Imamate As The Protecting Vessel Of The Heart

 Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad [Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]. I just want to say thank you very much for the invitation. I love to travel to different parts of the U.K. and touch base with the community. And ironically, probably since I converted to Islam, I've seen more of England and I than I would have had if I hadn't converted to Islam. And inshaAllah, well, another thing is that I'm not senior lecturer at the Islamic College anymore, but I have set up my own online teaching as more details about what is there, it is called Online Shi'a studies, if anyone is interested in signing up, teaches short courses on Shia'ism through that. And I just want to, again, express very interesting talks that we just had. I've taken my notes and and I think this is something I'm always trying to encourage my viewers as well, that watching programmes to like, bring some paper and a pen and just make notes because you might not remember everything that's being said.

So today, inshaAllah we just talk a little bit about actually thinking about attaching ourselves to Imamat as a way of preventing ourselves from becoming corrupted, or as a way of reflecting upon the condition of our own heart.

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. All praises due to the Truth and salutations to the one who descended into this wordly reality in order to transmit his light. Muhammed, the chosen one, and his purified progeny, the lanterns that still shine in the darkness. [Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad] Sorry, I tend to read from notes, that's my style. I'm just thinking about the confirmation of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, alayhi assalam, as the successor of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him and his holy progeny, at Ghadir Khumm, consolidated the cosmic phenomenon of Walayah, as comments with prophet Adam, alayhi assalam, at the beginning of humanity.

As the ahadith sources have mentioned, Rasul or prophets that were sent with a message to humanity were also imams, and it is part of the prophetic Sunnah, as designated by Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, that the next leader or imam would be appointed before the death of the previous imam. I know that successor was a prophet, a nabi', who calls the people to the consciousness of the divine, but without bringing a new law or else that successor was an imam without being either a Rasul or a Nabi, but explicating and clarifying the message or the previous message of the message of the prophet who had just been.

So the official appointment of Ali Abi Talib, alayhi assalam, as Imam was therefore nothing new or unusual. And this can be seen by the fact that the people didn't object to the Holy Prophet doing this. On the contrary, as we know, they congratulated Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, and then following his appointment, it was only a matter of time before his betrayal was to take place, even from those who had been closest to the Holy Prophet. And as we've just been hearing about pride that affects people in power, perhaps precisely because they had been some of the closest, So they felt entitled and they didn't like it, that someone younger and more gifted should rule over them. This was intolerable to their pride.

So this betrayal was not a light matter. It was a fundamental rejection of the will of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, as conveyed by the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him. And the betrayal is perhaps bad enough, but maybe what breeds the followers of Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, more is that, as well as betrayal of the Imam, that was also bullying, ill-treatment, abuse and manipulation. There was a deliberate strategy to impoverish and disempower the Ahlul Bayt, alayhihum assalam. Hence the ziyarahs compiled by the Imams, instruct the Shi'a to disassociate themselves, to detach themselves from those who betrayed them and those who assisted the traitors and those who were pleased with that betrayal.

And it will be universally agreed by the Shi'a that all those who did so were reprehensible and worthy of contempt. But what if, having denounced the traitors for their heinous crime, knowingly rejecting the will of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, because of pride, we ourselves become the traitors?

The test after the appointment of Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, is then passed on to the Ummah. Those who were against him and those who were for him. The test is passed on to the Shi'a of Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, his partisans and his followers with regard to affirming their testimony to his Walayah, since, as we know, affirming that Walayah is not just a verbal act, we don't just say with with our mouths, yes, I am a follower of Imam Ali, alayhi assalam. Yes, he is our Mawla. Yes, he has the station of Walayah over us.

We have to put that affirmation, that verbal affirmation into practise. And so that requires self purification in order to align with the teachings of the Din. So we may denounce the companions who gave in to the temptation of worldly power and betrayed the Message. And while we may denounce their high handedness and their deviousness, how can we be sure that we too, are not giving in to the temptation of worldly power? Or worldly gains? Or behaving in a high handed manner? Or being devious in seeking to get what we want?

Imamat is the protecting vessel of the heart. Affirming the Imamat means turning the soul to the direction of the divine, whose presence, Imamat transmits to the world. So Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala makes Himself known to us through the Imamat. And so we return back to Allah, we turn our attention to Allah, via means of the Imamat. Deviating from Imamat means following the mass and our own colourful tendencies, such as competing for social position, hypocrisy, being anxious to have the right religious image while not being just within our own families and communities.

We hear of people denouncing the usurpers of the position of the Imams, yet we find that, and I've heard this sadly to say, within the families of the descendants of the Shi'a, we find that property and inheritance is usurped. There are some inheritance that's due to somebody in the family who may be very much in need and they never receive it because someone else who was responsible for the distribution of that decided to keep it for themselves.

Other colourful tendencies that can exist within ourselves include malice towards an innocent person who we may perceive as being more favoured than us. So there's a lot of bitterness that can arise in the heart when we think that we were more entitled to be in certain position, or to receive certain blessings, or to be associated with a certain family, or to get a certain job. We feel that we were more qualified and we resent someone who just happens to have been given these blessings.

Envy towards what others have in terms of family, property, and possessions and discontent with what has been given to us by Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and being determined to plot or manipulate one's way into a supposedly better position. And this is what I think we find in our communities, is the plotting, and the counter plotting and the counter counter plotting, you know, that was against the counter plotting, that was against the plotting in the first place.

So, and this demonstrates a lack of affirming the Walayah, because affirming the Walayah, means, as Imam Al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam, said, being able to [Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]. As someone very famously came to him and said, you know, I mean and we know the Shi'a always coming to the Imams saying 'we are your Shi'a', and then the Imams would ask certain questions, you know, and this one, which you may have heard of, is when someone came to Imam Al-Sadiq, alayhi assalam, and he said 'we are your Shi'a'. And he said, So are you able to put your hand into the pockets of your your brother and take whatever you need from his pocket? Are you able to do that with each other? Is there that trust and is there that sharing between you that that you are going to leave your door open, they can come in and come into your kitchen and take what they want from your kitchen if they're hungry? So this kind of is a model of an example of how far we are from from affirming the Walayah, even amongst each other.

So, to affirm the Walayah of Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, is to affirm the entire message of Islam, it's the culmination of Islam, to hold to his Imamat sincerely is a means of encouragement for us to purify our heart and soul. So if we're thinking, well, what does it mean to me? Okay, after I've said yes, Aliyan Wali Ullah, yeah, I have said that, now what? Well, after that comes the attempt to better ourselves, to self-examine, to be honest with ourselves and overcome our weaknesses, to engage in self-reflection and to get rid of tendencies that may act as a barrier between us and the Imam.

And again, I remember a few years ago, it suddenly occurred to me and again, I've mentioned this a few times where, you know, it kind of occurred to me because we all say, yeah, we want to be with Ahlul Bayt. I think, you know, every Shi'a on the planet, would put up their hand and say, we want to be with Ahlul Bayt, we want to be close to Ahlul Bayt. Now question arises, are we the kind of people they would want to be close to? Are we the kind of people that they would want to associate with?

It's known that each Imam had around him a close inner circle of companions who could be trusted to keep his secrets and receive knowledge from the Imam. So, each Imam had his his close initiates, who were utterly, utterly trustworthy. There was no way they were ever going to weaken and betray Imam, or pass on any information that the Imam had given them without permission. And then we have companions outside of that inner circle and then we have the lovers and the followers of the Imam. So these are what you might you might call a hierarchy, and they form a hierarchy of mu'mineen, or a hierarchy of believers.

And, so if we think about it, Okay each Imam had his inner circle and then he had like another circle. And then he has the the kind of the general mass of Shi'a who are the lovers of Ahlul Bayt, alayhum assalam. How do we come close to the Imam? How do we rise up that hierarchy? And as the scholars have said, this hierarchy does not consist of official titles. The very interesting point is that to draw close to the Imam, requires purity of heart. So, the hierarchy consists of those whose hearts have been progressively purified. So those who are closest to the Imam were those who had the purest, and most reliable, and most courageous hearts.

I think also, I think one of the one about that is in putting Islam into practise and especially, you know, with the kind of world that we're living in is that the values of Islam are not valued. And we ourselves sometimes forget about the those values as well, and thinking about how attaching ourselves to the Walayah of the Imam can help us to improve as a human being, to become better human beings, as a model for the rest of society.

There are a few points that that can help us as we know the Holy Qur'an again, interestingly, this is something, again, I think that we forget about when we're thinking about Akhira and the way we're thinking about returning back to Allah, our final journey back to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala we forget that as the Holy Qur'an says, Allah will only accept the one who has a heart that is Saleem, a qalb that is Saleem, Chapter 26:89. And it's quite interesting to see what Saleem means in the dictionary. So it has many words in English: we've got a qalb, a heart that is sound, a heart that is intact, a heart that is unimpaired, a heart that is undamaged, unharmed, whole, perfect, flawless, unblemished, good, well, healthy, fit normal, and correct. This is the state of a heart that is Saleem, undamaged.

And of course, you know, our hearts do get damaged in this life. They get damaged by other people, that get damaged by things we see, things we hear, things we eat. So that is our main challenge. How are we going to return back via this Wilayah,to Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala with a heart that is undamaged? Means we have to engage on some sort of, some serious repair work. It has to be a daily reflection for us on what is the condition of my heart and state?

And the Holy Qur'an speaks much of the hidden aspect of the human being. And this is the hidden aspect, which is the heart, and it speaks a lot about the condition of the heart. And of course, as we know, it speaks about there being a sickness in the heart, in as an example, Suratul Baqarah, it speaks about the heart being hardened, it tells the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, about what the hypocritical people are concealing in their hearts, in terms of their thoughts and intentions. It talks about those who affirm belief with their mouths, but their hearts do not believe. And it warns us not to obey him whose heart has been made neglectful of our remembrance.[Ref. 18:28]

And I think it's quite useful for when, you know, we might be under pressure from school, college, work, family, any pressure from people who might be anti-Muslim or anti-hijab, that, you know, who may put us under pressure to, again, submit to certain values that are unIslamic to submit to their ways. We know there's a lot of psychological pressure on this. And as the Holy Qur'an has said, if they are neglectful of the remembrance of Allah, it's not upon you to to follow them. Another thing about the Walayah is that, and I know there are different theories that float around it, someone once wrote to me and I think this is quite popular theory amongst quite a lot, that the lovers of the Ahlul Bayt, alayhum assalam, is that, in a way exempts you from your sins. So that, even if you sinned, if you have done wrong or if you are a habitual wrongdoer, that's okay, because the love for the Ahlul Bayt, is so kind of above everything that as long as you love and that is sufficient for, you know, for passing through successfully in the next world.

Imam Al-Baqir, alayhi assalam, clarifies very clearly [Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]. That he said, you cannot benefit from our Walayah, if you don't practise Islam, if you're not following the Sharia, if you're not practising Islam externally and internally, if you're not yourself taking on the responsibility of putting your affirmation of this Walayah into practice, the Alhul Bayt cannot help you. You can ask for their shifa'a, you can ask for their intercession, you're entitled to do that. But you yourself have to work on being someone again who the imam can actually intercede for you. You have to be someone that, you know, the Imam sould want to intercede for. So loving the Imam, yes, is good, but it is not sufficient.

As we can see, again, if you look in Nahj al-Balaghah, again, if you think of it. Yeah, I want to be one of the followers of Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, we can see in Nahj al-Balaghah, how frustrated Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, was once his best companions had been killed. The best companions who were again trustworthy, honest, self-disciplined, ready for sacrifice, these were their qualities. Once they had been killed, he was sad and left with a kind of a lesser quality of followers. The followers after them were over a lesser quality. What happened? Chaos.

He was not able to get together a proper army to defeat Muawiyah. He had been on the verge of defeating Muawiyah, you know, when the Khawarij broke away and he had to turn their attention to the Khawarij. So that meant that, you know, Muawiyah was able to kind of, you know, re-consolidate his position and he was never defeated.There were people who constantly questioning the Imam, are you sure you made the right decision? But we don't want to do that oh but it's cold.It is too hot. You know, and so the Imam doesn't need followers like this.

And another very tragic thing that we see in Nahj al-Balaghah is the loneliness of Imam as well, because he did not have people who could really be his friends and companions. And this is another tragedy. That [how much time left? One minute, ok]. So, again, you know, this is this is the tragedy that took place that, yes, he was betrayed by the open enemies of the Ahlul Bayt, but what about the followers? And the followers may indeed have loved Imam Ali, alayhi assalam, but they didn't know what it was to actually affirm that Walayah, and I would say that, you know, let's really.. I'm going to conclude with with a very ambitious idea, which is that, you know, ideally, well, when we look at the condition ofour communities, that what kind of communities do we want in the West, in the U.K.?

Well, really, we want to be model communities, that other people look to and want to emulate, you know, rather than feeling that we are on the defensive all the time. We're on the defensive, we're in the minority. And we've got so many issues to sort out that don't seem to be getting sorted out. We need to really rise above these issues that are are preventing us from moving forward and progressing and keeping us embroiled in lots of petty issues and petty matters. We've got to rise above our own Nafs and think long term in the future, not just think about, at now, the next generation, but think about the next 1500 years, because Muslims shall be here, until the reappearance of the Imam, ajalallahu faraja ash-sharif.

So we can inshaAllah, you know, really make an effort to educate ourselves, read, to get to know the texts, understand this Deen, you know, become familiar with the sources, with the thoughts that is going into this Deen, become familiar with the personalities of the Imams and the discussions that they had with the companions. And this is sort of conclude this plea. Please do get the books and read the books. We really need to develop, you know, in terms of our full and inshaA llah, you know, at events, I don't want to sound patronising, but I've got my paper pen. You know, you can always kind of learn something like a collection of a notebook when you go home, you know, bring a paper and a pen and just write down and build up collection, and go over those notes. Because this time next year, unless you go back to the recording on YouTube, somewhere, which you may forget about, how many of us this time next year are going to remember the points that we make today?

So if it's written down, you can reflect upon it. And a few years later, did I wrote that? You actually wrote it, you can't remember that you wrote it. So we need to build up this body of knowledge, inshaAllah, for future generations. Thank you very much, Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa aali Muhammad.[Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]