EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Foundation of Azadari with Ayatollah Milani

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SHAFAQNA – Ayatollah Dr Sayed Fazel Milani has been awarded a PhD by the University of Oxford in Islamic Philosophy. He was born in the Holy City of Karbala in 1944.

His paternal grandfather was the late Grand Ayatollah Sayed Muhamad Hadi Milani and his maternal grandfather the late Ayatollah Sayed Muhammad Sadiq Qazwini. Ayatollah Fazel Milani read Religious Studies at the Hawza of the Holy City of Najaf – from 1962 to 1970 under late Grand Ayatollah Sayed Abul Qasim Al-Khoei and from 1968 to 1970, under the late Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohsin Al-Hakim.

For two years of his time in Najaf Ayatollah Fazel Milani taught Jurisprudence, Principles of Jurisprudence and Theology at the College of Fiqh and for eight years, at the Hawza of Najaf. In 1971 he migrated to Mashhad where he attended the advanced fatwa assemblies and completed his studies under the guidance of the late Grand Ayatollah Sayed Muhammad Hadi Al-Milani.

In 1974 he became acknowledged as a Mujtahid in the Holy City of Mashhad. His work on Ijtihad, Lectures on Imamiyah Jurisprudence, published in six volumes, is still currently used in the Hawzas of Mashhad and Qum.


With the advent of the blessed month of Muharram and the new year for Muslims Ayatollah Sayed Fazel Milani highlighted the importance of Azadari in the West and in particular the virtue and principles of Imam Hussain (as), martyred Grandson of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). He also argued for the need to maintain the perennial traditional remembrance of the tragedy of Karbala and the commemoration of Imam Hussain’s (a.s) supreme sacrifice. He asserts that the Hussainiyat institution is built on four foundations -– emotion, faith, history and jurisprudence, and these he says must remain the bedrock of Azadari in the West.
 Sayed Fazel also said “the human tragedy of Karbala, in which an army of tens of thousands unjustly and ruthlessly kills and abuses a small band of followers and family of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), reveals two diametrically opposed kinds of human beings – the oppressor and the oppressed. The innate primordial instinct of people in tune with intrinsic virtue and morality is to side with the oppressed and to oppose injustice”.
This he says is the fundamental choice presented to us by Imam Hussain (a.s.) on the day of Ashura on the plains of Karbala, and he pointed to the natural emotions of sadness and anger that are evoked within us when we ourselves are wronged. This same instinctive emotional trigger also alerts us today in our battle against injustice throughout the world.
The rise of ISIS with the support of their imperialist mentors also represents the contemporary Yazeediyat movement of oppression in our times. It demonstrates all to acutely the need to maintain the call for justice through our Azadari in all ages.
According to his view “at the same time as we are saddened by the oppressors we are also  inspired to love the oppressed through the noble sacrifice of the Shuhuda-e-Karbala. In loving Imam Hussain (a.s.) the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) effectively gifted him as a mercy for mankind as confirmed  with these words  ‘I love Hussain Oh Allah, love those who love Hussain.’ Hence Azadari for Imam Hussain is also a means to accessing the love of the Divine through our own emotional love for the Imam and our tears represent both our love and sadness.” Ayatollah Fazel Milani confirmed that a balance needs to be struck between our sadness and happiness through reflection on the emotional and empathetic lessons of Ashura.
He further highlighted that our faith connection to Imam Hussain springs from the Prophets confirmation of twelve guides that would succeed him; this being confirmed in countless books of hadith both from Ahl e Tassanun and Ahl e Tasshayu. This affirms our faith in Imam Hussain (as) from a jurisprudential point of view in recognizing the Imam as a Divienly and prophetically appointed leader. Ziyarat e Warith being a popular dua recited to remind us of the Ahlulbayt as the rightful inheritors and heirs of the Prophetic message.
Historically, Sayed Fazel pointed to Imam Husayns (as) journey to Karbala as  being a complete lesson in the principles of justice. From his statement that ‘a man like him could not pledge allegiance to a man like Yazid’, clarifiying that his virtuous and pious nature was not compatible with the unjust and tyrannical nature of Yazeed, to the justice narratives laced throughout the twelve key speeches he delivers on the road to Karbala.
The compassion, courage, valour chivalry dignity and honour demonstrated by Imam Hussain (as) on the day of Ashura now echoes the virtues enshrined in Islam through eternity and Azadari in its myriad cultural expressions is part of that call for universal justice that touches our hearts and souls today.

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