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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Is being a full-time Muslim easier said than done?

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a  Friday Khutbah given July 22, 2016 at The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo[ICGT] in Perrysburg, Ohio. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]


Introduction



This week I gave a lecture entitled "Towards becoming Full time Muslims" [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V_aAxmp0J0[/url] . As the title suggests, we explored some practical ways to become stronger in our submission to Allah Almighty. One of the reactions to this presentation was, in essence, that it is easier said than done.

Events both here and overseas have influenced me to ponder upon that response. In particular, the political discourse we are seeing in recent days is very concerning. Thus, it is understandable that there would be difficulty to become "full time Muslims".

Observing the reports on the attack in the French city of Nice', the attacker, a reported drinker and even consumer of Pork, was said to have been "radicalized". Evidence of this so called radicalization was his weeks worth of beard growth [url] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/18/nice-attack-premeditated-mohamed-lahouaiej-bouhlel-beard-prosecutor[/url].

Politicians have in recent days called for Sharee'ah to be banned [not even knowing the meaning of this term] and its practitioners deported.

So the argument that these forces are making is that the stronger Muslim you become, the more dangerous to society you become.



Islam is not an identity

It is important to remember that Islam is mot an "identity". Rather it is the title or the summary of that guidance which came forth through all the Prophets and Messengers of God. We must remember that almost all of the Prophets experienced character assassination, jealous foes, scapegoating and other pressures, all designed to prevent a fuller manifestation of God's guidance in society.


So know that these pressures are going to be there, just as they were in the lives of the Prophets [upon whom be peace]. Yet, these pressures should only make us better qualified.

Pressure is character building

When you jog, lift weights, or play sports or do some other exercises, you will experience some level of discomfort. You will feel sore during and afterwards, perhaps for quite a bit of time, and look and smell bad. However, it is worth it.

So we look at the Prophets to give us guidance in terms of dealing with those pressures as well as predicting the future.

Ibrahim [The Prophet Abraham 'alayhis salaam] is a good example of this. He doesn't seek to be domineering, he only preaches Tauheed [recognizing that Allah is one and alone in deserving worship] and seeks to make his audience think. He says "Do you not use your minds?" [Afala Ta'qiloon]. His foes respond by saying "Burn him" [Harriquhu].

Opponents of Truth are intellectually bankrupt

The foes of Abraham were intellectually bankrupt. Abraham was a Prophet that embodies logic, wisdom and even research. His foes find this threatening. They cannot respond to his logic, so they respond by gaining up, rabble-rousing, violence.

Look at Allah's Divine Hand at work. "We Decreed: O Fire! Be cool and peaceful for Abraham"[ Q 21:70].

So Abraham as a person went from being a potential victim of lynching to a miraculous saving of his life, which also means that his message was saved. The fire of hate was put out.
The evidence is strengthened by the fact that the three monotheistic religions[Judaism, Christianity and Islam]  see themselves as connected to Abraham. They are all called "The Abrahamic religions" [Al Adyaan Al Ibrahimiyyah].

So don't let outside forces stop you from getting closer to Allah, from being better and more committed Muslims. We pray for Allah's mercy, guidance, forgiveness, and stronger hearts planted with Imaan.

Muslims who work with the wider public have greater responsibilities

Many of us are people who deal with the wider public in some fashion. It is upon such folks a bigger responsibility of being full-time Muslims in a way that is seen by the public.

Firstly, this means that Islamic ethics must be displayed, particularly in financial matters. That also means we cannot be shy as Muslims.

Look at Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam]. There was a lady who used to harass him by dumping trash in places where she knew he would walk. When she fell ill, he took care of her. When he ['alayhis salaatu was salaam] left Makkah for Madinah, he made sure to give back wealth that had been entrusted to him to its rightful owners.

Those of us in public should also be prepared to answer queries at all times. Keep Islamic pamphlets or literature in your offices, suitcase, bag, purse and car. Invite them to the Mosque. Have more open houses and be welcoming and invite the hard questions.

We have to be like Abraham. A mob wanted to burn him, yet Allah gave him immunity from that- and now-thousands of years later, the majority of humans see themselves as connected to him.

Indeed, in the Judeo-Christian tradition his name is known to mean "father of many nations" or "father of all nation", depending on which Bible translation [in English] you read.

 We have to be strong, confident and closer to Allah.

God is not an intellectual point. God is real, and is active in the world of man. Allah be with you all, [Allah Ma'kum Jamee'an].



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Towards becoming Full-time Muslims

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah delivered 7/15/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]


Working Hard

A person experiencing financial difficulties will attempt to address their situation in the best way available. Such a person, upon finding a full-time job, one that comes with certain perks and benefits, will accept that job, feel grateful for that job and will put in extra time and work, using their abilities to solve any problems that are work-related.

There is an obvious difference between full-time work and part time work. When we put in part time work, we will only get part time results. When we are serious in our work, we will get fulfilling results.

Allah states "Say: Indeed, my prayers, devotional acts, life and death are all for Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe. He has no partner..." [Q 6:163].

So being a Muslim is a full-time job. That's simply an undeniable reality. In today's world, we often have to differentiate between "full time parents" and "weekend fathers" or "holiday mothers". Absentee parents will come to regret their neglect as time moves forward. The same applies to being a Muslim.

We cannot be Ramadan Muslims or Friday Muslims or Holiday Muslims and then expect to have the same results as experienced by the Prophet  and his early followers. 

If our Islam is anything other than full time, we will always be sad, unstable, bitter and non progressive. The most important criterion for "progress" is of the spiritual/mental/moral type. Too many of us are part-time workers expecting full-time benefits!

Islam for ourselves and families

Too many of us have limited our Islam to easy things such as abstaining from pork and the Salaam greetings. A limited "Islam" of that nature, one that is only occasional and ignoring family, we risk destroying our children's spiritual foundation. We risk becoming a "gray community", one which does not even last a single generation.

Workable strategies for becoming full-time Muslims

There are many methods by which we can become full time Muslims, but any methodology must include these elements.

[1] Examining issues of Halaal and Haraam in your life. Look at everything, from relationships to income, even to entertainment.

[2] Consider one's own physical environment. If you are not offering five daily prayers, obviously that has to start, but what about the areas in which you pray? Is the area in which you offer salaah clean? Are there reminders of Allah in those areas, such as Allah's name or quotations from the Qur'an? "And the places of prayer [Masaajid] are for Allah, so do not call with Allah anyone else." [Q 72:18].

This may sound superficial, but our surroundings have influences over our moods. So consider this with regards to the places of prayer in your own home.

[3] Are your friends believers? Are they healthy [spiritually] or are they toxic? If they are toxic, resentful professional complainers, it would be best to avoid spending much time with them.

[4] If your friends/company are healthy, yet they are non Muslim or nominal Muslims. You should share Islam with them by inviting them to the mosque, by living Islam yourself, by answering their queries.

[5] If your relationship is Haraam [Islamically forbidden], the solution is to either marry or to part company if they are not marriage material.

There is a disproportionate gap in numbers between the genders in our community. We have many single brothers and not enough sisters.We need marriage between Muslims, for Muslim children to be able to form friendships with other Muslims.

All of these are needed things to address in our quest to become full-time Muslims.

This deen is guidance, but if we are unwilling to act upon it, 'guidance' and "Islam" becomes nothing more than phrases on paper, useless slogans.

May Allah protect our Imaan, increase us in our zeal for his cause, and bestow on us forgiveness, mercy and guidance. Ameen!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Keeping the feeling of Ramadan alive

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah given July 8, 2016 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd as well as much of the Arabic textual quotations have been omitted.]

Introduction

Ramadan, the month of fasting, worship and introspection, has left us. It was that month that we are told in the traditions that the demons [Shayateen] are locked away, even though we are forced to admit that their mouths were still active. The month of Ramadan has passed us, and now the Shayateen are out in full force. We are to ask ourselves "how can we  keep the spirit of Ramadan alive"?

Fasting outside of Ramadan


To answer this question, we have to refer to Allah's Messenger [ Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam]. His normative practice was to fast six days of Shawwal, the month which comes after Ramadan [Sittu min shawwal]. Scholars differ as to whether those six days need to be observed consecutively  or by simply picking days out of the month, either way, we have here, from the Prophetic Sunnah, an option. He also used to be consistent in fasting twice a week [Mondays and Thursdays].

Fasting is an obvious way to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive. There are other things as well that help in these regards.


Taraweeh transformed into Tahajjud

In the evenings, we were praying Salaat At-Taraweeeh.  We can keep that alive by praying Salaat At-Tahajjud. The Tahajjud prayers are offered in the same basic format as Taraweeh, a fact that has led a minority of Muslim thinkers to the conclusion that they are in fact the same prayer, albeit with different names, Taraweeh  being simply an encouragement for the masses. Most importantly, Tahajjud is a prayer which is referred to in the Qur'an itself [ Q 17:79, 73:1-6].

Most of us have very tight schedules, so how can we pray Tahajjud when we struggle to offer the five obligatory prayers? My recommendation is to offer the Salaat at Tahajjud once a week, on the night that precedes your day off work.

The goal is Allah

Islam is a faith that has many checks and balances. The overall goal is Allah, but Allah has made us all to carry some responsibilities and the manner in which we carry out those responsibilities is also a form of worship, a means by which we seek to connect to the Almighty. Working to sustain our families and to have communal safety or correcting our wrong ideas or thinking, all of this are characteristics of faith.

Many of us were disturbed this Ramadan by news from all over the Islamic world and even from the events taking place in our society today. Even news from Madinah, the site of the Prophet's tomb itself, was that which caused disturbance in our hearts.  We may have had to be defensive, especially those among us who are well-known to the press and the masses. In addition, we have had to deal with internal political issues.  So it can be reasonably said that most of faced a difficult month. However, by recognizing this, we can atleast be in a better position to deal with it in future Ramadans.

Qur'an reading

Allah says "Indeed, We have sent it as a Pure recitation, so that perhaps you will use your mind." [Q 12:2].  He also says "Do they not deeply consider this Qur'an" [Afala Yatadabbarun ul Qur'aan [Q 4:82].

While it is true that Allah has began sending the Qur'an in Ramadan, we are not to restrict our reading of it simply during the fasting month. We are to make Tadabbur of it, consider its contents deeply and with thought, for our own growth.

Ramadan should have only intensified what we as Muslims are already doing. If we have not been strong in our practice, then we need to change that, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. 

We want to leave Ramadan stronger than when we entered into it. We want to be mature, competent, closer to God. May Allah strengthen our hearts upon this deen.


What does Submission entail?

Islam is not about massaging our egos, nor is it about personality worship. It is about surrendering all to the will of Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaaa]. Believers are to submit to that which has been decreed by God and his Prophet.

That 'submission' entails giving up false ideologies, destructive behavior, Baatil of every type. Look at Bilqees, the queen of Sheba. She is guided, by the efforts of Solomon [Sulaymaan 'alayhis salaam] and she asserts "Indeed, I have done wrong to my own soul, and I have submitted with Solomon to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe." [Q 27:44] .
إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي وَأَسْلَمْتُ مَعَ سُلَيْمَانَ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
'Submission" to God is never negative. When you respond to Allah you become a better person. When  you get better in your submission, you become a better human being.

Submission often comes before understanding

Many people feel that they need to understand all of the wisdom of God before surrendering to him. There are radical feminists today who not only rebel against Hijaab, but  who take drastic measures to counter both Christian and Muslim morality. One such group of misguided young women went to a Russian Church and stripped naked, yelling slogans, during Church services a few years ago [ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-macdougall/pussy-riot-russian-orthodox-church-its-complicated_b_3397674.html]. The same people did a similar move outside a mosque in Tunis, the Tunisian capital .

So such people, even if they have Muslim names, don;t see the value in God's moral system. There is a wisdom and reason[s] behind the commands in the Qur'an regarding dress. Even if we cannot see the wisdom, we still have to submit. After all, you don't tell your children why they can't swim to the deep end of the water or to not play with electricity. They have to obey, even without understanding.

Thus, we should always strive to obey God, even when we don't understand.

What is the wisdom of offering five daily prayers? Why not two, or twenty? Why pray a certain number of Rak'ahs for each Salaah? Just because we don't always know, that doesn't mean we are not to obey. Believers hear and obey Allah.

So let us be believers, who hear and obey Allah [SWT].



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Forgiveness of Ramadan: Reflections on the second part of the fasting month



[Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam on July 17th, 2016 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

Ramadan quickly ending

As hard as it is to imagine, we are nearly half-way finished with Ramadan. There is a hadeeth of the Prophet, in which he divides the month into three parts, each part consisting of ten days. The first ten days are mercy, the second forgiveness, and the third emancipation from Hell-fire. The initial entry into Ramadan itself, for a believer, is in itself a mercy from God. The second part [forgiveness] is where we want to focus. All religions teach their adherents to seek out Allah's forgiveness, and indeed, the Qur'an and the Sunnah are filled with such pleas. Another approach to take in this regards  is ourselves being forgiving towards each other.

This is also found throughout the Qur'an, Ahadeeth, and the teachings of other faith traditions. Thus, while Ramadan is certainly a personal journey, it is experienced in a wide community of fellow travelers. The travelers all share a bus, a train or an airplane, but upon leaving that mode of transport will go to different places and varied interests.

Forgiveness of others is important because holding onto anger, bitterness and resentfulness can be quite damaging. Most importantly, these things can become ever-consuming and limits spiritual growth, even if knowledge is present.

Look at the Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam. He entered Makkah, the enemy capital, after years of persecution, war, slander, assassination attempts and the murder of his family members and followers. One would imagine that he would at least have some individuals executed. However, he declared an amnesty, one which even extended to those responsible for the death and mutilation of his uncle, Hamza. The Prophet did not hold on to that bitterness.

How can we apply this Sunnah today? It's easy to apply the Sunnah associated with things such as dress and beard, and even the Sunan associated with worship, but how can we repeat the actions of the Prophet here? By avoiding being overly judgemental, critical and argumentative. Be more accepting, forgiving and tolerant.

Self-Forgiveness

Another aspect worth exploring is self-forgiveness. We can be very hard on ourselves. Well, we all have baggage in life, and the past cannot be changed.  We can only hope to do better in the future.

Many of us take a very wrong approach. We declare ourselves absolved of sins and dedicate ourselves to be judges over other people's sins and issues. Yet we have to look at the Prophet's statement. He says : "Among the pleasant aspects of Islam is to leave that which has no meaning for him.


This is shorthand for the American expression "mind your own business". This is not simply for protecting an individual's right to privacy, even though we admit that such teaching is found throughout the Qur'an and Sunnah [ Soorat an Noor and Soorat al Hujuraat for example] , it is a teaching useful for our own spiritual state. We need to address our own issues and conditions. May this month be a period wherein we can accomplish that.

Demons are locked away yet their mouths are still at work

The demons [Shayateen], we are told, are locked up in the month of Ramadan.  While it is understood that their bodies are locked up, yet their voices are still heard.  Indeed, Allah says in the Qur'an that the Kuffar seek to blow out God's light with their mouths.

So this Ramadan, we have to recognize that there are voices out there who seek to call us, distract us away from Allah, from self-reflection and improvement. They want us to be stagnant, weak and always on the defensive. The strong among us will only be slightly affected by these voices. There are those among us who are affected in a great way by these voices, and these are the weak among us. If we are affected, we have to ask why, we have to ask where our weaknesses are. Ramadan should be the time when we are asking these tough questions. We need more prayer, more reflection [Tadabbur] on the Qur'anic verses. We need to be serious in finding the spiritual truths that are relevant to us, and learn to act upon those truths, as taught by the Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him]


Speaking without knowledge

Many people today speak on subjects without having even an elementary knowledge of that subject. Among them are the majority of our media pundits and politicians. Speaking without knowledge is very dangerous. Thus, the Qur'an repeatedly says "And do not speak about Allah what you do not know" as well as "So ask the people of knowledge if you don't know."


If we really don't know, there is no shame in being silent or asking those who do have information on that subject. We live in a culture that asserts that all opinions are equal and valued, but this is simply a Cultural lie!

We cannot take scientific opinions from a factory worker, simply because they have not studied or mastered this branch of knowledge. Common sense would tell us that we would trust a scientist when teaching on his field, rather than someone who has not taken the time to even a minimum of information. Let this Ramadan be a time of the removal of all self-delusions, when we can become, by hard work, a people that deserve Allah's paradise.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A brief Quranic overview of History, Civilization and Priorities: Soorah Yuunus [10:10-20]

دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّـهُمَّ وَتَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلَامٌ ۚ وَآخِرُ‌ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَ‌بِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٠ وَلَوْ يُعَجِّلُ اللَّـهُ لِلنَّاسِ الشَّرَّ‌ اسْتِعْجَالَهُم بِالْخَيْرِ‌ لَقُضِيَ إِلَيْهِمْ أَجَلُهُمْ ۖ فَنَذَرُ‌ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْ‌جُونَ لِقَاءَنَا فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ ﴿١١ وَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنسَانَ الضُّرُّ‌ دَعَانَا لِجَنبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَائِمًا فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّ‌هُ مَرَّ‌ كَأَن لَّمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَىٰ ضُرٍّ‌ مَّسَّهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْمُسْرِ‌فِينَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٢ وَلَقَدْ أَهْلَكْنَا الْقُرُ‌ونَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَمَّا ظَلَمُوا ۙ وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُ‌سُلُهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَمَا كَانُوا لِيُؤْمِنُوا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْقَوْمَ الْمُجْرِ‌مِينَ ﴿١٣ ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ خَلَائِفَ فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ لِنَنظُرَ‌ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤


وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ ۙ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْ‌جُونَ لِقَاءَنَا ائْتِ بِقُرْ‌آنٍ غَيْرِ‌ هَـٰذَا أَوْ بَدِّلْهُ ۚ قُلْ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أُبَدِّلَهُ مِن تِلْقَاءِ نَفْسِي ۖ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ إِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَ‌بِّي عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ ﴿١٥ قُل لَّوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مَا تَلَوْتُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَا أَدْرَ‌اكُم بِهِ ۖ فَقَدْ لَبِثْتُ فِيكُمْ عُمُرً‌ا مِّن قَبْلِهِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿١٦ فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَ‌ىٰ عَلَى اللَّـهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ كَذَّبَ بِآيَاتِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْمُجْرِ‌مُونَ ﴿١٧ وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا يَضُرُّ‌هُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِندَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللَّـهَ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِ‌كُونَ ﴿١٨ وَمَا كَانَ النَّاسُ إِلَّا أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَاخْتَلَفُوا ۚ وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّ‌بِّكَ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ فِيمَا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ ﴿١٩ وَيَقُولُونَ لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِّن رَّ‌بِّهِ ۖ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا الْغَيْبُ لِلَّـهِ فَانتَظِرُ‌وا إِنِّي مَعَكُم مِّنَ الْمُنتَظِرِ‌ينَ ﴿٢٠


This entire Soorah is very interesting, and while our focus is on ten verses, it is important to note that some of the themes preceding the above-mentioned texts include:  [1] Addressing the false charges made by the Kuffar [blinded rejectors] regarding God's choosing certain humans to function as his messengers. These same people believe in everything from Angels to Aliens, so why would it be so hard to see a normal man, such as Muhammad, as his Prophet? [2] The functions of the universe [which includes Prophets] all point to an all wise and powerful God .[3] Just as the physical universe exists, paradise and likewise exist, made by that same God.

This brief analysis omits translating all the aforementioned texts except when deemed necessary. 

"Their call therein [i.e. the paradise, garden] will be 'glorified is you, O Allah, and their greeting therein is 'peace' [salaam], and their last statement is 'praise be to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe."[Q 10:10]

We begin by seeing that Paradise [described in the Qur'an by many words, the main one being Jannah, which means garden] is a place of rest and contentment. For those who remember the guidance of Allah, their reward is this paradise. 

In addition to this, let us note here that this verse gives us some of the traditional practices among Muslim writers and scholars, such as ending their speeches with "And the last of our summons is praise be to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe." 

"And if God were to hasten to people the bad [sharr] as He hastens to them their benefit [Khayr], their term would have ended, yet We [Allah] leave those who do not have hope in meeting with us [God] in their transgression, wandering about blindly. And yet when am injury [durr] touches man, he calls to God, laying down, sitting and standing [as well]. Yet [again] when We [God] removes his affliction, he acts as if he never called to Allah to remove the injury touching him. Thus the actions of the Musrifeen seem pleasant [to themselves]" [VV. 11-12]


Allah gives a long lease on life, and the consequences of one's bad actions/beliefs/attitudes are typically not felt immediately. For the Musrifeen, those who are in the habit of being wasteful, God only exists [if God exists at all for them], to fulfill their own lusts. When they have their need met, they run away from Allah. This happens in our lives as well, long lost friends and relatives calling when they want money and the like. 

[VV.13-14]  The character of such folks is abusive, they are eventually destroyed because they are criminal [Mujrimeeen]  in nature. This is not simply a reference to someone convicted of a crime in modern society. The Qur'an looks at the big picture. It is talking on a civilization level. 

The Roman, Greek,&  Egyptian empires were great civilizations, yet they were eventually destroyed. Their artifacts, as well as much of their history, is recorded and available for all to see. 

The fate of those who are narcissists in their dealings, in their societal ethics, is that they are eventually swept away. The relics of the past are left behind, per God's will, in  order to serve as physical reminders- as lessons for the future generations. 

[VV.15-16]  The "criminal" types have been heedless of Allah, and they actually want to see the revelation change to suit their whims. The Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, cannot and will not do such a thing. Indeed, Q 69:44-47 tells us that he would face Divine punishment if he would attempt such a venture.

Thus we believe Allah's Deen is perfect, Allah's Qur'an is perfect, and unchangeable. Our understanding can evolve, yet it is we-if we are truly believers- that have to change to conform to Allah's deen, and not vice versa. 

[V.17] The description as "criminals" once again appears in connection to those wanting to change around Allah's guidance. They are doing what is described as "the most unjust" [Adhlamu] of acts, and lying on the Divine. 

Such types, be they in political power or within cults, they don't succeed. David Koresh and Jim Jones were men of power and authority, but no one seeks to follow their "Sunnah" today.  

[V.18] In context, the meaning here can seemingly be expanded from that given in traditional discourse. "And they worship other than God those which neither gives benefit nor harm, and assert 'these are our intercessors [Shafaa'unaa] with God." 

So we can understand another layer of meaning in terms of intercession as being the Intercession [Shafaa'ah] and the Intercessor [Shaafi'i] of political and social trends, as well as being represented by the cult figures cited earlier. 

These trends and political decisions are used to filter or dictate what is "divine guidance".  Indeed, in today's world, homosexual behavior [condemned in both Bible and Qur'an] is tolerated, if not directly promoted in the religious world. Meaningless slogans and rhetoric are used to obfuscate truth and justice, and these are signs of a criminally inclined leadership and social culture. 

It is a way of saying that we know better than God. Thus, we have the response "Say: Do you inform God of something that he does not know about in the heavens and the Earth?"

Allah made his deen and his laws. He knows all and should not be diminished in our eyes. Thus, "Glory be his, he is above what the Mushriks associate with him."


So so far we have seen many appellations used to describe the situation of those who would destroy not only others, but their own souls. 

In an environment of confusion, it is natural to seek out guidance, and often the first step is knowing one;s own roots. The Qur'an acknowledges here that the Mujrimeen exercise some control, even over the processes of gaining information, and seeks to empower the reader by taking them to mankind's beginnings.


[V.19] Tafseer Jalalayn interprets "And Mankind was one Ummah" as meaning "upon one deen, i.e.  Islam".

So Islam is not founded with Muhammad and the Qur'an, it was primordial. Sociologist Rodney Stark, [himself a critic of Islamic teachings] refers to what the Qur'an says here [" And mankind was one Ummah, then they differed.."] as "early trends towards monotheism are reversed and lush polytheism is reasserted.."[Ft.1]

"Then they differed". They got caught up in the cults, in following what is popular, even though it is quite harmful. They got caught up in Shirk in one form or another. Shirk is more than worshipping an idol, it is the removal of God's guidance to the extent that not only is God outright denied, he is seen as giving irrelevant rules. 

God says here that had not a decree [Kalimah] came before, the judgement would automatically be made. The majority of Mufassiroon assert that this refers to Allah's statement "And We [Allah] punish them not until We raise a messenger." { Q 17:15].

Imam Shawkanee [Fat-hul Qadeer] phrases as "None is taken to account until evidence [hujjah] comes."

So even though people do shirk by ignoring and ridiculing God, taking his presence as a joke and his regulations as a toy, they still have access to Divine Mercy till they are able to access and act according to the truth.

The truth is not necessarily in books or sermons. One's own healthy soul can often recognize what is right, even though social trends say the opposite. 

[V.20] Even though Allah is telling us things that are to generate personal and societal reform, the criminally minded are still looking to him for magic tricks. We are to know that Allah is above and beyond that.

Conclusion

We began by looking for and hoping for Paradise, a place where we will have peace and serenity. We have to begin, as a species, in today's world, to think about how to create Jannah here. We begin by seeking out God, obeying him, repenting our bad actions and wrong thinking as influenced by the criminals that influence us, be they politicians, cult leaders, musicians or Hollywood. The Qur'an almost always looks to the big picture, by asking us to use our minds and be students of important subjects such as history  and likewise, Islam, the deen completed and perfected with the coming of the Final Prophet, has within it all the elements we need to overcome despotic influence, to create human beings who are enlightened, tolerant, easy-going and full of mercy, wanting to live right and desiring never to bring harm to the environment or other human beings. This is not a pipe-dream or simply rhetoric. Prophet Muhammad proved this within his life, A people of debauchery reformed, almost completely. 

May Allah make us benefit from the Qur'an, make it for us a leader, a source of light, knowledge and mercy. Ameen!

Notes

[1] See DISCOVERING GOD: THE ORIGINS OF THE GREAT RELIGIONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BELIEF [ PG.10, 2007, Harper-Collins publishers]



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

World religions class: University of Toledo department

Recently two groups of students paid us a visit and we had a class presentation on Islam.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Problems and solutions: finding a completed knowledge

[Note: the following is the Friday Khutbah 4/8/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted, much of the original Arabic texts,  and the two sections of the Khutbah have been formatted into one article.]


Acting upon a bit of knowledge


Islam is the fastest growing religion worldwide. Alhamdulillaah, people are accepting it daily, after a process of investigation, on their own free will. Even with that, however, we still face some problems.

One of the issues we face is something that is also faced by Non Muslims with regards to the deen, and it occurs both inside and outside of religion. Essentially, this problem is acting upon only a little bit of knowledge. A person reads an ayah [of the Qur'an] or a hadeeth of the Prophet, or hears about an ayah or hadeeth, and forms a belief or an act based solely upon that. We will look at two examples, one minor and one major, to illustrate this point.

"None touch it except the purified" [Q 56:79]


People hear this verse and say that the Mus-haf [the physical Quranic text] cannot even be touched if that person does not have Wudoo' or is not clean. Thus, a culture has developed wherein there is a reluctance, even today, in giving a Qur'an to a curious Non Muslim.

Before sharing the context, I must share that personally, before reading the Qur'an, I do make Wudoo'! This is also the agreement [Jamhoor] among the madhaahib of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah that Wudoo should be done before reading it, but the scholars do not offer textual support for this. Rather, we do it as a form of respect. With that, let's look at the context:

Indeed, it is a noble recitation, in a guarded record, None touch it except the purified, a revelation from the Caretaker of the Universe, is this a narrative [Hadeeth] that you ridicule, and that you make your money by lying about it." { Q 56:77-82]                            
The context clearly shows us the meaning, i.e.  spiritually dead, folks with sealed hearts, they cannot benefit or receive guidance from this revelation. This is given repeatedly throughout the Qur'an.

The major example is one that gets media attention as well as attention from Muslims. "Fighting is ordered upon you", says the Qur'an. Or "Kill them where you find them" [Q 2:191] . This is a harsh verse, yet when we read the context, we find "and fight in the cause of God those who fight you, and do not transgress the limits [set by God]" { Q 2:191]. Everywhere in the Qur'an where Qitaal is mentioned, we will also find the conditions and context. So Islam is neither a passive faith, nor a religion of aggression and violence.

So we can see what happens when we have the entire picture, the problems and misunderstandings are removed. Knowing the greater picture allows us to make correct judgements. This is not only important for the deen, but it is important for our dunya. Families are broken up, relationships destroyed,   due to misunderstandings, to having access to only half the information. Jumping to conclusions, making hasty decisions, can lead to devastating consequences. We pray to Allah to be people who act upon knowledge, we seek refuge from being hasty, losing control, and making bad choices.

Second lesson

We have to be careful, particularly in public, with our speech. While it is true that we live in a world where opinions are valued, the truth of the matter is that not all opinions are equal.  There is great wisdom in the Qur'anic statement "So ask the people of knowledge, if you don't know" [Q 16:43, among other places].

It is said that Imam Ash-Shafi'ee [ d.820 CE] was once asked by an atheist [Mulhid] if the Qur'an  tells us how to bake bread. The Imam asked for time, and later upon being asked by the questioner, gave the procedure by which bread is made. When asked where this is, the Imam cited this verse. Why? Because he asked a baker, someone whose job is to make bread, and received the answer!

So having a computer and a Facebook account does not qualify a person to speak authoritatively  on the deen, politics, history etc. We must be intelligent enough to see our strengths and weaknesses.

I once took a Non Muslim to an Islamic lecture, and the lecturer spent the next hour making inaccurate and rather ignorant statements on the Bible and Christianity. Obviously, that does not make a good impression. So don't speak on Islam, or Christianity for that matter, if you don't know the subject well enough. We must avoid the traps of self-delusions and have some humility.  Similarly, simply reading WebMD.com does not make you a doctor, a person whose opinion would be more useful than the doctor. Allow those who are trained for the job to do their job, don't seek to undermine them, as you only succeed in harming your own self. Have enough self-respect to know your limits. If you want to go beyond, work hard to reach that, but until then have enough self-respect and respect for those who have the qualifications for their roles.

Let us take lesson from the Prophet's Du'aa. After all, his supplications are not only invoking God, they are instructive for us.

"O Allah, show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it, and show us Baatil  as Baatil, and give us the ability to abstain therefrom."