Jumuah lecture on Friday 5 June 2020 (12 Shawaal 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
This week, we are commemorating the anniversary of the demise of our great leader, Imam Khomeini (r.a). May the infinite mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) be upon his soul and grave and may Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to follow his vision, especially his Akhlaq (noble character) and Taqwa (God-consciousness).
One of the great pieces of work in his legacy is a book known as “40 Hadith”. I would like to draw your attention to Hadith 8, as recorded in this compilation.
The Hadith is from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), the 6th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), who narrates from his forefathers until the primary source being our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) narrates that Rasulullah (SAWA) said that whoever has a small particle of prejudice in his heart, the size of even a mustard seed, Almighty Allah (SWT) will place such a person amongst the people of Jahiliyyah (ignorance) on the Day of Judgement.
Prejudice is clearly one of the serious challenges we face in our life every day. It is one of the most dangerous diseases of the soul, as Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) explains it with the words “negative internal qualities of the soul which is from the chapter of darkness”. Prejudice is therefore the source of lots corruption in our manners and actions, approaches and interaction with the people.
WHAT IS PREJUDICE?
Prejudice is when you prioritize or prefer one party over another, based upon your own inclination towards that party, rather than it be based upon factual evidence or logical reasoning. The other aspect of prejudice is when you discriminate based purely upon the person not belonging to where your liking is.
Now, this belonging or inclination can be defined in various ways. Sometimes, the preference is based on the person belonging to your tribe, and therefore you discriminate against those not part of your tribe. This same thought process can be extended to even religious discrimination, or skin colour, or social and cultural background.
You believe that you are one camp, based upon tribalism, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, social status etc. It is prejudice when you prefer someone over another based upon any one of these or discriminate against someone based on these. Islam condemns this.
ISLAM APPRECIATES DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY
Islam recognizes different nations and tribes and respects this diversity. This diversity is in no way a basis for discrimination. Therefore, Almighty Allah (SWT) explains very beautifully in verse 13 of Surah Hujraat (chapter 49 of the Holy Quran):
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O you men! surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.
This diversity is beautiful but is not the criteria for superiority or discrimination. Superiority or preference in the eyes of Almighty Allah (SWT) is based purely on Taqwa, as explained in this verse.
PREJUDICE DEFINED BY IMAM ZAINUL ABIDEEN (A.S)
Prejudice is a serious problem amongst us, even though we may not always realize it. In another very beautiful Hadith from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he again explains that we are all equal, being the children of Adam (a.s) and there is no preference or priority of one over the other, except by Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT).
On the definition of prejudice, I would like to narrate a Hadith from Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), the 4th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), where he explains that prejudice is where someone sees the worst of his people to be better than the best of others. There is clearly nothing wrong if someone loves his nation and community. The problem arises when you make this affiliation to be the criteria for discrimination and injustice and oppression of the other.
This is what the Holy Quran and Rasulullah (SAWA) condemns so strongly, whereby he says that any smallest seed of prejudice in our hearts will banish us to be amongst the idol-worshippers of Mecca in the pre-Islamic era of Jahiliyyah (ignorance).
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) completes this Hadith defining prejudice by saying that it is when you support your nation in the oppression and injustice which it is perpetrating.
FEELING SUPERIOR DRIVES ONE INTO A WEB OF SELF-DESTRUCTION
One can see from the discussion thus far, the multiple angles to prejudice, and why it is such a devastating problem. People think that this was a problem of the past, similar to what the above quoted Hadith elaborate on the prejudice in the pre-Islamic era of Jahiliyya (ignorance). These people were very proud of their Arab race and language, and believed in their superiority over non-Arabs, and treated them with the greatest of contempt.
This is only one example, while the real core of the issue of prejudice is much deeper than this. In any social structure, prejudice is when one feels superiority by virtue of being part of a certain group.
I would like to take you back to the Hadith referenced from the compilation of “40 Hadith” by Imam Khomeini (r.a), where he says that this attitude of superiority is condemned even if it is used for Haqq (Truth). This is because the superiority attitude is in its essence condemned and unwanted, even in matters of religion! This is worth reflecting on, where prejudice is condemned if you favour someone over another purely because he is from your school of thought or religious persuasion.
MANNERS AND ETIQUETTES IN PRESENTING THE TRUTH
In principle, having an approach of superiority is not acceptable, although Imam Khomeini (r.a) goes further to explain an exception to this. The exception is when you want to use this superiority to establish Truth itself. This is different to wanting to prove the superiority of your group over another group.
Proving the position of Truth is different to wanting to prove that you are better than others. This is when it becomes prejudice, as the driving force is about your superiority rather than establishing Truth itself.
There is another relevant Hadith from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), where he explains that the rope of Imaan (faith) has been removed from someone who has prejudice. This explains the serious, pervasive nature of this social disease of prejudice.
When we engage in debates and forget this very important principle about what the criteria is, namely Truth instead of affiliation (even in the religious context), then this is when we fall into the web of prejudice. And without doubt, the worst form of prejudice is racism.
ERUPTION OF RACISM IN USA IS THE REMOVAL OF A 400 YEAR OLD FAÇADE
Prejudice is a much broader term which includes all the examples noted earlier, whereas racism is preference or discrimination based on skin colour or ethnicity. This cursed disease has created disasters in human history across the centuries. The amount of injustice and oppression committed based upon racism is countless.
The whole history of slavery is in front of us, and so is the whole history of injustice and oppression. What better example can there be, other than our own country of South Africa, which was the manifestation of legalized apartheid and racial discrimination.
Alhamdu Lillah, legalized apartheid and racial discrimination has ended, but unfortunately, the effects of that racial discrimination are still very much there in the real sense.
Today, what we are witnessing in USA as a result of the killing of a few so-called black people over the period of weeks, leading to the widespread protests and condemnation, is a small symptom of the dark history of that country.
It is a small symptom of the dark history of injustice committed on the people who were brought as slaves from Africa, where the worst of crimes were committed against these people. Slavery was abolished long ago in USA, but the tricks and tactics of slavery were never abolished.
What we see now is the real face of USA being exposed in front of the world. This is the same USA which claims to be the flagbearer of human rights and democracy etc. However, this is all a façade and the truth and reality on the ground is now being exposed for all to see.
I would like to repeat what the Reverend said in his eulogy for George Floyd. He addressed those who still carry the mindset of white supremacy by saying that they are not on our necks with the knees only now. Instead, they have been on the necks of so-called black people for the past 400 years! This shows the prolonged period of oppression that African American people have been under. This is the reality unfortunately.
COVID-19 CONTINUES TO SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE
I need to also remind everyone about the ongoing challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, which also has bad undertones of racial discrimination. This pandemic has exposed the brutal realities on the ground in our communities, which our president Ramaphosa has acknowledged. It is time for us to do our part to help remedy these social ills in our society.
This terrible virus is spreading like wildfire in our country and more particularly in our own province. We need to follow the guidelines mandated by medical officials and the health ministry to keep our people safe. Aside from this, it is also imperative upon us to do something proactively.
This is another problem with racism. While we are fighting racism and resist against those who enjoyed all the benefits of racism, we tend to occupy ourselves with arguments which are simply counterproductive. We get consumed with arguments which only divide the oppressed victims. In place of focusing on the real problem, we keep ourselves busy with playing those side issues.
This is a prison of racism which we need to really come out of. There was the worst racism imposed on the native population of this country by the racist white supremacist Apartheid regime, no doubt. At the same time, the victims also should not create a prison of racism for themselves, where they struggle to come out of it. We need to think above racism with clarity of vision for our people and the future of our country.
This is crucial to address, and the issue goes back to the same point of prejudice. Racism is one seriously ugly form of prejudice, but prejudice itself is the disease of the soul. Continuing to fight over what is mine and yours is not going to take you anywhere until you do not free yourself from this cage of narrow prejudice.
In some shape or form, we are all somehow guilty of this disease of prejudice.
We now understand why Rasulullah (SAWA) referred to the small particle of prejudice by drawing reference to the mustard seed, where he emphasized that we should not even have a mustard seed’s worth of prejudice in our heart. This means that there are times when prejudice is not very prominent. It may be subtle and a little obscure, but according to this Hadith, even this small particle of prejudice is deeply problematic from any direction.
We humbly implore to Almighty Allah (SWT) for help in fighting all the diseases of the soul, especially prejudice.
PLEASE LIKE I SHARE I COMMENT