Lecture 17 in the Ramadaan series:
REFLECTIONS ON SURAH ISRAA’
MARTYDOM OF IMAM ALI (AS)
01 May 2021 (19 Ramadaan 1442)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
As we begin tonight’s program, we pray that Almighty Allah (swt) accepts our duas and amaal on this first night of Qadr.
In the same breath, we have gathered to commemorate an unmatched personality in the history of Islam.
We are here to honour and pay our respects to the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as), a personality of which there will be none like him again.
Inshallah, we will continue with our discussion of Surah Israa and analyse how this relates to the life of Imam Ali (as).
Verses 61 to 65 of this blessed chapter discuss the famous story that is repeated in numerous places in the Quran. This is the account of the creation of Prophet Aadam (as) and the surrounding events that occurred thereafter.
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلآئِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لاَدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلآَّ إِبْلِيسَ قَالَ ءَأَسْجُدُ لِمَنْ خَلَقْتَ طِيناً
61. “And (remember) when We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate unto Adam’; so they (all) did prostrate except ’Iblis who said: ‘Am I to prostrate to the one You have created of clay?’”
As we have explained before, Shaytaan was not an angel. However, he had been a sincere worshipper of Allah (swt) for thousands of years and consequently was able to join in the devotion of the angels. This allowed for him to be in their company.
قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَكَ هذَا الَّذِي كَرَّمْتَ عَلَيَّ لَئِنْ أَخَّرْتَنِ إِلَي يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لاَحْتَنِكَنَّ ذُرِّيَّتَهُ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً
62. “He (the Satan) said: ‘Tell me, is this he whom you have honoured above me? If You respite me till the Day of Resurrection, I will certainly master his progeny, save a few.”
قَالَ اذْهَبْ فَمَن تَبِعَكَ مِنْهُمْ فَإِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ جَزَآؤُكُمْ جَزَآءً مَّوْفُوراً
63. “(Addressing the Satan), He said: ‘Depart! But whoever of them follows you, then verily Hell will be your recompense, a recompense in full!’”
وَاسْتَفْزِزْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ مِنْهُم بِصَوْتِكَ وَأَجْلِبْ عَلَيْهِمْ بِخَيْلِكَ وَرَجِلِكَ وَشَارِكْهُمْ فِي الاَمْوَالِ وَالاَوْلاَدِ وَعِدْهُمْ وَمَايَعِدُهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ إِلاَّ غُرُوراً
64. “And startle whomever of them you can with your voice, and collect your cavalry and infantry against them; and share with them in wealth and children and make promises to them; and the Satan makes no promises to them except delusion.”
إِنَّ عِبَادي لَيْسَ لَكَ عَلَيْهِمْ سُلْطَانٌ وَكَفَي بِرَبّـِكَ وَكِيلاً
65. “Verily (as for) My servants, you have not any authority over them; and your Lord suffices (as their) Guardian.”
This is an incredibly important narrative to reflect upon. In this case specifically, the last two verses requires deep pontification.
This seeming imperative that Allah (swt) addresses to Shaytaan is unique.
While at a prima facie level, this appears to be an order from Allah (swt) to Shaytaan, as if he is being instructed to misguide people.
This is not a correct understanding. Rather, these words are an expression of anger and challenge from Allah (swt).
The first interpretation cannot be true as if this were the case, Satan would be punished in the hereafter for simply following what he was instructed to do! The verse then continues and describes the special slaves of Allah (swt) as عِبَادي or “My Servants.” This is an exclusive group who Shaytaan himself admits cannot deviate from the straight path.
Additionally, Almighty Allah (swt) is also showing his ultimate knowledge of everything by expressing these different ways Shaytaan deviates individuals. Indirectly Allah (swt) is teaching us what the main tools that Shaytaan uses.
This can be summarised under 4 tactics:
1. Sawt – Voice.
Certain exegetes of the Quran have said that this refers to haraam music and listening to that which is forbidden.
While this perspective is correct, other scholars have gone into further depth and have identified a much broader meaning. Haraam music only consists of a single example under the umbrella term of Sawt.
These scholars further explain that ‘voice’ in this instance means false speech, specifically the spewing of propaganda.
This can truly take an infinite number of forms, especially with the emergence of a variety of social media platforms.
The other important tool in the hand of Satan is the force of power. This is an oft-used mechanism designed for the masses to submit to the desires of his representatives.
This can take the form of either military or physical threats of violence.
This takes on the shape of imperialism. The threat of economic sanctions and suppression if one does conform to what the oppressive power demands.
Arguably the biggest avenue where Shaytaan causes us to fall into his traps. These are the dreamy stories that Shaytaan continuously fantasises about to our lower soul.
These promises are often seen on the international pollical scene. If we follow Satanic pathways of living – we are promised to enjoy a ‘free’ life, enjoy a ‘civilised’ society, and be considered as ‘progressive.’
The reality is that these are self-constructed labels that we are sold on false hope, while being left with nothing but loss.
Despite all of these strategies, Allah (swt) says that the underlying nature of these ploys are delusion:
وَعِدْهُمْ وَمَايَعِدُهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ إِلاَّ غُرُوراً
64. “…and the Satan makes no promises to them except delusion.”
I would like to tie this in with our discussion of Imam Ali (as).
How were these satanic tools implemented against Imam Ali (as) throughout his live, and even after his death?
What was the reason for so much animosity towards Imam Ali (as)?
As Imam Ali (as) was a true servant of Allah (swt) and completely exemplified the term عِبَادي, he was never willing to comprise with Shaytaan and his army.
Previously in verse 60, the distinct term of the “accursed tree” was used in in Surah Israa. While there may be many interpretations of what this refers to, Imam Fakhruddin Razi and Tafsir Qurtubi have mentioned this as Bani Umayyah.
وَالشَّجَرَةَ الْمَلْعُونَةَ فِي الْقُرْءَانِ وَنُخَوِّفُهُمْ فَمَا يَزِيدُهُمْ إِلاَّ طُغْيَاناً كَبِيراً
60. “…and the cursed tree in the Qur’an, save (as) a trial for the people; and We cause them to fear, but it only increases them in great insolence.”
This accursed family tree was always at odds with the Ahlulbait (as) as the books of history have detailed.
PERVASIVE PROPAGANDA AGAINST IMAM ALI (AS)
As I said, the first Satanic step was the deployment of the propaganda machinery. In this regard there is an interesting story related from Khalid ibn Abdallah al-Qasri, a scholar who was visiting Syria, a stronghold of Umayyad control at the time.
While visiting Damascus, he decided to attend the Jumu’ah prayers. When he had entered into the mosque and joined the congregation, the speaker had begun cursing Imam Ali (as) and calling him a thief.
The speaker was so unqualified that he mispronounced the Arabic word for thief (Liss).
This scholar then remarked by saying that he is confused as to if he should cry over the cursing of Imam Ali (as), or at the speaker’s utter ignorance and weak understanding of Arabic grammar.
He left this mosque and decided to join another Jumu’ah prayer in the surrounding area.
This Imam completed the khutbah and the prayers, while not cursing Imam Ali (as) at all.
When afterwards they had left the mosque and Khaalid ibn Abdallah accompanied the Imam, suddenly, he realised he had forgotten to curse Imam Ali (as).
He stopped at that very point and decided to revile the Imam (as). This geographical point was later made to become a Masjid for the remembrance of cursing Imam Ali (as), known as Masjidul-Dhikr, which still exists today according to some historians.
The indoctrination reached its peak when the news of Imam Ali (as) being struck in prostration had reached Damascus. Out of astonishment, the public had asked “Does Ali pray?”
This was the fabricated tradition of Bani Umayyah that had worked overtime in spreading concocted narratives about Imam Ali (as) and anything related to him. This is seen till today in the apparent disbelief in Abu Talib (as).
Maulana Ishaq, a famous Pakistani-based Ahl-Hadeeth scholar was asked if he believed Abu Talib (as) was Muslim.
While traditionally the Wahabi position was firm in the belief that Abu Talib (as) had died a disbeliever, Maulana Ishaq has always been a critical thinker.
His reply was categorical – Abu Talib (as) was indeed a Muslim. Not only that, but he was also one of the best believers!
While one may construct many arguments and discussions as to why Abu Talib (as) has been painted in such a negative light, Maulana Ishaq simply explains that he is the father of Ali (as). This is a sufficient crime to have one’s reputation slandered.
Looking at our community on a local level, the propaganda against Ameerul Momineen (as) still has its effects. A simple example is the interfaith events that forms part of Cape Town religious culture.
Our Sunni brothers, whom we respect, are not scared to join congregations in cathedrals, nor afraid to even stand in Hindu temples amongst the idols.
Despite all of this, these same individuals are frightened to even be seen near the Masjid of Ahlulbait (as). This is because of the smears against the followers of Imam Ali (as) and his lovers.
Despite all of these campaigns launched against the Holy Imam (as), the timeless words of the Prophet (SAW) is what we hold unto amongst the storm of propaganda and resentment when he said: “Oh Ali (as)! None would love you but a believer, and none would hate you but a hypocrite.”
In this first probable night of Qadr, the night of Imam Ali’s (as) promised martyrdom, we pray that Almighty Allah (swt) forgives us of our shortcomings and include us amongst his true followers and Shia.
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