Stand Up for the Sake of Allah
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas
Imam al-Khomeini during his exile in Najaf al-Ashraf would advise his students (including my own teacher who similarly advised me) to reflect upon the following verse of the Qur’an and to apply it to their lives:
قُلۡ إِنَّمَآ أَعِظُكُم بِوَٲحِدَةٍۖ أَن تَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ مَثۡنَىٰ وَفُرَٲدَىٰ ثُمَّ تَتَفَڪَّرُواْۚ
“Say (to them O Muhammad): ‘I exhort you on one thing only: that you stand up for the sake of Allah either in pairs or individually, and then contemplate (within yourselves)…’” (Qur’an 34:46)
In the verse, the Almighty commands the beloved Prophet (s) to exhort his community, to press them on doing one thing alone, تَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ, standing up for the sake of Allah. He then refines the exhortation of standing up by saying مَثۡنَىٰ وَفُرَٲدَىٰ, in pairs (plural) or individually, meaning if the believers en masse are taking part in this action, then join them, but if none are then one must stand up – even if it means going it alone. This verse of the Qur’an colored the view of Imam al-Khomeini, it was the driving factor in his success as a revolutionary; the reason why he did not back down after years of torture, exile, and threats of execution.
To comprehend the depth of this verse we must first understand what تَقُومُواْ means, what it means to stand up for something, and to understand it we must first understand its opposite. The opposite of standing is sitting, and sitting is passive, hence to stand up for something means to do the opposite of passivity, to act when the majority are submissive and acquiescent to the state of affairs; and when the state of affairs is antagonistic to the way of God – the way of righteousness, one must stand up and present a challenge.
As this is the month of Sha‘bān, the birth month of the master of martyrs, Abi ‘Abd Allah al-Husayn (‘a), our minds naturally gravitate towards him, for he in his entirety represents the personification of this given verse. In the year 60 AH, when Mu’awiyah appointed his son Yazid as his successor, the vast majority of Muslims – including the many living companions of the Prophet (s) [who may not have been happy with such designation] – remained passive, it was only a few who realized their disapproval into action, and of those few it was only Husayn and his small band of supporters who risked leaving the safety of Makkah and Madinah. While others took to the house of Allah for protection, Husayn left it for its protection; his every action was for the sake Allah, لِلَّهِ.
So, when the image of standing up alone, فُرَٲدَىٰ, is drawn, what will be depicted is Husayn standing alone on the battlefield of Karbala facing ten thousand swords all thirsty for his blood. On the 10th of Muharram, facing an enemy of insurmountable numbers, he stood with full composure and declared the following magnificent line:
إن كان دينُ محمّدٍ لم يستقم إلّا بقتلي، فيا سيوف خذيني
“Verily, if the religion of Muhammad (s) cannot survive except by my slaughter, then gather all your swords and strike upon my neck.”
Imam al-Husayn at this moment personifies the verse by declaring that if the moral, ethical, and just system of Godliness were in danger, one must not hesitate to offer themselves. We must learn from the beloved grandson of the Prophet, and we must reflect on the given verse, for these lessons are timeless. There are many ills in society, some that are totally neglected, we for the sake of Allah must stand up, be it to to protect the environment, or to fight against economic inequality, or any other issue affecting our fellow created beings [especially the innocent], for whatever our lives are worth righteousness is worth more.
When all is said and done, we are then granted the greatest of honors, for we are commanded to then contemplate, ثُمَّ تَتَفَڪَّرُواْۚ. Meaning, we contemplate on our standing up for the sake of Allah, that by taking part in this action we aligned ourselves completely with the, مشيئة, will of God, which is the ultimate objective of all believing men and women.
(This piece was originally written for the Masjid-e-Ali Newsletter)