Fourth & fifth night lecture of Muharram 1437 delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)

وَإِذِ ابْتَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي قَالَ لاَ يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them, Allah said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.” Abraham said, “And of my descendants?” Allah said, “My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.” (Surah Baqarah, verse 124)

Similarities Between Imam Husayn (AS) and Prophets

Thus far we explained that:

– The message of Karbala and the message of Ambiya is the same.

– The purpose of Ambiya and the purpose of Imam Husayn’s (AS) uprising is the same.

– The strategy and methodology of Imam Husayn (AS) in Karbala is also in line with the strategy and methodology of Ambiya.

Therefore, Imam Husayn (AS) is regarded as Warithul Ambiya (inheritor of Prophets).

The challenges which Imam Husayn (AS) faced and the challenges which Ambiya faced are the same, namely the same challenges of money, power and hypocrisy. The challenges of corruption and deception which Imam Husayn (AS) faced were the same as faced by Ambiya.

In facing these challenges, Imam Husayn (AS) also firmly stood with the principles of Ambiya, and never compromised. It will become clearer in the remaining discussions when we explore more lessons from Karbala. These principles which Imam kept at all costs, will come to light in forthcoming discussions. But suffice to say for now, based on what we have discussed so far, that the movement of Imam Husayn (AS) and Ambiya is the same.

From Imam Husayn’ (AS) movement, strategies and challenges faced, and Imam’s response to these challenges, Imam is truly Warith of Ambiya.

We explained Imam Husayn (AS) as inheritor of Adam (AS), Nuh (AS), Ibrahim (AS) and Musa (AS). The connection of Husayn (AS) and Jesus is still a discussion which we need to have – Imam Husayn (AS) as inheritor of Isa Ruhullah.

Imam Husayn (AS) as Heir of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA)

Tonight we will take this one step further. Imam Husayn (AS) as warith of Muhammadin Habibullah (SAWA).

Peace be upon you, O inheritor of Muhammad, the most beloved by Allah.

With our Holy Prophet Muhammad Mustapha (SAWA), Prophethood reached its conclusion, and therefore we call him as the Holy Quran calls him, Khataman Nabiyyin (seal of the Prophets). And if we understand the seal of Prophethood properly, then we will understand what the connection of Husayn (AS) to finality of Prophethood is.

What is the Meaning of Finality of the Prophethood?

It means that the final message of Allah (SWT) for the guidance of humanity and mankind has arrived through Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the Holy Quran. There is no more new revelation to come. Halaal and Haraam of Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) is until Qiyamah. It means the system, program and message that Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) brought, is the final message.

That message is not different to the message of earlier prophets, but this message evolved over time, and reached to its climax and perfection with our Prophet. Verse 3 of Surah Ma’ida (chapter 5):

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينً

“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

And this completion and perfection of religion means that no more revelation will come. Now, this final message has to be protected.

As we see with earlier Prophets, they brought the divine message, but then people deviated from that message. They fabricated and contaminated the pure message, which required other prophets to come and rectify and give the pure message.

However, in our Holy Prophet (SAWA), he is the final prophet, and no further Prophet will come, but the purity and authenticity of the final divine message requires to be protected. But no further prophet will come. So, how is that possible?

Some people have very simply concluded that Allah (SWT) has revealed in the Holy Quran that the divine message is protected, in verse 9 of Surah Hijr (Chapter 15) Almighty Allah (SWT) says:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذّ‌ِكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.”

Indeed, all agree that the words of the Holy Quran are fully protected. We have one Quran, absolutely. There is no possibility of any alteration of the Holy Quran.

But that does not mean there are no alterations and diversions in interpretation and application of the Holy Quran. Yes, in words, we cannot alter, but under interpretation, we see diversions in history. We all hear about there being 73 sects fighting with each other, despite all claiming to be followers of Holy Quran and Prophetic Sunnah, clearly points to deviation and differences in interpretation.

What System Will Protect the Final Message of Nabi Muhammad (SAWA)?

All Muslims believe there is a need and necessity for a system after the demise of the Holy Prophet’s (SAWA) to protect the purity and authenticity of that divine message. There must be some sort of system in place to protect the genuine heritage of Islam. What system should be employed is a separate discussion. What happened in history is undisputable. Deviations took place.

We are asking what system has been put in place to protect this pure message from that time until Qiyamah?

Tonight I want to say that Imam Husayn (AS) stood on the plains of Karbala to protect that system which is responsible for defending the pure teachings of Islam. Imam Husayn (AS) stood against diversions of the final message of Prophethood.

When we think of diversions of the finality of the prophetic message, our minds automatically go to Ahmadis. That’s only one diversion.

But what about those who corrupted the finality of the message? From that we saw Bidah? This is the introduction of something which was not part of the final message. Those people who say the Holy Quran is sufficient, we don’t need Sunnah…and those who said further down that we use intellect to give decisions on Islam, is all in contradiction with finality of prophethood.

Khatmunnubuwah means verse 3 of Surah Ma’ida (chapter 5):

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينً

“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

Imamat – Shia Approach to Protect the Final Message of Nabi Muhammad (SAWA)

Another challenge to Khatmunnubuwah is when you corrupt the system which is in place to protect Khatmunnubuwah.

We followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS) believe that system responsible for the protection of the finality of prophetic message of Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) is Imamat. This is our approach.

When we followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS) speak about Imamat, we don’t only restrict it to social and political leadership. If it was only limited to this, then it has nothing to do with the finality of prophethood.

In our ideology, an Imam is indeed socio-political leader, but not restricted to this only. An Imam’s is also responsible for the interpretation of Quran and Sunnah, meaning the cultural and academic leadership is also his responsibility, in addition to the socio-political leadership.

  • One level of Imamat in Shia ideology is socio-political leadership.
  • Second level of Imamat is cultural and academic leadership. Imamat is responsible for validating any interpretation of the Holy Quran and Prophetic Sunnah
  •  Third level of leadership is spiritual leadership.

Imam is the heart of the universe. Just like a body collapses when the heart stops! If the earth will be empty from an Imam for even a fraction of second, it will not survive. Our Sufi brothers from AhluSunnah share with us this aspect of Imamat.

The great commentator of the Holy Quran, Allamah Tabataba’i was asked: “This philosophy, that the universe can never be empty from proof of Allah (SWT), the link being Imam. Did Shia take this from Sufis, or did Sufis take it from Shias?

Allamah Tabataba’i replied: “Even before Tasawwuf came in the womb of its mother, Imam Ali (AS) said the earth can never be empty of the proof of Allah (SWT), whether it is revealed proof or concealed proof.”

When you look at this deeper level of Imamat, then you will understand why Shia believe that the leader must be divinely appointed.

If Imamat is only socio-political leadership then anyone can choose, but if they are an authority responsible for interpretation of Quran and Sunnah, you will understand why they must be divinely appointed, and infallible.

Husayn (AS) – Protector of the Final Message of Nabi Muhammad (SAWA)

Our Sunni brothers believe that the system to protect the final divine message is Khilifat. They say there were four rightly guided leaders. Their lifestyle, teachings, and systems is the model we follow, which is the guarantee of the protection of the final message until Qiyamah.

They bring various hadith narrations in support of this.

Let us come to Imam Husayn (AS). Imam Husayn (AS) indeed stood very firmly for the issue of leadership. Imam’s jihad and struggle for legitimate leadership was one of the central themes of Imams revolution. There is no doubt about it.

This is clearly reflected in the most basic narrative of the tragedy of Karbala. Yazid became ruler, and Imam (AS) refuted and rejected that allegiance. And as a result Yazid said you must accept or you will be killed. Imam refused and rejected on the price of his life, his companions, family and everything he had, for this rejection to say no to the leadership of Yazid. Imam indeed paid the most expensive price.

From day one in Madina, when they demanded Bay’ah from Imam, he categorically stated he will never pay allegiance to a corrupt drunkard oppressor like Yazid, who makes Haraam permissible.

Imam Husayn (AS) says: “We are the house of purity, and host of angels, how can we stoop so low to give our hand in a corrupt and dirty person like Yazid.

Imam’s stand and position indeed was against Yazid who was a complete transgressor.

Let us reflect on the following question: Let us say Yazid was not that bad. Let us say he was moderately righteous, would Imam Husayn (AS) have paid allegiance to Yazid?

Answer is NO! NEVER! But why? Because the problem was not only Yazid the individual. Yazid was the end product of an evil system. That is the issue! That is what we want to delve into a bit deeper.

Principle I want to establish in this discussion is that Husayn (AS) stood and sacrificed his life to protect Imamat. Also, our Sunni brothers should be thankful Husayn (AS) also stood to protect Khilafat which they believe in.

Oppression of Sahaba under Bani Umayya

What happened under Yazid was complete deviation. When Imam Husayn (AS) was in Mecca and Madina 2 years before Karbala, Muawiya was still alive.

8 years after Hijra, in Hajj, in the Khutbah of Mina Imam Husayn (AS) explains why he cannot tolerate this system because it was going in a very dangerous direction.

Therefore every single Muslim must be deeply grateful for his eternal supreme sacrifice, else we would not be Muslim today.

If you believe in Khilafat, which is based upon the system of Shura, where is Shura under Bani Umayya? Few things are very important to discuss at this point. Sunni brothers believe Khilafat should be by consultation (shura). This is the principle of Kilafat. What Shura was there with Muawiya and Yazid, other than deception and dirty tricks?

Example, we are required to be very careful with Baitul Maal (public treasury). In those last 20 years, there was no concept of Baitul Maal! Instead we see nepotism, family rule and the protection of the elite.

There were people whom our Holy Prophet (SAWA) expelled from Madina, and told they must not be allowed back, these people are brought back to Madina under the rule of the Umayyad dynasty. They are not only brought back, they are also given influential positions.

Holy Quran has spoken in verse 6 of Surah Hujurat (chapter 49):

يَا أيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَأٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَی مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ

“O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.”

All commentators agree that the fasiq referred to here is Waleed ibni Uqba. There was nothing left by the name of laws and equality. Corruption reached a level where Baitul Maal became treated as personal property.

Another serious problem at that time was Arab nationalism – superiority of Arab over non-Arab. A class was created in society, of higher class and lower class, which never existed in early years of Islam. The same people who are sensitive to Sahaba forget the level of oppression Bani Umayya inflicted on Sahaba.

In the rule of Bani Umayya, there is a particular class of people, called Tulaqa. These are the people who became Muslim on the day of the conquest of Mecca. The people who came in power in this last part of his life, means they have never done any sacrifice for Islam, they were always involved in the fights and conspiracy against our Holy Prophet (SAWA).

How is it that one can defend Muawiya and Marwaan. Marwaan at times was so drunk that he made 4 rakats for Salaah of Fajr!! People are so much under the influence of the propaganda machine of Bani Umayya, to the point of hating followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS).

This topic has nothing to do with Sunni and Shia. The depths of moral bankruptcy that the system of governance reached under the Umayyad dynasty in every aspect of life.

We have Islamic leadership who lived simple life like people lived. But under Bani Umayya, we see palaces and opulence and the society being divided into classes.

When we say Husayn (AS) protected Khatmunnubuwat, this is what he fought against. Husayn (AS) goes further, and his sacrifice makes Sunni and Shia, and the entire humanity indebted to him.

After martyrdom of Imam Husayn (AS), we see what transpired in those remaining few years of Yazid’s rule. He crushed Madina, yet they say Yazid was regretful!!! Yazid sent a whole army to crush Madina, putting their horses on the grave our Rasulullah (SAWA). He announced everything is Halaal for 3 days, where more than 1000 women were impregnated. How many Sahaba were killed in this attack? Where is the sensitivity towards Sahaba? The following year, in the conquest of Mecca, he burned down Kabah! Everything in this dynasty is based upon fraud and deception.

Imam Husayn’s (AS) stand was against this biggest threat to Khatmi Nubuwat and final message of Rasulullah. Husayn (AS) stopped it with his blood. Husayn (AS) taught us, when the system deviates to the point of such corruption, you have to sacrifice, you have to offer whatever you have for the sake of Allah. And he did this revolution in most amazing form.

Imam Husayn (AS) Approach to Leadership

Based on the above context of the situation which Imam Husayn (AS) very firmly stood against, it is appropriate to now discuss what Imam (AS) himself says about leadership.

Someone asked Imam Husayn (AS): “How can we acquire knowledge of God Almighty Allah (SWT)?” Imam’s response: “By knowing and obeying the Imam of your time.”

Some people may feel very uncomfortable with this answer. Thinking it is very extreme. Despite leadership being crucial, how can it reach the level of Tawheed?

Whatever Imam Husayn (AS) says is nothing other than Holy Quran and Prophetic Sunnah.

Allah (SWT) says in verse 71 of Surah Isra (chapter 17):

يَوْمَ نَدْعُواْ كُلَّ اُنَاسٍ بإِمَامِهِم

“(And remember) the Day when We shall call together all human beings with their (respective) Imam”

Our Holy Prophet (SAWA) said in authentic narrations:

“Man maata walam ya’rif Imam zamanihi maata maytatan Jahiliyya.”

“Whoever dies while he does not know the Imam and leader of his time, he will die a death of Jahiliyyah (ignorance).”

Holy Quran is saying that the identity of people on the day of Qiyamah is through your Imam, in the same way as we have an identity card in this world to identify us.

Verse 73 of Surah Ambiya (chapter 21):

وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا

“And We made them leaders guiding (the people) by Our command”

So in the day of Qiyamah, the point of reference will be what type of Imam you followed. One who guides you to Allah (SWT), or one who invites you towards Hell.

In Imam Husayn’s (AS) logic, thought and approach, leadership is so crucial, that even Tawheed and knowing Allah (SWT) is also intrinsically linked to Imamat.

There is a beautiful narration from the sixth Imam of Ahlul Bayt (AS), Imam Jafar Sadiq (AS), where he says:

“O Allah, grant me knowledge of yourself, so if you don’t give me knowledge of yourself, I will not be able to know who is your Nabi.

O Allah, give me knowledge of your Prophet, and O Allah if you don’t give me knowledge of your Nabi, I will not know your proof/Imam…and

O Allah, give me knowledge of your proof/Imam, but O Allah, if you did not give me knowledge of your proof in the earth, I will be lost in my religion.”

This is the logic of Ahlul Bayt (AS) on the issue of leadership.

We have thus far established how crucial leadership is. Life and death of a nation depends on qualified, pious, legitimate and just leadership.

When Imam Husayn (AS) replied to the invite from the people of Kufa, he replied:

“By God I swear, Imam is nobody other than one who acts by the book of Allah, someone who establishes justice, someone who never oppresses, someone who never suspends the rights of the people.”

So this emphasis on the supreme qualities of a leader is the spirit of Imam’s thinking.

The point that we have established in the earlier part of this discussion is that Imam Husayn (AS) saw before him, that this system of leadership is completely collapsing. Imam Husayn (AS) has a philosophy of Imamat, which he explained in his communication with different people, through sermons, letters, discussions, etc.

Furthermore, we have also so far established that even those people who did not agree with the philosophy, system and mechanism of Imam Husayn (AS), such as those who believed in consultation/Shura, even that system was almost collapsed. Imam tried to open people’s eyes to this reality of how Bani Umayya is destroying leadership, either based upon his understanding of Imamat or general understanding of Khilafat. Nothing by the name of Islamic teachings will be kept alive. They will introduce for their own purpose and benefit concepts in Islam which are completely strange to Islam.

In Karbala 2 logics clashed:

– Oppressive ruler should be obeyed;

– Oppressive ruler cannot be accepted.

وَإِذِ ابْتَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي قَالَ لاَ يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them, Allah said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.” Abraham said, “And of my descendants?” Allah said, “My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.”

(Surah Baqarah, verse 124)

There is a very prominent Hanafi scholar AbuBakr Jassas, in understanding this verse, he says it is clear evidence that leadership for oppressors is Haram and not allowed.

But contrary to that, unfortunately, there were people, scholars, writers who advocated that justice is not condition for leadership. This great Hanafi scholar says this ruling is not correct. Instead, he critiques this by arguing it originates from those who were on the side of the oppressive rulers.

There is an age-old debate, can we pray behind someone who is unjust. Even today, we see it practiced, that there is not much sensitivity around who is leading Salaat. We sometimes witness in the broader community that at the time of Salaat anyone is simply pushed forward to lead.

Now Imam Husayn (AS) is facing this challenge which is not only against his own ideology of Imamat, but also against the ideology of Khilafat. This was the crux of what he was addressing to the general public, and not only followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS). The direction we are going is completely backwards toward Jahilliyah, back to the tribal system of pre-Islam.

In a number of campaigns, Imam Husayn (AS) warned: “Do you know Bani Umayya is going to make you slaves. Islam came to free you, but they are going to take you back to slavery.”

Around 30-35 years before Imam’s martyrdom, the whole system changed:

– Shura has collapsed

– baytul maal is no longer an Amaanat

– judiciary has no longer respect and independence.

– racism reached its peak with the creation of classes based upon race, economical standing, and tribal ethnicity.

The situation reached so far that in the time of Hajjaj bin Yusuf, among the most ruthless and among the worst of the worst ugly Umayyad rulers, some of the governors of Bani Umayya wrote reports that people are becoming Muslim in big numbers. The governors were concerned with this. The problem is that if they are Kafir we charge them Jizya (Tax), but now since they are becoming Muslim, income is coming down.

It was then conveyed that those who are becoming Muslim are still required to pay tax. This created mass protest, where they appealed: “O Muhammad, come rescue us, we became Muslim but the rulers still want us to pay Tax.”

We cannot comprehend the extent of the system that Imam Husayn (AS) stood against and was not ready to compromise on.

This is basically the whole transfer, as Maududi and others have written, from Khilafat to dynasty and tribal system. This is what Imam predicted and stood against.

Why does Imam Husayn (AS) cry in Mina? You know, sometimes we get confused. Imam’s journey was as follows:

– left Madina on 28 Rajab,

– arrived in Mecca on 3 Shabaan

– from 3 Shabaan – 8 Thil Hijja, Imam stayed in Mecca,

In this time, Imam (AS) campaigned with the people, repeatedly remonstrated, don’t you see Haqq is not being practiced?

These people were praying, coming for Hajj, fasting. So what Haqq and Batil was Imam (AS) talking about? Imam (AS) was referring to something much deeper. Imam (AS) was not only looking at rituals, he was looking at the substance rather than the form, and the future of rituals if the current system remains. That was Imam’s protest, but nobody could understand, despite being obedient in their Islamic rituals.