This is a translated excerpt from a Friday sermon by Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Hussein Fadhlullah
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
In their march, the Ahlulbayt (as) had an educational plan to spread Islamic awareness. They sought to build a group of Muslims who adhered to their Islamic school of thought which is nothing but the true Message of Islam that the Messenger called for. Right from the very beginning, he was accompanied by Imam Ali (as) who nipped Islam from the Prophet’s soul, morals and contemplations that opened up on knowing God even before the Prophet (pbuh) was sent with the Message. Thus, Imam Ali (as) was raised in his house, lived with him and shared all his thoughts and contemplations. Then, when the Message came, he was the first to pray in the Prophet’s mosque… He accompanied him like a baby camel accompanies his mother.
He, then, returned the Prophet’s trusts, and he slept in his bed to cover his migration. Then he was the champion of his wars and he was with him when the Prophet (pbuh) guided the people and educated them.
Thus, Imam Ali’s knowledge, mind and actions were the same as those of the Prophet (pbuh), and he was the only person qualified to be the leader of Muslims after the Prophet (pbuh). He was—as Al-Khalil bin Ahmad Al-Farahidi said when asked why he gave Imam Ali (as) such a superior position; the fact that he is needed by all and he does not need anyone proves that he is the Imam of all.
Some caliphs who preceded him said that there was no problem that could not be solved by the Imam. Moreover, everybody quotes Omar’s saying: “Weren’t it for Ali, Omar would be doomed”.
Shiism: True open Islam
This is how Shiism came to be. It was not founded to be a party other than Islam. Imam Ali and the Imams (as) did not have anything but Islam. The living and open Islam whose leadership would sacrifice their lives for. Imam Ali (as) told the people of Egypt that he was afraid that if he did not support Islam, that the consequences would be much more tragic than not being a caliph.
He also said that I would keep the peace as long as the affairs of Muslims are secured and the only injustice falls on me. Thus, there were a group of pious Muslims in the beginning of this genuine Islamic movement that included Salman al Farsi, Abu Dhar Al Ghafari, Al-Makdad, Ammar ibn Yasser, and the Imam’s sons, Al-Hassan & Al-Hussein (as). And they started their march dedicating their lives to Islam and refusing to denounce their allegiance to Imam Ali (as) when Mu’awiah threatened to kill them if they did not. They knew that claiming not to follow Imam Ali (as) is the same as denouncing their Islam.
Therefore, Shiism was not founded to be independent of Islam or to be different in any way no matter how trivial. It is the intellectual, spiritual, moral, legal and practical depth of Islam.
That is why the Imams (as) have stressed that Shiism is not a matter of naïve love. You cannot say you love Imam Ali (as) and then support those who fought him. Imam Ali (as) has fought the unjust and the non believers. Loving Imam Ali (as) on the basis that someone has told you that it is a deed that will prevent any other harm is not a real love. Those who told you so are wrong. Loving Imam Ali (as) obviously means following his lead in being a committed and practicing Muslim whose heart and mind are filled with Islam and whose actions reflect these feelings… He was the champion of Islam who was ready to sacrifice his life for it, and he never cared about any other worldly matter since he was filled with the love of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh).
Let us listen to a saying of Imam Al-Baqir (as), you have heard it from me several times, but let us once again listen to it so that each of us can judge whether he is a Shiite or not. He says: “Is it enough for whoever claims to be a Shiite to say he loves us? By God… the Shiites are those who fear and obey Allah. They are known for being humble, trustworthy, remembering God often, being kind to their parents and neighbors, especially the poor, the needy and the orphans. They are truthful, often recite the Qur’an and only speak about the good qualities of others. Do not delude yourselves. It is not enough for a man to say I love Ali and follow him if he does not reflect this in his actions. He could have said that he loves the Messenger who is better than Ali…”
“… But if he loves the Messenger and does not follow his teachings, his love will do him no good. Therefore, be pious and know that we have no a special relationship with God. God loves those of you who are pious and obedient most. We have no power to save you from the fire! Whoever obeys God is one of our followers and whoever disobeys Him is one of our enemies. Being one of our followers cannot be attained other than through hard work and piety.”
We also notice in this saying that the Imam concentrated on the centrist position of Shiism. There are those who claim to love the Ahlulbayt (as), and yet they go as far as ascribing to them a status very near to that of Allah (swt), thus distancing themselves from the true meaning of worshiping Allah (swt).
There are even those who say do not pray for anything from Allah (swt); it is the Ahlulbayt (as) who answer your prayers. According to them we cannot communicate with Allah (swt), and we have to communicate with the Ahlulbayt (as), for Allah (swt) has made them the Masters of this universe… This logic is refused by the Ahlulbayt (as). It is true that they can intercede but only those whom Allah (swt) accepts intercession for. In the Holy Quran, Allah (swt) quotes the Prophet (pbuh) as saying:
“Say: I do not control any benefit or harm for my own soul except as Allah please; and had I known the unseen I would have had much of good and no evil would have touched me; I am nothing but a warner and the giver of good news to a people who believe”
Holy Quran – 7:188
“And I do not say to you that I have the treasures of Allah and I do not know the unseen, nor do I say that I am an angel, nor do I say about those whom your eyes hold in mean estimation (that) Allah will never grant them (any) good– Allah knows best what is in their souls– for then most surely I should be of the unjust”Holy Quran – 11:31
It is Allah (swt) who gives, supports and heals and we only ask the Prophets and the Imams (as) to intercede because Allah (swt) has given them this attribute. That is why the Imam (as) asks his followers to be balanced and moderate. He says: ”Oh followers of Ahlulbayt! Be moderate so that both those who exaggerate and the ones who understate will follow you”.
When asked who those who exaggerate are, he answered: “They are those who attribute things to us which we do not have…” In other words, they are those who give the Imams (as) a higher position than Allah (swt) gave them. “Those people do not belong to us and we do not belong to them. By God, we have no guarantee of salvation… We have no special relation with God that obliges Him to save us. Our only way to draw nearer to God is through obedience. Therefore, only those of you who obey God will benefit from being our followers. Oh people! Do not be deceived. Do not be deceived”.
On another level, the Imam (as) teaches us how the Shiites should deal with each other considering the rich among them who do not help the poor not to belong to the Shiite community. He adds in a letter to some of his followers, the Shiites should be pious,
“their rich should help the poor and their strong should support their weak.The living among them should attend the funerals of the dead. They should meet and exchange visits… We can not do them any good if they do not practice good deeds. They can not claim to be of our followers except by piety. Those who will be remorseful the most on the Day of Judgment are those who know what is good and yet they follow what is different.”
Opening up to people
Thus, the Ahlulbayt (as) want their followers to become the spiritual, intellectual, social, moral model of Muslims who live with people and open up to them. Therefore, all those who believe in Islamic brotherhood should not feel any hatred towards fellow Muslims just because they differ among them whether for political, tribal or similar reasons. They would be betraying Allah (swt) and His Messenger (pbuh) who called to refer any differences to them. We should not forget our God, the Prophet and the Imams throughout our differences.
Those who do would become practically out of Islam no matter how much lip service they pay to it.