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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].