Address to the World Ahlul-Bayt League
Discourse by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

From: Nuradeen Magazine

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 Everlasting.

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. (59:19)

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 asked, "Who are the members of your household?" He answered, "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 with other-than-Him?

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 going."

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 hence, preserved.

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 and courtesy." 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 of 13,300,000.

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 family crime.

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 reported.

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 other religions.

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 inmates.

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 being heard.

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.