The mind boggling pace at which changes and alterations in the modern era are taking place universally is something the world has not witnessed from the inception of mankind. By ‘present era’ we mean the last decade of this century. The technological advances in the field of science and its increasing list of inventions have given wings to the soaring ambitions of man and have allowed him to conquer the celestial frontiers. When such astonishing progress has been made by mankind – in fact a whole new (cosmic) world has come into existence – it is interesting to see the effects of this progress on the Shia community that resides on this very earth.
To analyse the shia mindset – both at the individual & social level – its approaches, way of life, its attitudes and behaviours, its differences and interactions, its prejudices and inclinations in matters of propagations, opinions, sentiments, their attitudes and reasoning in different cultures, its dealings with people of diverse ideologies, its quest for financial and economic success – all of this has multiple factors and dynamics which cannot be covered in a few lines. However, whenever discussions take place about a nation – from the aspect of religion – then the conversations center around two vital issues – its ideology and its constitution (shariah). Although both these points are ancient and deep-rooted, yet as the religion spreads far and wide, then innovations start creeping in its customs and practices.
As a result, whenever a world view is taken of a nation, then the fact that radiates is that every nation is identified according to its religion. Every aspect of religion is clearly visible in the creation of a nation or community. The religion to which a nation subscribes, acts as a ‘label’ or ‘signboard’ for that nation. Thus, either both the nation and the religion gel with each other and form a strong bond or they are completely disparate from each other.
The dreadful revolt of 1857 has clearly established this aspect of communalism. In and around Delhi, one could find the corpses of only Muslims hanging at all places. The English army had arrested the Muslims in all places and they were made to stand in long queues – awaiting their turn to be beheaded mercilessly. The Englishmen were all Christians and they had vowed to avenge the humiliation which they had faced at the hands of the Muslims during the crusades. Those defeats were rankling and infuriating them since hundreds of years. On one hand these ruthless Britishers were the guardians of their religion and on the other hand they were the propagators of barbarism. Even in the recent past, when the brave Muslims of Algeria raised their voice against the tyranny of France, then this writer has evidences and proofs that show that the Muslims were thrown alive in a blazing fire and the flames of their corpses could be seen hundreds of kilometers away. All these tyrants and dictators were treading the path of Christianity – i.e. they were the believers of ‘Trinity’.
History is replete with such incidences of violence and bloodshed. Yet, after the arrival of Islam – when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) openly started its propagation from Madina and people started embracing it due to its lofty ideology and principles – the intensity and frequency of such heinous acts has increased manifold. History is a witness that whenever a prophet has brought a new religion in any era, then the sincere followers of that religion who courageously stood up against the oppressors were viciously persecuted. But when the oppressive rulers witnessed the resolute belief of the prophets and realised that these prophets were spurring the masses for revolt in order to obtain their rights, they (rulers) began to alter and manipulate those very beliefs using the political machinery at their disposal. The first step that they took was to judge and evaluate humanity on the scales of religion. Oppression was considered illegitimate; they resorted to extremism in the propagation of moral values; schools and academic institutions were opened on a large scale but they were under the regulation of the Papal authorities – so that the interests and attention of children and youngsters of other religion would turn towards it (Christianity). In this way, politics – in the garb of aristocracy or democracy – was given an independent platform. Thus Christianity is not called as the “mother of all religions” but Britain is called as the “mother of democracy”.
After the painful and agonising revolt of 1857, when there was deprivation and starvation all around, some special agents of Queen Victoria – in the garb of religious preachers – went around the country, trying to heal the wounds of the victims. But their covert agenda was to brainwash the people for accepting the British monarchy and bring back aristocracy. Now, if we were to analyse and evaluate the annals of Islam, then we find that the city of Madina – which was on its flight to glory flying on the wings of Islamic principles in the first century – became a victim of innovations and manipulations – right after the martyrdom of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a). It was as if the termites of aristocracy and power had eaten into its propagators and followers. The teachings of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) were concealed from the masses, Ghadeer was conveniently forgotten and Saqifah was termed as the “mother of democracy”. In this way the platform (Islam) that came into existence based on the teachings and noble morals of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) was sidelined and its place was taken by kingship and tyranny. The central character of Ghadeer (Ameerul Momineen (a.s)) was confined to the four walls of his house and the original teachings received a severe jolt.
But … Islam is the final, divine religion. Its constitution is celestial and its boundaries encompass the whole universe. Thus, it was essential that its guardians and custodians too should be divine and heavenly. It (Islam) dissociated itself from the platform of monarchy and quietly walked the path of sincerity. Humanity received a severe blow when the third caliph – elected by the people – made their lives miserable due to his cruel and vindictive ways. They gathered at the door of H. Ali (a.s) in hordes, wailing their grievances. After becoming the caliph, H. Ali (a.s) destroyed the citadels of monarchy that had crept into the religion of Islam in the previous twenty years. But the evil mongers and schemers of the time raised a hue and cry. This was the backdrop of the battle of Nahrwaan – one of the most dreadful wars of that era.
After the caliphate of H. Ali (a.s), the wicked influences of Sham (Damascus) once again raised their ugly head. Its impact was so great that people began discussing whether the rule of H. Ali (a.s) was legitimate or the reign of Muawiyah!! The pages of history have recorded the debates between Burair-e-Hamdani & Yazid bin Ma’qool which were repeated on the plains of Karbala. When Yazid bin Ma’qool entered the battlefield on the orders of Umar ibn Sa’ad, then Burair-e-Hamdani pleaded before Imam Husain (a.s) that he (Burair) be allowed to challenge him in a duel. Burair was firmly rooted in his loyalties to H. Ali (a.s) and would always defend him (a.s) in the lanes of Lavzaan (name of a place). Imam Husain (a.s) granted him the permission to confront Yazid ibn Ma’qool. He entered the battlefield and said to Yazid that both of them will pray to Allah that the one who is on falsehood should be killed by the one who is on truth. Ibn Ma’qool agreed to the offer. One was a representative of the platform that stood for monarchy, kingship and tribal loyalties while the other was the supporter of the lofty and exalted teachings of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) and the Islamic shariah. Finally, Burair killed Ibn Ma’qool and the truth was manifested.
Ilyaas Shouki Ali Jawad Zaidi writes in the preface of his book “Islami Tarkki Pasandi” – “The human society has always witnessed the exploitation and abuse of its members since hundreds of years. Unfortunately, religion has always been used as a weapon for exploitation. But the case of Islam is different from other religions. Unlike Christianity – where the church and Papal authorises run the show and issue their diktat – there is no central authority in Islam that controls its activities. The Islamic scholars too were not followers of worthless things. We do find stray instances where some scholars were subservient to the rulers of their era. But history has also recorded the incidences of those scholars who stood up and challenged the tyrant and despotic kings of their times. These upright and god-fearing scholars were indifferent to the royal threats and persecutions and were not afraid of imprisonment. Neither were they willing to compromise in matters of religion. The impetus that Islam received was not due to royal patronage and financial muscle. Rather, the secret of its success is due to the sincerity of its leaders and their practicing of whatever they preached.”
Unfortunately, a writer like Ali Jawad Zaidi – a man of intellect and insight as well as a distinguished author – has conveniently overlooked the contrasts within Islam. Why has he not elaborated upon the two views (platforms) within Islam? One, that was represented by Muawiyah and which gained in strength with every passing day, and the other that was embodied by the Infallible Imams (a.s)? Why has he chosen to remain silent on these two divisions within Islam? Whatever may be the real reasons, yet one thing is sure, that when Ali Jawad uses the word “Muslemeen” (Muslims) he actually means “Masoomeen” (Holy Imams (a.s)). Because the entire book is filled with the statements and sermons of Ameerul Momeneen (a.s)! Since centuries it is these sermons and opinions (of H. Ali (a.s)) that have been the cause of acceptance and expansion of Islam.
There has always been a tussle between the “weakened ones” (Mustaz’af) and the “arrogant ones”. And the “Mustaz’af” have always given a fitting reply and vanquished the “arrogant ones.” Islam is a divine religion and hence safeguarding and protecting it too lies in the hands of Allah the Almighty. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) had H. Ali (a.s) who was always in the vanguard of protecting Islam. H. Ali (a.s) had Malik-e-Ashtar – known for his knowledge, courage and staunch Islamic beliefs. Later, when the “arrogant ones” became more blatant and ruthless and the degree of their exploitations increased, it was Imam Husain (a.s) who rose to the occasion and he (a.s) had the support of H. Abbas (a.s) who was the standard bearer of his army. Imam Sajjad (a.s) had the backing of J. Zainab (s.a). When he (a.s) reached Madina he had four special companions who were responsible for his protection and security. The school of Ahle Bait (a.s) was firmly established in the era of Imam Baqir (a.s) while Imam Sadiq (a.s) used to conduct religious classes. One type of class was for the general masses which were conducted within the city limits of Madina while the other type of class was for those who were scholars and had a deep love for knowledge. These classes were held on the outskirts of Madina. It was during these times that the Jafari fiqh (jurisprudence) was given its final touches and became known in the Muslim world. Numerous religious institutes were established in Iran and Iraq promoting the teachings of Ahle Bait (a.s). The tyrant rulers resorted to snaring the progeny of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) in the labyrinth of politics. Thus Imam Reza (a.s) was appointed on the post of heir apparent (Vali-e-Ahad) while Imam Taqi (a.s) was married to the daughter of Mamoon. And when two hundred years had passed after the event of Ghadeer, then the oppressive rulers during the times of Imam Naqi (a.s) and Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) became restless and anxious when they realised that the prophecies of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) would soon actualise. Thus, Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was confined in a cantonment always under the surveillance of the rulers. Yet, the last divine representative was born in 255 AH and he (a.s) became the guardian of the nation that subscribed to the school of Ahle Bait (a.s). This radiant sun of guidance – even while behind the clouds – has always led his (a.s) nation on the path of truth. We call this era as the “major occultation”. Now we can proudly say that tortures, captivity and imprisonment have had no effect on the progeny of Imam Husain (a.s) – who were deemed “weak” on the earth.
Life and death are only two stages. But anyone who treads the path of Ahle Bait (a.s) with piety and conscientiousness in this world will definitely be guided, guarded and protected at every step that he takes. You can give them any name – call them as “those created the divisions within the religion”, or call them “terrorists”. The fact remains that every nation treads the path of its religion. Madina was plundered thousands of times yet the Bani Hashim always remained safe and secure. But it is true that – in the words of Ghalib – whenever the gasping heart has given out a cry, then the anxiousness for the reappearance of the “avenger of the blood of Imam Husain (a.s)” has increased manifold. I find myself besides the tent of the last son of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) crying out and saying “O Master! A mother – with broken ribs and a dejected heart – is still wailing and lamenting upon her beloved Husain. May Allah hasten your reappearance”