Lecture by Brother Bashier Rahim on 27 October 2019 delivered at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
28th of Safar which we commemorated today marks one of the saddest days on the Islamic calendar as it coincides with the date of the demise of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sawa) from this material world.
And 29th of Safar is also a sad day as according to the historians it marks the date of the martyrdom of the 8th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Rida (a.s), al-Ghareeb al-Ghuraba, the Stranger of Strangers who is also buried all alone in the far away place of Mashad in Iran.
28th of Safar is a very sad day in history for various reasons:
- one of the foremost reasons is that in the history of mankind, the form of Divine Communication which had continued for thousands of years up to that point in the form of Wahi or Revelation had been completely cut and no more Wahi would come until the end of time.
- it is a very sad day as very few people had understood the details of the Wahi or Revelation that had come over the 23 years and the majority of the Ummah had instead taken a decision that practically translated into cutting themselves from the authentic interpretation of that Revelation which would be directly available to the Ummah for at least another 319 years until the major occultation of Imam Mahdi (a.s).
This is an important point to appreciate. Very very few people from the 120 000 companions of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) were experts with complete understanding of the Revelation.
To ensure this gap is always filled, authorized interpreters of this Revelation were appointed in the form of Infallible Imams to whom the Ummah would have direct access or via a representative at least until the year 329 after hijra.
In other words from the time of the demise of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), eventhough few people at the time were experts in the religious sciences, the opportunity to become experts was still available for another 319 years under the direct mentorship of the Imams.
But the sad reality is with the cutting of Revelation on a day like this in history which was a Divine Decree, human will decided that they will simultaneously cut off the authentic interpretation of the Divine Revelation. And that is most sad.
- it is also a very sad day as the Messenger passed away in a condition wherein various of his companions including foremost companions openly disobeyed his clear commands which placed the Islamic state itself under risk
- it is a also very sad day as the most Beloved family of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) entered an era of being openly sidelined at the very least and being oppressed.
And so Prophet Muhammad (sawa) left this world with a heavy heart and concern for the future of his Ummah.
But for today there are two issues I would like to reflect on which comes to mind that has relevance to our very own life in reflecting upon the last part of the life of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
These are two issues which seem to commonly cause the most controversy in the lives of ordinary people when they pass on and they caused controversy in the case of the Prophet (sawa) as well.
DISTRIBUTION OF YOUR MATERIAL ESTATE
Issue number one that is the cause of endless controversies when people pass away is how their estate was distributed.
This is a point upon which families are often broken up and enemies are made.
This is a point wherein the most amazing issues come up and scenarios present themselves.
We live in a country that is not governed by Islamic law and that adds to the complications that can present themselves.
People die while owning a certain amount of wealth but often die without leaving a will.
Then everyone rocks up and claims to be family and even claim to be children of the one who died. All their life they were quiet about this fact, but when money was on the table they are sure to rock up and say I am also a child of so and so that you don’t know about and based on South African law I must get my share.
And then the executor of the estate who often might be an attorney comes under fire as they are compelled to follow South African law and for example include someone as an heir of a deceased as that person might also be the biological child whereas that child might have been born out of wedlock and Islamically has no automatic right to inheritance.
Or you have instances where people die and due to having had bad relations with their own kids or their spouse, they purposefully leave them out of the will and cut their inheritance completely.
Or you have scenarios whereby someone dies and leaves a will which says that his estate should be equally distributed among his children, irrespective of male or female. And then some siblings who all their life had little to do with Shariah will come and suggest that the will should be changed to be Shariah compliant as they really stand to benefit if the male portion is increased.
And then you will get the female siblings saying no we must follow the instructions of the will as they protecting their increased share, not realising they taking what does not lawfully belong to them.
Then you have instances where a child openly announces he is not Muslim anymore, but the day their parent dies they expect to inherit and take you to court to claim their share whereas Islamically they can’t inherit due to openly not being Muslim any longer.
Then there are even instances where people have such bad relations with their families that they will leave their entire estates to their pets and don’t want their families to receive a cent. Being so spiteful to their biological family brings them supposed happiness.
I am sure you get the picture that when people pass away, a matter of great controversy often coupled with the most outrageous scenarios tend to present themselves.
OVERCOMING POTENTIAL CONTROVERSY OF DISTRIBUTION OF YOUR ESTATE
Now this potential controversy can be overcome in two ways.
Firstly one can decide to distribute your assets in your very lifetime and then you can essentially give it to whomever you want and in whichever proportion you want to.
So if a parent feels that a particular child has done for them much more than the others and maybe that particular child is in most need financially, then they can give a big portion to that child – but it’s done while the parent is still alive.
The other is that it is mustahab to write a will to indicate that your Estate must be distributed in accordance with Islamic Sharia as practised in Jafari fiq for example.
Scholars then go further and state that given our living circumstances where there is a conflict between the law of the country and our religious laws, it can become compulsory for someone to leave behind a written will to ensure that their estate is properly distributed in accordance with Islamic law.
But if you in an Islamic country, then it is assumed that the Islamic Sharia will be applied and thus it would not be considered compulsory to write your will but still mustahab to express it in the presence of some witnesses.
So you see in these two methods, that if you give away your wealth already during your lifetime, then at the time of death there is nothing to argue about.
And so in the case of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), when verse 26 of Surah Israa was revealed:
وَءَاتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَي حَقَّهُ
“And give to the near of kin his due”
Prophet Muhammad (sawa) then gave the economically viable land of Fadak to his daughter Lady Fatima (a.s).
That’s straight forward and simple.
But as I said, with the death of people, distribution of the wealth of the deceased is often one of the most controversial issues which is coupled with the most outrageous objections.
And in the case of Prophet (sawa) the very same happened. And you all know the story – the first Khalif “nationalised” the land of Fadak and stripped Lady Fatima (a.s) from its ownership….on the rather outrageous basis that Prophets don’t leave inheritance!
And Lady Fatima (a.s) after initially arguing that its not inheritance but it’s her own property, she simply refers him to the Quran that if you insist it’s inheritance then I am the one who must inherit as the Quran says Prophets children most certainly do inherit just like Sulaiman (a.s) inherited from Dawood (a.s).
Quran also says that when Zakaria (a.s) prayed for a child in old age it was first and foremost to inherit from him.
It is very interesting to note that while the argument was put forward that Prophets don’t leave inheritance and whatever they leave behind is sadaqah – who were the eventual owners of that so called sadaqah? Bani Ummayya – the cursed tree alluded to in the Quran.
Marwan ibn Hakam that cursed member of Bani Umayya was given Fadak as a gift and his personal property. And other such personalities owned this same Fadak!
Were the Khalifs at least wrong in their action against Lady Fatima (a.s)? Most definitely. And thus the later Khalif Umar ibn Abdul Aziz returned that same Fadak to Ahlul Bait (a.s)….only to once again be confiscated by subsequent Khalifs.
People try to respond to the verses cited which says that Sulaiman (a.s) inherited from Dawood (a.s) and Yahya (a.s) inherited from Zakaria (a.s) does not mean material inheritance but means spiritual inheritance and taking forward the mission of their father.
And I will say that’s most certainly a wonderful, though incomplete interpretation. BUT show us where this spiritual inheritance that Lady Fatima (a.s) and her children had from Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was ever recognized or was Imam Husayn (a.s) and Imam Ali (a.s) martyred instead?!
Now this potentially controversial issue of inheritance is so sensitive that of all laws of Fiq which mostly only have its principles contained in the Quran, the laws of inheritance is laid out in detail in the Quran.
Different categories of inheritors. When you a child or your parent is still alive, these two groups are among the first preferential heirs. Existing spouses also are among the preferential heirs. If you are just one child and no one else is alive, then besides the existence of a spouse, all other categories of potential heirs get nothing.
This is a Quranic concept laid out in detail.
Prophet (sawa)’s parents had already passed away. His other children had already passed away.
All that remained was one child i.e. Lady Fatima (a.s) and his various wives.
What did Lady Fatima (a.s) get? Nothing in form of inheritance.
Did the surviving wives of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) inherit anything??
We have definite narrations that state that they also sent a messenger to at least ask for their share of the inheritance as it was clear to them that they should also inherit.
So my concluding point on this first controversial issue as it relates to our lives is that everyone at the very least should ensure they have a valid basic written will in place that will provide for the payment of all their debts including religious debts and for the proper distribution of the balance in line with Islamic Sharia.
PROTECTING YOUR SPIRITUAL LEGACY
Issue number two that often causes major controversy at the time of death of a person often is if they had a belief system contrary to what people around him or her practised.
So we see for example there are so many incidents in our townships where someone embraces Islam and their families don’t really bother with them on the issue, but the day they die they make like his following of Islam never existed and again using South African law they will bury the person as a Christian or based on other faith traditions and that person’s spiritual rights are simply over ridden.
The same often happened and still happens when someone is Shia or a follower of the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s). The person will die and people will hush hush do their own thing and bury him following different rituals that he would not have approved of based on his belief system.
How does one overcome this serious controversial issue that we see appear over and over again?
At this point there is a very good practise of issuing or even writing a spiritual will.
What is a spiritual will?
The idea of a spiritual will is that besides having a will whereby you distribute your assets, you also want a will whereby you pass on your values to your children at least and those who are close to you over whom you have influence.
This kind of will is nothing about your earnings; it’s about your learnings. It’s nothing about your valuables, it’s about your values.
What you wanting to do in this type of will is not to say anything new about your beliefs, but you want to very crisply summarize the core foundations that you feel necessary that should remain for future generations through your loved ones.
Doing this firstly ensures no controversy at the time of death about what you actually believed that others must respect and secondly the possibility that your spiritual legacy will survive after your death.
And this practise is said to even have been an ancient tradition in other faiths including Judaism. And we seem to find proof of this in the very Quran itself.
In Surah Baqarah Verse 133 we read something interesting:
أَمْ كُنتُمْ شُهَدَاء إِذْ حَضَرَ يَعْقُوبَ الْمَوْتُ إِذْ قَالَ لِبَنِيهِ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن بَعْدِي قَالُواْ نَعْبُدُ إِلَـهَكَ وَإِلَـهَ آبَائِكَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ إِلَـهًا وَاحِدًا وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ
“Nay, were you witnesses when death approached Yaqub? When he said to his sons: ‘What will you worship after me? ‘ They said: ‘We will worship your God and the God of your forefathers Ibrahim, Ismail and Ishaq, the One (true) God (alone) and to Him we do submit’…”
Commentators say that it can be deduced from this verse that when Yaqub (a.s) was on his deathbed, a feeling of anxiety and worry existed in him about the future of his children.
Remember besides Prophet Yusuf (a.s), his other sons caused him so much heartache at one point. They were not infallible. How would they turn out after him? That was his concern.
So he finally expressed his anxiety and asked his sons what they would worship after him.
He especially asked ‘what (thing)’ they will worship after him and he did not ask ‘who’ they will worship after him because there were some idol-worshippers in the midst.
Yaqub (a.s) wanted to know whether there was any tendency towards those beliefs in the depths of their hearts. But when he heard his children’s answer, he again had peace of mind.
This was the spiritual will of Prophet Yaqub (a.s) mentioned in Quran which captured his core beliefs.
And so others also left a spiritual will on their deathbed like Imam Ali (a.s) before he passed away and was martyred – he left a spiritual will to Imam Hassan (a.s).
And so it is for the famous will of Imam Saadiq (a.s) on his death bed reminding his followers that without giving importance to salaah, we should not imagine being recipients of their intercession.
And we should all learn a practical lesson from this on the issue of writing a spiritual will to our loved ones about our core beliefs. We believe in Tauheed, Justice, Prophethood, Imamate of 12 Imams and the Hereafter and should be buried on that basis.
Far too often we find when someone who was a follower of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) passes away, we don’t see their family again. And a spiritual will can be a motivation for them to continue your legacy.
Imam Khomeini also writes a very detailed and interesting spiritual will as his spiritual legacy he leaves behind.
And likewise on the deathbed of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) he calls for a pen and paper to write for the Ummah a spiritual will that would ensure they never go astray. Was there anything new in this that he never taught them?
Not at all.
But just like Yaqub (a.s) had concern for the future when he was on his deathbed, Prophet (sawa) had concern for the future of his Ummah as Wahi and Revelation would soon be cut forever, but this simple request became the greatest controversy that ibn Abbas terms it the Tragedy of Thursday.
And what a tragedy it was. A tragedy that would soon see the Muslim Ummah take a path very different to the one envisaged by the Prophet (sawa) himself.
And this change in direction would eventually bring us to the plains of Karbala.
At his very last Jibraeel comes to Prophet (sawa) while he is laying with his head on the lap of Imam Ali (a.s) and Jibraeel gives him a choice for his life to be extended or for him to join his Lord. And the last recorded words of Prophet (sawa) in reply to Jibraeel (a.s) is:
“No (I don’t want any extension of life on this material world), (rather) with the Most Sublime Friend (Allah)”.
This sad closure to his life and sudden turn of events eventually takes us to Karbala.
Brothers and Sisters, in my very humble view I can advise you that when you leave a spiritual will to your children, make sure that it includes one very important clause and advice.
In life we go through many challenges, tribulations, difficulties, we even lose our path sometimes and go off track and do unIslamic things, but with all that never ever let go of one thing and that is to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s) because the worst of people have managed to save their soul due to this tradition.
In Karbala we know the famous story of Hurr bin Yazeed who was the leader of the army of Umar ibn Sa’d who were meant to kill Imam Husayn (a.s). Commentators are stuck in trying to understand what was it that caused Hur to make a turnaround in one moment?
And this is something that can save anyone and should be written in our spiritual will.
When it came for time of salaah and Imam Husayn (a.s) gave Hurr the option that he could go pray on his own, Hurr who was supposed to be an enemy said no I want to pray behind you Oh Husayn!
That is the spiritual legacy we must pass on – salaah has little value if it is not connected to Wilayah of Ahlul Bait (a.s).
A time came in the early days in the journey to Karbala when Hurr had stopped Imam Husayn (a.s) from travelling further when Imam Husayn (a.s) said to him:
“O Hurr! May your mother mourn over your death, what do you intend”?
Hurr replied, “If anyone else among the Arabs had said this in the same position as you are, I would have answered him equally, whoever he might be, but I cannot utter the name of your mother, except with fairness.”
After the demise of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), how was Lady Fatima (a.s) treated? But Hurr in Karbala teaches us that if you want to stand a chance of being saved, then have utmost respect for Lady Fatima (a.s). That is the spiritual legacy we must pass on to our children.