There is no doubt that students have come far in taking a stand for their community, as well as those around them. The opportunities provided on campus for spiritual and intellectual renewal are numerous, and we have certainly come a long way in not coming across as backward and insular as often projected in society. But the battle to win hearts and minds, within and without are not over, and we must not grow complacent.
There are three big challenges that we as Muslims still face: sectarianism, apathy and ignorance.
These, I feel can only be tackled by following the real spirit of the way of our Blessed Prophet (peace be upon him). And one way, if not the way, to tackle this is by acknowledging the role of the Ahlulbayt for inspiration and guidance in our religious life, as mandated in the Sunni school of Islam. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “My family is like Noah’s ark, whoever boards it, is saved.”
This is affirmed by the words of the great Sunni jurist, Imam Shafi (may Allah be pleased with him), that if love for the Ahlulbayt is rafdh (rejection), then let mankind and the Jinn know that I am a Rafidhi (rafidhi is a term often used as a slur against the Shia). We can learn much from these words.
As we find ourselves in Muharram, the focus of many Sunnis is on reaping the rewards of fasting the days of Ashura. No doubt this is a great act of worship to receive the bounties of spiritual nourishment in this life, and the hereafter. But too often, we de-emphasise another key event that happened on these days. The events in Karbala, in which the beloved grandson of our Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, was martyred with his family and companions, for taking a stand in protecting the values his grandfather had brought to humanity.
No doubt, great events have happened on Ashura, but one could see that Allah honoured his most beloved Rasul (peace be upon him) on this day as well. For in death, Hazrat Hussain (RA) gained victory as the rule of a tyrant was challenged again after his demise. Just as the Children of Israel gained freedom from the Pharoah on this day, in Hazrat Hussain’s death, Islam’s core stands of justice and sacrifice became an inspiration for the religion we all practice today – a religion that is a source of our personal spiritual liberation and salvation.
If not for his sacrifice, we may not be practising Islam at all, and if we were, it would be an illegitimate and tainted faith due to the influence of the darkness and impurity of the tyrants who killed this great man. The very religion we practice and love would have ceased to exist in the spirit in which it was founded by the man known as a mercy to mankind.
Yet, we seem ever distant from the stand taken by Hazrat Hussain (RA), despite the enormity of his sacrifice and its significance. Due to ill-feeling perpetuated by political and theological differences, it often seems that to acknowledge this event makes one come across as ‘too Shia’, or endorsing beliefs and practices that are different to us. This need not be the case, for we can still work together as different sects where we have common ground, and still retain a difference of opinion on the details of theology.
Differences, after all, are a sign of a community that thinks.
The blessed Prophet (peace be upon him) once remarked that, “Hussain is from me, and I am from Hussain.” Let’s ponder over that. The little boy who played in the lap of the Holy Prophet, who was like a flower in the eyes of the man most beloved to all of creation, has been given this status. Even the Quraysh acknowledged that the man known to them as only Muhammad ibn Abdullah was Sadiq and Amin. The beloved of Allah (swt) does not lie. Is it wrong to assume then, that following Hazrat Hussain is following the Prophet of Allah? Hence, Hussein’s stand was right and good, and to acknowledge and reflect on his life can help us overcome the huge difficulties and challenges we face as an ummah today.
Hazrat Hussain has also been given the status, alongside his brother Hassan, of being leaders of the youth of paradise. And as aspirants of proximity to our creator in paradise, we can learn to be the real followers of these men during our time at university. One such way is to tackle the gross generalisations we make about sects that are different to us, and really engage with each other in trying to understand each other’s world views. We may not agree on everything, but we can work together.
Currently, there is a huge shortage of blood supplies nationally, particularly amongst the Muslim community. The components of blood can not only be used for blood loss incurred in road traffic accidents and surgeries, but also to treat different blood cancers and use platelets to treat various medical conditions. A reason behind this shortage can be explained through ignorance, as many Muslims still believe that giving blood is contrary to their religious beliefs. This is in spite of scholastic opinion arguing that it is permissible.
Another even bigger issue is that of apathy, as many don’t understand the magnitude of the impact giving blood can have on someone’s life. By working together as Muslims from different denominations, we can tackle these issues of apathy and ignorance, as we show the world that we can work together despite our differences in a real show of unity. Giving blood is a practical action that produces real results beyond the scope of mere intra faith dialogue. No doubt, Allah (swt) won’t change the condition of the hearts of those who are unwilling to change themselves. With sincere intentions, there is a really great opportunity for making a collective stand as Sunni and Shia based student societies to inspire many more Muslims to be more proactive in this deed.
And so, just as Hazrat Hussain (RA) gave his blood to save this religion, may we become stand bearers of his stand by putting aside our divisions for the good of humanity, by giving life to others with our own blood. I can think of no better way to honour this great man, and his grandfather in our current times. As the Quranic verse goes, “Follow me (Prophet Muhammad), and then Allah will love you.”
I hope that with our actions, we are all transformed by Allah’s love, light and grace through our attachment to the righteous, starting from the Sunnah of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him himself, his family, companions and His friends.
by Aadil Sheikh
Also watch: Lessons we can learn from Karbala and Imam Hussain