I began asking myself why he kept stressing this particular issue and not something more technical. After a few more discussions with him and Maulana Muhammad Baig, I realized what he meant and why he felt it to be so important. In fact, one could write several pages on simply the wisdom behind emphasizing on this particular point, but instead I'll touch upon it briefly and focus mainly on the concept of that Tawassul he was referring to.
Throughout history, as the Prophets and Messengers of God (peace be upon them) have come to bring their glad tidings to the people, they have naturally asked these representatives of God what they could do to return this great favor bestowed upon them. And throughout history, God has consistently instructed them to refuse anything and revealed to them a reply which states, "Our reward is with God Almighty."
Only in the instance of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny), the bringer of the greatest gift and miracle the world has ever seen, we find that Allah has instructed the Prophet to say in the Qur'an (42:23), "Say, O Muhammad, I want no reward from you, except that you have deep love towards my family." There is no need in this particular discussion to go into the exegesis, but suffice it to say this verse undoubtedly refers to Imam Ali, Lady Fatima, Imam Hasan, and Imam Hussain (peace be upon them)
What is most important, however, is to really understand this concept of Mowaddat, or roughly, a sincere devotion stemming from deep love. Because we believe each Infallible's actions would have been identical with the others' Sunnah (examples), it is very essential to realize that despite our Imams' different responses to different situations, there is still one Sunnah -- Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE AR-SA MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 One Divine wisdom.
At least for those who recognize the reality of the Ahlul Bayt's position, it is not only critical to realize their Divine Sunnah, but also to practice Mowaddat instead of only Mohabbat. Unfortunately for many of us, the concept of Devotion has been reduced to love. We as adherers to the school of the Prophet and his Holy Family often times reject the deeper meaning of chapter 42, verse 23 of the Holy Book and feel satisfied with verbally or emotionally expressing only our love.
Mowaddat is much more than love. Mowaddat is a deep devotion that stems from the love we have for them, and this requires a number of actions. The most preeminent of these is sacrifice. As devotees to the Prophet and his Holy Family, especially as a community, we must remember that sacrifice through love for them is the real command given by that holy verse of the Qur'an.
The other day I lent my ear to a conversation in which several adults of the community were discussing how we can imitate the orthodox Jewish society in Lakewood, NJ. This Jewish community basically started out in the area back in the early 90s and now runs the entire city. Even the local ShopRite caters to their needs, carrying only kosher food and clothes for Jewish women. One of the brothers made an interesting point when he mentioned that many of the Jews of that community will sign their life insurances away for their respective centers or community projects. When they die, several tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds, go to the center, creating massive amounts of wealth to be further distributed in the expansion of their community. Not only are these Jewish members devoting their lives for their mission, but also their deaths.
Yet the Holy Qur'an says in regards to them and not us, "O you who are Jewish: If you claim to be the chosen people of God with the exclusion of others, then have a desire for death (to return back to your Lord) if what you say is true." (62:5-6)
To truly have Mowaddat for the Prophet and his Family is to sacrifice for their sake and their mission. In a conversation I was having with Maulana Muhammad Baig, he mentioned to me what it really means to have faith in God and love for the Prophet's Family. I asked about how he manages to stay awake having discussions almost every night, and in comparison we see that Imam Khomeini was very strict with schedules and time management. He answered by saying that Ayatollah Khomeini was living in an Islamic society amongst an established religious environment. Because we are here in the West, in a land of Jahiliyya (ignorance), it is important to sacrifice some luxuries, including sleep, for the Islamic work that needs to be done.
In a similar conversation I had earlier with Maulana Abbas Ayleya, he discussed about wealth and life's material luxuries and the position of Islam on them. He did mention that Islam hasn't forbidden having nice homes and cars. In fact, Islam suggests that we live according to our status in society. However, in a time when the communities and Islam are being established, Islam prefers sacrifice. For us, this is where the concept of devotion comes in and why Allah has commanded Mowaddat and not Mohabbat.
When the communities are struggling to produce adequate means of Da’wa and Tabligh (propagation) for our centers and beyond, it doesn't make sense that we are driving expensive vehicles to the mosque and then returning to our large and fancy homes. Is it sensible that our fundraisers are barely producing the resources we need, when the members of the same community are wearing two hundred dollar outfits?
I eventually realized why Syed Abbas Ayleya stressed so much the importance of Tawassul and Mowaddat for the Ahlul Bayt, especially for those going to Qom. It is because today we have pseudo-scholars driving around in luxurious cars and large SUVs while members from their own communities are barely making ends meet. Did our blessed Imam Ali live in poverty by force? Absolutely not! He chose to give away his wealth so much so that by the end of returning from a long day's worth of work, his pockets would be emptied of the money he had earned. This Sunnah and our Mowaddat for the Ahlul Bayt is not restricted to community and religious leaders; it is required from anyone who declares that "there is no God but Allah, Muhammad is his Messenger, and Ali is his vicegerent."
It is our duty to realize this united Sunnah of the Imams and move beyond simply professing our love for them. It is not love that is demanded of us, but rather love coupled with sacrifice. That is why the Holy Qur'an says, "Your wealth and your children are only a trial upon you, whereas with Allah is a great reward." (64:15)