Jumuah lecture on Friday 13 September 2019 (13 Muharram 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
In this first Friday after the Day of Ashura, when we commemorate the great stand taken and the sacrifices made by the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), in the form of Imam Husayn (a.s), his companions and members of his family, I would like to quote one of the beautiful sentences which Imam Husayn (a.s) uttered on the Day of Ashura, which has a broader message and a very important analysis.
Imam Husayn (a.s) addressed the people who gathered to kill him on the Day of Ashura, and said the following:
“People are slaves of this world and religion is like saliva in their mouth. They rotate it inside the mouth, as long as their life is OK, but when they are surrounded by tests and hardships, very few are those who are committed to religion.”
QURANIC PERSPECTIVE ON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS DUNYA
This is a very, very thought-provoking analysis of the majority of people in this world. There are a few very important points I would like to draw your attention to from this Hadith of Imam Husayn (a.s).
Firstly, our connection to this dunya (worldly pursuits). Imam Husayn (a.s) says that most people are slaves of this dunya. Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 36 of Surah Muhammad (chapter 47 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ
“The life of this world is but play and amusement.”
Then also the last part of verse 20 of Surah Hadid (chapter 57 of the Holy Quran):
وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
“And this world’s life is naught but means of deception.”
There is no doubt that the Holy Quran and Hadith condemns this dunya, but at the same time, the natural reality is that we love this dunya. We live in this dunya and we want to enjoy and achieve success in this dunya. This is human nature which nobody can deny and dispute.
Neither the Holy Quran, nor Imam Husayn (a.s) are denying this fact. For example, verse 20 of Surah Hadid referenced above acknowledges that life of this dunya is an asset, even though this verse regards it as nothing but a deceiving asset.
This dunya is an ornament of life, and exactly that – an ORNAMENT. The point made by Imam Husayn (a.s) in the logic of the Holy Quran is specifically about when we become slaves of this dunya.
There are 2 different scenarios to explore in the context of the Hadith referenced from Imam Husayn (a.s):
- People are slaves of this world;
- Religion is like saliva in the mouth
PEOPLE ARE SLAVES OF THIS WORLD
We live in this world and try to achieve our ambitions. There is nothing wrong with this. However, the problem arises once our god becomes this dunya, to the point of worshipping it and making it the object of our existence or sole purpose in life, or to put it another way – when this dunya becomes our first and last priority, and it becomes our direction. This is the point which Imam Husayn (a.s) is addressing as the biggest challenge facing most people.
We do not have a problem struggling for dunya. In fact, there are Hadith narrations which say that dunya is the farming land of the Akhirah (hereafter). This means that whatever we do here translates into fruit in the next life. Whatever we do in this world results in paradise or hell in the next life.
So, this dunya is very important in that regard, and nobody is saying that we should abandon this material world. But to worship this world, or in the words of Imam Husayn (a.s) noted above, to become a slave of this world or someone who does not have any free will and he has handed over his will, desires and destiny to this dunya is the destruction of one’s soul for eternal doom.
Desires is what drives such a person and takes him wherever it does, and they just follow instead of using their intellect (aql) and reasoning and assessing what is right and wrong, and what is long-term and what is short-term.
This dunya is a short-term destination. It is a transit lounge and not the final destination of our journey. Seeing this dunya as a stopover while en-route to the final destination is important, instead of seeing this dunya as the final destination.
RELIGION IS LIKE SALIVA IN THE MOUTH
This is again a very deep, accurate analysis of most of the people, in terms of understanding their relationship with deen (religion) through the analogy with saliva in the mouth. Saliva in our mouth is temporary by nature, before it gets swallowed. We have saliva and we live along with it. It is not an essential relationship for our survival.
The reason why Imam Husayn (a.s) is using this analogy is because he says that for most people, it is not a relationship with religion as the destiny, and dunya as temporary. Rather, religion is used by these people as a tool to satisfy themselves and justify their conscience and fit culturally in the society and thereby live the way others are, because religion is one of those things where everyone must go to a place of worship, as an example.
So, they keep religion moving (like saliva) because it is one of the things needed in life. They stay religious and do attend to their religious commandments, for as long as their life is good. However, their religious commitment falls apart when they are surrounded by difficulties and hardships.
Now, if you want to distinguish between people who are genuinely committed to religion and fake religious people, then this is how you make the determination. When they stand at a junction, what direction do they decide when dunya (worldly pursuits) is going in one direction, and akhirah (hereafter) is going in the other direction?
Imam Husayn (a.s) is saying that in this situation, there are very few who committed to religion, when they are surrounded by difficulties, calamities, challenges and tests, because this is the time when priorities and preferences clash, and we need to evaluate which way to go.
EXAMPLES OF LOVE OF DUNYA IN KARBALA
Imam Husayn (a.s) was analysing the people in front of him who were ready to be with him, if everything goes well. But they went back to that original default position of being slaves of dunya when the pressure came from Bani Umayyah, and their life and livelihood has been threatened. This is the default position for such people! They automatically revert to being slaves of dunya described further above.
I narrated that incident during the nights of Muharram, about a personality by the name of Obaidullah ibn Jaafi whom Imam Husayn (a.s) met and invited him to join his stand and revolution. He declined by saying I am not ready to die, as I still have lots to do in this world. Imam Husayn (a.s) responded to this person by saying it is fine, but we will see how long you will be able to live and achieve what it is you want from this world.
This person, Obaidullah ibn Jaafi, then tries to strike a deal with Imam Husayn (a.s), saying that he can offer the best of his horses, heaping loads of praise on the stellar credentials of his horse.
Imam Husayn (a.s) told Obaidullah ibn Jaafi that he did not ask him for help! Imam Husayn (a.s) told Obaidullah ibn Jaafi that he is inviting him so that his soul can be rescued from the love of this world, and not for Imam Husayn (a.s) to be rescued! Imam Husayn (a.s) is trying to save this man’s Akhirah, but due to Obaidullah ibn Jaafi’s love for this world, he comprehends it totally differently.
Now, Karbala is a manifestation of this conflict between dunya (this world) and akhirah (hereafter). There are people who prefer dunya and sold their akhirah for this dunya. Then there are people who preferred akhirah and gave all their dunya for akhirah.
Another classic example is Umar ibn Sa’d. He comes from a significant background, with his father being from the first generation of Muslims and thus a notable companion of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). The problem of Umar ibn Sa’d was that he was not ready to give up the prestigious position which was on offer, and that was the governorship of Rey (modern day Tehran), on the condition that he kills Imam Husayn (a.s).
There is another beautiful saying from Imam Husayn (a.s), where he says that those who try to achieve their dunya through Haraam, achieve neither dunya, nor akhirah. Imam Husayn (a.s) says that if you want to attain dunya through a Haraam route, thereby invoking the anger of Almighty Allah (SWT), then you will quickly be moving in the direction you don’t want to go.
That is exactly what happened to Umar ibn Sa’d. History has recorded that this man went totally crazy at the end of his life, and that children would throw stones and rubbish towards him, in the streets of Kufa. He lost both dunya and akhirah!
HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL MUHARRAM COMMEMORATION TAINTED BY UNSAVORY INCIDENT
I would like to once again remind myself and all of you about Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT), which is in line with the spirit of the Hadith from Imam Husayn (a.s) discussed earlier. Whenever you are standing at a crossroads and needing to choose between the one road being dunya and the other being akhirah, the choice you make is inevitably the result of Taqwa. May we all learn this very spirit from the commemoration of Muharram.
Also, as you are aware, we had a very successful Muharram thus far, where we have tried in our own humble way to express our love and our respect towards this great martyred family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Besides the beautiful programs we had for the first 12 days of Muharram, we unfortunately experienced an incident which was unpleasant and ugly. Without our permission, or approval, or even information, some rogue elements, or renegades I will say, did what they did, and tried to damage the message of Imam Husayn (a.s) and the message of Karbala propagated from here, which is the message of reason, the message of unity and love, and resisting for the sake of justice and the message of awakening the minds and souls.
We have already issued a public statement, and we once again emphasise that we categorically condemn and completely disagree with the practice of self-flagellation, and our position is based on the opinion of our leadership as the grand spiritual authorities whom we follow and numerous other grand spiritual authorities who have a very clear opinion on the illegitimacy of that particular practice. We do not endorse, nor do we accept this practice at all, on any condition.
STEVE BIKO – AN ICONIC INSPIRATION FOLLOWING HUSAYNI IDEALS
When I was preparing for today’s sermon (khutbah), I was reflecting on the past week which was very much occupied with Muharram/Ashura commemoration programs. At the same time, this past week was a very, very important reminder for us as South Africans. There are amazing similarities between Karbala and this man, who probably never had the opportunity to be exposed to Islam and Karbala and Imam Husayn (a.s).
Despite this, when one reflects on his message, and how brutally he was killed, there is no doubt that Karbala comes in our minds. I am referring to Steve Biko, who was martyred on 12 September 1977, at the tender age of 30 years old. As we all know, he was killed in the most gruesome manner by the Apartheid forces.
In hindsight, I should have spoken about this on the night when I spoke about Baseerat, the clarity of vision, as one of the most important inspirations from Karbala. Refer to lecture 7 transcript titled “Clarity of vision of the supporters of Imam Husayn (a.s)”.
Clarity of vision – who we are and what do we want?!
In the South African liberation struggle, I found that Baseerat in the South African people like Steve Biko.
STEVE BIKO FOUGHT FOR THE INTELLECTUAL EMANCIPATION OF THE OPPRESSED
There are so many leaders who fought in the struggle for freedom and liberation of the people of our country and resisted against Apartheid. That being said, very few had that great clarity of vision. Liberation icons like Robert Subukwe and Steve Biko are truly unique in this regard.
It is amazing when you reflect on the quotes from Steve Biko, which have become very popular, such as “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. This is what Imam Husayn (a.s) said to the people.
This quote from Steve Biko is in line with the Hadith we discussed in the first khutbah (sermon), as it talks to mindsets. When we are not free in our minds from the shackles of this dunya!
There are numerous experiences from such a short life of 30 years which Steve Biko lived, but what an intelligent visionary. He left such a rich legacy, with clear vision, in such a short period of life.
The issue of consciousness and realisation of personality which he presented in the form of the African personality can be related to one of the major challenges which Imam Husayn (a.s) protested about, namely the absence of Muslim personality in the Ummah (Muslim nation). Society at that time all became slaves. They lost their personality and who they are. They were performing the rituals, but they forgot who they are, what is their identity and their definition.
STEVE BIKO IS A SOURCE OF CONFIDENCE AND PRIDE THROUGH OUR COUNTRY’S MOST SERIOUS TEST
Today, so many people say that Steve Biko was ahead of his time. I will say this sentence over and over and over. I think Steve Biko provided this ideology and clarity of vision decades ago, being very much ahead of this time. Today, more than ever, we are in need of Steve Biko’s thought and approach, because his argument was that ideological liberation, mental and intellectual liberation is more important than physical liberation. This was the core of his thought.
We now have physical liberation in our country, but what are we doing? What are we doing to women? Are we truly liberated when we burn down schools, and the poor child says that he cannot go to school in a village or far remote area because his parents burned down the school! Are we truly liberated when we stoop to the level of killing and displaying the most horrible acts of violence against women?
This was the cry of Steve Biko, that political freedom will do very little to us if we are not mentally free.
When we lament the terrible cancer of xenophobia in our country, we reflect on how relevant Steve Biko is, together with his visionary thoughts. This lack of confidence in being African and proud of what we are, and the legacy of the whole African continent which was the cradle of human beings and mankind.
I was reading one of the statements from Steve Biko, where he says that people have portrayed Africa as a backward, uncivilized and inhumane continent, while he very confidently says that he has no doubt that this Africa will show the path of humanity one day to the whole world!
I believe in this, that with the arrival of our Imam Mahdi (atfs), Africans will really show humanity the way. Unfortunately, we have lost that humanity really.
This question of white supremacy is such a hot topic currently, and the challenges which it brings to us. We understand how true this is when one reflects on what Steve Biko was saying. He was deadly accurate in his deep assessment of white supremacy, that even if a group of people want to apparently smile with us and give us a few rights, it is more for their personal benefit and continuation of their domination over us than any genuine desire for change and equality of human beings and the human race.
These visionary thoughts of Steve Biko are so true, 42 years after his martyrdom and untimely departure from this world.
As I said, this spirit needs to be revived. This message needs to be redressed in our current context to our people, who have fallen to ridiculous depths where they kill people indiscriminately and commit the worst crimes unashamedly.