Jumuah lecture on Friday 8 November 2019 (10 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Once again, this great month of Rabi-ul Awwal reminds us of the arrival of the greatest of creation of Almighty Allah (SWT), the best of His servants, the most beloved of His Prophets (a.s), and the one who brought the final, most comprehensive and complete message from Almighty Allah (SWT) to humanity. He is none other than our Nabi & Rasul, our leader and our ideal, and excellent exemplar Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
May this great month, which is perfumed by his grand arrival and birth, be a Mubarak on you and the whole Ummah of our Nabi & Rasul (SAWA). In keeping with our annual tradition, most of the discussions in this month are dedicated to this most important personality in our lives and in this world.
Today, I would like to draw your attention to something very much connected to his personality and Prophetic Sunnah, which is also very much relevant to us as it has a great message for us. It is also very much connected to this great month of Rabi-ul-Awwal. What I am referring to is the subject of Hijra (migration), which is one of the key milestones in the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), which also occurred in this blessed month of Rabi-ul-Awwal.
Many people discuss this phenomenon of Hijra during Muharram, because it is the first month of the Hijri calendar. Indeed, it is correct, that Muharram is the first month of the Hijri calendar, but it is not the time of Hijra. Rasulullah (SAWA) departed from Mecca on 1st Rabi-ul-Awwal and arrived in Medina, according to Tabari, ibn Kathir and other historians, on 4th Rabi-ul-Awwal.
The Hijri calendar was established much later, but the Hijra itself occurred in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal, and not in Muharram.
DIFFERENT IMPLICATIONS OF THE WORD HIJRA IN THE HOLY QURAN
The concept of Hijra itself, is one of the issues greatly emphasized in the teachings of Islam. It is one of the topics which the Holy Quran gives a great deal of emphasis to. In Arabic, the word Hijra comes from the source word, Hajra, which means to leave/abandon. This is the literal, dictionary meaning.
In this literal meaning, the Holy Quran has used the word Hijra quite a few times. For example, in verse 30 of Surah Furqaan (chapter 25), the situation pertaining to Qiyamah (Day of Judgement) is explained, where our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) will complain to Almighty Allah (SWT) that his people abandoned the Quran:
وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
“And the Messenger cried out: O my Lord! surely my people have treated this Quran as a forsaken thing.”
Another example in the Holy Quran is where our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is addressed in verse 10 of Surah Muzzammil (chapter 78):
وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاهْجُرْهُمْ هَجْرًا جَمِيلًا
“And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity).”
When people abused our Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) with vile language, we note from this verse that he was commanded to have patience on what they utter and gracefully forsake them. In that sense, this is a different manner that the word “hijra” is used.
WHAT WAS THE PROPHETIC HIJRA AS EXPLAINED IN THE QURAN?
When we talk about Hijra, it is something more particular than just leaving or abandoning. The concept comes from the same meaning, that someone leaves or abandons his home city and migrates to another place for a certain purpose. The reasons can vary, from wanting to protect his life, his faith, his property, to seek knowledge, avoid injustice and oppression, and so on. There can be a multitude of reasons why people migrate.
This is a human phenomenon throughout the history of humanity, where migration is one of the major components of human civilization. In fact, human civilization is built on a mass migration from one point to another. Now, this migration where you abandon your home city, to another place for a certain purpose, is called Hijra. This is the concept which the Holy Quran refers to at numerous points.
I was studying some of those verses of the Holy Quran which speak about the Hijra ie. the actual migration of Rasulullah (SAWA) to Medina. You will be surprised that there are around 14 verses of the Holy Quran which speaks about the Hijra.
Sometimes, the Holy Quran speaks about the Hijra in a gentle manner, while at other times the Hijra is spoken about very firmly.
HIJRA EXPLAINED IN THE QURAN IS SOMETIMES USED AS A REPRIMAND
A good example of this is verses 97 onwards of Surah Nisaa (chapter 4 of the Holy Quran), which are directly or indirectly connected to the Hijra:
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 explains that people who were oppressing themselves will one day die. The angels will ask the question to such people, challenging them on why did they take this wrong path of disobedience. These people will present the excuse that they were oppressed in the earth. They will claim that their environment did not allow them to practice their faith. Their excuse will be that their town or city was bad and therefore they fell into this trap!
The angels will reply by asking “wasn’t the earth of Allah (SWT) wide enough for you to migrate if you were forced to practice shirk and kufr”? They will challenge these people in the grave on why they did not migrate from the society where they could not practice, to a society where they could practice their faith. So, remaining in such a society and not migrating is a big sin! There excuse will simply not be accepted. Hell is their destiny and that is a terrible destination to be!
This verse therefore serves as an example of how harshly the Holy Quran speaks about the issue of Hijra.
HIJRA EXPLAINED IN THE QURAN IS SOMETIMES USED AS A COMPLEMENT
On the other hand, we see examples of how the Holy Quran speaks in a gentle, rewarding manner, praising those people who migrated. A good example of this is verse 20 of Surah Tawba (chapter 9):
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً عِنْدَ اللَّهِ ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ
“Those who believed and fled (their homes), and strove hard in Allah’s way with their property and their souls, are much higher in rank with Allah; and those are they who are the achievers (of their objects).”
Look at this stark contrast between these 2 verses, on the same subject of Hijra.
HIJRA ARMS ONE AGAINST KUFR AND SHIRK
Hijra is something which is established in the Holy Quran, which we are asked to do in given conditions. In fact, the issue of Hijra in Islam is along with Jihad (struggle). These 2 things come together. They are 2 strategies to fight back against Shirk and Kufr, from the very first day of Islam’s existence.
Hence, when the situation of Mecca became so difficult that it was not possible to tolerate the conditions, we note that Rasulullah (SAWA) asked people to migrate to places like Ethiopia, under the leadership of Jafar at-Tayyar. Then also some other small migrations took place, until Rasulullah (SAWA) finally migrated to Medina.
This Hijra (migration) became the source of huge historical and natural changes through the victories in the history of Islam. Hijra is a compulsory responsibility. Hijra is so crucial, that the Islamic calendar was established on the basis of Hijra.
HOW WAS THE HIJRI CALENDAR ESTABLISHED?
Every nation has their own calendar. For example, Christians have their calendar with the birth of Jesus, while other faiths establish their calendars based upon their significant events in their history. However, it is narrated that this issue was raised during the time of the second Caliph, that we should establish our own calendar.
There was a discussion about what event should signify the start of the Islamic calendar. Some people suggested the birth of Rasulullah (SAWA), while others suggested the conquer of Mecca as the point of starting the Islamic calendar. However, Imam Ali (a.s) suggested that there is no incident in the life of Rasulullah (SAWA) to be more important and influential than the Hijra and therefore he proposed that the Islamic calendar should start with the Hijra.
The proposal made by Imam Ali (a.s) was accepted and as a result we have the Islamic calendar, referred to as the Hijri calendar, which starts from the year of the Hijra of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Now, regarding the Hijra, we will take our discussion to a different level next week, Insha Allah. This phenomenon of migration, which is highly encouraged by the Holy Quran, and practiced by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA): What does it mean? How does it apply? What are the different levels of Hijra? These are the topics we will explore in this series of discussions in the subsequent Jumuah sermons.
You see, when the Holy Quran analyzes the Hijra, it sees it as a source of rescue of your Imaan (faith) and dunya (worldly pursuits). How true this is practically! What the Quran is establishing in reference to the Hijra is that, not only through moving from place to place will you be able to protect your Imaan, but you will also achieve great favours and blessings from Almighty Allah (SWT). You will also explore more opportunities and success.
This is one level of the Hijra.
Then there is another level, which is the internal Hijra, when the migration of our physical bodies is not enough, until our heart and soul migrate!
ARBA-EEN WALK: A UNIQUE JOURNEY OF LOVE
We recently concluded our visit to Iraq for the Ziyarah of Arba-een of Imam Hussain (a.s) in Karbala, where we walked all the way from Najaf to Karbala, which is almost 90km! We performed the Ziyarah in the Haram of Imam Hussain (a.s), Sayed as-Shuhada and paid homage to the martyrs of the tragedy of Karbala on the Day of Ashura in the year 61AH.
This special journey, with all its challenges, hardships, pains and difficulties, is an amazing and truly unique experience. It is an experience of what love can do. It is an experience of akhlaq and humanity, and the heights that human beings can reach.
During these days of walking between Najaf and Karbala, you encounter situations which gives a shock to the system. It truly shakes you, that human beings are capable of this character, humility and sincere sacrifice. Unfortunately, this is not the case most of the time, but at least these few days open a different window in front of us, of how this love of the grandson of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) captures the hearts of the people.
It leaves one mesmerized when trying to understand how people act, where some people who have absolutely nothing to offer or little kids of 6 – 7 years old stand alongside this route to offer something as simple as tissue paper to the people who are walking towards Karbala.
If they cannot offer anything in their house, they will scrape together something and offer even a small plate of dates or a few pieces of fruit, or if nothing else, then even a few glasses of water. This is something remarkable to witness, on how the love of Imam Hussain (a.s) influences and captures the hearts, taking us to an amazing level. May Almighty Allah (SWT) accept the efforts of those who embarked on this journey and tried in their own way.
THE SAME IRAQ IS BURNING!
Unfortunately, I need to add here, that in the same Iraq, and in the same Karbala and Baghdad, mass protests are taking place. Naturally, this is creating lots of questions in our minds, on what is happening in Iraq. Of course, as we know, the USA occupation of Iraq created an extremely messy situation in that country.
This is a consistent trend, if compared with the same result in Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, etc. Wherever Americans have invaded in the name of democracy, freedom and liberation, the result has only been chaos, civil wars, corrupt systems and unfortunately, Iraq is no exception in this regard.
The result of this is years and years of suffering of the ordinary people of Iraq under the corrupt politicians. Iraq is a country with extraordinary resources which is able to generate huge revenues, from oil, water, agriculture, minerals, etc. Whatever you name, it is there on this blessed land.
This is the land referred to as the cradle of civilization. It is the land of Nabi Ibrahim (a.s). Unfortunately, exploitation, corruption, dictatorship, repeated wars and the incapable leadership of this country has left it destroyed.
After the fall of Saddam, people were naturally expecting positive change, and that change did not come. The reality is that military occupation does not bring change and genuine freedom. This is what has happened, and people are now tired and frustrated. They are exhausted and that is why they came out to express their anger and frustration. The public who have taken to the streets, have come out with their genuine anger and frustration, for their genuine demands for justice and for corruption to come to an end.
They want nothing but the development of Iraq towards prosperity. The people want a fair share of the humungous revenues. This is their very legitimate, rightful demand.
PEACEFUL PROTESTS BECAME VIOLENT DUE TO ROGUE ELEMENTS
At the same time, unfortunately, the same elements and agents of occupation tried to exploit these mass protests for their own benefit. This is how the direction of these peaceful protests got changed to become violent, where personal, public and government properties were attacked and burned. Naturally, the authorities were compelled to respond, resulting in clashes with the protesters.
Even in these clashes, we see that these agents abused the heated situation for their benefit. Sadly, this resulted in the death of a very big number of people.
Despite this, we are very hopeful, because the Marja’iyyah (religious leadership), led by the spiritual authority in Najaf, Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayed Sistani, has the greatest influence over the people, to guide and lead them in the right direction. The religious leadership are acknowledging the rightful demands of the people, but stopping them from becoming violent and attacking people and property.
Also, looking at security and armed forces who really sacrifice their lives to rescue Iraq from ISIS. These are genuine people, who fought ISIS under the fatwa of Ayatollah Sistani. One will remember, that these demonic terrorists by the name of ISIS were on the doors of Baghdad and were close to taking over the whole of Iraq. It was at this point where Ayatollah Sistani saved Iraq by issuing his fatwa calling on people to take up arms against ISIS.
The public acceded to this decree and made the greatest of sacrifices to fight back and liberate Iraq from ISIS. Now, unfortunately, these rogue agents inside these protests are trying to divert the attention and the direction of these marches. These same people who organized themselves on the fatwa of Ayatollah Sistani, by victimizing them and calling them proxies for the imperialist agenda and so on.
So, this is a very complicated situation, but we are hopeful that with the guidance of the grand religious leadership of Najaf, the people of Iraq will emerge victorious and be able to successfully achieve their demands and rights.
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