Author Archive

The narration of Imam Ali (as) supposedly wanting to marry Abu Jahl’s daughter

Friday, December 28th, 2018
  1. From the book: Ilal Sharai by Shaykh Sadooq, Vol.1, Chapter on why Sayyida Fatimah (a) was buried at night, Hadith 2, page 185-189:

“A man comes to Imam Ja’far (as) asking why Sayyida Fatima (as) was buried at night, and Imam Ja’far (as) himself opts to tell him the entire story. This shows how absurd it is to say that this a part of history we’d not like to talk about, since it gets no where near harming the status of any of the Infallibles (as).

Imam Ja’far tells the man that once a liar came to Sayyida Fatimah (a) and gossiped and lied to her about Imam Ali (a) marrying Abu Jahl’s daughter. Sayyida Fatimah (a) would not believe him and repeatedly asked him if he was saying the truth, and he kept saying he did. So then she took Imam Hasan عليه السلام, Imam Hussain (a) and her daughter Kulthoom (a) with her and went to the Prophet (pbuh) where he was praying.

She was worried and troubled. So the Prophet (pbuh) took Fatima (a) with him to where Ali (a) was and asked Ali (a) to call Talha, Abu Bakr and Umar and reminded them all that whoever hurts his daughter, hurts him and whoever hurts him, hurts Allah.

The Prophet (pbuh) then asked him why Ali (a) had did what he did, and Imam Ali (a) replied that the news which has reached Fatima (a) is wrong and he can not even contemplate of such a thing.

The Prophet (pbuh) said Ali (a) has spoken the truth (which shows he already knew, and it wasn’t really Imam Ali (a) standing in some kind of a court, being questioned, as some people like to portray it as!!), and Fatima (a) smiled so broadly that her teeth were shown! Umar and Abu Bakr secretly said to each other after this event that they were puzzled at why they were called there.

Imam Ja’far then goes on to tell the man about the after-events of the Prophet’s (pbuh) death; of Fatima (a) refusing to talk to them. He tells the man that at one point she reminded both Abu Bakr and Umar of this incident where the Prophet (pbuh) explicitly said whoever hurts her, hurts him and whoever hurts him, hurts Allah so that people can bear witness that they were present when this was said to them.”

Nowhere in the hadith is it said that Fatima (a) believed in what the man said. She was saddened and worried by what she had been informed of – yes. But it wasn’t because she believed the Imam had proposed to Abu Jahl’s daughter. It was because her husband, the future Caliph and Imam of the Muslims had really ugly rumors flying around about him! Isn’t it completely normal for a woman to get worried when someone spreads lies about her husband?

Also, Abu Bakr and Umar were completely right to be puzzled about being called in the middle of the night for something that was between Ali and Fatima. But it wasn’t something that was between Ali and Fatima! The Prophet (pbuh) wanted to make use of the opportunity (of a sad and worried Fatima (a) ) to send a message to them both of the consequences of hurting her. It’s funny how people use this story in a way completely opposite to what it is meant for.

Experience of God

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

The Cambridge Dictionary defines experience as “(the process of getting) knowledge or skill which is obtained from doing, seeing or feeling things”. All of our experience in life comes from our five senses and as such this definition follows. However, the experience of God is very much dissimilar to our every day experience, especially as God (at least the one understood in classical theism) cannot be experienced through any of our senses but one. That sense, of course, is the sense of feeling. What makes this even more complex is that what one person feels cannot even be explained, at times, to another; let alone felt by someone else.

If we look through the history of Islam, we find many examples of Prophet Muhammad and his holy family explained not only the existence of God but the experience of God as well. One of the most famous Islamic leaders and the son in law of Prophet Muhammad, Ali ibn Abi Talib was once asked as to how he believed in a God he could not see. He replied saying that he did indeed see his creator, but not by the limited eyes on his face but the illuminating eyes of his heart. In this way, he explained that the experience of God is not a physical, limited one; it is a transcendent existence which requires an experience befitting that.

The Islamic theology (Ilm-ul-Kalaam) dictates that a God which can be understood by the human mind cannot be the God that has power over all things. It does not befit the creator to be limited by the understanding of his creation. This does not however mean that there can be no experience of God, for in Hadith Qudsi (the conversation of Allah with Prophet Muhammad on his journey to the heavens – Mi’raj), the creator himself calls out, “I was a hidden treasure and wished to be recognised”. Perhaps as an explanation for this apparently mystical statement, Ali ibn Abi Talib exhorts people coming towards God by saying “He who has recognised his soul, has recognised the one who sustains him [and the billions of others, regardless of their beliefs].” By recognising one’s soul, by perfecting the meaning of being a good human being and acting with compassion towards others solely for the pleasure of God is the way that one comes closer to the recognition and experience of God.

Returning to the discussion of how God is experienced, once a man was arguing that anything that exists must be seen, and seeing as God exists, it must be possible to see him. At that moment, a man by the name of Bahlool, who was a companion of Imam Ja’far as Sadiq (702-765), the sixth successor to Prophet Muhammad, but used to act as if he was insane, threw a brick at the man. The man started screaming in pain, to which Bahlool asked him to show the pain. The man cried out to Bahlool calling him a madman who did not even know that pain could not be seen. Bahlool retorted that it was he who was claiming that anything that exists must be seen. Through knowledge and understanding, as well as being of sharp mind, Bahlool was able to explain in very simple terms what appears to be a complex theological issue.

Now when one comes to a very personal experience of God, one relies on the various ups and downs throughout life, and once the belief that whatever God does is for a reason and that may well have some long term benefit for us, is strong, then regardless of what happens in life, one remains contented with his situation. Similarly, just a cursory look at the world around us, and one can only marvel at the creation and sustaining of God who, quite literally, makes the world go around. The creator who made sure that every single thing needed by human beings – air, food, water – everything, was already provided by God before even the creation of the first human being, and that he continually provides and sustains both believers and disbelievers, those who thank him and those who reject his existence, yet he provides to them all, and that to me, is the biggest experience of the mercy of God.

You may well be wondering that the discussion so far has been very much a philosophical one, with no discussion at all about the ritual aspects of religion, such as prayer and fasting, through which most people would claim to experience God. I had intentionally left them out because the experience of God comes from an increase in knowledge and understanding, which is reflected in the ritual worship, but more importantly, reflected, in the day to day life with one’s behaviour towards fellow human beings.


18th July 2007

Respecting and honouring Sadaat

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

The love of Ahlulbayt (as) and respect for their progeny, the Sadaat, is an obligation upon all Muslims. Allah states in the Quran:

قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ ۗ

In this waqf, Imam Ali (as) mentions three categories of Sadaat: Quraysh, Bani Abdul Muttalib and Bani Fatimah, and he has allocated a share for people in each of these categories.

This shows us:

By mentioning Bani Fatimah separately, Imam Ali has shown that even though, Quraysh and Bani Abdul Muttalib are amongst the Sadaat, the Bani Fatimah have a distinction even amongst the rest of the Sadaat.
As for the importance of Quraysh, there are many narrations on this topic and many books have also been written. In order to demonstrate their importance, we have selected one narration.

Imam Hakim Nayshapuri, in his famous “Mustadrak ‘ala Sahihayn” mentions a narration from well-known companion of the Prophet, Fakhitah bint Abi Talib, the sister of Imam Ali (as) famously known as Umm Hani.
Other notable scholars, such Ibn Katheer, have also mentioned this narration in their books.

The narration is as follows:
Quraysh have been given seven favours which make them distinct over everything else in creation because nobody else has been given these distinctions:
1. I am from them
2. Prophecy is from them
3. The upkeep of the house of Allah is within them
4. Feeding the pilgrims of the house of Allah is their responsibility.
5. Allah made them victorious over Ashaab ul Feel (the people of the elephant)
6. They worshipped Allah ten years before anybody else worshipped
7. Allah revealed a surah in their praise (Surah Quraysh)

Then the Prophet (saw) recited the surah.
According to historical evidence, linguistic sources and narrations of the Prophet (saw), the translation of the surah is as follows:
“In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful
It is an obligation on (the four brothers from the tribe) of Quraysh, who have been blessed in the summer and the winter to obey the God of the house (Ka’ba).
It is the God of the house of who has blessed you and kept you away from hunger by blessing you with enough sustenance, and he kept you away from fighting by blessing you with peace.”

It is apparent from the aforementioned narration that:
All the ancestors of the Prophet (saw) all the way up to Ismail (as) were all believers in one God and they did not serve or worship anyone other than Him.

Tarikh al-Khamis states that Qusayy and Mughirah (who was famous by his epithet Abdul Munaf) were both such leaders of Quraysh who were successful in bringing all the different factions together and making them united.

It is also mentioned that their statements had been written on stone and placed in different places in the city. One of those artefacts was seen by the author of Tarikh al-Khamis himself who notes that it stated:
“This is Mughirah the son of Qusayy. I advise you to be conscious of your duty to Allah”.
This shows that the tribe of Quraysh were well known for their guidance, care for other humans and excellent conduct. Therefore, Allah chose this tribe for the most exemplary guide in the form of Muhammad Mustafa (saw) and his holy progeny.
In addition, displaying respect and honour to the Prophet (saw) and his holy progeny (as) is a way of seeking reward and great status for the people.
It is apparent from the narration quoted above that:
The importance of “Mawaddat fil-qurba” (ref Quran 42:23) in the religion of Islam and the words of the Holy Prophet (saw) regarding respecting his holy progeny is an important obligation upon all Muslims.

This is because the Sadaat who are the progeny of the Holy Prophet (saw) have in every time and place made huge sacrifices in order to safeguard and protect the sanctity of the religion of Islam. These cannot be repaid even if all humans were to come together and try to do so.

It is due to these services that Allah ordained the Holy Prophet (saw) and his holy progeny (as) within this tribe. There is a special place for Quraysh and in particular, Bani Hashim, amongst all the humans.

The way of the Quraysh and Bani Hashim which made them unique and people respecting them is due to their living according to the following adage:
“The leader of the community is their servant”
For this reason, the leadership of the Quraysh was not passed down through hereditary order but rather the person who used to serve the people the most was chosen as the leader.

Therefore, Imam Ali (as) has stated in this waqf that all the income must be spent:
– In the way of Allah
– Solely for the pleasure of Allah
And must be spent on:
– Bani Hashim
– Bani Abdul Muttalib
– Progeny of my children (i.e. Muhammad Hanafiyyah etc)
– Progeny of Fatima (as)

By mentioning the sons of Fatima (as) separately from his own sons, Imam Ali (as) has confirmed their superiority over everyone else, and there are numerous narrations on this particular topic which confirm this.

Therefore, the ulama as well as the believers of the past have always respected the Sadaat and considered this respect to be an honour for them as well from their own selves.

In this short tract, we only want to focus on the fact that Imam Ali’s (as) words in this waqf are legal and jurisprudential evidence for the respect of Sadaat. We would also like to take this opportunity to rectify a common mistake regarding Hazrat Aqeel (as), the elder brother of Imam Ali (as).

It is commonly stated that on one occasion, Hazrat Aqeel (as) approached Imam Ali (as) and asked for an increase in his monthly stipend which he received from the public treasury. It is further stated that Imam Ali (as) placed an iron bar in the fire and then brought it close to Hazrat Aqeel (as) to remind him of the punishment that awaits, and as a result, Hazrat Aqeel (as) withdrew his request.
In our studies and analysis of the waqf and in light of that, we consider such behaviour to be beyond Imam Ali (as) and the family of the Prophet (saw). It is important to note that Hazrat Aqeel (as) was:
– The elder brother of Imam Ali (as)
– An elder statesman of the Bani Hashim and Bani Abdul Muttalib
– One of the scholars of Makkah
– An expert in jurisprudence
– A poet and literary expert
– First rate orator and quick witted
– A respected companion of the Holy Prophet (saw) and one of his earliest supporters
– A brave warrior in defence of Islam
– Beloved of the Holy Prophet (saw)
– Respectable member of the Muslim community
He was an active member of the community who always rose for its defence wherever necessary.
His Kunyah was Abu Yazeed. His father was Abu Talib (as) and mother Fatima bint Asad (as). He was twenty years senior to Imam Ali (as). Therefore he was a thorn in the eye of the enemy.
He made public his commitment to Islam prior to Hudabiyya and then migrated from Makkah to Madinah to join the Holy Prophet (saw). He became injured in the battle of Moo’tah and therefore was unable to participate in any of the subsequent battles.
The Holy Prophet (saw) had allocated 40 wasaq of grain annually from Khaybar for him and his family. This was due to his closeness to the Holy Prophet (saw) as well as his service for the religion of Islam.
The Holy Prophet (saw) said about him:
I love you for two reasons: firstly because of our close relationship and secondly because Abu Talib (as) used to love you.
This is because Abu Talib (as) used to say,
“Take everything and everyone away from me but not Aqeel”
This hadith of the Prophet (saw) emphasises not only the status of Aqeel (as) but also of all Sadaat generally. This is because Imam Ali (as) never allowed anyone from the community or outside to ask for help but would rather proactively go and help all those in need. Bearing this in mind how is it possible that Hazrat Aqeel (as) – who was Imam Ali’s (as) own brother – would be in need and Imam Ali (as) did not help him? Then when he does ask for help to receive such a harsh response?
On the other hand,  the alleged incident is from the time when Imam Ali (as) was in control of the apparent caliphate in Kufa, and Hazrat Aqeel (as) was from amongst those injured in the battle of Hunayn and therefore was receiving full help from the public treasury already due to the severity of his injuries and incapability to work.
How is it then possible that Imam Ali (as) could treat someone in this way, bearing in mind a handicapped person, elder statesman, beloved to the Holy Prophet (saw) who also happens to be his elder brother?
Thirdly, Imam Ali (as) had already allocated vast tracts of land to Hazrat Aqeel (as) which originally belonged to him in order that he may be able to take care of his family’s expenses.
On top of all of that, it is out of character of Hazrat Aqeel (as) to ask such a question to Imam Ali (as), bearing in mind their family background, training and general character.
Similarly, the justice of Imam Ali (as) was well known and there is no historical record of any person from Bani Hashim or otherwise who made such a request to Imam Ali (as) during his time in office. Therefore it is inconceivable that a friend of justice like Imam Ali (as) could forget about Hazrat Aqeel (as) and be unaware of his troubles, and it is also inconceivable that a great man like Hazrat Aqeel (as) would put his own brother Imam Ali (as) in a difficult situation by making an unreasonable demand.
Therefore we mention the incident that has caused the confusion in order to provide clarity on this matter from the famous Ahlus Sunnah scholar, Ibn Athir, in his book Usud ul Ghabah:

It is mentioned that on one occasion, Hazrat Aqeel (as) was in debt (probably due to some business transaction) and therefore he came to visit Imam Ali (as) in Kufa.
When he arrived in Kufa, Imam Ali (as) instructed Imam Hasan (as) to welcome and provide Hazrat Aqeel (as) with the necessary hospitality. In the evening, Imam Ali (as) invited Hazrat Aqeel (as) for a meal, where the food was very plain. When he saw this, Hazrat Aqeel (as) was very surprised. He asked,
“O my brother, do you usually eat in this way or is it just because I came (and in my respect)?”
Imam Ali (as) replied that this was his daily habit.
As the conversation continued, Imam Ali (as) asked the reason for his visit to which Hazrat Aqeel (as) replied that he was in debt and needed help.
Imam Ali (as) asked how much help he needed. Hazrat Aqeel (as) replied that he needed 40,000 dirhams.
Imam Ali (as) replied that currently he was empty handed but if he were to be patient there is a transaction which is close to being completed and the profit from it is exactly 40,000 dirhams. Imam Ali (as) said, “As soon as I receive the funds, I will pay off your debt.”
Hazrat Aqeel (as) inquired as to whether his loan could be paid off using funds from the public treasury, saying that he did not wish to be a burden on his brother.
Imam Ali (as) replied saying that he was merely a trustee of the funds in the public treasury and that all Muslims had a right over it. Hazrat Aqeel (as) understood the indication from Imam Ali (as) then asked whether he could go to Muawiya and ask him to pay off the loan. (It is apparent from the nature of the conversation that paying off the debt was a matter of urgency).
Imam Ali (as) knew that the brilliance of Hazrat Aqeel (as) would allow him to get the funds from Muawiya, therefore he gave him permission to go.
When Hazrat Aqeel (as) arrived in Damascus, the following conversation ensued:
Muawiya: O Aba Yazeed! How did you find Ali (as) and his followers?
Aqeel: I found them the best of followers and believers in Muhammad Mustafa (saw), the only difference being that Muhammad (saw) was not amongst them. As for you and your followers, you are exactly like the followers of Abu Sufyan except that Abu Sufyan is not amongst you.
(Since Muawiya knew of Aqeel’s (as) brilliance, when he heard this he was fuming, but he remained silent because he knew that any reply would lead to further disgrace).
The next day, Muawiya organised a throne next to his own and invited a famous jester, Dhahak ibn Qays, to be seated next to him. The purpose of this was twofold, to try and disgrace Hazrat Aqeel (as) and also because Dhahak was considered equal to Hazrat Aqeel (as) to show him up in court.
Now Hazrat Aqeel (as) was called into the court and Muawiya acted as though he did not recognise him. So he turned to Dhahak and asked who this man is. Dhahak himself acutely aware of the brilliance of Aqeel (as), responded,
All praise is to Allah who elevated those who are the foremost in performing good deeds and removed the evil from them.
This is Aqeel, whose father had a great contribution to Bat’ha (Arabian Peninsula). He had a great character and treated us all with great love and respect.
Everyone knows that I, Dhahak, sing the praises of the rulers and kings however Aqeel is a plain-speaking, brave individual. He does not shy away from mentioning the faults, oppression and bad characteristics of the rulers even on their face.
(When Muawiya saw this behaviour of Dhahak, he realised that his plan of disgracing Hazrat Aqeel (as) in court had failed. Therefore he considered it a way out to offer rewards and gifts to Hazrat Aqeel (as) so that he would swiftly leave the court, otherwise if Hazrat Aqeel (as) was to mention the oppression of Muawiya in the court, the people of Damascus might turn against Muawiya).
Muawiya gave an order to give Aqeel (as) 50,000 dirhams and then bid him farewell.
In short, the enemies of Islam left no stone unturned in order to reduce the importance and respect of the Holy Prophet (saw), his holy progeny and amongst them the Sadaat. These efforts are not restricted just to the past but also continue up to the modern day.

Therefore it is the responsibility of the Muslims to make sure they emphasise the importance of the Sadaat and their respect. They should do this by mentioning the favours of Sadaat on the Muslim community in general. This would require a deep study of the historical sources and then to present them to the people so that they realise the extent of the favours of the Sadaat and the respect they rightly deserve.
In doing so, Muslims and human beings at large will be able to:
• Easily recognise the Holy Prophet (saw) and his Ahlulbayt (as)
• The greatness of these personalities will be realised
• The value of these personalities will be etched into their minds
• Love and affection of these personalities will reach their hearts

By way of a gift, we leave our readers with two narrations to reflect over, which show the greatness of Sadaat and the extent of oppression done against them:
Narrated by Al-Hakim Aba Ahmad Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Anmati an-Nishaboori:

“When Mansour was constructing buildings in Baghdad, he diligently searched for the Alawids.

Whenever Mansour caught one of them, he would place that person inside the empty pillars and cover them with bricks and plaster.

Once he captured a handsome young fellow with black hair from the descendants of God’s Prophet (ﷺ).

He handed him over to the builder, and ordered that he should be placed inside the pillar and covered with bricks and plaster.

Mansour appointed one he trusted to oversee this.The builder put that young man inside the pillar.

However, he felt sorry for him and left a hole for him to breathe from.

He told him, “Do not worry. Wait and I will come to save you tonight.”

When the night fell, the builder freed that young man from the pillar and said, “Be careful not to risk my life and the lives of my workers. Hide yourself. The reason that I saved you in this dark night is that I was afraid that if I leave you in that pillar, your grandfather, God’s Prophet (ﷺ) might become my enemy at the threshold of God on the Resurrection Day.”

He then used one of his tools to cut some of that young man’s hair and said, “Hide yourself. Do not go back to see your mother.”

The young man said, “Fine. Inform my mother about my being saved and my escape so that she gets less upset and cries less. Tell her that I cannot return to her.”

The young man escaped and it never became clear where he went.

The builder said, “The young man gave me the address of his mother and something as a sign of him. I went there. I heard someone cry like the sound of bees. I realized that it was his mother who was crying. I went to see her, told her what had happened and gave her the hair. Then I returned home.”

Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha, Volume 1, Page 101, Hadith 2

Narrated by Abdullah al-Gharawi:

“I visited Al-Fadhl ibn al-Rabee’ while he was sitting on the roof of his house. He told me, ’Come closer to me.’

I went closer to him to the extent that I stood beside him.”

Then he told me, ‘Overlook into the house.’

Then he asked, ‘What can you see in the house?’

I replied ‘I see a garment (thrown on the ground).’

He said, ‘Take a better look!’

Then I took a better look and said, ‘I see a man prostrating in prayer.’

He asked, ‘Can you recognize the man?’

I said, ‘No, I can’t.’

He said, ‘That is your master.’

I said, ’Which master?’

He said, ‘Are you pretending you don’t know?’

I said, ‘I am not pretending, but I do not know that I have a master.’

He said, ‘That is Abul Hassan Musa ibn Ja’far. I watch him day and night. I never found him in any state other than what I will tell you. He says the morning prayers. Then he says the supplications after the prayer for sometime until sunrise. Then he falls to prostration and remains prostrating until the sun comes near to descending (from its midday zenith). He has ordered someone to inform him about the sun’s coming near to descending. I do not know when they tell him that the sun has come near to descending. However, he suddenly stands up and begins to say his prayers without renewing his ritual ablutions.

So I can tell that he does not go to sleep during the period of his prostration nor does he slumber. He continues to pray until he finishes saying the afternoon prayers. When he finishes saying his afternoon prayer, he falls into prostration.

Then he stays in the state of prostration until sunset.

When the sun sets, he raises his head and says the evening prayers without renewing his ablutions. He continues to pray and says the supplications after the prayer until he finishes saying his night prayers. When he finishes saying his night prayers, he breaks his fast by eating some roasted meat which they bring for him.

Then he renews the ritual ablution and falls into prostration. Then he raises his head and sleeps for a short time.
Then he gets up and renews his ritual ablutions and stands up to pray in the middle of the night until dawn. I do not know when they inform him that the dawn has come, but I see that he suddenly stands up and says the morning prayers.

This has been his behavior since he has been handed over to me.’

I said, ‘Fear God! Do not do what would result in the termination of blessings. You know well that the blessings given to anyone who does any evil deeds to any member of this Household will be taken away from him.’

The guard replied, ‘They sent for me several times and ordered me to kill him, but I did not accept this and informed them that I would not do that. I would not do that even if they kill me.

After some time, the Imam was turned over to Al-Fadhl ibn Yahya Al-Barmaki who imprisoned him for a few days. For three days and nights Al-Fadhl ibn al-Rabee’ brought him food.

But on the fourth night they brought him food from Al-Fadhl ibn Yahya.

Then he (the Imam) raised his hands towards the sky and said, ‘O Lord! You know best that if I had eaten this before the day, I would have assisted my murderer myself.’

Then he, Abul Hassan Musa ibn Ja’far, ate it and fell ill. They brought a doctor for him the following morning. He showed the doctor the bruise that had developed on his hand which was the effect of the poison that had gathered in that location which they had fed him.

The doctor faced them and said, ‘By God! He knows best what you have done to him.’ Then the Imam passed away.”

Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha, Volume 1, Page 97-98, Hadith 10

Syed Zafar Abbas Naquvi

1st Shahr Ramadhan 1438

27th June 2017

This article is part of a booklet on the Awqaaf of Imam Ali (as) written by Talat Syeda Jafri and translated by the author which is soon to be published.

London has a new mayor

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

5th May 2016. A historic day.

For the first time in British political history, a Pakistani Muslim has been elected the mayor of London. That in itself would have been an achievement in its own right, but to do it in the face of such an acrimonious campaign has been truly remarkable.

Being a student of politics leads to one become cynical of everything and therefore Sadiq Khan is no exception. His four years in office, I predict, will be nothing too remarkable, however, the victory was important.

The Conservatives, led by Lynton Crosby who now vigorously denies any involvement, led a campaign which was more reminiscent of the events leading up to the 1857 mutiny in India rather than a 21st century election campaign in multicultural London. Although it remains unclear as to how much Zac himself was personally involved, the fact that he was the candidate, the buck will stop with him for attempting to divide Londoners down ethnic and religious lines.

What is most interesting is the condemning of the campaign by some Tories after the election results have come out. I wonder if they had said the same things had Zac been elected as mayor, and had the race been much closer as was expected?

In any case, I have never voted Labour at any of the last three general elections since I have earned the right to vote, however, as a matter of pride I voted for Sadiq Khan as my first preference on Thursday and am glad that Londoners overwhelmingly made a similar choice too.

Whatever happens over the next four years and how successful Sadiq is in implementing his policies remains to be seen, however for the time being, Londoners have shown that colonial divide and rule tactics well and truly belong in the dustbin of history.

Abuse in the community: nurture or nature?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

The continuous reports of gangs being discovered up and down the country has left the Muslim community in general, and the Pakistani community in particular, in such a state of shock that it will take a while to find words which can adequately explain what has happened.

While it is a truism that only a rapist is responsible for carrying out the disgusting act, people do not act in a vacuum. They are products of the social environment that they live in and are influenced by those around them which forms their mindset. There is no doubt in my mind that the attitude of many first generation immigrants that we were only here in the west for the short term has perpetuated a totally wrong attitude to the second and third generations, many of whom do not identify with any other country other than the western one they were born and have grown up in. Since the early generations only identified with their country and culture of origin, this led to an identity crisis – shunned by the elders for not being traditional enough yet still seen as outsiders due to the colour of their skin.

Just as we were grappling through the racialist and ethnic identity issues, and just about getting over them, enter Osama bin Laden and 9/11 which changed the lives of Muslims in the West forever. Now it was no longer just about whether you looked like you were from Pakistan, but if you looked Muslim. The debate had shifted from the racial to the religious. Bali Bombings, 7/7 and all that followed just served to strengthen this agenda.

This might be the clue into now in the media when the issue of rape gangs comes up, not only is their ethnic identity – mainly Pakistan the media would have us believe – but also their religion – Islam – also comes under fire. Law abiding Pakistanis and Muslims are now expected to apologise for crimes they did not commit and evils that they have no relationship with. The terms of the debate have changed, we are told, and this is what we have to do. Conversely, when it is discovered that people of other races and even those who walk the corridors of power are involved in similarly depraved acts, there is no mention of either race or religion. However I digress.

Back to the issue of abuse and the questions nobody is asking. Yes those carrying out rapes are abhorrent and must be punished severely; yes the victims are never to blame; and yes some people’s attitude in court has been downright disgusting; but questions must be asked.

The first and most important question that must be asked is why there are so many vulnerable young women in society that become easy prey for such disgusting people. Surely this raises questions about the role of the family, the council, the social services as well as the government as a whole – an uncomfortable question that nobody really has any answer to.

The second question is with regards to the mentality that these young men have. Where did they get it from? Who is preaching this kind of nonsense? Why has this become acceptable? If this attitude is being preached from the pulpits and/or in the home, then we need to get to the root cause of where it is coming from and destroy its roots. If young men genuinely believe that by doing something which is not only illegal but ethically and morally depraved, they have done nothing wrong then we need to get into their minds and find out why.

Coming back to the issue of vulnerable young women, it is very clear that the current model of society has failed spectacularly. We live in a disjointed world where the paradox is that while we are increasingly connected to each other, we are also more and more distant. It is commonplace to be having conference calls with one participant in Australia, another in the UK and a third in the US, while members of a household living under one roof do not even see each other for days let alone know what the other is doing.

Human beings are social animals, and for all the emphasis on individualism, still have a need of belonging. When individuals do not receive it from the family, they go to seek it elsewhere. Those coming from broken homes especially so and young men take advantage of this situation with the result in front of us.

It is imperative to consign the nonsense of individualism to the dustbin of history by placing emphasis on strong family values, beginning with the importance of marriage, building a home, responsibilities of parenthood and rights of children. The religion of Islam, as propagated by the Holy Prophet Muhammad and protected by his holy progeny, has placed emphasis on these very issues. The reason is obvious; without a strong family unit, society will breakdown and vulnerable people will increase. Another reason that is becoming increasingly clear is that where the family unit exists, a strong bond of love and compassion emanates not only between them but towards society as a whole.

Perhaps this is why the religion of Islam has commanded us to follow a family in order to learn our religion and that the Holy Prophet asked for no reward or recompense except the love of his family:
Say, [O Muhammad], “I do not ask you [in return for Islam] for any recompense [but] only love for my nearest kin” (42:23)

The solution therefore to this ongoing crisis is thus twofold. Firstly, we need to return to family unit and strengthen it to try and eliminate the large number of vulnerable people in society, and give them the belonging that they are entitled to; secondly, we need to focus on the realities of life, second and third generation immigrants are here to stay and that means that we have to treat this as our country and invest in the future if we are to survive. None of this will happen overnight, but then Rome was not built in a day. The key is to recognise our ailments and work towards rectifying them as commanded by the Holy Qur’an:
(13:7) “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”

John F. Kennedy International Airport, Jamaica, NY

Freedom to offend…only in some cases

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

By the time you read this, I am sure you will have already read and heard in great detail about the cartoons published by the French satirical paper, Charlie Hebdo, as well the murder of its cartoonists in response.

Let me then begin by congratulating not just the Muslims but all of humanity on the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his holy household, as we are told in the Holy Qur’an:

“We have not sent you except as a mercy to the universe” (21:130)

Therefore, as followers of the Prophet of mercy, we too should be merciful; not only to each other but especially to those who do not yet know the reality of this great individual, who summarised his mission statement into one sentence:

“I have only been sent to perfect the morals of the people”

No doubt then that the actions of those who take the law into their own hands and kill people indiscriminately is inconsistent with the principles of both the Holy Qu’an and the practices of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is interesting to note that nearly all those who carry out terrorist activities in the name of the religion have a very poor understanding of the religious texts that they seek to justify their actions from.

While many Muslims ran apologetic statements all over the media and social media, this was actually the time to stand firm. Why should I be held responsible for actions I will never commit by people I don’t know acting on teaching I don’t recognise? The answer is I shouldn’t. Only those who committed the crime are responsible for their behaviour and no one else.

However, there is a more pressing issue at hand. Soon after the attacks on the cartoonists, a twitter hashtag that translates to “I am Charlie” started to gain momentum and trended for a while. Unfortunately, some Muslims joined the bandwagon too, and all those who did not were seen to be enemies of free speech and indeed of liberal values as a whole.

It is therefore very interesting to find that France has a law criminalising not just Holocaust denial but all kinds of genocide. It is clear that freedom of speech has to be limited by the law where it may cause offence to other people. Thus it is quite ironic for the editors of Charlie Hebdo to say that they will not accept a limit on their freedom of expression when they did exactly that almost six years ago.

It wasn’t just this newspaper, the owner of News Corp went a step further, apologising for offence caused as well dissassociating himself from a cartoonist that worked in one of his newspapers.  The crime of the cartoonist? Making fun of a politician.

Yet less than two years later, the same person comes out with this gem:

Of course, he was totally destroyed for making this ill-thought post but it certainly shows us that while offending the feelings of other communities is frowned upon, Muslims are thought to be fair game. Whereas no one raises the point about freedom of speech when the intent is clearly to offend, it is a different story when it comes to Muslims.

But focusing on all of this is to miss the point. No doubt many Muslims are angry and annoyed at the disrespectful depictions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) as well as the inconsistency in standards when it comes to free speech. However, what is key here is to notice what is happening as a consequence of these attacks. It is always imperative to note what the media is trying to divert us away from by making such stories headline news.

Amongst all the frenzy of what is happening in Paris, most people ignored that over 2000 (yes TWO THOUSAND) people were killed in Nigeria while Takfiris killed people for honouring the Holy Prophet’s birthday in Pakistan, and that the worst offender when it comes to freedom of expression, Saudi Arabia, is not even criticised by world leaders while the Muslim communities in the west are continually demonised for no apparent reason.

No doubt that we are angry at the caricatures made claiming to be Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and so we should be. However, our anger should also be directed towards those who kill in the religion’s name and those who, at best, turn a blind eye towards the global oppression.

In the meantime, this joint statement by Sunni and Shia leaders issued this week serves as the perfect way in which Muslims should respond, just as the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself would have done: calm, compassionate and cool.


Leadership rises to the challenge

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Over the last fortnight, much has been said and written with regards to what is happening in Iraq. The alarmists have been out in abundance predicting the demise of the government, the breakup of the country and even the end of the world.

Perhaps most frustratingly, those who don’t have an iota of knowledge on either Iraq or world affairs are being heralded as “experts” and their diatribes as “analysis”. However, I digress. Something that neither the alarmists nor the so called experts have adequately discussed is the role of leadership, and in particular, Shia leadership.

It is of course no secret that the topic of authority is very important in Islam, and is in many ways the most important topic. The Qur’an speaks of it at great length as well as the Holy Prophet (SAW) throughout his life, emphasising the qualities required in a leader.

The characteristics required are numerous; however, top of the list since the beginning of mankind is the need for knowledge and insight. A leader can be everything; he cannot be ignorant. Thus the school of Ahlul Bayt (AS) stands head and shoulders above every other, believing in Imam after Imam who was not only revered by his friends, but also acknowledged by his enemies as the most knowledgeable in his time. The fact that the governments of the day continually summoned the Imams (AS) to answer their queries is proof enough for the recognition, albeit implicit, that there was no one more in knowledge than them.

It would be then unreasonable for Islam to claim to be a religion for all time if there was not a system of guidance in place during the ghaybat (physical absence) of the Twelfth Imam (AS). It is a mark of our timelessness that we continue to have leadership regardless of the circumstances and that even our maraji’ – who are not sinless like the Imams (AS) – are still a cut above the rest. A difficult situation – such as what happened in Iraq two weeks ago – can very easily lead to panic and despair, but a true leader is one whose response is calm and collected while being firm and strong at the same time.

Arise Sayyid Ali Husayni Sistani, who had already shown his mettle a decade prior in a decisive ceasefire, once again rose to the challenge. This time, with unconfirmed media reports of mass desertions rendering army support low, he issued a strongly worded statement supporting the armed forces against the “terrorists”, and then through his representative, Shaykh Abdul Mahdi Karbalai, encouraging able bodied men to defend the country by joining the armed forces.

It is particular important to note at this juncture that Sistani had been indirectly very critical of the government prior to the elections, however, his foresight in realising that this is a time of national unity has worded his statement very carefully, speaking of defending the country against ISIS, who are for all means and purposes foreigners in Iraq trying to run over the country through lawlessness. Such was the effect of his words that almost 2 million Iraqis signed up to the armed forces shortly after his statement was released and the security services having to issue a statement that there were now more than enough people and no more volunteers required.

It is also worth mentioning that originally the media had tried to portray Sistani’s statement as sectarian so he clarified to insist that he was calling on all citizens regardless of their religious allegiances. It is a testament to his insight that he rose above the sectarian narrative continously and furiously being peddled by the media; all the while empathising national unity against the terrorists.

While I am not a fan of Nouri al-Maliki or his Dawa party, any moral equivalence between them and the ISIS terrorists is disingenuous and dangerous. Many parts of the English speaking media reporting on Iraq speak of an “installed Prime Minister” who needs to be removed and replaced with another – while ignoring the fact that for all his faults, he has a democratically elected leader serving in his third term.

While the ISIS – too extreme for even Al-Qaeda – are a threat to democracy and peace loving people everywhere and will not hesitate in turning against their sympathisers when circumstances change. It is also worthy of note that the media who are usually so liberal in their labelling of terrorists continue to hesitate using the term for ISIS, cautiously preferring “Sunni militants” instead.

In such trying times, the Shia are blessed to have leadership with such insight in the form of the maraji’ who not only take responsibility for our spiritual needs but are also there to provide leadership on issues like these where it is absolutely imperative to stand as one against the enemies in order to defeat them in their objectives. So the next time you feel the need to criticise a scholar on his moonsighting method – pause, think and realise that there are far bigger fish to fry.

Dialogue or Distraction?

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

35 years today, Sayyid Ruhollah Khomeini forced Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last monarch of Iran, to flee the country and led the country to an popular revolution, and a kingdom was transformed into the Islamic Republic of Iran. Today across the border, a very different kind of Islamic revolution is being attempted. The much anticipated dialogue between the Pakistani government and the Taliban have begun, and according to the leader of Pakistan Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI), Samiul Haq, have been “positive”. His reluctance to share any details raises as many questions as it does answers, however I digress.

The question that needs answering is how and why Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are even being considered stakeholders in the future of Pakistan when they are the same people who have raped and plundered the country, blown up schools and mosques and beheaded soldiers. These are not mere allegations but the TTP have accepted responsibility for all this and more. The thought that these people are representatives of the Prophet (saw) who is considered “a mercy to the universes” is as abhorrent as it is laughable.

The 1973 constitution, while far from being perfect, enshrines in law all the civil rights, including freedom of thought and expression. The TTP have already shown that, under the guise of Shariah, they are willing to kill and maim people who disagree with them. If Musharraf deserves to be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution, TTP deserves to be hanged for rejecting the authority of the constitution outright. Instead, the Pakistani government is negotiating with them!

Imposing religion in a country that is already torn apart by religious extremism and sectarianism is like adding fuel to the fire. The criminals who are demanding Shariah are the ones who have taken responsibility for sectarian killings across the country. It is absolutely imperative in a heterodox country like Pakistan, which has complex division lines based on race, language and ethnicity as well as religious beliefs, that there is a form of government which allows this diversity to flourish by celebrating difference not shutting it down in the name of religion.

These negotiations are being held in the backdrop of continual killing of Shias, Christians and Ahmedis as well as other minority groups. The vast majority if not all of these attacks are carried out by the TTP. The government should be more concerned with bringing those responsible to justice instead of trying to brush this under the carpet by having a dialogue with those who have at no point offered any commitment to renounce violence.

People may point to the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland or other such negotiations with terrorists around the world. The main difference in those cases and this one was a clear commitment to renounce violence, and to their credit, those groups while maintaining their position have indeed stopped carrying out terrorist attacks. There appears to be no willingness from the TTP to do so nor have the government at any point made this a condition of the dialogue. Yet the dialogue continues; we can only conclude from this that the government is keen to appease the political face of the TTP on whom it relies at the ballot box – the likes of Samiul Haq, Fazlur Rahman and Aurangzeb Farooqi.

In fact, dialogue is merely a distraction from the actual reason for the demand for Shariah, which is to simply grab power and territory under religious pretense. Previous governments led by the PML(N) have underlined that they are the political successors to the legacy of General Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation policies and today’s government is showing that nothing much has changed.

The only hope that Pakistanis have is to that the ballot box will speak loud enough that the majority of Pakistanis abhor TTP and their allies whichever guise they might take. But with free and fair elections being a pipe dream in Pakistan, this may be more hope than reality.

Book Review: God is Not Great

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

God is Not Great: The Case Against Religion, Christopher Hitchens, Atlantic Books, pp320

It has been a while since I read a book that was supposed to challenge my beliefs and attempt to refute the idea that God existed. From an early age, I have always enjoyed getting involved in debates and discussions, especially those surrounding religion, as I have immensely increased my knowledge through this medium. When I was asked to do a review of this book, the thought excited me. However, I was to be left bitterly disappointed.

Before beginning this book, I felt my beliefs as a Muslim were strong enough to be challenged. But challenge them is precisely what Christopher Hitchens does not do. Instead he lists all the problems, atrocities, and evil actions carried out by people who have professed religious beliefs, regardless of whether they used religion as a vehicle for their actions or not. The language Hitchens uses is very lucid. However the book has very little — and even then quite inaccurate — theological discussion.It is also quite ironic that while Hitchens dismisses religious texts for containing discrepancies and inaccuracies, he himself is apparently not too bothered about inaccuracies in own text. In particular, he takes secular ideologues and labels them as religious fanatics. This undermines his basic argument that it is religion which causes problems.

Obviously Hitchens as a proponent of a particular stance when it comes to religion is an ideologue of some sort. If he himself as an atheist can be taken as a potentially dangerous ideologue, the book loses its credibility. Examples of Hitchens making basic mistakes in a quest to prove his point are rife. For someone of Hitchens’ political and historical astuteness, the statement that Rajiv Gandhi was India’s President when in fact he was the Prime Minister is a howler of the highest degree (and the fact that he tries to portray his murderers, the avowedly secular Tamil Tigers, as religious, smacks of desperation). Similarly, where he erroneously attributes the “chakra” on the Indian flag to M.K. Gandhi when it is in fact to do with Asok, is something any student of South Asian history should know.

Hitchens’ criticisms of the Bible and Qur’an bring nothing new to the table. He dismisses anyone who doesn’t toe his line — Karen Armstrong in particular is treated very harshly. His familiar comments about the “plagiarism” of the Qur’an are tiresome and his attempts to portray Saddam Hussein Tikriti as a man of religion, and the Ba’athist regime as “Islamic” (based on the “Anfal” campaign) laughable.

What is most amusing about Hitchens is his attempt to have his own cake and eat it too. He argues, with good reason, that religious people have used religion in order to conduct acts of violence and immorality. However, when the turn comes to criticise atheist mass murders such as Hitler and Stalin, he chooses to call them “religious” as well. This can only work if the meaning is stretch so far as to render it meaningless, and as a consequence, bring the argument Hitchens’ has put forward down like a pack of cards.

Hitchens claims that it is stupidity and ignorance which drives communities and states back towards the belief in religion. The problem with his hypothesis is that he has, perhaps deliberately, confused the issue by using “God” and “religion” interchangeably. This is a habit that many atheists suffer from, where when being cornered about the existence of God, will suddenly jump to a particular historical incident where religious people acted inhumanely. Not only is this poor form, it also reveals the weakness of the atheist position which relies on an amalgamation of confusion under the pretext of facts and reason in order to drive the masses away from the recognition of their true creator.

Despite all this, Hitchens makes a sound case, though perhaps not the one he intended: Humanity can easily be overpowered by its desires instead of reason. The book is littered with examples of men in history, from the high priests of the Catholic Church to those who occupied the highest echelons of Muslim society, who due to their inherent desires of greed, power and control used religion as an agent and duped the masses. What Hitchens has wrong is the solution. The way forward is definitely through reason and it is through which we will recognise the true God and reject all false deities. That is a stance that many of the world’s religions have taken as well.

There is one final point that needs to be made, however. Some of the blame for such populist literature lies with us. Being a close friend of Salman Rushdie and an admirer of the fictitious apostate Ibn Warraq, the conclusions Hitchens comes to are not surprising. But as in the case of Rushdie, Hitchens’ materials have been derived from our sometimes negative history and faulty hadith literature that has been compiled by some Muslims. Confronting that takes strong knowledge of the hadith literature, the books criticizing it, as well as western thought, particularly the role of religious literary criticism. We need to be very vocal about treating negative historical examples as something we can learn from and never repeat again, rather than something we admire. Until we confront the skeletons in our own closets, it will be far too easy for authors such as Hitchens to spew rubbish. We will have provided them with the resources to do so, and for people the world over to label Muslims as terrorists, because, unwittingly, we will have adorned ourselves with that label.

This review was originally published in October 2007 at

Power of the tongue

Monday, January 27th, 2014

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

The power of speech is undeniable. It is phenomenal that a muscle so miniscule in the grand scheme of things is able to have such a profound effect. It is not a coincidence that the greatest leaders in the history of mankind have been great orators. Words have the ability to inspire and rouse up large swathes of people. Whether it was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863, Winston Churchill’s Finest Hour Speech almost a century later, these and countless others, such as Martin Luther King Junior’s “I have a dream” whose fiftieth anniversary we’re celebrating this year, are remembered for the quality of their oration, the precision of their words and the eloquence in which they delivered them.

In other words, the tongue is a valuable entity bestowed upon us that has the power to change people and their outcomes in life. Imagine a world without tongues: no one would have been able to communicate their ideas to others and so many valuable inventions would not exist. It is due to fact that people are able to communicate with one another using the tongue is how knowledge has spread, inventions came to fruitions and human beings have progressed over time.

As with all valuable possessions in life, the tongue too comes with a responsibility. There is a narration from one of our infallibles (AS) which mentions that when a person wakes up in the morning, the tongue asks about the wellbeing of all the body parts. Each of them replies in one voice that we are all fine so long as you stay under control. This underlines the power that the tongue has in all eventual outcomes.

A famous anecdote highlights this point very acutely: A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw h