SeriesYouth: Life's Manifest Spring

What is Muharram About if Not Reform?

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As we mourn the tragedy that befell Aba Abdillah (as) and his companions, we have a duty to self-reflect and reform ourselves to defeat the Yazidi traits within us. The fact that we love and cry for Imam Husayn (as), hold majalis and visit his shrine, is no guarantee that our actions are not in fact going against the message of Imam Husayn (as).

All the grieving for the sufferings of the AhlulBayt (as) should soften the hearts and increase humane feelings. But why is that not the effect of such actions done in the remembrance of the infalliables observed in our communities?

There are various satanic vices that render our mourning futile and deprive us from its lofty rewards. Amongst these are the sins: backbiting, slander, character assassination, tale-bearing and revealing confidential information about other people’s lives.

The following are some examples of how these major sins are often installed into our journey to Aba Abdillah (as).

On the way to majlis

How often are we in a car of sin while car-pooling to a majlis?

“Do you know she is asking for a divorce?”
“Have you seen her hijab?”
“She ran away from her husband’s home.”
“She doesn’t let him see the baby”

… and the arrows are mercilessly struck at others just to feed one’s own mental and spiritual illnesses. Will our azadari (mourning rituals) be accepted if we contaminate the journey by gossiping, slandering and dissecting other people’s lives?

Speech falling on deaf ears

Just after being reminded of Islamic values through the lecture, sarcastic whispers often surround us.

“Why does she recite if her voice shakes?”
“She sat on a chair as if she’s come to a wedding”
“She is committing haram by…”

Such attention seekers ridicule others behind their back, and some even give out ill-informed and deceitful fatwas on other peoples’ actions, declaring them halal or haram. We forget that Lady Fatima (sa) is in attendance and we are busy ridiculing those dear to her. We forget that such gatherings are cursed by Allah (swt).

Many men gatherings are also polluted in a similar way. Shame, honor and dignity are a thing of the past, as some men not only indulge in gossip, but also shamelessly slander nonmahram women. We cry over Lady Zainab’s hijab being snatched and we cry over the musibat of Imam Sajjad (as) for having witnessed that. Are these brothers not ripping women of their hijab by discussing them in nonmahram gatherings; and others by shamelessly witnessing this without objection?

Why uninstall backbiting, gossip and slander?

Treating the creations of Allah (swt) with respect and protecting their dignity is one of the greatest signs of a true believer. There is no room for hate and enmity in Islam, thus no room for vices like backbiting, gossiping and slander. Such are major sins and are forbidden in Islam.

“Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would detest it, [so similarly, avoid backbiting]. And fear Allah.” [49:12]

Yet, these vile sins are still a huge problem that is poisoning our communities. These sins cause social and moral destruction by sowing and nurturing the seeds of hypocrisy, two-facedness, jealousy and hatred. They cause conflict, hostility and distrust in the society, which is severely disliked by Allah (swt). Such sins are also a cause of sorrow for our Imam (atfs) and our lack of avoiding/condemning these sins adds to the delay in his reappearance.

The gossiper

No matter what a gossiper says about another, or how much they intend to cause harm or seek pleasure in another’s hardship and misfortune, the only person that truly loses, in this world and in the hereafter, is the gossiper him/herself. Because the Holy Qur’an promises: “Allah is the Protector of those who have faith” [2:257].

The Prophet (saw) said: ‘Whoever backbites a fellow Muslim man or woman, Allah neither accepts his prayer nor his fasting for forty days and nights, until and unless the victim of his backbiting forgives him.’ ([Biharul Anwar, V. 75, P258, No. 53)

Prophet (saw) also explains: ‘On the night that I was taken on my Night-Journey [to the heavens], I passed by a group of people scratching their own faces with their nails, so I asked, ‘O Gabriel, who are these people?’ so he replied, ‘These are people who backbit about other people and disparaged their reputations.’ (Tanbih Al-Khawatir V1, P115)

The desire to seek out faults in others and defame them is also a mental and a spiritual disease, which eventually becomes a cause of humiliation for the culprit and exposes to the public a reflection of their true character; of one who is untrustworthy.

Therefore, Imam Ali (as) warns: “I warn you of keeping relations from people who look for faults in others, since surely there is not a single person who will be safe from such people.” (Ghurur al-Hikm, P148)

Listeners of gossip; equally responsible

Prophet (saw) said: “The one who listens to back biting is of those who do backbiting.” (Mustadrak al-Wasail) and he states: “When someone hears the backbiting of his Muslim brother committed in his presence, yet he does not rally to his assistance despite being capable of doing so, God shall humiliate him in the world and in the Hereafter.” (Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, viii, hadith no. 16336)

If we don’t stop social corruption today, what will we do when the Imam of our time returns? Will we be like the people of Kufa, who abandoned the Imam of their time, allowed social corruption and therefore, harm to the Imam?

Our duty

We have a duty to fight the evil within ourselves and within our ‘civilized’ societies, by avoiding and condemning such sins.

If we have been guilty of these ugly acts, we should feel sincere shame and remorse, repent to Allah (swt) and seek the forgiveness of the victim. The Prophet (saw) has said: “Beware of backbiting, for backbiting is graver than adultery. That is because when a man commits adultery and then repents to God, God accepts his repentance. However, backbiting is not forgiven until forgiven by its victim.” (Wasail al-Shia)

We pray to Allah (swt) to protect us from using our tongue to light fires of hatred and sin, and guide us to use it to nurture speech that builds faith, character and intelligence.

May we start our reformation process this Muharram, in order to increase our marifat of Imam (as) and his message, and protect our mourning from being tainted with sin.

Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Youth: Life’s Manifest Spring” column by guest contributors and our editorial staff. The column will focus on issues relevant to youth, approximately between the ages of 16 and 35. If you are interested in contributing a relevant piece, please review our submission guidelines here to be eligible to submit. For past articles in the column see here.

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Sarah Mahmood

Sarah Mahmood is currently completing a Masters in Law. Upon completion, she aspires to work in policy reform to ensure better representation and in order to aid the eradication of underlying issues with the law. She also actively volunteers in community centres and its various sub-committees.

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