A strange event occurs during Friday’s Jooma prayers at the Dar es Salaam Khoja mosque. It is a national holiday, Saba-Saba, plus Eid day of Ghadeer, and people are happy. Between Jooma salaat and Asr, the respected and highly esteemed resident aalim, Adil Raza, gets up, asks the congregation to hold his neighbor’s hand, recite a dua after him, and proclaim qabiltu. Loudly. This phrase is usually uttered by a (nervous?) groom immediately before his nikah – solemn nuptial – is recited, as an affirmative reply to whether he agrees to the condition of the marriage.
Eh? This is new to me. My wakeel might have accepted these promises on my behalf in the past and see where it got me. Oh, no. No, no. My mind rebels and much to the shock and dismay of my honorable brethren on both sides, I refuse to grasp their extended hands. Adil Reza is an intelligent aalim and often has reasonable, easy-to-understand discourse on various subjects. However, like most politicians and aalims, he succumbs to the lure of the microphone and goes off tangent, and gets lost in unnecessary emotional heart-tugs. I am not going to follow him and his sometimes peculiar, and ajnabi rituals without first understanding the ramifications of what I am doing. We live in a convoluted, opportunistic, and confused world. I do not want potential future litigation to hit me, emotionally or financially, for committing to something I do not fully understand. Also, the dude to the left of me has a persistent cough and a cold and has been tinkering with his nose all during Jooma salaat. I ain’t going to take unnecessary chances.
I jest, of course. I do not doubt, for a split second, that the honorable man is sincere and means well, but like all other equally honorable and sincere ‘aalims’ that Khoja jamaats in East Africa fetch from India/Pakistan, they incorporate their sometimes-unnecessary peculiarities and subcontinental rituals into my religion.
I am sure the good ‘aghaas’ have multiple chains of ‘hadeeth’ to back up these rituals, and I’m not suggesting we don’t indulge in them for our spiritual goodness once in a while. Necessary, pertinent ones. But please, let’s refrain from adding more mirch-masalas to the already overpowering mustahab acts I am forced to follow like a zombie. I’ll want my wajib rites strong, straight, and well-understood before I swim in dubious mustahab ones in my already complicated ritual undertakings.
The hadeeth for this particular ritual, from my fleeting investigations, is based on the principle of Islamic brotherhood, as a promise to my fellow believer that I’ll pull him along with me IF I am to enter paradise. Chashm. I wholeheartedly agree. But I’ll be more apt to go through the ritual after:
- A Sayyed stops sneering at a non-Sayyed just because.
- Khoja brethren will allow non-Khojas to partake in the niyaz of Imam Hussein (a), even though there is Masjid Adoe for ‘them’.
- The Khojas in India (and elsewhere) will allow their ‘brethren’ to be buried alongside their marhooms. And allow for a non-Khoja to have their nikah performed in a ‘Khoja’ masjid. Although masjids are houses of Allah and not their private domains.
- The Khojas in Madagascar will embrace their darker-skinned believers and allow them unfettered access to their beautiful mosque in Antananarivo.
- Etcetera, etcetera.
And Allah knows best.
Muharram Squandered – Again!
I always look forward to listening to intellectual lectures every Muharram. Not only is this period an excellent occasion to pay my respects to the man who has no equal in the world in sacrifice and submission to Allah, but it is a period of personal reflection and self-examination of my faith and values. Like the annual medical I do for my health, this is the time for my values check. No other religion has these ritual lectures, gifts from Hussein (a) and Zainab (s), I say this with total conviction. The www has a wealth of good reciters who can stimulate my brain into this self-evaluation, of course, and I can sit in the comfort of my home and listen to my pick of reciters. But as a human and product of ingrained habit, I feel guilty if I do not go and pay my respects to the shuhadas of Karbala, whom we all hold holy and dearly love, in a communal setting. To be with others in a gathering, all with a shared mission brings about belonging, camaraderie, and a sense of pride.
There are four outside reciters invited for the lectures by the Dar es Salaam Khoja Shia Jamaat. One is a Mohtarma, so I obviously have nothing to say about her. Three men, all qualified in Shia Islam theology, I presume, are here. The Urdu-speaking one is so loud; my ears rebel with the yelling and I lose interest fasta-fasta. The English-speaking one is much soft spoken but he overwhelmingly dwells in dreams of others to prove his logic – I lose interest even faster. So I try the Gujarati speaker at Mehfil Abbas (a), close to where I live. It is a colossal disaster.
During the time of Imam Ali (a), the good Zakir lectures, a man, let’s call him Mr. Evilbhai, an enemy of Ahlebeyt (a) has the strength of 1,000 men. 1,000, no less. I am immediately startled. And intrigued. Strength of 1,000 men? Ready logic tells me this man is either confused or deluded. The strength of 10 men, perhaps, even if that is a stretch. 50 men? 100 men? If I easily believed in miracles, I’d let my imagination run with a 100. But 1,000 men? I thought that the basic requirement for graduation in theology specialization, particularly Shia Islam, requires a study of logic and reason? Let me continue his narration:
Mr. Evilbhai has 7 sons, equally robust. He sends his sons to battle 11-year-old Maula Abbas (a) who cuts them all into exactly 2 pieces. The enraged Mr. Evilbahi is also eventually cut into to 2 pieces by the brave 11-years old Maula Abbas (a).
Where on earth do we get these crops of ‘aalims’ or ‘scholars’ or ‘zakirs’ from? How relevant is this fantasy to us in the 21st century? Come on, Dar Jamaat, have the decency to respect our intellect and invite speakers that will do justice to Abaa Abdillah (a). We are insulting the shuhadas of Karbala by giving the pulpit to such poppycock. Is there any surprise that others laugh at and ridicule us for such absurdity?
I attend the next day, and the next, and the next, just to understand what other fictions this man will bring forth. And to pay my respects to Lady Fatema (s) of course. He has the same irrational stories of feats and tirades against ‘others’. He refers to Maqtal al-Husayn for his sources. I am sure they were recorded by well-meaning historians, but seriously?
Why, oh why, do we have to prove Imam Ali (A) as our rightful Imam? Why, oh why, do we have to defend him using ‘other’ sources? Doing so is a sign of internal weakness and doubt. Who gives an ant’s ass what others think of our Imams? I, and the audience, are convinced, 1,000%, that Imam Ali (a) and his 11 progeny are our Imams. Reason why we attend these lectures in the first place! Case closed.
Why, oh why?
Another Muharram opportunity for reflection squandered.
Allah knows best.