Friday, July 25, 2008

The Holy Quran and Religion in the Last Era

Islam is the religion chosen by Allah. The Holy Quran is the book revealed by Allah which will continue to guide those who fear Him and those that guard against evil till the Day of Judgment. The Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.) - the last and final prophet was sent by Allah with the station of messengership for the propagation of Islam. Allah appointed twelve protectors; one followed by another, and granted them authority and raised them to the distinguished position of Imamat after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) for the protection of Islam and His Book. He granted a long life to the twelfth Imam (a.t.f.s.) and concealed him through occultation, thus completing His Proof upon the people. He also promised that at an appointed hour He would cause the last Imam (a.t.f.s.) to reappear and through him, fill the earth with justice and equality just as it would be rife with injustice and inequality. Leaving aside absurd arguments, in the light of reasoning and the narrations, is there any Muslim who can deny these truthful statements and reject them? Does he have an option but to accept these statements from the depth of his heart? Allah, in His infinite Wisdom, established all facilities for the protection of the religion of Islam and clearly illuminated the path of guidance for the entire humanity. The seed of Islam, with its inherent strength, softened the barren land; strengthened its roots; and spread across the world. Meccans and Medinites from the centre of Arabia, Syrians, Iranians, Afghans, Turks and Africans - in fact humanity from all around the world arose with the flag of Islam thereby establishing it as the second largest religion in the world. Here we raise a thought provoking question - Is the Islam we know today the same Islam which spread throughout the world by virtue of its peace-loving principles and lofty teachings? Is the spirit of Islam, whose protection was promised by Allah intact in our times or has it been weakened? To answer these questions, I would like to quote a tradition from Saheeh Muslim, 'Surely Islam was deprived at its inception, then it will return to its deprived state. Then glad tidings for the deprived ones!' (Saheeh-e-Muslim, vol. 1, pg. 90) If we take a fair and impartial view of the 1,400 years of Islamic history, firstly, by casting away our prejudices, we see that from the 73 sects of Islam, only one which adheres to the 12 Imams (a.s.) corresponds to the above tradition. When we speak of deprivation in the early stages of Islam, we refer to Imam Husain (a.s.) - that venerable personality who was the beloved of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.). He was raised with great effort love and care by his mother the honorable lady Hazrat Fatema Zahra (s.a.); and despite these merits was mercilessly martyred on the planes of Karbala after three painful days of hunger and thirst. The hands of thousands of Muslims were colored with his blood. The family of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was paraded through the markets of Kufa and Syria and imprisoned unjustly. We mourn this very deprivation of Islam in its early stages. Yet, we are certain of the survival of Islam and its perpetuity. We are well aware that there will come a time when religion will be treated as something of little value; when the Quran will be kept at a high place, but only to seek blessing and not for its teachings. When we realize this, we lament for the one who recited the verse of Surah Kahf while his head was raised on the lance. When this was the state of degeneration in Islam at its origin, can one truly comprehend and grasp the situation during its last days when the entire world will be rife with injustice and inequality? The following tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) echoes this sentiment, 'Religion will be belittled and the world (materialism) will be glorified.' (Ilzamun Nasib, pg. 181) One can neither claim that this is the last era, nor that the last era is far away on the horizon. However when we pay attention to the current helplessness of religion, we find that these times are a reflection of those traditions which have been enumerated in this regard. Ayatollah Murtuza Mutahhari (r.a.) while describing these times writes, "If the fragrant and sweet tasting fruit of reappearance (zuhoor) is yet to ripen, then the blistering heat of the sun must increase in future and the condition of religion and opposition to the Holy Quran will be more severe." There is a rich treasure trove of traditions which detail the conditions of the last era, pertaining to society, culture and attitude of the people. These traditions are narrated from the infallible Imams (a.s.). The occurrence of these conditions point towards the early reappearance of the hidden Imam (a.s.). Here, we shall discuss some of the traditions from the holy infallibles (a.s.) that highlight the sorry state of religion and the Holy Quran which is so apparent today. 'Physically the people will gather at one place but their hearts will differ with each other. Religion will be stuck on the tongues of each one of them.' (Nahjul Fasaha, Ilzamun Nasib, pg. 181) 'A time will come upon the people of my Ummat when the Quran will not exist except as an object of decoration; Islam will remain, through only in name. The people will be Muslims, but from among all people, they will be farthest from Islam.' (Muntakhabul Asar, pg. 427; Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 52, pg. 195) 'In that era, prayers will be wasted; lusts will be followed and people will incline towards carnal desires.' (Ilzamun Nasib, pg. 182) Our times are a fairly accurate reflection of the above traditions. A majority subscribes to the views of that group whose members disregard the limits of Islam and it efforts; follow un-Islamic codes of ethics in their daily lives; who claim that namaz is merely a ritual and who sacrifice everything in the relentless pursuit of worldly desires. There are but a few families who despite their wealth and worldly status hold the teachings of the Quran close to their heart. At this juncture, we are reminded of the following tradition: 'Strangers in this world are of 4 types: 1. The Quran which is in the heart of the oppressors. 2. The Mosque, which is in a locality of those who do not pray namaz. 3. The Book in a house where there is none to read it. 4. A righteous person amongst an evil people. 1. Our Mosques and holy places today are the targets of bombs and explosives by the very people who claim that the teachings of the Quran are close to their hearts. And despite this, they consider such horrendous acts to be permissible. They are deaf to the pleas of orphans and women who are widowed for no fault of theirs and are amused by their cries of anguish. Indeed, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) spoke the truth that the Quran is poor in the heart of the oppressors. 2. A study of our cities, villages and localities will establish that there are places where a sizable population exists but where the Mosques moan the lack of worshippers. 3. The Quran resides in houses that are devoid of any inclination to recite it. Even when there is recitation, there is little or no reflection. 4. The presence of a pious individual in the midst of impious and immoral people is another tragedy of this era. 'A time will come upon the people of my nation when the patient will remain firm upon their principles. For them it will be as (difficult as) clutching a lighted flame in the palm of their hands.' (Nahjul Fasaha, vol. 2, pg. 645, Ghaibate Nomani, pg. 173) 'The kings will travel to Mecca for the sake of enjoyment and politics during Hajj; the wealthy for business and the destitute for the sake of begging.' (Ilzamun Nasib, pg. 174, Muntakhabul Asar, pg. 429) 'When the signs of amusement appear in the Haramain and those acts which are not loved by Allah occur there and if these take place without an opposition - no steps will be taken to prevent such actions and no person will step forward to prevent such unsuitable and unbefitting deeds, (then consider such a time to be the last era).' (Bayaan az Rozgaar-e-Rehaee pg. 796) In this regard there is a remarkable and astonishing tradition which prophecies the recitation of the Holy Quran in a melodious and singing tune during the last era. After reading this tradition we feel that truly the times we live in are the days of the last era. 'The Holy Quran will be recited in a melodious or singing tune and while reciting it, no signs of the fear of Allah will appear in the recitor.' (Bashaaratul Islam, pg. 26) There are few traditions which mirror the apathy of our present times as closely as the one narrated above. Today it is customary to recite the Holy Quran in a melodious tune. There are no signs of fear of Allah apparent in the recitor of Quran, nor is any effect of the Allah's Majesty or His Recognition created in the hearts of the listeners. There is no increase in knowledge for any group, and for those who do not understand the Arabic language, they only hear 'Allah', 'Allah'. Truly, it is incumbent upon all recitors of the Quran that they pay attention to these traditions and prevent the people from going astray. 'The Qaim (a.t.f.s.) will not appear till the time when religion will be in given in the hands of children, the rights of Allah will be trampled upon and Quran will be recited in a singing tune.' (Ilzamun Nasib, pg. 178) In the above tradition as well, our attention is drawn towards the fact that people will turn away from the rights of Allah and that Quran will be recited in a singing fashion. In the last era, the people for whom the Quran was revealed as a source of guidance will deny the innumerable bounties and mercies of Allah and will not fulfill the rights of Allah in this regard. Yet, there are a few servants of Allah who are pious and obedient to His Command, and who thank Him profusely for the bounties. These individuals are willing to sacrifice their health, wealth and loved ones for the sake of fulfilling their duty towards the last Imam (a.t.f.s.). The reappearance of the 12th Imam (a.t.f.s.) is due in the last era when the following signs are evident: 'People will openly deny Allah; namaz will be recited at its last time (towards the time of Qaza) and parents will be abused (by their children).' (Basharatul Islam, pg. 75) We live in times where it is common to abuse parents. Our prayers are recited towards its last time - especially the namaz of Zohr and Asr which is more often than not recited as the sun is setting. Often the mother is calling out to her children to 'recite namaz quickly for its time is passing away!' However we should consider this as fortunate for there are many homes in which the folks find it difficult to even recite the weekly Friday prayers! 'Soon a time will come upon you after me when nothing will be more concealed than the truth and nothing will be more evident than falsehood. Nothing will be more common than lying about Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Nothing will be cheaper (in the markets) than the recitation of the Quran correctly and nothing will be more expensive than the fallacious exegesis of the Quran and baseless explanations. Nothing will be considered as unworthy as goodness and nothing will be considered as worthy as evil.' (Yanabiul Mawaddah, vol. 3, pg. 104, tradition 203) How true are the prophecies of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) about the last era! Dear readers, it is the mercy of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) - the most loved of Allah - who warned us of the events in the last era. Indeed satanic inclinations are so widespread that we are already witnessing these prophecies. Goodness is present in our society but in name only. May Allah for the sake of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) continue to guide us and grant us the opportunity (taufeeq) to remain on the right path. It is for this reason that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) of Islam said, 'And you will see that the people are united in forsaking Amr bil Ma'roof (calling towards righteousness) and Nahi anil Munkar (preventing evil); and in their devoutness towards it.' (Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 52, pg. 259) Indeed the prophecies mentioned in the traditions about the last era are unfolding before our eyes. In another tradition, it is reported, 'When oppression and corruption will be rampant in the world, evil will be manifest, people will be called to it and stopped from the evil. Murders will increase and people will regard killing as insignificant..' (Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 52, pg. 193) Our daily lives and the conditions around us are testimony to the words of the tradition about the last era. '(A time will come) when people will consider lying to be permissible; they will be a slave to their carnal desires; will maintain relations with those who are having no relation with religion and slander will be common. Liars will be considered truthful and the corrupt will be considered trustworthy. Witnesses will give testimony without knowing the fact, on mere recommendation. People will provide false witness without being aware of the event. In such circumstances, fires will burn everywhere!' Indeed the world has become a smaller place with the advent of television and the Internet. News now filters to us by the minute and we are able to access information on almost everything around the world. The consequence of this is that humanity is now a lot more aware than in the past. These eyes can see everything - is it not true that globally lies are clothed in the garb of truth? Isn't our society and culture being developed by those who have no contact with religion? Aren't our courts of law, whether they be small or big rampant with corruption and false evidences? Isn't murder and slaying common in our society? Aren't fires being lit everywhere by the explosions of bombs and explosives? And this will continue. Maybe we will reach a stage when fires will rage everywhere and no drop of water will be available to us from the skies. At that stage, the earth will turn barren and the cycle of environment will stop turning. And at that stage, it is certain that we will hear the footsteps of the beloved of Janabe Fatema (s.a.) - the twelfth Imam (a.t.f.s.)! His advent will enliven the lifeless environment and make it joyful. Every corner of this world will turn fragrant and the clouds of falsehood will vanish. The world will glow with the radiance of truth. The promise of Allah will be fulfilled. He will definitely complete his favor upon those who have been suppressed upon this earth. And He will nominate them as the inheritors of the earth. Imam Baqir (a.s.) was asked who is referred to in the following verse, 'And We desire to bestow a favour upon those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them the Imams and to make them the heirs.' (Surah Qasas, verse 5) He (a.s.) replied, 'This verse refers to the 313 companions of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) who will function as his aides and assist him (a.t.f.s.) in governing the entire world.' Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) spoke about the evils which would plague the last era at a time when ordinary people would not have been able to even imagine such events. He said, 'There will come a time when people will advance in temptations according to their convenience (or mood). The believers will be very few in number. The religious and diligent ones will soon disappear from our midst.' Indeed Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) has highlighted a point that is so relevant in our times. Today, people act according to their convenience and mood. They don't act because Islam demands it. For instance, we know that piety and abstinence (from evil) are the cornerstones of Islamic ethics and there is a lot of reward on adopting these principles, but we don't have the will to act on them because we don't feel the mood to do it! Acting on Islamic precepts, awareness of our responsibilities, reflection on Quran are all very dear to us, but acting on them is selective. We will adhere to them only when we feel like it! At the end we have another tradition to highlight the falling standards of our times. 'Namaz will be squandered, the skies will be spread out for man (like the earth) and at that time, the year will be like the month, the month will be like the week, the week will be like the day and the day will be like the hour.' There can be little debate on the importance of namaz and how we belittle it. The skies have got a lot more accessible to man. Man has hoisted his flag on the moon. He flies frequently in planes and rockets and reaches in hours where he took months to reach. Another important aspect highlighted by the tradition is the fast and furious pace of life in the last era. From infancy to childhood to adulthood to old age - a man's life is over even before he realizes it. There is hardly any time to reflect and take account of deeds. Consequently man is not able to repent for his deeds. His life is but amusement and sport. When his eyes open, its too late. Today Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.), who is the master of the era, is beckoning us. He is calling out to us. We must respond to his invitation. Truly, when our Master advances by a step towards us, he actually approaches us by ten steps. That is why it is important that we honor religion and the Holy Quran, and abide by the traditions. Only in this way, can we hope to earn the pleasure of our Master and make ourselves eligible for his companionship.

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