How to Focus in a Time of Chaos – A Khutbah


[Direct download]

What is it that we are here to do?

Are we here to the activists?

Are we here to see affirmation and be validated by those who scorn us, and oppress us, and revile us?

Look to the Chapter of the Elephant:

قال عبد المطلب – إني أنا رب الإبل وإن للبيت ربا سيمنعه

[‘Abd al-Muttalib — the Prophet’s grandfather] said, “I am the lord of these camels and the House has a Lord and He will protect it.”

Allah says he sent Noah to warn his people:

إِنّا أَرسَلنا نوحًا إِلىٰ قَومِهِ أَن أَنذِر قَومَكَ مِن قَبلِ أَن يَأتِيَهُم عَذابٌ أَليمٌ
قالَ يا قَومِ إِنّي لَكُم نَذيرٌ مُبينٌ
أَنِ اعبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقوهُ وَأَطيعونِ

“We sent Noah to his people: ‘Warn your people before a painful punishment comes to them.’ He said, ‘My people, I am a clear warner to you. Worship Allah, have taqwa of Him and obey me’.” Qur’an, 71: 1-3

إِنَّما ذٰلِكُمُ الشَّيطانُ يُخَوِّفُ أَولِياءَهُ فَلا تَخافوهُم وَخافونِ إِن كُنتُم مُؤمِنينَ
وَلا يَحزُنكَ الَّذينَ يُسارِعونَ فِي الكُفرِ ۚ إِنَّهُم لَن يَضُرُّوا اللَّهَ شَيئًا ۗ يُريدُ اللَّهُ أَلّا يَجعَلَ لَهُم حَظًّا فِي الآخِرَةِ ۖ وَلَهُم عَذابٌ عَظيمٌ

“It was only Shaytan frightening you through his friends. But do not fear them – fear Me if you are muminun. Do not let those who rush headlong into kufr sadden you. They do not harm Allah in any way. Allah desires to assign no portion to them in the Next World. They will have a terrible punishment.” Qur’an, 3: 175-176

وَمِنَ النّاسِ مَن يَعبُدُ اللَّهَ عَلىٰ حَرفٍ ۖ فَإِن أَصابَهُ خَيرٌ اطمَأَنَّ بِهِ ۖ وَإِن أَصابَتهُ فِتنَةٌ انقَلَبَ عَلىٰ وَجهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنيا وَالآخِرَةَ ۚ ذٰلِكَ هُوَ الخُسرانُ المُبينُ يدعو مِن دونِ اللَّهِ ما لا يَضُرُّهُ وَما لا يَنفَعُهُ ۚ ذٰلِكَ هُوَ الضَّلالُ البَعيدُ

“Among the people there is one who worships Allah right on the edge. If good befalls him, he is content with it, but if a trial befalls him, he reverts to his former ways, losing both this world and the Next World. That is indeed sheer loss. Instead of Allah, he calls on something which cannot harm him or help him. That is extreme misguidance.” Qur’an, 22: 11-12

Ibn Juzayy’s Fifteen Merits of Piety (Taqwa)

The following audio is from the Friday khutbah at Middle Ground Muslim Center as well as the regular monthly program, The Text In Context. This Friday we discussed Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi’s Fifteen Merits of Piety (Taqwa) from his work, al-Tas’hil l’Ulum al-Tanzil (Making Easy The Knowledge of Revelation). See the khutbah for more extensive notes.


[Friday Khutbah — Direct download]


[The Text In Context — Direct download]

Ibn Juzayy’s fifteen merits of piety (taqwa):

  1. Guidance.
  2. Assistance.
  3. Guardianship.
  4. Love.
  5. Pardoning.
  6. Relief from anxiety (lit. “an exit from grief”).
  7. Provision supplied from where one does not expect it.
  8. Easing of affairs.
  9. Forgiveness of sins.
  10. Magnification of reward.
  11. Acceptance of good deeds.
  12. Prosperity.
  13. Good news.
  14. Entering Paradise.
  15. Salvation from The Fire.

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Khatm Reflections #1: Juz’ 24

It has been many months since I have posted anything on my site besides an occasional khutbah. The reason mainly being that so much of what I am inclined to speak about would have a negative bent (this years khutbah at the Eid al-‘Adha prayer is an example; I may still address it). Having been pushed somewhat reluctantly into a leadership position, I feel it’s important to stay positive even when so much of what you see wants to make you sigh and weep. So to combat that I have decided to offer up some reflections from my Qur’an reading circle, a khatm, where each of us reads a juz’/30th of the Qur’an every month. These reflections, I hope, are intended to be somewhere between anecdotal and aphoristic. They are not intended to be scholarly. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I (will) enjoy writing them, God willing.

بِسْمِ الله الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

“Who could do greater wrong than those who lie about God and deny the truth when it comes to them? Do the Rejectors not have a dwelling place in Hell?”

فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن كَذَبَ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ وَكَذَّبَ بِٱلصِّدْقِ إِذْ جَآءَهُۥٓ ۚ أَلَيْسَ فِى جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًۭى لِّلْكَٰفِرِينَ

“He who brings the truth and those who confirm it – those are the people who have taqwa.”

وَٱلَّذِى جَآءَ بِٱلصِّدْقِ وَصَدَّقَ بِهِۦٓ ۙ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْمُتَّقُونَ

Qur’an, 39: 32-33.

This reminds me here of the modern use of the word “kafir” by Muslims (and non-Muslims as well). It seems to have lost its lexical and contextual meaning (i.e., that of “rejecting” or “covering”, in this case revelation sent by God, and contextually it was sent to the same basic population: Arabs). Instead of referring to those who reject God’s Truth, kafir has now come to be a proxy word for western, white, Christian, non-Muslim. I wrote a piece on this last year entitled Mu’min and Kafir – Negotiating Shared Space, in which I quote Dr. Sherman Jackson saying:

“[The] dehumanized Post-Colonial Muslim, on the other hand, tends to objectify his target and view him as a thing to be conquered, dismantled, and controlled. In contradistinction to his premodern predecessors, he transforms the category “kafir” [i.e., “non-Muslim] into a reference to an almost subhuman species who is inherently and utterly different from Muslims, not only religiously but culturally, ethnically, and civilizationally as well” [Islam and the Blackamerican 94—see footnote #72 below]

I say all this because while kafir is misused, it has also created an opposite reaction: there aren’t any kafirs at all; no rejectors of God’s message. I have seen this expressed in a number of young and liberal—minded Muslims who, not faulting them necessarily, feel uncomfortable with the divisive use of the word: it’s too all-encompassing—have flocked to the other extreme to nullify any possible existence of a kafir existing at all (this reminds me of Günter Grass when he spoke of how many Germans feel uncomfortable speaking about their families’ involvement in Nazi-era Germany and hence the extermination of the Jews: everybody’s parents or grandparents were in the resistance). Clearly, from God’s own words, there are indeed people who do reject Revelation and that some of them will reside in hell. Like Sgt. Joe Friday says: “just the facts, ma’am.”

What I want to highlight here, or at least what stood out for me was the message in the second verse: “He who brings the truth and those who confirm it – those are the people who have taqwa (for a more in-depth definition of taqwa see the Glossary as well as this khutbah). (39: 33)”. I ask myself: “Self: did you bring the truth with you today when you went to work?” “Self: did you confirm the truth at home with your wife and daughter?” Facetiousness aside, my take away here is not so much what others reject, but what I confirm. I see this quandary manifested in the Muslim community (yes, particularly here in Philadelphia) where Muslims stand at-the-ready to protest society but they themselves do not bring the truth nor can it be seen to be confirmed in their families and communities (by the way, I include myself in “they”). It is typical for Muslims to squabble over theology (‘aqidah) while doing very little to actually bring about divine wisdom. Amjad Tarsin, the new chaplain at Toronto University (may God make him successful in his charge) said it best recently:

For a Muslim, basic understanding and belief in God’s Oneness (tawhid) should be a given, not a topic of endless discussion and contention.

In the end, it seems to be more about affirming ones own values, morals, ideals than having to have the materialize in the public and political domains.

“They will have anything they wish for with their Lord. That is the recompense of the good-doers. So that God may refuse to accept (incidentally, this is the same root as “kafir“) from them the worst of what they did and pay them their wages for the best of what they did. Is God not enough for His slave? Yet they try to scare you with others apart from Him. If God misguides someone, he has no guide, and if God guides someone, he cannot be misguided. Is God not Almighty, Exactor of Revenge?” Qur’an, 39: 34-37.

لَهُم مَّا يَشَآءُونَ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ جَزَآءُ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ

لِيُكَفِّرَ ٱللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ أَسْوَأَ ٱلَّذِى عَمِلُوا۟ وَيَجْزِيَهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ ٱلَّذِى كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ

أَلَيْسَ ٱللَّهُ بِكَافٍ عَبْدَهُۥ ۖ وَيُخَوِّفُونَكَ بِٱلَّذِينَ مِن دُونِهِۦ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ ٱللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُۥ مِنْ هَادٍۢ

وَمَن يَهْدِ ٱللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُۥ مِن مُّضِلٍّ ۗ أَلَيْسَ ٱللَّهُ بِعَزِيزٍۢ ذِى ٱنتِقَامٍۢ

I am left to wonder just how much of it is genuine desire for God and The Messenger, and how much of it is cowardice that we bicker so much amongst ourselves and why we seem to offer such little to public discourses on major and important topics. Perhaps “they have scared us with others apart from Him.” But in case anyone feels this is some liberal, suit-and-tie wearing philosophy, God commands us directly in the Qur’an to focus on production instead of protest:

“Say: ‘My people, do as you think best; that is what I am doing. You will soon know.” Qur’an 39: 39.

قُلْ يَٰقَوْمِ ٱعْمَلُوا۟ عَلَىٰ مَكَانَتِكُمْ إِنِّى عَٰمِلٌۭ ۖ فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ

And God knows best.

Islam – Religion of Action Not Just Philosophy

Islam is a din of action not just philosophy. It is more than the decadent acquisition of knowledge. Many times we as Muslims describe the key tenets of our faith as abstracts: taqwa, ihsan (for a definition of taqwa, see the Glossary), etc. And yet, these two words, as they are used in the Qur’an are often in the imperative form: in other words, taqwa and ihsan are things you do, not simply think.

Who are the people of taqwa? God says:

لَّيْسَ ٱلْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا۟ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ ٱلْمَشْرِقِ وَٱلْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱلْبِرَّ مَنْ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ وَٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةِ وَٱلْكِتَٰبِ وَٱلنَّبِيِّۦنَ وَءَاتَى ٱلْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ ذَوِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَٰكِينَ وَٱبْنَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَٱلسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَى ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱلْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَٰهَدُوا۟ ۖ وَٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ فِى ٱلْبَأْسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ وَحِينَ ٱلْبَأْسِ ۗ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا۟ ۖ وَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْمُتَّقُونَ

“Goodness does not lie in turning your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, those with true devoutness are those who believe in God and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travellers and beggars and to set slaves free, who establish prayer and pay zakah; those who honor their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast even in poverty, illness, or duress. Those are the people who are prove truthful. They are the people who have taqwa.” Qur’an, 2: 177.

Likewise, regarding ihsan, God says:

وَٱبْتَغِ فِيمَآ ءَاتَىٰكَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلدَّارَ ٱلْءَاخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ ٱلدُّنْيَا ۖ وَأَحْسِن كَمَآ أَحْسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَلَا تَبْغِ ٱلْفَسَادَ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُفْسِدِينَ

“Seek the abode of the Next World with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your portion of this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love corrupters.” Qur’an, 28: 77.

A lack action, something we are guilty of as a community, is one of the things the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم warned us about:

النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ ‏”‏ خيركم قرني، ثم الذين يلونهم، ثم الذين يلونهم‏”‏ قال عمران‏:‏ فما أدري قال‏:‏ النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم مرتين أو ثلاثاً ‏”‏ ثم يكون بعدهم قوم يشهدون ولا يستشهدون، ويخونون ولا يؤتمنون، وينذرون ولا يوفون، ويظهر فيهم السمن

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: 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.” Related by ‘Imran bin al-Husayn as well as Ibn ‘Umar from Ibn Hibban amongst others.

Truthfulness is not simply a state of mind but also what one does. Both the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and Abu Bakr رضى الله عنه had titles, based on their actions:

  • Abu Bakr was “al-Siddiq” because he did actions of trustworthiness and came to be known by them/كيف سمّى أبا بكر “الصديق”؟ قد تصدق
  • The Prophet was called “al-Amin” because he was reliable, trustworthy and saw to others/كيف سمّى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم؟ قد أمن وأمّن

And with God is all success.

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