Muslims in the footsteps of Bani Isra'eel Part 2

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Rajab 25, 1433 2012-06-15

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,

Muslims of today have an attitude, (and we don’t mean every Muslim). There is a social character that the Muslims generally have; sometimes they act as if they have a chip on their shoulder! They feel like they are special or they feel like they are the cream of the crop or they feel like they are above others. This is wrong. Muslims should not feel this way. We have a history narrated to us by heaven above that teaches us not be condescending towards others, not to be with a superiority attitude towards others. To reach status- the status that Allah has designated for those who carry His trust- requires a struggle, whether Muslims or pre-Islamic revelations and scripture. When they reached this status, they reached it after effort (and) after sacrifices and then to maintain that status they still need effort and sacrifices- a humility in the soul (and) a humbleness in the heart. So to reach a status or what people would refer to as “glory” and to maintain that requires humility and the meekness that comes from the spirit of struggle and sacrifice. There’s an ayah in the Qur’an that even if it speaks about one person but it pretty much can be extended to speak about communities and societies. Qarun, (in today’s language), the multi-billionaire of his age and his generation is quoted in the Qur’an as saying in Surah Al Qasas ayah number seventy-eight. This man who had reached the summits of the finances of his country and probably of the world- as is the case with his likes back then and in today’s world, they think that they have all of this money and all of these finances and resources and wherewithal because there’s something special about them?!

قَالَ إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عِندِي

I’ve been given all that I have because of my knowledge, because I’m someone special… (Surah Al Qasas verse 78)

This hubris also is a feature of some societies- they behave like that. They think that they are special. Some communities or some ethnic groups or some sects or some religious persuasion or some class of people behave as if they are someone or some special people. We have a history of a particular strain of this attitude that has been narrated to us in scripture and revelation. Ayah thirty-to-thirty-two in Surah Ad Dukhan. Let us learn. You see, one of the problems, (we have many problems); in addition to this problem of hubris (or) this problem of an arrogant attitude we have a problem of inferiority. You see- a complex problem! On one side we claim a superiority (and) on another side we behave an inferiority. Our inferiority is displayed by our inability to learn the history of previous peoples who are in our position today. One of the mainstream examples, a plethora of them in the Qur’an is Bani Isra’eel. How did they reach status and glory? Allah says

وَلَقَدْ نَجَّيْنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ الْمُهِينِ

مِن فِرْعَوْنَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَالِيًا مِّنَ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

We have rescued Bani Isra’eel from a humiliating torment; We rescued them from the Pharaoh who was of a high worldly status and a profligate of the resources of the land in matters of finances and wealth, etc. (Surah Ad Dukhan verse 30-31)

And Allah says

وَلَقَدِ اخْتَرْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

We have chosen them as a matter of Our knowledge of who they are in preference to the rest of the people or the world. (Surah Ad Dukhan verse 32)

That is a position of, (let’s call it), glory. They didn’t reach that position because there’s something special about them; they reached that position because they struggled and they sacrificed. There was no special relationship between them and Allah as they later on would claim- this is a distortion of history.

In another ayah Allah says in Surah Al Jaathiyah ayah 16 and 17.

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحُكْمَ وَالنُّبُوَّةَ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

وَآتَيْنَاهُم بَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْرِ

We have given Bani Isra’eel scripture and a position of judgement- it could be governance, it could be in issues pertaining to law, whatever- and a Prophethood; We provided for them out of the good things in life and we preferred them to the rest of populaces. And We gave them evidence as to their worldly affairs… (Surah Al Jaathiyah verse 16-17)

What does this tell us? This tells us that Bani Isra’eel were on a pedestal. They had achieved because there are social laws. Another issue that we have is no one pays attention to social laws?! We pay much attention to physical laws but we barely pay any attention to social laws- (this is) another problem that we carry. So in the long and extended and varied ayaat in the Qur’an there is a discoursive lesson on Bani Isra’eel. Is anyone learning?

يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ

Oh Children of Isra’eel, be conscious of My favours or My bounties or My blessings to you and honour your side of the agreement and (Allah is saying to them) I will honour My side of the agreement and stand in awe of Me, (Allah is telling them). (Surah Al Baqarah verse 40)

But this is what happens in human nature- one of the natural laws or one of the social laws or one of the human laws, (we don’t care what you call it but it is ingrained in history and it is observable in society), is that when some people, if not all people, reach the status of privilege (and) an advanced station of glory in their particular history or lifetime they become ungrateful, they forget who they were and so the Qur’an quotes this attitude.

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ نَحْنُ أَبْنَاءُ اللَّهِ وَأَحِبَّاؤُهُ

And Al Yahud and An Nasara said “but we are God’s children, we are God’s beloveds, we are God’s chosen…” (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 18)

We’re not making things up all that is required of us is to observe and to learn.

قُلْ فَلِمَ يُعَذِّبُكُم بِذُنُوبِكُم ۖ بَلْ أَنتُم بَشَرٌ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقَ

… respond to them and say but why are you punished due to your sins or because of your infringements or as a result of your mistakes but rather you are just human like everyone else… (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 18)

But have Muslims learnt this lesson. You go to these cultural centres around (and) to these traditional Masajid in spots here and there, you go to these sectarian-first- Muslims-second Mosques, (go wherever you want to go), and the flavour of these ayaat are unmistakable. We don’t care who you are- you can take your pick and your choice out there. We say this in a spirit of brotherhood and humility.

So another social law, Surah Yunus ayah 21

وَإِذَا أَذَقْنَا النَّاسَ رَحْمَةً مِّن بَعْدِ ضَرَّاءَ مَسَّتْهُمْ إِذَا لَهُم مَّكْرٌ فِي آيَاتِنَا

If we were to have people taste our blessing after infliction or hardship, then they behave as if they have a grudge against Us or as if they want to plot contrary to Our ways… (Surah Yunus verse 21)

Brothers and sisters, this applies to all people (and) to all human beings. This is not peculiar to some chapter in history or some society that is ancient. It’s real. It’s alive. It’s happening today. It’s all around you. What happened to you that you can’t see it?

قُلِ اللَّهُ أَسْرَعُ مَكْرًا ۚ إِنَّ رُسُلَنَا يَكْتُبُونَ مَا تَمْكُرُونَ

… reply (or) say but Allah has more speed in His plans than they have in theirs; Our, (meaning Allah’s), emissaries are registering (or) are writing all that’s taking place. (Surah Yunus verse 21)

(Do) you think that if you are not thinking about it Allah doesn’t know it? You’re mistaken if that’s the case! So with all of this narrative about the status, and the glory and the pomp and the pride of Bani Isra’eel, what happened? We are going to encounter another set of ayaat. And who are Bani Isra’eel? Please brothers and sisters, don’t be as weak in your mind and heart as not to learn these lessons because these lessons belong to us. We have inherited this experience. It doesn’t belong to the Jews but that’s the way some Muslims think. They say “this is the history of the Jews.” Where are we in this history? If we are speaking about Musa (alayhi as salaam) and we are speaking about Ibrahim (alayhi as salaam) and we are speaking about Sulayman and Dawud (alayhima as salaam) are they not our Prophets? So how come this gap? They become the Prophets of some other peoples?! We are defeated inside. So what happened when we read another set of ayaat in the Qur’an, when we listen to the following words.

لُعِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ عَلَىٰ لِسَانِ دَاوُودَ وَعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ

Those deniers from Bani Isra’eel who deny Allah and His power presence and the truth coming to them from the Prophets are condemned and cursed by the Prophets of Allah by the words of Dawud and Isa the son of Maryam… (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 78)

Why? Weren’t we looking at them when they were the best of the best (or) the best of the rest when we were looking at them like that in these other ayaat? But now we see them in another light. They are condemned. They are receiving harsh words from their own Prophets. What happened here?

ذَٰلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوا وَّكَانُوا يَعْتَدُونَ

… that’s because of their disobedience and their aggression. (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 78)

You see- they broke out of that psychology of struggle and sacrifice through which Allah honoured them and now they have become arrogant, they have become self-centred and thus they have become targets and objects of condemnation coming from Prophets. It has nothing to do with what they said. It had nothing to do with their psychological feelings. It had nothing to do with their cultural practises.

ذَٰلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوا وَّكَانُوا يَعْتَدُونَ

كَانُوا لَا يَتَنَاهَوْنَ عَن مُّنكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

… it had everything to do with their works (and) with their deeds of disobedience and with their social pulse of aggression against the other. They never were within the character of a social opposition to munkar, (they lost that), to the contrary they were now involved in activating munkar in society. (Surah Al Maa’idah ayah 78-79)

For those of you who want to go, (and at your own time and satisfaction), mentalize the meaning of this ayah.

Another ayah Surah Al A‘raf, 167,

وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكَ لَيَبْعَثَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَن يَسُومُهُمْ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ

And bare in mind Allah’s public notice against Bani Isra’eel that He will dispatch against them until resurrection day those who will cause them to suffer the worst type of torment… (Surah Al A’raf verse 167)

You have to read this and listen to it again and again to absorb its range of meaning.

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَسَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ ۖ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

… for indeed Allah is quick to punish and He is most forgiving, most merciful. (Surah Al A’raf verse 167)

So is there a barrier between this fluctuation of Bani Isra’eel and us? Can someone find a barrier? Doesn’t this also apply to us? What if we began to behave like them, which we are? Some of us can’t see it so we are suffering the consequences that are a social law that applies to humanity, to societies, to individuals- it doesn’t matter. So it is your merit to struggle and sacrifice and the humility and the meekness that comes with it that qualifies you as an individual or as a society to reach that station of privilege or status or glory.

One of the Prophets that is not very well known- we all know he’s a Prophet; he is mentioned in the Qur’an and in the hadith but no one really knows very much about him. This may tell you or give you one example of the turning point between a time when people were honoured by Allah because of what they did- this honour doesn’t come automatically. The racism that is built into today’s interpretation of some people belonging to that faith of what Judaism is that God owes them something or God is automatically theirs and not others’. We can see these types of prejudicial biased notions that permeate today’s world, which we have in our midst, in others but we can’t see it in ourselves?! One chapter in this almost forgotten history, (this information comes from a hadith from Allah’s final Prophet), says that Yahya and Isa (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon these two Prophets) were in the same frame of time. This did happen in certain different periods of history. You had Harun and Musa (alayhima as salaam) who were two Prophets at the same time. So in this context Yahya and Isa were two Prophets and Isa reminded Yahya of his responsibilities towards society, (and they were both in the same society, i.e.), to remind Bani Isra’eel of five things. Yahya in this context is almost similar to Imam Al Husayn (radi Allahu anhu) in Islamic history. So Yahya called people to the Masjid in Jerusalem. The Prophet’s hadith calls it Masjid and this was before Islam. He calls them there for a public meeting and the Masjid was overflowing with people. Some people were at a distance on their porches or verandas listening to what this person had to say and he tried to make it clear to them (i.e.) to summarise revelation in five points: that you conform to Allah without associating or equating anyone or anything with Him. Then he broke that down for them. This is eye catching. He said what would you think of a person who hires a person, (let’s say a contractor- we’re trying to break it down to today’s language), a contractor to work for him and that hired person begins to work for someone else? This is equivalent to what we call Shirk. We say “we devote ourselves to Allah” but we are working for someone else?! We have another reference in life or we have another boss in life or we have another authority in life- whatever the case is, we don’t report to Allah! We report to someone else when we are saying to Allah “we are Yours.” How would anyone feel about that? If you, yourself, in the simple day to day functions of life need something done in your homes, you go and you tell someone “you’ll pay him to do the job at home but this someone goes and does a job for someone else and you are expected to pay him.” This is the equivalent of not honouring the wahdaniya of Allah. Then he said to them when we are in our salah- remember this is a time when we are communicating with Allah; when we are communicating with Allah, Allah is paying full attention to us but do we pay full attention to Allah during this specific time? How do you feel about that? You go to see someone (and) you want to speak to him. He is all ears and all senses at what you are saying but you are absent minded! Just words- that’s all there is! Vocalisation and verbalisation, no meaning, no attention, no contact! How would you feel about that? As siyam- when a person obeys Allah in dietary regulations. This in some instances may be a social offense; but remember he is saying this to these people in public. The bad odour that comes out of a saa’im is the best odour to Allah- whether it’s your body odour, whether it is your breath- whatever it is. So who is the point of reference here- society or Allah? As sadaqa is likened to a captive, a person who has been imprisoned and chained and is about to be executed by his enemy. In an extension of this meaning the enemy would be your greed. Then, how do you get out of this fix? How do you get out of these chains? By your sadaqa. Then finally he said the consciousness of Allah is freedom. This may be for some people a new definition of freedom but Yahya was trying to tell these people that your consciousness of Allah, which means dhikrullah, amounts to your freedom. What happened after this sermon in the Masjid in Al Quds? What did Bani Isra’eel, (who were on top of the world in the ayaat that we mentioned and there’s many of them in the Qur’an if you could only read it with your mind opened and with your mind active and your mind relative or relevant), do? What happened to Yahya? They killed him. This is why they were condemned for who they were and for who some of them still are. The Prophet of Allah in a couple of hadiths says my ummah will suffer the consequences that were suffered by Bani Isra’eel, (as if to say), step by step and it will reach a point that those who at least verbally belong to me, (the Prophet is saying), will follow in the footsteps of those who if they would have an affair with their mother my followers would have an affair with their mother. In a corroborating second statement from the Prophet says you will certainly follow in the social patterns of those who came before you, (it is like saying), inch-by-inch and meter-by-meter if they were to go into a fox hole you would also follow them in that direction into it. We said oh messenger of Allah- you mean Al Yahud and An Nasara? Here we’re not speaking about theological Jews or theological Christians; we’re speaking about the power structure of Al Yahud and the power structure of An Nasara who have what it takes to influence us to do what we are doing. Enough of this misunderstanding of the word Al Yahud and An Nasara- so they asked Al Yahud and An Nasara? He said who else?

My dear brothers and my dear sisters on As Siraat Al Mustaqeem…

What has just been said has nothing to do with a historical rendition of events that happened somewhere and some place in the distant past. What has just been said about a segment of scripturalists is applicable to another segment of scripturalists that we in one sense or the other belong to. It’s easy to speak about Bani Isra’eel with harsh words and condemnation as it is appropriate to speak about them in harsh words and condemnation with the facts and with objectivity. We don’t want to be carried away, we don’t want to be reacting, we don’t want to be exaggerating and we don’t want to be silent. Today we have those who attire themselves with Islamic rituals- if we can just bypass the ritualistic surface of people if can just go beyond that and measure a people in relation to what they do. This seems to be the most difficult transition to make. People cannot attribute a person to what he or she does. We are conditioned and programmed to attribute a person to their ritual. This is a major obstacle that persons and populations have in understanding who they are and where they are vis a vis Allah. Take the Saudis, (when we say Saudis we don’t mean the average innocent person in the street or in the mall, we are speaking about those who rule, those who have usurped authority and mishandled power- these are who we are talking about). We ask you in a moment of tranquillity and serenity- what’s the difference between Bani Isra’eel in the ayaat that predominate the Qur’an and today’s Saudis? The names? Are you going to be fooled by a name? The architecture of a building? One of it has Islamic features (and) another has Synagogue features? Are you going to be fooled by architecture and names? Can you not penetrate to evaluate people in reference and in relation to what they do? Can we not make that transition? It seems like some of us can’t? We have a person from Yemen who is supposed to be one of these Saudi indirectly endorsed scholars who has been listed as a person in international law agencies and with governments as a person who is supportive with terrorism. He says “he is willing to make a deal. He will disclose the name...” We’re not talking about an average Muslim- brothers and sisters. This is someone who is supposed to have followers and he has written books and he has been in the lecture circuit prior to 9/11 all around the world. He studied in the faculties of universities. He’s a pharmacist by profession but of course the way he looks he looks like “an Islamic scholar.” He says “he’s willing to make a deal. He will disclose the names of those who belong to “Al Qa’idah” if his name is taken out of that roster of terrorists in the world.” What is this, brothers? Who are we? We are not going to go into the issue of who are these people right now who are doing these things in different parts of the Muslim world in the name of Islam- be they Al Qa’idah or Taliban or some faction there-of it in the Arabian Peninsula or North Africa or Iraq, Syria and Lebanon all around the place. They are probably the MI6, CIA, Mossad and all the enemies of Islam who are functioning under this umbrella but back to the point- a scholar who should know better. A person who has been up and down the aisles of Islamic activities in his region of the world and around the world says “he’s willing to make a deal.” What’s going on behind the scenes? Are other people also cutting deals or willing to make deals? With whom? Where’s Allah in all of this? And they speak about Shirk and they speak about Tawhid! Can they not take the meaning of Shirk and Tawhid in to what they are doing? The operative word here is doing! There’s this organisation- Al Amr bi Al Ma’ruf and An Nahi an Al Munkar- want to go and pick on the average person- a sister who is not wearing a hijab, (that meets their criteria), or doesn’t have a mahram walking with her in a public place. We’re not talking about things in private. They come up and they pick on the individual- this is an Isra’eeli understanding of the laws. A law needs a spirit. The spirit is gone and then they want to honour the laws?! It doesn’t work that way. They have it upside down and topsy-turvy but how come they remain in their positions with their status on top of the world and on top of us they are supposed to know better?

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