Qualities of a Shi'ah
Salāmun ʿalaykum, may Allah bless you, your families, and all the communities around the world.
This is the fifth night of Muḥarram. We thank Allah (swt) for giving us the tawfīq to spend another night in His remembrance and having the honor of mourning for our beloved Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa). We’re going to discuss some of the qualities that a Shīʿah, a true follower, of Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) should have. We have many ḥadīth that tell us how people used to go to the Imāms and say, “O Imām, we are your true Shīʿah.” For example, one group of people came to Imām ar-Riḍā (ʿa) and said, “O Imām ar-Riḍā, we are your Shīʿah.” The Imām (ʿa) corrected them and said, “No, you are not our Shīʿahs; you are our muḥḥib — you like us and love us, but a Shīʿah is a person who follows the path of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and obeys them, and who acts like the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa).”
That’s why we have these two words: muḥḥib, someone who loves the Imāms, and Shīʿah, someone who follows them. We need to try to be both. Love alone is not enough. If we just love our mothers and we don’t listen to them, that’s not true love. If you always show your mother and father love and respect and tell them you love them, but when they ask you to do something, you don’t do it, that love is incomplete. Love needs to be side by side with following that person, of course, as long as it’s Islamically okay. When our mom asks us to clean our room or set the table, we are showing our love by listening to her and following her.
These days and nights, we are learning about the events of Karbala and the lessons from Karbala. One of the lessons we need to learn is how to become better followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) — better Shīʿahs. I would like to present to you a ḥadīth by Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) where he discusses some of the qualities of the Shīʿahs of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa). This ḥadīth has 7 parts to it:
شيعتنا المتباذلون ف ولايتنا | المتحابون ف مودتنا | المتزاورون ف إحياء أمرنا | الذين إذا غضبوا لم يظلموا لم يسرفوا | بركة على من جاوروا | سلم لمن خالطوا وإن رضوا
The first characteristic: شيعتنا المتباذلون في ولايتنا
The first characteristic Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) says is “Our Shīʿahs give and sacrifice for the sake of our wilāyah (meaning for the sake of following the Ahl al-Bayt).” When a Shīʿah has to make a choice between something they have to do for the Ahl al-Bayt and something they would like to do for themselves, they choose to do what makes the Imām (ʿa) happy, even if that means giving up a lot and sacrificing.
When they see someone in need and they can help that person, they do so, and they feel a special responsibility towards the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa).
We have lots of stories in history that show that true Shīʿahs have to sacrifice. Hārūn ar-Rashīd, the evil leader during the time of Imām ar-Riḍā (ʿa), had a son named Qāsim. Of course, if you are the son of the king, you live in his palace and have many luxuries and physical blessings. But Qāsim, unlike his father, loved the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and was a Shīʿah. So he left his father’s kingdom and went to a place called Basra. There, he looked for a job and started working in the lowest position he could find. He would say, “My love for the Ahl al-Bayt is so great that I don’t want to eat the food that comes from my father’s court because of his enmity to the Ahl al-Bayt.” He gave up all the glamor and luxury of being the king’s son to live a life that wasn’t mixed with the hate of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa).
The second characteristic: المتحابون في مودتنا
The second characteristic of a Shīʿah is they become friends with each other, and they choose to become friends with those who also love the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa). One of the criteria they have for choosing friends is that those people should love and follow the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) too. Remember, there’s a difference between friends and the people that we have to be around. When we go to school or play sports, there are people we have to be around. We should be kind and respectful to all the people around us. But when we pick our friends, and in particular our close friends, we should pick those people who love the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and help us to get closer to Allah (swt). Sometimes we forget that and want to be friends with those who are popular, or for other reasons, maybe they have the latest electronic device, or are always up-to-date with the latest fashion, but we should remember that Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) says to pick friends who also love the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa). This is because we know these types of friends have the same values as us and will encourage us to make good choices. For example, they might remind us to pray on time when we are at their house. They will also help us stay away from those bad choices, like eating ḥarām food or watching shows that we should not be watching. And they will help encourage us to be the best we can be.
The third characteristic: المتزاورون في أحياء أمرنا
The third characteristic that Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) tells us is that Shīʿahs go and visit each other. In Islam, there’s so much emphasis on sitting and meeting and hanging out with each other. But, Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) tells us there is more to it than just hanging out. When the Shīʿahs and friends get together, they do so with the purpose of أحيا أمرنا (iḥyā ʾamrinā) — they bring alive our teachings. They don’t just sit and waste time talking about useless things. They talk and discuss about how they can become better people; they discuss ḥadīth and different teachings the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) have taught us. For example, they may get together and make time to play in the masjid or center, but they also listen to speeches that are given by learned scholars. They might also have fun while doing cool projects together, like planting trees, cleaning schools, or making kits for the homeless.
Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) says, “One day, I was walking with my father, Imām al-Bāqir (ʿa), and we came to the masjid. There was a group of Shīʿahs who were talking and hanging out and having a good conversation. My father said, ‘I swear by Allah, I love these kinds of gatherings. From these gatherings, a beautiful perfume goes up to the heavens, making it smell beautiful.’
So you see, it’s important for us to spend time together and have these conversations. Alḥamdulillāh, some of us are blessed to have Islamic centers and schools where there are a lot of kids our age to be friends with. But what about when there aren’t? We live in a country where the majority is non-Muslim.
Let me tell you a very interesting story. There was a man who moved to a country where there weren’t many believers. One day, he came to visit Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) and said, “I miss you so much. When I was here, I could come see you, and there were so many believers I could talk to and spend time with.”
The Imām (ʿa) gave a beautiful reply. He said, “You, a person in that community that doesn’t have any believers, are like an entire society, an entire ummah. But you have two responsibilities. First, remember and practice our teachings. Second, invite people towards us and our teachings.”
For us here, where we live with many non-Muslims, it’s especially important that through our words, our akhlāq, and our behavior, we teach people. We can tell them that in Islam, we are taught to be respectful to each other and we’re taught to respect our family. Through our behavior, by always doing the right thing, we can show people what Islam teaches us. For example, if someone is asking you to do something bad, like take something that doesn’t belong to you, cheat on a test, or make fun of another classmate, you can tell them that this is something that you are not supposed to do in Islam.
The fourth characteristic: الذين إذا غضبوا لم يظلموا
The next characteristic is that when our Shīʿahs become angry, they don’t act out and do something bad. There’s a beautiful story that shows this. One day, Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) was walking, and he saw a servant who was crying. He asked what was wrong. She told him, “My master asked me to go buy dates, so I did. When I came back, he told me that these dates are bad quality and I should go back and return them. When I went to return them, the storekeeper said that he won’t take them back. So now, I don’t know what to do. My master is going to be so upset!”
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) got up and took the bag and they walked to the store. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) said to the storekeeper, “These dates are not good, and this girl is just a middleman. Her master is not happy with these dates; please take them back.” This store owner didn’t know that he was talking to Imām ʿAlī (ʿa). He put his hand on Imām ʿAlī’s (ʿa) chest and pushed him back. When the other people in the market saw this, they said to him, “Don’t you know this is Imām ʿAlī?! He is the lion of Allah!”
When the date seller realized what he had done, he said, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know! Please forgive me.” Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) said, “Okay, I forgive you, but I have a condition. My condition is that you need to fix yourself. You can’t have this kind of behavior and these kinds of actions. If you do this, then I’m okay with you and forgive you.”
So when you get angry, don’t react badly. Sometimes, at home, we get angry with our family members, or at school or at gatherings at centers and masjids, we get mad at our friends. It’s important to ask who is in charge, our anger or ourselves? We have to remind ourselves that our Imām (ʿa) says a Shīʿah is someone who does not act badly when they’re angry. They don’t let their anger control them.
The fifth characteristic: وإن رضوا لم يسرفوا
The 5th characteristic is that when they’re happy, they do not waste nor exceed the limits. This is very important. Sometimes, when we have parties or we have people over, or we want to have some kind of celebration, we buy too much or spend too much, and too much of it goes to waste. We have to be careful and remember that we cannot waste. Why does the Imām (ʿa) say not to waste when we’re happy? Because sometimes when we’re happy, we’re so busy that we forget to be God-conscious and cautious, and we forget that wasting is ḥarām. We forget that there are so many people who are poor and needy, and we are wasting. Another type of waste is taking more than we need and eating more than we should. So if we’re at a gathering and there are cookies, and we take more than we should, even if we eat them all, it’s still a kind of waste. Yet another type of waste is when we waste ourselves by not using the potential that Allah (swt) put in us to reach perfection, and instead make ourselves busy with unimportant things.
The sixth characteristic: بركة على من جاوروا
The 6th characteristic is that the Shīʿahs are nice to their neighbors and a source of blessings for them. It’s very important that as Muslims, we’re nice to our neighbors. When you’re leaving your house and you see them, you should wave and say "hi". You can talk to your parents about making something for your neighbors when it’s the month of Ramaḍān or Eid, and showing them about Islam. Every neighbor that we show our good akhlāq to through our actions will tell their friends, and soon, people will realize what a beautiful religion we have.
The seventh characteristic: سلم لمن خالطوا
The last characteristic is when they are with other people, they act with such great akhlāq. Whoever you work with, whether in a group at school, or when standing in line at a store, or going to someone’s house with your parents, the way you act with them should make them say “Wow!” We have ḥadīth from our Imāms that say when you’re in a place, be our gem, our jewel. When people see you, they should say, “Wow, where do you get these great manners from? Who do you follow? What religion do you follow?” Without even learning about Islam, they should see the beautiful akhlāq we have.
So, remember, if we want to be a true Shīʿah of Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa), we have to show we love the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) by following them. During these ten nights, we are spending time and leaving our regular routines to go to the masjid, wearing black clothes, crying for Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa), learning and showing we want to become Shīʿah of Imām Ḥusayn (ʿa) and we want to become better people. Let’s take these lessons we learn and apply them to our lives so that we can actually see these changes and become the true Shīʿah, inshāʾAllāh.
Authored under the guidance of Moulana Nabi R. Mir (Abidi)
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