Four Californian Lectures – Part 4

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi (Toronto, Canada) is a researcher and a world-renowed author and speaker of the Shia faith. He is currently translating the 13th volume of Tafseer al-Mizan.

Lecture 1: Islam, Religion of Peace

A lecture delivered at the University of California Merrill College, Santa Cruz on 28th October, 1987.

After this, Islam has very clearly demarcated mutual rights and duties of family members and other relatives.

The above-mentioned Risalatu ‘l-Huquq says about the rights of the father: “It is the right of your father to realize that he is your root and you are his branch; and that without him you would have been nonexistent. Therefore, whenever you find in yourself anything likeable, remember that your father is the basic means of that gift [of Allah] to you. And be thankful to Allah and grateful to your father accordingly.”

About the mother it says: “It is the right of your mother that you should appreciate that she carried you as nobody carries anyone, fed you the fruits of her heart which nobody feeds anyone, protected you [during the pregnancy] with her ears, eyes, hands, legs, hairs, limbs [in short] with her whole being, gladly, cheerfully and carefully; suffering patiently all the worries, pain, difficulties and sorrows till the hand of God removed you from her and brought you into this world.

“Then she was most happy feeding you, forgetting her own hunger; clothing you, even if she herself had no clothes; giving you milk and water, not caring for her own thirst; keeping you in the shade, even if she had to suffer from the heat of the sun; giving you ever comfort with her own hardships; lulling you to sleep while keeping herself awake…” Allah joins parents’ obedience to His worship and thankfulness in three places in the Qur’an, implying that if a servant was obedient and thankful to Allah, but did not do good to his parents, Allah would not accept His worship from that servant. Allah says in the Qur’an:

And worship Allah and join not any partner with Him ad do good to the parents…(4:36)

And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents… (17:23)

Be thankful to Me and to your parents… (31:14)

It will not be out of place to mention that in Islam the rights of the mother are greater than the rights of the father. But the scope of time prevents me from going into further details. Then the Risalah has laid down the neighbours’ rights on each other. Here too the minimum rights have been given as follows:

“It is the right of your neighbour to safeguard [his interest] in his absence, and respect him in his presence, and to help and assist him in both situations. Do not look for his [hidden] shame and do not dig into his affairs to know his disgrace. And if you come to know it inadvertently without looking for it, then you should become an impregnable castle to [hide] what you have learned and a thick cover for it, so much so that if spears penetrated into your heart to detect it, they could not touch it. Do not eavesdrop on him when he is not on guard. Do not leave him in hardship and do not envy him in his comfort. Forgive his faults and forgo his slips. And if he behaves with you disgracefully you should not forget your forbearance, but deal with him peacefully. Be his shield against the tongue of abuse and protect him from the treachery of those who pose as sincere to him [but are not]. And live with him a graceful life.”

And the highest standard of the neighbour’s rights is shown in a tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w.) who has said: “Gabriel kept advising me to be generous to the neighbour, until I thought that probably Allah would prescribe for him a share in inheritance.”

The Risalah says about wealth: “It is the right of the wealth that you should not obtain it except by lawful means, and do not spend it but in lawful ways. And, when the wealth is from Allah [as all wealth is] do not use it but to [reach] Allah and to make it a way of Allah…”

This is the minimum which, if neglected, would put man in perdition. Its high point is reached when man sacrifices his own needs for the sake of others, gives preference to others even when he himself is in need of it. Allah says in the Qur’an: “and they prefer others over themselves even though poverty be their portion.” (59:9)

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About the author

He was born in 1957 in a family of ‘ulamã’ in Bihar, India. He comes from a region in Bihar (Siwan District, previously known as Saran) that has produced well-known Shi‘a scholars in the Indian sub-continent. Migrated to Africa with his parents where he received elementary education in English medium school. After that for two years, he studied Arabic and Farsi with his respected father and two other ‘alims in Dar-Es-salaam, Tanzania.

In 1972, at the age of fifteen, he went to the Hawza-e ‘Ilmiya-e Qum, Iran. During his ten years stay in Qum, he studied with various teachers; and moved from the levels of muqaddimãt to sutûh (equal to graduate level in secular universities) and, finally, attended the dars-e kharij (ijtihad lectures equal to post-graduate studies) of Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaikh Wahid Khurãsãni.

In 1982, he returned to India where he stayed at Gopalpur for about a year.

In June 1983, at the invitation of the Shia Muslim Community of British Columbia, he and his wife moved to Vancouver where he stayed till June 1991 and served Shi‘a Islam through his lectures, writings, and teachings. Based on his publications and educational background, in September 1987, the Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) admitted him in the post-graduate program at Masters’ level. This was even though he had no formal degree nor was he asked to sit for any exams. In 1990 he completed his thesis; and after successfully defending the thesis, was awarded the Master of Arts degree in History in 1991.

In July 1991, he moved to Toronto and till 1996 worked as the Director of Islamic Education & Information Center providing a variety of religious services to Shi‘as in North America. During this time, he was also involved in the founding of the As-Sadiq Islamic School, a full time Islamic school from KG to Grade 8 levels. Since July 1996, he has accepted the responsibilities of the Imam-e Jum‘a and Resident ‘Ãlim of the Jaffari Islamic Center / Jaffari Community Center.

He has traveled to most cities in Canada and U.S.A.; as well as to Australia, Guyana, Trinidad, United Kingdom, Dubai, Pakistan, Tanzania and Kenya for lectures.

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