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Categorized | Featured, Islamic Q & A

Three questions for the Shi`ah

I have a few questions about Shia Islam.

1) Firstly, when Shias say Ya Hussein etc, do they believe Hussein can hear them and can they ask Hussein to intercede between themselves and Allah?

2) Secondly, why do Shia mourn the death of Hussein (RA)? Surely he was a martyr, so they should actually be happy, and not dress in black and mourn every year during that period.

3) Thirdly, why do Shia mourn the death of Hussein (RA) if everything is the will of Allah, and nothing happens if Allah doesn’t will it to happen, for whatever reason, only Allah knows. So mourning the death of Hussein shows displeasure at divine decree and the will of Allah doesn’t it?


Reply from Sheikh Hamed Soltanian:

General reply:

Before giving particular replies to the questions above there is a general point that needs to be made.  A person who is after the truth must not enter a discussion with preconceived ideas that have yet to be proven correct and prejudice against any ideas against his or her own.  This is better understood by a convert (who the questions are from) more than anybody else.  Otherwise no one can change their belief and become a Muslim unless they have put aside their prejudices and false preconceived ideas and have researched the truth.

Among misconceived beliefs which unfortunately is passed onto converts to Islam through the Sunni or the Salafi version of Sunni ideology is the idea that if certain abilities are attributed to a person then it is equivalent to polytheism (shirk).  To clarify the matter let me give an example from the Prophet’s (S) life.

Representatives of the Christians of Najrān came to the Prophet (S) to debate with him about Christianity.  The Prophet Muhammad (S) said to them: “I invite you to monotheism and the worshipping of the one God and I invite you to submit to his commandments.”  He then read some verses of the Qur’an for them.

The representatives replied: “If by Islam you mean belief in the one God of the world, we have already believed in him and act according to his commandments.”

The Prophet replied: “Islam has certain signs and some of your deeds show that you have not yet accepted true Islam.  How can you say you worship the one God where as you worship trinity and you do not refrain from eating the flesh of swine and you claim a son for God?”

The representatives of the Christians of Najrān replied: “We consider him God for he brought back to life the dead and healed the sick and made a bird from clay and made it fly and all these deeds demonstrate that he is God.”

The Prophet (S) replied: “No he is the servant of God and His creation who He placed in the womb of Mary and it is God who gave him such powers and abilities…”

The story continues but it is only this part we are concerned with in our discussion.

The Christians said to the Prophet that the reason for Prophet Jesus (AS) being God is the fact that he had certain powers such as bringing people back to life, giving life to a clay bird and so forth.  The Prophet’s reply was that such miracles are the power given to the Prophet Jesus (AS) by God and do not indicate that one who has such powers is God.  God is beyond that, unlimited and no need for anything else whereas Prophet Jesus (AS) was in need of God for those powers.

This statement by the Prophet explains logically what is the difference between polytheism (shirk) and monotheism.  In fact, the Christians of Najrān (like the Sunnis or the Salafi version of Sunnis) were limiting God by stating whoever has such and such amount of power (determined by the Christians themselves) should then be considered God.  They have determined a limit which if anyone reaches, he or she becomes God.  Whereas the Prophet (S) is stating that having much power, knowledge and so forth is not an indication of being God.  God is Omniscient (All-Knowing) in the sense that He is unlimited in His knowledge, Omnipotent (All-Powerful) in the sense that He is unlimited in His abilities and so forth.  God is not in need of anything for His knowledge, Power, etc., it is all one with His essence.  On the other hand, other created beings are knowledgeable because God has given them knowledge, have powers and abilities because God has given it to them.  They are limited and needy, in need of God.

What distinguishes a being created by God from God is the fact that the created is in need of God no matter how much knowledge and power and so on it has or acquires.  Some people have more knowledge than others or more strength than others but this does not mean they are closer to being God than the ones with less knowledge and power since God is unreachable (this is not to say one cannot be close to God spiritually, but unreachable in terms of ability, knowledge, unlimitedness and so forth).  All created beings, the weak and the strong, the knowledgeable and the ignorant are all in need of God for whatever they have.

Hence in the Qur’an (35:15) we have:

“Mankind!  You are needy [who are in need] of God.  And God is He who is free from need (ghanī) and the praised one.”

And in another verse (29:6, 3:97) God states:

“…then surely God is free from need (ghanī) of the worlds.”

And there are many more verses such as the one’s mentioned above.  Hence, polytheism (shirk) is claiming someone is independent of God or that God is in need of something and attributing powers to someone alone does not constitute polytheism.

Reply to questions:

Having given this explanation we can move onto the detailed answer of each question.

But before that we have to ask ourselves this question: Why only say “raḍī Allah anhum” for Imam Husayn whereas in ṣalāt and the Sunni scholars in their sermons (khutbah) say Ṣallī (blessings) of Allah on the Prophet and his progeny.  In ṣalāt we say Allahumma Ṣallī `alā Muhammadin wa āli Muhammad which means: O Allah, send your blessings (Ṣallī) on Muhammad and his progeny.  In sermons, the Sunni scholars say Ṣallallahu `alā Muhammad wa `ālihī wa azwājihī wa aṢḥābihī which translates to: Blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad and his progeny and his wives and his companions.  Hence why not send blessings when referring to Imam Husayn when clearly it is said in the ṣalāt and when beginning sermons.

Reply to question 1:

When Shi`ah say Ya Husayn (S), they indeed do believe that Imam Husayn can hear them and they not only can but should ask Imam Husayn to intercede for them.  In fact, it is the responsibility of all Muslims to make Imam Husayn their intercessor with Allah.  The reason why we all must make Imam Husayn as an intercessor between ourselves and God requires that three main issues are explained.  First: from the way the question has been asked, we have to see whether or not intercession is allowed by God and from whom intercession is accepted.  Second: can those who are no longer in this world (i.e., have passed away) intercede between a person and Allah?  Third, is Imam Husayn (S) one of those people who can intercede despite not being in this world anymore?

As for intercession being allowed, the Qur’an is clear and definitive about it, that intercession is allowed for those who Allah has chosen and accepts their intercession.  Allah states in the Qur’an (19:87):

لَّا يَمْلِكُونَ الشَّفَاعَةَ إِلَّا مَنِ اتَّخَذَ عِندَ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ عَهْدًا

 Which is translated into English in the following way: “None will have intercession except he who had taken from the Merciful a covenant.”

A principle is universal unless there are conditions placed on it in which case the principle applies to every situation except in the case of the conditions placed for it not applying.  In the above verse we see that Allah is stating that no one will have the ability to intercede ‘except’ (which is the condition placed on no one can have intercession) for those who had taken from Allah a covenant.  It could also be the case that in one verse of the Qur’an a universal statement is made then in another verse the conditions are mentioned (which you can find in many instances in regards to Qur’anic statements and commandments).

Again in another verse of the Qur’an (20:109), Allah states:

يَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ وَرَضِيَ لَهُ قَوْلًا

 This verse is translated into English in the following way: “On that day shall no intercession avail except of him whom the Beneficent Allah allows and whose word He is pleased with.”

Hence, there is no intercession except for him who Allah is pleased with his or her words.  There is a similar verse as the abovementioned verse in the Qur’an (34:23).

Again in another verse (43:86):

وَلَا يَمْلِكُ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ الشَّفَاعَةَ إِلَّا مَن شَهِدَ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ

Which is translated into English: “And those whom they call on besides Him have no authority for intercession, except he who bears witness of the truth and they know [him].”

Therefore, intercession is definitely allowed but only for certain people.  Even Sunni scholars of various denominations say that the Prophet Muhammad (S) should intercede on behalf of the believers.  Hence, Sunni scholars do not deny intercession in itself.

What we have to see is who is or are the people who Allah has taken a covenant from and who Allah is pleased with their words and who bear witness of the truth and is made known to the people.

We know that one of those people is the Prophet Muhammad (S) as there are Qur’anic verses and many narrations which attest to it.  For example, in the Qur’an (4:64), Allah states:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا لِيُطَاعَ بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّـهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّـهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا

Which is translated into English in the following way: “And We did not send any apostle but that he should be obeyed by Allah’s permission; and had they, when they were unjust to themselves, come to you and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Apostle had (also) asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Oft-returning [to mercy], Merciful.”

Here we see that the Allah is stating that a believer should ask forgiveness from God and also the Messenger should ask forgiveness from Allah on his or her behalf.  This can be seen in other verses relating to other Prophets as well, for example, in another verse about Prophet Ya`qūb (Jacob) and his children in the Qur’an (12:97-98) we read:

يَا أَبَانَا اسْتَغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا خَاطِئِينَ ٩٧ قَالَ سَوْفَ أَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكُمْ رَبِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ ٩٨

 Which is translated: “They said: O our father!  Ask forgiveness of our faults for us, surely we were sinners (97).  He said: I will ask for you forgiveness from my Lord; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful (98).”

We can see that in the above verse the children of Prophet Ya`qūb (Jacob) are asking their father to intercede on their behalf and ask forgiveness from Allah for the sins they committed.  In the aforementioned verse prophet Ya`qūb (A.S.) accepts the request of his children to intercede and intercedes for them.

In the verse we mentioned above about the Prophet Muhammad (S) there is a clear condition for Allah to forgive and that is that the Prophet has to intercede for a believer.  The verse is clearly saying “the Messenger asks forgiveness ‘for them’”.  The pronoun that comes after the preposition ‘for’ is ‘them’.  Hence, anyone who tries to say otherwise is distorting the words of Allah.  Also it does not matter whether the verse is stating that believers should ask or that the Messenger himself asks for forgiveness for the believers, the point is that the intercession of the Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (S) is required.  The verse is not limited to a time or a place and there are no other verses that place such a condition on this verse.  Hence, the intercession of the Prophet can be at any time.  But the main question is not the time limit on intercession rather whether we can ask Prophet to pray for us or ask forgiveness for us now that he is not in this world (i.e., after having passed away) which brings us to the second issue which we need to address.

The first question to ask is, can people who are not in this world hear us?  If they can hear us then there is no problem asking the Messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (S), or anyone else God has appointed as an intercessor since that intercessor can hear us and God has said to us that we should make as intercessors those who He has chosen/appointed.

But before we get into the aforementioned discussion we must understand that believing that those who have passed away can hear people in this world does not in any circumstance mean polytheism (shirk).  Such a belief does not claim those have passed away are God or independent of God, hence it is not polytheism.

Back to the issue of whether or not people who have passed away can hear us?  First, it is proven from the verses of the Qur’an that people who have passed away are living in a different world.  Allah states in the Qur’an (2:154):

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَن يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ أَمْوَاتٌ ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَشْعُرُونَ

Which is translated into English as: “And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead; rather, [they are] alive, but you do not perceive.”

Also in another verse (3:169) we read:

وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ أَمْوَاتًا ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ

Which is translated as such: “And reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead; rather, they are alive being provided with sustenance from their Lord…”

We see in these verses that Allah is commanding us not only not to think of those killed in Allah’s way as dead but not to even say such a thing.

Also al-Ghazālī, the famous Sunni theologian, in his Iḥyā’ al-`Ulum, book 7, chapter on the reality of death, that which the dead face from the grave until the blowing of the horn, states: “Some believe death means annihilation…This is disbelief.”


In terms of narrations, we can see in a narration in Sahih al-Bukhari, reported from ibn `Umar that: The Prophet (S) went to “qalīb al-badr” [where the dead bodies of the polytheists of the battle of Badr were buried] and addressing the polytheists said to them: “We found that which our Lord promised us to be true.  Did you too find what your Lord had promised you?”  The people with the Prophet said to him, “You call on the dead!”  The Prophet (S) said, “You are not more aware than they are [the literal translation is: you cannot hear better than them].” (Al-Bukhārī.  Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukharī.  Dār ibn Kathīr, 1414/1993, v.1, p.462, Kitāb al-Janā’iz, Bāb mā jā’ fī adhābi l-qabr, narration number 1304. You can see an online link here:   )

Hence, the dead can hear the living.  It will not be a good excuse to say that only after a certain time people who pass away can hear but not beyond that time since these are all arbitrary conditions not based on Islamic belief and for claims such as these one must have proof.

It should also be mentioned that there are narrations reported in the Sunni books of narrations that state we should ask the Prophet to intercede on the believers behalf to pray for them so that Allah grants them something.  Of course, we (the Shi`ah Ithnā `Asharī or twelve Imam followers) do not accept the assessment of Sunni scholars in regards to narrations and consider many of the narrations they accept as being false.  Shi`ah scholars assess each individual narration on its own and do not believe other than the Qur’an there is any book one can say that everything in it is authentic unless each and every narration and claim has been assessed according to the Qur’an, the science of ḥadīth and reasoned for independently.  Hence, the use of Sunni accepted narrations when discussing with individuals from the Sunni denomination is only for the purpose of demonstrating that everything we are saying is included in their collection of narrations and historical records as well but the Sunni scholars have decided to ignore them, alter them, etc., out of prejudice or, in regards to some, out of ignorance.

There are however, numerous narrations in the Sunni book of narrations considered authentic that specifically state that the companions made the Prophet Muhammad (S) as an intercessor on their behalf to Allah.  One such narration is mentioned by al-Bayhaqī in his Sunan al-Kubrā or Sunan al-Bayhaqī and also Ibn Abī Shaybah in his al-Muṣannaf (see: Ibn Abī Shaybah.  Al-Muṣannaf.  Dār al-Fikr: Beirut, 1409 A.H., v.7, p.481).  There are books that are considered as a reference source by Sunni scholars.  The narration being mention is categorized as being ṣaḥīḥ (authentic chain of narrations) by the authors.  They narrate: During the time of the caliphate of `Umar, there was famine [due to drought].  Bilal ibn Harith [a companion of the Prophet] went next to the grave of the Prophet (S) and said, “O Messenger of God!  Ask for rain for your people (ummah) they are on the verge of annihilation.”

There is another narration in which Ayesha gives the advice of asking the Prophet (S) after he had passed away to intercede to end famine in Sunan al-Dārimī (one of the sources of references for Sunni scholars) by Al- al-Dārimī, in the first volume, pages 43-44 in ‘The Book of That which was bestowed by Allah the Most High to His Prophet After Death’ (transliteration: Bāb: Mā akrama Allah ta`ālā bi nabīhi ba`d Mawt).

In fact, many ‘Imams’ of the Sunni fiqh schools have recommended making the Prophet (S) as an intercessor, such as for example Mālik ibn Anas the Imam of the Maliki school of thought.

Therefore, we see that asking for intercession from the Messenger of Allah (S) after he has left this world is in accordance with the Qur’anic verses, the practice of Ṣaḥābah (companions of the Prophet (S)) and the instructions of the Imams of the Sunni fiqh schools.

Among Shi`ah narrations there are numerous authentic narrations with in-depth discussions about intercession which I can mention if the enquirer is interested at a later time.

The final issue that needs to be answered is whether or not Imam Husayn (S) is also someone who Allah has given permission to intercede on behalf of the believers.  The issue of him being currently in this world is not a problem as we have already shown that if someone has permission and is appointed to intercede by Allah then it is not a concern whether or not they are in this world.

The issue regarding Imam Husayn having permission from Allah to intercede is directly related to the discussion of Imāmat.  This issue requires a lengthy discussion which needs its own independent space and time.  What the discussion involves is that we Shi`ah believe Imam Husayn to be a divinely appointed leader (i.e., appointed by God) of humanity who is the `uli l-amr (those with authority) mentioned in the verse of the Qur’an (4:59) who is infallible and who can intercede on behalf of the believers to Allah.  Again I can go into this discussion at a later time if the enquirer is interested.  However, I will mention one verse of the Qur’an in regards to Imam Husayn (S).  The verse (3:61) states:

حَاجَّكَ فِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْا نَدْعُ أَبْنَاءَنَا وَأَبْنَاءَكُمْ وَنِسَاءَنَا وَنِسَاءَكُمْ وَأَنفُسَنَا وَأَنفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَل لَّعْنَتَ اللَّـهِ عَلَى الْكَاذِبِينَ

But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars.

Interestingly, this verse was revealed to the Prophet (S) after the Christians of Najrān (which we mentioned above) refused to believe Jesus (A.S.) was not God and that Jesus (A.S.) not having father is no different to Prophet Adam (A.S.) in the sense that they are both created by Allah.  Then this verse is revealed (whether the cursing was initiated by the Christians or through this verse is disputed among Muslim scholars) stating that each party (i.e., the Muslims on the one side and the Christians on the other side) brings their sons and women and themselves and call on God to destroy the liars.

The Messenger of Allah (S), only brought with himself Imam `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (S), his daughter Fatima al-Zahra’ (S) and his grandsons Imam Hasan (S) and Imam Husayn (S).  The Christians of Najrān in turn had brought their most high ranking scholars and priests and people.  But when they saw these five people and the belief on their faces they presented their terms of surrender claiming if such people curse them all of Christianity will be wiped away from the face of the Earth and entered into a peace treaty with the Prophet Muhammad (S).

We need to ask ourselves why the Prophet (S) only brought these five individuals as representative of ‘ourselves’ (i.e., the Prophet himself and Imam `Ali), our women (i.e., his daughter Fatima al-Zahra’) and our sons (his grandchildren Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn).  Clearly, if he did not believe their prayer would not be accepted he would not bring them along.

Also, there are many narrations which make the position of Imam Husayn (S) clear.  For example, in the Sunni collection of narrations called al-Mustadrak `Alā al-Ṣaḥīḥayn we see the following narration from the Prophet (S):  “Husayn is from me and I am from Husayn.  He who loves Allah loves Husayn. Husayn is one of the [my] progenies.” (See: Al-Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī.  Al-Mustadrak `Alā al-Ṣaḥīḥayn.  Dār al-Ma`rifah, 1998/1418, v.4, p.172, narration number 4873.  You can find this narration here: )

Under the aforementioned narration the author writes: “The chain of transmission for this narration is authentic.”  (Also, for the same narration see: Muhammad ibn `Isā al-Tirmidhī.  Sunan al- Tirmidhī.  Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1996, v.6, p.118, narration number 3775; Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad.  Cairo: Mu`ssassah Qurṭabah, v.4, p.172.)

Reply to Question 3:

I decided to reply to this question before question number 2 because it covers a fundamental principle that is the underlying principle in regards to both question number 2 and many others like it.

The reply to this question is in need of clarifying another misconception by many Sunni theological schools of thought.  That misconception is related to the idea of determinism (jabr) versus freewill (ikhtiyār).

It is not sufficient to make the claim for things that are not reasonable that, “only Allah knows the reason”, since that would be the same as the Christians claiming that only God knows the explanation of trinity and we cannot question it.  Hence, we have to see what something being the will of Allah means.  Does Allah force people to do thing or are they responsible for their own actions?  If Allah allows something to happen does that mean He is pleased with that action?  For example, if Allah allows a person to sin, does that mean He is pleased with that person sinning?

The answer to these questions clarify many issues to do with Islamic belief regarding tawhīd (true monotheism), sinning and good deeds, reward and punishment and of course issues to do with responsibility, mourning for Imam Husayn (S) and many other issues.

It is against Allah’s justice and therefore monotheism (tawhīd) to say that He forces people to do things and then punishes them.  If it is Allah who has forced someone to be a disbeliever, a killer, a thief, an adulterer and so forth then why is that person being punished for those crimes in hell?  Such a claim makes Allah unjust whereas Allah (the Most High) is Just.

Secondly, if it is Allah (the Most High) who has already chosen who should be a believer and who should be a disbeliever and a sinner then what is the purpose of sending a Messenger (S)?  Surely, those who are meant to be believers will be believers anyway.

Thirdly, if Allah has chosen who should be a believer and who should not be a believer then what is the purpose of prayer to guide us towards the truth which we say in our prayers five times a day?

Allah (the Most High) is Just and free from such insulting attributes.  Allah states in the Qur’an:

تِلْكَ آيَاتُ اللَّـهِ نَتْلُوهَا عَلَيْكَ بِالْحَقِّ ۗ وَمَا اللَّـهُ يُرِيدُ ظُلْمًا لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

Which can be translated into English as such: “These are the communications of Allah which We recite to you with truth, and Allah does not desire any injustice to the creatures.”

We have to see what the Qur’an states on this matter.  We see that the Qur’an asserts man’s freewill in numerous verses (2:79, 6:148, 8:53, 53:39, 13:11, 43: 20-21, 99:7-8, 81:28, 18:22, 93:93, 76:3, 24:55).  As an example, take the following verse (2:79):

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ الْكِتَابَ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ ثُمَّ يَقُولُونَ هَـٰذَا مِنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ لِيَشْتَرُوا بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۖ فَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ

 Translated into English as: Then, woe to those who write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allah, so that they may take for it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.

Again, as an example, see the following verse (6:148):

سَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا لَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مَا أَشْرَكْنَا وَلَا آبَاؤُنَا وَلَا حَرَّمْنَا مِن شَيْءٍ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ ذَاقُوا بَأْسَنَا ۗ قُلْ هَلْ عِندَكُم مِّنْ عِلْمٍ فَتُخْرِجُوهُ لَنَا ۖ إِن تَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ أَنتُمْ إِلَّا تَخْرُصُونَ

Translated as: Those who are polytheists will say: If Allah had pleased we would not have associated (aught with Him) nor our fathers, nor would we have forbidden (to ourselves) anything; even so did those before them reject until they tasted Our punishment. Say: Have you any knowledge with you so you should bring it forth to us? You only follow a conjecture and you only tell lies.

Also, refer to the other verses mentioned.  Therefore, it is clear that every person is responsible for his or her actions and neither the person committing the crime nor those observing it should attribute the crime to Allah by claiming it was Allah’s will.

It is for this reason that the Imams of the Shi`ah have rejected determinism in the sense stated by many Sunni theologians.  But they have also rejected independence of Allah in the sense stated by some scholars of the Mu`tazilah branch of Sunni Islam who state that people are completely independent of Allah in their actions and Allah cannot interfere in their lives.  This other extreme is equivalent to polytheism and also voids the idea of prayer (which requires the action of Allah in people’s lives).  Hence, neither determinism (jabr) nor tafwīḍ (the aforementioned idea of some Mu`tazilah) is correct.  Rather, the correct belief is the one between these two extremes named by the Imams as `amr bayn `amrayn (the principle between the two principles) which states that Allah has given the ability to make one’s own decisions (ikhtiyār) to a person.  This ability and power, on the other hand, is one given to him by God and therefore the ability, not the decision is dependent on God.  Note, that this is different to the Asha`rī theological claim that Allah creates the actual decision in a person’s mind.  The Asha`rī claim would mean that Allah is again ultimately responsible for the action of the person with just an extra step.

To clarify what the principle between the two principles mean consider how an inanimate object such as a rock cannot make decisions.  Atoms in specific conditions join without their own choice to make certain molecules.  For example, water is made up of H2O without oxygen and hydrogen having any say in this construction.  Also, consider how animals make instinctive decisions.  However, human beings have the ability of making decisions beyond an inanimate object and animals since they can make informed choices, aware of its consequences about their actions.  This is beyond the ability of inanimate objects and animals.  But who has given this ability to human beings?  Since it is Allah who has given this ability to people to make decisions, then that ability is dependent on Allah.

Also, a person is completely dependent on Allah on all matters.  As one thinker once clarified the difference between what has been determined by Allah and what is one’s own choice based on the ability given to one by Allah said: The choice is yours which leg to lift off the ground.  However, the fact that you cannot at the same time lift both legs of the ground has been determined.

We have many narrations from our Imams that explain the abovementioned concept.

Having clarified the abovementioned point the answer to the question becomes clear.  It was not Allah’s will for Imam Husayn (S) to be killed by the army of Yazid.  That was the decision of Yazid and his henchmen.  But Allah did not stop them from killing Imam Husayn (S).

The question might be asked: Why did not Allah stop the killing of Imam Husayn (S)?

The reply to the aforementioned question is the same as any question that asks, which is, why it is that Allah does not stop crimes from happening and why does He not stop criminals?  Allah does not stop criminals from committing crime so the evil is distinguished from the good.  For this reason Allah has given such a freedom (to act) to human beings in order to see who is deserving of heaven and who is deserving of hell.  In order for someone to be punished for a crime they must first commit that crime.  A person who thinks of a crime is not as bad as the one who commits it.  For people to be rewarded for doing good deeds they must carry out good deeds and, maybe with a lesser impact, to think about doing good deeds.  Hence, Allah allows people to do evil so their exact punishment in the hereafter is determined and allowed people to do good deeds and even allows good people to be oppressed so their high and lofty position in the hereafter is determined.

We see that in the Qur’an Prophets of Allah have cried for what has happened to their pious children.  For example, in the following verse (12:84):

وَتَوَلَّىٰ عَنْهُمْ وَقَالَ يَا أَسَفَىٰ عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ وَابْيَضَّتْ عَيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْحُزْنِ فَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ

This is translated into English as thus: “And he turned away from them, and said: O my sorrow for Yūsuf!  And his eyes became white on account of the grief, and he was a repressor [of grief].”

According to the logic presented in the question, Prophet Ya`qūb (A.S.) should not have cried for his son Prophet Yūsuf (A.S.) because everything is the will of Allah and he should be happy with the will of Allah.  Rather, we see that the Prophet of Allah, Ya`qūb (A.S.) did cry because of the crime of his children.

Hence, we mourn for Imam Husayn (S) because of the injustice that was done to him.  This is also the practice of Prophet Muhammad (S) both in regards to Imam Husayn (S) and even other believing martyrs which I mentioned in the reply to the next question.

Reply to question 2:

Being martyred does not mean that there was no injustice done to the person who was martyred.  In fact, it is exactly because injustice was done to a person that he or she was martyred in the first place.

The person martyred certainly achieves a high position with Allah especially if that person is Imam Husayn (S) the divinely appointed leader of all mankind who sacrificed everything for the cause of Islam.  This, however, does not mean we do not mourn the injustice that was done to him.  It is natural to become angry and sad when a person observes injustice being carried out in the world.  Now if that injustice is of such significance and severity that it involves a person with such a high status with Allah then that anger and sadness should be much more.  Being angry and sad about injustice is a sign of a believer.

In the Sunni collection of narrations called al-Mustadrak `Alā al-Ṣaḥīḥayn we read the following narration:

Um al-Faḍl the daughter of al-Hārith said that she entered upon the Messenger of Allah (S) and she said: “O Messenger of Allah, I had a bad dream last night.  He said: What was it?  She said: It was difficult.  He said: What was it?  She said: I saw a piece from your body was severed and fell in my lap!  The Messenger of Allah (S) said: You saw [something] good, Fatima will give birth, God willing, to a boy so he will be in your lap. Then Fatima gave birth to al-Husayn and he was in my lap – just as the Messenger of Allah (S) had said.  Then one day I entered upon the Messenger of Allah (S) and put him in his lap then, I noticed that the eyes of the Messenger of Allah (S) was filled with tears pouring down.  So I said: O Prophet of Allah!  May my parents be your ransom, what has [happened] to you?  He said: Gabriel (AS) came to me and informed me that my nation (ummatī) will kill this son of mine.  I said: This [son].  He said: Yes, and he brought to me soil from the red soil [stained with the blood of Imam Husayn].” (See: Al-Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī.  Al-Mustadrak `Alā al-Ṣaḥīḥayn.  Dār al-Ma`rifah, 1998/1418, v.4, p.171, narration number 4871.  You can find this narration here: )

Under the aforementioned narration the author writes: “This narration is authentic based on the verification of the two Sheikhs [i.e., Muslim and Bukhari].”

Also, the interesting thing about this narration is that within the narration when sending blessings on the Prophet (S), the full blessing is used (i.e., May Allah’s peace and blessings be on him and his progeny) and not the usual incomplete version found in the Sunni books (i.e., May Allah’s peace and blessings be on him).

If there are any more questions please feel free to ask.

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Copyright © Fatima Zahra Charitable Association. All rights reserved.