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,
This is the month of Ramadhan- a month that is described by the Prophet’s statement its beginning is a mercy, the middle of it is forgiveness and the end of it is liberation. This month has suffered, meaning our understanding of this month has lagged behind considerably.
There are conventional ways, (and we tried to exhaust the means and the approaches to speak about this month), but let us attempt a new approach. The ayaat in Surah Al Baqarah that speak about the month of Ramadhan end with what we are going to begin with. Allah says- this ayah has the following meaning- Allah is giving us an order
وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ
Do not consume your moneys, do not engage in financial transactions that are void, invalid and false then you draw near to those who are ruling with these types of finances… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 188)
The literal meaning of the word tudlu, (unfortunately the English language doesn’t help much but if we were to investigate the word tudlu biha), it would be don’t bucket your market. You know the bucket you use to draw water. If we could make a verb out of the noun in English, Allah is saying
وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِّنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
… and don’t bucket your money by going to those who are ruling and those who are in power so that you, once again, partake of a segment of people’s wealth illegitimately while you are aware of this. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 188)
Now why are we speaking about this in the month of Ramadhan? What does this have to do with fasting? We are people here who are observing the discipline in this month in which we don’t eat during the day, we don’t drink, we don’t indulge our senses and in the case where we are married we don’t have the marital relationship with our spouse. What does this have to do with money? What does this have to do with wealth? What does this have to do with people who are ruling and people who have power? Where are you going with this? We’re not going anywhere! What we are doing is we are consolidating the meaning of this lesson of Ramadhan because our fasting is meant to make us selfless and the fact of the matter is we have two segments of society that find something in common among them- one of them is those that have power and they rule and the others are those who have finances and thus influence. In other words, we have a class of people who are in-charge of the instruments of state and we have another class of people who are in-charge of the mechanics of the market and there’s an affinity between the two. They lock interests. They work for each other. What is meant by our combined effort of fasting is to see to it that this doesn’t happen. So when we fast we are in-charge of our appetites and our tendencies. What is meant by our fast is to take control of things that we would otherwise want to indulge in. The first step in that direction is to concentrate on the appetite in the flesh, the desires that we have. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to what comes as a habit. We eat and we drink, but we don’t pay attention to whether we are eating in excess, drinking in excess, indulging in our sexual appetite in excess or excessively because it’s done everyday. The monotony of it does not have us think about it. In this month of Ramadhan we take a step, (so to speak backward), and we look at ourselves.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
Fasting has become your obligation, even though you may be reluctant, as it had been the obligation of those who preceded you, even though they were reluctant, for the purpose of having taqwa. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)
When we take this observational step backward and we look at ourself in the fast lane of life- because life has become a fast lane; everyone wants everything fast. They want to eat fast, they want to drink fast, there’s fast food, and there’s also fast information. Just like our bodies consume food in the fast lane of life we also, not knowing, consume information in the fast lane of life. We take many things for granted. In this act of fasting when we don’t eat and we don’t drink and we don’t satisfy our appetites- the two major carnal appetites of our body, stomach and sex- when we don’t indulge these during the day it gives us an opportunity to think about what we are doing. What is meant by this is to return to our God-given proportions. If we think of what we are doing (and) how much we are doing, we find that we are disproportionate. People speak about “physical obesity”,(you have a fat body), but people don’t think about a spiritual obesity, (people also have fat minds and fat psychologies)! But no one is looking at people that way because we are in the fast lane of life and Allah wants to take us at our own God-given pace so that we can return to our state of nature. This is done by becoming sensitive to Allah’s power presence. This is at taqwa. This siyaam of ours is meant to have us aware of Allah’s power presence. If we are aware of that, we don’t go eating endlessly, drinking endlessly, having sex endlessly and therefore the cumulative result of that is having power endlessly and having money endlessly. Just like the Prophet of Allah is known to have- and this is one of his exemptions; only the Prophet of Allah did this. We can’t do this. Even if we wanted to do it we are prohibited from doing it- extended his fast for more than one day when he was denying his body he was giving to those who are in need. One of the descriptions of him is he was the most open handed during the month of Ramadhan. He was the most generous during the season of Ramadhan. What is this? This takes its effect on our character. Allah knows our limitations and He wants us to live in the zone of the possible- not the impossible. Some of us want to try to accelerate our improvement in Ramadhan so when we feel we have a virus or that we may be driving a long distance, we say that we’re going to fast during that time. Allah knows our human nature and He says no.
يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ
… Allah wants what is not difficult for you to do… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 185)
He doesn’t want you to do things that are very demanding of your nature, very burdensome on your capacity. He doesn’t want you to go that way. The month of Ramadhan shows us, (if we look at our Islamic human history), there are two inclinations in us. Some of us want to take advantage of Allah’s licenses in a very liberal way and some of us want to pursue the objective that Allah has placed in front of us in a very self-defeating vigorous way. Both of these are not required. All of the instructions which, (we know you are aware of), the Scholarly definitions, descriptions and details of Ramadhan and how we fast are meant for us to take charge of our tendencies and our inclinations to master our appetites. Man- you and I- were not created to be slaves of our lusts. We were created to control and to manage the human nature within us. This month of Ramadhan is supposed to teach us this all the way, literally, to the court and all the way to the bank, but unfortunately, (as we said at the beginning of this Khutbah), the meaning of Ramadhan has suffered. Who thinks of Ramadhan extending all the way to the Legislature and all the way to those who print money? Who thinks of Ramadhan in this extension? Not many people and this is the loss that we are living. Sure, most of us, if not all of us satisfy the physical requirements of our fast. We’re not eating during the day- as required; we are not drinking during the day- as required. What is missing? What is missing is not the physical component of our fast but the character- the moral (and) the mental component of our fast (and) the social meaning of our fasting is what’s missing. This is a month of voluntarily imposed hunger. There’s no one putting a gun to your head and saying “you have to fast.” You are doing this out of your own volition. You are doing this out of your own free-will; but ask yourself why am I doing this? Why am I not eating during the day, etc.? Why? What’s the purpose? The purpose of all of this is to have in your heart, in your conscience, in your soul, in your mind the taqwa of Allah. You’re avoiding Allah’s measure of justice which will takes its course in your life therefore you don’t want to disobey Him because Allah’s justice is going to set you straight and sometimes that may be in a tormenting way. We want to avoid that. This is at taqwa. But to many of us, Allah is not, (we know we’re going to use some loaded words here, but we want this issue to be in you), in the flesh. Allah doesn’t circulate in our minds. The same way blood circulates in our bodies, that’s the way Allah is supposed to circulate in our conscience, in our consciousness, in our thinking and in our emotions. Allah is supposed to circulate there with all his attributes. Those asma’ al husna are supposed to flow in ourselves, but because we are so involved in the material world it doesn’t seem that way. Because look at us- look at the Muslims in this world, are we poor? (Take a) look at the resources that we have- are we poor? The answer to that is no. Are we powerless? The answer to that is no. Then how come we, the Majority of Muslims in this world, are suffering from poverty? Why is it that the majority of Muslims in this world are suffering from invasions and bloodsheds and these types of policies? We are supposed to fast Ramadhan to feed ourselves- we are supposed to fast Ramadhan to gain Allah’s power. But we’ve been fasting Ramadhan for years and years now and it seems like as the years go by the poverty increases and the weakness increases. We can’t feed ourselves. You’ve heard- the famine in Somalia is one of the major news items now, yesterday, today, this week. Everyone has heard of it. Who are these? Buddhists? Hindus? Who are they? They’re you and me- they’re part of us. Then how come they’re dying in this month of Ramadhan? How come we have this? And this is just a small sample of what we have; there’s many other places where this is going on. If we are fasting Ramadhan in the full sense of the word none of this should be happening, but it is because it’s a partial fast. It’s because we are not certain in the depths, in the DNA of our hearts that Allah is with us. That’s the issue right there. We may say it. We may repeat it in a foreign language. We may recite it in some ayaat but do we mean it to become part of our root existence? For this reason Allah says- this ayah is saying, (and listen very carefully because you read this ayah and you listen to it very often). The missing link here is there is no in-depth understanding of it and therefore no character behaviour from it. We know we’re going to catch some flack from some individuals because of tradition and because of the absence of their mind from the Qur’an and from Allah. Allah is saying to His Prophet
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ
If My subjects, if my ibaad ask you about Me, indeed I am near to them… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
Did you listen to this. Please- brothers and sisters- please understand this because it is probably the seed of the month of Ramadhan. Allah is speaking to His Prophet. Allah’s Prophet is the dearest person on Earth to Him. He says to him
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ
If My subjects ask you about Me I am near to them… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
He didn’t say to His beloved one “tell them I am near to them.” The “logical” flow of the ayah should say fa qul: inni qarib… or fa qul lahum: inni qarib… But this places- when Allah is speaking to His own Prophet to speak to us- a distance between Him and us. (Do) you understand this? Allah is answering us directly; that’s how close he is to us and we should understand this in the month of Ramadhan.
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ
If My subjects and servants ask you concerning Me I am close by … (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
Its like we take three persons- one person says to the other “if the third person asks you about me, tell him I am near by.” Allah passed the second person and went to the third person who is posing the question and said to him directly
… I am close by… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
Allah by passed His most beloved Prophet, Al Mustapha, and He said to you, the Muslim, who is fasting Ramadhan
… I am close by… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ
...We are closer to this human individual, than his jugular vein… (Surah Qaf verse 16)
Did you hear that? An ayah (that) many Muslims repeat also.
In the course of the struggle when Muslims go for the ultimate sacrifice- their life and their limb- Allah comments on the psychology of Muslims during those types of times and He says
وَأُخْرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَا ۖ نَصْرٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ
And there’s another thing that you like- victory from Allah or a breakthrough from Allah and a near by victory… (Surah As Saff verse 13)
The victory is close to you as much as you are close to Allah! But we have many layers of propaganda and Establishmentarian types of Khutaba’ who have thrown ambiguity and fog into this whole issue so that we remain only individualistic absorbers of Ramadhan. That’s where we are and that’s why the effects of Ramadhan are stifled. We go from one Ramadhan to the next Ramadhan- from a Ramadhan a decade ago and a century ago to today’s Ramadhan- and what do you have accomplished? Where is the social spirit of Ramadhan?
أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ
… I will respond to the plea of he who calls upon Me if he does so… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
One of the major features of Ramadhan is ad du’a and there’s a hadith from Allah’s Prophet that says du’a is at the core of conforming to Allah. There’s been some attitudes about du’a. One of the attitudes say- and this you will find in the literature of Bani Isra’eel and then by infiltration, by distillation in the literature of some Muslims- that “Allah has already decreed the affairs of life; He has already determined what will happen and what will not happen so what value is ad du’a, what is ad du’a going to do?” Another attitude that we have that is found also in an unspoken way, particularly among many Muslims, is that the du’a makes you complacent, meaning if you ask Allah for something you substitute that for the action that is required. That’s another attitude that is a misunderstanding and misinformation about du’a. But Allah says here
أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ
… I will answer the request of he who calls upon Me provided that he does so… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
The Islamic spirit and the Islamic character is more mature than taking this world strictly as a mechanical world (where) everything is mechanised (or where) Allah has mechanised this world and there’s no room for du’a; and a Muslim is more mature than falling into that argument and a Muslim is more mature than to become as lazy and as withdrawn and as indifferent as not to engage Allah in du’a that comes after his action. The problem with Muslims is they want to replace action with words and we learn from Allah and His Prophet that our words, our du’a, our requests of Allah, our pleas with Allah come trailing our actions. That’s the sequence in which it belongs! You put in an effort- whatever effort that is, (if) you’re studying you put in whatever effort is required of you, (if) you are fighting you put in whatever effort is required of you, (if) you are training, whatever training that is, you put in whatever effort is required of you and then, accompanying that is your du’a. That’s the proper context of du’a. An order from Allah
فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي َ
… to ask Him… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
In the context that we just outlined.
… and let them have a commitment to Me … (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
None of this is outside the context of our commitment to Allah. There-in lies the rest of these dynamics.
أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
… I will answer the request of he who calls upon Me provided that he does so and in this manner they may reach maturity. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 186)
And then the ayaat proceed until we reach the first ayah that was mentioned at the beginning of the Khutbah.
وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِّنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
Do not consume or circulate or use your common wealth, moneys, investments, financial transactions in an illegitimate way and then you bring this type of illegitimate financial transactions to those who are ruling/rulers so that you may obtain a portion of people’s wealth wrongfully/sinfully while you should know better or while you should know better or while you should have gained the knowledge of this or eventually while you know this to be the case. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 188)
When we put all of these guidelines together, the Prophet of Allah says and you may have a fasting person whose only share of the fast is hunger and thirst. The meaning here is that is not the target of fasting, that is not the ambition of fasting; that is only the diminishing of the act and the purpose of fasting.
Brothers and sisters, committed Muslims…
It seems like every year around this time of Ramadhan we have an outrages surprise sprung upon us. Just this past week a law was passed in one of the Muslim territories; in Central Asia in the Republic of Tajikistan. They passed a law there, (can you believe they have whatever it takes to do this just before Ramadhan), that says “children, adults, teenagers who are less than eighteen years of age are prohibited from going to the Masjid.” We don’t know why the Muslims cannot (respond). When something like this happens the response of the Muslims should be one united voice against the President of that country and the laws now that they are trying to enforce. Muslims cannot go with their parents in the month of Ramadhan and beyond. This is not only for Ramadhan; this is from now until eternity as it was explained. Under eighteen years of age, a Muslim or a Muslimah cannot go into the Masjid. Where did this come from? Where is the condemnation of this?! What is it in the minds of this ruling class? You see- brothers and sisters- when we began speaking about Ramadhan how money corrupts! Money corrupts and power corrupts! The ruling class there has so much power and so much money that it thinks it can get away with things like this, so they pass a law knowing that Muslims are smothered with their own rituals! We are choking on our own rituals that have no meaning- we are doing this without a meaning- and so they come around, they come across, they come along and they enact these types of laws and we can’t even have our objection to that. You’d expect a voice from Makkah and Al Madinah. That should be the first place from which we hear a condemnation of this type of policy and these types of laws. Laws! But Makkah and Al Madinah are under occupation! What do you expect from Makkah and Al Madinah under occupation?
The liberation- we said the end of this month is a time of liberation from the fire and from everything else and from what causes us to go into the fire. We have Islamic liberation movements and they don’t even have a foothold or a footstep in Makkah! Why can’t we have HAMAS, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad- the Islamic Movements Headquarters in Makkah itself? Something is wrong with us if we can’t position our leaders in Makkah and we can’t capture the spirit of Ramadhan we are living in an exile of sorts.