Majlis e Aza, Maulana Hayder Shirazi

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I attended the Majlis-e Aza, a Shia Muslim gathering at my friend Aftab’s home, over 50 families attended to listen to the visiting Maulana Hayder Shirazi in the Majlis (gathering).
The experience was spiritually enriching and broadening my horizons of accepting the otherness of others. Indeed, it is time for us to get to know each other, we don’t have to agree or disagree with our madhabs (denominations) and rituals, but we can develop the capability to respect each other and find solutions to live in harmony. We need to include in our teaching, that disrespecting Allah’s creation, fellow humans, amounts to disrespecting God. Indeed, God says in Quran, killing one person amounts to killing the whole humanity, and saving one life is like saving the whole humanity.

Two teenagers sang the Marsiya (melancholic songs) followed by a chorus, “Mere Abbas Jahan ho” it was powerful and moving. 
Abbas was the 32 year old brother of Imam Husain (as). He was Imam Husain (as) and Islam’s flag bearer. He is known for his utmost loyalty to Imam Husain. He was brutally martyred by Yazid’s (self proclaimed, evil king) army when he went to fetch water for the very young children within Imam Husain’s family who had been thirsty for more than 3 days.

Ali Asghar  was a six month old son of Imam Hussain, who was prevented from getting water from the river for his sick child, while he was waiting and holding Asghar in his arms, Yazid’s men (evil king) shot an arrow at the baby and martyred him. This sad story is a reminder of what the evil is capable of doing, and the need for us, each one of us, to speak out against evil things happening in our daily lives.

The program began by praying for a Shia girl killed in Pakistan. I felt the surge of blood in my veins, what is happening to Pakistan?   During this Muharram (first month of Islamic Calendar and the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain on the 10th) an endless number of Shia Muslims were killed,  a few weeks ago a bus was stopped and all the people were asked to get out, and they killed each one of the 19 Shia in the bus, sparing the Sunni. This is simply not acceptable. Until we feel the suffering, and until we stand up for the rights of others be it Muslim or not, the humanness in us gets depleted. These Murderers are disrespectful to God.

Like all minorities around the world, the Shia, Ahmadiyya, Hindus and the Sikhs minorities in Pakistan are constantly harassed and hounded. As I reflect upon it, the issue is much bigger than Shia-Sunni, it is the majoritarian arrogance that wants to oppress the minorities.  It takes violent form in Pakistan, but takes different avatars in different places including our own United States, Israel and other nations. Even though we are a blessed country, we still have bigots running and saying things that don’t make sense. Thanks to the founding fathers for making this nation respect the rule of law, which ensures every citizen, a relative safety. 

The civility of a nation hinges on how it treats its weak, its women, its minorities and the ones in the ditches.  

While sitting in this particular Majlis, for a few brief moments, I asked myself, are we not all Muslims? We eat the same food, we look the same and we speak the same language, and most of us espouse the same faith. What causes the hatred and ill will that is going on in Pakistan? Why do we exclude others in our conversations?

Of course, the Maulana addressed the Shia more than once; after all it was a Shia gathering. The same thing happens at the Sunni, Bohra, Ismaili or Ahmadiyya gatherings; their talk does not include other Muslims at all.   

 Yet, I have heard the all-inclusive-prayer, even today, as in every Mosque I have been to, “Allahum maghfirli wali walidaiyya wali ustadhi wali jam’il mu’minina, wal mu’minat wal muslimina wal muslimat – Dear God! Forgive me and my parents, and my teachers, and all the believers, the Muslim men and women.” Do we mean it or we just recite it to get it over?    You cannot seek peace for just one, and not the other, as our peace hinges on peace to others. 

 Well, that is the case with every place of worship I have been, whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism.  That is contrary to the teachings of all religions, each one of them ….taught to get along and respect the other.  We have to learn to know each other, the more we know the other, the less conflicts we would have (Quraan 49:13).

Maulana Hayder Shirazi has that calmness on his face that generates tremendous respect for him, a humble man, as most of the Imams I have known in Dallas.  He is visiting from London and studied in Qom, Iran for 14 years! I was glad to hear that they also teach about other denominations of Islam, as an optional subject.  The teachers are Shia who teach the Sunni version of Islam, I am sure it will be honest, as I have known the Sunni Imams who respectfully talk the Shia version, as Shia understand it.

Maulana talked about loyalty and obedience to the principles, and elaborated Ateeullaha o Ateeur rasool very well. If you are not loyal to your wife, and vice-versa, more than likely you will not be loyal to the creator, if you don’t listen to parents, more than likely…. I was watching the youth listening to him attentively. He communicates well with his message.

He also talked about Tasweef; that is procrastination. He shared the story of two brothers from Baghdad who went to India, and one of them could not go to Hajj while the other did. The point he was making was, if you postpone Hajj, you can justify it to perform next year, or when you get older, or if it is about repenting, we cannot wait till the last breath, as we may not get the chance to repent it. His advice; do it now.

He was talking about the Ghayab Imam, or the Imam who would appear one day, and he will, if we do our part, be righteous. 

The Haram and Halal conflicts ends with life on the earth, he said one would be free from such conflicts in heaven. God can do anything kun fa ekoon, he just thinks and it happens. 

He was telling the story of Karbala  and when he narrated the part, where Yazid wanted Zainab be killed and brought to him in disgrace. Thanks to Munawar-Ali Abbas for sharing the following, “Zainab was the sister of Imam Husain (as). She accompanied Imam Husain (as) to Karbala. After the brutal Martyrdom of Imam Husain (as) by the army of “evil king,” Yazeed (la), the women and children of Imam Husain (as) were made captive by the army of Yazeed (la). They were all taken in great disgrace and were tortured from Karbala to Kufa, and from Kufa to Syrai (Shaam).”

She would not compromise her principles but willing to die for it instead. The adults started crying out loud, and for a few minutes, I was the only one who did not. As the story progressed, listening to the humiliation of Zainab endured against Yazid’s unabashed harassment, I could not hold myself from crying. I just could not believe I did that. It felt good to intensely feel the suffering, humility and pain. You always salute those who stand up for the righteous principles.

At the end of the program, everyone got up and followed the unique Shia ritual, of beating the chests with both hands; it was loud and in unison and went on for about 15 minutes. The chanting was “kat gaye aale Muhammad ke gharanay walay” – martyred are the prophet’s family members. 

Everyone was deeply involved in the chanting and the chest beating, and momentarily I felt odd…and out of place, but was admiring the bonding it was facilitating. There was a temptation not to be an odd ball and do what others were doing… but I was severely fighting within myself, then I chose not to, as it would be something other Sunni or other Muslims cannot replicate, but we need to know each other.  My comfort increased when I invoked Pluralism ideals in me that we all have to learn to respect the otherness of others, and we do not have to agree with each other, but be respectful of each other. Indeed, that model was provided by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as expressed in the link –

And that is what knowing each other means in Sura 49:13 is expressed in the following video.

The food was good, it was lentil-meat with Naan and Halwa!

Insha Allah, I will be writing the essence of Hanukkah, Christmas and other festivals in December, so we can now about each other. Please make an effort to participate in Shia, Sunni, Bohra, Ahamdiyya, Ismaili, Deen Mohammad and other Muslim events. To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker, to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill.

Thanks to Munawar-Ali Abbas and Tahira for the corrections,  their comments are included below.

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Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place and standing up for others as an activist. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site indexes everything you want to know about him.

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