Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
As we step into the night where the world’s greatest leader, the highest standing representative of the people, the pinnacle of knowledge and wisdom and the embodiment of courage and bravery, rose from his state of prostration to collide with a descending sword, bathed in poison and intended to silence the Holy Prophet’s message to humankind. Here was a man who gave nothing but wisdom to the world, and lived amongst them in simplicity but was intolerant of injustice and oppression, leaving behind yet another lesson to last a lifetime to the human creed, that of patience and submission to the will of the Lord, the most supreme. The lesson that invincibility cannot be used to shield oneself from one’s own decreed end in pursuit of the divine message, the message given thereafter between tonight and the day of his passing away, as the Muslim world went into turmoil, and truth took a backseat. But Imam ‘Ali (AS) knew even then that enmity towards what he stood for would last till the end of time when he uttered those profound words: ‘Saying my name will not be easy in any era, in any century, nor in any time’. Such a long time has passed since this horrific event took place in Masjide Kufa, but the mention of the incident instills present day sorrow, a chill through the body that feels elated to have had such a leader, but that senses his loss has orphaned us forever. While the world recognizes this larger-than-life personality as a true leader and statesman, even today speaking his name is not devoid of danger. The enemies have since multiplied and mundane plots are getting even thicker against Allah’s message, propagated by His chosen ones.
During his lifetime, he made several prophetic statements amongst which was ‘There will come a time where nothing will be hidden except truth, and nothing will be revealed except falsehood’. As we live in those predicted times O Ali, how much we endear to have had your company and your protection from the warfare, from the hatred and from the negativity that envelopes the world and its people towards your followers. Today, the world witnesses the use of mass and electronic media in manufacturing truths and fogging out the real truths, we see this happening everyday with many new words being drawn into the equation like perception and empathy. Very few people are now saying the truth for it costs too much and as it is no one will believe them. Imam ‘Ali (AS) resolved this predicament back then when he said ‘Never explain yourself to anyone, because the one who likes you would not need it, and the one who dislikes you, wouldn’t believe it’. We have witnessed so many things which Muslims have unfortunately had to do, just to save their lives. Muslims in India disguising themselves as Hindus in a secularly volatile, machette yielding nation that calls itself the world’s largest democracy. Muslims living in America, having time and again to justify their position, sometimes even when it is plainly clear that it has nothing to do with faith, as it just happened in a city widely known as the world’s capital for entertainment but one that is glaringly liberal as a society, in a country that is the world’s leading democracy. Imam ‘Ali (AS) envisaged that regardless of modernity, truth will be subjected to hiding and he will still be seen as a thorn in the modernists minds.
While the world keeps us busy with new gadgets, new eateries, new everything, everyday, Imam advised as follows: ‘The dowry of the next life, is divorcing this life’, for this life is temporal. But what can we do ya Imam, we have become so numb, almost senseless, feeding on the lies that are given to us daily, with our minds now thinking almost like the others. We find fault in our own faith because some mischief makers have sabotaged the message, but we find immense solace in the ways of the opposers of your creed. Alas, he says ‘Life consists of two days, one for you and one against you. So when it’s for you, don’t be proud or reckless, and when it’s against you, be patient, for both days are a test for you’
How much do we, as Shi’as, understand this gem of a personality, for if we could in truth try and follow his footprints, we would indeed help change the vagaries of our times. But like the Holy Qur’an, we have relegated his name to the time when we have to swear or as a matter of exclamation. And pitifully so, we have turned him into some kind of a demi god in whose hands lie the keys to our lifelong wishes – to get rich, to solve a marital problem, to keep enemies at bay, and even if these offshoots did exist out of the baraka of his name, we are yet again missing the point of his life, and his death. Precious time is going by as we regularly squander the chance of true salvation because our worldly indulgences do not end. Being sad at the loss of Imam today, should come to us naturally and it should guide us to a path of pondering and then of positive action, at this time, like in prayer, we have to keep distractions away, so that our learning and our observation is complete. If this sadness does not come to us, or if it only does because we have sadness in our own lives and this becomes an exit for our emotions, we have to start all over again. Imam ‘Ali said ‘Every man with a heart is not intelligent, every ear does not listen and every eye does not see’. Let us be wary of this advice.
Ultimately, the world is in turmoil. One conspiracy theory is that it keeps news agencies and channels in business so they keep creating problems. Regardless, one cannot help but accept that the predicted times of how difficult it would be for one to keep their faith when they return home at the end of the day, despite having it when they left home in the morning, this time has come. No wonder what one may say, what one may see, or support, or help with, or listen to, or be compelled to do, that would, in a snap, change the direction of his faith. May Allah (SWT) protect us and keep us embedded in the right path. His last words of advise to us – ‘Equip yourself and be ready, your departure has already been announced’, in readiness of the next upcoming journey which is the only certainty.
It is not hard to see how his powerful words, his affectionate manner, were perceived as a threat by those bent on keeping the pivot of power in their sway, as we also see happening all around us today. But he was ‘Ali, and so he did not lament, except advise again, even to his oppressors, ‘Be like the flower that gives its fragrance to even the hand that crushes it’