Reflections Majlis 1

2nd Muharram al-Haram

Al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS commenced the first waʿz mubarak of Ashara Mubaraka 1445 H by addressing Mumineen as those who offer their salams to Imam Husain AS calling out:

He then offered the following prayer, that the tasbih of ‘Husain, Husain,’ be a source of barakat and blessings for all Mumineen. He added that whenever he sees and hears the expressions of ‘aah’ voiced by Mumineen in their grief upon Imam Husain AS, the laudatory words of approval and commendation of ‘waah, waah’ come to his lips.

He then recited the Quranic verse:

The most honourable amongst you before Allah is the most pious of you.

Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS provided a nuanced understanding of the meaning of taqwa, or piety, declaring that the remembrance of Imam Husain AS, his sacrifices and martyrdom encompasses all the deeds that inculcate piety, ultimately leading to a position of honour in the eyes of the Almighty. Imam Husain’s AS shahadat not only protected Islam, the religion of love, but the essence of faith in itself and all of humanity. 

Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS then recited the ayat shareefa:

And We have incorporated all things in the evident Imam.

Imam Husain AS is the Imam-e-Mubeen referenced in this sacred verse. Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS explained that on the Day of Ashura, in his final moments, Imam Husain AS included each and every Mumin in his duʿa mubarak. As such, a Mumin strives to infuse his every action, every pursuit of knowledge, every belief, every endeavour, every intent, every thought with the remembrance of Imam Husain AS.  In this way, our remembrance of Imam Husain AS, and the piety it instils in us, is our provision for the hereafter, as the Quran directs us:

Gather provision; the best of provisions is taqwa

Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS reminded the gathering that the onset of this new year, 1445 H, marks 10 years since the sad passing of al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA and subsequently, 10 years in his khidmat of Imam al-Zaman AS. Over these 10 years, Mumineen have expressed the muhabbat in their hearts with great fervour and passion, and continue to do so. Each passing day this muhabbat increases. Syedna TUS then prayed that this muhabbat continue to increase and it is for this very reason that he chose hubb (love; affection) to be the central theme for this year’s mawaʿiz nuraniyya. The abjad value of the Arabic word حُب (hub) comes to 10, he added, where ح equals 8 and ب  equals 2. Each waʿz mubarak would centre upon a hadeeth shareef of Rasul Allah SAW in which he outlines all those things that are dear to Allah, that which He loves. 

The topic for today’s waʿz mubarak was the hadeeth shareef:

The most beloved of servants to Allah are those who maintain taqwa and practice ikhfaʾ.

ِMufaddal Maula TUS explained that taqwa, which he described as piety, entails protecting and shielding the soul from all that may bring it harm. The definition also expands to include cultivating and sustaining an environment in which one is able to protect the soul in this way. In his commentary on the correlation between safety and taqwa, Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS pointed out that since 2011, the UAE has been one of the safest countries in the world, and expressed his gratitude to the Emirati leadership and authorities praying for their well-being. Adding another layer to the meanings of taqwa, Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS explained that to seek knowledge, act accordingly, and refrain from all sin — which again protects the soul — is to be pious.  

The word ikhfaʾ has two meanings, both diametrically opposite. The first and more common meaning is to conceal, while the second meaning is to reveal. Thus, the dearest individual to Allah Taʿala is the one who conceals those deeds that are to be concealed, while revealing those that are to be revealed. Syedna TUS explained this notion through the narration of Ziyad bin al-Aswad. Ziyad firmly believed that, like hajj, journeying to the Imam’s presence is an obligation, and like all such deeds, it should be done openly and publicly. However, he chose to conceal his poverty and the difficulties he encountered enroute to the Imam, only revealing his full situation when the Imam AS enquired into his condition. Syedna TUS then contextualised this narration with the majalis of Imam Husain AS, stating that Mumineen firmly believe that attending the majalis of Imam Husain AS is an obligation, for which they close their businesses, take leave from work, school and college. They make no attempt to conceal this defining element of their faith. However, in fulfilling this obligation, they never reveal or even hint at the challenges and difficulties they have faced or the miles they have traversed, for their devotion is pure and free of eye-service.

Maulana al-Minʿam TUS added another dimension to the concept of revealing and concealing by referencing Rasul Allah’s SAW hadith sharif in description of a Mumin: ‘He does not take something to boast, nor does he refrain from something because of self-consciousness.’

As an example, Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS described a scenario where a Mumin is in an important business meeting and it is time for namaz. If the Mumin excuses himself to pray namaz, it indicates that he is not ashamed of fulfilling this obligation and demonstrates to all those present, the significance he accords to namaz. If, however, in giving sadaqa, he keeps showing people how much sadaqa he is giving, then this is something he is doing for riya – for show and to boast.

On the other hand there are those who forsake their faridat because they are ashamed of what others might think or say about them. To illustrate this Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS gave an example of a Mumina, which he graciously expressed would probably never be the case, who is obligated to preserve her modesty and purdah, her lihaaz. She wears a rida when she attends Dawat gatherings, but chooses not to when attending an outside event. In doing so, she betrays her doubts of whether she will be accepted in these circles due to her choice of attire. What Mufaddal Maula TUS caringly asserted, instead, was that she should remind herself that Allah and His wali have already accepted her. 

Detailing the contrasting meanings of ‘akhfiya’, those who practise ikhfaʾ, Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS referenced the following five prescriptions of Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin AS each with its own inherent contrast: 

Hold true to conceal poverty and neediness to such an extent that it seems you are affluent.

Hold true to conceal carrying out good deeds (that are non-obligatory) to such an extent that it seems you are neglectful in doing them.

Hold true to conceal suffering to such an extent that it seems you are well.

Hold true to conceal sadaqa to such an extent that it seems you are a miser.

Hold true to conceal anger to such an extent that it seems you are pleased.

Life is difficult and at times one finds himself in adverse situations. The way to escape adversity is to conceal it, so much so that it appears that one is affluent and is revelling in Allah’s many bounties. The way to conceal adversity is by giving sadaqa – alms to the needy. Even the act of alms-giving should be concealed. By making it apparent, the alms-giver may indeed reveal that he is not the one in need, but in his heart he may feel quite the opposite. By concealing acts of charity, he will feel that he is indeed wealthy. 

All five acts of concealing and revealing are manifest in the actions of Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin AS himself. He tended to and nourished a hundred houses in Madina al-Munawwara, making multiple trips to and from his own residence carrying a skin filled with food. If at times, he would be delayed, children would await his arrival with keen anticipation, asking each other, ‘Where has the mashkiwala gone? When will he come?’ 

His actions are a focal point for contemplation. Firstly, Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin AS was deeply troubled by Imam Husain’s AS outstanding debt of over 70,000 dinars. Yet he concealed the worry of this debt by tending to a hundred households. Syedna TUS emphatically remarked that the house of Dawat prospers till this day by virtue of Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin’s AS mashki which continues to nourish and replenish. By concealing his debt and focusing on tending to the needs of others, his debt was cleared when, in a manaam (dream), he heard a person telling him, ‘Do not be concerned by your father’s debt. It will be repaid by the income of Bujaish.’ Imam AS replied, ‘I am unaware of any of my father’s assets in Bujaish. What is Bujaish? Where is it?’ The next night, the same person appeared in the imam’s manaam repeating his earlier message. The next day, Imam AS enquired with members of his household over the meaning of ‘Bujaish’. A lady informed him that Imam Husain AS had a servant of Byzantine origin named Bujaish who had dug a well in Zi Khashab (40 km north of Madina). She suggested that the Imam AS make further enquiries. Imam AS confirmed the well’s existence and repaid his father’s debt with the sale of the well. 

Secondly, Imam Ali Zainulabideen AS concealed the act of charity even from his own household, his family and his staff. No one knew of his altruism and he revealed it to none. Such was his piety that not even those who were the recipients of his beneficence knew of him nor what he was undertaking. 

Thirdly, one should conceal suffering so that it appears he is well. Through the repetitive act of carrying, distributing and refilling his vessel with food, Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin AS developed a callus on his shoulder. Yet, throughout his endeavours, he never revealed the hardship that he endured, concealing his suffering to the extent that he appeared well and free of pain. 

Fourthly, one should conceal non-obligatory good deeds so that it appears one is negligent. Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin AS would carry out his acts of charity alongside the one thousand rakʿat that he prayed every night, under the cover of darkness, unbeknown to anyone, 

Finally, one should hide his anger to the extent that he appears pleased. Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS explained that if a high ranking individual were to bring food to a household and if the family members were to pejoratively refer to him as the ‘dabba-wala’, it could cause disdain. The residents of the homes that Imam AS tended to would refer to him as the ‘maskhi-wala’ – the skin bearer. It would have been more apt and proper to refer to him as the ‘ehsaan karwa wala’ – the one who shows kindness. Yet Imam AS never showed contempt or scorn at this reference, but rather revealed that he was only too pleased to keep bringing them food. Syedna TUS then emphasised that since then, the term ‘mashki-wala’ has become an endearing one that has taken on connotations of kindness and generosity. 

Through his own actions of concealing and revealing, Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin AS elucidated the true meaning of piety. 

Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS then related a narrative attributed to Imam Jafar al-Sadiq AS wherein he explains that there are 3 types of taqwa (piety). The first is Taqwa al-Aam, Common Taqwa, which entails abstinence from everything which is prohibited in Islam. This taqwa is inspired by fear of hellfire and Allah’s retribution. The second type of taqwa, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq AS states, is Taqwa al-Khaas, a special taqwa which entails the first kind of taqwa and in addition, an abstinence from all those things which are shrouded in doubt. Syedna TUS cited the example of Syedna Dawood bin Qutubshah RA who stated that a fish can only be consumed if bismillah is recited upon it by a Mumin. Under any other circumstance, even if someone other than a Mumin swears that bismillah has been recited on a fish, their word should be considered with doubt and the fish should not be consumed unless one witnesses with their own eyes that bismillah was recited. Just as doubt should be avoided in practical matters, so should those beliefs which cast doubt be avoided and certainty should be sought. 

The third type of taqwa, Taqwa bi Allah, or taqwa through Allah, entails both the first and second, and additionally requires that one should only do what results in Allah’s happiness. This taqwa is exceptional. Syedna TUS illustrated the third type of taqwa by relating the following narrative. During the time of Syedna Abdullah Badruddin RA, in August of 1914, on the cusp of the first world war, Syedna Taher Saufuddin RA and Tayyib Bhaisaheb Zainuddin expressed their intention to perform hajj. They planned to board an Italian vessel and travel through Suez on to Jeddah and ultimately to Makkah. In order to raise the 14000 rupees which were required at the time to perform hajj, Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA sold a property which was bequeathed to him and his brother, Tayyib bhaisaheb by their revered father, the 49th Dai, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA. When Mumineen came to know of their preparations, many of them also expressed their intention to join them. In response to Tayyib bhaisaheb’s request for permission, Syedna Badruddin RA said that it his opinion (raʾi) that only one of the two brothers should travel for hajj while the other should stay back. He stated that both were well aware that rendering the khidmat of Dawat reaped no less reward than performing hajj. Tayyib bhaisaheb was disheartened by the response and came to Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA suggesting that he should once again ask Syedna Badruddin RA to grant him permission. Syedna Saifuddin RA fell silent for a while, prompting Tayyib bhaisaheb to insist that he should once again ask Syedna Badruddin RA. Syedna Saifuddin RA firmly stated that he would not ask Syedna Badruddin RA again because doing so would mean that he was insisting when it was clear to him what Syedna’s wish was. He then suggested that Tayyib bhaisaheb travel alone for hajj and that he would gladly stay back. Tayyib bhaisaheb, however, did not want to travel alone and so he went away with a heavy heart. A few days later, Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA met Tayyib bhaisaheb while they were both on their way to zuhr namaz during Shahr Ramadan. He said to Syedna Saifuddin that they should inform Syedna Badruddin of their decision to stay back out of respect for his wishes. When Syedna Badruddin RA heard this he was greatly pleased. A few days later, it came to light that the Italian vessel which was to ferry them to Jeddah never arrived because all the waterways were blockaded as a result of World War I. When Syedna Saifuddin RA came to know of this he was jubilant and noted that even if they had chosen to travel for hajj, their intentions would not have been fulfilled but at least this way they stayed back and attained the happiness of Syedna Badruddin RA instead of being compelled to stay back as a result of the prevalent circumstances.

Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS explained the relation between protection, self-preservation and piety by referencing three different verses from the Quran Majeed. In the first, he quoted verse 5:8:

Be just; that is closer to piety.

To be just, one must meet the transgressor’s infraction with a commensurate penalty. This potentially leaves the discharger of justice in a dubious position since the penalised may harbour ill will towards him and seek revenge or retribution, making him vulnerable and compromising his safety and security. As such, this type of justice is near taqwa, but does not guarantee protection.

The second verse Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS quoted in explaining this nuanced concept of taqwa and protection was verse 2:237:

Graciousness is closer to piety.

Here, forgiving the transgressor brings one closer to taqwa; an act of graciousness provides better chances of protection than one of justice. However, here still, the act is tinged by the acknowledgement of the sin and the transgressor’s knowledge that his forgiver knows of his wrongdoing and has forgiven him so.

The highest plateau of protection, and as such taqwa, comes from istighfar, a divine act attributed to the Almighty Himself. Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS quoted verse 56 from Sura al-Muddathir in which Allah Taʿala is described in the following terms:

He alone is the Source of piety and the Source of forgiveness.

The safest path of response to a transgression is an act of kindness in which there is no acknowledgement at any level of the transgressor’s wrongdoing. Mufaddal Maula TUS cited Amirul Mumineen’s AS kalam mubarak where he states, ‘Repay your brother’s transgression with kindness’. As an example of this divine piety, Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS recounted the incident wherein a female servant dropped a vessel of water which struck Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin AS. At that moment, the Imam briefly met her gaze with a look of anger. Recognising the sensitivity of the moment, she sought refuge in the verses of the Holy Quran. With the recitation of each segment of the following verse, the servant received the Imam’s pardon, forgiveness, and ultimately, his benevolence in the form of her emancipation: 

And those who control their anger, are forgiving towards people; Allah loves the doers of good.

As the Imam of the Pious, and the true upholder of the meaning of taqwa, it was not surprising that his presence is a source of protection and safety. Imam’s AS revered father, Imam Husain AS, exhibited the essence of taqwa and maghfira in his treatment of Hurr AS. Although having committed the most severe of transgressions by halting Imam Husain’s AS horse initially, Imam Husain AS absolved him of all sin and bestowed him with the honour of shahadat and ultimately a place in heaven. In his final moments, Imam Husain AS salved Hurr’s AS wounds with the blessed handkerchief of Maulatona Fatema AS.

Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS linked these three types of taqwa (ʿadl, ʿafw and maghfira) to Rasul Allah’s hadeeth shareef: ‘He who weeps in the grief of my son Husain, or causes others to weep, or if unable to weep, expresses grief through the expressions of his face — then heaven is guaranteed for him.’ He explained that this statement is the epitome of maghfira, for it absolves Mumineen’s sins but does so in a way where the sins are not mentioned; only the lofty place in heaven that those who weep shall attain. 

In his elaboration of Syedna Muayyad al-Shirazi’s RA lamentation, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS implored Mumineen to garb themselves in the robes of grief and agony. He explained the meaning of three words from this passage in detail: ahzaan, ashjaan and shaʿaair. Ahzaan means extreme grief, and ashjaan refers to the intense reaction this grief incites. He then elaborated the three meanings of shaʿaair and how it relates to the act of loudly weeping upon Imam Husain AS. Shaʿaair are acts of worship. Secondly, shaʿaair refers to signs, indicating that the intensity of one’s grief upon Imam Husain AS should become apparent in one’s speech and movements to the extent that their entire body should tremble. In this way, their body signals the intensity of grief they are experiencing. Thirdly, shaʿaair means sacrifice. A Mumin should sacrifice their voice, body, household, strength, family and entire beings in expressing their grief upon Imam Husain AS.

Syedna al-Minʿaam TUS described how Imam Husain’s AS companions did not care for the tribulations of battle as they sacrificed themselves and attained martyrdom. He TUS explained how their enemies trembled in fear of encountering them in battle. He then urged Mumineen to engender similar fortitude in facing their enemies, the greatest of which is the nafs ammaara bi al-su (the soul that bids evil). This is achieved through an unwavering commitment to the matam and buka upon Imam Husain AS with all of one’s might. 

Narrating the moment in which Imam Husain’s AS horse stopped in Karbala, Syedna TUS stated that Imam Husain AS questioned an elderly man about the name of the land yet did not receive the response he desired. He then drew the shaikh’s attention to the fact that his question was specifically about the land upon which his horse stood. The shaikh immediately said that, ‘This land is the land of Karbala.’ Imam Husain AS then took a fistful of dirt from the ground and took in its unique scent. He then removed a fistful of dirt which Jibra’eel had brought from Karbala and given to Rasul Allah SAW from his pocket and after comparing their scents, declared that this land was indeed the land on which his martyrdom was destined.  

It is our sincere prayer that we may continue to hear the heartrending zikr of Imam Husain AS from Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, so that we may grow in our piety and find protection in his benevolent shade. May Allah Taʿala grant him a long life in pristine health till the Day of Qiyamat.