For the final episode in our four-part series, I reflect on a month of fasting, ritual, and community, and the road that lies ahead.
One of the linguistic meanings of Sha’ban is “to branch out” and “connect” because it’s the month which literally connects with Ramadan.
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ إِذَا تَقَرَّبَ عَبْدِي مِنِّي شِبْرًا تَقَرَّبْتُ مِنْهُ ذِرَاعًا وَإِذَا تَقَرَّبَ مِنِّي ذِرَاعًا تَقَرَّبْتُ مِنْهُ بَاعًا – أَوْ بُوعًا – وَإِذَا أَتَانِي يَمْشِي أَتَيْتُهُ هَرْوَلَةً
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, stated,
“When My servant draws close to Me by the span of a palm, I draw close to him by the cubit and when he draws close to Me by the cubit, I draw close to him by the space of two arm spans, and when he comes to Me walking, I go in a hurry towards him.” — Sahih Muslim, #2675
Likewise, Allah has made us into shu’uban and qaba’il.
يا أَيُّهَا النّاسُ إِنّا خَلَقناكُم مِن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثىٰ وَجَعَلناكُم شُعوبًا وَقَبائِلَ لِتَعارَفوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكرَمَكُم عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتقاكُم ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَليمٌ خَبيرٌ
“All you people! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into different races and tribes so you can come to know one another. The noblest among you in the sight of God is the one who is the most mindful of his duty to Him. Truly, God knows and is aware.” — Qur’an, 49: 13
الشعوب: جمع شعب بفتح الشين، وهو أعظم من القبيلة، وتحته القبيلة ثم البطن ثم الفخذ ثم الفصيلة
Ibn Juzayy says,
“Shu’ub is the plural of sha’b, which is greater than a qabilah, which is after the qabilah is a batan, then a fikhdh, then a fasilah”. — al-Tas’hil l’Ulum al-Tanzil
What makes a shu’b is that the people are connected. Our connection is not simply to one another because we share the same ancestor but because we share the same core belief: Allah and His Messenger. This is why unity is so difficult in the Muslim community because we’re not connected or connecting on that thing which can truly branch across divides.
قالَتِ الأَعرابُ آمَنّا ۖ قُل لَم تُؤمِنوا وَلٰكِن قولوا أَسلَمنا وَلَمّا يَدخُلِ الإيمانُ في قُلوبِكُم ۖ وَإِن تُطيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسولَهُ لا يَلِتكُم مِن أَعمالِكُم شَيئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفورٌ رَحيمٌ
Joining Islam is not doing God a Favor
Background: During a year of famine, members of the bedouin tribe of Banu Asad arrived in Medina and professed to be Muslims in order to receive donations to help their tribe. They said they had never fought the Muslims and that they had always donated to the Muslims and helped them in the past, which was only partially true. Their behavior in the city was culturally reprehensible, and they also conducted themselves in obvious ignorance of Islamic manners and values. Finally, they made it seem as if they were doing the Muslims a favor by joining them. While their profession of faith may or may not have been real, they had not let the full effect of faith seep into their hearts in a genuine fashion. This passage was revealed in response. — Asbab al-Nuzul
“The bedouin Arabs are quick to say, “We believe!” Yet, say to them (Muhammad), “You have no faith, for you’re only saying, ‘We’re surrendered to God,’ but sincere faith hasn’t yet entered your hearts. If you obey God and His Messenger, He won’t decrease the value of any of your (good) deeds, for God is forgiving and merciful.” — Qur’an, 49: 14
For other khutbahs and podcasts, see the Middle Ground Podcast.
Alienation? Detachment? Loneliness? Sound familiar? This, and more, is what I so often hear from Muslims when I run into them (everywhere else but the center). But why are so many of us feeling like we’ve lost our sense of community? Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the way in which we often diagnose the issue to begin with.
This afternoon I happened to run into a sister at a local coffee shop with whom I’m fairly well acqainted. Upon seeing me, she lamented about feeling detached from Islam, from Allah, from community. We spoke on the importance of having a community as it relates to the well-being of one’s Deen or religious/spiritual practice. She related that so many of the masajid that she attends either (a) are unwelcoming, (b) speak in a language (this case, the khutbah being all in Arabic) she doesn’t understand or (c) in a vernacular she finds irrelevant. While I sympathized at how all of those could be frustrating I also comically pointed out that (a) I was that Imam who quit his job over some of these very issues (racism, irrelevancy, etc.) but had also, along with a group of like-minded and forward-thinking Muslims, built a place that seeks to provide the very things she claimed to long for: a welcoming environment that offered religious tutelage in an environment that (we hope!) is welcoming and relevant. My point being, we’re never going to overcome these challenges if we don’t even show up. And what’s amazing is that if we just begin with showing up, many of those maladies (loneliness, alienation, etc.) seem to slowly go away; maybe not overnight, but they do abate. Fundamentally, we must switch from an entitlement world-view (or community-view) in which we feel everything ought to be all set up and ready to go before we walk in the door. We have to show up first, and work cooperatively to make things how we (and others) would like them to be. So when I asked her why she didn’t show up she just smiled and said, “I’ll have to change that.” It all begins by just showing up.
That’s what we’re working to bring to you at Middle Ground. May Allah give us Islam, guidance, and mercy. Amin.
The following is a video of a khutbah I delivered at the University of Pennsylvania on October 19th, 2009. Detailed notes can be read here.
Masjid Qubā’, in West Philadelphia, is proud to offer its Qur’ān Reading Circle. The reading circle focuses on reading the Qur’ān with a discussion in English. Starting March 19th, I will be participating in and leading the Qur’ān Reading Circle every 3rd Friday of the month. Other leaders will be Imams Anwar and Anas, may Allah preserve them both, as well as my wife. For more information, please contact the Masjid Qubā’.