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Why Shias Don’t Succeed: Diagnosing and Curing the Problem

Why Shias Don’t Succeed – Shia failures are not due to external factors, it is a spiritual disease stemming from heedlessness and irresponsibility.

by Rahyan Al-Safawi

There is a famous hadith qudsi – a saying from Allah (swt) that is not in the Qur’an – which states: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.”

We often think of a step as a simple process. But if we look at the biology of what brings about a step we will realize that it is nothing but simple. It requires a harmonious process in our minds and in our bodies for it to happen. Our brains, cells, bones, muscles, blood, nerves etc. all must work in harmony for that one step to happen. Don’t believe me? Just look at the AI technology involved just to make one robot take its first independent step.

When God asks us to take that first step, it isn’t simply a “kumbaya let’s do this.” That effort is not really an effort, it is wishful thinking that seldom brings about results. It is wishful thinking that only serves the purpose of making us feel good about ourselves, that we are somehow smart and doing the work of Imam al-Husayn (as).

Taking that first step is a consorted and organized effort. It is a thoughtful process with an end goal and an action plan to bring about that goal. In serving God, it is a philosophy of “first things first” where nothing takes priority and no excuse is accepted. In Imam Ali’s (as) council to Malik al-Ashtar when he became governor of Egypt, he said the following historic words “do not let business be an excuse for delaying your prayers.” This was no light advice. Being the governor of Egypt in the midst of Islam’s greatest civil war is no walk in the park. Yet even in the height of political chaos, Malik al-Ashtar was still asked to consider “first things first.”

A step must have a direction. No one consciously puts his or her foot in a pit of fire. The ʿāqil, namely the person endowed with intelligence according to the Qur’an, has two attributes. First, all of his or her actions serve the purpose of attaining that grand divine goal with a clear cut action plan that is realistic and achievable. No action and no time is wasted. The second attribute is that of tawakkul or reliance on God. There is an internal war in a person’s soul he or she must wage. This war is against despair and hopelessness and it is the greatest fight the muʾmin will ever have to face.

Life is about disappointments and obstacles. Spiritual growth is about overcoming those disappointments and obstacles. Tawakkul is knowing that despite disappointments, seemingly hopeless cases and obstacles, one must keep going on as God will eventually answer our first step with ten steps.

When the Prophet Muhammad (s) began his message, his case from an outsider’s perspective was hopeless. This is why the disbelievers did not do much to harass him in the beginning except to ridicule him. But by making that consorted, organized first step and overcoming despair by relying on God, he became a force to be reckoned with. His religion took down the three greatest empires of the world, Persian, Egypt and Rome.

As Muslims, as Shias, our failure is not being able to make this first step. We do not plan properly, we do not delegate tasks except when they are considered too menial and too “below us,” we have nice ideas discussed in useless meetings but we have no long-term organization, no long-time plans and benchmarks, and above all, we succumb to despair as soon after our so called good ideas are expressed. The moment criticism comes, the minute the finances look grim, or we have an altercation with someone, or feel that someone else might take the credit for our efforts, we get angry and turn over the table.

This is why we are always stepped on by the unjust. This is why we fail in so many of our project. Above all, this is why we fail in our spiritual lives. Imam Ali (as) noted this a long time ago when he answered why Muawiyah was successful and why Shias were not, “they are united in their falsehood while we are disunited on our truth.” We don’t organize, we don’t tolerate, we don’t plan, we don’t measure, and we have no accountability.

Success in Islam is in taking that first step, and that first step comes from dhikr. Dhikr, or remembrance of God, is staying true and mindful to the godly goals that we set out to achieve. Dhikr is the only action that brings despair to the cosmic Shaytan. It is constantly reminding ourselves of our purpose and the concrete, consorted (team) efforts we must make in achieving these goals. Its opposite, ghaflah, or heedlessness, is the downfall of the muʾmin and the food of Shaytan.

In conclusion, success is not beyond us but within us. Our challenge is to utilize it.

Yours Faithfully,

Rayhan Al-Safawi

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