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AL-MAHDI INSTITUTE

Whose Minbar Is It?
A Discussion by M. Amin.

It seems that there is a lot of discussion in many Shi'a communities about the role of the Majlis and those speaking from the Minbar.  There are three questions that need to be addressed: Who should be sitting there?  What should they be saying? And Who chooses them?  It is my sincere intention that by briefly discussing these questions that the discussion may be conducted in a manner that is beneficial both to those who sit on the Minbar and those who sit near to it.

Suyuti, in Tarikh al-Kulafah, reports that the young Imam al-Hasan approached Caliph Abu Bakr who was sitting on the Minbar and said, "Come down from the seat of my Father!"  This report is a clear claim that the chair belonged to the Prophet (saw) and is part of the inheritance of the Imams (as).  So we can say that the person sitting there should speak unequivocally on behalf of the owner of the seat and he should be the servant of the owner because the servant is only there to attend to the owners business and guard his Master's rights.

This immediately causes the question, who are the servants appointed by the present owner of the Minbar?  At the beginning of the Ghaybat al Kubra the Imam of the Age (as) instructed that the Fuquha were to be consulted on matters of dispute.  It is these learned brothers who administer the Imam's (as) properties and are the first amongst his (as) servants.  Since the Imam's (as) right is established and the role of the Marja'i their precedence in rights upon the Minbar and matters pertaining to it is a matter of course.  Likewise the authority of Alims to speak, or appoint speakers, from the pulpit may be established as a derivative from this authorisation.  The right of a teacher is placed before the right of a womb relative, by Imam Zayn al-Abidin (as) in Risalat al-Huquq.  This position is derived from the verses of the Hoy Quran,
"The believers should not all go out to fight.  Of every troop of them a party should go to study religion, so that they may admonish their folk, when they return to them." (9:122) and, "Allah will raise those of you who believe and those who have knowledge to high degrees." (58:11)
The Minbar is literally and actually a high place and it is the place from where admonitions are delivered.

The of discourse the person occupying the Minbar is, consequent to the foregoing discussion, restricted to that which his Master (as) would approve and which fulfils the aims of the Master's mission.  This does not exclude topical subjects but it does define how they are dealt with.  The speaker should resolve problems, comment and give instruction from within the framework of known rulings, accepted sources or Ijtihad if he is qualified.  The knowledgeable and skilful orator has ample scope for incisive brevity or flowing embellishment as Muhammad ibn Muslim reported,
"I inquired of Abu Abdillah (as), 'I hear the tradition from you and then I add to or condense

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