Allamah Ṭabataba’i and the Policemen – A memory from Aḥmad Ahmadi

It was Sunday afternoon, one day before I was meant to return back to Iran and Shahīd Muṭahharī had stayed over with me. We left our hotel to go outside for a walk but without realising we had left our key inside the room. At that time the hotel didn’t have a spare key, so when we returned back to the hotel and realised we didn’t have the key on us we found ourselves in a bit of a problem. I went to look for the person in charge of the general affairs in the hotel to see if he could help, upon which he told me to go and speak to the police about this. I went to the police to tell them and they told me to go back to the hotel and they would come to us. I said how long, and they responded 15 minutes. Precisely 15 minutes later two policemen came and showed great respect to Allāmah Ṭabāṭābā’ī. They said: “You have two options, you can wait till tomorrow till the locksmith can come or you can give us permission to break the door but just keep in mind you will have to pay compensation for any damage done in the process”. I asked Allāmah what to do, he said: “Wherever else we end up going we’ll pay more than we would if than if we were to just pay the compensation for them to break the door. Break the door.” They broke the door and we paid £17 compensation. When it was time to go the police once again showed great respect to Allāmah. There and then I asked him: “Hāj Āqā! In your writings you have heavily attacked Europe. If before your writings, you had come to Europe and seen the organisation and discipline here would you have attacked them the way you did?” He responded: “No.”

Did you get that? He said no. There was a sense of fairness present within this lofty man that when he saw something right he would hold it up as such and when he saw something wrong he would declare it so.

Another occasion comes to mind where he said: “If someone wants to introduce Islam to the West then he should do so through the means of ‘irfān and not from the avenue of fiqh. ‘Irfān is more appealing, extensive and grounded than fiqh.” Fiqh is the truth, there is no doubt about that, Allāmah lived his life according to fiqh just like all of us. Yet he believed that for a person who has no faith in prayers and ṭahārah, it would be cumbersome to introduce him to Islam through that means whereas through ‘irfan attracting such a person would be a lot easier.


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