Respect for Imam Husain and other righteous figures of Islam

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 12 August 2022

“We have made some of these messen­gers to excel others. Among them are they to whom Allah spoke, and some of them He exalted by (many) degrees of rank. And We gave clear arguments to Jesus, son of Mary, and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. And if Allah had pleased, those after them would not have fought with one another after clear arguments had come to them, but they disagreed; so some of them believed and some of them denied. And if Allah had pleased they would not have fought with one another, but Allah does what He intends.” — 2:253

تِلۡکَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلۡنَا بَعۡضَہُمۡ عَلٰی بَعۡضٍ ۘ مِنۡہُمۡ مَّنۡ کَلَّمَ اللّٰہُ وَ رَفَعَ بَعۡضَہُمۡ دَرَجٰتٍ ؕ وَ اٰتَیۡنَا عِیۡسَی ابۡنَ مَرۡیَمَ الۡبَیِّنٰتِ وَ اَیَّدۡنٰہُ بِرُوۡحِ الۡقُدُسِ ؕ وَ لَوۡ شَآءَ اللّٰہُ مَا اقۡتَتَلَ الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِہِمۡ مِّنۡۢ بَعۡدِ مَا جَآءَتۡہُمُ الۡبَیِّنٰتُ وَ لٰکِنِ اخۡتَلَفُوۡا فَمِنۡہُمۡ مَّنۡ اٰمَنَ وَ مِنۡہُمۡ مَّنۡ کَفَرَ ؕ وَ لَوۡ شَآءَ اللّٰہُ مَا اقۡتَتَلُوۡا ۟ وَ لٰکِنَّ اللّٰہَ یَفۡعَلُ مَا یُرِیۡدُ ﴿۲۵۳﴾٪

As this is the month of Muharram, the topic of my khutba is respect for Imam Husain, and I have extended it to include all the other righteous ones who served Islam in its history, made sacrifices for it and made it flourish. The verse which I have recited occurs in chapter 2 of the Quran after it had mentioned in earlier verses the coming of prophets among the Israelites. This verse tells us that their prophets were of different ranks. Some had much greater missions before them, and they are better known in religious history, while others had more limited missions and are not well-known. Muslims are instructed in this same chapter, more than once, to declare that they believe in all these prophets and messengers without making any distinction between them. In v. 136 Muslims are told to declare that they believe not only in what has been revealed to them through the Holy Prophet Muhammad but also what was revealed to the great prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and more generally: “what was given to the prophets from their Lord; we make no distinction between any of them”.


The verse which I recited also tells us that after the coming of these messengers, their people fought among themselves and disagreed, despite having been given through those messengers the clear teachings which could have been used to settle those differences. Some of them are believers in the messages brought by the messengers while others deny those messages. Of course, denial here includes denial in practice, where a group still claims to accept the message but acts against it. But the verse says, twice, that it is the law of God that such differences and conflicts arise.


It is indicated in the Quran, and more explicitly in Hadith, that among Muslims there would arise saints and righteous persons in the same manner as prophets arose among the Israelites. Moreover, the behaviour of Muslims towards their saints and holy figures would be similar to the behaviour of the Israelites towards their prophets. The Quran says: “Certainly We made a covenant with the Children of Israel and We sent to them messengers. Whenever a messenger came to them with what their souls did not desire, some (of them) they called liars and some they (even) sought to kill” (5:70). This was confirmed by Jesus in the Gospels when he said to the Israelites: “you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you” (Matthew, ch. 23, v. 37). Just before this, he said to them: “You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets” (Matthew, ch. 23, v. 29–31).


Israelite history was repeated in Muslim history. There is a long list of the saints and righteous ones of the Muslims who were persecuted and in many cases killed by the Muslim rulers of their times, while the general Muslim population at the time did little to save them. But centuries later, they build grand monuments to them. A most prominent example is the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s maternal grandson, Imam Husain. He saw that an unrighteous man, Yazid, had become khalifa, after Yazid’s father Mu‘awiya, and this was because of pre-planning by Mu‘awiya to make sure that his son succeeded him. Imam Husain refused to submit to Yazid’s rule and to acknowledge him as khalifa. He rose up against Yazid but he had very few followers. He and his followers were brutally murdered by armies sent by Yazid. The general Muslim population was either too frightened to help them or they wanted to get the favour of the rulers. This happened about fifty years after the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s death on the tenth of the Muslim month of Muharram.


Almost the entire Muslim world recognises the sacrifice made by Imam Husain and his accompanying followers. Our Shiah fellow-Muslims attach a much greater significance to this event from the point of view of their own beliefs. They accord a special status to the descendants of the Holy Prophet and regard Imam Husain as the third Imam and successor of the Holy Prophet. According to them, Ali, the father of Imam Husain was the first Imam, and Hasan, the older brother of Imam Husain, was the second Imam. Sunni Muslims, and Ahmadis are a part of the Sunni branch of Islam, believe that being a descendant of the Holy Prophet does not by itself confer any spiritual merit on such a person. The Shiah commemoration of the tenth of Muharram is well-known. It consists of mourning rituals which, in our view, are not a part of Islam. It is sufficient for us to point this out, but we do not issue condem­nations against other Muslims.


There have been some elements in the Sunni Muslim world who have regarded Imam Husain as a rebel against a lawful and legal Muslim government. During the time of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, he once learnt that some of his followers had made a statement of this kind. He immediately published a statement addressed to his Jama‘at which begins as follows:

“Let it be known that I have learnt from a postcard sent by someone that certain foolish men who describe themselves as belonging to my Jama‘at say about Hazrat Imam Husain, may Allah be pleased with him, that, God forbid, because he did not enter into the bai‘at (pledge of acceptance) of the khalifa of the time, namely, Yazid, therefore Husain was a rebel and Yazid was right and true. ‘May the curse of Allah be on the liars.’ I do not expect that such evil words would come from the lips of any righteous person from my Jama‘at.” (Majmua Ishtiharat, 2019 edition, vol. 3, p. 374)


Hazrat Mirza sahib then goes on to say that since the Shiahs have also made him a target of their attacks and abuse, it is possible that a foolish person from among his followers had responded to such an attack against him and said something senseless in reply to a senseless accusation. He then writes:

“In any case, I inform my Jama‘at by this notice that we believe that Yazid was of an impure nature, bent low upon this world, and unjust. The sense in which a person can be called a believer, such a meaning did not apply to him. ...  Believers are those whose actions testify to their faith, whose faith is written into their hearts, who give preference to God and His pleasure above everything else … they are absorbed in love for God, and if anything becomes an obstacle in the way to God they go as far from it as possible, whether it is bad morals, bad deeds, or negligence and slackness (in obeying God). The wretched Yazid never had these qualities. He was blinded by love for this material world. Imam Husain, on the other hand, was perfectly pure, and is without doubt one of those eminent persons whom God purifies by His own hand, and fills with His love, and no doubt he is one of the leaders of the dwellers of paradise. To bear the least ill-will towards him causes a person to damage his own faith. The righteousness, love of God, patience, steadfast­ness, piety and worship of God which this Imam displayed is an excellent example for us, and we are followers of the guidance granted to that innocent one. Destroyed will be the heart which is opposed to Imam Husain, and successful will be the heart which shows love for him in practical terms. …”


“Such persons (as Imam Husain) are not recognised by the world. None knows their value but he who is one of them. Those who look with worldly eyes cannot see them because they are very remote from this world. This was the reason why Husain had to face martyrdom, because he was not recognised. The world did not love any righteous and venerable person during his life, so we cannot expect that Husain should have been loved. It is among the worst kind of spiritual misfortune and lack of faith to denigrate Husain, may Allah be pleased with him. The person who denigrates Husain or any other righteous figure among the past elders of Islam, or speaks a disrespectful comment about him, wastes his faith because Allah the Glorious becomes the enemy of that person who is an enemy of Allah’s righteous and beloved ones.”


It is sometimes alleged that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad or his followers look down upon the great servants of Islam who arose in the history of Islam before his time. It is alleged that we neglect their services to Islam in order to give prominence to the work done by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. This allegation is false, as you can see from his views and exhortations to his followers which I have been quoting above. He regarded himself as included in the category of the great, Divinely-inspired saints who had been arising throughout the history of Islam, he praised them highly and he followed in their footsteps.


The Holy Prophet Muhammad taught Muslims to believe in and respect and honour the prophets who arose before him and to regard him as a member of that brotherhood of prophets. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad taught his own community of followers to respect and honour the saints of Islam who arose before him and to regard him as a member of that brotherhood of servants of Islam.


So may Allah enable us to act on such broadminded teachings of Islam and of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. — Ameen.