2 September 2019 (3rd night Muharram 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town

Last night we started discussions on the relevance of Karbala and the message of Imam Husayn (a.s) in relation to our turbulent world which is filled with crisis. We said what we experience in our world today and what the Muslim Ummah experiences in particular and what humanity experiences in general is as a result of our collective deviation from the message of Karbala. Our experience of a world in turbulence is a result of those ideologies that rule us directly or indirectly which changed our direction and resulted in this scenario.

And one such serious root cause is the Western Liberal Capitalist Ideology with its concept of individualism and self centered approach to life where the profit of an individual is above everything. That is their foundation. It does not appear like that at face value but deep contemplation certainly shows that it is like that in their politics and their economics and virtually everything else.

The Quranic approach is different. It believes in 2 aspects of the human personality. One aspect of the human personality is the human being as an individual and the other aspect is the human being as a social being who is part of a community and nation. We mentioned relevant verses of the Quran which refer to the individual role of human beings as well as verses referring to the roles of nations. While individuals have a lifespan, so do nations also have lifespans. Consequently, when it’s time comes, we witness the death of a nation.

The Quran speaks about the qualities of nations as a whole and that every nation thinks that their deeds are beautiful. This refers to national qualities and characteristics which portrays the image that a nation has its own personality. Consequently, the Quran believes that in the Hereafter we are answerable for 2 accounts – our individual account of our individual actions and our national account of our communal actions.

And we can’t shy away to say that I tried my best in my individual capacity and am not responsible for the people of my time as. In Surah Anfaal Verse 25 we read:

وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ
“And guard yourselves against a chastisement which cannot fall exclusively on those of you who are wrong-doers, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.”

So we are socially responsible too.


Now I would like to further explain the relationship between individual and society.

The Western Liberal Capitalist approach only focuses on the individual while the Quran gives human beings a social role too. But is our destiny tied with that of our nation? In other words are we compelled or destined to go where society goes? Is there nothing that we can do? Are our hands tied as individuals?

This is an idea promoted by those who follow a dialectic socialist approach which is ALSO something we completely disagree with.

The logic of the Quran is that while society does influence our destiny somewhat, but at the same time we are NOT compelled and subject to mercy of what society does.

Ayatullah Mutahhari says that Allah gave us “takleef” or responsibility as human beings and the criteria for placing us in takleef is due to equipping us simultaneously with “aql” or intellect. We will be asked in the Hereafter why did or did not do a certain action. This very fact changes our approach of interaction with this world. Because we have an intellect, we CAN individually decide what is right and wrong and we will thus be questioned why we followed our desires instead of our intellect?

Besides human intellect, every human being undeniably has a conscience which takes you to account the very moment you do something wrong. Why do we feel bad when doing something bad? It’s because human conscience is a reality. This is inside the individual himself.

Thus while we are influenced by society, we are never stripped of our individual freewill.


Based on the above mentioned analysis, it is very possible that out of the worst societies, the best people are able to emerge!

A certain socialist, when discussing history as it is narrated in the Quran says that the Quranic image of history is that it is always a clash between people like Prophet Musa (a.s) on the one side and Pharaoh on the other side.

However, while this may generally be true, the Quranic depiction of history ALSO clearly indicates that while you are in the very camp of a Pharaoh and his tyrannical rule, you can still decide your own destiny and swim against the prevailing current of the day.


Thus history in the Quran is not necessarily only a clash of classes of poor vs rich, etc – you can be different while being in the very camp of Pharaoh – rather you can be in the highest level of Pharaoh’s despotic system and still a revolutionary woman like Aasiya can emerge from it who completely rebels against this system as an individual!

Thus we read in Surah Tahrim Verse 11:

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا امْرَأَتَ فِرْعَوْنَ إِذْ قَالَتْ رَبِّ ابْنِ لِي عِندَكَ بَيْتًا فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَنَجِّنِي مِن فِرْعَوْنَ وَعَمَلِهِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

“And Allah has set forth an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said: “My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrong doing people.”

Aasiya, while being a woman, is presented as an example for all believers, male and female. She lived in the very palace of Pharoah in absolute luxury. Such an environment would have placed her in a most vulnerable position whereby it would be easy for her to blame her circumstances.

But the Quran says that she dissociated herself from Pharaoh AND his system AND dissociated her self from the evil nation of wrong doers and oppressors. So if she could do it under virtually impossible circumstances, why can’t we go against the system that is the cause for the turbulence of this world??

And Aasiya is not the only example of inspirational individuals.


The Quran also presents another example of an individual from the very family of Pharaoh – a man described as a believer who was secretive about his belief but defended Prophet Musa (a.s)!

We thus read in Surah Ghafir Verse 28:

وَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مُؤْمِنٌ مِنْ آلِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَكْتُمُ إِيمَانَهُ أَتَقْتُلُونَ رَجُلاً أَنْ يَقُولَ رَبِّيَ اللَّهُ وَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَإِنْ يَكُ كَاذِباً فَعَلَيْهِ كَذِبُهُ وَإِنْ يَكُ صَادِقاً يُصِبْكُمْ بَعْضُ الَّذِي يَعِدُكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ مُسْرِفٌ كَذَّابٌ

“And a believing man of Pharaoh’s family who concealed his faith said: “Would you slay a man because he says: ‘My Lord is Allah and he has come to you with clear signs from your Lord? And if he is a liar, upon him will be [the sin of] his lie; but if he is telling the truth, then some of that [misfortune] wherewith he threatens you will befall on you.’” Indeed Allah guides not one who is a transgressor [of limits] a liar!”

This individual uses the greatly praised strategy of Taqiyyah (hiding his faith) to achieve the purpose of protecting Prophet Musa (a.s) whom he believed in and appeals to his people’s intellect to refrain from killing Prophet Musa (a.s) as he was truthful.

This great individual who was part of the very family of Pharoah used strategy to rise against the evil of his time. While he was hiding his faith in public, he was in reality among the siddiqeen (truthful ones) – a title we often use too loosely!

A Siddiq is someone who testified to the truth and bears witness to the truthfulness of the Prophet of his time.

Just as a matter of interest, let me quote for you lovers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) a Hadith which indicates that in history there were three people who are accorded the title siddiq.

‘Abi Laila narrated that Allah’s messenger (pbuh) said: ‘The Sidiq (truthful) are three, Habib al-Najar the momin of al-Yasin who said {O my people! follow the messengers}, Hazqil the momin of al-Firon who said {Will ye slay a man because he says, ‘My Lord is Allah’ }, and Ali bin Abi Talib is the third and he is the most superior’.

And various other inspirational examples are available to examine.


The Quran does not accept the logic that when we are challenged about our shortcomings that we blame the conditions external to ourselves like our society or family, etc. Example women often provide excuses for not wearing hijab by blaming their environment that makes it very uncomfortable for them to do so.

And there are many examples of how we blame our circumstances for our shortcomings.

The Quran rejects this attitude and highlights that there’s always a way out of our circumstances.

We thus read in Surah Nisa Verse 97:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلآئِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ قَالُواْ فِيمَ كُنتُمْ قَالُواْ كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الأَرْضِ قَالْوَاْ أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُواْ فِيهَا فَأُوْلَـئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَسَاءتْ مَصِيرًا

“Verily (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their own selves, they (the angels) will ask: ‘In what state were you?’ They will reply: ‘We were oppressed in the land’. (The angels) will say: ‘Was not Allah’s land vast so that you could have migrated therein?’ So these (are those) whose abode is Hell, and an evil destination it is!”

For those who lived in sin and blamed their circumstances for their state, the reply will be that it is an invalid excuse as there was always the option of migrating to another part of the world where a more favourable environment could be found to actually practise their faith. So the destination of such people is hell.

There is only one exception to this and that is captured in the next verse 98:

إِلاَّ الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاء وَالْوِلْدَانِ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُونَ حِيلَةً وَلاَ يَهْتَدُونَ سَبِيلاً

“Except the feeble among the men, women, and children, who neither have in their power the means nor do they know any way.”

These people are literally powerless and their freewill in a sense is compromised and thus they are not blamed for not changing their circumstances.


With this background Karbala teaches us that we are responsible for ourself as an individual as well as our society.

If Imam Husayn (a.s) confined himself to Makkah, nobody would hurt him. Seniors in his community advised him to go live in Yemen where he would be safe in mountains as the people of Yemen were known to love Ahlul Bait (a.s). They even indicated that being in Yemen would take Imam Husayn (a.s) out of the socio-political scene and consequently Yazeed would not bother him.

But from the perspective of Imam Husayn (a.s), living in Yemen would save his own life and individual interest. But that’s not sufficient for Imam Husayn (a.s). What about the Muslim Ummah?!

Secondly Karbala teaches us in light of the verse quoted earlier (that warns us to fear the communal punishment that extends beyond the actual active oppressors but inflicts the whole society), that Islam can’t be practised only in an individual capacity.

Before his departure to Makkah, the despotic Marwan (subsequent Umayyad ruler) met Imam Husayn (a.s) in the streets of Madina and offered Imam Husayn (a.s) friendly advise saying that Yazeed is evil and its in his favour to pay allegiance to him and remain in a corner. Imam Husayn (a.s) replies that if the Ummah is inflicted with a leader like Yazeed, then we should recite the verse that we do when someone dies:

إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون
“Verily we come from Allah and to Him is our return”

And we should say salaam or farewell to Islam as there will be no more Islam left.

Yazeed did not force people to drink wine or lying, nor did he prevent them from performing their rituals etc. There were enough holy people present who confined themselves to isolation, yet in the vision of Imam Husayn (a.s) Islam confined to corners is not Islam.

Thirdly Imam Husayn (a.s) believed that society can be however bad, but if one person wants to stand for truth, he certainly can! That’s the hope he gave to the oppressed of our turbulent world!

Imam Husayn (a.s) is willing to resist even if he is alone and thus issues the immortal slogan that “Death with dignity is better than living a life in humiliation”!

And Imam Husayn (a.s) has so many more similar sayings that inspires us.

It is our tradition that tonight we speak of a hero in Karbala who is beautiful example of today’s message. He is Muslim ibn Aqeel who was the first martyr of Karbala and a rather lonely one too.

After Imam Husayn (a.s) reached Makkah he preached to the people of the pain that the ummah was experiencing with Yazeed coming to power.

At the same time from Kufa he received thousands of letters of support and narrations state this number reached 18000 letters signed by so many people who invited Imam Husayn (a.s) to take power.

To verify this claim, he sent his cousin Muslim ibn Aqeel to prepare the ground if the claim is true.

Muslim reached Kufa in Shawaal when thousands paid allegiance to him and wrote back to Imam Husayn (a.s) stating that he should come to Kufa as the ground was fertile for him to takeover.

However there was a simultaneous change of governor and the despotic Ubaydullah
Ibn Ziyaad was appointed who deceived people and threatened them with death if they disobeyed him.

And Kufa changed overnight!! That is because the supposed supporters of Imam Husayn (a.s) were not real Husaynis!!

But under these difficult circumstances, Muslim ibn Aqeel all alone faced ibn Ziyaad and was martyred along with Hani ibn Urwa.