It takes courage to live in this world. Because if you are alive, then you need to take action. And for taking a decisive step, you need to be courageous. The courage to stand up for an oppressed person, the courage to stand up against discrimination, the courage to stop violence against animals, the courage to preserve the earth, or even the courage to listen to the news of genocide and wish to have the strength to do something for it.
But many of us do not take action. Or do not even care. We may be afraid or may wait for someone else to do something. Say a superman or someone beyond us.
Many philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to modern thinkers regard courage as one of the most vital human virtues. For Plato, courage is “what allows reason to rule, both in the individual and in society.” Aristotle also believes that courage is not just about taking risks but thinking wisely in the face of danger . Taking risks is courageous, but knowing why you are risking is even more critical.
Islam, also, values the attribute of courage highly [i]. In Islam courage is the result of many other virtues. Even more, the reason behind your courageous deed is of more importance than having courage in itself. In other words, you are courageous if you are taking action for the right cause. That is, what you have found belief in after in-depth and rational investigation [ii], and do not forget to be moral along the way.
Imam Hussain (AS) Was Courageous in the true Sense of the Word Because He…
Imam Hussain (AS), saw the injustice that was imposed upon the society of his time and realized how what the rulers called Islam was far from the true teachings of Islam. Oppression, tyranny, unjust use of public property, etc. made life miserable for people.
So, instead of remaining silent and doing nothing, he decided to improve the society. He practiced courage in standing up against what was wrong, and in accepting the dangers of his decision.
Surrendering to and accepting the injustice and oppression, is considered a huge sin in Islam for someone who is capable of standing up against it and can improve the situation. That is one of the reasons why enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong (Amr bi-l-maʿruf and Nahy ʿani-l-munkar) are among the practical principles of Islam; to improve the society and bring awareness to people.
Imam Hussain (AS) was courageous and stood up against what was wrong. But he never gave up his human virtues for the sake of furthering his purpose. In other words, for Imam Hussain (AS), “the end does not justify the means.” While his enemy was impatient to start the war, he did his best to prevent it by negotiating and bringing awareness to them .
He was not afraid of fighting, yet, for him starting a war with the enemy was not the end. Instead, leading them to what is right, toward a life of honor and dignity rather than humiliation and oppression, was his ultimate purpose. Imam Hussain (AS), tried to show that being just is far more important than being courageous. If everyone is just, then no right would be taken away, and you do not need to be courageous to stand up against it [iii].
According to Imam Ali (AS), courage is dependent upon three virtues which complement each other. These are self-sacrifice, not bowing down to humiliation and oppression and not being after making a name for yourself . In his movement, Imam Hussain (AS) exhibited all these virtues. He sacrificed his life and family, did not surrender to the injustice his enemies were imposing, and never cared about his fame but was entirely devoted to Allah’s cause [iv].
In Islam, the intention always comes before the action. Imam Hussain (AS) knew well why he was taking action. For him, nothing was more important than Allah’s satisfaction and reviving the true teachings and peaceful message of Islam in the corrupt society of his time [v].
He was courageous for the right cause. Neither was he after usurping the throne, nor manipulating people for his own sake. In that case, he would not be courageous anymore but selfish. As Charles Dickens admitted, “If Husain (as) had fought to quench his worldly desires…then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason, therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam” .
Imam Hussain (AS) did take a risk in furthering his purpose, but he never acted unwisely and on his whim. When people sent thousands of letters from Kufa to Imam Hussain (AS), to ask for his help and declare their devotion to him, he did not accept their invitation immediately.
Instead, he first sent a representative to their city to validate their claim. Also, on the day of Ashura, despite his enemy's insistence on war, and while he was not afraid of fighting with them, he first tried to reason with them. You cannot be called courageous if you let go of your insight and wisdom and act recklessly [vi].
As said earlier, Imam Hussain (AS) was not willing to go to war with his enemy. While he was fully capable of fighting with them, and he courageously did it with only 72 people against thousands, he was never in favor of making war without any good reason. He was a courageous leader and guide, not a ruthless tyrant.
Thus, he first tried to guide his enemy toward the true teachings of Islam through speaking and reasoning, but when he saw their insistence on being ignorant, he was forced into a war.
It takes courage and spiritual strength to endure the pain of losing your beloved ones. Imam Hussain (AS) lost many of his family members and friends in the battle of Karbala, including his brother and two of his sons. However, while he felt a deep pain in his heart, he never lost his control and power of reason.
And he never regretted his action, nor doubted his cause. He was sure that what he did was for the sake of Allah’s satisfaction and his movement will forever inspire those who are seeking what is right.
[i] Imam Ali (AS) said, “Generosity and courage are great attributes that Allah bestows upon whoever He loves most and has examined before”
[ii] “In Islam, faith is nothing beyond human’s reason and understanding; in other words, the axioms of this religion are the fundamental principles that are rational by themselves and can be ascertained by people’s common sense. So stepping onto the stage of this faith depends on the submission that is gained through preliminary investigation of its axioms” .
[iii] Imam Ali (AS) said, “ Justice is better than courage. Since if every person is just toward other people, then they won’t need to be courageous” 
[iv] On the cause of his movement, Imam Hussain (AS) said,“O' God! Surely you know that whatever we did was not a competition to gain worldly positions and not for the worthless physical attractions of the world. But to show the signs of religious ways and to remove corruption from your lands, so that the oppressed feel secured and act according to your traditions and rules.” 
[v] Imam Hussain (AS) said, “My revolution aims to reform the society and revive the true teachings of Islam.” 
[vi] Imam Ali (AS) said, “ negligence and not having foresight, spoils the courage” .
- al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Irshad, p.253.
- Ibn Shu'ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-'uqul, p.322.
- Ibid. p.239.
- Ibid. p.243.
- The Islamic Axioms
- HUssain (AS)
- Abd al-Wāhid b. Muḥammad al-Āmidī, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p.375.
- Ali ibn Muhammad Laithi Vaseti, Oyun al-Hikmah va al-Mavaez, p. 182.
- Ibn Abi al-Hadid, The interpretation of Nahj al-Balaghah, vol 20, p.333.
Almost everyone is scared of death; Even those who may commit suicide in a specific mental condition. If a physician tells us that we have an unknown disease and we will only live for a few more months, we would panic and stop living our normal life (we might live better or worse).
The reason that makes most of us scared of death is that we think all the things that we have tried to gain in this life, such as our belongings, our beloveds, our success, and experiences are going to disappear after death. Or that there is still a lot for us in this world to experience, achieve and enjoy.
However, this fear of death is mostly because the other world and the life after death are quite unknown to us, but if we come to understand the afterlife, we may even become eager to fulfill our duties in this life and get ready to travel to the other world.
Now, let’s see if it is true that we will lose everything after death and also what Islam says about death and the life after it.
Having faith in the afterlife (Ma’ad) is so important that it is one of the pillars of Islam. The main reason is that it is by believing in the fact that we will be resurrected after death and we will be held responsible for all of our actions, that we are careful about our manners and behaviors in this worldly life. It is mainly this idea that shapes our lifestyle and our relations with God, people, environment, etc.
We usually take the earthly life very seriously, as if there is nothing more significant than our goals, actions, and relations in this world. Although the way we live in this world is significant and it is our worldly actions that shape our lives in the hereafter, the Quran emphasizes that the real life is to come: “The life of this world is nothing but diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life (itself), had they known!” (29:64)
“Then He made him die and buried him” (80: 21).
After we are dead and buried in a grave, our grave phase starts. But how is this phase?
It is narrated that “the grave is either a garden from heaven’s gardens or a corner of hell” .
When the dead person is buried, he will not feel suffocated, but he will experience a sort of pressure that is indescribable for people in this world as if he is being squeezed to pass a needle hole. This pressure would work as a purifier for believers but unbelievers has nothing but pain and sorrow .
This pressure does not belong to those people who are buried, but every dead person will have this experience, even if they are dead hung or burnt into ashes. The pressure belongs to the soul, and every soul will go through the experiences of the afterlife .
But does everyone experience the grave pressure? It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that only very few people will be saved from going through this pressure .
Some of the reasons that will increase the grave pressure are backbiting, gossiping, disrespecting parents, usury, immorality, unpleasant manner towards family and friends, devastating the rights of other humans, etc. , while behaving based on Islamic teachings and ethics will reduce the grave pressure.
When the dead person is buried, his/ her soul will leave the body but will still stay close to it. So he/she can see the burial ceremony and what is going on around. When his/ her relatives leave the grave, he/she finds him/herself alone in the dark and small grave.
Here, people are divided into three groups: perfect believers, complete atheists, the middle ones. The first group will start their heavenly life right away, the second group will start their eternal life in hell, and the middle that includes the majority of people will remain in hope and fear until the Resurrection Day when their situation will be determined .
The first and the second group will experience the grave questioning by two angels; Nakir and Munkar so that they quickly start their eternal life in heaven or hell. But the third group will not be questioned until the Judgment Day .
It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that limbo (Barzakh) means human’s grave from the time he dies until the day he is resurrected . We know that most human bodies will be destroyed after some time in the grave, but what happens to the soul?
Based on the fact that the limbo (Barzakh) is a place between this life and the other life, and that all human beings, even those who are burnt to ashes or those who are hunted and eaten by animals will experience the limbo (Barzakh), we can conclude that the life in the grave -mentioned as limbo (Barzakh) life- is not limited to the grave. So what and how is limbo (Barzakh) life?
Right after death, the human soul directly enters a new life in which he/she can feel everything. They can have pleasure and sorrow which is based on their actions and behaviors in their worldly life.
Therefore, human experiences two lives after death. One is the limbo (Barzakh) life that would end like our earthly life: “And before them is a barrier until the day they will be resurrected” (23:100), and the other is the eternal life that starts on the Day of Resurrection and people may go to eternal hell or eternal heaven based on their worldly actions .
“And because the Hour is bound to come, there is no doubt in it, and Allah will resurrect those who are in the graves.” (22: 7)
The Day of Resurrection does not only belong to human beings. All creatures will be resurrected on that day . On the Day of Resurrection, people will be queued to be questioned about their actions and to be sent to their eternal place. This day is not like our worldly days that are 24 hours. But as stated in the Quran “He directs the command from the heaven to the earth; then it ascends toward Him in a day whose span is a thousand years by your reckoning” (32: 5). And in another verse, it is stated that: “The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose span is fifty thousand years” (70: 4).
Imam Sadiq (AS) was asked: “why is that in one verse Allah says that the Day of Judgment is equal to a thousand years and in another verse, it is said to be equal to fifty thousand years?” Imam (AS) answered: “On the Day of Resurrection there are fifty stops, each of them equals a thousand years of this world” .
It is on this day that people face their worldly actions: “The day when every soul will find present whatever good it has done; and as for the evil, it has done, it will wish there were a far distance between it and itself. Allah warns you to beware of [disobeying] Him, and Allah is most kind to [His] servants” (3: 30).
Unlike limbo (Barzakh) in which people wait to be resurrected and transported to a new world, the afterlife, which comes after the Day of Resurrection is eternal. Unlike this world in which we have to work and gain for the next life; in the eternal heaven there is no tiredness, nor sorrow, nor pain, nor hardship; “to remain in them [forever]; they will not seek to leave it for another place” (18: 108).
So, in the afterlife, people may become eternal in heaven or hell [i]. However, not all of those who go to hell will be eternal there, as it is narrated from the Imam Sadiq (AS) that “on the Day of Resurrection, God will expand His mercy so generously that even Iblis (Satan) will be greedy to receive it .
The role of remembering death in improving the worldly life and therefore the life in the hereafter is very important. Imam Ali (AS) says: “when deciding to do evil actions, remember death as it destroys the pleasures and weakens the desires” . But what is the most important benefit of remembering death?
If we do not believe in another life and remember death as the end of existence, then many things in life may sound vain for us, and we may even lose our motivation to keep on having a good life. But when we believe that there is another life which is the real life, our actions in this world become more meaningful and targeted. Allah says in the Quran: “Did you suppose that We created you aimlessly and that you will not be brought back to Us?” (23: 115)
When we believe that there is no life after death, we might face many anxieties, disappointments and live an aimless life. But keeping in mind that whatever we do is being seen by God and recorded by Him, we will have more motivation to do good things, even if no one in this world cares about us.
“They say, ‘There is nothing but the life of this world: we live, and we die, and nothing but time destroys us.’ But they do not have any knowledge of that, and they only make conjectures… Say, ‘It is Allah who gives you life, then He makes you die. Then He will gather you on the Day of Resurrection, in which there is no doubt. But most people do not know” (45: 24-6).
[i] Read about the concept of eternal life here: http://blog.holymoodpictures.com
- Allamah Majlesi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 6. Chapter Sakarat al-mawt, narration No. 19
- Bahmanpour, Mohammad Saeed, (2012) Naseem- e Abadiyyat, p. 34
- Shaikh Al-Sadouq, Man la yahzuruhu Al-faqih, vol. 1, p. 279
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 6, p. 260
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 5, p. 265
- Bahmanpour, Mohammad Saeed, (2012) Naseem- e Abadiyyat, p. 41
- Allamah Majlesi Bihar al-anwar, vol. 6. Chapter Ahwal-e barzakh, narration No. 116
- Mutahhari, Murtaza, Life after death, Vol. 3, p. 504
- An’aam (6), Verse No. 38
- Allamah Majlesi Bihar al-anwar, vol. 7, p. 126
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 7, p. 287
- Nahjul balagha, sermon No. 99
In the Quran it is stated that every creature on the earth is created to serve human begins (2:29); this includes animals . Of many benefits of animals to humans are the meat that comes from fish and chickens, the milk from cows and sheep, utilizing horses, oxen, and camels for farming and transport, doing medical research on animals, using trained dogs to detect drugs and guide blinds. But, are we, as Muslims, allowed to treat animals in Islam and exploit them as we wish? Here is the answer.
Animals’ Rights in Islam
Allah, who has given every animal some specific abilities like the ability to fly, swim or gallop in respectively birds, fish, and horses, has considered their rights, too. Although humans are allowed to benefit from everything created by Allah , they have responsibilities towards every creature as the vicegerent of Allah on the earth . Being created with a higher intellect than animals, we must balance our use of animals with our primary role as a caretaker on the earth.
Animals have been domesticated and trained from a long time ago to perform some tasks and to provide some products for the human. Horses and elephants are still used on farms to provide the tractive force. Camels, donkeys, horses, and dogs are utilized for transport, either riding or pulling wagons. Lions, elephants, monkeys and many other animals are used in circuses to entertain audiences. Some others like dogs and monkeys assist disabled people, while others are kept as pets.
In all these cases, the very first thing that Islam requires Muslims to do is feeding the animal on sufficient and proper food, quenching its thirst, keeping it in a comfortable place, and maintaining its physical health . Of other rights of animals on his owner is that he/she should not hit the animal or harm it, but he might whip the animal to prevent escaping or stampede .
In a saying, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) forbids hitting the animals in the face, since the animals pray and praise God with that . Knowing these rights and considerations, imprisoning animals in cages, forcing them to perform something to amuse humans in circuses and causing extreme pain and suffering to them are all against the Islamic rules and forbidden (Haram) . Islam also prohibits insulting and cursing the animals; Imam Ali (AS) said: “Do not hit the animals on the face and do not curse them, otherwise Allah curses who has cursed them” .
Moreover, the animal should not be burdened with a load that it cannot bear and should not be overtasked either . Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) orders in a saying that: “Do not ride an animal beyond its power and ability” , . And, “When you stop riding the animal, do not keep on sitting on them and do not start (a lengthy) conversation with others (while seated on the animal); instead, descend and (let the animal rest, and) then talk” .
If the animal is weak, it is said that: “when riding a weak animal, let it rest when reaching pastures. If the land is arid and barren, pass it quickly; and, if it is fertile and green, let the animal rest there” (Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)) . Imam Ali (AS) said that “Do not ride three of you (at the same time) an animal; otherwise, one of you is cursed” .
Animals for Sport and Entertainment
Playing sports, especially swimming, archery and horseback riding, are encouraged by Hadith and perceived as important to have a healthy body and brain . Although archery is recommended in Islam and hunting -under certain conditions- is allowed, targeting animals and shooting at them for fun is not permitted .
About horseback riding also, the recommendations stated above should be considered. Again, keeping some animals as pets or for the farm work is strongly exhorted in some cases, but forcing them to fight like what happens in dogfightingand cockfighting which is nowadays common in some regions, is prohibited in Islam .
Animal Slaughter and Hunting
Humans usually slaughter, hunt and fish for sustenance, which is permitted in Islam under certain conditions. But killing animals for fun and using them for target practice is strongly disapproved. Some acts of animal's protection, as not "hunting the endangered animals to save them from going extinct" is also compatible with the Islamic teachings.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: "There is no man who kills a sparrow without its deserving it, but Allah will question him about it [on the Day of Judgment]" . Of other considerations stated in the narrations of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Imams (AS) are: not killing the livestock that provide milk or the one that is pregnant; not killing animals for no reason; not killing the animals at night (since they rest like humans at that time), unless there is a necessity; and, not burning animals alive .
Avoiding unnecessary pain and not causing suffering to the innocent creatures are repeatedly reminded in Islamic teachings. Regarding the slaughtering, for example, the regulations laid down in Islam are the least painful, some of which are: the Halal-meated animal must be alive at the time of slaughter; the animal must be watered before the slaughter; a sharp knife must be used to minimize suffering; slaughtering an animal within the sight of another animal is abominable (Makruh); the animal must show some sign of movement after being slaughtered; and, skinning or cutting any part of the animal’s body is not allowed right after the slaughter (before the animal is entirely dead) , .
Knowing this, although the methods (stunning with a blow to the head or an electric shock) used in some slaughterhouses to reduce the animal movement before slaughter might be accepted in veterinary medicine since these methods reduce the animals’ pain, they are condemned in Islam as the examples of torture to animals .
Animal Fur and Leather
Hunting and killing animals for their fur, skin, and oil have been common practices since many years ago and happened more often these days. Wearing the fur obtained from certain animals is legally permitted in Islam when it is required for warmth (16:5). However, animals raised on fur farms are usually abused and killed in brutal ways  that is against the Islamic teachings of kindness to animals; some cruel methods used by trappers to catch animals from the wild are the same .
About leather productions, even though leather products produced by applying Islamic regulations are permissible to use if the leather is obtained from abused and mistreated animals and if the animals suffer in the leather production processes, it will conflict with every Islamic standard on the matter.
- H. A. Hosseini Shah Abdolazimi, “Tafsir asna-ashari”.
- M. H. Tabataba'I, “Tafsir al-mizan”, (45 :13).
- M. H. Tabataba'I, “ Tafsir al-mizan”, (2:30).
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 173.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 660.
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.4, p.9.
- animals and Islam
- Ibn Babawayh, “Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih”, vol.2, p.287.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 8, p. 258, T. 9393.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 201.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 214.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 22, p. 459.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 216.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 652.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 665.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 64, p. 306.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 663.
- M. H. Banihashemi, “Towzih al masael of Maraje”.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 662.
- treating animals