What is Taqiyah?

By Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)

Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi in his book “Taqiyah” answers thus: “its literal meaning is to safeguard; to defend; to fear; piety (because it saves one from the displeasure of Allah)”

He goes on to explain the significance of the practice by explicating that in Islamic Terminology, it also means to save life, honor or property by hiding one’s belief or religion. Hence, we must not confused taqiyah with nifaq, as the latter is a negative attribute whose intention need not be to deceive oppressors or to save lives.

As Islam places overwhelming emphasis on the aspect of Muslim unity and fraternity, we are told many a times of the need to practice taqiyah, especially in prayers where joining of Jamaat prayers in a Sunni congregation by say, folding one’s hands, would not exclude one from any normal reception.

Muslims, for example, living in India have often faced the threat to their lives and property during Hindu-Muslim clashes, thus causing significant harm and oppression upon them. We, therefore, see that many brothers during such a time disguise themselves as non-Muslims, or as Hindus This, it must be understood, is in line with the compulsory divine order of protecting life and the dignity that goes with it. Again, as a parallel, it must be distinguished from the political espionage witnessed prominently during the cold war days, where the concealing of one’s identity, although perilous to life was driven by political ambitions and design.

In answer to a question, Rizvi dispels the allegations leveled against Shias as the only sect practicing such an act on an official basis. In reality, if the tables were turned in the case of the Hindu example, it may well be expected that Hindus, caught in Muslim territory, would undoubtedly use similar means to save their skin. In milder cases, we have today witnessed many Hindus, seeking job prospects in the Middle East, declaring their religion as Islam, although their being non-Muslim does not marginally affect their chances of success. It is therefore within the trait of human nature to protect oneself from destruction. As long as it is meant to protect life, property and honor, it would be termed taqiyah, but beyond that, it would carry other implications.

In the same book, it has been suggested by some readers that by doing such a thing, one exposes himself to the possibility of accepting the belief one uses as a pretext, hence ensuring that the very Islamic beliefs guiding this philosophy result in the loss of faith. Again, Rizvi propounds on the merit of Islamic faith that yields only to the conviction of the heart, rather than any lip service offered In such a scenario, by simply uttering non-Muslim tenets, one does not necessarily submit to anti-Islamic school of thought.

Venturing deeper into scholastic discussion, it is strongly believed as well that since doing taqiyah borders heavily on the act of lying, it should be borne well that taqiyah does not encourage lying. This is a misrepresentation. The example quotes is that of a person faced with a difficult situation. Both options at his disposal may result in some degree of harm. What does one do in such a situation? It is of greater recommendation to try to salvage the situation by implementing the answer with lesser repercussions rather than surrendering to the plight of an impasse.

Fortunately, most of the problems of the last century that prohibited Muslims to be seen openly are now over. Yesterday, a bearded man was a confirmed terrorist and a veiled woman, largely oppressed. Yet Muslims caved for them, until the Iranian Revolution gave new meaning to freedom of worship. Simultaneously, the collapse of the Easter bloc made religious practice easier and permissible. Isn’t; it ironical then that now that everything is open, Muslims, rather than practicing their faith are busy modeling the consumerist West and her materialistic teachings?

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By Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya) 

More than anything else needed today of all the living Muslims is the courage and capability to introspect. By this, we mean the ability and purity o judgement regarding one’s own actions and inactions.

The fabric of today’s world is built around materialist and consumerist ideals; we live in times when not only those living in the West but also those in the East, have little time for society. Each is embroiled in his or her own little thing, and it may not be wrong to say that a great number of people looking at their communities or societies today, have mixed motives, or whose driving force is other than the pleasure of Allah (SWT)

Given the teachings of the modern society, it has become a common practice for people to rationalize their wrongdoings or to justify their actions by using religious principles in their favor and as per their own convenience. One of the signs that was mentioned in last week’s issue, as a sign ushering in the last day, is that wrong and evil will be regarded as right and virtuous, and vice versa. And it so happens, that no one individual engaged in such an act will even realize it. He will continue committing this misdeed by failing to recognize what is right and what is not.

Introspection is the answer. To every action, there should be an analytical approach and understanding of why we have done so and so, or why we did not do this. Then, instead of rationalizing each action, one will be forced to review the circumstances that led him to do this or that.

It is a very common sight, for instance, for people to say that rather than engaging in gossip, I would rather watch a movie. Here is a typical example of self-rationalization, in which we appease our souls by convenience comparison, choosing the lesser of the two evils, that is!

Nowadays, with newer rulings on issues such as raffle and music, it is commonplace for one to say that my Niyyat is not to win the prize but to help the cause. While no one will ask us why we are not helping the cause until the organizers of such a task have to launch a raffle, the final judge knows the inside of our hearts, and what our true intentions are. So we can walk around masquerading the cause, but He knows it all. But if truthfully we are clean at heart, we certainly have nothing to fear.

The beating of wives is frequently used as an excuse that if let “unherded” they would bring a family a bad name. While the reasoning is correct, the statement fails to address women as human and responsible beings. It also fails to comprehend the Islamic teachings of respect and honor for women.

In one of his lectures at the Jaffery Islamic Centre, Nairobi recently, Dr. Sayyid Amjad Ali Shah of the Al Mahdi Institute in Birmingham, said that during the time of Imam Hasan (AS), history reflects that there was nothing in the society that resembled the Prophet’s true Muslim society, except for two things that the call for prayer was heard publicly, and that people were seen heading for congregational prayers. Introspection will tell us and especially among the more affluent Muslim brothers in the Middle East that this time may have com1e back. It is not uncommon to see wealthy Arabs wooing women in public, but heading for prayers as soon as Adhaan is proclaimed. What about us?

In a recent documentary on the Discovery Channel, it was revealed that a Brahmin King by the name of Raja, who lived a life of dual personality. His successful empire demanded that he continue conquering neighboring states so that others do not digest his own empire, and for this he had to kill. His belief in God bit his conscience for doing so. So, a clever priest, advised him to continue doing so while building as many temples as possible as a means of washing off the sins of war. This, he did, and hundreds of temples mushroomed during his rule. Introspection might reveal similar personalities amongst us!

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The Signs Before Qiyamah

Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)

This week; let us look at some of the signs that are expected to manifest before the coming of the Day of Resurrection. Most important, in reading this article is the derivation of the opinion as to what signs one may think are already before us today, lt is also imperative to understand that most of these signs are negative; and the fundamental question that we should ask ourselves is whether we are involved in the perpetration of such signs.

The article has been based on “Life After Death – Part V”; Ja’fari Observer, Vol, Xl No. 6, February 1999, which traces the Hadith to the Prophet (SAW) who cited the following as signs to come:
1. People will neglect prayer and will follow their own views which will appeal to them. They will respect the wealthy people and will sell the religion for Worldly benefits. At that time, the heart and soul of the believer will melt as salt melts in water;
2. Kings and rulers will be tyramiical;
3. Evil will be considered virtuous and virtue, evil;
4_ Embezzlers will be trusted and the trustworthy will be thought of as untrustworthy, and liars will be vouched honest and the truthful one will be considered a liar;
5. Women will be rulers, and concubines will be consulted;
6. Children will sit upon the pulpit;
7. Women will become their husbands’ partners in trade;
3. Virtuous people will remain sorrowful and the poor will be dishonoured;
9_ Markets will come nearer;
10. People’s hearts will till with fear;
11. Muslims will be dyed in things coming from the East and those from the West;
12. People will not have mercy on little ones and will not respect old ones, and they will not pardon anyone who commits a mistake. Their bodies will be of human beings but their hearts will be of Satan;
13. Men will satisfy their lust with both men and women; while women and minor boys will be mounted upon like women;
14. Men will look like women and women like men;
15. Women will ride saddles, and they will be cursed;
16. Mosques will be decorated as are synagogues and cathedrals;
17. Copies of Qur’an will be beautified;
18. Minarets of mosques will be high and the lines of people standing in the prayers will increase but their hearts will be hating each other;
19. Men will use golden ornaments and will wear silk and will use cheetah skins;
20. Interest will be prevalent everywhere;
21. People will deal with the help of backbiting and bribe;
22. Religion will be suppressed and worldly affairs will be given importance;
23. Divorce will increase;
24. There will be female singers and musical instruments openly used, and these will rule over the People;
25. The rich will go to pilgrimage for recreation, and the middle class for trade, and the poor to show off;
26. People will learn Qur’an for other than Allah and will treat it as a musical instrument by singing it;
27. People will study religion for other than Allah;
28. The number of illegitimate children will increase;
29. Poverty will be widespread and people will be proud of their clothes;
30. It will rain at wrong times;
31. People will like chess and gambling apparatus and musical instruments and they will dislike enjoining the good and forbidding the evil;

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Caught in Unfamiliar Territory

Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)

Our Jamaats, the establishment that is, represents years of hard and dedicated work by a great many selfless persons. For years, the advices that if you work for the community, do not expect any rewards, has almost become an adage, Yet people of various walks of life serve with determination and unmatched zeal. The result is the culmination of a well-organized society that stands tall amidst its educational, financial, socio-cultural and medical prowess. Of course, the level of achievement in each category my be different for each Jamaat, but the collective good demonstrates the ability and the resources of the Khoja Shia
Ithnasheri Community.
It would not be incorrect to assune as well that side-by-side with this distinguished track record the Community has at various points, found itself embattled. This relates to either changing external environments, or unstable political conditions, or merely the need for educating the community’s children. There has been wide amnesty as well emanating from the community’s powerhouses towards the less fortunate members of the Muslim society, whether at home or in India.
So, the general quandary of the community is relatively brighter today, than it was some two decades ago, Our sisters are more active dispensing their roles today, and our brothers are more educated and well aware today. Of course, the flip side, that of an aggregate urban lifestyle has necessarily attacked the health and lives of individuals, but as consumerists may say, overall it has been a small price to pay.
But it is not the function of the community nor the proceedings that surround it are ambiguous in character, but what really is a challenge is the mixed breed of socio-political administration that is in wide use today. Now whether this is the strength of our development or a weakness remains open for individual
interpretation. While we have elaborate mechanisms of policy making and the presence of a democratic form of government and the presence of a pseudo-active electorate, much of our decisions and arrangements today are carried out in the same traditional form.
The point of divergence perhaps arises due to the naivety of any one individual who may be deceived into believing that Committees in Jamaat aifairs, at any level, are truly democratic. A lot of the decisions are meant to synchronize with the advise of living sages, or perhaps donor conditions, At times, projects are born solely because resources have suddenly become available. For many straight-liners, this form of government is unprofessional and hypocritical, but the
leadership has a stronger case, that is it works!
So whether we should severely adhere to laid down norms and professional conduct in running Jamaat affairs, or if we should retain the adhoc basis of administration remains to be the select and sovereign territory of the elected official. Most would still opt for the middle way, the two-tone style of leadership in which you exercise both methods in one sentence.
lf the alternative remains as it is popular today, then the election of office bearers before the presentation of accounts, and the establishment of capital projects without the nod of the general body, will all seem fair to the mind. But to expect that these prerequisites be followed whereas the system in place has accepted its absence would be out of step.
Whichever way you look at it, it does appear that the community gets caught in unfamiliar territory when its image of knowing the system and following it too seems publicly threatened by a point of order or by the consciousness of an agile populace. History will bear testimony to the fact that despite its sound development, procedure has been last on the list of all leaders. One shudders to wonder what the face of the institution might have been had plans been validated scientifically before action was sanctioned!

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The Mission at Hand

By Mohamedarif Suleman

The 12 days of Muharram have Alhamdulillah passed with momineen the world over offering their tributes and condolences to the Masumeen (AS) in various ways. Jamaats and their organizing teams did much to ensure that the programmes were indeed directed at facilitating such an emotional reliving of the tragedy whose shadows will forever line the books of history.

From the scholastic point of view, the story one may hear from momineen may not be all that different from those of yesteryears. Whether Zakireen lived up to the task that they were charged with, remains an issue open to individual analysis. The tradition of English and Urdu Majlises combined continued, once again the results of which may not be very clear at this time.

Of course, our processions still have that stark resemblance to a festive mood, especially n places where processions are held at nighttime. From a distance, the message remains ambiguous considering that the entire community is engulfed in a sea of lights and decorations, neither representing the true face of mourning. Many will still argue over the issue, and it may take decades before individuals and leaders alike can accept a more extrusive approach.

As far as the Zakireen are concerned, there needs to be a proper method of recruiting and a more professional approach towards the chosen subjects.

More or less, it has now become a trend to discuss endlessly the issues on Khilaafat and the anti-Sunni monologues. While these subjects do have their own significance, but what the present audience probably needs the most is substance and verified facts rather than outright oratory and speech flair. Once again, the leadership needs to revisit the situation.

The most disturbing factor that now seems to be rising is that of indifference, Due to years of lax preaching during these zaakireen, with due respect to them, the general attitude has become that of indifference. The danger in the long run remains that momineen will become resilient to Islamic teachings and values as well. The issue precipitates the pulpit again.

The entire approach to religion and religious teachings needs an overhaul. It should now be accepted that the understanding of history, coupled with their applications and pertinence in the present time is of greater importance than the fixation to a part of history, which is largely used today to politicize the Shia-Sunni tensions, especially in the Indian Sub Continent. If this remedial action is not taken now, all generations will eventually succumb to the passivity of religious and spiritual thought. The example that one can best relate to in present age is that of Hindus. Last year, it was revealed that a Hindu Professor has drawn a parallel, through deep research, between the re-emergence of the Avtaar with the Holy Prophet (SAW). He believes, conclusively that what Hindus are still waiting for may have actually come, conquered and passed away 14 years ago. If what is contained in the theory is true, it proves the stagnancy of the Hindu religion and their out-of-step rituals and rites. Their refusal and resistance ro the dynamism of time has led to the passivity we see today. Are we going to be the next getting stuck to a point in history?

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