Jumuah lecture delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid on 25 October 2019
After praising Almighty Allah and imploring our Lord to shower His choicest Blessings and Salutations upon His Most Beloved Messenger (sawa) and his Purified Household (a.s), I remind myself and all of you to be conscious of Almighty Allah at all times before executing any action by considering whether our actions are aligned to achieving His Pleasure or not.
In analyzing the ultimate purpose of life, our scholars have slight variations in the manner in which this most important subject in life is discussed and analyzed.
We have often previously presented this to be continuous seeking higher and higher levels of Closeness or Nearness to Almighty Allah. And that is no doubt correct.
And all of our daily actions directly contribute to the achievement hereof and in reality we never in a condition of being indifferent – we either moving closer to Allah or moving away from Allah.
PHILOSOPHY OF EXISTENCE BASED ON LIGHT
That being said, there are certain scholars who presented the philosophy of the purpose of our existence in slightly different language but fully based on the Quran as its basis.
A very famous scholar Shahabudien Sahrawardi developed the Illuminationist School of Philosophy whereby he explained everything relating to our existence based on the concept of light or Nur.
That is because the Quran itself introduces a whole system of theology and belief based on the concept of light.
Everything that exists has different degrees of light.
Most things which exist have a fixed amount of spiritual light.
Human beings on the other hand due to having freewill have a variable amount of light and thus have the ability to increase their allication of light or decrease their light and this is what is happening with us at every moment.
Almighty Allah says in Surah Baqarah Verse 257:
اللّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ يُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِإِلَى النُّوُرِ
“Allah is the Guardian of those who have faith; He brings them out of darkness into light”
وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ أَوْلِيَآؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ
“and those who reject faith, their guardians are false-deities, (taghut), who bring them out of light into darkness”
And that is really the sum total of our daily journey – we are either moving towards more light or we are moving away from light into darkness.
And in many cases in the Quran, everything that exists is referred to with respect to the concept of light and this concept is one common concept but with different degrees of intensity.
ALLAH IS THE LIGHT OF THE HEAVENS AND EARTH
Then very interestingly, the only place where it seems that Almighty Allah also refers to Himself in terms of Light is in Surah Nur or Surah 24 which is referred to as the Chapter of Light and more specifically in verse 35 known as Ayah al-Nur or the verse of light.
Here Almighty Allah says in this famous verse:
اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالاَرْضِ
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth”
In other words, everything that exists has a combination of light and darkness and their amount of light can either be fixed or variable.
But Almighty Allah has no darkness, He is Absolute Light and the source of ALL Light. And He is therefore the Light of the heavens and earth and basically all of creation. In other words Allah is the Light of Lights.
This verse then continues in a very elaborate fashion to describe Allah’s Light in more detail.
And this is a very long and fascinating discussion which I unfortunately don’t have time for today, but I would like to mention one very critical point in this regard.
WHERE IS THE LIGHT OF ALLAH SPECIFICALLY FOUND??
This Light by which Allah refers to Himself – where is that Light specifically found as described by Allah Himself??
We all exist and have light, but our light is mixed with darkness.
But with respect to Allah’s Light which is Absolute and free from darkness – that light is said to be found in certain places in particular. Where are these places?
In verse 36 of Surah Nur, Almighty Allah says something very important:
فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَن تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ
“in houses which Allah has allowed to be exalted and that His name be mentioned therein.”
This light of Allah is found in houses that Allah Himself has raised in status due to His name being mentioned therein.
These houses of course firstly are the mosques and even mosques vary in degrees of exaltation where Masjidul Haraam and Masjidul Nabawi and Masjidul Aqsa and Masjidul Kufa have a great status much higher than a regular mosque. But the light of Allah is found there in these houses.
And even if you have the most sophisticated means of transport, you still get special reward if you walk to the mosque in search of the light of Allah! Remember this point!
Where else is the light of Allah found?
This verse says it is in “houses” – a house is a place of living! There are thus certain places wherein people live where this light of Allah is found.
Imam Baqir (a.s) thus said in relation to this verse:
“Those houses are the houses of Prophets, Sages and the Infallible Imams.”
Then in another commentary it states that one day the Prophet (sawa) was reciting this verse when Abubakr said:
“Is the house of Ali (a.s) and Fatimah (a.s) the extension of this verse?”
The Prophet (sawa) said:
“Yes, it is the best extension of this verse”
Why are Ahlul Bait called Ahlul Bait or “people of the house?” It is because they live in the spiritual house of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
ZIYARAH OF SHRINES OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S) IS SEEKING LIGHT OF ALLAH
Now if these houses are among the best houses where the light of Allah is found and from which it spreads and is distributed to the rest of creation, then it goes without saying that we must:
- visit these houses to fetch as much light as possible for ourselves from it
- direct our attention towards these houses and shrines of Ahlul Bait (a.s)
- we must connect our house to these houses in the hope of being incorporated into them like it happened in the case of Salman al-Farsi.
And thus we read in numerous narrations the special reward for Ziyarah and visiting the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and his Ahlul Bait (a.s) and among these the most attention on virtually all occassions in the year is given to the Ziyarah of Imam Husayn (a.s) which receives unlimited reward.
Among the hundreds of narrations about the merits of Ziyarah of Imam Husayn (a.s) including the merit for walking to his shrine we learn that there is:
Reward for every step taken.
Forgiveness of sin for every step taken.
Elevation of a thousand levels for every step taken.
The reward of a Hajj pilgrimage for every step taken. (Bear in mind if you walk 90km to shrine of Imam Husayn (a.s), you take over 120000 steps!)
The reward of more than a Hajj and an Umrah for every step taken.
The reward of freeing a slave from of one of the children of Isma’il (a.s.).
Be counted as among the Saliheen. (Note that Saliheen is a status that Prophets yearned for which is for a select few)
Be able to ask Allah ta’ala anything and receive it.
Repelling of calamities and misfortunes.
Granted increase in money and sustenance
And in a similar vain there are narrations which refer to the merit of serving the visitors of the shrine of Imam Husayn (a.s).
WHAT MAKES HEADS TURN IN THE ARBA-EEN WALK??
Most of you know that a group of us from this community and around the country were blessed this year to participate and join over 20 million people for the Arba-een walk and recite Ziyarah of Arba-een of Imam Husayn (a.s).
And we cannot thank Almighty Allah enough for that blessing and pray that you all get that opportunity and that we go again multiple times to participate in this walk of love.
Given this bit of philosophical introduction, you will realise that this event is unlike any other event that occurs annually on the Muslim calendar.
Somebody during the walk from Najaf to Karbala made an interesting comment regarding what attracts people’s interest and makes heads turn and causes TV cameras and media to zoom in on you in this event.
In our daily pampered materialistic lifestyle, when some drives past in an expensive Porshe, it causes heads to turn. Or someone living in a mansion or someone looking physically attractive causes heads to turn.
But in the Arba-een walk, other things causes heads to turn. What are these?
Firstly the millions of people walking from Najaf to Karbala for over 90km and people walking from surrounding cities up to and even over 500km towards the shrine of Imam Husayn (a.s). The sheer numbers itself which went over 20 million this year causes heads to turn and people wanting to know what is going on?
Secondly the unbelievable effort and strain that people subject themselves to in order to participate in the walk causes cameras to zoom in on them. People walking on cruches, people limping, people crawling, people walking with one leg, people walking bare feet in scorching heat, people pushing themselves in wheel chairs all the way for 90km simply breaks your heart to see such beauty.
Thirdly people competing to serve you and honoring you as the guest of Imam Husayn (a.s) with whatever they have brings you to absolute tears. We are nobody, but because we are zuwwaar of Imam Husayn (a.s) people rush to do something for you. I watched a man hand out cold water in 49 degrees heat and for every glass of water he handed out he said Labbayka Yaa Husayn.
The people who run these Mawkibs where you are served are primarily private individuals or organizations. I enquired about an owner of 2 Mawkibs how many people do they serve as a small private setup among thousands and was told they serve 25000 per day for approximately 8 to 10 days and he has 60 volunteers who work for him to achieve this! Do the numbers and you realise one small set up will cough up millions of rands to serve the zuwwaar.
The extent to which people are prepared to sacrifice to serve the zuwwaar is simply unheard of.
There is also a fourth more point I want to make on the social impact of Arba-een that I will leave for the second khutbah Insha’allah.
ARBA-EEN WALK IS POTENTIAL CATALYST FOR SOCIAL-POLITICAL CHANGE
Protests that we experience virtually on a daily basis is not confined to South Africa. It is an international phenomenon and even Iraq itself, the land that houses the sacred shrines of our Imams is also plagued with political problems.
The core issue which is completely unsustainable is that the majority of the world population is poor and live from hand to mouth.
And the rich hold on tight to their wealth.
To clear their conscience, they will set up fancy looking charities and take many photos to convince themselves that they doing something for the poor. That is because within their society, it’s a taboo for a rich person to speak out about the evils of capitalism.
Islam as a system always had in it the tools to address the problem of major inequality but various of these institutions don’t flourish as they should.
For example when Prophet Muhammad (sawa) set up the Islamic state in Madina, he made a muhajir to be the brother of an ansaar. In this way one person shared what he had with another.
Now in the system of Wilayah that we are meant to follow, one of the dimensions is that a believer is the Wali or guardian of another believer. The simple criteria is a common belief system.
And this guardianship or Wilayah we enjoy over each other includes taking care of each others needs.
A person once said to Imam Baqir (a.s) that he has many Shia. And the Imam looked at him with an element of surprise I suppose as he responded by asking a question:
“Do every one of you place your hand in the pocket of his brother and take from it to the extent that you require?” [i.e., such should be the qualities of a supporter of the Imam].
The Arba-een walk has been around for a long time, but never in history was it witnessed on this level.
And it is this phenomenon of complete selflessness of sharing everything you have with others and sacrificing your own needs for others that we experience on such a grand scale for at least 10 days that causes human beings to really start to have a glimmer of hope that we actually CAN live in a world with more equal distribution of wealth and where even the wealthy choose to want such a state to exist.
This aspect of the Arba-een walk is probably one of the most mind blowing. The more people who witness this can go back to their homes around the world and say “yes” we can change the world ourselves, we don’t need to wait for some government to do it because that’s unlikely going to happen.
It is this aspect of the Arba-een walk that is a great blessing from Allah upon us that we should really appreciate.
And this then makes one see the link between Arba-een and the return of Imam Mahdi (a.s).
One thing about the return of Imam Mahdi (a.s) is that it depends on us developing ourselves on all levels including spiritually for him to return.
His occultation was first the minor occultation which would prepare our minds for the eventual major occultation where he would not have any particular person representing him.
But in relation to his return we also focus on the great state of justice that will exist when he returns.
But towards that state there is a minor return of Imam Mahdi (a.s), and that is the unfolding of clear phenomena that makes the world to truly start seeing the light that there is a saviour of humanity whose perfect rule is on the horizon.
And Arba-een and its environment where human beings willingly live in a state of harmony where everyone’s basic needs are catered for – Arba-een makes heads turn to think that we definitely can change the world ourselves.