ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE HUMBLED BEFORE THE QURAN AND AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
Jumuah lecture on Friday 8 January 2021 (23 Jamadi al-Awwal 1442)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
I would like to start this lecture by reminding you all and myself about Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT) – to be conscious regarding our responsibilities and obligations before Almighty Allah (SWT), especially during these times of hardships and tests. This should be a great wakeup call for each of us, that we are helpless and weak before Almighty Allah (SWT) and it is only He who can rescue us.
Without any doubt, the world and humanity at large, together with our country and communities are going through very testing times and some of us have felt this challenge more personally in our families. Some of us have been tested to the point where our loved ones have passed away.
We ask Almighty Allah (SWT) for His Mercy and Grace upon humanity as a whole and also toward our country and those who are facing serious challenges in hospitals. May Allah (SWT) grant them complete recovery.
THIS LIFE IS A JOURNEY OF GUARANTEED TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
I have mentioned numerous times in these sermons through this period of pandemic, which has lasted 9 months now, about human beings (Insan) being created with this nature of being tested. Tests come in various forms. What is very important for us to reflect on is how we respond to these tests and challenges and hardships.
It is not possible for human beings to imagine a life without difficulties, hardships or challenges. Yes, the nature of these tests differs from situation to situation. But all of us are in this world of tests, which is what the Holy Quran repeatedly emphasizes as a general principle questioning that do people think that they will not be tested?
This divine trend of Almighty Allah (SWT) is always there, but it sometimes comes in the form which shakes us, and makes us really think twice, thrice and more! And we should realize that these tests are still a great favour from Almighty Allah (SWT), such that if we can wake up to the realization of who we are and who is the creator of this world.
With all our progress, technology and development, we are absolutely nothing compared to the power of Almighty Allah (SWT). Only then can we claim to have learned something from these tests.
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS REMIND US OF OUR ULTIMATE RESCUER – ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
The Holy Quran repeatedly reminds us that when we are in difficulties, it is the time for us to realize who is there to help us out. Did these difficulties and hardships let us ponder on who is the one who will rescue us? Verse 63 of Surah An’aam (chapter 6 of the Holy Quran) explains the nature of human beings (insan):
قُلْ مَنْ يُنَجِّيكُمْ مِنْ ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ تَدْعُونَهُ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً لَئِنْ أَنْجَانَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ
“Say: Who is it that delivers you from the dangers of the land and the sea (when) you call upon Him (openly) humiliating yourselves, and in secret: If He delivers us from this, we should certainly be of the grateful ones.”
The nature of us human beings is that we only realize when we are in these difficulties and hardships. Therefore, these tests are also such a great favour of Almighty Allah (SWT).
When you are on your bed in hospital reflecting on what next is in store for you. When you are looking at people around you and the news you here of what is going on, and then every now and again you hear the news of the passing of your loved ones. Do we then realize who we are? The outcome of this should be appreciation and realization of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Verse 64 of Surah An’aam (chapter 6 of the Holy Quran) explains that it is Allah (SWT) who rescues and liberates us from every form of distress. Then it does not take long for us to once again feel that we are top of the world, denying that power of Almighty Allah (SWT):
قُلِ اللَّهُ يُنَجِّيكُمْ مِنْهَا وَمِنْ كُلِّ كَرْبٍ ثُمَّ أَنْتُمْ تُشْرِكُونَ
“Say: Allah delivers you from them and from every distress, but again you set up others (with Him).”
This is one very important lesson we can take heed of during these difficult times.
DUA IS OUR COMMUNAL APPEAL TO THE ULTIMATE RESCUER – ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
Another important matter to understand during this period of extreme test is the power of dua, and our dependence on the sincere duas of others. We have experienced this in our own community, where we were sometimes on the brink of losing hope, but it was the sincere duas of our brothers and sisters which came to our rescue.
This is the point ie. our response to the difficulties and hardships should be in the form of appreciation and admission of our weakness, shortcomings and sins before our creator, Almighty Allah (SWT).
We continue to raise our hands in dua. There are so many people, including in our own community, who are sick due to this terrible virus. Many of our scholars are also affected by this. There are so many prominent leaders who are unfortunately victim of this terrible virus. We continue to make dua to Almighty Allah (SWT) to shower His mercy and favours and compassion on humanity at large, to emerge from this huge test that the world is facing, while appreciating and thanking Almighty Allah (SWT).
I cannot thank Allah (SWT) enough and to all the brothers and sisters across the country who raised their hands in sincere duas for the health and recovery of my family. We cannot sufficiently appreciate the community’s care and support during these challenging times.
GRAND AYATOLLAH MISBAH YAZDI PASSED AWAY
These few weeks have many serious issues to remind ourselves of. One of the issues I wish to discuss is the passing away of Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi. His passing is really something crucial to reflect on. This great, pious philosopher surrendered to the Will of Almighty Allah (SWT). May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant him a place in the service of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), whom he loved so dearly.
This man was a student of giants of the 20th century, such as the great commentator of the Holy Quran, Allama Tabataba’i (r.a), our beloved Imam Khomeini (r.a), and was also the right hand of our beloved leader Ayatollah Khamenei. This man was a humble soldier of the institution of Marja’iyyah (grand spiritual authorities) across the world.
The academic excellence of Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi is beyond question. In our contemporary times, he presented the Islamic ideology and doctrine, specifically Tauheed, in a manner which we as followers of this school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) can well and truly be proud of.
His academic excellence was inspired by the great philosophy of Mulla Sadra, and the school of grand scholars of the 20th century like Allama Tabataba’i (r.a) and Imam Khomeini (r.a). His staunch arguments against materialism and atheists, or non-believers in general, is something to recognize.
AYATOLLAH MISBAH YAZDI’S VISION IN SENDING HIS STUDENTS TO STUDY WESTERN PHILOSOPHY
He was a man of rationality. He did not come with fairy-tales when trying to defend Tauheed. He was able to present very strong, concrete, balanced, rational arguments acceptable by anyone.
His commentary on the books of Allama Tabataba’i (r.a), such as Bidayatul Hikmah and Nihayatul Hikmah, which is the textbook of philosophy in Islamic theology and seminaries, shows us how he presented Islamic philosophy, in contrast to Western, materialist philosophy.
Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi is remembered as someone who called the top students of the Islamic seminary in Qom to go and study Western philosophy. He was the one who invited professors from the University of Tehran and also professors from overseas to come and teach Western philosophy to the students of the Islamic seminary in Qom.
His argument was that if you do not understand Western philosophy and if you do not comprehend what the West is saying, we will not be able to present what Islam is saying ie. the divine philosophy in contrast to material philosophy.
AYATOLLAH MISBAH YAZDI ESTABLISHED DIALOGUE WITH DIFFERENT RELIGIONS
With this opening, Ayatollah Mizbah Yazdi managed to present the case of Islamic philosophy and divine theology to the world. Credit certainly is owed to him for this.
He did not stop here, as he trained great scholars and philosophers in Qom who are capable of fighting Western philosophy, and more particularly the material/atheist and agnostic trends. He sent his students to the UK, Canada, USA and different parts of Europe, where they joined the leading universities there, to present the Islamic philosophy. This practice is still continuing today.
Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi has been introduced as an ultra-conservative, orthodox philosopher. However, let me share with you that this was a man of rationality. It was this man who opened the channels of dialogue between Islam and Christianity. He was the one who visited the Vatican and opened the discourse of exchanging ideas on theology and philosophy of different religions.
He even went as far as Thailand to speak with Buddhism, the Vatican to speak with Christianity, and I can also share a personal experience in this regard. Our own great scholar on Christian theology, Catholic expert Father Christopher Clohessy, whom we are all familiar with, particular from his extensive research on Islam and more particularly on Shia Islam, especially on our dear Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a).
I had numerous interactions with him when he was writing his thesis on Lady Fatima (s.a). One of the books he showed me in his office was by Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi, and it was amazing how Father Clohessy interacted with this book, where he concluded that it was Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi who opened the channels of theological dialogue between Islam and Christianity!
This was a grand thinker who created students like Dr Shomali and Sheikh Bahmanpour in the UK, amongst others. These scholars are doing remarkable work in presenting Islam in the Western academic setting. Indeed, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi really lived for Islam and died for Islam.
AYATOLLAH MISBAH YAZDI PROTECTED AUTHENTIC ISLAM DESPITE HIS APPROACH TO DIVERSITY
One of the special qualities of Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi was his extraordinary sensitivity regarding the danger of infiltration. Yes, he was open to dialogue and started dialogue with the Vatican and even initiated dialogue with materialists. However, at the same time, he was very mindful of infiltration of non-Islamic thoughts in Islamic development.
His extraordinary sensitivity towards infiltration and deviant thoughts in Islamic doctrine was the reason why people started calling him orthodox or ultra-conservative. He stood firmly in defence of Islam in its authentic form.
Besides his rationality and extremely strong intellectual capacity and philosophical approach, in front of the Quran and the Ahlul Bait (a.s) he is the humblest person. This extraordinary excellence did not make him arrogant! Instead, it made him more humble in front of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
We see from the various video clips being circulated of his great humility before Maraji’ (grand spiritual authorities), such as Ayatollah Shubairi Zanjani in Qom, the great scholar of the Shia of Madina, Sheikh Amiri. And then in the Zarih (shrine) of the 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Musa Ridha (a.s), we see how he would cry like a baby when kissing the door of the Zarih.
Then we have also seen the video clip of how he humbles into tears when he had the opportunity to go inside the Zarih of Abul Fadl al-Abbas (a.s), the flagbearer of Karbala. This is where we see him like a normal man deeply devoted in love for Imam Hussain (a.s) and the martyrs of Karbala, rather than carrying himself as the grand scholar and philosopher.
We benefited from his great support for our work here in South Africa. In fact, I have a written letter from Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi (r.a) encouraging people to support our mosque project. Besides this, we have benefitted enormously from his books. We have had academic discussions and courses on Islamic theology (Aqa’id) based upon his books.
May the abundant mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) be upon his soul, Insha Allah.
HAZARA COMMUNITY CONTINUE FACING DECADES OF GENOCIDE FOR THEIR LOVE OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
Another very important point I would like to bring to everyone’s attention is in regard to the plight of the Hazara population. It is our duty to convey the message of the oppressed in every corner of the world. Especially, it is our responsibility to be the voice of the oppressed followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
Beyond any doubt, we believe in our responsibility to speak about the plight of the Palestinians. Our prime responsibility is to raise our voices against the injustice and oppression committed against them. At the same time, it is also our responsibility not to forget the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) who are being oppressed, be it in Nigeria or in Bahrain or in Pakistan.
There is the Hazara community, which is ethnically from central Afghanistan. They are settled all over, with a sizable number in the city of Quetta, Pakistan which is near the border with Afghanistan. They are all followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), and all loyal, committed citizens of Pakistan. Unfortunately, due to their connection to the Ahlul Bait (a.s), they are victims of sectarian hatred and killings for several decades.
In Quetta today, there is a whole cemetery of martyrs of the Hazara community!
MERCILESS SLAUGHTER OF 11 HAZARA MINEWORKERS IN QUETTA, PAKISTAN
A few days ago, poor mineworkers from this community, who worked in a coal mine in Quetta, were kidnapped from the mine and taken away, where their hands were tied, and their throats slit one by one using a kitchen knife!
I remember our martyr, Shaheed Abbas Essop, was slaughtered inside the Imam Hussain (a.s) Masjid in Durban, by the same people! Today, two and a half years later, we are still waiting for justice. Nothing has happened other than empty promises! And the criminals responsible for this murder have been granted freedom!
Today, we are watching the same scenario against the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Pakistan, who are being slaughtered in a similar fashion. The families, being the dependents of these 11 people, have been sitting for the past 4 days with their Janazas in the extreme cold weather, demanding that the Prime Minister of Pakistan show his face and commitment to end this injustice and genocide of the Shias of the Hazara community in Quetta.
How many times must they be killed and sit with their Janazas on the road, in protest, demanding justice? It has happened so often to this community, whereby their busses are stopped and through their names being an indicator of them being followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), they are separated from others and killed on the spot.
It has also happened so often to this community, whereby their fruit markets are blasted by bombs. We see this similar trend with their mosques, Hussainiyyas and shops being blasted by bombs, with hundreds of their innocent people killed in the process.
How long must this genocide continue?
On behalf of the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in South Africa, we raise our voice in protest at this injustice, and lodge our support for this oppressed community, who have been victims of terrorist networks like Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
We have directly experienced their brutality in Durban. May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant these families strength and perseverance, and their martyrs to be placed in the company of the martyrs of Karbala. They are the lovers of Imam Hussain (a.s), and today, their janazas are on the highways with only one statement noted on them, namely LABBAYK YA HUSSAIN!
I would like to end off by once again reminding everyone of the requirement to follow all the prescribed precautions against Covid-19, in taking extra care of ourselves and our families. This second wave and mutant strain is a devastating reality!
Listen to the full speech here:
Please like and share this post.