Lecture delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 21 May 2016 for the birth anniversary of the Saviour of Humanity – Imam Mahdi (a.s) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
You have often heard claims that the Shia believe that Imam Mahdi (a.s) will establish a completely new religion which is different to Islam and that this claim is based on ahadith found in Shia resources which make mention along the lines of “Al-Qa’im (Imam Mahdi) will bring a new teaching, a new book and a new law.”
Insha’Allah, this lecture seeks to provide some insight into this issue.
But first let me appreciate Almighty Allah’s favour for having once again blessing us with this night of Laylatul Bara’at which has great spiritual significance and is considered to be one of best nights of the Islamic calendar after Laylatul Qadr (as reported in various narrations found in both Sunni and Shia resources).
And consequently it’s a night that should be kept alive with recitation of Surah Yaseen, various Duas especially Dua Kumayl which is originally reported to be recited in the night of 15 Shabaan, seeking forgiveness, thikr and nawafil salaah, etc.
Narrations also state that issues relating to one’s future are determined on this night like rizq, life and death, etc.
The second major significance of 15 Shabaan is that it coincides with the birth of the 12th Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), namely Imam Mahdi (a.s) in the year 255 AH.
There are many many discussions around various issues of Imam Mahdi (a.s), some of which we have already covered in an earlier series of lectures that we have posted.
And the discussions even span much more than that.
It includes discussion on:
1. The concept of Mahdi which is the belief that Truth will finally be victorious. This is because it’s the promise of Allah that
وَقُلْ جَآءَ الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ إِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقاً
“Truth came and falsehood perished as falsehood by its very nature must perished” (Surah Israa: verse 81).
2. Who the final inheritors of this earth will be. This has been written in previous scriptures already as follows
وَلَقَدْ كَتَبْنَا فِي الزَّبُورِ مِن بَعْدِ الذِّكْرِ أَنَّ الاَرْضَ يَرِثُهَا عِبَادِيَ الصَّالِحُونَ
“And We have certainly prescribed in the Psalms after the Remembrance that earth will be inherited by My pious servants” (Surah Anbiyaa: Verse 105).
3. The narrations in the ahadith which are reported in such large numbers such that belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s) in principle cannot be disputed. Even people like Sheikh Bin Baaz is quoted as having said that “the ahadith of Mahdi (a.s) reaches a level of tawatur (being overwhelmingly reported) or more than that.” While the principle cannot be disputed, there are differences of understanding in the details.
4. The Universal System of Justice that will be established by Imam Mahdi (a.s).
5. Imam Mahdi (a.s) being the final chapter in a sequence of leaders from the beginning of time and being the climax of that very movement that has taken centuries to unfold. He does not appear out of some vacuum and being unrelated to any past event. He is thus from the direct descendants of Lady Fatima (a.s).
6. Belief in Imam Mahdi (a.s) being central to one’s Aqeedah and Belief System becomes the central motivation in one’s daily life which inspires one to continuously move forward in the belief that Victory belongs to us!! This is counter balanced with our continuous commemoration of Karbala and the spirit of sacrifice that is required to achieve this promised Victory.
7. Under what conditions will Imam Mahdi (a.s) return from occultation?
8. What are the signs that will appear before his return from occultation?
9. What are the characteristics of his eventual supporters?
10. What type of Islamic State will he establish?
11. And a variety of other related matters.
ESTABLISHMENT OF DAWLAH AL-KAREEMAH
The matter relating to the type of Islamic State that Imam Mahdi (a.s) will establish in principle needs some elaboration.
The word “Dawlah” is nowadays a fashionable term and there are many parading in this world.
The “Dawlah” we see today is nothing but an expression of anger, hate and violence.
But the “Dawlah” that will be established by Imam Mahdi (a.s) is referred to as Dawlatin Kareemah!
In the upcoming Holy month of Ramadaan, we recite Dua Iftitah every night. This Dua reaffirms our Aqeedah as it covers the subjects of Tauheed, Justice, Prophethood, Qiyamah and Imamate.
And in reference to Imamate, we pray every night in Ramadaan for this Dawlatin Kareemah of Imam Mahdi (a.s) when we say:
“O Allah, we ardently desire that You confer upon us an honorable government/state (Dawlatin Kareemah)
through which You may give dignity to Islam and its followers,
and through which You may humiliate hypocrisy and its people”
This “Dawlah” will respect everyone and value human life!
Today’s “Dawlah”, instead of dignifying Islam and its people is humiliating Islam and its people! Understand this!!
And the “Dawlah” of Imam Mahdi (a.s) will humiliate hypocrisy and its people! It does not say that it will humiliate Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. but hypocrisy will be humiliated. That includes people parading as so-called Muslims!
Now with this background, lets return to answering the main question of tonight’s lecture.
ISLAM WILL RETURN AS SOMETHING STRANGE
There is a well known authentic hadith that is even promoted by our local Muslim Radio stations which says:
“Islam began as a something strange and it will return as something strange, so blessed are the strangers.”
Upon inquiry from the Prophet (sawa) regarding who these “strangers” are, he said “They are few from among the people who reform while others make mischief.”
This hadith indicates that when Islam started, it was a strange and new phenomenon, something that people were very unfamiliar with. This aspect of the hadith is understandable in that Islam came to a jahiliyyah society that lived by norms and standards that were inhuman, while Islam brought a system to perfect Human Moral Character.
But what then happened that will cause Islam to once again return as a strange phenomenon?
What happened to the genuine/real Islam that was brought by Prophet Muhammad (sawa) such that it started to become polluted – and the pollution became so bad that the genuine Islam is not recognizable any longer and thus considered to be “strange” with only the name of Islam remaining?
Everyone believes that the genuine/real Islam of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) became polluted, but then we have the most fascinating and extreme diversity of interpretation regarding what that pollution really is that has caused Islam to become “strange”.
ADVENT OF MODERN DAY EXTREMISM
There are those who believe that Islam became polluted due to so-called shirk committed by Muslims who visit karamats and seek their intercession and so on, while these same people consider killing of innocent human beings to be a reflection of genuine Islam!
When you show respect to a “wali” of Allah, they consider this to be pollution of Islam and thus have this interpretation to offer on the part of the hadith which says “Islam will return as something strange.”
So which stranger returned to “purify” the Islamic practices of Muslim? Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab! – the founder of modern day Wabbism – more accurately referred to as the ideological school of violence and modern day Muslim terrorism!
This so called purification process was started by Ibn Taymiyyah and revived by ibn Abdul Wahab with is effects being felt today in the form of all the well known Muslim terror groups.
But has the original Islam really returned to us??
Is ISIS pure Islam??
EXTREMISTS BECOME DIVIDED
The Ibn Taymiyyah/Ibn Abdul Wahab Theological School has undergone a serious split in our times regarding this issue of what is pure Islam.
In principle they are absolutist in their outlook – the “only we are right and everyone else is wrong” approach!
But with this absolutist mentality, they are split into 2 groups today.
Firstly there are those who believe in this puritanical ideology which MUST simultaneously live in harmony with the jahiliyyah concept of monarchy! This is the interpretation in most of the lands where these monarchies rule – the very system that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) came to destroy.
These people who think that they have returned to bring the genuine Islam are actually worshipers of these kings.
These people believe you are committing shirk when you make a replica of Karbala and pay respect to it, but have no problem in creating an image of their king and asking their people to place their hand onto that image and pay allegiance to the king by doing that!
They scream that you cannot ask from the Awliya of Allah, but you can ask from the Awliya of shaytaan! Who said these people don’t believe in tawasssul! They very much believe in tawassul – the polluted type of tawassul!
They thus promote their version of Islam as being the one that has returned as the “strange” Islam referred to by the Prophet (sawa). Of course their version of Islam is strange, without doubt – but it’s NEVER the genuine Islam that will return and be considered strange!!
This absolutist approach which originates from the khawarij is not limited to the Wahabi ideology. Sometimes this absolutism exists in our very own ranks as well among so called revolutionaries when they have views about America and others and believe that only their view is right and we all wrong.
The second branch of modern day Wahabism, who are also absolutist in their view, revolted against this idea of puritanical Islam living in harmony with the monarchies, and thus became anti – everything (virtually) – anti America, anti Israel, anti Zionist, anti Imperialist, etc.
While they are externally anti – everything, they are internally empty!
This is how the phenomenon of Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Nusra, etc. developed to end up with the most extreme version of ISIS today.
VIEW OF THE FOLLOWERS OF AHLUL BAIT (a.s) ON THIS HADITH
The followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) certainly agree with the authenticity of the hadith under discussion but have a very different view regarding the interpretation thereof.
In our time more than any other time Islam has become polluted. But which Islam are we referring to?
There are too many versions of Islam in the market and the real Islam is hidden in between as something strange.
To understand who will bring the genuine version of Islam back to us, let’s examine a hadith of Imam Ja’far Saadiq (a.s).
Someone asked Imam Saadiq (a.s) what is the meaning of this hadith under discussion, particularly the portion “Islam will return as something strange”?
The Imam replied: “When our Qaaim arises, he will invite people to a new Islam.”
That means he will bring the version of Islam that will leave people surprised as they had lost familiarity with it and thus it appears to be a “new” religion, but its nothing new, its just the original teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) that had become polluted and went lost over the ages.
When people asked Imam Saadiq (a.s) regarding the practical seerah and lifestyle of Imam Mahdi (a.s), he said: “He will do what the Prophet (sawa) did, he will demolish jahiliyyah matters like the Prophet (sawa) demolished it. And Islam will have a fresh start.”
When we wait for Imam Mahdi (a.s), it is this genuine Islam that we are waiting for which will return as a strange phenomenon.
So blessed be the ones who are strangers! Because they stood for genuine Islam and rejected the polluted version thereof.
This week we also remembered the anniversary of the passing away of Ayatullah Behjat who was a giant in the field of spirituality and was one of those people who had a deep connection with Imam Mahdi (a.s). His speciality was that he always encouraged the students of religion to develop a connection with Imam Mahdi (a.s) and to cause his love to rule our hearts.
May Almighty Allah grant us to be among those “strangers.”