Our Lady Zaynab: her memory and light live not in stones but in the heart of the faithfuls – Editorial

SHAFAQNA – Wahhabi militants this January 31, 2016 targeted the Mosque of Lady Zaynab near Damascus (Syria), the blessed grand-daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, in an attack which claimed the lives of over 50 innocents.

This new tragedy of course falls within the violent narrative Wahhabi clerics have perpetuated over the past decades, alleging and arguing that all shrines and all holy sites are in fact heresy. The followers of Ibn Taymiyyah, Wahhabis have a distorted understanding of mainstream Islam, and most particularly Shia Islam, and its rich traditions.

A scholar of the 13th century, Ibn Taymiyyah was a reformer – a man whose ambition was to “cleanse” Islam and bring its practice back to what he believed was a purer, more traditional practice of Islam, as envisioned by the last Prophet of God. While he might have been a man of great knowledge and recollection, in that he was quite capable of reciting verses of the Quran at the drop of a hat, his understanding of the Scriptures left something to be desired.

Dhahabi wrote of him, “I never saw anyone faster at recalling the Qur’anic verses dealing with subjects he was discussing, or anyone who could remember hadith texts more vividly.”Dhahabi estimates that his legal opinions on various subjects amount to three-hundred or more volumes.

Shun by his contemporaries, he was accused of apostasy over his propensity to give God men’s attributes, when in fact God says: “There is nothing whatsoever like unto him”- Qur’an 42:11

The Hanafi scholar Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari wrote on Ibn Taymiyyah “Whoever thinks that all the scholars of his time joined in a single conspiracy against him from personal envy should rather impugn their own intelligence and understanding, after studying the repugnance of his deviations in beliefs and works, for which he was asked to repent time after time and moved from prison to prison until he passed on to what he’d sent ahead.”

While few deny that Ibn Taymiyyah was a copious and eloquent writer and hadith scholar, his career, like that of others, demonstrates that a man may be outstanding in one field and yet suffer from radical deficiencies in another, the most reliable index of which is how a field’s Imams regard his work in it.

By this measure, and, by the standards of all previous Ahl al-Sunnah scholars, it is clear that despite voluminous and influential written legacy, Ibn Taymiyyah cannot be considered an authority on tenets of faith (aqueeda), a field in which he made mistakes profoundly incompatible with the beliefs of Islam, as also with a number of his legal views that violated the scholarly consensus (ijma) of Sunni Muslims. It should be remembered that such matters are not the province of personal reasoning (ijtihad), whether Ibn Taymiyyah considered them to be so out of sincere conviction, or whether simply because, as Imam Subki said, “his learning exceeded his intelligence.”

Taymiyyah’s inability to understand, and respect Islam’s traditions, as expressed by Muslims’ love for AhlulBayt, its saints and other men of great piety, is what has fed this diabolical hatred in between religious communities we see today.

Incapable of understanding that worshippers do not in fact pray to the shrines, but instead call onto religious figures to intercede in their favour, as the Prophet would do himself for his ummah on the last day, Wahhabis have worked to cut off Muslims from a vital spiritual link.

“O’ People!  I am about to be called upon [by the Most High] and so I will soon be leaving you.  I will bequeath you two most precious matters.  They are: The book of Allah, as a cord extended from heaven to earth, and my Itra [family], Ahlul Bayt. Allah, the Benevolent and the All-Knowing has informed me that these two will be inseparable (from each other) till they reach me at the Pool of Blessings in Heaven.  See then, O’ people, how well you are to deal with them after I depart [from this world].” Prophet Muhammad as narrated by al-Thaqalain.

In complete rejection of Islam’s purest tradition, Wahhabis have rejected AhlulBayt and all those who continue to hold their pledge of allegiance to its divine legitimacy.

Yet, even ahlul Sunna (Sunni tradition) acknowledges AhlulBayt divine position.  In Sahih Muslim, there is a chapter named “Chapter of Virtues of the Companions”. Inside this chapter, there is a section called “Section of the Virtues of the Ahlul-Bayt of the Prophet”. There exists ONLY ONE tradition in this section, and this tradition has no reference to the wives of the Prophet (S). The tradition is known as “The Tradition of Cloak/Mantle” (Hadith al-Kisaa), and is as follows:

Narrated by Aisha: “One day the Prophet (S) came out afternoon wearing a black cloak (upper garment or gown; long coat), then al-Hasan Ibn ‘Ali came and the Prophet accommodated him under the cloak, then al-Husayn came and entered the cloak, then Fatimah came and the Prophet entered her under the cloak, then ‘Ali came and the Prophet entered him to the cloak as well. Then the Prophet recited: “Verily Allah intends to keep off from you every kind of uncleanness O’ People of the House (Ahlul-Bayt), and purify you a perfect purification (the last sentence of Verse 33:33).”

Sunni reference:

  • Sahih Muslim, Chapter of virtues of companions, section of the virtues of the Ahlul-Bayt of the Prophet (S), 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, Arabic version, v4, p1883, Tradition #61.

Below is the Arabic text of above tradition given in Sahih Muslim:

خرج النبي غداة وعليه مرط مرحل من شعر أسود فجاء الحسن فأدخله معه ، ثم جاء الحسين فأدخله معه ، ثم جاءت فاطمة فأدخلها، ثم جاء علي فأدخله ثم قال: إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا 

One can see that the author of Sahih Muslim confirms that:

  1. Imam ‘Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn are the Ahlulbayt,
  2. The purification sentence in Qur’an (the last sentence of Verse 33:33) was revealed for the virtue of the above-mentioned individuals, and NOT for the wives of the Prophet (S).

Muslim (the Author) did not put any other tradition in this section (section of the virtues of Ahlulbayt). If the author of Sahih Muslim believed that the wives of the Prophet were included in Ahlulbayt, he would have quoted some traditions about them in this section.

It is interesting to see that Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (S) is the narrator of the above tradition, and she herself is testifying that Ahlulbayt are the above-mentioned individuals (i.e., Imam ‘Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn, may the blessing of Allah be upon them all).

Today it is the holy shrine of our Lady Zaynab which was earmarked for destruction. Such attack aims to cut a people from the source of its religious inspiration …

But while stones may tumble and fall, the followers of Ahlulbayt will tell you that their oath of allegiance runs so deep that no “campaign” could ever shake those foundations, since faith is its architect.

A lady of divine and blessed stature, our lady Zaynab stood tallest when confronted by tyranny – we remember how in the court of Yazid she smit the man who ambitioned himself a king by rising against Imam Husayn ibn Ali.

Her words today still hold, her courage today still holds and inspires us …  “O Yazid! Do you think that we have become humble and despicable owing to the martyrdom of our people and our own captivity? As you have blocked all the paths for us, and we have been made captives and are being taken from one place to another, do you think that Allah has taken away his blessings from us? Do you think that by killing the godly persons you have become great and respectable and the Almighty looks at you with special grace and kindness?

Stone may stumble and fall but faith stands immovable.

 By Catherine Shakdam for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern studies


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