In a tightly reasoned and passionately written article, Abu Dharr urges Muslims to be true in their honour and respect of the Messenger of Allah (saws) and love those whom he loved: his Ahl al-Bayt. Among these was Imam al-Husein who was martyred on the plains of Karbala.
This write up comes to you in the month of al-Muharram — the first month of the Islamic calendar and one of the four secure months of the year (the other three begin Rajab, Dhu al-Qa‘dah, and Dhu al-Hijjah.) In a cutthroat violation of this month’s sanctity King Yazid stands out as a war criminal due to his responsibility for the adversity and affliction at Karbala’. It was at Karbala’ that the Prophet’s (pbuh) adored and revered grandson Imam Husayn and his family members and companions were literally slaughtered by King Yazid’s commander and his troops. Those who were not massacred were taken prisoner in a most humiliating manner. This tragedy lives on in the emotions of some Muslims and is buried in the memory hole of others. Our intention here is not to rehash the yearly passion-play about this very significant and meaningful clash between the justice and truth represented by Imam Husayn and his followers, and political ploys and military mayhem represented by King Yazid and his mercenaries.
Our dear Prophet (pbuh) was not some type of royal figure who sat on a throne and dispensed demands, directives, and dictums left and right from the comfort of a palace or a castle. Everyday of his life was a struggle for all the Muslims until the end of time.
We shall approach this from another angle. Let us begin by saying that the love of Allah’s Prophet (pbuh) is an integral part of any Muslim’s pool of feelings and structure of thoughts. We, the Muslims, love our Prophet (pbuh) because he suffered — not for himself — but for us. His life was one of sweat, tears, and blood as he struggled and sacrificed in his principled position against the kafirs and the munafiqs. His immediate family: daughter, son-in-law (cousin), grandsons, and wives had to endure the dangers and threats that came his way. Our dear Prophet (pbuh) was not some type of royal figure who sat on a throne and dispensed demands, directives, and dictums left and right from the comfort of a palace or a castle. Everyday of his life was a struggle for all the Muslims until the end of time. And for that, every conscientious Muslim loves him and respects him endlessly. And with all the pressure that he had to put up with, he never complained. Rather we hear the Most Merciful describe him saying,
“If you had been of a cavalier character and an insensitive heart they [your companions] would have parted company with you…” (3:159).
With all that he did for you and me, we should acknowledge that he had a closely-knit and convivial family who were the closest people to his heart. These are his daughters, particularly Fatimah who outlasted all her siblings, and his cousin and son-in-law, Imam ‘Ali who was a virtual member of the Prophet’s (pbuh) family, having grown up in that household from childhood, and later on one of the most, if not the most, obedient to the Prophet (pbuh) in peace and in war. These are facts that any Muslim will readily find in any history or reference book. Yet, there are those who, having inherited a “Sunni” marquee, are not tuned in to this ardor and attachment of the Prophet (pbuh). Of course there are those who love the Prophet (pbuh) and love his family members as he himself loved them. But the loveless “Islam” financed by the Wahhabi types from Arabia has eroded this strong positive affection and fondness for the Prophet’s (pbuh) loved ones.
Can we who look at ourselves as “Sunnis” come out and state for the record and for the world and as testimony to history that we love the Prophet (pbuh) and we love his family members? We need to say so to be honest to our Prophet (pbuh) and to ourselves. This need not become a sub-culture of a “holier-than-thou” contention or strife.
This love for the Prophet (pbuh) and the ones he loved of his own family will eventually lead to the exposure of Yazid and his royal predecessor and inheritors; if not in a scholarly way, then in a common-sense way. In the hadith literature we find this inclination toward the Prophet’s (pbuh) loved ones in al-Nisa’i and al-Hakim al-Naisaburi. Others who lived in the Levant and al-Basrah in earlier times withheld any public affection or scholarly works that honor the love of the Prophet’s (pbuh) beloved family members.
Today many from within that “Sunni” emotional desolation, even though they have no negative feelings, still cannot find the moral courage to express their fond regards and allegiance to the very same persons the Prophet (pbuh) himself viewed with fondness and fealty.
Frankly speaking, dynasties die but their strategies survive. Potentates perish but their ideologies still exist. Remember, the Umayyad regime institutionalized the condemnation of Imam ‘Ali from the minbars of the masjids for a few generations. The aftereffects of all this have still not vanished. The Umayyad scions are long dead but their influence still permeates religious, academic and mainstream conduits of information. This Umayyad instigated animus towards the Prophet’s (pbuh) dear family members is still on the outlook for committed Muslims who want to express their love and affection for the family members that the Prophet (pbuh) himself expressed love and affection for.
This leads us into the flip side of this issue. The other side indeed expresses a substantial love for Ahl al-Bayt but in the process they inadvertently or unknowingly lump the Umayyads with the “Sunnis” and display a wholesale rejection of the “other.” Truth be said, there are those towering figures who outgrew this naivete: scholars like Muhsin al-Amin, Musa
al-Sadr, Muhammad Husein Fadlallah, Muhammad Mehdi Shams al-Din, Kashif al-Ghita’, and al-Burujerdi, Dr. ‘Ali Shari‘ati, Ayatullah Mutahhari, and the current Islamic leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran are pioneers in understanding the historical and contemporary dynamics that are at work here, and showed maturity and foresightedness in dealing with this intra-Islamic sensitive issue.
The sad and still unfulfilled lesson of Karbala’ that awaits its global breakthrough is a prime opportunity for those who are aware of its meanings to communicate its contents of anti-authoritarianism, pro-justice, and all-inclusive message to the peoples of such inflicted areas as Palestine and numerous areas throughout the southern hemisphere where oppression reigns supreme.
Opposition to Umayyad usurpation of power and legitimacy is a part of our common Islamic history. This opposition has been taken out of public circulation lest it comes back and topples the illegitimate rulers and regimes of today in an Islamic manner and with an Islamic spirit.
The following are lesser known individuals who went down opposing illegitimate rulers and power-mongers: Nafi’ ibn al-Azraq (65ah), Najdah ibn ‘Amir (36–72ah), Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyah (ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, 21–81ah), Ghaylan al-Dimashqi (106ah), al-Hasan al-Basri (21–110ah), Imam Zayd ibn ‘Ali (79–122ah), al-Jahm ibn Safwan (128ah), ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubayd (80–144ah), Muhammad ibn ‘Abdillah ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (better known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyah, 93–145ah), al-Qasim al-Rassi (169–246ah), and many others.
Imam Husayn, though, stands out from among the rest or most of the rest because he was loved, adored, endeared to, and treasured by his grandfather, our Nabi (pbuh), and for that reason in particular all Muslims should be willing and able to express their warmth, warmheartedness and sentiment to this integral part of the Prophet’s (pbuh) heart, family, and struggle.
This love for the Prophet (pbuh) and those the Prophet (pbuh) loved are not mutually exclusive. A Muslim can and should love the Prophet (pbuh) as well as his loved ones. And a Muslim should love the Prophet’s (pbuh) loved ones along side with him. This fervent attachment to both will blur the line between a “Sunni” and a “Shi‘i.” And are we not in need nowadays to blur these lines so that our common enemies do not find a way to divide us and then have us kill each other as is happening in some parts of the Muslim world today?!
Let us remind those Muslims in the “Sunni” propaganda sphere that once they open the door of differences and divisions they will open a pandora’s box. Should we remind these types that there is a chapter in ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s book that condemns Abu Hanifah. Some extremist “Muslims” paint Abu Hanifah with a broad brush of kufr! Among some Salafis there are factions that accuse others of kufr! There is an up-and-down cycle of tension between the Ikhwan and the Salafis. And the tensions continue to rise here and there from time to time…
Suffice it to say that Muslims who cannot love the Prophet (pbuh) and the beloved of the Prophet (pbuh) are condemned to hate themselves as is expressed in a myriad of ways,
“Say, ‘If you love Allah, follow me [the Prophet], [and] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins; for Allah is much-forgiving, very merciful.’” (3:31).