Jumuah lecture on Friday 4 October 2019 (5 Safar 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
I would like to draw your attention to one very important phenomenon explained repeatedly in the Holy Quran, and that is in verse 214 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2), where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُمْ مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ ۖ مَسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَىٰ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
“Or do you think that you would enter paradise while yet the state of those who have passed away before you has not come upon you; distress and affliction befell them and they were shaken violently, so that the Messenger and those who believed with him said: When will the help of Allah come? Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!”
This verse really highlights key points for us all to ponder and reflect upon. Akhirah (hereafter) and Jannah (paradise) has a price tag. It is not free, nor is it for chooses an easy life.
In a Hadith narrated from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he says that if someone asks Almighty Allah (SWT) to be granted paradise and does not have sabr (patience and perseverance) when tested with hardship and difficulties, then he has made a joke of himself!
What Rasulullah (SAWA) is trying to say is that such a person cannot be serious, because he/she wants paradise without having any patience or perseverance when faced with calamities.
Imam Ali (a.s) responded to a group of people who went through some small challenges but expected big rewards, by saying to them that nobody can achieve paradise unless there is complete submission to Almighty Allah (SWT). Imam Ali (a.s) explains that one cannot achieve paradise on small things.
So, tests and trials are very much unavoidable.
Surah Ankaboot (chapter 29 of the Holy Quran) starts with questioning whether people of faith realise that they will undergo various trials and tribulations as tests. These verses explain that this will certainly happen, as this is the trend of Almighty Allah (SWT), that He has always tested those people before and will test us too. It will therefore be known who are the truthful and who are the liars.
“Alif Lam Mim.
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, “We believe”, and that they will not be tested?
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ
And certainly We tried those before them, so Allah will certainly know those who are true and He will certainly know the liars.”
We see a similar message in the last part of verse 154 of Surah aal-Imraan (chapter 3 of the Holy Quran), where Almighty Allah (SWT) says that the difficulties and hardships we endure is so that He can know our secret thoughts (what is hidden inside us) and purge our heart of all impurities:
وَلِيَبْتَلِيَ اللَّهُ مَا فِي صُدُورِكُمْ وَلِيُمَحِّصَ مَا فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ
And that Allah might test what was in your breasts and that He might purge what was in your hearts; and Allah knows what is in the hearts.
This message is again repeated in verse 31 of Surah Muhammad (chapter 37 of the Holy Quran):
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ حَتَّىٰ نَعْلَمَ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ مِنْكُمْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَنَبْلُوَ أَخْبَارَكُمْ
And most certainly We will try you until We have known those among you who exert themselves hard, and the patient, and made your case manifest.
Imam Ali (a.s) explains this phenomenon in sermon 16 of Nahjul Balagha with very descriptive wording. He takes an oath saying that:
“By Allah (SWT) who sent the Prophets (a.s) with faith and truth, we will be severely subverted, bitterly shaken and mixed up and down in a big pot till your low persons become high and your high ones become low. Those who were behind will have a position in the front, and those who were in the front would land in the back”.
This is the type of revolution which we will go through as a result of these tests and trials. This is the trend of Almighty Allah (SWT) in how we will be tested. Therefore, we should never consider trials and tribulations, challenges and calamities as a sign of anger from Almighty Allah (SWT).
In fact, there is a Hadith which explains that whoever has had to go through more trouble has attained greater proximity to Almighty Allah (SWT) and vice versa. Our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), says that if a Mu’min (believer) goes through 40 days without a test, then he should do some introspection and evaluate the level of his faith, because everything is going too smooth!
As noted from the above verses of the Holy Quran, Almighty Allah (SWT) promises us that we will be tested in different ways. This is again emphasised in verse 155 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran):
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.
Any person, nation or community which decides to take the path of truth and the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT), must prepare themselves for hardships and difficulties.
There is an Urdu poet which explains this in his own metaphoric way, by addressing his beloved, saying that “if you want to come to me, then you have to come through the same path which is full of thorns and rocks (unlevelled/bumpy ground). There is no beautiful road along the route to my house.”
So, this is the route to take if we want to reach Almighty Allah (SWT). This is the route which all Awliya (friends) of Almighty Allah (SWT) went through. Therefore, what is really important to reflect upon is how they responded to these difficulties and hardships. They regard them as tests from Almighty Allah (SWT), which they appreciate as it gains them proximity to Him.
We recently commemorated the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s), and the martyrs of Karbala. Unimaginable difficulties and hardships are in Karbala, but you never find Imam Husayn (a.s) complaining or worried. When Imam Husayn (a.s) reached near to Karbala, he told his dear son Ali Akbar that he saw in a dream, that this caravan is moving towards Karbala, but death is actually what is moving this caravan!
What was the response from Ali Akbar? He said that we are on the path of truth, so it does not matter if death is moving us or we are moving towards death. Similarly, what was the response from Qasim, the young nephew of Imam Husayn (a.s) when he was asked by Imam Husayn (a.s) what he thinks of dying for the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT)? This young boy Qasim responded by saying that death is sweeter than honey!
Now, these are Awliya of Almighty Allah (SWT). They are consumed in the love of Almighty Allah (SWT), such that when they go through hardships and difficulties, they regard it as being sweeter than honey!
It is recorded that as time was passing on the Day of Ashura, the hardships and difficulties faced by Imam Husayn (a.s) were increasing, as family members and companions were being brutally martyred one by one. Imam Husayn (a.s) was bringing one body after the other back to the camp.
The reporters of Karbala have written something truly amazing, by saying that normally a person’s face turns pale when they are stressed. They go further to narrate that despite what Imam Husayn (a.s) was going through on the Day of Ashura, his face was not turning pale, but instead was turning red of excitement to meet his Lord (SWT).
Let me conclude this first Khutbah (sermon) with the beautiful statement uttered by Sayyida Zainab (s.a), sister of Imam Husayn (a.s), in the court of ibn Ziyad in Kufa. They tried to taunt and insult her by arrogantly saying to her that they were badly defeated a couple of days ago on the Day of Ashura, and that she lost everybody and everything.
The response from Lady Zainab (s.a) after going through such extreme hardships and tests was most profound, where she said, “by God (SWT), I swear that I saw nothing but beauty.”
For these lovers of Almighty Allah (SWT), going through these tests and difficulties is nothing but beauty! This is the definition of beauty in the dictionary of Imam Husayn (a.s), Lady Zainab (s.a), the Ahlul Bait (a.s), the Awliya of Almighty Allah (SWT) and the Ambiyaa (Prophets (a.s)).
Indeed, there is a promise from Almighty Allah (SWT) in response to this perseverance. The end of verse 155 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran) confirms this, as cited earlier:
“Give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.”
Victory belongs to the people who persevere, as I highlighted at the start of this sermon, by drawing reference to verse 214 of Surah Baqarah, where the people who are saddled with too many hardships and difficulties will complain to Almighty Allah (SWT) about when will His support and victory be seen. Allah (SWT) then makes promises that it should be known that His victory is very close.
مَتَىٰ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
“When will the help of Allah come? Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!”
Those who follow the path of truth and justice, and the path of seeking the ultimate pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) through resisting oppression and occupation, and fighting oppressors and following the footsteps of Imam Husayn (a.s) will always be faced with challenges. Sanctions, accusations, lies, propaganda and everything else will be faced by such people. At the same time, the victory of Almighty Allah (SWT), which is the divine promise, is also not very far! Indeed, it is there!
As I said in the first khutbah, tests from Almighty Allah (SWT) is in line with His divine trend, for individuals and for nations. Those nations and individuals who have sabr (perseverance) will have victory, as they have the support from Almighty Allah (SWT). There is absolutely no doubt. This is the lesson we learn from Karbala.
This is the lesson we learn from Imam Husayn (a.s), who is victorious after 14 centuries. This is the lesson we need to implement in our life, in understanding what is happening around us. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is surrounded by enemies from all ends, facing the worst possible form of sanctions, to the point where the American administration has run into difficulty to find something to sanction!
There is nothing left to sanction, but everything has failed. The Islamic Republic of Iran is, Alhamdu Lillah, standing more firmly – more powerful than ever. What more can be said about this, when we see that even the worst enemies from within, namely the kingdom of Wahhabism is also now realizing that war is not going to solve the problem, and we should talk.
This is not fake news! New York Times and all mainstream media reported that the President of USA called the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, only for Iran’s President Rouhani to hang up the phone! Who in this world has such courage, other than those who follow the path of Imam Husayn (a.s)?!
Just picture it, Trump is waiting on the line, and the President Rouhani simply hangs up! This is not a joke! After all this, they are still begging to negotiate, as it is their nature to play their tricks.
The path of perseverance is what every nation needs to take, as glad tidings are for those who persevere patiently. The end of verse 155 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran) confirms this, as cited earlier:
“Give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.”
When we look at suffering of the people of Kashmir, which has reached unimaginable limits. Similarly, the suffering of the people of Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain and everywhere else. They all must endure the path of hardships and difficulties. However, if they remain steadfast, and remain focussed, then the victory of Almighty Allah (SWT) is surely very close! This is confirmed at the end of verse 214 of Surah Baqarah noted earlier.
أَلَا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
“Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!”
Alhamdu Lillah, I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all those brothers and sisters from different parts of our country who will be embarking on their journey of love of Imam Husayn (a.s). We wish them well on this journey of Arbaeen, the 40 days after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s), where they will take part in the annual walk, from Najaf to Karbala, which is 80 – 90 kilometres. Walking in LOVE!
Nothing other than LOVE can explain and justify this craziness! May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant them that spirit of love of Imam Husayn (a.s). There is a Sahih Hadith recorded in both Sunni and Shia resources where our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) says that Allah (SWT) loves those who love Husayn (a.s)! Love of Husayn (a.s) is love of Almighty Allah (SWT), and travelling in the love of Husayn (a.s) is the movement in the love of Allah (SWT).
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant them all a successful Ziyarah, Insha Allah, and safe return back home.