Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,
To remind you that what is being said at this time, at this place every week is within the atmospherics, the developments, the human and the social reality amongst us. We are not speaking in a vacuum. We are not detached from reality and we are not in any sense wandering utopians. So please, especially since there is a time frame here, try as much as possible to place this information within the larger observations and insight you may have the reality of the world of today and now and here. Allah says, (these are two ayaat that are familiar to most of you, especially the second one; you here it most of the time). The first one is in Surah Al Anfal ayah number 53
ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ لَمْ يَكُ مُغَيِّرًا نِّعْمَةً أَنْعَمَهَا عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
That is because Allah does not change a blessing or a bounty or a privilege which He has blessed or provided or privileged a society with until they change their social selves… (Surah Al Anfal verse 53)
The other ayah, the second one (which we think almost everyone has heard and maybe everybody knows by heart),
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
… of a certainty Allah does not change the internal affairs of a people until they change their social selves… (Surah Ar Ra’d verse 11)
These ayaat have many times, (if you have visited them, at least, in a verbal way), ambiguous, sometimes uninformed (and) sometimes misleading translations of these ayaat. It doesn’t matter whether that translation is into English or into any other language. There doesn’t seem to be a very strong mental grip on the meanings of these ayaat. Simply stated in human language, the meanings of these ayahs come out to be, that society changes. These changes are due to social laws that come from Allah. So once these societies, (whatever society it is- this is a social law that applies to all gatherings of people from the beginning of time until the end of time), and that change has to be indentified with social norms and laws and rules and regulations from Allah. This is where many of us don’t bother to think through the meanings and implications of these ayaat. You see societies- some of them are prosperous and then they slump and then they go down the drain; you see others societies that are at rock bottom, they are in the depths of misery and then they begin to gradually come out of that and then eventually they become prosperous. We’re speaking about societies. No one said Islamic societies; no one said Western societies; no one said any specific society. Any society- this is applicable to all and every society. The Prophet of Allah says, (in an attempt to approximate this meaning further to us (and) to bring this near these meanings closer to our attention), indeed when people see a ruler who rules with injustice and they don’t take any corrective measure (and) they don’t restrain him from going the oppressive way then it is only a matter of time before Allah punishes that society or those people. We referred and we stated the ayah earlier in the Qur’an- Surah Al Anfal ayah 25.
وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنكُمْ خَاصَّةً
Avoid a fitnah (or) avoid a sedition (or) a social instability (or) a confusing human condition- avoid that type of fitnah- which is not going to afflict a class of Dhaalimin only... (Surah Al Anfal verse 25)
Who is in charge of society? The ruling class- that is in the legal sense of the issue but in the true sense of the word we’re all responsible. Where do these people who are ruling come from? They drop from heaven? They came to these positions either against our will or with our voting power (or) with our endorsement. One way or the other, we’re in this mix. So if this ruling class is an oppressive one of injustice the consequences are not going to be limited to them, it is going to afflict us also. Now what is the problem here? We have a problem in understanding these types of ayaat and these types of hadiths because what we do is we want to understand them and explain them as individuals. No one wants to look at these ayaat and these ahadith as meanings that apply to societies- that’s our problem (i.e.) the individualist understanding of the Qur’an as opposed to the social understanding of the Qur’an and the Prophet. This is a problem that we live- both of these are necessary for understanding our iman, our Islam, our responsibilities (and) our social function in life. There are two legs- the individual understanding is one leg (and) the social understanding is the other leg. There cannot be a healthy Islamic movement without these two legs but the problem that we have been encumbered with all of these years and generations is we have only one understanding and we are always on one leg! Where’s you other leg? If you look at the Prophet’s history (and) his beginning of this Islamic movement- there was a nucleus of people. If Islam was individualistic, if Islam was as private (and) if Islam was as personal then he would have just told these people around him “hey, you just become a very good individual. Forget about all these other issues that pertain to society and administration and power and authority and government. Forget about those. You just be a very upright, sincere, God fearing individual.” Had that been the case there wouldn’t have been those three movements outside of oppressive Makkah- two of them to Al Habasha (and) one of them to Yathrib. There was no need for that. You could keep on repeating Islamic values and quoting Qur’anic ayaat and references to the Prophet just as individuals. What was the need of the movement of people to Al Habasha (and) another movement of people to, (what was to become), Al Madinah? What was the need for that if there was no a social component to these ayaat? Then, these meanings grew from their individual circle into their social circle so Al Madinah, Yathrib became Islamic, Al Hejaz became Islamic, the Arabian Peninsula became Islamic and then the circle of Islam began to expand and then to extend to beyond other geographies and then to other locals in the world because of the social contents that are absent from today’s average Islamic understanding of the Qur’an and of the Prophet. So we begin to expand these meanings they gain doctrinal areas, political turf and military expansiveness. This is if we were understanding Allah and His Prophet correctly. Let’s assume that our Islam is just trying to deal with one individual, (this has been the case with the hopefully fading away Muslim mind of this type), your responsibility is to speak to one person (and to) convince him of the validity and the morality of Islam- that’s all. You can keep on doing this all your life and nothing is going to accomplished! Why? Because there are other forces that are not on your radar that are not factored in. There are authorities, there’s militaries, there’s law enforcements, there are social institutions- there are many other things, where does that figure in? It becomes impossible to reconstruct this Islam the way the Prophet did. So there’s a state out there and this state has at its disposal an advantage because it has the educational system, (all of it), under the control of a state. Muslims have not as of yet, (even though some of them in a limited sense have succeeded), been able to expand the meanings of these ayaat and these ahadith to think about these states. What’s wrong? Why can’t you do that? The Prophet did that. There was a power structure in Makkah and it was on the radar (and) in the minds of those who were committing themselves to Allah and His Prophet. The state also has the information industry out there. The education system and the information industry more-or-less mould the social attitude. Muslims can never remain indefinitely defensive. When are we going to be able to take on these institutions- whether they are educational, whether they are informational, whether they are political, be they think tanks, be they strategy groups, whatever? When are Muslims going to develop their confident one verses one institution (and) state? Sometimes individuals think “look- in the past twenty to thirty years there has been this mushrooming of Islamic religiosity. Islam is moving. Many people are performing their salah, they are fasting Ramadhan- this has increased by leaps and bounds.” If you go back forty (or) fifty years and look at the people out there who have the names of Ahmad and Ali and Muhammad, etc. and look at them today- you’ll see today Muslims are far more, (at least physically speaking), observant of their salah and fasting and all of this but at the same time do you see, (we ask you- you are a living thinking human being), a significant or a noticeable moral difference? Has anyone ever thought, “let’s take a look at the thought level that was there fifty years ago when Muslims were tokenly religious (and) they used to pray maybe jum’ah prayers, they used to fast maybe Ramadhan, they used to do some rituals but today after many of them are doing this what has the impact been, (let’s say), on the crime rate?” What is it? First of all we are not even concerned with our own selves- we don’t know. It’s anyone’s guess. Of course, why should those who are not Muslims be concerned? This is not their society; it’s not their issue or affair. They are not going to go out and survey and count what was this and what was that at that time as compared to today? But living through this just with an educated type of guess you’d say they’re about the same; if not, the crime levels have gone up. With the going up of religiosity the way it is understood out there and the going up of the crime rates, what is the meaning of this adherence to salah and to siyam and all of this? What does it mean? Once again we are stuck with the answer and that is- Muslims are only understanding Islam on an individual level. They are not interested in expanding it to the social levels. Of course, there are interpretations and explanations for this. One of them is that it suits the state (and) the power structures out there very well. “You Muslims remain as you are.”
Then there is another element. Even those who belong to Islamic movements (and) those who are supposed to know better have dumbed themselves down and said “yeah- let’s talk about individual issues.” Or if they want to really go beyond that they’ll talk about family issues. No one is going to speak about doctrinal issues, political issues and military issues. We challenge you to go to Islamic conferences, symposia, meetings, gatherings, khutbahs, sermons, conversations, etc.; go to any or all of them- when was the last time you encountered an informed and an intellectual presentation of doctrinal, political and military affairs concerning our responsibilities as committed Muslims in this world? When was the last time? There probably was no last time because there was no first time! (Many people who are not attending this khutbah don’t know it’s raining and we’re under the constraints of time and weather) but let us take Egypt right now. Egypt is probably front and centre stage concerning a lot of these types of Muslims who are out there. Let’s take a very short comparison between Egypt and the Zionist occupiers of Palestine. These numbers were taken from a few or several years ago. The total exports of Egypt was around $5billion. Remember the difference in the demography, the populations, the potential, the area, the geography- everything between Egypt and occupied Palestine. Keep this in mind, and with all of that in mind the total exports of Egypt was around $5billion and the total exports of the Zionist occupiers of Palestine was $500billion. How many books were written in Egypt in a year? We’re talking about in a year and then exported to other countries. Five-hundred. How many was done in occupied Palestine? Five-thousand. The minimum wage in Egypt at that time, (and this is several years ago and now these numbers have gone up a little on both sides), was $1 a day, the minimum wage in occupied Palestine was about $8 a day. There are about a-hundred-and-ninety nation states in the world- what is life quality index? Where does Egypt stand? Of this list of one-hundred-and-ninety countries (or) nation states in the world let’s say number one is the best and one-hundred-and-ninety is the worst quality of life index that takes into consideration economic, social, financial, psychological factors. Egypt ranked one-hundred-and-nineteen, the occupiers of Palestine ranked twenty-eight. Then we come and ask: don’t we say that we are
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ
… to be the best Ummah … (Surah Aal Imran verse 110)
Aren’t we praying over time? Aren’t we doing what we are supposed to do? Yes- as far as individuals are concerned you are doing what you are supposed to do but as far as societies are concerned you’re flunking the divine test. You’re not performing as societies!
Brothers and sisters- does the law of gravity, (that’s a physical law- just like we have social laws we have physical laws), apply to a Muslim only or a Kafir only or it applies to both equally? Obviously anyone in his thinking mind will tell you “it applies to everyone whether they are Muslims or whether they are not Muslims.” The law of the rise and fall of nations also applies to every one- Muslims or non-Muslims.
لَّيْسَ بِأَمَانِيِّكُمْ وَلَا أَمَانِيِّ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ ۗ مَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا يُجْزَ بِهِ
It’s not in accord to your wishful thinking nor the wishful thinking of People of Scripture; whoever does what is wrong will face the consequences… (Surah An Nisa’ verse 123)
That’s a social law and if we are doing what is socially wrong we are facing the consequences and it doesn’t matter how much you want to plaster this with prayers or you want to polish this with religiosity! The fact remains- it applies to you just as it applies to the other and we haven’t placed a premium on what we do. Allah has given us information about salah and zakah and siyam and Hajj so that these become conduits to performance of better things- to al amr bi al ma’ruf and an nahi an al munkar and this doesn’t mean the verbal individual understanding. Al amr bi al ma’ruf is to authorise al ma’ruf. Who can do that? No one individual can authorise anything! It takes a power structure, it takes institutions, it takes a system, it takes a social mind to do that and that we don’t have! So what? Allah is looking the other way saying “oh as long as you Muslims are performing your rituals you are in my good books?!” No- that’s not the way it works.
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ
He has created death and life to test you… (Surah Al Mulk verse 2)
To test you of what? Who’s going to be praying the most? Who’s going to be fasting the most?
أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا
… which one of you is going to do his best or her best… (Surah Al Mulk verse 2)
That is the whole purpose of living and dying and when we factor in our rituals they are only motivational instruments to authorising the ma’ruf and to delegitimize the munkar. We will end as we’re forced to do a few minutes earlier by quoting two hadiths from the Prophet. Whoever’s salah does not propel him to authorising the ma’ruf and delegitimizing the munkar the only thing that comes out of his salah is further distance from Allah. Another hadith says whoever’s salah does not constrain him from al fahsha’ and al munkar (i.e.) from moral depravity or illegality then his salah is not a salah- his salah becomes his own problem. One of the earlier Islamic investigators into the meaning of society and the meanings of the Qur’an- a historian probably, the first sociologist even by the standards of the West- said injustice is the precursor to the destruction of prosperous society or developed society or industrious society.
Dear committed brothers and sisters, committed Muslims…
When you read with a conscience and a mind what Allah and His Prophet are saying to us and then you compare those vital meanings with the conditions of the Muslims today you feel, in one sense, sorry and in another sense you feel strange and in a third sense you feel motivated- as if these are mixed feelings altogether. Reading how it is necessary for us to authorise the ma’ruf- you see, the word ma’ruf cuts across religious barriers, social barriers, ethnic barriers, class barriers; everyone knows what al ma’ruf is and everyone knows what a munkar is provided they have the sufficient IQ. We are responsible for al ma’ruf and al munkar in that generality. We are responsible for making al ma’ruf the standard of life and we are responsible for phasing out or eliminating al munkar from all facets of life- that is our responsibility but when you take a look… Let’s say we speak about a newspaper. A newspaper is a joint effort. No one person puts together a newspaper. The newspaper needs some ideas so there are people who are thinking out these ideas to put them on print. There are people who are investigating and researching- they are on the beat, picking up the news from here and there. There’s a communication system. They have to communicate that to their main office. There is a type of overview (or) editorial board. There is advanced technology in this, computer systems. There, (this may be on its way out), is a print version of this. They have to go to the printers. Then there are responsibilities there. There’s a whole string of functions just to bring us the news that we are using. In this effort there may be in one newspaper say a couple of thousand individuals involved if we are speaking about up-to-date advanced news items or news communication. Then, why is it along the way we have something called al munkar? There may be in some type of newspaper an ad for al fahsha’ and al munkar. It can be in some countries a pornographic image, in another country it can be an ad for some liquor of some sorts. It can go on and on. We’re just talking about moral issues that we can all identify. There’s a lot of other stuff that is plugged into the news that we get but along the line, if we speak about Muslim countries and societies, all of these people or let’s say ninety-five percent of these people are all religiously committed in the sense that they pray, they fast, they do their personal Islamic responsibilities. So if that’s the case, why do we have a body of news out there that is morally polluted and that is mentally perverted? It’s everywhere! So what did this individual religiosity do? Nothing! It did nothing! That’s where we are in today’s world. We can’t do anything! You come and tell the Muslim “hey brothers and sisters, take these meanings to their social extent, to their political range, to their military destiny; take these ayaat and these hadiths in this direction.” They fear. “Oh no-no-no.” Where did this fear come from? What generated this? You speak to Allah, (so to speak, we’re putting this in human language), five times a day and what are you fearing? Are you speaking to Allah? Is Allah communicating with you? Do you have a relationship with Allah? If you have a relationship, where did this fear come from? We don’t know this in all of human history, individualised Islam, (if we can call it that), meaning the rituals have not changed al munkar. Rituals by themselves have never changed a munkar!