#MiddleGroundPodcast – Those Who Have No Hope In Meeting Us

A short excerpt from Fajr Club, a weekly event/class at Middle Ground on the weekends. Here, I discuss a segment from the tenth chapter of the Qur’an, Surah Yunus.

إِنَّ الَّذينَ لا يَرجونَ لِقاءَنا وَرَضوا بِالحَياةِ الدُّنيا وَاطمَأَنّوا بِها وَالَّذينَ هُم عَن آياتِنا غافِلونَ أُولٰئِكَ مَأواهُمُ النّارُ بِما كانوا يَكسِبونَ

“As for those who do not expect to meet Us and are content with the life of the dunya/wordly life and at rest in it, and those who are heedless of Our Signs their shelter will be the Fire because of what they earned.”Qur’an, 10: 7

#MiddleGroundPodcast – Contentment With the World is the Enemy of Success


[Direct download]

إِنَّ الَّذينَ لا يَرجونَ لِقاءَنا وَرَضوا بِالحَياةِ الدُّنيا وَاطمَأَنّوا بِها وَالَّذينَ هُم عَن آياتِنا غافِلونَ

أُولٰئِكَ مَأواهُمُ النّارُ بِما كانوا يَكسِبونَ

“Those who don’t look forward to their meeting with Us, who are satisfied with the life of this world and who disregard Our Signs (verses) they’re going to have their home in the Fire on account of what they’ve earned for themselves.”Qur’an, 10: 7-8

قال الحسن: والله ما زينوها ولا رفعوها ، حتى رضوا بها وهم غافلون عن آيات الله الكونية فلا يتفكرون فيها والشرعية فلا يأتمرون بها

Ibn Kathir relates in his Tafsir: “They adorned this life and praised it until they became completely satisfied with it.  They were unconcerned with God’s signs in the universe, nor did they ponder over them.  They were also unconcerned with God’s commandments, nor did they adhere to them.  Their resting place on the Day of Resurrection will be in the Fire; that’s their reward for what they earned in their worldly lives through all their sins and crimes, and that’s in addition to their rejection of God, His Messenger and the Last Day.” — Hasan al-Basri

Never Being Satisfied With One’s Character

من قرأ القرآنَ فقد استدرج النُّبوَّةَ بين جنبَيْه غيرَ أنَّه لا يُوحَى إليه لا ينبغي لصاحبِ القرآنِ أن يجِدَّ مع من وجَدٍّ ولا يجهلَ مع من جهِل وفي جوفهِ كلامُ الله تعالى

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr:

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever recites the Qur’an, they have approached prophethood, the only difference being they do not receive Divine Inspiration. It is not appropriate for the Companion of the Qur’an to act hastily with a hasty person nor be ignorant with an ignorant person while having the Word of God in his breast”. — al-Mundhiri, al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ

اغْتَنِمْ خَمْسًا قَبْلَ خَمْسٍ شَبَابَكَ قَبْلَ هَرَمِكَ وَصِحَّتَكَ قَبْلَ سَقَمِكَ وَغِنَاكَ قَبْلَ فَقْرِكَ وَفَرَاغَكَ قَبْلَ شُغُلِكَ وَحَيَاتَكَ قَبْلَ مَوْتِكَ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Take advantage of five things before another five are taken from you: [1] youth before old age; [2] health before sickness; [3] wealth before poverty; [4] free time before becoming busy; and [5] life before death”. — Narrated by ’Abdullah bin ’Abbas in al-Bayhaqi’s Shu’ab al-Iman

Satisfaction With The Creator vs. Created Things

إِنَّ الَّذينَ آمَنوا وَعَمِلُوا الصّالِحاتِ أُولٰئِكَ هُم خَيرُ البَرِيَّةِ

جَزاؤُهُم عِندَ رَبِّهِم جَنّاتُ عَدنٍ تَجري مِن تَحتِهَا الأَنهارُ خالِدينَ فيها أَبَدًا ۖ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنهُم وَرَضوا عَنهُ ۚ ذٰلِكَ لِمَن خَشِيَ رَبَّهُ

“However, those who believe and do what’s morally right are the best of creatures.Their reward lies with their Lord: everlasting gardens beneath which rivers flow — and there they shall remain — God well pleased with them and they with Him.  This is what’s in store for the one who adored his Lord.”Qur’an, 98: 7-8

 

Your Relationship with Allah Cannot Be Separated From Your Worship of Him – A Middle Ground Khutbah


[Direct download]

Your relationship with Allah cannot be separated from your worship of Him. For you have had a relationship with your Creator, your Lord, for a very, very long time.

Am I not your Lord?

وَإِذ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَني آدَمَ مِن ظُهورِهِم ذُرِّيَّتَهُم وَأَشهَدَهُم عَلىٰ أَنفُسِهِم أَلَستُ بِرَبِّكُم ۖ قالوا بَلىٰ ۛ شَهِدنا ۛ أَن تَقولوا يَومَ القِيامَةِ إِنّا كُنّا عَن هٰذا غافِلينَ

“When your Lord took out all their descendants from the loins of the children of Adam and made them testify against themselves ‘Am I not your Lord?’ they said, ‘We testify that indeed You are!’ Lest you say on the Day of Rising, ‘We knew nothing of this’.” Qur’an, 7: 172

This is the issue of putting too much stock in identity and not enough in substance. When your relationship with Allah is based solely on your experience as a physical body in the here-and-now (hayāt al-dunia) and not balanced with not just the concerns of the Life To Come, but its reality, then one will consistently be riddled with disappointments and doubts.

Islam, as a way of being and living, certainly includes using one’s mind, it should not be confused for being a religion of intellectualism. When one feels overwhelmed, go back to a point of simplicity and sincerity.

ذكر عبد الله بن بسر أن رجلا قال إن شرائع الإيمان قد كثرت علي فأخبرني بشيء أتشبث به قال لا يزال لسانك رطبا من ذكر الله تعالى

‘Abdullah bin Busr mentioned that a man said to the Prophet ﷺ ‘O Messenger of God, the rules and regulations regarding faith are too numerous for me so inform me of something I can hold on to’. The Prophet replied ﷺ ‘Never allow your tongue to cease being moist in the remembrance of God the Exalted’.” — Related by al-Tirmidhi in al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib

“In the original American populistic dream, the omnicompetence of the common man was fundamental and indispensable. It was believed that he could, without much special preparation, pursue the professions and run the government. Today he knows that he cannot even make his breakfast without using devices, more or less mysterious to him, which expertise has put at his disposal; and when he sits down to breakfast and looks at his morning newspaper, he reads about a whole range of vital and intricate issues and acknowledges, if he is candid with himself, that he has not acquired competence to judge most of them.”Tom Nichols, How America Lost Faith in Expertise.

How To Be Powerless and Live Well

Over the past several years I have been contacted by a number of Muslims who’ve confided in me about various issues they struggle with. One of these challenges is the notion of power. They revealed that they often feel powerless in various situations, or even in life in general, and thus experience an array of emotions, chief amongst them, depression. I confided that I too struggle with the very same difficulties and thought in light of not being able to provide any definitive solutions, I would at least share some reflections on the topic.

There is nothing more awesome than God. The power, might, subtlety and grace by which The Creator subdues, bestows, withholds and encompasses is breathtaking. And while this can be very emotionally uplifting when it takes the form of a sunrise or the birth of one’s child, it can also be vexing and even crushing when it takes the form of frustrations in our lives, be it a stagnant career, a failing marriage, or even doubts concerning faith itself. In an attempt to cope with my own powerlessness in the face of the Almighty, I needed to revisit some critical notions of what Islam is founded on: submission, the limits of human reason, forbearance, steadfastness, and personal honesty to name a few. Slowly, perhaps even reluctantly, I have seen the writing on the wall of the fallacy of my own power as a human being. That ultimately I am asked to make choices, and as to whether those choice can be realized in ways that will be pleasing to myself, lay, if not outside my sphere of influence, certainly outside my sphere of total control. And thus, in a manner of speaking, this life, this Dunya, is akin to a long funeral procession, mourning the passing of my deluded notions of self-control. Let us look to the meanings of mourning to help us grasp this concept:

To mourn: to feel regret, sadness. From the Old English, murnan: to be anxious about something; to be careful or cautious. In Arabic this is know as الندم.

In essence, I have had to learn (and am still learning!) to mourn my lack of power; mourn my lack of total control. As I continue to journey through this Dunya, I struggle to mourn the illusions of a power I never truly had to begin with. I strive to overcome the grief of having no power and to ultimately, with God’s blessings and mercy, move beyond it. What is important here is to know first and foremost, especially for those who are seekers and givers of advice, is to know that everyone has a different period of time to mourn. Some of us are more (spiritually) mature than others. We have varying degrees of attachment to the illusions of life and thus, we must be patient with ourselves and certainly with those around us as they struggle to bring this reality to certitude in our respective lives. But to be plainly honest, the sooner I (we!) can put my (our!) grief (i.e., lack of control!) behind myself (ourselves!), the sooner I (we!) can attempt to lead a happier life.

Be wary of grief, though. Just as is the case for a loved one who has departed ahead of us, if we do not learn the coping skills for that grief, it can cripple us, leading to anger, self-hatred and loathing and even worse, loss of faith. So I keep this in mind, for myself, and for those who seek counsel: for those who are unable to move beyond their grief, they become prisoners of their own making. Unlike conventional prisoners, such people can neither jail brake nor emancipated by any normal human means. Simply put, there is no way around their sentencing. Either they serve their time, dealing with their powerlessness (grief!) and acceptance of God’s might so they might move on to healthier pastures, or they are likely to be condemned to life in a prison of their own making.

I pray and ask God Almighty to protect us and our families and to enfold us in His mercy and to allow us to take consolation in the knowledge that there really is “no might or power but save with God”. Amin.

وَلَوْلَا إِذْ دَخَلْتَ جَنَّتَكَ قُلْتَ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ

“Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say, ‘It is as God wills. There is no strength but in God’?” Qur’an, 18: 39.

Keepin’ It One Hunned

I want to keep it “one hunned”, as the young folks say today. Young Muslims — and here I mean The Next Wave (second generation immigrant, Blackamerican Muslims, converts), whine and moan and groan about the State of the Ummah, yet have not sacrificed even a modicum in comparison to their folk’s generation (or their grandparents in some cases). All the while, especially inner city Muslim communities, wallow in urban blight and decay. As a Blackamerican Muslim, I have been frustrated by my treatment in the broader (immigrant) Muslim community but that is only half the story. In truth I have also experienced incredible kindness and generosity often outstripping what I have experienced at the hands of my own Blackamerican Muslim counterparts. All too often now, we Blackamerican Muslims scoff at our immigrant brothers and sisters (I say “we” because I myself have been a part of this) about how they came here for “Dunya” (worldly means). In my opinion, this has been a very short-sited explanation of how Allah, the Majestic!, moves people around as well as some measure of hasad (envy) on our parts to be sure. As the Book says, “they have a plan, and I have a plan”. Indeed, some immigrant Muslims did come here for worldly gain (which is not in and of itself blameworthy) but they also helped to establish Muslim communities. Communities many of us have benefited from day one. I cringe to think of where we would even pray (in the streets?) if it were not for the establishment of many of these communities. Were they perfect? No. Should they have done things differently? Certainly. However, if we look at their histories, and had we lived those same histories, we might, (ironically) have done the same things they did!

What we need now is not another documentary about the State of the Ummah, but a way forward that benefits the maximum amount of people. This will mean starting small, verses attempting to build mega-mosques. In fact, some of the most successful organizations we see in front us today, from AlMaghrib Institute, to Zaytuna, to Ta’leef, for example, all started as small organizations often held together by nothing other than the close bonds of Muslims who, in addition to believing in God, believed in one another. This is why I want to present the following rubric as a way, a suggestion, for small groups of disenfranchised believers to channel that frustration into action.

A Way Forward

Community-Budget

I have laid out in the above image a rubric which demonstrates the amount of capital that can be raised by groups of various sizes and capacities to contribute to a central fund. As you can see, even a group as small as ten people — at four to five dollars a day — could rent a location allowing them create their own spaces (see Dr. Jackson’s definition of third spaces) for their own uses. The numbers obviously grow as does the number of participants. The reason I find this rubric informative is that it illustrates that great numbers of people are not needed to effect change, or at the very least, start. Instead, it is a matter of determination and trust that allows small but efficient groups to grow and be successful.

At first blush this may seem divisive: a call to split the community and fracture its unity. I would counter that there a number of Muslims who equally pollinate between AlMaghrib, Zaytuna, and Ta’leef, just to mention a few. But what is great about these institutions is that they all serve different demographics; no single one serves the entire community. Smaller local homegrown organizations are much more adaptable and scalable to meet the needs of local communities.

In summary, and to return to my initial critique, this generation of Muslims will need to rise up, not only to face the challenges that are in front of them, but rise up and give thanks for what came before them. In this I equally indict myself. We’ve all been the benefactors of communities and mosques built by those who came before us all the while contributing very little of nothing at all. And in particular, to my fellow Blackamerican Muslims, we truly have no excuse as to why we are not community builders. It is for no other reason than we have conflated cynicism and our protest spirit with pietistic indifference. Most of us have no qualms with giving Mr. Comcast and Mrs. Verizon $100 — $200 dollars a month, Mr. Dunkin Donuts $30 — $50 a month, all the while crying and complaining about materialistic immigrant Muslims and their racist communities, simultaneously refusing to donate to causes that have a black face on them. Our success (and Allah!) will demand a much higher level of engagement that we have thus far been willing to give.

The time is upon us to build. I continue to be astounded at the inability for Muslims in America and American Muslims (there’s a difference) to see providence in our being here. Nowhere else in Muslim history have we seen the meeting of two auspicious histories converging on the same spot: the emigration of large numbers of Muslims from the historic Muslim world to America at the same time the single largest mass-conversion to Islam in the western hemisphere (may God have mercy on Imam Warith Deen Mohammed!). Both of these events unfolding as America’s traditional religious and moral values begin to waver and crumble. For what else is it that the Qur’an says about our Book (and vise-a-vie, ourselves):

وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيَّ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَمُبَشِّرًا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِي مِنْ بَعْدِي اسْمُهُ أَحْمَدُ

“And when ‘Isa son of Maryam said, ‘Tribe of Israel, I am the Messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah which came before me and giving you the good news of a Messenger after me whose name is Ahmad’.”Qur’an 61: 6.

Like Jesus the son of Mary (peace and blessings upon them both), who was sent as a reformer to the Tribe of Israel, so too is Islam: that which confirms which is true that came before it. America, by the mid-60’s, had forgotten what was morally true from its own tradition: sexual immorality, usury, crime and violence, etc. We must come to see our being here greater than some materialistic drive, but rather, as one’s ‘aqidah should confirm, part of God’s Divine Plan to remind and revive, not destroy and ridicule. Our mission here, indeed our very lives, should not about grabbing and acquiring political power (though we should have a political voice, a conversation for another time) but rather about reminding America about what is ultimately good (God, first and foremost) and what is right. I see this whole scenario unfolding before our eyes as perfect timing, only as God could do it!, that the one community that is supposed to be witnesses over humanity (just as our Messenger is a witness over us!) would be brought, through fantastic historic forces, to America just at the moment when things look dark.

So take a moment and reflect on these words. Find, God willing, if you can, ten like-minded people in your community, and plant the seeds for something good and wholesome to grow. Gone is the time for being unmosqued. Now is the time for re-mosqued, for asserting oneself, with all proper etiquette, and with a willingness to get one’s hands dirty, all fi sabil’Allah (in the way of God).