Lecture 9 in the series: IMAM HUSAYN (A.S) – HEIR OF THE PROPHETS (Analyzing the phenomenon of deviation as witnessed by the Prophets)
By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 10 October 2016 (Muharram 1438) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)
In our discussions about Imam Husayn (AS) being heir of the Prophets we have discussed various aspects in which he inherited from Ambiya. In the previous 8 lectures across the first 8 nights of Muharram, we discussed various aspects in which Imam Husayn (AS) inherited from Prophets.
Husayn (AS) inherited various aspects from Prophets, such as the message of Prophets to the deviation that they faced, to the challenges of conspiracies.
In the last lecture (lecture 8) we also said that Husayn (AS) inherited the Prophetic lineage. Husayn (AS) inherited that Divine Sunnah of Prophets that they are being placed in certain lineage which the Holy Quran calls them the pure lineage in verse 33 of Surah aale Imraan (chapter 3 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّ اللّهَ اصْطَفَى آدَمَ وَنُوحًا وَآلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَآلَ عِمْرَانَ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ
“Surely Allah chose Adam and Nuh and the descendants of Ibrahim and the descendants of Imran above the nations”
Husayn (AS) also inherited from the Prophets in the very nature of their movement, their struggle, their uprising and revolution. In other words, the nature of Imam Husayn’s (AS) revolution is very similar to that of the Prophets.
PROPHETS AND HUSAYN (AS) EMPHASISE AN INTERNAL REVOLUTION TOO
We read in the Holy Quran that the major focus of the revolutions of Prophets was not only to change the governance and system of administration resulting from its arrogance and absence of God consciousness, but in addition, their key emphasis was also the INTERNAL REVOLUTION.
Divine Prophets came to this world to establish justice among the people, and similarly that is what the legacy of Husayn (AS) is. They came to this world to establish the message of worshipping Almighty Allah (SWT) and none other ie. Tauheed. However, most importantly, Prophets came to CLEAN THE HEARTS.
So there is an external revolution in the program of Prophets (refer to the past 8 lectures in this series) and then there is the internal revolution which is the topic of this discussion and the next.
The logic of Prophets and the Holy Quran is that the external revolution can never be complete without the internal revolution. Changing the system of governance will not be effective until the hearts and souls of the people are changed. Change starts from the fight internally with ourselves. This angle of the Prophetic movement is very much present with Imam Husayn (AS).
The Holy Quran establishes this key aspect in the following verses:
Verse 21 of Surah Ahzaab (chapter 33 of the Holy Quran):
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ اُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ
“Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar”
Verse 4 of Surah Qalam (chapter 68 of the Holy Quran):
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
“And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.”
HUSAYN (AS) CAPTURES THE SINCERE HEARTS
I want to say that in the revolution of Husayn (AS), one very important angle is AKHLAAQ! The manners and etiquette of Husayn (AS) is the manners and etiquette of the Prophets. Capturing of the hearts and cleansing of the souls is a key focus of Husayn’s (AS) revolution.
We see in Karbala how he successfully changed certain hearts. Refer to the likes of Hur, Zuhayr and Hani bin Urwa and others who left the opposition to join Imam Husayn (AS). Look at how they are transformed from one extreme to the other, knowing full well that there is no worldly benefit in Husayn’s camp. Rather, the only guarantee is death!! It is reported that such people who were completely transformed from the camp of the opposition led by Umar ibni Sa’ad amounted to between 20 – 40% of Imam Husayn’s (AS) army of 72 martyrs.
While the issue is not the number, as the number varies according to different historians. The issue is how Imam Husayn (AS) melted these hearts so successfully. How did he pull these people from victory of worldly benefits to the guarantee of death??
Karbala occurs 14 centuries ago, but the influence of Karbala continues unabated until today. Even now after 14 centuries this epic of Karbala is still fresh and alive and a great source of inspiration and will continue till the end of time.
There is a well-known scholar who says big rulers and emperors come and make big statues. We in South Africa are familiar with this. There are enough statues of oppressors in our cities but nobody cares. However, there is no statue for Imam Husayn (AS) but instead, Husayn (AS) has engraved his name in the hearts of the people from that time already, without any sign of it reducing, despite all the attempts to suppress the Husayni impact.
IBN SINA (AVICENNA) EXPLAINING THE STATUS OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA)
There is a beautiful anecdote which I want to share, to illustrate the beauty of our relationship with Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). It is from the relationship of Bahmanyar and the illustrious scholar ibn Sina (Avicenna).
Bahmanyar was the most popular student of ibn Sina (Avicenna), who was one of the most prolific thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age circa 1,000 years ago. Avicenna’s compilation of works is renowned until today, in various fields such as Islamic theology, medicine, philosophy, mathematics, physics and many more.
The story is as follows. One night Bahmanyar was in discussion with his teacher, ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Bahmanyar told his teacher that he (ibn Sina (Avicenna)) is so great, beyond belief, and that one can only be in awe of the distinguished contribution that ibn Sina (Avicenna) has made in various fields (some examples mentioned above).
Bahmanyar told ibn Sina (Avicenna) that surely his contribution is of Prophetic magnitude considering the number of books he has compiled! Bahmanyar was confused on who is better, ibn Sina (Avicenna) or Prophets. ibn Sina (Avicenna) did not respond to Bahmanyar. This incident took place in the heart of winter, where it was freezing cold and everything is snowed.
However, in the middle of that night, ibn Sina (Avicenna) decided to wake up Bahmanyar from his warm bed, requesting a glass of water. Now, Bahmanyar explains to ibn Sina (Avicenna) that it is freezing cold, and in order to get water it would require Bahmanyar to:
– step out of his warm bed,
– into the freezing cold,
– in the middle of the night,
– to go to the river and chop the ice (as the river was frozen)
Bahmanyar thought this was a ridiculous request from ibn Sina (Avicenna) at that “ungodly” hour, and politely declined the request, suggesting that ibn Sina (Avicenna) should wait until daybreak and then Bahmanyar will happily bring the water. ibn Sina (Avicenna) repeated the request for water to Bahmanyar, who was unmoved. ibn Sina (Avicenna) then left the matter.
A few hours later, it was time for Fajr (compulsory early morning prayer before dawn). Bahmanyar was up in an instant when hearing the Adhaan (call for prayer) exclaimed from the outside.
At the time of listening to the Adhaan for Fajr salaah, ibn Sina (Avicenna) asked Bahmanyar why his request for water was not honored, and Bahmanyar explained the onerous procedure that would be involved to get water at that time of the night.
ibn Sina (Avicenna) replied by explaining that he (ibn Sina) is nothing in this world:
“You know Bahmanyar, last night you said I am sooo great, but I ask you for a glass of water in the middle of the night and you did fulfill my request, and you are my popular student and you can see me!
I, ibn Sina (Avicenna), want to explain to you now, that I am nothing, because listen to the person outside who went out in the freezing cold onto the rooftop to call for prayer established by Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
I, ibn Sina (Avicenna), am going to explain to you the difference between me and Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). I could not even get you to bring me a glass of water, and you are my dear student and you can see me.
This man has never seen Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), who arrived in this world centuries before and there is no direct link between this person and Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), but he finds it no problem to step out of his warm bed to go out in the freezing cold to announce the call for prayer (Adhaan) for Fajr in the early morning!”
This is the difference between ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Similarly, this is the difference between other tragedies in history and the tragedy of Karbala, where people from all corners will pay special attention to commemorate the sacrifice of Husayn (AS). Husayn (AS) has the magnetic effect of attracting even the most lethargic, who will be present in these gatherings without needing an invitation. Rather, this is the one time of the year where they will seek out where there is a gathering taking place to remember Imam Husayn (AS) and the tragedy of Karbala!
PROPHETIC APPROACH INHERITED BY HUSAYN (AS): THE END NEVER JUSTIFIES THE MEANS
Now, it is important to understand why is it like this?
The secret of this success and victory is that Prophets and Imam Husayn (AS) did not only fight for a sacred purpose but their strategy of war was also sacred. In other words, they consistently displayed a non-compromising position on principles and values. This is what makes Karbala unique. They never took short cuts!
The key point to grasp over here is that in the uprising of Prophets the end never justifies means!
In Karbala, Imam Husayn (AS) established that at no cost will we take shortcuts or use something which is not morally correct to achieve a good cause.
There are many different movements fighting for freedom and human rights. In our own country, South Africa, we have a proud history of struggle against a racist regime. Now, if you look at all these uprisings, the purpose is sacred, but the direction taken is not always morally correct. The wrong approach employed is that the end justifies the means, so it does not matter if you do something wrong to get to the end point!!
The logic of Prophets and Imams of Ahlul Bait (AS) is that the end never justifies means!
Taking this point deeper, the logic of Prophets and Imams of Ahlul Bait (AS) is that you cannot achieve a good purpose through wrong means! This means that the route you take is very much connected to the destination. So you will never reach the right destination if you take the wrong route it!
IMAM ALI (AS): YOU CANNOT ACHIEVE A GOOD OUTCOME THROUGH WRONG MEANS
After Imam Ali (AS) became Khaliph and head of the Islamic state, he made it clear in his historic inaugural lecture that he is going to be uncompromising in establishing justice. He is going to seek out the return of everything that was looted from the public treasury, even if this public treasury was used as dowry in marriages before his rule.
There was the cursed triangle in this congregation. Refer to lecture 7 for a detailed understanding of what this cursed triangle means.
People brought flimsy justification for them having special bonuses in the past, which was now going to be taken away under the leadership of Imam Ali (AS). Justification presented to Imam Ali (AS) was that they played a key role in battles and that is why they received it, to which Imam Ali (AS) reminded them that their contribution to the defence of Islam in the battlefield was for the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) and not to gain in this world from the state coffers.
These people who looted the public treasury then told Imam Ali (AS) that he is bringing up old stories, to which Imam Ali (AS) again establishes another key principle that truth never gets old.
Those who were sincere and close to Imam Ali (AS) like Malik Ashtar advised Imam Ali (AS) to practice diplomacy (instead of going after all these people to return public wealth), because the state needs stability, given the turmoil that it has gone through before him.
The logic of Imam Ali (AS), in response to this point is that you cannot achieve justice through injustice and oppression. Ali is in power to seek justice. He will not compromise justice to seek justice. This takes us to the earlier point that you will never reach the right destination if you take the wrong route or wrong means!
Imam Husayn (AS) inherited this!
You will find in the history of Prophets that they never exploited an opportunity to become popular.
PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) LOSES HIS SON IBRAHIM
Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) lost his son Ibrahim. He was naturally very upset and grieved about this dear loss. He buried his son and cried.
Now, as pure coincidence there was a solar eclipse on the same day of Ibrahim’s passing, so people started saying that the son of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) passed away, so now even the sun is in eclipse! They were trying to say that this is clear proof that Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is Divine! This should result in love and trust of him increasing from among the people.
Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) could have remained silent and used this to gain popularity. However, as we have highlighted, the end can never justify the means. So, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) called everybody into the mosque to clarify that the two incidents of his son’s passing and the solar eclipse are unrelated so it should please not be exploited. This is the position and Akhlaq (mannerisms) of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA)!
MANNERS OF IMAM ALI (AS) IN THE BATTLE OF SIFFIN
Imam Ali (AS) is on his way to the battle of Siffin, and he reached Raqqa (capital of ISIS today) on the banks of Euphrates. It is a long journey from Kufa to Damascus. Muawiya and his army were already stationed there, and they denied Imam Ali (AS) and his army access to water! All the banks of the river are blocked by Muawiya’s army!
Imam Ali sent a message to Muawiya requesting that the dispute be resolved through dialogue, rather than the battlefield. Imam Ali (AS) is hoping to save blood being spilled this way.
Muawiya refused and the battle started. Muawiya’s army was pushed back and Imam Ali’s (AS) camp had full control of the water access at the Euphrates river. Army of Imam Ali (AS) thought this was an opportune moment to take revenge and deny the camp of Muawiya access to water.
What is the response of Imam Ali (AS)? He said Allah (SWT) made water equally and openly accessible to every creation. We have no right to ban the water and he commands his soldiers not to ban the water and that it must be equally available to his enemy Muawiya. These are the principles and Prophetic mannerisms which make Imams of Ahlul Bait (AS) distinguished!
PRINCIPLES OF IMAM HUSAYN (AS) IN KARBALA
In Karbala, every step is a crystal clear step.
Imam Husayn (AS) is on his way to Kufa and they came across a caravan taking lots of goods to Yazeed. Imam Husayn (AS) stopped this caravan, saying Yazeed is a usurper and these goods are being purchased from stolen money from the public treasury, so this is public property being transported.
Imam Husayn (AS) spoke to the transporters, saying that they took over because the goods don’t belong to Yazid . But since transport costs have been incurred, Imam Husayn (AS) informs the transporters that he is prepared to settle the costs if they (the transporters) are not prepared to hitch a ride with Imam Husayn’s (AS) camp to Kufa.
We also remember in the story of Muslim ibni Aqil that he had a clear chance to kill ibni Ziyad (LA), but refused to come from the back, because that will be terrorism, and terrorism is not accepted in Islam.
UNPARALLELED FREEDOM OF CHOICE OFFERED BY IMAM HUSAYN (AS)
Imam Husayn’s (AS) move is principled in every step of Karbala.
Imam Husayn (AS) does not impose his opinion on the people at any step during his revolutionary journey. This is very different to the way politicians work…they tell you what you want to hear, only good news!
However, on the night before Imam Husayn (AS) leaves Makkah, he says he is leaving in the morning but only those who want to give their blood must come. He gave people ultimate freedom to leave his camp if they felt awkward, when he relayed the tragic news of the martyrdom of Muslim ibn Aqil and Hani bin Urwa while he was en-route to Kufa. He did not hide it or keep it a secret! Husayn (AS) did not want to blackmail people. He only wants the most devoted in his camp. Where in history do we find such freedom of choice??
Even on the night of Ashura, Imam Husayn (AS) still says to his soldiers that if you want to leave, this is the time. If you have some rights on the people, go settle them. He even switches off the lamps so people can leave in the dark. He does not want to impose on the people!
IMAM HUSAYN (AS) OPPOSES TERRORISM
It is the afternoon of the 9th of Muharram, and Shimr , who is the cursed murderer of Imam Husayn (AS), comes to the back of the camp with his horse. Imam Husayn (AS) prepared some trenches on the back of the tents which were burning, to prevent his tents from being attacked.
At this point Shimr was extremely vulgar to Imam Husayn (AS), taunting Imam Husayn (AS) by saying that you have already prepared fire for you on this earth before experiencing the fire of Hell! This is the cursed Shimr!
Muslim bin Awsaja from the camp of Imam Husayn (AS) immediately stood up wanting to take one arrow to sort out Shimr, but Imam Husayn (AS) stopped him, because he does not want to start the war! This is Imam Husayn (AS) and his principles, that he will not even allow for the cursed Shimr to be killed after such an incident, because that would mean that the war was started by the camp of Imam Husayn (AS).
In the early morning of Ashura, we see the position of Umar ibni Sa’ad is completely opposite to Imam Husayn (AS), shooting the first arrow and proudly announcing the start of the war. Countless arrows started coming towards the camp of Imam Husayn (AS).
Imam Husayn (AS) said bear witness that we did not initiate the war. Now we understand why even non-Muslims are moved by the tragedy of Karbala!
In the next lecture, we will understand why Husayn (AS) and his stand became universal. Jihad of Husayn (AS) and Ashura, is based on the philosophy of saving blood! This is in stark contrast to the Jihad of ISIS who measure their success by the amount of people they kill and the amount of blood they let flow!