By Shaykh Muhammad Manzoor Ahmad Nomani (r.a)
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In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, the One and Unique. All praise to God and salutations and blessing upon His Prophet (s.a.w.w).
What was the first and exemplary period of Islam like? What were the practical results of the training and guidance imparted and bestowed by the greatest and the last Prophet of God? What was the life and character of the people who had received guidance and instruction directly at his hands ? Was it, in any way, different from that of the founders of national, racial or family kingdom, sand of the seekers of power and authority? What was the Prophet’s conduct in relation to his family and what was the attitude of the family members towards benefiting from this great and holy personality ? What was the conduct and attitude of the members of his household in acting upon and putting into practice the call of faith and the declaration of truth and earnest endeavour? What were the mutual relations amongst the earliest Muslims who were trained by him including his Companions called Shaba and family members called Ahle-Bait? What was the conduct of his immediate successors in the light of reliable history who held the reins of government I n this exemplary period and who go by the name of Khulafa-I-Rashideen, the rightly-guided Caliphs, in their personal lives as, also, in relation to other men in the vast territories over which they ruled, in spite of the boundless powers and scope for gain and luxury they commanded? What was the position regarding the protection and preservation of the Holy Book upon which the entire religion was based ?
The answers that have been given to these questions present two entirely contradictory pictures. One picture is that which comes to view in the light of the beliefs of Ahle Sunnat. The other is presented by the beliefs, statements, expositions of religion, explanations and interpretations of history of Islam as held and given by the Shi’ite sect called Imamiyya Isna Ashariyya. There is no resemblance or conformity between the two.
Anyone who has been bestowed with commonsense by God, and possess a sense of justice and a knowledge of history, can easily judge which of the two pictures can be correct. The only picture that can befit and be acceptable for a faith which has been sent down as a blessing and guidance for the whole mankind, and claims that it can be followed in every age with best of results and which claims that the Prophet who brought it attained the largest measure of success among all the Divine messengers and his period of Apostleship was the brightest and most blessed in the history of religions is the one presented by the Ahle Sunnat. It cannot be the picture of persons living in extravagant luxury and self indulgence, fighting wars for personal or national ends and using the power, thus, acquired for their own gain and of their associates. In this epoch not only individuals were reformed but a whole society and civilization, a system of government, a code of life, values, and principles, and a pattern of general guidance and welfare of mankind were laid down. It was a vivid representation of a remark once made by Caliph
Umar bin Abdul Aziz: “Mohammad (peace be upon him) had been sent as a guide and preceptor and not as a collector of taxes. “
In contrast, the picture of the earliest period that comes to view in the light of statements and beliefs of the Imamiyya sect can make any sensible person justly question the very validity of Islam. How can it be maintained that a religion has the capacity to reform people and set right their morals and can raise them from the lowest depths to a high pedestal of humanity when even in the hands of its founder and at the height of its glory it could leave no durable or lasting impression and his immediate successors and followers could not remain faithful to Islam, leaving aside only four perosns.l Supposing a speaker makes a soul-stirring speech on the validity of Islam at some central place in Western Germany, or, for that mater, in any non-Muslim country, can anyone who has read the books of Isna Ashariyya not stop him and advise him to look within himself and take care of his own house when after 23 years of ceaseless exertion, struggle and sacrifice on the part of his Prophet only four or five persons could be found who remained true to him and followed his path. He can say to the speaker, “With what cheek are you appealing to non-Muslims to accept Islam? What is the guarantee of their steadfastness and constancy ?” Can there be any answer to it?
When a few years back Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini gave the call for Islamic revolution and after overthrowing the Pahlavi rule, set up the so-called Islamic government and started a new era it was expected that in order to make his call popular, he will not reopen the pages of history of bitter and continuos disputes and controversies between the Sunni and shia sects, and that if, due to some local or political reasons, he could not dissociate himself from the views and beliefs of Isna Ashariyya, he would, at least, not proclaim them. The Pahlavi Kingdom was well-entrenched. It was militarily powerful and had ample resources to ensure its security and stability. But undauntedly, Khomeini had overthrown it by his fiery speeches, indomitable will and firmness of purpose. It could be well expected from such a leader that he will have the moral courage to declare openly on the basis of his own thinking and for the sake of unity of Islam that the beliefs which eroded the foundation of Islam, put it to shame and disgrace in the world, cast a doubt over its credibility and stood as a big obstacle in the way of the call of faith to nonMuslims and were the results of a diabolical conspiracy on the part of enemies of Islam during its earliest days and the era of Companions and out of vengeance for the overthrow of the ancient kingdom of Iran, were, now, neither needed nor was there any room for them. It was hoped that he would feel that in order to establish the authority of Islam and to remove mischief from the Islamic society we should forget the past and begin a new chapter so that the resplendent picture of Islam should once again emerge to attract the attention of the non-Muslim peoples of the world.
But, unfortunately, the writings, books and pamphlets by Khomeini himself have come out in which he has forcefully and categorically expressed the traditional Shi’ite beliefs. For instance, in his book. Al-Hukumat-al-Islamiyya he has expressed views and beliefs about Imamate and Imams which take them to the place of divinity and elevate them to a higher rank than that of the Prophets and angels and hold that the whole world of creation is under their command and authority. 1 Likewise, in his Persian book Kashful Asrar he
has not only criticized and condemned the Companions of the Prophet, particularly the first three, but has used such language as can be used only for a gang of wicked men, evil-doers, conspirators and rank sinners. 2 These perverted assertions and diabolical beliefs go side by side with his call. These are mentioned not in secret instructions or private letters, but are contained in published books and journals.
Both the things, i.e. Khomeini’s opinion about Imams and Imamate and his outrageous condemnation of and vituperation against the Companions are no secret for his books with copies running into lakhs have spread in and outside Iran. It could be rightly thought that with his interference with the fundamental creed of the Oneness of God, his equating of Imams with Prophets or even higher, his reviling of the Companions who, after the Last Prophet, are, for Muslims, the most venerable and dearly loved persons and whose rule was most perfect and exemplary in the world not only according to history written by outstanding Muslim authors, but also by the well-known historians of other religions, and embodied an ideal pattern of life for people of the Sunni faith, who constitute the great majority of Muslims will see thorough Khomeini’s game and reject it outright and refuse to treat him as the standard bearer of Islamic revolution and the founder of Islamic State. But surprisingly enough, even in the circles that are imbued with Islamic thinking and wish the advancement and supremacy of Islam, he has been treated as ‘Awaited Imam’ and on him such faith and affection has been bestowed and such bigotry is being displayed that they are not prepared even to listen one word of caution or criticism against him.
Two things emerge from this experience and observation:
(1) In many circles the criterion of praise and reproach, and appreciation and criticism is no longer based on the Book and Sunnah, on the way of the pious precursors or on soundness of belief and code of conduct, but on the establishment of a government in the name of Islam, acquisition of power and throwing challenges to western powers or placing difficulties in their path and, in that event, the leader gets entitled to be treated as a hero and an ideal leader.
(2) The importance of beliefs is declining dangerously in the eyes of our new generation of educated people and this is a matter for anxiety and serious concern. What distinguished the call and struggle of the Prophets from those of the other leaders was belief. They were not prepared to bargain in respect of it or compromise it in any way. 1 For them the criterion of rejection and acceptance, and agreement and disagreement , and condition for union or separation was belief. Islam which in spite of all the weaknesses of Muslims, is still present among us in its original form owes it to steadfastness, constancy and firmness in respect of belief. It custodians and expounders simply refused to bow down to the might of powerful kings and monarchs and did not overlook or remain silent at any erroneous belief or claim, what to say of accepting them in order to prevent dissension among Muslims or for a worldly gain.
The uncompromising attitude and unremitting resistance of Imam Ahmad bin Hambal (d.241 A.H.) on the issue of ‘Creation of the Quran’ as against the two greatest rulers not only of the Muslims, but of the tie, Caliph Mamun-ur-Rashid (son of Caliph Haroon-urRashid) and M’otasim bin Harun-ur-Rashid and his readiness to receive the punishment of whipping and imprisonment in their defiance and the bold and unflinching opposition of Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani Shaikh Ahmed Faruqi (d. 1034 A.H.) to Emperor Akbar’s creed of the Second Millennium, his claim to Imamate and the right of Ijtehad, and the concept of unity of religions and the continuation of this opposition right through the reign of Jehangir till the attitude of the Mughal government change dare but two examples to illustrate the point. Otherwise, the history of Islam contains scores of glittering instances of living up to the maxim of “Speaking out the truth before a tyrant ruler”, and “No obedience to creatures involving sinfulness to the Creator”. The ‘tyrant ruler’ his sometimes a king and sometimes is represented by public opinion, fame, success and prestige. As history tells the latter are more trying and testing.