Re-Defining Success For the American Muslim Community

Ultimately the definition of success in the Muslim community has to move beyond the bifurcation of worldly success and Here-After success. We are indeed fooling ourselves if we think one does not contribute to the other, either in a positive way, helping us achieve the Here-After, or in a detrimental way, denying us the Here-After. The illusion that they can be mutually exclusive endeavors shows us just how far we have departed from the spirit of Islam, hence our modern spirituality of no inconveniences. And if we think we have issues with this, image how completely taken and enraptured our children are with this. After all, they aren’t working the 80 hours a week to achieve the house, the spouse, the car, etc. They do not see or experience the means that justify our ends. They only see ends; it’s as natural for them as rain water and thus, nurtured in this environment, they will have few incentives to buck this trend or system.

وَلْتَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

“Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success.” Qur’an, 3: 104.

A Spirituality of Few Difficult Demands? – A Khutbah

“What is missing in the new surrogate religions is a spiritual discipline — submission to a body of teachings that has come to be accepted even when it conflicts with immediate interests or inclinations and cannot constantly be redesigned to individual specifications … eclecticism in general makes few difficult demands, as a believer can shuffle the ingredients to suit his requirements for psychic comfort.” — Christopher LaschSoul of a New Age.

The following audio is from a khutbah delivered at the University of Pennsylvania, March 15th, 2013.

 

What’s the Purpose of Revelation and Prophethood?

The following are the notes and audio to a khutbah I delivered at the University of Pennsylvania on March 9th, 2012.

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What’s the purpose of Revelation? Of prophecy? Of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in our lives?

If the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم is Imam of the Messengers, then are we treating him as our Imam as well? Imam – the one who is in front and leading us.

Submission – it’s what we do for our own selves. Not whether or not others take us seriously.

وإذا رءاك الذين كفروا إن يتخذونك إلا هزؤا اَهذا الذى يذكر ءالهتكم وهم بذكر الرحمن هم كفرون

“When those who are kafir see you, they only make a mockery out of you: ‘Is this the one who makes mention of your gods?’ Yet they are kuffar about the mention of the All-Merciful.” [al-Anbiyā’ 21: 36]

Submission is an ongoing process.  In order to facilitate this, God has provided for us His Signs. We need only slow down to notice them:

خلق الإنسان من عجل – سأوريكم و ءايتى فلا تستعجلون

“Mankind was created hasty.  I shall show you My Signs so do hasten.” [al-Anbiyā’ 21: 37]

Don’t be hasty. Though we were created hasty, don’t be hasty. There’s a difference between how we are created and how Allah wants us to be.

If you allow it, the Qur’an will move you. It will lift your spirits, it will over-awe you, it will terrify you, it will move you to tears.

By coming to see this aspect of our relationship with Allah—The Big Picture—we foster a greater sense of realization [يقين-معرفة] of our purpose in life:

and …

الذين يذكرون الله قياما وقعودا وعلى جنوبهم ويتفكرون في خلق السموت والأرض ربنا ما خلقت هذا باطلا سبحانك فَقِنا عذاب النار

“Those who remember God standing, sitting and laying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth [utter], ‘O our Lord, You have not created all this in jest, how perfect You are, so protect us from the torment of the Fire.” [Āl-‘Imrān 3: 191]

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ :

“يَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى: أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي، وَأَنَا مَعَهُ إِذَا ذَكَرَنِي، فَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي نَفْسِهِ، ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي نَفْسِي، وَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي مَلَإٍ، ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي مَلَإٍ خَيْرٌ مِنْهُمْ، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ بِشِبْرٍ، تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ ذِرَاعًا، تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا(1) وَإِنْ أَتَانِي يَمْشِي، أَتَيْتُهُ هَرْوَلَةً

We all know the hadith: The world [al-Dunya] is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the ingrate [kafir]/روى أبو هريرة أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال الدنيا سجن المؤمن وجنة الكافر. Most folks stop at this and say, “there’s nothing we can do or enjoy from this life.” But the nature of all prisons is that the prisoners want to break out; the nature of Paradise is that no one wants to leave. So, we strive to break out of this prison, not to sit glumly by while not being tricked into thinking we’re staying here in this fake paradise forever.

The Best Is Yet To Come

2342 Broadway, San Francisco

The Dunyā [الدنيا]: this word would have to list very high on words that are both emotionally charged and misunderstood by Muslims. This is partially due to its ambiguity, its meaning depending on the context: to be or draw close to something; to be vile or base; and of course, its common understanding [which is valid] to be that of this world or mundane, temporal life. Without a doubt, Dunyā is a location, a place, and yet the nuanced perspective that the Qur’ān has on This Life seldom gets articulated.

While coming across an online article today, I was reminded of how the Qur’ān speaks to mankind’s deep-seated desires: we love beautiful homes and many of us fantasize about “dream homes”. I have been privy to such conversations where people have been reproached for their apparent materialism, and yet, something about that desire speaks to a core characteristic of Banī Adam. The Qur’ānic passage came to mind my immediately:

وجوه يومئذ ناعمة لسعيها راضية في جنة عالية لا تسمع فيها لغية فيها عين جارية فيها سرر مرفوعة وأكواب موضوعة ونمارق مصفوفة وزرابي مبثوثة

“Faces on That Day will be radiant, happy with their efforts, in a elevated garden, within they will hear no harsh speech.  Inside is a gushing spring, raised couches, set goblets, lined cushions, and spread out carpets.” [Qur’ān, 88: 8-16]

How funny it is that God would speak to the human being about rugs, couches, and goblets? As to whether the designers were trying to accomplish this, I cannot say, but it did remind [ذكر] me about The Next Life [الآخرة], where our deep-rooted human desires can be fulfilled. It also reminds me that the Dunya is filled with opportunity. Opportunity for us to strive towards seeking God’s pleasure, God’s reward, and endeavoring to extrapolate what reminders of The Life To Come as we can from This Existence.

Our conversations about this life must embrace the nuance and richness of the Qur’ānic narrative:

فمن الناس من يقول ربنا ءاتنا في الدنيا وما له في الآخرة من خلق

“And from amongst men are those who say, ‘O’ our Lord, give us good in this life’. They will have no share in the Next Life.” [Qur’ān, 2: 200]

If the above āyah were read in and of its self, we would be short changing ourselves of the big picture:

ومنهم من يقول ربنا ءاتنا في الدنيا حسنة وفي الآخرة حسنة وقنا عذاب النار ألئك لهم نصيب مما كسبوا والله سريع الحساب

“And from them are those who say, ‘O our Lord, give us good in This Life and The Next, and save us from the torment of the Fire’. For them is a just share fromwhat they have hearned. God is Swift in Reckoning.” [Qur’ān, 2: 201-202]

The Dunyā is where we can seek God’s bounty, God’s mercy, God’s favor.  It is where we build the foundation for our proverbial castles in the sky.  It is where we put our mettle to the test.  It is where we enjoin the good, forbid the evil, make our pilgrimages, our friendships.  It is where we acquire the correct knowledge, master the correct deeds. It is our layover, our way-station towards, God willing, a better, a purer, a more real existence.  So for now, I will look and dream at “dream houses”.  Not as a materialist, coveting the illusory nature of this world, but in wonder and amazement: if this is what man can do, I stand in awe and inticipation of what the Creator of the seven heavens has in store for me.

And Do Not Let The Deluder Delude You Concerning God

يأيها الناس اتقوا ربكم واخشوا يوما لا يجزي والد عن ولده ولا مولود هوجاز عن والده شيئا ان وعد الله حق فلا تغرنكم الحيوة الدنيا ولا يغرنكم بالله الفرور

“Mankind! have taqwa of your Lord and fear a day when no father will be able to atone for his son, or son for his father, in any way. Allah’s promise is true. So do not let the life of this world delude you and do not let the Deluder delude you concerning God.” [Qur’ān: Luqmān (31): 33]

I was remined of this āyah and so many more in this short but insightful piece by Chris Hedges:

The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or John Edwards, enthralls the country … despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class.

The virtues that sustain a nation-state and build community, from honesty to self-sacrifice to transparency to sharing, are ridiculed each night on television as rubes stupid enough to cling to this antiquated behavior are voted off reality shows. Fellow competitors for prize money and a chance for fleeting fame, cheered on by millions of viewers, elect to “disappear” the unwanted. In the final credits of the reality show America’s Next Top Model, a picture of the woman expelled during the episode vanishes from the group portrait on the screen. Those cast aside become, at least to the television audience, nonpersons. Celebrities that can no longer generate publicity, good or bad, vanish. Life, these shows persistently teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition and a constant quest for notoriety and attention.

You may continue reading the article here.