By: Ayatullah Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi al-Asifi, Najaf, Iraq
Conflict of Loyalty
The fight for people’s loyalty is not a new thing in human life, and there are two contending poles in this conflict: the divine pole and its extensions in man’s life, and the pole of taghut which employs blind force, propaganda and allurement in the cultural domain. Every taghut has a specific centre towards which people’s loyalty is attracted but all such centres oppose the divine focus. Ziyarat al-Warith, one of the ziyarahs of Imam Husayn (as), aims at making one’s loyalty with the divine pole more profound and separating one from all the artificial poles created by taghut.
Monotheism And Polytheism In Loyalty
Loyalty is a part of the concept of monotheism, a concept that rejects polytheism: “There is no god besides Allah”. Unity of loyalty is the most important aspect of monotheism.
Man cannot keep another loyalty together with loyalty to God Almighty, whatever loyalty that might be. Any loyalty other than that of God is sure to be in opposition to it unless it is under the extension of His loyalty. Most instances of polytheism which the prophets used to fight, as related in the Qur’an, pertain to polytheism of loyalty and not polytheism with regard to the Creator. A majority of polytheists divide their loyalty between God and other-than-God, thus sharing their loyalty and obedience with taghut.
Hence, when taghut tries to establish its guardianship and authority over man’s life, it is in fact declaring war on God, the Glorious and the Exalted, because it trespasses God’s authority, bounds and guardianship over mankind. Most of the conflicts between monotheism and polytheism during the time of the prophets (as) were on this very issue.
The prophets (as) were working to unite the centre of loyalty in the life of mankind by inviting them to be loyal to God and obey Him and by urging them to reject any loyalty other than that of Almighty God.
Ferociousness of the Conflict of Loyalties
The conflict of loyalties is among the most ferocious types of conflict in man’s history. It is unlike political conflict where the bone of contention centers on issues such as land. Even if we call the conflict on loyalties a political one it must be of a special kind unlike the political battles that the people are accustomed to. Here the battle is fought on one thing and that is the right to leadership and authority over man.
The right to authority is neither divisible nor plural. It is either for God alone without any associate or rival, which is monotheism, or for other-than-God, wholly or partially, which is unbelief or polytheism. Based on this issue mankind is divided into two groups: one believes in the unity of God with regard to loyalty and obedience and does not accept any associate for God in matters of loyalty and authority. The other subscribes to and obeys other centres of loyalty, which could be taghut, country or personal desires. The conflict between these two groups of people is the greatest of all conflicts and constitutes the most important events in man’s history on earth.
The Theatre of Conflict Entails a Stand and Rejects Onlookers
Although one can be indifferent towards many issues, one cannot be a mere onlooker with regard to the question of loyalty because it is a fundamental issue of human existence which requires of man a clear and specific stand, whatever this may entail by way of sacrifice. The question of loyalty is not akin to bargaining or sweet talk, and a person whose loyalty is not for God would be simply tossed about by personal desires, political and social changes.
It is loyalty to God that defines a man’s personality and course of action and gives him his real worth, which is the position of vicegerency to God on earth. It also determines his stand, movement, course and goal. One is not allowed to treat a question as important as this with indifference and negligence; one must be firm and serious about it!
1- Obedience and Submission
God Most High says: “All the response of the faithful when they are summoned to God and His Apostle that He may judge between them is to say, ‘We hear and obey.’ It is they who are felicitous.”1
Just as loyalty to God requires obedience and submission to Him and His Apostle (S), it requires disobedience to other-than-God as well. God says: “So be wary of God and obey me, and do not obey the dictates of the profligate.”2
2- Love and Sincerity to God the Glorious
God says: “Say, ‘If your fathers, your sons, your brethren, your spouses and your kinsfolk, the possessions that you have acquired, the business you fear may suffer and dwellings you are fond of are dearer to you than God and His Apostle, and, to waging jihad in His way, then wait until God issues His edict, and God does not guide the transgressing lot.”3
“Among the people are those who set up peers besides God, loving them as if loving God- but the faithful have a more ardent love for God…”4
3- Helping God, His Messenger (S) and the believers
“O, you who have faith! If you help God He will help you and make your feet steady.”5
“God will surely help those who help Him. Indeed God is All-strong, All-mighty.”6
“… and those who gave them shelter and help- they are guardians of one another…”7
“… and those who gave them shelter and help, it is they who are truly faithful.”8
“… Those who believe in him, honour him and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him, they are the felicitous.”9
Direction in Loyalty
With this comprehensive meaning, loyalty attracts all the abilities, capacities, talents and inclinations of man toward a single pole and also directs all his attention, his actions and his desires to it. Consequently, it confers on this centre complete control over human existence, thereby saving man from a divided personality and sense of loss that affects many people.
The first thing unity of loyalty does to man is to draw all aspects of his inner and outer being towards one point.
Secondly, it directs this harmonious sum of capabilities, inclinations, desires and actions toward a single direction, which is the straight path that God the Exalted enjoins us to follow. When this happens, man changes from a weak being beset by anxiety, confused thoughts and capabilities, into a strong entity that moves along the straight path. He becomes free from weakness and indecision, uncertainty and doubt with regard to the direction of his movement, and is not torn between different motives and desires.
Thirdly, it liberates man from all other centres of focus and motives, such as the ego, wealth, worldly possessions, desires and taghut that threaten to contain his efforts, actions and all aspects of his life. Fourthly, it bestows on him total harmony between the limbs and the heart, the manifest and the hidden, the outward and the inward. Loyalty exercises total control over man’s limbs, his actions and his movement, and gives him mental harmony coupled with obedience, attention, love and desire to serve God.
Among the most important features of this condition of attention, absorption and concentration on the focus is that it does not happen through coercion but stems from man’s total psychological harmony and irresistible attraction towards this focus. One’s limbs can be subjected to compulsion and pressure but sympathies, wishes, affection and hate cannot be made to yield to the coercion of external motives.
Because of this fact, love of God, love for His sake and hate for His sake are among the most important elements and essential qualities of loyalty and repudiation, and this is what makes one’s obedience and submission to God, His Messenger (S) and His friends- the Imams (as), and his worship of Him spring from desire, love and longing.
God the Exalted says: “God draws an example: a man jointly owned by several contending masters and a man belonging entirely to one man: are the two equal in comparison?”10 God draws an example for monotheism and polytheism from two men. One is torn between contending masters, each of whom commands guardianship and control over him.
These associates are opposed to one another and the man’s mind is scattered between them. The other man has submitted all his affairs to only one man (and a man belonging entirely to one man), obeys him in everything and accepts his guardianship and authority in all affairs.
It is the same in the case of monotheism and polytheism. Monotheists are like the man who submits to one man and is at ease while polytheists are like the one that is the subject of the contest of contending masters. From this example it becomes clear that polytheism and monotheism here pertain to loyalty.
The Qur’an quotes Joseph the truthful (as) as saying: “O my two prison mates! Are different masters better, or God, the One, the Irresistible?”11
The two prison inmates of Joseph (as) were not denying the one and irresistible God, they were associating other masters with God concerning guardianship and authority over their lives. Joseph disapproved of their failure to submit all their affairs to the One and Irresistible God.
Concerning the reasons why prophets are sent, the Commander of the Faithful (as) said: “God has commissioned Muhammad (S) [as prophet] to release His servants from servitude to servants to servitude to Him, from the covenants of His servants to [enter] His own covenant, from obedience to His servants to obedience to Him and from loyalty to His servants to loyalty to Him.”12
The other face of this issue is repudiation, for we cannot understand the meaning of loyalty separately from repudiation. This religion is dynamic by nature: pulling down and rebuilding, the rebuilding taking place on the demolished site. Clearly and precisely, this means that the mission of this religion is to remove every polytheistic and oppressive entity and to establish monotheism and justice in its place.
For anyone who understands this statement, it is clear that monotheism and justice of the new dispensation do not stand in a vacuum; they occupy the former position of polytheism and oppression, and it is only natural that it should provoke the ire of the leaders of unbelief. It will induce them to confront Islam in a most severe and fierce manner, and this confrontation will not cease until polytheism and oppression are completely eliminated.
An Analysis of the State of Challenge and Confrontation between Monotheism and Polytheism
As long as polytheism and oppression possess a state and have dominion over a section of the earth, this challenge and hostility against Islam and its defenders will continue. The mission of this religion on earth is to liberate man from the captivity of taghut and selfish desires, and to remove the hurdles on man’s way to God. These two aspects of the mission would pre-empt taghut’s entity in the political, economic, cultural and propaganda domains.
However, this wholesale challenge on taghut’s political existence will not come about without counter measures in the form of a fierce and desperate response from it. In the face of this reaction, the camp of monotheism must inevitably take a similar stand because it is unthinkable for it to answer taghut’s declaration of war with an offer of peace and reconciliation or tolerance.
To prove equal to these challenges and confrontations that originate from the camp of taghut the Muslims must respond to the war and challenge with a declaration of war and a counter challenge. In the absence of this the camp of monotheism will have no foothold anywhere in the world.
In addition to confrontation and repaying in kind, there should be total boycott and severing of ties with the polytheist camp in all dimensions of relations. This action is the repudiation which represents the other side of loyalty in Islam.
The dynamic nature of Islam requires two things from the nation when confronting difficult challenges. These issues, which are in fact two faces of a single question, are internal cohesion and severing ties with the external enemy. “[They] are hard against the faithless and merciful amongst themselves.”13
Firstly, there should be cohesion, harmony, cooperation, mutual support and the attitude of yielding to one another within the community. This is the first side of this requirement and it is the loyalty aspect. God Most His says: “… and those who gave [them] shelter and help, they are allies of one another.”14 “The faithful, men and women, are comrades of one another…”15
Certainly they belong one with the other. This is indeed the most beautiful description of the state of unity in the political existence of the community. To quote the hadith: “With regard to their mutual affection, mercy and sympathy, the believers are like a body which, when one limb is ill, all other parts of it respond with vigil and fever”
And the Holy Quran: “Believers are like a building: its parts support one another.”16
“Maintain close relations, be kind and merciful to one another and be brethren who are devoted to one another as you are enjoined by God”17
This is aimed at making the Islamic nation a single body whose parts are in harmony like a compact structure. Secondly, there should be total severance of ties with the enemies of God and His Messengers, who are waiting for some evil to befall this religion. God Most High says: “The faithful should not take the faithless for allies instead of the faithful”18
“O, you who have faith! Do not take the faithless for friends instead of the faithful.”19
“O, you who have faith! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends: they are friends of each other. Any one of you who takes them as friends is indeed one of them”20
“O, you who have faith! Do not take your father and brothers for intimates if they prefer faithlessness to faith …”21
This is repudiation of God’s enemies and the Messenger’s (S); it is forbidden to be their ally, show them affection or endear oneself to them. The twin conditions of strong internal cohesion and complete severance of ties with the external enemy require a central leadership that will guide the nation through various challenges and hurdles, liberate mankind and remove the shackles on them and the obstacles on their way to God. Without this central leadership, the important goals of the Islamic call cannot materialize in the life of mankind.
Loyalty Is Within the Domain of Monotheism
Loyalty would have no value if it did not come under the umbrella of monotheism. True loyalty in man’s life is only the one which lies within this domain: any other form of loyalty, unless it enjoys God’s permission and command, would be a false one, the type Islam has abolished. True loyalty may and may not exist.
If it exists then it must have the positive and negative sides together (loyalty to God alone, rejecting and repudiating other than God), and the negative aspect of it is no less important than the positive one. Allegiance to God cannot take place except by rejecting any other form of allegiance along with it or in opposition to it. To accept any guardianship parallel to that of God – or in opposition to it- means to associate partners with God.
From the foregoing, we can see that unity of loyalty is one of the most important features of loyalty, and we have already said that most instances of polytheism discussed in the Qur’an are those of polytheism in loyalty and not with respect to the Creator. Therefore, there will never be true guardianship in opposition to that of God and there can never be true guardianship without His permission and command.
True Guardianship Is Only By God’s Permission, Within the Domain of His Guardianship and By His Appointment
We find this fact clearly stated where God Most High talks about His appointment of some of His servants as guardians, Imams and deputies over the people. Their Imamate and guardianship would not have been possible had God not conferred it upon them and commissioned them for it beforehand.
In the story of Abraham (as) the Most High says: “He said, ‘I am making you the Imam of mankind,’ He said, ‘ And from among my descendants?’ He said,’ My pledge does not extend to the unjust.”22 Here imamate refers to guardianship over the people, thus, God made Abraham (as) a guardian after he had been a prophet.
In the story of David (as), the Most High said: “O’ David! Indeed we have made you a vicegerent on the earth, so judge between people with the truth.”23 The words ‘so judge between people with the truth’ indicate that vicegerency here means guardianship and authority.
Concerning Abraham’s descendants who He gave him after delivering him from the unjust people, He said: “And we gave him Isaac, and Jacob as well for a grandson, and each of them We made righteous. We made them Imams, guiding by Our command and we revealed to them the performance of good deeds, the maintenance of prayers and the giving of zakat, and they used to worship us.”24
Without intending to elaborate, we would like to point out that the source of authority and power in human life is God Most High and not the people, as is held in modern democratic tendencies and even by some Muslims because of their poor understanding of their religion. No one is entitled to manage the affairs of the Muslims without God’s permission.
The basic principle in this issue is that God is the source of power and leadership and there is nothing in the religious texts to suggest that God has entrusted the people with the issue of sovereignty. We are saying this after an exhaustive study of the texts from which this supposed mandate is inferred.
The Role and Importance of Guardianship in the Life of the Community
Abu Ja’far (as) said: “Islam is built on five [things]: prayer, zakat, fasting, pilgrimage and guardianship (wilayah). Nothing has been proclaimed as much as wilayah”.25
‘Ajlan ibn Salih said: I said to Abu Abdullah (as) ‘ Tell me about the tenets of the faith’ and he said: “Bearing witness that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, affirming that which comes from God, the five prayers, paying zakat, fasting during the month of Ramadan, performing pilgrimage to the House, loyalty to our friends, enmity to our enemies and joining the truthful ones.”26
Abu Ja’far (as) said: “Islam is built on five things: prayer, zakat, fasting, pilgrimage and wilayah” Zurarah (the narrator of the hadith) said, ‘I said: which is the best among them? He said “Wilayah (loyalty to the divinely-appointed guardians) is the best because it is their key and the guardian [to whom loyalty has been prescribed] is the guide to them …’
Then he [Abu Ja’far] said: “The peak of the affair and its key, the door to all things and the [source of the] pleasure of the Merciful is obedience to the Imam after knowing him. God the Mighty and Sublime says: “Whoever obeys the Apostle certainly obeys God; and as for those who turn their backs [on you], We have not sent you to keep watch over them”27 Then he [Abu Ja’far] said: As for those people, God will admit the virtuous among them into paradise by virtue of His mercy.” 28
This hadith calls for much reflection. Should one spend the night in prayer and the day fasting but without knowing loyalty to God and loyalty to His friends one would not have completed the elements of faith. Loyalty to God does not become complete simply by observing the practical aspects of divine law unless obedience to the Messenger (S) and holders of authority after him is added. This is also part of obedience to God. This is so because the essence of religion is not just a set of instructions about worship, transactions, contracts, unilateral pronouncements (al-iqa‘at), although they are also part and parcel of religion.
The core of religion is commitment to God, His Messenger (S) and friends and obedience to His commands and those of His Messenger (S) and his successors (as). Through this commitment, a believer comes to know the characteristics of his religion. The Messenger of God (S) has commanded his community to attach themselves to his Household (as) in addition to the Book of God, so that they may define for them the broad outlines of their religion.
The Messenger of God (S) said: “O, you people! I am but human. My Lord’s messenger will soon come [to call me back] and I will answer. I am leaving two weighty things: the first is the Book of God in which there is guidance and light so keep to the Book of God and hold fast to it”, Then he urged the people to arouse their desire in God’s Book and then continued: “and my household. I remind you of God concerning my household. I remind you of God concerning my household. I remind you of God concerning my household.”29
The question of loyalty is therefore, a fundamental issue in Islam and without it Islam cannot discharge its central role of establishing man’s relationship with God, leading man towards achieving the goals of religion in life, urging mankind to serve God and removing the obstacles that taghut has thrown on the way of this mission. This fact is continuously affirmed by the inexorable clash between the pole of loyalty and that of taghut.
Throughout history, man finds himself between these two poles. These two centers work in opposite directions in man’s life and each one tries to attract his loyalty to it and separate him from the other. The following holy verse hints at the conflict between the poles of wilayah and taghut: “God is the Master of the faithful: He brings them out of darkness into light. As for the faithless, their patrons are the Rebels (taghut), who drive them out of light into darkness. They shall be the inmates of the fire and they shall remain in it [forever].”30
Arrogance and Abasement
Taghut cannot make the people subservient and rob them of their freedom, will and essential qualities, except by abasing them. This is an intricate process which the arrogant elements who spread corruption in the earth consider to be good while God, His Messenger (S) and the faithful detest it.
In essence, this cultural and psychological process robs man’s soul of the values and the qualities God has endowed it with, such as courage, chastity, intelligence, honour, resistance, service, faith and morality and makes him inconsequential in the social, cultural and political arena like a floating piece of wood that is helplessly thrust about by the waves. The Qur’an calls this process despising.
About Pharaoh, the tyrant of Egypt, a contemporary of Moses (as), God said: “So he despised his people”, that is, he robbed them of the values and qualities which would save them from deviating and getting ‘swept away by the waves’ and becoming servile opportunists who never disobey the tyrant, but, instead, conform to all his positions and opinions, his understanding and taste, and his way of life.
There are two forms of obedience: conscious obedience which is the one meant in God’s words: “Obey God, and obey His Apostle and the Holders of authority among you,” and unconscious obedience which results from abasement, loss of insight and human values. This is depicted by God’s words: “So he despised his people and they obeyed him. Indeed they were a transgressing lot”31
Features of the Conflict between Truth and Falsehood
1- In essence, there is an ideological conflict between the two poles of monotheism and polytheism. A close study of the Qur’anic verses that talk about monotheism and polytheism will reveal that most of them refer to the monotheism and polytheism of loyalty and not as pertains to the Creator. In fact the polytheism which is the subject of rejection and criticism in Qur’anic discourse and to which the people fall prey is the polytheism that pertains to loyalty.
2- This ideological contest invariably transforms into a conflict of civilization between two cultures with deep roots in history and a wide geographical spread. These are the cultures of monotheism and polytheism. Yes it is a clash of cultures where the contending camps have certain peculiarities in terms of their ways of thinking and practical methodology.
3- The third feature of this conflict is that it is a political struggle over centers of power in society, the most important of which are political power, wealth, publicity, military prowess and cultural control. These centers of power constantly support the activities of each camp and whichever controls them becomes the stronger party in the conflict. Each side endeavours to control these institutions and employ them in enhancing its presence and activity in society.
4- This conflict is one of the inexorable historical realities and among the divine norms that neither change nor get altered and, therefore, none of the two camps can escape confrontation and its consequences except by relinquishing their role and terminating their activities. The faithful party tries to exercise its influence over all important positions in society, for it cannot carry out its mission unless it gains influence in the political, military, socio-economic and communication arenas on the global level.
This will not take place in a vacuum but in the same sphere of activity and ambition of taghut and the leaders of deviation. Taghut will never withdraw from the field nor stop its reactionary and corrupting activities against mankind until after long efforts and bitter contests. The Qur’an affirms this unchangeable historical reality in clear terms: “And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you away from your religion if they can”32
It is an amazing verse from the Book of God… These people will not stop fighting and pursuing us until they make us renege on our religion if they can! And there is no need for much analysis on why they insist on fighting the Muslims because Islam naturally seeks to extend over taghut’s sphere of influence and interest. Any amount of spread and taking over of the positions of power by Islam means a corresponding amount of withdrawal by taghut.
Therefore, the leaders of unbelief will most certainly confront this religion and its adherents with all the ideas, conspiracies and molestations at their disposal, until they extirpate them or make them leave their religion if they can. It is not correct to disregard this persistent conspiracy and attack, but confronting it is not possible except through an equally resolute action as the Most High says:
“Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress.”33
“Fight all the polytheists just as they fight you all.”34
Whether this war is called defensive or offensive in Islamic jurisprudence, it is in reality a war in defense of mankind and Islam.
5- This conflict will last long and it will take place in continuous rounds and this contention cannot be resolved through reconciliation and understanding because the subject of conflict is a civilizational or ideological one of a magnitude that cannot be resolved unless the power bases of unbelief fall apart. As long as the bases of strength, wealth, political and military powers remain in the possession of unbelief and under the control of its leaders they will continuously be a source of sedition.
The Most High says: “Fight them until polytheism is no more and religion becomes exclusively for God.”35 The limit of this war is that the bases of power of faithless global arrogance should fall. This contest will continue till all the power centers of faithless arrogant powers are uprooted, all persecution is brought to a stop and insubordination to God and His Messenger is terminated. Because of this, this conflict is unparalleled in ferocity and desperation in the course of history.
The idea of engaging in negotiations with unbelief and taghut in order to reach some mediocre solution is nothing short of naivety, impotence and defeatism. This defeatist attitude is the beginning of defeat on the battle field and psychological defeat starts by entertaining the possibility of holding a round-table meeting with taghut with the view of reaching some understanding and ending the conflict.
Thus the fight with taghut is on existence and not on borders. Our attitude to this war is defensive rather than offensive albeit with a minor difference in the meaning of the terms defense and offense. By defense we mean to defend mankind along with their freedom and honour against taghut. Just as taghut’s hostility against mankind, their honour, freedom and values is a crime, to acquiesce on this hostility is criminal.
It is the right of God’s religion, the right of the call to God and the right of the one who we invite to God that we should defend him and never allow taghut to obstruct man’s way to God or to cast a veil between mankind and Islam. This is the core of the defence we are talking about i.e. defence of mankind.
6- This conflict requires the believing community to take a clear and decisive stand on the issue of declaring loyalty and repudiation, declaring loyalty to God, His Messenger and those invested with authority over the Muslims and declaring repudiation of the enemies of God, His Messenger and His friends. Therefore it should be borne in mind that:
– There has to be a stand,
– The stand must be clear, distinct and declared,
– The war against the leaders of unbelief is serious and there is no joke about it,
– It has already started so there is no waiting or looking for it,
– It is inevitable, ferocious and knows no abatement,
– It is desperate: it knows no gentleness or mercy,
-It does not suffice for one to silently maintain his love for God, His Messenger (S) and His friends, without taking a practical stand and without the people knowing it,
– It does not suffice that one’s heart be with God, His Messenger (S) and His friends but his ‘sword and spear’ against them.36
– It will not suffice that one should give part of himself and his wealth to God, His Messenger (S) and His friends and give the rest to taghut.
– It will not suffice for one to give himself entirely to God but remain amiable to taghut or maintain some links by which one may revert to the fold of taghut.
This is because loyalty is indivisible: it should either be entirely for God the Exalted or He would accept nothing of it, for God is independent of creation. Therefore loyalty requires a firm clear-cut position which must be publicized by way of one’s association [to a group] and separation [from another]; through love and affection, hate and enmity; through allegiance and denouncing; through peace and war.
7- Loyalty and repudiation are two sides of the same reality with respect to this historical conflict and the stand it entails. Without repudiation, loyalty has no use and it cannot play its active role in the life of the community unless it is coupled with denouncing the enemies of God, His Messenger (S) and His friends.
Therefore a stand is not made of loyalty alone; it consists of two faces: a positive one and a negative one, peace and war, mercy and harshness, association and separation, love and hate. So long as these two sides are not found together in one’s stand it will not be a real one but a strain of hypocrisy, and a kind of political civility and double game playing. God the Most High has said: “… [They] are hard against the faithless and merciful amongst themselves.”37
8- Just as the pole of loyalty consists of one centre, one line and a single extension throughout history, that of taghut also comprise one line, one civilization and one extension. In loyalty to God’s Prophet (S) and friends we recognize no difference between those nearer to our own age and those who lived earlier. All of them bear God’s religion and convey His message. God has bestowed on all of them prophethood, imamate and guardianship over His servants. We therefore give allegiance to them all and believe in what God has revealed to them and we make no distinction between them.
God the Most High says: “Say, ‘We have faith in God, and that which has been sent down to us, and that which was sent to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus were given, and that which the Prophets (as) were given from their Lord; and we make no distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit.”38
The Most Glorious also said: “The apostle has faith in what has been send down to him from his Lord, and all the faithful. Each [of them] has faith in God, His angels, His scriptures and His apostles. [They declare,] ‘We make no distinction between any of His apostles.’ And they say, ‘ We hear and we obey. Our Lord! Forgive us, and toward You is the return.”39
As we pay allegiance to all God’s friends, it is also obligatory that we should repudiate all their enemies. Just as loyalty is a single issue, repudiation is also one. Therefore, we are required to denounced Pharaoh and Nimrod, just as we denounce Abu Jahl and Yazid, and also the tyrants of our age and their cohorts. This is because the same reason why we repudiate and curse the despots of our time also calls for repudiation and cursing Cain, Pharaoh, Nimrod, Abu Jahl, Yazid and Hajjaj.
The conflict between the poles of truth and falsehood, guidance and deviation, and wilayah and taghut is not a personal war; rather it is a civilizational one. Each of the two fronts has a historical dimension and deep cultural roots in either guidance or misguidance. In essence, the conflict is a single one through all its historical stages; the allegiance is one and so is the repudiation, throughout the different stages and epochs of this conflict.
The Incident of Al-Taff: A Touchstone for Loyalty and Repudiation
The event of Al-Taff in Karbala which happened in 61 A.H. remains the foremost scene where loyalty and repudiation are exhibited. Amongst many great historical events and theatres of conflict between truth and falsehood, this one was distinctive with respect to attracting the loyalty of the faithful and inducing them to repudiate the opposite camp. Because of this the believers’ loyalty and repudiation manifested themselves in the issue of Karbala more than in any other conflicts between truth and falsehood.
Loyalty and repudiation towards that event assume concrete form today through several manifestations such as: conducting mourning sessions, weeping, reciting the supplications of visitations (ziyarat), pilgrimage to Karbala, literary works and speeches. All these aspects and many more give expression to the believers’ devotion to Husayn (as), his family and his companions, and also their denouncement of their enemies.
The incident of Al-Taff was among instances of conflict that leave their impact in history and impress themselves on all generations: one cannot just give them a casual or unconcerned look nor read their story without being moved. Although more than one thousand three hundred years have passed this tragic event still has great impact on the souls, hearts and minds, and it still influences those God has endowed with awareness and insight concerning his religion.
The people still receive the issue of Karbala enthusiastically and react to it positively or negatively with regard to loyalty and repudiation. What is the secret behind this? What made it a mirror for loyalty and repudiation in the course of this long history? The battle of Al-Taff was so distinct that no one was left in doubt as to the nature of the contending parties.
There was no any ambiguity around the battle which took place in the land of Al-Taff: no one doubted that Husayn (as) was inviting people to God and His Messenger, and to be steadfast on the straight path of God; and no one doubted that Yazid ibn Mu’awiya had violated the limits set by God and even openly declared so, and he also openly engaged in sin and crime although he was occupying the position of successor of God’s Messenger (S).
No one among the Muslims who were on the battlefield on that day when Abu Abdillah Husayn (as) was facing Yazid ibn Mu’awiya would hesitate for a moment to take the position that Husayn (as) was rightly guided and Yazid deviated. As such there was nothing hidden or confusing concerning this battle, so anyone who supported Husayn (as) must have done so out of conviction and guidance and anyone who took Yazid’s side must have done so knowing fully that they were misguided.
Thus for both camps, the issue was not hidden at all. All the people who lived at the time of the battle or witnessed it or were acquainted with it either directly or indirectly knew the truth from falsehood, and they could distinguish between God’s call and taghut’s call. No one abandoned Husayn (as) because the matter was confusing or he was unable to distinguish between what was true from what was false; the Imam was forsaken because the people preferred peace and comfort to being killed in the way of God, the Glorious.
No one drew a sword on Husayn (as) out of confusion, ignorance or ambiguity but they did so knowing very clearly that, by fighting him they were in fact, at war with God the Great, His Messenger (S) and His friend- the Imam (as). This clarity that surrounded the battlefield makes the incident of al-Taff stand out among other historical events, it reflects a vivid picture of the struggle between truth and falsehood and the confrontation of the centre of loyalty to God and that of loyalty to taghut. As such it has been a perpetual symbol of contest between right and wrong and also a theatre in the life of the believers where loyalty and repudiation were exhibited.
The incident of al-Taff leaves no room for hesitation or indecision because it was a manifest confrontation between right and wrong, between God’s party and Satan’s party and between guidance and deviation. Therefore a clear and definite stand is necessary on this issue and where such a stand is not in alliance with God’s army and does not denounce their adversaries, it will inevitably be one that approves the actions of Yazid and his army, and the one who takes this stand deserves to be cursed and expelled from God’s grace.
“May God curse a people who have killed you, may God curse a people who have wronged you, may God curse a people who have heard about that and approved of it.”40
Because the issue of Karbala is a distinct one among major historical events, and it entails a clear stand and opinion, we find that it strongly and continuously induces loyalty in the souls of believers. The weeping, the mourning sessions, the mourning processions and the pilgrimage to the shrine of the holy Imam in Karbala, and other instances of loyalty and association cannot all be done out of emotion since emotion alone does not have that strong impact on peoples’ lives.
Since the battle of al-Taff is a symbol of confrontation between right and wrong and a rallying point of loyalty and repudiation then the strong attachment to this question means a declaration of allegiance and denouncement, as well as a strong attachment to the centre of loyalty.
The feeling of unity of loyalty and unity of repudiation consolidate the unity of the community’s focal point. And the perception that the community has one focal point intensifies its feeling of being a single family from Adam (as) to the present day. It rallies around one point; fights on one front for the sake of one issue. It shares love and hate, peace and war, carries out the same mission, subscribes to the same culture and believes in the same faith.
When the believer’s perception of the unity in loyalty, repudiation, love, hate, obedience, enmity, faith and rejection intensifies he will then have a profound feeling that the believers comprise a single believing family in history. It is then that the believer feels that loyalty to God, His Messenger (S) and His friends had covered all time and place and made this community into a single bloc which is united in sensitivities, feelings, faith, war, peace and mission. He will perceive that a strong cohesive force binds him with other members of this gigantic family, despite the great difference in time and the long distances that exist between its members.
With this, his consciousness of sharing the same destiny with others will intensify and imbue him with a sense of strength and pride in God. In this fierce battle, the believer is not alone; he is in fact part of faithful community rooted in history and spread all over the earth. It seeks the help of God the One and Irresistible in consolidating the mission, inviting people to God the Most High, establishing the religion in peoples’ lives and removing all the hurdles that are on the way of the Islamic call.
This feeling of being with God and with the faithful will take away from the minds of callers to God, the feeling of being forlorn amidst the scuffle with taghut and its arrogance, tyranny and power. Abraham (as) was alone a nation obedient to God in confrontation with Nimrod. “Indeed Abraham was a nation obedient to God, a man of pure faith, and he was not one of the polytheists.”41
1. – Qur’an ch: 24 vs: 51
2. – Qur’an ch: 26 vs: 150- 151
3. – Qur’an ch: 9 vs: 24
4. – Qur’an ch: 2 vs: 165
5. – Qur’an ch: 47 vs: 7
6. – Qur’an ch: 22 vs: 40
7. – Qur’an ch: 8 vs: 72
8. – Qur’an ch: 8 vs: 74
9. – Qur’an ch: 7 vs: 157
10. – Qur’an ch: 39 vs: 29
11. – Qur’an ch: 12 vs: 39
12. – Al-Wafi 3: 22
13. – Qur’an ch: 48 vs: 29
14. – Qur’an ch: 8 vs: 72
15. – Qur’an ch: 9 vs: 71
16. – Sahih Muslim 8: 20 Dar al-Fikr ed.
17. – Bihar Al- Anwar 74: 399
18. – Qur’an ch: 3 vs: 28
19. – Qur’an ch: 4 vs: 144
20. – Qur’an ch: 5 vs: 51
21. – Qur’an ch: 9 vs: 23
22. – Qur’an ch: 2 vs: 124
23. – Qur’an ch: 38 vs: 26
24. – Qur’an ch: 21 vs: 72- 73
25. – Usul al-Kafi 2: 18; Bihar al-Anwar 68: 329
26. – Usul al-Kafi 2: 18; Bihar al-Anwar 68: 330
27. – Qur’an ch 4 vs: 80
28. – Usul al-Kafi 2: 18; Bihar al-Anwar 68: 332- 333
29. – This hadith has been recorded by the master traditionists through numerous chains of transmission and Allamah Mir Hamid Husayn al-Luknawi has compiled those chains in several volumes of his Al-Abaqat. Among the sources of his hadith is Sahih Muslim 7: 122 (Dar al-Fikr Beirut)
30. – Qur’an ch: 2 vs: 257
31. – Qur’an ch 43 vs 54
32. – Qur’an ch: 2 vs: 217
33. – Qur’an ch: 2 vs: 190
34. – Qur’an ch: 9 vs: 36
35. – Qur’an ch 8 vs: 39
36. – Along his way to Iraq, at Al-Safah, Imam al- Husayn (as) met al-Farazdaq ibn Ghalib (the poet) and asked him about the people. Al-Farazdaq said: Their hearts are with you but their swords are with the Umayyads, and the decree descends from the heavens. Al-Husayn (as) said: You have said the truth. The affair is God’s, He does what He wishes and every day He is engaged in some work. If the decree descends with what we want, we praise God for His blessings and He is the resort [who enables us] discharge gratitude. However, if the decree stands in the way of [our] hope then he does not stand accused he whose intention is the truth and his mind is pious. Tarikh al-Tabari 6: 218; Tarikh Ibn al-Athir 40: 16
37. – Qur’an ch: 48 vs: 29
38. – Qur’an ch: 2 vs: 136
39. – Qur’an Ch: 2 vs: 285
40. – See Ziyarat al-Warith.
41. – Qur’an ch:16 vs: 120