The beginning of Zilhajj marks a very busy period for mumineen, with masses traveling to complete their obligatory pilgrimage. The 6th of Zilhajj also marks the martyrdom of our fifth beloved Imam, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as).
Aside from being an open book, the life of our fifth Imam is a period of transition for the Aimmah. As a three-year-old Imam Baqir (as) was art of the envoy that survived in Kerbala. Under the guise of his father, he saw the hardships from the day Ashura to the travesty in Damascus. After so much hardship, he grew up to spread the message of the Prophet extensively and was popularly known as al-Baqir (the splitter of knowledge). Interestingly, his title was also derived from the fact that his continuous prostration had resulted in him having a “split” in his forehead.
Imam Baqir (as) lived under five different rulers, and took advantage of the continuous shuffling in leadership to extend his message. He dispersed the seeds of the Jafari school of thought, which were further cemented by his son.
Under the Rule of Umar bin Abdul Aziz
Umar bin Abdul Aziz became Caliph in the year 99 AH, and unlike the other four rulers – sought constant advice from our fifth Imam. After becoming Khalifa Umar invited Imam to his court and asked him for some advice. Imam said the following:
“ 1. Do not ever celebrate any occasion with excessive happiness which makes you forget ‘halal’ & ‘haraam’.
2. Never lose yourself in anger so that you forget ‘halal’ & ‘haraam’.
3 Never take away (usurp) anyone’s property.”
As a result of this, Umar bin Abdul Aziz returned the much-disputed garden of Fadak back to the Imam. It was also under the rule of Umar that discontinued the cursing of Imam Ali (as) inside mosques.
The story struck a chord somewhere. Aside from the fact that the material world provides us with more excuses for mood swings, and ways to justify what is allowed and not allowed – we tend to pick what we want. Islam comes as a complete package deal, you may not understand all the principles and rules, but submitting to the will of Allah (swt) is the primary objective – hence why the word Islam means submission. Of course, objecting and questioning is the best way forward, but don’t let that be an excuse to do something that is outside the bounds of Islam.
Take for example the chronic marriages taking place recently. Alhamdulillah, with the grace and blessings of Allah (swt) people are choosing marriage over other means to meet their needs. Being pragmatic about the process of marriage and concluding that the end goal is better and using that, as a means to justify all that is haram within the process of marriage will not make things better. The end does not justify the means.
In a conversation with a friend, not too long after Eid ul-Fitr, I was even more alarmed with how we have let culture determine our spiritual growth, and how we have become so pragmatic about what is right and what is wrong. After telling me that he was the best individual in the month of Ramadhan, with his continuous fasting and prayers, he told me that he missed some of his obligatory prayers on the day of Eid. After temporarily being angered at him, I gave him a chance to explain. “It was just a busy day, we had to go to peoples’ places, and even when I met with my friends, none of us felt like praying”, he said. After having butchered my heart, he was now shredding it. I didn’t have words. The whole point of the month of Ramadhan is to use it as a building block, to get a few steps closer to Allah (swt).
The first group of individuals, of which there are but a few, choose to follow the rules as much as possible – with questions and objections. The second choose to justify the “bending of rules”, whereas the third are generally apathetic. The best thing to do is to differentiate needs from wants. Then, within both categories, determine what is allowed and not allowed – by your school of thought, or your Marja-e-Taqlid. And then act upon it.
1400 years ago, the Prophet Muhammad (saww) informed us via the Qur’an:
“ This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”
(Sura Maidah, verse 3)