Address to the World Ahlul-Bayt League
Discourse by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
From the Nuradeen Magazine Vol. 3, No. 3 -- Fall/Winter 1983
Man is born in order to
recognize his Creator, the Singular One, the Unique, the
We are gathered today,
united by two opposing factors. One is our desire to do right action
in this life in preparation for the next, and the other is to
benefit from each others' experiences in order to avoid wrong
action. Life hinges on the two opposites:
"Call to good
action and prohibit wrong action."
We cannot perform one without also performing the other.
I would like to quote
from Imam Rida, upon him be peace, who quoted form the Prophet,
peace and blessings be upon him and his family:
"O Slave of Allah,
love in Allah, hate in Allah, take on a friend in Allah and take an
enemy in Allah, for one will not attain a nearness to Allah except
through this, nor will a man discover the taste of Iman, in
spite of his many prayers and fasts, until he becomes like this.
Most of the brotherhood of the people in these days is tied to the
world. They love each other for the world, they hate each other for
the world, and that will bring them nothing before Allah."
The time of Imam Rida is
no different than the time we are living in today. No age is
different than any other age. What we witness and experience today
is the same as that which has gone before, and those who come after
us will also experience the same though the scene, background and
events may differ. There will always exist trial and affliction in
order to purify us in our purpose and our direction in this short
life. Problems and afflictions are brought in front of us to test
and educate us in choosing the correct path. That choice is the key
to tarbiya, (correct upbringing), which is the blessing of
Allah in drawing us closer to His knowledge. The bumpier and more
difficult the path, the greater the chance of discovery and
awakening to a more efficient and correct way of travel.
In the Name of
Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent... Whatever affliction has come
upon you is from your own hands. (42:30)
And he who
deviates or does away with the remembrance of the Merciful, we will
bring forth to him a shaytan (lower negative tendencies) who
will be his friend. (43 :36)
Many of us who call
ourselves Muslim have fallen unaware into the web of shaytan.
Do not be like
those who have forgotten Allah and He made them forget themselves.
Many of our offspring
and children are not faithful to the true path of Original Islam
because their parents are not adhering fully to the Deen
(path; life-transaction) which they had inherited.
Do you order
people to do righteous action and forget yourselves? (2:44)
The afflictions we share
in common are the lack of a Dar al-Islam and the life as a foreigner
in a new land. This includes some of us who live as strangers even
in our homeland. This is what has brought us together here at the
World Ahl ul-Bayt League in London.
The blessed Prophet was
"Who are the
members of your household?"
"Every pious one
is a member of my household."
What unites us is our
love of the Ahl aI-Bayt whose lives are examples to emulate
and imitate in this short tumultuous life.
The direction the Ahlul-Bayt
took was towards the knowledge of Allah, the knowledge of Reality
and truth. By their fear of Allah, they were led to abandon anything
other than what took them in that direction. Their lives were
motivated by the love of knowledge of Allah and the abandonment and
avoidance of ignorance, desires and attachments. The following
tradition is attributed to Imam Husayn:
"I left the whole
of creation in my love for You and I orphaned my family so that I
may see You. And even if I am cut to pieces in this love, my heart
will not sway to anyone but You."
He also said:
"And how I wish
that what is between You and me is in a good state, and what is
between me and the rest of creation is in ruins."
If our affairs with
Allah are in order, what does it matter what our relationships are
We are united in order
to discover the cause of existence and to correct the direction we
are taking in our return to Allah. We have come from Allah, we are
sustained by Allah and we are on our way back to Allah. Our Imam
Ali, peace be upon him, said:
"If you do not
know from where you have come, you do not know to where you are
Many of us who are
afflicted by deviation and by the corruption and decadence of the
West, or equally, of the East, are presently in this state of
confusion, ignorance and anger, because we have again failed to
follow in the footsteps of Imam Ali, when he said:
"If you sit
wherever you wish when you are young, you will sit where it is
despicable when you are grown."
This is the fate of many
of us. We have taken life too easily and not taken our Deen
seriously enough. We have not taken on the tarbiya Islamiya
(Islamic upbringing) fully. Our early compromises have led us to a
point where we suddenly find ourselves miles away from what we
originally inherited. Therefore, what we inherited we did not
deserve, for if we had, its value would have been recognized and
Again, to quote a
tradition that has been attributed to Imam Ali:
"That we are
afflicted in our time is not strange. What is strange is that there
is any peace and safety at all."
He further said:
"Beauty is not by
the clothing which adorns us, beauty is by reason and courtesy."
Most of us attempt to hide our transgressions and faults by
hypocritical outer courtesy or by superficiality of language,
thereby trying to solicit respect through outer means. A person
whose inner qualities are deficient cannot disguise it with the
skills of a good tailor.
"The orphan is not
he whose father is dead. The orphan is he who is devoid of reason
From this point of view, most of us are orphaned.
I would like to refer to
a specific situation, one in which I am in gratitude to my Creator
to be afflicted with, and that is to have been uprooted from my
homeland in the East where my sentiments lie. However, I am content
with the decree of Allah to be wherever He puts me.
As the arena of my work
and life has been primarily in the United States of America, I would
like to describe the environment of our struggle and jihad
(striving) and present a brief rundown on the American scene which
is regarded as the leading current in the direction in which the
rest of the world is heading.
The so-called American
culture is not worth being attacked. It has reached a state of
decadence and amorality in which all that remains is an outer shell.
The original settlers of America gathered as a result of affliction
and unfulfilled aspiration in their own countries and planted roots
in a new land in order to create a free society in which people
could function in friendship and tolerance, upholding the values of
truth and freedom.
What we find today,
however, is a situation which is far removed from its original
objectives which are being submerged under a rising wave of social
disruption and crime on a national scale in which the crime rate is
nearly tripled every decade. I do not intend to present a picture
that is merely descriptive, but I am quoting from the latest United
States Government Bureau of Statistics figures.
The number of violent
crimes in the United States, which includes murder, rape and robbery
in 1960 numbered 2,000,000. A decade later, the figure nearly
tripled and by 1980 the incidence of violent crimes reached a total
The number of cases of
rape in 1960, as reported to the police, was 17,000. 20 years later
in 1980, the number reached 71,000, more than four times as many
incidents and these figures are conservative as a large number of
victims do not usually report such crimes. One Justice Department
survey claims that for every woman who reported a rape to the
police, perhaps nine or maybe 25 did not. Further, it is estimated
that in the City of Los Angeles, which can be regarded as an
indicator of the trend to be found in large American cities, one out
of every three female adults is expected to be raped at least once
in her lifetime.
The basic unit which
binds any society together is the family, and the home is meant to
be its haven, a warm and safe place. Violence committed there is a
special betrayal, an indicator of a society ill at its core, which
is reflected in the increasing rate of divorce, broken homes and
The number of divorces
in the United States increased by nearly three times within a span
of just 20 years, from 393,000 divorces in 1960 to 1,100,000 in
1980. That same year, well over 600,000 illegitimate children
were allowed to be born, which represented more than
17% of all births that year. It is said that 2 million women are
beaten annually by their husbands, and other authorities put the
figure at nearly 6 million. In America, there is no place so violent
as home. About half of all rapes occur there.
The worst thing about family violence is its natural reproduction of
itself. Most rapists were preyed upon sexually as children; most
violent criminals were raised in violent homes. Studies of prison
populations show that upwards of 90% of all inmates claim to have
been abused as children.
In 1976, the American Human Association found that 413,000 cases of
child abuse had been reported to state and local authorities. By
1981, the count had doubled to 851,000. In 1982, it climbed by 12%.
It is estimated that only 10% to 25% of all cases of child abuse are
Yet, we see at the same time, that the life expectancy rate in
America has increased from 53 years in 1920, to 70 years in 1979,
thereby increasing the number of years people live in an environment
that offers a lower quality of life. Greater quantity, less quality.
This is the basis of a so-called advanced society.
We also see that the number of higher educational institutes, such
as colleges and universities, has more than doubled within a period
of 20 years. We can draw our own conclusion. In the system of kufr,
the level of higher education has not contributed to the stability
and order of the individual nor the society.
In 1950, there were 221,000 lawyers in America
-- to keep us from
cutting each other's throats. By 1980, the figure doubled and 3
years later, increased to three-quarters of a million lawyers in the
country. Crime is still on the rise and the American system of
justice has not succeeded in deterring its accelerating rate.
The rate of alcoholism and drug consumption among young adults is
increasing. In 1979, 76% of the total population of young adults
were alcohol consumers.
In 1980, 98% of all American households owned one or more television
sets; their children hardly receive any attention anymore. They are
parked all day at kiddies' depots, as these day-care centers are
called, reflecting the car culture of American.
I am simply highlighting the current picture of the American society
to illustrate that the basic fabric of the system of kufr is
unraveling at the seams; yet we find that many people and many
countries, although they may denounce the United States, are taking
on the American way. Although we see people in many countries
demonstrating against the United States because they know that the
system of the carrot-and-the-stick, the system of kufr, is the cause
of their human suffering, we also see them imitating the West and
wanting to be a three-car-family.
We find today cities in the Middle East are broken up, destroying a
way of life where families lived next to each other in neighborly
concern, where in the bazaar, if a man were absent from his shop,
everyone would know and inquire after him. Instead, we are imitating
America by constructing impersonal shopping malls and allowing
cities to expand and deteriorate into metropolises such as Los
Angeles. If we are to continue in this direction, no matter how
fervently we denounce the system of kufr or uphold Islam and
the love of the Ahl ul-Bayt, what is afflicting the people of
kufr will invariably afflict us.
I have given a very
broad brush treatment of the situation that exists in the West and
in the rest of the world in order to relate it to our own situation.
The pervasive influence of kufr will permeate every land
unless we make from the situation in which we now find ourselves a
Kerbala, a Qum or a Najaf, whether we decide to work collectively or
as individual beings.
The first Muslims to
arrive in the United States were probably slaves who were brought
there from Africa. Later, there followed small groups of immigrants
from Lebanon, the Middle East and the subcontinent, arriving early
in this century.
Following upon this
early immigration was the advent of the Orientalists and proponents
of Islamic Studies. The Orientalists who set out to teach us our
Islam, were primarily outsiders whose interests were intellectual,
academic or just romantic curiosity. They conducted their studies
without entering into the practical arena itself. Thus, the majority
of their works border on the periphery of knowledge, devoid of the
true knowledge of Islam. It would be difficult to name one of their
works that come from the original source of knowledge.
Our educated young
people and modernists are the offspring of Orientalism, caught
unaware by the wave of Islamic scholarship that has engulfed our
present age. The Orientalists may have had the best of intentions,
nonetheless, what followed in their wake was a new generation of a
glossy, chrome-plated version of the educated modernist, robbed of
his culture and alienated from his roots.
Gharib, in Arabic
means "strange." Gharb means "the West." Tagharabat
gharabatahum means "it became both strange and Western to them."
Tagharabu fi'l-gharaba I-Islamiya means both "they went far,
and they went West, in their Islamic culture."
From World War II to the
present day, increasing numbers of Muslims born into Islam from
Africa, the Middle East and the Far East have been arriving in
America and the West. It is estimated that there are between 2 to 5
million such Muslims in the United States. There are no accurate
statistics available and we do not know with certainty where they
reside, their ethnic origins nor the strength or weakness of their
adherence to Islam. Many are in the United States for varying
lengths of time as professional trainees in business or government.
Others are here as students or to earn a better livelihood.
Yet the fact remains
that in the United States there is not a single residential area
where you will find a group of Muslims living together as a
community. There is not, to my knowledge, any dozen families of
Muslims who live next door to each other as neighbors. Even in
London people from the subcontinent and elsewhere, such as
Bangladesh, live together to create a community among themselves.
Although these communities may have originally gathered around the
central point of a halal grocery store or a mosque, observing only
the outer rituals of Islam and although the situation may have
gradually deteriorated to the point of acquiring a highly Western
flavor, nevertheless they still benefit from the Islamic sentiment
of neighborly concern and brotherhood.
Another large group of
Muslims in America are new converts. Many are black Muslims who come
to Islam from black nationalist beginnings. Today, the largest
movement of organized American converts is called the American
Muslim Mission. It has taken on the orthodox teachings of Islam and
is attempting to educate its wives and children and to establish the
economic base within its organization. Nevertheless, the American
Muslim Mission remains predominantly a black movement, although it
has the potential of transcending its nationalistic origins and
evolving dynamically into an Islam for Americans by Americans.
There are a smaller
number of indigenous American Muslims from mixed ethnic backgrounds
who have come to Islam through a genuine search for the truth and
desire to know Reality, having suffered from the deteriorating moral
situation that exists in the West and having been dissatisfied with
Our particular interest
and work in America has been with these new converts, both black and
white, who are seriously interested in living and applying their
Islam. Thus, our work concentrates on those who can become beacons
of a living Islam and Sufism.
Since the Islamic
Revolution in Iran a few years ago, there has been an awakening in
America among those who were born into Islam, primarily from
professional and middle class backgrounds. They have begun to
realize that their children's behavior, expectations and adab
(courtesies; manners) are very different than their own. They are
taking a fresh look at their birthright and are beginning to revive
their Islamic heritage.
This revival contrasts
with the earlier immigration of Muslims of two or three decades ago.
Those earlier immigrants are now in their fifties and sixties. They
went out of their way to hide their Islam by any means, even by
Westernizing their names. These people are under the malaise of 3D;
afflicted by the triple disease of dispersed, dispirited and
decadent. Dispersed is the natural outcome of their original
intention behind their migration of America. Those who came to the
United States with the expressed purpose of living their Islam,
spreading and teaching it by the proof of themselves, can be counted
on one hand. The others are either gaining or suffering as a result
of their intentions. Only recently are some of them beginning to
review their situation and hopefully, to question their intentions
in order to hasten with new action to overcome what they had
invested in erroneously. Dispersed because of their lack of guidance
and adherence to teachers, leaders or Imams.
Dispirited because they
are not traveling along the path of knowledge of Allah, deriving the
spiritual nourishment of inner tranquility and joy that the ordinary
Muslim peasant enjoys, to compensate for giving up the nourishment
of kufr. So they are deprived of the kafir pleasures
and not yet reaping the mu'min's joy.
Decadent because anyone
who lives with a people for 40 days is one of them, living in a
society which is continually in decline because there is no
spiritual revival to uplift it. This is the malaise facing these
Muslims in the midst of kufr.
The great majority of
Muslim students in America have been organized and fall into the
category of "official Islam." In the past, many of them produced
interesting publications and sponsored gatherings and other
worthwhile activities. However, at the present time, these
organizations are bureaucratic and strongly bound to the official
Islamic circles of Saudi Arabia and its kind, having to be very good
at producing statistics to show their paymasters regular progress in
order to insure continued supplies and funds.
The United States
Government is itself one of the best propagators of Islam, mainly
through its prison system. It is very difficult for the average
person to stop and reflect upon the lack of spirituality in his life
and begin to learn the path of truth. However, the penal system is
now inadvertently producing quite a sizable number of individuals
who are embracing Islam while in prison. Most prisons accept their
religious commitment and find that many of these inmates' behavior
improved, their discipline better and their character more reliable
and honest. As a result, the U.S. Prison System has officially
recognized the observance of Ramadan and is making other concessions
such as keeping prayer time and providing halal food to the Muslim
There is a great
potential for da`wah in the West. Because of the action of
the system of kufr which obtains ownership of people's lives
by the subtle means of the banking and credit system, many have been
forced to seek an alternative way of life and behavior. Having been
swept to the edge of the system, bruised and damaged
psychologically, materially or otherwise, they are no longer
considered normal by the system. Such people, as converts, must
first be rehabilitated, nourished by the teachings of the path,
strengthened and re-established on their feet then taught to
function again within the system -- not by resentment or rebellion
but by the use of the 'aql and wisdom to deal with the system
in safety, humanity and tolerance.
Through the glory of
Islam and by submission to Allah, they know where the boundaries lie
and keep within them. This I consider to be one of the key
challenges facing spiritual leaders in America.
At our center in San
Antonio, we hold annual gatherings, pitched under the broad tent of
'Irfan and Sufism. It is here that we have based our
spiritual foundation, Zahra Trust with its many modules, as a
vehicle for our work and activities.
Our center, which is
called Bayt ud-Deen, is the home of the American Institute of
Qur`anic Studies. The Institute offers yearly courses in Qur`an,
Hadith, Sirah, Islamic History and the Arabic language, using
the traditional methods of instruction as practiced by the Ahl
al-Bayt with particular attention to various Sufi schools. The
Institute has welcomed scholars and students from different parts of
the world and many prominent 'ulama, Qur`an reciters, Arabic
teachers and Sufi masters have graced the Madrasah with their
visits over the recent years.
Looking ahead in time,
Islamic communities and enclaves in the West cannot exist unless
they have a sound healthy economic base, depending on themselves as
much as possible, cooperating with each other and handling their
transactions with the system around them in a manner that is least
harmful and damaging. The ideal is to create small havens in which
Muslims live and work together, where women are protected and
children are taught. Many of today's Islamic educational schools are
nothing other than the system of kufr taught by teachers who
have Muslim names. What is the use of trying to instill the noble
qualities of character and a strong Deen in our children if
they are spending the rest of the day watching television? Today,
one cannot avoid seeing television but we must impose limits and
educate our children with discrimination in the use of the resources
of the media.
This is the first
Conference of the World Ahl ul-Bayt League ever held in
Europe. This gathering of scholars and teachers is an indication,
heralding the advent of the pure teaching in the West. It is also
true in America that the voice of the Ahl ul-Bayt is only now
If Allah wills, we can
benefit from each others' experiences and support each other.
Insha`llah, we can do our jihad (striving) in the way of Allah
for our own sake so that we do not fall into the web of Shaytan
which is very subtle and clever.
May Allah give us the
opportunity of serving the One and Only Creator on the path of
Islam. May Allah give us the opportunity of being amongst the
mujahideen (those who are striving), wherever they may be. May
Allah give us the delights of the Garden in this life.