As I mentioned in my last Khutba, ‘Living in the Revolution’, there are three things that we must change in our approach to life to leverage the benefits of technology and counter its ill effects. Change the way we connect with Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ, change the way we teach, and change the way we relate with one another. Each of these is important enough for us to reflect on, so here goes.
Let us reflect on how we relate with Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ today. For most of us, it is ceremonial, ritualistic, restricted to special occasions, like when we go to the masjid, when we pray and when we are in a religious gathering. We read the words of Allahﷻ ceremonially at the beginning of some of our meetings, which is not a Sunnah. We have Qur’an recitation competitions; we try to memorize the Qur’an and learn to recite it in a melodious way. We learn the rules of Tajweed and criticize others whose Tajweed we think is incorrect. We write the Qur’an in different styles of calligraphy and decorate it beautifully and make it a work of art. When our children are 4 years, 4 months, and 4 days old, we do a ceremony called ‘Bismillah’, in Hyderabad. In Bangalore they call it ‘Ameen’. When we enter a new house, we carry the Qur’an on our heads. When we get married the Qur’an is carried over the head of the bride like an umbrella, maybe to shield her from her husband. I can go on, but this will suffice to illustrate our relationship with the Kalaam of Allahﷻ which is the only means we have to get close to Allahﷻ. Heﷻ gave us the tools to vet this relationship and said:
إِنَّمَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ ٱلَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ ٱللَّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ ءَايَـٰتُهُۥ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَـٰنًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ
Anfaal 8: 2 The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble (with the Awe and Majesty of Allahﷻ) and when His Ayaat (Quran) are recited unto them, they (the Ayaat) increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Rabb (Alone);
I remind myself and you to ask what the purpose of the revelation of the Qur’an is. Is it to get stuck in how to pronounce it, to sing it (no matter that we call it recitation), to write it in beautiful fonts, to translate it into many languages, to create all sorts of ceremonial uses for it most or none of which Rasoolullahﷺ ever did, and of course to argue about it? Or is it one simple purpose; to understand it and live by it. To practice it in our lives. Let us ask what Allahﷻ will question us about; Tajweed (pronunciation), Kitaabat (writing, calligraphy), Rusoomaat (traditions) or A’amaal bil Qur’an (actions by the Qur’an). I remind you that the Kalaam of Allahﷻ is the closest that we can get to Allahﷻ in this life. Let us use it to get close to Him. The way to do that is to forget everyone else and focus on ourselves. To ask what the Qur’an is doing for us and to us when we recite it or listen to it. Forget the reciter. Focus on yourself and ask, “What happened to me when I heard/read that Ayah?” What do you say about a farmer who spends his time examining the fields and crops of his neighbors, criticizing them instead of tilling his field, treating the soil, planting his seeds, watering them, protecting them from pests, disease, and predators? Who will starve in the winter? Forget everyone. Focus on yourself. Not even our children. But ourselves. Only a lighted lamp can light others. If the lamp wants to light others, what advice will you give it? Light up yourself. Where is your flame? Without your flame you will never light anyone else’s lamp. So, let us do a little self-test. Focus on your heart and see what happens to it as I recite some Qur’an for you. It is the Kalaam of Allahﷻ. See what it does to you.
I am deliberately not translating these Ayaat firstly because I know that you know them and those who don’t, can read the translation. I recited first Ayatul Kursi 2:255, then Sura Al-Hashr 59:21-24 and Sura Al-Ikhlaas. Read the translation and then ask yourself, do you know the meaning of these Ayaat? Let me explain by asking you a question. What is the meaning of Muhammadﷺ? Then let me tell you what Muhammadﷺ meant to Khubayb ibn Adiy (R). They took him in a huge procession led by Abu Sufyan bin Harb and Safwan bin Umayya to the place they had chosen for his execution. The women and children were screaming and making a big racket. When they reached the place, Khubayb ibn Adiy (R) asked the leaders, “Will you allow me to pray two Raka’at before my death?” They allowed him.
He prayed two Raka’at and recited short Suras. When he finished, he said to them, “By Allahﷻ if you thought that I had asked to pray out of fear of death or to delay it, my prayer would not have been worth the trouble.” The Makkans then started to attack him swords and cut off parts of his body. They taunted him and someone called out, ‘What is the meaning of Muhammadﷺ?’ Actually, what they shouted at him was, “Would you like Muhammadﷺ to be in your place while you go free?” He replied, with blood flowing, his limbs severed, “By Allahﷻ, I would not want to be safe and secure among my family while even a thorn hurts Muhammadﷺ.” Khubayb (R) then lifted his eyes to the heavens and said, “O Allahﷻ, send my salaam to Rasoolullahﷺ.” That was the meaning of Muhammadﷺ to Khubayb ibn Adiy (R). Now tell me what does Muhammadﷺ mean to you?
My brothers and sisters, there is a world of difference between ‘meaning’ and ‘translation’. Meaning means ‘value’. Not translation of the word in some other language. But when we separated Tazkiyya from Ta’aleem, Noor left Ilm and only words remained. We remained stuck in the words and our word games, while our hearts remained dark with the zulmat (darkness) of doubt, fear and hope from people, envy and greed, arrogance and ignorance and worst of all, divisions, and sectarian politics. Ask why Muslims have more conflicts with Muslims than with anyone else? Tragically this is our history. Nations that don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
How do we relate with Rasoolullahﷺ? Once again, the same story. Tradition, rituals mostly ending in Biryani, invention of acts of worship, no matter that he warned us about inventing acts of worship, singing Nasheed and Na’atiya Kalaam, some of it with words of clear Shirk (joining partners with Allahﷻ), raising Rasoolullahﷺ to a level that he specifically warned us against. Let’s do a little test. How many of us can name the children of Rasoolullahﷺ? How many of us can name our mothers, the wives of Rasoolullahﷺ? How many of us have read any book of Seerah? How many of you are attending my class, “I love the Messengerﷺ?” I can ask you many questions, but this will suffice. Then ask how we can say that we love someone we know so little or nothing about? Love for Rasoolullahﷺ is expressed by obeying and emulating him; in his Ita’at and Ittiba.
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِى رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلْيَوْمَ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
Ahzab 33: 21 Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammadﷺ) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah a great deal.
A way of life recommended and guaranteed by Allahﷻ? We make dua for the company of Rasoolullahﷺ in the Aakhira. Are we serious about that? If we are, it is easy. Allahﷻ told us how to get it and promised it to us. Let’s ask what stops us from ensuring that we are with Rasoolullahﷺ in Jannah.
وَمَن يُطِعِ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلرَّسُولَ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ مَعَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَٱلصِّدِّيقِينَ وَٱلشُّهَدَآءِ وَٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ وَحَسُنَ أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ رَفِيقًا
Nisa 4: 69 And whoso obeys Allah and the Messenger (Muhammadﷺ), then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Siddiqun (like Abu Bakr As-Siddiq), the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!
Allahﷻ ordered us to emulate Rasoolullahﷺ in every aspect of life and said:
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ ٱللَّهَ فَٱتَّبِعُونِى يُحْبِبْكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
A’al Imraan 3: 31 Say (O Muhammadﷺ to the people): If you (really) love Allah then emulate me (emulation is the truest sign of love), then Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
My brothers and sisters, the time has come for us to make a choice. Let me tell you two true stories. About 100 years ago, Muslims from the Middle East went to South America, to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela. Today, of the original families almost all have lost Islam. I have heard many stories of old men meeting brothers of Tabligh and with tears in their eyes, showing them a ragged Musalla (Sujjada), some with a copy of the Mus’haf (Qur’an), and lots of photos of their families, children, grand and great grandchildren, all Christian. Remember that not even one was forced to convert. They did because nobody taught them Islam. Generation after generation, parents were too busy to worry about their children. They thought that after all Arabic was their mother tongue, the Qur’an was their inheritance. Islam was in their blood and so nothing would happen to their children. They were wrong. Very wrong. Contrast this with South Africa where Muslims from India went 300 years ago. They lived through apartheid in small, segregated enclaves. Today in Taraweeh, the first saff (line) is reserved for Huffaz. How did this happen? It happened because of the Maktab system. Two hours a day, four days a week, after school. What about driving to and from the Masjid? What about soccer, cricket, tennis, basketball, gym? Everything after the Maktab. Most of them are businesspeople, so their children also work in their shops. But most South Africans pray at least one Salah in the Masjid. They have some magnificent Madrassas, but the backbone of their Islamic education is the Maktab. That is the guard, the fortress, which protected them for 300 years from the evil influences of society. And preserved both Islam and their culture. Today you see South Africans in all kinds of highly complex and powerful professional positions, but you also see their confident adherence to the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ. They look like Muslims. They practice Islam with total confidence. And they work for the good of society in many ways.
Allahﷻ’s law of success is that success comes to anyone who makes intelligent effort, consistently over time. Let us ask if we want to be successful or not. Then see if we are making intelligent effort, consistently.
Let us reflect and become aware of what the word of Allahﷻ is doing to us internally and in our lives. Ensure that we follow the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ joyfully and confidently and make it our identity and signature. And focus on our lifegoal and work intelligently and consistently. That is why Allahﷻ taught us to ask for the Path – Path of Steadfastness. If you are process focused, focused on the path, then not only is the goal assured but you will reach the goal in the right way. This is very important because in the Sight of Allahﷻ, both the means and the goal, the path and the destination are equally important. If you focus on the goal forgetting the path, then it is possible that you may achieve the goal in ways that are dishonorable, exploitative, and even illegal. But if you focus on acting right, on being honorable, charitable, forgiving, humble, and working with integrity as your inalienable, non-negotiable differentiator, then you will not only succeed spectacularly but you will leave a legacy of honor. That is how Alphonse de Lamartine, History of Turkey said, “If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad?”