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Anything and everything related to Islam's intellectual and literary tradition.

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Love and Suffering

Love and suffering is a match made in heaven. Love is breathlessly heart-wrenching, as it snares the mind of the lover and controls his actions. Any loving relationship will be filled with trial and tribulation, selfless sacrifice, selfish protectiveness, and frequent heartbreak. We both live and die for even a moment of true love. It is thus no coincidence that suffering is a component of many Arabic words for love. `Ishq (عشق), which is a fervent type of love, was originally a vine that winds itself around a tree, squeezing it until it withered. Shaghaf (شغف), which was the passion that Zulaykha had for Yusuf (12:3), was a form of heart disease. Muhjata qalb (مهجة قلب), an expression used to describe a lover, is actually the blood of the heart. Huyum (الهيوم), meaning passion, is a type of insanity. The Persian poem of Layla and Majnun comes to mind.

Most of the Quran is relative-comparative. Its stories usually lack names, dates, places, and chronologies, and are instead filled with archetypal symbols that can be flexibly applied to other situations. It tries to tell the stories in a timeless and universal manner.

The Husayni tragedy in Shii literature is similar. It is mourned by other prophets long before the event, it is mourned by nature (blood rain, blood earth, owls), it is mourned over by millions of angels, and it will be vindicated in the eschatological narrative. Karbala is described in Kamil al-Ziyarat as a piece of heaven on Earth, and as the conduit between heaven and earth (majma` as-samawati wal ard). Its soil is described as a cure, and it is given to the sick, and it is used for prostrations. In Shiism, the visitation of Husayn by one who correctly recognizes his status is considered a Hajj (or seven Hajj, or thousands of Hajj, or more), because the principle of Hajj is total submission and sacrifice, commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham; and Husayn cut his Hajj short to fulfill its end by going to Karbala and willingly giving himself to God. It is said that every grief in Islam is disliked, except for grief over Husayn, and so people forego their personal tragedies to mourn for the primordial epic tragedy. They wear black, abstain from makeup and dye, abstain from laughing, abstain from weddings and festive activities, sometimes for forty days.

The love of Husayn is not just lip-service. It is the intense gallantry that a mother has over her child, the undying loyalty that a person has for their spouse, the forsaken mourning of a widow, and the adoration of a boy for his father. It is a blond closer than family and thicker than blood. His tragedy is the quintessential love story, with Abu Fadl al-`Abbas, Qasim b. al-Hasan, `Ali al-Akbar, `Ali al-Asghar, Habib b. Muthahir, and many other gems bravely followed their beloved into the engulfing abyss.

Interestingly, there is no record of a relationship between the Imams and the historians of the tragedy, but there is much record of a relationship between the Imams and the poets. The Imams would invite poets to speak on the tragedy, make many supplications for them, add to their poetry, and gift them very generously. This to me says that the aim of the Shii is to find a meaningful and meta-historical route to Husayn, as the horrors of that day were unfathomable, and directed only at those who deserved it the least.

Love and suffering are often paired in Islamic literature. There isn't really a concept of "happily ever after" in this world, it is rather seen as a prison of the believer, an abode of trials (dar al-bala'), a fleeting world (dar al-fana'), where the lovers of Ali will suffer the most, so that they may be refined and purified like gold in a furnace. The tradition says that those who suffer the most are the prophets and their successors, then those similar to them, and so on. The constant trial strengthens the faith of a true believer, who learns to lean on God alone.

The timelessness of Islam's symbols emphasizes the finality of its message and the universality of its principles. Our religion uses relatable similitudes that resonate with our very core, making Islam not a seventh century Arabian phenomenon, but an expression of the nature in which we were created.



The root ethic in Islam is maintaining a healthy heart. I'm not referring to the pulsating organ in your left chest, but rather I'm referring to the qalb. The heart is the metaphysical mind and conscience that the Quran ties to our thoughts and feelings. It is the locus of our faith, the home of our innermost secrets, the intuitive criterion for good and evil, and the organ through which our Creator is known. In the hadith literature, the heart is connected to all of the senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling; and the information that these senses receive are directed to the heart. The heart then identifies and interprets this information. The heart is the Imam of the body that answers the questions of the body and clarifies its doubts. ( قلت أ فلك قلب قال نعم قال قلت فما تصنع به قال أميز به كلما ورد على هذه الجوارح قال قلت أ فليس في هذه الجوارح غنى عن القلب قال لا قلت وكيف ذلك وهي صحيحة قال يا بني إن الجوارح إذا شكت في شيء شمته أو رأته أو ذاقته ردته إلى القلب فليقر به اليقين ويبطل الشك قال قلت فإنما أقام الله عز وجل القلب لشك الجوارح قال نعم قال قلت ولا بد من القلب وإلا لم يستيقن الجوارح قال نعم قال قلت يا أبا مروان إن الله لم يترك جوارحك حتى جعل لها إماما يصحح لها الصحيح وينفي ما شكت فيه ويترك هذا الخلق كلهم في حيرتهم وشكهم واختلافهم لا يقيم لهم إماما يردون إليه شكهم وحيرتهم ويقيم لك إماما لجوارحك يرد إليك شكك وحيرتك )

The root verb (قلب) means to turn, to flip, and to change. A healthy heart is soft: it fluidly changes from state to state, depending on its surroundings. If it perceives oppression, it expresses hatred for the oppressor and sympathy for the oppressed. If it perceives God's signs, it basks in wonder and amazement. If it perceives love, it loves. It is constantly reflecting and "turning", hence the root word. An unhealthy heart is a hard heart: it is numb, heavy, heedless, stagnant, and does not react to its surroundings. It is desensitized to good and evil, and it does not recognize God's signs. Its hardness impedes its ability to flux, which is what a heart is made to do.

The goal of Islamic ethics is to remain soft-hearted by practicing humility, by crying over injustice, to curb our arrogance and heedlessness, to be selfless, and to return to our natural order. Yes, having a soft-heart can be painful, but those who turn their heart into a hard shell become bitter, distant, selfish, and absent-minded. Rather than genuinely turning their pain into a lesson, they mentally run away from their problems by locking their heart and letting nothing in. But only through heartfelt contemplation can true progress take place, both within yourself and within your society.

For some, the family is the basic unit of society. Family is seen as the building block of civilization, and the most basic natural association for the physical and emotional fulfillment of a people. For others, the individual is the basic unit of society, because individuals enjoy their own agency, even if they work towards a common end.

The basic unit of society in Islam, however, appears to be the heart. Being in a family is an ideal state, but it is not the reality for many people, nor is it wajib, nor does a family have complete agency. But similarly, to say that the individual is the basis is to assume that society is an amalgamation of separate, competing, selfish, and divergent people. The reality is that people are very connected - by blood, by tribe, by religion, by party, and by common interest. The heart in Islam does not deny the agency of the individual, but it is much more than individualism. It connects a person to his surroundings, and a cultivated heart is connected to that universal intellect (العقل الكلي) that is mindful of God and His divine authority.

And so the goal of a society should not just be productivity, because a productivity that ignores goodness is destructive. Rather, the goal of a society should be to maintain its humanity. A hard heart is vain, greedy, and heedless, while a soft heart is selfless, compassionate, and seeking constant betterment. If the basic unit is cultivated, our societal and political affairs will change overnight (13:11). Everything else in society - our families, our workplaces, our entertainment, our religion, and our social lives - should all be geared towards maintaining and improving the basic unit of our society.



By: Haziq Sheikh in dedication to Bar Salka

The Ahl al-Bayt  عليهم السلامwere first silhouettes (ashbāḥ) of nūr in the realm of Um al-Kitāb without souls, but supported by a single spirit, the Rūḥ al-Qudus (The Holy Spirit).1 The Prophets and Awiyā’  عليهم جميعا سلام الله  are distinguished from the believers in that they are created with the Rūḥ al-Qudus in them, a bridge between their human, historic selves and their primordial created selves as that single light, Nūr Muammadī. 2 It is through this rūḥ that Rasulallah صلى الله عليه وآله carried prophethood, and it is this spirit that migrated to the Imams عليهم السلام, one after the other, shouldering imāmah3 as they are not prophets. It is through this rūḥ that the Khawāṣṣ (Special Ones) of Allah recognize everything.4 It is their link to knowledge of that which extends from beneath the Lords Throne to what lies beneath the moist soils of the Earth.5

Asbāṭ b. Sālim asked Imam Ṣādiq عليه السلام, Are you, Ahl al-Bayt, ever asked about something and you do not know about it? The Imam replied, Seldom is it like that. He asked further, Then what do you do? Rūḥ al-Qudus imparts that knowledge to us. 6

The imah of the Ahl al-Bayt عليهم السلام is grounded in knowledge (ilm) and the rūḥs relationship of conveying knowledge to them is manifest. Through Rūḥ al-Qudus, Allah has guaranteed that they shall never perform any kabīrah. 7 This spirit is distinguished from the other spirits created in the Awliyā’ of Allah in that it does not succumb to unconsciousness, never engages in that which has no benefit, is never distracted, nor heedless.8 Through it with this expanded, pristine consciousness, the Imam sees what is on the land and seas of the easts and wests of the Earth.9

Although Rūḥ al-Qudus is in the ujjah of the era, it can be with others simultaneously and benefit them. When Amīr al-Muminīn عليه السلام was sent to Yemen to judge between the people, if an issue had not yet been revealed in the Quran, Rūḥ al-Qudus would impart that knowledge to him while he was not the ujjah at that time.10 This rūḥ is not limited in benefiting the Khawāṣṣ, it can be with believers and assist them. The poet that recites a line for the Ahl al-Bayt is supported by this rūḥ it can impart words to them so long as they defend with their poetry their cause, like Da`bal al-Khuzā’ī, assān b. Thābit, and Kumayt.11

The Ahl al-Bayt عليهم السلام are distinct individuals with their own unique idiosyncrasies, but are favored by Allah with the singular spirit, Rūḥ al-Qudus, that transfers from one ujjah into the next. Just as the armaments and relics of the Prophets and Messengers are inherited from one Imam to the next as a sign of their authority, this rūḥ is a mechanism of their divine connection to the realms beyond this dunyā. Although the Qudamā’ have associated beliefs indicating the movement of a single spirit or soul across multiple individuals with extremist trends, there is a clear similarity between those ideas and the migration of the Rūḥ al-Qudus; an idea present in our core texts incorporated as orthodox. Perhaps we can better contextualize narrations that seem to reflect doctrines typically linked to the ghulāt through developing an intimate understanding of wilāyah and its cosmological underpinnings.

1.    al-Kāfī (إن الله أول ما خلق خلق محمد صلى الله عليه وآله وعترته الهداة المهتدين، فكانوا أشباح نور بين يدي الله)

2.    al-Kāfī (جعل فيهم خمسة أرواح)

3.    al-Kāfī (وروح القدس فبه حمل النبوة فإذا قبض النبيصلى الله عليه وآله انتقل روح القدس فصار إلى الامام)

4.    al-Kāfī (أيدهم بروح القدس فبه عرفوا الاشياء)

5.    al-Kāfī (فبروح القدس يا جابر عرفوا ما تحت العرش إلى ما تحت الثرى)

6.    Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt (عن ابى الجهم عن اسباط عن ابى عبد الله عليه السلام قال قلت تسئلون عن الشئ فلا يكون عندكم علمه قال ربما كان ذلك قلت كيف تصنعون قال تلقانا به روح القدس)

7.    Baṣā’ir (وروح القدس من سكن فيه فانه لا يعمل بكبيرة ابدا)

8.    al-Kāfī (وروح القدس لا ينام ولا يغفل ولا يلهو ولا يزهو (2) والاربعة الارواح تنام وتغفل وتزهو وتلهو)

9.    Baṣā’ir (وروح القدس ثابت يرى به ما في شرق الارض وغربها وبرها وبحرها قلت جعلت فداك يتناول الامام ما ببغداد بيده قال نعم و ما دون العرش)

10.  Baṣā’ir (عن ابى بصير قال قلت لابي عبد الله عليه السلام ان الناس يقولون ان امير المؤمنين عليه السلام كان يقول وجهنى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله إلى اليمن والوحى ينزل على النبي صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم بالمدينة فحكمت بينهم بحكم الله حتى لقد كان الحكم يظهر فقال صدقوا قلت وكيف ذاك جعلت فداك فقال امير المؤمنين عليه السلام إذا وردت عليه قضية لم ينزل الحكم فيها في كتاب الله تلقاه به روح القدس)

11.  Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā (يا خزاعي نطق روح القدس على لسانك بهذين البيتين) and al-Kāfī (يا كميت لو كان عندنا مال لاعطيناك منه ولكن لك ما قال رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله) لحسان بن ثابت لن يزال معك روح القدس ما ذببت عنا)



There is a common misconception among modern Muslim men that they will be rewarded with white women in Paradise. This attitude has even caused some to justify their preference of light-skin women and Western women through Islamic texts that describe beautiful women in this world and the Hereafter. They put white skin on a pedestal, which both sidelines women with darker complexions, and objectifies women with lighter skin. I would like to investigate the claim that the heavenly maidens of Paradise are essentially "white girls".

Heaven is unlike anything

In the hadith literature, Paradise is described as what the eye has not seen, what the ear has not heard, and what the heart has not imagined. ( مَا لَا عَيْنٌ رَأَتْ وَ لَا أُذُنٌ سَمِعَتْ وَ لَا خَطَرَ عَلَى قَلْبِ بَشَرٍ ). You will be an entirely new creation in Paradise, which will cause those who suffered most in this world to completely forget their suffering. Therefore the descriptions of the pleasures of Paradise are, at most, symbols of things that we cannot exactly know.

The meaning of abyad

The word that modern Arabs use to refer to the colour "white" ( أبيض ) has certainly been used to describe the women of Paradise. In one narration, the Prophet (s) says that the women of Paradise will be every shade of "white" ( ان في الجنة نهرا حافتاه الابكار من كل بيضاء ). In another narration, Imam ar-Rida recites a poem in which he describes beautiful "white" women ( أَرَى الِبيضَ الْحِسَانَ يَجِدْنَ عَنِّي ). Other narrations associate this "whiteness" with pleasure ( سعادة الرجل أن يكشف الثوب عن امرأة بيضاء ).

But what does all of this mean? Abyad comes from the root word bayada ( بيض ), which means "to lay eggs". An egg is a bayda ( بيضة ), and eggs can be white or brown, depending on the colour of the feathers of the chicken. In Arabic, there is no special word for either type of egg, both are given the name bayda, which is related to the word for "white".

Several Arabic dictionaries have interpreted abyad to mean pure, fair, and without blemish; rather than strictly "white". Here are a few references:

In Lisan al-`Arab:

إذا قالت العرب فلان أبيض، وفلانة بيضاء، فالمعنى نقاء العرض من الدنس والعيوب لا يريدون به بياض اللون، ولكنهم يريدون المدح بالكرم، ونقاء العرض من العيوب وإذا قالوا: فلان أبيض الوجه، وفلانة بيضاء الوجه، أرادوا نقاء اللون من الكلف والسواد الشائن

“When the Arabs say that a man is white or a woman is white, they mean that he has an appearance that is pure and clear from defects. They don’t mean that he has a white complexion, but they mean that someone has an appearance that is pure from defects. When they say that a man or woman has a white face, they mean that their colour is pure from blemish and darkness.

”العرب لا تقول : رجل أبيض من بياض اللون إنما الأبيض عندهم الطاهر النقي من العيوب”

The Arab does not say that a man is white in terms of the colour white. Rather, the "white" for them is he who is pure from any defects.

Abu Tayyib al-Lughawi says in Kitab al-Idad al-`Arab:

و انما الأبيض من الناس البعيد من الدنس، النقي من العيب

The whitest of people are those who are far from impurity, and are purified from defects.

Ibn Atheer says in an-Nahaya fii Ghareeb al-Hadith:

الغر : جمع الأغر ، من الغرة : بياض الوجه ، يريد بياض وجوههم بنور الوضوء يوم القيامة

The innocent (al-ghurr); its plural is al-aghur, from al-ghurra: a white face, meaning, a face whitened by light and illumination on the Day of Resurrection.

al-Dhahabi says in Siyar A`laam an-Nubala':

“إن العرب إذا قالت: فلان أبيض ، فإنهم يريدون الحنطي اللون بحلية سوداء

When Arabs say a person is white, they mean tawny in colour with black hair.


So according to these dictionaries, "whiteness" in a person is either: (1) purity in their reputation, (2) purity in their appearance with no blemishes or defects (scars, birth marks, discolouration, wrinkles, moles, bumps), (3) tawny or wheat-coloured skin, (4) light and illumination, (5) a strong contrast between their face and hair colours.

The meaning of hoor al-`ayn

The Quran describes the houri (hoor al-`ayn) as a heavenly beauty that has been gifted exclusively to a good, believing person. The Quran does not provide much more detail than that. The hoor al-`ayn can be translated as "one with contrasting eyes", and it is often tied to the related word hawra', which refers to a person who has a strong contrast between her dark pupil and white sclera (white part of the eye). If this is the meaning of hooriya, then her "whiteness" may have more to do with her eyes than her skin. The word hawar can also mean "to bleach", but also "to tan". The same word is used in the Quran to refer to the apostles of Jesus, who were "purified" from evil ( فَسُمِّيَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ حَوَارِيِّينَ لانَّهُمْ كَانُوا مُخْلَصِينَ فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَمُخْلِصِينَ لِغَيْرِهِمْ مِنْ أَوْسَاخِ الذُّنُوبِ ). The word therefore may also be an indication to the maiden's spiritual purity and not just her physical beauty.

The word hoor also means to change, alter, remodel, and modify, so perhaps one feature of this heavenly beauty is constant rejuvenation and transformation.

Another related word means to converse and discuss - it is possible that there is more to the houri than her looks!

I have heard that there may be a relationship between hooriya and hayara, which means "to be confused, bewildered, perplexed, baffled, embarrassed", because the believer will be perplexed by the startling beauty of the hoor al-`ayn.

Remember that we cannot imagine Paradise, so the skintone of the heavenly beauty would also be beyond comprehension.

The word for "pale" in Arabic is actually yellow

When Arabs describe a pale complexion, such as a pale face of an ill person, they use the word musfar (مصفر), which means "yellowed", rather than saying he has been whitened.

The Prophet's colour

Many hadiths describe the Prophet Muhammad (s) as being abyad, but these could be descriptions of the fairness of his skin or the purity of his character. Other hadiths say that the Prophet was reddish. To reconcile both sets of narrations, one can say that he had a tawny or wheatish complexion, which was light in Arabia but unlike the pale western Europeans. While modern Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and Germanic peoples have a monopoly on "whiteness" today, most people in the Middle East would have never met such people by the 7th century.

White faces on the Day of Resurrection

The Quran describes the believers' faces on the Day of Resurrection as "white" (3:106), but this will be due to their illumination. Some hadiths describe that the body parts washed in wudu will glow in the Hereafter, which includes the face, and other hadiths say that the wudu washes sins away from a person. Similarly, other narrations discuss the illumination of the faces of those who stay up to pray at night. These are not references to pigment.

"Whiteness" will be due to light, and the colour of light, which was found in the Sun, Moon, and fire, ranges from orange to light yellow.

Lady Fatima was a human houri

Several narrations describe Lady Fatima (as) as a human houri. Her houri nature in Paradise was a dazzling light ( نورا ساطعا ) - first she was beneath the Throne, and then she resided within a fruit in Paradise - both in the form of a beautiful lady of light.

Paradise is much more than this world

In conclusion, there is much more to look forward to in the next world than conquering a colonial inferiority complex. Muslims have a very complicated relationship with white folks - from lust, to hatred, to jealousy, to emulation - and our relationships with other races are no where near as complex. The first step to overcome something is to realize and understand it. Allah gave us all of our hues so that we may learn about one another, and understand that the Creator of spectrums is beyond all spectrums Himself. If the hoor al-`ayn is simply a pretty white girl, then she would not be a sufficient reward for the believers, since there are plenty of them in this dunya. Paradise is more than a brothel, open bar, and buffet. It's a chance to gain true proximity to Allah, through His Prophet and Ahl al-Bayt, and to gain gnosis. The journey into timelessness starts in this world, and it culminates in the Hereafter.


As a Muslim Canadian outsider, the U.S's race problem is blaring and obvious to me whenever I visit. Even in the more liberal states, whites and blacks live in separate neighbourhoods, and the black neighbouroods are poorer and not looked after by the city. Whites and blacks have very different jobs and roles in society.

After over 300 years of slavery, 99 years of segregation, and 52 years of tumultuous race relations, the race issue still dominates public discourse in America. While most of the world has normalized relations with the descendants of former slaves, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in America was unique in its shear brutality. African Americans were stripped of their names, languages, cultures, and religions, and were deprived of a knowledge of self that other peoples had. "Black" became synonymous with cruelty, ugliness, and bleakness, while Social Darwinist whites put themselves in a position of natural superiority.

African Americans fought long and hard to gain the same civil rights and liberties as ordinary Americans. Since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 however, the race issue has remained salient, with spikes in relevance every so often. In general, black people still suffer indiscriminately from police brutality, high rates of incarceration, the breakdown of the family, and lower access to education, health care, and high-paying jobs. Some of these issues stem out of policies that overlook African American issues, while others are more social. Several movements were established to redress these serious issues, such as the NAACP, Urban League, the Rainbow PUSH coalition, as well as the Nation of Islam and other religious organizations. In recent years, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become the leading activist group on the streets and on social media, bringing awareness to issues in the African American community and seeking to redress them through progressive policies.

Hamza Yusuf recently suggested that Muslims should not join BLM, in fear that more identity politics would exacerbate race relations in America. The Shaykh went on to naively use trigger phrases like "black on black violence", "more whites are shot by police", and "police are not all racist", which had him labelled as a racist by legions of hipster Muslims on Twitter. As many have pointed out, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf comes from a pretty privileged background - he grew up in a wealthy neighbourhood, his relatives were wealthy, his parents were well-educated, and he went to private schools (see here). His family marched with the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War, and explored different world religions, but like a lot of 60-70s hippies, the Shaykh is probably still a bit more out of touch with the working class than the average person. Still though, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has actually lived in with bedouins in Africa, and he has spoken about poverty, inequality, and the civil rights movement on multiple occasions. His resume, as a Shaykh that balances the best of Western education with traditional Sunni scholarship, is far more impressive than that of most Western Muslim speakers.

On one hand, Hamza Yusuf could have worded himself better to address the very real race problem in the United States. Yes, there are anti-discriminatory laws in place, but clearly a lot more needs to be done to redress the race issue - body cameras on cops, judicial reform, and affirmative action in police departments in minority communities are a good step. But the onslaught against Shaykh Hamza has a few people scratching their heads - first off, why don't we get the same outrage when a Muslim speaker says something insensitive about Shiites, or when a speaker gleans over racist or sexist injustices in the Muslim world? More pertinently though, is what Shaykh Hamza said wrong? Hamza Yusuf is a Sufi, which attracts a lot of liberal ears to listen to him, but he is a traditionalist and a conservative at his core, and so every now and then he will say something that will get this type of reaction (this time being the climax).

Hamza Yusuf's argument is, if BLM is just an angry rebuke to the system, with few clear policy goals, then it has the potential of making problems worse - more violence against police officers (more police have died in 2016 than in the last 5 years, some during BLM protests), and worse race relations in coming months and years. BLM is more than just the issue of police brutality - it is a living, breathing organization with its own motives and goals. For the purpose of this article, it is important for our minds to mentally separate BLM and police brutality for a moment. BLM in essence is a cadre of identity politics, which highlights one's race or gender as an essential quality in a person (rather than an accidental quality), and very much sees everything through the lens of racism. Hamza Yusuf said that this only helps create the type of "whitelash" we saw with the election of Trump, which will only make things worse for minorities and not better. Hamza Yusuf once said, ethics should be rooted in verbs and adverbs, not nouns and pronouns. I agree with this, and while racism and white privilege is real, we should talk about the *issues* that plague society and not just about identity.

This controversy has caused me to think on multiple fronts. With regards to the Muslim community, it is clear that most Muslim youth identify with leftist politics, since it is multicultural and inclusive. Unfortunately, that comes with baggage: secularism, individualism, naturalism and religious skepticism, identity politics, LGBT rights, hookup culture and the normalization of sex, third wave feminism, body positivism, political correctness, and in general pro-revolutionary sentiments in almost every situation where even mild grievances exist. Balancing this with the Islamic tradition, which can be opposite on most of these issues, is particularly troublesome. The hipster Muslima with a rainbow scarf and a Guevara shirt marching at a Sl*tWalk is becoming increasingly more normal in Western Muslim communities.

I also began thinking about how Black Lives Matter differs from earlier black organizations. There's no doubt that BLM is the cool kid on the block, whom every Muslim revolutionary wants to embrace (Jonathan AC Brown, Linda Sarsour, Suhaib Webb to name a few). However, are their goals the same as the black community, and are they consistent with Islam?

In the 1990s, we saw another spike in relevance of the race issue, and this time, it was the Nation of Islam (NOI) under Louis Farrakhan that was the primary "race communicator" for black people in America. The NOI is a black nationalist American Muslim sect that differed from traditional Islamic views on theology and race. Irregardless of where the NOI may have deviated, the Nation of Islam organized a grassroots movement that brought black civil rights groups, religious groups, and activists together at the 1995 Million Man March. The Million Man March was a historic rally at Washington DC that brought leading African American figures together to demand justice and reproach, including Rosa Parks, Betty Shabazz, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, Shaykh Ahmad Tijani Ben Omar, and Minister Farrakhan.

The Million Man March approached the issue of African American suffering in a very different way than BLM. First off, the March was only for black males, who were seen as the major agents of potential change in the Afro-American community. Over 72% of black children are born out of wedlock. Fatherlessness, which Hamza Yusuf mentions in his later apology lecture, is detrimental to any family, and leads to higher rates of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health problems. Considering the high rates of gang violence, incarceration, drug abuse, and unprotected sex among black males, any solution to the plight of African Americans must include black men. Secondly, the Million Man March sought to bring all religious organizations together to seek repentance and God's support. As people of faith, we don't see all suffering simply as a result of natural causes; rather some suffering can be a divine trial or chastisement, by which we must seek God's succor. The event's major themes were "Lessons from the Past", "Affirmation and Responsibility", and "Atonement and Reconciliation", and it was believed that the very real injustices that exist in America would only be solved through a return to traditional values. Thirdly, the Million Man March gave the means for thousands of black people to register as voters, making the black community a strong political bloc in the American electoral system. The event ended with a pledge to God that they would be good community members from that day forward.

Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, has a very different vision for black America. It is, of course, absolutely secular, and blames the collective suffering of black people on white supremacy. Furthermore, not only does BLM sideline black fathers, but it ignores them completely on their website. BLM has a lot to say about the LGBT community and [presumably single] mothers, its guiding principles leaves straight black males out completely, despite the documented problems that fatherless homes can cause in the lives of youth. BLM even sees traditional "nuclear families" as somehow white supremacist, even though families in Africa are largely patriarchal and nuclear. Yusra Khogali, the leader of the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter (remember, Hamza Yusuf made his comments in Toronto), infamously tweeted about "killing men and whitefolks", and shared articles telling women to avoid conscientious black men. Khogali recently protested against Dr. Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, for refusing to use genderless pronouns like "xe" instead of "he" or "she". BLM also hijacked the Gay Pride Parade until their demands on the Pride organization were met, and hijacked a Bernie Sanders event in 2015. Millennial organizations like BLM are the reason why the alt-right exists, who also use the same frame of identity politics to identify as white nationalists to attack Muslims, blacks, women, and others. Contributing to the frame of identity politics can awaken the sleeping white-nationalist giant in Europe and North America, and awaken far right-wing voices that want to push all minorities away.

Not only does BLM stand for things that are totally irreconcilable with Islam, such as the LGBT issue, but it is devoid of the religiosity found in other black movements, the participation of straight black men, and it does not responsibly address issues within the black community. It is focused on "fighting the system", rather than clamping down on a hookup culture that is destined to plague another generation with fatherless households and STDs. Rather than solving the problems related black fathers, it ignores their issues and fails to address them. It is common to find feminist circles that paint black fathers as irresponsible misogynists that are part of the problem and not the solution - this attitude can only make things worse.

At the very least, the Nation of Islam encouraged a self-help approach: they promoted strong family values, they started rehabilitation programs for those affected by drugs and alcohol, they deployed their Fruit of Islam unit to stop riots and gang violence, they established their own schools and curricula, and they rid their community of the social ills that affect other black communities. BLM on the other hand is a Soros-funded intersectional liberal organization with an agenda that does not jive with Abrahamic religion.

When women, Latinos, blacks, Muslims, and homosexuals began popularizing identity politics, it was a natural consequence that right-wing whites would start doing the same. Some people honestly believe that unless you are black, then you aren't capable of commenting on anything to do with the black community. A white person commenting on black affairs, even to defend black people, is considered a racist by liberals because he is "whitesplaining". Franchesca Ramsey recently appeared in a video arguing that very point. The result of this thinking however is potentially devastating. It means that white people will no longer speak up against racism, because they don't want to appear racist or patronizing. It also means that educated people with legitimate views will be silenced simply due to their race. It also limits outsider perspectives, which are always necessary in a democracy, as every group should be critiqued and held accountable by outsiders. Strange enough, it's also kind of contradictory to multiculturalism - by saying only black people can speak about black issues, and women can only be feminists, and males are inherently privileged, you end up segregating society further. A white male like Hamza Yusuf speaking about race relations or women's issues does not contradict the ethics of our religion - I'm not saying he's right or wrong, I'm saying that he has the right to speak on these issues especially as a trained scholar.

Let's keep in mind that the Muslim community in America in the 60s and 70s was largely an organic one (the biggest being Warith Deen Muhammad's movement), made up of working-class African Americans and white converts. The early Muslim immigrants to America even joined these communities and worked closely with them. But the big influx of bourgeois Muslim immigrants in the 80s and 90s, with their foreign funding (from Saudi and elsewhere), established their own separate communities, bought out the existing communities / swallowed them up, then ostracized the native population, until they almost fizzed out completely. Now, some of those same upper-middle class children of immigrants think they can be pro-black because of their liberal arts degree, a Malcolm quote and a BLM march, yet they themselves would never marry a black person, or volunteer with the homeless or at a prison, or mingle with working-class people in general. As someone who has decent connections within the African American Muslim community in the U.S, I can tell you that these second-generation Muslims really mean nothing to them, and often do more harm than good.

Overall, I agree with Mehdi that Muslims need to be doing more outreach with other communities - that includes the black community. We should also address racism in our own communities, which is more outward than in the average white community. In Trump's America, we cannot afford to stand alone; we need to do more for our cities and our Muslim and non-Muslim communities. We can reach out to black churches, support black businesses, and join civil rights organizations. At the same time, we cannot fall into the trap of supporting causes that are antithetical to our tradition.



Jesus' Wool Garment

A Muslim account of Jesus Christ's ascension from Tafsir al-`Ayashi:

Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq (a) said, "Jesus the son of Mary ascended whilst wearing a rabbinical garment made of wool spun from the yarn of Mary, the weaving of Mary, and the sewing of Mary. When he came to the heaven, it was called, 'O Jesus! Remove the frills of this world from yourself.'" (رفع عيسى بن مريم عليه بمدرعة (4) صوف من غزل مريم، ومن نسج مريم ومن خياطة مريم فلما انتهى إلى السماء نودى يا عيسى ألق عنك زينة الدنيا.)

This reference is actually very interesting. This expression, "rabbinical garment", has a very specific connotation in Jewish mysticism. There is a concrete term in Kabbalah, חלוקא דרבנן, precisely "rabbinical garment", which refers to the ethereal body of saints, somewhat similar to the body of people we see in the dream, visible and tangible yet not material in our crude sense. It is linked to Shechinah. Removing the garment may indicate ascension to higher levels beyond. When angels appeared in human form to Abraham, there were also wearing some type of "rabbinical garment". It works as a bridge between physical and spiritual.

Of course, Jesus in Muslim hadith literature is linked to themes of asceticism, and in this narration, Jesus is being asked to shed his attachment to this sentimental article of clothing before gaining proximity to God. Removing this rabbinical garment may be a symbol for Jesus' exit from the imaginal realm (which is between the fully material and the fully immaterial) and entry into the divine presence.



Trees are People

Trees play a prominent role in many religious texts. With their roots in the ground and their branches stretching toward the sky, trees are linked to the heavens and the Earth, the spiritual and the material, and the vertical and the horizontal. They are like an axis or a pole that stands between both worlds. Its greenery is a symbol of life, its shade is a symbol of comfort, and its fruits are a symbol of fertility. As deciduous trees shed their leaves in some seasons, they are resurrected in others, demonstrating God's power to bring life to the dead.

Ancient people drew parallels between trees and people. A tree's fruit became a symbol of one's offspring, deeds, or knowledge, and a diagram detailing your family "roots" is a "family tree". There are many Islamic examples where this same parallel is made:

The Prophet Muhammad (s) said, "A hypocrite is like the trunk of a palm tree. When its owner intends to use it in construction, it does not fit in the place he wants it to fit. He then tries to fit it elsewhere, but it still does not fit. So in the end, he throws it in the fire." ( قال رسول الله صلى‌الله‌عليه‌وآلهمثل المنافق مثل جذع النخل أراد صاحبه أن ينتفع به في بعض بنائه فلم يستقم له في الموضع الذي أراد فحوله في موضع آخر فلم يستقم له فكان آخر ذلك أن أحرقه بالنار )

The trunk in this example is the hypocrite. The carpenter sees that it is a trunk, and potentially useful, but it does not meet his requirements. Similarly, Allah tests and tries the hypocrite, but when He sees no good and no use in him, He punishes the hypocrite with hellfire.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) said, "The believers are like sprouting plants that are swirled back and forth by the winds, as the believers are also turned and bent by pain and illness. The hypocrites are like iron rods that are not affected by anything, until they meet death and are shattered by it." ( قال رسول الله صلى‌الله‌عليه‌وآله مثل المؤمن كمثل خامة الزرع تكفئها الرياح كذا وكذا وكذلك المؤمن تكفئه
الأوجاع والأمراض ومثل المنافق كمثل الإرزبة المستقيمة التي لا يصيبها شيء حتى يأتيه الموت فيقصفه قصفا

Just as the trees and plants are abused by strong gusts of wind, the believer is tried with his desires (hawa, هوى, which also means "wind"). The hypocrite however is not swirled by the wind because he lives in complete heedlessness (ghafla), and is stiffened by his wickedness, until Allah destroys him.

“And those who believed and did righteous deeds will be admitted to gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding eternally therein by permission of their Lord; and their greeting therein will be, "Peace!" Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability.” (14:24-26)

Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq [a] was asked about the verse, "as a goodly tree, its root set firm, its branches reaching into the sky." (14:24) He said, "The Messenger of Allah (s) is its root, Amir al-Mu'mineen is its branches, the Imams from their progeny are its twigs, the knowledge of the Imams are its fruits, and their believing Shi`a are its leaves. By Allah, when a believer gives birth, a leaf sprouts on it; and when a believers dies, a leaf falls from it." ( سألت أبا عبد الله عليه السلام عن قول الله: " كشجرة طيبة أصلها ثابت وفرعها في السماء " قال: فقال: رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله أصلها، وأمير المؤمنين عليه السلام فرعها، والائمة من ذريتهما أغصانها وعلم الائمة ثمرتها وشيعتهم المؤمنون ورقها، هل فيها فضل؟ قال: قلت: لا والله، قال: والله إن المؤمن ليولد فتورق ورقة فيها وإن المؤمن ليموت فتسقط ورقة منها. )

This is an interesting exegesis, and it is crucial to understanding the Quran's analogy. Allah says that a good word is like a good tree. As we know, Jesus (as) was called a "word" (3:45), and in Shi`i exegesis, a word is a person, because Allah summons a person into existence by simply saying a word ("be!", kun faya koon). Allah then compares a goodly word to a goodly tree (shajaratin tayyiba), and this tree may indeed be the Blessed Tree ("shajarat tuba") described elsewhere in the Quran and hadith literature, as the previous verse is describing Paradise, and tuba and tayyiba come from the same root word. The Blessed Tree is one of the best rewards in Paradise, it is said to be in the house of `Ali b. Abi Talib ( دخلت الجنة رأيت في الجنة شجرة طوبى أصلها في دار علي عليه السلام ). After all, a Paradise (jannah) in Arabic is a garden with trees. Either way, the hadith above says that this tree is the Prophet, his Ahl al-Bayt, and their followers. Another hadith compares the Ahl al-Bayt to the trees of Paradise:

Allah said to Moses regarding the Prophet (s), "You are from his Nation if you recognize His status and the status of his Ahl al-Bayt. His example and the example of his Ahl al-Bayt in the creation are like that of the trees in the Gardens of Paradise - their leaves do not shed, and their flavours do not change." ( يا موسى أنت من امته إذا عرفت منزلته ومنزلة أهل بيته ، إن مثله ومثل أهل بيته فيمن خلقت كمثل الفردوس في الجنان لا ينتشر ( 3 ) ورقها ولا يتغير طعمها )

The trees in this example are evergreen tree with perpetually fresh fruit, because life in Paradise is everlasting, and taking from the Ahl al-Bayt's knowledge will result in eternal bliss.

Just as there is a Blessed Tree in Paradise, there is a cursed tree in Hellfire.

“Is Paradise a better accommodation, or the Tree of Zaqqum? Verily, we have made it a torment for the wrongdoers. Verily, it is a tree issuing from the bottom of Hell. Its emerging fruit is as if it was the heads of devils. And verily, they will eat from it and fill their bellies with it. Then verily, they will have after it a mixture of scalding water. Then verily, their return will be to Hell.” (37:62-68)

An Umayyad man named Sa`d b. `Abd al-Malik used to visit Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a). The Imam used to call him "Sa`d the Good". Sa`d entered upon Imam al-Baqir [a], and Sa`d began weeping profusely. The Imam asked, "Why do you weep, Sa`d?" Sa`d said, "How can I not weep when I come from the lineage of the cursed tree of the Qur’an?" So Imam al-Baqir [a] said to him, "You are not from them. You are an Umayyad, but from us, the Ahl al-Bayt. Have you not heard the saying of Allah, speaking of Abraham? 'Whosoever follows me is from me.' (14:36)" ( دخل سعد بن عبد الملك وكان أبو جعفر عليه السلام يسميه سعد الخير وهو من ولد عبد العزيز بن مروان على أبي جعفر عليه السلام فبينا ينشج كما تنشج النساء (3) قال:
فقال له أبو جعفر عليه السلام: ما يبكيك يا سعد؟ قال وكيف لا أبكي وأنا من الشجرة الملعونة في القرآن، فقال له: لست منهم أنت أموي منا أهل البيت أما سمعت قول الله عز وجل يحكي عن إبراهيم: " فمن تبعني فإنه مني )

This Tree of Zaqqum has fruits that look like the heads of devils. Perhaps this is because the devils, both human and jinn, are the offspring (fruit) of evil. In this hadith, the oppressors from the Umayyads are described as the flesh-and-blood Tree of Zaqqum. They are the family that is juxtaposed to the Ahl al-Bayt in heaven.

The Messenger of Allah (s) would kiss Lady Fatima [a] frequently; and he said, "When I was taken up to heaven, I entered Paradise, and Gabriel brought me close to the Blessed Tree (Tuba). He gave me a fruit from it and I ate it. Then, Allah turned it into water in my loins. So when I descended to the Earth and went to Khadija, she became pregnant with Fatima. Whenever I long for Paradise, I kiss her, and I never kiss her without finding the fragrance of the Blessed Tree upon her, for she is [both] a human and a dark-eyed heavenly maiden." ( وعنه قال: كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله يكثر تقبيل فاطمة عليها السلام، فأنكرت ذلك عايشة، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله: يا عايشة اني لما اسرى بي إلى السماء دخلت الجنة فأدناني جبرئيل من شجرة طوبى، وناولني من ثمارها فأكلته، فحول الله ذلك ماء في ظهري فلما هبطت إلى الأرض واقعت خديجة فحملت بفاطمة، وكلما اشتقت إلى الجنة قبلتها وما قبلتها قط الا وجدت رائحة شجرة طوبى فهي حوراء انسية )

If the Blessed Tree is truly the Ahl al-Bayt, then it would make sense that Lady Fatima would also come from that tree.

Imam `Ali [a] said, "The tree whose trunk is soft has thick branches." (وقال عليه السلام : مَنْ لاَنَ عُودُهُ كَثُفَتْ أَغْصَانُهُ.)

The person who is haughty and ill-tempered can never succeed in making his surroundings pleasant. His acquaintances will feel wretched and sick of him. But if a person is good-tempered and sweet-tongued people will like to get close to him and befriend him. At the time of need they will prove to be his helpers and supporters whereby he can make his life a success.

Imam `Ali (a) said, "Prayer sheds sins like the shedding of leaves off trees" (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 109)

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a) said, "When a believer meets the believer and shakes hands, Allah looks to them, and sins fall from their faces like leaves fall from trees." ( إن المؤمن ليلقى المؤمن فيصافحه، فلا يزال الله ينظر إليهما والذنوب تتحات عن وجوههما كما يتحات الورق من الشجر )

A man asked Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a) about the verse, "They made for him (Solomon) what he willed: synagogues and statues, basins like wells ..." (34:13) The Imam replied, "These were not statues of men or women, but rather, they were statues of trees and their like." ( قلت لأبي جعفر (عليه السلام): "يعملون له ما يشاء - من محاريب و تماثيل و جفان كالجواب" قال: ما هي تماثيل الرجال و النساء و لكنها تماثيل الشجر و شبهه )

Statues are normally ornaments that are shaped like people. In this exegesis, the statues of Solomon were in the form of trees instead, as though trees can take the place of people.

Allah said to Jesus [a], "O Jesus! How numerous are the humans, yet how few in number are the patient. The trees are many, but the good ones are few, so do not be deceived by the beauty of the tree until you have tasted its fruit." (يا عيسى ما أكثر البشر وأقل عدد من صبر، الاشجار كثيرة وطيبها قليل، فلا يغرنك حسن شجرة حتى تذوق ثمرها.)

This direct comparison between trees and people is one that can also be found in the New Testament, where Jesus allegedly says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-20) The fruits in this example are the actions of individuals, which are a better indicator to a person's inner nature than his appearance.

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a) said, regarding His saying: “So man should look to his food” (80:24). "[He should look] to his knowledge which he takes and whom he takes it from." ( عن أبي جعفر عليه السلام في قوله تعالى " فلينظر الانسان إلى طعامه " قال: إلى علمه الذي يأخذه عمن يأخذه )

This is very pertinent. Just as a person may consume the fruit of a tree, people are also consumers of knowledge. This hadith is a warning to the believers to take their knowledge from the correct source. Taking knowledge from the immaculate luminaries (a) will give them everlasting life in Paradise.

Jesus [a] said, "Wisdom is established with humility, not with arrogance, just as plants grow in plain, soft ground but not on hard ground and rocks." ( قال عيسى عليه السلام: بالتواضع تعمر الحكمة لا بالتكبر، وكذلك في السهل ينبت الزرع لا في الجبل )

Just as a tree can only grow on soft soil, the believer can only truly develop if humility is his foundation.

Imam as-Sadiq (a) said, "The one you seek and have hopes for will verily rise from Mecca. And he will not rise from Mecca until he sees what he loves, even if it happens that parts of a tree eats [its other] parts." (ابن عقدة، عن حميد بن زياد، عن الحسن بن محمد الحضرمي عن جعفر بن محمد(ع)، وعن يونس بن يعقوب، عن سالم المكي، عن أبي الطفيل عامر بن واثلة أن الذي تطلبون وترجون إنما يخرج من مكة وما يخرج من مكة حتى يرى الذي يحب ولو صار أن يأكل الاعضاء أعضاء الشجرة . )

This narration is describing the rise of the Mahdi, who would come during a great schism between the ruling family of the Middle East. Perhaps this tree eating itself is a description of the infighting between the rulers of that time, which would indeed be pleasing to the Mahdi.

There are many other examples that can be applied, from the story of Adam, to the mi`raj, to other stories involving trees in the Quran. Something to keep in mind is that the Ahl al-Bayt do not speak aimlessly - their examples are full of wisdom, and their examples are full of meaning. If one devotes himself or herself to more than a cursory reading of the scriptures, one will better understand the meaning of these symbols and find intricate connections between these examples.

May Allah give us the Blessed Tree in Paradise in the Hereafter.



Friends of the Mahdi

A man said to Imam as-Sadiq [a], "May I be your sacrifice! By Allah, I love you and love whoever loves you. O my master; how numerous your Shi`a are!"

The Imam replied, “Would you please mention them?”

The man said, “They are too many.”

The Imam replied, “Could you count them?”

The man said, “They are too many to count.”

Imam as-Sadiq [a] said, “If the number [of true Shi`a] reaches a little more than three hundred, then what you desire (i.e. divine government) will happen. Our Shi`a are those whose voices do not pass beyond their ears, nor does their zeal go beyond their body, nor do they praise us openly, nor do they quarrel with anyone because of us, nor do they sit with anyone who criticizes us, nor do they talk to anyone who abuses us, nor do they love anyone who hates us, nor do they hate anyone who loves us."

The man said, “Then how do we deal with these different groups, who pretend that they are Shi`a?”

The Imam replied, “They will be tried, purified and distinguished. Years come that will perish them, a sword that will kill them and disagreement that will scatter them. Our real Shia are those, who do not growl like a dog, do not covet like a crow, and do not ask people for alms even if they die of hunger.”

The man asked, “May I be your sacrifice! Where can I find such a kind of people?”

The Imam replied, “You can find them in the far sides of the world. They are those, whose lives are so simple, whose abodes move from place to another, who, if they are seen they, will not be known, if they are absent, they will not be missed, if they become ill, they will not be visited, if they propose to a woman, they will not be married, and if they die, their funerals will not be attended. It is they, who divide their wealth among them, who visit each others' graves, and who never disagree even if their countries are different.” 

حدثنا أبو سليمان أحمد بن هوذة الباهلي، قال: حدثنا أبو إسحاق إبراهيم بن إسحاق النهاوندي سنة ثلاث وسبعين ومائتين ((5))، قال: حدثنا عبد الله بن حماد الأنصاري سنة تسع وعشرين ومائتين، عن رجل، عن أبي عبد الله (عليه السلام) أنه دخل عليه بعض أصحابه، فقال له:
" جعلت فداك، إني والله أحبك وأحب من يحبك، يا سيدي ما أكثر شيعتكم.
فقال له: أذكرهم.
فقال: كثير.
فقال: تحصيهم؟
فقال: هم أكثر من ذلك.
فقال أبو عبد الله (عليه السلام): أما لو كملت العدة الموصوفة ثلاثمائة وبضعة عشر كان الذي تريدون، ولكن شيعتنا من لا يعدو صوته سمعه، ولا شحناؤه بدنه، ولا يمدح بنا معلنا، ولا يخاصم بنا قاليا ((1))، ولا يجالس لنا عائبا، ولا يحدث لنا ثالبا، ولا يحب لنا مبغضا، ولا يبغض لنا محبا.
فقلت: فكيف أصنع بهذه الشيعة المختلفة الذين يقولون إنهم يتشيعون؟
فقال: فيهم التمييز، وفيهم التمحيص، وفيهم التبديل، يأتي عليهم سنون تفنيهم، وسيف يقتلهم، واختلاف يبددهم.
إنما شيعتنا من لا يهر هرير الكلب، ولا يطمع طمع الغراب، ولا يسأل الناس بكفه وإن مات جوعا.
قلت: جعلت فداك، فأين أطلب هؤلاء الموصوفين بهذه الصفة؟
فقال: اطلبهم في أطراف الأرض أولئك الخفيض عيشهم، المنتقلة دارهم، الذين إن شهدوا لم يعرفوا، وإن غابوا لم يفتقدوا، وإن مرضوا لم يعادوا، وإن خطبوا لم يزوجوا، وإن ماتوا لم يشهدوا، أولئك الذين في أموالهم يتواسون، وفي قبورهم يتزاورون، ولا تختلف أهواؤهم وإن اختلفت بهم البلدان "


There is a reason why Shaykh an-Nu`mani put this hadith near the beginning of his Kitab al-Ghayba. The narration is rich in eschatological content. At the beginning, a distinction is made between those who simply love Ahl al-Bayt (most of us), and the true Shi`a of Ahl al-Bayt. Lovers may be loyal students and devotees, but their faith is not at the level of full yaqeen. The Imam then says that if 300+ of such people were to come up, then this affair (the rise of the Mahdi) would occur. There are similar narrations to this, where Imam as-Sadiq says that if he even had 17 true Shi`a, or 6, he would go out and seek the Caliphate. The true Shi`a are not simply those who pray and fast, but rather they have a special relationship with the Imam. So special, that he is their rolemodel, and they begin to take on his characteristics.

So the Imam describes these people: they are in taqiyya, they avoid those who hate the Imams, they will survive all the fitnas and fires of the End times which will only refine their faith, they are rejected and despised by society, they live simply, and they support one and love one another even if their ethnic backgrounds are different. Sound familiar? This is how the Imams were, especially the Qa'im, as well as their truest Shi`a: they hid the divine secrets from the ignorant persecutors, they were the masters of tawalla and tabarra', they held their faith close during the tests, and it often cost them their lives. But they didn't care about the tribe, nationality, or race of their true friends. These are some of the highest spiritual prescriptions in Islam, and they are the keys to making the five pillars great. The Prophet said that each of these people would have the reward of 50 companions due to the patience they must endure (سيأتي قوم من بعدكم الرجل الواحد منهم له أجر خمسين منكم.). He described the believer at the End Times to be like a man holding two burning pieces of coal ( يأتي على الناس زمان الصابر منهم على دينه كالقابض على الجمر ). Imam ar-Rida compared them to gold, who are refined in the furnace of affliction (يفتنون كما يفتن الذهب، ثم قال: يخلصون كما يخلص الذهب.) also see Isaiah 48:10.

The true Shi`a of Husayn (as), whom we honour and bless alongside Husayn, were not those who remained in the Hijaz to do Hajj, or those in Kufa who were keeping up their prayers. They were those who lived his life and died his death. Likewise, this narration from Kitab al-Ghayba is about the true believers who will live the life of the Hidden Imam. They are patiently waiting, dissimulating, their hearts hurt for the sin around them, they are hunted, and unrecognized. They themselves are hidden in a way, because they are avoiding the fitna, and their righteousness garners the marginalization of the people at large. Even someone as prominent as Sayyid Sistani lives a simple, distant, devoted life, and despite his prominence, will never be "popular" in the way celebrities are. Likewise, the best people you've met are probably those who do not advertise their humility and their deeds, and actually do their best to conceal it. However, these people are not alone. They are the supporters of one another, they visit one another, they marry one another, they know and recognize one another. These people share an intimate relationship with their Imam, one that will always be far beyond that of an ordinary worshiper and lover.


Imam `Ali [a] said, "You will be fraught with a dark, gloomy, blinding schism – none will be delivered from it except the numa."

He was then asked, "O Abu’l Hasan, and what is the numa?"

The Imam replied, "The one whose self is not recognizable to the people."

عنه، عن أبي حاتم (3)، عن محمد بن يزيد الآدمي (4) - بغدادي عابد - قال: حدثنا يحيى بن سليم الطائفي (5)، عن متيل بن عباد (6) قال: سمعت أبا الطفيل يقول: سمعت علي بن أبي طالب عليه السلام يقول: أظلتكم فتنة (مظلمة) (7) عمياء منكشفة (8) لا ينجو منها إلا النومة. قيل: يا أبا الحسن وما النومة ؟. قال: الذي لا يعرف الناس ما في نفسه (9).



بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

A famous eschatological expression is that the Sun will rise from the West ( طلوع الشمس من المغرب من المحتوم ). In Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad (s) says, "When three things appear, a person's faith will not avail him if he had not believed before or did not earn goodness from his faith: (1) The rising of the Sun from its setting place, (2) The Dajjal, and (3) The Beast of the Earth." (ثلاث إذا خرجن لا ينفع نفسا إيمانها لم تكن آمنت من قبل أو كسبت في إيمانها خيرا: طلوع الشمس من مغربها، و الدجال ودابة الأرض ).

In my reading of the hadith literature, there is a strong indication that this Sun is not the star that our Earth rotates around, but actually a man. The Sun is a luminous golden object that brings light, clarity, guidance, warmth, and the growth of our crops. A narration about the Mahdi says, "The one whom Jesus the son of Mary will pray behind is the twelfth from the progeny, the ninth from the loins of al-Husayn b. `Ali [a]. He is the Sun that will rise from its setting place." ( إن الذي يصلي عيسى بن مريم خلفه هو الثاني عشر من العترة ، التاسع من ولد الحسين بن علي عليهما السلام وهو الشمس الطالعة من مغربها ).

A careful study of the Quran will show that light represents the religion (61:8, which Allah will always preserve) and guidance (2:257). 33:46 describes the Prophet as "an illuminated lamp" (siraj, a word also used for "Sun"), and 5:15 describes him as a "light". In one hadith, the Imam as-Sadiq describes the Prophet as the Sun in Surat ash-Shams ( الشمس رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله به أوضح الله عز وجل للناس دينهم ), and in another hadith, the "day" in 92:2 that follows the night is the Mahdi who will arise after oppression ( والنهار إذا تجلى قال: النهار هو القائم منا أهل البيت إذا قام غلب دولة الباطل ). The Mahdi's occultation is compared to that of the Sun behind the clouds ( وأما وجه الانتفاع بي في غيبتي فكالانتفاع بالشمس إذا غيبتها عن الابصار السحاب ).

These comparisons between the Mahdi and the Sun is a similitude to the Prophet. The Mahdi is the most similar man to the Prophet, because he is like him in form and in character ( أشبه الناس بي خلقا وخلقا ), and he will openly declare and explain the religion to the world. The Mahdi will take his example until Islam becomes dominant, manifest, clear, and overspreading ( بسيرة ما سار به رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله حتى يظهر الاسلام ). 39:69 says that the "Earth will shine with the light of its Lord", and the hadiths indicate that it will shine by the light of the Mahdi's coming ( وأشرقت الارض بنور ربها " قال رب الارض يعني إمام الارض، ).

This begs the question: if the Mahdi is the Sun, what does it mean to rise from its place of setting? Rather than saying that there would be a change of the Earth's axis, we should consider the root of the word gharb (غرب). It has come to mean "set", but in its most basic sense, it means "to become a stranger, odd, obscure, difficult to comprehend, and to go away and depart". This is because the Sun passes above us, then becomes "estranged" from us and leaves us, setting in the West. A stranger in Arabic is a ghareeb. This brings us to the Prophetic hadith, "Islam began as a stranger, and it shall return as a stranger, so blessed are the strangers" ( إن الاسلام بدا غريبا وسيعود كما بدا فطوبى للغربا ). Just as the Prophet came by himself to an adverse society, Islam would return in the Mahdi, who would be estranged from his community and coming with a call that most people will not be familiar with. It is said that, by the time of his coming, the religion of Islam will be barely recognizable from the principles taught by our Prophet, so much so that it will be as though the Mahdi is bringing a new religion. Imam `Ali said that the Qa'im would recommence Islam just as the Prophet did ( إذا قام القائم عليه السلام استأنف دعاء جديدا كما دعا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ), and Imam Ja`far repeated the same idea ( يستأنف الداعي منا دعاء جديدا كما دعا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ).

Just as the Mahdi faded into obscurity, he would return out of that obscurity. He is currently in the clouds, which is to say that the occultation has surrounded him in opaque confusion, but that his affect on the Earth is still present. His companions will also be strangers who are not recognized ( إذا يستغني الناس عن ضوء الشمس ونور القمر ويجتزون بنور الامام ), and they are gathered with him like cirrus clouds ( فيظهر في ثلاثمائة وثلاثة عشر رجلا عدة أهل بدر على غير ميعاد قزعا كقزع الخريف رهبان بالليل أسد بالنهار ). "At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." (Mark 13:26) When he returns, "mankind shall have no need of the light of the Sun and the light of the Moon, and they shall pass by the light of the Imam." ( إذا يستغني الناس عن ضوء الشمس ونور القمر ويجتزون بنور الامام ). Meaning, they will be able to go directly to the Imam for guidance, and we will no longer need to seek out other sources of light.

May Allah hasten his luminous coming.



عدة من أصحابنا، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن علي بن الحكم، عن سيف بن عميرة، عن عبد الملك بن أعين، عن أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال: أنزل الله تعالى النصر على الحسين عليه السلام حتى كان [ ما ] بين السماء والارض ثم خير: النصر، أو لقاء الله، فاختار لقاء الله تعالى.

Imam al-Baqir said: Allah تعالى sent support for al-Husayn عليه السلام until it filled that which was between the heaven and the Earth. Then he was left to choose: victory, or meeting Allah. So he chose to meet with Allah تعالى.

Who is Hussain?

I will tell you who he's not. He's not Mahatma Ghandi, he's not Nelson Mandela, he's not Malcolm X. Husayn is Husayn, and I feel that we are misunderstanding the purpose and the meaning of his sacrifice.

There are many good, noble people in our history who rose up to fight for rights - Zayd and Nafs az-Zakiyya would be prime examples - but Imam al-Husayn did not stand up to fight for human rights. He did not even fight to gain the Caliphate. The hadiths make clear that Husayn knew exactly what would happen: he and his loved ones were going to die. Allah even gave him the option on the battlefield, saying, I will destroy your enemies if you so choose. However, Husayn chose to meet Allah instead. Had the fight been about human rights, then Husayn would've chosen to destroy his enemies and establish his government. But, he knew that sacrifice was his calling.

There is no doubt that Imam al-Husayn's (as) movement was one based on justice. Amr bil ma`roof was the foundation of his decision, and Karbala' was a cosmic battle between good and evil, the Imam of Guidance and the Imam of Disbelief, the Shi`a of Ahl al-Bayt and the Shi`a of the devil. But we know that all ma`sumeen did amr bil ma`roof, and even Husayn's predecessors rose up and were martyred.

Had he been fighting for rights, then it begs the question: what differentiates Husayn from Zayd if they were both martyrs of the exact same circumstance? What makes the death of Husayn so pivotal when those better than him were also martyred? Modern society has been separated from the anthropology of sacrifice. Those who understand the symbols of sacrifice will better understand the meaning of Husayn's movement. Those who do not understand Shii Imamology will instead see the Imam as a Guevara or a William Wallace figure, who was killed at the beginning of his social justice mission.

We're living in a time where Husayn's movement has become "everyday" and "everywhere" while the classical Shi`a truthfully said that "no day is like your day". The difference between the two is that the former demotes Husayn's sacrifice to everyday struggle, while the latter emphasizes the magnitude of the day. Our job as Muslims is to properly analyze and understand what happened and why it happened, which requires a thorough investigation of the hadith literature on this topic.

The sacrifice starts with Isma`il. The Quran says regarding Ibrahim, "And we have ransomed him with a great sacrifice” (37:107) The Ahlul Bayt confirm that it was indeed Isma`il that was chosen for sacrifice, and that he was replaced with a ram. But one authentic narration by Imam ar-Rida [a] identifies that the real sacrifice here was Husayn, who replaced Isma`il and Ibrahim lamented over this. Husayn was dearer to Ibrahim than his own son was, because Husayn would be the grandson of the greatest Messenger and the Master of the Youth of Paradise. After passing this test, Allah made Ibrahim an Imam, and gave the divine covenant to him and his family. This link between sacrifice and covenant is an important one.

94 - في عيون الأخبار حدثنا عبد الواحد بن محمد بن عبدوس النيشابوري العطار بنيشابور في شعبان سنة اثنين وخمسين وثلاثمأة، قال: حدثنا محمد بن علي ابن قتيبة النيشابوري عن الفضل بن شاذان قال: سمعت الرضا عليه السلام يقول: لما أمر الله تعالى إبراهيم عليه السلام ان يذبح مكان ابنه إسماعيل الكبش الذي أنزل عليه، تمنى إبراهيم عليه السلام أن يكون قد ذبح ابنه إسماعيل بيده وأنه لم يؤمر بذبح الكبش مكانه ليرجع إلى قلبه ما يرجع إلى قلب الوالد الذي يذبح أعز ولده بيده فيستحق بذلك أرفع درجات أهل الثواب على المصائب، فأوحى الله عز وجل إليه: يا إبراهيم من أحب خلقي إليك؟قال: يا رب ما خلقت خلقا هو أحب إلى من حبيبك محمد صلى الله عليه وآله، فأوحى الله عز وجل: يا إبراهيم هو أحب إليك أو نفسك؟قال: بل هو أحب إلى من نفسي، قال: فولده أحب إليك أو ولدك؟قال: بل ولده، قال: فذبح ولده ظلما على يدي أعدائه أوجع لقلبك أو ذبح ولدك بيدك في طاعتي؟قال: يا رب بل ذبحه على أيدي أعدائه أوجع لقلبي قال: يا إبراهيم ان طايفة تزعم أنها من أمة محمد صلى الله عليه وآله ستقتل الحسين عليه السلام ابنه من بعده ظلما وعدوانا كما يذبح الكبش، ويستوجبون بذلك سخطي، فجزع إبراهيم عليه السلام لذلك فتوجع قلبه وأقبل يبكى، فأوحى الله تعالى إليه: يا إبراهيم قد فديت جزعك على ابنك إسماعيل لو ذبحته بيدك بجزعك على الحسين وقتله، وأوجبت لك أرفع درجات أهل الثواب على المصائب، وذلك قول الله عز وجل وفديناه بذبح عظيم ولا حول ولا قوة الا بالله العلي العظيم.
“When Allah ordered Abraham [a] to slaughter the ram that was brought to him in the place of Ishmael, Abraham [a] had hoped to have slaughtered Ishmael by his hand rather than being ordered to slaughter the ram in his place. This was so that he may regain the feeling in his heart that a father’s heart feels when he slaughters the dearest of his sons by his hand. He wanted to attain the highest of levels from the people of good deeds upon this calamity. So Allah revealed to him, “O Abraham, who is the most beloved of My creation to you?” Abraham said, “O Lord, you have not created a creation who is more beloved to me than your beloved Muhammad .” So Allahrevealed, “O Abraham, is he more beloved to you, or yourself?” Abraham said, “Of course, he is more beloved to me than my own self.” Allah said, “So is his son more beloved to you, or your son?” Abraham said, “His son, of course.” Allah said, “So [what is more painful to your heart:] his son being slaughtered oppressively upon the hands of his enemies, or the slaughtering of your son by your hand in obedience to me?” Abraham said, “O Lord, his slaughter upon the hands of his enemies is more painful to my heart.” Allah said, “O Abraham, a faction that alleges that it is from the Nation of Muhammad will kill his son al-Husayn [a] after him oppressively and with aggression, just as a ram is slaughtered. And by that, my wrath upon them will become obligatory.” So Abraham lamented over that. His heart was pained by that, and he began to weep. So Allah revealed to him, “O Abraham, I have ransomed your lamentation upon the slaughtering of your son Ishmael with your lamentation upon Husayn And so the highest of levels from the people of good deeds has become obligatory for you for this calamity."

The Prophet calls himself the son of the two offerings, because both his father Abdullah and his forefather Isma`il had survived their respective sacrificial moments. The Prophet's position as a descendant of two offerings boosts his status as a prophet and a recipient of the divine covenant.

حَدَّثَنا أَحْمَدِ بْنِ الحُسَيْن القَطَّانُ قالَ أَخْبَرنا أَحْمَدِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ سَعِيدُ الكُوفِي قالَ‏عَلِيِّ بن الحُسَيْنِ بْنِ عَلِىِّ بْنِ الفَضّال، عَنْ أَبيهِ قالَ سَأَلْت أَبَاالحَسَن عَلِىِّ بْنِ مُوسَى الرِّضا عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ، عَن مَعْنى‏ قول النَّبِي صلي اللَّه وَآلِهِ أَنَا ابْنُ الذّبيحين قَالَ يَعْنِي إِسْمَاعِيلَ بْنَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْخَلِيلِ‏ عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ وَعَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عَبْدِ الْمُطَّلِبِ

“I asked Abul Hasan Ali b. Musa ar-Rida [a] about the meaning of the statement made by the Prophet (s), ‘I am the son of the two offerings.’ Imam ar-Rida [a] said, ‘That means that the Prophet (s) was the descendant of both Ishmael, the son of Abraham - the friend of God (s) and Abdullah - the son of Abdul Muttalib.

The Hajj itself is a ritual centred around sacrifice. It recounts the story of Ibrahim and Isma`il everywhere. Pilgrims shave their heads, which is an important symbol of sacrifice. To shave your head for someone is to pledge allegiance to that person - you are giving them your head and your neck. When the Prophet took the bay`a of his companions at the Tree of Ridwan, the companions needed to shave their heads to complete the bay`a. Likewise, after the death of the Prophet, Imam Ali asked the companions to shave their heads to express their loyalty to him, but very few did so. The Hajj ends with the sacrifice of life of an animal. These are all important symbols that we belong fully to God, and that our lives are in His hand. Animal sacrifice is a sacrifice of your own ego and your lower, animalistic self. At the end of Hajj, you come out sinless, which is a rebirth after the sacrifice.

حدثني ابي رحمه الله، عن سعد بن عبد الله، عن احمد بن محمد بن عيسى، عن محمد بن سنان، عن الحسين بن مختار، عن زيد الشحام، عن ابي عبد الله (عليه السلام)، قال: زيارة الحسين (عليه السلام) تعدل عشرين حجة وأفضل من عشرين حجة (2).

Imam as-Sadiq [a] said, "Visitation of al-Husayn [a] is equal to twenty Hajj. Rather, it is more than twenty Hajj."
Even the salat has sacrificial symbology in ruku`. Imam `Ali in `Ilal ash-Shara'i` says that the ruku` is gesture where one offers his neck to Allah, saying, "O Allah, I believe in Your Oneness even if my neck is struck."
تأويله آمنت بوحدانيتك ، و لو ضربت عنقي

Now let's go to Husayn. Sacrificial animals are marked at birth. Likewise, in one hadith, the Imam was marked for sacrifice the day Sayyida Fatima gave birth to him. In return, the Prophet says, Allah will make the Imams from his progeny. Again, we see the relationship between sacrifice and covenant: even though Imam al-Hasan was of a higher status, the Imams would come from Husayn's progeny due to his sacrifice.

حدثنا محمد بن موسى بن المتوكل رضي الله عنه قال : حدثنا عبد الله بن جعفرالحميري قال : حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن عيسى قال : حدثنا الحسن بن محبوب ، عن علي بن رئاب قال : قال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام : لما أن حملت ( 2 ) فاطمة عليها السلام بالحسين عليه السلام قال لها رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله : إن الله عز وجل قد وهب لك غلاما اسمه الحسين ، تقتله أمتي ، قالت : فلا حاجة لي فيه ، فقال : إن الله عز وجل قد وعدني فيه عدة ، قالت : وما وعدك ؟ قال : وعدني أن يجعل الإمامة من بعده في ولده ، فقالت : رضيت .

Imam as-Sadiq said: When Fatima عليها السلام became pregnant with al-Husayn عليه السلام, the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله said to her: Allah عز وجل has gifted a male to you whose name is al-Husayn. He will be killed by my Umma. She said: I do not need it. He said: Allah عز وجل has made a promise to me regarding him. She said: And what did He promise you? He said: He promised me that He will cause the Imamate after me to come from his loins. So she said: I am pleased.

The colour red is also associated with blood sacrifice, and the Prophet receives red mud from Karbala to symbolize the inevitable killing of Husayn. Other narrations describe Imam al-Husayn with a red cloak. In Judaism, a red ribbon was tied around a ram for sacrifice on Yom Kippur. As for Yom Kippur, it is the 10th day of the 1st month of the Hebrew Calendar, while Ashura is the 10th day of the 1st month of the Muslim calendar. The Jewish Yom Kippur is called the Day of Atonement, and the High Priest would make a sacrifice at the Temple, and select the Passover lamb. There is some disagreement on the exact date of Ashura. Abu Baseer says in an authentic tradition that it took place on a Saturday ( قال: أبو جعفر عليه السلام: يخرج القائم عليه السلام يوم السبب يوم عاشورا يوم الذي قتل فيه الحسين عليه السلام ). This was also the position of Shaykh al-Saduq and Shaykh al-Mufeed. But the 10th of Muharram does not take place on a Saturday in 61 AH, which is the generally accepted year of the event. It does, however, take place on Saturday in 62 AH, and according to the historian Hisham al-Kalbi, this is the real year that Ashura took place. If this is true, then Ashura took place on the exact same day as Yom Kippur and on the Sabbath that year. This makes for some spectacular sacrificial parallels between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The Imams constantly compared the death of Husayn to that of a ram, because the two are voluntary sacrifices to God by beheading. (
إن كنت باكيا لشئ، فابك للحسين بن علي بن أبي طالب (عليه السلام)، فإنه ذبح كما يذبح الكبش )

Sacrifices are often performed by initiates of an order. Likewise, Husayn was beheaded by Shimr, who had previously been a Shi`i who fought alongside Imam `Ali.

Husayn journeyed to Karbala by cutting his own Hajj short. He left the Hijaz before performing the ritual sacrifice of Hajj. Perhaps he would become that sacrifice himself? He left the holy land and was sacrificed in Karbala, another holy and consecrated land. The narrations say that the best observance of the Day of `Arafat is in Karbala.

أبي عن سعد عن النهدي عن علي بن أسباط يرفعه إلى أبي عبد الله (ع) قال إن الله تبارك و تعالى يبدأ بالنظر إلى زوار قبر الحسين بن علي ع عشية عرفة قال قلت قبل نظره إلى أهل الموقف قال نعم قلت و كيف ذاك قال لأن في أولئك أولاد زنا و ليس في هؤلاء أولاد زنا

Imam as-Sadiq [a] said: Allah looks at the visitors of the grave of al-Hussain b. Ali (as) the night of `Arafah." The narrator asked: "Before those in '`rafah?" The Imam (as) replied: "Yes." The narrator continued asking: "And how is that?" The Imam (as) said: "It is because there are sons of fornication (awlad al-zina) in the people of 'Arafah, but there are none in these (meaning the ones in Karbala)."

From these clues and many others, it is clear to me that Husayn is the true lamb of God, who sacrificed himself on behalf of his Shi`a to receive the covenant and blessing of God. Husayn was the one volunteered to give his head so that the world may have Imams. Our crying, mourning, and visitation is an act of association of Husayn so that we may be recipients of the fruit of his sacrifice. Karbala would become the connection between the celestial world and this one.

عن أبي جعفر عليه السلام «قال : أيّما مؤمنٍ دَمَعَتْ عيناه لِقَتلِ الحسين عليه السلام دَمْعَةً حتّى تَسيل على خَدِّه بَوَّأه الله بها غُرفاً في الجنّة يَسكنها أحقاباً.

Imam al-Baqir said: Any believer whose eyes shed tears for the murder of al-Husayn till they roll (down) his cheek, Allah will make him dwell in rooms of Paradise where he will there for long ages.
The early Shi`a of Iraq certainly understood these symbols, because they were coming from cultures and religions where the anthropology of sacrifice were well known. Our world is far removed from this anthropology, and so our connection to Husayn has been through social justice. The problem is that this is purely a horizontal understanding of Karbala, and not a theologically vertical one. It is not as consistent with the sources, and it makes the Imam into a political reformer rather than the Great Sacrifice.
Both Imam ar-Rida and Imam al-Mahdi did takfeer of those who denied that Husayn had died. There were some who believed that Husayn was raised up the same way Jesus was raised up. However, this would constitute kufr, because Husayn's sacrifice was the very foundation of the Abrahamic and Muhammadan covenants.

يا بن رسول الله وفيهم قوم يزعمون أن الحسين بن علي عليهما السلام لم يقتل وانه ألقى شبهه على حنظلة بن أسعد الشامي، وانع رفع إلى السماء كما رفع عيسى بن مريم عليه السلام ويحتجون بهذه الآية.
ولن يجعل الله للكافرين على المؤمنين سبيلا فقال: كذبوا عليهم غضب الله ولعنته وكفروا بتكذيبهم لنبي الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم في اخباره بان الحسين عليه السلام سيقتل، والله لقد قتل الحسين وقتل من كان خيرا من الحسين أمير المؤمنين والحسن بن علي عليهم السلام، وما منا الا مقتول، وانى والله لمقتول بالسم باغتيال من يغتالني أعرف ذلك بعهد معهود إلى من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم أخبره به جبرئيل عليه السلام عن رب العالمين عز وجل، واما قوله عز وجل: (ولن يجعل الله للكافرين على المؤمنين سبيلا) فإنه يقول: لن يجعل الله لهم على أنبيائه عليهم السلام سبيلا من طريق الحجة.
A man said to Imam ar-Rida [a], "O son of the Messenger of Allah! There is a community that claims that al-Husayn b. `Ali [a] was not killed, but rather, his likeness was placed upon Hanthala b. As`ad ash-Shami, and that he was raised to the heavens just as Jesus the son of Mary [a] was raised. And they use this verse to support it, 'and never will Allah give the disbelievers a way over the believers' (4:141)" The Imam replied, "They have lied. The anger and the curse of Allah is upon them. They have disbelieved because they have belied the Prophet's saying that al-Husayn [a] will be killed. By Allah, al-Husayn was killed, just as those better than al-Husayn were killed, such as the Commander of the Faithful and al-Hasan b. `Ali. There is not one from us except that he is killed. I, by Allah, will be killed with poison by the assassins of he who will assassinate me. I know this because of a covenant entrusted to me from the Messenger of Allah . He was informed of it by Gabriel [a] from the Lord of the Worlds. As for His saying, 'and never will Allah give the disbelievers a way over the believers' (4:141), He is saying: Allah will not give them a way over His prophets [a] from the path of the Proof."

Remember that many of our major narrators come from these Judaeo-Christian backgrounds: Zurara, `Ali b. Mahzayar, Yunus b. `Abd ar-Rahman, Abdullah b. Ja`far al-Himyari, al-Bazanti, `Ali b. Asbat, most of the Ansar (Abu Sa`eed al-Khudri, Jabir b. Abdullah, etc.) 2 of the martyrs of Karbala: John and Abu Wahab al-Kalbi, were Christians. There were things these people recognized in Husayn and in Shiism that we have unfortunately lost.

Imam al-Husayn knew that he and his companions would die, and he even chose this. Allah gave him the option to defeat the empire, but he knew that it was not the time.

محمد بن يحيى، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن ابن محبوب، عن ابن رئاب، عن ضريس الكناسي قال: سمعت أبا جعفر عليه السلام يقول - وعنده اناس من أصحابه -: عجبت من قوم يتولونا ويجعلونا أئمة ويصفون أن طاعتنا مفترضة عليهم كطاعة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ثم يكسرون حجتهم ويخصمون أنفسهم بضعف قلوبهم، فينقصونا حقنا ويعيبون ذلك على من أعطاه الله برهان حق معرفتنا والتسليم لامرنا، أترون أن الله تبارك وتعالى افترض طاعة أوليائه على عباده، ثم يخفي عنهم أخبار السماوات والارض ويقطع عنهم مواد العلم فيما يرد عليهم مما فيه قوام دينهم؟! فقال له حمران: جعلت فداك أرأيت ما كان من أمر قيام علي بن أبي طالب والحسن والحسين عليهم السلام وخروجهم وقيامهم بدين الله عز ذكره، وما اصيبوا من قتل الطواغيت إياهم والظفر بهم حتى قتلوا وغلبوا؟ فقال أبو جعفر عليه السلام: يا حمران إن الله تبارك وتعالى قد كان قدر ذلك عليهم وقضاه وأمضاه وحتمه على سبيل الاختيار ثم أجراه فبتقدم علم إليهم من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله قام علي والحسن والحسين عليهم السلام، وبعلم صمت من صمت منا، ولو أنهم يا حمران حيث نزل بهم ما نزل بهم ما نزل من أمر الله عز وجل وإظهار الطواغيت عليهم سألوا الله عزوجل أن يدفع عنهم ذلك وألحوا عليه في طلب إزالة ملك الطواغيت وذهاب ملكهم إذا لاجابهم ودفع ذلك عنهم، ثم كان انقضاء مدة الطواغيت وذهاب ملكهم أسرع من سلك منظوم انقطع فتبدد، وما كان ذلك الذي أصابهم يا حمران لذنب اقترفوه ولا لعقوبة معصية خالفوا الله فيها ولكن لمنازل وكرامة من الله، أراد أن يبلغوها، فلا تذهبن بك المذاهب فيهم.

A man said to Imam al-Baqir [a], "May I be your sacrifice! Have you deliberated regarding what occurred from the rising of `Ali b. Abi Talib, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn? They came out and rose up for the religion of Allah; how much they suffered from their deaths at the hands of the tyrants – they were defeated, murdered and overpowered." So Abu Ja`far al-Baqir [a] said: "Allah had destined that for them; decreed it, approved it, and necessitated it – it was beyond choice. It thus occurred and the knowledge of it had come to them from the Messenger of Allah. `Ali, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn rose whilst knowing [the consequences]. By its knowledge, there were those of us who remained silent. Had they, whilst facing what Allah made them face and suffer defeat at the hands of the tyrants, asked Allah to remove their suffering and implored Him to destroy the kingdom of the tyrants, He would have answered their prayers and granted it for them – then, the decree would have removed the tyrants and their kingdom would end faster than the dispersal of threaded beads under pressure. That which they endured was not because of a sin they committed or a punishment for opposing Allah, rather, it was a deliverance and a bounty from Allah, who wished for them to attain it. Do not allow them (i.e. the people) to take you away from the [correct] path."

وحدَّثني أبي ـ رحمه الله ـ وجماعة مشايخي ، عن سعد بن عبدالله ، عن عليِّ بن إسماعيل بن عيسى ؛ ومحمّد بن الحسين بن أبي الخطّاب ، عن محمّد بن عَمرو بن سعيد الزّيّات ، عن عبدالله بن بُكير ، عن زُرارة ، عن ابي جعفر عليه السلام «قال : كتب الحسين بن عليِّ مِن مكّة إلى محمّد بن عليٍّ : بِسم الله الرَّحمن الرَّحيم ؛ مِن الحسين بن عليٍّ إلى محمَّد بن عليٍّ ومَن قَبِلَه مِن بني هاشم ؛ أمّا بعد فإنَّ مَنْ لَحِقَ بي اسْتُشْهِد ، ومَنْ لَم يَلْحَقْ بي لم يُدرِكِ الفَتْح ؛ والسَّلام

When he was in Mecca, Imam al-Husayn [a] wrote to his brother Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya. He said the following: "In the name of Allah the Beneficient the Merciful: From al-Husayn b. Ali to Muhammad b. Ali and those who are with him from the Children of Hashim [in Medina]. Verily, one who joins me will be martyred, and one who does not join me will not attain the Victory. Peace."

وعنه، عن الحسن بن محبوب، عن أبي حمزة الثمالي قال: قلت لابي جعفر عليه السلام: إن عليا عليه السلام كان يقول: " إلى السبعين بلاء " وكان يقول: " بعد البلاء رخاء " وقد مضت السبعون ولم نر رخاء !. فقال أبو جعفر عليه السلام: يا ثابت إن الله تعالى كان وقت هذا الامر في السبعين، فلما قتل الحسين عليه السلام إشتد غضب الله على أهل الارض، فأخره إلى أربعين ومائة سنة، فحدثناكم فأذعتم الحديث، وكشفتم قناع السر، فأخره الله ولم يجعل له بعد ذلك عندنا وقتا، و * (يمحو الله ما يشاء ويثبت وعنده أم الكتاب) *. قال أبو حمزة: وقلت ذلك لابي عبد الله عليه السلام فقال: قد كان ذاك. 

And from him from al-Hasan b. Mahbub from Abu Hamza ath-Thumali.

He said: I said to Abu Ja`far عليه السلام: `Ali عليه السلام used to say, “Tribulations till 70 AH”, and he used to say, “after the tribulations is prosperity”, and yet 70 AH has passed and we have not seen prosperity! So Abu Ja`far عليه السلام said: O Thabit, Allah تعالى had set a time for this affair in 70 AH, but when al-Husayn عليه السلام was killed, Allah’s anger with the people of the Earth intensified. So He delayed it till 140 AH, and we narrated to you [regarding it] and you publicized the narration, so the secret was disclosed. Allah thereafter has not set any time for it that we know of. And, “Allah erases what He wills and establishes [what He wills]; and with Him is the Original Book” (13:39).

We all know the story of the Prophet Salih, and Karbala' is an inner dimension of that story. Like many stories of the Qur'an, this one has parallels with that of the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt. Salih was the Arab prophet to Thamud, just as Muhammad was the Arab prophet to his people. The people of Thamud idolaters worshiping a rock/mountain, and the Meccans were worshiping idols in the Ka`ba. As a sign, Salih brought a beautiful pregnant she-camel out of this rock. Likewise, Husayn accompanied the Prophet, and he was beautiful ("husayn" means "endeared beauty"). Salih ordered the good treatment of the she-camel, and the Prophet ordered the good treatment of Ahl al-Bayt. The she-camel provided milk (and ancient symbol for eternal life), and Husayn provided the deen. The camel was prevented from drinking the water of Thamud, and Husayn was prevented from water. The camel was struck and killed by the worst person of Thamud, and Husayn was struck and killed by the worst person of the Umma. The camel was survived by an offspring, and Husayn was survived by an offspring. Both the camel and Husayn were a blessing and a sign to the community, and the community neglected their rights and killed them.

حدثني محمد بن الحسين الاشناني قال : حدثنا عباد بن يعقوب قال : أخبرنا مورع بن سويد بن قيس قال : حدثنا من شهد الحسين ، قال : كان معه ابنه الصغير
فجاء سهم فوقع في نحره ، قال : فجعل الحسين يأخذ الدم من نحره ولبته فيرمى به إلى السماء فما يرجع منه شئ ، ويقول : اللهم لا يكون اهون عليك من فصيل ( ناقة صالح

Imam al-Husayn [a] was with his young son when an arrow struck his neck. So Husayn took the blood of his neck and his chest and threw it in the air, and none of it returned. He said, "O Allah, do not allow this to be less significant to You than the she-camel of Salih [a]."


Allah does not need anything from us - He does not need our salat, zakat, or a`mal. The religion's a`mal are all human expressions to approach the Divine. Sacrifice is a religious expression that is rooted in Islam - it is in the stories of the prophets (Habil and Qabil's offerings, Isma`il's sacrifice and Eid al-Adha, the Baqara, in the bay`a of Ridwan) in the salat, in the Hajj, and elsewhere. It is a demonstration of full submission and full adherence to Allah's will. Sacrifice is done to achieve God's favour and His proximity. The Imams were always addressed with "may I be your sacrifice" or "may my mother and father be sacrificed for you" because true allegiance is only when you are ready to put your life on the line. From this post, we see the connection between the sacrifice and the covenant (mithaq/`ahd): Ibrahim and his righteous descendants become Imams only due to his sacrifice, which was rooted in Husayn taking the place of Isma`il. Even the Prophet's own prophethood was preceded by two offerings to Allah. So, the Prophet marked Husayn for sacrifice at birth, and in return, Allah made the Imams from his progeny - I believe there is an association between these two things, because there is always a connection between (1) sacrifice, and (2) covenants/oaths/allegiances. The Hajj is only complete with an animal sacrifice, after which we are reborn with no sins. These symbols are all over the Husayni literature.

Husayn knew and willingly chose to meet his Lord on the 10th of Muharram, because a "political" islah and takeover of the Caliphate was not his mission. Imam `Ali and Imam al-Hasan were Caliphs, but their enemies prevented them from rectifying the Islamic Umma. Husayn's mission was to exemplify Islam in his fight - the full submission to the will of Allah. It was an expression of uplifting divine justice and personal responsibility at any cost. But it was also the ultimate act by which we could have the Imamate. Our mourning of him is our expression of associating ourselves with him (walaya), so that we may be counted among the covenant of Ahl al-Bayt. Once we become Muslims, and submit to our duties, and develop a ma`rifa of Allah through His Imams, and form a strong relationship with them, crying is a strong personal way to demonstrate kinship and love to Husayn. The hadiths promise that even one small tear for the Imam will result in a forgiveness of our sins, and one true visitation of our Imam will result in many Hajj. Considering the connections between Hajj and Husayn, the sacrificial and covenant dimensions here should be obvious.

Husayn's movement had two legs: justice and sacrifice. If you cut one out of the narrative, the entire narrative falls. What highlights Husayn's movement is his act of sacrifice, which undergirds the Imamate of Ibrahim (as) and his family. Husayn, in his sacrifice, fulfilled the inner meaning of Hajj, which is full subservience and selflessness towards Almighty God Allah. Again and again, the hadiths present the parallels between Hajj and Imam al-Husayn, whose visitation equals many Hajj, because he is the epicentre of Hajj.
And Allah knows best.



Islam and Feminism

Lady Khadija, Lady Fatima, and Lady Zaynab are exemplary models of Islamic femininity. Their virtue, intelligence, patience, and strength is celebrated in Muslim civilization, alongside other reputable women. These women stood up to the sociopolitical injustices of their time, making their permanent mark in history. Without these paragons, the religion of Islam falls apart. Throughout the Quran, God explicitly addresses both men and women, because they are both necessary in the establishment of good societies and families. The Prophet elevated the status of women, from being buried alive beneath the Earth, to having Paradise beneath their feet.

But today, we live in a time where it is almost easier to say that you are a cannibal than to say that you are not a feminist. People look at you as though you are in favour of rapists, sexual assault, inequity, and bad behaviour to women. The truth is that we live in a very individualistic society, where competing individuals are pitted against each other in all aspects of life. There are constant clashes between economic classes, races, religions, sects, and now, even genders. As individuals, we stand largely on our own, with little communal or neighbourly support. Instead of viewing society in a familial, tribal, or communal lens, we view society as a collection of selves in constant competition for jobs, grades, wealth, reputation, and territory. As Muslims, it is true that we have individual responsibilities, but we are also commanded to be selfless - not greedy, stingy, territorial, or combative - and genuinely look for the collective interests of our communities.

Faith in God, Trust in God

A Muslim is one who has become convinced, through reason and intuition, that there is no god except the One Creator, Sustainer, and Nurturer of the cosmos. We then accept the prophethood of the final Messenger (s) due to his inimitable character and revelation. After we have established the Book of Allah and the Sunna of the Prophet as our ethical foundation, we are to follow the moral guidelines and principles that they espouse. It is our belief as Muslims that Muhammad (s) was the last prophet and messenger, and that the system that he brought would be one that would be in our best interests in every era and every place. Our God, in His boundless compassion and mercy, wants us to live out the most fulfilled, natural, and productive life, so that we may achieve the best of this world and the next. Islam recognizes that men and women are different, but equal, and so different instructions and obligations have been given to each gender for our own best interest. God has also warned us of what happens to communities that transgress these natural balances - dogmatism, nihilism, and eventually destruction.

Feminism vs Women's Rights

Feminism is much like the Marxist dialectic, except the proletarian class is replaced with women, and the bourgeoisie is replaced with men. Feminists advocate for women's rights, but its underlying theory is that men have collectively oppressed women by monopolizing all forms of power: political, economic, cultural religious, physical, and sexual. Its goal, therefore, is to destroy the patriarchy - which it says has been built to keep women down - and redistribute the power. Historically, feminism addressed some serious issues: suffrage (women's right to vote), economic independence, and generalizations against women. There is no doubt that some aspects of pre-modern society and developing countries have been very oppressive towards women in particular, including violence and economic oppression.

There is, however, such a thing as being an advocate for women's rights without being a feminist. All of the prophets uplifted and defended the rights of females, but they were also proponents of a patriarchal system. Islam advocated for the right of women to own property, take leading roles in commerce, choose their husbands, and take part in politics. Societies still addressed domestic violence, and chivalry instated the respect of women, the removal of their burdens, and holding them in protection and honour. Women were even exempted from religious and economic responsibilities to make their lives easier. In reality, a good man wants the best for his mother, his sister, his wife, and his daughter. Similarly, a good woman wants the best for her father, her husband, her brother and her son. These "patriarchal" civilizations consisted mostly of women who would reinforce these values in their sons and daughters. It's inconceivable that a worldwide system would collectively dupe and oppress all women for thousands of years.

But the underlying premise of feminism is that the two genders are at war with one another, and the only way to stop that is to destroy the patriarchal power structure. This simplistic worldview sees all aspects of patriarchy - including Abrahamic religions - to be oppressive and designed to put women down. It generalizes all men, it ignores any good that came out of traditional communities, and it puts the world on a dangerous course. The gender war basically pits the two genders against one another, perpetuates misconceptions about men ("mansplaining", "manspreading", "toxic masculinity", unhinged objectification) while ignoring men's issues (graduation, suicide, poverty, drug addiction, gang violence, work-related injuries, conflict, imprisonment, unfair divorce settlements and custody cases). The movement presupposes that men are privileged just by being men, and then ignores the many ways that men suffer.

Feminism is Changing

This is not an argument for weak women, there is no women in my mind stronger than Fatima, Zaynab, Umm al-Baneen, Sakeena, Ruqayya, Khadija, Asiya, and Maryam. They all displayed strength in their life and were often killed or imprisoned for their strength. I do not believe that all women must be submissive, gentle, meek, or put up with male abuse. Pre-modern societies had their misogyny: preventing women from owning property (how is that any different from Fadak?), forcing women into marriages, having women pay dowries, and having women put up with brutally violent husbands - all of this is haram and reprehensible.

However, supporting third-wave feminist ideology is different from supporting women's rights. As Muslims, we should be against an ideology that preaches Free Love, which is promoted by some of feminism's pioneers ( such as Mary Nichols), and promoted by popular modern feminists like Gloria Steinem. We should be against the idea that marriage and the patriarchy are a plot to keep women down, which is the position of Wollstonecraft. We should be against a feminism that shames stay-at-home mothers as uneducated and brainwashed. We should be against the simplistic idea that males are privileged just for being male, which leads to policies and customs that ignore the issues of our young men and boys. We should be against a raunchy feminism that would like to normalize female sexuality (the Vag.ina Monologues, #freethenipple campaign, slu.twalk, Femen) and legalize prostitution (Margo St. James, Norma Jean Almodovar, Kamala Kempadoo, Laura Maria Agustin, Annie Sprinkle, Carol Leigh, Carol Queen, Audacia Ray). We should be against a feminism that enshrines discredited narrative over fact (the wage gap, rape culture) and silenced those that disagree with it. We should be against an ideology that promotes the legalization of late-term abortion. We should be against queer-focused, anti-nuclear family feminists that have sway over the LGBT and Black Lives Matter movements. We should be against a feminism that denies any biological, anatomical or psychological basis for gender, and promotes gender-fluidity, non-binary and nongendered identities, genderless bathrooms, and cross-dressing. We should be against any ideology that promotes censorship on campus or among academics; including the idea of a safe-space. We should be against an ideology that attacks the hijab and separates harassment from clothing (a clear contradiction of 33:59 in the Quran). As someone who works with young people, I can say that all of these ideas are very influential among millennials, including young Muslims.

Freedom to Work, or Freedom from Work?

While feminist ideology has often run against capitalism and the free market, there is a strong aposteriori link between feminism and capitalism. It's an unintended unholy alliance: just as feminism encourages emancipation through economic independence, the free market will always want more consumers, more workers, more students paying tuition, longer hours of operation, more bank accounts (more revenue from interest), and more people relying on outside food. Most feminists today realize that there will not be a proletarian utopia, at least not any time soon, and so co-opting the current system is good enough for now. Many policies are being proposed and implemented to give women an edge in the business world. Today, women have a 2-1 advantage getting a STEM job (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) at an American college (Cornell 2015 study). A lot of this is because of the oft-repeated statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The problem with this statistic however is that it does not take into account career choices, degrees, hours in the work place, men being more likely to ask for raises, and female CEOs less likely to give themselves a higher salary. When you account for these factors, the gender pay gap is only about 4 cents, and there is no way to verify if those 4 cents are because of gender discrimination or other reasons. Wages are different from earnings.

Although feminist tropes can be good for upper-middle class white women, who want to escape the boredom of being a housewife or mother to work in bookstores, offices, and schools; it can be extremely detrimental to working-class women, who are now forced to work as maids and babysitters while raising their own children at the same time. Many women must support their children and their parents, often without the support of a man, whilst working overtime. All households in the future will definitely require two full-time incomes just to make ends meet. The problem, however, is that women no longer have the freedom not to work. They are basically forced to work to upkeep a home, because their husband's salary is now likely worth significantly less than it used to be. They will no longer have the option to stay home and raise their kids: nursing them, teaching them, and safeguarding them. Now, they must rely on babysitters, the television, the internet, coaches, and out-of-touch retired relatives. Leaving children unattended also gives predators and abusers more chances to get to these children. In general, naturally, a mother has the best interest for her children. When she is removed from the picture, many children grow up unloved, abused, suffering from mental health issues, behind in school and filled with the media's filth.

I can understand the reasons for female economic independence, but it comes with several costs: delaying marriage, raising one's chance of fornication and casual relationships, and having less family time during marriage. Especially today, economic independence is taking much longer to achieve, because more people are attaining university degrees. As Muslims, we must brainstorm as a community and find a more Islamic middle ground and moderate path.

Islam is not against working women whatsoever. Lady Khadija was a rich businesswoman, and the Prophet was her employee. A woman can do whatever she wants with her own money, while a man is obligated to spend his money on his family. In our fiqh, a wife can even demand to be paid by her husband for any housework or childrearing that she does. Many women in the history of Islam were known for their knowledge in the Islamic sciences and their personal virtues. But this all happened in "patriarchal societies".


You cannot rely on the education system to teach your children ethics or practical life skills. On the contrary, you may even have to reverse some of the negative affects that public schooling can have a child. How much energy can realistically you give to them when you are working and under stress, on top of other responsibilities? There must be a middle way: take the first few years off, then work part-time (or go to school) until they hit adolescence. In our religion, a woman can also demand a wage for household responsibilities, demand a dower of her choice, and demand a maid for cleaning or nursing. These tools need to be revitalized for the modern age, even if it means that men work longer hours and families live within humble means.

As a child, I was able to do extra reading and math, French, Arabic, Islamic classes, Quran, sports, and eat only home-cooked meals, all because my mother took those years off. Most of all, she gave me the love, attention, and energy I needed as a child, without relying much on babysitters. She was able to become a teacher, memorize the Quran, volunteer at my school, exercise, have a social life, and have time for my father. Any lifestyle we choose will require some sacrifices, it's about what you prioritize. As a highschool teacher, I learned a lot about the parent-child relationship and how it affects their school and social life.

Feminism plays right into the hands of misogynists

In feminist circles, marriage is constantly attacked as a patriarchal institution designed to oppress women. Stay-at-home mothers are mocked and seen as weak and brainwashed. This is completely irreconcilable with Islam, which promotes marriage and motherhood as means to reaching God and a balanced, fulfilled life. Instead, free love is pushed for both genders, and a strong effort is being made to take all shame away from all forms of sexual deviation. Advising our sisters is now considered "sl.ut-shaming". But free love is incredibly oppressive towards women. Men can now have as many sexual partners as they want, without their parents' permission or knowledge, without being responsible for children, for food and shelter, or for other marital responsibilities. If sex is freely available, then men can do this indefinitely, without getting married, and they will become more adept at this with age, which is usually coupled with economic stability and maturity.

Furthermore, with feminists pushing to legalize "sex work" (prostitution), they believe that they are trying to free sex workers from the patriarchal law enforcement. But does this really help women? Paving the way towards legalizing prostitution means that cheating will be accessible to more men. More men will just rely on the sex industry, and less men will need to commit to a woman through marriage. With free love and immodest clothing and behaviour, women open themselves to the objectification of players, without those men paying any consequences. God created women to be the most sentient and empathetic of beings, and there is no doubt that being used, abused, and heartbroken repeatedly inflicts permanent scars. With more men checking out of marriage than ever before, and a 50% divorce rate in some parts of the world, it is not a mystery that older ladies with many past partners - and even children - will not be able to find the most desirable spouses. Islam recognizes the power of sexuality, which can either build or destroy communities. A woman is most fulfilled with a strong, stable man by her side - this is conventional wisdom in every culture - and so Islam recommends early marriage. But instead, feminism encourages women to get a full education and climb the corporate ladder, only to find that there is a lack of suitable male partners that can stimulate their intellect. With drug abuse, suicide, war, homelessness, and other crises that affect men in particular, there is always a natural imbalance in society. God hates bachelorhood and divorce, because they destroy the family, which is the basic unit of society. Men potentially lose most of their assets in a divorce, and often lose custody of their children, which causes more men to just keep a girlfriend.

Prostitution is not the oldest profession, it is the oldest oppression. Sex in Islam is enshrined in the protection of women, while free love victimizes women in many different ways. it is true that 1980s Second Wave Feminists were against prostitution and pornography, because they objectified women. But feminism today is changing, and its campaigns play right into the hands of perverted men.

Feminism is Anti-Scientific

Feminism ignores tons of conventional wisdom, science, psychology, and evolutionary biology. One of the faults of feminism is that it assumes that all feminine and masculine traits are socially constructed. Meaning, any characteristic of a gender is a product of culture and society, rather than nature. This flies in the face of everything we know about gender through biology, psychology, chemistry, and anthropology. The reality is that we are hardwired with certain traits, which allowed the human race to survive and thrive for thousands of years. Human nature does not change overnight due to an ideology. Political correctness and gender politics is silencing the academic process ("trigger warnings" and "safe spaces" are the most unacademic and unintellectual concepts in modern universities). The reality is that male and female brains are different. Men and women excel in different subjects and they tend to [refer different careers. Male domination of the STEM fields or physical labour is seen as a sexist social construct by feminists, rather than just respecting the different skills men and women have. Males and females compliment one another; they are not supposed to be exact copies of one another. In today's sanitized politically-correct culture, we can no longer highlight these differences without being silenced or shamed.

The question we are brainstorming is: is gender a social construction and a function, or is it biologically/neurologically/chemically/anatomically/psychologically rooted? Most reasonable people would say that it is both. Even the LGBT movement, which argues that people can be born with a male or female brain, would therefore agree that there is such a thing as a male or female brain, or a male and female anatomical appearance ("lipstick feminism"). So we must ask ourselves, do these differences have social consequences? Are we attracted to the same things in the other gender? Is motherhood and fatherhood exactly the same - and if they are different, what are the consequences or growing up without a mother or a father in a divorced or gay household? Why have almost all cultures used the exact same division of labour for generations? My view is, in answering these questions, we will conclude that men and women should have the same rights, but that their behaviour and affect in society will generally differ. And this is a good thing - it brings balance to the system. Men and women need one another to live a fulfilled life.

Not to mention the current LGBTQ trend (i.e. gender politics), which are a spin-off of identity politics. I can now identify as a 6'10" grade 1 lesbian Chinese female fox without being challenged in most academic or work settings. We can debate the roles or stereotypes of men or women, but if we are silenced from questioning basic identifiable realities, then what does that say about our ability to answer the real questions?

Addressing Women's Issues

I firmly believe that the issues of domestic violence, forced marriages, and unfair treatment of women needs to be openly addressed in our community. Domestic violence is a symptom of a diseased heart. It destroys families, and it cannot be taboo in our communities to openly challenge its reality. The caveat, however, is that we must address these issues in a way that does not give credence to movements that are set on destroying our civilization as well. As Muslims, we should rise above the domestic power dynamic and learn how to be compassionate, merciful, and loving. God created marriage as a sign so that we may know Him. But we can reproach these serious issues without compromising our futures.


Extended readings:

Allah's Hijab:

Feminism and Islamic Epistemology:

Feminist outrage:

The Gender Pay-Gap Myth:

The Decline of "Marriageable" Men:

Women who have more sexual partners have unhappier marriages down the road:

Violence against men:

Same-Sex Science:

Same-Sex Attraction:

Marriage will never be a Feminist Choice:

Is feminism destroying the institution of marriage?

Egyptian women number 1 beaters of husbands: UN study

More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male:

Ashura march for LGBT victims:

MSA Gay Pride Month:

University of Toronto professor attacked for refusing to use "genderless pronouns":

Why as Muslims we cannot support Noor Taghouri:









Biographical evaluation (`ilm ad-diraya, `ilm ar-rijal) exists both in Sunni and Shi`i branches, and it refers to the strengthening and weakening of individual narrators & transmitters, and chains of transmission (isnad, or plural: asaneed). The purpose of the system is to grade hadith reports based on the trustworthiness of its transmitters. To summarize the Sunni system, all companions of the Prophet (pbuh) - ie all of those who have been in his presence at some point in his life - are considered trustworthy (thiqa). These companions then narrated their traditions to their pupils, family members, and associates. They would then pass it down until they reached a compiler of hadiths, usually in oral form, but sometimes written.

The Sunni system excels in its biographical documentation because it covers a vast amount of individuals, giving relevant data about many people. But the system does have its flaws:

1) We don't consider all companions to be trustworthy; and we particularly distrust those who have directly oppressed the Prophet's family.

2) The culture of memorizing, transmitting, and documenting hadiths did not receive widespread popularity until the 2nd century AH. Therefore, the careful preservation of these hadiths are in question. Sunni isnads tend to be long, transmitted orally over centuries.

3) Strengthening (tawtheeq) is based mainly on scholarly opinion, with much disagreement.

Shi`i hadiths take a different approach. The vast majority of Shi`i hadiths come from one of the twelve Imams. The Shi`a hold the belief of a golden chain, which is the chain from one of the Imams that goes through his forefathers back to the Prophet (pbuh). Through the hadith of thaqalayn, the Prophet established that the Qur'an and Ahl al-Bayt are what the Muslims must hold onto, and that the two are one in essence. The Ahl al-Bayt are (at least primarily) the 12 Imams + Fatima (as). In many hadiths, the Prophet aligned himself with `Ali and Fatima, saying the truth is with them, that whoever angers them angers the Prophet, that opposing them is hypocrisy and disbelief, etc. The tying of truth with `Ali, the Mahdi, etc. gives them high authoritative value. The Imams have said in many hadiths that all they say and do comes from the Prophet. Many times, they quoted the Prophet directly, and they have said that all quotations of the Prophet come from their golden chain to him. Likewise, as infallible guides, all that they say and do is from the Qur'an and Sunna, and therefore their words are taken as proof (hujja) for all religious matters.

This means that the relation of hadiths in Shiism took place over a 300+ year period rather than just a 23 year period. Surely, the religion was completed and perfected by the end of the holy Prophet's lifetime. That same religion was relayed by the Imams. As hadith narration became popular in the second century AH, thousands of students studied under the 5th and 6th Imams. Together, al-Baqir and as-Sadiq narrated tens of thousands of hadiths on all topics - `aqeeda, fiqh, tafsir, history, eschatology, and more. The Imams gave their students the explicit instruction to write their words down, memorize their hadiths, and spread the knowledge to the people. Hence, the hadith collection process began in their lifetimes. The earliest available Shi`i notebook (usl) dates back to the time of the 4th Imam. By the occultation of the 12th Imam, over 300 of such usool existed. Unlike Sunni tradition, the hadiths were mostly not transmitted orally between the Prophet and a third century compiler. Rather, the hadiths came mainly from the Imams, and most of them were copied down during the time of the Imams. In some books, the chains of narrators are considerably shorter than in Sunni books. The time between the narration of the hadith and its compilation is also much smaller.

As noted earlier, not all companions of the Prophet - or the Imams - are considered reliable. Their veracity and loyalty to Ahl al-Bayt must be proven. There are many ways that a hadith narrator is given tawtheeq:

1. The Imams directly gave tawtheeq to some people.

2. The Imams gave taraddi (expressing God's satisfaction) and tarahhum (asking God's mercy) to some people.

3. Like in Sunni rijal, the scholars would give tawtheeq to people or weaken them, based on their biographical data, beliefs, actions, who they associate with, etc.

4. The clients, messengers, and tax-collectors of the Imams were largely given tawtheeq.

5. People can be given tawtheeq through other thiqa people.

6. People can be given tawtheeq if they are relied upon by major trustworthy companions of the Imams (as`hab al-ijma`)

And many other means.

There are certain levels that a narrator can embody.

1. A narrator can be considered thiqa. This means the narrator is trustworthy in what he narrates. Non-Shi`is can be considered thiqa, but this will be noted in the grading of the chain. A sahih chain is one where all the rijal are Imami Shi`a. A muwathaq chain is a chain that is all thiqa, but may include trustworthy Sunnis, Zaydis, Fat`his, Waqifis, etc.

2. A narrator can be considered `aadil or faadil or mamdooh which means that he is a just and good person, but his explicit tawtheeq cannot be established. This makes a chain hasan in grading.

3. A narrator can be considered dha`eef, which means he is weak. Either he is known for lying and bad character, or he is associated with the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (nawasib, or ghulat - Shi`i extremists), or both.

4. A narrator can be considered majhool, which means we may know some biographical details about the person, but not enough to establish trustworthiness or lack thereof.

There is a theory called as`hab al-ijma` that is used by a minority of scholars. The as`hab al-ijma` are a list of 18 companions of five of the Imams who are considered very trustworthy central figures of the sect. This method says: any hadith that is authentic up to one of these 18 can be accepted. Even if one of these 18 individuals narrate from someone without tawtheeq, the idea is that they would not relate a hadith unless it had value - as they were close, accepted, and tested supporters of the Imams. However, to be safe and cautious, many rijal scholars do not use this method.

The hadiths parimarily came from the Imams during their time in Medina. Their Shi`i partisans were mainly Kufan visitors who would go to Medina, stay for a while, gather knowledge and bring it back to Kufa. As mentioned before, Kufa and Baghdad were an Islamic powerhouse during the second century AH, and most of what was written in the early period in both sects was in Iraq and Persia. That is where most Muslim scholars came from and most Islamic books were written. Thus, the tradition survives through this transmission. From Kufa, the hadiths also went to Qum when Ibrahim b. Hashim and others took their traditions there. There were thousands of Shi`as in Iraq during the time of the 6th Imam, and many hundreds of his companions were Kufan transmitters of hadiths.

A hadith or concept that is narrated through multiple chains is mutawater (widely narrated). `Aqeeda must be established on mutawater traditions. Fiqh however can be established throug ahad (single-authority) traditions.

There are some issues with rijal. We should recognize that it is still a man-made system and will have its faults. The main fault in Shi`i rijal is that there are too many majhool narrators, because the Ahl al-Bayt had thousands of students, and the status of many of them was not known to the scholars of rijal. Also, different scholars had different opinions on certain narrators. There are also some manuscript discrepancies in the works of some rijal scholars (most prominently, Ibn al-Ghada'iri's). Sometimes we don't have as many biographical details as we want. Rijal scholars largely lived after the people they had written about were dead. However, the system can weed out contradictions and strengthen established concepts. It is also an insurance that what we believe and practice was what the best of the Muslims believed and practiced.

The gradings of narrators are usually extrapolated from the biographical information provided by major Shi`i classical scholars of rijal. These scholars include Najashi (~ d. 1058), whose gradings are usually preferred, Ibn al-Ghada'iri (11th century), Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 1067), and Kashhi (d. 951). It is recorded that Shaykh al-Kulayni, the compiler of al-Kafi, and Shaykh as-Saduq had their own books of rijal, but those book have not survived. Furthermore, some scholars have accepted all of the narrators who have been included in Tafsir al-Qummi and Kamil az-Ziyarat, under the belief that the authors of these works have only included reliable narrators. Later scholars who have contributed to the science include `Allamah al-Hilli (d. 14th century), `Allamah al-Majlisi (d. 17th century), Shaykh Bahbudi (d. 20th century), Sayyid Burujirdi (d. 20th century), al-Khoei (d. 20th century), Muhammad Taqi al-Tustari (d. 20th century) Shaykh Asif Muhsini, Shaykh ar-Radi, Shaykh as-Sanad, and many others.

It should be noted that the authors of the Four Books - Kulayni, Saduq, and Tusi - took rijal seriously. They believed that their books were filtered enough to represent Twelver Shiism, even for lay use. Kulayni in particular viewed his work as sahih in content. Many attested to the works of these scholars and others. While some later scholars have weakened many narrations in the Four Books based on a strict adherence to classical rijal standards, this standard is seen by some scholars to be too stringent and unnecessary. Still, the study of rijal provides a wealth of information on our sources, and it remains a critical tool for scholars and seminarians.

That is some [very] basic information on rijal in Shiism - inshaAllah it is helpful to some.


Allah's Hijab

Allah has placed important symbols in our religion that we must seek to understand.

The word "hijab" appears seven times in the Quran. In 7:46, the hijab is a "barrier" that divides Paradise from the Fire. In 19:16-17, Mary "secludes" herself from her family to devote herself to God in solitude. In 33:53, a "screen" protects the Prophet's wives from onlookers. In 41:5, a "barrier" prevents the disbelievers from heartfelt belief. In 42:51, a "veil" prevents Allah from being seen by those He reveals to. In 17:45, a "partition" prevents the disbelievers from comprehending the Quran. In 38:32, a "curtain" prevents Solomon from seeking his prescribed prayers.

The Quran never refers to the Muslim headdress as a hijab. In our traditional literature, the garment is instead referred to as a khimar, a jilbab, or a kisa'. So this begs the question: what is a hijab in Islamic terminology? A hijab primarily is a barrier that prevents or protects one thing from another. It can be both physical (like a curtain) or metaphysical. A physical hijab may be a simple covering that prevents unwanted access to an object or a person - much like the curtain that would prevent strange men from seeing the Prophet's wives. A metaphysical hijab could be an attitude that a person has - like Mary's seclusion from her people, or like the "social hijab" that prevents unnecessary mixing between men and women. But a metaphysical hijab can also be a boundary that Allah has set between two things.

The precious pearl hides inside the oyster's mysterious shell. In all instances, the hijab protects something of value from those who have not demonstrated a sincerity to it. It prevents both intentional and accidental harm from coming to the object of value. Only those who have demonstrated a sincerity to the gem beyond the barrier can access its excellence. For example, faith, which is a precious light of Paradise ( الايمان في الجنة ), can only be attained by those who seek it and are open to its reception. If one is insincere to faith, a barrier will be put up to protect it from him, preventing him from its understanding and its benefits. Furthermore, inner understandings of the Quran cannot be attained by a cursory reading of it - the esoteric can only be gained by deep reflection and devotion. Through this hijab, God protects the most priceless secrets from the misunderstanding and misuse of those who seek to abuse them.

Likewise, even the hijab (both physical and social) of a woman from a stranger protects her from complete objectification. The only ones that can access her feminine energy, her motherhood, her personality, and her physical beauty are (1) her direct relatives, or (2) a man who has sought her expressed consent, the permission of her guardian, and has devoted himself to her sustenance. Once that sincerity is established, the barriers are gradually removed, one after the other, and the sincere man becomes overwhelmed at her marvel.

The hijab is a Sunna of Allah. It is something that He Himself has enacted, both upon Himself and upon others. Allah has been inclined to put veils in His creation and His religion (الله ستار يحب الستر). He has also created veils for Himself - He created seven veils of light between Himself and the creation ( إن الله خلق السماوات سبعاً والأرضين سبعاً والحجب سبعاً ). This light is said to inspire the creation with His greatness, His guidance, and His love ( لما اسري بي إلى السماء بلغ بي جبرئيل مكانا لم يطأه قط جبرئيل فكشف له فأراه الله من نور عظمته ما أحب ). The purpose of these veils is twofold: (1) to prevent His recognition and His presence from the insincere disbelievers, and (2) to manifest His signs to those who recognize Him. Allah's veils are the epitome example for veiling in Islam - they both prevent and inspire. All other hijabs are a symbol of His ultimate and primordial hijab - a hijab is to be beautiful, inspiring guidance and awe, but also purposeful in providing the security of an object or an idea.

Allah's essence is a mystery. It cannot be compared to anything, and it is contrary to all that comes to mind. The divine mystery of God's nature is called "the secret" (al-sir) in our literature. One of the roles of the Guide is to protect this secret from corruption - meaning, to prevent the people from generating a polytheistic understandings of Allah's nature. The Guide goes through extra trouble to make sure that God's mystery is kept with distance to prevent it from being defiled. Pure monotheism is their priority.

At the same time, Allah has one more very important luminous hijab: the Prophet Muhammad (s). In al-Kafi, the Prophet is called the hijab of Allah ( محمد حجاب الله تبارك وتعالى ), and the same is said in Tafsir al-`Ayashi ( بمحمد صلى الله عليه وآله تطمئن وهو ذكر الله وحجابه ). This is because the Prophet is the ultimate guardian of Allah's essence, protecting monotheistic theology from any and all corruption. Indeed, the Prophet was raised beyond all of Allah's other veils of light during the mi`raj ( فلمّا اُسرى بالنبيّ ( صلّى الله عليه وآله ) فكان من ربّه كقاب قوسين أو أدنى رفع له حجاب من حجبه فكبّر رسول الل ), and was brought closer to Allah than any other creation. The Prophet also fulfills the other function of God's light hijabs, which is to guide and to inspire the creation to God. Everything about his form and his personality has been made for us to approach Allah and understand His attributes better. He is called "the Reminder" (al-Dhikr) because he is the ultimate proof of Allah and His most luminous light. It is not a coincidence that the Ahl al-Kisa' are the "People of the Cloak" - they are a sacred and primordial union that simultaneously protect the hidden and manifest the wisdom of God.

Likewise, Lady Fatima put extra veils between her and those who had oppressed her - she wrapped her scarf around her head, covered herself in her cloak, surrounded herself with her family, stepped on the ends of her dress, and placed a curtain before her and the Caliphal elites ( لما أجمع أبوبكر وعمر على منع فاطمة عليها السلام فدكا و بلغها ذلك لاثت خمارها على رأسها و اشتملت بجلبابها وأقبلت في لمةٍ من حفدتها ونساء قومها تطأ ذيولها ما تخرم مشيتها مشية رسول الله ( ص ) حتى دخلت على أبي بكر وهو في حشد من المهاجرين والأنصار وغيرهم فنيطت دونها ملاءة فجلست ).

It is important that we do not just relegate this beautiful concept of hijab to a headdress. A headdress without the intention and practice of hijab is just another piece of cloth. But a modest dress can be a small part of a larger, more meaningful dynamic. We are to carry out the hijab in all of our practices: we cover our good deeds, we protect our family members from insincere people, we protect the secrets of Ahl al-Bayt from their enemies, we recognize that the hidden intentions are more important than the apparent actions, we seek the esoteric understandings of our religion, and we recognize the limits in both theology and in society.

May Allah plant the needed humility in the garden of our hearts, so that the veil of occultation is lifted between us and our Imam for a nourishing relationship with him.


A Guide to Sunni Trends

The Sunni Muslim world, as I see it, is divided up into the following social categories. Below are the major trends that run through this segment of the Umma.


Madhhabi Sunnis: Anyone belonging to the traditional Hanafi, Shafi`i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools, including both conservative and nominal Muslims. Madhhabi Sunnis usually express their religion through devoted worship, spirituality, and traditional law-abidance. Many sub-movements fit in this category, including most Sufis, the mystical Barelvi movement, the Deobandi movement, and those who are simply culturally Muslim. Madhhabi Sunnis are usually suspicious of Salafi, Shia, and modernist ideas and traditions, but still advocate for Muslim unity; agreeing to disagree with competing trends. Some nominal Madhhabis are influenced by Salafi revivalism and conservatism. Sufis in particular are often politically quietist and pacifistic, and have a balanced but positive view of classical Islamic civilizations.

Popular examples: Hamza Yusuf, Yahya Rhodus, Timothy Winters, Zaid Shakir, Umar Abd-Allah, Shabir Ally, Usama Canon, Suhaib Webb, Faraz Rabbani, Amjad Tarsin.

Salafis: Those who try to pursue a literal interpretation of Sunni Islam based on its most established primary hadith sources. Salafis are suspicious of secondary sources, philosophy, mysticism, traditional Sunni schools, saint-reverence, forms of religious expressions that are not explicitly supported by "sahih" Sunni hadiths, and other sects and religions. Salafis usually express their religion through theological discourse, worship, strict adherence to early practices (including having a "Muslim appearance"), and clamping down on "innovations" in Islamic practice (i.e. anything in a hadith they consider "weak", or not found in their most literal interpretations). Salafis have three noticeable sub-movements: (1) the Wahabis, who follow the Najdi Saudi theologians; (2) apolitical non-Wahabi Salafis, who follow non-Najdi figures, are focused mostly on theology and law, and are critical of Saudi Arabia's royal family and state-sponsored scholars, and (3) Militant Salafis, who seek to revive the Caliphate, establish puritan Islamic states, resist Western imperialism, and punish deviant and nominal Muslims. Salafis are very critical of Sufis and Shias, and often push for the destruction of their relics.

Popular examples: Bilal Philips, Abu Khadeejah, Yasir Qadhi, Abdur Raheem Green, Zakir Naik, Feiz Mohammed, Abu Musab Wajdi Akkari, Abu Isa Niamatullah.

Liberal Reformists: This includes Quranists and other reformists, who have a modernist humanist worldview, and see many Islamic laws and practices as outdated or obsolete. Liberal Reformists are focused on social justice and ethical principles inspired by the Quran. They are skeptical of hadith literature, Islamic scholarship, mysticism, sectarianism, and some jurisprudence. Liberal Reformists are especially critical of traditional penalties (hudud), extremism, radicalization, and laws related to gender and sexuality. The Quran is viewed as a flexible, progressive document that mostly lacks the rigidity of Islamic laws.

Popular examples: Mona Eltahawy, Irshad Manji, Maajid Nawaz, Tarek Fatah, Amina Wadud, Asra Nomani, Michael Muhammad Knight, Khalid Abou El Fadl

Muslim Brotherhood Types: They are often unaffiliated with the actual MB, but hold the same pragmatist and anti-imperialist sentiments. They are a middle-upper class educated movement that focuses on social conservatism, harmonizing modernism and traditionalism, international politics, and social justice. The MB types believe in family values, scientific/technological progress and development, and quasi-Marxist-Leninist domestic and international policies (big welfare governments and anti-Western imperialism). They are critical of Salafi puritanism, Sufi mysticism, and Shia Iran's encroachment of the Arab world. The MB types often admire the Turkish, Tunisian, and Malaysian Islamic models, which are pluralistic yet respect Islamic tradition. They are often nostalgic of Islamic civilization's golden age.

Popular examples: Tariq Ramadan, Jamal Badawi, Dalia Mogahed, Anas al-Tikriti, Jonathan Brown


Most Sunni Muslims are not very conscious of these divisions. They usually don't identify themselves with one of these labels, and all 4 trends coexist in most Sunni nations and communities. The trends also have some overlaps, and there are people that are a blend of multiple trends. Sunni scholars are more aware of the red lines due to their epistemological significance. But many Sunnis are subject to the influence of Gulf petrodollars, and therefore will take on some Salafi cliches without noticing it (or just seeing it as becoming "more religious"). I call this "Casual Salafism" - speakers like Nouman Ali Khan, Yusuf Estes, Ismail Menk, or Omar Suleiman, who are more laid-back and popular with the youth, but still have a Salafi epistemology and Salafi influences in their material.

Being conscious of these trends will allow us to better understand whom we can work with and whom we should best avoid.


Is Paradise a Kingdom of Islamic Gnosis? There has been a millennia-long debate on the nature of the Islamic Paradise, whether it is physical or spiritual, literal or allegorical. The hoopla around its physicality does not concern me much, because whether heaven is in a molecular dimension or a spiritual one, it is certainly more "real" and of greater consequence than the natural world we have experienced. But in my recent reading of the Islamic Paradise and its anthropological symbolism, it is becoming more apparent to me that sacred knowledge plays an enormous role in the final abode.

Probably the most common characteristic of Paradise is water, which is associated with life, cosmology, knowledge, blessing, resurrection, and wilaya in Shiism. The universe was made of water before Allah parted it and formed the heavens and the Earth ( ان الله عز وجل حمل علمه ودينه الماء قبل أن يكون سماء أو ارض أو انس أو جن أو شمس أو قمر ). Paradise has flowing rivers that are white like milk (white being a symbol of purity and light). It has many shades of green, which is a sign of the Garden's richness and lusciousness. There are supplications for rain, which is also life, help, blessing and mercy, coming vertically downward from the heaven unto the Earth. In our tafsir of 67:30, the sunken water is a hidden Imam, and the gushing water is an apparent Imam ( قلت: ما تأويل قول الله عزوجل: "قل أرأيتم إن أصبح ماؤكم غورا فمن يأتيكم بماء معين "فقال: إذا فقدتم إمامتكم فلم تروه فماذا تصنعون ) - the Imam being the source of life, without whom we die physically (the Earth always has a Guide) and spiritually (a man stagnant in religion is heedless and dead). In 16:64-65, divine revelation is likened to rain. Ismailis hold that water is a symbol for knowledge, which purifies the soul of its recipient, and al-Ghazali says the same in his commentary of 13:17, and Majlisi too says this about 72:16.

The most prominent river in Paradise is al-Kawthar - its name implies its plenitude, and whomever drinks from it will never thirst again. al-Kawthar flows from beneath the Throne (الكوثر نهر يجري من تحت عرش الله). In Shiism, the Throne of Allah is not a physical throne, but a symbol of knowledge and authority (العرشى ليس هو الله والعرش اسم علم وقدرة) (ان الله عز وجل حمل علمه ودينه الماء). This Throne - the knowledge and religion of God - was first settled upon the primordial water of life (11:7). Once the world was formed, Allah made His most elite Prophet (s) and Imams (s) the carriers of this knowledge and religion, and hence they became the carriers of the Throne. The angels surround the Throne, seeking the knowledge and the association of the Guide (40:7-9 (الذين يحملون العرش) يعنى رسول الله صلى الله عليه واله والاوصياء من بعده يحملون علم الله (ومن حوله) يعنى الملائكة).

The Blessed Tree of Paradise is at the house of `Ali ( رأيت في الجنة شجرة طوبى أصلها في دار علي). In 14:24-26, Allah presents a "goodly tree" (Shajaratun Tayyiba, related to the word Tuba) as an allegory for a "good word". On the surface, this good word is the revelation, but esoterically, the Messenger (s) is the root of this tree, `Ali is its branches, the Imams are its twigs, the knowledge of the Imams are its fruit, and the Shi`a are its leaves. ( رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله أصلها، وأمير المؤمنين عليه السلام فرعها، والائمة من ذريتهما أغصانها وعلم الائمة ثمرتها وشيعتهم المؤمنون ورقها) Indeed, there are a lot of tree allegories in ancient scriptures. Fruits normally symbolize the offspring, the actions, or the knowledge of a person. The "food" consumed in 80:24 is actually knowledge (عن أبي جعفر عليه السلام في قوله تعالى " فلينظر الانسان إلى طعامه " قال: إلى علمه الذي يأخذه عمن يأخذه). The fig and the olive in 95:1 is actually Hasan and Husayn (who are sometimes the fruits on the goodly Tree). From the root of the Blessed Tree, four rivers will flow out (ويجري نهر في أصل تلك الشجرة ينفجر منه الأنهار الأربعة) - i.e., from the Prophet, the carrier of sacred knowledge, whom Allah is atop of (in power, authority, and origin), the rivers (knowledge) will stream out to the rest of the people of Paradise. The reward of the believers is seeing the Face of Allah, which are the Guides, through whom Allah is known, turned to, and through whom the religion of Allah is attained (فقلت: يا بن رسول الله فما معنى الخبر الذي رووه أن ثواب لا إله إلا الله النظر إلى وجه الله تعالى؟فقال عليه السلام: يا أبا الصلت من وصف الله عز وجل بوجه كالوجوه فقد كفر، ولكن وجه الله أنبياءه وحججه صلوات الله عليهم، الذين بهم يتوجه إلى الله عز وجل والى دينه ومعرفته). On the other hand, the "tree" of Hellfire is Zaqqum, which one hadith says is the Umayyads ( وكيف لا أبكي وأنا من الشجرة الملعونة في القرآن), whose fruits are the heads (or chiefs) of the devils (37:62-68).

The wilaya itself has been described as Paradise by the Imams. Wilaya is the Kingdom of Heaven, the Body Christ, the undying allegiance, love, association and partisanship of the Guides, amidst great adversity and suffering in the prison of this world. The acknowledgment of Imamate is the meaning of Paradise (قال رجل في المجلس أسأل الله الجنة فقال أبو عبد الله (ع) أنتم في الجنة فاسألوا الله أن لا يخرجكم منها. فقلنا جعلنا فداك نحن في الدنيا فقال أ لستم تقرون بإمامتنا قالوا نعم فقال هذامعنى الجنة الذي من أقر به كان في الجنة فاسألوا الله أن لا يسلبكم). Once we acknowledge and recognize the Imam, the faith that illuminates our hearts connects us to the Paradise of the Hereafter.

Paradise is described as a place brightened with Allah's light. In our literature, this light inspires guidance (noor al-hidaya), greatness, love (لما اسري بي إلى السماء بلغ بي جبرئيل مكانا لم يطأه قط جبرئيل فكشف له فأراه الله من نور عظمته ما أحب), faith, clairvoyance, and purity – like the water. The places of wudu will become places of light in the Resurrection. The locale of faith is in the heart, and faith is a light in Paradise (الحياء من الايمان والايمان في الجنة). When we sin, that light leaves our hearts, and Paradise slips away from us.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.


Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq [a] said: "Surely, we have revealed it on the Night of Power." (97:1) The night is Fatima al-Zahra, and the Power is Allah. Whoever recognizes Fatima in her rightful manner will have comprehended the Night of Power. She was named Fatima because the Creation has been prevented (fatamu) from recognizing her [fully]." (Tafsir Furat al-Kufi)

The Night of Power, which is described in chapter 97 of the Noble Qur'an, is a night that takes place on the 19th, 21st, or 23rd of the month of Ramadan. The first Night of Power took place when the Prophet Muhammad (s) received the first revelation of the Qur'an. On that night, the Qur'an was brought down to the lower heaven. Every year, on the Night of Power, the Holy Spirit and the angels descend to the Imam of the Age, and the reward for each deed is multiplied. It is the holiest night of the Islamic calendar.

But a special relationship between Lady Fatima (as) and the Night of Power is illustrated in this tradition. How could a night in the month of Ramadan relate to her majesty, especially if she had not been born when the Messenger first received revelation?

In our sources, Fatima is presented as the secret of Ahl al-Bayt. Fatima is clouded is mystery. Her hijab cloaks any hint of her identity, as she would wrap her scarf around her head, encompass herself in her shroud, walk silently on the ends of her dress, surround herself with her family members, and speak behind a curtain. Fatima only revealed herself to those who had a vested sincerity to her: the People of the Cloak knew her on an intimate level, and her closest companions were blessed to see her face - but she kept a distance from outsiders. Her death raised many questions, and even her funeral and grave site was kept a secret. Furthermore, Fatima is the recipient of the mysterious Mus`haf Fatima, the Tablet of the 12 Imams, and the Heavenly Baskets. Fatima was not just a practitioner of hijab, she was the very embodiment of the concept. She is called Layla in the hadith above, because the darkness of night is a cover for her true and magnificent reality. So, just as the Night of Power falls on a secret night, Fatima is a secret to be sought. Only the righteous will recognize her and this night.

"The Night of Power is better than a thousand months" (97:3). In the esoteric language of our traditions, a day often represents a person or a group of people. Moreover, the word "thousand" (alf) was the largest number in the Arabic language, and it is a literary device for a very large number. This verse may be saying that Fatima (as) is better than a thousand months, meaning, the plethora of believers in the Islamic nation. Her rank is superior to [at the very least] everyone outside of the Ahl al-Kisa', and by her virtue, Allah caused the Imams to come out of her progeny.

"Surely we sent it (the Qur'an) down in the Night of Power ... the angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter" (97:1, 4) While these verses illustrate the metaphysical descent of the Qur'an to the lower level, the verses have layers of other meanings. As we know, the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt are referred to as Speaking Qurans (qur'an natiq), because their role in Islam is to represent, interpret and apply the principles of the Qur'an in their lives. So, in a sense, Allah has sent the Qur'an down through Lady Fatima, as her descendants would be the Qur'an, united with the Book of Allah and never separating with it until the Hereafter (see hadith al-thaqalayn). Likewise, the angels and the Spirit descend to the Imam of the Age, whose origin (after Ali's Imamate) is the womb of Fatima.

Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.

Besides enigma, the other major theme associated with Fatima (as) in our literature is her motherhood. Indeed, motherhood is special in Islam: it is one of the objects of marriage, and the womb (rahm) is derived from Allah’s attribute of Mercy (ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem). A woman who dies in labour is considered a martyr, and good childrearing can bring a person to Paradise. A woman who becomes a mother takes on many biological and spiritual qualities of selflessness, clemency, and beauty. Our Prophet recommended for everyone to marry early and even have many children.

Soon after Lady Fatima came of age, she married Imam `Ali (as), and fulfilled the cosmic union between two lights and two perfect Muslims. The marriage of Fatima (as) demonstrates that celibacy is not an Islamic trait, and that Muslims should instead pursue chastity in marriage. A celibate woman, who was seeking virtue in her celibacy, came to Imam Ja`far (as), and the Imam told her that if celibacy had any virtue, Fatima (as) would have more right to it (انصرفي فلو كان ذلك فضلا لكانت فاطمة ( عليها السلام ) أحق به منك انه ليس أحد يسبقها إلى الفضل). Yet, she chose to marry young and have children in her short life, and became the Mistress of the Women of the Worlds. Furthermore, since the Ahl al-Kisa’ had existed prior to the creation of the universe, the concept of family and relationship would be primordial, cosmic, and not just limited to animalistic nature. Islam has always elevated good families, and has rooted prophethood and Imamate in a system of familiar succession (Aal Ibrahim, Aal `Imran, Aal Muhammad). The four mistresses of the world – Asiya, Maryam, Khadija, and Fatima – all performed motherly roles in their lives.

The word “Fatima” means “the Weaned One”. “Weaning” is a term used to refer to the remove a child’s dependency on its mother’s milk. In our literature, Fatima actually weans her Shi`a from Hellfire (إنّي سمّيتك فاطمة وفطمت بك من أحبّك وتولّاك وأحبَّ ذريّتك وتولّاهم من النار), and most of creation is weaned from recognizing her in her majesty (إنّما سمّيت فاطمة لأنّ الخلق فطموا عن معرفتها). Her very name is associated with nurturing.

Fatima was called “the Mother of Her Father”, because despite her age, she comforted and supported the Prophet Muhammad (s) in all of his struggles, till the day of his passing. She was the very foundation of her father and his retreat.

In one instance, when Lady Fatima was nursing her young son, the Prophet (s) told her, “O my daughter! You replace the bitterness of this world with the sweetness of the next.” (يا بنتاه تعجلي مرارة الدنيا بحلاوة الآخرة).

Fatima’s love for her children and her followers would even transcend the fear of the Judgment. On a day where everyone will flee from their own children (80:34-36) and women will be abandoning their nursing children and miscarry their fetuses (22:2), Lady Fatima (as) will seek justice for the murder of her son Husayn (as) (ثم تنزل عن نجيبها فتأخذ قميص الحسين بن علي ع بيدها مضمخا بدمه و تقول يا رب هذا قميص ولدي و قد علمت ما صنع به). She will also identify those who loved her family on the Day of Judgment (لفاطمة عليهاالسلام وقفة على باب جهنم ، فإذا كان يوم القيامة كُتب بين عينَي كل رجل : مؤمنٌ أو كافر ، فيؤمر بمحبّ قد كثرت ذنوبه إلى النار ، فتقرأ فاطمة بين عينيه محبّا).

Fatima’s current role in Paradise is to look after the children of her followers who passed away before reaching the age of maturity (ان اطفال شيعتنا من المؤمنين تربيهم فاطمة). The Imams of Ahl al-Bayt even rear their children upon the recitation of Fatima’s tasbeeh (إنّا نأمر صبياننا بتسبيح فاطمة (عليها السلام) كما نأمرهم بالصلاة).

The Prophet (s) said to Imam `Ali (as), “You and I are the two fathers of this nation” (أنا وأنت أبوا هذه الأمة). The righteous wives of these two, particularly Khadija and Fatima, would thereby be our mothers. Their examples provide both strength and tranquility.

May Allah grant us the intercession of Lady Fatima (as) on the Day of Resurrection.


During this occultation, there are unique trials, tests, tribulations, confusions and perplexities. Imam ar-Rida (as) said in two narrations that the Shi`a will be "refined (yuftanoon) just as gold is refined; purified just as gold is purified". (يفتنون كما يفتن الذهب، ثم قال: يخلصون كما يخلص الذهب.) When gold is taken out of the ground, it is black. During the refinement process, in order to rid it of excess minerals, it must be burned until nothing remains except pure gold. Likewise, during the occultation, "years will come that will perish them, a sword that will kill them, and a disagreement that will scatter them" (يأتي عليهم سنون تفنيهم، وسيف يقتلهم، واختلاف يبددهم  ). In the same hadith, as-Sadiq says this process will continue until 300+ true Shi`a are left. If you read the narrations on what constitutes a true Shi`a of Ahl al-Bayt, it's a very high bar that many of us will never reach. Beyond the 313 companions of the Mahdi, he will have no less than 10,000 others in his army, who will be people of taqwa, but not at the same level of yaqeen as the 313. These are the people that survive the tribulations, which will cause many Shi`as and Muslims to deviate under the heat.

Not only are we supposed to "await the relief day and night" (ليتوقعوا الفرج صباحا ومساء), but awaiting the relief is considered a part of the relief (إنتظار الفرج من الفر ). This is a time period where we can gradually develop our relationship with the Imam and be counted from his followers without even fighting alongside him. The reward of one who recognizes him is like that of those who will be in his pavilion (ومن عرف إمامه ثم مات قبل أن يرى هذا الامر ثم خرج القائم عليه السلام كان له من الاجر كمن كان مع القائم في فسطاطه   ).

Another spiritual instruction given to us for the occultation is to hold our tongues and stick to our homes (حفظ اللسان ولزوم البيت ). This is an indicator to the outward corruption and schism of this time period. The more time spent in the markets/malls, for example, the more likely we are to see/hear/do/buy things that are bad for our relationship with God and His representative. This is becoming increasingly the case with nudity, music marketed towards our desires, and a global culture that maximizes our ego and materialism.

Now, if you've read in between the lines, there's a trend here. Recognition of the Imam is not just knowing his name and biography. True recognition is to have an experiential relationship with him; so much so that you begin to take on his characteristics. Imam as-Sadiq (as) says, regarding the true Shi`a, "They are those, whose lives are so simple, whose abodes move from place to another, who, if they are seen they, will not be known, if they are absent, they will not be missed, if they become ill, they will not be visited, if they propose to a woman, they will not be married, and if they die, their funerals will not be attended. It is they, who divide their wealth among them, who visit each others' graves, and who never disagree even if their countries are different.” (أولئك الخفيض عيشهم، المنتقلة دارهم، الذين إن شهدوا لم يعرفوا، وإن غابوا لم يفتقدوا، وإن مرضوا لم يعادوا، وإن خطبوا لم يزوجوا، وإن ماتوا لم يشهدوا، أولئك الذين في أموالهم يتواسون، وفي قبورهم يتزاورون، ولا تختلف أهواؤهم وإن اختلفت بهم البلدان). This isn't an instruction to be aloof, but rather, it's describing the state of the true believers of this time. They will be supporters of one another and have close ties, but to the outside world, it is as if they do not even exist. They are not recognized by their merit, and that's exactly what is happening now. The good is seen as evil, and the evil is seen as good, and so consequently, the Shi`a are despised, rejected, unrecognized, not missed, not visited, and not felt for. Sound familiar?

This is a part of the tawalla and tabarra. Anyone can pray, fast, perform Hajj, and give alms, but the true Shi`i is the one who has a direct relationship with his Imam and disassociates from his enemies. During the time of Husayn (as), when he was calling his supporters to come with him to Karbala, it did not suffice to say "I am going to stay in Medina, pray more tahajjud, write up some fiqh manuals". The true supporter had to live Husayn's life and die his death. Those who didn't regretted that, and they became the tawwabun. During the time of as-Sadiq, he became a teacher and educator in theology and jurisprudence, and likewise, his companions were not off joining revolutions - they were students of his and teachers of the people.

What I find fascinating is that the 313 live the life of the Hidden Imam. That is, they live simply, they are unrecognized, they are forgotten, they support one-another, and they seclude themselves from the overspreading darkness of this world. They feel the Imam's suffering and fear, and live it. But, their proximity to Imam will allow them to all travel to Mecca prior to his coming. They will be the first to give bay`a to the Imam upon his appearance. Then, they take on the new characteristics of the Imam: utmost strength, courage, initiative, and they abandon taqiyya. Then, with the Imam together, they bring justice and peace to a world fraught with tyranny and injustice.


In these trying times, it has become ever more important to teach the world about the Islam of Muhammad (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt.

The name of Islam has been hijacked by merciless thugs who have killed, maimed, tortured, enslaved, exiled, and silenced others for their views. These thugs are ignorant of the universal principles that undergird the teachings of Islam, and have oppressed many Muslims and non-Muslims alike from all walks of life.

Islam is the middle way, not the way of extremes. It is about taming one's self, not terrorizing others. Islam is order, and not chaos. It is with the oppressed, and not with the tyrants. It teaches its adherents to be humble, not arrogant. It advances the intellect and it opposes ignorance.

Islam has taught us to greet everyone with peace, to feed our hungry neighbours, to give a portion of our wealth in charity, to forgive those who harm us, to make excuses for those who trespass us, to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, to respect and honour all people, to avoid filling our stomachs with unnecessary foods, to abstain from substances that impair our judgment, to cease gossiping and backbiting, to refrain from judging others, to spend our nights praying to the Creator, and to protect our Earth and its precious resources from misuse and abuse.

Since the inception of Islam, forces have been trying to destroy the religion's core principles from within and from without. Soon after the Prophet Muhammad (s), our civilization was hijacked by corrupt dynasties that committed unspeakable injustices. The family of Muhammad (s) rose against these horrors in the name of his legacy, but they were brutally killed and persecuted. However, ideas are bulletproof. The Ahl al-Bayt risked their lives, and often fought and died, to protect their ethical ideals from the contamination of wild beasts. Today, it is a miracle that we can talk openly about Imam Ali and Imam Husayn, who shook the thrones of the pre-modern ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, and Boko Haram.

The ISIS of today is nothing new. It is a crystallization of this fringe group of oppressors, who threaten the lives of all people and bask in their massacres. It is the rotten fruit of an ideology that only values the conquering of others.

We are all in this together. We must not ignore the negative effects of colonialism and neo-imperialism in the Muslim world, which have, in part, created this monster. However, we must also condemn this evil caricature of Islam, which ignores Quranic context, defiles the image of our Prophet, and neglects the role of his Ahl al-Bayt in the interpretation of this religion.

Our enemy is our own ignorance. The cure is humility and knowledge.


There is a developing trend in the Sunni world today which involves the denial of the legitimacy of Islamic states.

Almost all practicing Sunnis would love to see a proper Islamic state, but they disagree on the criteria and the vision. To them, Islamic vaguely means good, just, and outwardly pious. But beyond this, there are stark disagreements on how an executive is to be chosen, what economic system is to be adopted/created, and how minorities are to be treated. It seems to me that the only aspect of Muslim governance that has remained static throughout history is punishment hudud. While everything mentioned has been subject to change, there is a clinging to these hudud, perhaps because they are so clear cut, while the rest of government is not. Even at that, there are disagreements as to when the hudud are supposed to be introduced, if at all.

While Sunnis recognize the injustices committed by previous Islamic empires, most Sunnis do not categorize these empires as unIslamic. Even if there were mistakes made during the Rashidun, Umayyad, and Abbasid eras, or if they were not following Islam properly, they were still Muslim governments. Rather than highlighting their shortcomings, Sunnis have been trained to look at their benefits: scientific advancement, social progress, and conquests.

This brings Sunnism to a dilemma that is unique in their history. Since the fall of the Caliphate, there is this unexplained reluctance among the whole of Sunnis to call any state Islamic. You'll often hear this line of reasoning: Taliban Afghanistan wasn't an Islamic state, because they were partially illiterate and not fulfilling the hudud correctly. Saudi Arabia is not an Islamic state, because it is a corrupt monarchy. The Muslim Brotherhood's Egypt was not Islamic, because it was not implementing the shari`a. ISIL is not Islamic, because it is brutal. etc. Every Islamist group has been marginalized or denied legitimacy by the Sunni world.

The problem: had they been saying this about past empires, they would be considered Rafida. Their criticisms of modern Islamist movements - from the AKP to IS - are fair. But why don't they hold their empires to the same standard? Most Caliphs were dynastic, they were not implementing the shari`a properly, they were often not learned in a scholastic sense, and they were guilty of some of history's largest massacres. When Sunnis say that ISIL's atrocities are really just ISILated incidents, an aberration of Sunni Islam, khawarij with no overlap, raising an eyebrow is natural.

Sunni nostalgia for an Islamic state is strange, because while it is easy to get Ottoman nostalgia when walking into a beautiful Turkish mosque with colourful windows on a cloudless summer day, the Ottoman empire was more than just beautiful Turkish architecture and liberal Sufi spirituality. It is an empire than banned the printing press for three centuries, and executed people who were caught with a printed book. It is an empire that massacred 40,000 Shi`a in 1512 in Anatolia. It is an empire that killed scholars like Shahid al-Awwal and Shahid al-Thani. Does it only retain its "Islamic state" status of legitimacy because it is pre-modern?


Jesus and Husayn

A man asked Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq [a] said, "May I be your sacrifice! Why were the descendants of al-Husayn preferred over the descendants of al-Hasan when they came from the same line?"

So the Imam said: I will show you, so take it.

Surely, Gabriel [a] came down to Muhammad (s) before al-Husayn had been born, and he said to him, "A boy will be born to you who will be killed by your Umma after you."

So he (s) said, "O Gabriel, I do not need this."

He addressed him three times, then he called for `Ali, and he said to him, "Surely, Gabriel [a] informs me from Allah that a boy will be born to you who will be killed by your Umma after you."

So he [a] said, "I do not need this, O Messenger of Allah."

So he addressed `Ali [a] three times. Then, he said, "The Imamate, the inheritance, and the treasury will come through his descendants."

So he sent for Fatima [a], [saying,] "Allah brings you glad tidings of a boy who will be killed by my Umma after me."

So Fatima said, "I do not need this, O father."

So he (s) addressed her three times. Then, he sent to her, [saying,] "Certainly, surely, the Imamate, the inheritance, and the treasury will be in him."

So she said, "I am pleased with Allah."

So she conceived and became pregnant with al-Husayn. She was pregnant for six months, then gave birth to him - and no infant of six months ever lives except for al-Husayn b. `Ali and Jesus the son of Mary [a]. So Umm Salama took responsibility of him, and the Messenger of Allah would meet him every day and put his tongue in the lips of al-Husayn [a], and he would suckle it until he would recite [knowledge], and Allah would give him meat (laHm) from the meat of the Messenger of Allah (s). He would not suckle milk from Fatima [a] or from anyone else.

So when Allah revealed this regarding it, 'and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months, and so, when he attains to full maturity and reaches forty years, he prays: O my Sustainer! Inspire me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Yours with which You have graced me and my parents, and that I may do what is right that will meet with Your goodly acceptance; and grant me righteousness in my offspring.' (46:15) were he to have said, 'rectify for me my offspring', then all of them would have been Imams - however, he specified it in this way.

حدثنا احمد بن الحسن رحمه الله قال: حدثنا احمد بن يحيى قال: حدثنا
بكر بن عبد الله بن حبيب قال: حدثنا تميم بن بهلول قال: حدثنا علي بن حسان الواسطي عن عبد الرحمان بن كثير الهاشمي قال: قلت لابي عبد الله " ع " جعلت فداك من اين جاء لولد الحسين الفضل على ولد الحسن وهما يجريان في شرع واحد فقال لا أريكم تأخذون به، ان جبرئيل " ع " نزل على محمد صلى الله عليه وآله وما ولد الحسين بعد فقال له يولد لك غلام تقتله امتك من بعدك فقال يا جبرئيل لا حاجة لي فيه فخاطبه ثلاثا ثم دعا عليا فقال له ان جبرئيل " ع " يخبرني عن الله عز وجل انه يولد لك غلام تقتله أمتك من بعدك فقال لا حاجة لي فيه يارسول الله فخاطب عليا " ع " ثلاثا ثم قال انه يكون فيه وفي ولده الامامة والوراثة والخزانة، فارسل إلى فاطمة عليها السلام ان الله يبشرك بغلام تقتله أمتى من بعدي فقالت فاطمة ليس لي حاجة فيه يا أبة فخاطبها ثلاثا ثم أرسل إليها لابد أن يكون فيه الامامة والوراثة والخزانة فقالت له رضيت عن الله عز وجل فعلقت وحملت بالحسين فحملت ستة اشهر ثم وضعته ولم يعش مولود قط لستة أشهر غير الحسين بن علي وعيسى بن مريم عليهما السلام فكفلته أم سلمة وكان رسول الله يأتيه في كل يوم فيضع لسانه في فم الحسين " ع " فيمصه حتى يروى فانبت الله تعالى لحمه من لحم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ولم يرضع من فاطمة عليها السلام ولا من غيرها لبنا قط فلما انزل الله تبارك وتعالى فيه (وحمله وفصاله ثلاثون شهرا حتى إذا بلغ أشده وبلغ أربعين سنة قال رب أوزعني ان اشكر نعمتك التي انعمت علي وعلى والدي وان اعمل صالحا ترضاه واصلح لي في ذريتي) فلو قال أصلح لي ذريتي كانوا كلهم أئمة لكن خص هكذا.

(`Ilal ash-Shara'i`)


Some of you may remember my thread on the sacrifice of Husayn. I wanted to point out some of the parallels between Jesus and Husayn, which this hadith seems to delineate. Both were born miraculously with shortened pregnancies. Mary is called al-'adra, because she was a virgin, and Fatima was called al-Batool, which is a similar title indicating purity (she did not menstruate). Both mothers were the best of women of the world, known for their modesty and spoken to by angels. The angel Gabriel announced the birth of both Jesus and Husayn. When Husayn is born, he suckles meat and nor milk - which is a popular biblical expression which refers to the consumption of higher knowledge. Both were granted knowledge as children. Fast forward to the sacrifice - one hadith says that the divine government was initially promised for Husayn, making him a messiah figure, until bada' took place. When Husayn was beheaded, those who mourn and associate with him are absolved of their sins. The final Mahdi is a descendant of Fatima just as the Messiah is the descendant of Mary.


The Light behind the Cloud

Qa'im Muhammad


“He will be walking in their market and treading between them until Allah permits him.”

Succession in the institution of Imamate was a contentious matter during the formative period of Imami Shiism. The doctrine of Imamate “evolved gradually” during the first century AH, and was given a “definitive shape” by the death of Ja`far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (c. 148 AH).[1] While Madelung attributes this shape to Hisham b. al-Hakam,[2] a Kufan champion of Imami theology and companion of Ja`far as-Sadiq, a pantheon of Shiite personalities influenced and codified the development of this institution. An examination into Twelver Imamate would be incomplete without an inquiry into its culmination: the occultation. The disappearance of the last Imam, or the Mahdi, is a belief that was upheld by many sects during the infancy and formative period, including the Kaysaniyya, the Nawusiyya, the Fat`hiyya, the Mubarakiyya, the Waqifa, and the Twelvers. The doctrine of occultation grew in sophistication between the first and third Islamic centuries through the sayings and writings of different personalities, schools, and sects. This article will explore the historical development the concept of occultation, its influences, and its implications in classical Shiism.

                Disagreements over who would inherit the Imamate would demonstrate a popular uncertainty in the expected number of Imams. In the lifetime of Ja`far as-Sadiq, it became clear to the growing Imami community that a rightful Imam would need to be explicitly designated (nass) by his paternal predecessor, and that he would have the right to the Caliphate and the leadership of the Muslim world.[3] Although Ja`far as-Sadiq was certainly not the originator of the concept of Imamate, his chiefly place amongst Medinan scholars and his relative freedom vis-à-vis other Imams allowed him to elaborate on the subject to his principal Kufan students. He taught that the Imam was not only a contestant to political authority, but also as a legal and spiritual guide of Muslims everywhere.[4] The death of Ja`far as-Sadiq would mark a major split in the Shiite community over his succession. The triumph of the Abbasid revolution made it difficult for Ja`far as-Sadiq to articulate his designation; and upon his death, the Shiites flocked to several descendants of his, including `Abdullah al-Aftah, Muhammad b. Isma`il, Musa al-Kadhim, and even the deceased Isma`il b. Ja`far. Soon afterwards, the Fat`hiyya would mostly join Musa al-Kadhim, either as Imamis, or as ardent upholders in the Imamate of `Abdullah al-Aftah. One group, the Nawusiyya, held that Ja`far was the living Mahdi in occultation. Later, after the death of Musa al-Kadhim, a faction led by `Ali b. Abi Hamza claimed that Musa was indeed the living Mahdi in occultation.

                This crisis poses a dilemma: the final number of Imams and the sequence of who would take office was perhaps unknown to major students of Ja`far as-Sadiq and the Shiite populace in general. Still, the split demonstrates that a number of important doctrines were upheld by all of the groups, including:

  1. The rule that there would be one immaculate (ma`sum) Imam at all times, chosen by the preceding Imam. For all of the mentioned sects, this would either be a hidden Imam or an apparent one.
  2. The culmination of the Imamate with the Mahdi, a messianic figure who would fill the world with justice and peace as it would be fraught with injustice and tyranny.
  3. The expectation that the Mahdi would enter into an occultation sometime during his life, usually due to an imminent danger.

While the Sunnis did not share these three ideas, they became central to Imami theology. Zaydis generally do not necessitate one Imam at all times, but they have certainly flirted with messianism.[5] The historical Zaydis carried a more nascent view of Imamate: an Imam was simply a pious leader from the Prophet’s tribe who rises with a sword to fight against the tyrannical forces. In Zaydi theology, the world can be devoid of an Imam, and there can even be multiple Imams at a given time – including lesser Imams, who are more scholastic and less revolutionary. This is reflective of the “conciliatory” role that the Zaydis took in the 2nd century AH, merging various Islamic trends, from the traditionalists of Medina and Kufa to the Mu`tazilite theologians and logicians.[6] Still, there was a great deal of nuance among Zaydi sects and personalities in their respective views on Imamate. The Husayniyya, a messianic Zaydi religious movement in Yemen, claimed that its leader was the expected Mahdi. After his death, the sect upheld that he was actually the hidden Saviour, who would soon bring justice to the Earth.[7] Abu’l Jarud (d. c. 140-150 AH), the founder of the Jarudiyya, was a prominent student Muhammad al-Baqir and a narrator of his ahadith. While some Zaydis were notably hostile towards the Twelver Imams, Abu’l Jarud relied heavily on Muhammad al-Baqir, and he transmits traditions from Abu ‘t-Tufayl `Amer b. Wathila (d. ~100 AH), the Kaysani strongman and sahabi.[8] In the Twelver hadith corpus, Abu’l Jarud even narrates traditions on the twelve Imams and the occultation of the Mahdi. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Sa`eed b. `Uqda, an esteemed Zaydi jurist in third century Baghdad, also related explicit traditions on these subjects to Nu`mani. Abu Sa`eed `Abbad al-`Asfari (d. 250 AH), a Jarudi scholar in Kufa, likewise recorded traditions on there being twelve Imams over ten years before the death of Hasan al-`Askari (260 AH). What we can extract from these four examples is that some Zaydis certainly remained loyal to Imami authorities and perhaps embraced some of their ideas on the institution of Imamate, all while the Batriyya remained suspicious of the more esoteric side of Shiism.

Perhaps the most esoteric concept in Twelver Imamology is the occultation (ghayba). The Twelver account is that prior to Hasan al-`Askari’s death, he had secretly sired a son in either 255 or 256 AH[9] with an African bondwoman or with Narjis, the granddaughter of Bardas, the Byzantine Caesar. Although the early Twelver chroniclers recount several eyewitness reports to the child’s birth and early life, the child was concealed from the populous. The twelfth Imam’s existence was so discrete that it allowed several non-Twelver sects to arise after Hasan al-`Askari’s death amidst the perplexity caused by the apparent vacuum. At least eleven fragments made opposing claims; from upholding the Imamate of Ja`far al-Kadhab, to claiming that Hasan al-`Askari’s deceased brother Muhammad b. `Ali was the occulted Mahdi, to the belief that Hasan al-`Askari was still the living Imam, to the complete cessation of Imamate.[10] Twelver authorities found themselves trying to prove the twelfth Imam’s existence and his Qa’imiyya whilst negating the claims of imposters and deviant sects. This transition from Imamiyya to Twelverism proved difficult for chroniclers, who needed to codify a doctrine in harmony with the oral and written Shiite tradition.

A primary source of direction in the Twelver community was the ambassadorship of the four representatives of the twelfth Imam: `Uthman al-`Amri, Muhammad b. `Uthman, Husayn b. Ruh an-Nawbakhti, and `Ali b. Muhammad as-Simuri. These ambassadors (sufara’) would oversee the headquarters (nahiya), a hierarchy of scholars and tax-collectors loyal to the later Qat`i Imams[11], and occasionally sent out letters and orders issued by the Imam. `Uthman al-`Amri was a loyal associate of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Imams, and received the explicit praise of the latter two according to two traditions in Kulayni’s collection through Ahmad b. Is`haq. His son, Muhammad b. `Uthman, would inherit the seat after his death. After Muhammad b. `Uthman died, his daughter Umm Kulthum helped secure the succession of Ibn Ruh an-Nawbakhti,[12] a charismatic theologian from the prominent family of scholars. This safir would prove to be influential even independently of the Imam, as he was asked a series of historical questions by his constituents. Several accounts survive in which Ibn Ruh discusses the virtues of Fatima, the martyrdom of Husayn, the role of prophets, the controversial death of Musa al-Kadhim, and various other issues. He would also address the chiliasts and the extremists (ghulat), and debate false claimants to the Imam’s representation – most notably, Shalmaghani. Moreover, the Hidden Imam communicated most with his adherents during Ibn Ruh’s supervision. The Imam’s epistles, which focused mostly on matters related to Islamic jurisprudence and khums taxes, became an affirmation of his existence, his Imamate, and his competence, as they were collected and brandished in the works of Kulayni, Saduq, and others. The epistles even demonstrated the miraculous knowledge of the twelfth Imam, who, on many occasions, seemed to have access to very specific information about his clients, their belongings, their future, and their enemies. This would further reinforce the idea that the Imam, in his station, had the supernatural ability to access the knowledge of the occult.

The minor occultation was important to the triumph of Twelver Shiism over competing factions. The Twelvers would win over most of the early dissidents during the minor occultation, and, according to one account, eventually take in a repented Ja`far al-Kadhab.[13] Ja`far’s denial of the existence of his nephew, the twelfth Imam, would attract the followers of Faris b. Hatim, a renegade proselytizer and tax collector who broke away from `Ali al-Hadi’s influence during his Imamate.[14] Ja`far’s denial of his brother’s offspring was challenged by Hasan al-`Askari’s own mother, who opposed Faris’ group and Ja`far.[15] Eventually, according to an epistle of the Hidden Imam preserved by Saduq, Ja`far, in effect, became a Twelver and recognized his Imam. Although this claim cannot be independently verified, Saduq would have presented this information shortly after the events we have described, and no alternative account exists.

 Sa`d b. `Abdullah, a Twelver scholar and heresiographer of that period, also recorded the dissent of Muhammad b. Nusayr, the founder of the historical Alawite sect. Ibn Nusayr was a companion of `Ali al-Hadi and Hasan al-`Askari who then claimed to be the rightful gateway to the twelfth Imam. His main confidant was Ahmad b. Hilal, described by Saduq in Kamal ad-Deen as the only man to have converted from Shiism to nasb. While nasb is usually associated with those who have opposed the Ahl al-Bayt, the word nassab may also mean imposter, fraud, and conman. This definition would make more sense, because Ahmad b. Hilal was accused of both extremism (ghulu) and nasb. He was probably labelled an extremist due to his support for the Nusayris, who would raise `Ali b. Abi Talib to Godhood and adopt reincarnation; [16] and he was probably associated with nasb for his opposition to the Imam’s secretariat and his creation of a new sect. Beyond the Alawites, there were other extremists whom the Twelver authorities would need to deflect. Shalmaghani later nationalistically claimed that the Hashimite Imam was the devil and that the real Imam in occultation was a Persian from the House of Chosroes.[17] While the minor occultation symbolized a harmonization between the traditionalist, rationalist, and esoteric trends in Imami Shiism, explicit measures were taken against the heresies of some esotericists. In Tabrisi’s Ihtijaj, the Hidden Imam harshly condemns the ghulat; and in the epistle of Is`haq b. Ya`qub, he calls those who have denied Husayn’s death blasphemers. The latter is a reference to those who believed that Husayn and his companions were not killed, but were raised (like Jesus) to Paradise. The move of the holy seat of the Imam’s secretariat to Baghdad sometime after Hasan al-`Askari’s death[18] and the appointment of Ibn Ruh an-Nawbakhti may also be seen as pro-rationalist stances. Ibn Ruh also built strong ties with the Qummi traditionalists during his term. His administration can be seen as a grounding force that attempted to unify the Twelvers upon strong `aqli and naqli foundations whilst combatting the esoteric ghulat and millenialists that rose to prominence in the third Islamic century. This characterization can be further noted in the works of Saduq, Mufid, Murtada, and Tusi, which further focus on traditional, jurisprudential, and rational theology.

The third ambassador died in 326 AH and he was succeeded by as-Simuri, whose period in office was brief and relatively obscure.[19] The most notable event at this time was the Imam’s announcement to as-Simuri that he would die in six days, and that no one was to be appointed in his place. This would mark the beginning of the major occultation and a new wave of perplexity (heyra) in the Twelver community.

Confusion would permeate the major occultation when the death of as-Simuri further raised questions on the state of the twelfth Imam. Both Nu`mani and Saduq attempted to address the confusion of Shiites in this period, with the latter writing an extensive refutation of non-Twelver sects in the outset of his Kamal ad-Deen. It was at this time when narrations on the dual occultation of the Mahdi would gain utmost relevance, as they provided an explanation for the new phase of the occultation[20] that satisfied skeptics and temporarily curtailed the attitudes of chiliasts. The first to utilize these narrations were in fact the Waqifa, who identified Musa al-Kadhim’s two terms in prison as his two periods of occultation. Neither as-Saffar nor al-Barqi mention the dual occultation in their respective works, but Kulayni inserted a tradition of this genre from Ja`far as-Sadiq into his al-Kafi during the minor occultation. This demonstrates that, by the time of as-Simuri, the expectation of a second occultation may have been present in some Twelver scholastic circles. Furthermore, Nu`mani wrote his Kitab al-Ghayba shortly after the death of as-Simuri, which documented other traditions from the sixth Imam on the dual occultation.

What was the proposed reason for the occultation? Both Kulayni and Saduq present reports from Zurara b. A`yan which say that the Qa’im would go into occultation due to his fear of being killed. The Hidden Imam, in his minor occultation, claimed that all of his predecessors were forced to pledge allegiance (bay`a) to the despot of their time, making his occultation an escape from their clutches. Other narrations cite the occultation as being part of an ambiguous test of faith, which only the truest Shiites would pass – doing away with the hypocrites and those of little faith.

                The physical abode of the occulted Imam is also worthy of discussion. For Kaysanis, Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya (d. 81 AH) was the Mahdi, and he was alive in occultation at Mount Radwa[21] protected by lions and angels. For the Waqifa, Musa al-Kadhim’s prison sentence sufficed as an occultation. One Waqifi report preserved in Tusi’s Ghayba appropriates the Kaysani idea that the Mahdi would be upon Mount Radwa and applies it to Musa al-Kadhim after his alleged “escape” from the Abbasid prison.[22] This demonstrates that the early, pre-developed idea of occultation was a physical seclusion of the Mahdi in a remote or isolated area. During the lives of the first eleven Imams, the Imamis studied the doctrine of occultation and its theological precedents through their Kaysani, Nawusi, Fat`hi, and Waqifi peers and predecessors. One of the most influential pre-occultation Imami theologians to have written on the topic was Fadl b. Shadhan (d. 260), a contemporary of the later Imams who had compiled his own Kitab al-Ghayba based on the narrations of the Imams and their students. Fadl’s reports were preserved by Tusi and would become an important source for occultation theology and eschatology. All of those who wrote about the occultation, including Fadl, relied on both Imami and non-Imami authorities in order to fully illustrate the concept.

The Twelvers uphold that the Hidden Imam exists “in-between time” on a higher plain – one can interact with him metaphysically through dreams and other visionary and spiritual experiences, but this does not interrupt his state of occultation.[23] In a number of narrations, the Qa’im is compared to the Biblical prophet Joseph,[24] because Joseph was presumed dead and subsequently lived in seclusion, making significant but incognito appearances to others. Likewise, the Hidden Imam’s existence was questioned, he was unseen and unrecognized by his followers, and rumours of his death arose.[25] Saduq records that during the outset of the minor occultation, `Uthman al-`Amri claimed to have seen twelfth Imam whilst at Hajj, saying that he would visibly perform the pilgrimage every year. Soon afterwards, others would claim to have met the Imam on an incidental basis.[26] These traditions challenge the former idea that the Mahdi would be restricted to a confined area during his occultation, and submits the idea that the Hidden Imam manifests himself into both material and immaterial forms, often unbeknownst to those perceiving him.

While the Sunnis did not formalize a belief in occultation, they did have some noteworthy encounters with the concept. Immediately after the death of the Prophet, `Umar claimed that Muhammad had not died, but was still alive, and that he had “gone to his Lord as Moses went and remained hidden from his people for forty days”.[27] Although this is normally perceived to be `Umar’s emotional reaction to the death of the Prophet, it is nonetheless a strange response that may have had theological implications. Saduq would later compare the prolonging of the Mahdi’s occultation to Moses’ forty-day isolation in Kamal ad-Deen. Additionally, Qurtubi wrote in his tafsir that al-Khidr and Elijah were still alive, making occasional appearances to pious men and women. This lends credibility to the idea that righteous men can live a millennia whilst in seclusion, even after the cessation of prophethood in Muhammad.

                One “dual occultation” tradition found in al-Kafi is supplemented with the notion that some of the Mahdi’s followers would retain contact with him during the second phase of his occultation. Here, Ja`far as-Sadiq says that the Mahdi’s “special clients” (khasat mawali) would “know his place”. The relatively ambiguous language of this hadith can perhaps be understood through its Waqifi rendition, which says that the Mahdi would be looked after by his slave (mawla) during his second occultation.[28] The letter sent to as-Simuri prior to his death condemns those who will claim to have witnessed him during the second occultation; however, this witnessing (mashahada), according to Amir-Moezzi, is referring to a claim to his ambassadorship and representation.[29] Although the meaning of this has been contested by Twelver scholarship, this interpretation can give credence to the numerous accounts of episodic appearances of the Mahdi in Shiite history.

The Imams highlighted the need for their followers to stick to their books and the narrators of their sayings during the perplexity of the occultation. Soon after the death of as-Simuri, Nu`mani, Saduq, Mufid, Murtada, and Tusi would further develop the theology of occultation with an `aqli and naqli harmonization of the Imams’ sayings and of past events.

                For Twelvers, an occulted Imam is not an absent Imam. Believers are still expected to recognize the Mahdi during his occultation just as they are to recognize his predecessors. Without physical access to their Imam, adherents have a unique relationship with him: praying for his well-being and for the hastening of his return, sending salutations and benedictions to him, preparing for his reappearance and weeping at its delay. In one of Kulayni’s traditions, Ja`far as-Sadiq emphasizes the intensifying need for dissimulation prior to “the affair” – the return and triumph of the Ahl al-Bayt. Another narration implies that the punishment of stoning is to be halted until the revolution of the Qa’im. Interestingly, Tusi reports a tradition from Fadl b. Shadhan that says that the misguided will enter Paradise because “the Silent One will not speak”. The “Silent One” is an occulted or inactive Imam, and so perhaps due to the difficulty in accurately recognizing him, God would not hold some deviants accountable on the Day of Resurrection. Still, in order to have cognizance of God and attain His utmost favour, recognition of His representative is necessary. All in all, perhaps the best depiction of the occultation is in an allegory that the Saviour himself presented in the epistle of Is`haq b. Ya`qub: “And as to the benefit from me in my occultation, then it is that of the Sun when it is concealed from the eyes in the clouds. And surely, I am a safeguard for the inhabitants of the earth, like the stars are the safeguards for the inhabitants of the sky. So, lock the door of questioning regarding that which is not meant for you, and do not task yourself beyond the knowledge of that which suffices you”.

[1] Kohlberg, From Imamiyya to Ithna Ashariyya, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, pp. 521

[2] Madelung, Hisham b. al-Hakam

[3] Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam, pp. 197

[4] Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam, pp. 197

[5] Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam, pp. 186

[6] Ibid, pp. 186

[7] Daftary, A History of Shi’I Islam

[8] Madelung, Abu’l Jarud Hamadani, Encyclopedia Iranica, I/3 pp. 327-328

[9] According to two conflicting narrations in Kulayni’s al-Kafi on the birth of the twelfth Imam

[10] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 443 footnotes

[11] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 498

[12] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 498

[13] From the famous narration of Is`haq b. Ya`qub from the Hidden Imam: As to the course of my uncle, Ja`far and his son, then it is that of the brothers of [the prophet] Joseph.

[14] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 500

[15] Ibid, pp. 508

[16] Tusi’s Kitab al-Ghayba, quotation of Sa`d b. `Abdullah’s Maqalat.

[17] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 508

[18] Ibid, pp. 502

[19] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 508

[20] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 440

[21] Arjomand, The Crisis of the Imamate and the Institution of Occultation in Twelver Shi’ism, pp. 492

[22] Tusi, Fii Nusrat al-Waqifa from his Kitab al-Ghayba

[23] Corbin, En Islam iranien, volume 4, pp. 330

[24] There may be a connection here to the mystical Jewish concept of a Messiah son of Joseph.

[25] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 439

[26] Ibid, pp. 436

[27] Tarikh Tabari, Volume 9, pp. 185-186

[28] Tusi, Fii Nusrat al-Waqifa from his Kitab al-Ghayba

[29] Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, pp. 446


By His name,

In the outset of Surat al-Baqara, Allah made "belief in the ghayb" a prerequisite to God-consciousness. The theme of the ghayb (the occult, the hidden, the unseen, the covert, the esoteric, the discreet) is all over the Qur'an. Reality is beyond just its physical manifestation, but rather, it extends to that which is beyond our sensory perception. In the ghayb there are levels of hiddenness. There is (1) that which is hidden from us by way of circumstance - such as a distant object, a blocked object, or microscopically small object, or an object we are blinded from; and (2) that which cannot be attained using our physical organs. Humans are of an earthly substance, but humans also have unique access to the aql, the qalb, and the ruh, which are roughly translated as the intellect, heart, and soul - not the flesh and blood organs, but spiritual organs which exist on a different plain.

The ard or the dunya is simply the lower realm. Above that there are the malakut, the jabarut, and the lahut, which are all higher realms or higher plains, where there exists the light of Allah, the angels, the jinn, the Book, the sirat, the pen, the tablet - these all exist, but they exist metaphysically. For the believer, one prerequisite to imaan is to believe in the ghayb. A believer is not just one who submits to the existence of that which is beyond our sensory perception, but also one who yearns to understand, recognize, access, and interact with the metaphysical. For example: salat is meant to be the ascension (mi`raj) of the believer - it is our way of removing the veils and accessing the Creator. In order to remove these veils, you must first recognize them as veils.

The hijab is a veil, cloak, and boundary with many dimensions. The word hijab occurs seven times in the Qur'an, but it never refers to the headdress.

The hijab is not simply a physical garment that women wear, neither literally nor figuratively. Rather, it is a veil that can have physical and metaphysical properties. The narrations describe Allah's veils - differing in number, but some narrations say 7 in total, which is the same as the maximum number of takbeerat a person can do before salat. Allah's veil is light (noor), and it conceals His essence (dhaat). When the Messenger (pbuh) ascended (mi`raj), he traversed beyond the veils, and was less than two bow lengths away from Allah's mercy. Gabriel could not go beyond a certain point, and so Allah rewarded him by shedding the light of His greatness. Allah's light, according to the scriptures, inspires guidance and love in the creation. Allah's light is the means through which He guides us; and so the revealed books, the Prophet (pbuh), and the Ahl al-Bayt (as) all hold a share of this light. Noor, in Arabic, is a reflection of light and not a source of light (siraj), similar to how the moon is described as a noor or a munir, because it reflects the light of the sun. Similarly, the light of Allah veils His essence, but it also reflects His characteristics theophanically. The significance of this is monumental: while the hujja is entrusted to conceal God's secret (His essence), he becomes the medium through which God is recognized.

And so with this understanding of hijabs, it is important to reconsider the human hijab. While many Muslims focus on the horizontal dunyawi purposes of the hijab, the hijab is a symbol for a vertical roohani reality. This brings us to the narration of Ja`far as-Sadiq (as), where he says, whilst talking about women, "Allah is veiled and loves veiling." Just as Allah Himself inclines towards veiling (sattaar), He loves the idea of veiling. Not only has He remained hidden from our sensory perception, but He masks beautiful meanings in metaphorical scriptures. Allah likes to veil things of value so that only those who have demonstrated their sincere loyalty can remove the veil. For example, the Prophet went beyond the veils of Allah because of his dedication to Him. Likewise, we "see" Allah with our hearts after a certain level of belief, and we recognize the Imams' realities beyond their flesh and blood accidental characteristics. We also unveil the esoteric meanings of Allah's scripture after sincere dedication and contemplation. Shiism also has the taqiyya dimension, where the Imams and their Shi`a conceal special knowledge from the ignorant and the hypocritical, who may corrupt its sanctity and endanger its upholders.

And so, the human hijab, according to this narration, is an extension of this philosophy. Men are to cover certain body parts and lower their interaction with women, and a woman's hijab extends to beyond just the areas they need to cover. A mu'min's hijab can only be considered one if it is coupled and undergirded with the principles of hijab. A prerequisite to a good hijab is an intention to serve the Creator and to be upon His deen (literally: His lifestyle). A headscarf that is worn solely for its dunyawi reasons is an insufficient hijab. We see that the hijab is not just a garment, but an effort to abstain from interacting with strangers of the opposite gender. One's hijabi attitude erects a metaphysical boundary between them and the outsiders. The hijab of the woman is more demanding than that of a man for many reasons, and the effect of this is that she covers her beauty from outsiders (both physical beauty and the beauty of her personality, her nurturing capacity, her feminine energy, etc). Allah's hijab is His glorious light, and so if women are to reflect His example, then a woman's hijab should inspire guidance, God-consciousness, honour, and respect. Her hijab is beautiful in itself, setting a good example and reflecting God's attribute, but it conceals another kind of beauty. In contrast to Western culture, where the good characteristics of a woman are highlighted for outsiders, Islam vies for the concealment of precious things - be it Allah's essence or the secrets of the religion - and it is the same for its women; much like a clam's concealment of its pearl. A woman is to be ladylike to outsiders, and she must only unveil her beauty to one who has demonstrated a sincere dedication to her. Her beauty is meant to be "known", but only by those who have committed themselves to her. The mi`raj of the man in his marriage is to remove his wife's veils, both her physical veil and the veil of her personality, her motherhood, and her companionship. Allah is al-Batin, which is a secret and esoteric characteristic that women can reflect through the hijab.

Narration 1:

Allah cannot be seen with our eyes, by His reality can be recognized with our hearts.

Abu Baseer, a blind companion of Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq [a], asked the Imam, “Inform me of Allah – will the believers see Him on the Day of Resurrection?” The Imam said, “Yes, and they have seen Him before the Day of Resurrection.” Abu Baseer asked, “When?” The Imam replied, “When He said to them, ‘Am I not your Lord’ and they said ‘Of course’ (7:172)” Then, the Imam went quiet for a while. He then said, “And surely, the believers will see Him in this world before the Day of Resurrection. Do you not see Him in this very moment?” Abu Baseer asked, “May I be your sacrifice: may I narrate this [to others] from you?” So the Imam said, “No – if you were to relate this, then a denier who is ignorant of what you mean by it would reject it, and assume that it is divine alikeness (tashbeeh) and disbelief. Rather, seeing [Allah] with the heart is unlike seeing [Him] with the eyes. Allah is above the descriptions of those who liken Him [to His creation] and the heretics.” (Kitab al-Tawhid by Shaykh as-Saduq)

حدثنا علي بن أحمد بن محمد بن عمران الدقاق رحمه الله، قال: حدثنا محمد بن أبي عبد الله الكوفي، قال: حدثنا موسى بن عمران النخعي، عن الحسين بن يزيد النوفلي، عن علي بن أبي حمزة، عن أبي بصير، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام، قال: قلت له: أخبرني عن الله عزوجل هل يراه المؤمنون يوم القيامة ؟ قال: نعم، وقد رأوه قبل يوم القيامة، فقلت: متى ؟ قال: حين قال لهم: (ألست بربكم قالوا بلى) ثم سكت ساعة، ثم قال: وإن المؤمنين ليرونه في الدنيا قبل يوم القيامة، ألست تراه في وقتك هذا ؟ قال أبو بصير: فقلت له: جعلت فداك فاحدث بهذا عنك ؟ فقال لا، فإنك إذا حدثت به فأنكر منكر جاهل بمعنى ما تقوله ثم قدر أن ذلك تشبيه كفر (1) وليست الرؤية بالقلب كالرؤية بالعين، تعالى الله عما يصفه المشبهون والملحدون.

Abu Baseer asks the Imam if Allah could be seen. Abu Baseer is a blind Kufan student of Imam as-Sadiq, and he is known for reporting batini traditions on the Imam. He narrates many hadiths on his miracles, his esoteric exegeses, and the status of the Ahl al-Bayt. While many hadiths emphasize that Allah is bodiless, and that He cannot be seen with the sight of eyes, a few hadiths say that He can be recognized with the heart. The believer will "see" Allah on the Day of Resurrection, but this refers to recognizing His reality. So interestingly, Abu Baseer has a few hadiths that involve him "seeing" with the assistance of the Imam. The Imam says in this hadith that Allah was seen during the Primordial Covenant, and He can even be seen right now by the believer. This is an example of the unveiling of Allah's essence - while He is al-Batin, and His form remains a secret, a sincere believer can have the pleasure in recognizing Him once his faith has been demonstrated.

Narration 2: Trading Looks With Allah

الشيخ أبو محمد هرون بن موسى بن احمد بن ابراهيم التلعكبري ايده الله قال حدثنا محمد بن همام قال حدثنا حميد بن زياد الدهقان قال حدثنا أبو جعفر احمد بن زياد بن جعفر الازدي البزاز قال حدثنا محمد بن المثنى بن القاسم الحضرمي قال حدثنا جعفر بن محمد بن شريح الحضرمي عن حميد بن شعيب السبيعي عن جابر بن يزيد الجعفي قال قال أبو جعفر محمد بن علي عليهما السلام من سره ان لا يكون بينه وبين الله حجاب يوم القيمة حتى ينظر إلى الله و ينظر الله إليه فليتول ال محمد (ص) ويبرء ( ويتبرء خ د ) من عدوهم وياتم بالامام منهم فانه إذا كان ذلك نظر إلى الله ونظر الله إليه

Imam al-Baqir [a] said, "Whoever would want no veil between him and Allah on the Day of Resurrection, so that he may look towards Allah and Allah may look towards him, then he should take the Family of Muhammad (s) as his wali, disassociate from their enemy, and unite with the Imam from them. When he is like that, then he will look towards Allah and Allah will look towards him."

This hadith reinforces the same theme: once you submit yourself to the Ahl al-Bayt, the veil between us and Allah is removed. This is because the vicegerent is the light of God and His remainder in the Earth, and so he reflects His attributes in a way we can comprehend. Remember that Abu Baseer could not see the flesh of the Imam, but he was able to recognize his metaphysical nature and spiritual status. Recognizing the Imam is not about knowing their physical characteristics, but rather it is about knowing where Allah has placed them. Once this is done, you will have the pleasure of looking at and admiring your Lord, and He will look back at you (i.e. be pleased with you and uplift you).

Narration 3: The Mi`raj

[ 7244 ] 7 ـ وفي ( العلل ) : عن علي بن حاتم ، عن القاسم بن محمّد ، عن حمدان بن الحسين ، عن الحسن بن الوليد ، عن الحسن بن إبراهيم ، عن محمّد بن زياد ، عن هشام بن الحكم ، عن أبي الحسن موسى ( عليه السلام ) قال : قلت له : لأيّ علة صار التكبير في الافتتاح سبع تكبيرات أفضل ـ الى أن قال ـ قال : يا هشام ، إن الله خلق السماوات سبعاً والأرضين سبعاً والحجب سبعاً ، فلمّا اُسرى بالنبيّ ( صلّى الله عليه وآله ) فكان من ربّه كقاب قوسين أو أدنى رفع له حجاب من حجبه فكبّر رسول الله ( صلّى الله عليه وآله ) وجعل يقول الكلمات التي تقال في الافتتاح ، فلمّا رفع له الثاني كبّر فلم يزل كذلك حتى بلغ سبع حجب فكبّر سبع تكبيرات ، فلتلك العلّة يكبّر للافتتاح في الصلاة سبع تكبيرات.

A man asked Imam Musa al-Kadhim [a], "For what reason is opening with seven takbeerat the best?" The Imam replied, "Allah created seven Heavens, seven Earths, and seven veils. So when He made the Prophet (s) journey by night, and he was from his Lord like the distance of two bows or less, He lifted a veil from His veils, so the Messenger of Allah (s) did takbeer. And he set about saying the words that are said in the opening. So when He lifted the second veil for him, he did takbeer, and he did not cease as that until he reached seven veils and he had done seven takbeerat. So it is for that reason that one can pronounce seven takbeerat at the opening of the salat."

Here, the Imam says that the Prophet (pbuh) was brought closer to Allah than two bow lengths. This is not to be understood spatially: some hadiths state that nothing can be closer or further away from Allah's essence. This is because Allah is not held or contained in a dimensional setting, and so you cannot move towards him physically. However, the Prophet become more proximate to His presence than anything else, and Allah disclosed a secret to him (pbuh). As the Prophet transcended these veils of Allah, he would say "Allahu akbar!", until he had surpassed seven veils. The removing of veils is an emphasis of the Messenger's intimacy with His Lord.

Case Study 4: The People of the Cloak

We discussed the symbol of Allah's veils, and an interesting case study is the famous Hadith al-Kisa'. After 33:33 was revealed, the Prophet gathered the other 4 members of this sacred primordial union, and he specifically requested a cloak to enshroud the five altogether whilst reciting the second part of the verse. What's fascinating is that the Prophet specifically called the four, retrieved a cloak (rather than using another object or just simply announced who the 5 were), and insisted on keeping his wives outside of the cloak. This was a vivid demonstration of a cosmic reality: that the Ahl al-Kisa' are the literal People of the Cloak, meaning, the simultaneous protectors of Allah's secret and manifestations of Allah's veil. They are the means through which Allah is both hidden and recognized at the same time. They prevent the people from envisioning God and inventing an incorrect understanding of His essence, and, they are His light by which the worlds are guided with wisdom and mercy.

Case Study 5: The Hijab of Fatima

There are two dimensions to Fatima (as) and her hijab. The first is the physical, and the second is the metaphysical. For the former: what I find interesting is that there is no physical description of Fatima (as), even though there are descriptions of her father, her husband, and her sons. Her physical hijab was such that the people had not seen her enough to describe her. She would be rarely seen in public, and when she was, she would be fully dressed, wearing a shroud over her clothing, with her face covered, stepping on her garment so that her walking would not even make a sound. When she spoke in her famous sermon, she spoke behind a curtain (a hijab). On the metaphysical level, Fatima was even more secretive. Countless hadiths paint her as the Secret of Ahl al-Bayt. In one set of traditions, the Prophet whispers the news of his death and her death in her ear. In another set of traditions, the angels whisper the secret contents of Mus`haf Fatima, which accumulate to double the size of the Qur'an. In a third set of traditions, she has access to a secret tablet which delineated the names of all of the Imams. In one tradition, she gives three mysterious baskets from Paradise to the Prophet's companions, whose contents are unknown. In another tradition, Imam al-Kadhim shuts his door and calls on her. Her death was clouded in mystery (and if she was killed, she was killed behind the door), and even the place of her burial was a secret. She appears in few places in our literature, but whenever she does appear, she appears as a mysterious, enigmatic figure. Not only was she a practitioner of the hijab, but she embodied the very concept. Like Allah, she was hidden to all but those who were blessed to see and recognize her reality. The family of Muhammad saw the real Fatima behind the curtain, and righteous companions of the Prophet were exposed to more of her secret side than others.

Narration 6: The Intellect

Imam al-Baqir [a] said, "When Allah created the intellect, He interrogated it. Then He said to it: Draw near. So it drew near. Then He said to it: Go back. So it went back. Then He said: By My glory and My majesty, I have not created a creation that is more beloved to Me than you. And I have not perfected you but in one whom I love. Truly you do I command and you do I forbid. And you do I punish, and you do I reward."

This narration describes the aql as one of the primordial creations. It is obedient, exalted, honourable, and cherished by Allah (ما خلقت خلقا أحسن منك ولا أطوع لي منك ولا أرفع منك ولا أشرف منك ولا أعز منك), and the standard by which Allah rewards and punishes His creation. The aql is not just passive rationality, but rather, it obeys its Creator. Obedience of Allah is always the most rational option, because Allah is Merciful and Just, and His will is in the best interest of the whole. The aql is translated as "intellect" rather than "mind" or "reason", because intellect is intrinsically positive, while human reason can be subject to biases and ill-intent.

But interestingly, the hadith states that the aql draws near and goes back by the order of Allah. This is a demonstration of the aql's obedience, but it's more than that. Remember that the aql was created from a stored, hidden light (إن الله خلق العقل من نور مخزون مكنون). Its esoteric origin is an indicator to its precious nature. A question comes to mind: what is "forward" and "back" in a dimension that lacks time and spatial properties? Especially if "drawing near" cannot be a physical statement, because Allah cannot be approached or escaped physically, and because the aql and noor do not have physical properties. There are a few theories that may explain this phenomenon, including one emanating from Ayt. Behjat's students, which describes the aql's "drawing near" as a movement towards ithhar (becoming apparent), and its "drawing back" as its hiddenness. This would make the language of the hadith a literary device that helps us understand the exchange: a closer object is more apparent, while a further object is less apparent. To support this point, notice how the aql was formed out of a hidden light, and Allah tells it to first "draw near" (i.e. become apparent).

The significance of this is that there are thahir and batin aspects of the intellect that manifest in the wisdom of Islam. There are exoteric truths and esoteric truths, outward personalities of the ma`sumeen and their inward realities. Niyya (inner) and a`maal (outer).

Narration 7: The Occultation

The occultation of the 12th Imam made the mandatory recognition of the Imam an almost entirely batini concept (for the time being). Before your deeds can be accepted, you need to set out to find your unseen Imam. In this epoch, the narrations also indicate that the believers will increase their taqiyya, protecting the divine wisdom from being persecuted by the ignorant and the evil. The believer develops a strong connection with the Hidden Imam, but is not able to see him with his physical eyes. This brings us to the narration:

Imam al-Qa'im (as) wrote in a letter, "In the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (s) is a good example for me." (في ابنة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله لي أسوة حسنة)

While the Imam himself does not elaborate on this concept (perhaps to reassert the mystique of Sayyida Fatima (as)), some commentaries tie the Imam's occultation to Fatima's secrecy. Both were oppressed of their rights, and both reflect the batini dimension. While we cannot unveil the two fully, we can understand what is behind the veil and develop a connection with them.


There are many other examples we can point to, but this should be sufficient in illustrating my point. The Qur'an and the Ahl al-Bayt have given a great deal of emphasis to this idea of veiling and unveiling realities. I have extended this to the hijab, which not only gives the hijab a divine importance, but it expands its purpose. Rather than simply being a garment that covers the physical beauty of a person, it takes after God's example.

وعن أبي عبد الله الإمام الصادق (عليه السلام) أ نّه قال : ( إنَّا أنزَلْـنَاهُ فِي لَـيْلَةِ القَدْرِ )[2] ، الليلة فاطمة الزهراء والقدر الله ، فمن عرف فاطمة حقّ معرفتها فقد أدرك ليلة القدر ، وإنّما سمّيت فاطمة لأنّ الخلق فطموا عن معرفتها.

Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq (as) said: "Surely, we have revealed it on the Night of Power." (97:1) The night is Fatima al-Zahra, and the Power is Allah. Whoever recognizes Fatima in her rightful manner will have comprehended the Night of Power. She was named Fatima because the Creation has been prevented (fatamu) from recognizing her [fully]." (Tafsir Furat al-Kufi)

الحسين بن احمد، عن أبيه قال: حدثنا محمد بن بندار، عن محمد ابن علي، عن محمد بن عبد الله الخراساني خادم الرضا قال: قال بعض الزنادقة لابي الحسن " ع ": لم احتجب الله؟ فقال أبو الحسن عليه السلام: ان الحجاب عن الخلق لكثرة ذنوبهم فاما هو فلا تخفى عليه خافية في آناء الليل والنهار

A heretic asked Imam ar-Rida [a], "Why is Allah veiled?" So the Imam said, "Veiling from the creation is due to the abundance of their sins. Surely, He is not hidden from them out of fear, neither the night nor the day."

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