Jumuah lecture on Friday 20 March 2020 (25 Rajab 1441)

Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider

Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the great weekly Ibadah and assembly for Salaah of Jumuah is suspended until further notice. However, we are trying to reach out to our community using technology and convey the message and teachings of our religion through this platform. 

Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 18 of Surah Zumar (chapter 39 of the Holy Quran):

الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّهُ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

“Those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding.”

Our Creator, Almighty Allah (SWT) has created us with great qualities and powers. The best amongst all the capacities which He has granted us is that of our intellectual capacity. This capacity of thinking and understanding is the most honourable capacity granted to human beings, who are regarded as the best of creation from Almighty Allah (SWT).


Amazingly, Almighty Allah (SWT) reminds us more than 300 times in the Holy Quran to use this faculty of thinking, analyzing and understanding. There is not a single verse in the Holy Quran which says that we should not use our intellectual capacity and follow anyone blindly.

In contrast to this, Almighty Allah (SWT) has condemned those who do not use their intellect. This is a matter beyond any debate. We understand that in Islamic philosophy and ideology that the real purpose of Prophetic revelation was to revive the intellectual capacity of human beings. They did not come to suspend the functionality of human intellect, nor did they expect people to simply listen to them and follow their divine commands blindly. Instead, they came to reawaken the intellectual capacity of human beings, and challenge.

25th Rajab signifies the martyrdom of the 7th Imam of Ahlul Bait, Imam Musa ibn Jafar al-Kadhim (a.s). In one his beautiful Hadith, he addressed one of his students by the name of Hishaam ibn Hakam. This man was himself an intellectual giant, a great orator and debater. Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) delivers a lengthy Hadith to Hishaam ibn Hakam, where Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) explains the role of the intellect for the salvation in this world and the Hereafter.


This is very important, since many people think that the role of human intellect is confined to this world, and that when it comes to religion, we should simply close our eyes and suspend our intellect and power of understanding, and simply follow the orders we have been told. 

Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) explains that the approach of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is contrary to this. In fact, the 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait, Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) says that anyone who does not have intellect does not have religion! Religion without intellect is not possible.

Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) starts his advice to Hishaam ibn Hakam with the reminder from verse 18 of Surah Zumar (chapter 39 of the Holy Quran):

الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّهُ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

“Those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding.”

This is most beautiful! Amongst the more than 300 verses of the Holy Quran which invites us to think and exercise our intellectual power, we find that Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) selected this particular verse. Why is that so? It is due to this verse explaining the attributes of believers. 

The verses preceding this explain the qualities of believers and pious people. This verse elaborates further, explaining that they are the ones who listen to everybody, but they only follow the best. How is this possible? What is the connection of this verse with the role of the intellect in understanding religion and salvation in the Hereafter?

What Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) is explaining from this verse is that the believers are open to diverse opinions and a brought spectrum of theories and philosophies, BUT they follow the best! How do they do this? The secret is that they can only follow the best if they use their intellectual capacity.


This approach of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) is very deep, because he is saying here, that not all knowledge amounts to intellect. Sometimes, we refer to knowledge as the accumulation of information. However, Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) is saying that this is not enough. He is saying that it is not sufficient to only have a databank. 

It is only real knowledge when your intellectual power analyses this information, thereby distinguishing right from wrong, before following. This process is only possible with intellect. This means that even in the matters of religion and the Hereafter, the intellect plays an extremely crucial role. Therefore, the role of the intellect is not confined to this worldly life only. 

In another interesting Hadith, narrated from his father, namely Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), it is recorded that someone came to him suggested that he knows someone who is very pious, and engrossed in Ibadah day and night. This person is always occupied in the worship of Almighty Allah (SWT). Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) responded to this with a question, asking what is the state of intellect of this supposed pious individual?

The person who brought this report confessed that he does not know the state of intellect of the pious person. Upon hearing this, Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) narrated an incident, saying that there was a person from Bani Isra’eel who was very pious, worshiping Almighty Allah (SWT) day and night. This person was living on a beautiful lush island filled with greenery.


Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) narrates that one day, there was an angel which passed by this island and saw this person deeply devoted in worship of Almighty Allah (SWT). This angel asked from Almighty Allah (SWT) what is the reward of this person engrossed in Ibadah on this island day and night? Almighty Allah (SWT) showed the angel what the reward is for this great worshipper. 

The angel was perplexed, as he thought the reward from Almighty Allah (SWT) for this pious person is too little in relation to the level of worship this pious person is performing. Naturally, the angel then posed this question to Almighty Allah (SWT) to clarify. 

Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) explains that Almighty Allah (SWT) brought forth this angel in the form of a human being and sent him to sit next to the pious person on the beautiful island. These two now introduced themselves to each other on this island and the angel explains to the pious person that he has also now joined him in Ibadah. 

After a while, they established familiarity with each other, and the angel (in the form of a human being) complimented this pious man for staying on such a beautiful island, which the angel said is the perfect place that Almighty Allah (SWT) has granted for Ibadah. Through its enchanted beauty, it does not deserve anything but the worship of Almighty Allah (SWT).

This supposed very pious person responded to the angel that it has vast natural beauty, but it has one defect, being that it has too much greenery, without any cattle to eat it! He then told the angel that if only Almighty Allah (SWT) could have left a donkey on this island to eat all this greenery!

After listening to this level of idiocy from the supposed very pious inhabitant of the island, Almighty Allah (SWT) explained to His angel that He rewards people for their Ibadah according to their intellectual capacity!


Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) says in the same Hadith to Hishaam ibn Hakam that for Almighty Allah (SWT), there are 2 proofs against the people. There is the external proof and the internal proof against the people. The external proof is the Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), other divine Prophets (a.s) and the Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). They are the external proof as the authority of Almighty Allah (SWT) on the people. Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) then explains that the internal proof is our own intellectual capacity!

The intellect is the pillar on which our dimensions of faith are built, be it Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT), Ma’rifat of teachings of the Prophets (a.s) and also Ma’rifat of the details of our religion. Of course, what we are referring to is perfect intellect which comprehends evidence-based conclusions, rather than analogical guesswork or suspicions. 

The Ahlul Bait (a.s) have taught us that if the agreed upon intellectually based conclusion conflicts with the text, then you should follow the intellect rather than the text. This means that you cannot take text literally without using your intellect. It is therefore extremely important to understand the role of the intellect in the understanding of our religious teachings.


We are facing a very, very serious crisis these days with Coronavirus. There is loads of unverified information floating around, and we need to ask ourselves what the intellectually based conclusions in front of us are. There is comprehensive evidence proving the grave dangers of this virus, with its ability to harm 60% – 70% of our population. 

The devastating consequences of this virus are unimaginable, whether it be health, economy and various other aspects of life. Our intellect is saying that the right thing to do is to abstain from social interaction, in order to contain this virus. Now, when it comes to our religion, we have seen the various developments at play during this week; to hold Jumuah or not, to keep the mosque open or not, etc. 

This has naturally created a great deal of consternation and debate, where people are quoting all different Hadith narrations to prove their point. These Hadith narrations are very important to understand the position adopted by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) in different conditions. Examples of this are during the time of pandemic, drought, war, etc. 

These references are all helpful, without any doubt. They are basically illustrating that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) used his intellect and advocated that we need to understand based upon a rational approach with concrete evidence. It is not simple analogical guesswork or a suspicion-based conclusion to suspend Jumuah and close the mosque. Instead, this difficult decision is based upon concrete evidence from medical experts. 


Now, in contrast to this, we have the arguments being presented that “death and cure is in the hands of Allah (SWT)”. Indeed, this is in the hands of Allah (SWT) and so is the virus. He can contain it. At the same time, Almighty Allah (SWT) commanded us to use our intellect. Allah (SWT) explains that He has created this world based upon the natural system of cause and effect. 

The spread of the virus is through the same system of cause and effect. Almighty Allah (SWT) created this whole world based upon the system of cause and effect. Qadr and Qada of Almighty Allah (SWT) is indeed based upon the system of cause and effect. That is why we are ordained to understand our religious teachings in the light of these principles of cause and effect. Hence, it is of crucial importance that we do not lose the powers of rationality in the understanding and teachings of our religion. Once we lose rationality in deen (religion) then we will gradually lose religion itself!

Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) says in another Hadith that we should thoroughly understand our religion with deep insight ie. with our intellectual capacity. Only then do we achieve perfection with our worship, climbing the spiritual ladder to achieve the special stations. He then says that this is the source of the great status in this world and the Hereafter. 

Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) continues to explain that virtue and priority of a man with insight and vision on someone who is only a worshipper, is the virtue of the sun over the stars. Anyone who does not have these qualities in their worship will not attain the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT).

It is therefore our responsibility today, as the Muslim community in the broader South African society, which is not Muslim, to present the religion of Islam as a rational and sensible faith, which does not fight with logic and reason. Instead, it is based on these qualities. This is the way of presenting this beautiful face of the divine message of Almighty Allah (SWT) to the public. 

Tags:, ,