Jumuah lecture on Friday 15 October 2021 (8 Rabiul Auwal 1443)
Maulana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid
Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 83 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran):
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ لَا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ مُعْرِضُونَ
And when We made a covenant with the children of Israel: You shall not serve any but Allah and (you shall do) good to (your) parents, and to the near of kin and to the orphans and the needy, and you shall speak to the people good words and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate. Then you turned back except a few of you and (now too) you turn aside.
This verse of the Holy Quran draws reference to the children of Israel (Bani Isra’eel), regarding a pledge placed on them by Almighty Allah (SWT). The contents of this pledge are broad, and therefore not confined to the children of Israel.
There are very important principles mentioned in this verse 83 of Surah Baqarah. While we will not go through all the details associated with the principles established in this pledge, I wish to draw attention to one of the commands noted in this verse, namely:
وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا
speak to the people kindly
IMAM HASAN AL-ASKARI (A.S): BRIEF LIFE WITH RICH LEGACY
Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of the 11th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Hasan al-Askari (s.a), (8th Rabiul Auwal 280AH). Indeed, we pay our respects to this great Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), and I would like to highlight some important reminders from the legacy of this distinguished Imam (a.s) before we delve into the discussion about this phrase highlighted from verse 83 of Surah Baqarah.
Imam Hasan al-Askari (s.a) is the father of the 12th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), namely our awaited saviour, the promised Mahdi (atfs). He lived a very short life of 28 years, and most of his life was in Samarra, Iraq under strict surveillance from the ruling Abbasid dynasty.
Despite these restrictions and short life, he left a rich legacy, huge following and a great system of networking amongst his followers, thereby preparing them for that era when the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) will not have direct access to their Imam (leader), with the looming occultation of the 12th Imam.
There are two major pieces of advice from Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) to his followers, that I wish to highlight. The first is the above statement from verse 83 of Surah Baqarah ie. speak to the people kindly.
ADVICE FROM IMAM HASAN AL-ASKARI (A.S): SPEAK TO ALL PEOPLE KINDLY
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) interpreted this verse by saying that we should speak respectfully to the people, regardless of whether they are believers or non-believers.
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) explains that the reason we should speak kindly with the believers is so that it brings them happiness and creates love and compassion for them, thereby creating an environment of understanding for them.
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) then explains that the reason we should speak kindly with the non-believers is so that they can hopefully be attracted towards Imaan (faith). Even if they are not attracted to Imaan and Islam, then at least this kind way of engaging with them will result in your believing brethren being safe from any evil they have.
There is a such a big message for us all from this short explanation provided by our beloved 11th Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s)! Our interaction with people, regardless of who they are and what their ideological position is, should be based on kindness. This is the command of Almighty Allah (SWT) in this verse. Allah (SWT) does not say speak kindly to the believers, instead He says speak kindly to the people ie. EVERYONE!
STRIKING FEATURE OF RASULULLAH’S (SAWA) SUCCESS WAS HIS EXEMPLARY AKHLAQ
We learn from the explanation provided by Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s), noted above, that speaking kindly is a method of Tabligh (propagation) and inviting them towards the ideology we believe in. It is the month of Rabiul Auwal and we will definitely address this in light of the sacred birth of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Yes, Islamic philosophy, Islamic jurisprudence and the rich content of the Islamic message was all there, but what worked most successfully was the Akhlaq (noble moral character) of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). This was the secret of his extraordinary success in such a short period of time i.e. 23 years of propagating the message of Islam.
He revolutionized the Arabian society from its utter depths of moral bankruptcy to a society with exemplary moral values, spirit of sacrifice, care for humanity dignity, etc.
The Holy Quran is very clear about this, in verse 159 of Surah aal-Imraan (chapter 3 of the Holy Quran), where Almighty Allah (SWT) says that had it not been for the kind, caring nature of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), which He bestowed upon him through His mercy, then people would not have been attracted to him ie. had he been hard-hearted.
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ
Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you
Whatever Rasulullah (SAWA) would have presented to the people in terms of Islamic ideology, philosophy and jurisprudence would not have been enduring, without him connecting to their hearts in a kind manner. This is the secret of Islamic propagation (Da’wah).
IMAM HASAN AL-ASKARI (A.S): DEALING WITH DIVERSITY RESPECTFULLY HAS EVERLASTING IMPACT
Taking this point about the success of Rasulullah (SAWA) back to the era of Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s), one of the serious challenges he faced was the diversity of opinions. Differences of opinion was evident even amongst the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) during his time, over and above the differences in opinion within the broader Ummah, such as the dominant Sunni position at the time.
We find deep insight in numerous pieces of guidance issued by Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) about how to deal with differences and disputes in society, all referring back to this principle of dealing with people kindly.
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) emphasized on protecting the human rights of those whom you have differences of opinion or disputes with. Your social responsibility towards them should not be compromised. Examples are when they are going through difficult times like bereavement, illness or whenever they are in need. This is the Akhlaq of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
Considering the looming occultation of our beloved Imam Mahdi (atfs), diversity of opinion amongst the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) existed on a heightened level, as this was a new reality that people needed to become accustomed to with the absence of direct access to the Imam of our time (atfs).
Different approaches and lines of thinking were there. The approach of Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) in navigating through this was speaking kindly to the people, as he saw this as the way for the movement of Islam to survive, progress and prosper.
ADVICE FROM IMAM HASAN AL-ASKARI (A.S): FOLLOW THE AUTHORITY OF RIGHTEOUS LEADERSHIP
The second advice of Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) was regarding the status and position of religious scholars (Ulama). The Muslim Ummah, including the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) cannot survive without Ulama and the crucial role they play. The significance of this role becomes exponentially multiplied during the period of occultation of our living Imam Mahdi (atfs), since there is no direct access to him.
This is where the advice from Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) serves as crucial guidance for us. In a Hadith narrated from Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s), he says that a group of scholars will emerge on the Day of Qiyamah (Judgement), and those are the ones who were caring about the weak and vulnerable in society, which includes those who were ideologically weak. He says that there will be a Noor (Light) shining from their foreheads.
In other Hadith narrations, Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) provides commentary on the verses of the Holy Quran which condemns the Jews for following their clergy. Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) was then asked that if the Jews were condemned in the Holy Quran for following their clergy, then his advice to respect and follow the religious leadership does not reconcile with the Quranic guidance in this regard.
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) responded to this argument in extensive detail, but in principle he said that the Holy Quran condemns the Jews for following their religious leaders, because they (the Jewish religious leaders) had a serious problem of prejudice. They did not measure truth and falsehood on its merits, but rather, they measured it through the lenses of personal gains!
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) then explains that his guidance is certainly not to follow the religious scholars blindly. He clarified that the clergy he is commanding his followers to pledge allegiance to are those who protect their Imaan (faith), oppose their desires and surrendered to the commands of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Interestingly, Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) warns that not all religious scholars will pass these criteria. Only few will, and we are commanded to follow these righteous ones, as they are the pillars, especially during the period of occultation of our awaited saviour, Imam Mahdi (atfs).
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) even narrated that there will be, from the religious scholars, those who will create doubts, thereby making the Imaan of the people weak. Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) explains that such scholars, who exploit the ideological vulnerability of those who are intellectually weak, cause more harm than the army of Yazid on Husain ibn Ali (a.s).
Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) explicitly continues by saying that such fraudulent scholars rob people of their souls. They are therefore the worst of scholars, as they create doubt and confusion amongst the weakest of our followers and misguide them.
This important advice by Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s) highlights the important role and status of religious scholars, and their relationship with the people.
THE CONTINUED DISTRESSING PLIGHT OF SHIA MUSLIMS IN AFGHANISTAN
The merciless killing of the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Afghanistan continues. During Jumuah prayers last week, ISIS terrorists bombed a mosque in Kunduz (city in northern Afghanistan) and around 150 Shia Muslims were killed during this sacred hour.
Today, we see a repeat of this ghastly act of barbaric behaviour from the same ISIS terrorists, where they have again bombed a Shia Mosque, by the name of Masjid Fatima Zahra (s.a) in the southern city of Kandahar. Again, scores killed and many more injured.
This is the ongoing reality for the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Afghanistan.
There is apparently, a very serious power struggle between two comrades of previous times, namely ISIS-K (Khorasan) and the Taliban. As we know, the Taliban has taken over the power two months ago and ISIS-K are fighting the Taliban to ensure they cannot govern Afghanistan.
Clearly, their conflict has nothing to do with the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), but the victims of this power struggle are none other than Shia Muslims. From terrorist attacks by ISIS on the one side, to the Taliban governing the country on the other side under the name of the Islamic Emirate, but the protection of its citizens, and inclusion of citizens of the country, is almost zero!
Only this very small group of people (Taliban), belonging to a particular ethnicity (Pashtuns) and non-representative religious background, are the ones controlling and governing the whole country.
Yes, the Taliban are giving very nice slogans of inclusivity, tolerance and acceptance of diversity, but the reality on the ground is what I have just noted a moment ago.
This series of never-ending merciless killing of the Shia Muslims, especially the Hazara community in Afghanistan, is continuing for who knows how long, with no end in sight. Issuing statements of condemnation is clearly not taking us anywhere positive, as the whole world is simply watching how these innocent people are butchered.
SECTARIAN TENSIONS ONCE AGAIN STOKED IN LEBANON
The situation in Lebanon is once again dire, as we see that another sectarian war is being planned by the servants of imperialism. A peaceful protest against the appointment of a biased judge in the judicial case pertaining to the horrific Beirut explosion last year turned deadly, where live ammunition was shot into the crowd and people killed.
This is creating a fear of Lebanon once again going backwards towards civil unrest between different religious groupings. This judge was using this investigation to further his personal political motives, and is supported by certain Western powers, to create sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon.
This is the state of misery that the Muslim Ummah finds itself in today. Let us pray to Almighty Allah (SWT) to shower His mercy and blessings on this Ummah in these extremely challenging times.