The Men We Love to Hate

By Fatima Ali Jaffer

There is no doubt that the main bone of contention between the Ahle Sunnah and the Shia is the issue of succession. The breach that was created after the Prophet (SAW) has grown wider and deeper over the passing centuries and because of the severity of the accusations involved, it is extremely important that we have a clear and, most importantly, united stand regarding this matter.

The acceptance of Imam Ali (AS) as the rightful Wasi of the Holy Prophet (SAW) is necessary part of belief. It is the yardstick by which the faithful have always been and will always be measured. Being so essential, it must be treated with the gravity it deserves.

In the past, our forefathers took one extreme by condemning those who did not accept Imam Ali (AS) without hesitation and our generation has, in rebellion, tended towards the other in trying to blend all differences to form an outward expression of Islam acceptable to all sects. In both cases, we forgot the basic rule of being a Muslim – maintain balance. In the present times especially, it is essential that we have one strong foot against the enemies of Islam, whilst also holding on firmly to the essence of our Shia faith.

The line between unity and distinction in Islam is extremely fine and it grows thinner by the generation. There is on one hand, a dire need to present a united front to the non-Muslimes who are using inter-sect hostility to attack Islam (and succeeding dangerously well) and on the other, an equally urgent need to define the differences between the Shia and other sects.

It is our failure in the latter that is my concern. For many of us, Idd-e-Zahra has been the symbol of the ‘Shia-vs-Sunni’ battle. Every year, we learn of the same incident about the same person, laugh at its ovel re-telling, rejoice in being on the side of Truth and then go home satisfied in the knowledge that we have done our duty. In doing this, we have actually weakened our defences. I do not criticize the celebration of this Idd. Far from it. In reality, the problem lies not in the fact that we observe Idd-e-Zahra, but that we do only this.

The plot to grab the seat of power was not hatched overnight. It was the result of a complex series of extremely intelligent and cunning moves and Saqifa was the fruit of many evil labours. By reducing the severity of these crimes and laughing at their perpetrators, we have only succeeded in creating clowns out of criminals. As a result it becomes difficult to see the men we mock for their ignorance of Islam as sly political geniuses capable of torture and murder. Even our disgust with them takes on a mildly amused form.

Restricting the debate between Shia and Sunni to Khilafat alone also raises problems because it refuces the case to a power struggle, which it has never been. Originally, the split may have revolved aroud the rejection of Imam Ali (AS) as Divine Imam but with time, these differences have spread to other areas so that today, the Shia and the Sunni are separated in matters of belief (Tawheed, Adalat nd predestination) as well as practice (Salaat, Saum and other rules of Fiqh).

Over the years we have judged the Ahle Sunnah for accepting the leadership of the Munafiqeen without hesitation. Yet, anyone who has read Peshawar Nights, Then I Was Guided and the many other Sunni-Shia dialogues now available, will immediately realize that a high percentage of our Sunni brothers and sisters are not aware of the true history of either Islam of the issue of Khilafat. How fair is it to hold that ignorance against them? Does it not make more sense to first invite them to learn more and then judge them on their affiliation after this?

It is true that Khilafat is the root of division in Islam and cursing those involved in its manipulation is compulsory upon every Shia, but without solid foundations this enmity serves no purpose except to lower the intellectual level of the debate.

Besides, in most cases, simply stating the historical truth about the doings of these people is much more effective in the insulting department. By the time you finish with the list of their offences, you may realize that name-calling is really too good for them!

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Are We Preparing Our Children Adequately?

By Mohamedarif Suleman

More often when we speak of the negative impacts that modern lifestyle has given us, or when we categorically cry fowl over the way in which global cultures are eroding our own – both Indian and Islamic, the main argument is really not against the strength of these and other outside forces. At least, it is not supposed to be. The real agenda is to remind ourselves of how weak and ill equipped we are in the face of western and unislamic influences.

Nowadays, it is immaterial where you live – whether you are an inhabitant of a marvelous city of the West or are tucked up in a corner of East Africa, communications and technology ensure that our lives are somewhat affected by the ethos of global of global culture. In most cases, it is the multinationals that have always been the transporters of same culture to various countries, expect in that some 10 to 15 years ago, there was a conscious effort to regard local cultures and values in the promotion of goods and services. Later on, as the younger generation of all this host countries began asking for more of such imported values, it became clear that many cultures and sub cultures would begin fading in its wake.

So, in every other way, this article purports to raise this question with parents in any part of the world, because we are now all under a common razor blade. Are we preparing our children adequately?

As Muslims and the followers of the Ahlul Bayt (AS), we face enormous challenges in raising our younger members, who are not only being attacked by anti-Islamic forces, but are in many cases themselves becoming a part of the whole value system. How does one prepare one’s child as a good Muslim? And you do not have to be a PhD to answer this, for it is definitely education. Sound and solid knowledge about anything that enables us to understand and appreciate things in their right perspective.

It is naturally unfortunate that as we race towards excellence in secular education, we conveniently sideline religious knowledge and in the process become directly or indirectly responsible for the moral and social decline that we then face as those young people assume adulthood. We falsely rely on our upbringing styles and hope that our children will be safe from the external influences out to devour them.  We fail to equip them with that knowledge that yields respect by the young for their elders when they talk.

In this time of ghaibat of the Imam (AS), the least that we are expected to do is to pass on the knowledge and positive traits of a Muslim such as humility, wisdom, modesty,piety, moderation and others. It is enough to send our children to University for secular degrees and diplomas. With that we also must dress them with an Islamic mind set, for which one does not necessarily have to go for higher Islamic studies.

Imam Ja’afar As Sadiq (AS) says: “Hasten with the religious training of your children before detrimental forces can get hold of them.”

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Leadership – A Scientific Approach, Part 1

By Mohamedarif Suleman

Questions about leadership have long been a subject of speculation. Whether it is inside our homes, in our places of work, at local levels or even international levels. The current crisis facing the Muslim Ummah the world over is as much a consequence of a failed Islamic leadership that has seen gradual collapse from a mighty imperial superpower to a victim of international terrorism campaigns. While all this can plainly be blamed on a lack of education or of over emoting in circumstances of changing proportions and variance, one thing remains quite oblique – that unless an understanding of what leadership really means, scientifically that is, individuals who walk this tight rope, will at best be replicating others’ pitfalls, or would continuously engage in trial-and-error approaches.

At community level, we regularly hear of a barrage of allegations leveled against our leadership, for inept decision making, lack of foresight, and more recently total lack of vision and coherence. The leaders, on the other hand, have their own grief to mourn. That after years of sleepless nights, of selfless service and devoted participation, all that the community has to offer is blame, hatred and bad mouthing prose. This situation is hardly different from that of a household where a parent in his or her own attempt to salvage family values, for instance, incurs vehement wrath of the child for inconsiderateness and inconsistency, all this after years of struggle and upbringing. But why should such a situation arise when each party is honest and only intends to attain the pleasure of Allah (SWT)? If this premise was indeed true, then additional incremental effort must be instituted in creating an understanding of this good-and-bad combination social role that we fondly refer to as leadership.

Scientific research on leadership actively took off in the 20th Century, but for many years after that behavioral scientists have restlessly attempted to discover what traits, abilities, behaviors, sources of power, or aspects of the situation, determine how effective a leader will be in maintaining his or her leadership position, influencing followers and accomplishing group objectives.

There are various representative definitions of leadership. But a true understanding can probably be derived by the fact that leadership is the behavior of an individual when he or she is directing the activities of a group towards a shared goal. This definition recognizes leadership in all its forms and at all levels of life. A man and his wife share the common goal of establishing, nourishing and progressing as a family unit, whether the goals are spiritual, economical or academic. In a similar manner, the head of a business organization is performing a similar role with respect to the corporate objective of either market leadership or leadership in sales. Going further, it may be interesting to understand that the exercise of interpersonal influence in a given situation, and directed through the communication process, is also an integral part of leadership. This effectively means that a leader must feel the urge to create and then use positively his influence on those that he is leading. This of course can be achieved through various forms of effective communication so that the common need is met. In this regard, examples are often given of how Adolf Hitler, although hated by the world, was loved by his own people, for appealing to a common and shared vision of Germany. The Late Ayatullah Khomeini, who propelled Iran into a historic revolution, was simply using his influence as a leader, and communicating with the masses.

Maintenance of structure in expectation and interaction is also paramount. Leaders who attempt to change the structure of a given leadership hierarchy are frequently threatened with collapse, however imminient or necessary that change may be to meeting the common goals of a society. In our own scenario, when leaders are accused of being sluggish to make a certain move, the young generation often feels that there is a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Whereas not an entirely false presumption, the truth is that shifting of goals or ideals, usually acts counter productively vis a vis the expectations that the majority have of the leader. This is not to suggest that change must never be addressed, but it is a predicament nevertheless.

The US President George W Bush has added further context to another angle of leadership. In essence, it is known that the US is eager to create its massive empire across the globe. In this process, when the case fro war against Iraq was being made, it was imperative to create and promote an evil angle to the Iraqi regime, so that sympathetic support may be garnered. This is called an internaction between persons in which a leader presents information of a sort and in such a manner that the other becomes convinced that their outcome will be improved if they behave in the manner suggested or desired.

And finally while still on the US, leadership in undoubtedly a particular type of power relationship characterized by one member group’s perception that another member has the right to prescribe behavior patterns for the former regarding his activity as a group member. This is one reason why the whole world is going “American”. This is one reason why leaders, elders and parents need to set the right examples.

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Brotherhood

By Tahera Ramzanali, Dubai

“Surely the believers are but brothers, so make peace between your brothers and be careful of your duty to Allah so that mercy may be had on you.” (49:10)

This verse explicitly declares the core belief of the social aspect of Islam – brotherhood amongst believers. All the rules in Islam relating to Haqqun-Naas (Rights of People), are founded on this cornerstone of brotherhood. But to what extent exactly does this brotherhood go? A short step by steoo analysis may help.

“Innamul mu-minoona ikhwatun” – Surely the believers are but brothers.

The significant word in this portion of the verse is ‘ikhwatun’. In Arabic, as we know, ‘akh’ means brother. The word akh has two plural forms – ikhwan and ikhwatun, with a very fine difference between the two: ikhwan is usually used to refer to brothers in general, whether distant cousins, or members of a community, or a group having similar beliefs or political ideas etc. A literal example being the Ikhwan movement in Egypt, which is working to establish the Khalifah in the Muslim world. Ikhwatun, on the other hand, is usually used to refer to brothers by blood relationship. Just the first three words, therefore, lay down the extent of fraternity demanded of the believers. It makes it incumbent upon us to love and respect each other as we would our own brothers, and make the same sacrifices for them, only on account of their believing in the same God, the same Prophet and the same Book as us. All other differences become insignificant when compared with this similarity. Correspondingly, verse 103 of Sura Aali Imran, clarifies: “And hold fast by the covenant of Allah, all together, and be not disunited, and remember the favour of Allah on you when you were enemies then He united your hearts so that by His favour you became brethren.” This Hablillah, the rope of Allah, is exactly the same beliefs we all share, and which created such a revolution in 7th centaury pagan Arabia, that tribes which had been warring for decades and centauries over the pettiest of reasons, could put all their differences completely aside forever, and live in peace and harmony among each other.

Examples abound, especially in early Islamic history, of how the Muslims applied this verse in their daily lives, and one of the most famous incidents illustrating this feeling is that if the seven injured fighters during the battle of Uhud – when the water bearer came to give the first one some water, he was told to go to the second soldier who was more in need of it. The water bearer went to the second soldier and offered him some water, but he was told to go to the next man. In this way, he reached the seventh warrior, who told him to go to the first, since he was the thirstiest. He returned to the first soldier but found him dead, and as he went to each soldier again, he found they had all succumbed to their wounds and had passed away. This is an unforgettable example of the level of brotherhood and self sacrifice the followers of Islam have displayed throughout history.

In short, this ayat, in making all believers brothers, encompasses all aspects of our behavior towards each other, at all times. It expects us to always go the extra mile for them, to the extent that we may not even think remotely ill of any believer; as the famous Hadith goes, we should look for 70 excuses if a believer behaves in a manner not expected of him.

The verse goes on to say, ‘faaslihoo baina akhawaikum’ – ‘therefore, make peace among your brothers.’ This point – of smoothing out any problems that may arise in a community is also so encouraged in Islam that it is one of the situation when even lying may become compulsory, if that can help in reducing tensions and hostilities.

Correspondingly, the verse ends with reminding us about the purpose of our creation – the attainment of Taqwa, which is ultimately the only thing we will be judged on. Taqwa obviously, does not refer to external signs of piety like praying and tasbeeh, but includes equally, if not more importantly, Haqqun Naas. Once brotherhood is established, both areas of mans responsibility – towards Allah and towards His creatures. Become easy to fulfill, regardless of the superficial differences between people of race, nationality, wealth and so on.

The biggest example we have of achieving both these goals – of brotherhood and taqwa – is obviously, the tragedy of Kerbala. Its lessons are unparalleled in their scope, and one of the most outstanding lessons is that of brotherhood. All the companions wanted to be the first to die, before the others. Zuhair ibn Qain and Sa’eed ibn Abdullah sacrificed their prayers to allow their companions to pray in some measure of peace. The companionship and self sacrifice displayed among the martyrs is matchless. They did not differentiate among themselves on any count – young or old, rich or poor, black or white, slave or freeman – all were distinguished enough to represent humanity on one count only, and that was their taqwa – ‘inna akramakum indallahi atqakum’ (surely the most honourable of you with Allah is the one amonf you most careful of his duty) – and they lived and died on that ideal.

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