Meaning and aim of Silence
The Almighty Creator has given both faculties to mankind i.e. remaining silent or to speak after listening. He has granted man the power to speak or remain silent when one intends. Man is a social animal. His greatness and loftiness is based on his word and deed. Hence, to organise both his individual and social life on the right path and to pre-empt his excuse on the Day of Judgment of not being adequately guided which would lead him to eternal bliss, Allah the Almighty established two means of guidance and blessed His creation with the Book, the silent one and the Scale i.e. the Infallible Imams (a.s.), the speaking ones, and revealed in His Holy Book: “Surely We sent Messengers with clear evidences and descended the book and the scale with them so that they rule among people with justice.” [Surah Hadeed (57): Verse 25]
This divine book which translates the divine will and testifies the divine message comprises of 114 chapters. In it are separate groups of abrogating and abrogated, clear and allegorical verses. This clear book is such a concise compilation that its explanation and detail is beyond the boundaries of human intellect. Hence, to enlighten human intellect with its interpretation, a Scale (Mizaan) that keeps man steadfast on the right path i.e. is the daily code of conduct (Shariat) is required. The rightly guided Imams (a.s.) can only be those whose silence is as guiding as their speech. Allah gave all Prophets, right from Hazrat Adam (a.s.) till last Prophet, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), the ability and power to tread this path of silence and speech. The patience of Prophet Ayyub (a.s.) and pleading of Prophet Yaqoob (a.s.) are examples of being steadfast on this kind of guidance. The pure tongue was put to use when required.
For a moment, let us look back at the era when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) announced his Prophethood and went through several stages of implementing the tasks of guidance. The responsibility of Prophethood continued in Makkah for about 12 to 13 years. Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) faced all troubles and opposition alongside the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Treading the path of Islam together, they often gathered at one place where verses were revealed, fully prepared to face with patience and steadfastness any trouble that could arise at the hands of the Quraysh of Makkah. At the same time, Makkah was replete with turmoil, rebellion, and uproar. Injustice and oppression was rampant. A burning stone was placed on the chest of Bilaal but nothing other than “One God” was heard. History echoed the following voice:
Roads which a person like Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) treads, wings of Jibraeel would have burnt over it!
Meanwhile, Quraysh of Makkah were busy implementing their plans when the event of Migration arrived, as if the task of Prophethood was peacefully progressing at the backend. But Ali (a.s.) had a sound sleep unlike any other night. It is indeed true,
If he lies on the bed then he is the vicegerent of truth (Ali (a.s.)).
If he is in Karbala then he is Husain Ibn Ali (a.s.).
This is true knowledge from the side of Allah which is bestowed upon Prophets and their Successors (a.s.).
The migration from Makkah to Madinah took place and Abu Ayyub Ansari received the honor when the camel of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) with all its grandeur halted near his house. Propagation commenced and the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) Mosque was constructed. But Jews and Quraysh of Makkah would not remain silent. Wars and battles began. Eighty battles were fought and all were won due to Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) discharged the duty of conveying the divine message during similar such ten to eleven years in Madinah. In these years of several battles, revelation of all verses of the Holy Quran and in the words and deeds of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Islamic civilization took shape and was perfected with the declaration at Ghadeer Khumm. After the completion of Prophethood and the perfection of religion, the need of the hour was to preserve Islamic culture and manners in a way that would protect it from complexities and political filth. Hence, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his last moments, upon divine revelation, called for pen and paper so as to write a Will that would protect the nation from deviation. History reveals that there was commotion and a person from a large opposing group prevented the people from handing over pen and paper to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) fearing that he would nominate Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) as his successor.
The support from Bani Hashim in this matter was of no use and they had to remain silent. However, the power of silence clarified that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had appointed his successor during his lifetime. This was further proved when Janabe Zahra (s.a.) enquired from Ali (a.s.) the reason for remaining silent to which he replied thus: “I have acted as per the will of your father who, during his last moments, advised me to protect the religion when people chase this world.” This is the voice which can be termed as the voice of silence.
Without delving into further details, we request the respected readers to ponder and decide in the light of wisdom and intellect whether Imam Husain (a.s.) did not maintain the same approach and conduct after Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) and the peace treaty of Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s.)?
When Yazid the accursed came to power, all of that deception and fraud, opportunism and the period of evil deeds returned to the society. .
A person like Yazid the accursed was demanding allegiance from a person like Imam Husain (a.s.) to strengthen his rule. Denial to pay allegiance was etching a universal truth or the divine message of silence was being raised from that very blessed tongue, which later led a caravan of silent, truthful people who were trying to uphold their dignity. Truly said,
He sacrificed his head but did not extend his hands for allegiance
Indeed Husain is the foundation of “there is no God but Allah”
Wherever the divine Prophets (a.s.) prior to Islam reached for propagation, the rulers and kings came with huge armies against them (a.s.) to subjugate the voice of truth. Similarly, mischief mongers and their ilk in different forms stood up against Imam Husain (a.s.) before his migration as if Islam was a matter of child’s play for them. Such evil forces should have given clarity to their minds and should have realized that their wickedness cannot withstand divine wisdom and power for long.
At this point we wish to present the effects and blessings of a ray of this divine light which is related to the characteristics of Imam Zain al-Aabideen (a.s.). The sun of 28th Rajab was looming large over the city. Imam Husain (a.s.) with his caravan bid farewell from his grandfather’s Madinah. He was accompanied by his son Imam Sajjaad (a.s.) and his grandson Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) who was only an infant. The caravan reached Makkah. Seekers of truth and those thirsty for knowledge broke the shackles of Abdullah Ibn Zubair and gathered around Imam Husain (a.s.). The rays of lights were destroying the shadows of deception. During this uprising, letters from residents of Kufa kept reaching Imam Husain (a.s.). Muhammad Ibn Hanafiyyah and Abdullah Ibn Jafar guaranteed protection to Imam Husain (a.s.) and requested him to abandon his intention of traveling to Iraq. Imam Husain (a.s.) replied appropriately and embarked on his journey. History is witness that during his journey from Makkah to Karbala, Imam Sajjaad (a.s.) did not ask his father about his decisions and remained silent.
If knowledge of the father is not to the satisfaction of the son
How can he then be deserving of his inheritance
This is because circumstances and decision of an Imam are within the knowledge of another Imam. He was completely aware that the destination of Imam Husain (a.s.) was martyrdom. Imam Sajjaad (a.s.) demonstrated his eligibility for the divine position of Imamate through this.
When enemies set the tents on fire, Janabe Zainab (s.a), the divinely taught scholar came to Imam Sajjaad (a.s.), testified in his Imamate and said: Son, you are the Imam of the time, should we let ourselves get burnt in these tents or step out. Imam (a.s.) replied: Dear aunt, saving life is necessary hence move out of the tents.
This was Imamate that had encompassing knowledge about the divine Shariat. After this voice of Shariat, a new form of speaking silence began.
Alas that land of calamity and prisoners of calamity
Veils of the daughter of Ali (a.s.) and the bed of the ailing person was snatched.
The tent as well as the garment of Sakina was burnt
No injustice was left undone on the progeny of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Tents were looted and family members were arrested
Karbala mourned as the ailing Aabid (a.s.) emerged out of it
Feet were chained, fetter tied around his neck and atrocities that will make the most hard-hearted person scream aloud, were imposed. However, Imam Sajjaad (a.s.) was silent.
With heads uncovered, dust smeared and lifeless prisoners arrived
Alas in what tragic condition the prisoners entered the court!
This caravan comprised of innocent children, the grief struck daughter of Imam Husain (a.s.), the sacred womenfolk without their veils and a very young Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) whose face was scorched due to the burning sun and intense thirst. This caravan was led by an ailing person whose hands, feet and neck were fettered in chains as they proceeded to Syria. They reached Damascus after an arduous journey; the troubles therein cannot be expressed except by the following lines from Ziyaarat Aashuraa.
“Unbearable is the sorrow and excruciating and unbearable is your misfortune for us and for all the people of Islam. Excruciating and unbearable has been your misfortune in the heavens for all the inhabitants of the heavens.”
The troubles for which a forbearing person like Imam Sajjaad (a.s.) would heave a deep sigh and say Al-Shaam, Al-Shaam cannot be understood by anyone or described by any pen or tongue. In short, this caravan reached the court in such a condition that the emissaries from other countries were seated, the Abyssinian slaves were wearing golden belts and carrying drawn out swords. The scene was unimaginable. Imam Ali Ibn al-Husain (a.s.) in this condition, though silent, exhibited the Hashimiite awe and reduced the power of the oppressive kings to dust.
Yazid the accursed was busy in praising his ancestors and falsifying Islam. His statements are recorded in history. The ailing prisoner Imam (a.s.) sought permission to speak from the pulpit which was agreed to on insistence of the courtiers. The silence of Imam (a.s.) gave way and the voice of truth emerged to reach the ears of the audience. After praising Allah the Almighty, Imam (a.s.) introduced himself and the religion brought by his grandfather. His words seemed to be attested with divine approval.
Yazid the accursed was afraid on sensing the voices of a revolution and felt that his government was about to topple. The speech of a weak person stunned the courtiers. (This sermon of Imam Sajjaad (a.s.) along with its translation is available). There was a revolution and the order of releasing prisoners was passed. However, one cannot describe how Rabaab would have bid farewell to the grave of Sakina (s.a.). As if someone inquired from me, ‘what happened next?’
The red curtains of the palace of Yazid the accursed were replaced with black ones. Janabe Zainab (s.a.) addressed the ladies of Syria donning black clothes. The city assembly saw black flags replace red ones. Mourners started pouring in as also tears. This was a time during the Imamate of Imam Sajjaad (a.s.), where I have tried to present a glance of the effects and blessings of his speech and silence. The second part of the life of Imam (a.s.) in Madinah shall be dealt with ahead.
The life of Imam Sajjaad (a.s.) teaches our youth and elders about how and when to effectively use the faculty of speech and when to control it. Finally, we plead before the Imam of our time (a.t.f.s.) to help us understand the profound concepts of Al-Sahifah al-Kaamelah, the treatise of your ancestor, affirm it in our hearts and help us act upon it.
O Our Master! Your ancestor has taught us to plead before Allah in the following way:
“O Allah! How should I implore you as I know my reality but at the same time how can I lose hope in You as I realize your greatness!”
It is only at your courtyard that our supplications will be effective and our minds will be illuminated. One glance of bestowal! Once glance of mercy!