Friday Lecture > The biography and advice of Imam Al-Askari (a.s)
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The biography and advice of Imam Al-Askari (a.s)

Date: 16/11/2018 A.D 8 Rabi Al-Awal1440 H

His Eminence, Sayyed Ali Fadlullah, delivered the two Friday prayer sermons at the Imamain Al-Hassanain Mosque, Rabi Al-Awal8,1440H/ November 16, 2018. Several prominent religious scholars, dignitaries and thousands of believers attended the Jumu’a prayer. Following is an edited text of the sermons

The First sermon

In The Name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Merciful.

Allah, The Most Exalted, says in His Glorious Book:‘And We made them leaders guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, establishment of prayer, and giving of Zakah; and they were worshippers of Us’.Allah, the Most Exalted, speaks the truth.

 On the eighth of this month we meet with a sad occasion to the followers of Ahl Al-Beit(a.s. ); that of the death of the eleventhImam ,Al-Hassan Al-Askari (a.s. )(He was called Al-Askari because he lived in a town called Askar).

The Imam’s status

When this Imam is mentioned he is coupled with all the traits that used to distinguish all the other Ahl Al-Beit Imams, including knowledge , prudence, clemency, piety, tolerance , wisdom, courage and giving  that governed his relations with all who knew him whether his followers or his enemies. Ahmad bin Ubaidallah bin Khakan, one of those who lived among the Abbasid elite talked about the respect the Imam (a.s.) had enjoyed even among the inner elite and ruling circles. He says: "I have not known or seen any Alawite in Samira', who is like Al-Hassan bin Ali bin Muhammad bin Al-Rida. I have never heard about anyone who matches him in his guidance, charity, chivalry, generosity whether among his relatives or among the ruling Abbasids or all the Hashimites… I have never asked any of the Hashimites, the Military commanders, the judges, the jurists and all other people about him without getting the same answer... that he was the most respected and honored… I have never seen a friend or a foe who does not praise him”. Ahmad's father, an Abbasid minister,  says: If the caliphate were to be removed form the Abbasids, there is no one in the Hashimites who deserves it but him; he is the chastest, the most knowledgeable... The most pious….the most chaste

This position the Imam held in the hearts of the people made his contemporary Abbasid caliphs fear him as they so in him a rival to them. Moreover, his honorable presence revealed their deficiencies and faults. This fear increased by the many traditions of the Prophet and Ahl-Beit that say that  Imam Al-Mahdi who will fill the earth with justice is a son of his.

 A missionary role despite persecution

 That is why the Imam suffered in the short period of six years of his Imamate from siege and imprisonment to prevent him from communicating with the people who would be affected by him and draw near him. That is why he said:‘No one of my fathers had been afflicted like what I have been afflicted with the suspicions of this group’. And he used to say to his companions to ensure their safety:'No one should ever greet me or point to me, because you are not safe.

All these severe pressures did not prevent the Imam from performing his missionaryrole in facing all deviationsthatinflicted Islam in its doctrine and concepts havingbeen distorted by the rule of the Abbasid and the Omayyad beforethem.

Another role which was not less important was preparing in secrecy  for the birth of his son  Al-Mahdi (a.s)  and ensuring   the favorable circumstances for him to be the next Imam , as well as  preparing the nation to  deal with the following  stage and guiding it to the sources of authentic Islam  in that stage  . That is why he called on the nation to return tothe jurists during the period of occultation:‘Whoever of the jurists safeguardshimself, is protective of his religion, opposes his temptations, is obedient to his Master’s commands, then the common people may emulate him’.

The Imam’s advice

Today we are going to focus on one of his advice concerning the way one should adopt when criticizing or offering advice. The Imam (a.s)says:‘The person who admonishes his brother [friend] privately honors him, and the person who admonishes him publicly slights him…’

By this advice, the Imam wanted to highlight two points: the first is that it is the duty of every believer to advice his fellow believers. The Hadith says :‘Muslims are brethren’ and ‘serves as each other’s eye and guide’... ImamZein Al-Aabidien (a.s)says:‘May Allah have mercy on one who shows me my flaws’.

The companions of the Prophet wereso concerned about giving advice that they offered them even against their interests.  One of the slaves of a companion of theProphet boughta mare for 300 Dirhams. When the companion saw it, he went back to its owner and told him that it is worth 800 and paid him the difference.

How to criticize

The second point that the Imam took care to point at has to do with theway one expresseshis criticism, to avoid the reactions,for it could offend those one criticized or he couldconsider it a kind of show–off or arrogance… For the advice to be accepted, the Imam (a.s), wanted the criticism to be made in private, and not as what is going on nowadays; that is on the social media or the press or in public meetings.  Forcorrecting a mistake does not justify violating people’s dignities.

A model to follow

The Imam provided an example of the kind and loving criticism that respects the other, even if he was his staunch enemy and reaches his heart. The Abbasids asked the Jail Warden to persecute the Imam. However, the former had this to say: "I have asked two of the most evil persons on earth to handle him, but after they came in contact with him they started to spend their time in praying. The warden then brought the two men and asked them: What is the matter with you,and they said: what can you say about a man who fasts his day and prays throughout the night and is only concerned with worshipping? If he looks at us, we would tremble and lose any control over ourselves. Thus, the Imam (a.s) failed all their plots, for he had a spiritual power that when others looked at him, they would be filled with spirituality.

This is what we need when we deal with themistakes ofothers …Our aim should be to advise them and reform them. We should adopt the role of a kind physician whose only concerned is healing the patient withoutcausing any additionaltensions or uncalled for worries.

On the occasion of  the Imam’s  death, we address him saying:

Peace be upon you, O my Master

The guide and well-guided.

Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you.

Peace be upon you, O Allah’s intimate servant and son of Allah’s intimate servants.

Peace be upon you, O Allah’s decisive Argument and son of

O master, I bear witness that you performed the prayers, defrayed the poor-rate,enjoined the right, forbade the wrong called to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodlyexhortation,and worshipped Allah sincerely until death came upon you.

The second sermon:

Worshippers of Allah, The Most Exalted, I advise you and I advise myself with what Imam Al-Hassan Al-Askari (a.s)  had advised his followers before he left this world:

I advise you to fear Allah, show piety to your religion, work hard for Allah's sake, tell truths only, return the trust to their owners. Whether they are pious or sinful, prostrate yourselves before Allah for a long time and treat your neighbors courteously. These are the matters(morals) that Muhammad (p.) brought; offer prayers among their folks (people of different sects), attend their funeral ceremonies, visit their ill ones, and fulfill their rights. I am pleased if people point to you and say "this is a Shi'ite", when you behave piously, tell truths only, return the deposits to their owners, and conduct courteously with people. Fear Allah, be good(examples) and do not be evil. Attract people's fondness of us and save us from every awful evil, for we are surely the people of every good thing that is said about us, but we are definitely not the owners of any evil thing that is imputed to us. We enjoy a (distinctive) right in the Book of Allah, a relation (of kinship) to the Messenger of Allah (p.), and a purification whose source is Allah. Only can the liars claim of enjoying our distinctive features. Refer to Allah much, recite the Quran, and bless the Prophet (p.). A single blessing of the Prophet (p.) isrewarded by ten rewards

With these words, the Imam(a.s) described the traits of the followers of Ahl Al-Beit (a.s). They are the pious , the truthful and the trustworthy  and they are known by  their constant remembering of Allah, The Most Exalted, and death , reciting the Holy Quran,   their love to the Messenger(p.) and his progeny, and their opening up to those they differ with whether in religion or sect .  They are present in the arenas of right and justice, and they do not back down before challenges.

A division that delays the government formation

We begin by Lebanon, which witnessed last week a sharp division on how to solve the remaining knot(known as the Sunni knot) in forming the government : the first party supported the demand of the six MPs to be represented in the government ,  considering  that the government of national unity  demands their representation , while the second party believed that they do not have a right to be represented, as  most of them are members of other blocs. However, despite this   big division, all parties were concerned to keep it in the framework of an internal political difference and not a sectarian or one of regional implications.

As we reemphasize the importance of this concern, for no one has an interest in creating sectarian strife or linking the problems of Lebanon with the regional crisis which nobody knows how it will end, we say that the top priority should be given to get out of this impasse which if it lingers on nobody will benefit from. On the contrary, everybody will be hurt, especially the Lebanese citizens who are suffering from the economic crisis and the fear from the future.

In this respect, we would like to remind everybody that the country has been built on the fact that it cannot exist except on the basis of the concord of all parties and not the hegemony of one or two sects over the others. If this happens, it will eventually lead to strife. Many of the wars we have witnessed in this country were due to the adoption of the logic of cancelling or exclusivity. Those who might try to reinstitute this logic might be the first people to be burned by its fire. Therefore, we call all parties to work hard to find a solution to this knot. And the only way to do so is by dialogue, and if there were concessions to be made   they would be for the benefit of the country and not any of the political parties. Thus, the ball is not in the court of this or that party. They all have to cooperate to reach a solution today and not tomorrow.

 We feel that this is possible, after the concern of all sides we have witnessed to keep the door to the solution open and their awareness that the country can no longer endure . That is why we are optimistic and hope that we would be proven right.

But until the government is formed we call on all parties to maintain a calm, rational and non- provoking rhetoric, being the best rhetoric that Allah, The Most Exalted, has called to when he said:‘And tell My servants to say that which is best’.

Gaza surprises the enemy

In Gaza that was able in the last few days to assert its preparedness and the enhancement of its abilities, despite all the pressures and siege it is subjected to. It was able to fail the “Israeli” security operation and heroically confront the enemy, which surprised the Zionist government and would have put it in an actual dilemma   had it continued its aggression. Thus the Zionist Enemy was forced  to stop and return to accept the logic of calming in return of calming , which in turn led to  creating a  political crisis at the highest level that was manifested by the resignation of the “Israeli” war minister.

As we praise the steadfastness of the Palestinians in Gaza and call on them for a stronger unity and steadfastness, we would like to emphasize that what had happened is an argument against all those who stay on the sidelines or normalize with the enemy, claiming that they can do nothing, for they do not have the resources and the capabilities to deter and face this enemy. For the Palestinians in Gaza    have created strength out of their weakness and victory out of their suffering. 

Is it the end of the war in Yemen?

In Yemen where we hope that the ceasefire is a serious one and constitutes the beginning of the end to the tragedy of the century  and that of the Yemenis who are dying out of shortage of food, water and medications, and not a mere truce that would be followed by more furious rounds.

The birth of the Prophet (p.)

Finally, in the anniversary of the birth of the Messenger(p.) , which we want it to be an occasion in which we retrieve the values of love and reaching out to the other, in the face of the language of hate malice and enmity.

On this occasion we congratulate all Muslims, asking God to grant them success in being real representatives of the Messenger (p.), and unify their ranks in the face of the numerous challenges.

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