In a polarized world where neglect or mock grief masquerade as following the example of the best of creation, peace and blessings upon him and his family, we are often remiss of the reality that we have a choice (ikhtiyar) to whom we love and honor. Many of the faithful claim to love the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him and his family) and those that surrounded him of his family and companions, Yet how can we claim love if we know little or nothing about who they were? Moreover how did we get here, and how can we change?
WHO DO WE LOVE?
Imam An-Nawawi (ra), in his amazing collection of hadith meant for the benefit of the laity and scholarly alike, entitled “Meadows of the Righteous1” begins the section, “Honouring the people of the family of the Messenger of Allah and their clear excellence”, with the following verse:
Allah Almighty said, "Allah wishes to remove all impurity from you, People of the House, and to purify you completely," (33:33),
Anas bin Malik (RA) narrates that when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) used to come out for Fajr (dawn) prayer, as he passed the door of Fatimah (RA), he used to always say, “O ‘people of the house’, perform your prayer” and then he used to recite the following verse from the Holy Quran: “Allah only desires to keep away (all kinds of) impurity from you, O ‘people of the house’! (the Prophet’s family) and to totally purify you.”2
On the authority of Umm Salama, the Prophet's wife, he said to Fatima one day:
'Bring me your husband and two sons.' When they had all come together he spread over them a mantle, and laying his hand over them, he said: 'O God, these are the people of the House of Muhammad! Let therefore your prayers and blessings descend upon Muhammad and the people of the House of Muhammad; for you are worthy of all praise and glory.' Umm Salama continued: 'I then lifted the mantle to enter in with them, but he pulled it away from my hand saying, “You too shall come to a good end”. [Ahmad b. Hanbal IV, 323]
The Prophet, peace & blessings upon him & his family, stated:
“Fatimah is a part of me. Therefore, whosoever angers her angers me.”[Bukhari & Muslim]
He (peace & blessings upon him & his family) prayed for his grandson Imam Hasan (RA), “O Allah, I love him; Love him and love one who loves him [Muslim]."
There is an angel who before tonight had never come down to earth, asked permission from his Lord to offer salam (salutations) to me and to deliver the good news to me that Fatimah (AS) is the leader of all women of Paradise and Hasan (RA) and Husain (RA) are the leaders of all the youth in Paradise.” [Tirmidhi, Nasai]
Allah Almighty said, Say, 'I ask no other reward of you save love of my next of kin' (42:23). Exegetes such as At-Tabari, As-Suyuti, and Az-Zamaskari all say it is in reference to the Prophetic House.
An-Nawawi then cites the verse, "As for those who honour Allah's sacred rites, that (honour) comes from the taqwa in their hearts." (22:32) . It is interesting that in his three year rule, Yazid b. Muawiyah sought to destroy the honor of the Prophetic family in the sands of Karbala (680 CE), destroyed the Kaaba, and attacked Madina during the Battle of al-Harrah (683 CE).
Imam An Nawawi then cites a hadith that identifies who the members of the family are:
“Zayd b. Arqam (RA) said, 'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, stood up among us one day to address us at a watering-place called Khum between Makka and Madina. He praised and glorified Allah, admonished and reminded people and then said, "O people! I am a mortal and the messenger of my Lord will soon come to me and I will respond. I leave you two great things. The first is the Book of Allah which contains guidance and light. So take the Book of Allah and cling firmly to it." He promoted the Book of Allah and stimulated our desire for it. Then he said, "And the people of my house. I remind you of Allah with respect to the people of my house. I remind you of Allah with respect to the people of my house."' Husayn said to him, 'Who are the people of his house, Zayd? Are not his wives the people of his house?' He said, 'His wives are among the people of his house, but the people of his house are those who were forbidden to take sadaqa after him.' He said, 'Who are they?' He said, 'They are the family of 'Ali, the family of 'Aqil, the family of Ja'far and the family of 'Abbas.' He said, 'All of these were forbidden sadaqa?' He said, 'Yes.'" [Muslim, Ahmad, Darimi]
An-Nawawi ends the section with the following narration from the Prophet’s friend, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (RA), "Respect Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the members of his family." [al-Bukhari]
The Umayyad tradition of cursing Ali and his family was performed in state-controlled mosques for a period of approximately 65 years from c.657 to c.717 CE to legitimize their rule over unsuspecting masses, unaware of the rank of the Prophetic Family.3
Amir b. Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas reported on the authority of his father that Muawiya b. Abi Sufyan (the contending Caliph during the rule of Imam Ali) appointed Sa'd as the governor and said: "'What prevents you from abusing Abu Turab (Hadrat 'Ali)?'Whereupon he said: 'It is because of three things which I remember Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) having said about him that I would not abuse: (1) When Ali was left behind during the campaign of Tabuk. 'Ali said to him: “Allah's Messenger, you leave me behind along with women and children." Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to him: “Aren't you satisfied with being unto me what Aaron(AS) was unto Moses(AS) but with this exception that there is no prophethood after me. "(2) I (also) heard him say on the Day of Khaibar: "I will certainly give this standard to a person who loves Allah and his Messenger, and Allah and his Messenger love him too." He (Sa’d) said: We have been anxiously waiting for it, when he (the Holy Prophet) said: "Call 'Ali." He was called and his eyes were inflamed. He applied saliva to his eyes and handed over the standard to him, and Allah gave us victory. (3) When the (following) verse was revealed: "But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our near people and your near people, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of God on the liars [Quran 3:61].”
Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) called 'Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain and said: O Allah, they are my family." [Muslim]
'Husayn is of me and I am of Husayn. May God love those who love Husayn. [Al-Tirmidhi]
The tragedy brings into focus our own free will, and choice to do the right thing. We see this in the amazing example of Hurr Ibn Yazid Al-Riyahi (ra)4. Hurr was the leader of the calvary that first intercepted Imam Al Husayn (as) and decided to switch sides to fight and die with the martyred Imam at the last moment, just as the opposing sides faced off. This strikes a similitude for our own life, and the redemption each one of us has regardless of our past transgressions. It also is interesting that "Hurr" means freedom, and the Imam (RA) greeted him alluding to the concept of freeing oneself from the fire. What Hurr underwent in terms of his internal battle of conscience is what is so glaring in terms of its disregard of wealth, position, and worldly victory. We live lives of consequence due to our past decisions and actions that lead us to our careers, our mental and physical health, and family life. Islam as a faith asks of us to surrender ourselves to the will of the Divine. This is not the same as "Doing the will of God" as such a perilous notion ontologically leads to shirk by associating or ascribing our actions to the Divine. This is the disease of self-righteousness that afflicts the self-proclaimed religious peoples of all faith and secular traditions. Rather the believer is one who "Wills the will of God" by aligning our desires with God's desires (his laws), positioning ourselves to be ever watchful for opportunities, or choosing good works over indifference and to act with a conscience. A conscience of pleasing our creator out of love for Him and his beloved Prophet (SAW) and Family (AS) as in this hadith:
“Love Allah for His countless bounties upon you and love me because you love Allah, and love my Ahle Bayt because of your love for me.” [Tirmidhi]
Overcoming the shallow need to do something to make ourselves feel good, "Doing Good" (Amalu Saliha) is a manifestation of God's supreme attribute, Ar Rahman (The all-Merciful). It is by Divine grace, and mercy that we do good things for others and ourselves and heed the guidance of how to live our lives fully. He is merciful to us, and we in turn are merciful to his creation. We all like to make a good impression when we introduce ourselves. God introduces himself to us in the Qur'an with, Bismillah Ar Rahman Nir Raheem; "In the Name of God the All Merciful, Absolutely and Intrinsically Merciful specifically". Ibn Arabi, a scion in the science of Irfan, states that Rahman is connected linguistically to Rahm, or womb. It is as if all of the cosmos exists within the caring womb of its creator, and like the womb of our mothers we are sustained in ways we do not perceive...all pointing to His Mercy. The Quran says everything (Shay) exists and is by Divine Mercy. The Quran states that our Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent as a “Mercy to all the Worlds” (Rahmat ul Alimeen). Where is the mercy in sects who profess the religion of Muhammad (peace be upon him), then repress the freedom (Hurr) of their followers to love the Prophetic Family? Where is the mercy in a people of Muhammad (peace be upon him) when they desert their religious principles and leadership in a time of difficulty? Where is mercy of those who claim to fight in the path of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and kill and maim innocent men, women, or children?
I could be talking about the Yazid and the tyrants that repressed the Prophetic Family and killed the righteous Imams (RA) of our faith, or I could be talking about Al-Khalifah (Bahrain) and his likes today; I could be talking about the people of Kufa who urged our Imam to come to them only to betray him out of fear of their own lives. Or I could be talking about each one of us who does little to practice and raise the higher principles of our faith in the midst of the current climate of Islamophobia. I could be talking about the cowardly Ummayad Syrian forces that surrounded Imam Husayn (RA) and his companions, even murdering his infant son, or I could be talking about the Assad's Syrian forces that torture and kill children to foment fear and maintain power.
Each one of us has a choice and free will, and we should be asking ourselves what we do for the pleasure of God earning his Mercy, and the benefit of his creation through merciful acts. I hope each of us transcends history, and chooses to love the people our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, loved by learning about their lives and examples.
1. Chapter 43 of Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous) by Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi; Tr. Bewley, Aisha.
2. Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Ibn Hanbal, Tabarani, Hakim. Ibn Hanbal’s transmission mentions that this took place for six months.
3. Ibn Asakir, 'Ali, III, 98-9
4. al-Tabari (1990). I.K.A. Howard, ed. The Caliphate of Yazīd B. Muʻāwiyah (Vol. 19 ed.). Albany: State University of New York. pp. 74-109.