From Moses to Malcolm – Islam in America, A Khutbah

Moses was the adopted son of Egypt and Pharaoh. Malcolm too was an adopted son of sorts. Both spoke truth to power. There are many figures of justice throughout the Qur’an and in Muslim history: Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Dhu’l Qarnayn, Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, Umar bin al-Khattab, Nana Asmau, Muhammad ‘Ali, and El Hajj Malcolm Shabbaz, just to name a few.

One of the issues that challenge religious communities in America as it relates to relevance and speaking truth to power is the privatization of religion (secularity/post-secularity). In this process of privatization, I feel we have taken the story, life and today, anniversary of the death of Malcolm Shabbaz, from the perspective of privatized religion. So the question is:

Do we celebrate Malcolm’s “coolness” or do we actually intimately relate to the issues he sought to address?

What did he stand for? Do we really love Malcolm, or have we used his story and history as a repository to write our own, for as God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم tells us, love has conditions:

قَالَ رَجُلٌ لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لأُحِبُّكَ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ انْظُرْ مَاذَا تَقُولُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لأُحِبُّكَ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ انْظُرْ مَاذَا تَقُولُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لأُحِبُّكَ ‏.‏ ثَلاَثَ مَرَّاتٍ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ إِنْ كُنْتَ تُحِبُّنِي فَأَعِدَّ لِلْفَقْرِ تِجْفَافًا فَإِنَّ الْفَقْرَ أَسْرَعُ إِلَى مَنْ يُحِبُّنِي مِنَ السَّيْلِ إِلَى مُنْتَهَاهُ

A man said to the Prophet (s.a.w): “O’ Messenger of God, I swear to God that I  truly love you!” So the Prophet said: “Consider what you’re saying.” To this the man replied, “I swear to God that I  truly love you!” Three times this was repeated. He said, “If you do indeed love me, then prepare yourself for poverty, for indeed poverty comes faster upon whoever loves me than does the flood to its destination.” — Jami’ al-Tirmidhi, 2350.

While this hadith is rated as weak it does show that standing up for the truth, for la ilahi illa’Allah, will not come without its trials and tests. This was abundantly clear in the life of Malcolm, how ultimately paid for justice with his life, may God have mercy on him.

Another parallel between Malcolm’s life and the Qur’an is the story of Abraham and his people:

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ رُشْدَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا بِهِ عَالِمِينَ

إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ مَا هَٰذِهِ التَّمَاثِيلُ الَّتِي أَنْتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ

قَالُوا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا لَهَا عَابِدِينَ

قَالَ لَقَدْ كُنْتُمْ أَنْتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ

قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا بِالْحَقِّ أَمْ أَنْتَ مِنَ اللَّاعِبِينَ

قَالَ بَلْ رَبُّكُمْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الَّذِي فَطَرَهُنَّ وَأَنَا عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكُمْ مِنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ

“We gave Ibrahim his right guidance early on, and We had complete knowledge of him. When he said to his father and his people, ‘What are these statues you are clinging to?’ they said, ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ He said, ‘You and your fathers are clearly misguided.’ They said, ‘Have you brought us the truth or are you playing games?’ He said, ‘Far from it! Your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He who brought them into being. I am one of those who bear witness to that.” Qur’an, 21: 51-57.

It took a look of courage for Abraham to address his people on what they were wrongly “clutching on to”. Likewise, Malcolm addressed America, as one of its own, that they too were clutching on to the system of anti-black racism and violence, a system much akin to idolatry, for no other reason than they “found their forefathers doing so”.

This and more is addressed in the khutbah. I pray we can reflect, change and benefit from the examples of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, Moses, Jesus, Abraham and even the likes of our brother, Malcolm.

And with God is all success.

Nafs Lawwamah – A Khutbah

God the Exalted, in two short verses, ties the fate of humanity to “a day” and the means to salvation on that day by swearing by them both:

لَا أُقْسِمُ بِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ – وَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ

There is, by God’s oath, no doubt as to the truth of the Day of Judgment as well as the kind of soul that will find clemency there. The self-reproaching soul (نفس لوامة). As many commentators have pointed out, the term lawwamah (لوّامة) is an inflection that gives the sense of one who does such an action habitually that it comes to define that person. For example, the word for blacksmith, haddad (حدّاد) is also derived from this same form, giving the meaning that one who works with iron (hadid – حديد) to such an extent that that person becomes defined by that action. Similarly, the nafs lawwamah is that soul which calls itself into account with such frequency that God the Exalted defines that soul by this action and swears by it. Similarly, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, in his Tafsir al-Kabir, explains this term:

أنها هي النفوس الشريفة التي لا تزال تلوم نفسها وإن اجتهدت في الطاعة وعن الحسن

“It (nafs lawwamah) is that noble soul which does not refrain from rebuking itself and thus strives in obedience and doing good.”

Similarly, al-Mahalli and his student, Imam al-Suyuti, may God have mercy on them both, state something similar:

النفس اللوامة التي تلوم نفسها وإن اجتهدت في الإحسان

“The nafs lawwamah is that which criticizes itself and strives for perfection (ihsan).

It should be noted that this form of self-criticism is not criticism for the sake of criticism nor is it to be taken to extreme lengths. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم admonished his Community against inveighing against oneself to extremes:

لاَ يَقُلْ أَحَدُكُمْ خَبُثَتْ نَفْسِي ‏.‏ وَلْيَقُلْ لَقِسَتْ نَفْسِي

“None of you should say, ‘my soul has become evil or tainted’, but rather one should say my soul has become covetous.”Sahih Muslim.

At any rate, we can see a strong connection between the Day of Judgment and the self-criticizing soul. We are warned against taking this to the extreme. And lastly, I leave some words for contemplation, advice, from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم on how we might develop the habit of reproaching ourselves:

الكيسُ منْ دانَ نفسَهُ، و عملَ لمَا بعدَ الموتِ، و العاجزُ منْ أَتْبَعَ نفسَهُ هواهَا، و تمنَّى على اللهِ الأمانيَّ

“The intelligent person is the one who indicts his own soul and works for what comes after death while the imbecile is he that, having fallen under the authority of his passions, asks God for frivolities.”Tirmidhi amongst others.

Listen to the khutbah here.

Status Quo – A Khutbah

Islam is more than a religion. According to Cicero, religion comes from “relegere” or “to go through again/read again.” From “re” + “legere”.

But Islam is a way of life, a way of living your life, of seeing, of acting, all tied together. It can even be classified as civilizational, though this can sometimes be problematic when certain groups or races of people are seen to be indistinguishable with that civilization.

This way of life touches on every aspect of human existence: the personal, the public, the private; even the political. But in today’s world, where so much emphasis is placed on the political, Muslims have often lost sight of where in the grand scheme of things does politics fit. What about our principles? What happened to that simple piety of “doing the right thing”? We cannot wait-list our morals and principles until we achieve certain (perceived) political goals. What if we do not have the capacity to do so? Being Muslim isn’t always about what you’d like to be able to do but about what you ought to do with what you’re given.

إنكم في زمان من ترك منكم عشر ما أمر به هلك ثم يأتي زمان من عمل منهم بعشر ما أمر به نجا

“You live in a time that one will be destroyed if he does not fulfill a 10th of what he has been commanded to do. Then there will come a time when fulfilling a 10th of what you have been commanded will be salvation.” al-Tirmidhi, hasan.

Getting our community back to basics: morality, compassion, God-fearing and God-consciousness (warning people):

فَإِنْ أَعْرَضُوا فَقُلْ أَنْذَرْتُكُمْ صَاعِقَةً مِثْلَ صَاعِقَةِ عَادٍ وَثَمُود

Qur’an, Fussilat, 41: 13.

Even out theology connects belief in God to feeding poor people. This is not contingent upon any political aspirations:

إِنَّهُ كَانَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ الْعَظِيمِ – وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

Qur’an, al-Haqqah, 69: 32-33.

Current state of heedlessness: we are only jolted awake and into action when there’s a crisis. We live from crisis to crisis:

مَثَلُهُمْ كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي اسْتَوْقَدَ نَارًا فَلَمَّا أَضَاءَتْ مَا حَوْلَهُ ذَهَبَ اللَّهُ بِنُورِهِمْ وَتَرَكَهُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتٍ لَا يُبْصِرُونَ – صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَرْجِعُونَ – أَوْ كَصَيِّبٍ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فِيهِ ظُلُمَاتٌ وَرَعْدٌ وَبَرْقٌ يَجْعَلُونَ أَصَابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِمْ مِنَ الصَّوَاعِقِ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ مُحِيطٌ بِالْكَافِرِينَ – يَكَادُ الْبَرْقُ يَخْطَفُ أَبْصَارَهُمْ ۖ كُلَّمَا أَضَاءَ لَهُمْ مَشَوْا فِيهِ وَإِذَا أَظْلَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ قَامُوا ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2: 17-18.

We don’t read the Qur’an with a sense of fear and awe. We think these “stories” are about “other people”. Why would Allah inform us of what they did wrong if not then to warn us to avoid the same pitfalls?

Are we committed to delivering Allah’s message and to doing good works? Or are we here just to enjoy this life? But then suddenly we find ourselves victims of this heedlessness as well:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

Qur’an, al-Ankabut, 29: 2.

إن قامت الساعة وفي يد أحدكم فسيلة فإن استطاع أن لا تقوم حتى يغرسها فليغرسها

al-Adab al-Mufrad, sahih.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

It is inevitable that during the “holidays”, even the ones that I don’t celebrate, that I often think about my family. Sadly, I did not get a chance to visit my parents but I was reminded last night of two things: 1) a “du’ah” my mother taught me as a young child (my mother would sing “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” every night as a child and then we’d say our prayers and go to sleep) and 2) the du’ah the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم teaches before bed time. It was a really nice bringing together of something from my past and having it coincide with Islam, my chosen religion (as the Qur’an says, نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَأَنْزَلَ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنْجِيلَ/”[God] has sent down the Book to you with truth, confirming what was there before it. And He sent down the Torah and the Gospel.”1)

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لَهُ ‏”‏ أَلاَ أُعَلِّمُكَ كَلِمَاتٍ تَقُولُهَا إِذَا أَوَيْتَ إِلَى فِرَاشِكَ فَإِنْ مُتَّ مِنْ لَيْلَتِكَ مُتَّ عَلَى الْفِطْرَةِ وَإِنْ أَصْبَحْتَ أَصْبَحْتَ وَقَدْ أَصَبْتَ خَيْرًا تَقُولُ اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْلَمْتُ نَفْسِي إِلَيْكَ وَوَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِي إِلَيْكَ وَفَوَّضْتُ أَمْرِي إِلَيْكَ رَغْبَةً وَرَهْبَةً إِلَيْكَ وَأَلْجَأْتُ ظَهْرِي إِلَيْكَ لاَ مَلْجَأَ وَلاَ مَنْجَا مِنْكَ إِلاَّ إِلَيْكَ آمَنْتُ بِكِتَابِكَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلْتَ وَبِنَبِيِّكَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلْتَ

Prophet said to him: “Should I not teach you some words to say when you go to your bed, so if you died, you will die upon the Fitrah, and if you reach the morning, you will reach it in good? You say: ‘O Allah, verily, I submit myself to You, and I turn my face to You, and I entrust my affair to You, hoping in Your and fearing in You. And I lay myself down depending upon You, there is no refuge [nor escape] from You except to You. I believe in Your Book which You have revealed, and in Your Prophet whom You have sent.”

Transliteration of the du’ah: (Allahumma Inni Aslamtu Nafsi Ilaika Wa Wajjahtu Wajhi Ilaika, Wa Fawwadtu Amri Ilaika, Raghbatan Wa Rahbatan Ilaika Wa Alja’tu Zahri Ilaika, La Malja [Wa La Manja] Minka Illa Ilaik. Amantu Bikitabikal-ladhi Anzalta Wa Binabiyyikal-ladhi Arsalt)

The hadith can be found in numerous locations, quoting here from al-Bara’ bin ‘Azib. Collected in al-Tirmidhi (sahih). I look forward to teaching my daughter both of them.

1. Qur’an, Al ‘Imran (3), verse 3.

Humility Amidst Chaos – A Khutbah

What is the mindset of the Prophet? How can we practice his Sunnah without really trying to get into his habit, his wont, his behavior? How can we cultivate his Sunnah into actions? We have to create the environment to doing good deeds, having a good state of mind. A good place to start is to look at the supplications/دعاء of the Prophet and why would he make such supplications?

عن عبد الله بن عمرو أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يكثر أن يدعوا اللهم إني أسئلك الصحة والعفة والأمانة وحسن الخلق والرضا بالقدر

“O’ Allah!, I ask you for health, sexual morality, integrity, good character and satisfaction with what you measure out.” – related by al-Nisa’i.

Why would a man who is married ask for sexual morality? There’s the idea in today’s culture that once you’re married, it’s “game over.” Or that once you’re married, you no longer have to worry about that issue.

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ خَيْرُ أُمَّتِي قَرْنِي ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ قَالَ عِمْرَانُ فَلَا أَدْرِي أَذَكَرَ بَعْدَ قَرْنِهِ قَرْنَيْنِ أَوْ ثَلَاثًا ثُمَّ إِنَّ بَعْدَكُمْ قَوْمًا يَشْهَدُونَ وَلَا يُسْتَشْهَدُونَ وَيَخُونُونَ وَلَا يُؤْتَمَنُونَ وَيَنْذُرُونَ وَلَا يَفُونَ وَيَظْهَرُ فِيهِمْ السِّمَنُ

“The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, ‘The best of you, are my contemporaries, then those who follow them, then those who will come after them. (‘Imran said, I do not know if he said this twice or thrice). Then, they will be followed by those who will testify but will not be called upon to testify; they will betray the trust, and will not be trusted. They will make vows but will not fulfill them, and obesity will prevail among them‘.” al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad, and Ibn Hibban amongst others.

It can be no coincidence that some 1400 years ago the Prophet saw a connection between obesity and bad behavior. And while this should not infer that a skinny person is automatically more pious, it does address the problem when it (the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was addressing a group of people: ويظهر فيهم السمن) becomes a social issue, not simply the misgivings of a few individuals. How often do we hear today of so many behavior issues amongst children, indeed even adults, and we see that obesity is rampant. Yet seldom is this the Islam that is presented to the public.

وَأَحْسِن كَمَآ أَحْسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ

“And do good as God has done good unto you!” Qur’an, 28: 77.

What may be the biggest inhibitor is the lack of humility amongst the Muslims ourselves; there can be no achievement of the Sunnah without modesty, humility. Ibn ‘Ata Allah wrote:

لا يدخل عليك الإهمال إلا باهمالك عن متابعة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم, ولا تحصل لك الرفعة عند الله تعالى إلا بمتابعة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم

“Neglect will find no way to you except through your own negligence in following the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. And you will not be elevated in the sight of God except by following the example of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.” Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah, The Bride-Groom’s Crown/Taj al-Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus.

حدثنا أبو مسعود عقبة قال: قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إن مما أدرك الناس من كلام النبوة إذا لم تستحي فاصنع ما شئت

Additionally, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said concerning humility:

“Abu Mas’ud ‘Uqbah said that the Prophet [s] related that from what came to the people from the Prophets before is that if you have no humility then do as you please.”

Not only is this a condemnation, it is also an explanation and when the Prophet is explaining something to us, it’s for our benefit. People find no use for religion but from this statement, we can see that so much of what Allah has been trying to give people is to be humble, to be chaste, to be healthy, to be people who are trustworthy and are satisfied with what Allah measures out for them.

الإيمن بضع وستون أو سبعون شعبةً أفضلها لا إله إلا الله وأدناها إماطة الأذى عن الطريق والحياء شعبة من الإيمن

“Faith is comprised of some sixty or seventy branches, the best of which is the testimony of ‘there is no deity but the one true God’ while the lowest form of this faith is removing something harmful from the path; Humility is a branch of faith.” Sunan Abu Dawud.

Perhaps if Jeffrey Johnson had had more humility, had had more faith, had known that his need, his du’ah would be answered, that God would provide for him, then perhaps no one would have to have been shot or killed.

يستجاب لأحدكم مالم يعجل, يقول: دعوت فلم يستجب لي

“The supplication of each and every one of you will be responded to so long as you are not hasty, saying ‘I called upon you but I was not answered’.”