Eliminating Illusions

By Saleha Suleman,

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Now that the first twelve days of Muharram have passed, our frequent visits to the mosque will decrease, and our schedules slowly go back to the same old, busy routine. Let us, for a moment, reflect on the messages passed by our lecturers during these twelve days and attempt to apply them actively in our lives.

On an Anglican Bishop’s tomb in Westminster Abby , 1100 A.D, is engraved: “When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I might even have changed the world.”

Our visiting speaker, Sheikh. Kumail Rajani, spoke on a very significant issue – reformation in the real world. He spoke about how difficult it is for a person to change themselves, because not only would they be insulted, but also be sidelined and mocked upon, and how important this particular aspect of change is. He also spoke about how for reformation to take place, there first must be an intellectual understanding of why a particular thing is incorrect or unethical, and that changes so massive will not happen overnight.

So for example, mothers should be enlightened as to why it is distracting to people around her when her child brings rattles to the mosque during lectures, or why it is pure uncivilization when we, in our immense innocence and extreme love for Imam Hussain (AS), rush towards the ‘lash’ like a bunch of hungry lions. If I were an onlooker, I would immediately distance myself from this crowd, unable to comprehend what the members of the crowd are experiencing. As Shia’s whose role models are the Ahlul Bayt, it is our duty to portray to the world what the real Islam is, which is completely the opposite of what they think (or perhaps what we portray) of it!

The first step of reformation is intellectual understanding. Thereafter, as the Anglican Bishop realized late in his life, the second step is to change ourselves. As Jim Rohn has beautifully stated, “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself.” A better approach, rather than scorning at our colleagues when they commit unexplainable acts, would be to educate them on a better method of doing things. Of course, educating here does not mean imposing an idea on another, but rather, discussing, because evidently, technology allows anonymous people to phrase even the most absurd of things effectively and share it.

Reformation occurs first at an individual level, and then at a family and a community level. We must make an effort to be open and flexible to developments, instead of resisting. I would really like to commend the Dar es Salaam Jamaat this year for improving our experience at the mosque through volunteers handling the crowds with great expertise. All we need now is cooperation from our side. Let us understand that these rules are not present because the volunteers have a personal enmity with us, but rather because they understand rationally the importance of majaalis – not just having them, but persons gaining from them as well.

Imam Hussain is well known to have called out “Hal Min Nasirin Yansurna?”, meaning “Is there anyone to help me?” on the day of A’shura despite the fact that he knew that everyone else from his side had been martyred. We are all familiar with what this means, but how firm is our response? The aim of Imam’s sacrifice was not to simply see us weep, or hear our sympathy. He wanted to keep Islam alive. He wanted to keep the real Islam alive. Regrettably, if we let ourselves and our values erode alongside time, our answer to the Imam’s call is profoundly frail and short lived. Each and every one of us wants to be present in the 12th Imam’s army when he reappears, but for that, we must prepare ourselves today.

Let us, as the sun sets tonight, make a pact to ourselves, that our spirit in regards to Imam Hussain’s love will remain ascending, and that we will not wait for Ramadhan or Muharram to arrive again for us to begin contemplating once more. Let us make a pact to not only speculate, but also act. Let us make a pact to not only think or discuss, but also accomplish.

Let us make a pact to give Imam Hussain the response he wanted.

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