Jumuah lecture on Friday 24 July 2020 (3 Dhul Hijja 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Brothers and sisters, we are currently in the very holy and sacred days of the Islamic calendar. The first 10 days of the month of Dhul Hijja are regarded as extremely crucial from the spiritual aspect.
In the Holy Quran, Almighty Allah (SWT) takes oath of 10 nights in the opening verses of Surah Fajr (chapter 89). According to various commentators of the Holy Quran, this 10 night period refers to the first 10 nights of Dhul Hijja. Another example of a reference to the first 10 nights of Dhul Hijja are the verses of Hajj when Almighty Allah (SWT) speaks about “Ayyamin ma’lumaat”.
Similarly, in verse 142 of Surah A’araaf (chapter 7 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) speaks about Nabi Moosa (a.s) and his 40 day period of seclusion, starting with Dhul Qa’dah and then culminating with these 10 days of Dhul Hijja.
وَوَاعَدْنَا مُوسَىٰ ثَلَاثِينَ لَيْلَةً وَأَتْمَمْنَاهَا بِعَشْرٍ فَتَمَّ مِيقَاتُ رَبِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً ۚ وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِأَخِيهِ هَارُونَ اخْلُفْنِي فِي قَوْمِي وَأَصْلِحْ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
“And We appointed with Musa a time of thirty nights and completed them with ten (more), so the appointed time of his Lord was complete forty nights, and Musa said to his brother Haroun: Take my place among my people, and act well and do not follow the way of the mischief-makers.”
This verse is highly recommended to be recited in these special 10 days, especially in that 2 rak’at salaah which is recommended to be performed between Maghrib and Isha. Therefore, it is an indirect instruction for us to reflect upon this verse of the Holy Quran.
There are numerous interesting and important points in this verse for us to reflect on. Today, I wish to explore some of them, as follows:
1. Does Almighty Allah (SWT) change His plan based on latest information?
2. What is the significance of the number 40?
3. Appointment of Harun by Moosa (a.s) is the concrete proof of Imamate
4. Refutations of Imamate being proclaimed from the appointment of Harun by Moosa (a.s)
5. Imam Ali (a.s) referred to on multiple occasions by Rasulullah (SAWA) as being like Harun to Moosa (a.s)
6. Deviating from divine leadership is the primary cause of our endless disaster
DOES ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) CHANGE HIS PLAN BASED ON LATEST INFORMATION?
The first issue to analyse from this verse is that of 30 plus 10 equalling 40. In verse 51 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) speaks about 40 nights:
وَإِذْ وَاعَدْنَا مُوسَىٰ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً
“And when We appointed a time of forty nights with Musa…”
The immediate question that arises is, what is the difference between these two verses? Why does Almighty Allah (SWT) express 40 in two different ways ie. 30 plus 10 in the earlier verse and then 40 outright in this verse?
Was the will of Almighty Allah (SWT) first 30 nights, and then He decided midway to add another 10 nights? Indeed, it is very difficult to imagine Almighty Allah (SWT) doing this. We human beings normally change our plans due to ignorance or new information which emerges.
A good example in our current time is the government-imposed lockdowns, which got re-evaluated constantly and extended, as new information came to light. Now, when Almighty Allah (SWT) changes the plan, it is not due to His ignorance or new information coming to light. This is quite an interesting point to reflect on.
This is a critical point on Tauheed in our Islamic ideology, and in the attributes of Almighty Allah (SWT). Changes in His plans are not the result of ignorance or new information. Almighty Allah (SWT) already knows since He is All-knowing. Instead, it is His hikmah (wisdom) which demands that a particular command must come in a particular time, and then He changes that while in the situation.
Almighty Allah (SWT) already knows before the situation, that it will first be the command of 30 days, and then it will be a command to add another 10 days. It is not as if He did not know and hence first gave 30 days and then changed it to 40 days.
So, based on His full knowledge and wisdom, the proclamation of this command comes in 2 stages. This is similar to the approach of a doctor, who prescribes you medication for let us say one week. He/she then says to the patient to come back after a week and commands a new medication since the previously prescribed medication is no longer needed, based on the progress made. It does not mean that the doctor did not know. The doctor knew fully upfront, but this was the doctor’s plan to prescribe in a staggered fashion.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NUMBER 40?
This is another important point to draw your attention to from this verse. There are certain matters in this world which we really do not know. Not everything in this world and all its secrets and reality is completely exposed to us.
a. The number 40 appears to have special secrets associated with it, because the question of 40 is not only in the case of Nabi Moosa (a.s), but also at the same time in the case of Nabi Nuh (a.s), the flood was for forty days.
b. Furthermore, we also read in history that the people of Nabi Moosa (a.s), namely the Israelites, were lost for 40 years.
c. We also know that before our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) received revelation, he secluded himself for 40 days (I’tikaaf) from his wife, Lady Khadijah (s.a).
d. Also, Rasulullah (SAWA) was appointed to be a Prophet at the age of 40.
e. There are also Hadith narrations which state that if you want to achieve perfection and success in your life, then it should be by the age of 40, as it becomes difficult thereafter.
f. Then there are also Hadith which state that if someone makes their intentions sincere for 40 days, then Almighty Allah (SWT) grants such a person wisdom.
g. Similarly, the punishment for certain sins in this world is 40 days.
h. Then also when performing Tahajjud, one is recommended to make dua for 40 believers.
i. When someone dies, it is recommended to place in his/her kafan (burial shroud), a letter of attestation from 40 witnesses testifying that the deceased was a true believer (mu’min).
This list of narrations from Quran and Hadith regarding the emphasis on the number 40 can go on and on. Suffice to say that this is another interesting aspect of the above quoted verses of the Holy Quran.
APPOINTMENT OF HARUN BY MOOSA (A.S) IS THE CONCRETE PROOF OF IMAMATE
Indeed, another very important aspect for analysis in the above verse (verse 142 of Surah A’araaf) is this appointment of Harun which Nabi Moosa (a.s) makes as his successor during his 40 day period of seclusion.
The important point to note is that Nabi Moosa (a.s) did not leave his nation without a leader during his absence. So, the question that arises is, how is it possible that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) left this Ummah (Muslim nation) without any leader forever or at least explaining the system of appointing a leader.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) left this world, and the companions were engrossed in deep discussion on how to address this issue of leadership after his demise. This is a very, very important point to ponder.
Therefore, many commentators of the Holy Quran have narrated the very well-known Hadith in reference to this verse, where Rasulullah (SAWA) addressed his cousin/brother, Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) and told him that he is to Rasulullah (SAWA) like Harun was to Moosa (a.s), except that there will be no Prophet after him (Rasulullah (SAWA)).
As we know, this Hadith is regarded by both Sunni and Shia resources as authentic beyond any question. Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad, ibn Majah have all reported this Hadith as being undeniably authentic, narrated by more than 20 companions (Sahaba).
REFUTATIONS OF IMAMATE BEING PROCLAIMED FROM THE APPOINTMENT OF HARUN BY MOOSA (A.S)
This Hadith is regarded as a concrete proof that Rasulullah (SAWA) did not leave this world and the Muslim Ummah without leadership. Perhaps the question which comes in our minds is that why the need for Harun to be appointed as leader while Nabi Moosa (a.s) was away, because Harun was also a Nabi? This tells us clearly that Prophethood (Nubuwwat) and Leadership (Imamate) are two different matters, and one needs to be appointed to be a leader while being a Prophet at the same time. Prophethood is therefore not a direct inference of Imamate.
This Hadith naturally becomes a big point of debate. Hence, another question which arises is that this Hadith was for a very particular moment. The context is that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) was on his way to the Battle of Tabuk, which was a far away location. For that period of time, he informed Imam Ali (a.s) to take care of leadership matters while he (Rasulullah (SAWA)) is away.
History has recorded that Imam Ali (a.s) complained, asking Rasulullah (SAWA) why he is not being taken along to Jihad, and instead being left behind to take care of the women and children? It is on this point where Rasulullah (SAWA) told Imam Ali (a.s): “O Ali, you are to me like Harun was to Moosa, except that there will be no Prophet after me.”
So, the argument presented by those who do not accept Imamate is that this Hadith was only in reference to this short period of time when Rasulullah (SAWA) left for Tabuk. They then argue that this cannot therefore be extrapolated to mean that Rasulullah (SAWA) appointed Imam Ali (a.s) as the permanent leader after him.
This is of course, extremely unfair, and the way of thinking when you look at Hadith with the spectacles of prejudice! This Hadith is in no way restricting the position of Imam Ali (a.s) to that particular event of the Battle of Tabuk.
To clarify, this Hadith is saying that the status of Imam Ali (a.s) is like that of Harun, except that there will be no further Prophet. This status does not change after Rasulullah (SAWA) returns from Tabuk!
These opponents of Imamate then argue further that Nabi Harun (a.s) passed away during the lifetime of Nabi Moosa (a.s). The clarification of Rasulullah (SAWA) to Imam Ali (a.s) in this Hadith, that there will no Prophet after him is important to understand in response to this element of critique.
If Rasulullah (SAWA) was speaking specifically in reference to that short period of his absence while at the Battle of Tabuk, then this statement that there will be no Prophet after him does not make sense, because Rasulullah (SAWA) is still around, whether it be Madina or Tabuk! He is still the final divine Prophet, and nobody can become a Nabi in his presence or after.
IMAM ALI (A.S) REFERRED TO ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS BY RASULULLAH (SAWA) AS BEING LIKE HARUN TO MOOSA (A.S)
Firstly, based on the above, it is therefore very clear, that this Hadith is not restricted to that period of absence while Rasulullah (SAWA) was at Tabuk. Secondly, Rasulullah (SAWA) is indirectly saying that Imam Ali (a.s) will continue to hold that position of Harun toward Moosa, even after his passing, with one exception being that there will be no further Prophet.
What Rasulullah (SAWA) is saying is that if Harun would have outlived Moosa, then he would have been Nabi and Imam at the same time. However, Imam Ali (a.s) will not be a Nabi, but he will be an Imam. This is the crux of what this Hadith is saying.
What is really important and interesting is that Hadith resources have recorded that this statement of Rasulullah (SAWA) in reference to the status of Imam Ali (a.s) was repeated on multiple occasions. I will list a few below.
a. It is reported from the second Caliph, Umar ibn Khattab, that he saw someone swearing on Ali (a.s). Umar says that he thought that this person is a hypocrite, because he says that he heard directly from Rasulullah (SAWA) the above-mentioned statement, that the status of Imam Ali (a.s) is like that of Harun to Moosa, except that there will be no further Prophet.
Now, if this is not a virtue and status of Imam Ali (a.s) being prescribed, then why does the second Caliph, Umar ibn Khattab, refer to the person who is abusing Ali (a.s) as a hypocrite, based upon this Hadith?
b. On the day in Mecca when Rasulullah (SAWA) made companions as brothers to each other, and made Imam Ali (a.s) as his brother, he again repeated this statement, of Imam Ali (a.s) being to him like Harun to Moosa (a.s), except that there will be no Prophet after him.
c. Then, when Rasulullah (SAWA) established brotherhood between the Muhajir and Ansar, he again selected Ali (a.s) to be his brother, repeating the same statement.
d. Ummi Saleem was a truly great personality from the history of Islam with enormous sacrifices with immediate loved ones like her father and brother martyred. Her husband never accepted Islam, and she therefore left him. Rasulullah (SAWA) would sometimes visit her to check-in, given the stress she was going through.
During one of these visits, history has recorded that Rasulullah (SAWA) again echoed this statement about the status of Imam Ali (a.s), saying that the flesh of Ali (a.s) is from his flesh, and the blood of Ali (a.s) is from his blood, and Ali (a.s) is to him like Harun is to Moosa (a.s).
e. Ibn Abbas narrates from the second Caliph, Umar ibn Khattab, who said that one should not speak bad about Imam Ali (a.s), because he heard 3 statements about Ali (a.s) directly from Rasulullah (SAWA). Umar ibn Khattab goes further to say that if he had one of these three, then it would have been better for him than anything else in this world.
Umar ibn Khattab explains that he was there with the first Caliph and a group of other companions (Sahaba) in the company of Rasulullah (SAWA). At this occurrence, Umar ibn Khattab narrates that Rasulullah (SAWA) placed his hand on the chest of Ali (a.s) saying to Ali (a.s) that he is the first believer and to him like Harun is to Moosa (a.s).
f. Nisaa’i was a great Sunni scholar and he explains an incident where Ali (a.s), Jafar and Zaid were discussing the guardianship of the son of Sayyidina Hamza (r.a). Naturally, many people lined up for this, given the status of Sayyidina Hamza (r.a) and his martyrdom for Islam in the Battle of Uhud. At this point, Rasulullah (SAWA) repeated the statement to Imam Ali (a.s), that he is like Harun to Moosa (a.s), except that there will be no Prophet after him.
g. Again, on that day, when all the doors of the different houses which opened to the mosque of the Prophet in Madina, namely Masjidun Nabawi, were closed, and the only door which was kept open was that of Imam Ali (a.s), Rasulullah (SAWA) said to Imam Ali (a.s) that what is Halaal for him is Halaal for Ali (a.s), and that Ali (a.) is to him like Harun to Moosa (a.s), except that there will be no Prophet after him.
We can see here, that this statement about the virtue and status of Imam Ali (a.s) is not confined to the Battle of Tabuk, since it was repeatedly noted by Rasulullah (SAWA) at various points in history, as noted above.
DEVIATING FROM DIVINE LEADERSHIP IS THE PRIMARY CAUSE OF OUR ENDLESS DISASTER
So, if we want to understand this Hadith, we should go to the Holy Quran, and understand the relationship between Harun and Moosa (a.s), which will help us understand the position of Imam Ali (a.s) to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), with the exception of Nubuwwat, as clarified by Rasulullah (SAWA).
The position is clear when we study verses 29 – 32 of Surah Taha (chapter 20 of the Holy Quran):
وَاجْعَلْ لِي وَزِيرًا مِنْ أَهْلِي
29. And give me a Minister from my family,
30. Haroun, my brother,
اشْدُدْ بِهِ أَزْرِي
31. Confirm my strength with him,
وَأَشْرِكْهُ فِي أَمْرِي
32. And let him share my task
These verses make the position of Imamate so clear for all of us.
The month of Dhul Hijja is the month of Wilayat. Verse 142 of Surah A’araaf (chapter 7 of the Holy Quran), which was the main verse under discussion in this sermon, reminds us of the Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA) on the status of Imam Ali (a.s).
In the coming special days of this sacred month, we have numerous other verses of the Holy Quran and Prophetic Hadith narrations which even more explicitly speaks about the leadership of the Ummah, and the Wilayat and Imamate of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) with Imam Ali (a.s) appointed as the first Imam to succeed Rasulullah (SAWA).
We learn through history what the terrible consequences there are for deviation from the leadership. The endless trouble which our Ummah is facing today is mainly due to the deviation from the path of divine leadership.
Lack of leadership which can give clear direction has left us in this terrible position all over the world. We, as followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), are really privileged to have that leadership of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), and the continuation of this leadership in the form of Marja’iyyah (grand spiritual authorities) and Wilayat-e-Faqih (guardianship of the Islamic Jurist) represented by our great leaders like Ayatollah Khamenei and Ayatollah Sistani. Look at their vision, role and influence on the people and their direction towards the Islamic ideals, beyond any doubt.
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