Jumuah lecture on Friday 26 June 2020 (4 Dhul Qa’dah 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that these 10 days of Dhul Qa’dah has great significance. In fact, its spiritual significance is even mentioned in the Holy Quran, where we read in verse 142 of Surah A’araaf (chapter 7) that this was the start of the 40 day isolation period of Nabi Moosa (a.s):
وَوَاعَدْنَا مُوسَىٰ ثَلَاثِينَ لَيْلَةً وَأَتْمَمْنَاهَا بِعَشْرٍ فَتَمَّ مِيقَاتُ رَبِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً ۚ
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.
Accordingly, our religious scholars have recommended special duas (supplications) and a’maal (acts of worship) for these 40 days due to its spiritual significance. Greater importance is naturally placed on the last 10 days of this 40 day period, being the first 10 days of Dhul Hijja.
Another important aspect of this month of Dhul Qa’dah is that these first 10 days are remembered more particularly in the Islamic Republic of Iran as 10 days of honour for the Ahlul Bait (a.s). The intent is to express the greatest of respect and gratitude for blessing the Islamic Republic of Iran with three great honourable, generous personalities of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). They are:
1. Lady Fatima Ma’suma (s.a), who is buried in the city of Qom;
2. Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Jafar, who is buried in the city of Shiraz;
3. The most important being Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s), the 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), who is buried in Mashhad.
They have dedicated the first 10 days of Dhul Qa’dah to honour these esteemed personalities and the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
We do not have very reliable information on the birth date of Lady Fatima Ma’suma (s.a), although there are reports which claim it was on 1st Dhul Qa’dah. Similarly, we do not have any information about the birth date of Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Jafar. That said, we know for sure that the birth date of the 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s), is 11th Dhul Qa’dah.
So, it is not as if these three esteemed personalities from the offspring of the 7th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s), were necessarily born in these 10 days, as we only have confirmation on the accuracy of 11th Dhul Qa’dah being the birthday of our 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s).
However, considering the auspicious occasion of the birth of Imam Ridha (a.s), we find that all these days are celebrated to express our gratitude and respect to these honourable personalities of Ahlul Bait (a.s). There are a few matters I wish to discuss in this regard.
WHY ARE THERE GRAVES FROM THE OFFSPRING OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S) IN FAR-REACHING COUNTRIES?
There is a notable presence of a reasonably big number of graves located in Iran from the offspring of Ahlul Bait (a.s). Iran is not unique in this sense, as we find the same reality of graves from the offspring of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Egypt.
One major reason for this was that the children of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and Imams (a.s) were always involved in struggles against the oppressive rulers of their time. They were always the target of their persecution. As a result, they were compelled to leave their cities, be it Madina or other cities of the Arabian Peninsula like Baghdad or Kufa. They were forced to migrate, to save their lives.
They ended up in different parts of the world, such as Iran, Egypt, Yemen and parts of the Indo-Pak subcontinent. There were people who were lovers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in these areas and have great sympathy for them. These people would therefore provide them shelter and support.
So, the persecution under the rulers was one of the reasons for the children of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) migrating from their original homelands to different parts of the world, including Iran. Of course, Iran has a background where there was always a great sympathy and inclination towards the Ahlul Bait (a.s), and this trend is noticeable across different eras in history.
AHLUL BAIT (A.S) WERE HIGHLY REVERED IN THEIR ADOPTED CITIES BY SUNNI MUSLIMS
Iran has only been Shia for the past 500 years. As we know, Iran was not Shia through its history of Islam, but they were indeed lovers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) without any doubt. We can see in the life of Imam Ridha (a.s) especially, that when he was forced to migrate to Khorasan, he enjoyed amazing respect from the people there. And like I said, these were not Shia Muslims.
The city of Nishapur was the centre of Sunni Islam and where great scholars of Sunni Islam were based. When Imam Ridha (a.s) passed through the city of Nishapur, he received a great welcome from these people, out of their deep love and respect for the Ahlul Bait (a.s). They showed amazing respect to this grandson of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Interesting fact to note is that there is a great deal of virtues of Imam Ridha (a.s) recorded in Sunni resources, more than what they have recorded about any other from the children of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). This is because he was amongst Sunni Muslims who were very much lovers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). This is the case even to the point of various narrations by grand Sunni scholars recorded in their resources about the virtue of the Ziyarah of the blessed shrine of Imam Ridha (a.s).
So, this was how they escaped the brutal oppression of the Umayyads and Abbasids. At the same time, Iran was part of the Abbasid empire, and their governors ruled on the different provinces of Iran. Therefore, these children of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) ultimately then came into conflict with these governors. In most cases, it resulted in their martyrdom and that is why we find them buried in different parts of Iran.
Despite the grave animosity from the oppressive ruling establishment, the general masses had a very positive approach towards the Ahlul Bait (a.s), as they saw these esteemed personalities as being members of the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
These people were also highly impressed with their level of Taqwa (God-consciousness), impeccable Akhlaq (moral character) and more specifically their honourable personality. Hence, their graves became the centre of attraction for the masses. They also experienced abundant blessings from the graves of these sacred children of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in different parts of Iran. Therefore, this practice of visiting their graves gradually became an established culture.
LADY FATIMA MA’SUMA (S.A) OF QOM – THE CENTRE OF SHIA SCHOLASTIC EXCELLENCE
Some of these personalities who are buried in Iran or Egypt or other parts of the world may not be very well-known, as history has not given us very clear details about them. As a result, we cannot confidently speak about them. However, there are those for whom a great deal of historical background has been documented, so that we can speak about them more confidently.
Amongst these luminaries is Sayyeda Fatima Ma’suma (s.a), who is the sister of Imam Ridha (a.s). She is known as Kareematu Ahlul Bait (a.s), the honourable lady of the family of Rasulullah (SAWA). She was greatly committed to her brother, Imam Ridha (a.s), and due to this love and commitment, she left Madina and travelled all the way to Qom looking for her brother who was forced to leave and taken to Khorasan.
She died in Qom, or according to some reports she was martyred (we do not exactly know), and she was buried there. Her level of Taqwa, chastity and piety were well-known to the people of Qom. Her grave and shrine became the centre of blessings and goodness for the people.
What can be more blessed to have emerged from the shadow of this great, honourable lady of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), than the highly acclaimed Islamic theological seminary of Qom? This is the centre of excellence which produced people like our beloved Imam Khomeini (r.a) and a long list of grand religious scholars and spiritual authorities (Maraji’).
Today, Qom is regarded as the foremost academic centre in the Shia world, without any doubt. The spread of knowledge and wisdom of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) across the world to the far remote corners, initiated from this lamp of guidance and blessings of Lady Ma’suma (s.a) in Qom.
SHIRAZ AND TEHRAN ARE HOSTS OF THE CHILDREN OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Jafar in Shiraz was another great leader who received news of the martyrdom of Imam Ridha (a.s). He was in conflict with the Abbasid governor of Shiraz who finally martyred him, resulting in him being buried in Shiraz. The great Shaykh al-Mufid says that Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Jafar was Kareemunafs, and this Karam, generosity and honour, is a common title amongst all of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
While speaking about Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Jafar, I cannot ignore to mention Sayyed Abdul Azeem al-Hasani, who is buried near Tehran. He is from the offspring of Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba, direct grandson of Rasulullah (SAWA) and second Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). He was also a great scholar and compiler of Hadith records.
We can now appreciate the background to upholding these first 10 days of Dhul Qa’dah every year in Iran, in honour of the honourable personalities of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). They were generous and honourable, beyond any doubt.
IMAM RIDHA (A.S) ACHIEVED HIS NICKNAME FROM ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
One of the students of Imam Ridha (a.s) says that he went to meet the 9th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jawad (a.s), who is also the son of Imam Ridha (a.s). Ridha means pleasure or consent. This student says that he asked Imam Jawad (a.s) a question. The question that the student posed to Imam Jawad (a.s) was that the enemies said that his father was named Ridha because he (Imam Ridha (a.s)) gave his consent to be appointed as the Crown Prince of Ma’mun, the despotic Abbasid ruler.
Imam Jawad (a.s) turned back and responded to the student by taking an oath in the name of Allah (SWT), that indeed these enemies have lied! In other words, he clarified that his father (Imam Ridha (a.s)) never gave his consent to become the Crown Prince of a despotic ruler like Ma’mun.
Imam Jawad (a.s) explained that this title of Ridha was given to his father by Almighty Allah (SWT), and not by Ma’mun! The student then asked Imam Jawad (a.s) a follow up question, saying that surely all your forefathers were the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT)? Why was Imam Ridha (a.s) then specifically called out by Almighty Allah (SWT) with the title of al-Ridha? The student therefore wanted to know what is so special about Imam Ridha (a.s) to receive this special title?
Imam Jawad (a.s) replied by saying that indeed, all his forefathers were Ridha, but his father was in a situation that his enemies and friends were equally surrendered before his noble character, generosity and astonishing respectful personality. Enemies and friends both surrendered to the honourable personality of the 8th Imam (a.s), in such a manner that the title became especially ascribed to him.
GENEROSITY OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S) PROTECTS THE HONOUR AND DIGNITY OF THE RECIPIENT
The following anecdote will give us a glimpse into the generosity and honour of Imam Ridha (a.s). Someone approached Imam Ridha (a.s) and said to him: ”Oh Imam, give to me what is appropriate for YOU to give!” Imam Ridha (a.s) replied by saying that he cannot give what suits him (Imam Ridha (a.s)).
This person then responded to Imam Ridha (a.s) saying that Imam should then give to him what is appropriate to HIM (the one asking). Imam Ridha (a.s) then responded with a very generous amount of money. This person was naturally stunned and said to Imam Ridha (a.s) that he surely did not need that much, to which Imam Ridha (a.s) told him to go ahead and continue his business.
There are many similar narrations recorded about the generosity of Imam Ridha (a.s), where he would pay the loans of people without them even knowing. There are many people in our world who are generous, but the nature of generosity of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is truly unique.
The point I am trying to make is that yes, the Ahlul Bait (a.s) were generous and honourable, but their generosity was on the protection of human honour and dignity of the person receiving. This is a crucial point which makes them unique, on the extraordinary care towards the honour and dignity of the recipient!
BEAUTIFUL ANECDOTE EXPLAINING THE EXTRAORDINARY CARE OF IMAM RIDHA (A.S) TOWARDS DIGNITY
One of the close companions of Imam Ridha (a.s) narrates an incident where, one day, there was a gathering and Imam Ridha (a.s) was answering people’s questions. Someone entered this gathering while it was underway and said to Imam Ridha (a.s) that he is amongst his lovers and the lovers of his forefathers.
This person explained that his problem is that he is a traveller, but he has run out of money while on his journey. He is therefore in need of help from Imam Ridha (a.s) in order to return home. He explains that he is not a poor person, as he is well-off in his home city. He requests help from Imam Ridha (a.s) and then promises that when he returns home, he will give the commensurate amount in charity on behalf of Imam Ridha (a.s). This person wishes to repay Imam Ridha (a.s) in this manner.
This was all happening in the live gathering, and Imam Ridha (a.s) then asked this person to be seated and the question and answer session continued. Once the question and answer session concluded, then it was only Imam Ridha (a.s) along with his close companions remaining with this person, as everyone else attending the gathering had already left.
Imam Ridha (a.s) then asked to be excused for a moment, and the others, meaning the close companions and the needy person, waited in the reception area. Imam Ridha (a.s) then asked his companions from the other room to ask the needy person to come closer to the door.
The needy person then came close to the door, and Imam Ridha (a.s) gave him a bag of money, from behind the door. Imam Ridha (a.s) said to this person that the sum of money in the bag should be sufficient to take care of his need to return home. Imam Ridha (a.s) further said that there is no need to give charity on his behalf. Imam Ridha (a.s) wanted this to be a pure help to the person in need, without any recompense.
Imam Ridha (a.s) said to this person that he should go, as Imam did not want to see him, and neither should this person see Imam. Imam Ridha (a.s) then emerged from behind the door and reconnected with his close companions who enquired from him what this condition was all about.
Imam Ridha (a.s) replied that the reason he did not want to see this person directly was because he was afraid that this man would display signs of shame. Imam Ridha (a.s) did not want to see this person begging and him (Imam Ridha (a.s)) responding to the beggar.
Imam Ridha (a.s) then explained that someone who conceals his good deeds will have a reward equivalent to that of 70 Hajj pilgrimages! Imam Ridha (a.s) then also explained that someone who reveals his shortcomings will be rejected by Almighty Allah (SWT), while He would forgive those who hide their shortcomings.
This is the honour and generosity of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) working together!
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to be inspired and to follow these extremely high qualities of moral character, honour and generosity from the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
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