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The series of divine messengership that commenced from Hazrat Adam (a.s.) till the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (s.a.w.a.), was completed on the 28th Safar, 11 A.H. Thereafter, the chain of prophethood was replaced with that of Imamat that was openly announced in Ghadeer-e-Khumm. Where the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) handed over the Islamic Ummah to Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.), marking the commencement of a new chain of guidance in Islam. This new series traversed eleven stages till it reached Imam-e-Asr Hazrat Hujjat Ibn al-Hasan al-Askari (a.t.f.s.) who was born on 15th Shabaan, 256 A.H. At the age of four, he lost his noble father, after which he went into occultation on divine command. Now, he was in touch with only a few of his reliable, special deputies who conveyed his messages and orders to his followers and the responsibility of guidance continued through these esteemed personalities. This chain of special deputyship continued till the year 329 A.H. during which there were four special representatives who were famous as “Nawwaab-e-Arb’a” and this period became famous as the era of Minor Occultation. After 329 A.H. a new form of occultation started that became known as the Major Occultation in which Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) announced the termination of special deputyship. Now the heavy responsibility of Islamic laws and injunctions rested on the religious jurists and scholars who will acquire the laws with their efforts and hard work and inform the Shias. The latter, in turn, by acting on these edicts and orders will express their love and obedience towards us.
During the major occultation, the apparent and general possibility of a direct meeting with Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) came to an end, but the fulfillment of Islamic obligations and duties continued. Just as, after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), prophethood was terminated, but the medium of acquiring the religious laws viz. the Holy Quran and the Ahle-Bait (a.s) remained. This was so to enable the Muslims could gain access to the knowledge of the divine laws through them and act on them. Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) has ordered that during the occultation, the duty of the scholars and jurists is that they try to make the people aware of the laws of Islamic Shariah. The period of major occultation is not of frivolity and uselessness. In fact, it augments our religious responsibilities, because when the Imams (a.s.) were present, they bore the entire burden of divine answerability. At least psychologically, the Shias did not feel much of a load. But during his occultation, it is our duty to see to it that his religion remains safe and to express our love for him by performing our religious obligations. The scholars and jurists have explicitly stated that “Awaiting” does not imply idleness and despair and that everyone should wait for that time when the world is fraught with oppression and tyranny and Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.) arrives to cleanse it and fill it with justice and equality. Such a view stinks of ignorance and absolutely against Islam because Islam is not a religion of despair and inactivity. Awaiting implies that a person strives to protect Islam during the period of occultation and sees to it that his efforts don’t go in vain. When our attempts and endeavor begin bearing fruits, only then will somebody emerge from the veil of occultation to announce his revolution and ensure complete security for Allah’s religion. The opinion of some that during the major occultation we should wait for the world to be replete with oppression and tyranny and even pray for the same so that Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.) reappears is absolutely wrong and meaningless. For, Islam demands the performance of duties and does not tolerate indifference in face of oppression and injustice. It is our duty that we refer to the learned scholars and be attached to them because they are well informed of religious laws and are the interpreters of Imam-e-Zamana (a.s.)’s likes and dislikes. Only through them can we know the Islamic injunctions, thereby paving the way for performing our duties. This action is called as Taqleed (imitation).
The truth is that Taqleed is an open invitation to adhere to divine orders as opposed to uncontrolled freedom and one’s own opinions. Therefore, in every era, some learned people, under the banner of intelligence, have opposed Taqleed. Especially today one group has raised its head who considers isolating the people from their religious scholars and jurists as their holy responsibility. Their objection is that Taqleed was not existent in early Islam. The question that arises is that what is the essence of Taqleed? What does it imply? If Taqleed means that the ignorant rely on the learned to acquire the knowledge of Islamic laws on the basis of Quran and traditions in order to act on them, then this practice has been followed at all times. And will continue to be so till the world is divided in two- the learned and the ignorant who do not possess the capability to derive the laws from Quran and traditions. And if Taqleed means something else, then it is neither connected with Islam nor has any Mujtahid ordered its practice. The second objection is that Taqleed has no base, either in the principles (usul) of religion or its fundamentals (furu’). Hence, it can only be deemed as an innovation (bid’at) in Islam. Unfortunately, these uninformed people are not even aware of the status of Taqleed in Islam. Taqleed is not a separate duty that should be enumerated in the fundamentals of religion. Nor is it a distinct creed that should be counted among the principles.
Taqleed is in fact a way to know the fundamentals of religion. That is, if somebody desires to know the method of performing namaz, fast, go for hajj, and pay zakat and intends to discharge all the aforementioned duties according to Allah’s Will and Satisfaction, then there is no other way for him to know these but through the Quran and traditions. He has to shed away all customs, rituals, family practices, etc. in this regard. Now, when he has to execute these obligations in the light of Quran and traditions, there are only two options. One, he himself acquires expertise in the above sciences or to rely on experts in these two fields. If he himself strives and struggles, then his striving will be called as Ijtehaad. And if relies on somebody else to know the intricacies of his obligations, then this practice is called as Taqleed. Taqleed is not a separate and distinct duty or worship like Namaz, fasting, Hajj, etc. Rather, it is a method to give worship its true form. For, if worship is done according to divine satisfaction, then it is worship in every sense of the word. But if somebody performs these according to his own whim and fancy, it will be considered as following the desires of the self and not divine devotion. It is for this very reason that it is a well-known fact among religious circles that worship without Taqleed is null and void. It does not mean that such action does not have any reality. It only implies that these are worth being presented in the presence of the Almighty. Because when these actions will be presented to the Lord saying that we have performed these actions in concordance with Your order, the first query that will be put to him is, ‘How did you know about this order? If you were ignorant about the laws of Quran and traditions and you also did not trust those who were well-versed with them, then it only means that you have acted according to your desire or have imitated your society and environment’. We had not granted any status to your whims and desires in religion nor did We regard the customs and rituals of your society as the Shariah. We had ordered you to acquire the Islamic laws from the Quran and traditions. And if you are not able to do so, then rely on those who can do this work. “Then ask the people of remembrance, if you know not.” This intellectual and religious principle is termed as Taqleed. If somebody simply dislikes the term, then he can do away with the term and use some other word instead. Its essence is that an ignorant relies on a learned scholar and this is an Islamic action. Through it, one can discharge his religious duties according to Allah’s satisfaction. If someone turns away from it, then his claim that his actions are in agreement with divine decree will not hold water. Even if actually his deed may be in agreement because the real matter is not the physical correctness of the action but the intention, contentment and satisfaction underlying it that we are discharging our obligations as per His commands and satisfaction only to gain proximity and nearness to Him. Otherwise, without knowing the satisfaction of Allah, the intention to gain proximity to Him is nothing but wishful imagination. May Allah grant all the learned scholars of this nation to grasp the reality and the fortune to act in concordance with divine satisfaction.
The moot point is that have discharged our obligation and did we resort to Taqleed as method to get acquainted with the divine laws? As far as Indian conditions are concerned, the majority are unaware of even the term Taqleed, and those who are aware have restricted its interpretation to contact with particular individuals on occasions of marriages and divorce. The thought that Taqleed is the name of information of divine laws, is farthest from their minds and that without Taqleed all actions are rendered null and void is beyond them. Today, we perform namaz, fast and perform other good actions under influence from our parents and neighbours. Do such persons really exist among us who refer to the Tauzeehul Masaael, the book of edicts, of some Marja-e-Taqleed before doing any deed and perform our namaz and other actions in the light of their judgements? We remember the A’lam (the most learned jurist) only during controversies, when we intend to grind to dust the view of others and to establish the truth of our opinion. But, if the edict of the A’lam is contrary to our view, then perhaps his knowledge and status is in danger in our estimation!
When we analyse our lives, our condition appears pathetic and horrific. Our ignorance and inaction is truly miserable and wretched. Thanks a million to the Almighty that the memory of Karbala still survives due to which some form of expression in religion does exist. Otherwise, only Allah knows where we would stand? But dear brothers and sisters! Keeping the incident of Karbala in the right perspective, it should be borne in mind that the religion of Islam had been completed during the life of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.). Imam Husain (a.s.) had sacrificed all that he possessed at Karbala only and only for the protection and continuation of this religion. He (a.s.) did not invent a new religion at Karbala. Rather, he saved the religion of Islam which the opponents were hell bent on destroying. Now the question that arises is, ‘What was that religion that existed before Karbala whose devastation Imam Husain (a.s.) could not tolerate and for whose safety, he had to sacrifice his entire household?’ From Da’vat of Dhul Asheerah till the 11 A.H., a glance at Islam reveals the following facets: Divine Unity, Divine Justice, Prophethood, Imamate, Resurrection, Quran, Ka’bah, importance of Namaz, Fasting, Hajj, Zakat, Khums, Jehaad, etc. Yazid, the accursed, intended to destroy these very aspects of religion which Imam Husain (a.s.) saved through his sacrifices. It is our duty to consider these very principles and fundamentals as religion. For the sake of Imam Husain (a.s.), all our thoughts should focus on the protection of these because religion is nothing except them. If we are ignorant of our beliefs, have no relation whatsoever with Quran and kA’bah, and prayers and fasting have no links with our lives, then we are not connected with the religion Imam Husain (a.s.) Saved and which the Holy Prophet (s.a. w.a.) conveyed unto us by treading a path full of thorns.
No doubt, our Majaalis is a great bounty and anybody who raises objections against them or finds faults with them, certainly has some malafide intention concealed behind it. But these Majaalis are not aimless. In fact, they are the best form of religious propagation. If we don’t learn religion from these Majaalis and do not regard them as a means of communicating divine teachings, then we have indeed nullified its aim and will definitely be answerable in the presence of Imam Husain (a.s.) and the other infallible Imams (a.s.) of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). We really feel like crying for our sisters who during the entire Majlis, are either preparing food for the guests or while away their time chatting, thereby depriving themselves of the benefits of this blessed gathering. The same applies for those organisers or audiences who don’t gain anything from these Majaalis. By roaming outside the Majaalis halls, they feel as if they have done their duty and made the souls of the Imams (a.s.) happy. One should bear in mind that lighting the halls and adorning them with flowers is not the way to make the Ma’oomeen (a.s.) Happy They are needless of such things nor have they asked these from us. These are simply our emotions that we express in these ways. The Ma’soomeen (a.s.) have only demanded from us to tread the path of religion and act upon its laws, and unfortunately our negligence for these is on the rise. The greatest tragedy is that one of the main aims of these Majaalis was ‘mourning’ but that too unfortunately is being lost on us. Most of our youth are busy with making new Anjumans, indulging in factionalism and reflecting on better tilting tunes for the elegies. They think that crying in Majaalis is the work cut out for the elderly and that the love of the Ahlebait (a.s.) is only for them. Alas! Those elegies that were said with the sole aim of making people cry, have been sacrificed on the altar of appreciation and praises. In some cities, one can even hear Salawaat during these elegies. Is this the way to express our condolences for Janab-e-Zehra (s.a.)? Or does one mourn for an oppressed martyr in this manner? Even worse and shocking is that if in some city some ignorant practice is initiated, others too imitate blindly instead of criticising and rectifying them. They behave as if it’s a divine command and an order of the Prophet (s.a.)! When we talk about Taqleed of Marja’-e-Taqleed, a hundred questions will crop up and somehow the entire concept seems beyond them. But they do not hesitate at all in imitating the ordinary folks and in fact, their actions are put to use right away.
During the major occultation, our society has distanced itself from religion itself to such an extent that ‘Madness is called as intellect and intellect, madness’. To put it simply, customs and rituals are called as religion and vice-versa. Our ignorance has reached to such depths that a large chunk of our society comprising of the elderly, the youth and the children, are unaware of Sifaat-e-Sabootiyyah and Sifaat-e-Salbiyyah in Tauheed. Concerning divine justice (adl), they are more bothered of their demands being fulfilled, otherwise they don’t hesitate to complain and object against Allah, the Almighty. They do not know anything about Prophethood or its types. They are so uninformed about Imamat that they consider an Imam as a godly person, whose job is only to sit in a corner and worship the Almighty. They think that governing and ruling is not an Imam’s cup of tea. As far as Qiyaamat is concerned, their thoughts do not even tread near it and are absolutely incognisant as to what on earth is going to happen over there? In the field of deeds, the number of worshippers in the mosques is evidence enough for the enthusiasm of worship. Quran’s recitation, memorisation and teaching is as good as nonexistent. Hajj has become the exclusive responsibility of a few believers while the remaining of the populace is only concerned about the augmentation of their bank balances.
Zakaat and Khums have become topics that should not be talked about. Consequently, along with the poor and the Saadaat, even Imam-e-Asr (a. s.) Has become Mazloom (oppressed)! Their rights are being usurped without an iota of hesitation. Nobody even stops to think that what sort of love is this that the right of the beloved is being usurped? Preventing evil is simply out of question because evil itself has become the symbol of nobility. Hence we observe that the more a person possesses the traits of shamelessness, hypocrisy, irreligiousness and heedlessness, the more he is regarded as a greater leader of the community! The condition of our religious schools is extremely pitiable and pathetic. Our community has decided that to go to such schools to acquire education is the exclusivity of orphans and helpless children. As Islam was brought by the “Orphan of Abdullah”, hence its propagation too is the responsibility of the orphans, never mind if this results in the entire community becoming “intellectually orphaned”. It is better not to discuss at all about the state of religious organisations and trusts. Their condition is there for all to see. It’s a totally different issue that all are absolutely indifferent to it. Everybody is only waiting for it to die so that they can unleash a hundred whips on it.
In the present era, when we have lost religious values, and the majority of us are almost completely ignorant about religion, our religious life survives on account of four elements that have withstood the oppression of time. It is due to these four factors that today we are enumerated among the religious people and these are as follows: Majaalis and Mahaafil, Nazr and Niyaaz, Mannat, and Nauha (elegies) and Maatam (breast-beating). But the truth is that our negligence and unworthiness have not permitted the sustenance of their sanctity. To the best of our abilities, we have attempted to besmirch and defame them…Had we not been unworthy, none would have had the courage to raise any objections at our religious ways and practices. But alas! When we wash dirty linen in public by indulging in infighting by the Anjumans on roads and public places and even draw daggers at each other for petty matters in as holy places as Shab Bedaaris, the opponents will definitely get a chance to object at our mode of worship. When they observe the unhealthy competition in our Majaalis and the desperate attempts to make the gatherings of other believers unsuccessful, obviously tongues of mockery will definitely wag. Of course, we don’t have any answer against their objections. The enemy takes support of our weakness and attacks the essence of our religion. He does not care to reflect that Majlis is different from its organiser or an Anjuman is different from the elegy. And why should he think at all? When we being the followers of Husain (a.s.), do not bother to stop and ponder for a while as to what will be the effects of our deeds and acts on the remembrance of Husain (a.s.), then why will others think at all? Their intention is sheer objection, nothing else. With each passing day, our Majaalis are losing their effectiveness.
From every nook and corner, one can hear cries that these Majaalis are of no use and that they should not be organised any more. Of course, this is not true. They are advantageous and will always remain so. The only condition is that they should be conducted with their conditions and not beyond them. Otherwise, we will be solely responsible for all the notoriety and we will be answerable in front of Imam Husain (a.s.). Some clever believers prepare the ground for public opinion by claiming that none has the right to criticise these Majaalis and that this is the sign of Yazeedeeyat. But my dear friends! Truth can never be decided with word play. Public opinion is not divine satisfaction. If raising objection against Majaalis is Yazeedeeyat, then to throw these holy gatherings to the clutches of notoriety is nothing less than Yazeedeeyat, regardless of the slogans of Husainiyyat attached to it. In Nazr and Niyaaz too, customs and rites have replaced sincerity. It is common practice that the niyaaz that is less belongs to Imam (a.s.) And the one which is more, belongs to our deceased relatives. One is forced to assume that the right of Imam (a.s.) Is incidental and that of our relatives, original. In the present generation, another misunderstanding that has cropped up is that the Nazr of Hazrat Zahra (s.a.) Is only for women and that of Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) Is merely for men. Such misplaced rituals display nothing but a lack of recognition of these two outstanding individuals and has got nothing to do with sincerity and reverence. Otherwise, both these illustrious personalities enjoy equal status for believing men as well as women. The question of distinction does not arise nor have they ever categorised their relations, attachments, generosity, and ethics to either men or women. To believe in Hazrat Zahra (s.a.) Is as much the duty of men as it is of women and the same applies for Hazrat Abbas (a. s.). As far as Mannat is concerned, we have fallen to such pits that we are solely interested with our needs and wants. We are quite distant from reality.
There are innumerable instances when the believers have gone to the non-Shias or even non-Muslims to get their desires fulfilled. They do not consider such acts as contradictory to the teachings of Islam. Here, the case of the women is even more pathetic. They are known to be responsible for the survival of religion. Notwithstanding the presence of the Holy Quran and the books of traditions in their house, they, with their children in tow, go to some enemy of Ahle Bait (a.s.) for getting their aims fulfilled! They think that their prayers will be answered in such places, and not through Quran and Hadis, neither from Ahlebait (a.s.) nor the great scholars of Islam. If this is religion, then it is better to be irreligious. If this is the love of Ahlebait (a.s.), Then pray, what is enmity? Ahlebait (a.s.) are not bothered about their names. They are more concerned about the deeds. They feel hurt the most when their aim is being lost or abused. If there exists true love of the Ahlebait (a.s.) in the heart of a person, he will never go at the doorsteps of others, irrespective of the fact whether his child lives or dies, he gets his job or not, his work is done or otherwise, etc. This is the character of the Ahlebait (a.s.) And the true spirit of Shiism. Besides this, everything is ostentation and show-off but not religion. The world of Nauha and Matam is different from all. Throughout the Majlis, they are outside the Imam Bargah. The moment the Majlis comes to an end, they barge in and occupy the entire place. They behave as if they are fully informed of other religious obligations from before and are not in need to learn anything. Just for a few minutes they will display their talents and its sufficient to express their love for the Ahlebait (a.s.). The state of mourning has reached to such pits that in some books of Nauhas it is explicitly mentioned that this Nauha will sound more effective in the tune of such and such song. This too is considered as a part of the love of Ahlebait (a.s.). If someone objects, driving him outside the realm of Islam and religion is not beyond contemplation. Is this the love of Ahlebait (a.s.)? Did Hazrat Zahra (s.a.) ask us of such tunes and such songs?!! Previous problems had yet remained unsolved when a new problem altogether surfaced in the society. That is, to convert Quranic verses and hadis into Nauhas. They way the poets maim the Quranic verses and traditions, its revenge can only be taken by the Ahlebait (a. s.). I cannot speak anything in this regard. It is really unfortunate that even the word Islam has become an elegy (Nauha) and has been contorted and twisted to defame it. Through such Nauhas, Islam is not propagated. On the contrary, it is being defamed and brought to disrepute. How good it would have been had these poets checked their elegies and poems with the Islamic scholars in order to cross-check whether their Nauhas are in violation with the Islamic laws or not? Is our good work being converted into evil, and consequent punishment, due to our ignorance? But the poets think of themselves nothing less than the Islamic jurists that they should go the scholars for the rectification of their poems. And its not their fault either. When every deviated person of the society claims to be a Mujtahid in religion and is hell bent on criticising the religious scholars and tearing apart their personalities, then the poets are considered as “the students of the beneficent”.
The only cure for all these diseases is to increase the awareness for the acquisition of knowledge in the community. They should be made acquainted with religion and brought out from the cave of ignorance. If the above is done, then a scientific life is a logical consequence without much of a struggle and effort. Our community does not lack the passion for action. It lacks the enthusiasm for knowledge. In the field of deeds, this community is far ahead of all other nations of the world. Being awake the entire night, constant participation in Majaalis, crying, mourning, reciting elegies, breast-beating, etc. are actions that make other communities tremble at their very thought. Unfortunately the only lacunae is the correctness of these actions and the performance of other obligatory actions. Otherwise, there does not seem any reason as to why they should not be attentive towards other actions and not strive to act on them. There is only one way to create an environment of knowledge and that is to train as many knowledgeable people as possible and to concentrate on increasing their numbers. Our biggest misfortune is that religious knowledge is no longer a subject of our lives. We neither gain religious knowledge ourselves nor do we encourage those who make an attempt to do so. Please speak the truth. How many of you come forward to help a student of religious sciences in any form whatsoever? Have you ever given it a thought that the wasteful expenditures on fire¬crackers in weddings can be used in a more discerning manner on religious students? The amount of money spent on vermicelli in Eid can be reduced but slightly and be spent on the young seekers of knowledge! The same can be thought vis-à-vis the goats during Eid al-Azhaa, the Koondas of Rajab, the sweets of 15th Sha’baan, etc. If this is done, these young students will be encouraged in their quest for knowledge and even others will think of adopting this path. On occasions of joy and sorrow, we only think of purchasing sweets and reciting Faateha and no other religious duty enters the domain of our thought.
It appears as if religion is entirely based on eating and drinking and our Lord is only satisfied with our sweetmeat. On and off, we do think of the orphanages and orphans. But religious schools are completely beyond us. Therefore, it is but natural that our religion becomes an orphan. Thank the Lord that the inheritor of religion is still alive in occultation otherwise we had left no stone unturned in making our religion helpless and orphan through our actions. The worst follows when a child, despite his indigence and poverty, acquires knowledge at the expense of his parents and gains the status of a religious scholar, the entire shameless community considers him to be its personal property and purchased slave. That is, it is his duty to perform all our obligations and that it is not required from us to fulfill his needs. When I compare the conditions prevalent in India to those in Iran, I see a world of a difference. In the latter, every pilgrim is occupied with the thought of bringing some gifts and souvenirs for the religious students and scholars of his city or village. While in our beloved country, every pilgrim thinks that if he has some relative in the holy cities, he will reside with them and the problem of food and accommodation will be taken care of. They will eat to their stomachs full at his little abode and stay with him without giving a thought to his condition whether he starves or begs thereafter. In Iran, the people will one third of their property for charity and welfare. They make the religious scholars as trustees of such property so that the expenditures of religious education is met without much ado. While in India, people are on the look out for the school building to collapse so that they can usurp its land. I don’t deny that there absolutely no philanthropists in India and there is nothing but total darkness. If it was so, so many religious schools would not be present and thousands of madrasas would not run. The only complaint is that we have still not developed the necessary mental attitude towards religion. It should be the duty of the native of every city and village that he should serve the religious students and scholars alike. This will encourage the new generation to take up religious education. Taking some work from the religious scholar should not be the precondition to reward him in cash or kind. It is necessary to serve him because Islamic matters are related to him and he is responsible for the reformation of our hereafter. It is through him that religion is propagated and it is his personality that inspires others to take up religious education. But alas! In our country, people hesitate to reward a religious scholar even after taking some work from him, so rewarding him without any work is out of question. We are willing to pay hundreds of rupees to a doctor for consultation although the liability involved is only a single physical life. On the contrary, when an Aalim recites a Nikaah, then if the person involved belongs to a very affluent family, he will compensate with a very big thank you, and if he belongs to a middle class family, he will be very glad to pay him fifty or hundred rupees. Notwithstanding the fact that the validity of this Nikaah involves the legality of an entire generation. We even go to the extent of thinking that if there is no religious scholar available, then we ourselves will recite the Nikaah from the Tohfatul Awaam without bothering that we are making one entire generation illegitimate. Let us save a few pennies regardless of the fate of an entire generation. This pain is felt neither the parties involved in the Nikaah nor those shameless people who proceed with the recitation of the Nikaah without knowing its literal nuances. They just open the book and recite the Nikaah as if they are reciting the Dua of Aqeeqah.
Remember, our duties during the major occultation are very severe. One day, we will be answerable and accountable to the one who is hiding behind the veil of occultation. If our condition continues to remain the same, and the same indifference prevails in our society, it will be very difficult for us to answer our Imam (a.s.). He is evaluating our deeds even today and is observing how much attention we are paying to our religious obligations and how well related and connected we are to our religion. It is very easy to ask the relation between religion and paying money to religious students and scholars who can survive by consuming air and swallowing anger. But it will indeed be very difficult for us to answer that Imam (a.s.) Who has kept his share (Khums) in every wealth only for this reason that religion be propagated and more and more religious students and scholars are trained. We pray to the Almighty Allah to grant us the taufeeq to do good and perform charity for the sake of Hazrat Baqiyatullah (may Allah hasten his reappearance). May He grant us the grace to understand religion correctly and act on its dictates and commands. Peace be on the one who follows guidance