Lecture delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim on Thursday night 11 April 2019 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid in Ottery, Cape Town on celebration of birth anniversary of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) and Abil Fadlil Abbas.
Today was 5th Shabaan wherein we commemorated the anniversary of the birth of the 4th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali bin Husayn Zainul Abideen (a.s).
And yesterday 4th Shabaan we commemorated the birth of the great standard bearer and commander of Imam Husayn (a.s) in Karbala, Abil Fadlil Abbas.
On these auspicious occassions we sincerely convey our congratulations to the Imam of Our Time, Imam Mahdi (a.s), all the Ulama, Maraji and lovers of the Holy Household and humanity at large.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) has a long biography that makes very interesting reading. He was formally an Imam for 34 years which is the period after Karbala until his martyrdom and which is relatively long and had vast experiences from which we learn.
Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir Qarashi wrote biographies of various of the Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and one such biography is that of the 4th Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s).
VAST BIOGRAPHY OF IMAM ZAINUL ABIDEEN (A.S)
In this book we learn about various aspects of his eventful life where each is a detailed discussion. But for brevity there are issues like:
– his lineage – his mother was a Persian princess – thus the issue of cross cultural marriage is highlighted and the impact of that and what we can learn in our time on this issue
– he was orphaned soon after birth and can learn a lot from that experience as our society locally and internationally has a huge challenge of dealing with so many orphans
– his relationship with his step mothers and the utmost Akhlaq and respect he showed them as if they were his biological mothers
– his various titles, and why in particular he is called Zainul Abideen and Sayyidus Saajideen
– his overall character and Akhlaq
– his long Imamate and the extreme social degeneration he had to deal with
– him being considered by all Muslims as one of greatest from the era of the Tabe-een which is the second generation and what that practically means for us today
– what great sahabah and famous historians have to say about him and how the sufis find him to be their spiritual haven
– the great tragedy of Karbala and his role in keeping its message alive
– various aspects of his worship from salaah to fasting to haj to caring for the poor to the great heritage of Duas for virtually every occassion he taught us
– to the religious sciences and his contribution and being of the first who formally organised the framework for teaching Islamic Law
– his famous treatise on rights
– the long list of great students and companions he produced
– to the era of numerous rulers that he lived in and how they are forgotten but his name is alive and will remain as such
And I think we have some exposure to some of these aspects of his life but his reality remains a mystery to us that still requires much uncovering.
VALUE OF STRATEGIC THINKING
I would like to make a comment about the well known legacy of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) which is an issue that we should always be thinking about on different levels at least once a day or once a week. If we don’t do this, then we are NEVER going to leave behind much of a legacy worth speaking about.
In the USA biologists studied certain areas of their environment which they had found had withered and become very barren. They found that huge beautiful lakes in an area called Yellowstone had dried up, the vast vegetation had dried up, the variety of animal numbers had gone down while certain animals like deer was over populated, the variety of bird life had dissapeared, the trout and fish life they got from the rivers was gone, the variety of insects that were commonly found there had dissapeared, etc. They also found that for almost 70 years that a particular predator called the grey wolf was not in the environment anymore. A once beautiful landscape had reduced to something close to what a desert looks like.
So what did they do? They reintroduced the grey wolf into the environment – and the biologists are amazed until this very day of the results. The entire environment changed.
The deer who were too much in the environment and eating up all the greenery – their numbers reduced as the wolves hunted them, the trees started growing again, the birds returned, the insects returned, other animals dependent on greenery returned, the rains returned and the lake filled up and rivers flowed and fish returned and balance in the ecosystem came back. The variety in the biosphere was reestablished. And that area of Yellowstone is once again a beautiful place to live in.
In our country we are forever asking questions about why do executives of large organizations get paid such ridiculous large salaries as they have nothing to show for it. And the questions asked are correct.
But the reason they get paid so much is because they are supposed to be the best strategic thinkers who are able to determine the one or two best changes that one makes and focusses on that is supposed to turn an organization into the direction of resounding success. And few people are capable of doing this on such a great level.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), after analyzing the aftermath of Karbala could have taken one of various routes which each would have a different outcome.
He did not participate directly in uprisings but chose a route of focusing on reigniting the call of the inner nature of such a corrupt society by teaching them through the institution of dua for which his legacy is most well known.
And that is something we spend little time on and should specifically make time for it. Every day take a few moments to ask the strategic question of what is it that I can focus on today to cause me to move forward and not to stagnate.
And every week and month ask that question.
And every year ask that question.
This is a part of the legacy of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) that we should benefit from as we celebrate the anniversary of his birth.
LOYALTY OF ABIL FADLIL ABBAS
While we can speak much about the life of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), on the other hand we have less information recorded about his uncle the great standard bearer of Karbala, Abil Fadlil Abbas but what is recorded about him is so profound that until today his name strikes fear into the hearts of evil people.
Before he was born Imam Ali (a.s) looked for a wife that comes from a noble lineage of bravery and thus married Ummul Baneen who produced 4 great sons who were sacrificed in Karbala.
And when ulama speak about this great personality, one striking feature that gets repeated over and over is his loyalty and commitment to Imam Husayn (a.s).
While this most beautiful feature of his personality is glorified by us passionately -and I really mean passionately – such that any possible connection to Abbas becomes a place of honour – like you have in Karbala the place where they say his arms fell is made a maqam to remember him even though it’s not so authentic, the point is we are passionate about Abbas…. but how much practical attention is given to his most beautiful attribute of loyalty?
WHAT DOES LOYALTY MEAN TO US?
I have mentioned before, that in the discussion of Islamic Ethics that different scholars approach the issue of teaching this subject differently.
Some focus on Akhlaq from a philosophical perspective by focusing on the 4 powers that every human being has which is desire, anger, intellect and imagination and then identify and teach the virtues that brings balance to these human powers and the vices that take them out of balance.
Example chastity brings balance to desire.
Or bravery brings balance to anger.
Or wisdom brings balance to intellect and so on.
Other scholars approach Akhlaq from a mystical approach and teach the various spiritual stations you cross to becoming a perfect human being.
Others teach what is virtue and negative qualities independently and in no specific order or inter relation and each in a sense is considered important.
And then you get scholars who approach Islamic Ethics in the manner in which the Quran is viewed in looking at Ethics in its condensed form and its expanded form.
Just like the Quran has a reality from which it emanates in the lawhin mahfooth or protected tablet and it has an expanded form which was descended which we read. But ultimately all the details in Quran go back to that one reality.
So these scholars look at Akhlaq like this….they say all the details of Akhlaq can somehow be traced back to certain fundamental virtues which they essentially all a branch of.
If one can strategically focus your life on acquiring these fundamental virtues, then the other virtues will automatically fall into place.
They then go about identifying what these fundamental virtues are and they say it’s truthfulness and honour. Everything comes back to this.
And then they say that among these fundamental virtues that one must have in your journey to becoming a better human being and potentially reaching a level of human perfection is the virtue of loyalty.
And how did Abil Fadlil Abbas not flourish in this virtue.
Loyalty has various very very practical dimensions that me and you must really focus on.
What is loyalty?
Loyalty is a virtue that goes back to that first fundamental virtue of truthfulness. Sometimes loyalty or wafaa is in relation to an عهد “ahd” or agreement/covenant.
We live our daily life. We agree to work for our employer. Be loyal by delivering even if he is not watching. We have business agreements of buying and selling, providing services, and so on. Be loyal to your agreement by honouring it. Almighty Allah says in Surah Israa verse 34:
وَأَوْفُوا بِالْعَهْدِ إِنَّ الْعَهْدَ كَانَ مَسْؤولاً
“and keep the agreement/covenant, verily every agreement/covenant will be questioned”
Agreements are where there are 2 parties who give and receive. Eg. I give money and receive goods. You give the goods and receive the money.
So we need to have the fundamental virtue of fulfulling our agreements if we truly celebrate the life of Abil Fadlil Abbas.
But sometimes loyalty is with respect to وعد “wa’d” which is a promise you make where you don’t necessarily receive anything. You don’t have an agreement. It’s one sided. You say to someone I promise to give you my car when I buy a new one. So when you buy the new one, you should be loyal to your promise by giving the person your old car. Don’t afterwards say I was only joking, I did not mean it!
How often don’t we make empty promises to our kids, to our workers, to our leaders, to our community, to our families. Prophet (sawa) said that a promise is a debt…. once you made it you should already consider that the opposite party has taken what you promised.
That is loyalty in the sense of promises. It’s a fundamental virtue that is the basis for becoming better human beings.
Sometimes when we refer to loyalty we mean the keeping of trusts. When we are trusted with something, with money, with secrets, with doing a certain job, we must keep and deliver on those trusts and be loyal to it.
And then loyalty needs to be maintained on various other levels. If we have benefited from someone or an institution then we should remain loyal to it LONG AFTER having benefited from it!
Often we have the attitude that while I am benefiting from someone or from an institution or others then I must be loyal and when I don’t benefit anymore from you then I owe you nothing, I don’t have to be loyal to you anymore. But that’s not what this virtue of loyalty demands.
If you have for example benefited from a school or a teacher or an organization, then remain loyal to them.
Loyalty and wafaa needs to also be observed towards our country even if it’s not an Islamic state.
Loyalty also needs to be observed to your marriage and to your partner. It’s a major problem in South African society. That loyalty must extend to your in laws, your mother and father in law who trusted their son or daughter to marry you…. be loyal to them.
Even in the unfortunate case of getting divorced. Don’t live as if there were never good times. Be loyal to that person that you were married to even when you not married to them any longer in recognition of the good times and due to the fact that you share children and are parents to a common human being. This is a great illness in our society that is tearing it appart.
Then the final expression of loyalty and the most profound expression of all loyalty I want to highlight is the loyalty shown to one’s leader and how perfect was Abbas not in doing so. Just weeks before Ashura, Muslim ibn Aqeel experienced what disloyalty to leadership means and at Ashura, Abil Fadlil Abbas showed by example to the rest of the camp how to be loyal to leadership.
That’s very important to consider. We sit here tonight with Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider still recovering in hospital from his operation he had on Tuesday. Insha’allah we pray for his speedy recovery and long life to be with us still for a very long time. As he comes out of middle age he has a wealth of knowledge and wealth of experience and much to offer besides everything he has done for our community for decades.
For many of us, we really lost if it was not for his guiding us to this great path of Ahlul Bait (a.s). I often think back decades now that one of the greatest strategic decisions I ever made in my life which completely changed its direction to a meaningful one was to become his student and stick to him all these years.
As our leader and all our leaders on this path, they deserve our loyalty and service to best of our ability.
I would like to end with a narration of the 6th Imam Saadiq (a.s) when he says “there’s three things that no one has an excuse to ignore – to deliver trust to good or bad people and loyalty to covenants/agreements with good or bad people and kindness to parents whether they are good or bad people”.
May Almighty Allah grant us tawfeeq to ponder deeply on what loyalty means, to do introspection on how much we have developed this virtue in our life and to appreciate it’s centrality and fundamental position in Akhlaq and human perfection.
PLEASE LIKE I SHARE I COMMENT