Jerrmein Abu Shahba
As many of us are aware, the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan has been classified as Al-Quds Day by the leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the great Ayatollah Imam Khomeini. This “international day” of observance was introduced to raise our voices to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque and also to express solidarity with our oppressed Palestinian brothers and sisters who have been facing great trials not only now but for the past 60 years by the Zionist-Apartheid system of Israel. Despite the knowledge of this clear case of oppression, unfortunately there are a significant number of Muslims who pose some concerns and display a lack of passion for the Quds crisis.
Of all cases of oppression, why did Imam Khomeini dedicate the last Friday of Ramadan for Al-Quds?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the usurped land of Al-Quds is not just any land; it is a holy land that holds great religious significance. In fact, the war which Israel is fighting against the Palestinian people is really a war against Islam and in opposition to the Muslims, and the means to do so is by desecrating one of the most sacred Islamic holy lands such as Al-Quds. Furthermore, the oppressors (Zionists) of Al-Quds are one of our most lethal enemies today, so there is greater urgency in fighting them over other oppressors. Perhaps one of the reasons why Imam Khomeini saw it necessary to highlight this particular case is because the land of Quds and Masjid Al-Aqsa will be one of the key items on the agenda of Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) and Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) at the time of reappearance. We cannot compare Al-Quds (which means ‘holy’, derived from the word ‘Muqaddas’) with any usurped land. The reason is because the land of Al-Quds is a symbol which represents Allah, and thus becomes holy and constitutes Sha’aer Allah (signs of Allah); hence desecrating it is a direct offense to Allah.
As the holy month of Ramadan revives the spirit of unity and brotherhood among Muslims, it was certainly not a coincidence that Imam Khomeini chose a Friday during this month to dedicate for this most noble purpose of joining our hands together as a unified nation, no matter what school of thought we belong to or what nation we come from. When the Muslim world has tasted an example of what the poor and needy suffer by fasting from food and water throughout this holy month, we naturally become more sympathized and united for the cause of the oppressed. Hence, the peak of spiritual recognition in this aspect becomes more apparent towards the latter part of Ramadan, which makes the timing all the appropriate to dedicate as Al-Quds Day. We all share the same concern for Al-Quds and Baitul Maqdis, and therefore, our collective protest on this specified day, particularly as the world is well aware of the Muslims observance of the holy month of fasting, creates a greater effect and speaks a louder voice for the cause of standing up against oppression.
Why do we not have the same passion equally distributed to other cases of human rights violation, such as in Tibet, Darfur, etc?
One may continue in this endless and futile chain of asking “why not this?” and “why not that?” However this type of fruitless questioning will not bring a solution to the existing problems, and there is no value in starting a sequence of comparisons whenever passion is expressed about an issue or a noble cause. After all, one can argue why so much passion about the tragedy of Karbala in which only around 72 people were killed, while thousands of lives were taken in the Holocaust! The comparison here is inappropriate as there are other factors that come into play when assessing a case of oppression.
Granted this world is filled with oppression from the North to the South Pole, and that will be the case until the Imam of Our Time (may Allah hasten his reappearance) fills the earth with justice and equality. There is no disagreement that it is the duty of every human to stand up against any and all oppression we witness, and as the saying goes, “He who witnesses oppression and is silent is like he who condones it and takes part in it.” It would be great if there are demonstrations for every case of injustice that takes place in this world till the end of time, and we should exert all efforts to initiate, organize, and participate in such noble efforts. However, it may be beyond our capacity and resources to tackle every case of oppression to the same degree. We should at least exert our efforts in the most efficient way possible and prioritize with the most critical issues at hand, under the guidance of our respected religious leaders, which by default represents all other cases as well.
Why boycott companies that support the Zionist state?
One of the important ways of raising our voice on Al-Quds Day is to announce our boycott of all companies which support the apartheid economy of the Zionist state as a part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. By implementing consumer boycott of those Western companies which sponsor the Apartheid state, these companies are being educated about how their close relationship with the Zionist apartheid state is a financial liability.
Part of this education requires participants of the boycott to contact the companies and inform them why you are boycotting. It is an ethical and moral issue that goes hand in hand with the idea of Bara’at (dissociation from falsehood). We learn a great example from the young daughter of one of the close companions of Imam Ali named Abul Aswad Al-Du’ali. When she learned that the honey which she just consumed was given as a gift from the oppressive caliph of her time, she protested by voluntarily vomiting everything she swallowed. It was a feeling of disgust that she felt even though the honey was not forbidden from the jurisprudence perspective. Rather, it was a moral stance by which she voiced her condemnation to Muawiya and thereby stamped her support and devotion to Imam Ali (peace be upon him).
Passive Muslims Avoiding Politics
Unfortunately, there are some factions even among the Shia brethren who have stepped aside when it comes to joining the protests on Al-Quds Day or initiating a rally locally. Some reasons for their silence are the desire to stay away from “politics” or any controversial issue that may harm them or their worldly positions. Some fear that their citizenship or jobs be taken away from them. To those who use the pretext of “politics”, we say that the issue of illegitimate caliphate assumed by Yazid in the Karbala crisis is also considered to be “politics”. Yet we observe that Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) stood up against falsehood and oppression, even if it is political, and even if it cost him his own life as well as the lives of his beloved ones. Surely, if we seek to gain knowledge of the purified lives of our Imams, we will realize that every one of them were involved in the political environments of that time and struggled to stand up for the truth!
Al-Quds Speaks for All Cases of Oppression
It is imperative for us to bear in mind that when we raise our voices on Al-Quds Day, it is to stand up against oppression not just in Palestine but all over the world, including Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia. It is the day for the weak and oppressed to confront the arrogant powers of Zionism and the Yazids of our time. Likewise, when we lament and mourn over the tragedy of Imam Hussain, which is the greatest of calamities in the history of mankind, we are in essence voicing our condemnation for all other oppressions, and we recognize that Karbala is a representation of “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil” which is not limited to the land of Karbala nor to the day of Ashura. When we participate and promote the yearly Al-Quds rally on the last Friday of Ramadan, remember that we are also protesting the usurped land of Fadak which was unjustly seized from Lady Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her)! From there the tragedy started, and the illegitimate Sunnah was followed afterward!
For those of us who are hesitant to participate in Al-Quds rallies or have any affiliation with organizations that stand up for this cause, it is a good time to reassess our faith as the holy month of Ramadan culminates. Surely it is contradicting to claim that we are preparing ourselves for the return of our Imam when we are struggling within ourselves to protest against one of the most obvious cases of oppression in our present time. Yet again, it is a commonly observed phenomenon that Truth is usually supported by few while the majority tends to lean towards Falsehood where ever it is convenient. We hope and pray that we are not among those whom Imam Hussain described, “Verily, people are the slaves of the world, and religion is just on their tongues. They are attentive to it as long as their material benefits are provided, but when they are tested, the number of true devotees dwindles!”