We are Muslims, and people of morality are not permitted to follow a pathway of “pragmatism” – where pragmatism is defined as “by any means necessary” – rather for us, we must utilise the concept of by any permissible/halal means possible.

Now, regarding coming together as Shias – this is honourable I’m sure – but to do so – as it is suggested – to come together on the “common ground which is the love of Ahl al-Bayt” – certain points must be reflected upon.

This requires a comprehensive understanding of what love is.  

Is love a simple feeling of being “warm and fuzzy” when someone is mentioned?  Is love simply the art of “liking someone very much” – or is love – real love – something entirely different?

View into the shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbala

View into the shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbala

True love – the sort of love that forces a babe in arms to throw himself from his cradle at the mere sound of the voice of his beloved.  The kind of love that empowers people to remove the shackles of tyrannical hegemony and implement a system of Love, of Wilayah – this is something very different to what is regularly understood by most people.

The regular love – the sort you hear about on TV, read about in the newspapers, this is biochemically identical to eating large quantities of chocolate; this is not what we are talking about when we speak of the love of Ahl al-Bayt.

Now people might come along and argue – as indeed they have – that when speaking of coming together as Shia – we must incorporate all those who profess to be from those who either love or aspire to love and at the very least follow the line of Ahl al-Bayt. Even those who say one thing, but whose actions belie what they profess with their tongues.

So with the utmost of respect; no, loving Ahl al-Bayt doesn’t mean we adopt a “pragmatic approach” and come together with all who profess they love Ahl al-Bayt.  

Rather we search far and wide, and we find the Maytham1. We find the Aba Salt2 . We find the Ammar3. We find the Miqdad4. We find the Owais5 who travels all the way from Yemen to assist his beloved, to assist his Imam, and others like unto these.  

We follow the position taken by the grandson of Husayn, the Wali al-Faqih6 , and we allow our hearts to be truly opened so that the divine insight that has protected the Prophets and Saints, the Martyrs and the Righteous over the course of the centuries and millennia can protect us also.

There are dangers when blindly accepting what is suggested by one or a grouping when they suggest they love Ahl al-Bayt.  If we don’t operate with insight connected to the divine, we will fall into traps.

An example to illustrate my point.  During the battle of Karbala, many failed.  But someone like al-Abbas didn’t fail. Of what point do I speak?  I speak of when mid-way through the night of Ashura (known as Tasua).  Shimr ibn Dhil-Jawshan approaches al-Abbas, and due to kinship that he shares with al-Abbas – being that ibn Dhil-Jawshan was from the same tribe as Umm al-Baneen, the mother of al-Abbas – offers him an exit.  He offers al-Abbas safe passage away from the battle if he abandons al-Husayn.

How does al-Abbas react? al-Abbas rejects this – and there is a deep reasoning behind why he rejects it – least of which is because even if al-Abbas wanted to leave al-Husayn, this was impossible; how is it possible to live when your entire reason for existence is destroyed?

Another example; and this one will upset many people, but these are the painful truths that need to be heard and reflected on – so that statements encouraging concepts like “pragmatism” and such in the name of unity are destroyed and rendered as the invalid positions that they are.

This is the example that occurred shortly after the passing of the Prophet of Allah. At this point, shortly after it was decided that Abu Bakr would be the Caliph of the Muslims – Abu Sufyan the cousin of both Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali – approached Imam Ali; looking forlorn and upset.

Abu Sufyan, told Imam Ali, that he felt heartbroken at the fact that his position vis-a-vis the Prophet of Islam and the Community of Muslims had been “usurped”.  

Abu Sufyan insisted that while the Prophet had clearly declared that Imam Ali was his successor, citing multiple mentions by the Prophet to that effect such as:

“For whosoever, I am the master, Ali is the master”,

“His (Ali’s) position to me is like that of Aaron to Moses” 

and more besides7 – these instructions had been ignored or forgotten by the community of Muslims.

Abu Sufyan declared that Abu Bakr had usurped the caliphate, and was a usurper; and indeed should Imam Ali agree, he – Abu Sufyan – would fill the streets of Madinah with the youth of Quraysh, that they could stage a “revolution” and overthrow the government of Abu Bakr.

We must now reflect on how Imam Ali reacted to this situation.  We must examine all the evidence that we have before us, and reach a conclusion that teaches us a valuable lesson.

Imam Ali categorically rejected the stance taken by Abu Sufyan; instead, Imam Ali shouted at him, ejected him from his presence and referred to him as “Iblis” (or in some narrations as “Satan” – since both are synonymous it makes little difference; at least for our analysis).  We must understand why Imam Ali adopted this stance.

Artistic depiction of the event of Ghadeer Khum (courtsey AlWaght)

Artistic depiction of the event of Ghadeer Khum (courtsey AlWaght)

Was it untrue that Prophet Muhammad had told all the believers on the way back from the final Hajj, the verse that is number 67 of Surah al-Ma’idah (5) was revealed:

“O Noble Messenger (Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him)! Convey all what has been sent down upon you from your Lord; and if you do not, then you have not conveyed any of His messages; and Allah will protect you from the people; indeed Allah does not guide the disbelievers.”

Quran, Chapter 5 (The Table Spread), Verse 67

Upon the revelation of this instruction, according to traditions accepted by all the schools of thought within Islam; the Prophet ordered the entire caravan of pilgrims – returning from the Hajj in Makkah and travelling towards Madinah – to stop.  He ordered the people gathered to collect their saddles; that a makeshift pulpit be constructed, allowing the Prophet to give an address to the people in a manner that the multitude could hear and understand – be they near or far.

As per the instructions of the Prophet, this was done; and the Prophet then went atop the pulpit and declared – amongst other things that:

“Whoever takes me as their master, then they should take Ali as their master”

Going onto say:

“Oh Allah love those who love Ali, and be hostile to those who are hostile towards Ali”

That is one event; another event that is in the citations used by Abu Sufyan earlier is when the Prophet departed for the expedition of Tabuk, he appointed Imam Ali as his deputy in Madinah; and as he left is quoted to have said:

“Your position with respect to me, that the same as that of Aaron to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me”

Now, examining these – and this is not a historical document or analysis – rather I am citing the historical events8 to illustrate an important point.

These events and quotes of Prophet Muhammad that Abu Sufyan had mentioned were without a doubt completely accurate – and indeed from the point of view of the ahadith (the Prophetic traditions) – are accepted by all the schools of Islamic thought.

Yet, Imam Ali rejected what Abu Sufyan was saying.  What was the reason for this?  What Abu Sufyan was saying was accurate, he had the ability to fill the streets of Madinah with the youth of Quraysh – given his influence within the community and indeed his wealth, this was definitely a possibility.  So again, I ask why would Imam Ali reject this position?

Now, this is where the core of what I am saying comes into the mix.  Had Imam Ali adopted a “pragmatic” stance; he could have argued that – well Abu Bakr has taken the caliphate illegally, Abu Sufyan is not necessarily a friend, however, I could use him to accomplish the task of deposing Abu Bakr and then taking over the reigns of power.

Now Imam Ali off course didn’t do this; but theoretically, if we use a pragmatic approach, then this would be it.  Imam Ali uses Abu Sufyan and his resources to reclaim the Islamic Government, and then he can deal with Abu Sufyan as required, throwing him in prison for his many crimes or giving him a reward for his help – this is neither here nor there.

The question that comes up time and time again is WHY.  Why did Imam Ali refuse; and not only did he refuse; why did he reference Abu Sufyan as Iblis (Iblis was the name of Satan prior to his being ejected from the presence of God for his crime of arrogance)?

What was Imam Ali teaching us – because as we all know – the Prophet and Ahl al-Bayt, their every action, their every breath is a comprehensive lesson for us; and if we sit and examine, even in this usage of the word “Iblis” by Imam Ali, there are oceans of wisdom and knowledge and understanding – oceans that if we learn to traverse and understand we will be better armed to deal with the Satans of our day, and the deceptions that they attempt.

Imam Ali understood, that whatever the scenario might be with Abu Bakr and the events that took place in the Saqifah of Bani Sa’adah; at this time, the ruler of the Muslims, the caliph of the Muslims was Abu Bakr.  The Muslims had accepted this for the most part.

The position of the Imam, doesn’t require a temporal seat in order to be active.  The Imam is the Imam be he sitting or standing, be he in the halls of governance, or the deepest dungeons of the tyrants.  The position of the Imam is a divinely appointed position (and no I’m not going to go into a detailed discussion on the concept of Imamah – there are many resources available that discuss this in depth).

Imam Ali understood, that while feigning concern, and loyalty to Imam Ali, Abu Sufyan was working to undo all the work that Prophet Muhammad had worked tirelessly to implement.  He attempted to play on the base desires and tried to instigate sedition between the Muslims.  With one key objective.  To destroy the cohesion of the fledgeling Muslim community.

Imam Ali, therefore did the only thing that he could to defend and protect Islam, he rejected the whisperings of Satan and took refuge in God as instructed by Quran where God says:

“I take refuge of the One Who is the Lord of all mankind.”

“The King of all mankind.”

“The God of all mankind.”

“From the evil of the one who instils evil thoughts in the hearts – and stays hidden.”

“Those who instil evil thoughts into the hearts of men.”

“Among the jinns and men.”

Quran, Chapter 114 (The Chapter of Humanity), Verses 1-6

He rejected the whispering of Satan that was attempting to push evil thoughts – thoughts that would harm the Muslim community – into his heart.

So now we understand – at least to an extent – why Imam Ali rejected the suggestion of Abu Sufyan.  Now let us come to the matter at hand.

It has been suggested that in order to foster unity between – initially the Shia – there should be a rapprochement between those who follow the school of Ahl al-Bayt with importance – as taught by Prophet and Ahl al-Bayt – creating a relationship with Allah and enjoining the good and forbidding the evil; and those who follow a different understanding and who refuse to follow the teachings of the Leader or the most learned Faqih, during the absence of the Awaited Master – may God hasten his return.  

To quote the euphemisms that are used for these two groupings between the “Taqleedis9” and the “Malangs10

Some have posited:

“We must put away our differences and agreed to disagree whether we are Taqleedi, Malangi or none of the above Shias.”

Now, while I can understand where the one who said this is coming from.  It presents a problem that can be understood in light of the examples I have mentioned above.

Firstly, it is well known, that for the Shia; we are instructed and obliged to follow the position of the Ahl al-Bayt; a position built on love, honour and respect, that pulls us towards God.  A position that recognises no compromise, and that stays firm on all its principles.

On the night before Ashura – Tasua – when al-Abbas was approached by ibn Dhil-Jawshan, it was impossible for al-Abbas to accept the offer of clemency and safe passage.  This was because of love.  That real love, that love that consumes, that love that compels the lover to imitate the beloved, that prevents – in some cases physically – prevents the lover from ever going against the wishes of the beloved.  A love that inspires true loyalty, a love that burns the self, leaving only the desire of the beloved to move forward.

A love that compels the lover to ignore the happiness and desires of the self, and sacrifice them for the happiness and pleasure of the beloved.  The same love that empowered Lady Zaynab in the court of Yazid to say when asked about what she saw in the murder and mutilation of her brother Husayn and his companions:

“I saw nothing, except beauty!”

This is the real love.  That love that compels a resistance fighter in Yemen to destroy an entire Saudi battalion; that love that makes the very names of the Helpers of God, be a source of terror for the tyrannical Saudi stormtroopers; that love that made the Zionists cower in abject terror at the mere mention of the People of God from the Party of God.  This is the real love.  Not the fake love that as mentioned before is biochemically similar to ingesting large quantities of chocolates.

For those that love the Master of the Age, there is a compulsion to follow his instructions; which were very simple – I am paraphrasing but the meaning is clear and the references and more detailed accounts abundant:

“In my absence, it is upon the believer to take recourse in the Fuqaha (Jurists/narrators of the traditions), who carry certain qualities, and if these qualities are to be found in a Jurist, then they should be followed.”

Yes, I have paraphrased, no I haven’t quoted the exact saying of Imam al-Mahdi, but the meaning is very clear.

Awaiting the Saviour of humanity.

Awaiting the Saviour of humanity.

The idea of following a Marja – is not something that is an optional extra; or that is something that can be ignored; rather – in the absence of Imam al-Mahdi, this is completely and totally mandatory.  Someone not following a Marja’ Taqleed is actively disobeying the instruction – clear and simple – instruction of Imam al-Hujjah, and regardless of their reasons – noble, wonderful, flowering, beautiful or otherwise; it becomes very difficult to have “unity” with them from a direct Shia perspective.

A Shia perspective requires the Shia to follow the Wali al-Faqih or the Marja Taqleed – or both ideally – in the absence of Imam al-Mahdi.  This is not a matter up for debate; rather this is a matter for the survival of the School of Ahl al-Bayt.  It is a pathway to our preparation for the return of our Master, the Master of the Age – may our souls be his ransom, and may God hasten his return.  

If we do not follow the Righteous Islamic Leadership, in the absence of the Awaited Saviour, then be certain that when the Awaited Saviour returns, we will not follow him.

The hypothesis I have presented has been proved historically by the actions of the Sanhedrin from the Children of Israel, who failed to recognise the advent of the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, and not only did they not recognise him, they abused his holy and honourable mother – Lady Mary the Blessed – and ultimately conspired with the power of the day to execute the Messiah.

There is every reason; to suggest that if we are not able to follow the Righteous Islamic Leadership in the absence of Imam al-Mahdi, then be certain we are highly unlikely to follow Imam al-Mahdi when he returns.  

Yes, some might get all upset and excited suggesting – “Oh Shabbir is saying we don’t love Imam Mahdi, and blah and blee and so on” – no that’s not what I’m saying.  I’m not disputing you love him.  I’m disputing the depth of that love, because love should be such that it empowers and forces the lover to pledge his allegiance to the object of love, to the Wali of Allah – and the absence of the Wali of Allah, to the Wali of the Wali of Allah.  The true love compels loyalty a loyalty that transcends boundaries and temporal distances, a love that ensures a clear understanding of the beautiful verse of Quran that states:

“Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger, and those who are with him are firm with the unbelievers but compassionate with one another. You see them occupied in bowing and prostrating and in seeking Allah’s bounty and good pleasure. They are distinguished from others by the marks of prostration on their faces. Thus are they described in the Torah. And their parable in the Gospel is that of a tilth that puts forth its shoot, then strengthens it so that it becomes stout and stands firmly on its stem. This is a sight pleasing to the sowers and one by which the unbelievers will be enraged. As for those who believe and do righteous deeds, Allah has promised them forgiveness and a great reward.”
Quran, Chapter 48 (The Victory), Verse 29

This is the real love.  The love that takes a man and turns them into an al-Abbas, and takes a lady and turns her into a Lady Zaynab.

A love that empowers the man to not drink water and quench his burning thirst, while the object of his love remains thirsty.  A love that inspires a lady, to when questioned in the most difficult of times, after witnessing the most heinous of crimes and the most violent of tortures to say when being asked how she sees it all – to say “I saw nothing except beauty”.

This is the path of al-Abbas and Lady Zaynab.  This is the path of Wilayah – the school of true love.

Yes, to those who refuse to make Taqleed, they are our brethren; and our hearts bleed for them, but it is impossible for us to unite on ideology, when they flagrantly oppose and reject the teachings of the Wali of Allah – while at the same time professing that they follow the Wali of Allah.

Some might suggest that this is a very hardline approach; this is not the case.  There is no compulsion from our part that forces said people to adopt the pathway that is the one that we have adopted.  They are free – they have their own free-will, their own intellect – they are free to adopt their own approach, and we are free to adopt our approach; which we know is connected and as per the instructions of Imam al-Hujjah, as he clearly said what he had said.

That doesn’t mean we abandon our brethren who refuse to follow the path of Imam al-Hujjah’s instruction.  Not at all.  We will continue to advise and educate as best as is possible.

However, it should be understood that it is a case of  “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.  

Guidance only comes from Allah, and He guides whoever He wishes to the path of Truth, and He is the best of guides.

Insha Allah this short piece explains and makes clear the position of some herein, and why the idea of unity without principles is invalid.  The same is the case with our brethren from other schools of thought – such as those of the Hanafi, Shafi’, Hanbali, Maliki and so on; there is unity on certain terms and to a certain level – however – this unity doesn’t mean anyone compromises their belief.

To my beloved Shia brethren who refuse to follow the guidance of Imam al-Hujjah and refuse to follow the Righteous Islamic Leadership in his absence, that is – as I’ve said – your call; but know that unity between us can never be complete until all principles are adhered to – or at the very least acknowledged.  This doesn’t make us enemies; it means that we have a somewhat different understanding.

The human aspect, of respect, dignity and honour are all still in place – as long as they are reciprocated.  Do not expect to be respected or treated with honour, if you lack honour or refuse to respect.  This is common sense and very normal.

Another important lesson that can be taken away from this discussion is that the creation of sedition and the instigation of strife between the Muslims is, in fact, an activity that follows the tradition of Abu Sufyan, a person who was a well-known enemy of Islam, from the start to the end.  Being the father of Muawiyyah and the grandfather of Yazid, who on the day of Ashura massacred the grandson of the Prophet of Islam, along with his companions including his six-month-old infant child.  The same Yazeed who then attempted to further humiliate the family of Prophet, regarding whom the Quran has said clearly:

Tell them, (O Prophet): “I do not ask you for any recompense for my work except love towards my family.”

Quran, 42 (The Consultation), Verse 23

So be under no illusion, those who work to create and ferment strife between the Muslims – then know that such people are in fact the inheritors of those who massacred the innocents in Karbala, the inheritors of those who conspired against the Prophet on the day of Hijrah, those who conspired and worked against Islam, be it in Badr, Ohod, Hunayn, Khaybar and such.

A final important point11, those who are unsure about their belief, their identity – who they are; they will find that there are many attack vectors that the enemy can leverage in order to move a person with no identity away from the Truth.  It is important, therefore, as Muslims, as Shia, for us to be firm in our identity, firm in who we are.

In case anyone had any doubt:

And from Allah alone is all Tawfeeq.

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  1. Maytham at-Tammar was a companion of Prophet and Imam Ali – a brief biography can be found on Wikipedia
  2. Aba Salt, Abdul Salam ibn Salih, was a companion of Imam ar-Ridha – a brief biography can be found on Wikipedia.
  3. Ammar ibn Yasir, was one of the very early Muslims and was the son of Sumayya, the first lady martyred by the Pagan Arabs for following Islam and the Prophet.  Kamal al-Sayyed has written a brief biography of Ammar ibn Yasir
  4. Miqdad ibn al-Aswad, was another notable and early companion of the Prophet of Islam.  Again Kamal al-Sayyed has written a brief biography of Miqdad ibn al-Aswad
  5. Owais al-Qarni was a companion of the Prophet from Yemen, he loved the Prophet, though he had never met the Prophet.  He travelled to help Imam Ali in the campaign of Siffien against Muawiyyah, and was martyred in that battle.  A brief synopsis of who Owais is can be found on Wikipedia
  6. See my article “Wilayah, doesn’t just provide a political solution, but a universal solution”
  7. These are well-documented traditions accepted by all Schools of Islamic Thought
  8. Verifiable and accepted by all the historians from all schools of Islamic thought
  9. This is a term, sometimes used in a derogotory manner referenecing someone with the Shia community who chooses to follow the teachings of a Marja’ Taqleed and/or the Wali al-Faqih
  10. This is a term that is used to describe a group of somewhat niave Muslims, specifically from those who profess to be Shia, but who rarely engage in any of the required practices – such as praying, fasting, etc.  Rather they obsess over the art of flagellation – allegedly in mourning for the massacre of Imam Husayn in Karbala; though given they choose not to follow the teachings of Imam Husayn, this is somewhat hollow.  This grouping also reject the teachings of all the righteous Maraje and Wali al-Faqih and have been known from time to time to insult and slander the Maraje and Wali al-Faqih.  This group is also generally quite active in the performance of Tatbir (self harm, self flagellation) – a practice that has been rendered forbidden by all the Righteous Maraje and the Wali al-Faqih.  Primarily they hail from the Indo-Pak region, though there are people who follow this ‘Malungi’ line all over and in many communities.  Though their voice is loud, their actual number is small.”.
  11. I will be discussing this point in depth in a future article

Written by Shabbir Hassanally

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