Ali al-Akbar, the Immortal Youth
By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
"That is the good news Allah gives to His servants who have faith and do righteous deeds! Say (O Prophet to mankind), ‘I do not ask you any reward for it (enlightening minds with Islam) except love of [my] nearest of kin..." (Holy Qur'an 42:23)
The above is the clear commandment of God Almighty for all those claiming to be Muslims. It explicitly states that the token of their gratitude towards Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) for delivering them from the darkness of ignorance, idolatry, oppression, and all sorts of vices, is their love and affection for his immediate family.
In other words, it is an article of faith to adhere to the path of the Prophet's immaculate blood-kin or progeny, whom God calls the Ahl al-Bayt and vouches their purity in the holy Qur'an (33:33).
To remove any doubts on the identity of his Ahl al-Bayt, the Prophet himself has said without mincing words: "I am leaving behind among you the Thaqalayn (two invaluable things), the Book of Allah (Qur'an) and my progeny (Itrati) the Ahl al-Bayt. Hold fast to them and you will never go astray, for the two will never separate even when they return to me at the Pond (of Kowthar on Judgement Day)."
The above hadith has been widely quoted by all denominations of Islam including the famous Sunni compilation called Sahih Muslim, although in some later works by certain denominations of Islam, the word Itrati (my Progeny) has been replaced by Sunnati (my practice and behaviour).
Scholars, both Shi'ite and Sunnis, have thoroughly scrutinized this hadith and reached conclusion after checking the isnaad (chain of transmitters) that the original word is definitely Itrati, since there is no doubt or dispute concerning the progeny of the Prophet, in contrast to his behaviour and practice that has unfortunately been subjected -- either intentionally or unintentionally – to contradictory interpretation on what actually he meant and how he prayed (whether with hands unfolded or folded).
However, all ulema are unanimous that the Prophet's love and affection for his daughter, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA), her husband Imam Ali (AS), and their sons Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS), along with the commandment for all Muslims to revere his Ahl al-Bayt, was an unquestionable, indisputable and inseparable part of his Sunnah.
We are indeed indebted to auspicious Sha'ban for taking up this lively discourse, especially since today happens to be the 11th of this blessed month, the day on which the Prophet's younger grandson was blessed with a radiant son who bore a striking resemblance to the Almighty's Last Messenger to mankind.
Named Ali (AS) in honour of his Infallible Grandfather, Imam Ali (AS), his gait, voice and eloquent manner of speech brought memories of the Prophet to the people of Medina, Mecca and elsewhere.
It is irrelevant here whether he was born in 33 AH and called Ali al-Akbar (Ali the Elder), as some claim, or was born in 42 AH and called Ali al-Asghar (Ali the Younger), as others state – the Elder Ali actually being Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) while the 6-month infant martyr of Karbala was named Abdullah.
What is important is his presence in Karbala on the fateful day of Ashura or 10th Muharram in the year 61 AH that definitely drew the line between Muslims and infidels.
It was for this reason that while sending his youthful son to the battlefield, Imam Husain (AS) held God as Witness, saying he now offered as sacrifice a person who was the carbon copy of the Prophet. The Imam added: "Whenever we missed seeing Your Prophet, we would look at him."
Then he recited the Qur’anic ayah: "Indeed Allah chose Adam and Noah, and the progeny of Abraham and the progeny of Imran above all the nations."(3:34).”
Irrespective of the fact that the "Imran" mentioned in this ayah could be Abu Taleb – Prophet Muhammad's (SAWA) uncle and the paternal ancestor of his progeny the Ahl al-Bayt – and certainly not the father of the Virgin Mary, since Prophet Jesus did not leave any issue behind, the question which arises is that: Was Murrah bin Munqad who pierced the chest of the youthful Ali in Karbala with a spear and then cruelly twisted the blade inside the body, a believer in Islam?
Moreover, could Yazid and his hordes who most brutally massacred the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt, be considered Muslims?
Still, was the system called caliphate that brought the Godless Omayyads to power, Islamic?
And last but not the least, shouldn't we Muslims, not just for the sake of the ummah's unity in this modern scientific era but for the course of our souls in afterlife, including the eventual meeting with the Prophet who will surely question us about the Thaqalayn on the Day of Judgement, summon the courage of faith to scrutinize the scandalous event of Saqifa Bani Sa'da and the blood of the Ahl al-Bayt it spilled when the victor of this dubious event led a gang of rogues to batter down the door of the house on Fatema Zahra (SA), thereby breaking her ribs and causing the martyrdom of the stillborn Mohsin?
These are points to ponder as we celebrate the Day of Youth in the Islamic Republic of Iran on the occasion of the auspicious birthday of the Immortal Youth of Karbala, who broke striking resemblance to his great-grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and who thus introduced himself to his foes:
"I am Ali, the son of Husain, the son of Ali,
"By the House of God, we are those with the Prophet righteously,
"By God, the son of a spurious son, will not judge us,
"I will strike with the blow of a Hashemi, a Quraishi.