The following is an edited Friday sermon by His Eminence, the late Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra).
Talking to His Messenger (p.), God says in His Glorious Book:“Prophet, we have sent you forth as a witness a bearer of good news and a warner, one who shall call, men to God by His leave and guide them like a shining light” (33:44-46).
He also says: “Allah has surely been gracious to the faithful in sending them an apostle from among themselves to declare to them his revelations, to purify them, and to instruct them in the book and in wisdom; before that they were in monstrous error”. (3:164)
Tomorrow, the 17th of Rabi’ Al-Awal, is the Prophet (p.)’s birthday, according to the majority of Shiite religious scholars. It also coincides with the anniversary of the birth of Imam Jaafar As-Sadiq.
On these two occasions, we should study how to hold our Islamic responsibilities in the future. When we remember such a great person who was chosen by God to convey His message ...To act as a witness on how people become attached to God or how they deviate from the right path. He promises heaven to the pious and warns those who do not obey God that their fate is God’s hellfire. He calls for God, for Islam is a call to God, just as all the messengers who came before him and called people to worship God alone, and fear Him in all they do or say.
This is what Jesus Christ meant he felt his people’s disbelief. He asked:“Who will be my supporters in the cause of God”
The disciples replied: “We are the supporters of God”.(3:52).
And this what Lot meant when he said:“I will emigrate to my Lord” (29:26).
He wanted us to emigrate to God, to leave disbelief for the oneness of Allah, and leave deviation for righteousness. Our hearts should move from hatred and enmity to love and mercy.
All our life should change from being sinful to obeying God.This change has to be made by your heart and mind. For Godwanted the message to cover all aspects of life. He sent Muhammad to all mankind. The Messenger conveyed the message to the whole nation, so that each one of them would, in his turn, carry the message to the whole universe and become a missionary. He lived for a certain period to explain the basis of Islam and convey the law. He came to tell you: Each one of you should carry his Islam in his mind and heart, and hold the responsibility of following Islam and calling people to it.
This is what the Messenger lived in the beginning of the call. He called his family and relatives to believe in God:“Enjoin prayer on your people and be diligent in its observance.” (20:132)
To call your family is to call for prayers and obedience to God. For prayers identify and distinguish the Muslim. He who prays becomes closely attached to God, and he who abandons it becomes separated from God as if he is no longer a Muslim.
The first command God gave to His Messenger was to warn his clan. Ali (a.s.) was only eleven years old at that time. Yet he was the only one who stood by him. The Messenger told him that he would be his successor, for although Ali was young he had a great mind. His heart soul and mind were filled with those of the prophet’s and he had the same soul as the Prophet.
Therefore, to be a Muslim is to call people to Islam. Even if you are a politician, you have to call for Islam. For our project is to spread Islam in the world; not by force, but by wisdom, dialogue and good words. Thus, we have to understand those around us and learn what they like and dislike. Then we will call them with love and understanding, and win their minds, after winning their hearts.
Our fathers have conveyed Islam to us, and we became Muslims and followers of Ahl Al-Beit thanks to them. Thus, it is our duty to convey Islam to our children and the coming generations... A pure strong and civilized Islam… An Islam that radiates love, unity, strength and pride. We do not want an Islam whose people live in humiliation. We have to become strong and feel this strength in us.
One of the first conditions of this strength, dear youth and believers, is unity. Do not let anybody incite strife among you. Everyone is entitled to have his own views but we should not fight one another if we have diverging views. When we differ about anything, God tells us to refer it to Him and to His Prophet, and not to out sectarian affiliations.
When we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the prophet, we have to say to him: We will celebrate your birth by uniting in the line of the Message you conveyed, for you have conveyed to us that which God commands us to do:“Cling, all of you, to the faith of Godand let nothing divide you.” (3:103)
Even if we are divided into sects, we have to remain united in God and Islam. We have to resort to dialogue. If God asks us to resort to dialogue with the people of the Book except those who were unjust...If this is the way we are supposed to treat the people of the Book, then it is only natural that we should treat Muslims at least in the same way. But our problems lie in the mentality that we had inherited from the ages of backwardness; To search for and underscore what divides us, so much so that one has even begun to divide himself into two persons.
On the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet, we ought to learn from his teachings the true Islam, that of unity, broad mindedness and love, and follow the principles that made his morals of an unprecedented greatness. We also have to learn the teachings of Imam Jaa’far Al-Sadiq whose various contributions helped in institutionalizing the line of Ahl Al-Beit, as the authentic line of Islam. Did not the Prophet say:
“Members of my family among you are like Noah’s ark, whoever boards it will be safe and whoever does not will be drowned”.
One of the infallible Imams that God had purified is Imam Abu Muhammad, Al –Hassan bin Ali Al-Askari, the 11th Imam of blessed chain of Ahl-Beit, whose death anniversary was yesterday 8 Rabi-al-Awal. As usual, we would like to take this opportunity to learn about their life and teachings so as to maintain our relationship with them and base it on what nourishes the mind, elevates the soul, and gives us strength and the ability to keep following the right path. For the relation between the Messenger (P), the Imams and us is not just a case of acknowledging their prophet-hood or imamate and then keep leading the life you chose. In this respect God says:“Obey Allah and the Messenger”And “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example for him who hopes in Allah and the final Day and who remembers Allah much” (S33: 21).
Do not think that it is easy to follow their model you need fight against yourself. Imam Ali (a.s.), the father of all the Imams, told his followers that he knows they cannot live the same the way he did, and asked them to, at least, help him to continue leading the pious, ascetic and righteous type of life he led.
Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir asked:“Is it enough to say you love Ali and believe in his Imamate without following him? The Messenger is better than Ali and you cannot say that you love the Messenger and not follow his commands?”
To follow the Messenger and the Imams is to be committed to their beliefs, sentiments, ideas and actions. That is why we have to learn about their sayings, actions stands, beliefs and religious sciences.
Although Imam Al-Askari died young, for he was poisoned, he had a great intellectual impact on his contemporaries. He taught many religious scholars, who used to consider him as their religious authority. He had such a great social and political position that no one else matched, even some of the dignitaries of Bani Hashim. The Abbasid Caliphs also respected him and feared him, for the people used to believe in his imamate, and this made him the only legitimate leader who was feared, like all the other Imams, by the de-facto rulers, who persecuted them and kept close watch on their actions.
One of the ministers of the Abbasid Caliphs of that time was criticized by his son for showing a great respect for the Imam that he did not see his father maintain for anybody else. The minister told his son: ”Were the Abbasids to lose the caliphate none of the Bani Hashim deserves to be a caliph other than him. He is so pious, righteous, of good manners and of neglect to worldly gains…” Having heard such a testimony from his father, the son began to investigate the matter and found out that the Imam was the most respected even among the leaders and dignitaries of Bani Hashim including the Abbasids, and even among his enemies.
In another story, Al-Mutawikil, one of the Abbasid caliphs, imprisoned the Imam. And as if this was not enough some of the Abbasids, met the jail warden and asked him to tighten the grip on him. The warden said: I have asked two of the toughest and meanest men to take care of him, but they soon began to dedicate their time to prayers.
The warden called the jailers and asked them, “what is the matter with you?” They said: “What could we do with a man who fasts all day and stays up all night praying. He does not talk and does not engage in anything other than worship. And if we look at him, we will start trembling…
On this anniversary, we ought to listen to some of the Imam’s teachings:“I ask you to fear God, be pious, truthful, as well as trustworthy. I ask you to return what you are entrusted with to its owners be they good or bad. I also ask you to be good neighbors…”
Imam Al-Askari, and the other Imams who came before him, used to tell the Shiites to remain integrated and not separate themselves from the other Muslims. He said: “Pray among them. Take part in their funerals, visit their sick ones and give them what is due to them. If any of you is known to be pious truthful, trustworthy and of good manners, I will be glad when they say he is a Shiite…” You should make the people believe we are good and not bring us humiliation. Because the good they say about us is true while the bad is not. Anyone who claims a legitimacy that is written in God’s Book, a relation to the Prophet, and purification from God apart from us is a liar.
Keep remembering God and death and this will keep you pious and righteous.These are some of the teachings the Imam used to repeat to his followers, and we being among those followers have to abide by them and follow the right path.
RabiI 16, 1422h /June 8, 2001