((Memorial)) in Shia Islam and Importance of glorifying heroes

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Civilizations, cultures, nations and even small institutions are remembered through their history and they conducts as groups or specific figures, which identifies their place in the hearts of future generations. Although history is written by the hands of victorious, but dissection of history has always resulted in somewhat unbiased position toward certain individuals or certain events. However, the one group that has always been glorified and respected regardless of political, cultural, historical and even religious affiliations, are the martyrs and the ones who sacrifice their lives for the cause or the purpose that results in status elevation and glory. Therefore, remembering the fallen soldiers and individuals, who lost their lives for justice, freedom, saving humanity or equality is the least payback. The present generations have an obligation to deliver the bravery and sacrifice of those courageous lives and how selflessness was a virtue for them instead of laying back and waiting for fate.

Islam and specifically Shia Islam, is one of the beliefs that has given the greatest status to martyrs and considers memorial of the fallen as good deed and worship. The holy Quran considers the martyrs as alive individuals, who are with the almighty and being very well treated. In addition, remembering a brave individual, a martyr, a thinker, a pious man, an influential person or anyone who has done something for humanity has been part of Shia ideology.

Commemorations, celebrations, mourning, eulogies and memorial services has been a big part of Shia cultures, as majority of Shia Muslims are very involved in such programs and events. The major event that is considered one of the world’s most known tragedies as well, is the day of Ashura, which is the commemoration of Imam Al-Hussein’s martyrdom in Karbala. Imam Al-Hussein and his army represented righteousness and dignity, as the Umayyad army represented greed falsehood and vilification.

Around the world, different nations and civilizations are also eager to have memorial days for their fallen lives to glorify their sacrifices and show their future generations the cost for living a prosperous and stable life. As long as these lives are remembered for their journey to assert justice, equality and freedom, Islam and any other religion or belief is proud to raise the hat for them and give them the status they deserve.

Al-Mahdi is mercy to mankind – Will Imam Al-Mahdi spend his time in battles and destruction?


By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

There are numerous opinions and interpretations about the details and the events that will take place upon the return of Imam Al-Mahdi, according to Shia traditions and ideology. However, in the recent years due to the nature of current regional conflicts and their compatibility with many Shia narrations about this topic, there has been a mix awareness among Shia Muslims. There are tens of talk shows and lectures about Imam Al-Mahdi and the nature of his return on Shia channels, and hundreds of books are being published to address this notion. In addition, many Shia traditions are filled with a violent picture about Imam Al-Mahdi, which portrays him as a figure, who will slaughter thousands to spread justice and equality on earth.

Unfortunately, some scholars have been presenting very disturbing images about Imam Al-Mahdi and the events before and after his return, which will make any human including a Shia Muslim wonders about the purpose of Al-Mahdi’s return. Statements like:

  • Upon Imam Al-Mahdi’s return two third of earth’s population shall be dead by a worldwide natural disaster. (Comment: why would Imam Al-Mahdi need this type of disaster to happen? Is he incapable of only helping one third of earth’s population and therefore, the two third must die? What does a natural disaster have to do with spreading justice and equality on earth?)
  • Imam Al-Mahdi will kill anyone who opposes him, even if he doesn’t admit it, as he is able to read the minds and he judges’ people by their thoughts and not their conducts and deeds. (Comment: the notion of knowing about the thoughts and intentions of humans is not exclusive to Imam Al-Mahdi, as the previous Imams and the Holy Prophet had such privileges as well. Nevertheless, none of the Imams and the Prophet, ever judged people by their thoughts, and this notion completely neglects the concept of MERCY and guidance. Imam Al-Mahdi is God’s mercy to mankind like his grandfather, Prophet Mohammad and his holy household, and rule of law and logic and mercy is much stronger than sword and blood to create justice and equality. There are numerous Quranic verses that suggest being ruthless, blunt, abrupt, repulsive and indelicate with people will drive them away and turn them against you. Therefore, how would saviour of mankind use this method to persuade humanity toward him and make them believe in his cause?)
  • Imam Al-Mahdi will force Islam and his ideology upon the entire human race and whomever rejects shall face death. (Comment: again this statement neglects the concept of MERCY, and being merciful, logical and persuasive with people, as there is no value to any statement or submission under coercion. Imam Al-Mahdi will spread justice and humanity on earth, and his return will benefit all humans on this earth, including non-Muslims. Therefore, he doesn’t even need to convert non-Muslims to Islam, as the Quran clearly states: there is no compulsion in religion, and any infallible Imam, including Imam Al-Mahdi would not oppose the Quran.)


To be continued

The Fundamentals of Shia’ism

BY : Allamah Shaykh Muhammad Husayn al-Kashif al-Ghita

Before we deal with the roots and the articles of faith in detail, we may divide our study of the Shi’a religion according to five principles:
1. Knowledge of God.
2. Identification of His Prophet.
3. How to worship.
4. Doing good actions and refraining from bad ones.
5. Belief in ma’ad (the Day of Judgement), and punishment and reward.
There are two parts to religion -theoretical and practical- or, more precisely, belief or faith in God and the unseen, and daily action based on this belief.
Tawhid (monotheism), Prophethood and ma’ad (the Day of Judgement) are the three basic arkan (pillars) of Islam. If anyone denies one of these arkan, he is neither a Muslim nor a believer (mu’min); if he does believe in them he will be counted among the Muslims according to God Almighty (refer to the following words which have been taken from the Quranic text: “He who believes in God, His Prophet and the Day of Judgement”), and shall be entitled to all the rights of the Muslims.
According to the holy verse the Muslim is the “one who believes in God, His Prophet and also performs good actions”; the “iman” (faith) of a Muslim refers to “belief in his heart, verbal acknowledgement and performance of fundamental acts”. One may add another “rukn” (pillar) to these three, which is the obligatory acts are of five kinds: (1) salat (prayers), (2) fasting, (3) zakat (generally speaking, the Islamic system of taxation); (4) hajj and (5) jihad (striving or exerting oneself (even to the extent of fighting for Islam).
We may explain the difference between Islam and iman as a matter of degree. This difference is based on the words of God Almighty in the surah “al-Hujurat”, “The Arabs say: “We have iman!’ Say (to them , O Muhammad): ‘You do not have iman; but say “we have accepted Islam (aslana: lit. we have submitted)”, for iman has not yet entered your hearts.'” For further elucidation, He says in another verse: “Verily, the believers (mu’minin) are those who accepted faith in God and His Prophet and never after that entertained any doubt; also they performed jihad with their life and wealth in the way of God -they alone are the true believers.”
“Iman” thus means the combination of testifying one’s belief, and of acting in accordance with it. These are the basic beliefs of all the Muslim. The Shi’as have another “rukn” thus bringing the total to five principles. This fifth pillar is faith in the imamate.
According to the Shi’a point of view, the Imamate, like Prophethood, is divine vicegerency. Just as it is God Almighty Who close one from amongst His servants for the rank of Prophethood or Messengership, in the same way it is God Who chooses the Imams. God Almighty Himself commanded His Prophet to announce the Imamate (spiritual leadership) of the selected person before his death.
The Prophet, according to divnine command, chose a leader for mankind to protect and complete the religious code. The only difference between a Prophet and an Imam is that the Prophet receives “wahy” (revelation) from God, while the Imam, through a special blessing, receives commands from the prophet. So the prophet is the messenger of God and the Imam is the messenger of the Prophet.
The Imamate comprises twelve perfect persons, and every Imam appoints his successor by a specific indication (nass). Like all Prophets, the Imams are also infallible; there is no possibility of their committing any sin. The infallibility of the Imam is clearly proved from what God Alimighty says in the holy Quran: “Verily, I make you an Imam for mankind. He (Abraham) said: “And of my offspring?” He said: “My covenant does not reach to the unjust.”
Moreover, an Imam is superior to all men in all matters of knowledge and character, since the very purpose of the Imamate is that humanity may be exalted to the highest stage and may be adorned with knowledge and good actions through the imitation of the Imam. What has been said in the Holy Quran about Prophethood (that the Prophets have been sent to people as His signs, to teach them the Book and Wisdom), is equally applicable to an Imam too, because an imperfect person cannot make another person perfect. What can someone give to another, when he does not posses anything himself? A misguided man cannot guide another man. Judged accordingly, an Imam is a little below the Prophet, but over every human being.
Anyone who believes in the Imamate is called, according to the Shi’a terminology, a “mu’min” (a man of faith and trust) in the special sense. Anyone who acknowledges the four fundamentals, which are the centre of faith of all the Muslims, is called a “Muslim” and a “mu’min” in a general sense; as has been said earlier, all Islamic laws apply to him: the protection of his life, property, respect and honour is obligatory. By only refusing to acknowledge the Imamate, a person cannot be excluded from the Islamic fold. Of course, on the Day of Judgement, and in the stages of nearness to God and “karamat” (miraculous signs), the Shi’a faith will reveal its excellence over the Islam of the majority.
All Muslims are equal in the world and are brothers, but in the next world there will certainly be a difference of ranks. People will be accorded positions according to their performance and intention. The final decision is in God’s hands in these matters, and it is therefore better for us not to involve ourselves.
We have explained that that which distinguishes the Shi’a from the Sunni Muslims is their belief in the Imamate of the Twelve Imams, and it is for this reason that this sect is called “Imamiyah, because the word Shi’a applies to the Zaydiyah, the Isma’iliyah, the Waqifiyah and the Fathiyah as well. These are sects which are counted as Muslim. But a more careful study of other sects will show that there are many which are totally excluded from Islam, but which, nevertheless, are sometimes still called Shi’a as, for instance, the Khitabiyah, who are an example of the hundred or more sects which cannot be regarded as Muslim. At the present time, however, the word of Shi’a specifically refers to the Imamiyah sect, which is the biggest body of Muslims in the world of Islam after the Sunnis.
In Islamic learning, faith in the twelve Imams is not anything new; it is referred to in all reliable and authentic books by Muslim authors. The Imams Muslim and al-Bukhari narrated traditions concerning the twelve Imams in their Sahihs in different ways. A few of them are given here:
1. Jabir ibn Smarah says, “One day when I went to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) along with my father, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “The universe shall not come to an end until all the twelve caliphs have appeared.’ After this the Prophet (s.a.w.) said something silently, which I could not hear. I asked my father what the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.) had said. He said: “The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) says that all of them shall be from the Quraysh.””
2. Another tradition says: “So long as there are the twelve authorities, the Muslims will continue to exist.”
3. Again: “So long as there are the twelve caliphs, the grandeur and majesty of Islam shall live on.
4. God knows who these twelve caliphs are. The Holy Prophet’s statement that “after me the caliphate shall remain for thirty years, then it will become the object of deceit and fraud” is well known to all Muslims both Shi’a and Sunni.
We do not want to enter into discussion and arguments concerning this topic. If anyone seeks a complete proof of the existence of the twelve Imams, he can study the thousands of volumes devoted to this subject.
The Fundamental Beliefs
From the Shi’a point of view, the religion is divided into two sections: knowledge and practice. That is, matters concerning the intellect, and matters relating to the human body. Those matters which concern knowledge or wisdom, are called “Usul ad-din” (fundamentals of religion) and they are five: (1) tawhid (monotheism), (2) nubuwah (Prophethood), (3) the Imamate (Vicegerency), (4) ‘adl (Justice) and (5) ma’ad (the Day of Judgement). We shall explain each topic separately.
Tawhid (monotheism):
According to the Imamiyah faith, every sane thinking person has a moral duty to know his Creator. He should believe in His Oneness and Divinity, and should ascribe no partner to Him in His Actions. He should also believe that creation, sustenance, life and death are governed by Him alone. He is the All-pervading, and if somebody ascribes sustenance, creation, or the giving of life and death to anyone else except God, he will be considered an unbeliever (kafir), someone who ascribes partners to God in His work (mushrik) and will be excluded from the Islamic fold.
Similarly, in obedience and worship of God sincerity is necessary. That is, if somebody worships anything else other than God Almighty, or adores someone or something else, or considers worship of something other than Him as a means of nearness to Him, he also, according to the Imamiyah faith, shall be regarded as an unbeliever.
Worship of anyone except God, the One without any partner, is not lawful. Obedience to anybody except God the Almighty, the Holy Prophets, and the Holy Imams is also not permissible.
Obedience to the Prophets and the Imams is indirectly obedience to God, because they are the ones who proclaim of the divine command; but to obey them with the idea that it is worship of God is unlawful and purely a satanic deceit. To seek blessings from these revered persons, to make them a means of intervention between ourselves and God, and also to offer certain prayers at their graves is lawful because this is worship of God and not worship of them. This is quite an obvious difference.
According to the holy words of God the Almighty, “in houses which God has permitted to be raised to honour, for the celebration in them of his name”, it is lawful to offer prayers to God in these sacred places. This is the faith of “tawhid” of the Imamiyah sect, which is unanimously supported by all our ‘ulama’.
The subject of the monotheism has been divided into several types: “tawhid adh-dhat” (the Essence of the One God), “tawhid as-siffat” (the Attributes of the One God), “tawhid al-af’al” (the Actions of the One God). For the sake of brevity we will not dwell on this topic.
Imamiyah Shi’as believe that all the Prophets were appointed by God; all of them were sent by Him and they are all His exalted servants. Hadhrat Muhammad al-Mustafa (s.a.w.) is both the “Seal of the Prophets” (the final prophet) and the Chief of all the Prophets. he was perfectly infallible, free from sin and deviation. All his life the Holy Prophet acted according to the will of God Almighty; God enabled him to travel from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa, from where he went bodily to al-‘Arsh and al-Kursi (the throne and the footstool) and even beyond the “hujub” (the evils) and the “suradiq” (the highest point beyond the heaven of heavens); he finally came to within two bow spans or less of the presence of God.
It is the firm faith of the Imamiyah Shi’as that whoever claims prophethood or revelation after Hadhrat Muhammad al-Mustafa (s.a.w.) is an unbeliever and liable to be put to death.
The Quran which today is in the hands of the Muslims is the same text of guidance and religious commands which God the Almighty revealed as a miracle. There has been no additon to, or substraction from, it. Muslims believe in “tahrif” (changes in the original) are wrong, because it violates the Quranic declaration: “We have revealed the Booka and We are its Protector”. All the ‘ulam’ (religious scholars) are unanimous on this point, and if there is any tradition against it, it is unauthentic; any tradition which has come down to us through imperfect chains of transmission
cannot be relied upon as source of knowledge and cannot thus be acted upon.
The Imamate:
It is question of the Imamate which distinghishes the Shi’a sect from all other sects; it is the basic and fundamental difference which separates this school from other schools of thought. Other differences are not fundamental; they are “furu’i” (that is they are concerned with the details of the code of writing and action). Such differences of secondary importance are present between the views of the Imams (religious heads) of the majority community of the Muslims. For instance, a large number of the Hanafi laws do not correspond with the laws of Shafi’is. According to the Imamiyah sect, the Imamate is the rank of the Perfect Man; like prophethood it is sustained by Almighty God for the guidance of the people. The Shi’as believe that Almighty God ordered His Prophet (s.a.w.) to appoint ‘Ali ibn ‘Abi Talib (a.s.) as his successor, so that after the end of Prophethood the mission of spreading Islam might be continued. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) knew that this appointment would be looked at with displeasure by others. Many of them would think that it was due merely to brotherly love or undue regard for his son-in-law.
It is quite obvious tha from the beginning of the Islamic era until the present age of the Muslims have in genral not truely followed the Holy Prophet’s guidance. The All-powerful declared in very clear words: “Oh Prophet, deliver immediately what you have been commanded to from your Lord and if you do it not, then (it will be as if) you have not delivered His message (at all)”. Accordingly after his last hajj the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) gathered the people at “Ghadir al-Khum” and addressed them thus: “Am I not better than every believer present here?” Then all of them said with one voice: “Certainly, O Prophet of God. You are superior to all of us.”
After this testimony of allegiance the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said; “Whoever has accepted me as his master, then ‘Ali is his master …” Moreover, on various other occasions, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) clearly explained the reality of the Imamate, sometimes by implication and sometimes quite openly. The Prophet thus performed his duty and God’s command his duty and God’s command was carried out. As soon as the Holy Prophet had breathed his last breath some Muslims presumptuously tried to hide the reality of the Imamate. They misconstrued the open declaration, and through their personal interpretation began to make changes in the religious commands. The result is well known as we have seen.
However ‘Ali (a.s.) and his group, which comprised high-ranking sahaba (companions) kept aloof from this selfish struggle for power and refused to offer allegiance.
Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s.) remained silent for some time, out of consideration for Islamic unity, but when Mu’awiyah tried to bring the Islamic rule and authority under his subjugation and started destructive activities, Amir al-Mu’minin set himself against him; supporting a man like Mu’awiyah and tolerating his wrong policies would have been a deadly poison for Islam, and it was the foremost duty of Hadhrat ‘Ali (a.s.) to protect the divine religion.
The Imamiyah believe that spiritually they are with ‘Ali (a.s) and are his followers; anyone who takes ‘Ali as a friend, we too are friends of that person, and of whoever takes ‘Ali (a.s.) as an enemy, we also are his enemy. This faith is based on the Holy Prophet’s words: “Oh God, be a friend of the one who loves ‘Ali (a.s.) and be an enemy of the one who is an enemy of ‘Ali (a.s.).”
The Imamiyah Shi’as believe that Almighty God never leaves the world without a Prophet or an Imam whether this “proof of God” is apparent or hidden. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), through an explicit ordinance, made ‘Ali al-Murtadha (a.s.) his successor. ‘Ali (a.s.) made al-Hasan (a.s.) his successor, and Imam al-Hasan (a.s.) made his brother Imam al-Husayn (a.s.) his successor. In this way this chain continued until the eleventh Imam. The Eleventh spiritual guide Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s.) was succeeded by his son the twelfth Imam, the Imam of the Age, the Awaited One (a.s.), vicegerent of God. This belief is not an innovation of the Shi’as, rather it is a divine practice, which started with Adam (a.s.) and continued until the last Prophet (s.a.w.).
There are innumerable books written by eminent ‘ulama’ on this topic. We give below the names of some ‘ulama of early centuries who have written on the topic of “wasiyah” (succession).
1). Hisham ibn al-Hakam.
2). Husayn ibn Sa’id.
3). ‘Ali ibn Miskini
4). ‘Ali ibn al-Mughirah
5). ‘Ali ibn Husayn ibn Fadhl.
6). Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Sa’id.
7). Ahmad ibn Muhammad Khalid al-Barqi, the author of “al-Mahasin”.
8). The great historian ‘Abdu ‘l-‘Aziz ibn Yahya al-Judi.
Most of these writers belong to the first and second centuries, but the number of writing from authors of the third century hijri is also large:
1). Yahya ibn Mustafad.
2.) Muhammad ibn Ahmad as-Sabuni
3.) ‘Ali ibn Ra’ab
4.) Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Farukh
5.) The well known historian ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Mas’udi, the author of “Muruj adh-Dhahab”.
6.) Shaykh at-Ta’ifah Muhammad ibn al-Hasan at-Tusi
7.) Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ash-Shalmaghani
8.) Musa ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Amir
Books written after the fourth century can hardly be counted.
Al-Mas’udi wrote in his famous book “Ithbatu ‘l-wasiyah”: “Every prophet had twelve successors”. The writer also gave the names of all of them, and wrote brief life-sketches of each; at the end of the work he writes in more detail about the twelve Imams.
The Shi’as have been the target of attack from both Muslim and non-Muslim groups concerning the existence of the twelfth Imam. We should thus like to explain the reality of this belief in a few words. Those who object think that the Shi’as believe in a baseless and ridiculous thing. When we examine the view-point of these critics however we find that it is based on two rather navie doubts; the first being “How can a person naturally live for more than a thousand years?” and the second, “What advantage is gained from his disappearance?” or “What is the use of a hidden Imam whose existence and non-existence are both equal?” As to the first doubt, we should like to draw the reader’s attention to the prophet Nuh’s age. According to clear Qur’anic statements the prophet Nuh live for nine hundred and fifty years, calling the people to God among his nation; according to the opinion stated by the ‘ulama’ his age was at least one thousand six hundred years, and a number of other scholars have gone so far as to say that he lived to be three thousand years old. The scholars of hadith of the majority community also acknowledge the longevity of other persons besides Nuh (a.s.). The great scholar an-Nuwi in his book “Tahdhibu ‘l-Asma” writes: “Though there is a difference of opinion among the ‘ulama’ about the age and the Prophethood of Hadhrat Khidr (a.s.), the majority of scholars admit that Khidr is still present with us. The Sufis, moreover, unanimously declare that he is still alive, and innumerable stories about his meetings with people, and about what was said at these meetings, are quite well-known.”
Shaykh Abu ‘Umar ibn Salah writes in his “Fatwas”: “The majority of the ‘ulama’ decided that Hadhrat Khidr is alive, but some of the scholars of hadith do not accept it.” I seem to recall that in another work Shaykh Abu ‘Umar wrote (and az-Zamakhshari also has written this in his Rabi’u ‘l-abrar) that the Muslims are unanimous in their belief that four prophets (a.s.) are still alive among us. Two of them are in the sky, that is ‘Isa (a.s.) and Idris (a.s.), and two are on the earth and these are Khidr and Ilyas. Hadhrat Khidr was born in the time of Ibrahim Khalilu ‘llah (a.s.). Thus we have clear proof of the existence of persons who lived for hundreds of years. ‘Allamah as-Sayyid al-Murtadha has written in his “Imali” about persons who have lived to a great age and ash-Shaykh as-Saduq has given an even a longer list in his “Kamal ad-Din”. Even in the present age we find some people who have lived for a hundred and thirty years, and some for even longer.
Logically we may pose the question: “If someone is capable of living to an abnormal age, say a hundred and thirty, then is it possible that in extraordinary conditions a man may live to be a thousand?” At the most you can call it something super-normal. Moreover, is super-normality
in the case of Prophets and the “awliyah” (those near to God) a particularly strange thing?
If one turns over the pages of th old volumes of “Majallatu ‘l-Muqtatif”, you will find that they are full of articles written by western scholars who have scientifically proved that man can theoretically attain eternal life in this world. Some western thinkers even says: “If Ibn Muljim’s sword had not struck ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), he would have lived forever. We are justified in this supposition because the Holy Imam was endowed with such qualities of excellence and healthy living.” Much could be added on this topic but the scope of this book does not allow further discussion.
Concerning the second objection, we might ask whether it is fitting that the Muslim nation should know every detail of divine will and intention. Is it necessary to know all the secrets of the world and of the religious commands? Before demanding such knowledge we must carefully think whether under the screen of some outwardly incomprehensible divine command there is also hidden some other secret. For example, a stone, in itself, neither benefits nor harms man. Nevertheles, we kiss the Hajaru ‘l-Aswad (the back stone in the Ka’bah). What is the wisdom hidden behind that, we may ask.
The “maghrib” prayers are offered in three rak’ahs (units); the “isha'” prayers are performed in four units. The morning prayers consist of only two units. What expediency is there in this difference of units?
Rather we must realise that there are a large number of matters of which neither archangel nor prophet has any knowledge; concerning the knowledge of the last hour, God, the Almighty says: “Verily God alone has knowledge of the Hour, the Day of Judgement and when it will rain.”
Apart from this, there are many other things which have been kept secret from us and their justification is unknown; we may refer, for example, to “ismu ‘l-‘azam” (the Greatest Name), “laylatu ‘l-qadr” (the time for the acceptance of Invocation). We would like to make clear by the above examples that one need not be amazed at those divine matters whose wisdom is not apparent. Rather, we should recognise that an order or action exists, and act accordingly as believing Muslims.
If something is proved by the authentic statements of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and his infallible successors, we must accept it. There is no other opinion: to enter into an argument about the nature of wisdom and man’s obligation to find a reason for everything would be in vain. As far as possible we have deliberately not provided arguments and proofs in this small booklet; there are already large volumes in which these points have been discussed in detail; likewise we examine the “Qa’im Al-Muhammad”, the presently existing descendant of Muhammad (s.a.w.). There are a great number of authentic traditions concerning the “qiyam” of al-Mahdi (the rising of the twelfth Imam) in books of knowledge of both sects.
Though we acknowledge the fact that God knows better the wisdom about the occultation of Imam al-Mahdi, we would nevertheless point out that a number of rational proofs have already been given in reply to some Shi’a questionners. The decisive fact to bear in mind is that in every age the existence of an Imam is necessary; the world cannot remain without a divinely appointed guide; his very existence is blessing for mankind, and his authority over us is also a blessing. The question of the wisdom hidden in this action of God’s is thus invalid (a blessing cannot be rationalised) and acknowledgment of the “ghaybah” (occultation) is a necessary duty of every obedient Muslim.
‘Adl (Justice)
God the Almighty is not unjust to anybody, nor does He commit any action which could be considered bad by man’s primordial sense. This is what is known as, ‘adl (justice). Justice is one of the attributes of Almighty God, existence of which is necessary. It is essential, like all the other attributes of Oneness. The Ash’arites differ greatly in their beliefs from the Imamiyah and the Mu’tazilah (the Imamiyah and the Mu’tazilah are both called “Adliyah”) The reason for this opposition is that the Ash’arites reject “goodness and badness” as rational concepts, and affirm rather that “goodness” is that which is called “good” by religion, and “badness” that which the code of religion calls “bad”. They regard knowledge of the Creator and recognition of the prophets as being outside the scope of the intellect; they accept miracles according to the dictates of religion, and they completely discard the dictates of wisdom.
Consequently they are in perplexity.
The “Adliyah” (that is, the Imamiyah and the Mu’tazilah) maintain that Islam is in accordance with reason.
Reason considers some actions ggood and some actions bad, and it is reason too which considers a bad act to be impossible for God the Almighty: He is All-wise and a bad action would be contrary to the dictates of His wisdom.
To chastise an obedient person is unjust, and injustice is a bad action; reason assures us that the Creator of the world could not unjustly chastise obedient Muslims as this would be a bad action.
The Imamiyah sect have paid special attention to the problem of ‘adl and have included this attribute among the fundamentals of religion. (It is worthy of note here that the Ash’arites do not themselves deny justice; their faith in this respect is that whatever God the Almighty does cannot affect justice and goodness; they are of the view that wisdom is so insignificant that it cannot decide as to whether one thing is appropriate for God and another thing inappropriate.) The Imamiyah have clearly demonstrated that the best criterion for testing goodness and badness is wisdom. It is through this means that we have come to the conclusion that the All-perfect Being (God) must have all good attributes and be free from all imperfections.
On the basis of this view of goodness and badness, and faith in the justice of God, certain other beliefs have formed: the notion of “lutf” (God’s all-permeating benevolence and blessing), and the belief that it is the duty of a Muslim to thank God, Who has given him everything. The notion of “jabr” and “ikhtiyar” (the coercion of man by God and the freedom of man to act as he wishes respectively) are closely connected to the ideas of goodness and badness. Absolute destiny and freewill have always been a major subject of discussion in every philosophy or religion.
The Ash’arites believed in “jabr”, and the Mu’tazilah and the Imamiyah held and still hold the view that every man is free and independent: he can do everything voluntarily, and perfrom all his actions with his own will. Like the existence of self, the faculty of volition is also a gift from God. The Creator of the universe created people and gave them freedom of action; absolute authority is God’s alone, but in his day-to-day speech and actions man is quite independent. God, the Almighty, neither forces anyone to some action, nor restrains him from doing it; the sons of Adam do as they please. It is for the same reason that the intellect demands that a crime be punished and a good act rewarded or praised.
If we do not follow this basic rule, reward and punishment, the sending of the prophets, the revelation of the Books, and the promise of Gehenna or Paradise in the hereafter becomes meaningless.
There is, unfortunately, no further room for discussion within the restricted framework of this book. We would refer the reader to part I of our book “ad-Din wa ‘l-Islam”. In short the Imamiyah religion believes that God is “adil” (just) and that man is independent and free to act.
Ma’ad (the Day of Judgement)
Like all Muslims, the Shi’as believe that Almighty God will bring all people to life again for accountability, punishment and reward on the Day of Judgement. Ma’ad involves the appearance of every person before his Lord in exactly the same human bodily from he had while on earth. It is not necessary to know in what way the return will be effected; suffice it to say that whatever has been stated about final requital and accountability in the Book of God and the authentic traditions is a part of our faith, namely, belief in hell or paradise, comfort or pain in “al-barzakh” (i.e. purgatory), “al-mizan” (the balance), “as-sirat” (the path), “al-a’raf” (“the heights”, a place situated between paradise and hell), and “kitabu ‘l-a’mal” (the record of deeds) which will show all the deeds one has done in one’s life. The Shi’as therefore finally believe that every one shall be entiltled to receive punishment or reward according to his deeds.
Good actions shall be rewarded and bad actions shall etail punishment: God says in the glorious Qur’an: “Whoever does at atoms weight of goodness will see it on the last day, and whoever does and atom’s weight of bad will see it on the last day.”

The forgotten minority: Shias of Saudi Arabia

The newest episode of attacks against Shia Muslims (Al-Qudaih Attack)

Taking a life based on someone’s belief and religion is not acceptable under any circumstance and any condition, as God has presented the notion of killing a soul as killing the entire humanity. However, due to unfortunate events and political interests in some parts of the world, we have been accustomed to hear about the killing and slaughtering of people for their beliefs and religion. Nevertheless, occurrence of such events in places, where security is known to be high and very effective is very rare and somehow unacceptable.
The attack on a Shia mosque in the town of Al-Qudaih in the Eastern part of Saudi Arabia, is another episode of a systematic attack and genocide against Shia Muslims in general and the Shias of Saudi Arabia more specifically. The Shia Muslims in this country have been one of the most oppressed minorities on the face of the planet, where they are stripped from their simplest rights and privileges.
The government of Saudi Arabia must fulfill its responsibilities and promises to its citizens and provide them with the freedom they require to practice their rituals and feel safe at the same time. Shia Muslims are known to be among the most tolerant groups in the communities they reside in, as they feel obligated to co-exist with all the groups and show the best picture for their religion.
Shia Wisdom condemns the Al-Qudaih Attack that took the lives of 22 people, including 2 children and injured more than 90 others. Meanwhile, we ask for an immediate measures and steps to protect and safeguard the mosques of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia, since this incident is the second one in less than a year. Our prayers and thoughts are for the families of the victims and we ask Allah to grant them patience and fast relief as soon as possible, and may the ones responsible for this hideous crime be brought to justice.

Shia Wisdom
May24, 2015

What is Bird Flu? And Why is it Spreading?

By Amanda C.
Edited by Ali Reza

The news has been abuzz recently with stories about the bird flu or avian flu. As with any disease outbreak, this causes concern among people who worry about what it means for their health. This virus, known as H5N1, has garnered much attention as it has been affecting poultry throughout the world. But what is bird flu and why is it a concern?

The bird flu is a virus that has been spreading among wild birds worldwide. It occurs naturally but these wild animals can pass it on to domestic animals that are used as food sources. The virus is rarely passed to humans, but it is possible. Many of the outbreaks have occurred in the Middle East and Asia with Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam experiencing ongoing infections in their poultry. In many birds, the disease is fatal.

Because wild birds have also spread the infection to other species, this can make it more difficult to contain and eradicate. Flocks or individual animals with the disease must be dealt with immediately to help prevent the spread of the virus and contamination of other animals.

How is the virus spread?

The bird flu passes relatively easily from animal to animal, but this is not the case with humans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that, “since 2003, 650 human infections with highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by 15 countries. About 60% of these people died from their illness.”

Many people were infected by coming in close contact with infected birds or poultry. They may have handled sickened chickens or ducks when plucking feathers to prepare them for cooking, or while disposing of their bodies. Another way of contracting the disease is through the fecal matter of these animals. Bird droppings may have contaminated water used for bathing or swimming. In rare instances, close contact between two humans could transmit the disease. However, for the most part, the bird flu is a much greater danger to animals than humans.

It is important to note that you cannot get infected from poultry that has been properly handled and prepared. All meat should be cooked to recommended temperatures to kill bacteria and viruses that may be present. Eating undercooked meat can lead to a variety of illnesses.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of bird flu in humans can be similar to those of the regular flu. They include abdominal pain and diarrhea, fever, cough, and acute respiratory distress. As with any illness, the virus can cause complications in people with pre-existing health conditions. Scientists believe that typical flu medications can help to treat humans infected with H5N1.

In birds, certain strains present few or no symptoms. More contagious strains can make birds very ill and have high mortality rates. The disease can spread quickly among flocks and lead to poultry shortages as infected birds are not used. Farmers will often cull their flock to try to stop the spread of the virus and protect other animals. As a result, communities may notice an increase in price of poultry products such as meat and eggs.

Protecting Yourself

While human contraction of the bird flu is rare, people should still use caution when handling poultry or being exposed to areas where birds are raised.

  • Use warm soapy water to wash your hands both before and after handling any raw poultry.
  • Make sure that all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned after coming in contact with raw poultry.
  • Cook poultry to at least the minimum recommended temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • When using eggs, make sure they are thoroughly cooked as well and all surfaces are cleaned.

Officials are doing their best to contain and prevent outbreaks but it is a difficult virus to eradicate since it is spread so easily among birds. People should make sure they are vigilant about protecting themselves when handling poultry and when traveling to regions where the bird flu has been detected.

Dealing with a Picky Eater?

How to Get Your Child to Broaden Their Culinary Horizons

By Maryam A

Dealing with a picky eater can be frustrating. You spend time making a delicious meal and your child doesn’t want to eat it because it has something green or smells funny. Instead they’d rather stick to peanut butter and jelly, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, or one of their other staple foods. Their picky eating and resistance to trying new things may give you concerns that they are not getting all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need each day. It can also make meal preparation take longer because you are creating something different for your child than what everyone else is eating.

Help your child explore new foods and expand their palate so that meal times are more enjoyable. As you expose them to different flavors and textures, they may find foods that they really like. Keep in mind that changing their eating habits can take time, so have patience.

  • Pick out foods together: Take your child with you to the grocery store or farmers market and look at the options together. Talk about different fruits and vegetables and let them pick out something they would like to try. Kids can be more apt to taste something if they’re curious about it and it is something that caught their attention. Also, they will have seen it before it has gone into the meal so they know what it is.
  • Get kids involved in making meals: Along with letting your child pick out some new foods, let them help you prepare these foods as well. They’ll be proud that they’re lending a helping hand and were part of preparing the meal. It also gives them a chance to see how the new food is being used.
  • Mix new foods with favorite foods: Give your child options on their plate. Make meals that combine foods you know they like along with things you want them to try. If you know they’ll eat ranch dressing, try introducing broccoli with some ranch for dipping. Encourage your child to take a few bites but do not force them to finish it if they don’t like it or are unsure. Getting them to simply taste it is a step in the right direction.
  • Reintroduce foods several times: It can take 10 or more times of trying a food before your child can really decide whether or not they like it. And something they didn’t like when they were younger, they may like as they get older. Don’t give up. Continue to incorporate new foods into meals in different ways. Just because your child doesn’t like raw carrots doesn’t mean they won’t like them cooked.
  • Start with small servings: Give your child just a little bit of the new food to taste. If they like it, they can always ask for more. This can also make it look less overwhelming or intimidating because they are not faced with a large amount.
  • Set a good example: Let your child see you eating a variety of different foods. If they pick out something that you haven’t tried before, let them see you tasting it and giving it a chance. Keep healthy foods on hand for snacks and meals and show them that you are making healthy choices too. Sometimes kids are more interested in what you have on your plate than what is on their own, so if they see you eating something, they may want to try it.
  • Stop making separate meals: If you always cook something different for your child instead of what everyone else is eating, they will come to expect this and it can turn them off from trying new foods. Why try something new when they know they’ll get what they like? Make sure that there are foods on their plate that they like and let them enjoy the same meal as everyone else and try new things.

Be creative and use your knowledge of the types and flavors of foods that your child does enjoy to integrate new foods into their diet. You may be surprised at what you find they like, or what they will eat without even realizing it. Most of all have patience and give them time to build up their palate.

Eschatology in Shia Tradition – Part 2

End of Time, Judgement Day and Earth’s final day

By: Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi

The previous part of this article covered the notion of End of Time and details affiliated with this specific topic that talks about an era before Judgement day and earth’s final days. The topic of Judgement Day is the opposite of End of Time, as the title indicates the topic is about a specific day, where all creations will summoned for final judgement on their deeds and actions during their earthly lives. However, the issue of judgement in its Islamic version has various levels and stages that is meant for simplification and escalation of the whole judgement process, which shows another side of God’s mercy over his creations.

Judgement Day has a special status in Islamic tradition and ideology, as the concept of the hereafter is one of Shi’a Islam’s five pillars, which are the necessities of God existence and attributes. Therefore, believing in this concept is a compulsory part of Islamic belief. The concept of Judgement day and hereafter is one of the issues has been widely covered by the Quran, as the word afterlife ‘Al-Akherah’ has been mentioned 115 times in the Quran. In addition, the entire action, deeds, conducts and even intentions of people is intended to be effectual in one’s judgement day experience. However, the concept of Judgement Day has been divided into two categories, which define the different worlds that each human has to travel through.

According to the Quran, each human being passes through different universes and worlds, and the current universe that we are living in, is one of these universes that we have to pass through, although we don’t remember anything about our previous existence. These worlds are as follow, and the two worlds that are considered part of the concept of Judgement Day, are among them as well.

  • Universe of the souls
  • Universe of the backbones
  • Universe of the wombs
  • Universe of Earthly life
  • The interval (Barrier) universe (Al-Barzakh)
  • Judgement Day
  • Universe of Heaven & Hell

The two universes that are the focus of this article, are the interval universe and the Judgement Day.

The Interval Universe (Al-Barzakh)

The interval universe starts after the burial of any human, where his grave will become either a smaller version of Paradise or a smaller version of Hell. According to many Islamic traditions, upon the death of any human his preliminary judgement is held on the first night of his burial, where he/she will be visited by the two angels of grave (Monker & Nakeer). These two angels would come to the grave and physically wake the dead person, and since he/she is out of this universe’s dimensions, the concepts of time, place and etc. are not applicable any more. After the waking of the dead person, the angels would ask him/her certain questions about belief and life. Simple questions like, who is your God, who is your prophet, who is your Imam and what did you do in your life are the primary questions. According to many narrations by Shia Imams, each person would be ordered to use his/her index finger as a writing tool and his/her burial white cloth as a sheet. The finish of this process would be followed by that person’s grave being transferred into a temporary heaven or a temporary hell, and this is all depended on the deeds and actions of that person.

In addition, other narrations have suggested that the interval universe is a purification method for many people, who have certain sins and did not repent nor apologized for them during their life. It is understood that God would rather have his subject purified and cleared before the actual judgement day, where the precision and distinctiveness is beyond recognition. Therefore, as far as that person did not oppress or hurt other people, the interval universe would be a good chance for purification and taking advantage of God’s last advantage before the promised day. In addition, according to Shia belief, after an individual’s death, his relatives and family are able to help him through his interval universe experience. This can be done by doing good deeds on behalf of the dead person, such as building a mosque, hospital, school, orphanage or any other action that would send continuous for that dead person.

Judgement Day & Earth’s Final Day

This day would not come unless the concept of End of Time has happened and lived through be the residents of planet earth. According to the Quran and many narrations of Shia Imams, by this time tyranny and oppression has been disappeared for a long time, as God’s promise to have his chosen ones inherit this universe has been fulfilled. According to many traditions, due to tranquility, prosperity, stability and superior technological and scientific advancement, people would live very long lives and are happy and healthy. Therefore, if by the time of this Final Day, there are still people alive on earth, their souls would be taken by the angel of death, and finally God would take the soul of that angel as well. Once this process is done, comes the great trumpet, where the great angel Israfel (Raphael or Uriel) would blow in his trumpet and the great resurrection would happen. This resurrection would bring all creations from the time of Adam and Eve back to life, and they will all be summoned for Judgement. As said before the dimensions, quantum methods, time and space are not applicable anymore, as all creations are subjected to new laws and methods of life on that day. The Quran states that the day of judgement is equivalent to 1000 years of what we count on this earth, and again it should be understood the numbers given in Quran are metaphorical and meant for exaggeration or minimization or a specific concept.

According to narrations by the Prophet and his holy household, even the awaiting on the day of judgement is a mean of purification for those who did not become pure during the Interval universe. Once a person’s turn has arrived for judgement, he will be asked about his/her life and according to the Prophet, a person would be primarily asked about:

  • How did you spend your youth before your senility (old age)?
  • How did you spend your health before your sickness or weakness?
  • How did you spend your wealth before becoming needy?

In addition, there are many other issues that a person is asked about during his/her judgement, and if under any circumstance he/she would deny a sin or a wrongdoing, a live broadcast of that action is presented before that person. The end of this process is done by, what the Quran calls: giving one’s book in his right hand or giving ones book in his left hand. Receiving the book (Report Card) in the right hand would be the pass to heaven and clearing the judgement, and receiving the book in the left hand would mean one of the two things:

  1. Going to hell
  2. Waiting for Al-A’araf square

The first case is obvious, as that person’s bad deeds and sins were very heavy and he/she had no good actions and deeds to be used for passing to heaven. However, the second case means, that person has oppressed others or taken their rights during his/her life and did not make any effort to apologize or give them their property, money or belongings back to them. The Al-A’araf square during judgement day would give that person a chance to come clear with the individual he oppressed, took money from, stole from or any other type of wrongdoing toward any person. In other word that square is another purification method, which God has provided for us humans, where a person owed something to someone, and someone owed something to him/her, and the Al-A’araf square is the place to take care of these small cases.

Killing an individual, stealing from an entire nation, introducing a wrong concept, which has taken people astray and many other major sins are dealt differently, as the doer would not receive the mercy of God on Judgement Day. In addition, there are hundreds of other details about this day that have been narrated by the Prophet and his holy household, and this article would not be the prophet place to bring them forward. Conducting a small search about authentic Shia books of tradition and narrations would help any observer in finding the right resources for the details of Judgement Day. However, one book that can be mentioned here is a great book, written by the Great Sheikh Abbas Al-Qomi that is called Manazel Al-Akhera, and the book has been translated to several languages, including English.

How Nonprofit Organizations can use Mobile Apps

Nonprofits Can Benefit from Mobile Technology to Advance Their Cause

By Amanda C
Edited by Ali Reza

Mobile technology has changed the way that many businesses operate and engage with customers. Smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices have put a wealth of information at users’ fingertips. It is easier than ever to find what they need and stay connected. For nonprofit organizations, mobile apps can serve a variety of purposes and help them to raise awareness and support for their cause.

Creating a Mobile App

One option for nonprofits is to create an app specific to their cause. They can either have an in-house developer design it to meet their needs, or it is something that can be outsourced. The most important thing to remember about developing an app is that it should serve a purpose for users. It is not cost effective or advantageous to have an app simply for the sake of having one.

  • Up-to-date Information. Apps can be used to instantly deliver information to users. Nonprofits can share details and reminders about upcoming events so that attendees are kept informed about exactly what is going on. Details can include locations and times along with maps, activities, tips, and other essentials.
  • Raise AwarenessAn organization’s app could be used to raise awareness about a certain cause or condition. It could focus on impact, warning signs, solutions, and how users can get more involved or be more proactive. For example, the Red Cross uses its app to share advice for dealing with emergency situations and administering first aid.
  • Promote Change. Another use for apps is to give people options and information that allows them to create changes. For instance, a way to locate stores that offer organic, gluten-free, or environmentally friendly products. They may share videos and images that share a message and encourage people to take action. Or they could be a resource for valuable information pertaining to a specific cause or topic. Organizations can also increase engagement by allowing users to interact with one another.
  • Support Fundraising.The option to solicit donations will depend on the platform. Some allow for in-app donations while others support links that take users to an outside site where they can donate. However, this can make it easier for users to find out how they can provide financial support and actually make donations in a fast and easy manner.
  • Increase Involvement.There could also be features that allow users to register as a volunteer for events, track their personal information and activities, or share information with others. Organizations can use apps to convey special promotions and coupons to users as well that are only available through the application.

With these features, organizations gain access to a wide range of analytics. This can help them to better understand their customers and users and make improvements not only to the app but also to business strategies and products. It provides valuable insight into business and customer engagement.

Using Existing Mobile Apps

If nonprofits don’t want to create their own app, they can partner with companies who have developed apps that would benefit their cause. One such app is Check In For Good. Users download the app and when they check in at businesses that the nonprofit has partnered with, the business makes a donation. The nonprofit can set up a page that educates the public about their cause and connects people with businesses that support the nonprofit. Both organizations gain exposure and awareness.

Another great option is Charity Miles. Users raise funds for nonprofits simply by being active. Through walking or running they can earn up to 25 cents per mile and biking earns 10 cents per mile. The more miles they log, the more money gets donated to the nonprofit they have chosen to sponsor. This is a great way for nonprofits to fundraise while also encouraging people to continue being active.

When used effectively, mobile apps can be a wonderful way for organizations to increase awareness and build stronger connections throughout communities. They can disseminate valuable information and give users ways to get involved and provide support.

Planning a Summer Getaway? Why Washington, D.C. Should be on your Family’s Must-See List

By Maryam A.

Summer is a great time to get away and enjoy the nice weather while seeing different parts of the United States. There are so many amazing places to explore that are filled with history, beauty, and excitement. One place that captures all of this and more is Washington, D.C.  The heart of our country, this city is home to a multitude of historic sites and helps to tell the story of our nation. There are plenty of family-friendly activities to keep everyone interested and engaged. Here are just a few reasons why Washington, D.C. should earn a place on your must-see list:

It is a Government Hotspot

Washington, D.C. is where the White House, Capitol, Pentagon, and Library of Congress are located. You can tour many of these facilities and learn more about how our country is run. See where the President and his family live and where all of the decisions that govern the United States take place. Give your children an up-close look at where history is made and help them to gain a better understanding of government.

There are Museums Galore

The city is rich with museums that cover many facets of history, science, art, and more. Some highlights include the National Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Building Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. There is something to appeal to everyone and many hands-on and interactive exhibits to keep your children interested and make learning fun. You can also check out the International Spy Museum which explores how spying and espionage have shaped history and the world as we know it.

Memorials are Scattered Throughout

Washington, D.C. pays honor to many who have served our country. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and Thomas Jefferson Memorial are just a few that you can stop to see along your travels. Each one shares its story and tells how those honored contributed to our nation.

A major landmark is the Arlington National Cemetery. Here there are thousands of military members, veterans, and their families who have been laid to rest. You can stop to watch the changing of the guard in front the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guard holds vigil 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. You can also see John F. Kennedy’s gravesite where the Eternal Flame burns.  The cemetery also has memorials and monuments paying tribute to a wide range of events and service members.

Take a Break to see the Animals

Not only is the nation’s oldest aquarium, the National Aquarium, located in Washington, D.C., the National Zoo is as well. The National Zoo is free to visit and has more than 2,000 animals from around the world to observe. Your children can see their favorite animals up close and also learn about a wide variety of ones they may not have known about before. At the aquarium they can check out all of the animals that call the water their home. There are even exhibits where they can touch some of the animals.

There are also plenty of places to enjoy the lush green grass, flowering cherry trees, and sparkling ponds. The city has many gardens and parks where you can take in the beauty of nature. Relax have a picnic or simply wander through the landscaped grounds.

There is so much to see and do in Washington, D.C. that it can be hard to fit it all in. Do a little research so that you can map out your day accordingly and fit in all of the activities that you want to do. Plan to spend a few days here to really appreciate all that the city has to offer and immerse yourself in the rich history that it presents.

Travel Review: What to See in New York City

and What to Skip in New York

By Amanda C
Edited by Ali Reza

New York City (NYC) is commonly referred to as “the city that never sleeps.” It is a melting pot of culture and activities. From business to entertainment, it encompasses it all. Years ago when people from around the world migrated to the United States, Ellis Island is where their journey into the country began.  The city continues to be a major tourist attraction where millions of people go every year, and for good reason. There is so much to experience there and it is unlike anywhere else.

But with the wealth of things to do, it is practically impossible to fit everything in. If you’re planning a trip to NYC, here are some must-sees, and a few things you could you skip.

Must-See Locations:

    • Times Square: This stretch of street is where a multitude of experiences collide. It is where the ball drops each year on New Year’s Eve and is surrounded by digital billboards advertising everything imaginable. There are billboards for the numerous on and off-Broadway shows going on as well as stands for purchasing tickets to these shows. Madame Tussauds’ wax museum is nearby, as are the flagship stores for many retailers such as Toys “R” Us. You will also find vendors selling souvenirs, jewelry, purses, and more.
    • Central Park: Nestled in amongst the tall buildings and bustling streets is the 843-acre Central Park. In a city where trees and grass can be sparse, it is a beautiful getaway. Walk through the park and take in the sculptures, bodies of water, Central Park Zoo, and Friedsam Memorial Carousel. In the winter there is even an ice skating rink.
    • Empire State Building: Travel up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building and enjoy the picturesque view of the city. From the 86th floor there is plenty to see and you can take in the diverse features and spectacular lights of the city. You can catch a glimpse of many famous attractions from here.
    • 9/11 Memorial: Following the events of September 11, 2001, the city of New York turned the area where the World Trade Center stood into a memorial that pays respect to the lives lost. It is free to visit and shares the history of how things unfolded. There is also a museum with artifacts, pictures, videos, and more.
  • Art Museums: NYC is home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Guggenheim Museum, and more. Depending on your taste, there are plenty of museums to explore and check out a little bit of history.
  • Rockefeller Center: This could go on either list. In the winter it is exciting to see the gigantic tree all lit up and try your hand at ice skating, but it can also be packed with other visitors. The shops surrounding Rockefeller Center are much like retailers you would find in other places.


What to Skip:

  • The Statue of Liberty: This is not to say avoid it all together, because it truly is a sight to be seen, but you can skip the dedicated tour unless you have a few hours to devote to it. Instead, hop on the Staten Island ferry which will take you close enough to take pictures and enjoy the magnificence of the statue, but also let you take in other sights as well. The Staten Island ferry is free and runs every half hour.
  • South Street Seaport: While there are some historical sites to be seen here, overall there are many other more attractive places to visit. It is a little off the beaten path, especially from the convenient subway, and mostly offers souvenirs that can be found elsewhere.
  • Sightseeing Tour Buses: These may seem like a good way to go but only offer a very minimal glimpse at some of the city’s attractions. Your better bet would be to take a walking tour or do a little bit of your own research on what to see.

There are plenty of other attractions scattered throughout the city as well. With tons of great places to eat, shop, and explore, it is a trip worth taking. Make sure you have several days here to really make the most of your visit and enjoy the diversity and history of the city.