The problem with our Da’awa

One of my friends, a rarity in that he reflects and asks good questions, asked me, Sh Yawar, how do we reinvigorate people’s love for the masjid and have it be a unified place for Muslims’ education? As Imam Mohamed al-Ghazali says in Egypt, the masjid is the heart of the Muslim community and the factory of champions. Despite the meager foundations and the small masajid back at the time of the Shahaba, we had champions who carried Islam around the world and left their thumb prints to this day.”

Lovely question. The answer is very simple. It is not love of the masjid or what happens there but love of Allahﷻ. Why do you go to a house? To meet the person who lives there, right? Unless you are going to a monument, a tomb, which is dead. You go to the house to meet the person who lives there. Think of someone who has a very beautiful house, and you go to meet him. But when you reach there, you discover that he is not home. What is your feeling? Are you disappointed? Or do you say, ‘No problem. He has a basketball hoop in the yard and a swimming pool, so let me shoot some hoops and jump into the pool. So, what if I couldn’t meet him?’ If you said that, what would anyone with any sense, tell you? That is why Allahﷻ ordered us: Fal Ya’abudu Rabba hadhal bayt. Heﷻ didn’t say, Fal Ya’abudu hadhal bayt. Worship the Rabbul Bayt. This is the problem with our Da’awa. We invite to the house. Not to Allahﷻ. That is why Allama Iqbal said:

Shouq tera agar na ho, mayri namaz ka imam. Mera qiyam bhi hijab, mera Sujood bhi hijab. (If Your love is not the imam of my Salah, my Qiyam is a cover, and my Sujood is also a cover). Let’s think about this in this month.

When people love Allahﷻ they are attracted to His Houses. Today people come to the masjid because they want to go to the gym or to play a game or because there is some fancy Shaikh who is speaking there or some activity. The masjid today is the alternative to MGM, a disco, or a Frat party. We even say this quite shamelessly. ‘Let them come to the masjid at least instead of going to the disco or bar. ‘That is why we must create something in the masjid that is a Halaal version of the disco to attract people. That is why when a lecture is detailed people get tired of listening and want to shorten it. But have you heard of anyone who wanted World Cup Football or Superbowl to be restricted to just 10 minutes? But we hear that all the time for every Khaatira or Bayan. If we loved Allahﷻ, we would realize that we are being rewarded for every second of our presence in the talk. Those Hasanaat will be on our scales on the Day of Judgment, where one single Hasana could mean the difference between Jannah and Jahannam. We would know that Allahﷻ is mentioning us by name on His Arsh. That the Malaika are present with us and will bear witness for us when we meet Allahﷻ and that Allahﷻ promised to forgive all those who are engaged in His Dhikr, even the passerby who stopped. Whereas the time we spend watching Superbowl etc. is AT BEST Mubah and much more likely to fall into Makrooh or even parts of it into Haraam. Especially if it leads to delaying or even missing Salah.

We must begin at the beginning which is to know and to love Allahﷻ over and above anyone and anything else. From that comes the love for His Rasool, Muhammadﷺ. If the heart is responsive to this, then the slave loves the masjid. As I mentioned, it is not what happens in the masjid. It is why you go there. If you go there for the activity then there is no difference between going to the masjid and going anywhere else. If you go to there to talk about Allahﷻ, to worship Him, to learn about Him, to connect to Him, to seek to please Him and to correct our lives so that they become more pleasing to Him, you won’t find standing place in the masjid, just like you don’t find standing place in Superbowl. I hate to make these comparisons but am forced to do it to help people to relate to the activities they do today.

It all boils down to what you see as your need. When we have a need, we don’t need an invitation. Nobody goes to the hospital because he likes the décor or because he was invited. He goes there because he has a need and knows that if he doesn’t go, he will suffer pain or die. People in our home countries stand in long lines on the pavement outside a US Embassy to get a Visitor visa. Nobody invited them. They must pay for it. Then they must buy a ticket and pay for the trip. But they are willing to do all that because they see it as their need. Do we see Jannah as our need? Or just as a nice-to-have thought? If we see it as our need, why do we need inducements and invitations to go to the House of Allahﷻ and ask Him to give us a visa to Jannah?

When you love someone that love is the inducement. You don’t need FF miles or loyalty points to go to meet them. You don’t look at your watch when you are listening to them. You don’t think of what else you could be doing, where else you could have been, whose company you are missing because you are with your beloved. Being with your beloved is your prize, your reward, your gain. You don’t need anything else. If your beloved said to you, ‘Thank you for coming. Here is $100 for your trouble.’ You wouldn’t take that money. I would feel insulted to be offered money to meet someone I love. The meeting itself is the reward. But to visit the House of Allahﷻ, we want rewards and inducements. While we are there, we are thinking of what we are missing and where else we could have been. All the rewards that Allahﷻ gives us without asking are not enough for us. We take them for granted. Maybe they don’t even register. Is this a sign of love? Do we love Allahﷻ? What will we say when Allahﷻ asks us if we truly loved Him? On that day it is not our smooth talking that will help us. Our hands and feet, our eyes and ears, our body will speak. And it will say what we made it do.

After all, didn’t we hear what Allahﷻ said:

فَٱذْكُرُونِىٓ أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَٱشْكُرُوا۟ لِى وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ

Baqara 2: 152   Therefore remember Me (Dhikr). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless Favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me.

What is the value of the fact that Allahﷻ said that He would mention us? Imagine that Allahﷻ is saying, ‘That is my slave Omar who is talking about me. That is my slave Zaid. Listen to him reciting my Kalaam.’ Rasoolullahﷺ said that Allahﷻ waits to listen to His slave recite His Kalaam and when the slave comes online, Allahﷻ draws the attention of His Muqarrabeen to the voice of His slave and mentions that slave by name. Do we believe what Rasoolullahﷺ told us? Have we not heard the Hadith about the gatherings for the Dhikr of Allahﷻ?

Anas ibn Malik (R) reported: Rasoolullah said, “No people gather to remember Allah, only desiring by that His countenance, except that it will be announced for them in the heavens: Stand forgiven! Your bad deeds have been replaced with good deeds!” [Musnad Aḥmad]

Abu Huraira (R) reported: Rasoolullah said, “No people gather to remember Allah  but the angels surround them, cover them with mercy, send tranquility upon them, and mention them to Allah among those near to Him.” [Muslim]

 I ask myself if I am aware of this when I am in such a gathering. If I am, then how can I get tired of being there? How can I want it to be shortened? How can I leave, except with a genuine sense of loss and tears in my eyes? All of us know the answers to these questions. I don’t ask them to get answers but to remind myself of what my focus should be. Remember, no matter how good a shot you may be, you will only hit what you aim at. You can’t aim at something in front of you and expect to hit something behind you. That is why we have the Hadith:

It is narrated on the authority of Ameer al-Mu’minin, Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (R), who said: I heard Rasoolullah say, “Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what he intended. Whoever migrates for Allah  and His Messenger , the migration will be for the sake of Allah  and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

Niyyah is not the only thing. Niyyah is everything. Without the right Niyyah, the action is wasted and may even be harmful. The root cause of all this is that we have lost the plot with respect to knowing Allahﷻ, of getting close to Him, of building a relationship with Him. Who is Allahﷻ?

There is a little bird called, Black-capped Chickadee. It is the state bird of Massachusetts. It is smaller than a sparrow and is a resident bird, which means that it doesn’t migrate South in the winter and lives through our brutal winters with temperatures sometimes 20 below. As I am writing this Khutba it is snowing and it is the second day with temperatures of 10-13 below. And as I look out of my window, what do I see? A Black-capped Chickadee taking a single seed of black oil sunflower from the feeder and flying off to eat it. Why only one seed? That is all she can hold in her beak. She flies at full speed, breaks in flight to land perfectly and gracefully like a snowflake on the feeding bar. Then she pokes her head into the feeder, picks a seed and flies off, again full speed. I always wonder at how she never crashes into the feeder because her airbrakes didn’t work. I marvel at the fact that Allahﷻ created this little miracle which lives through this winter and is unfazed by the snow or ice.

As I watch the snow fall, I remind myself of the research of Wilson ‘Snowflake’ Bentley (1865–1931) who over forty years, photographed thousands of individual snowflakes and perfected the innovative photomicrographic techniques, which proved that every snowflake is different in structure. I ask myself, ‘Why’?  What if Allahﷻ had created all snowflakes alike? Like an extrusion process where everything is exactly the same. Would be easier to do. Likewise why the variety in sunsets and sunrises, in birds, animals, insects, plants? Why the variety in people, their colors, temperaments, talents, including their ability to irritate others? Why the variety in our emotions, thoughts, and actions? Why the variety in languages, colors, shapes, textures, and sounds? And I have not even covered everything above the earth.

Let alone the entire alien world that exists beneath the waves of the oceans. And what to say about the skies? All that we can see and far more that we can’t see. I can go on forever and yet it will not end. Allahﷻ is the witness.

وَءَاتَىٰكُم مِّن كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِن تَعُدُّوا۟ نِعْمَتَ ٱللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَآ إِنَّ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ

Ibrahim 14: 34   And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them. Verily! Man is indeed an extreme wrong doer, a disbeliever.

Do we reflect on what Allahﷻ told us? Do we see how it applies to us? Ask, ‘Why?’ Always ask, ‘Why?’ Only then can we understand, the wisdom behind it.  I was at Baypath University last week and said to them, “Longmeadow, where we are now, has a land area of 9.7 sqm, say 10 Sq. miles. That is 35,200 acres. One inch of rain on one acre weighs 113 tons. Longmeadow has had 5.5 inches of rain this year. That is 3,977,600 tons of water. Think about this. All this water came in the form of individual drops or snowflakes. What if 3,977,600 tons of water had dropped from the sky from an average height of 10,000 feet in one colossal sheet? There would be no Longmeadow. How therefore should we thank Allahﷻ who not only sends us what we need, but sends it in a way that reflects His love and mercy?” Did we reflect on what Allahﷻ said:

هُوَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ ٱسْتَوَىٰٓ إِلَى ٱلسَّمَآءِ فَسَوَّىٰهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَـٰوَٰتٍ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

Baqara 2: 29   He it is Who created for you all that is on earth. Then He Istawa (rose over) towards the heaven and made them seven heavens and He is the All-Knower of everything.

Just think about this Ayah. Allahﷻ says, ‘He it is Who created FOR YOU, all that is on earth.’ Why? Ya Rabbi, why? For me? Why for me? We all know the answer. So that we can recognize Him and thank Him and worship Him. So that we can obey Him and follow the beautiful Sunnah of His Nabi. So that with this understanding we can illuminate our hearts with the Noor of His Glory and Majesty and drive out all the shadows and darkness of doubt, anxiety, depression, fear, and apprehension. So that we can love Him and thank Him as it is His right to be loved and thanked. But do we do that? That is what we must revive in our minds and hearts and lives. To reflect. That is the most important habit to inculcate. We owe it to ourselves to take time out simply to reflect. To sit without disturbance or distraction and reflect on the Glory and Magnificence of Allahﷻ. To read His Book and marvel at His Words. To look around at His creation and remind ourselves that He told us that He created it for us. And to remind ourselves that, no matter what, one day we must leave it all to meet Him. It is up to us how we want that day to be. We must create the circumstances for His Mercy and seek His Forgiveness. I ask Allahﷻ to enable us to do the deeds that will make that day, the best day of our lives.