As we get closer to the Arbaeen of Imam el Hussayn(a), and the grief of his sacrifice still aching our hearts, we should begin to ask ourselves how do we strive to overcome the challenges of modern life as well as keeping our morals and values? How should we prepare for reappearance of the Imam of our time Al-Mahdi(atf) may God hasten his return.
These questions were the theme of a gathering titled: ‘How do we prepare for the imam of our time” organised by the Lebanese Youth Association. The guest speaker Shaykh Dr. Mohammad Zakaria, by addressing the current day challenges of the Muslims in the West discussed the ways with which we can overcome our challenges.
Sh. Zakaria illustrated his points in two categories of ‘active waiting’ and ‘negative waiting’ and emphasized on our responsibilities as communities of believers. He also talked about the legacy, we leave behind for the next generation to pick up and run with. “We should leave behind better than what we have found so those who come after us won’t have to go through the same struggle and hardship that we went through as individuals and as members of community.”
He mentioned the recent incident in France and said: “Muslims in the West are being barraged with external fears due to events happening outside the UK which are determining how we are seen as Muslims in this country… When incident in Paris happened, I same as many others were waiting for a unified response to be delivered, not by individuals but by group of individuals. A group of Muslim communities who get together and issue one clear response to the terrorist atrocities.” He showed concern about existence of many Muslim communities rather than one coherent Muslim community. “I always argue against the idea of separate communities. I cannot see any evidence that could suggest there is one unified Muslim community existence in UK.” This is what he called negative waiting. He emphasized that communities ought to be united as individual communities cannot make lasting difference. He reminded us that we read one script and therefore should speak with one voice.
Expanding on active waiting Sheikh said: “Active waiting for the Imam(atf) means that we take our future in our own hands. We do not allow others to shape it for us.” He believes letting others to decide for us we would become reactionary communities rather than dynamic ones.
Sheikh Zakaria was critical of enormous funds and donations paid by mourners during Muharram as Tabarrok which is estimated to be three million pounds. He believed this money could be spent better elsewhere for example, funding individuals who could counter the media outrages. Individuals who can participate on programmes such as News Night or Question Time and present counter arguments away from hatred and distraction. “We should work on bringing the unity across the communities and bring about this understanding that we are one body of believers. What happened in past must remain in the past. No longer should our past dictate how communities would engage with one another”, he said.
In his opinion the reappearance of Imam is related to our actions. Action of those who have lost everything, sacrificed everyone and those who have lost any means of defending themselves. Only when there are individuals who have actively engaged in encountering injustice in all its forms, then Imam will come.
“We should work on bringing the unity across the communities and bring about this understanding that we are one body of believers. What happened in past must remain in the past. No longer should our past dictate how communities would engage with one another”, he said.
In response to the question of how Muslims in the west should counter the Islamophobia, he said: “We need to understand the media. We are told to stand for the truth. We should respond in a way that shows the reality of the situation. The individual Muslims must be active in the community within which they exist. We have example of the Prophet, he has the perfect approach to life which is called Sunnah (tradition). This Sunnah is a social reality which tells us that our responsibility is not merely to ourselves, but we have a responsibility towards the society and when the image of Islam is being tarnished then it’s our responsibility to counter that negative image. We should stand up and defend Islam. Just as what the grandson of the Prophet, Imam Hussayn(a) has done.
Dr Shaykh Mohammad Zakaria, is an Islamic scholar and is a lecturer at Islamic College of Advanced Studies