Lecture 7 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 8 October 2016 (Muharram 1438) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town)
In our discussion about the phenomenon of deviation experienced by different nations of Ambiya (Prophets) in the light of verses of the Holy Quran we discussed that there are certain classes in society who are responsible for deviation and destruction of the whole society. And Imam Husayn (AS) as heir of Ambiya faced similar challenges.
THE CURSED TRIANGLE REFERRED TO BY DR ALI SHARIATI
The past 2 lectures focused on 3 very crucial pillars in society on which opposition to the message of propagation of Prophets is based on.
These 3 pillars of evil and arrogant systems which sustain it and prevent truth and justice to prevail are:
1. Mutrafin – those enjoying excessive luxury with no concern for anyone else except themselves;
2. Mala’ – elite and affluent people who have a way to control;
3. Raghib / Roh’baan – corrupt clergy who endorse the above to make the arrogant system functional.
The revered philosopher Dr Ali Shariati very beautifully says this is a cursed triangle in every society.
– One angle of this triangle is financial power (Mutrafin);
– The second angle is the establishment of the political elite (Mala’); and
– The third angle is deception represented by so-called clergy (Raghib / Roh’baan).
This third group is supposed to be the rescuer and savior of nations, but across history until today we see examples of how they distort the Islamic message to serve the agenda of oppressive rulers and promote deviation. They operate hand in hand with the oppressors.
Imam Husayn (AS) faced these 3 groups of people.
Imam Husayn (AS) communicated widely with different groups across different levels of society, but unfortunately Imam Husayn (AS) was left with very few supporters.
In the history of Ambiya we find that the majority always get lost somewhere. Very few persevere on the path of truth and justice.
In the next lecture we will discuss the majority and minority phenomenon. Today’s discussion is very much connected to that.
Let us go back to the first lecture, where we asked the question why was Imam Husayn (AS) killed?
In the discussions since then, we are convinced that it was caused by the leadership of that society due to them not playing their role. They became part of the cursed triangle mentioned earlier.
So to summarize, thus far we have spoken about the 3 selective classes in the cursed triangle.
THE ROLE OF MASSES IN DEVIATION OF THE DIVINE MESSAGE
Today’s discussion will analyze the role of masses in the phenomenon of Deviation in the history of Ambiya, as explained in the Holy Quran.
When the Holy Quran speaks about the masses or the ordinary, common people in the street, the terminology used to define them is “mustad-af”. It is normally translated into English as “oppressed”, which is not incorrect, but not entirely accurate.
“Mustad-af” means somebody who has been made weak. In other words, people are not weak by themselves. People who control them make them weak, meaning they are not weak by nature.
We are generally sympathetic towards the oppressed (mustad-af), but the Holy Quran is not always positive about the oppressed (mustad-af).
Quran speaks about different types of oppressed, namely:
1. Those who are physically vulnerable people in society. It is an expression about a situation, referring to women, children and orphans. It is neither positive nor negative.
2. Politically oppressed people. They have no say in their socio-political destiny. They live under dictatorship.
3. Ideologically oppressed – those whose minds are controlled.
Quran further divides the different oppressed groups into 2 main categories:
A. Those who allow themselves to be oppressed;
B. Those who resist (and do not surrender)
MAJORITY ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE OPPRESSED!!
Such people are condemned in the Holy Quran, as they allow themselves to be weakened.
Let us study Surah Saba (chapter 34 of the Holy Quran), where it is very interesting how Almighty Allah (SWT) sketches the picture of the dialogue that will transpire between the oppressor and oppressed on the Day of Judgment (Qiyamah). Allah (SWT) says from verse 31 onwards:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَنْ نُؤْمِنَ بِهَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ وَلَا بِالَّذِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ ۗ وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذِ الظَّالِمُونَ مَوْقُوفُونَ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ يَرْجِعُ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَىٰ بَعْضٍ الْقَوْلَ يَقُولُ الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا لَوْلَا أَنْتُمْ لَكُنَّا مُؤْمِنِينَ
“And those who disbelieve say: By no means will we believe in this Quran, nor in that which is before it; and could you see when the unjust shall be made to stand before their Lord, bandying words one with another! Those who were reckoned weak shall say to those who were proud: Had it not been for you we would certainly have been believers.”
The last part of this verse has the oppressed transferring the blame to the oppressor for not accepting the truth.
The oppressors will not accept responsibility and will reply as follows, in verse 32:
قَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا أَنَحْنُ صَدَدْنَاكُمْ عَنِ الْهُدَىٰ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَكُمْ ۖ بَلْ كُنْتُمْ مُجْرِمِينَ
“Those who were proud shall say to those who were deemed weak: Did we turn you away from the guidance after it had come to you? Nay, you (yourselves) were guilty!”
The oppressed will not be happy with this answer from the oppressor, and will continue their argument, stating that the conspiracy of the oppressors to misguide the masses were continuous propaganda day and night. This is explained in verse 33:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا بَلْ مَكْرُ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ إِذْ تَأْمُرُونَنَا أَنْ نَكْفُرَ بِاللَّهِ وَنَجْعَلَ لَهُ أَنْدَادًا
“And those who were deemed weak shall say to those who were proud. Nay, (it was) planning by night and day when you told us to disbelieve in Allah and to set up likes with Him.”
This tit-for-tat concludes when Allah (SWT) explains the punishment that is awaiting these types of oppressed people, in the second half of verse 33:
وَأَسَرُّوا النَّدَامَةَ لَمَّا رَأَوُا الْعَذَابَ وَجَعَلْنَا الْأَغْلَالَ فِي أَعْنَاقِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۚ هَلْ يُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
“And they shall conceal regret when they shall see the punishment; and We will put shackles on the necks of those who disbelieved; they shall not be requited but what they did.”
This very interesting point that oppressed cannot blame oppressors is again referenced in verse 21 of Surah Ibrahim (chapter 14 of the Holy Quran):
وَبَرَزُوا لِلَّهِ جَمِيعًا فَقَالَ الضُّعَفَاءُ لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا كُنَّا لَكُمْ تَبَعًا فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُغْنُونَ عَنَّا مِنْ عَذَابِ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۚ قَالُوا لَوْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ لَهَدَيْنَاكُمْ ۖ سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْنَا أَجَزِعْنَا أَمْ صَبَرْنَا مَا لَنَا مِنْ مَحِيصٍ
“And they shall all come forth before Allah, then the weak shall say to those who were proud: Surely we were your followers, can you therefore avert from us any part of the chastisement of Allah? They would say: If Allah had guided us, we too would have guided you; it is the same to us whether we are impatient (now) or patient, there is no place for us to fly to.”
Similarly, in verse 47 of Surah Ghafir (chapter 40 of the Holy Quran):
وَإِذْ يَتَحَاجُّونَ فِي النَّارِ فَيَقُولُ الضُّعَفَاءُ لِلَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا كُنَّا لَكُمْ تَبَعًا فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُغْنُونَ عَنَّا نَصِيبًا مِنَ النَّارِ
“And when they shall contend one with another in the fire, then the weak shall say to those who were proud: Surely we were your followers; will you then avert from us a portion of the fire?”
The point is that the destiny of the masses of ordinary people is NO DIFFERENT to oppressors once they give up and surrender to the oppressors. Note that these verses explain what awaits ordinary people who give, and is not referring to the cursed triangle.
The solution to this problem is shared in verse 97 of Surah Nisa (chapter 4 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنْتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا ۚ فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا
“Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. They shall say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein? So these it is whose abode is hell, and it is an evil resort.”
This verse again shows that excuses from the oppressed is not accepted, and challenges the oppressed by asking why they did not migrate if they felt oppressed?
The message of this verse is that masses are not ready to do anything but have all the excuses.
This is a common theme across the history of Ambiya, if you study the challenges experienced by Nabi Musa, Saleh, Shuaib, and other Ambiya, right upto our own Islamic history which allowed the system to slip. The massive deviation which took place is not a Sunni and Shia issue. It is a fact of history.
DEVIATION IN THE DIVINE MESSAGE CREATED THE TRAGEDY OF KARBALA
There are 2 major schools of thought in Islam, Sunni and Shia.
As Shia we believe in a system of Imamat, which is leadership by Almighty Allah’s (SWT) appointed and guided people.
The Sunni system of leadership is Khilafat, which is based on consultation and public opinion.
So the big question which warrants a response is, what happened after the era of the 4 Khaliphs and the 6 months of Imam Hassan (AS)? Mu’awiya and Yazeed came into power and the system and destiny of this religious leadership was changed.
The whole system of governance became a monarchy. There was nothing left by the name of Khilafat even!
One family rules over your destiny (Bani Umayyah), then another family (Abbasid dynasty), and after 14 centuries we are still trapped with this problem of monarchs ruling over Muslim nations!
So this deviation indeed took place after the demise of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Deviation in Aqeedah (ideology), values and behaviors took place, and most importantly deviation in the system of governance took place, and that is the mother of all problems!
If you look at the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the Khaliphs, compared to those thereafter…it is chalk and cheese!!
The simple houses changed into palaces of the rulers. Opulence was taken to another level, based upon looting the public treasury.
Islam conquered country after country, but what spirit was there in this conquer? Why was Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) not as concerned about the conquer of land, but rather, his focus was on conquering hearts.
Clearly, the focus changed a few decades after the passing of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). The focus was now about how this empire can be expanded.
It was about how much land can be conquered, to expand the tax base of the Muslim empire to fulfil the insatiable lust for economic self-gratification of those Umayyad rulers. The same arrogant system discussed in the last few lectures came into place under the name of Islam!
Around 30-35 years before Imam’s martyrdom, the whole system changed:
– Shura (consultation) has collapsed;
– Public treasury is no longer a trust;
– The judiciary has no longer respected and independent; and
– racism reached its peak with the creation of classes based upon race, economical standing, and tribal ethnicity.
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 with Bani Umayyah taking you back to slavery after Islam came to free you!
Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) introduced Islam to remove those shackles which were on the shoulders of Arab society. Those same shackles returned.
Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) fought against racism, but in the years building up to Karbala we see Arab nationalism being established – superiority of Arab over non-Arab.
A class was created in society, of higher class and lower class, which never existed in the early years of Islam. The same people who are sensitive to Sahaba forget the level of oppression Bani Umayya inflicted on Sahaba!
The call of Imam Husayn (AS) has nothing to do with Sunni and Shia. It is about the depths of moral bankruptcy that the system of governance reached under the Umayyad dynasty in every aspect of life.
So this is “mustad-afin” – the masses who give up are a big problem. Clearly, they are in a class of their own in society, different to the cursed triangle mentioned earlier.
THE MINORITY WHO RESIST AND DO NOT SURRENDER
The Holy Quran also speaks about another type of oppressed (mustad’af). Maybe their number is few. They are made weak but do not give up! They stand up against the oppression.
Amazingly, Quran speaks about this group of oppressed VERY POSITIVELY!
They never surrender, but rather, they resist for justice, as explained in various chapters of the Holy Quran, in the stories of Prophets.
A few examples are Surah Baqarah (chapter 2), Surah Ambiyaa (chapter 21), Surah Qasas (chapter 28), Surah Ankabut (chapter 29), Surah Saad (chapter 38), etc.
The Quranic analysis of this group is that they may be few, but Almighty Allah (SWT) promises them victory in verse 5 of Surah Qasas (chapter 28 of the Holy Quran):
وَنُرِيدُ أَنْ نَمُنَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنَجْعَلَهُمْ أَئِمَّةً وَنَجْعَلَهُمُ الْوَارِثِينَ
“And We desired to bestow a favor upon those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them the Imams, and to make them the heirs”.
So we are returning to the theme of our discussion – Imam Husayn (AS): Heir of the Prophets!
Let us reference another verse to make the promise of Almighty Allah (SWT) crystal clear to the oppressed whom resist (and do not surrender).
Verse 105 of Surah Ambiyaa (chapter 21 of the Holy Quran):
وَلَقَدْ كَتَبْنَا فِي الزَّبُورِ مِنْ بَعْدِ الذِّكْرِ أَنَّ الْأَرْضَ يَرِثُهَا عِبَادِيَ الصَّالِحُونَ
“And certainly We wrote in the Book after the reminder that (as for) the land, My righteous servants shall inherit it.”
So in conclusion, we have the oppressed who will be blaming oppressors, and their destiny will be very negative, equal in Hell with the oppressors.
Then we have the oppressed who resist (and do not surrender) and they will have a positive outcome! It is a Divine promise, as articulated in the above 2 verses.
This is the message of Husayn (AS) and Karbala. His legacy is that the final victory belongs to those oppressed who resist, even if we are 72 against 30,000!
The verse above from Surah Qasas refers to the problem of Nabi Musa with Fir’oun (Pharaoh).
When this verse was revealed, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) said the oppressed of my Ummah are Ali (AS), Hassan (AS) and Husayn (AS).
Crimes are unimaginable in Karbala. Imam Husayn (AS) taught us that regardless of whatever happens, the Divine decree of the final victory is with the oppressed who resist!
To be continued…..