In His Name, the Most High
While I don't want to repeat what my respected Brother Ehsan has already said, there are a couple of clarifications that are required regarding this subject, and the adaab (etiquette) of the teacher that should be mentioned.
While it is understood and indeed accepted that a teacher (speaker, zakir, alem, etc) should be recompensed in terms of what his/her expenses are in delivering a lecture, one must first reflect on what a valid recompense is, and indeed more importantly, we must understand who we are providing a service to, that the burden of providing the appropriate recompense should fall upon that person or entity in who's employ the respected teacher (speaker, zakir, alem, etc) is.
One of the things we were taught on entering the Islamic Seminary - and this is universal, be it in Qum, Mashhad, Najaf, Karbala, Damascus, Lukhnow, etc. Every student, every Islamic student who wishes to learn in order that they might teach the true Islam of Muhammad(S) to the people, immediately comes into the employ of Imam al-Hujjah(AJ), and ultimately in the employ of Allah.
Every action that we perform is (or rather should be) purely for Allah, and we should have full trust in Allah that He will ensure that our sustenance is maintained. After all one of His most beautiful names is ar-Raziq (the Provider of Sustenance).
During an Islamic Student's tenure at the Islamic Seminary, they are given a minimal stipend, known as "Shahriyyeh" (Salary), this is a small - almost token - amount, that will suffice for basic requirements such as food and accommodation, the necessities for ones existence. Why is this the case? Surely the Hawza (Islamic Seminaries) could provide a larger amount and ensure that the student has somewhat more comfortable existence (assuming the student has no other means). But not, there is a reasoning behind the amount of the Shahriyyeh.
One of the most important reasons for the size of the Shahriyyeh is that it creates a detachment from the Dunya for the student who has to live purely on the Shahriyyah amount. It creates a focus for the student on avoiding those things which are vain and indeed cost much - such as random leisure activities and such - but instead the student is then encouraged to spend time in the various libraries, in the masajed in the madares and so on, studying, reading, reflecting and in worship to Allah.
If a student requires a larger income, they can take on employment, indeed there are a number of students that I know in Qum al-Muqaddasah who translate books for various publishing houses, others proof read, others take short sabaticals and work in factories and offices performing regular tasks, in my own personal case, I used to work part-time for a software house in Qum developing software.
But the question that begs to be asked is why does the Hawza simply not provide a larger stipend to the student? The answer is very simple. Because the Hawza doesn't want to turn students into free loaders, it doesn't want to spoil (for want of a better word), and it doesn't want the students to become lazy and dependent on the hawza for handouts.
Yes, definitely it is hard work, tiring, sometimes one has to stay up studying to the light of a flickering candle because using electricity would cost more money in the electricity bill, it means wrapping up in a warm blanket on a cold night rather than switching on the heater because the heating will cost more than can be afforded, definately this is a hard life, but at the end of the day, anyone with illusions that becoming a hawza student is a ticket to become a free loader, is a ticket to an easy life should quickly forget and remove this misconception, it is a hard life.
When we become hawza students we become those people who's priority and attachment is to Allah, and not this world, this world is a tedius and burdensome place, a place that is nothing more than a test and a trial, and the true talabeh realises this and focuses on that which is important, and that is learning and understanding.
This hardship is given as a gift to the Hawza student, and it is an honour to go through this trial, because it moulds one as a person, and gives them an appreciation of the situation of those who's situation on this earth is dire, the mustadhafeen, those who are unfortunate - be it in terms of material or spirtual requirements, and it gives us the ability to focus on imparting the true lessons of the true Islam of Muhammad(S).
When someone has tasted hardship, and earned their studies through diligence, hardwork and genuine striving, their understanding of that which they studied, their application of that which they were taught, their zeal of in imparting that which they learned is different to that person who has had it handed to them on a silver platter - this example runs true be it for Islam or anything else.
In the Hawza we have a famous saying in Farsi:
"Be doon-e-ranj, ganj payda nemishe"
(Without hard work, the treasure cannot be obtained)
What is this treasure? Is it a material treasure? Is it the proverbial "pot of gold"? Off course not, the treasure is the knowledge of the true Islam of Muhammad(S), the treasure is that which is the inheritance of the Ambiya(A) and the Awliya(A), the treasure is the complete understanding of the concept of reliance on and obedience to Allah, the Mighty the Wise.
When someone has this type of understanding, that person doesn't need to sit down and "negotiate" a contract with an establishment or a person regarding what it will "cost" to teach the people about the true Islam, that person has a fire within themselves, a burning desire to teach to impart knowledge to share that which they have learned.
Amir al-Mu'mineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib(A) has said in the short sayings of Nahj ul-Balagha:
If you cannot get things as much as you desire than be contented with what you have.
This teaches us something very important, that we should be content, we should be happy with that which Allah has ordained for us, and we should only strive to please Allah, after all, how else can we have change in our situation except through reliance on Allah and following the line of the Ambiya(A) and the Awliya(A) of Allah?!
There is a story that comes to mind, there was once an Islamic Student in Najaf, his financial situation was difficult, he was constantly stressed on account of it, and was sad, he was also having trouble with his studies and was unable to comprehend most of that which he was learning and so was unable to progress.
One night, he was more sad, he was near the haram (shrine) of our Master, Amir al-Mu'mineen(A), when a very handsome man came to him, the man greeted him, and asked him what the problem was, why was he looking said. To this the young man replied that his financial situation was very difficult and it was effecting him in every aspect of his life.
The handsome (noorani - full of light) man asked him how this was the case, when he had the most valuable thing with him, the young student was confused, and questioned the handsome man. To this the handsome man asked him, my friend do you know Ziyarat Ashura? The young man immediately replied and made a gesture towards the book in his hand. The noorani man told him, that he should recite Ziyarat Ashura on a Thursday Night (i.e. the night before Friday), and he would see his problems fade away, but that he should do it for the sake of Allah and no other, he should ensure that his niyyah was completely pure.
The young student, decided, that since it was a Thursday night, he would enter the Haram of Imam Ali(A) and recite Ziyarat Ashura, and then he would go home. As he looked up to reply the noorani man, he saw that there was no-one there.
He diligently went into the Haram of Imam Ali(A), gave salutations to the Prince of the Faithful and began reciting Ziyarat Ashura. He completed the Ziyarah and went home.
After a short time, of repeating this activity, he found that his situation was improving. He found work with some local business people in baking bread, and it helped improve his financial situation, which ultimately relieved his day-to-day stress and ultimately helped him with concentrating on his lessons.
He went on to become a great Alem and his name was Shaykh Mahmoud Alemi(RA).
To the true mu'min, there is a reliance on Allah, and the facilities that Allah has given to us.
Indeed, I remember, while in Qum, I used to sometimes get very excited at random hours, when I read something which I found new and amazing, I would immediately tell me room-mates, I would write a letter to friends, I would call my asateed (teachers) and tell them, regardless of what time it was, and they would do the same.
Knowledge, learning, understanding are such things that when one learns something new, they are immediately moved to share it with others, to discuss it, to impart it, because they know that in sharing it with others, they will learn more about it.
For example, let us examine a situation where someone is learning to speak a new language, say Farsi (Persian), they are studying their books, they learn a new phrase, the next chance they get with an Iranian friend of theirs or a friend who also knows Farsi, they will try and use that phrase in a sentence. This will bring joy to both friends, and indeed the first friend will perhaps learn the reply to the phrase that he has spoken.
For example; in Farsi; a polite way of saying "Thank You" to someone is:
"Dast-e-shoma dard na kone"
(May your hand never hurt)
It is a very beautiful phrase and a nice dua for someone who has done something nice for them, the reply for this phrase is equally as nice:
"Sar-e-shoma dard na kone"
(May your head never hurt)
Subhan Allah. How beautiful. Imagine if a student of Farsi, learned the first phrase, and then went to a friend and used it (i.e. shared it), when his friend replied with the second phrase, that would give him another phrase in Farsi, and his knowledge in that aspect would be doubled.
He would have doubled his knowledge and it would have cost him nothing. Subhan Allah.
It is for this reason and countless like it, that the Master of the Righteous, the Lion of Allah, the Father of al-Hasan(A) and al-Husayn(A), the Husband of Zahra(A) and the Prince of the Faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib(A) once said to his son, Hasan al-Mujtaba(A):
The greatest wealth is Wisdom
Elsewhere our Master, Ali ibn Abi Talib(A) has said:
There is no greater wealth than wisdom, no greater poverty than ignorance;
Wisdom is defined as the understanding and application of knowledge that one has, taking that which is theoretical and bringing it into the real world as a solution, this can only be accomplished through reflection and effort, but truely it is the greatest wealth, because it will guard you and protect you. Subhan Allah, the greatest wealth is defined as wisdom and the greatest poverty as ignorance. Subhan Allah. How amazing and how sublime is our Islam, yet we choose to taint it and confuse it with that which is temporary and vain.
It is also very important to understand something here. When someone goes to learn in the Hawza, they are NOT charged to learn, they are in fact paid a stipend (as discussed), they are given the facilities of the Islamic Seminary and are encouraged to learn and make as much use of these facilities as possible. This is very important.
Now-a-days there are requirements (loose requirements from what I understand), that someone who wishes to learn in the Hawza should have some academic discipline (i.e. should have some sort of degree type education from a university), but this is not always required, and it's primary reason is to ensure that said individual has the ability and discipline to study and learn and is not merely coming there to get a "free holiday" or because they have failed at everything else.
This is very important. When I was in the Hawza, and I had teachers privately, not one of my teachers asked for any money when teaching me (or any of their other students), and indeed I don't know of any reputable teachers who actually ask for money. In fact, when one of my teachers was offered money by a student, he became most upset, and said:
"Do you wish to deprive me of my recompense with my Master in the hereafter?"
The teacher I'm speaking of wasn't a rich man, he was a hard-working and dutiful believer, he worked as an engineer (mechanical and automotive), and studied and taught after Asr prayers until after Isha prayers, every day except Friday, which after Juma' he spent with his family in Mashhad al-Haraam
This is not something strange in the Hawzaat of Islam.
Now onto the issue at hand.
What I have been talking about is an Islam that has a complete reliance on Allah, that sees knowledge and wisdom as treasures that are the property of the believers and should be given to the believers as gifts without any pre-conditions.
The Islam I'm talking about is that which accepts that teaching others is part of our responsibility within the Furu' of our Ideology - Amr bil Ma'rouf (Enjoining the Good) and Nahi Anil Munkar (Forbidding the Evil).
How is one to know what is good and what is evil if one hasn't been taught it and years of sinning and social conditioning have confused and dulled the mirror of the heart? Subhan Allah, to charge for giving to the people, to place preconditions on polishing the hearts of the believers is to take a dagger and drive it into the heart of Aba Abdillah al-Husayn(A). How? Very simply, Aba Abdillah(A) gave everything to teach us Islam, he didn't want anything from us, indeed he even paid the people of Bani Asad for the land wherein he, his family and esteemed companions were to be massacred and subsequently burried. He paid for this from business transactions that he had made previously, from money he had saved previously, from things like this.
If Aba Abdillah(A), nay if Saani-ye-Zahra(A), Zaynab-e-Kubra(A) the one who propogated the message of Ashura, the daughter of Ali(A), didn't ask for a reward for telling the people about Ashura, for teaching the people of the massacre of innocents, for narrating the story of the battle of Hizbullah against Hizbushaytaan, how then can we, who are not worth the soil under the feet of the dog that follows the lowest of the servants of Zaynab(A) have the audacity to charge for following her line? Subhan Allah!
How can we dare to charge to give people the message for which the blood of the innocent Ali Asghar(A) was spilled? Nay this is not something a lover of Husayn(A) can do.
Indeed, the policy of taking money for an act within Islam, is the policy of those who murdered and decapitated Aba Abdillah(A). Did Habib ibn Madhahir(A) ask for money from Aba Abdillah(A) when he came rushing to Karbala to assist? Did Mukhtar ath-Thaqafi(A) ask for money when he faught and avenged (until the final vengence by our master Aba Saleh al-Hujjah(AJ)) the blood of those murdered on that barren plain of Karbala? No off course not, these people, these great personalities did what they did for the love of Allah, for the love of the true Lovers of Allah.
But where does this mentality of "Charging for Islam" come from?
There is a famous story of the Onions of Acre, that the Marketing Machine of the Arabs - Abu Huraira the Hadith Factory of Muawiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan(L). A friend of his had ventured to Acre - a city in what is currently occupied Palestine, and had procured a large quanity of onions from there. On route, the onions had begun to rot, and by the time the merchant got to Madinah they had become smelly and people in the marketplace were not purchasing them.
The merchant was a friend of Abu Huraira, and asked him to help, Abu Huraira told him he could solve his problem and get the onions sold for an excellent price, they came to an arrangement between themselves, where Abu Huraira would "Market" the onions and "advertise" them to the people, and his friend would sell them, they would then divide the profits between themselves.
Abu Huraira went to the Masjed, gathered the people for a lesson, telling them he had an important lesson for them and said:
"O people, I heard from the Messenger of God and he said, whoever eats the Onions of Acre, then heaven is compulsory for him."
The people asked: "Oh teacher, where can we find the Onions of Acre?"
Abu Huraira replied:
"You can buy fresh Onions of Acre from such and such person in the market"
The people asked:
"O Abu Huraira, how much should we buy?"
To which the Marketing Machine of the Arabs replied:
"Oh people, the Prophet has said, that whoever buys one packet (approximately 6 onions), then he will have one house in heaven. whoever buys two packets, then he will have two houses in heaven, whoever buys three packets, three houses ... "
The people then ran out and emptied this person's stall of his onions, and indeed a small riot broke out when he had run out since others wanted to get the onions but the supply had run out.
Naturally as the supply was diminishing, the price went up, and people used all manner of methods to purchase these rotting, smelly onions simply because they were taught to.
After the day had finished, Abu Huraira and his friend sat down and split the spoils.
Abu Huraira had been contracted by his friend to give a lecture for a particular fee - like people have said - Islamically a contract has to be signed and sealed in advance very true - and on successful completion of the task Abu Huraira was given his fee.
However, this gives an important lesson to those who reflect.
It should however be noted that the true believer has already made a contract with Allah, as per Quran:
(Quran, Surah as-Saf, Ayaat 10-13)
íóÇ ÃóíøõåóÇ ÇáøóÐöíäó ÂãóäõæÇ åóáú ÃóÏõáøõßõãú Úóáóìٰ ÊöÌóÇÑóÉò ÊõäÌöíßõã ãøöäú ÚóÐóÇÈò Ãóáöíãò [٦١-١٠]
Believers! Shall I direct you to a commerce that will save you from a painful punishment?
ÊõÄúãöäõæäó ÈöÇááøóåö æóÑóÓõæáöåö æóÊõÌóÇåöÏõæäó Ýöí ÓóÈöíáö Çááøóåö ÈöÃóãúæóÇáößõãú æóÃóäÝõÓößõãú Ðٰáößõãú ÎóíúÑñ áøóßõãú Åöä ßõäÊõãú ÊóÚúáóãõæäó [٦١-١١]
You shall believe in Allah and His Messenger and struggle for His Way with your possessions and yourselves. That is better for you, if you but knew.
íóÛúÝöÑú áóßõãú ÐõäõæÈóßõãú æóíõÏúÎöáúßõãú ÌóäøóÇÊò ÊóÌúÑöí ãöä ÊóÍúÊöåóÇ ÇáúÃóäúåóÇÑõ æóãóÓóÇßöäó ØóíøöÈóÉð Ýöí ÌóäøóÇÊö ÚóÏúäò Ðٰáößó ÇáúÝóæúÒõ ÇáúÚóÙöíãõ [٦١-١٢]
He will forgive you your sins and admit you to Gardens underneath which rivers flow, and to fine dwelling places in the Gardens of Eden. That is the mighty triumph.
æóÃõÎúÑóìٰ ÊõÍöÈøõæäóåóÇ äóÕúÑñ ãøöäó Çááøóåö æóÝóÊúÍñ ÞóÑöíÈñ æóÈóÔøöÑö ÇáúãõÄúãöäöíäó [٦١-١٣]
And other things that you love, victory from Allah and an opening that is near. (O Prophet Muhammad) give glad tidings to the believers.
Allah has already cut a deal with us. We must first perform our part of the deal, and then we can expect a reward from him. If however, we push for a reward in this world, then truely we should be concerned as to whether we've not broken the deal terms or not. For indeed if we've already been "rewarded" in this temporary
world, then what is to stop Allah from saying to us on that day when the souls are sorted:
"Oh my servant, tell me what did you do purely for me, that I may reward you for it"
We will then reply:
"Oh Allah, we did such and such good things"
To which Allah will reply (may Allah save us from such a rejection):
"Oh fulan son of fulan, it is true that you did such and such good things, but for these things you have had your recompense and your intention was to please those on the earth that they would reward you more, tell me what did you do purely for me that I might reward you"
To which the sons of Adam will fall silent, as they are dragged by the forlocks into the pits of the fire, who's fuel is men and stones.
What can be worse than Allah's rejection??
In Dua Kumayl we say:
"... My God, my Lord and my Master, though I may patiently bear Thy punishments, how can I endure separation from Thee? ..."
When we write to our Maraj'e Taqleed for a ruling on a subject, do we get charged by our Maraj'e? Off course not, they are duty bound having made a pact with Allah - as we all have; but they are cognizant of their responsibility; were as we have allowed rust to accumulate on our hearts and are therefore blind to our responsibility.
Finally, in conclusion; what I am saying is not that the teachers (zakereen, ulema, etc), should be left without any means and never given anything, but that they should not demand and choose to lecture at places based on the size of the fee. Definitely expenses should be covered.
When posting a letter to our Maraj'e - we cover the postage (as an example), their accommodation should be covered while visiting you, because that is an honour for the one who has done the inviting; this is part of the Islamic ethical teachings (akhlaaq and adaab) in matters of calling, receiving and being guests; this is normal and expected from a human point of view.
Normally, if one is invited to a place to teach the people, then it is not strange for the transportation and accommodation to be paid, and indeed it is strange if these facilities are not provided.
If you have a person from whom you will benefit, and you want to invite them to your town to learn something, then it is only fair that you arrange for them to come to your town, and since they will be a stranger in your town (or even if they are not a stranger, out of common courtesy on your part), you should be with them for the duration they stay.
Is it not well known that Imam Ali(A) was once walking a path and met a fellow traveller who wasn't a Muslim, but that Imam Ali(A) out of respect for the companion walked with him and even when the road forked and Imam Ali(A)'s road was to the right and the other man's road was to the left, Imam Ali(A) walked with him for a distance and then returned to his own road? SO much so, that the companion was so moved he accepted Islam immediately and became from the lovers and followers of Ali(A)!!
Now, we who claim to be lovers of Ali(A), how can we act in a manner that is along the lines of the enemies of Ali(A)? How can we act as those who laughed and made merry when the news was given to them that Ali(A) has been killed? Subhan Allah.
Indeed in reality, it is true to say that the value of a lesson in the true Islam can never be recompensed in this world by any human being, but that it's recompense is only with Allah, therefore, wouldn't it be more prudent for a lecturer to ask for a reward befitting the task he's doing? What is money in regard to cultivating the love of Allah and the love of those who Allah Loves and who Love Allah? Money is infact an insult to such a lesson. The best fee should be one that begs Allah to shower His infinite blessings on Muhammad(S) and Aal-i-Muhammad(A), and to Hasten their Relief (i.e. the Return of our Master, al-Hujjat ibn al-Hasan(AJ)). Wouldn't that be the most appropriate and acceptable of fees?
If we only understood the true value of sending salutations and blessings on Muhammad and Aal-i-Muhammad(S) we would truely be amongst the victors. Subhan Allah!
My dear and respected brothers and sisters, we need to wake up, we need to understand and reflect, come closer to Quran, and think more deeply, we need to avoid the commercialisation of Islam and other elements that come and tear at the very soul of Islam, do we not have in the Quran:
(Quran, Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 120)
æóáóä ÊóÑúÖóìٰ Úóäßó ÇáúíóåõæÏõ æóáóÇ ÇáäøóÕóÇÑóìٰ ÍóÊøóìٰ ÊóÊøóÈöÚó ãöáøóÊóåõãú Þõáú Åöäøó åõÏóì Çááøóåö åõæó ÇáúåõÏóìٰ æóáóÆöäö ÇÊøóÈóÚúÊó ÃóåúæóÇÁóåõã ÈóÚúÏó ÇáøóÐöí ÌóÇÁóßó ãöäó ÇáúÚöáúãö ãóÇ áóßó ãöäó Çááøóåö ãöä æóáöíøò æóáóÇ äóÕöíÑò [٢-١٢٠]
Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: "The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance." Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.
The enemies of Islam, wish to change our Islam into the secular, commercialized and impotent religion that they have, they have betrayed the true message of Musa(A) and Isa(A) and now wish to use all the means that they have at their disposal to confuse the Muslims.
We should also realise that Shaytaan has vowed to mislead humanity until the end of time, and his most powerful attacks are against those in the public eye, against those who are teachers, against those who attempt to work in Allah's way, but who can fall swiftly in the eyes of Allah, from a single moment of arrogance and self-love.
Don't you remember that it was Shaytaan who was called by Allah as haughty and arrogant and from those who reject Faith:
(Quran, Surah Saad, Ayaat 74-77)
ÅöáøóÇ ÅöÈúáöíÓó ÇÓúÊóßúÈóÑó æóßóÇäó ãöäó ÇáúßóÇÝöÑöíäó [٣٨-٧٤]
Not so Iblis: he was haughty, and became one of those who reject Faith.
ÞóÇáó íóÇ ÅöÈúáöíÓõ ãóÇ ãóäóÚóßó Ãóä ÊóÓúÌõÏó áöãóÇ ÎóáóÞúÊõ ÈöíóÏóíøó ÃóÓúÊóßúÈóÑúÊó Ãóãú ßõäÊó ãöäó ÇáúÚóÇáöíäó [٣٨-٧٥]
(Allah) said: "O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with my hands? Art thou haughty? Or art thou one of the high (and mighty) ones?"
ÞóÇáó ÃóäóÇ ÎóíúÑñ ãøöäúåõ ÎóáóÞúÊóäöí ãöä äøóÇÑò æóÎóáóÞúÊóåõ ãöä Øöíäò [٣٨-٧٦]
(Iblis) said: "I am better than he: thou createdst me from fire, and him thou createdst from clay."
ÞóÇáó ÝóÇÎúÑõÌú ãöäúåóÇ ÝóÅöäøóßó ÑóÌöíãñ [٣٨-٧٧]
(Allah) said: "Then get thee out from here: for thou art rejected, accursed.
Anyway, I have taken up a lot of my respected brothers and sisters time, but it is important to realise these concepts. I am not speaking out against any one in particular, I do not need to, those who need to be spoken out against are covered within Quran and those who are innocent are covered within Quran, and Allah is fully aware of that which we conceal and that which we make manifest, and indeed for Allah is the Ultimate Knowlege of All Things.
All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord Sustainer of the Universes,
With Salaams and Dua's