The Qur’an And Mourning For Husayn (‘A)
In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Beneficent All praise is for Allah the Lord of the Universe
Peace and Blessings be upon Muhammad the Prophet of Allah and his Holy Progeny
This wonderful work before us by Marhoom Jafar Ali Asil has been translated into English so that it reaches a wide readership. Mourning for Imam Husayn (‘a), the prophet Muhammad (S)’s grandson, on his brutal murder on the orders of Yazid ibn Muawiya from the Banu Umayya clan, is the bedrock of Shia Muslim life: without Husayn (‘a)’s sacrifice, there would not have been Islam in its purest pristine form. Thus it is no surprise that over the centuries there have been constant attempts to stop the mourning gatherings that are held, either by attacking the mourners, or by spreading propaganda that mourning and crying is against the spirit of Islam.
By questioning the act of mourning and remembrance, the enemies of Imam Husayn (‘a) have tried to create an atmosphere of doubt. However, there are two things we take solace in: firstly, that it is Fatimah (‘a)’s prayer and Allah’s promise to her that there will always remain a nation on earth to mourn her son’s supreme sacrifice. Secondly, it is the effort of sincere people like Jafar Ali Asil who spent a lifetime devoted to writing and preaching Islam that we continue to take inspiration to keep the message of Husayn alive.
This translation offered is not always literal, as language semantics need to be taken into account: therefore I have remained as close as possible to the original Urdu whilst also trying not to compromise on the sense and on appropriate use of English expressions and idioms. The author used a very informal tone throughout his work, as it was intended for ordinary readership: I have tried to retain that. Further I have used subheadings which do not appear in the original, for ease of reading. Finally, (‘a) denotes peace be upon him/her/them, and Qur’anic references appear with the surah (chapter) number, name, followed by the verse.
The views expressed herein are the original author’s, except for the Introduction and an edit on page 19 (see below for details). The purpose of the Introduction is to explain Islamic history in brief, up to the events of Karbala so that it becomes clear to the reader why we cry and mourn for Husayn (‘a). For further information please consult other more detailed works.
There is only one purpose behind translating this work: to bring Karbala into the very lives and hearts of people, because remembering Husayn (‘a) at Karbala teaches us core values of humanity and worship. This mourning and commemoration is a miracle, it is a healing, it is an inspiration for the oppressed, it is a lesson in bravery, and it is a source of peace par excellence.
Many people collaborated in bringing this message before you: may Allah accept the efforts of each and every one.
R. B. Shah,
United Kingdom 2013
Islam is a religion of peace, attained through non-coercive total submission to the Will of Allah. It is a faith in which the goal is to attain nearness to Allah through correct worship of Him, for as Allah has stated in the Qur’an:
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me” (51:56).
However, such peace cannot be attained unless Allah, through His infinite Mercy and Justice, sends us perfect guides to show us the path to Him. This He did in the form of His prophets and their successors. The last prophet was Muhammad (S). He is described in the Qur’an as a Mercy for the worlds1, thus his message is universal as Islam is a universal faith, for all times and all people.
The Prophet (S)’s declared mission began in 610 CE (Common Era), from which time he began to receive revelation of the Qur’an through the angel Jibril, until just months before his demise in 632 CE/11 AH (Al-Hijrah). The Prophet (S) never spoke from his own free will but always spoke as Allah willed:
“Your companion (Muhammad) does not err,” (53:2).
“nor does he go astray, nor does he speak out of (his own) desire.” (53:3).
“It is nothing but revelation that is revealed” (53:4).
Thus a major concern for the Prophet (S) was to leave behind him a guide and leader for his community, who would continue the spiritual, social, moral, economic and political development of his people. However, this onerous task of leadership could only be laid on the shoulders of one chosen by Allah Himself. That chosen successor was Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a).
Ali was the Prophet (S)’s paternal cousin, and also his son in law. Ali was merely ten years of age when he declared acceptance of the Prophet (S)’s divine mission according to Sunni sources.2
Indeed Ali is the only human to have ever been born inside the Kaaba; the first person whose face he looked upon was the Prophet (S)’s. The Prophet (S) raised Ali in his own home, nurturing his character with his own traits, so much so that eventually when Allah ordered the Prophet (S) to declare his mission publicly to his near kin at the event Dawat al-Dhul Ashirah at the residence of Abu Talib (‘a), Ali was the first, brimming with love, to again affirm the prophetic mission. The Prophet (S) asked all the nobles present, ‘Who amongst you shall support me in this matter and be my brother, the executor of my will (wasi), and my successor (caliph)?’ All the listeners, with the exception of Ali, who was the youngest among them, kept silent. Ali (‘a) responded by saying, ‘I will be your helper, O prophet of God.’ The Messenger of Allah (S) then put his hand on the back of Ali’s neck and said, ‘This is my brother, executor of my will and successor, therefore, listen to him and obey him.’ This event has been narrated by many Sunni scholars including al-Tabari.
On many occasions the Prophet (S) declared that Ali was to him like Harun was to Musa (‘a), that is, a brother and successor, but there would be no prophet-hood after Muhammad (S).3
Finally, when returning to Madinah after the final pilgrimage, the Prophet (S) received revelation:
“O Apostle! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; and if you do not do it, you have not delivered His message (at all); and Allah will protect you from the people ...” (5:67).
What was this message that was central to the faith, so much so that if it had not been delivered it would be as if the prophetic mission was not complete? We come to find what it was from the Prophet (S)’s actions that followed this revelation. He stopped at an oasis at Khumm, and gathered all the pilgrims numbering over one hundred thousand. He then delivered a speech in which he stated to the pilgrims:
It seems the time has approached when I shall be called away (by Allah) and I shall answer that call. I am leaving for you two precious things and if you adhere to them both, you will never go astray after me. They are the Book of Allah and my Progeny, that is, my Ahlul Bayt. The two shall never separate from each other until they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise).... Do I not have more right over the believers than what they have over themselves? (The people answered, yes, so the Prophet continued). For whoever I am his Leader (mawla), Ali is his Leader (mawla). O God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him.4
Following this, we are told that the final revelation of the Qur’an ever to descend came from Allah:
“Today I have perfected your religion and completed my favour upon you, and I am satisfied that Islam be your religion.”(5:3).
The above verse clearly indicates that Islam, without clearing up the matter of leadership after the Prophet (S), was not complete, and completion of religion was due to announcement of the Prophet (S)'s immediate successor, Ali. The appointment of Ali was by Allah Himself, it was not a personal matter of the Prophet (S).
However, this appointment was not well received. The Prophet (S) fell ill shortly after this event due to poisoning, and during the height of his illness he again called upon those who were with him by his bed-side to bring him pen and paper so that he could write for them a document to prevent them from going astray. According to the Qur’anic instruction, the Prophet (S) had to be obeyed under all conditions5.
However, Umar ibn al-Khattab declared that the Prophet (S) was hallucinating, not in control of what he was saying, and that the Qur’an was sufficient. The Prophet (S) responded in anger and asked them all to leave him alone. Sunni sources again record this event and name it the Calamity of Thursday.6
Umar’s statements completely contradicted the Prophet (S)’s last sermon that he was leaving the Qur’an and his progeny to be followed. The progeny referred to those mentioned in Surah al-Ahzab 33:33, in which Allah stated that he had kept away any possibility of uncleanliness from the Ahlul Bayt, being Muhammad, his daughter Fatimah, her husband Ali, and their sons Hasan and Husayn. It is through these Pure Ones that Allah would ensure the continued leadership of Islam.
However, Ali’s appointment was vehemently opposed, despite it being Allah’s Will. As soon as the Prophet (S) left this world, his aggrieved family began to prepare his body for burial: Ali washed his noble body and lowered him into the grave. But in the meantime, probably one of the greatest treacherous schemes of all times was under way: companions who had displayed themselves to be close to the Prophet (S) in his lifetime, were absent.
They had deserted the Prophet (S) the moment he breathed his last, and greedily scrambled for power. A meeting was called at a hall, the Saqifa of Banu Saad. The Madinans set out to elect a leader, however the Qurayshi Makkans, hungry for power, arrived at the meeting, and a plan that had been hatched already was put into place: The Qurayshis claimed that only they could rule, and ignoring Ali’s appointment, Umar proceeded to elect his friend Abu Bakr. The election was not unanimous, but with coercion, the vote carried.
While the sincere leader chosen by Allah, Ali, was busy burying his brother the Prophet Muhammad (S), the community on the other hand ignored the Prophet (S)’s will and set out on a course of power and material greed.
The tragedies of the Household of the Prophet (S) thus began. Firstly, Ali’s title was usurped, yet he remained silent for the sake of unity of the community. Secondly, Fatimah, the Prophet (S)’s only daughter, was denied her inheritance by the caliph Abu Bakr: Fatimah went to claim the garden of Fadak left to her from the Prophet (S). However, Abu Bakr and Umar declared that prophets did not leave inheritance. This directly contradicted the Qur’anic verses of previous prophets Dawud and Zakariyya leaving an inheritance for their progeny7. Thus Fatimah was disinherited.8
Whilst Ali did not contest the newly elected usurping caliph / leader Abu Bakr, equally he did not pay him homage. Therefore, Umar set out with burning torches and a group of people towards the house of Ali and Fatimah to force his pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr. The result of this horrific event was the burning of the door of Fatimah’s house, which Umar pushed onto Fatimah, crushing her and causing her to miscarry. The attack resulted in her untimely death. She was eighteen years of age.9
This catalogue of events makes very painful reading. However, the troubles for the Ahlul Bayt continued. According to hadiths, the prophets are all infallible, that is, they are sinless, pure, and perfect role models for us to follow. This trait of perfection exists in the progeny of the Prophet (S) too, as evidenced in the verse above from Surah Ahzab.
Allah would not have allowed His faith to be controlled by imperfect humans with the possibility of corrupt traits of greed and power being their motivation for rule. Indeed Sunni and Shi’a sources mention that the leaders after Muhammad would be twelve, and all from Ali and Fatimah’s progeny (‘a), that is, Qurayshi.10 This office of leadership, of imamate, as being designated by Allah himself, is mentioned in the Qur’an:
“Oh, you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end.” (4: 59).
Those with authority were not those who put themselves in positions of authority, but those infallible pure perfect characters who Allah had chosen for the preservation and continuation of the message. Indeed the Qur’an further states that,
“(Remember) the day when We will call every people with their Imam; then whoever is given his book in his right hand, these shall read their book; and they shall not be dealt with a whit unjustly”(17:71).
However, Abu Bakr on his deathbed appointed Umar ibn al-Khattab as the next leader. Umar not only aggressively expanded Islam, conquering lands and taxing the subjects, but he also pursued a policy of appointing as governors the very people from the tribe of Banu Umayya who had been the enemies of the Prophet (S) and Islam in Makkah. In fact the Banu Umayya were so opposed to the Prophet (S)’s clan, the Banu Hashim, that their oppression was the cause of migration to Madinah.
Their leader, Abu Sufyan, continued to harass, torture, and declare war on the Prophet (S)’s community time and again. It was only at the Prophet (S)’s conquest of Makkah that Abu Sufyan, his wife Hind and their son Muawiya, accepted Islam in order to avoid reprisals. But a deep seated enmity lingered in their heart. When years later Umar appointed Muawiya as his governor of the conquered territories of Sham (present day Syria), a lust for power and revenge began to take shape in Muawiya’s heart – revenge for the fact that Ali personally had put many of Muawiya’s Umayyad family members to the sword in their battles against Islam.
On the death of Umar, again Ali’s rightful claim to leadership was overlooked, and Uthman bin Affan from the Banu Umayya was appointed as caliph. Deeply nepotistic and driven by wealth and comfort, Uthman appointed his own clan members as governors, and set generous stipends for them. He extended Muawiya’s dominion even further.
Finally, on his murder, when Ali was finally recognised and appointed as caliph, the Muslim ummah burst into dissent under the leadership of the Prophet (S)’s wife Aishah, and Muawiya. Aishah, ignoring the Qur’anic verse directed at the Prophet (S)’s wives to stay indoors11, challenged Ali’s election and led an army against him. The battle of Jamal was fought around her camel. Such dissent was in fact treason, yet Ali was magnanimous even in victory. However no sooner had he dealt with this dissent that Muawiya refused to accept him as caliph, claiming the caliphate for himself. This resulted in the Battle of Siffin, a treacherous battle brought on by Muawiya’s obstinacy who had no qualms about spilling Muslim blood.
Thus Ali, the appointed successor to Muhammad, never had a moment’s peace in his rule. He was finally martyred by a dissenter, Ibn Muljim, whilst prostrating in morning prayer in Kufa, in 661 CE / 40 AH. Before his passing, Ali (‘a) fulfilled Allah’s Will by appointing his son Hasan (‘a) as the next Imam. Hasan also faced treachery from Muwaiya, who declared himself the caliph of the Muslim nation on Ali’s death. To avoid bloodshed, Hasan accepted a compromise, that he would not claim the caliphate but on Muwayia’s death, he would be allowed to lead the community. But Muawaiya reneged on his word: he had Hasan poisioned, and on his own deathbed he appointed his son Yazid as leader. Thus began the tyrannical dynastic rule of the Banu Umayya, the time old enemies of Islam, who now under the banner of their pseudo-Islam, claimed power simply for worldly gain and greed.
It is important to point out here that no matter which fallible politically motivated leader was in power, we Shias only recognise the rule of the true divinely appointed infallible imams: that is even though Imam Ali’s position was usurped, we still recognise him as the real leader of his time, and likewise with every other imam.
Yazid was a well-known drunkard, a debauched and depraved character, who set out to change the very precepts of Islam that the Prophet (S) had laid out for us. Imam Hasan was succeeded by his brother, the second son of Ali and Fatimah (‘a), Husayn, the beloved grandson of the Prophet (S).
Husayn’s tragic death in fact was predicted by the Prophet (S), narrated by his wife Umm Salama, quoted by the Sunni scholar Tabarani. Husayn faced a huge challenge: whereas his brother Hasan was inspired by Allah to be quietist, Husayn was inspired by Allah to rise up against the tyranny of Yazid, otherwise he would have changed the religion beyond such recognition that there would be no Islam left.
However, one might question, that when Husayn thus rose against Yazid’s army of thousands, with only 72 on his side, how would that have saved Islam? The answer is very simple: the horror of Muslims claiming to rule in the name of Islam, killing and slaughtering the Prophet (S)’s grandson so mercilessly on the 10th Muharram 61 AH /680 CE, and then taking his women folk captive for over a year, was so terrible that the Muslims were eventually awoken as to the reality of what Yazid was trying to do – that was, to alter Islam to suit his worldly needs.
It was the effort of Husayn’s sister Zaynab (‘a) that the tragedy of Karbala was laid bare. In the court of Yazid, as Husayn’s severed head was displayed before her, she being Ali’s brave daughter, gave sermons where she stood up to Yazid, admonished him for his tyranny, and vowed to expose the injustice that had been meted out to the Prophet (S)’s family. And thus the murder of Husayn was exposed year in year out, through gatherings, majalis. The lovers of the Ahlul Bayt cry tears of anguish and blood at the loss of Husayn every year in the month of Muharram.
It is this ritual of mourning that to this day the enemies of Husayn try to suppress, in order to cover up the crimes of the Umayyads. For tragically, the Umayyads continued to rule for almost ninety years after the tragedy of Karbala, due to the silence and collusion of Muslims. To cover this guilt, to this day, we have ‘Muslims’ who try to find ways in which to prevent the remembrance of Husayn (‘a).
We owe our lives to Husayn, for he not only saved the faith, but he offered the most supreme sacrifice, his entire family. Our entire faith,
our survival, our devotion to Allah, is due to Husayn. This booklet by Jafar Ali Asil thus answers why we will not allow the suppression of the commemoration of Husayn’s martyrdom, for Husayn (‘a) was the epitome of love and devotion to Allah.
The Days Of Mourning
In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Beneficent
As soon as the month of Muharram arrives, the lovers and devotees of the Ahlul Bayt (‘a) become heartbroken and grief stricken. Through their lamentation and intense weeping, their complaints and grief over the tragedy of Karbala, they present their devotion and love in the court of the Oppressed of Karbala, and become engrossed in expressing their grief in different ways.
Just under 1400 years ago, that is in 61 AH, the Yazeedi government of Shaam (present day Syria) had caused such a storm of lust, godlessness, and rampant liberty that values such as truthfulness, honesty, piety, holiness, peace and justice were fast disappearing, scattered like droplets everywhere.
Islam was about to be annihilated. Monotheism, the oneness of Allah, was made into a laughing stock. Prophet-hood in fact was labelled a drama, an act: that which Muhammad (S) had labelled unlawful was being made lawful, and what he had explained to be lawful was being criminalised. It was to save this fast disappearing lifestyle, etiquette, nobility, faith and humanity, that Imam Husayn (‘a) left for Karbala with his small band of travellers.
However, the cruel oppressors took control of the river and prevented Imam Husayn (‘a), his family and his loyal followers from taking any water from it. The Imam (‘a), his followers and his pure family, amongst who were also tiny innocent children, suffered pangs of extreme thirst. But the merciless and inhumane cursed enemies’ hearts had turned to stone: there was no scope for kindness or mercy in them. Finally on the 10th Muharram, after three days of hunger and thirst, our great Imam (‘a) was martyred, along with his companions, sons, brothers, and nephews.
The Status Of Martyrs In The Qur’an
On the one hand, those who love these oppressed victims mourn them to keep the memory of their suffering alive. They offer their tears of bereavement as a tribute. On the other hand however, those who oppose this mourning arise as if there is an earthquake, and argue that crying is an unacceptable innovation, the standards (flags) are an innovation, the replicas made of the holy shrines are an innovation, even images of the graves are an innovation. These very same people claiming this also happen to label themselves ‘Muslims’.
The argument that they present in support of their objection is that, can the dead be brought back to life by these mourning rituals? What can we say about such Muslims! Do they actually think that the martyrs are dead? Is that why they are presenting such absurd arguments? If indeed they consider the martyrs to be dead, then it must be said that such so-called Muslims are no longer Muslims but have in fact turned away from Islam!
This is because it is essential to have belief in the Qur’an in order to be a Muslim. To deny even one verse of the Qur’an is tantamount to disbelief. There are two places in the Noble Qur’an where the position and status of those martyred in the path of Allah is discussed in very clear open terms;
“And do not say that whoso is killed in the path of Allah his dead. No! Indeed they are alive but you do not know how.” (2: 154).
In this verse Allah is saying that, ‘do not call those who die in My path as dead for you do not understand their life’. Here, this is a clear instruction, an order, that ‘do not call as dead’ those who die in Allah’s path. In another verse the instruction is, ‘do not consider as dead’, that is even if you do not say with your tongue that they are dead, you might still think it in your heart. But Allah has put restrictions on even this sentiment, for in this second verse Allah states;
“And do not think of those killed in Allah’s path as dead: indeed they are alive and receive their sustenance from their Lord. They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah.” (3: 169-170).
Thus in this verse there is a prohibition of thinking of those slain in Allah’s path as ‘dead’, Apart from this, further explanation has been given in this verse that indeed those killed in Allah’s path receive sustenance from Him and are well pleased with the blessings that they receive from Him. The fact that they receive sustenance and are pleased and happy is a testament to the belief that they are alive. A dead person has no need for sustenance! Sustenance is a provision only for those alive. And if they are pleased, then how can a dead person experience pleasure? There can be no question of happiness and pleasure where there is no life!
Therefore in the first verse we are told ‘do not say that the martyrs are dead’, and in the second we are instructed ‘do not think of them as dead, they receive sustenance and are pleased’. Thus to prevent people saying and thinking that those martyred in Allah’s path are dead, a restriction has been put on the heart, mind and tongue. To think or say to the contrary goes against the Qur’an. And how can one stay on the path of Islam if one contradicts the Qur’an?
The Arguments Raised Against Mourning
‘Will they come back to life with your crying?’ This sarcastic response often given to oppose mourning is a clear indication that those uttering it think the martyrs are in fact dead (Allah forbid), otherwise why would they say such a thing? Therefore anyone saying this cannot possibly remain Muslim, submitting to Allah’s Qur’an.
A second strange argument raised is that if the martyrs are indeed alive, then why mourn and cry over them, do people ever grieve or cry over those alive, and what is the point of mourning for martyrs? This is a totally redundant argument. Prophet Adam (‘a) cried for hundreds of years at his separation from Heaven. In fact he cried so much that the tears left two streaks imprinted on his cheeks. This very fact annuls the above argument because Adam (‘a)’s crying was not for any living or dead person: the above objection is on crying over a person, and yet Adam (‘a)’s crying was not even over a person, and yet still as a prophet he cried profusely!
What is perhaps even stranger is that sometimes these objectors claim that any form of crying, totally, is a ‘bid’at’, an innovation and thus unlawful, and at other times they argue that there is no objection in crying for oneself. But to cry for another living being is an unacceptable innovation! Please reflect on this argument, that it is complete trickery. All glory is to Allah! He was not unaware that such baseless arguments would be presented.
This group crying out, ‘innovation, innovation!’ was already in Allah’s sights, that is why He had already provided answers. Therefore in His Book, the Noble Qur’an, He had already presented arguments and examples of mourning being a legitimate act.
The Mourning Of Prophets In The Qur’an
Yaqub (‘a) was a prophet: he had twelve sons, one of who was the Prophet Yusuf (‘a). Yaqub (‘a) was temporarily separated from Yusuf (‘a). However, he was informed by Allah that his son Yusuf (‘a) would soon be returned to him alive. This proved that Yusuf (‘a) was alive and well, that later he would be returned to his father, and that without a doubt this separation was merely temporary. Furthermore, Yusuf (‘a) was not Yaqub (‘a)’s only son: he had eleven other sons, and yet despite this Yaqub (‘a) could not tolerate the separation. He cried so much for Yusuf (‘a) that his eyes turned white and as the Qur’an states:
“And he (Yaqub) said, "Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf," and his eyes became white from grief because of the sorrow that he suppressed.” (12: 84).
This was the crying of a prophet, over his living son, so much so that he lost his sight through crying! Why do these ‘innovators’ not cry ‘innovation, innovation’ here? Why are they silent over the crying of Yaqub (‘a)? Why do they not declare here that it is an innovation and unlawful to cry over a living person?
This was solely the separation from Yusuf (‘a), one son: the remaining eleven were with Yaqub (‘a). And yet Yaqub (‘a) cried so much! But in Karbala, there were eighteen Yusufs of the Bani Hashim clan who were sacrificed with such tyranny and oppression, and yet to cry over them is an innovation! To cry over one Yusuf (‘a) is the Sunnah, the way of a prophet, but to cry over Karbala is wrong? What injustice! As has been said in Persian, ‘the mind is distraught at the incomprehensible ignorance of this tragedy!’
Crying In The Qur’an
If crying were wrong or an innovation, then Allah would have declared it as a flawed action. But instead, we find that crying is a commendable act. Let alone mankind crying, the Qur’an details the crying of the skies and the earth. How the skies and earth cry, only Allah knows. If the skies and earth do not cry, then why would Allah state in the Qur’an;
“And the skies and the earth did not weep for them [Firawn and his people] nor were they given a respite.” (44:29).
Allah forbid this is not a poetic metaphor, this is Allah’s truthful word. This verse is testifying that on the death and destruction of the enemies of Allah, neither the skies nor the earth cries, because the enemies of Allah are from those rejected by Him and at a loss, not those preferred by Him. Therefore, it is clear that when Allah’s chosen saintly people leave this earth, then the skies and the earth cry for them.
Then what of those who were martyred in Allah’s path, thirsty and hungry for three days? Undoubtedly the skies and the earth both cry for them. If it were an innovation in faith to cry, then neither the sky nor the earth would cry. This proves that crying for the deceased is not an innovation, but on the contrary it is the manifest will of the Cherisher.
This also proves that crying is a manifestly natural human instinct. That is, mankind cries, the skies and earth cry, thus the ones calling this act an innovation are themselves innovators against the Qur’an. In the sight of the Lord of the Worlds, rather than being insignificant, the act of crying is one of the best of the commendable acts: the Qur’an itself testifies to this in the following words;
“And they say, ‘Exalted is our Lord! Indeed, the promise of our Lord has been fulfilled.’ And they fall upon their faces weeping, and the Qur’an increases them in humble submission.” (17:108-109).
This proves that crying in the court of Allah increases humility and thus increases the approval and status of a believer’s deeds. If Allah did not approve of crying and considered it an innovation, he would indeed have reprimanded us for it. But instead, here we see that it is being approved of, which can only mean that it is highly liked by Allah.
Patience In The Qur’an
When the above listed nonsensical reasons do not serve their purpose, then these innovators try to take support from the Qur’an by screaming until they are blue in the face that,
“Indeed Allah is with those who are patient” (2: 153).
They claim that instead of crying, patience should be exercised. But even the use of this verse as proof against crying is strange. At first sight one might be impressed with their argument. But on closer inspection one will ask, what is patience, what it the precise meaning of this term?
Does patience mean that tears cannot flow from the eyes and prayers cannot be uttered from the lips? Indeed if tears do flow from the eyes, if sighs of grief escape the lips, if it is hard to control the heart, then do these all contravene patience? No, absolutely not!
If the sole support of an old father’s life, that is his young son, dies, and at the time of his body being taken for burial, if the father is preoccupied by fun and sport or some other activity, will people not raise a finger at him asking what kind of a father is he? What kind of a hard-hearted person is he that his youthful son’s corpse is being taken from the home and yet the father’s heart is not affected by this calamity - there are no tears in the eyes, no cries on the lips. Indeed if we are affected by grief then we involuntarily lament and cry.
In fact, everything can be identified by its opposite: if there is grief and calamity then there is patience, and if there is no calamity then exercising patience is redundant. In reality patience means that when a calamity befalls us, then despite holding the power to exact revenge from the perpetrators, we do not do so, and instead our eyes fill with tears, our hearts are full of pain, and our lips utter painful sighs. We accept Allah’s will and through our silence we leave our matters in His Hands. This is patience. Thus the befalling of calamities, and crying over them, is a manifestation of patience.
Rubbing Of Garments - Earth As A Healer In The Qur’an
Alas! The Lovers of the Progeny of Muhammad are grieved that their crying does not result in the loss of their sight! And by Allah! If we cry so much that the light of the eyes disappears, then Allah would restore sight to those eyes, for He promises thus in the Qur’an;
“Take this, my shirt, and cast it over the face of my father; he will be able to see. And bring me your family, all together”. (12: 93).
It is noteworthy that the association of a shirt, indeed any fabric, with the body, is temporary – a month, two months, a year, two years – after that it deteriorates and eventually loses all association with the person. The temporary garment of a prophet, and the shirt that had a short-lived association with the body of a prophet, was of such importance that blind eyes had sight restored to them when rubbed by the shirt.
Indeed the sole cause of blindness in the first instance was crying in the separation of a (still) living son. Restoration of sight was only because of the garment that had albeit a temporary association with the body of a prophet.
Now it is important to ponder very calmly and rationally, that when the touching of a temporal garment of a prophet to the eyes of a blind man can restore sight, then what wonders can those things bestow which bear an eternal association with chosen people? Just ponder over the blessed burial places, the dust and earth of the Prophet (S) and the Infallible Imams (‘a) and martyrs in Allah’s path: by their eternal association with those places, does the earth from there not become a healing dust, antimony for the eyes, or medicine for the ill? Indeed it does!
The rubbing of Yusuf (‘a)’s past, temporary garment – a shirt –on the prophet Yaqub (‘a)’s face is not considered an innovation, harmful or wrong in any way, therefore it is considered a Sunnah (recommended practice) of the prophet. Then how can taking the earth from the Prophet (S) and his progeny’s (‘a) graves and rubbing it on the face and head be considered an innovation and unlawful?
Can anyone answer this question of ours effectively? Or shall we answer it, that when the prophet Yusuf (‘a) said, ‘take this shirt of mine and put it on my father’s face so that he may see’, and indeed this did happen, then this was the act of two prophets. Could it be possible that both Yusuf (‘a) and Yaqub (‘a) were not aware of what an ‘innovation’ would be? May I ask today’s so called strict Muslims, that Allah forbid, was there a weakness in the faith of these two prophets?
If there were no weakness – and indeed there was not –then will those who scream ‘innovation’ review their own faith? Perhaps, as a poet stated, they question people’s faith as they themselves lack faith. Perhaps it is for this reason that they are in fact going against the actions of previous prophets and the words of the Qur’an.
Again, let us ponder further on the temporary association of a garment with the body of a prophet: by virtue of having touched him, it becomes so special and distinctive that it even restores the sight of one who has become blind! In fact the garment even emanates a special fragrance. This fragrance was apparent thousands of miles away to Yusuf (‘a)’s father but not to his brothers. Why was that? Rather than arguing personal points of view, it is incumbent that we take proof from the Qur’an in order to answer this question. Let us examine the following verses;
“And when the caravan departed [from Egypt], their father said, ‘Indeed, I find the smell of Yusuf [and would say that he was alive] if you did not think me deluded / weakened in mind’.” (12:94).
“ They said, ‘By Allah, indeed you are in your [same] old error’.” (12:95).
“And when the bearer of good tidings arrived, he cast it over his face, and he returned [once again] seeing. He said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know from Allah that which you do not know?’.” (12:96).
Is it not a clear and evident meaning of these verses that the only one who will smell such a fragrance is the one whose love is true and sincere? Otherwise how else would it be possible that despite the fragrance being a reality, others could not smell it?
These proofs that we have presented from the Qur’an can only be negated if we consider the prophet Yaqub (‘a), Allah forbid, to have been deluded. And yet even the brothers of Yusuf (‘a) did not consider him deluded or weak of mind, but instead stated that, ‘because you love Yusuf (‘a) to the furthest limit as you did before, therefore you can smell him’.
It is a shame on today’s Muslims that instead of repeating these lines of the brothers of the prophet Yusuf (‘a) on the lovers of the progeny of Muhammad, they rather accuse them of disbelief and idolatry. How aptly Iqbal stated about such ‘custodians of knowledge’;
They change not themselves, rather alter the Qur’an. How senseless the Custodians of Knowledge have become!
We must also mention here that it becomes compulsory on us to respect things that are associated with revered personalities: the prophet Yusuf’s shirt became important because of its association with his body, otherwise on its own merit, what was the significance of this mere shirt? If the same shirt were on the body of another, neither would it be respected nor would it be of any importance.
Kissing Objects & Places Associated With Revered Persons
Now let us imagine for one moment: when prophet Yusuf (‘a)’s shirt was placed on the face of prophet Yaqub (‘a), then what must have been the reaction of Yaqub? How must a father’s love have been kindled and awakened!
Indeed he must have clung to the shirt with great longing: he must have kissed it, held it against his chest, rubbed it on his eyes. Do all these actions not fall within the definition of love and respect? If they do, then why do people argue that loving and respecting things associated with revered holy personalities is tantamount to idolatry and innovation?
If the shrines of the Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa (S) and his progeny (‘a), the martyrs of Karbala and indeed other martyrs in Allah’s path, are kissed then we are told this is polytheism, unlawful, innovation. What kind of an outcry is this? How can kissing someone or something ever be considered idolatrous or innovation? It is difficult to comprehend this thought both intellectually and logically.
Who does not kiss his/her child? Do those who cry ‘idolatry, innovation!’ never kiss their children? As far as a lustful kiss is concerned, would they be the first to cry that that is also an innovation? They can then judge for themselves whether all kissing is the same. Kissing a child carries a particular kind of parental feeling, whereas kissing a wife invokes a totally different emotion. Anyone could kiss a child affectionately, but if anyone kisses a man’s wife then the matter may even go as far as murder: the former kiss is lawful, the latter unlawful.
The same emotional difference can be applied to our discussion in hand: to kiss someone or something by thinking it is worthy of worship is one thing, but to kiss it with love, conviction and devotion is another. To kiss with the thought that this object of desire is the Creator is indeed idolatrous. But to kiss it on the basis of devotion, intoxicated with love, is neither idolatry nor innovation, but indeed it is a commendable act, worthy of spiritual reward.
Another point springs to attention here: and that is that one can only kiss a person or thing physically before one. As Allah is free from body or materiality, then the question of ‘kissing’ His ‘blessed feet’ or ‘blessed hands’ cannot even arise. So we have to accept that kissing is not an act that can be associated with Allah: it is only for a non-divine entity. And thus how could it ever possibly be idolatrous?
Respecting ‘Associated’ Objects & Places
As far as respecting things associated with someone or a place of importance is concerned, we find that Allah the Generous Lord has made the respecting of many such ‘associations’ compulsory upon us. Indeed Allah has named such associations as ‘The Signs of Allah’. Even according to the Qur’an such associations become His Signs. The Qur’an elucidates this matter in the following terms;
“O you who believe! Do not violate the signs appointed by Allah nor the sacred month, nor (interfere with) the offerings, nor the sacrificial animals with garlands - collars.” (5: 2).
Respecting the sacrificial animal is evident: it is obvious that it is about to be sacrificed in Allah’s path therefore Allah has designated it as one of His Signs. Because of this fact, it is compulsory to treat it with respect. But why would Allah designate the garland / collar that is put around that animal’s neck also as one of His Signs? (Bear in mind that the collar was put around the animal’s neck by us.)
Furthermore, the garland / collar is only temporary, that is, it is only around the animal’s neck for a few days. And yet it is so dear to Allah that He designates it as one of His Signs and makes its respect incumbent upon us!
It is noteworthy here that this animal is not going to sacrifice itself in Allah’s path, but is going to be offered as a sacrifice. Furthermore, the animal does not have any knowledge of this impending sacrifice. And yet one who is not offering himself as sacrifice, his collar is to be revered so much! And yet one who actively sacrifices himself, along with his sons, brothers, nephews and friends, in order to save Allah’s religion, whilst in the grips of thirst and hunger, how is it that things which have been rubbed against their blessed bodies cannot be considered Signs of Allah?
Rather they are considered idolatrous and innovation? How strange! Bravo oh faithful Muslim! Is this the extent of your faith in the Qur’an? The collar around the animal’s neck is but a temporary association, and yet still designated a Sign of Allah: and yet the places where the pure bodies of those martyred in Allah’s path are buried are permanently associated with them. If a temporary association is so honourable, then how honourable and highly ranked must a permanent association be?
To honour and give respect to something or someone is neither idolatry nor innovation nor unlawful, because the difference between respect and worship is immense. Nothing but God could possibly be worshipped, and yet respect can be offered to one other than Allah: for example we respect and honour parents, scholars, the elderly, etc, all on the basis of laws of respect dictated by Allah.
Prostration before Allah is the sole prostration of worship. But prostration out of respect and obedience to one other than Allah, has indeed been ordered by Allah Himself. We find in the Qur’an;
“And when We said to the angels: Prostrate before Adam, they did prostrate, but Iblis (did it not). He refused and he was proud, and he was one of the unbelievers.” (2:34).
Iblis the Shaytan used to prostrate himself before Allah for he was one who worshipped Allah a great deal. However he refused to prostrate before Allah’s creation Adam (‘a) and on the basis of this he was rejected from Allah’s Heaven. Now if a respectful prostration was considered idolatrous, why would Allah the Generous Lord have asked his angels to prostrate themselves before Adam (‘a)? If it were in any sense an idolatrous prostration, Allah would never have commanded it in Adam (‘a)’s honour. If there is disagreement on this view then it has to be said that Allah forbid, Allah Himself ordered idolatry!
Indeed in defence of this prostration it may be said that Allah Himself commanded the prostration before Adam (‘a). Thus the prostration of the angels was not to Adam (‘a) as such but it was a prostration to Allah’s command. And there is nothing wrong at all with prostrating before Allah’s command. (We are all agreed in this matter that the prostration here was one of respect, on the basis of Allah’s command.)
The question arises, where did Allah give the command to kiss the shrines of the martyrs or to bow before them? A sufficient answer would be, when did Allah expressly prohibit such actions? A second reply would be that even without Allah’s explicit command; there have been other instances of bowing and prostrating out of respect. At no point did Allah prohibit those prostrations of respect, and further, they have been proved by the actions of two prophets.
The two prophets in question neither hindered the prostrations that were offered out of respect, nor did they reprimand and stop those prostrating. Allah Himself in turn did not advise the two prophets that such prostrations should not be offered. Further, Allah did not term those offering the prostrations as unbelievers or idolaters. Therefore it has to be admitted that a prostration of respect is not a reprehensible act in Allah’s sight. The Qur’anic ruling on this matter is thus;
“And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they bowed to him in prostration.” (12:100).
Yusuf (‘a) was a prophet and his father Yaqub (‘a) was also a prophet. Yusuf sat both his parents (even though his mother was not a prophet) on the throne. Subsequently everyone prostrated to him. In this verse Allah does not say that all prostrated ‘except Yaqub’, that is, it was not the case that the whole gathering bar Yaqub (‘a) prostrated to Yusuf (‘a).12
Now let us reflect: one prophet is prostrating before another prophet: neither is the prostrating prophet hesitant nor is the prophet who is prostrated to objecting. Further, Allah does not say that this is disliked by Him. If a prostration out of respect and obedience was considered idolatrous, then without a doubt neither Yaqub (‘a) nor Yusuf (‘a) would have remained prophets after this act, indeed, Allah forbid, they would have become disbelievers. Thus we can conclude from these two prophets’ actions that a prostration of respect and obedience is not idolatry, it is not unlawful and Allah does not forbid it.
Hence no one has the right to say that to kiss, to prostrate with respect or to respect places and items associated with revered personalities, is considered idolatry and innovation. Indeed according to the Qur’an one who says so would leave Islam.
Images And Replicas Of Resemblance
As far as making images of resemblance is concerned, such as replicas of shrines, or flags/ standards, this is also labelled as unlawful. Exalted Makkah and Illuminated Madinah’s pictures are printed in their thousands. Qur’ans are copied from one to the next. So how can it be considered improper to copy something and produce its replica image? What are our places of worship? All mosques are in fact replicas of the Kaaba, (the first house of worship). If making replicas is unlawful, then what should be done to all these houses of worship?
Just as these images and replicas resembling the Kaaba (that is, the mosques) are acceptable displays of faith and Islam, likewise replicas of Illuminated Madinah and Exalted Karbala are precisely about faith and Islam. If replicas of the latter are considered contrary to Islam, then how can the former be accepted? The image and replica of a good thing will be considered worthy of respect and the replica of a bad thing will naturally be shunned and treated with disdain.
During hajj, what is running between the mounts of Safa and Marwa and stoning the Shaytan’s stone images? Are the major and minor devils (Shaytan) actually present there? Or are they just signs, symbols?
As far as replica small scale models of Karbala are concerned, these represent Imam Husayn (‘a)’s shrine at Karbala. The standards we reproduce are symbolic of the standard of the army of Truth in Karbala. It is obvious that the human hand produces these in the same way that the human hand produces places of worship. So, just as the mosque made by our very own hands is worthy of respect so too these replica models of the shrine at Karbala and the standards of Imam Husayn’s army, are worthy of respect. This is simple acceptable logic.
In the light of the Qur’an, neither is crying and mourning an innovation, nor is the respect given to places and objects associated with our revered personalities an innovation. Further, kissing these symbols or prostrating out of respect is not idolatrous or innovative. In fact I would say that to raise a hue and cry about this is itself an innovation. As the deceased Waqif Muradabadi wrote:
Those who cry Idolatry and Innovation,
Those who render the remembrance of Husayn as disbelief,
If they do not prevent us thus then so much will be laid open,
They are very sensible, the household of Umayya!
- 1. وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds”. (21:107).
- 2. Biography of the Prophet by Ibn Hisham, vol. 1, p. 245.
- 3. Sahih Bukhari vol. 5, Book 59, hadith no. 700; Sahih Muslim Book 31, hadith no, 5913.
- 4. This hadith has been narrated in full by the Sunni scholar al-Imam al-Hafiz Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Hakim al-Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn [Dar al-Ma’rifah li al-Tiba’ah wa al-Nashr: Beirut), vol. III, pp. 109-110). It has been narrated in part by Sahih Muslim, part 7, Kitab fada'il al-Sahabah [Maktabat wa Matba’at Muhammad ‘Ali Subayh wa Awladuhu: Cairo] pp. 122-123.
- 5. See: 3:32, 3:132, 5:92, 8:1, 47:33.
- 6. Sahih, Bukhari, Chapter: About the saying of the sick, vol. 2, Sahih, Muslim, End of the book of al Wasiyyah, vol. 5, p. 75, Musnad, Ahmed, vol. 1, p. 335, vol. 5, p. 116 Tarikh, Tabari, vol. 3, p. 193, Tarikh, Ibn al Athir, vol. 2, p. 320.
- 7. See Qur’an, 27:16; 19:6.
- 8. Sunni references: Tabari, vol. IX p. 196 (The Events of the Year 11, English version); Tabaqat of Ibn Sad, vol. VIII, p. 29; Yaqubi History, vol. II, p. 117; Masudi in his Tanbih, p. 250 (The last three are mentioned in the footnotes of Tabari’s book); al Bayhaqi, vol. 4, p. 29; Musnad, Ahmad Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 9; Tarikh, Ibn Katheer, vol. 5, p. 285-86; Sharah, ibn al-Hadid, vol. 6, p. 46.
- 9. Sunni References: Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 55; Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, by Ibn Hisham, vol. 4, p. 30; History of Tabari (Arabic), vol. 1, p. 1822; History of Tabari, English version, vol. 9, p. 192.
- 10. Sahih Bukhari book 89, hadith no. 329; Sahih Muslim, book 20, hadith no. 4477,4478.
- 11. See Qur’an, Surah al-Ahzab:
“O wives of the Prophet! you are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a good word.” (33:32).
“And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore; and keep up prayer, and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to purify you a (thorough) purifying.” (33:33).
- 12. This is the translator’s wording: the author originally claimed that Yusuf (‘a) prostrated – Yusuf sat both this parents (even though his mother was not a prophet) on the throne. Subsequently everyone prostrated. In this verse Allah does not say that all prostrated ‘except Yusuf’, that is, it was not the case that the whole gathering bar Yusuf (‘a) prostrated.’ However, in following authentic Qur’anic translations, Yaqub was the prophet who prostrated to his son Yusuf, in fulfilment of the dream mentioned in verse 4 of this surah. Agha Mahdi Puya writes, ‘Sajada-falling down in prostration. The father, the brothers and the aunt fell down in prostration before Yusuf. There are two types of sajdahs-one is that which is for Allah in total submission to His will, and the other is done in reverence to pay homage to a divinely chosen representative of Allah (see commentary of al Baqarah, 2:34) (http://quran.al-islam.org/). Shakir writes,
“And he raised his parents upon the throne and they fell down in prostration before him, and he said: O my father! This is the significance of my vision of old; my Lord has indeed made it to be true”. (12:100).
The vision of old from verse 4, Shakir translates as,
“When Yusuf said to his father: O my father! Surely I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon-- I saw them making obeisance to me.” (12:4).