Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 7

Below is the continuation and part of three of previous article previous article, Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 6.
By: Mostafa Daneshgar

One of the issues that has been raised with regards to the spending of Zakat is extension and non-extension. Indeed, the question is: considering the fact that individuals eligible to receive Zakat fall into eight categories, should the amount of Zakat be the same among all of them or only a certain category should receive it? Shia scholars believe that although there are eight categories of individuals eligible to receive Zakat, the extension of the payment among all of them is not obligatory. Therefore, even though it is said that the two words poverty and destitution indicate two different levels, if they are used together, the scholars believe the extension is not obligatory. There is no reason to study the differences between the two. This is because any finding to that effect will have no scientific ground.

  1. In his Tazkerat-ul-Foqaha, late Islamic scholar Helli asserts that Shia jurists unanimously believe that extension is not obligatory. The same opinion is shared by Sunni scholars as well. Such prominent thinkers as Hassan Basri, Thouri, Abu Hanifeh, Ahmad, Umar, Haziqeh, Ibn Abbas, Saeed Bin Jubair, Tah’ei, Ata’ and Abu Obaid also hold the same view. Malik, however, contends that though extension is not obligatory, it is a necessity that the needier be a priority. 45 Considering the fact that there is a wide diversity in the levels of poverty, ranging from people lacking the bare essentials of living to those earning a lower amount than what they deserve, the view that extension is not obligatory and that paying people within each of those categories indicates that there’s a lack of a clarified method to combat the ugliest and worst side of poverty namely absolute poverty.
  2. Question of Zakat when it is not sufficient to meet the demands of the needy; Regarding Khoms for the Sayyids, Islamic scholars argue that when that share is not enough, it’s on the ruler to complete it through funding from public property. Although, the issue of insufficiency of Khoms has been addressed by Islamic scholars, little has been done in the case of Zakat. 46 The only scholar who’s dealt with the matter is Sheikh Tousi in his “Mabsout”. In fact, other than Tousi, no scholar has elaborated on the question that if Zakat only partially meets the demands of the needy, what should be done to resolve the problem?Tousi maintains that to complete the share and fully meet the demands of the needy, the required funding has to be supplied by public property. Now, the question is why jurists have failed to address the issue of insufficiency. Two major reasons could explain this. First, they might believe that with Zakat being appropriately paid, the demands of the needy will be fully met; hence there will be no need for other sources of funding to be resorted to. As a result, except for Sheikh Tousi, no other jurist has elaborated on the issue. It appears that the root of such a stance that’s shared among the majority of the scholars who believe that Zakat would suffice the needs of the poor is in the quotes, as some of them have made it clear that should the rich observe paying Zakat, that would be enough for the needy and poverty will be eradicated.In his Sahiheh, Abdullah Bin Sanan quotes Imam Sadiq as saying “The same way He made it obligatory for His servants to practice prayers, Allah Almighty has obligated Zakat as well…The Great Lord has made it incumbent upon the rich to sufficiently supply the needs of the poor. Indeed, Allah would have raised the level of Zakat had it not been enough to meet the demands of the needy. Therefore, the poverty which the needy suffer from is rooted in the refusal on the part of the wealthy to pay their share, not insufficiency in God’s rule.”47 Mohammad Bin Moslem’s Sahiheh and credible quotes from Imam Sadiq also confirm the same notion. 48 According to those quotes, God has defined Zakat in a way that it manages to fully meet the demands of the needy.The problem, nevertheless, lies in the fact that some of the wealthy do not live up to their responsibility with regard to Zakat. Therefore, it seems that the scholars’ belief in the abovementioned principle is the main reason why they never tackled the question as to what should be done when Zakat is not sufficient. In other words, they might believe that there’s no more right for the poor beyond what has been set in the rules of Zakat, regardless of whether the amount meets their demands or not. As a matter of fact, once Zakat is paid, it means the duty has been fulfilled and the rule has been observed.Even paying an amount more than what has been set, demands a justification and explanation on the part of the payer. This perception could be based on quotes and citations which emphasize that there’s no obligation on one’s wealth except for what the 9-artcile rule of Zakat has set. 49 Taking into account the arguments mentioned above, it could be concluded that from the viewpoint of Islamic jurists there’s no specified and separate stance to combat absolute poverty that is the situation in which the individual is unable to meet his bare essentials such as food, clothing and housing. This could be explained by the notion that the funding provided by Zakat, Khoms, and Kaffarahs which are obligatory for the wealthy could suffice the needs of the poor.

    It’s the government which has the duty to collect the payments offered by the wealthy and use them in public consumption. Indeed, there’s no more responsibility beyond that for the wealthy. The fact that those payments suffice the eradication of poverty as asserted in some major quotes could explain this stance of the scholars. The same holds true for the government, that is, if the public property is not enough to eradicate poverty, the government does not have to resort to new funding resources or increase taxes. Now, another issue with regard to Zakat is the target.

    From the viewpoint of Shia jurists, Zakat is a uniquely Shia concept while Sunnis (except for deviated groups) believe it’s for all Muslim sects. In other words, for the former, the non-Shia citizens are exempt from Zakat regulations but for the latter all non-Muslim people living under the Islamic rule are exempt.  Still, some quotes indicate that if the establishment is a religious one, then paying Zakat will not apply to Shias only.

 2) Issue of food: (Coming soon)

Lack of Confidence & Muslims

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

One of biggest differences between Middle Easterners specifically Muslims and rest of the world is the notion of mistrust and lack of confidence. This notion has expanded to an extend where it includes lack of confidence in their governments, society, and most importantly self-mistrust. Dissecting this notion will require a thorough review about the series of events and misfortunes that the Middle East has gone through. These series of events and calamities to be exact have a domestic nature, and at the same time an external aspect as well, which have complicated the situation a lot worse than expected, and unfortunately, now the world has realized this notion.

Historic Realities

Ever since the existence of foreign forces on Muslim lands, and the notion of occupation of land and wealth, the Middle Eastern people have been trying to accustom themselves to their new realities, but at the same time they could not forget their so called glorious past. At the same time, the occupation forces whether British, French, or any other nations did not care to give any importance to what those populations really wanted and desired. The British plundered the wealth and the natural resources of their colonies without any regard for the future these colonies, and the French did the same thing but they tried to impose their culture and language on their colonies as well. Therefore, we notice that places like, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria have transformed their culture to a more French like culture through adopting the French norms and language and culture.

These policies left the colonies in a state of deficiency and dependency even after the colonizers left, and they were not able to build strong and self-efficient states to provide necessities for their citizens.

Post-Colonial Era

After the colonial era, the Middle Eastern governments sought legitimacy through their previous struggles to reach independency and liberation, and therefore, ideologies like nationalism, and pan-nationalism were the major factors in containing masses. At the same time, these newly formed states were not able to mobilize and implement their developmental efforts to the public, and create a notion of patriotism and belonging for their population. After a while, controlling the masses was becoming difficult and other means of containment had to be considered, and the past ideologies where not sufficient to keep the population under control. The priorities were changing and the states were not able to meet and provide these priorities, and therefore, use of force and coercion was the alternative had to be legitimize for the sake of state survival and continuity.

Solutions & Results

It is a known fact that whenever states are not able to enforce laws and order through peaceful means, things like constitution are inutile and worthless, and whenever the constitution of a country is not respected any more people turn to alternatives to govern and manage their affairs. Usually the search for an alternative is due to lack of confidence in the state and its ability to enforce the law and be neutral when it comes to implementing the constitution. Due to sever corruption and favoritism the population are divided into segments. One segment is favored by the states, and they enjoy the advantages given to them by the state in return for loyalty and allegiance, and another segment are not disadvantaged and not able to enjoy the wealth and resources their country has.  In this case, the favored segment is considered the loyalist one and the unprivileged segment is the opposition, and no matter what the state does or offers. Due to the mistrust between these two groups, the situation will remain the same and the state will not risk losing a confirmed loyal group for the sake of winning the hearts of another. Nevertheless, the unprivileged groups of the populations will seek alternatives for providing their needs and necessities, and for the sake of this notion, they turn back to their historic depth and affiliations. Tribalism, ethnic roots, sectarian belongings and political affiliations become the alternative of what the state could not provide.

A man would turn to his tribe to secure his lost right due to the influence of tribes, and a citizen from a specific ethnicity would enter the circle of a new entity inside the state through identifying him-herself with an ethnicity label rather than a nationality. A Shi’a or a Sunni Muslim would turn to his sect for protection and sense of belonging and same as someone with a political affiliation, and the result would be a divided and fragile nation. By taking a closer look at some of the Middle Eastern societies, we will witness some shocking realities and circumstances, which would never happen in a civilized and stable society. For instance, by looking at a country like Lebanon, we see the Shi’a population of this country never turn to the state for providing their needs. A father would not seek help from the government to build a house, marry his children, or even seek healthcare, because he has a secure and powerful alternative that has provided whatever he has requested in the past. Hizbollah in Lebanon is not just an armed militia or a political power. They have created a social network in the society, through building schools, orphanages, hospitals and financial institutions and a nature of charitable has been added to all of these foundations. Therefore, a Shi’a citizen in Lebanon has absolute loyalty to Hizbollah because they provide whatever the state cannot provide, and even when it comes to enforcing order and stability in an area, Hizbollah has been successful due to the compliance from the public. In Iraq, the same situation is applicable as well, where the state has been unable to provide for its citizen, and therefore, the tribe has taken its place when it comes to providing security and necessities.

The examples are applicable in most Middle Eastern countries, and the result is catastrophic, which leaves the state in a state in a position where they have to seek loyal subjects for their legitimacy. However, the states acknowledges this reality, they have chosen to keep a blind eye when it comes to these realities, because they have lost the credibility among their populations.

Solution

Due to the historic aspect of these realities, the western powers have to acknowledge that continuous support for these Middle Eastern regimes will result in more isolation between them and the Middle Eastern masses. Instead of giving unconditional aids and support, they should use their influence to either improve the conditions of a random Middle Eastern citizen, or activate the responsibility to protect notion and rescue the people from an obscure future. If Muslims and Middle Eastern populations sense the west are serious in improving their lives, and want to rectify their past mistakes, the response they would receive is unbelievable. The west should acknowledge the fact that these masses have gotten to a point where they have nothing to lose. They never took advantage of their natural resources, they never had the advantage of their public wealth, and they have been able to survive through the alternatives they have sought for themselves. Therefore, for the sake of the national security, they should consider helping the people re-attain their trust in their governments, so they are not exposed to radical ideologies and extreme propagandas. A minor study about a random terrorist is sufficient to know his poor background and the low quality of life he had to experience. Or how he was exposed to a radical ideology and recruited by a terrorist group through temptations and promises of a better life.

Yes, I am a Shia Muslim. Here is Why I am in the West

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

As a Shi’a Muslim living in North America, I have to admit that I’ve been lucky for not encountering serious and dramatic prejudice behaviors. However, I had to handle few racist comments and conducts toward me or another fellow Muslim and usually I treated the other person with respect and a short conversation, or I was passive and decided not to reply back. Nevertheless, from time to time I read or watch headlines about racist encounters toward Muslims in different places. I do not intend to refute racism in this article, as anyone with a good conscience regardless of religion and belief acknowledges the obvious fact that racism is not a matter of insulting a person for race, ethnicity or religion, it is a disease, which destroys the social fabric of a whole nation. Therefore, I intend to clarify as a Shi’a Muslim that why I chose to live in the west, and why I left my home nation and migrated to a new society, which I do not have many shared values with.

I will divide the answer to these questions to two main categories, and simplify my answers in the best way possible.

  • Why did we leave our countries?
  • Why did we come or choose to come to the west?

Why Did I leave my home country?

The main factor that might make the transition of adapting to a life in the west a difficult matter is the nature of the previous life many immigrants had to experience in their countries. All humans come to this world without the ability to choose their parents, choose their name, choose their identity (ethnic & Nationality) and without the ability to decide where and when they are born. However, for an individual who originates from the west, these issues should not and would not be a dilemma or a problem, as many of his/her rights are guarded and protected through a well-established social and legal system. Nevertheless, in my case and in the case of many Muslims who originate from the Middle East and the Muslims world, these rights were guarded, and as a matter fact, they were not even established. A Muslim individual comes to this world facing dilemmas and calamities, which furbish his/her individuality and personality in a way that makes him adopt calamities and misfortunes as part of his/her daily life.

Living in the Middle East mean, I have to give up a large portion of my God given rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of transportation and transfer, freedom of religion and so many other freedom that I might not even know of. In addition, by living in the Middle East, I am bound and forced by set of rules and laws, which impose unimaginable notions and experiences upon me. As a Muslim living in the Middle East, I have to abide by the unethical laws of an autocracy or an authoritarian regime, which does not even recognize my right to exist, and vanishing a human for this regime is as simple as drinking a glass of water. I have to lower my standards and be satisfied by as little as possible, when my nation is among the wealthiest on the earth. I have to disregard and connive the fact that favoritism and corruption has its roots in every aspect of life. I have to acknowledge that in order to finish a transaction, I have to bribe a clerk or ultimately an entire department, when reality and system indicates it should cost zero. I have to lower my standards when it comes to healthcare and receiving medical attention. Although, the state provides public healthcare, but visiting a public healthcare facility would mean you are willing to expedite your death process, and the private sector alternative would mean outrageous expenditure. I have to lower my standards or in some cases forget higher education, as my level of intellect and sagacity has no credibility and gives me to priority for entrance to a prestigious higher level education institution.

As a Muslim living in the Middle East, I cannot criticize head of the state, as that can lead to my persecution and ultimately lengthy jail time or in some cases capital punishment. I cannot complain about the fragile state of my nation’s economy and high rates of inflation, since these are the policies of the state, and complaining is equivalent to criticism, and criticism has undesirable consequences. I cannot complain about high rates of unemployment and taxation, and obviously I cannot protest and against any decision made by the state.

The list can continue on, but the unbearable conditions that my likes and I had to go through cannot be comprehended until someone actually experiences them, which I don’t wish that for any human being. Many of us, including myself, had to witness our fathers being jailed and humiliated and physically and psychologically tortured for saying or even thinking of something that was viewed as criticism against the state. Many of us, including myself, had to witness a random police officer put his hands on our mothers and hit them and humiliate them for protesting a decision or trying to protect our fathers. Many of us, including myself, were forced to march into the streets to welcome the tyrants of our nations and glorify them and make them feel glorious and untouchable.

Therefore, does anyone blame a Muslims person for making a decision to leave or flee his home country? Does anyone expect Muslims including me to accept the humiliation and settle for this type of life? Does anyone expect anything else than fleeing from these nations, when alternatives are scarce? We left our nations to be able to live and accomplish what we should have accomplished in our nations. We left our nations to live up to our potentials and abilities. We left our nations to enjoy the God given rights, which were taken away from us. Therefore, I hope by knowing about our grievances and sufferings, a western citizen apprehends why I have chosen to leave what I called home once upon a time.

Why do I live in the West?

I do not intend to give an impression or a conception that the western world is a Utopia, where the states are governed by infallibles, and oppression is vanished and everyone lives happily ever after. As an individual who has lived here for fourteen years, I acknowledge the flaws of this world, and I seek improvements in many fields. However, I must admit the system here works and when it comes to order and law, no one is above reproach. Therefore, I chose to come here and live in the west, because I realized I can seek help in case I was oppressed, although I might not get the justice I desire. I decided to come here and live in the west, because I am able to be who I am, a devoted Muslims person. I am able to practice my rituals and express my thoughts and views. I am able to enjoy freedom, and recognize that I have what’s called OPPORTUNITY. Surely, my values and definitions of many aspects are different, but at least I know I am accepted for who I am, and I am not judged because of my ethnicity or my belief. I was given the chance to carry a western passport and travel the world with no hassle, and enjoy the freedom of travel. I was given the opportunity to study and receive higher education to be an effective member of my society.

I came to the west, because I knew humanity and not sympathy would be a factor in how people view me here. Therefore, I believe it was the right choice to come to this land and take advantage of what’s available and what’s presented to elevate myself, and live up to my potentials. However, I conclude by quoting Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, when he says: “best of the lands, is the land that carries you and provide for you“. Therefore, I have complied by what my Imam has suggested to me and chosen to live in a land that carries me and provides for me.

Reviewing Hermeneutics: Relativity of Truth, Knowledge & Texts – Part 1

 The post below is continuation of  introduction to Hermeneutics where the author will elaborate more on each concept within Hermeneutics. The article below will be the first post of several posts to come elaborating on this concept. 

Part 1 (Primary Definitions of Relativity)

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

(Based on the thoughts and theories of Ayatollah Sayed Murteza Al-Shirazi)

 

Preliminary Intellectual – Critical Approach in (Relativity) & its indications and perceptions:

Relativity differs according to the definition and interpretation desired out of it, nevertheless, the interpretations affiliated with this concept has been identified as fifteen different ones. However, we will mention some of these interpretations and definitions, and we will review the others throughout the research as necessary. Therefore, relativity is defined as:

  1. All of our knowledge, apprehension and sciences are presumptive and conjectural. It does not repeal the verification and certainty of any level of foreign apprehension, which is presumption. According to one opinion, presumption is a psychological condition and some have states, it is extradited from re-action. In addition, some believe presumption is derived from addition and preferential in the concept of intellective existence. Regardless, whether it is conditional, emotional (re-action) or additive, it has an absolute nature. However, if we claim relativity that is defined as above is absolute, the notion of relativity is dismantled, and it no longer holds the usual presumed bearing it contains. Nevertheless, if we assume relativity is presumptive and conjectural, the notion of relativity remains but it contradicts its interpretation.
  2. If relativity is defined as, effectuality of clannish cognition and psychological backgrounds on intellect, it will be placed in the column of (action). However, if relativity is defined as, affection of a human in the state of apprehending realities according to backgrounds and preconceived, it will be placed in the column of (re-action). Nonetheless, in both cases relativity faces the previous problem of contradiction in definition. Therefore, the notion of effectuality and affection is considered an information, and information is type of intellect, so in case of an assumption that an author or a sponsor of this information is affected by his clannish and background experiences, this notion would contradict itself and can’t be reliant as a cognitive base for exploring the inclusive equation of all sciences and cognitions.

In addition, relativity is a knowledge, information, apprehension, interpretation or a presumptive definition and therefore, it is subjected to psychological backgrounds and previous intellect. This results in definition to be formed and labeled in the mind of each scholar different than another one, so if he/she considers this notion as relativity the interpretation developed would be achieved before the real interpretation of the text.

This notion will result in a state of denial and rejection, due to the fact that each scholar is basing his/her definition on the presumptions and conclusions, which are not tarnish free. Therefore, an academic research about definition of relativity and relativity of knowledge would lose its credibility, as comprehending other acquisitions would be unreachable as far as all sides are convinced and satisfied with their findings and presumptions. Therefore, if the authority and dominion of presumptions and backgrounds was not absolute, we would witness tolerance and acceptance of reality, if it was presented and clarified with the proper tools and evidences.

  • However, if relativity is referred to addition the definition would be verbatim, and according to its primary subjective interpretation in addition to its other definitions a term would be defined as its own. For instance, (IN) would be circumstantial if used in a text. Nevertheless, a verbatim is considered a nominal definition, due to the fact that what’s included within this definition is visualizing rather than being visualized. Nonetheless, if the interpretations derived from all verbatim definitions and relativity are dissected, the notion of relativity would be annulled and therefore, non-relative and non-additive, when considering the indications and the evidence.

To simplify this notion, let’s consider the presumed partner of the almighty, is not a partner according to the dominant artificial presumption and the tangible existence, and the two extremes are unbendable and will not meet. In addition, considering the notion of existence they are not contradictory (extremes) as their bendability is not possible if they were. Therefore, if the interpretation identifies them as contradictory and extremes according to the authenticity of the statement made and presumed, the interpretation is illustrative, and this notion would be identified as non-illustrative when presumption about the (non-Existing) is made. This notion would annul relativity and itself, since a statement or a presumption about the (non-Existing) was made, which means the (non-Existing) is actually present in the world of intellect (MIND), and this neglects the nature of non-existence according to this definition of relativity. In other term, relativity in its primary subjective interpretation can’t be anything but itself, as depriving matters from their own existence if impossible, which means relativity shall have the possibility of being absolute according to some of its definitions, or relative according to other definitions, although possible refutations might be presented.

Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 6

Below is the continuation and part of three of previous article previous article, Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 5.
By: Mostafa Daneshgar

Recipients of Zakat

The holy Qur’an says Zakat should be paid to 8 groups among them the poor and the destitute (36) These two concepts deal with two stages before reaching what is defined as richness. The first stage can be adapted to abject poverty. The question is whether, while deciding on distributing Zakat, the jurists consider a priority for those who are poorer and unable to provide the bare essentials of life such as food, clothing and housing, in other words, those who live in absolute poverty. There is evidence that shows they consider no priority. The evidence can be categorized as:

A) The priorities for paying Zakat to the needy,

B) The lack of necessary conditions for receiving Zakat, and

C) The failure to consider the principles of insufficiency of Zakat for the poor.

A) Priorities for paying Zakat to the needy

There is consensus among the jurists over priorities for paying Zakat to the needy. However, they are not based on only the living conditions of those eligible to receive it. Many jurists maintain that a key priority is whether the individual who is eligible to receive Zakat has justice as a key personality trait.

Saheb Javaher says if an unjust person lives in harsh conditions to such a degree that he cannot even provide himself food, he’s entitled to receive Zakat. He says what has made this possible is the Quranic verse that says: “give away to the fasiq (impious) an amount”. This is because the word amount indicates the payment of small sums to the fasiq needy so they could provide clothing and food. He believes that the status of the fasiq person is not the same as that of the just person in terms of receiving Zakat. Having mentioned this, Saheb Javaher emphasizes that the safest thing to do by considering all those conditions is, however, not to pay Zakat not to the fasiq person. This is out of cautiousness, he says, because we are not absolutely certain about all the reasons, thus the payee of Zakat may not be freed from duty by paying to such a person. As a result, it’s better for Zakat to be paid to the just person rather than the fasiq one.(38) Hence, although Saheb Javaher in the beginning authorized the payment of Zakat to the fasiq person and his family to provide food, he says it is safest not to do so later in his script.

With regards to the precondition of justice, there is consensus among contemporary jurists that there should be no conditions on who is really eligible to receive Zakat. (39) Jurists believe that it is desirable to give priority to a certain group of individuals who are eligible to receive Zakat over others based on certain clear reasons. For instance, Saheb Hada’eq contends that Islamic scholars believe that prioritizing a certain group of people eligible to receive Zakat is desirable for certain reasons. Examples include the fact that there are some more eligible people or the fact that some people may be so humble that they won’t ask others for help.The individual entitled to receive Zakat could also be a family member or a relative. He then quotes Sheikh Mofid through Allameh Helli that the priority given to certain people in receiving Zakat is an obligation.

Sheikh Mofid believes that the needy should be given priorities based on their scholarly knowledge, their insight, their pureness and their faith. Therefore, the degree of neediness has no place among the priorities to be considered for receiving Zakat in the eyes of Sheikh Mofid. Nevertheless, the desirable priorities that Saheb Hada’eq says the religious authorities have clearly indicated in religious texts are the ones that define a needy person as somebody who fails to ask others for help even though he or she is in the harshest conditions because he is too humble to do so.Still, they do not clearly say that the degree of neediness is one of the priorities. In one of his scripts,

Allameh Helli has discussed this, saying it is desirable for the individuals who are needier to be given a priority over others. He also believes that giving priority to the people who are educated is also a virtue. Allameh Helli also regards the people who refuse to ask others for help as people who should be given priority. This is because those individuals live in poverty due to the same attitude.

(41) Grand scholar Sayyid Mohammad Kazem Yazdi says in his Orvat-ul-Vuthqa that the degree of poverty is considered to be among desirable priorities after justice and virtue. He emphasizes that in paying Zakat, the recipient’s being the most just and the most virtuous is more important. In case of a conflict between the two as in cases when one is more just and another more virtuous or one is more just and the other needier, there should be a careful examination of all the cases and the one should be picked as per the nature of the case.  (42) On the same notion, Ayatollah Montazeri makes references to scholarly texts that testify to the abovementioned priorities. However, he says there is a conflict between references that attach a higher significance to values such as justice and virtue and the references that give priority to the degree of neediness and, as he says, are against the philosophy of Zakat.

(43) Therefore, with regard to priorities over spending Zakat, for the individuals who have lived in absolute poverty and are unable to provide their very basic needs like food, clothes and housing, are not necessarily given priority. Nonetheless, renowned jurists like Allameh Helli and Yazdi emphasize that the degree of neediness as a desirable factor is equal to other priorities like justice and others. Still, none of the scholars believe that the degree of neediness is a mandatory condition for giving priority to an individual.

B) The question of extending Zakat. (coming soon)

Islamophobia a legitimate fear?

Extrapolating the legacy of Ibn Taymiya in contemporary Islamic Society.
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Dissecting the issue of Islamophobia should be conducted by considering many aspects within the Islamic history and its theological divisions. According to some narrations by Prophet Mohammad (SAWS), the nation of Islam will be divided into many sects and groups, and according to some of the quotes numbers like seventy and seventy-two have been given. Nevertheless, the intended issue of this article is not the division within the Islamic nation, it is about one specific sect or rather about a specific man who has influenced a sect within the religion of Islam. The complexity of his influence is to an extent where almost all terrorist and radical groups today claim to adopt his views and interpretations on Islamic issues. This man is Ibn Taymiya, who was born in the mid-1200s in the city of Harran, which is located in modern Turkey now.

The views of this scholar are controversial to an extent that even during his lifetime, he was challenged and debated in different places by different scholars, and in some cases, he was placed in prison for his radical views. Even within the Sunni Islamic sects and theology, this man was individualized due to his radical opinions, and many commentaries and researches have been written to dissect his views.  However, his views were eventually to one group and one specific man who later founded the sect today known as Wahhabism, which is the official adopted ideology in Saudi Arabia. Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, who the Wahabbi sect has been named after him has admitted to adopting many of Ibn Taymiya’s views and opinions. Unfortunately, this small sect would have not been a subject for dissecting and review if it did have major influence on today’s Political Islam and the way Islam is presented globally.

Regardless of the actions of Muslims in their countries and abroad, they claim that their religion is a religion of peace, and even this notion has been mentioned in the name of the religion itself, since the word Islam is rooted in the Arabic word “Selm” which means (peace) in English. I will not discuss what does Islam say about violence and use of force and other social and political matters in this article, but rather I will look at the legitimacy of Ibn Taymiya’s views according to contemporary ideologies and philosophies including Islam itself. Since this man’s ideology has influenced the minds of many radical Islamic groups in the world, it would be imperative to dissect his views and see whether Muslim are obligated to condemn and neglect his views and rip them out of their societies.

Ibn Taymiya and concept of (Others):

It is understood that is we want to know whether a person is peaceful or not, we can look at his/her tolerance toward others who differ with him/her. To begin with this notion, here are some of Ibn Taymiya’s views and opinions about some of the sects within the religion of Islam.

  • Esoteric groups in Ibn Taymiya’s opinion: these groups include, the Qarmatians, Isma’ilism, Alawites and other small groups, which are scattered through the Islamic countries in different proportions. Ibn Taymiya’s opinion about these groups is as follow: “Esoteric are infidels, their infidelity is worse than Jews and Christians, mating with them is not permissible, their food is not eatable, they should not be buried in graveyards of Muslims, no one should pray on them after death, they cannot be drafted in Muslims armies, nor should they be in Muslim’s castles and safe shells”
  • Mysticism & Ibn Taymiya: the mystics are other groups that could not flee from this man’s radical views. His opinion about these groups is “if their (Mystics) infidelity was evident, then they should be fought and considered infidels, and whoever doubts their infidelity is infidel, and punishment shall awaits whomever aids them, or affiliate with them and praise them”.
  • Druze, Fatimytes & Ibn Taymiya: these minorities have not been able to be excluded from Ibn Taymiya’s views as well. He puts them in the same category as the earlier groups mentioned above, and calls for their cessation and slaughter.
  • Shi’a Muslims & Ibn Taymiya: this group has the lion share when it comes to Ibn Taymiya’s radical opinions and radicalism. He pours all of his intensity and hateful views on them, and labels them as “Rejecters” due to Shi’a Muslim’s rejection of the first three Khalifs after the death of the prophet. He starts his opinion by fabricating a quote from Prophet Mohammad by saying: “their (Shi’a) blood is the key to haven gates”. He continues further by justifying their slaughter and cession of being by giving fabricated quotes from the prophet, and giving ideal situations for having an opportunity to kill them and not be in an undesired position.

By viewing these opinions, an observer notes the following notions in Ibn Taymiya’s views:

  • Conclusively, Ibn Taymiya considers Jews, Christians and other non-Muslim people as infidels, and he justify their slaughter, since they are considered as belligerents and anti-Islam.
  • The notion of mass murder, physical elimination and genocide is a normal and justified conduct according to the ideology of this man, and we should not be surprised if we witness a terrorist beheading a Shi’a Muslim or an Alawite, since that terrorist is applying the teachings of this so-called Islamic scholar.
  • There is no room for tolerance in the ideology of Ibn Taymiya, and notions such as unity, co-existence and equality have no definition in his glossary. According to Ibn Taymiya all other sects and groups and religions other that his own likes are considered infidels and worthy of being slaughtered.
  • Under any circumstance, if an entity of a government adopts the ideology of Ibn Taymiya, they should not be considered anything but a totalitarian system, which will impose its ideology through no other means except force and coercion.

By conducting a fast search through the books of Ibn Taymiya on the web, we will witness he has used the word “Infidel” 917 times, the word “apostate” 29 times, the term “permissible blood” 19 times, the phrase “if repents, and if not shall be killed” 97 times, the term “Shall be killed” 849 times, the term “behead” 39 times. According to today’s definitions, a person who carries these mentioned views is considered a phonetic, or a lunatic, and other terms like psycho and mass murderer.

Therefore, as a Muslim do I have the right to condemn a random western citizen, who has negative views about Islam, when he/she witnesses some of the most horrific actions by individuals claiming to be Muslims, in the name of Islam. The intent is not to Justify Islamophobia, but rather to give an understanding about the roots of these violent actions. Muslims, who live in the west, have suffered from discrimination and other discriminatory actions against them, but to lift these barriers between them and the societies they live in, they must publicly and clearly condemn and neglect the ideology behind these radical groups not the actions only. On a global scale, this ideology should be condemned and ripped out of this planet by cutting its sources and its roots from its cores. The global community acknowledges that states like Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries in the Middle East region are officially adopting this ideology within their governing system. Therefore, due to lack of tolerance by this ideology toward others, the global community should not have tolerance toward the ideology of Ibn Taymiya. It must be clear to everyone, that Terrorism has no religion, and will not differentiate between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, therefore, it is everyone’s duty to take action and minimize their threat.

 

——-

Sources:
منهج الكفير عند ابن تيمية .عبدالمجيد المشعبي. الرياض 1418. ج 2 ص 39
Same source p 424
Same source p 431
Same source v 3 p1096

Justice & Equality in Islam

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

One of the core issues when it comes to criticizing Islam by researchers and observers is the issue of Justice and Equality in Islam, and the definition affiliated with this concept within Islamic tradition. Issues like equality between men and women, status of women, inheritance, right to lead and other social matters are usually the aspects, which are presented when criticizing Islam’s position on these subjects. However, the main problem with these criticisms is the ignorance accompanied with them, due to lack of knowledge about the actual position of Islam on these issues. Unfortunately, many observers have based their statements and positions on conduct and action of Muslims, and not the actual Islamic tradition. The other problem affiliated with this notion is the writing of history, which was done by the victorious sides that ruled the Islamic empire before its collapse, which also ended up building many of the Islamic laws and jurisprudential codes according to the will and the interest of those rulers. Therefore, as time went by, those new teachings, laws and social codes became the new adopted system and norms of the Muslim society.

Gender Equality: Islamic teachings VS Social mores

No one can deny that Muslim nations have oppressed women in general, through their tribal norms, unethical social laws and general ignorance of the patriarchal class. For example:

  • It is a tribal custom that men must be served food first, and then children, and whatever is left will be the share of women in the tribe. Although this is not a general rule for all tribes, but until not too long ago, majority of the tribes practiced this kind of action.
  • When a couple are walking in public, some men tend to walk ahead of their wives, and let them walk behind them.
  • A man’s legacy is understood to be continued through his male progeny, and not the female ones. Therefore, we witness many cases where men are not happy when their newborn child is a female, especially if they do not have not had a son yet.
  • In case of an unlawful or unethical conduct by a female, the society considers it as a disgrace, and in some harsh cases, the whole family, which the female belongs to, is boycotted by their surroundings. Nevertheless, if a male did the same action, the same measures will not be enforced on the family.

There are other examples in the Middle Eastern societies, where women are treated in an unhuman manner. These encroachments are being practiced and viewed as random in a society that believes in a universal faith, and at the same time, this faith has banned such actions under any circumstances. This notion does not ignore that reality of these actions being practiced in other parts of the world, where non-Muslims are the majority, but for some reason, every time, one of these violations occur in the Muslim world, it becomes a hot subject for the media.

As The Quran and prophet both state, Mohammad was delegated and sent for humanity to completion of moral and ethical codes. Therefore, if the claims of the critiques are right, Islam neglect the first pillar its foundations was based upon. Which one of the violations mentioned above are ethical and accepted to any normal and sane human being? The fourth Imam of Shi’a Islam, Imam Al-Sajjad gives a thorough and a detailed list of rights for all levels and classes of the society upon each other, and none of the rights presented by Imam Al-Sajjad has any common ground with the violations taking place among the Muslims society.

Nevertheless, a major notion in this topic is being neglected and viewed as a given fact by the western ideology, and that is the issue of equality between men and women. It has been understood that men and women are equal in the society, which is a shared notion with Islam’s true traditions, but the difference occurs in conducting this equality. The western ideology gives includes a broader aspects within the issue of equality, and Islam defines equality with its own definition. The western ideology has included roles, duties, responsibilities, and expectations in the concept of equality, and Islam distinguishes the differences between men and women in this aspect. Islam believes men and women are equal in creation, and equal before God when it comes to status, and no one shall have a higher position unless he/she elevate through good deeds. At the same time the path adopted by the western civilization in applying equality has resulted in undesired consequences, even though the west does not want to admit to them.

Economically, the west has suffered from its own definition of equality. Ever since, women joined men in the workforce, things like illnesses and side-effects affiliated with those careers were carried by women as well. Social instability has been increased, through high rates of divorces, which results in catastrophic consequences for the children, and therefore, this children no matter how successful, he or she will have some sort of unstable personality. According to many sociology research articles, when studying the background of many criminals, they found that most of the criminals came from unstable families. The western society gives a woman the right to be an exotic dancer for instance, but at the same time views that woman in a lesser position comparing to a chef, although both of them work in the service industry. Therefore, without doubt, the same amount of contradictions that exist in the Muslim world is evident and present in the western civilization. The difference between the two will be in the root of these contradictions. The Muslims have adopted these actions against women and each other, through a long period of oppression and ignorance affiliated with their miserable history. The western society, has adopted these contradictions through its philosophy, which claims to be very proud of, and defends.

Both reality and history indicates that Muslims are more tolerant and accepting when it comes to issue regarding women. For instance, the Muslim world has had more Muslim women leaders than any part of the world, in many cases there are high numbers of ministries led by females in the Muslim world, and at the same time, the issue of readiness of Americans to accept a woman as president is being discussed in 2014.  In countries like Iran and Pakistan the rate of female public workers are higher than any other place in the world, and the women are major factors when it comes to political agendas and election outcomes.

Historically speaking, many Americans and other western societies exemplify their ancestors and historic figures when they want to criticize their political leaders for their wrong actions. In America, every time people want to criticize a president, society remind that president about the principles of the founding fathers of America. No one denies the good qualities and characters of America or the western societies in general. They have been very generous and welcoming many oppressed people from around the world into their lands, but at the same time, when a current western government violates a right, no one blames their foundation, and historical founding fathers for their current violations. Whether this notion is right or wrong is another discussion, but the actions of Muslims should not be considered as what Islam teaches about the rights of women and their status in a society. Islam, has given the women the highest status in the society, by elevating the position of a mother. A mother is the base foundation of any society, and society is built from a smaller entity, which is the family. If a family enjoys a fine and pious and good mother, the society will end up having good citizens, and the opposite applies as well.

Other issues like Hijab and dress codes are personal matter, like any other religious subjects. Islam orders a woman to cover herself, and wants a society with modest women. If a woman chooses not to wear Hijab, that is her choice, and she should be willing to accept the consequences of her decision, since she believes in after life and judgement. This applies to any other contemporary matter, like speeding while driving, or driving under influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, the western Media has never been interested in showing a random and normal side of the Muslim world, since it is not profitable, and will not keep a gap between civilizations. Deterrence and fear have been two major profitable factors when it comes to capitalizing on western ideology and philosophies.

Major Events of 2014 in the Islamic World and Aspirations and Expectations of 2015

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

The year 2014 was an eventful year from all aspects, as it included political, religious, social, economic and historic events, which engraved 2014 in bold inside the record books and history texts. However, the Middle East and the Islamic world had a major share, when it comes to quantity and quality of these events that have affected the globe somehow. As discussed in previous articles the Middle East is the home of some of the few absolute monarchies left in the world, and it is the home to the source of many sectarian, political and social conflicts and in some cases turmoil. The historic nature of this region give it a substantial importance, and the current complex nature of global politics put the Middle East in the front row of considerations and interests for the year ahead (2015). Therefore, reviewing the events of this year in this region would clear some of the ambiguity that might arise in regard of 2015.

2014 in Review:

 

  • January: the beginning of this month in 2014 attracted the focus of the Muslim world to Iraq and specifically to the city of Fallujah. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took control of Fallujah and Ramadi in the western Iraqi province of Al-Anbar. This event was in the after math of a long haul protests by the Sunni minority in Iraq against the government of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki. The Sunni minority in this country claimed they were suffering from marginalization and sectarian policies under Al-Maliki’s era. The protests camps became the focus of many radical groups and numerous confrontations between the rebels and Iraqi Army led to more tension between the two, and ultimately the crisis became labeled as a sectarian conflict in Iraq.
  • February: this month brought the attention of global powers to Syria, and its ongoing civil-sectarian conflict. The UN led the second round of negotiations between the Syrian government on one side and the Syrian opposition forces and the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on the other side. Although this round of negotiations ended with no notable results, but it showed the lack of commitment on both sides to end the conflict for the benefit on the country, and the innocent lives in Syria.
  • March: this month of 2014 drew the global attention to Syria and Egypt. The Syrian army was able to recapture the city of Yabroud from Syrian opposition rebels, with the help of Hezbollah. The involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict re-shaped the conflict in Syria and gave it a sectarian aspect as well. Since Hezbollah is a Shi’a militia and funded by Iran, and the majority of Syrian opposition rebels are Sunni Muslim, the Arabic Media sought a great opportunity to declare this conflict as sectarian. Egypt however, was the home to one of the most controversial judicial verdicts ever. In a trial for members of the Muslim Brotherhood group in Syria, the Judge sentenced 529 people to death penalty. The verdict was condemned by many around the globe, but the real fear was due to retaliation and re-action of the Islamic groups in Egypt. The ousting of former Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi was still viewed as a military codetta, therefore, such verdicts were viewed as arbitrary and unnecessary.
  • May: General Abdul-Fattah Al-Sissi wins the presidential elections and becomes the fifth president of Egypt after ousting King Faruq. Although the voter turnout was low, considering the situations surrounding the Egyptian politics, but the results placed Egypt on the moderate scale once again, after a radical conduct was very evident by President Morsi.
  • June: The month of June was the month that re-shaped the policies of many Middle Eastern States and caused the formation of a major global campaign against one of the most vicious terrorist groups the world has ever known. One the 11th day of June 2014, the world realized Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul was under the control of ISIS, and the official formation of Islamic state was announced, and a man named Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was placed as the Caliphate and leader of this state. Under the fear of advancement and mobilization toward Baghdad and rest of Iraq, the highest religious authority of Shi’a Muslims in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani issued a (fatwa) ruling for Jihad against ISIS, and millions of volunteers were recruited for this purpose. In addition, the Middle Eastern states realized the immanency of the threat and a global coalition led by the United States was formed.
  • July:  The month of July was divided between Iraq and Palestine. The Islamic State announced the addition of new territories under their control. This month witnessed the transfer of power from Al-Maliki to Haidar Al-Abadi as well. Although Al-Maliki was declared the winner in the elections by populist vote, and his parliamentary block had the largest among others, but his third term as prime-minster was rejected by majority of the political powers (Sunni & Shi’a), including the religious authority in Najaf. Finally after deliberations and what was viewed as a twisted political tactic the Shi’a majority in the parliament replaced Al-Maliki with Haidar Al-Abadi, who was head of Maliki’s parliamentary block. Murdering of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers escalated the tension in Gaza, and resulted in bombardment of Gaza for several days. Finally Egypt mediates a cease fire agreement between Hamas and Israel and the conflict ends.
  • August: After the displacement of thousands of Christians and non-Muslims in Mosul and massacres in that city, the United States initiated limited air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. Other Humanitarian air missions were conducted to deliver food and water and necessities to the displaced people of that region. ISIS execute the first western citizen hostage (James Foley) in a video footage.
  • September: month of September was started by flow of massive numbers of refugees to Turkey, after fleeing the terror of ISIS and their vicious crimes. In addition, ISIS killed the second western hostage. However, the major event that took place during the month of September in the Middle East, was in Yemen. The Houthis took advantage of instability in Yemen, and entered the capital city of Sana and seized the city and the major governmental buildings. Ultimately a deal was reached between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, but this event showed the fragile nature of Yemeni security forces and army, and the level of organization some groups have in the Middle East to seize a capital city within hours.
  • November: this month marked the beginning of Ashura mourning for the Shi’a Muslims, which is a commemoration of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom in Karbala along with his seventy two companions.
  • December: this month marked the anniversary of (Arba’aeen) procession in Iraq, where millions of Shi’a Muslims walk hundreds of kilometers toward the holy city of Karbala, to commemorate the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in Karbala. Taliban attacks a military school in Pishawar (Pakistan) and kill 145 people, including 100 children.

These events, which took place in the Middle East showed the complexity of Middle Eastern politics, and the battle over gaining ground and influence in this region by regional and global powers.  The events in Syria, Yemen and Iraq have forced the Saudi government to plunge the price of oil in global markets, to put economic pressure on Iran, for the purpose of minimizing their influence in battle grounds and conflict zones. Nonetheless, Iran is eager to sign a nuclear deal with the western powers to bring a much needed relief to its economy, and regain its domestic credibility. In addition, a nuclear deal will ultimately result in ending the sanctions and embargos, which will lead to immediate expansion of Iranian financial situation.

2015 will be a year, which there are system changes in some Middle Eastern states, and these realities would effectuate the willingness of the regional powers to re-consider their priorities according to them.

 

Savior – Liberator of mankind; Imam Al-Mahdi and Concept of Messiah in Traditional Texts

Imam Al-Mahdi and Concept of Messiah in Traditional Texts

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

One of the concepts that is shared by majority of beliefs and religions is the concept of Messiah or the savior that will come at the end of time and rescue humanity from tyranny and all the calamities they are going through. The Jewish Messiah who descends from a Davidic line, will come and rebuild the Jerusalem Temple and rescue the Jewish people. Christianity however differs when it comes to defining the concept of Messiah, as he is son of God (Jesus) who will return and fulfill his prophecies, after his original crucifixion and resurrection. The Islamic school however, presents one of the most thorough concepts and descriptions for the personality and characteristics of Messiah. In Islam, this person is named Al-Mahdi, and it is believed that he will return at the end of time to fulfill the promise of Allah, and spread justice and equality throughout universe and rescue all mankind.

Imam Al-Mahdi

According to Shi’a Islam, he is the twelfth and last of the holy infallibles after Prophet Mohammad, and he was born, and he is still alive and lives among people. The events prior to his birth are very similar to the events prior to Moses’s birth, as there were no signs of pregnancy evident on the mother of Moses, due to the fear from the Pharaoh who had ordered a massacre against all new born boy infants. He was five years old when his father, Imam Hassan Al-Askari was martyred while in exile in the city of Samara. His life and presence is divided into two major events, which are known as the Minor Occultation and the Major Occultation. Imam Mahdi’s minor occultation lasted for almost seven years, and during this time he communicated with Shi’a Muslims through ambassadors, who were chosen by him and they were known to be from the most pious and devoted Shi’a Muslims of that time. The four ambassadors are:

  1. Othman Ibn Saeed Al-Amri
  2. Mohammad Ibn Othman Ibn Saeed Al-Amri
  3. Hussein Ibn Rooh
  4. Ali Ibn Mohammad Al-Samori

When the minor occultation was over, Imam Al-Mahdi told the last ambassador that he was the last one, and the major occultation was going to start, until Allah’s will is implied and he is ordered to reappear and fulfill the promise of Allah and his messenger, which was to fill earth with justice and equality, after it was filled with injustice and tyranny. Since that day, and Imam Al-Mahdi is in occultation, and no one is able to recognize him. Currently, his age is about 1180 years old, and part of the theology of Shi’a Muslims is to believe he is still alive, and his presence is a necessity for the mankind and universe in general.

There are individuals who had the honor of meeting Imam Al-Mahdi in person, and they were able to ask questions and seek help from him. Although he is not seen, and but Shi’a Muslims believe he is still accessible, and the example of sun behind the clouds is presented for this notion. Nonetheless, Shi’a Muslims pray daily for his return and the term (Al-Faraj), which mean relief is always used for his return, which refers to the relief that mankind will experience upon his return.

Currently, the Grand scholars of Shi’a Islam are considered the agents of Imam Al-Mahdi, since he ordered the Shi’a Muslims to refer to them for seeking help and knowledge when it comes to their daily and religious affairs.

Imam Al-Mahdi’s Appearance Signs:

To notify the Shi’a about the approximate time of return of Imam Al-mahdi, the previous Imams and the Holy Prophet have narrated a set of signs, which are known as appearance signs. The occurrence of these signs is an indication that (Al-Faraj) relief is near, and the return of Imam Al-Mahdi is at the horizon, and Shi’a Muslims always look upon these signs and try to identify them as them happen, and they compare the signs with what the Imams and the prophet have narrated. However, there are numerous narrations about these signs and indications, and some of them make the issue a bit ambiguous rather than making it evident and clear. Nonetheless, there are few signs that are considered as definite and inevitable, and they have been narrated by numerous Imams and the Prophet and these narrations have a strong and authentic chain of narrators. The definite signs are:

  • The blast (Shout) in the sky. The narrations indicate that the Angel Gabriel will make this shout in the sky, and announce the return of Imam A-Mahdi. His shout will be heard by everyone on this planet, and understood by everyone as well.
  • Emergence of Al-Sufyani. The term Al-Sufyani is a nick name of a man who descends of the Umayyad clan, who has an outrageous hatred toward the household of Prophet Mohammad. It is narrated that he appears from the Land of Levant (Modern Syria), and he is a brutal, vicious, unjust and a murderer, who brings calamities and discomfort everywhere he appears at. It is narrated that he sends part of his army to Iraq and another part of his army to Medina in modern Saudi Arabia.
  • The Sink-Down (collapse) in Al-Bayda’a. This event refers to the elimination of Al-Sufyani’s army that was sent to Medina to destroy this land. It is narrated that when Sufyani hear of return of Imam Al-Mahdi in Mecca, he orders his army to move toward Mecca and destroy the city and the holy Ka’aba and kill the people. Whilst in route toward Mecca, when the army gets to a land called Al-Bayda’a, a sink-down happens, and the land collapses underneath that army, which results in elimination of this army.
  • Emergence of Al-Yamani. The banner of Al-Yamani has been identified by the Imams and the holy Prophet as, Banner of Guidance, and he is known to be a supporter of Imam Al-Mahdi. Eventually he will accede to the army of Imam Al-Mahdi and become one of his commanders.
  • Murder of the Righteous Soul. This is a man who descends from the progeny of Prophet Mohammad, and his name as narrations reveal is Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan. He will be martyred inside the Holy Mosque of Mecca, beside the ka’aba before the return of Imam Al-Mahdi.

These are the definite signs of return of Imam Al-Mahdi, and narrations indicate that, they will occur in the same year. The notion, which is notable about these signs, is the issue of armies and immanency of battles, in a region that has established states and governmental entities. Unfortunately, the events unfolding in the Middle East currently are very tragic and shows the extent of corruption and oppression that has been taking place in this region for the past decades. However, the current events in the Middle East simplify the sign that were discussed above. The issue of sovereignty and International borders has been undermined in the region and we see organizations and groups with intra-regional agendas and influence, affecting the policies of numerous states in the Middle East. Therefore, the issue of states and stability in the Middle East is gradually becomes a notion of the past, not to mention the possibility of political turmoil in many Middle Eastern nations within the next few years.

There are other signs narrated about the return of Imam Al-Mahdi, which need more thorough dissection and review by Islamic scholars to determine the authenticity of these narrations and signs. Natural events like, lunar eclipse at the end of the Islamic Calendar month, which is impossible to happen under normal conditions, and the occurrence of a solar eclipse in mid Ramadan, which is also scientifically impossible under normal conditions. Commotions and instability in the Levant land is also narrated and noted in some Islamic books, and events like emergence of a group that holds a black banner and many other signs that people seek for implications and symmetrical events for.

Is Occultation Necessary?

The question, which might arise to the mind, is the purpose of Imam Al-Mahdi’s occultation. One might ask, if Imam Al-Mahdi intends to spread justice and equality on earth, and his return is described as relief and mercy to mankind, then why doesn’t he return faster? Why do people have to suffer, why did God made the humans wait this long? Why does he (Imam Al-Mahdi) have to live such a long time, while innocent people are being slaughtered in different places on this planet?

The question of WHY has always accepted if the intend is acknowledgment and comprehension, rather than presenting doubts and uncertainty. Shi’a Islam theology presents the creator (ALLAH) is the most Just entity, and the most merciful at the same time, and these two notions are not contradictory if absolute knowledge is accompanied with them. In the case of the creator (ALLAH), he is the most knowledgeable above all, and his mercy and justice will always be put in the right direction and place. Therefore, Allah has given the opportunity to all groups and religions and beliefs to present their alternatives and systems to the world, and see if their version is suitable for the world. Ever since the creation of this world, and different systems and ideologies have been applied in different parts of the world, and during some periods one or two universal systems and ideologies were dominant in the world. In addition, God has given all humans a equal opportunity and a tool, which is the mind and the ability to acquire logic and sense, and make choices. Therefore, all the events and calamities that we see taking place in this world, are caused by humans themselves, and God has no hand in these notions. The whole purpose of this life and universe is an examination for all creations throughout this life. However, God has given all the necessary tools and guidance for humans to make their choices accordingly, and be able to determine what’s in their benefit and what’s not.

Therefore, God has placed a successor to inherit this earth and spread justice and equality on it, and save humanity from all the calamities and oppression they have been going through. The presence and return of Imam Al-Mahdi is a mercy to mankind, and his return will be awaited not only by Muslims around the world, but by all humans on the face of this earth. The current systems and ideologies that are ruling this earth, and governing it, have failed miserably, and the numbers of people under poverty are increasing, the number of people being killed due to conflicts and corrupt systems are increasing, the numbers of radical groups are increasing. Basically, it has gotten to a point, where the line has been passed and the limit has been crossed.

False Claims and Misuses of Imam Al-Mahdi’s Occultation:

Unfortunately, just like any other phenomenon, ideology and reality, the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi and his existence has been a tool to taking advantages and mid-leading people in different ways. There are numerous cases of individuals claiming to be Imam Al-Mahdi, and agents of Imam Al-Mahdi, and having direct communication with him. In Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Pakistan and many other places, there have been cases of groups following a person with such claims. The Masses tend to turn toward any glimpse of hope and relief, especially when they realize the hope they are turning toward, is against the governments and systems they are being ruled by. Therefore, these kinds of claims have been very successful, and large amounts of funds have been accumulated from them, and this is why until this day we witness the continuance of such phenomenon.

In addition, there have been states and governments, taking advantage of this notion and used the concept of Imam Al-Mahdi to acquire legitimacy and credibility. Majority of people are very sensitive when it comes to the issue of Imam Al-Mahdi and tend to be afraid of denying anything that has link to him. Therefore, using the Media, and concentrated propaganda will result in containment if the notion of Imam Al-Mahdi is used to legitimize policies and political conducts. For instance, some states have claimed they are preparing and paving the way for Imam Al-Mahdi’s return, and they policies and purpose is linked to this glorious goal. Therefore, by opposing this system or government, it means an individual is opposing the return of Imam Al-Mahdi, and he/she is a factor in postponement of his return, which is not in the benefit of humanity, and as a result that individual is against humanity. This kind of labeling can lead someone to his/her death row in some cases, since it has all the elements of legitimizing any actions taken against oppositions.

What Happens to the Rest of the World?

The other question that might arise is the fate of other nations and people outside the Middle East region, since Imam Al-Mahdi will return in this geographic region. According to the narration and traditions of the Holy Prophet and the infallible Imams of Shi’a Islam, many of the non-Muslims states will give allegiance to Imam Al-Mahdi when they see that Jesus has returned with him, and he is part of his army and is praying behind him. In addition, other narrations indicate that Jesus himself will take the responsibility of inviting many of his followers around the world to adhere to Imam Al-Mahdi and follow him, since he is the awaited savior of this world. Other narrations indicate that some states will sign peace treaties with the Imam, and co-exist with his presence and the new reality. It should be understood and acknowledge, there is no compulsion and coercion involved with the return of Imam Al-Mahdi, as there is no need for such a method, since he is considered mercy to mankind and not the other way around.

Imam Al-Mahdi will be the relief this world has been waiting for, and the issue of conversion and surrendering is not even feasible upon his return. He will bring out the hidden goods of this world, and his system would be so just and equal that people from all over the world would migrate to his lands and be part of his nation. His advancement in all fields will traverse all technologies and sciences, and under his rule poverty, suppression, oppression, tyranny, inequality, racism and instability would vanish and not exist anymore.

Meanwhile, What is Our Duty in the Current Time?

This would be another question that arises from knowing about Imam Al-Mahdi and the conditions after his return. One might argue, then why should we put our efforts to change things, and end the calamities and the misfortunes that the world and we in general are going through? Imam Al-Mahdi will fix everything upon his return, and all we shall do meanwhile is wait.

As said before, the ability to make choices is affiliated with the notion of elevation and advancement through life. We do not know the exact time of Imam Al-Mahdi’s return, and many people have been waiting for that moment for more than one thousand years. Therefore, the least thing we can do for ourselves and our surrounding is to improve our lives and conditions, and try to do our part in ending the misfortunes of this world. We might not be able to bring absolute justice to this world and help every single person in need, but as the Holy Quran says: saving one life is equivalent to saving the whole universe. Therefore, we should never stop elevating ourselves and helping the ones around us, and if we are successful and have the ability, we shall put our efforts to widen the diameter of good deeds and help the largest amount of people. Everyone in this world is responsible. Imam Ali says that humans are responsible for the environment, and society and any person who is in desperation. Therefore, we shall never lose hope and no matter how bad things seem to be, we must remember that evil would vanish one days, and what remains is relief and happiness.

 

 

 

 

Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 5

Below is the continuation and part of three of previous article previous article, Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 4.
By: Mostafa Daneshgar

Jurists believe that the poor should be assisted to the extent that they become rich enough and they deserve assistance only to that extent. Richness in jurisprudence means that the individual’s income is sufficient to cover his conventional expenses and those of the people under his care. By conventional expenses, jurists mean an income by which a family can be run in a respectful way. (32) Hence, if, for some reason, a person’s income is not sufficient to cover the expenses, that person is regarded as poor.

Some jurists also refer to another element regarding the concept of richness. They maintain that a person is rich if he has an average income like that of ordinary people. (33) Hadiths also say Zakat should be paid if a person is at the same level as the public. (34) The absence of either element shall result in the income being less than the expenses; thus that person is considered penniless and deserves to receive Zakat. Therefore, those who deserve Zakat are, in the first place, the people who cannot satisfy their minimum needs and then those who can afford this but are not at the same level of ordinary people as well as people whose income is less than a decent amount.

Now the question is: Have the jurists given priority to those who are under more financial strain and cannot afford to cover their food, clothing and housing expenses and are, in other words, suffering from absolute poverty compared to the other two groups? To answer the question, in the first place, we need to make a conceptual comparison. It is necessary to compare the concepts of poverty and destitution with that of absolute poverty.

Absolute poverty

Absolute poverty means inability to earn the minimum income needed to live by and to satisfy one’s main physical needs, that is, food, clothes and housing. This concept was defined by the development economists of the 1970s. The two concepts of poverty and destitution have been discussed in jurisprudence particularly with regard to the spending of Zakat. These two words refer to the levels of income.

The first stage: the needy person who has no income and cannot satisfy his basic needs such as food and clothes. For this reason, he may ask others for help to be able to feed himself and his family.
The second stage: the person has an income but it cannot cover his and his family’s expenses. In other words, his income is less than that of the rich person. Therefore, it can be concluded that the first stage means absolute poverty. Inability to satisfy one’s minimum physical needs is compatible with both concepts.

(35) By relying on the above mentioned comparison and without mentioning absolute poverty in the history of jurisprudence, one can discuss the jurists’ attitude toward the phenomenon and their efforts to confront it, thus enriching the jurisprudential literature. In this section, we will try to figure out the jurists’ attitude toward absolute poverty and their strategy to fight it.  As mentioned in the first section, jurisprudential books have mentioned some resources for eradicating poverty. These resources are not the same. Thus, they can be divided into several groups.

The first group consists of resources which involve public interests. Spoils of war are the most important item in this group. There are also Jizya, public property and tax. These resources can be spent for the purpose of eradicating absolute poverty as public interest. Jurists argue that these resources must be spent in favor of public interests but have not given priority to absolute poverty. They believe that interests vary under different circumstances. Hence, they leave the responsibility to give some interests higher priority to the ruler.

Endowments and wills cover a large extent. Here, the person who endows something or makes a will can spend his wealth in favor of some interests. In fact, the responsibility to decide which interests come first lies with the person who endows or makes a will. In lending, someone gives something to the person in need provided that he pays it back. The recipient of the loan can either be rich or poor.  Since the loan is granted provided that it is paid back, it is given to those penniless people who are able to do so. These people have no means to work and they can provide the means through borrowing, thus ridding themselves of poverty.

A penniless person who is in need of a small capital for self-employment is another instance.  Under such circumstances, lending can save these people from poverty. Hence, lending is a powerful tool for creating jobs for the poor who are looking for employment. But lending does not make sense regarding the poor who are incapable of working and thus unable to pay back any loans.

The third type is resources which fully focus on absolute poverty. The harvesting right, the recognized right, Khoms, Fitrah Zakat and Kaffarahs are of this type. The harvesting right applies where a group of penniless people come to the farm at the time of harvesting. They are usually people who suffer from extreme poverty and their revenues from crops are not high, either. Hence, these people live in absolute poverty. The quality of recognized right shows that the target is the people who live in absolute poverty. Charity is also used for absolute poverty. The three resources above all fall in the category of the desirables. Khoms, however, is a compulsory financial obligation.

As it was said, if the share of Sayyids is not sufficient to end their poverty, the ruler will use other resources to save the needy Sayyids from poverty. Hence, it seems that generally Khoms is aimed at wiping out poverty. In the Fitrah Zakat and Kaffarahs, the criteria are feeding the destitute and in one case clothing them. This applies to anyone who needs food and clothing. Therefore, in these two financial obligations, absolute poverty is taken into account.  Although, the fact that jurisprudential books say the recipient of the Fitrah Zakat is the penniless person who receives the Zakat of the body causes some ambiguity. Therefore, in the first type, basically, public interests are taken into consideration and there is no priority for ending poverty.

In the second type, loans can be allotted to the poor who are in need of working tools and capital. However, loans are not used to fulfill the needs of people suffering from the extreme form of poverty.In the third type, the harvesting right, the recognized right and charity aim to end poverty but they are still among the desirables.

Meanwhile, Khoms is used exclusively for the penniless Sayyids, though it targets absolute poverty. Fitrah Zakat and Kaffarahs aim to end absolute poverty too, but they are not considered a bountiful resource for this purpose.  Thus, except for desirables in which case motivation is the main factor, financial obligations are not intended to wipe out absolute poverty. The fourth type is Zakat which is the most famous financial obligation. Hence, it needs to be discussed in a more detailed manner.

Recipients of Zakat (Coming soon)