Delivered on 24 June 2016 (19th night of Ramadaan) by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
We have been discussing the attributes of the Servants of Rahman as discussed in Surah Furqaan and were busy with Verse 63 which says:
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلاَمًا
“And the servants of the Beneficent Allah are they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace”
This verse defines the qualities of Ibadur Rahman. Ibadur Rahman (Servants of the Most Merciful) is on different levels. You get the best examples whom are most committed, moderate examples, and the weak examples.
These days of 19 – 21 Ramadaan wherein we remember the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a.s) are an opportune time to reflect on the best example of Ibadur Rahman, those who walk on the earth with humility and say peace to the ignorant. These days of martyrdom are dedicated to Imam Ali (a.s), in whose life, akhlaaq and character personifies Ibadur Rahman and manifests in its best form.
HUMILITY – FIRST ATTRIBUTE OF IBADUR RAHMAN
When it comes to humility, who is a better exemplar (after Prophet Muhammad sawa)) than Imam Ali’s level of humility?
Where can we find someone in history like Imam Ali (a.s) who treats people under his governance with the highest level of humility? Let us use his relationship with his own slave as an example, Qambar. When Imam Ali (a.s) goes to the market to buy a shirt, he buys two shirts, one a better quality and the second shirt of a cheaper quality. He tells Qambar to take the better quality shirt.
Qambar in surprise says he cannot do that, saying he is a worker, and you Ali (a.s) are head of the state. Ali (a.s) replies to Qambar: “You are a young man with ambition and it’s more suitable to beautify yourself, whereas I am an old man and the cheap shirt is sufficient for me.”
When Imam Ali (a.s) travelled with someone who was not even Muslim, and when the time came for the two of them to separate to go in their respective directions, they greeted each other farewell.
After a short while, all of a sudden this person (non-Muslim) noticed Imam Ali (a.s) following behind him. This person was notably confused asking Imam Ali (a.s) why he is following him? Imam Ali (a.s) responds that the fellowship that they had experienced in their journey together created some rights upon each other, so he decided to accompany the person for a few extra steps in expression of the right that the other person had on Imam Ali (a.s).
When Imam Ali (a.s) entered the city of Ambar in Iraq, they welcomed him with grand titles, as is customary when welcoming leaders. Imam Ali (a.s) objected, not wanting to be addressed in the manner that rulers of the society are addressed. Ali (a.s) is a slave of Allah (SWT), he is Abdullah! This is the peak of humility displayed by Imam Ali (a.s).
DON’T GET INVOLVED IN VAIN ARGUMENT – SECOND QUALITY OF IBADUR RAHMAN
Let us reflect on the level of insults and cursing upon Imam Ali (a.s), and how he responds.
In his own poetry he says when he hears this while passing through the streets he says to himself that they are speaking of some other Ali and not him! What level of Akhlaaq is this?
NIGHT PRAYER – THIRD QUALITY OF IBADUR RAHMAN
Verse 64 says:
وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا
“And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing.”
First of all, this verse says they prayer at night for their Lord. What is the meaning of “Li Rabbihim”?
IBADAH/WORSHIP AS PRACTISED BY IMAM ALI (a.s)
Let’s refer to Imam Ali (a.s)’s explanation of “ Ibadah Li Rabbihim”.
He says there are people who make Ibadah not for Allah (SWT), but for the sake of attaining paradise. This Ibadah according to Imam Ali (a.s) is Ibadah of a businessman – it’s about achieving the profit of Jannah!
Secondly, there is a group of people who make Ibadah out of fear of Hell. This Ibadah according to Imam Ali (a.s) is Ibadah of slaves, who are always afraid of punishment from the master.
Then Imam Ali (a.s) says: “O Allah I am not worshipping you because I am seeking Jannah or wanting to avoid Hell (even though I am interested in Heaven and fear Hell)”. That is because the quality of this worship is very much third grade in nature, even though it is definitely valid Ibadah. “But rather I am worshipping you because I found You to be the only One worthy and deserving of worship. This is worship of the free!”
WHY WORSHIP AT NIGHT IS EMPHASISED
Why does this verse emphasise Ibadah at night and in darkness? There are a number of reasons.
Firstly, at night, there is nothing to divert your attention – it is silent as worldly activity has slowed down.
Secondly, at night since nobody is watching you, it’s not possible to perform Ibadah under such circumstances to show-off since you are alone with your Lord.
Thirdly, prayer at night has hidden secrets in them. In earlier lectures this month, we explained why Tahajjud is so heavily recommended. Imam Ali (a.s) says that when our beloved Prophet (sawa) explained the virtues and hidden secrets of Tahajjud, he never missed a single night, even in the most challenging night in the battle of Siffin! This was only possible because when Ali (a.s) is in Ibadah, he does not know what is happening elsewhere.
Fourthly, if somebody really wants to really establish a relationship with Allah, then the night time is best.
There is a sentence in Munajat Sha’baniyya which our beloved Prophet (sawa) and all our Imams (a.s) used to recite. It says:
“O Allah! Grant me complete and total attachment and devotion to you and enlighten the eyes of our heart with the light of looking towards you and disregarding everything else.”
With this motivation of wanting to be attached to none other than Almighty Allah, the night becomes the best time to cement this relationship.
In one of the battles Imam Ali (a.s) was injured when a sharp piece of metal got stuck in his knee. It was very painful, and the medics wanted to remove, but Imam Ali (a.s) grimaced with pain declining that they proceed to remove the piece of metal. Someone who knew Imam Ali (a.s) advised the doctor to do the procedure when Imam Ali (a.s) is in Salaah, because that is when he is not aware, so they proceeded accordingly. That is when his soul is not in this dunya!
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO BECOME ENEMIES WITH A MAN LIKE IMAM ALI (AS)?
Our focus thus far has been on the level of Ibadah of Ali (a.s), his devotion and clarity of vision, and Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT).
It is recorded that Imam Ali (a.s) performed 1000 rakats salaah per night. According to the forth Imam of Ahlul Bait, Imam Zainul Abidin (a.s), who is such a great worshipper and known for this by the title of Sayed Sajideen, he says he could not come close to the level of Ibadah of his grandfather Ali (a.s).
So how is it possible for people to hate a man of the caliber of Imam Ali (a.s), to the point of becoming thirsty of the blood of his followers for the past 1400 years? One can understand if idol worshippers hated Ali (AS), because he is dedicated to Allah (SWT). This can be understood.
But who are the ones who hated Ali (a.s)? In days like these it is important to identify the biggest enemies of Ali (a.s). They are none other than the most pious people outwardly!
They also perform Ibadah whole night and have calluses on their forehead as evidence. It is worth reflecting on why these people are enemies of Ali (a.s), and want to kill Ali (a.s) for the pleasure of Allah!
One important lesson to be cognizant of is that in our understanding of Islam we can make horrendous mistakes, despite being very pious.
Imam Ali’s enemies are defined in 3 groups:
- Those drawn in dunya, and are only looking for the luxuries of life; and
- Those with a completely wrong understanding of Islam.
This third group is the one causing the worst disasters for the past 1400 years and who commit the worst of the worst atrocities in the name of Quran and Islam “for the pleasure of Allah (SWT)”.
IMAM ALI (a.s) STRUCK WITH A POISONOUS SWORD WHILE IN SAJDAH
What you see today is the same situation with Imam Ali (a.s)’s enemies. They think they are doing the best Ibadah by killing people, and that the doors of Jannah are open for them.
There were three Kharijites who gathered in Mecca, discussing that the trouble in Islam is because of 3 people, namely, Amr ibn Aas, Muawiya, and Imam Ali (a.s).
Can you believe it, these 3 Kharijites could not distinguish between Amr ibn Aas and Muawiya and Imam Ali (a.s)?! So these 3 Kharijites agreed that if we want to rescue this Ummah, we need to get rid of all 3 of them. So they agreed to execute this plan.
Abdurahman Ibn Muljim was given this responsibility to go to Kufa to assassinate Imam Ali (a.s).
The other one went to Damascus to assassinate Muawiya, but when it was time to strike, he got shaky, and struck Muawiya’s leg with his sword instead of his head. As a result Muawiya was not killed but only injured.
The third person went to Egypt to kill Amr ibn Aas, but on that particular day Amr ibn Aas was sick and did not come to mosque for Fajr. Instead, he sent his deputy to lead Fajr salaah, namely the Chief Justice of the city.
So this third person struck and killed the deputy of Amr ibn Aas, not knowing that he killed the wrong person! This killer was then arrested, and they told him to prepare himself for the worst torture by Amr ibn Aas. He was notably confused, thinking that he had killed Amr ibn Aas, only to be informed that he was not even present for Fajr! As a result, this person was executed.
The one who attacked Muawiya was also arrested and brought before him. He pleaded for a pardon, in the form of saying that Imam Ali (a.s) was going to be killed by his friend in Kufa. Muawiya had no mercy for him, and had him executed even though he was probably very happy with Imam Ali (a.s)’s assassination.
Abdurahman ibni Muljim came days before this fateful day to Kufa. He met a Kharijite woman when he entered Kufa and wanted to marry her. His purpose of coming early was to plan this assassination carefully.
She requested a dowry of 100,000 dirhams plus the head of Imam Ali (a.s). These 2 clearly had a common purpose and they prepared Imam Ali (a.s)’s assassination together, leaving the sword in poison for days, in order for it to have the most damaging effect once it strikes.
As a poet says, nowhere in the world was there a more expensive dowry!
This woman was also a Kharijite, having lost her family in the battle of Nahrawan while fighting against the party of Imam Ali (a.s). She clearly had an undying hatred for Imam Ali (a.s).
On the 19th night of Ramadaan, Imam Ali (a.s) was breaking his fast at his daughter Ummi Kulsum’s place. She prepared bread and milk. Imam Ali (a.s) reminded her that he only has 1 item, not a 2 course meal!
Imam Ali (a.s) stayed at Ummi Kulsum’s house for the night. She reveals that Imam Ali (a.s) used to go in and out through the night, looking at the stars as he was aware that it was the night that was promised to be the one wherein he would be martyred.
And at Fajr salaah of the 19th Ramadaan, while leading the prayers, he was struck on the head with a deeply poisonous sword by Abdurahman ibni Muljim while in the position of Sajda.
Imam Ali (AS) exclaimed: “By the Lord of the Kaaba, I am successful!”