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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Putting Allah in proper perspective: Friday Khutbah



( Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah delivered 1/13/17 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted here.)

Pondering upon Allah's solitary nature

We begin by referencing two reports from the Prophet, upon whom be peace.

"The most virtuous (type of ) dhikr is: 'Nothing deserves worship except Allah'". افضل الذكر لا اله الا اللهHe is also reported to have said "Whosoever proclaims Laa elaaha ill Allah, has entered Paradise." من قال لا اله إلا الله دخل الجنةThere are many other ahadeeth that carry a similar message, explaining to us the benefit of له اله الا الله as a statement. However, it is as a concept that we have to deeply ponder and remember that is important.



In our Khutbahs here we typically say therein "None deserves worship except Allah, He is alone, has no partners" لا اله الا الله وحده لا شريك له  . Practically, we can recite this statement and similar statements, but what does it all mean?

In our recent spirituality session (1) we shared a powerful observation from Imam Al-Ghazzali(2). While he is admittedly speaking on the statement Allahu Akbar [recited at every movement during prayers], it is just as applicable to 'Laa elaaha ill-Allah'. Indeed, we even have it in the Sunnah that the Prophet joined these phrases [by reciting Subhaan Allah, walhamdulillaah, wa Laa elaaha ill Allah WaLLaahu Akbar].

Imam Al-Ghazali said "For example, the meaning of Allahu Akbar [God is greater]-if one does not know this meaning, he is ignorant."

This is understandable, after all, we all are ignorant of something.

The Imam continues ;" If he knows it, but there is something greater than God in his soul, he is not truthful. It will be said to him: Those words are true, but you are speaking lies! Whenever something else is more obeyed than Allah The Most High, that thing is greater to him, his object of worship, his 'god' which he serves."

Therefore, these expressions that we habitually recite: Laa elaaha ill Allah, Allahu Akbar and the like, these words must carry real meaning for us. To be Muslims, we have to truly conceptualize Allah as the only God, the only deserving of worship. This is more than simply not bowing to an idol,

After all, it can be said that Muslims bow to things. We do make our Salaah facing the Qiblah, the Ka'bah in Makkah! At Hajj, we circle the Ka'bah, we make Rukoo' and Sujood [bowing and prostrating ] in our prayers there facing that building, and because of that some critics say we take that as an idol,

We know that idea is a mistake, we don't worship the Ka'bah, and bowing does not imply worship. We seek to address that by pointing out that in many cultures there exists a custom of bowing, to teachers, to parents, elders and the like. That bowing does not imply worship!

Tauheed [perceiving God as one and alone] is more than simply not bowing to idols, and, as we should have realized, even the bowing to things is not a big deal in the long run! To uphold Tauheed, one is to take as priorities what Allah says are priorities. The worship of Allah alone translates into proper thinking and proper action.

The Qur'an says "Allah's own declaration is 'none deserves worship except him: this is the declaration of angels, the people of knowledge, standing in/for justice." [Q 3:18] ;">شَهِدَ اللّهُ أَنَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ وَالْمَلاَئِكَةُ وَأُوْلُواْ الْعِلْمِ قَآئِمَاً بِالْقِسْطِ

So Imaan [faith] in God alone as God is connected to angels, to angelic behavior, knowledge and science, to justice and fair play. We see here CORRECT THINKING and CORRECT ACTION.

So do take heed of Laa elaha ill Allah, because when it becomes a conscious reality, you will deserve paradise, which begins here and is fully manifested in the next life. We seek Allah's guidance, forgiveness and mercy.

Keeping our minds clear of Shirk

Often in the Qur'an, we find that Shirk is connected with injustice and even hypocrisy(3). Soorah Al-Munafiqoon [Chapter 63] and Soorat at Taubah [Chapter 9] are good places to research this. So we want to be true servants of Allah alone, we want to be people oriented upon Tauheed!

وَمَن يُطِعْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا
Whosoever obeys Allah and his messenger have achieved a mighty achievement. [Q 33:71].

How do we obey Allah? We obey by seeing him correctly as the only one deserving worship. How do we obey the Prophet, the Messenger? We obey him by emulating how the Prophet connected to his Lord.

"Indeed, you have in Allah's Messenger a goodly model for any who has hope in God, the final day, and contemplate upon God much." [Q 33:21]

لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا

Notice the verse is speaking on those who have hope in Allah, who recall Allah and long for his presence and blessings. That teaches us that we should not take Islam for granted, that we do like the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] would do, continuously seek out and strengthen our ties with Allah. We work to internalize the teaching that Allah alone deserves worship, not our whims, egos or delusions.

End notes

[1] This session can be found on Youtube.com  under the title How to develop and maintain a Healthy Islam by Imam Shamsuddin Waheed.

[2] Imam Abu Haamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali [ 1058-1111] was a great scholar and spiritualist. His writings are profound and cover so many aspects of Islam that he has been given the title Hujjat Al-Islam [the evidence of Islam], a rare honorific among Sunni Muslims. Many academics have proven that Imam Al-Ghazali's works have influenced such Christian theologians such as Thomas Aquinas!

[3] This is addressed in some detail at[url] http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2008/10/only-one-god-forgotten-aspects-of.html[/url]

Monday, December 26, 2016

Are there limits in giving and accepting opinions? Thoughts on Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's controversial statements

" O Mankind! Indeed, We ( i.e. Allah) created you from a single male and a single female, made you into nations and tribes So that you will know ( and benefit) from each other. Indeed, the most noble of you- in the sight of God- are those with the most reverence, Indeed, Allah is the All-knowing, All-Aware." ( Q 49:13)


The yearly Revival of the Islamic spirit [RIS] conference attracts thousands to Toronto from all over North America. While previous events have been the source of some controversy, this year's RIS has generated-within only two days- perhaps the biggest firestorm to date-  universal discussion and arguments between Muslims. It has opened wounds and disputes on social media.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf - in the course of an interview with Mehdi Hasan, made some controversial statements about issues ranging from Black Lives Matter movement [BLM], Police shootings, and seemingly equated The Muslim Brotherhood [Al Ikhwan Al Muslimoon] with ISIS. At one point, he asserted that the biggest problem faced by African Americans was the breakdown of the family. This particular assertion has been the object of the greatest amount of criticism on social media. ( 1)

This post is not intended to be a rehash of what he said. From many angles, Muslim leaders as well as average people have been composing posts, articles, videos and tweets on Twitter either defending or attacking him, and of course this has also opened the door for sectarian and racist minded folks to preach their divisive messages.

Another well known personality, Imam Suhaib Webb [who is White American]- sharing the stage at the RIS event, felt compelled to compose a lengthy refutation of Sh.Yusuf on his Facebook page.



Subsequently, Sh. Yusuf delivered a speech yesterday  apologizing for any "miscommunication" and at length explained precisely what he meant.(2)

I listened to that speech twice, and while I have my own reaction to his comments, it raised for me the question of whether or not individuals "of privilege"  are allowed to speak on subjects that they themselves seemingly have not experienced.

In essence, the majority of refutations against him argue that because he is white, he is automatically unqualified to speak on affairs involving African Americans. His critics acknowledge that both his family and himself have been deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement, that he has been a defender of African American causes, and most critics even acknowledge that he is not personally a holder of any racist views, nonetheless, they assert, his white skin prevents him from having any understanding of these issues or any useful advice!



Race as a criterion for judgement

Let's change around the dynamics a bit. A White  patient is in the hospital with a medical situation that requires immediate, emergency treatment. That patient discovers that his doctor is African-American!

The White patient's refusal of treatment at the hands of his Black doctor would rightfully be seen as stupid, and an indicator of racist beliefs. This scenario is not a conjured, hypothetical situation. This has happened many times, per discussions with three African-American doctors I know. I'm sure that our readers will likewise know of similar situations in their professional lives, where services have been declined, even needed ones such as medical treatment, until a Non Black individual( or whatever desired)  would turn up to provide the needed service.



Refutations of views- be they political, social, religious, etc. should not be based upon skin color. A believer in God is to know that God created all the colors and all the languages intentionally. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad [ Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is known to have said that there is no virtue in being one thing or another. The Prophet in his final address also said that "all of them are from Adam, and Adam was from dust."

 Truth should be the criterion for judgement

We can simply use another word rather than truth, as that sounds too religious. We can use the word facts, or the word data.

It does not bother me that anyone's viewpoints are debated, rejected and refuted. That is a part of anyone's life, especially a person serving any public capacity. In many respects, scholars, scientists, and academics make their careers by analyzing and dissecting arguments of other figures.

A person's usage of data, their interpretation of evidence, that is what should be addressed. It should never get personal, never hit under the belt with foul language and name-calling.

Moreover, if we are serving any public capacity, we should be open to accepting knowledge, regardless of the source. The Prophet is reported to have said that knowledge is the lost property of a believer. He also is reported to have said that one should seek knowledge even into China.

In cooking, music, clothing styles, humans have always taken from each other, deleting and adding as they see fit. This creates the diversity of life that makes life so interesting.

A person- even if they are seemingly on the outside, can be a vessel for good advice and guidance. That is the way Allah made things.

To assert that  guidance is restricted  to one's racial or ethnic [or even madh-hab!] grouping  is nothing short of adopting a Chosen people mentality. Moreover, it acts as a barrier from receiving God's blessings, simply because one does not like the packaging. The Qur'an ( 2:91, among other verses) indicates that there were Jews who rejected Muhammad as God's Prophet only because of Muhammad's ethnicity.

The Prophet's supplication is quite succinct in the lesson it conveys. He prays "O Allah, show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it. And show us falsehood as falsehood, and give us the ability to abstain therefrom."

So the issue should not be the packaging of the message. The issue should be deciphering what is truthful and beneficial, distinguishing it from what is vain and useless.

Endnotes

(1) Sh.Hamza Yusuf's initial interview can be found here. [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tjV64JMv-I[/url]

(2) His second speech, which included an apology, can be viewed here. [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2jB_GpY9jo[/url]





Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump presidency: thoughts on the immediate and distant future

We begin this composition with a confession, and that is-simply put- that we never imagined that the Trump campaign was little more than a bad joke that had no chance of success due to the numerous accusations, outright racism and clear personality problems that are displayed in his recorded statements and behavior.

The success of the Trump campaign has essentially blindsided all of us, it has negated all the predictions of the pundits and it feels like we are now living in a parallel universe that Science Fiction programs such as Star Trek and Fringe have displayed, a world that is very similar to the world we know and are accustomed to, yet filled with glaring examples of differences, enough to make one panic and desire a quick escape.


Why is Donald Trump so troubling?



His entire platform has been one insult after another. However, our focus is not simply on this. His campaign has been one which tells the voters what they want to hear, however upon close examination there is actually no substance at all behind his rhetoric.


Whether it is call for  building a wall between Mexico and the Southern United States [which he asserts that he will make Mexico pay for], threatening Muslims, insulting African Americans, or an unclear plan to strengthen the US economy, any of these things, which are well documented, should be sufficient enough to find his election to this nation's highest office to be a frightening turn of events.

The following link has a good summary of why this is a terrible development. http://reverbpress.com/politics/seven-reasons-donald-trump-make-terrible-president/

If he's so bad, then why was he elected to the highest office?

The answer to this is even more troubling. Despite Trump's many issues in terms of not having any substantive plans and his crass statements regarding women, the handicapped, immigrants, minorities and the like, he has been successful. Those things did not work against him, rather, they worked for him.

I recall an interview I heard on NPR, the one being interviewed was a Gay Latino from New York. He thought of Donald Trump as a personal success story, narrating about the latter's homes, wealth and all the trappings of success he already displayed.

A succinct article in The Guardian [ Anti-Intellectualism taking over the US] explains this very well. This is increasingly becoming a culture that places no value on education [except of course in the practical fields such as Engineering].

Education is more than a piece of paper or the ability to count numbers and decipher symbols . Education is meant to instill respect for certain values and to nurture- at the least- a foundation for understanding the world around the student.

Yet, despite the presence of universities and the Internet, ignorance of even basic facts still is the prevalent situation. An economics professor doing work while taking a flight was pulled off a plane and interrogated by authorities. Apparently, he was mistaken for an Arab and his work notebook's contents "strange writings" was simply math equations. [ https://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/penn-professor-booted-from-plane-after-passenger-identified-him-as-a-terrorist-for-doing-math/#.Vy6cfuYVTDw.facebook].

This utter ignorance and dismay for personal and communal growth breeds irrational fear and unsubstantiated beliefs, particularly for the "other". African Americans have long been the victims of this thread of thinking, and are thus generally more understanding of this side of America!


The other unspoken reason that Mr. Trump has now become our president is that the demographics  are rapidly changing from the White Anglo Saxon Protestant equation. There is a great deal of growth of Non-White communities, and this of course translates into political and economic changes, not to even mention the social impact.

Indeed, the demographer William H.Frey in his book Diversity Explosion predicts that after 2040, whites will no longer be the majority population in this country. This is a future that is not pleasant to think about for many Americans.

We have ignored Mrs. Hillary Rodham-Clinton up to this point. Many analysts have explained her failure to win the Oval office due to the E-mail scandal or a frustration with the system in general. It is the view of this writer that those issues are only a minor part of it. In other words, it would not have even mattered if Jesus Christ himself was the candidate of the Democratic party, the chance to stem the social changes and to express deeply-held sentiments was simply too much to pass up.

What should Muslim do?

Since the issue of Muslims' religion and presence in this country was a campaign issue for President-elect Trump, it seems prudent to direct this to Muslims, however, this is equally valid for all Americans who feel that we have now entered seriously dangerous political territory and fear for the future of this nation!

Our response to this should include, but not be limited to:

[1] Coalition building: This means more than an occasional dinner. Muslims-particularly the leadership, have to become better involved in their local communities and become stewards of universal justice, which is itself a Quranic command [Q 4: 135]. This means that -for example- when a person is unjustly killed by law enforcement, Muslims have to be there standing for what is right. This means greater civil involvement.

[2] Become deeply involved in other parties: Currently this nation is dominated by a two party system. While other parties do exist, they have little to no influence at all. We have to join the voices of those seeking real change, and not simply hope our few dollars to entrenched politicians will produce results on our limited interests. Our interests must be bigger than Palestine, Hijaab and holidays.

As a whole, disaffected Americans can take a lesson from other nations such as India [the most populous Democratic nation as it likes to call itself]. It has about eight big active parties such as AITC and INC, but arguable hundreds of smaller ones.

We don't have to limit ourselves to this two party system. We have to think bigger and in longer terms.

[3] For Muslims, to do more to  have  our voices heard. Write to the local newspaper when stories are published. Become educated enough to answer questions on Islam. Share the Qur'an or Islamic materials with people, refer them to the mosque or to accurate websites.

[4] Americans, both Muslim and Non Muslim alike, should be encouraged to travel, in order to broaden their horizons and perspectives. This is also a Quranic teaching [ Q 29:20 is just one example]. Keep a valid passport at all times.

I hope this brief article generates much discussion and deep thinking. After all, this is the time to be rational and calm. Actions born out of frustrations and anger almost never produce a positive outcome.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Standing upon Correct Deen

[ Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah 11/4/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

"So stand your entire being to correct Deen, the holistic nature that God has placed in humanity. [Let there be] No altering of Divine creation, that is the standard Deen , but most people don't know." [Q 30:30]فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ


All the words in this short ayah deserve examination, such as the command "Aqim" ["Stand"] and the term Wajhak [literally 'your face', bur explained here as 'your entire being'], however, a brief explanation before reaching our core subject is -simply- to stand for the correct deen with your entire being. This is firstly directed towards Muhammad The Prophet   صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم       .

This verse tells us the characteristics of correct deen "The holistic nature that God has placed in humanity." Muhammad- upon whom be peace and blessings- is being directed towards that which is realistic, holistic, healthy pattern of thinking and acting. This is called Fitrah.


Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم is being directed towards this by Allah ['Azza wa Jall] because the society around him was in a state of darkness. That era is called the days of ignorance or the age of ignorance [Ayyam ul Jaahiliyyah or 'Asr al Jaahiliyyah] for a reason. That era's title is not an exaggeration. We are not simply making reference to the worship of false gods. Rather, Arabia before Islam influenced them had little value to female children. They practiced female infanticide. The social order was so steeped in tribal thinking that a stray camel entering the domain  of another group led to decades of warfare.

In a sense, all of God's prophets and messengers faced these sorts of things within their environment. So Allah summons Prophet Muhammad, who actually personifies a universal summons [because he is the only universal messenger] to abandon that baggage which holds him back, and which holds his society [and humanity in general] back!


No altering of Divine Creation

Allah has allowed differences to exist as a means to keep life interesting and vibrant, yet he has placed limitations on how far those differences can go. A Black Man and a White Woman can produce beautiful children together, however a man cannot mate with a microphone!

All rational people can see the benefit of caring for the poor and underprivileged and all rational people can view murder, theft and its like as wrong. This is what the Qur'an calls Standard Deen [deen ul Qayyim]. This is also deen ul fitrah. A framework for a healthy, vibrant and sound mind, body, soul and society.

Islam or submission to God is to penetrate all areas of existence. This is not to occur by force, contrary to the views of many pundits, because force is contrary to all the previously mentioned positive states!

Muslim responsibility

We have to ask ourselves if we are upon the standard, correct deen. We have to ask ourselves if we can better or how can we better align to the Qur'an and Sunnah.

We pray to be of those who better respond to the call of Allah and his messenger, as this is a call that gives meaning and purpose to life [Q 8:24].


But most people don't know

The verse reads "...That is standard Deen, but most people don't know." [Q 30:30]. In the same Soorah, we read:

Allah's promise, Allah does not fail in his promise, but most people don't know. They know the outer shell of life [Dhaahiran min al hayaat ad dunya], and about 'Al-Akhirah', they are heedless." [Q 30:6-7].وَعْدَ اللَّهِ لَا يُخْلِفُ اللَّهُ وَعْدَهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
 يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِرًا مِّنَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ الْآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ


Having access to Allah's Qur'an and access to the knowledge of how the Prophet's message transformed the hearts and minds of his society should be sufficient as a basis to ourselves become transformed, to become better, to discard the thinking and mentality of the days of ignorance!


We recently shared what distinguished Muhammad the genuine Prophet from Musaylima the false claimant by looking at the letters exchanged between the two [ see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_MjGQ6_XI] .

Musaylima appealed, as we learn from the letters, only to the strands of ignorance, jealousy and desire, whereas Muhammad -Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam- appealed only to Allah.

Prophet Muhammad calls us to Allah, to Deenul Fitrah, so we pray to be on that path, following light rather than groping around in darkness.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Some of our activities, scheduling a lecture/presentation

It has come to my attention that it is important to document activities in the wider community. To that end, below please see some of the pictures below.


January 2014 Clergy breakfast

Presentation at Park United Church on Prophet Muhammad



Park United Church: Muslims and Christians discussing Prophet Muhammad.

Lecture at Lourdes University


Catholic-Islamic dialogue at Islamic Center Perrysburg, Ohio

Spirituality session at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam

UMAT 2016 Iftar, explaining Ramadan to a packed room of politicians and community leaders.

2014 Fundraising banquet with the other Toledo Imams

Invocation at funeral of Toledo Mayor Michael Collins


How to request a presentation

Our focus is interfaith discussion, Islamic propagation [Da'wah], social reform, as well as academic presentations.

Email us at Waheed79@yahoo.com for dates and honorariums.







Saturday, October 15, 2016

Virtues of Friday: Surprising observations from the Qur'an and Sunnah

[ The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah delivered 10/14/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

Judgement day

The Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is reported to have said "And the hour [i.e. judgement] will not be established except on Friday." [Saheeh Muslim].

There are many other ahadeeth which outline the virtues of Friday, such as one which states that Allah accepting the supplication of a supplicant on this day, about it being the leading day in God's sight [ Inna Yaumal Jumu'ati Sayyidul Ayyami wa A'athamuhaa 'IndaLLaah], and we are even told in the hadeeth literature in at least two narrations that Adam was created on a Friday!

Why do we have all of this emphasis on Friday [Yawmul Jumu'ah]? The answer to this is found in the Qur'anic command

O Believers! When the call is made for Friday prayers, rush forth to the remembrance of Allah, and leave off trade. That is best for you, if you do but know." [Q 62:9].

Thus, remembering Allah, being reminded via the Adhaan, Khutbah, prayer and Qur'an references the speaker inevitably makes, all of this has the power to transform!

"And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest [source of inspiration and power], and Allah knows what you manufacture." [Q 29:45]

So the experience of Jumu'ah is supposed to be empowering!

Empowerment to do what?

What should experience of Jumu'ah empower us to do? We have to return to the first hadeeth mentioned. "The hour of Judgment will be established on the day of Jumu'ah."

At foremost, Jumu'ah reminds us of the reality of standing before Allah. Sir Francis Bacon said "Knowledge is power".

Knowledge is itself power, knowledge or awareness of being in the future standing in the presence of God.

Another benefit would be empowerment in thinking. Allah's reminders create a transformed thinking, mentality, worldview!

In every single way, authentic Islam as presented in the Qur'an and the life of Allah's Messenger promotes balance, healthy interactions and community feeling.

The one reminded of Allah should be reminded to abandon the terrible ways of thinking and acting that included misogyny, sexism, racism and xenophobia.

The reminders of Allah even are displayed in the small areas of the Prophetic Sunan that are emphasized on Fridays. The Friday 'Sunan' [plural of Sunnah] include bathing before Jumu'ah, dressing in nice clothing, cutting nails. Before the start of the Khutbah, we engage in personal reflections on Allah, reading the Qur'an, and even after the congregational prayers, we pray two Rak'ahs.

So we have in these -both great and small- expressions of authentic spirituality.

Being reminded about Allah has an impact on the here and now.

"[Believers are ] those when afflicted by calamity, say :"Indeed, we belong to Allah, and to him is our return". It is such people that have on them blessings [salawaat] from their Lord, and mercy [as well]. and it is they who have received guidance." [ Q 2: 156-157]

So while we are to take Friday prayers seriously, we should take the deen seriously in general. Use the Qur'an as it is supposed to be used, to examine but also to reform one's own actions and worldview. The opportunity to become serious exists so long as you have life.

Standing in prayer [Qiyaam] and Standing before Allah [Qiyaamah]



In Salaah, we recite Al-Faatihah, the first Quranic chapter. In that Soorah's recitation, we pray not only for religious guidance, but we pray that which produces Ni'mah [grace, bounties] in the real world, and avoiding that which produces Divine anger and takes us away from that Ni'mah!

We begin our Salaah by Qiyaam. We are standing as the first act of the prayer. That act of Qiyaam should remind us standing before Allah on judgement day, known as Yawmul Qiyaamah, the day of standing or resurrection.

"Our Lord, Verily, You are the Gatherer of Mankind on a day in which there is no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in his promise." [Q 3:9]

So Prayer, be it on Fridays or other days, should inspire us to become more aligned with what is authentic and healthy, which in turn will court Divine Mercy.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Organized Spirituality: lessons from Abraham post-Eid

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah 9/16/16 at Toledo Masjid. The opening Hamd has been omitted, as has much of the Quranic and hadeeth quotes in Arabic.]


Building, not destroying

During the 'Eid ul Ad-haa, which just passed, our speakers usually focus on the willingness of Abraham [Ibrahim, 'alayhis salaam] to sacrifice his son because he saw that as being God's command. Indeed, the entire holiday centers around that premise.

However, there is yet another aspect we should ponder upon.

"And when Abraham raised the foundations of the House, and Ishmael as well [they prayed]: Our Lord, accept from us, surely, You are the All-Hearing, All-Knowing." [Q 2:127].

Abraham and his son [Ismaa'il, 'alayhis salaam] are associated here with building, and not destroying! They built [or re-built] the Ka'bah. That place is described as Baytul 'Ateeq or the ancient house, Baytun Naas which means the house for all people, and the Qur'an describes it as "a blessing and a guidance for all nations" [Q 3:96].


So Abraham and his son built something, and building something takes planning, thinking, mapping out appropriate strategies,

For a home, we have to plan our finances, and all of this takes time, patience. This is what Abraham [upon whom be peace] and his son did! This 'house' outlived them.

At every moment, thousands and often millions are circling the Ka'bah, reciting the Talbiyah, calling upon Allah, often in the very words used by Abraham himself "Our Lord, accept from us, Surely, You are the All-Hearing, All-Knowing."Rabbana Taqqabbal Minna, Innaka Antas Samee'ul 'Aleem.

So being organized and strategic in our religious priorities, indeed within all aspects of our lives, is arguably the most important lesson for us to take.

Going for job interview requires having prepared a resume', appropriate clothes and language.

So what about prayer [Du'aa]? When you make du'aa, you should think about who and what to make du'aa for.Ahadeeth. Take lessons from Soorah al Faatihah and from the other obligatory aspects of the Salaah as to what or who we should pray for. When we offer salaah, particularly alone, think about the meanings of what is to be recited.
Take some lessons from the supplications present in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

What can we do or how can we benefit in our lives from what we are to recite in prayer, and how can we build upon that to create something wonderful and lasting as Abraham did?

The Ka'bah and Abraham's station

About the Ka'bah, Allah says "In it are clear signs and Abraham's station." [Q 3:96]. This teaches us that the Ka'bah is a blessed symbol and is itself a testimony to Abraham's position [Maqaam Ibrahim] with Allah. It is a symbol or a goal we can work to, and the important term here is "work". Work wisely, work sincerely, for Allah, not for ego or fame or wealth. To go against the philosophy of Abraham is actually to show foolishness [Q 3:109]. May Allah accept from us.


The Ka'bah as Qiblah and at Hajj

The great symbol called the Ka'bah becomes the focus during Hajj. In addition to this, it is the Qiblah, the direction we are to face during worship.

Allah says to the Prophet: " We [Allah] see you [O Muhammad] turning your face to the sky,,," [Q 2:144].

Before the revelation of the above statement, it is said that the Qiblah faced by the Muslims was that which was associated with the Prophets of old, i.e. Jerusalem. Here, we are told the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] was facing the sky. The exact meaning of this is a debated point among the Mufassiroon.

Let us consider this as a possible meaning: after years of persecution in Makkah itself [the enemy capital] - The Prophet is now in stable Madinah, and he sees the need to become better focused, to be oriented correctly and to be organized spiritually.
God answers that concern by directing him not towards the sky, but rather to that symbol constructed by the great Patriarch, Abraham. 

So the Ka'bah is our Qiblah because it focuses us. It's very existence encourages us to build, to build or to fortify our hearts, to fill our minds with useful information, to build in this world, to add, not to destroy!

The Prophet Muhammad [upon whom be peace and blessings] said that if you see the world ending around you while your planting a tree, continue to plant that tree!

So let us be intelligent in our lives, and intelligent in our Islam. Let us be like Abraham, willing to  obey Allah even in the most difficult of circumstances.