Reviving the miracle

 I was about to title this Khutba – Maintaining the miracle – when I realized that a more truthful title is – Reviving the miracle. Which miracle? The miracle of creating a brotherhood of faith – the Ummah of Muhammadﷺ. I call it the greatest of Rasoolullahﷺ’s achievements because of the incredible challenge that he faced in creating it. Not only did he have to deal with ethnic and racial diversity but even more ingrained and powerfully, hierarchies based on tribal, economic, cultural, and linguistic differences. He had to deal with a society in which honor could only be satisfied by shedding blood and vendetta was a time-honored tradition spanning generations. It was this group that he welded together where Bilal ibn Rabah (R), an African Muhajir and an ex-slave, was paired, as a brother, with Abu Rawahah Abdullah ibn Abdul Rahman (R). A black man and an Arab. Who could have imagined this situation in pre-Islamic tribal Arabia? Salman Al Farsi (R), another ex-slave and Persian, was paired with Abu Darda Al Ansari (R). And of course, many others. These people were not simply roommates. They became brothers in a deeper sense than we feel today for our own blood brothers. And faith became holier and dearer to them than blood. The stories of the Muhajireen and Ansar are the stuff of legends and had they not been so authentically documented, they would appear to be fables, given the state of Muslim society which is riddled with racism, casteism, divided into false Biradarees and sects which are quick to pronounce Takfeer and declare those who don’t belong to their sect as apostates. Fear Allahﷻ my brothers.

In this blessed month of Rabi’ul Awwal, the month of both the birth and passing away of Rasoolullahﷺ, when are very keen to celebrate his birth, let us ask which of our actions would have caused him the most pain and is the first thing that we need to change. I say to you that the thing about us that would have pained him the most is our divisions, our internal conflicts, our groupism, our sects, our hatred for each other. For us, it is not enough that our brother is a Muslim. He must be from the same Madhhab, sect, group, caste, color and tribe. If this is not racism, then tell me what is? Allahﷻ called us ‘Muslims’. But what did we do? Allama Iqbal said:

Youn tho Sayyid bhi ho, Mirza bhi ho, Afghan bhi ho,

(You are Sayyid, Mirza, and Afghan)

Tum sabhi kuch ho, batao tho, Musalman bhi ho?

(You are everything but tell me are you also Muslim)

Do some research about where these ‘castes’ among Muslims came from and you may well be surprised. Sadly, this groupism and tribalism is not in the Subcontinent alone. The lines dividing one Arab Muslim from another and one African Muslim from another are equally bad or worse. I shudder to think about what we will say when we meet Rasoolullahﷺ and he asks us about what we did with the Ummah that he had forged. Believe it or not, that is a very real possibility. The solution is to do our best to revive his miracle, the miracle of the Muslim Ummah. Rasoolullahﷺ set us the best example and all that we need to do is to follow it. Do what he did, and we will once again be one people, united by our love for Allahﷻ and His Nabiﷺ.

Allahﷻ mentioned us, the Ummat of Muhammadﷺ in two places in two ways, the difference being in one word alone. He said:

إِنَّ هَـٰذِهِۦٓ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَٰحِدَةً وَأَنَا۠ رَبُّكُمْ فَٱعْبُدُونِ

Anbiya 21: 92      Truly! This, your Ummah [brotherhood of faith] is one brotherhood, and I am your Rabb, therefore worship Me (Alone).

وَإِنَّ هَـٰذِهِۦٓ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَٰحِدَةً وَأَنَا۠ رَبُّكُمْ فَٱتَّقُونِ

Mu’minoon 23: 52        And verily! your Ummah [brotherhood of faith] is one brotherhood, and I am your Rabb, so have my Taqwa (live in a way that pleases Me).

These two Ayaat sum up the essence of being an Ummah. The cause of our cohesion is that we worship Allahﷻ. Our way of life is to please Allahﷻ. This is what defines us. It is our signature, our brand, our differentiator among all nations. We are the nation that worships only Allahﷻ and which lives on only one principle and that is, how to please Allahﷻ. That way is the Sunnah of Muhammadﷺ. That is our way because we are his Ummah. I want to remind myself and you to take heed and from this moment onwards, discard and drop every thought, idea, way, tradition, or definition that separates us from other brothers and sisters across the world and embrace the inclusive, anti-racist ideology of Islam that joins us all together based on our love for Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ. That is the essence of the Kalima Tayyiba. That is our Creed. That is to live Islam.

The big question is how can we make that happen? The answer is very simple. Allahﷻ reminded and admonished us and said:

وَٱعْتَصِمُوا۟ بِحَبْلِ ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا۟ وَٱذْكُرُوا۟ نِعْمَتَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَآءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِۦٓ إِخْوَٰنًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ ٱلنَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

A’al Imraan 3: 103        And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (Qur’an) and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s Favor on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islam). And you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus, Allah makes His Ayat (signs, revelations) clear to you, that you may be guided.

What must we do? Allahﷻ saved us and told us how to stay safe i.e., hold fast to the Book of Allahﷻ. That includes its word, meanings, and practice, which is the Sunnah. Take every decision based on one criterion only i.e., does it please Allahﷻ? That is the essence of Tawheed and Taqwa. Allahﷻ didn’t tell us not to disagree. He told us not to create sects. We must learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Without hating each other. Appreciating that difference of opinion is not opposition but is a sign of real commitment. Only the committed bother to disagree. Others don’t care.

Finally, there are two essential requirements to ensure that we don’t fall into the trap of disputing and forming sects and divisions. They are forgiving one another and not backbiting. Without these two no relationship in the world can survive. With these no relationship can break. We have examples from our Salaf, from the Sahaba downwards, where they disagreed on extremely serious matters, but didn’t hate one another or form groups or sects. That is what we must relearn. Adaab-ul-Ikhtilaaf, the etiquette of disagreement.

The first of these is forgiveness. We need it. We must practice it. There is no person in the world who is perfect and who doesn’t need forgiveness. We beg Allahﷻ to forgive us and if He didn’t, we would be lost. Allahﷻ said:

وَلْيَعْفُوا۟ وَلْيَصْفَحُوٓا۟ أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَن يَغْفِرَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Nur 24: 22  Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf (R) said: Rasoolullahﷺ said: “There are three things concerning which, by the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, I would certainly swear an oath: wealth does not decrease because of charity, so give charity; no man pardons another for some mistreatment, seeking thereby the pleasure of Allahﷻ, but Allahﷻ will raise him in status thereby; and no one asks from people but Allahﷻ will increase him in poverty.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Abu Hurairah (R) said: Rasoolullahﷺ  said, “It is not lawful for a Muslim to forsake his brother beyond three days; and whosoever does so for more than three days, and dies will certainly enter Jahannam.” (Abu Dawud)

When Aisha Siddiqua (RA) asked Rasoolullahﷺ to teach her a dua if she should find Laylatul Qadr, he taught her to say: “O Allah, You are forgiving and generous. You love to forgive. So, forgive me.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi).

Abdullah ibn Amr (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said: “Be merciful to others and you will receive mercy. Forgive others and Allahﷻ will forgive you” (Musnad Ahmad)

Forgiveness is the adhesive of friendship and brotherhood. It is the lifeblood of marriages. Without it all these relationships will perish. Let us forgive each other and seek the forgiveness of anyone that we wronged. Don’t let the sun set on you today until you have forgiven and sought forgiveness.

The second thing to keep in mind and avoid at all costs is Gheeba and Nameema – backbiting and insinuation. Backbiting is like cancer or like termites in wood. You can’t see the effect until it becomes fatal and irreversible. Tragically backbiting is our social life today. It forms the bulk of social conversation for a lot of people. Gheeba and Nameema destroy trust in society and when trust is destroyed, brotherhood breaks, and the society falls apart. This is what has happened to us today. That is why Allahﷻ forbade and condemned backbiting in such strong terms. Allahﷻ said:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱجْتَنِبُوا۟ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا۟ وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Hujuraat 49: 12   O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.

Ibn al-Jawzi reported: Sa’id ibn al-Jubayr (R) said, “A slave will be brought on the Day of Resurrection and presented with his record. He will not see his prayers, nor his fasting, nor his good deeds. He will say: Ya Rabbi, this is the record of someone else, for I had good deeds that are not here. It will be said to him, “Verily, your Rabb does not overlook or forget. Your deeds have vanished because you were backbiting people.”

Abu Hurayrah (R) reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Whoever has wronged his brother with regard to his honor or anything else, let him seek his forgiveness today, before  (the Day when) there will be no dinar and no dirham, and if he has any good deeds to his credit they will be taken from him in a manner commensurate with the wrong he did, and if he has no good deeds, then some of his victim’s bad deeds will be taken and added to his burden.”

My brothers and sisters, there is a heightened interest in Islam among our youth and thanks to the internet, information is at their fingertips. What is missing are the Akhlaaq to be able to benefit from that information. Like a farmer prepares the soil before he sows the seed, Tazkiyyatun Nafs wa Tarbiyyatul Akhlaaq are critical to benefit from the knowledge of Islam. Otherwise, you will only have words without their meaning or effect. Today we focus on curricula, syllabi, books, and classroom facilities. All are important but far less than preparation of the body, heart/mind (Qalb) and soul. We must focus on Ikhlaas and Akhlaaq before anything else. Without that preparation knowledge produces rigidity and arrogance. Not sincerity (Ikhalaas), humility (Tawazeh), broadmindedness (Wus’at ul Qalbi), Taqwa wa Khashiyyah. And it is Khashiyyatullah that creates Ta’alluq Ma’Allah.

For this, we must prepare ourselves. We can only give what we have. Children listen with their eyes. That’s why the Tarbiyya of adults is critical for change. Parents must parent. Parenting can’t be outsourced. There are no shortcuts. We are all role models. Choose the kind you want to be. Someone for your kids to look up to or down on. Imam Ahmad (RA) said about Bishr al-Hafi (RA), “He has the essence of knowledge.” They asked, “What is that?” He replied, “Khashiyyatullah.” I remind myself and you that when we meet Allahﷻ we will not be asked, “What happened or what did you know?” We will be asked, “What did you do?” I ask Allahﷻ to make our actions a means of benefiting us in this Dunya and Sadaqa Jaariya.