Lecture delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim on Thursday 27 June 2019 on the occasion of the martyrdom of 6th Imam Jaa’far Saadiq (a.s) at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town.
Though Shawaal is a month that starts with the spirit of great celebration as we end the month of spiritual achievement and development being the month of Ramadaan, the month of Shawaal does not end in the same spirit as the 25th of Shawaal reminds us of the martyrdom of the great 6th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), namely Abu Abdillah Imam Jaa’far ibn Muhammad as-Saadiq (a.s).
THE QUESTION OF MATHAB IDENTITY
One thing that is particularly interesting to note that there is hardly a Muslim in our era who does not at least sub consciously align himself with a particular brand of Islam.
You may say that it’s unfortunate that differing brands of Islam has been promoted to be the cause for serious tension in the Muslim community internationally, but the reality is that information and lectures are so easily accessible that all of these versions of Islam are right there in your face and your very human nature of curiosity almost literally forces you to at least make an enquiry on an elementary level to know what each supposed brand of Islam stands for.
All of that coupled with the wonderful religiously free South Africa that we enjoy makes it possible for all these brands of Islam to co exist side by side virtually within a few meters of each other.
So in our society people proudly identify themselves beyond being Muslim but also by their School of Thought or understanding. That by itself is not bad at all as long as it’s coupled with mutual respect. So in our society almost every version of Sunni Islam exists these days, coupled Shia Islam, and different versions of Aqeeda and Fiq to make a very diverse expression of our faith.
But with all of this variety available, our very inner nature and fitra which is attracted to perfection in everything is also attracted to wanting perfection of our intellectual understanding of religion together with perfection in its spiritual expression.
Human beings by nature love perfection. If the maid did not iron your shirt immaculately, then some people get upset. If the chef did not cook your food properly, then some people get upset. If the South African cricket team did not play properly in the World Cup, then many people get upset. By nature we are not happy with second best or with poor quality or mediocrity if we had a choice. Often we just accept imperfection when we have no choice.
But almost all the time we seek perfection in issues that don’t mean much. Who cares about how well somebody spins a cricket ball or how much a comedian can make you laugh?
But when it comes to our destiny in life, perfection in our understanding and practise of religion cannot be compromised. The greater your level of knowledge – intellectual and intuitive or spiritual knowledge – the greater your potential destination.
انما يخشى الله من عباده العلماء
“Only the ulama (people of knowledge) among His servants are the ones who have true awe/fear of Allah”.
Having proper knowledge and marifat impacts on our level of success in life and the next world.
Imam Jaa’far Saadiq (a.s) lived in an area where so many brands of Islam had taken root. And so for us he holds a very special position.
People identify themselves as Shafi, Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Ash’ari, Mu’tazili, Maturidi, Salafi, Wahabi, Ahlul Hadith, Ahlul Quran, Ahlul Tasawwuf, Shia, Zaidi, Ismaili, etc and feel a great sense of identity and pride as their inner nature somehow feels that they following the best interpretation of Islam.
And even those who say I am ghair muqallid and don’t follow a mathab and am only Muslim – that itself is a mathab – a mathab of having no mathab!
I was listening to a speaker in England who is a graduate from Madina University who was saying that he loves the country Indonesia a lot. So I thought yes it’s a beautiful country because it has the largest Muslim population in the world and when you meet the Indonesians in Hajj they truly have beautiful Akhlaq. But this speaker’s real reason for loving Indonesia was because he claims it is one of the best places in the world where Salafi dawah is accepted and is amenable to it and he was very excited in his expression.
FATHER OF LATTER DAY SHIA ISLAM
Of all the Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Saadiq (a.s) gives us that identity and sense of pride of being aligned to what we understand to be the most intellectually rich, balanced and accurate expression of Islam in all its facets.
In the history of human kind, Almighty Allah calls both Prophets Adam (a.s) and Nuh (a.s) as chosen Prophets above the worlds.
إنا لله اصطفى ادم و نوح و آل إبراهيم و آل عمران على العالمين
“Verily Allah chose Adam and Nuh and the Family of Imraan and the Family of Ibrahim above the worlds” (Surah 3:33)
We are usually very familiar with Surah 33 verse 33 which is Ayah Tathir. But this verse is Surah 3 Verse 33 which speaks of how Allah chose certain people and families above others. And in this chosing them above others, it means they were given certain virtues that others did not enjoy.
So we understand Adam (a.s) was chosen as he is the father of mankind and was given this virtue which is not given to others. But Nuh (a.s) is also chosen above the worlds as he is the father of mankind after the flood when everyone else was destroyed who did not board his ship.
And so Imam Ali (a.s) is usually identified as the father of Shia Islam but after Karbala when there were hardly a handful of true followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) remaining, it was Imam Saadiq (a.s) together with Imam Baaqir (a.s) who cemented the position of Shia Islam and the great scholars of the other schools somehow directly or indirectly benefited from them but in particular from Imam Saadiq (a.s).
And the number of issues that Imam Saadiq (a.s) had to deal with are numerous. Last year I gave a speech about what some of these issues were, from Aqeeda in the sense of proper Tauheed to the question of different invalid sects which even popped up in Shia Islam itself.
And these issues were extended to the next very important subject of Fiq and our daily practices which was polluted with invalid methodologies of determining what is Halaal and Haraam and to this very day we sit with practises that at times seem very far apart from each other.
And our appreciation for the great contribution of Imam Saadiq (a.s) to knowledge goes way beyond the religious sciences.
Imam Saadiq (a.s) teaches us how to deal with the great intellectual challenge of Atheism in our time and the backwardness of Muslims in not being developed in other beneficial sciences whereas we should be at the peak of development in these too.
ATHEISM AND SCIENCE – A DEADLY COMBINATION
The world today is plagued by Atheism combined with great scientific advancement which makes for a very disastrous combination.
Islam is not against science and scientific development. Islam is against scientific development without moral and ethical limitations.
Often we think that acquiring scientific knowledge is not Islamic knowledge as the Quran does not give fine details of scientific matters even though it miraculously mentions many scientific truths in principle that prove that the Quran is not the product of a human being.
But the reason for the absence of mentioning these finer scientific details is because Almighty Allah does not want us to be lazy and sit back waiting for the knowledge to come to us. We must do research and discover new things through our own effort. Otherwise the very atheists will hold us to ransom like they do to the Muslim countries and milk them dry of their resources as they are backward in their scientific research.
It’s this unfortunate situation that gives the president of a superpower the audacity to tell the prime minister of Japan which is a country they destroyed decades ago in the Hiroshima nuclear bombing to rather go tell Iran that they, who have no nuclear weapons should not develop nuclear weapons!
This is when Atheism is combined with science – there’s absolutely no limits. Under any pretext, war, war and more war for decades and human beings suffer.
Muslims unfortunately can’t hardly think coherently when it comes to religious sciences, let alone have something to offer in the scientific world. Besides Iran where universities in every major city has a philosophy department, which other Muslim countries has philosophy departments in other denominations of Islam – don’t mix this with Theology or Kalam – everyone has that. But philosophy trains you to study existence purely with the use of human intellect. This hardly exists in other Muslim countries!
But when clear Aqeeda and understanding of our relationship with the universe is combined with scientific development, then you see a Muslim country capable of shooting down a drone of a superpower when it oversteps it’s boundaries.
DIALOGUE WITH THE ATHEIST – ABU SHAAKIR AL-DAYSANI
In the vast class of thousands of students of Imam Saadiq (a.s) was the well known atheist Abu Shaakir Al-Daysani.
A well known dialogue is recorded between him and Imam Saadiq (a.s) from which there’s much to learn.
In this dialogue Abu Shaakir makes many accusations about the supposed falsehood of belief in God and then rounds it off with something very strange when he says that the Imam preaches the existence of God so that he can ultimately control and exploit the financial wealth of people!! Yet, this is the precise aim of those who don’t believe in God!
This is a very long dialogue that can’t be covered now but I just want to highlight a few points.
Imam Saadiq (a.s) replies that if you think I am eating up people’s money, then come home with me and see what little I eat.
Even today people love making this accusation against ulama and don’t see the struggles they go through to just make a simple living or just assume ulama are using their religious position to live off people.
IDEAS IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
One of the great buzzwords of last week’s expectations from the State of the Nation address was how South Africa is going to bridge the gap between rich and poor.
Now this in itself is a long discussion, but one systemic problem with our education system is that it is designed to create workers for the labour market and not entrepreneurs who will create the very jobs for that labour market.
People are taught everything besides the ability to sell and see opportunities.
Imam Saadiq (a.s) in further response to Abu Shaakir about generating wealth says that if he was really interested in having material wealth then he would not live off the people through religious lectures but would generate that wealth himself!
How?? He gives a few profound examples:
1. He would make money through his knowledge of chemistry.
Isn’t the pharmaceutical industry one of the biggest money spinners? And knowledge of chemistry has options way beyond that industry. The oil industry is a big money spinner due to knowledge of chemistry. And much more.
2. The Imam claims that another way to make wealth is to do business! How many of us do business even if it’s on the side for an extra income. The Imam gives details that his knowledge of foreign markets makes it possible for him to know what is produced in which country and which market has the need so it can be sold there. The mind of a businessman is always studying market conditions to benefit from knowledge of its gaps.
3. Then the Imam speaks about his knowledge of precious stones including diamonds and the ability to value them and trade in it.
Who in this world controls this market?!
4. Then the Imam speaks about making money from value adding processes by polishing the precious stones and making jewelry and selling it.
These were just a few examples the Imam used to show that for human beings to survive and do well materially which they can use for spiritual development too, they need expert knowledge beyond the traditional religious sciences too.
DECONSTRUCTING PRINCIPLES OF MATERIALISTIC WORLD VIEW
Now after speaking about economics, the Imam breaks down the flaws in the materialistic Atheist thinking in a variety of ways so that no doubt is left in your mind other than if one’s mind has an illness.
First core problem he tackles is the idea that since Allah can’t be seen, he does not exist. He says to Abu Shaakir that you can’t see inside your body or hear your blood move, but it’s doing a complete circuit in reality – can we say it’s not true because your senses can’t perceive it? The scope of science does not allow it to say whether God exists or does not exist – it’s beyond science to determine this.
Then he explained the role of microscopic organisms in our body that keep us alive but we can never perceive them with our senses by themselves. That sophisticated system inside us is the great cosmological proof for most people of Allah’s existence.
Secondly he goes to prove that movement which is a phenomenon requires a mover and that is a different proof of existence of God.
Then thirdly he goes purely intellectual and proves that there’s a system of cause and effect that we recognize which will prove to you the existence of God.
Then he proves through the complicated water cycle in the world that we live off everyday that it’s too complicated to work together by itself which proves existence of God.
And then the Imam asks him the most simple recognizable question that every human being experiences: “Abu Shaakir, please tell me sincerely to whom will you turn for help when you are in trouble? Do you hope that the idol you carve out of stone can come to your rescue?”
Abu Shaakir says he does not have such expectation from the idol. But he can’t help worshiping it!
That’s because worship is in our nature. We might worship the wrong thing – like an idol or our wealth or a superpower or our ego – but we all by nature worship something.
Imam Saadiq (a.s) says you worship that idol because you think there’s something inside it that you can’t see that will help you. You know it’s not the idol, but there’s something with the idol that your nature believes will help you. That help which you can’t see but believe is related to the idol is not coming from the idol, but is Allah who is with the idol and present with every existence and creation in this universe because Allah is everywhere – that’s where your help is coming from!
All of these proofs and other proofs have been the subject of philosophical study for centuries thereafter.
CONTRIBUTION TO SCIENCE
And lastly let me mention that once one’s Aqeeda and belief is sound, then religion and science move forward jointly towards the advancement of humanity. Then what was previously a deadly combination becomes a great combination. And the contribution of Imam Saadiq (a.s) to scienctific development is well recorded.
Knowledge of rotation of the earth around the sun goes back to Imam Saadiq (a.s) when people thought the sun and moon rotated around the earth. Rejection of the Theory of the Four Elements goes back to Imam Saadiq (a.s). Explanation of the Origin of the Universe goes back to Imam Saadiq (a.s).
Discovery of various laws of physics, composition of the human body, discovery of hydrogen, the theory of light, transfer of diseases, matter and anti-matter, theory of light of the stars, etc. all go back to Imam Saadiq (a.s).
So our pride as being called Ja’fari is not misplaced but truly justified. Who else can claim such contribution to Islamic sciences and scientific advancement like this Imam (a.s)? Imam Saadiq (a.s) is called Sheikhul Aimma as he lived the longest of all the Imams and had the most opportunity to make his knowledge known. And how greatly don’t we depend on the narrations that we have received through him.
And so after living a life that would be appreciated until the end of time, Imam Saadiq (a.s) was assassinated by Mansour Dawaniqi. But on his deathbed he said something that must pinch a nerve within us. And that is that if we take salaah lightly and in a sense belittle it, then the intercession of the Imams is not available for us. Who of us can ever claim that we will rely on our good deeds and get to Jannah on our own?
Knowledge gives us khushoo and awe of Allah. And it is expressed in salaah.
الذين هم في صلاتهم خاشعون
“Those who have khushoo/awe in their prayers” (Surah 23 verse 2)
May Almighty Allah grant us knowledge of this great Imam to appreciate his status so that we will identity ourselves as his followers and give importance to his dying words of always giving utmost importance to salaah and communication with Almighty Allah.