Jumuah lecture on Friday 26 July 2019 (23 Dhul Qa’ada 1440)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
In this holy hour of Jumuah, I would like to firstly remind myself as well as all of you about Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT), to always be conscious and aware about our responsibilities and obligations before our Creator (SWT). This is incumbent upon us in our social life and individual role in society. This Taqwa requires and demands from us, to stand for justice and to support the oppressed.
This is practical Taqwa, as Taqwa is not only about engaging in acts of worship such as Salaah, fasting, zikr and reciting the Holy Quran. The spirit of Taqwa is that in our social and political sphere of life, we should stand for justice and support the oppressed.
QURANIC COMMAND TO STAND FOR JUSTICE AND THE OPPRESSED
The Holy Quran is so clear about it. I don’t think the Holy Quran addresses any issue as strongly as the issue of justice and support of the oppressed. Almighty Allah (SWT) challenges us in verse 75 of Surah Nisaa’ (chapter 4 of the Holy Quran):
وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ الظَّالِمِ أَهْلُهَا وَاجْعَلْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ وَلِيًّا وَاجْعَلْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ نَصِيرًا
“And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.”
The style of this verse is very much in the form of a reprimand from Almighty Allah (SWT) to us. Similarly, we find this in verse 72 of Surah Anfaal (chapter 8 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ آوَوْا وَنَصَرُوا أُولَٰئِكَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يُهَاجِرُوا مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ وَلَايَتِهِمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ حَتَّىٰ يُهَاجِرُوا ۚ وَإِنِ اسْتَنْصَرُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ فَعَلَيْكُمُ النَّصْرُ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُمْ مِيثَاقٌ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
“Surely those who believed and fled (their homes) and struggled hard in Allah’s way with their property and their souls, and those who gave shelter and helped– these are guardians of each other; and (as for) those who believed and did not fly, not yours is their guardianship until they fly; and if they seek aid from you in the matter of religion, aid is incumbent on you except against a people between whom and you there is a treaty, and Allah sees what you do.”
This verse emphasises our responsibility to help and support the oppressed.
I am making this point as a prelude to the discussion I will develop today. One of those places where the Holy Quran does not distinguish between a believer and non-believer, Muslim or non-Muslim, is on this very issue of support for the oppressed.
In Surah Takwir (chapter 81 of the Holy Quran), we reflect on the different situations and scenarios which will be present on the Day of Qiyamah (Judgement Day). Verse 8 and 9 is the challenge presented in the context of baby girls being buried alive in the era of Jahiliyya.
وَإِذَا الْمَوْءُودَةُ سُئِلَتْ
8. And when the female infant buried alive is asked
بِأَيِّ ذَنْبٍ قُتِلَتْ
9. For what sin she was killed
Naturally, this practice was before the advent of Islam, but amazingly, the Holy Quran says that on the Day of Qiyamah (resurrection), one of the places where this challenge will come is in reference to this issue of supporting the oppressed.
FINAL WILL OF IMAM ALI (A.S) COMMANDS US TO STAND FOR JUSTICE AND THE OPPRESSED
When we reflect on the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the lives of the Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) we again find very clearly that we have a responsibility towards the oppressed. Of course, that responsibility is amplified when it comes to Muslims. However, this responsibility is also very clearly there in the case of non-Muslims.
There is the very well-known will of Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) to his sons, Imam Hassan (a.s) and Imam Hussain (a.s), where he advises them to observe Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT) and to not chase worldly pursuits, even if this dunya comes behind you. Imam Ali (a.s) further advises that they should not feel sorry about this dunya!
Imam Ali (a.s) then advises them to always speak the truth and work for the reward of Akhirah (not the reward of this dunya) and to always be the opposition of the oppressor and the support for the oppressed. This is a broad-spectrum principle which Imam Ali (a.s) established. But now, one would rightly say that this is the headline of a follower of Imam Ali (a.s), and the lifestyle which such a person adopts, as the follower of Imam Ali (a.s).
The wording used in Arabic is “Aun” and “Khasm”, which basically refers to a camp. The followers of Imam Ali (as) is always in the camp of the supporters of the oppressed (Aun), permanently. Khasm refers to those who are in the opposition camp ie. The camp of the oppressor.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THE OPPRESSED TRANSCENDS ALL BOUNDARIES
This is the trend of life of the followers of Imam Ali (a.s). Interesting to note, that Imam Ali (a.s) did not draw reference to our responsibility towards the oppressed of any religion or faith tradition, nor was he commanding us to oppose the oppressor of any religion or faith tradition. The command by Imam Ali (a.s) to support the oppressed and oppose the oppressor is a blanket statement, irrespective of colour or creed, religion or nation.
So, the position of a true follower of Imam Ali (a.s) is the same. It is a clear position, that the follower of Ali (a.s) is in opposition to the oppressor and is in the camp of the oppressed. You will never find a lover and follower of Imam Ali (a.s) in any other camp.
It is reported that our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) was one day in the middle of nowhere while travelling and came across a stranger. This stranger relayed his experience that he saw a woman in great distress. She was under attack and thirsty. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) asked this stranger why did he not give the distressed lady water? The stranger replied that the distressed lady was Jewish!!!
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) clearly admonished this person for not coming to the aid of the distressed Jewish lady, highlighting our prime responsibility towards the oppressed at all times, irrespective of who they are.
There is also that well-known incident of Ambar, where Imam Ali (a.s) came to know that a Jewish lady’s jewellery had been snatched by a Muslim soldier. It is on this point where Imam Ali (a.s) reacts vociferously, stating that he will not be surprised if someone dies after hearing this news!
This is the spirit of the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), that they are ALWAYS in the camp of the oppressed and in opposition to the oppressors. This is their approach to life!
Naturally, when this scenario reaches to the Muslim masses, and even the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s), it is clearly evident to even the blind, as to what our responsibility is and continue to be.
SUPPORTING THE OPPRESSED IS ENSHRINED IN THE HOLY QURAN AND PROPHETIC SUNNAH
There is the well-known Hadith narrated from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), who said that whoever wakes up in the morning and does not care about the plight of his fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, the Ummah, is not from us, nor is he part of us.
This responsibility is a Quranic responsibility, and is a responsibility inspired from the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and from the teachings of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). When we study the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his purified Ahlul Bait (a.s), we appreciate that they are never indifferent towards injustice and oppression. They always stood firmly in support of the oppressed, on different levels.
Naturally, it is not necessarily possible for everybody to take up arms, but there are different levels on which all of us can voice our opposition to injustice and oppression. Every single step we take in support of the oppressed is a step towards performing the important responsibility which is on the shoulder on each and every one of us.
SECOND KHUTBAH – ILLEGAL DETENTION OF SHEIKH IBRAHIM ZAKZAKY
In the first khutbah, I tried to draw your attention to a very, very important principle in the life of every Muslim, every follower of the Holy Quran and the Prophetic Sunnah, and every lover and follower of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), which is to stand for justice and to stand for the oppressed, regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity or their background.
This is the Quranic responsibility and the lifestyle of the follower of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
Today, this Jumuah across the country is dedicated to express our support for our oppressed brothers and sisters in Nigeria. These are our own African brothers and sisters, who are Muslims and also followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
These oppressed people of Nigeria are following this path and the lifestyle described in the first khutbah, together with their leadership, and have paid a very hefty price for choosing this style of life as followers of Imam Ali (a.s).
Indeed, we are speaking about the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, and referring particularly to the illegal detention of a great leader and religious scholar, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, and his wife, and the killing of innocent followers of this movement who stood for justice for Palestine and in their own country of Nigeria.
They were killed in huge numbers, with more than 1000 people killed in Nigeria by this regime and its army. This man Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who is the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, is under detention for the past 4 years. 6 of his children have been martyred in the process. Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife are really not normal people, considering they have gone through this serious test, and have sacrificed so much.
Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky was also physically attacked and lost his one eye in the process, after being shot several times and detained from 2015 until now.
WHO IS THE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF NIGERIA?
I would like to draw your attention to this large group led by Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, which has almost 15 million followers across Nigeria, and they decided to follow the path of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), and stood firmly in this mission.
This group stood on this path of Ahlul Bait (a.s) without being sectarian, and there are a few important points to discuss in this regard. There is not a single trace of sectarianism, or Shia-Sunni sensitivity, for the past 30 years of this group’s existence. They love and follow the Ahlul Bait (a.s), and strongly believe in unity. They believe in brotherhood with our Sunni brethren and stand firmly for this.
In addition to this, they have showed amazing solidarity with the non-Muslim members of the Nigerian society.
This movement stood firmly in support of the oppressed, when the evil of Boko Haram emerged and killed hundreds of innocent people and committed the worst crimes of terrorism. This movement strongly opposed the evil terrorism perpetrated in their country. They supported the churches and Christian monasteries and institutions and establishments which came under the attack of this evil group of Boko Haram. This is the history of this movement.
They never, ever used violence as their tool to promote and advance their aims and goals. NEVER!
ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF NIGERIA CHAMPIONS THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE IN AFRICA
Today, everybody acknowledges this fact, that the followers of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky have huge processions, where millions of people participate, but there is unanimous affirmation of the fact that they were never armed or ever used violence against people. NOT AT ALL! They have rejected violence and adopted peaceful, legal means to promote their message to the people.
I have repeatedly said, and I can confidently say, that there is no stronger voice in support of the Palestinian struggle than the voice of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, because there is no group across Africa with such a huge influence and following, standing so firmly for the people of Palestine, who are not Shia, as we all know very well!
Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky lost his children in the marches which were organized in support of the people of Palestine. This shows their ideological position and approach. However, their peaceful marches and processions were attacked by the Nigerian army and they were crushed and killed, with the mosques they administer being levelled to the ground, and their leadership arrested.
NIGERIAN HIGH COURT REPEATEDLY ORDERED THE RELEASE OF SHEIKH IBRAHIM ZAKZAKY
People are under the impression that this is a cult which is causing a rebellion against the Nigerian government. Far from the truth! Until 2016, they were unable to prove anything against Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky. The Nigerian High Court has issued a court order on 4 occasions, stating that Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky should be released, as there is no basis for him to be on trial.
However, as we all know, the President of Nigeria refuses to have him released. Quite shocking, as the High Court has already issued its verdict 4 times for the release of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.
In 2016, they brought a new case against Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, accusing him of killing a random individual. For the past few years, his supporters have taken to the streets of Abuja, demanding their freedom and the release of their leader, Sheikh Zakzaky. But their call has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears.
Earlier in the week, they held another protest in front of parliament in Abuja, and once again, the army attacked them, killing more than 12 people. Among those killed was a police officer and journalist as well.
NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT IS ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF HYPOCRISY IN THIS WORLD
Nothing is clear in terms of who killed who. Unfortunately, there are those who want to make this a Sunni-Shia issue today, while it is very clear that this is not a sectarian issue. It is an issue of human rights, the rights of a minority who have a right to demand the end of the illegal detention of their leader. There is nothing else they are asking for.
Amazingly, the same Nigerian regime is ready to enter negotiations with Boko Haram! They have no problem with this, while the Islamic Movement of Nigeria have offered on numerous occasions to come together to talk, but the Nigerian government are clearly not ready for dialogue.
All they are ready to do is kill anybody who raises their voice of support for this incarcerated Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky. Why are they ready to negotiate with the worst of the worst terrorists in Boko Haram, but not willing to talk to a group of law-abiding people with a legitimate request?
According to reports, Shia Muslims are almost 15% of the total population of Muslims worldwide, and the demographic in Nigeria is pretty much the same, but they have been sidelined.
In fact, even the Nigerian Opposition Coalition came up with a statement clearly condemning, and I quote, “the violent armed attack and use of deadly weapons by the police against innocent Shi’ite protesters, protesting the illegal detention of their leader, following the Buhari government’s deliberate refusal to obey over 4 court orders ordering the release of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.”
This is the statement of the formal opposition in the Parliament of Nigeria.
Naturally, there is a big fear, that things will turn uglier, and more lives will be sacrificed. We, in this southern tip of Africa believe that it is our responsibility to raise our voice of support for this oppressed Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and for the oppressed people of Nigeria.
Protests and picket demonstrations have been arranged in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively, in support of the global appeal for the release of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.