Liaison office of Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Al Sistani (L.M.H.L) in London, Europe, North and South America.
On the birth anniversary of Imam al-Mahdi (a.t.f.), the birth of Ali al-Akbar, and the forthcoming Blessed month of Ramadan, and in the presence of many scholars from the United Kingdom and other countries, Sayyid al-Kashmiri addressed the scholars as follows:
Dear Muslim scholars and preachers, beware of the danger of the evil-doers in this era who seek to distance people from the Divine values and teachings of the Prophets, and divert the ship from its course, and from their Lord, their Hereafter, and even distort their Islamic and human identity with decorated words and different satanic titles they clothe with the dress of freedom, progression, modernization, and other titles that have nothing to do with Islam. They use the high-tech world of social media to spread their ideas and poisons, to the extent that they steal the newborn from his parents, so that the child is nourished by their ideas and raised by their culture, even though he lives with his mother and father. This has become a very serious matter at a time in which the protection of religious, human, and ethical values is no longer an easy task that can be addressed through lectures, statements, and sermons.
Dear scholars, we must return to the teachings of our Righteous Imams (a.s) to draw inspiration from their guidance, advice, and teachings to help guide us in our current crisis. I remind you of matters that you are already aware, "For certainly reminders benefit the believers."
Firstly, be as they (a.s) have ordered you to be, "Call people to us with other than your tongues, so that they see piety and knowledge in your actions." In this regards, I remember what the great scholar and philosopher, the late Shaykh Mohammed Taqi Mesbah al-Yazdi narrates from his visit to Najaf and meeting with his eminence Sayyid al-Sistani. His eminence said to him, "The majority of people do not learn their religion from books, verses, or narrations, rather from scholars, and when faced with a religious matter, they seek the scholars. So surely, the greatest danger is if a scholar deviates from the right path, as the people would lose faith in their religion and in them (the scholars). Therefore, you must be good-mannered, and have piety and fear of God so that people stick to their religion." Shaykh al-Yazdi also added that his eminence the Sayyid told him to spread this advice to all scholars, and so the man (meaning Shaykh al-Yazdi) did.
From this advice of the Leading Marja’iya, we understand that it is necessary for religious clerics who took the responsibility of conveying the messages of the Prophets to remain symbols of piety, God-fearing, and avoiding suspicions. They must be symbols of exalted Islamic principles, like modesty, patience, ascetism, and all the good qualities, as we are always under the scope. We must call to the faith of truth and to the Imams of Guidance (a.s) with our actions that are inspired from them, by constantly observing their traditions and the religious manners of speech and action, as well as in social relations, manners of eating, drinking, and living. People pray how the religious cleric prays, they fast as he fasts, and they perform pilgrimage as he performs. and they perform it. They even observe details in how the cleric performs Ziyarate of the noble shrines, and some look closely to find a fault in the cleric so that they may insult him on social media. Some of the great scholars have said that if a grocer steals, the people would say that the grocer is a thief, but if a scholar deviates, they say all scholars are deviant. So, we are observed in every action we take.
Secondly, console people in their hardships, stand by their side in their concerns, and share with them deprivation, poverty, need, and the living conditions. The best model for us is the lives of our Imams (a.s.). The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) would console the needy in their clothing and eating. One day while he was eating, al-Ahnaf Ibn Qays entered upon him. A sealed bag was brought to him. Al-Ahnaf asked, "What is in the bag?" The Commander of the Faithful (p) said, "It contains barley." Al-Ahnaf said, "Did you fear that it be taken away from you or are you stingy of sharing it?" The Commander of the Faithful (p) replied, "No, it is not for either of those reasons, but I feared that al-Hassan and al-Hussein might be given butter or oil." So, he asked, "Is it forbidden, O' Commander of the Faithful?" He said, "No, but the Imams of Truth must consider themselves like the weak people, so that the needy are not overwhelmed with their neediness." In a sermon, he says, "Perhaps in Hejaz or Yamamah, there may be someone with no hope in a loaf of bread, and no knowledge of a full stomach. How can I sleep with a full stomach and around me are (people whose) stomachs are empty and livers are thirsty? Or shall I be as the poet has said: It is enough for you of an illness to sleep full while around you lie people yearning for dried leather (to chew on). How can I feel content being called, 'Commander of the Faithful,' when I cannot share with them the hardships of time or without being a model for them in the difficult state of living."
In the time of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), Medina was struck with a famine to the extent that the wealthy people combined wheat and barley to satisfy their hunger. Abu Abdullah (a.s.) had a good supply of food which he had bought early in the year, so he said to some of his servants, "Buy us barley and combine it with this food or sell it, as we dislike to eat good while the people eat bad."
Ma'tab (the Imam's servant) narrated that Abu Abdullah (a.s.) said as prices rose in Medina, "How much food do we have?" Ma'tab said, "We have enough food for months." The Imam said, "Go and sell it." Ma'tab said, "But there is no food in Medina." The Imam said, "Sell it." Then after Ma'tab sold the food, the Imam said, "Buy with the people day-for-day."
In another incident from the time of Imam al-Kadhim (a.s.), some of his companions narrate that he would order them to sell the ripened crops and buy with the Muslims day-for-day.
With such manners, the Imams (a.s.) were loved by the people, and were able to settle in their hearts and flow in their blood. So, we must follow them.
In the recent years, we have seen how the Leading Marja’iya has consoled the people in their hardships, such as the power shortage. His eminence the Sayyid refused to live in better conditions than the common people by owning a private generator or having cable from the shrine. Another instance was when a generous man from Africa visited him and saw his simple home, so he gave him an empty check and told him to, "Dear Sayyid, I would like for you to buy a home better than this one." The Sayyid thanked him, but replied, "Think about buying homes for all the needy people in Najaf, then think about me." Therefore, it is our duty as scholars to console people in their hardships and feeling, so that we preserve the status of the religious clergy as a caregiving one for others.
Thirdly, participate in the community and address the social problems and struggles of families. People in these times are living in difficult conditions for reasons known to you. They need someone to stand by their side and guide them. It is not enough for us to deliver sermons in the mosque and at gatherings, and to answer religious questions. Rather, we must participate in the social field and observe the situation of the Islamic communities that we want to serve, guide, and preach to. The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) said, "Strengthen the relationships between yourselves, for it is better than the majority of (recommended) prayers and fasting." Sheikh Al-Kulayni narrates that there was a dispute between a pilgrimage caravan chief named Abu Hanifa and his brother-in-law over inheritance. Al-Mufadhal Ibn Umar heard of the matter, took them to his house, and settled their dispute with four hundred dirhams. Then he said, "Verily, this money does not belong to me, but I am holding it on behalf of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.). He entrusted me with it, saying that if a dispute occurs between two Shias, I should resolve what is between them. I only settled your dispute with his money."
Even though the Imams (a.s.) were isolated from power and rule, and cut off from their leadership role, this is how much they cared about the affairs of the nation and addressing its problems. So, in the absence of the Imams, it is the responsibility of those who fulfill their duties to have their traits and follow their steps.
When believers are faced with a social crisis and they see that the religious cleric cares and stands by their side in their hardship, it is much more effective than a thousand sermons and stories in attracting them to their religion and their Islamic and Divine environment.
These are some of the key points that his eminence Sayyid al-Kashmiri discussed in his meeting with scholars from the United Kingdom, and he stressed them to take care of all members of society, especially the youth, as they are the target of the hostile intellectual invasion that has occupied our homes and thoughts. We ask God Almighty to make right with your presence and efforts what had been made wrong in the nation, for surely, He is the One who Grants Success.
"And say, Work, for Allah will see your work, as will His Messenger and the believers."