The birthday anniversary of Ali al-Akbar, the eldest son of Imam Husayn (as), is honoured as the day of youth in the Islamic Republic of Iran, on this occasion, ijtihadnet has interviewed a successful Iranian youth living in the West.
ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (b. 33/654 – d. 61/680) known as Ali al-Akbar was the eldest son of Imam al-Husayn (AS). Ali al-Akbar (AS) was born in Medina on Sha’ban 11, 33/March 10, 654. His father was Imam al-Husayn(AS) and his mother was Layla bt. Abi Murra. His face was majestic and shined like the moon. He was adorned by beauty and cleanliness. He walked fast as if he was coming downhill. When he turned to someone, he turned all his body towards him. He looked mostly down, rather looking up. He smelled a fragrance of musk. Imam Husayn (AS) introduced him the most alike to the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in creation, manner and attributes among people. As Imam Husayn (AS) acknowledged, Ali al-Akbar (AS) was the full mirror of appearance and personality of the Prophet (PBUH&HP). Ali al-Akbar (AS) showed great bravery and sacrifice in the battle of Karbala and was martyred in fighting with the army of Yazid. His birthday anniversary is honoured as the day of youth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. On this occasion, ijtihadnet has interviewed a successful Iranian youth living in the West.
Dr. Ali Rezaie is a Computer Science researcher working at one of the UK universities with a strong interest and engagement within the field of Islamic studies, Islamic History and ethics and various range of activities within Muslim communities.
5th April, coinciding with Sha’ban 11th, the birthday anniversary of Ali al-Akbar, the eldest son of Imam al-Husayn (AS) is known as the day of youth. What’s your take on this?
To understand why Ali Akbar (AS) birth anniversary has been named the day of youth, we need to understand the characteristics of a Youth and its function for the family and community. From the Islamic perspective, Youth are the symbols of strength, innocence and intelligence who are steadfast when it comes to following the truth. When describing how human ages, the Holy Quran considers the youth as the period of strength and power. Also, our beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&HP) has a hadith in which he says youth have lighter (cleaner) hearts and they supported me & my cause when the elderlies opposed me.Similarly, he describes youth as those withhearts full of virtues. In addition, Amir Al-Momenin Ali (AS) refers to youth as those with intelligence and great to be consulted with for finding smart ways. Therefore, 3 characteristics of strength, innocence (piety) and intelligence are standing out as what describes the youth.
Parents rely on their youth to support and be the driving force of the family. Wider family, relatives and communities rely on youth to be the source of dynamism, energy and happiness and the society relies on youth for finding smarter and more effective ways for moving the world forward. These are the very characteristics which truly manifest in Ali al-Akbar (AS): the light-hearted pious young man who was the calmness of the heart of his father Imam Al-Husayn (AS), an advisor to him and the centre of support and encouragement.
On the way to Karbala, when Imam Husayn (AS) is describing, heartbreakingly, the upcoming calamities that are going to befall on his family and worrying for them, Ali Akbar (AS), walking side by side of his father, asks: ‘O father, Are we not with truth and on the path of Allah?’ To which Imam Husayn(AS) replies “YES”. Ali Akbar (AS) then says: ‘Then, we are NOT worried, neither we are upset nor we are scared of death (i.e. we are ready, strong and happy and don’t worry for us!). Hearing such great statements, Imam Husayn (AS) raised his hands and prayed for his son.
Similarly, as we all have heard, when Ali Akbar (AS) was leaving the camps to go to the battlefield, the women and children surrounded him, urging him not to leave them. This shows that Ali Akbar’s place within the wider family (equivalent to the community) was that of a pillar where youngsters and families relied and held on to him for stability. Thus, Ali Akbar (AS) leaving them,was in essence removing that pillar!
Finally, in the last moments of his life,when his body was cut into pieces by the rain of arrows and swords,Ali Akbarmanifests the piety and innocence of a youth. For example, when he calls upon his father joyfully saying: “O fatherHusayn, here is my grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, who has come to quench my thirst with water and is conveying his blessings upon you.”
These noble characteristics of Ali Akbar (AS) indeed realise what a youth means and this is why his birth anniversary deserves to be named the “Day of Youth”.
Muslim youth wish to set Ali al-Akbar (AS) as an example and role-model in their life. How can we make a connection between today’s life and conditions with those of his time and follow his lifestyle?
This builds up on the answer to the previous question. World has changed in the past 1400 years and continues to change. However, our responsibilities towards ourselves and our own prosperity as well as our family and society do not change!
Young people have privileges that others do not have. They are old enough to think, analyse and make decision but not too old that they do not have the strength or will to take actions. They are probably not as busy as more seniors who have various commitments and families and people to take care of and hence youth have much more time to explore the world, learn the new emerging skills, pay attention to society-wide needs and hen elevate themselves and their society around them.
Therefore, it is important for communities to realise and for youth to understand that they have responsibilities towards the more senior and more junior members of their community. There is always a battle where the community (be it the family, circle of relatives or most importantly the wider society) is facing challenges and difficulties which need to be resolved or opportunities that need to be explored and seized. Youths are the fundamental entities for such roles.
Therefore, we might not be standing on a physical battlefield, like the battlefield of Karbala but we are standing on different types of battlefield every day. Let’s take a look at a very simple example. Consider the current outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid19)!Is it elderlies that can go outside, help to cleanse the streets (like what we see on the streets of Iran for example), help the elderlies with their essential shopping, support the hospitals, be nurses and doctors or is it the youth? It is mostly the youth. The spirit of sacrifice, dedication and strength are all what we need and Ali Akbar (AS) provides the best examples for all of these.
Furthermore, what is visible in the characteristics of Ali Akbar (AS) which is an essential quality that every youth needs to acquire is the humbleness to listen and learn from the more senior members of the family, community and society who have a lot more experience and are able to foresee the fate of actions and decisions. Looking at the life of Ali Akbar (AS), you will find that he has been a true soldier and a student towards his uncle Abbas (AS) and his father Imam Al-Husayn(AS),step by step walking by and behind them, listening and learning. This is what made Ali Akbar(AS) who he was, and this is what the youth of today wherever they are need to learn, i.e. trust, listen to and learn from those with more experience, be humble and gentle and not arrogant and stubborn.
Pay attention to this hadith. Amir Al-Momenin Ali (AS) says:
“Whenever you needed consultation for any matter, go to youth because they have smarter minds and better guesses (i.e. they provide you with various smart ways and options). However then put forward, those ideas and options, before the elderlies and seniors so that they can assess the practicality and fate of those options and only then make the final decision”.
Imam Ali (AS) is indicating a very important point here and that is the fact that wisdom and experience of elderlies are absolutely crucial for making the ultimate right decision and youth intelligence, strength and dedication will be most useful and effective when it is supervised and supported by the wisdom and experience of the elderlies. This is something that our youth need to take into account in their daily life and in their service to their community and is what we can clearly see from the personality of Ali Akbar (AS).
Do you think there is a difference between Muslim youth living in Islamic countries and those living in non-Islamic countries in terms of following Ali al-Akbar (AS) as their role-model?
My previous points clearly addressed this question too. The time or context or place is different and hence particular challenges or experiences are different, however the principles, as described in the previous two sections, are the same.
However, I will not say that one is easier than the other. In non-Islamic world, with all the limitations and constraints that Muslims and in particular Muslim youth face, the day to day challenges might be a lot more visible. However, in Islamic countries, while the primary needs of Muslim youth are addressed and hence, they might not face simple daily challenges that the youth in the Western societies might face, the nature of challenges can sometimes be deeper and hence potentially more dangerous in Islamic countries. The possibility of falling into the trap of religious arrogance or pride whereby you see yourself as superior to others simply because you do more religious rituals or indeed more intelligent than scholars or seniors just because you have access to Islamic books, are examples of such deep challenges that youth may face in the Muslim societies. Therefore, it is crucial for Muslim youth, wherever they are, to carefully study the life and characteristics of noble personalities like Ali Akbar (AS) and the Ahlulbayt (AS) in general and try to apply those principles to their own specific circumstances and context.
What are the advices you may have for youth, specially those living in non-Islamic countries, with regard to developing a normal life while keeping Islamic values?
Echoing my previous points, I give a simple advice. In the first step, do your religious obligations, i.e. Wajibat and staying away from the forbidden acts, i.e. Moharramat. Try to maintain that sincere and clean heart that is the first requisite of a youth as explained before and by the hadith of our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&HP). Then read, learn, investigate and consult with scholars and seniors in order to truly comprehend the principles. A person with a sincere heart and thirst for knowledge, who goes after knowledge and truth, will eventually achieve their objectives. This is what the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&HP) and the Ahlulbayt (AS) have said. They want the youth to be either in the state of a scholar (i.e. the holder of knowledge) or in the state of seeking knowledge (i.e. a student). If Ali Akbar (AS) became who he was, it was not just because of the amount of prayer he made, it was his knowledge as well. Yes, Ali Akbar (AS) was a devotee to Imam Husayn (AS) but what made him the devotee was partly if not mainly due to his true comprehension of the state of his father and the station of Imamate and Wilayat.
Lastly, the most undesirable and disliked quality for a youth is to be lazy! Youth need to be dynamic and energetic and pump this energy into the community. This is what describe a noble youth: sincere heart, smart and knowledge-based mind, and active and energetic spirit and personality.
We ask Allah, for the sake of the Ahlulbayt (AS) and in particular Ali Akbar (AS) to enable us to truly follow the footpath of the Ahlulbayt (AS), study and learn their school of thought and build our personality on the very same principles that Ali Akbar (AS) made his personality on.
That brings us to the end of this interview. All that remains is for me to thank you very much for the enlightening answers you gave to our questions on this happy occasion. I really appreciate that.
You are welcome.
This interview was conducted by Sayyid Mostafa Daryabari and Dr. Morteza Karimi.