Juma Khutba 20 & 27/12/19 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak (Summaries & Videos)

In: Jum'a

Prophet Jesus (a) in History: How has his mission been understood in different eras?
Part 2: Are narratives grounded in history or subject to evolution? What are the different narratives about Prophet Jesus (a)?

Our new series is to look at Prophet Jesus (a) from the perspective of his historical picture and to aid the Muslim in understanding this development toward greater interaction with their Christian counterparts. 

In part 1 we reviewed the Qur’anic verses which tell the Muslims that they have duties of care toward the Christian communities, namely protection of their faith and protection of their sanctified sites. Similarly the Qur’an calls on all peoples of faith to protect each other’s holy places and states that entrance into Mosques, Churches and Synagogues must be done with reverential fear.

In this part we will introduce the idea that the way a historical individual is remembered evolves with time. That is to say the narrative around a person may change and what is popularly known about him can shift both with time and space. This is a particular study elucidated on by scholars by Bart D. Ehram in Jesus Before The Gospels and Barry Schwartz in Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory

The Qur’an in particular seeks to ground the narrative of the [prophetic] individuals it refers to. This is because one of its reasons of revelation was to correct the narratives that had been falsified over time and also to ensure it preserves the accurate understanding of these great individuals going forward. The following verses mention not only that we should remember certain personalities by recalling their stories by they also provide characteristics that root their narrative around its pivot. 

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَى إِنَّهُ كَانَ مُخْلَصًا وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَّبِيًّا19:51 And remember through this divine writ, Moses. Behold, he was a chosen one, and was an apostle [of God], a prophet.
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صَادِقَ الْوَعْدِ وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَّبِيًّا19:54 And remember through this divine writ, Ishmael. Behold, he was always true to his promise, and was an apostle [of God], a prophet
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِدْرِيسَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا19:56 And remember through this divine writ, Idris. Behold, he was a man of truth, a prophet
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَرْيَمَ إِذِ انتَبَذَتْ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا مَكَانًا شَرْقِيًّا19:16 And remember through this divine writ, Mary. Lo! She withdrew from her family to an eastern place
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا19:41 And remember to mind, through this divine writ, Abraham. Behold, he was a man of truth, a prophet

As you can see the mentioning of the figure is immediately followed with a particular set of descriptions. Why did the Qur’an link Prophet Ismail (a) with his truthfulness? Because that was a central aspect to his mission and response to his time, central to his eternal legacy. Similarly why mention Lady Maryam (a) as withdrawing from her family for servitude of God? Because though against the norm of her time and how some characterise gender norms, Lady Maryam’s fulfilment of her potential could not be proscribed by culture, also something central to her eternal legacy.
Although the Qur’an seeks to ground the narrative, the way people remember an individual indeed evolves. That may be down to the availability and accessibility of information on that person or how a culture evolves its ethics or needs and so engages in a collective ‘historical revisionism’.

Bart Ehram provides examples of Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus. The former has come to be known as the great champion of equality and freeing of slaves. Whereas historically there was a long period when he demonstrated great racism. Lincoln believed ‘blacks’ could not serve on jury’s or should be deported to colonies. In a debate with Stephen A. Douglas he said
“I am not, nor ever have been, in favour of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of equality.”

Why is Lincoln so well known for championing equality but less known for such earlier beliefs? Because as abolitionists and civil rights movements grew it projected Lincoln’s later beliefs only as evidence of his support ignoring other elements of his personality. This is what would become known of him.

The same evolution, Ehram points out, is how people ‘remember’ Christopher Columbus. Having a day named after him, he was initially celebrated for his ‘finding’ the America’s. As the true history of the United States was written, people have come to realise the terrorism Columbus performed. He is no longer celebrated but loathed. This is because colonisation is now also loathed and so what people remember of Columbus has changed too. James Loewen states
“Columbus introduced two phenomena: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere and the transatlantic slave trade.”

The same shift in remembering can be said for so many people: Winston Churchill; Martin Luther King; Tony Blair and so on. 

How then is Jesus (a) remembered by Christians? Indeed this too has changed with time and space. What the earliest Christians knew of, championed and celebrated is very particular. Once the Gospels were written some 60 to 100 years after Jesus (a) the stories of Jesus shifted. This occurred again with non-canonical books being compiled and from the events at The First Council of Nicea, with the first consensus on Christianity occurred in 325 AD. 

Of course today, the way Jesus (a) is remembered, celebrated, emphasised and transmitted is very different to all those previous periods. How Jesus was remembered and his earliest known narratives is what this series will look at. 

How do Muslims ‘remember’ and speak of Prophet Isa (a)? Let us mention three narrations that ‘ground’ the Muslim understanding of who Jesus (a) was

1) Jesus (‘a) said, “My servant is my hands and my mount is my feet; my bed is the earth and my pillow, a stone; my blanket in the winter is the east of the earth and my lamp in the night is the moon; my stew is hunger and my motto is fear; my clothing is wool and my fruit and my basil is what grows from the earth for the wild beasts and cattle.
I sleep while I have nothing and I rise while I have nothing, and yet there is no one on earth more wealthy than I.”
2) One of the Imams is reported to have said, “It was said to Jesus the son of Mary (‘a), ‘How did you begin the morning, O Spirit of Allah?’ He said, ‘I began the morning with my Lord, the Blessed and Supreme, above me and the fire (of hell) before me and death in pursuit of me. I have not obtained that for which I wished and I cannot keep away the things I hate. So who of the poor is more poor than I?’”
3) Jesus (‘a) said to the disciples, “Be satisfied with a little of the world, while your religion is safe, likewise the people of this world are satisfied with a little of the religion, while their world is safe; love Allah by being far from them, and make Allah satisfied by being angry with them.”

The disciples said, “O spirit of Allah, so with whom should we keep company?” He said, “He the sight of whom reminds you of Allah, his speech increases your knowledge and his action makes you desirous of the other world.”

Ref: (https://www.al-islam.org/jesus-through-shiite-narrations-mahdi-muntazir-qaim

In this part we will present what Muslims should know about the Gospels so they may engage in healthy learning when discussing them with Christian counterparts.

Both the Qur’an and narrations about the Prophet Muhammad (s) were written down immediately. It is well known that the Prophet (s) ordered scribes to write revelation and these have been carbon dated to his era. Despite the first two caliphs prohibiting the writing of narrations, companions like Jabir ibn Abdullah wrote narrations and these became the basis for what was taught and spread until collections of narrations became systematised in the second century. 

Is this the same for the Prophet Jesus (a). Was his divine book scribed for posterity and did his companions – known as the Hawariyeen in Islam – write what what they saw?

In regards to the first, the Qur’an on numerous occasions mentions the revelations including the Injeel to Prophet Isa (a): “For it is He who has revealed the Torah and Bible” (3:3) and “Let then the followers of the Injeel judge in accordance with what God has revealed therein” (5:47) yet we have no record or copy or artefact of this revelation.

In regard to the second, and the focus of is this sermon, it is important to realise that the disciples did not write what they saw or memorised. They were lower-class, likely illiterates who spoke Aramaic. Not only did the twelve disciples not write down what they saw, neither did any of the eye witnesses of Jesus’s miracles or sayings or actions. 

So what are the earliest written and surviving reports of Jesus (a)? We have the Book of Acts, the Letters of Paul and The Gospels.
There are however, many questions Muslims may raise to their Christian counterparts regarding the authenticity of the Gospels. 
The Gospels were written in pristine, high level Greek at least forty to seventy years after Jesus (a). If the disciples spoke Aramaic and they did not write down what they saw, who translated these events into Greek? Who oversaw the accuracy of this and the choosing of stories and sayings to include? 
Moreover, if the disciples were in Palestine, how did these Gospels reach the furthest parts of the Roman Empire without intermediaries?

The earliest Gospel is that of Mark, which is the shortest account, more theological in its narrative. Matthew and Luke appear to have another source; these are the sayings of Jesus. Unfortunately we do not know the authors of these four Gospels; that is to say the authors are unknown. It is akin to someone 70 years after the Prophet Muhammad (s) writing accounts and attributing them to his greatest companions like Abu Dharr, Salman al-Muhammadi or Jabir ibn Abdullah but us not knowing who the authors are that are claiming to scribe their views. 

Another issue is that in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus (a) attempts to stop his name being made famous as the Messiah; he actively prohibits the telling of his acts to others. 
For example, when he (a) heals the sick he states (1:44) “And said to him, ‘See you say nothing to any man, but go on your way.’”
When he exorcises the demons (3:11-12) he tells them not to convey what they saw; the same when his disciples call him the Messiah and he tells them not to let it be known (8:29-30) and when they see him as divine light and he tells them not to reveal until after his death (9:1-9). If these stories we embargoed during his lifetime, how do we know the accuracy of what was conveyed after his his death as he was not there, nor did his companions write down what he did.

The Book of Acts was mentioned earlier. According to it, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death. As mentioned, The Gospel authors were in Greek speaking parts of the Roman Empire. This raises the questions as to what are the chances that in these Roman churches were eye witnesses spreading, writing and re-telling their accounts of Jesus? How much was being recreated in the absence of eye-witness accounts?
For example, the Church of Corinth, West of Athens, was established by Paul. Paul knew several eye witnesses but never Jesus. Paul spent two weeks with Peter, a disciple and eye-witness and with James, the half-brother to Jesus, in Jerusalem. After these two weeks Paul converts many pagans in Corinth, presumably by retelling these stories of Jesus. He goes away to start another Church. 

Apollos a teacher – himself never met Jesus, comes to Corinth and continues the Ministry. This raises the question of as Athens begins to learn of Jesus, who is teaching his mission and who is answering questions about the theology and sayings of Jesus (a)? If Peter saw Jesus, and Paul saw Peter for two weeks, once Paul conveys what he learned that person is now hearing it third hand – what happens when he conveys what he heard from Paul – and so on and so forth.

Due to this lack of control on the stories of Jesus many versions of the same events were in circulation; many were from non-canonical Gospels but were still famous amongst early Christians.
Today, when the birth story of Jesus is retold it is usually from the Gospel of Luke 2:1-7
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

It is famous that there was no space at the inn and baby Jesus was placed in a manger. However, early Christians may not have known or believed in this version. 
The Proto-Gospel of James (the half-brother of Jesus) writes the biography of Lady Mary (a) including the birth of Jesus very differently that when she (a) goes into labor, Joseph hurries to find her a private place – not in an inn but a cave. As he goes to find a mid-wife time stands still and “then suddenly everything returned to its normal course.” When he returns with a midwife the cave is covered by a brilliant cloud which is replaced by a blinding light emanating from the cave.
The midwife runs to find another who, hearing this story, refuses to believe until she examines the hymen of Mary. For her doubt her hand is suddenly set ablaze where she is told to pick up the baby Jesus, who is already able to walk, to return her hand to normal. 

This version of the birth story was far more famous in early Christendom. The Gospel of James has the same problem the other Gospels have in that its authors cannot be sourced. In fact this gospel was written anywhere between 140 to 250 AD and was eventually rejected by Pope Innocent I in the 400’s and condemned altogether in the year 500.
The point being raised is that how do we know these stories of Jesus (a) were accurately conveying who he was and what he said if their origins cannot be properly verified?
Because of the multiple versions and interpretations by the 7th Century, the Qur’an sought to give the proper account of Jesus (a), including his birth:
The Angel Gibrael (a) approaches Lady Mary (a) saying, “”I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy.” She asks, “”How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?”
He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’”
“So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.”

But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates” (Qur’an 19:19-25)

By: education

Monday night Tafsir sessions restart this Monday 23/12

In: Hujjat, Jum'a

What are the themes and goals of the first five Surahs of the Qur’an? – a commentary on the book ‘Maqaasid al-Sur’ by Ayatullah Syed Mohammed Taqi al-Modaressi

All details on the poster. Open to all. email education@hujjat.org with any queries.

By: education

Juma Khutba 13/12/19 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak (summary & video)

In: Education, Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful 


Prophet Jesus (a) in History: How has his mission been understood in different eras?

Part 1: What is the responsibility of Islam toward Christianity?

How has the picture and beliefs in the Prophet Jesus (a) developed in time? How did the early Christians understand Jesus compared to those who received the agreed upon Gospels? How are people remembering Jesus today? And how do those narratives compare to those in the Qur’an and Islamic narrations?

The purpose of asking these questions over these upcoming Friday Sermons is to allow the Muslim community to develop its understanding of Jesus Christ in the Christian tradition, where there may be similarities and how to present its case for greater proximity between Muslims and Christians. In reality, and according to scholars like Dr. Richard Bulliet, author of the seminal work, ‘The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization’, these two great faiths have learnt and protected one another and so this must continue today. 

The Qur’an places great emphasis on mutual protection, especially the inviolability of sacred spaces and places of worship. That is to say, that Muslims are responsible to ensure Christian and Judaic spaces are protected, the same as it expects those faiths to protect Muslims spaces of worship. 

Importantly, this protection is not limited to the physical protection of life and buildings, but as the Qur’an is the unblemished and perfect Word of God, it clarifies misinterpretations of previous scriptures and so the Muslim is also responsible to protect the faith and purity in devotion to the Prophets, something we will expand upon in the coming parts, God-willing. 

In this section let us look at the physical inviolability and sacredness of Churches and Synagogues and the responsibilities that attach itself to those.

At the time of revelation, the Jews and Christians had continued a long period of sporadic wars with each other, often destroying each others books and sites. They accused each other of having no place with God.

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ فَاللَّهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

“And the Jews say: The Christians do not follow anything (good) and the Christians say: The Jews do not follow anything (good) while they recite the (same) Book. Even thus say those who have no knowledge, like to what they say; so Allah shall judge between them on the day of resurrection in what they differ” (Qur’an 2:113)

Because they believed the other had no standing with God, they happily desecrated each others spaces of worship. The Qur’an objected to this, taking no sides, but imploring great reverence and a feeling of deep spirituality when entering such places of God’s name being glorified.

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن مَّنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ أَن يُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ وَسَعَىٰ فِي خَرَابِهَا أُولَٰئِكَ مَا كَانَ لَهُمْ أَن يَدْخُلُوهَا إِلَّا خَائِفِينَ لَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا خِزْيٌ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

“And who is more unjust than he who prevents (people) from the places of worship of Allah, that His name should be remembered in them, and strives to ruin them? (As for) these (who seek to ruin them), it was not proper for them that they should have entered them except in reverential fear; (instead) they shall meet with disgrace in this world, and they shall have great chastisement in the hereafter” (Qur’an 2:114)

This means that these sites were given protection in the Qur’an. In fact leading historian Dr. Juan Cole states that the Prophet Muhammad (s) had envisioned the whole of Hijaz as a sanctuary for these religions, away from the persecution and violence they reaped on each other in other parts of the world (refer to the podcast ‘The Qur’an, the Prophet, and a Forgotten History’ for further information).

These verses were re-revealed on multiple occasions in order to reflect the importance of sanctified sites in Islamic thinking. For example, occasions included

1) “Ibn Abbas, cited in the book ‘Asb-ab-un-Nuzul’, that this verse was revealed about Fatlus-ur-Rumi, a Roman, and his friends. They fought against the Children of Israel and burnt the Turah. In that war, Jewish children were made captives, and Jerusalem was ruined and filled with corpses.”

In fact, with the wars between the Byzantine and Persians, and the alliances between the Jews and the latter, there often massacre and destruction of holy sites. 

2) ‘Allamah Tabarsi narrates from Ibn Abbas, in his book ‘Majma’ul-Bayan’ that this responds to the destruction of Jerusalem which continued until it was conquered by Muslims

3) Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a) says that this verse was revealed about the Quraysh when they prevented the holy Prophet (s)from entering Mecca and the Ka’bah.

4) It refers to the sites in Mecca where Muslims used to pray at, which pagans destroyed totally after the emigration of the Prophet (S)from Medina

The Qur’an speaks again about the mutual nature of protecting these sites, that is that Jews and Christians must protect Islamic sites in the same way. This is particularly pertinent today generally during periods of anti-semitism and Islamophobia and when Synagogues, Churches and Mosques are attacked, often leaving massive numbers of casualties behind. 

“Had it not been for Allah’s repelling some people by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause)” (Qur’an 22:40).

In fact one of the earliest examples of this protection is when the Prophet Muhammad (s), whilst being a merchant on behalf of Lady Khadija (a) prior to revelation, spent several months living with Christian monks at the Monastery of St. Catherine at the place of the revelation of the Torah to Prophet Musa (a).

The first thing the Prophet (s) did was write an accord of peace, trust and protection, signing it with his handprint, which remained there until the 17th Century when it was taken by the Ottomans to Istanbul (for further reading, refer to ‘The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World’ by John Andrew Morrow).

Looking then at these verses and Prophetic history, the first responsibilities of the Muslims toward Christians (and Jews) in ANY country is to guarantee freedom of worship, protection and reverence of places of worship and historical importance. This is expected to be reciprocated so that a civilisation of God consciousness is spread and built upon. 

Based on this, the Muslims would then engage with the stories of Prophet Jesus (a), which we will address from next week’s sermon InshaAllah.

By: education

Juma Khutba 06/12/19 summary & video – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Jum'a

Islam & Politics: Part 6 What are the qualities in a leader that Muslims are encouraged to elect on?

Sermon’s 1-5 looked at how Islam support the building a society, encourages political engagement and creating a hierarchy of priorities of Islamic values by which to judge party manifestos.

In this discussion we will look at the qualities that a leader should have and what is prohibited to base the choice of leadership on.
The Qur’an provides the arguments of the disbelievers in rejecting the leadership of the Prophets for their own, tribal leadership. There is a common thread amongst these verses and that is wealth; they believed the wealthier the person, the more appropriate he is for leadership. There are also secondary reasons for leadership in their view: the size of the family and number of followers – or popularity. All of these are rejected by Allah (swt).

قَالَ نُوحٌ رَّبِّ إِنَّهُمْ عَصَوْنِي وَاتَّبَعُوا مَن لَّمْ يَزِدْهُ مَالُهُ وَوَلَدُهُ إِلَّا خَسَارًا
“Noah continued: “O my Sustainer! Behold, they have opposed me [throughout], for they follow people whose wealth and children lead them increasingly into ruin.” (71:21)

وَكَانَ لَهُ ثَمَرٌ فَقَالَ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَنَا أَكْثَرُ مِنكَ مَالًا وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرًا
“And so the man who had fruit in abundance said to his companion, bandying about his views: I have more wealth than you and am mightier in followers.” (18:34)

وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ قَدْ بَعَثَ لَكُمْ طَالُوتَ مَلِكًا قَالُوَاْ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ عَلَيْنَا وَنَحْنُ أَحَقُّ بِالْمُلْكِ مِنْهُ وَلَمْ يُؤْتَ سَعَةً مِّنَ الْمَالِ قَالَ إِنَّ اللّهَ اصْطَفَاهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَزَادَهُ بَسْطَةً فِي الْعِلْمِ وَالْجِسْمِ وَاللّهُ يُؤْتِي مُلْكَهُ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“And their prophet said unto those elders: “Behold, now God has raised up Saul to be your king.” They said: “How can he have dominion over us when we have a better claim to dominion than he, and he has not [even] been endowed with abundant wealth?” [The prophet] replied: “Behold, God has exalted him above you, and endowed him abundantly with knowledge and bodily strength and perfection.” (2:247)

This third verse provides significant guidance on the necessary qualities of leadership. In response to the claim of wealth, the response is knowledge is superior. Bodily strength is also stated. This is because in that period part of leadership required strength on the battlefield. Given that this may not be a criterion today as leadership in warfare has changed, this means that knowledge is always the permanent and a primary requirement, whilst secondarily there may be relativity in requirements.

Muhammad Rayshari writes, “Honesty is the most fundamental principle in the administrative policies of Imam Ali (a). He set up honesty and truthfulness as a steadfast principle. In the Umayyad culture, honesty is meaningless. All sorts of fabrication, lies and imposture are the motif of their politics.” (Imam Ali and Political Leadership, pg 27)

Based on this Rayshari quotes a number of narrations to support this as being the central quality when electing your leadership. Under the chapter ‘Election of Righteous Administrators’, he writes:

Imam Ali (a) in his his instruction to Malik al-Ashtar wrote: For every person there is a right over the ruler, such that if it (the right) is set correctly, the persons life will be set aright to that same extent. But the ruler will not accomplish what God has enjoined upon him except by resolutely striving for God’s help, by making himself adhere to the truth and being patient in enforcing the right, be it easy for him or burdensome.
Appoint as commander the one who in your sight is the most sincere in the way of God, the most chaste of heart and the most outstanding in intelligence, slow to anger, accepts pardon, is gentle to the weak and harsh to the strong.

Look into the affairs of your administrators. Employ them after having tested them and do not appoint them with favouritism or arbitrariness. Whatever fault of your administrators you overlook will come to be attached to you.” (Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter 53).

The Qur’an states that a person is responsible for their actions and will have a share in it, for the good or evil they attach themselves to (4:85) “Whoever rallies to a good cause shall have a share in its blessings and whoever rallies to an evil cause shall be answerable for his part in it.” مَّن يَشْفَعْ شَفَاعَةً حَسَنَةً يَكُن لَّهُ نَصِيبٌ مِّنْهَا وَمَن يَشْفَعْ شَفَاعَةً سَيِّئَةً يَكُن لَّهُ كِفْلٌ مِّنْهَا
Based on this, Imam Ali (a) also said, “Appoint the pious, the knowledgable and people of good policy for taking charge of the works.” (Tuhuf al-Uqool, pg 137)  

In the chapter ‘Refraining from Employing (electing) the Treacherous and Feeble’, Rayshari also mentions the following narration from Imam Ali (a)
“Know, O Rifa’a that this position of governance is a trust, so whoever betrays it on him will be the curse of God until the Day of Judgement. And whoever employs (elects) a traitor (of this trust), truly [Prophet] Muhammad (s) will despise him both in this world and the world to come.”

The Muslim is obligated to know the character and trustworthiness of the candidate they vote for, to the best of their ability.

By: education

Juma Khutba (summary & video) 08/11/19 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Jum'a, Uncategorized

In the Name of Allah, Most Kind, Most Merciful

Islam and Politics Part 2: Is political engagement prohibited, permissible or necessary? (VIDEO HERE)

Is engagement in politics prohibited, permissible or necessary in Islam? What does the Qur’an say about our responsibilities to the world? Why did Shiism have a period where political engagement was prohibited?

In part one we introduced the series by looking at how the Qur’an relates the responsibilities of a Muslim society and how it can practically affect a non Muslim society. This leads us to ask what is the foundation of Islamic political thinking which this part focuses on.

The purposes of creation

The first point is that building good governance and infrastructure in which people can thrive is one of the reasons for creation. The Qur’an and Ahadith detail several reasons for our purpose, of which this is one. Let us review some of these purposes and note how some of them relate directly to the need of political participation:

1) Purpose is to serve God (وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ (51:56) And I have not created the jinn and mankind except that they may serve Me.

2) A purpose is love of Ahl al-Bayt (a). In the Event of Kisaa (refer to commentaries of verse 33:33) the angel Gibrael states that Allah (swt) said, “I have not created the skies, the earth, the moon or the sun except for the love of the five underneath the cloak” meaning the Prophet Muhammad (s), his daughter Lady Fatima (a), Imam Ali (a) and Imam’s Hassan (a) and Hussain (a). 

3) Purpose of Isti’maar (Cultivation) وَإِلَى ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحًا قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـهٍ غَيْرُهُ هُوَ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الأَرْضِ وَاسْتَعْمَرَكُمْ فِيهَا 
(11:61) And to [the tribe of] Thamud [We sent] their brother Salih. He said: “O my people! Worship God [alone]: you have no deity other than Him. He brought you into being out of the earth, and made you thrive thereon. 

The third purpose of creation is for us to cultivate and progress our civilisation. Thriving here  means something positive; something of benefit. In the Islamic sense if you cultivate something harmful, it does not fulfil the goal of cultivation and so it does not count. Of course when cultivating civilisation, this needs regulations and policies which would be the responsibility of a just government. This is why the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (s) states, “One hour of a Just Ruler is better than 70 years of the Worshipper” because his impact in cultivating the earth can produce so much positive progression.

4) Purpose of Istikhlaaf (stewardship) وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلاَئِفَ الأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ(6:165)

For, He it is who has made you inherit the earth, and has raised some of you by degrees above others, so that He might try you by means of what He has bestowed upon you.

The fourth purpose of creation is stewardship. Specific stewardship is reserved for those appointed Caliphs of Allah (swt) however, general stewardship is for all mankind to be responsible for the planet and what is within their capacity to be a shepard over. 

This stewardship is divided into two: Care for that which came before you and responsibility toward those who will come after you. Those before you will have performed their Isti’maar and cultivated civilisation; we are obliged to protect and develop it further. If it has reached us in a poor state, we are obliged to improve it. This may be roads, healthcare systems or the environment, for example. If it reaches us having being improved, we are also prohibited from damaging it as per the verse “Do not corrupt the earth after its reformation.” As for that which we are leaving behind, we are responsible to leave for the forthcoming generations a world which is healthy, safe and productive for them. 

In this way we are the link between what came previously and what is to come which also requires standards and laws which are put in place by government and policy makers.

What is Siyasah in Islam? Siyasah modern Arabic means politics however, its root and original meaning sheds great light on why it is translated today as such and what its applications are.

Originally Siyasah meant to train a horse. Training wild horses is especially difficult – much like training a human being or even a nation of human beings. Training the horse may be done through violence, for example, or gentleness. Both will have their effects, short, medium and long term just like it would upon a community. In this sense, Siyasah is about training a community for it to develop and prosper, taking them from their negative states to enlightenment, or in the Islamic sense from darkness into light.

Why did Shi’i scholars prohibit political engagement in the 17th to 19th centuries?

During the Akhbari-Usuli debates of the 15th to 17th centuries, the Safavid state adopted Shiism as its religion. However much oppression and corruption was performed in the name of Shiism. With the intellectual victory of Usuliism came a stark departure from Akhbari practises including a prohibition in political engagement owing the fears that the religion may continue to be used for abusive purposes. This prohibition remained until a series of incidents which brought a new thinking as to the relationship between Shiism and political theory.

These included
a) The tobacco revolution of Ayatollah Shirazi

b) The Iraqi constitutional crises 

c) The Islamic revolution of Iran

d) The attempted Islamic revolutions in IraqI

n the previous centuries Shiism has withdrawn itself from study and produce of national law or policy; this left a vacuum in which other ideologies spread and could govern in, especially during the era of the flourishing of nation states. However, as Shii scholars came more into contact with the need to re-engage the political landscape they referred to narrations such as the following

Hasan Ibn Husain Anbari narrates: Over a period of fourteen years I kept writing letters to Imam Ridha (peace be upon him), seeking permission from him to allow me to work within the administrative setup of the ruler (of the city).

Since the Imam (peace be upon him) never replied, I, in my final letter, wrote: I fear oppression and persecution. Those working with the Sultan say: “You are of the Shiites and this is why you do not co-operate  with us and are evasive.”

In reply, the Imam (peace be upon him) said: From your letter I sense that you fear for your life. You are aware that if you are placed in a (high and) responsible position, you can adhere to and act upon the teachings and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny); this would cause your subordinates to also follow the dictates of your faith.

If you happen to come across instances whereby you have to deal with poor and indigent Mu’minin, ensure that you exhibit consideration, toleration and forbearance towards them!

And since you would now be working with them, it would be deemed that you are one of them, (and thus) you would have to strive hard to perform God-pleasing deeds, since these deeds would then serve to compensate your co-operation with the illegal ruling apparatus.

However, if you are unable to act in this manner, then it is not permissible for you to take up this employment.

With this came a number of books written on Shii political theory such as 
a) Politics: The very heart of Islam by Ayatollah Syed Sadiq as-Shirazi

b) Aspects of Political Theory of Ayatollah Syed Mohammed Hussaini Shirazi

c) Islamic Government by Imam Khomeini 

d) Studies of Wilayah al-Faqih by Ayatollah Muntadheri 

e) Imam Ali and Islamic Political Theory by Muhammad Rayshari 

f) Qiyadatul Islami by Ayatollah Syed Taqi al-Modarresi

This shows that across the spectrum of Maraji’ and scholars a movement from prohibition of participation to an emphasis and obligation toward political awareness and engagement.

By: education

Juma Khutba (summary & video) 11/10/19 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons (VIDEO HERE)

Part 6: From theory to action. But how? 

Our series has proposed the following principles for maximising our time in sermons:

First, our intention is purely for learning. Second, we must use active forms of learning. Third, we must be ready to ask worthwhile questions. Fourth, we must be willing to accept constructive criticism. Fifth, that we are willing to correct our opinions if proved wrong.

The conclusion to our series focuses on moving from being passive to active; to acting on what we have learnt. But how and what should our action look like?

There is a difference between knowledge, telling other what we know, and acting upon that knowledge. Our lives are spent in consuming information, be it useful or otherwise. In regard to Islamic and moral knowledge, we probably know a plethora and can speak well on Islamic history, our beliefs and practices; we can even tell others how to act and improve. All of these have their importance, however if we do not use our own knowledge or act on what we tell others then indeed it we who are at a loss.

Therefore there is a clear gap between knowledge, telling others something that you know and actually acting on that which you say. The Holy Qur’an establishes this principle asking يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ اللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ “O you who believe, why do you say that which you do not do? Indeed hated it is to God that you say that which you do not actually do” (61:2-3)

Acting on knowledge and activism are also two different things. Acting on knowledge may be a private act, whilst activism is the sacred act of attempting to change the social order for the better or bringing others to change their acts, whether they are private, public or institutional. The narrations speak about this with the highest of value. For example, Imam Ali (a) said خيرُ إخْوانِكَ مَن سارَعَ إلى الخيرِ وجَذَبَكَ إلَيهِ ، وأمَرَكَ بالبِرِّ وأعانَكَ علَيهِ “”The best of your brothers is the one who rushes to do good and draws you alongside him, and orders you to do good and helps you with it”.

Note the subtleties about action in the narration. “Rushes to do good” is active; “Draws you alongside” is not just the individual doing good but bringing others to do good. “Orders” means shows you where the good can be applied and “Helps you with it” means that even then, if there is any weakness or shortcoming he assists you in fulfilling it. All of this is action upon action.

One of the leading thinkers of our era is Slovenian, Slavoj Žižek. Commenting about ‘Green Capitalism’, he makes an important point in actions and their consequences or whether they really lead to good or not. He states that we often say, ‘We want to do our bit’. We will recycle or buy organic fruits in the hope that if ‘We all do our little bit, we will make the difference.’ He critiques this attitude saying this had lead to corporations taking advantage of this attitude.

He gives the example of Starbucks. They will say ‘If you buy the $2.95 coffee we will give 5 cents to’ xyz charitable cause. And so we choose to go to Starbucks over, for example, Costa on this basis. And so we buy the $2.95 coffee and the $2.50 donut and so on thinking ‘We have done our bit’. Žižek rightly argues that we think our ‘activism’ is good when in fact, we are doing more harm than good. This is because it is the Neo-Liberal Order and Capitalist corporate greed that has caused that injustice in the first place. To then spend money on them only reinforces the system of oppression in the first place. Moreover, this system then gets further power through your spending with them and their ability to choose what the ‘charitable needs’ are.

Islam and Islamic activism was always there to break the back of oppression, to rattle the social order, to upset the applecart. When we listen to the sermons and the example’s of the great early companions we never imagine they were shy of upsetting people in order to establish justice and nor did they feed into the system that was curating the injustice. As the Qur’an says, “And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression” (8:39).

The Prophet Muhammad (s) was unrelenting and never inclined one iota to injustice to the extent that when the defeated pagan Quraysh were on the verge of yielding, they offered a compromise: For 364 days of the year we will follow Islam but for one day of the year allow us to keep our idols in the Ka’ba! What type of system would this be?

When the Prophet (s) wanted to bring change his action needed two things: 1) To be the opposite of the unjust system and 2) To lead by example.

The Qur’an states وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing” (8:61).

Allah (swt) commanded to incline toward peace. This is in light of a pagan Arab society that celebrated war. But why did Allah (swt) state, “And trust in Allah”? This is because He knew their intentions did not match their words. But peace building was so important that even then, the Muslims should lead on it and put their trust in Allah (swt).

Acting on our knowledge and knowing how to act are the two greatest goals of listening to sermons and are the ultimate measurements of what we have taken away from our time in these lectures.

By: education

Juma Khutba 04/10/2019 summary – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

Friday Khutba
How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons
Part 5: The Willingness To Correct Our Opinions 
Our series has proposed the following principles for maximising our time in sermons:
First, our intention is purely for learning and not reaffirming what we already believe. Second, we must use active forms of learning. Third, we must be ready to ask pertinent and challenging questions to scholars. Fourth, we must be willing to accept constructive criticism of ourselves and our communities.
Today’s sermon follows on from the willingness to accept criticism to the ability to actually correct one’s views when confronted with evidence known as تصحيح آرائنا Tasheeh Aara’una. This is something truly difficult and requires intellectual and moral honesty.
For many of us, our sources of Islamic knowledge is the pulpit and not necessarily source literature or scholarly books – and often there is a gap between the two. If we have been listening to something from the pulpit for many years and then we hear something new or different, it can appear controversial or strange as it conflicts with our knowledge base; it may be the application of a verse of the Qur’an or narration or particular explanation. As we know, ijtehad – striving to find accurate Islamic opinions – and interpretations are always being updated and so we realise knowledge may be reviewed at anytime or we may not be fully informed on a matter yet.
At times a person rejects when evidence comes to him or due to it being against what they consider to be correct. Imam Ali (a) said مَنْ أسْرَعَ إلَى النّاسِ بِما يَكْرَهُونَ قالُوا فيهِ ما لايَعْلَمُونَ “Whoever hastens to the people with that which they dislike, they will speak about him that which they do not know.”
If a verse or sound narration is introduced to me proving its position, increasing my knowledge base, or even disproving what I thought to be previously correct, I must be willing to change my opinion to be in line with the truth I have come across. As Imam Ali (a) said اَلْحَقُّ أحَقُّ أنْ يُتَّبَعَ “The Truth is worthier of being followed” and بِالعُدُولِ عَنِ الحَقِّ تَـكُونُ الضَّلالَةُ “It is by turning away from the truth that misguidance comes about.”
This may seem obvious, but ask yourself how many have been willing to do this? And ask whether you have ever changed your religious opinion on the basis of new evidence or only ever retained your previous understanding despite evidence to the contrary?
The primary standard of truth is the Qur’an. If we are introduced to a verse of Allah (swt) which has been applied in the correct way, we are obligated to correct our opinions to be in line with the verse no matter how challenging to our pride or previous beliefs this may be. The Qur’an states وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ “And We have revealed to you the Book with the truth, verifying what is before it of the Book and a guardian over it, therefore judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and do not follow their low desires (to turn away) from the truth that has come to you.”
Therefore either when Truth comes to us, we must correct our opinions, or we use the Qur’an to judge the matter. Let us take an example.
In recent days, political speeches have been made about cutting ‘freedom of movement’. To some, freedom of movement is negative, as it violates borders and allows cultures to mix. Many Muslims will hear this political rhetoric and be persuaded. It is the responsibility of the Muslim that if he believes such a thing, but then is presented with what the Qur’an states, he is obliged to correct his opinion or he is required to search out what the Qur’an says and correct his opinion.
In one verse Allah (swt) states, “O humanity! Indeed We created you from a male and a female and made you into peoples and types that you to know one another. Truly, the most generous of you with God is the most God-conscious. Truly, God is all-Knowing, all-Informed” (49:13). Prohibiting or ostracising freedom of movement is then is direct violation of Allah’s (swt) directive of people knowing one another.
In another verse, Allah (swt) states, “Had Allah pleased, He would have made you (all) a single people, but that He tests you in what He gave you. Therefore strive with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds” (5:48). In this verse Allah (swt) states He could have made mankind one people, but he wishes to see how we respond to the different features and resources He provided: language, culture, oil, steel, water, technology etc. And that we are to strive in doing good. If we are blocked from meeting one another, how can this be achieved?
Imam Ali (a) said, “Emigrate from your native country in pursuit of loftier positions, for there are five benefits to be had from travel: Alleviating anxiety, working for a living, acquiring knowledge, attaining moral excellence, the companionship of distinguished people” (Immigration and Jihad, Dar al-Hadi Publications, 2003 pg 43).
In all of these cases, we can see the principles that freedom of movement and immigration are positive. If I believed something different, I am required to correct my opinion no matter my biases. If we can do this then our sitting in sermons will be truly beneficial to us. If not, we will continue to hold onto things that may be in opposition to Islam.
By: education

Juma Khutba 27/09 – Video & Summary (Shaykh Jaffer Ladak)

In: Education, Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons (VIDEO HERE
Part 4: Three Principles to benefiting from constructive criticism
To date our series have offered the following principles for maximising our sitting in sermons:
First, our intention has to be purely for learning and growth, not entertainment or reaffirming what we already believe. Second, we must have active forms of learning including making use of technologies and writing notes. Third, we must equip ourselves with useful questions that challenge not only ourselves, but our scholars too.
Today’s sermon focuses on a principle of intellectual and moral honesty that is truly very difficult to achieve: Accepting constructive criticism.
It is common that during a sermon something is said that may touch a nerve due to it speaking directly to our behaviours or sensitivities; or as post-traditional or post-cultural understandings of our religion become the norm, a challenge is raised against the status quo of practises; or even a family member or friend raises some criticism – it can burn and be difficult to accept.
To grow, however, we must welcome these discomforts, which at times may give deep insight into things we may not have considered about ourselves. Sometimes the criticism comes from a place of care, in which case we should be grateful whether it is accurate or not. At others it may come from a place of scorn, in which case if it is true, we should be grateful.
The Qur’an provides us with a starting principle:  فَاصْـبِرْ کَماَ صَبَرَ أُُولُوا الْعَزمِ مِنَ الرُّسُلِ  “Be patient just as were those of determination, the great prophets from among the Messengers” (46:35)
Patience here is not simply inaction, waiting for difficulty to pass, but rather refers to the internal response of dignity, trust in Allah and working hard on one’s soul when confronted by life’s difficulties. We are being called here to respond like the greatest Messengers responded – and no doubt the Prophet (s) faced intense scrutiny and criticism from their communities. Thus let us look at three principles on navigating constructive criticism from the Islamic perspective.
First: we must be willing to accept criticism of us and not close it down.
Many misinformed people think that Islam forbids ‘freedom of speech’ or criticism of the Prophet Muhammad (s) or Islam itself, or that violence is the response to criticism. This is completely against the Qur’an. The Prophet Muhammad (s) faced the most abrasive and vitriolic of criticism. What is interesting is that Allah (swt) not only allowed it, but even recorded it in revelation for it to be known and recounted through the ages!
“They (the disbelievers) say: It is just stories of the ancients! He makes them up! And they are dictated to him morning and afternoon” (25:5) was the claim, because the Prophet Muhammad (s) spent months with Christian Monks in the Sinai. Allah (swt) allowed this criticism, though futile and wrong, responding in the next verse, “Say: It has been revealed by He who knows [every] secret of the heavens and earth. Indeed He is ever Forgiving and Merciful.”
This teaches us that criticism must be allowed and then reviewed for its accuracy. Not accepting it from its inception or thinking you are above it or know better removes the potential of it having a positive effect.
Second: the closer a person it comes from, the better
It is often the case that we like to keep friends who match our ideas and positions. Whilst of course having friends of the same beliefs and values are necessary, that should not mean that if they are critical of us, we feel hurt, vengeful or cut off relationships.
The very best person to be critical of you is yourself! Imam Ali (a) stated إيّاكَ أنْ تَـكُونَ علَى النّاسِ طاعِناً، ولِنَفْسِكَ مُداهِناً  “Beware of being critical of the people while going easy on yourself.” داهَنَ means flattery or to dupe, thus the narration is saying do not dupe yourself into thinking you are above reproach the way you might of others!
After that, your friends and family who have unguarded, real moments with you are those who may give you feedback. Often we expect our friends to take our side or back us up because they are our friends. The narrations tell us in fact the best friend we may have is the one who can tell us the truth and be critical if they see something, thus do not be offended. Narrations include
i. “The friendship of the religious ones does not get severed quickly and is ever firm and lasting” مَوَدَّةُ ذَوِى الدّينِ بَطيئَةُ الاِنْقـطاعِ، دائِمَةُ الثَّباتِ والبَقاءِ
ii. “The one who assists [you] in obeying [Allah] is the best companion” اَلمُعينُ عَلَى الطَّاعَةِ خَيرُ الأصحابِ
iii. “The brother whom you benefit from is better than the brother [for] whom you increase [benefit]” أخٌ تَسْتَفيدُهُ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أخ تَسْتَزيدُهُ.
Third: once I receive criticism how do I review myself?
Now we know to allow criticism to occur and to be pleased with it, we need tools to measure whether the criticism is valid or not. This of course requires honesty, time for introspection and wrangling with the matter.
Imam Mohammed al-Baqir (a) says, “Contemplate and ponder about what is said about you. So if you observe and come to know about a vice that exists in you, know that to lose honour in the eyes of Allah is much greater than losing respect in the
eyes of the people. And if your condition is contrary to what has been said about you, then you have earned a reward short of doing any strain!”
In this vain, once a person was abusing Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain as-Sajjad (a) and his mother. The Imam calmly replied, “If what you have said about me is true, then may Allah forgive me. And if what you have said is false, then may Allah forgive you” and left it that. The man was amazed by the Imam’s (a) godly character.
In conclusion, our sitting in sermons often evokes criticism of our individual and collective behaviours. This should not be a reason to feel unease or discontent; rather we must review ourselves in accordance with the Book of Allah (swt) and proactively patient in overcoming whatever infractions we may have.
As Imam Ali (a) said حَلاَوَةُ الظَّفَرِ تَمْحُوا مَراَرَةَ الصَّـبْرِ “The sweetness of success erases the bitterness of patience.”
By: education

Juma Khutba summary 20/09 – Shaykh Jaffer Ladak

In: Hujjat, Jum'a
How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons
Part 3: The purpose and tools for sitting in a sermon 
In part 1 we stated that the number of sermons we sit in and religious learning engaged in must be equal to the growth we experience; if this is not the case, how can we better our learning experience of very traditional sermons?
In part 2 we took our first principle known as حُسن السئال نِصف الجواب ‘A good question is half of the answer’, to not only encourage the asking of questions but what types of questions we must ask.
This edition will look at the purposes of sitting in the sermons and what tools we may use to maximise our learning and application.
In the biographies of the scholars, there is an intriguing story about Imam Syed Muhammad Hussaini as-Shirazi, an author of 1400 books, such that when he died, his fingers were bent from his excessive commitment to his pen. Sitting preparing his class, one of his students bursts through the door seeking urgent counsel. “I have a question, no matter how much I think it over I cannot find an answer” he says. Imam as-Shirazi welcomes him and asks what is this question he has been wrangling with, causing such anxiety. He replies, “If you have one day to live, what would you do with it?!”
We shall return to the answer later InshaAllah.
First, the Holy Qur’an tells us that not only should we seek knowledge, but seek it from Allah swt and with His approval. فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ الْمَلِكُ الْحَقُّ وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُقْضَىٰ إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا “Supremely exalted is therefore Allah, the King, the Truth, and do not make haste with the Quran before its revelation is made complete to you and say: O my Lord! increase me in knowledge” (20:114)
The supplications of Ahl al-Bayt (a) then guide us to what else we should be seeking from this knowledge:
Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain Zain al-Abideen (a) prays, “[Oh Allah] Complete for us the illuminations of knowing you deeply” و اتمم لنا أنوار معرفتك
Elsewhere he begs, “Make it that I fulfil all that is obligated upon me” اللهم اقض عني كل ما الزمتنيه
Whilst Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) asks for divine help in navigating those matters that may be muddied between true and false claims asking, “O God! Show me the truth as the truth so I follow it, and falsehood as falsehood so I stay away from it; and let them not seem similar o me, for if this happens then I will follow my own desires without guidance from You.” اللَّهُمَّ أَرِنِي الْحَق حَقًّا فَاَتِّبَعَهُ، وَأَرِنِي الْبَاطِلَ بَاطِلًا وفَاَجْتَنِبَهُ، وَلَا تَجْعَلْهُ عَلَيَّ مَتَشَابِهًا فَأَتَّبِعَ هَوَايَ بِغَيْرِ هُدىً مِنْكَ
Collectively then, these supplications for learning tells we ask for an increase, deeper insight, to act on what I learn and fulfil what is necessary for me and to have the success of distinguishing falsities from truth. These are certainly requisites to learning for without these, sitting in the sermons may become repetitive and devoid of the foundational attitudes needed in spiritual and intellectual learning. 
Second, the narrations remind us that knowledge must be sought, not through personalities, famous speakers, oratory power or how good the sermon makes us feel. All these are transient and devoid of stability. This asks us wrangle with the question of our biases and whether we attend the sermons of those whom we prefer to those whom challenge us; those who reaffirm my way of thinking or for seeking truth no matter whom it comes from.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a) profoundly stated, “The one who enters this religion through men will exit through men just as they caused him to enter it. And whoever enters this religion through the Book of Allah and the Prophetic practise, mountains will move before he does [in his faith]. من دخل في هذا الدين بالرجال اخرجه منه الرجال كما ادخلوه فيه ، و من دخل فيه بالكتاب و السنة زالت الجبال قبل ان يزول
The best example of this was in the Battle of Jamal when people saw on one side A’isha the wife of the Prophet and leading companions like Talha and Zubayr, whilst on the other side Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) and companions like Salmaan and Ammar. They asked which side to join?! Imam Ali (a) said, ‘Do not look at personalities. Look for the truth and you will then know its people.’
Thirdly, the learning must be active and not passive. We forget so much because the sermon is long and the attention span is short. Sermons tend to be pedagogic and only make use of auditory learning, whilst in school and university we use visual and kinaesthetic tools of learning, where we engage in dialogue and sensory material. We urgently need to evolve our cultures of learning and formats of sermons lest our education system falls way behind.
Ahl al-Bayt (a) emphasised this on numerous occasions:
The Prophet (s) said, “Write down knowledge before the departure of the scholars” whilst Imam as-Sadiq (a) said, “Write! For you will not remember until you write.”
We would never tolerate our children going to school or Madressa without a pen and paper, but our culture in the sermon’s does not encourage the same. Indeed this is a hypocrisy and a requirement to review our values between secular and religious learning.
Returning to the story above! Imam as-Shirazi was desperately asked, ‘What would you do with one day to live?’
He replied, “I would be doing what you found me doing now! Learning the knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt and teaching the knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt (a)!”
By: education

Juma Khutba 30/08/19 – Sh. Jaffer Ladak [summary]

In: Jum'a

In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful

How do we study Islam? Maximising our sitting in sermons
Part 2: A good question is half of the answer
In the first part, we reviewed how many sermons and programmes we participate in throughout the year and stated that in this ‘information age’ there is a tremendous amount of Islamic knowledge circulating. We also asked whether we are in line with the goal of reforming ourselves and whether the amount of Islamic knowledge we absorb translates into genuine progress, individually or collectively. If not, we need tools to maximise our time listening to sermons, watching clips or reading; this is what this series focuses on. 
Our first principle is a term coined by the scholars, the roots of which are from the statements of the holy Prophet Muhammad (s). The principle is known as حُسن السئال نِصف الجواب ‘A good question is half of the answer’.
This emanates from the narration الاقتصاد في النفقة نصف المعيشة، والتودد إلى الناس نصف العقل، وحسن السؤال نصف العلم “Financial prudence with those whom you spend on is half of living well; love for people is half of good thinking; and a good question is half of knowledge.”
As we know the Prophet’s (s) speech is perfect and purposeful. The fact that he said a “good” question, means that by definition, there are also poor questions. Those are the ones asked for the sake of getting the answer you want, and not genuinely learning, or to show off the knowledge that you have. A common problem today is when scholars travel to speak at different venues, they know there will be that person(s) who will ask them a question but have asked that same question to every visiting scholar in the hope that they get the answer they want! We seek protection with Allah (swt) from being like that!
In short, a good question is an open enquiry to problems worth understanding and it should lead you to a new pedestal of your own growth.
The questions that the companions asked were so powerful it led them to their lofty pedestals. Those who were living as bedouins, worshipping stones, after genuine wrangling and contemplation are praised in the Qur’an (3:110) as “…the best of nations heralded for mankind” while Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) said of his sittings with the Prophet Muhammad (s) that it opened a thousand doors of knowledge, each of which opened another thousand doors of knowledge.
Let us know turn to some principles of good questions from examples in the Ahadith. In this we can demonstrate a growth pattern in the questions where  a process of building off the previous questions is achieved.
The first is that simple questions are not problematic. We are all at different stages of learning or unshackling ourselves from ideas and sciences that may have influenced our understanding of things.
Ayyub ibn Nuh said, “I wrote to Imam Ali al-Hadi (a) asking him about Allah swt: Did He know all things before creating them or did He not know until He willed their creation?” The Imam wrote back, “Allah swt eternally has had full knowledge of all things before as well as after their creation.”
It may be to you or I, that question is basic Aqeedah. Simply knowing Allah swt’s Divine Name of the All-Knowing would suffice. However, for someone who does not know, their enquiry was genuine and needed. It maybe that we need to check or clarify, there is no shame in this and needs encouraging.
The second example builds on the first. In the first the enquirer asks about God’s knowledge and will. The second  will also be about the same subject but the question is far more profound. The answer will also develop the person’s thinking because it was a good question.
Bukayr ibn A’yan said, “I asked Imam as-Sadiq (a), ‘Is the knowledge and the will of Allah different or the same?’” meaning with God’s knowledge, does that mean it is immediately willed into creation. He replied, “His knowledge is not the same as His will. Consider and reflect on when you say, ‘If Allah wills I will do such and such. You do not say If Allah knows I will do such and such. Your own words are proof that Allah has not yet willed it!”
Here we can see that the question is building on the knowledge of the first. But also that had the person himself reflected on his own interaction with God’s divine will, he would have come to know the answer himself.
The third is the need to build our questions off the Qur’an primary. Narrations are not protected like the Qur’an and all other sciences are secondary to it. In this example the companion is reading the verses and cannot find another verse to complete his thought.
Ibn Abi Ya’fur said, “I wrote to Imam ar-Redha (a) about the two verses ‘Ask the people of remembrance (of God) if you do not know’ and ‘Why do not some people from each group seek deep religious knowledge and return to guide their people?’ (9:122) asking, ’the verses make it obligatory for us to ask questions and seek – but it is not made obligatory upon you to answer?!’”
The fact that this companion was studying and reflecting and searching the face of the Qur’an, Imam ar-Redha (a) could but only reply from the Qur’an, writing back, “If they do not do what you ask them, know they are only following their low desires” (28:50) meaning that when it is asked of us, Ahl al-Bayt (a), it is compulsory for us to reply, otherwise we would be following our own desires!
In here have been a number of lessons about asking good questions about the knowledge we gain from lectures:
1) There are bad questions, do not ask them.
2) Questions must open up enquiry to things worth deliberating upon
3) Simple questions are important
4) Build on those questions so they take you further in that area
5) If you reflect, often you will find the answer
6) Use the Qur’an to ask questions from
By: education