through his ultimate trust in Almighty Allah (SWT) and what his teachers educated him with.
It is impossible to draw a comparison with such unparalleled humility, because he had every right to claim that he is someone special. This great scholar from Al Azhar in Egypt concludes this story by saying he was totally flattened with this attitude.
THE INSTITUTION OF MARJA’IYYA IS THE GREAT PRIDE IN THIS GLOOMY WORLD
The point I want to make through relaying this remarkable encounter is that these institutions of Ijtihad in Najaf and Qom, has produced giants such as Shaheed Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a), despite the level of simplicity and traditional setup.
What was truly remarkable about this great man was that he presented the dynamic, living Islam, ie. Islam that is relevant for our times! This is also the manner in which he trained generations of students, of which some of them became great scholars, philosophers and thinkers, such as this great man who passed away a few days ago, Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who was one of his best students.
I would like add that this man, Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, returned to his original homeland of Iran and with his great expertise was able to relate Islamic principles, values and teachings to our times, and make Islamic jurisprudence compatible accordingly, in structures such as human rights and judicial systems in operation today.
Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has left a lasting legacy despite passing away at aged 70, which is considered very young in the scholastic circles of Najaf and Qom, because by their standards, you only reach your peak in your 80s and 90s!
All the existing Maraji’ (authorities on Islamic jurisprudence) are much older than Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi!
Since he was the head of the judiciary, it is truly remarkable to study how he brought contemporary principles and values to be applied consistent with the Islamic Sharia framework. He did not compromise on this by introducing conclusions based on analogies and guesswork! This is the level of excellence which are produced in Najaf and Qom, especially when you are the prime student of Shaheed Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a).
May the Infinite Mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) be showered on the souls of Shaheed Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr and his great student Ayatollah Sayyid Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
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