Jumuah lecture on Friday 11 January 2019 by Brother Bashier Rahim at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town.
After praising Almighty Allah and sending salutations upon His Beloved Messenger and Holy Household, I exhort myself and all of you to strive to permanently have the attribute of Taqwa or concsiouness of Almighty Allah in our lives. And I also extend my congratulations to our Living Imam Mahdi (a.s) as we commemorate the birth anniversary of Lady Zainab (a.s) tomorrow who is the great partner of Imam Husayn (a.s) in driving reformation in the world.
Living in this beautiful country of ours with one of the most comprehensive sets of institutionalized human rights makes place for virtually everyone with every ideology to exist as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others in the process.
In highly restrictive societies like dictatorships or unjust governments which promote apartheid, society itself is exposed to less ideological diversity which is a background that we South Africans have moved on from an were originally part of.
It’s amazing that in a country like Saudi Arabia for example, where hard line policies were exercised by preventing both Sunni and Shia from practising rituals like Mowlud or Azadari in Muharram, with a mere overnight change of rule, during last year’s Muharram, Shia in Saudi Arabia were able to have Majlis in their own areas with relative calm and people are able to go to the graves of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Jannatul Baqi with relatively less stress.
But people know that this relative easing of the situation can again change overnight when the current king dies or changes his mind and thus people tend to keep to themselves from a social/religious perspective as even every move on social media of Saudi citizens is monitored and recorded. And in the past week we read reports of attacks on Shia in Qatif again.
So that is how restrictive societies work – there is relatively lower risk of being influenced from those outside your social/religious setup as you are controlled to a great extent by the state which forces you to keep your ideology to yourself.
But in our society, everything goes. It’s wonderful on the one hand….really wonderful that we are free to think and truly are able to follow what we want to in our personal capacity.
But that freedom has the potential opposite undesirable outcome – that we end up following that which takes us down an undesirable spiritual path.
In last week’s jumuah khutbah at another mosque, the speaker who is generally considered to be a reliable person quoted a statistic that in 2018 in South Africa, 60 percent of new born babies were registered at Home Affairs without the name of a father.
When we have a cursory glance at how diversity is playing out in our society, we see relationships across the religious divide becoming the new norm. So Muslim marries Christian, or Muslim marries Hindu or Muslim marries a Jew or Muslim marries an atheist or Muslim marries an Agnostic or Muslim marries a Buddhist etc. And there are many more variations that play out that I won’t even mention here that you can see for yourself.
And it’s not about the other party becoming Muslim – that’s great if that genuinely occurs – but reality is that both tend to continue to live as what they originally were or the Muslims even effectively gives up their religion and only for cultural purposes still celebrate Eid twice a year so that they still “look like” Muslim. And the offspring from this relationship are more confused than anything else.
ROOT OF THE CHALLENGE
Why are we so weak and unconfident in being able to stand our ground (with humility of course) and not exactly know what are the boundaries that we cannot cross??
I believe that one core reason is that for most of us we have inherited our religion. We follow what our parents and forefathers did.
And even if they sent us to madressa, the system teaches us in a way that causes us to further inherit our religion – do you remember doing “koples”??… where you learn a few versions of the Kalimah by heart and Arkanul Islam by heart and Arkanul Iman by heart and some fiq and 80 percent of your time is allocated to learning to recite Quran by heart – and you are good to go…. ready for a world where just one conversation about religion with a non-Muslim or even someone from another mathab will derail you.
And even today when the madresssa system in general in South Africa has expanded to include teaching Aqaid, History, Akhlaq, etc… it is still a type of inheriting your religion as the culture is one of memorizing information instead of understanding.
By having this approach, we might train our children to make salaah and pay zakaah but we would not have taught them to establish salaah and establish zakaah… there’s a difference!
We might teach them to make some dua and read and sing some ath-kaar but they would have no appreciation for its centrality in spiritual development.
We might command a girl to wear hijab but when they on the beach their Hijab is washed away.
And so the list goes on, and we end up having young people with a weak foundation in religion that causes them to go wherever the wind blows them.
ALLAMAH HILLI ON IMPORTANCE OF AQEEDAH
Around 1000 years ago, Sheikh Tusi compiled a book called “Misbahul Mutahajjid” or the “Lamp of those who perform Tahajjud” which essentially was a book on Ibadah and Duas. In today’s time most of us use the book of Sheikh Abbas Qummi called Mafatihul Jinan which has such information in it. But 1000 years ago the book of Sheikh Tusi was used.
Then in the 7th century AH, the great scholar Allamah Hilli who in school of Ahlul Bait (a.s) is maybe the first person who was given the title “Ayatullah”, he took the book of Sheikh Tusi and organized it into 10 sections. So it was merely a rearrangement of the contents Misbahul Mutahajjid for ease of reference.
However since this book was about Ibadah and Duas, etc. which only have meaning if your knowledge and Ma’rifat of the One you are worshipping is sound, so Allamah Hilli took the liberty to add an 11th section to this book which he called “Al-Babul Hadi Ashar Fimaa Yajibu Alaa Aamati Mukallifeen Min Ma’rifati Usuli Deen” or “the 11th section on what is obligatory upon all mukallaf (religiously responsible persons) with respect to knowing Principles of Religion”. In short it is famously called “Babul Hadi Ashar” and is still taught in some Hawzas today. So this book or section discussed Aqaid in some detail to supplement the book of Duas and Ibadah.
This famous book of Allamah Hilli called Babul Hadi Ashar has over 20 commentaries, the most famous one which is by Allamah Fazil Miqdad. Now he says something interesting which I wish to relay as the central message of today’s Khutbah which hopefully will last for a long time.
SPECULATIVE NATURE OF USULI DEEN
Allamah Hilli makes a statement that every Mukallaf MUST have the knowledge of Usuli Deen with “Daleel” or “proof/reason”, and not by imitation or following others! That is the responsibility of EVERY Mukallaf.
Then by way of commentary to this statement Allamah Fazil Miqdad makes reference to the type of knowledge Usul al-Deen will fall under.
He says knowledge of Usuli Deen is NOT “Badehi” or “self-evident” knowledge. Please understand this point. Self evident knowledge is that knowledge within our intellectual capital that every human being has that requires no proof.
If I ask you what is “existence” then it’s something that can’t be really defined as it is the most clearly understood self evident concept.
Or if I say contradiction is impossible or half is less than the whole…. this knowledge is self evident.
And because knowledge which is Badehi is self evident, everyone sees it the same way. Nobody will be able to convince anybody that for example contradiction is possible and so on. There is thus NO argument in relation to matters which are self evident or Badehi.
But when it comes to knowledge of Usuli Deen which seeks to answer the most fundamental questions of life, then we see there is no absolute consensus among mankind on the issue. There is disagreement with a variety of views about God, the purpose of life and the possibility and nature of the after life.
This disagreement clearly shows us that knowledge of Usuli Deen is not self evident (Badehi) knowledge BUT it is speculative in nature (Nathari) and because of this it requires individual investigation and proof.
And Almighty Allah expects us to undertake such investigation and not simply to follow through blind imitation and thus says to us in Surah Muhammad Verse 19:
فَاعْلَمْ أنَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلاّ اللَّهُ
“Therefore, know that there is no god but Allah”…. the verse says “know” and does not simply command us to “say”.
HOW SPECULATIVE KNOWLEDGE BECOMES SELF EVIDENT
Now one of the scholars who teaches this book makes a wonderful point. He says that while knowledge of Usuli Deen is speculative for average people (and in brackets I will say this includes knowledge of Imamate is speculative for average people), that same knowledge which is speculative at the start is “Badehi” or “self evident” for an Aalim! Understand this!
And by Aalim we not talking about someone who sat in Hawza for 10 years, but we talking about anyone who has sound knowledge of these proofs which is something that can be acquired by everyone to an extent.
Now take your mind back to my opening remarks. We sit with a plethora of challenges of young people going in different directions and not having religious confidence because their knowledge of the Fundamentals of Deen is still effectively very speculative. These fundamentals of Deen is the foundation of all other religious sciences and in a sense is the most important. It is even sometimes more important than detailed knowledge of Akhlaq itself. That’s why Allamah Hilli adds a section on this issue of Usuli Deen to the book of Duas and Ibadah.
Because this knowledge of the fundamentals of Deen is weak, so young people see no difference in being Muslim on one hand and your spouse is from a fundamentally different ideology on the other.
How does one ensure that our young people have self evident knowledge of religion (knowledge which is Badehi) which will ensure that they remain firm no matter which environment they are placed in?
Before answering this question let me ask you why does our society so diligently send their children to school for 12 years at least? Because it’s self evident that they can acquire some knowledge or skill that will somehow secure their material needs. Nobody argues about the importance of sending your children to school. And our laws are even written to ensure every child must be placed in a school.
So how will we ensure our young people have self evident knowledge of religion which will ensure that they remain firm no matter which environment they are placed in?
One such solution is the critical institution of our Madressatul Imam Husayn (a.s).
WHAT WE TEACH
In our madressa, from Grade R to Level 12 we teach 5 Core subjects:
- Quran recital
- Aqaid/Usuli Deen (Fundamental Beliefs)
And we supplement this core teaching with topics in Life Orientation, Public Presentations and Islamic Culture.
Within all of this, at least 20 percent of our effort first goes into quite a detailed teaching of various proofs of existence of God, understanding His Attributes, proving the reality of the Hereafter, proving the Necessity of Prophethood and the Divine origin of the Quran, the Necessity of Imamate and Divine Justice.
In the higher levels we specifically address in some detail the various theories that atheism and polytheism advances that our youth are bombarded by.
What is our view about the Big Bang Theory?
What is our view about Evolution and Darwinism? Who came first – the human or the ape?
What is our view about creation by chance?
Why the Pascal Wager is logical and how the Quran advances this idea?
How do we respond to Anthromorphist ideas?
How do we respond to supposed contradictions in religion?
Is evil in the world created by God, and if not then where is God while evil is occurring?
These are just a small sample of ideological questions that young people face that they need to be able to confidently answer.
When this foundation is sound, then we build on it the teaching of Fiq and Akhlaq in reasonable amount of detail.
From all the Furu’ud Deen (Branches of Religion) – Salaah is taught in detail with its different types and its prerequisites which is Tahara (purity) and we teach learners about Zakaah, Fasting, Khums, Jihad, Hajj and Umra, etc.
We teach the importance of Halaal and Tayyib (pure) food and where you can eat.
We teach the importance of identifying a Halaal profession in deciding a career path and Halaal businesses that one can run.
We teach how to manage a janazah in its various aspects.
And we cover marriage and divorce and inheritance and some modern day Fiq issues like Islamic Bioethics, etc.
And then to round it off we also teach some introductory topics related to Quran and Hadith and Islamic Philosophy to open a window to tertiary studies in Hawza.
And all of this is balanced with a detailed course on Akhlaq and the dozens of issues pertaining to it that must be nurtured bit by bit over time in a conducive environment.
And this is only some of the highlights of what we offer as we teach much more.
So after this investment of 12 to 14 years of time spent in this institution, we don’t guarantee but do sincerely hope that our youth’s “speculative knowledge” of our religion moves away from “speculation” to being “Badehi” or “self evident” knowledge that will make the youth religiously confident to enter the world they encounter.
And with all this effort we hope that our mission is achieved which is to instill within our youth love for the Quran, love for the Prophet (sawa) and love for the Ahlul Bait (a.s) so that their outlook in life is always guided by Thaqalayn – the Book of Allah and the Ahlul Bait (a.s) of whom the head is Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
OUR RESPONSIBILITY WHEN WE HAVE KNOWLEDGE
In the commentary of the Book Babul Hadi Ashar, Allamah Fazil Miqdad says another important thing.
“Since Almighty Allah did not create this world in vain and since He has expressly stated the purpose of creation (And I have not created Jinn or human beings except to worship Me), it is compulsory for every person with an intellect to respond to the Lord of the Worlds. And since this response is not possible without knowing Allah with certainty, it is compulsory on every Mukallaf (religiously responsible person) who has this knowledge to help those with no Ma’rifah to get it by awakening them from their obliviousness.” In other words even though the knowledge to be obtained is speculative in nature as it requires proof, it somehow is easily understood as our nature is fertile for receiving such knowledge and thus we simply need to be awoken from our obliviousness.
So this is a wide ranging responsibility that already starts in the home where we should teach this knowledge.
But the Madressa is the place where it is done in a structured manner and is also the environment where it is culturally embedded.
So the parents and guardians of our learners have a major responsibility in doing everything in their power to ensure our learners achieve this training.
Since mid 2016 we seriously embarked on a journey to make our Madressa more structured, with measurable outcomes and a comprehensive learning platform. This journey continues.
In this year 2019, we have more teachers and it’s pleasing to say from the younger generation who are being trained to take this institution forward.
We also have smaller focussed classes to ensure those who missed out on previous Madressa education are catered for while not holding back on the progress of those who are at the appropriate level.
LIFE ORIENTATION AND QURAN FOCUS
We also have more life orientation lessons planned that will be addressed by a wider variety of professional speakers so that learners don’t only learn about issues like body image, changes in your body, girl-boy relationships, HIV/AIDS, depression, etc. at school but somehow learn about it within our own environment giving it an Islamic angle.
For example there was once a discussion by religious leaders with an international organisation of Psychiatrists regarding how religion and spirituality can assist in issues of mental health.
And various faith groups gave brief input in this regard. So when our opportunity came to provide input, Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider alerted the participants to our culture of being happy in the happiness of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and being sad in their sadness.
And through this, for example when you suffer trauma that has a psychological impact on you, we are recommended to focus our attention on the sufferings and trauma that the Ahlul Bait (a.s) went through in Karbala and through this expression of our emotions for their loss and shedding of tears for their trauma, there is an inner feeling that our trauma is smaller than theirs and it brings some inner healing for the pain we are feeling.
We also have a new approach to teaching Quran reciting that will ensure that learners get the full value of the time spent on this as its been an annual challenge to make serious progress in this area.
Now with all that I remind parents of their responsibility on this issue of Madressa. Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) says the following in relation to the rights of a child:
وَأَنَّكَ مَسْئولٌ عَمَّا ولِّيتَهُ بِهِ مِنْ حُسْنِ الأَدَب وَالدّلالَةِ عَلَى رَبهِ وَالْمَعُونةِ لَهُ عَلَى طَاعَتِهِ
“You (the parents) are responsible for what has been entrusted to you, such as educating him (the child) in good conduct (husn al-adab), pointing him in the direction of his Lord, and helping him to obey Him.”
While our Madressa has grown nicely and continues to grow, my heart goes out to the many children who should be attending from our very community who are not registered. How are we going to answer as parents regarding our duty towards our children of pointing them in the direction of our Lord if we don’t bring them to Madressa?
Some believe they can do home schooling. Yes I suppose…. but that presupposes you are proficient in all the subjects and will diligently do this with focused attention but you still miss the community culture that is only obtained over here.
And the same goes for the idea of online learning – it can be encouraged as extra support, but the primary learning must still occur in the Madressa environment.
We have a variety of excuses – tuition on Saturdays, extra mural and sports on Saturdays as our children must get into the Western Province or South African team.
Or we live too far.
Or I am at work.
And then there are those who hide behind the unintended “Insha’Allah” which is a polite way of saying I actual have not intention of doing this!
Or they hide behind the fact that they know some stuff about religion and one should not judge their intention. Let me remind such people of incident at the time of the Prophet (sawa) when he saw one of his companions making salaah and told him he should redo it as he did not perform salaah – and this occurred three times. Now was their any insincerity on behalf of the companion? No. But was his salaah correct? No! And thus he asked the Prophet (sawa) to teach him to make it properly – and that is what we all require.
I hope it’s self evident to everyone that these are mere excuses that we have and that if one gives at least equal priority to this responsibility, then we will find a way to get here to Madressa and be here every week on time Insha’allah.
Our 2019 year commences by compulsory registration tomorrow with a games evening for the learners from 6pm to 10.30pm. We sincerely call upon you to bring your learners and especially those who are not in the Madressa system – if you don’t make a start this year, then when are you going to start??
RACIST INCIDENT IN THE NORTH WEST PROVINCE
In closing we should all also condemn the incident that occurred during this week with the opening of schools when it appears that segregation was practised in separating children of different races at a school in Schweitzer Reneke in the North West Province. And the flood of condemnation that we have witnessed makes it self evident that common South Africans find this despicable. It’s perhaps a reflection of a minority mentality that refuses to change and make South Africa a wonderful place for all. We should also commend those parents who took a stance to remove their learners from the school as such behaviour should not be accepted.