Lessons From The Stories Of Bani Isra'il in the Qur'an

Audhubillahis Samee'il Aleem, minash shaytanil laeenir rajeem. Bismillah hir Rahman nir Rahim, Al-Hamdulillahi Rabbil Alameen Baar'i il Khalai'qi Ajma'een. Ba'aith al Ambiyaai wal Mursaleen. Was salat was salamu ala ashrafi khalqihi wa Khatimi ambiyaaihi wa Rusulih. Sayyidina wa habibi qulubina wa shafee'i dhunubinah Abil Qasimi Muhammad [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]. Wa ala ahli baytihit tayibeen nat tahireen al masoomeen al mutahareen al mukarrameen. Kaalal lahul adheemu fi kitabihil kareem wahuwa ahsanul qa ileena wa asdaqus saadiqiina, Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. Qal alladhina yadhunnuuna anna hum mulaakullahi kam mim fi'atin kaleelatin ghalabat fi atan katheeratan bi idhnil lah wallahu ma as saabireen.(2:249) Aamanna billah sadaqal laahul aliyyul adheem.

For the purification of the Souls and the Enlightenment of the Hearts and for the Hastening of the reappearance of the awaited saviour, ajjaral lahu ta'ala farajahush shareef, enlighten Your Souls and the atmosphere with the recitation of salawat upon Muhammad wa aali Muhammad. [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]

Respected Scholars, Elders, My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam As salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraktu [wa alaykum assalam, wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu]. It is mentioned over approximately 900 verses of the Holy Qur'an, spanning thirty chapters in over 100 occurrences. The story of Bani Israel occupies a prominent position in the Holy Qur'an and its discussion is vital and has relevance to our lives today. In fact, when you look at the Holy Qur'an it is full of narratives and stories that the Almighty Lord Subhanah wa Ta'ala has presented for you and I to benefit.

What distinguishes the stories in the Qur'an from the novels and the narratives that we may come across in our day to day life is the fact that it is based on absolute fact number one, and number two, there are indeed a number of important applications to be made in our lives.

In other words, the fact that the Qur'an mentions the story of Bani Israel in so many chapters should send the signal to you and I that we need to reflect upon it, think about it and draw lessons from it. For instance, if we look at the Prophets of Allah mentioned in the Qur'an, we find some of them are related to the story of Bani Israel. Yet the story of Bani Israel in the Qur'an, is not only confined to the Prophets, we find that, for instance, Chapter two of the Qur'an, Surat Al Baqarah is named after the story of the children of Israel.

The story is referred to as the story of the cow, hence the name Surat al Baqarah. Most of us have come across the narrative whereby we are told that the Almighty Subhanah wa Ta'ala, honoured a young man who looked after his parents, cared for his parents, and therefore, when Bani Israel were seeking to slaughter a cow, they were told to find that particular individual who had this cow and that man sold the cow for a lofty price. Hence the Almighty honored him. And also the chapter was named as Surat al Baqarah.

Yet one of the most intriguing stories when it comes to Bani Israel is the narrative related to a man by the name of Taloot. Why? Because his mentioning in the Qur'an is also found where? In the Old Testament. Therefore, there are similarities and differences that can be drawn when it comes to the story of this individual - Taloot and his community. When we examine the Qur'an and as well, when we look at the Bible, the story of Taloot needs to be looked at and it's the subject of the discussion.

Yet also, the idea behind looking at the story of Taloot, especially in the commemoration of the month of Muharram, is to draw similarities between what the Almighty Subhanah wa Ta'ala discusses in Surat al Baqarah over six verses, six Ayat - verses 246 to 252 discuss the story of this man by the name of Taloot.

The similarities need to be drawn with the story of Karbala, the sacrifice of the master of the martyrs, Sayyid ash Shuhada' Aba Abdillah Al-Husayn, salawatullahi wa salaamuhu alayh. And indeed, when we look at this particular narrative, we begin to reflect about the significance of these stories in the Holy Qur'an.

When you look at the story of Taloot, there needs to be an introduction for us to appreciate what the story is about and to seek inspirational lessons from it. The idea emerges from the Qur'an and traditions that all the Prophets of God designated a successor, somebody who would carry the message and ensure that the teachings will be disseminated to the people.

In other words, this is found in the teachings of the religion of Islam from Adam to Khaatam, from the Holy Prophet Adam towards the Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallal-lahu alayhi wa aliihi wa sallam [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]

Each and every Prophet of God ensured that before they leave and depart this world, there is what? A successor that's announced for people, including whom? Musa, alayhi assalam. Prophet Moses also left a successor. Who is the successor of Moses? Not Harun, because Harun died when Moses was still alive. The successor of Musa was a man by the name of Yusha ibn Nuun whom the Qur'an does not speak about by name, yet refers to in several chapters. Yusha ibn Nuun, of course, was an honorable individual, an individual who was chosen by God to lead Bani Israel after Musa.

Yet there are similarities that exist between this man, the successor of Musa, chosen by God and the successor of the Prophet of Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, peace and blessings be upon him. What are those similarities?

Number one Yusha ibn Nuun lived for 30 years after Musa. So did Imam Ali, alayhi assalam.

Number two, Yusha ibn Nuun had a dispute and did not get along very well with one of the wives of Moses. And we all know what happened with Amir Al-Mu'mineen and one of the wives of the Holy Prophet.

Number three of the greatest of importance, the people, Bani Israel, did not respond and did not become obedient to Yusha ibn Nuun. Likewise, Amir Al-Mu'mineen Ali ibn Abi Talib also suffered this type of reaction from the Muslim community.

Yet the fourth idea is quite interesting. History tells us there are two individuals, according to Islamic narrations, that had the honor for the sun to be returned because of them. Meaning what? Meaning Yusha ibn Nuun and Ali ibn Abi Talib had this particular honor that after the sun had set due to a prayer of a Prophet of God, the sun was returned for them. One was Yusha and the other was Amir Al-Mu'mineen.

We are told that Ali ibn Abi Talib one day was resting with the Prophet, and the Prophet was indeed resting on his laps and he had not performed these prayers, the 'Asr' afternoon prayers, and the Prophet of Islam had requested after he woke up, he said to him, Have you prayed 'Asr'? Ali ibn Abi Talib said, 'no'. The Prophet would pray to Allah that the sun should return 'Allahuma ruddash shamsa li Ali'. That today there exists a mosque in Medina, despite the attempts to change the name is called 'Masjid Radd ush-Shams' - The mosque whereby the sun returned.

And indeed many people witnessed that after the sun had set, miraculously, it returned back for Ali ibn Abi Talib to perform his prayers and once he finished his prayers, the sun once again set. Likewise, Yusha ibn Nuun enjoyed what? Enjoyed the same fadheela. The idea that first emerges in this introductory point when we examine the story of Taloot is the following: that if every Prophet of God had a successor, how is it that the final and the greatest and the best of God's Prophets did not leave a successor?

That's why the School of Ahlul Bayt emerges with this important belief that the Prophet indeed declared and he showed the people knew who his successor was several times, including the famous incident of Ghadeer, which reminds me of a story that happened where? In Saudi Arabia recently whereby a scholar who follows the school of Ahlul Bayt was happening to go to a shop, a store that sells books.

He was browsing through the books and the keeper came to him. The man who sells the books came to him and said, you must be a man from the Shia, from the followers of Ali, from the followers of the family of the prophet. He said, yes.

How did you know? You look like you are looking at the books that specifically talk about their attributes, their achievements. Yet the man would say to this particular Shia scholar, he would say, I have a problem with your faith. I have an issue with your belief. The Shia scholar said, what's the problem? He said, my problem is that you exaggerate an incident that happened fourteen hundred years ago known as Ghadeer. This incident is a simple incident.

The Prophet stopped. He told everyone Ali was my friend, relax, chill out. That's all it's about. There's nothing more to it. The Shia scholar said, fine, I can sit down with you. And I could present you the evidence that exists, which highlights why we consider this day to be of the greatest of importance. Let's designate let's go and sit down and have this debate. The shopkeeper said no problem. When would you like to do it? He said now. He said, I can't do it now.

He said, why? He said because we have to go sit somewhere in isolation, not in front of people whereby we can have a discussion. The scholar said fine, let's go now. Let's go back somewhere in a room in a particular place. We can sit down and we could discuss.

The keeper said I'm unable to do so. Pay attention to this. The keeper said, I am unable to do so. Why? Because I do not have somebody to look after my shop. I do not have somebody to stand here whilst I leave it and sit with you somewhere else.

The Shia scholar looked at him and says you have a shop which sells books and you are not willing to leave it without making sure someone looks after it and you expect Allah and his Messenger to abandon the message of Islam without appointing a successor?

Can you see how sometimes rationality and powerful arguments of the mind is a powerful tool to be able to win people's hearts and minds?

That's the first idea that emerges from the story of Lut. People, Bani Israel, they turned against Yusha ibn Nuun and they did not listen to him.

And therefore the Almighty Allah, Subhanah wa Ta'ala, ensured that they went through suffering - a great deal of pain whereby some ruthless kings like whom? Like Jaloot, who instilled this fear and oppression amongst Bani Israel would rule for several years.

The children of Israel - Israel means Yaqoob, Prophet Jacob. They would come to the Prophet at that time by the name of Ishmael in the Bible. His mentioning is there. This particular Prophet, Ismail/Ishmael/Samuel is known in the Bible because there is a book by Samuel in the Bible, they would come to him and say, we've had enough. We want to be able to defeat these ruthless kings. Help us. Send us a king, or pray to your Lord so that a king what? Comes to save us! This is the plea of the children of Israel.

This Prophet, according to Islamic teachings, is named Prophet Ishmael would say, no, I'm not praying to God. Why they said. He said, because every time I do so you disobey because sometimes people claim things. It's easy to say. Of course, actions speak louder than words.

People throughout history came to whom. Came to the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt. They beseeched them. They said, we will fight alongside you. A man would come to the Holy sixth Imam, Imam Ja'far ibn Muhammad Al-Sadiq, salawatullahi wa salaamuhu alaih, and he would come and say to him, Oh, the grandson of the Prophet, we are willing to fight alongside you and defeat the Banu Abbas. We have more than 100,000 signatories. Would you rise?

And of course, the famous story whereby the Imam would command one of them to sit in the oven and they would not do so, whereas one of his sincere servants would do exactly what the Imam instructs him to do. And the Imam would say that it's because I do not have the quality of the companions that I do not rise.

And this was the case, of course, throughout history, which should send a very clear message to you and I that if today we hear the call to help and to rise against oppression and injustice anywhere in the world, especially if it's made in the Kaaba, between what? Between the black stone and the maqaam of Ibrahim, and when the Awaited Saviour, ajarallahu ta aala farajahush shareef, would emerge and would cry out 'Hal Min Nasirin Yansiruna?' - Is there anyone to help us? What would our reaction be? Most of us would say, you know what? I have a business. I have other types of engagements. I may not be able to rise and support the Imam. And this was indeed the trend throughout what history.

So Ishmael would say to them, I'm sorry, I can't help you. They begged him, they said, our women have been enslaved. Our children are being taken as captive. We have no longer any dignity, any honor. We need a king who will rule and ensure that we defeat the unjust rulers. Eventually Ishmael would pray to Allah. Allah Subhanah wa Ta'ala would say to this prophet, 'yes, I will send them a king. His name is Taloot'. In the Bible he's known as Saul. S.A.U.L. Yet when you look at the Bible and you look at the Qur'an and you compare their stories, you'll find the difference what the Muslims come out with, when it comes to the depiction of Prophets and others. Why?

Because when you look at this individual and other Prophets like Noah, like Lot, the stories found in the Bible leaves a lot to be desired, which the Qur'an completely what? Condemns. The Qur'an exonerates and purifies the Prophets. It does not in any way accuse Prophets like Lut of incest, God forbid, or Nuh have been drunkard and so on. Whereas when it comes to the Bible, unfortunately, this exists. Likewise with Saul he is referred to as an individual who is chosen by God to lead the children of Israel and is one of the last of the Hebrew judges. Yet what happened is he turned against God and God was angry at him.

Whereas the Qur'an says no - Taloot was a righteous man. God chose him. He wasn't a Prophet, but he was a king. So he came to the Prophet at that time, Ishmael, seeking what? Seeking his sheep because he had lost it. He had no idea that he would become the king. So Ishmael would look at him and say, God has chosen you to lead the children of Israel.

Taloot said, fine, I'll do it. When he was chosen, Bani Israel was presented with this new king of them. Taloot from Arabic comes from 'Taul', which means he was, what, quite tall. He had a physique. He came in front of Bani Israel. What did Bani Israel do? 'I'm sorry. We don't want you. You're not good enough for us'.

Ishmail said, 'you asked me to pray. Now you're not accepting him. What's wrong with him'? They said: 'there are two problems with him'. 'Number one, he is not from the correct family. He has to be from a particular line'. Why? 'Because all the kings were from the line of Yusuf, Joseph and they said he is from the line of Benjamin, the brother of Yusuf. Therefore, we do not accept him'. In their eyes their criteria was what? Whatever they wanted, the lineage that they sought, Allah, Subhanah wa Ta'ala would say to them through their Prophet. 'It's not you who chooses, it's me. It's not about the family. It's about the quality of the individual, their attributes, their virtues, their characteristics'.

Second problem they had with this man, they said, 'wa lam yu'ta si'atan minal mal', - 'he's poor. How can he be king where he is not affluent, he's not rich? We cannot accept him'. This is the problem with human beings. Often the criteria for the assessment of whether an individual is right for a position or a station or in any way in which we come to assess people. Often we look at how much they own. Often money and wealth is an important indicator. The Qur'an says when it comes to this, you have to be very careful because indeed wealth can be a cause of what? An individual's damnation.

Islam doesn't have a problem with people becoming rich or affluent or possessing wealth, yet it has an issue with people engaging continuously and seeking wealth as their main purpose in life and making it the sole objective of their existence. In other words, you can indeed assume wealth, but it should not possess you. You should possess it. Which means what? If you lose it one day, if you wake up one day and it's not there or somebody takes it away from you, it doesn't change your faith.

It doesn't shake your existence if you're too attached to it, that's the moment of difficulty. Prophet Isa, Ala Nabiyyina wa alaa aalehi wa alaihi afdhahus salaati was salaam, wanted to teach people this important lesson. Be careful about wealth. Why? Because it could be a cause of what? Disastrous consequences for people if they focus on it too much.

One day he was traveling with his companions and they came across, according to some narrations, he came across some wealth, some gold in the desert. There was a bag full of gold and you can imagine his companions, what? They started having dollar signs in their eyes. As soon as they saw these bags, they said to him, 'Ya nabiyallah ya Ruhallah. This is the moment where we have to stop'. He said, 'why'? They said, 'this is something that we've been looking for. Let's stay here. Let's protect it. Let's look after it and let's go back'.

Isa said, 'do not do this. Innahu la qatilukom kama kana qatilu man ja'a qablakom. This particular wealth will kill you just like it would kill those who came before you'. They said 'no, you know what? You can go and we'll stay here'. There were three of them. Isa continues in his journey. These three are sitting protecting the gold, thinking we will divide it equally between us.

Of course, the shaitan, Satan, when it comes to these matters, he wishes to do what? To deceive and create this type of difficulty and friction amongst the people when it comes to wealth. He said to two of them: 'Why should you divide it amongst three of you? Why don't you get rid of one of the other person and divide it between you two'?

How? 'When it comes to going to send him to get some food from a local city, local village, and then he comes back with the food, hide behind a tree and attack him and kill him. And then you can have the money for yourself'. They said, 'wow, that's a great idea'. Yet the shaitan also went to that third person and said, 'why should you share the money with the other two when they send you to get some food, put poison in it, when they come, give it to them, they'll eat and what? And they'll die and you'll have the money'.

When he went to the city, he bought the food, he placed poison in it, he came, they trapped him, they killed him, they sat down. They said, 'now it's time to celebrate. Let's eat'. They ate the food with the poison and they all died. Isa returned and he saw three corpses next to the wealth and said, 'this is what I told you before'.

Be absolutely careful where you put your priorities in life. In other words, this idea exists and normally the comparison is made between seeking what? Wealth and seeking knowledge. Often people ask, which one should we seek more? Islam says there's no problem with seeking wealth. But seeking knowledge is more important. How?

One day a group of Khajirites, Kawarij said: We heard these traditions from the Prophet, which says, Ali, 'I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate. Ana madinatul ilmi wa Aliyun baabuha'. But we want to put this in practice. We want to see if Ali is truly the city or the gate towards the city of the knowledge of the Prophet. So we will ask him this question. 'What is better seeking knowledge or wealth'? Let's see what kind of answer he gives. If he gives the same answer every time, we'll know what? That this is nonsense.

Let's see. So they put this to test one after the other. They'd go to Ali ibn Abi Talib, salaamullahi alaiyun, and ask him this question. 'Should we seek wealth or should we seek knowledge'? Imam, alayhil salam, would say to them, 'seek knowledge'. Why? Because - 'An nal ilma miraathul ambiya wal maali miraathu Qaroona wa Haamaan wa Fir'awn - Seek knowledge. Why? Because knowledge is what the Prophets inherit, whereas others such as Qaroon and Haamaan and Fir'awn inherit wealth'.

The second person comes in, asked the same question and Ali ibn Abi Talib said 'seek knowledge'. Why? 'Because knowledge purifies your heart, softens it, whereas wealth darkens it and makes it hard rock'.

The third individual. 'Should I look for wealth or should I improve my knowledge'? Imam says 'improve your knowledge'. Why? 'Because those who are knowledgeable have many friends. Those who are wealthy have many enemies'.

The fourth individual comes and presents the same question. Imam says 'seek knowledge'. Why? 'Because the more you use knowledge, the more it increases. The more you use wealth, the more it decreases'.

Each and every one of them would ask the same question. The narration tells us that the final person, when he came and got a different answer Ali ibn Abi Talib said to him, 'listen, if every single person comes and asks me the same question, I will give them a different answer until the last breath of my life'. [Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'aali Muhammad]

In other words, what when it comes to this idea of seeking knowledge, there is great emphasis in the religion of Islam which requires us to press the pause button just to reflect for one moment.

And that is year after year, more than 400 million human beings stand to display their utmost love, respect and loyalty to a sacrifice of a man approximately 1372 years ago on the plains of Karbala.

Around the world, wherever you go, a friend of mine, a scholar, said, I went to Finland to recite these majalis. And when I went and I was there, I wanted to see the mountains to travel along. He said I was travelling with a friend of mine one day and we got lost and it became dark and we didn't know where to go and we didn't have these GPS systems. Eventually we stopped somewhere in the mountainous region and we saw some houses close by.

We said, let's go and ask these people, 'where are we? Where can we get back to the main city'? He said 'Wallahi I came down from the car, I came next to the house, and the first thing that caught my attention on one of the houses on the window was a flag which said: Ya Abal Fadhlil Abbas'.

Can you imagine that, though? In remembrance and the commemoration of Husayn is spread around the world. There is no corner in the world today that there are no people rising to commemorate this wonderful act of sacrifice and devotion.

Yet the question here that needs to be posed is every single year this commemoration is held, is remembered is what? Is recalled in the memories of people. But truly, what is the change and the instigation within the people's minds and hearts? How are we making every Moharram different? Are we ensuring that this commemoration is not the same as last year and it's not the same as two years ago? What differences can we see in our behavior, in our conduct, in our actions, in our goals, in our aspirations in life?

Because essentially that is what we should aspire to. We are told the seeking of knowledge and improving ourselves is of the greatest importance, but it is the quality of knowledge that needs to be focused upon. It is the quality of the change from within that you and I need to reflect upon. A lot of times the youth say I have a number of things that I wish to reflect upon and change in my life, and they make a huge list.

I have problems with this and I do this and I do that. And then they put off. Often what psychologists and others come forward and say is that if you truly want to change to the better, for the better, then pick one or two things at the most and make an oath, make a covenant between yourself and Imam al Husayn that this year is the year that I wish to instigate and begin this process of reform, because Imam Alayhi assalam, indeed sacrificed his life exactly for that purpose and that is reform. Hence, when we come to commemoration, this needs to be highlighted.

And when I write it down this year, I revise it next year. When I come to Ashura, next year, I look at it and say, OK, I wrote down one, two have I changed? Have I began the process? If not, why not? And what will I do next year? So that what? I can see these real tangible differences in my behavior, in my product, in my whatever I achieved in my life.

Hence when we look at this idea of knowledge, it stands out. Allah says that I gave Taloot what: two things:' wazadahu bastatan fil ilmi wal jism' - Allah gave him knowledge and what? Strength. Which highlights what? That Islam is not a religion that espouses monasticism. Does it say sit at home and worship only?

It also puts attention and focuses upon what? Health of the body. That when it comes to individuals, Prophets and Imams like Musa Alayhi assalam, our Holy Prophet, Ameer al Mu'mineen, in fact all the Ahlul Bayt - they were known to be very much physically fit, they were individuals who looked after their bodies. In other words, we should not neglect our bodies just because we want to do what? We want to spiritually refine and purify ourselves.

Both are looked upon in the teachings of the religion of Islam as a holistic method when it comes to improving our lives. The story of Taloot therefore, continues, Bani Israel said 'I'm sorry. Even though you have knowledge and even though you have physique, we still won't accept you'.

Allah had to send him what? A sign. What was the sign that they sought? The sign was that he had the box, the Ark of Covenant, this Sanduq that had the remains of what? The remains of the possessions of Musa, Moses Alayhis salam, when Bani Israel saw this, they said that's fine, now we will follow you. Taloot thereafter, formed and gathered together an army of 60,000 individuals from Bani Israel to go and fight Jaloot, Goliath in the famous battle. And here's the crunch of the story, which I need your attention for a few moments only.

These 60,000 now are marching for an important goal, for a very clear defined objective. They were the ones who are seeking this. Remember, today we are seeking this Allahuma ajjil li waliyikal faraj. We ask Allah for justice. We ask Allah for the implementation of what? Of what we seek as far as defeating the oppression and what is happening around the world. Yet these 60,000 individuals are also calling the same. Allah Subhanah wa Ta'ala then tested them. Why? They need to be tested so that they would know, He knows so that they would know who the sincere, the true amongst them would come out, would emerge.

Allah said you are passing through a river. You are not to drink from that river, except if you take a small portion in your hands 'Illah manightarafa ghurfatan bi yadi' - اِلَّا مَنِ اغۡتَرَفَ غُرۡفَةً ۢ بِيَدِهٖ (2:249). If you do that, that's fine. But if you drink from the river, you failed the exam.

Jaloot came and said to them, Taloot came and said to them, he said to them, 'Do not drink from this particular river'. How many drank and how many did not? 313 did not. And the rest what? The rest continued to drink. Only 313, according to the narrations, did not drink and obeyed the commands of the Almighty Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, can you imagine that over fifty nine thousand human beings fail the exam? Taloot said to them thank you very much. I don't need you. You can go back.

He took the three hundred and thirteen, went and confronted the colossal huge army of Goliath, Jaloot. Now the three hundred thirteen had passed the exam. Yet they were still weak, some of them. They looked at this huge army and they started to shake. They said, how is it possible? How can we defeat this huge army? Our numbers are few. Numerically we are inferior. Amongst the three hundred and thirteen emerged the creme de la creme.

قَالَ الَّذِيۡنَ يَظُنُّوۡنَ اَنَّهُمۡ مُّلٰقُوا اللّٰهِۙ کَمۡ مِّنۡ فِئَةٍ قَلِيۡلَةٍ غَلَبَتۡ فِئَةً کَثِيۡرَةً ۢ بِاِذۡنِ اللّٰهِ​ؕ وَاللّٰهُ مَعَ الصّٰبِرِيۡنَ Qallal ladheena ya dhun nuuna anna hum mulaaqul lah, kam min fi atin qaleelatin ghalabat fi atan katheeratan bi idhnil lah, Wallahu ma as saabireen (2:249)

Amongst the 313, there were those who truly believed that they will meet their Lord. They said to those people, 'don't be afraid. Have you not looked at history? Don't you know that when it comes to battles, it's not about numbers. It's about something else which is superior and that's connection to God and that's spirituality and that's belief. How many times we have seen people defeat larger, bigger armies because they had faith'?

'Wallahu ma as saabireen' - "And Allah is with those who are patient" (2:249). Highlighting what? Highlighting this particular trend that emerges in history that if you look, for instance, on the day of Ashura, there were approximately over a hundred.

'It's very much disputed and highly unlikely there were seventy 72. Unfortunately, a lot of the times historians and some people and khutaba' they say, there were 72 martyrs. You go today and you read most of the books of history. There were more than a hundred, perhaps 72 were the ones whose head was sent to Damascus to Yazeed or perhaps 72, were the ones who, for instance, joined and were there in Karbala before others took part and joined the army of Imam Husayn. They were more than a hundred, yet they faced an army of 30,000.

And who became victorious, who was successful, who is today remembered, called, honoured, whose lives are looked at as inspiration. Are they the hundred or so or is it the 30,000? Who are cursed until the day of judgment and who are looked at as role models and exemplary individuals?

The Almighty Allah Subhanah wa Ta'ala is sending us a very important message. And this is the gist. This is the message that I would like us all, including myself, to take home with us today. And that is the religion of Islam my dear brothers and sisters, is not about quantity, is about quality.

Is not about thousands, is about the few who are sincere, who are devout, who were the pure, who are indeed emerge with this powerful belief and Allah gave them victory. Too often we become too obsessed with doing X and Y and Z. You see it in Hajj in the pilgrimage. People just want to finish. People just want to tick.

Islam says no, no, no, no, no. You've missed the point. It's about what's in your heart. This doesn't mean that you should not pray or not, should not do your obligatory actions, but at the same time it means it's how you present your actions. It's the presentation and the quality of your deeds which matters in the eyes of God. And I will finish with one story. Because we are told that in the story of Taloot, the army, of course, defeated Jaloot.

How did they defeat? A 16 year old man by the name of Dawood emerged. Prophet Dawood, David. He emerged, he was 16 and Taloot said to him, What? I'm sorry, you're 16. Go back. Not at all. Sometimes our youth need encouragement. Sometimes our youth have so much talent, so much to give. They just need somebody to tell them Bismillah, go for it. We're behind you we'll support you. And indeed, Taloot said, go for it. And David, Dawood will what? Will kill Goliath.

He kills him and the army becomes victorious. And when they become victorious, they would say, what? رَبَّنَآ اَفۡرِغۡ عَلَيۡنَا صَبۡرًا وَّثَبِّتۡ اَقۡدَامَنَا وَانۡصُرۡنَا عَلَى الۡقَوۡمِ الۡکٰفِرِيۡنَؕ‏ 'Rabbana Afrigh alayna sabran wa thab bit aqdaamanaa wansur na alal qawmil kaafireen' (2:250)

Chapter 2, Surat al Baqarah Ayat 252, the final ayah of the story of Taloot which highlights to us what? That even after victory, we need to pray to God to stay strong and firm and to protect our faith. We are told that this message of keeping the quality of actions in our minds is of the utmost importance.

There was a lady by the name of Shutayta some of you may have heard her story. This lady was poor. She was living in Ahwaz, in southern Iran and she didn't have much. And she used to work on a daily basis.

And one day an individual, a companion of the Holy Seventh Imam, Imam Musa ibn Jafar al Kadhim,salawaatullahi wa salaamuhu alaih, said, I'm going to Hajj and I will meet Imam al Kadhim and is there any dues, is there any khums to be taken? So she comes and says to him, here's half a dinar that I want you to take. He laughs, he says what? This is valueless. This has no value. Half a dinar. I have hundreds and thousands and bags.

She looks at him and says 'Innallaha la yastahyee minal haqq' (33:53). 'When it comes to Allah, every single thing matters'.

Don't worry. Just take it. Please take it and give it to my Imam'. He takes it reluctantly. He comes to Hajj, he meets Imam al Kadhim. Imam al Kadhim sits next to him. This man is now taking the money. He says this and this, Imam says, 'give me the half a dinar from Shutayta, give me the half a dinar from Shutayta'.

This man says, 'Yabna Rasullillah, half a dinar?' Imam says 'Innallaha la yastahyee minal haqq' (33:53). He repeats the same part of the ayah. That when it comes to Allah, nothing can be neglected. Therefore, he takes it. He says: 'now you go back and you send this particular lady, my salam'. Can you imagine that the Imam sends an individual their salaam?

How much are we in desire and in need for our Imam to send his salam upon us, his blessings upon us? And when he did that, he said to this particular man: 'you give her this money and say that from now on you should not work. And we will look after you' and when you die, you ensure that you shroud her with this particular shroud, this kaffan from me, 'and I will personally come and pray over her body'.

This man said, wow, she must have done something amazing. He goes back, he informs this lady, Shutayta, who later moves to Nishapoor, informs her about this. She starts to weep and cry and says: 'who am I for my Imam to send his blessings upon me?' And she accepts what the Imam has sent.

And later on, a few years later, she dies. And when she dies they use the shroud and they're about to pray and they see somebody from far. This man said, I was waiting. I said, when the Imam says he'll come, he'll come. A man who is covered, who is riding on a camel comes close, when he dismounts people stand back in awe of this particular individual. They don't know why they stand back.

He stands before the body and he prays. And can you imagine the Imam of the time, the representative of God says: 'Allahuma inna laa na'lamu minha illa khairaa'. 'O Allah we don't know anything about this lady except good, except pure things'. And he prays for her. Now, why? Because she emerged with this important lesson. She gave out of what? Sincerity. It was the quality of her deeds that the Imam wanted to focus upon, not how much, but how she gave it.

And hence, when we examine when we look at the story of Aba Abdillahil Husayn, indeed, that emerges that these people such as al Hurr, went from those moments, those quality moments he reflected and chose between what? Hellfire and paradise. He chose between those two.

And it's those moments that we should seek to implement. It's those moments that we should reflect and ponder upon so that what? We look to improve ourselves when we attain this prosperous station of Qalbul saleem that Allah Subhanah wa Ta'ala, promises for individuals who seek His path.

I pray to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala to enlighten our hearts with the ability to perform deeds in the best possible way.

And I pray to Allah Subhanah wa Ta'ala to bless us with the tawfeeq to present our actions with full sincerity and ikhlaas. I pray to Allah Subhanah wa Ta'ala to accept all our a'maal, to make this Muharram different and to grant us an opportunity to instigate the process of change this year. I pray to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala to protect you all and this wonderful community. Thank you very much for your patience. Wa akhiru da'wana an al-hamdulillahi rabb al-Alameen, wa salli lahumma ala Muhammadin wa aali at-tayyibeen at-tahireen