Believers – Strangers in Faith
Imam Ja’ffer (as) has said to his companion al-Hussain ibn Mukhtar:
“One amongst you says “I am the ghareeb”, yet the true ghareeb (stranger) is one who is present in the lands of shirk.”
When analyzing this dictum, experts have put great emphasis on the word ghareeb, and what it means in this context. The term “ghareeb” is defined as: to be an alien amongst others, be it in regards to being a foreigner, or in this case an individual who does not belong amongst the people. From this definition, a few questions may arise upon contemplation.
First and foremost, this hadith (saying) was recorded in Medina to individuals who were all Medani; so what did these companions mean by calling themselves ghareeb? Well, after meticulous scrutiny of the situation during the time of the honourable sixth Imam, it was made quite clear that as always, the population of the Jafferi fiqh was minute in comparison with the majority. Furthermore, the mo’mineen (elite believers) amongst that limited population of Shi’ii were even less; hence, they were ghareeb (strangers) in faith.
A second question imposed by this hadith is: what is considered to be the land of shirk and are we talking about the uppercase (M) Mushrikeen or the lowercase (m) mushrikeen? Shirk is the process of ascribing partners with God, and a Mushrik is he who does this. The difference between the two, Mushrik and mushrik, incites a new discussion altogether, so for the sake of time, the brief difference is – Mushrik is a noun while mushrik is a verb. (Throughout the post you will notice the use of both terms, and it is crucial to keep in mind the difference between the two.) In this specific case, most ‘Ulema have agreed to the consensus that the Imam was speaking about the Mushrikeen (noun) since during the time of this event, many cities considered inside the daar ul Islam (land of Islam) were ruled by mushrikeen (Muslim by name, mushrik by action); thus, Imam Ja’ffer as-Sadiq (as) was referring to the areas considered within the boundaries of daar us shirk (land of shirk).
Finally, the last major question being investigated is – from the perspective of a mo’min (elite believer) – is it good to be ghareeb, and if one is ghareeb, what are some precautionary measures one could take to deal with ghurbat? In regards to the first question, there are both negative and positive aspects to being ghareeb. Whilst looking at the physical consequences, all well-educated doctors would tell you it is very harmful for an individual to be in a state of desolation, which could cause many illnesses such as depression. It is within a person’s innate nature (fitrah) to have different forms of relationships; as humans we are creatures that heavily rely on socialization. On the other hand, however, if analyzing from the metaphysical perspective, ghurbat is actually a blessing for it displays the distinction between a mo’min’s and a kafir’s nafs. This distinction is crucial for if it is not present amongst the believers, their faith is in great jeopardy. Therefore, this state of ghurbat is essential for a believer; however, they must still take certain measures to counteract the physical side-effects of this state.
The first and most important advice one could give is for these individuals to strengthen their relationship with Allah (swt). The Holy Qur’an states “If Allah should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allah let the believers rely.” [3: 160]. This verse emphasizes the importance of proximity with Allah (swt), and how he who has Allah (swt) has everything, and he who does not have Allah (swt) has nothing. Secondly, in order to satisfy the physical and mental needs of man, one must strive to maintain healthy social and family relations, especially with other believers. Islam has always emphasized on strengthening brotherhood amongst believers. “The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” [49: 10]. A very imperative point to keep in mind is that these gatherings, especially the ones between friends, should be highly productive and should ultimately help each participant in gaining proximity with Allah (swt). Finally, The Holy Qur’an, in Surah Baqara has stated “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [2: 153]. This verse brings me to my final point, patience. It is impossible to not come across difficult times whilst living in daar us shirk, from not being able to work in certain fields to not being able to attend certain gatherings; it is a constant struggle for believers living in the West. Despite being attracted to all these shahwaa (desires), it is crucial for mo’mineen to always keep in mind that these difficulties are only natural occurrences for believers; for the day they stop is the day of concern.
NOTE – These notes/thoughts were taken from Sheikh Salim Yusufali, all credit is his.