Saturday, July 13, 2013

Muawiyah's Letter to Ali

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Brothers and Sisters with Islam in your hearts and in your hands...

We begin this khutbah the way individuals who found Allah expressed themselves when public opinion around them was not in agreement with Allah. Oh Allah grant us from Your very presence a grace and give or prepare for us from Your very presence a semblance of maturity (Surah Al-Kahf verse 18) As we retrace or retract ourselves over 1,350 years ago we enter into a territory into our history that is either neglected or it is warped into either a sectarian version of things or a nationalist version of things.

We will try to steer clear of either of these two polarizations. In the last of these sequence of presentations we spoke about time period in which the matter of causalities, losses, aches and pains (both physical and psychological) had come out of the encounter on the battlefield between two Muslims sides in what is historically known as Waq’ad Al-Jamal. We took a look at the political and military landscape of the Muslims after that incident and we realized that there are two sides again. One of them serves the side of Ali (radi Allahu anhu) where the majority area of the people of Al-Kufa and Al-Basra along with the over-whelming majority of the generation of Al-Muhaajireen and Al-Ansaar.

These were all put together i.e. one side and on the other side there was the power base that had been consolidated throughout the years by the governor of Damascus, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan. With last weeks unfavorable acoustic atmosphere we tried (at least) to speak about the differences concerning these two sides especially as they relate to the leaders of these two sides i.e. Ali and Muawiyah. To take a closer look at Muawiyah and his surroundings we find that there was what is in today’s world called public opinion that is engineered by propaganda.

We have plenty of that in today’s world- we have people who are subjected to different types of propaganda and because people are creatures of their own societies and establishments, they are influenced by whatever propaganda they are fed every day, week and year. The people of Ash-Shaam which is today geographical speaking Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan were subject to the propaganda of the power that was there and the power that was there was represented by Muawiyah. He kept on drilling into the minds of the people that Uthman (radi Allahu anhu) was killed in a way that was illegal and that his killers got away without the law catching up to them.

This was a constant flow of information that was going down the propaganda pipelines into society. In those days there were no televisions or radios or whatever we have today; at that time there were influential people, heads of tribes, poets and lecturers or public speakers. They were the ones that were disseminating among the public the strong point of view that justice has to be done in catching up with the killers of Uthman and people were convinced this is what had to be done or to be technically correct the overwhelming majority of people in that area were convinced that this what had to be done- you can’t kill someone and get away with it.

That was the internal (more or less) mentality that consolidated into a will to fight. They wanted to go to war to see to it that those who assassinated Uthman are brought to a court of justice. How they wanted to do that (though) is what condemns them. They, themselves, even though they were speaking in the name of legality at the same time were violating the legality of the body of the overwhelming majority of Muslims represented by the other side. The other side as we have seen had suffered through skirmishes and now the 1st of what can be considered as an Islamic civil war. There were casualties and many people who died and were injured.

This had as it’s affect on the people who were with Ali. It had it’s affect in a couple of ways at least. The 1st one is: those who were motivated, frontline foot soldiers of Islam from Al-Madinah to Al-Kufa and Al-Basra fought and they were willing to do more fighting because they knew that their cause was right. It doesn’t stand Islamic reasoning that a governor of the Muslims break away from the Islamic authority- that does not make to them any sense. The bai’ah was given to Ali by the rest of the Muslims and therefore Muawiyah does not have the right to exclude himself from that bai’ah. Then, there were the other mid-way Muslims who either were confused or reluctant to engage on the side of Ali.

After Al-Jamal some or a good bulk of them felt regret; they felt contrition that they did not participate in this battle on the right side so now they were willing to redouble their participation and go where ever the leadership of the Muslims goes. This is much like what is happening in Iraq today as far as the causalities. This is a society in Iraq that is going to be injured psychologically for a long time to come. That society in Iraq at that time carried the scars of that war even up until this today and it is offering the psychological ammunition to the people now who are divided inside of Iraq. So we’re not speaking about some phase in history that is closed.

This is an on going mentality and a chapter of history that still has not been completed. When Muawiyah was contemplating a showdown or military clash with the bulk of Al-Muhaajireen and Al-Ansaar along with the people of Iraq under the leadership of Ali he, inside his own camp, had some people who even though they were intent on having justice done but they also had questions. One of them came up to Muawiyah and said do you think what you are doing is right? Being that Ali has more honor, virtues and status than you do, how do you justify for yourself taking him on? Of course his response was I am taking him on not because I am above him in status but because I am pursuing an issue of legal justice. These murderers, killers and assassins of Uthman have to be brought to accountability. One particular person, by the name of Abu Muslim Al-Khaulali was noted for asking Muawiyah this type of question.

Brothers and sisters- because this history, information and details are the matter of Muslim misunderstanding, Muslim polarization and now Muslim (potentially) civil war again- because it is such and it is not in our character to do this but we know, from experience, that if we were to summarize this there will be people who are more subject to their own traditions and either sectarian or nationalist biases that I will quote the verbatim the letter that Muawiyah sent to Ali when Muawiyah felt that he was under popular pressure from his own side to clarify this issue before Muslims go to war. Before we quote Muawiyah in his letter to Ali and then we’re going to quote the response that Ali sent to Muawiyah verbatim word by word, we want to get a feeling for how venerable or unsure Muawiyah was of his own position. Remember he spent all of his years and none of the troops or soldiers who were with him had gone to war.

They were (more or less) relaxed and in good preparation for a military showdown. As this consolidation era or time period was in progress there’s another character who we are going to notice later on, but who takes a position during this time period. That person is Amr ibn Al Aas. This person (if we can recall) was relieved of his governorship of Egypt by Uthman and he didn’t feel good about that. He was one of those who were against Uthman- more so in private then in public because he held a grudge- “why does Uthman take away this position from me when I was the ruler of Egypt?”- so he did find himself comfortable in going back to Al-Madinah. He settled in what is today a part of Palestine and he was watching what was unfolding amongst the Muslims. He had two children, two sons, one of them Abdullah and the other Muhammed.

Abdullah was a person who was known for his Islamic character and he told his father when he knew his father was trying to gage who is going to be the winning side- is it going to be Ali or Muawiyah. His son, Abdullah came to him with advice telling him I think the best thing for you to do is to withdraw yourself from this affair. Don’t get involved. As if his son sensed if he’s going to get involved, he’s going to get involved on the wrong side; so to pre-empt his father from making the wrong decision he tried to convince him- just don’t get involved in this affair. His other son though, who was a worldly character; it seems like he wanted power, influence and wealth and he came up to his father with advice counter to his brother.

He said No. You are a influential person; you are well known in society; society needs your involvement and your input and now you can sense that there is an issue of justice that has to be brought to a court of law and that is those who killed Uthman. After listening to his two sons, this person thought about it very hard and he considered everything in his own mind and then he made up his mind- he is going to go to speak to Muawiyah. He journeyed to Ash-Shaam, which was not a very long journey, (it was like from Makkah to Al-Madinah), Palestine to Damascus and he wanted to speak to Muawiyah and he did speak to Muawiyah, but Muawiyah wanted to dismiss him. Why? Because he sensed in him that this is another rival and competitor for power and Muawiyah did not broker “any competitor for power inside his own camp”- he wasn’t about to tolerate that.

So Amr sensed that and he said but you’re not going to be able to have the influence and power that you want if you exclude me- in other words he was implying to Muawiyah that if you’re not going to have me in on this on your side I’m going to go to the other side and that’s going to cause you a significant damage to your position. These are people we are not thinking about Allah and His Prophet, they’re thinking about power. So Muawiyah asks him so what do you ask if you want to become one of my insiders? If you want to be with us what’s the price of that? What is it that you are asking? He said the governorship of Egypt. He wanted to return to become the governor of Egypt and after serious considerations Muawiyah agreed.

He agreed when his brother Utbah came as an intermediary to try to solve this because Muawiyah was not about to give another person Egypt and this other person is a power monger who is going to compete with him. So, if Muawiyah (in his calculations) gets rid of Ali then he is going to have to think about getting rid of Amr ibn Al Aas. So Muawiyah’s brother Utbah ibn Abi Sufyan came to him and said wait a minute here. One step at a time. You have a significant enemy and you need all the resources and potentials that you can muster. You can’t just write this person off. Upon that he agreed. He said OK Amr, you have what you want. If we win this war against Ali you will have the governorship of Egypt for life.

It was within these dynamics of Muawiyah sensing that there are still questions, even with all of the propaganda and public relations efforts among his own constituents, they still were not convinced as a whole that they should go to war to begin with. So they told Muawiyah why don’t you communicate with Ali? Here is where- brothers and sisters- we are going to read you (verbatim) word by word what Muawiyah sent in writing to Ali. The letter begins In the name of Allah the Mercy-giver the Merciful. From Muawiyah, the son of Abu Sufyan, to Ali, the son of Abu Talib. Indeed Allah has privileged Muhammad with His knowledge- meaning due to Allah’s knowledge Muhammad was privileged- and Allah has rendered him the trustee of His revelation and the Messenger to his created beings.

Remember, these are Muawiyah’s words to Ali. And then Allah, as a selection preference, chose from among the Muslims those who would be the advocates and supporters of the Prophet. The Prophet was helped by them. They were in relation or in their status to the Prophet in a position juxtaposed to their virtues in Islam- meaning the more virtuous they were Islamically, the more closer they were to the Prophet. The most in advice to Allah and His Messenger was his successor- that’s in reference to Abi Bakr (radi Allahu anhu)- then the successor of his successor- that’s in reference to Umar ibn Al Khattab (radi Allahu anhu), and then the 3rd successor who was killed without justice, Uthman. Muawiyah is saying to Ali... You were jealous of all of them- meaning these three successors to the Prophet- you have aggressed against all of them. We could tell that from the smirk on your face and from the words of division which you pronounced and the times of relief that you felt during their reign and the way you were slow in consolidating with them- meaning with the khulafa’ to the Prophet.

In all of that time period pertaining to the three successors to the Prophet you were being led or drawn as a reluctant camel would be pulled and you were not more expressive in envy to any of them than you were to your paternal aunt’s son- this is in reference to Uthman. The relationship between Bani Umayyah and Bani Hashim and in particular here, the relationship of Ali to Uthman is the relationship extracted from a brother and a sister- the brother being on the Hashimi side and the sister being on the Umawi side. Muawiyah is saying to Ali and Uthman deserved more from you- that you not treat him the way you did, 1st of all because he was a relative of yours and because of his virtues. You have severed the blood relationship with him; and you have turned the good that he did into bad; and you expressed animosity towards him; and you internalized doing what is short of the truth towards him and you instigated people against him- (the following sentence is an Arabic eloquent expression of saying that as a consequence of what you, Ali, did to Uthman, there were people rushing from all over to take advantage of him and there where blockages that were put in every direction for those who were willing to come to his aid.

Now there were weapons that came out against Uthman in public and in of all places, this was done while Uthman was in the sanctuary of Rasulillah. Remember, Uthman used to go to the Masjid of the Prophet and he was being opposed in the Masjid of the Prophet. These were not dark night conspiracies. What Muawiyah, in the twisted way that he’s expressing this, was referring to incidents that had occurred; Muawiyah is saying to Ali Uthman was killed while you were in his neighborhood and you heard the distressed voices but you were not there to protect those victims neither with words nor with action. It’s like saying By Allah- Oh son of Abi Talib if you were to stand for the right of Uthman by telling people to stick to their positions- meaning not to have this public and popular movement against Uthman- and if you were to take a position against that and if you were to distract or detract them from what they were wanting to do- meaning in killing Uthman- then there wouldn’t have been one person among us- Muawiyah is saying to Ali- within the Muawiyah camp who would say that anyone is equal to you.

Had you taken that position you’d have cancelled out all of the impressions that are popular among these people who are with me, against you, because you avoided doing this in favor of Uthman. Muawiyah is saying to Ali and there’s another issue: that for the partisans of ibn Affan you are suspect. Giving refuge to his killers, they are your muscles, your hands and your supporters. News has reached me- Muawiyah is saying- that now you are vindicating and distancing yourself from the blood of Uthman. Muawiyah is saying to Ali if you are truthful to what you saying and claim then expel the killers of Uthman to us and we will level the issue by eliminating them- meaning if you don’t want to care of them by capital punishment, we will do so for you. And then after that, when that is done, and when the killers and assassins of Uthman are taken care of by the sword- that is basically what the implication is- then after that we will be the 1st and the fastest people to come to you- meaning at that time we will give you our bai’ah.

Short of that, the only thing between us and you is the sword- meaning war. And the last sentence of Muawiyah’s letter is and by Allah besides Who there is no deity or authority- we will seek out the killers of Uthman whether they are in the mountains or the desert or whether they are on land or sea until we kill them or until our souls join Allah. And he says wa salaam. Now- brothers and sisters- we have read to you as narrated by Baladhuri- word by word and sentence after sentence- what Muawiyah wrote to Ali and you can for yourself, (we don’t think this needs any comment or anymore explanation. We tried to translate it for you in the language you all understand. We didn’t use any difficult words in that translation).

You can sense from it that there is a character of defiance. This person doesn’t act as though Ali is an Imam, a khalifah, the leader and the ruler of the Muslims. Muawiyah acts as though he is the authority and this whole affair should take the course that he wants and this is the way it should unravel. Of course, Ali has a response to this letter of Muawiyah. Brothers and sisters the we’re only human being and we’ve miscalculated on our time. The response of Ali may consume or take another 20 or 25 minutes and that is obviously going to put us outside of the time frame of this khutbah. What we are forced to do is to delay the response of Ali in a written form to Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan and how he took each one of these issues that was quoted by Muawiyah in his letter, one by one, and detailed the truth therein and to that we shall express our selves and listen in the coming khutbah to know how the truth is expressed when there is no power centric individuals and when the issue is referred to Allah and His Prophet.

Then, after that you can compare and contrast and make up your own mind by your own self- you don’t need tutors and you don’t need propaganda. This issue doesn’t need propaganda, emotionalism, culture and tradition to justify. Just the communication before a terrible 2nd phase of an Islamic civil war takes place. You can judge that by your own selves Brothers and sisters committed Muslims… When we rethink our history and when we reconsider what we did by our selves to our selves, we don’t do that in an ivory tower. The facts that we are covering are meant by today’s war mongers and the usurpers of legitimate authority who have made it a religion of themselves to violate the authority of Allah i.e. these nation states and armies of today are trying to bring us to this area that we are looking at to make out of it a matter of tit-for-tat, revenge and counter revenge, a blood bath and blood letting that has a beginning and should not have an end. Brothers and sisters you are of considerable intellect- (Just to take one area), we’ve spoken about Iraq and we know that there is conspiracy afoot to bring Muslims to the killing fields and to want Muslims to go to those killing fields drawing on an inaccurate understanding of their own history.

We say this equally concerning those who say that they are Sunnis and those who say that they are Shi’is- you don’t have to be a PhD. student in Islamic history to realize that the voice of sectarianism is growing louder ever since the American occupation and invasion of Iraq. The sectarian voice is growing louder and louder amongst Sunnis and amongst Shi’is. Both. We challenge any of you (who is getting their information from wherever you are getting your information), to tell us that when you go to your cultural Islamic Center, traditional Mosque or neighborhood Masjid and you meet with your chummy friends and acquaintances and the issue of today’s world’s come up and if you are frank to each other then there is going to be a bottom line of “well- the others are Shi’is or the others are Sunnis.” So what?! What does that mean? Anyone who’s a Shi’i or a Sunni- bring them to the area that we are speaking about and tell them how this historical part of our existence justifies what is happening today in Iraq or the other area that we wanted to speak about is Lebanon?!

In Lebanon, they are almost trying to reframe this history with its elements of revenge concerning the assassination of the Prime Minister of that country- what was it two or three years ago. Almost the exact psychology now, is what they want to fit into our societies- “we have to take revenge.” At that time there was no United Nations. Now, some people who are looking for justice in the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister are going to the United Nations; or they want the United States; or the International Court in the Hague; or the Europeans; or some quartet or the other; or anything… where is Allah and where is His Prophet in all of this. We forgot that?!

That’s exactly what they want you to forget when you think about these types of developments. No one is factoring that in. This is a reminder of what we just read. If you can place the letter of Muawiyah in its time and context and you can read the events today in their time and context you’ll find that they have a very strong similarity and that is where is your reference to Allah and His Prophet?! It’s absent. But why can’t we detect it? Because there is an institutionalized dumbing down of you and me in our Masaajid and in our meetings so that we are not enable in elevating the ayaat and the statement of the Prophet to have practical meanings in these types of life and death issues of today. We refuse to be dragged in that direction. We will stay with Allah and His Prophet come what may.

No comments: