The Honor of Slavehood (Uboodiyat) of Allahﷻ

To begin let me make dua for Shaikh Muhammad Metwalli al-Sha’rawi to whose inspiration I owe today’s Khutba. May Allahﷻ grant him the best of the best in Jannatul Firdous. What I find the most impressive and endearing about him is his love for Allahﷻ, his pride in being Abdullah, and his relationship with Allahﷻ which is visible in every word he speaks. I ask Allahﷻ for this for myself and all of you. I want to remind myself and you about the greatest honor that Allahﷻ bestowed upon us, the honor of being His slaves, his Ibaad. Why is that an honor? It is an honor because Allahﷻ said about the best of all creation, His beloved Messenger Muhammadﷺ:

سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَـٰتِنَآ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ

Isra 17: 1   Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (Makkah) to the farthest mosque (Al Aqsa), the neighborhood of which We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad) Our Ayat (signs). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.

Allahﷻ addressed Rasoolullahﷺ not as His Rasool, but as His Abd (slave). That is the highest of all honors that any human being can be given, which Allahﷻ gave to His beloved Messengerﷺ.

Umar bin Al-Khattab (R) narrated that Rasoolullah said: ‘Whoever performs Wudu’ and does it well, then says: “Ashhadu an la ilaha ill-Allah was ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasuluh (I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is his slave and Messenger),” eight gates of Jannah will be opened for him, and he may enter through whichever one he wishes.”

Let us thank Allahﷻ that He gave us the guidance to recognize that we are His Ibaad (slaves), to appreciate that honor, to thank Him for it and for keeping us in the Ummah of His beloved Messengerﷺ.

The best indicator of any relationship is the attention we give it. How focused are we when we are with that person? Do other thoughts and feelings distract us from the one we are with? When we are with someone we love, child, parent, spouse, anyone, we are totally engaged. We look into their eyes, we listen to them, nothing can distract us. Not even our phones. Our attention is an indicator, a metric of our love. It is really that simple. But what happens when we are with Allahﷻ? When we are in Salah? Let me tell you a true story. I quote from Benjamin Grundy’s tweet:  

“In September 2002, Tibetan monk Mingyur Rinpoche flew 18-hrs over 3 days to reach a brain imaging lab in Madison WI run by neuroscientist Richie Davidson. He was taken to the EEG room to have his brain waves measured during meditation. The resulting scans shocked everyone. The protocol had Mingyur alternate between 1 minute of meditation on compassion and 30 seconds of a neutral resting period. He would have to do this 4 times in rapid succession to ensure confidence in any effect measured. But the scientists had doubts that this would work. Davidson, a meditator himself, knew that it takes time to settle the mind, much longer than just a few minutes. Surely it would be impossible for Mingyur to enter these states so quickly. He would need to achieve an inner quiet almost instantaneously for the experiment to work. With all eyes on the EEG monitor, Mingyur began the meditation. Suddenly there was a huge burst of electrical activity on the display! All assumed he must have moved and tugged on the sensors, a mere artifact. But strangely, this electrical burst lasted exactly 60 seconds. Also strange, the giant spikes diminished but were still present during his 30 seconds resting period. It was clear that Mingyur had not moved at all. Everyone watched in silence as the experiment continued. As the next 60 second meditation period began, another huge electrical spike! This pattern repeated each time he was instructed to meditate on compassion. The team knew that they were witnessing something never seen before in a lab. But this was just the beginning. Mingyur was then run through a batch of tests with fMRI with the same protocol. During his 60 seconds meditation Mingyur’s brain circuitry for empathy rose to a level 800% greater than the rest period. Such an extreme increase with such rapidity was baffling. The closest resemblance to this kind of brain activity would be an epileptic seizure, but they are brief, not maintained for a full minute. The findings stunned the world of neuroscience. Mingyur returned to his home in Nepal and vanished. A few years earlier the monk had announced that he would be starting another meditation retreat. This isn’t your typical Western 10-day mediation spa. This is a minimum 3 years in a remote hermitage high in the mountains. During those 3 years nobody heard a word from him. Suddenly, in November 2015, after more than 4 years of no contact, Mingyur suddenly reappears at his monastery. Only a few months later he’s on a plane back to the lab in Wisconsin. With scans from 2002, 2010 and later in 2016, Davidson and his team discovered something remarkable about Mingyur’s brain. He’s in the 99th percentile compared to brains of people the same age. So, if you had 100 people, all 41 years old, he would have the “youngest” brain. Essentially his brain was aging much more slowly than the average person. Although he was 41, he had the brain of a 33-year-old! But Mingyur was only a single case and Davidson had lined up over a dozen more advanced meditators for scans. More data was needed. For the next decade engineer Antoine Lutz analyzed the data from Davidson’s scans and one day they stumbled upon a pattern hidden in the data. They found it in the baseline readings. All the monks and yogis had the same pattern of elevated gamma oscillations BEFORE any test. Gamma, the fastest brainwave, occurs during moments when regions of the brain are firing in harmony. Think moments of insight when everything just “clicks” or when the perfect flow state is achieved briefly for maximum performance. For most people these moments are brief, maybe a fraction of a second. But for the monks, these gamma moments of mental harmony are amplified and extended to incredible heights. On average they showed a 25x greater amplitude of gamma oscillations during baseline than the controls. In other words, this is a PERMANENT state of higher functioning. A state of higher awareness and harmony that continues throughout their daily lives, not just during meditation. This was a revolutionary moment. No brain lab had ever seen gamma oscillations that persist for longer that fractions of a second. Yet amazingly, they discovered these gamma patterns continued and even persisted while the monks were asleep! Ultimately Davidson and his team had discovered a hidden treasure, a brain transformed beyond the ordinary. Now imagine what is beyond the shallow grasp of the material science of the West. What else has been cultivated and grown in the minds and hearts of these men? As interesting as this story is I think the scientists miss the most important aspect of the monk’s practice: the MORAL component of Buddhism. It’s the changes they make in their hearts that facilitate the changes in their brains. i.e., their cultivation of compassion and kindness. ~ End of quote

Now obviously that doesn’t apply to the Buddhist monks of Myanmar and Sri Lanka. As always it is not the color of your skin or robes but the color of your heart that makes a difference.

Why did I tell you this story? To ask one question. If Davidson and his researchers come here and want to measure my brainwaves when I am in Salah, what are they going to find? And if I want to escape this intense embarrassment and humiliation by pointing to some A’alim, Sufi, Hafidh, or Qari and say, “Go measure his brainwaves. They will be superior to the Buddhist monk’s because in Salah we stand in the presence of Allahﷻ,” who should I name? Which Muslim do I know who can measure up? Even though Allahﷻ mentioned this specific metric as a distinguishing feature of a Mu’min (Allazeena hum fee Salaatihim khaashi’oon). My brothers and sisters, talk is easy. I know we tell the story of Ali bin Abi Talib (R) and the arrow that they extracted from his leg when he was in Salah. My question is, why do we have to go back 1400 years to find such a story? What is the good of a story that can’t be repeated? The Buddhist monk is not telling them to talk to Siddhartha Gautama. He says, “Talk to me. Be like me. Do like I do.” Tell me, who in our history used to say this? Once again, I must go into history to find them. That is our tragedy. We have lost connection with our Rabb.

How can we get it back? Allahﷻ is teaching us manners. He said:

وَإِذَا حُيِّيتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّوا۟ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَآ أَوْ رُدُّوهَآ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ حَسِيبًا

Nisa 4: 86   When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally. Certainly, Allah is Ever a Careful Account Taker of all things.

When we greet Allahﷻ by having Imaan in Him, He returns the greeting by handing us the key to being close to Him. It is in your hand. He said:

فَٱذْكُرُونِىٓ أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَٱشْكُرُوا۟ لِى وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ

Baqara 2: 152   Therefore remember Me (by praying, glorifying). I will remember you and be grateful to Me and never be ungrateful.

When you believe in Him, the key to being close to Him shifts over to you. He says, “Since you believe in Me, here is the key to being close to me. Take it.’ If you would like Me to remember you, remember Me. You want Me to help you – help Me (My Deen). But we must take the first step. We must show our eagerness to connect with our Rabb. His response is assured.

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِن تَنصُرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ

Muhammad 47: 7   O you who believe! If you help (in the cause of) Allah, He will help you, and make your foothold firm.

My brothers and sisters, let us learn to talk to Allahﷻ. No formality, no barriers. Allahﷻ didn’t set any. Tahajjud is the special time to talk to Him.

Abu Huraira (R) reported: Rasoolullah said, “Our Rabb Almighty descends to the lowest heaven in the last third of every night, saying: Who is calling upon Me that I may answer him? Who is asking from Me that I may give him? Who is seeking My forgiveness that I may forgive him?” (Sahih – Bukhari & Muslim – Muttafaqun Alayhi)

Don’t let this time pass without benefiting from it. And get your families involved in this, so that you can all benefit from Allahﷻ’s special mercy. Get the benefit of the dua of Rasoolullahﷺ for those who pray Tahajjud.

Abu Hurairah (R) reported that Rasoolullah said: ”May Allah have mercy upon a man who wakes up at night and prays and awakens his wife. If she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face. May Allah have mercy upon a woman who wakes up at night and prays and awakens her husband. If he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.” (Hasan – Ibn Majah)

Finally, the sign of special closeness with someone is the secrets that you share with them. Things that only that person knows about you and nobody else. You trust that person with knowledge about you that you don’t disclose to anyone else. Disclosure makes you vulnerable. So, it is unwise to disclose confidential information to someone who you can’t trust. Who is the one you can trust totally without any reservation because he already knows whatever you want to tell him and he is the only one who can change it for you, if you want it to be changed? He is Allahﷻ. So, ask yourself as the poet asked:

هَلْ لَكَ سِرٌّ عِندَ الله

بَيْنَكَ أَنْتَ وَ بَيْنَ الله

هَلْ لَكَ صَدَقَاتٌ تَخْفَی

لَا يَعْلَمُهَا إِلَّا الله

Do you have a secret with Allah? Between you and Allah?

Do you have hidden charity? That nobody knows about except Allah?

Create such assets. And when you need Allahﷻ’s help, I mean really need it in dire emergencies, invoke Allahﷻ by those deeds. As we know from the story of the three who were trapped in the cave and Allahﷻ freed them because of their hidden deeds that they had done only for Him, let us build our asset pool with Allahﷻ. This is real wealth which appreciates like nothing material can ever hope to do. This is the wealth that will go with us when we leave this world. Let us pledge our allegiance to Allahﷻ and renew our pledge to be His true, faithful slaves who can look for His Mercy on the Day when we meet Him.