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.

Overcoming Historical Romanticism

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First Khutbah – Main Points

Opening from the Qur’ān:

يأيها الذين ءامنوا ادخلوا في السلم كافة ولا تتبعوا خطوات الشيطان
إنه لكم عدو مبين

“O’ you of faith!, enter into Islam completely and do not follow in the footsteps of Shaytan. He is a clear enemy of yours.” [Q: 2: 208]

I wish to continue our conversation about the enterprise of Islam in America, specifically focusing on the first part of the verse/āyah.  Many have understood the following āyah to refer to the rituals of Islam such as wudu’/ablution, prayer, fasting, and so forth.  And indeed it does.  Yet, with all cases in the Qur’ān, there is a deeper sentiment that Allah is coaching the Muslims to: one of responsible action.  To enter into Islam completely means to not only follow the outward aspects of what the Prophet did, such as trimming one’s nails or putting one’s right shoes on first, but also following the basīrah or vision of the Prophet.  To use a technical term: kulliyāt, its rough translation meaning “the big picture”. Never did the Prophet allow labels to do all of his talking, and more importantly, thinking, for him.  He mitigated the transition from pagan idolatry to tawhīd/monotheism but adhering to what was absolutely essential while also allowing room for dignity, humility and the evolutionary process that was present in all who took their shahādah/testimony of faith in his presence.

Presently, Muslims in many parts of the world are wrestling with a similar challenge – what’s quintessential and what’s incidental.  And in the process of determining what must stay and what might need to be altered is the call for creative minds to chart a course that will be conducive to a healthy Muslim experience [speaking primarily about Islam here in America].  But what is arresting the development of this process?  I will focus on just one issue that I have observed: history, and to be more specific a type of myopic, historical romanticism in which a few select people from certain geographic locations played imaginative roles in world history, played so well that the only hope we can have is to somehow go back to this bygone era and not simply emulate their performances but reenact them like a Civil War theme park.  We can dress up and talk like these noble, bygone people, but we never actually look to how they thought and behaved, and whether our collective energies and imaginations should be best spent on costume or on our futures.

But we are commanded to enter into it completely.

This can also be seen as a call and commandment of Allah, to the Muslims, to make Islam relevant to wherever you are.  I spoke of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah last time and again, I can think of no other event in the history of the Prophet’s mission that so eloquently outlines this as well as demonstrates how it gets done.

So how is Islam relevant? Continue reading “Overcoming Historical Romanticism”