Imam al-Husayn's (a) Sermon in Mina

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Imām al-Ḥusayn's (a) Sermon in Minā is a fiery and critical khutba (sermon) by Imam al-Husayn (a) in 58/678, two years before Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan's death, against the deviations of the Umayyad government from the right path. The significance of such a sermon in Mina during the hajj period was because of its disclosures against Mu'awiya's government. The sermon was delivered to Sahaba and Tabi'un and some scholars take it to be evidence that Imam al-Husayn (a) already had plan for his uprising. The first part of Imam al-Husayn's (a) sermon in Mina was cited by Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali in his book, and the second and the third parts were cited by Hasan b. Shu'ba al-Harrani in Tuhaf al-'uqul and al-'Allama al-Majlisi in Bihar al-anwar.

Content of the Sermon

Here are some headlines of Imam al-Husayn's (a) sermon in Mina:

  • Reminding religious scholars of their duty to rise against the cruel rulers.
  • The scholars' quietism with respect to the cruel rulers and the threats of ignoring the divine duty to rise against them.

Here are some issues about which Imam al-Husayn (a) talked in this sermon: verses of the Qur'an as well as hadiths regarding the virtues of Ahl al-Bayt (a), especially Imam Ali (a); the story of Sadd al-Abwab (Closing the Doors); the Event of Ghadir Khumm; Mubahala; the Conquest of Khaybar by Imam Ali (a); Hadith al-Thaqalayn; the obligation of scholars to resist cruel rulers; enjoining the good and forbidding the wrong; the reconciliation of the elders with cruel rulers and their failure to resist the violation of the pact of God and His Prophet (s); reproaching the attachment to this world; and deceptions of the rulers.

At the end of the sermon, Imam al-Husayn (a) says: "O God! You know that everything we did was not prompted by the competition for the power, nor for a search for the worthless wealth of this world; rather it was done to demonstrate to men the shining principles and values of Your religion, to reform the affairs of Your land, to protect and secure the indisputable rights of Your oppressed servants, and to act in accordance with the duties, traditions, and ordinances You have decreed."

Sources of the Sermon

Since the sermon consisted of three independent parts, many scholars of hadith and history have only cited part of it that they were concerned with. Some have only cited one sentence or just referred to the content of the sermon; for example:

1. Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali (d. 76 or 90/ 695-6 or 709-10) only cites the first part of the sermon; he also mentions the date and the location of the sermon.

2. Hasan b. Shu'ba al-Harrani—a scholar of hadith in the fourth/10th century — cites in his Tuhaf al-'uqul—only the second and the third parts of the sermon. In his Bihar al-anwar, al-'Allama al-Majlisi cites what is cited in Tuhaf al-'uqul.

3. Ahmad b. Ali al-Tabrisi (d. 588/1192-3) refers to the motivation of this sermon as being the injustice of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan and cites a short summary of its content. The sermon was delivered two years before Mu'awiya's death in Mina and the audience was over one thousand religious characters of the time.

Doubts About the Continuity of the Sermon

Some scholars believe that the sermon cited in Tuhaf al-'uqul is a different sermon that was delivered by Imam al-Husayn (a) in another year. The evidence for this view is taken to be the content of the two sermons and their different audiences.

Historical Background of the Sermon

Imam al-Husayn (a) delivered the sermon in 58/678, two years before Mu'awiya's death, in Mina. Mu'awiya had escalated his pressures on Shi'as and oppressed his political opponents. In order to uncover Imam al-Husayn (a)'s motivation for delivering the sermon and the circumstances under which it was delivered, Sulaym b. Qays refers to the consequences of four official letters of Mu'awiya to his agents and staff.

According to Sulaym b. Qays, in the first letter, Mu'awiya announced that he would not support people who cite the virtues of Imam Ali (a) and his household. He also ordered that testimonies of Shi'as should not be accepted and to give allowances to anyone who cites the virtues of 'Uthman. In the second letter, Mu'awiya ordered people to cite hadiths concerning the virtues of the Sahaba and the first two caliphs, Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa and 'Umar b. al-Khattab similar to the virtues of Imam Ali (a). He said that this would delight him and humiliate Imam Ali (a).

In the third letter, Mu'awiya told people to find whoever showed a little advocacy of Imam Ali (a) and his household, remove them from the book of salaries and allowances, and cut their shares from the treasury (bayt al-mal). And in the fourth letter, he told people to put advocates of Imam Ali (a) under a lot of pressure and destroy their houses.

Significance

According to Muhammad Sadiq Najmi, what is important about the sermon, besides its content, is its time, location, and audience: prominent Muslim figures, elite men and women from Banu Hashim, about 200 people from Ansar and Muhajirun who were the companions of the Prophet (s), and about 800 people from Sahaba's children (and people who had met the Sahaba), that is, Tabi'un.

The sermon was an enclosure of Mu'awiya's deviations and a preliminary for the Event of Karbala. With this sermon addressed to such a large audience, Imam al-Husayn (a) propagated his message to different Islamic lands.

Text

According to Sulaym b. Qays, one year before Mu'awiya's death, Husayn b. Ali (a), 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas and 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far went to hajj. Imam al-Husayn (a) gathered men and women and friends of Banu Hashim as well as some people from Ansar who knew him and his household. He then sent some people and said: bring to me all the righteous Sahaba who have come to hajj this year.

After the invitation, over 700 people gathered in Mina around Imam al-Husayn's (a) camp; most of them were Tabi'un (people who met the prophet's (s) companions) and about 200 of them were Sahaba. Imam al-Husayn (a) stood up in order to deliver his sermon; after praising God, he said:

First Part of the Sermon

"And then, this rebel [that is, Mu'awiya] did to us and our Shi'as [followers] what you have witnessed. I want to ask you something; if I am right, confirm me, and if I am mistaken, then correct me. I swear you to God, the Prophet (s) and my kinship with him that you propagate my message when you return to your lands and invite those people in your tribes that you trust."

According to another version: "return to your cities and tribes and invite people whom you trust to what you know about us and our right, since I fear that my right obsolesces and fades away: "Allah will complete his light, even though the unbelievers may detest (it)" (the Qur'an, 61:8).

Imam al-Husayn (a) recited and interpreted all Qur'anic verses concerning Ahl al-Bayt's (a) virtues as well as what the Prophet (s) had said about his father and mother and his household. The Prophet (s)'s Sahaba verified all these by saying: "yes, we swear to God that we heard these remarks from the Prophet (s) and we testify for that", and Tabi'un said: "we swear to God that we heard these remarks from righteous and trustworthy Sahaba". Then Imam al-Husayn (a) said: "I swear you to God that you convey these remarks to anyone whom you trust". According to Sulaym, Imam swear them to God and asked: Do you know that Ali b. Abi Talib (a) was the Prophet's (s) brother when he (s) made the Pact of Brotherhood between pairs of his Sahaba, he made a pact between Ali (a) and himself by saying to Ali: "you are my brother and I am your brother in this world and the afterlife?" They replied: yes.

He then said: I swear you to God, you know that the Prophet (s) purchased the location of his mosque and houses and built 10 rooms there, 9 rooms for himself and one room in the middle for my father, Ali b. Abi Talib (a), and he then closed all the doors to the mosque except that of my father's room. Some Muslims talked to the Prophet (s) about this and the Prophet (s) said: "I did not close your doors and keep Ali's door open except by the Divine order. Then the Prophet (s) banned sleeping in the mosque except for Ali (a). Now janaba occurred in the mosque, his house and the Prophet's (s) houses and they had children in these houses. People said: yes. Imam al-Husayn (a) said: do you know that 'Umar b. al-Khattab liked to open a small window, the size of his eye, from his house to the mosque, but the Prophet (s) did not allow him to do so saying that: God has commanded me to build a clean mosque in which nobody resides except me and my brother and his children. People confirmed: yes.

Then Imam al-Husayn (a) said: I swear you to God, do you know that the Prophet (s) had appointed Ali (a) for wilaya and told his audience to propagate this message to others? People said: yes, we swear to God. Imam al-Husayn (a) said: I swear you to God, do you know that the Prophet (s) told Imam Ali (a) in the Battle of Tabuk: "you are to me like Aaron (a) to Moses (a), and you are the ruler of every believer after me"? People said: yes, we swear to God. Imam al-Husayn (a) said: I swear you to God, do you know that when the Prophet (s) called Najran's christians for mubahala, he only took with him Ali (a) and his wife, Fatima al-Zahra (a) and their sons, Hasan b. Ali (a) and Husayn b. Ali (a)? They said: yes, we swear to God. He said: I swear you to God, do you know that the Prophet (s) gave the flag to Ali (a) on the Khaybar day, saying that "I give the flag to someone who is loved by God and the Prophet (s) and who loves God and the Prophet (s); who continuously attacks the enemy and never escapes and God conquers the Khaybar fort by his hands? They said: yes, we swear to God.

Imam al-Husayn (a) said: do you know that the Prophet (s) sent Ali (a) for the announcement of Bara'a Verses and said: "nobody announces [this message] except me or someone from me"? They said: yes, we swear to God.

He said: Do you know that the Prophet (s) judged between Ali (a), Ja'far and Zayd and said: "Ali! You are from me and I am from you, and you are the leader of every believer after me." They said: Yes, we swear to God.

Then Imam al-Husayn (a) said: Do you know that Ali (a) had private meetings with the Prophet (s) every day and met him every night in his house, and whenever he asked the Prophet (s) a question, he answered him, and when he did not speak, the Prophet (s) began to talk? They said: yes, we swear to God.

Then Imam al-Husayn (a) said: Do you know that the Prophet (s) preferred Ali to Ja'far and Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib when he told Fatima al-Zahra (a): "I marry you to the best man in my household whose belief in Islam is earlier than all, whose patience is greater than all, and whose knowledge is more than all? They said: Yes, we swear to God.

He then said: Do you know that the Prophet (s) said: "I am the head of all the children of Adam (a) and my brother, Ali (a), is the head of all Arabs, Fatima (a) is the head of all women in the Heaven, and my sons, Hasan and Husayn (a), are the heads of all young people in the Heaven"? The audience said: Yes, we swear to God.

Imam al-Husayn (a) went on: Do you know that the Prophet (s) told Ali (a) to make ghusl of his corpse after his death and told him that angle Gabriel will help him in this? They said: Yes, we swear to God.

He said: Do you know that the Prophet (s) delivered a sermon to people in the last days of his life and said: "I will leave among you two precious things (thaqalayn): the Book of God (the Qur'an) and my kindred ('itra); appeal to them in order not to be misled"? They said: Yes, we swear to God.

Thus Imam al-Husayn (a) cited everything in the Qur'an or the Prophet's (s) words concerning Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and his household and swore his audience, and they confirmed it. Then Imam al-Husayn (a) asked them if they heard the Prophet (s) saying that "everyone who thinks that he loves me but hates Ali (a) is a liar. A person who hates Ali (a) does not love me". Someone asked the Prophet (s): why? He replied: "Because Ali (a) is from me and I am from Ali (a); everyone who loves him loves me too and everyone who loves me loves God. And everyone who hates Ali (a) hates me too and everyone who hates me hates God"? They said: Yes, we swear to God that we have heard this.

Second and Third Parts of the Sermon

People! Learn what God has taught His friends, such as what He said about Jewish scholars: "why do not the rabbis and the scholars of law forbid them from their uttering sinful words" (the Qur'an 5:63) and "curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who rejected faith" (the Qur'an 5:78).

Thus God reproached them, since they witnessed the wrong actions of tyrants among them without prohibiting them out of desire to gain advantages from them or fear of losing what they had, whereas God says: "fear not men, but fear Me" (the Qur'an 5:44) and "the believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil" (the Qur'an 9:71).

God obliged the enjoining of the right and the forbidding of the wrong because He knew that if this is done, then all other religious obligations will be done, since enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong are invitations to Islam, together with returning unfairly gained property (radd al-mazalim), opposing unjust people, distributing the treasury and booties, and consuming zakat for appropriate purposes.

And then you, the powerful group [scholars]! You are a group that is known for knowledge and goodness and benevolence, and by God's help, you are awesome in people's minds. The nobles count on you and the poor honor you, and your peers put you ahead of themselves. You intercede for people's needs when they are denied of seeking them, and you walk on streets like kings and seniors.

Is not all this because people hope that you carry out the God's right? However, you have failed most of His rights and so you have underestimated the rights of Imams and violated the rights of the poor, but you think that you have secured your own rights. You have not spent any money, nor risked you lives for the one who has created it. You have not fought any tribe for the sake of God. Do you hope to go to the Heaven together with the prophets and away from divine tortures?

O' those who have hopes in God! I fear that God inflicts you with retribution because, by God's honors, you have achieved a position by which you are superior to others and you do not respect anyone who is known by God and you see the violation of divine covenants but you are not concerned, whereas you are concerned for the violation of your fathers' pacts. You see that the Prophet's (s) covenant is ignored, and the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the disabled are free in the cities, and you have no mercy. You do nothing to the extent of your positions and you ignore those who try to do so, while you refuge to the flattery and the compromise with the tyrants. This is what God has commanded you: to prevent and mutually prohibit, of which you are ignorant. Your tragedy is greater than that of all people, since you failed to preserve the position of scholars; I wish you understood this.

This is because the execution of affairs and rulings [key decisions] are in the hands of the Divine scholars who are Divine trustees for His halal and haram, but you are robbed of such a position, because you parted from the right and you disputed over the Tradition, whereas there was obvious evidence. And if you were patient despite the troubles and if you tolerated the hardship for the sake of God, Divine affairs would come from you and refer to you. But you put the tyrants in your place and assigned them with the divine affairs, and they act out of suspicions and practice their desires.

They [that is, the tyrants] took over such a position because of your getaway from death and your penchant for life, which will abandon you. Thus you left the poor to their hands; some [of these poor people] are the tyrants' slaves, and some are weakened and defeated in their lives. They manipulate the affairs of the lands by their verdicts and bring about humiliation by their whims, following the villain and rising against God. In every city, they have an orator on a minbar who speaks in their favor. The whole territory is in their hands and people are their slaves who cannot reject any touching hands.

Some of them are tyrants and obstinate, and some are dominant and strict over the poor. They are rulers who do not know God. It is surprising—and why should I not be surprised—that the lands are in the hands of a nefarious phony and a cruel tax collector and a ruler of the believers who has no mercy over them. God adjudicates our disputes and issues His verdict over what we disagree about.

O' God! You know that what we did is not out of competition for the power, nor for the search of the worthless wealth of this world; rather it was done to demonstrate to men the shining principles and values of Your religion, to reform the affairs of Your land, to protect and secure the indisputable rights of Your oppressed servants, and to act in accordance with the duties, traditions and ordinances You have decreed.

And if you [people] do not help us [in this cause], the tyrants will have [more] power over you and will try to extinguish the light of your Prophet (s). God suffices us and in Him we trust and to Him we will return and the return is to Him.

See also

References