Ramadhan and the wealth fast Part 6

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Ramadan 19, 1432 2011-08-19

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,

As has been pointed out earlier, our devotional fasting is not meant only to deprive our bodies of night-time/day-time nutrition. Our fasting is not meant only to abstain from food and water and other appetites that we may have during the day and then spend the whole month- twenty-nine or thirty days that we may have in this cycle- and then we leave. That’s not the purpose of Ramadhan. The purpose of Ramadhan is to acquire and anchor the certitude of Allah’s Authority and power in self and in society- that’s why we fast.

لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

… for the purpose of taqwa, so that you may gain or so that you may ingrain in you this component of taqwa. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

This taqwa is not stagnant. It’s not a habitual taqwa, it is not a theoretical taqwa and it is a behavioral taqwa and it is supposed to be a social taqwa. This taqwa as it is honed in this month of Ramadhan has to develop in our mind and our conscience an awareness of man’s greed. We have societies and we have cultures and we have systems and we have Governments and we have Educational systems, we have Religious Centres- we have much in this world that don’t take Allah’s authority and power seriously even though they fast and even though they pray and even though they go through the motions of being typical Muslims- that’s what we have. Ramadhan comes and it is supposed to open our eyes. You know, the eleven other months of the year take their toll on us and we become creatures of habit. We no longer can think “outside of the box.” Ramadhan is supposed to help us break loose from this habitual box that we are confined to and begin to see what greed does to the human condition. Begin to penetrate and identify those who have money. We know this is not a typical way that traditional Muslims stand up on Fridays and express themselves in the Khutbahs. They don’t tell their congregations “O Muslims- open up your eyes and see the class of people who have wealth and what they are doing with this wealth.” If you follow Allah’s ayaat in Surah Al Baqarah that begin

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who are secure in your commitment to Allah, siyam, fasting has been assigned to you as it was to those who preceded you … for the purpose of taqwa, so that you may gain or so that you may ingrain in you this component of taqwa. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)

And then the ayaat that go on to detail for us how this fasting should be- all of this ends with what?

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)

This ayah- after Allah expects us to observe the higher meanings of fasting

وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا

Don’t consume … (Surah Al Baqarah verse 188)

Just like we have an appetite to consume, we have a love for eating- Allah is telling us your fasting is not limited to your stomach functions. That’s the beginning; that’s the means, but this- once it is performed as Allah expects it to be performed- should extend and you should take control of the appetite you have for wealth and for money and for riches and for treasures and for fortunes and for finances and for bank accounts. Open your eyes; move into this area; begin to think about what’s happening here while you are fasting. This takes us to another level of things. Of course, we have to confess as a matter of conscience and as a matter of honesty that we, Muslims, fast the month of Ramadhan as far as our bodies are concerned. Most of the Muslims- the overwhelming majority of Muslims, we think- don’t eat or drink and they meet the physical criteria of Ramadhan as far as their bodies are concerned, but most Muslims, as far as their minds and their hearts are concerned do not fast. This is the dilemma and the dichotomy that we are living from year-to-year, from Ramadhan-to-Ramadhan, from generation-to-generation. This is the polarization that we live. We’re sure many of you have fasted decades of Ramadhans but we don’t see the benefits of this monthly exercise extending into the financial sectors of life. To the contrary, we fast physically but our financial institutions, even our financial thoughts are not affected by Ramadhan; therefore, to be honest with you, we fail. If Allah was to give us a grade at the end of Ramadhan for fasting, it would be a F! We’re not trying to be offensive to anyone, we’re not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings and we’re not trying to take away from the enthusiasm of Muslims for fasting- absolutely not! What we’re trying to do is state a fact and that fact is we have fasting physical bodies but we don’t have the extended mind and heart that should graduate out of the fasting body to take notice of the discrepancies, the discrimination, the tyranny of those who have wealth. This is an issue many people avoid to speak about. They don’t want to speak about this. There are many ayaat in the Qur’an that speak about this. We have collected some of these ayaat but we realize that just reading them to you (or) quoting them to you and then explaining them (or) translating them is going to consume much of this Khutbah so we are going to begin with the easy part of this. This is not an effort to avoid what is harder; it’s just because of the time constraints. We all read the short surahs in the Qur’an in juz Amma- the last juz/volume of the Qur’an. We are all familiar with these surahs. Allah says, Allah’s words here are saying the following, (please zero-in on these meanings)

فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ

As for Al Insan, this social being, (you and I and everyone out there), when his Sustainer tests him … (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

For those of you who are familiar with Qur’anic language, this is an ibtila’.

فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ

… this is a test of adversity, meaning this is a hard test for you, (O man) … (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

What is this ibtila’? What is this hard and adverse and challenging and consuming test? What is it?

فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ

… Allah gives this social being the means of leisure and pleasure- being honoured in society; you now have the dignity and honour, you have the wherewithal, you have the wealth ... (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

You have all of that and what do you say? What does this social being say?

رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ

… Allah has honored me … (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

Allah saying this is an ibtila’ and you, in the immediacy of the moment when your emotions speak before your mind, you say

رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ

… O Allah has honored me/Allah has dignified me … (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

Allah is saying no-

فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ

… this is an ibtila’- a test of adversity, meaning this is a hard test for you … (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

The ikram/honor and the An’am/wealth and leisure in life is the ibtila’ and you say

رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ

… Allah has favored me (or) Allah has dignified me… (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

You may not say this with your tongue, but you behaviour says it, your character says it, the way you communicate with other people says it, the way you relate to other people says it. OK- this is one segment of society; the other segment of society

وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ

The same human being, the same human nature, the same human appetites … (Surah Al Fajr verse 16)

Once again, the word ibtila’.

وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ

… Allah is putting this man to a test- a hard test to pass; He has limited his rizq… (Surah Al Fajr verse 16)

This person, this individual is not wealthy by any means- he’s poor. He doesn’t have the leisure, the luxuries that his previous insane had in the previous ayah.

فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ

… this man says, (because of limited means and wherewithal in life), he says Allah has humiliated me, my Sustainer has debased me. (Surah Al Fajr verse 16)

Then Allah says

كَلَّا

No … (Surah Al Fajr verse 17)

Both these statements are not correct. When you say

فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ

… O Allah has honored me … (Surah Al Fajr verse 15)

because you have a lot of things and you say

فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ

… O Allah has dis-honored me … (Surah Al Fajr verse 16)

because you don’t have a lot of things Allah is telling you

كَلَّا

No … (Surah Al Fajr verse 17)

Don’t say that. Don’t behave like that. It’s not a simple no; it’s an electrifying no. If you could put/materialise words, this no comes with a shock. It’s like you say

كَلَّا

Absolutely not … (Surah Al Fajr verse 17)

So what’s the issue? As if to say: the problem with you- humankind- is

بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ

… you do not honour the orphan. (Surah Al Fajr verse 17)

No one cares. Even Muslims who read this Qur’an and try to cogate its meanings in their mind- even these Muslims don’t care to look at the case of orphans that they have. Have you seen a lobby for orphans in our world? Theirs lobbies for, (maybe), skunks in the world! For animals there are lobbies but when it comes to us, you have people in this society, whether they are orphans- the orphan is a case/description in the Qur’an that falls into other descriptions of other people who have been denied by their own societies. So we are guilty. You tell us- we are fasting Ramadhan and we are supposed to be larger than life itself because we’ve conquered our instincts, our habits, our stomach, our sex in this month of Ramadhan- we’ve conquered all of that not by declaring a war against it, but by disciplining it- and we don’t have… Look, listen, (you can go online), there are now Khutbahs of people who ascend the Manabir in this month of Ramadhan- you go look for yourself; satisfy yourself- who is making that leap from the individual appetites that we have to the policies and politics and programs of greed that dominate the world? Who? Where? When? Tell us! That is why we have failed in this month of Ramadhan! Its not that Allah or Ramadhan has failed have failed them.

بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ

… you don’t honour the orphan. (Surah Al Fajr verse 17)

This is a measure of who we are. Allah is telling us: this is the way you should look at yourselves. Do you honour the orphans? We have plenty of them. (Take a) look at these areas in the world who’s societies have been shattered by warfare. They’re orphans probably in the tens of millions. We don’t even know because no one (counts them). This is another indicator of who we are. We care not to quantify what Allah is focusing our attention on. We don’t and that’s a failure! There’s nothing wrong with looking at our failures because how are we going to improve, how are we going to develop if we can’t identify our failures?

وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

And you don’t encourage yourselves to feed those who are in need of it. (Surah Al Fajr verse 18)

(Take a) look at today’s world. Brothers and sisters- this is the month of Ramadhan, the month in which we are supposed to experience hunger and there are, (what some people call “brothers and sisters in this world”; listen to this), they say “ Muslims are brothers and sisters of each other.” Its easy to be said, but where’s the behaviour? Once again, the behaviour and the character is absent. No one acts like they are brothers and sisters of those who are in need! So when we don’t fulfil our social character doesn’t this accurately describe the institutionalised and constitutionalised greed that dwells in Muslim society, so how do we fast Ramadhan? Who has fasted Ramadhan when greed is slapping us and humiliating us and we don’t care for our own selves? It’s a shame to have dying Muslims on the West side of the Red Sea! They’re dying because they don’t have food to eat and on the East side of the Red Sea there are Muslims who are dying because they have too much to eat! This is not who we are! This is an indictment of whom we are supposed to be! Allah said that

وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا

We are the Ummah of the medium, or the middle way or the centre… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 143)

You tell us, when you look at the dying Muslims of Somalia, because they have nothing to eat and the dying Muslims who are in Saudi Arabia because they have too much to eat- this is an Ummatan wasata? This is shuhada’ ala an naas we ask you? This attitude has been there; it dwells in us and Ramadhan comes its true, our bodies fast but our minds (and) our internal selves have not been crystallised by this fast.

Another short surah that you are familiar with.

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

Have you taken notice of the person who contradicts the deen? (Surah Al Maa’un verse 1)

Have you taken notice of him? OK- so who is he?

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

That’s the person who distanced himself from the orphan or he shoves the orphan aside. And he does not encourage/promote/facilitate the feeding of those who are in need. (Surah Al Maa’un verse 2-3)

And this person may be fasting, he may be praying, he may be going to the Hajj and the Umrah, he may be reading the Qur’an and the Qur’an is condemning him! Then the ayah goes on to say

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ

Woe to those who are praying- who are oblivious to the meanings of their own prayers. (Surah Al Maa’un verse 4)

Coming to as salaah is supposed to be an expression of social equality, but when you have classes in Islam- these are classes now. The wealthy people are a class, the poor people are a class. Like we said previously, we tried to avoid using this word, but Alhamdulillah the effects of a political ideology that had monopolised this word and gave it its own connotations is six feed under and probably we can use it now without the legacy of negativity that used to come with it. There are people who pray and Allah is saying- if we wanted to break down the language and put it in the verbiage of everyday street language it…

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ

Woe to those who are praying- who are oblivious to the meanings of their own prayers. (Surah Al Maa’un verse 4)

… would be like saying “to hell with these prayer attendees.” Wayl, literally, according to some definitions is a valley in jahannum, in hell. So there’s a very strong argument that that’s the way you translate the word wayl- “to hell with these musalleen.” Who are these musallin?

الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ

Those who are absent minded about what it means to perform as salaah. (Surah Al Maa’un verse 5)

The social justice of as salaah, the equality of as salaah, the responsibilities of as salaah, the discipline of as salaah, the organisation of as salaah- all of these are absent minded. They go into the Masjid because it is habitual, they come to Jum’ah because it is habitual, they go to the Umrah because it is habitual, they go to the Hajj because it is habitual and they fast Ramadhan because it is habitual, meaningless. So we fail. We’re not speaking about you and I in the personal sense; you and I as the Muslims in the world fail in this month of Ramadhan because there’s no one who is extending the meanings of this fast into the area in which it should be extended and therefore we become conscious of al mutrafeen- a Qur’anic word, a Qur’anic concept, a Qur’anic social class of people- and no one speaks about them, even in this month of Ramadhan?! When Allah is channelling all our sacrifice, all our devotion, all our labour in this month of Ramadhan to finally wake up to the class of organised and militarised greed that emanates in areas outside our own selves but then penetrates and makes its way into our own communities and societies and we end up having the effects of this Institutionalised and Governmental greed in our own selves even though our bodies are thirsty in Ramadhan and our bodies are hungry in Ramadhan.

There are other ayaat that you may be aware of. We will just mention the surah and maybe the first couple of ayaat in the surah so that you may know (or) you may be aware. That’s all we can do. Someone can’t become another person’s behaviour and character. That’s up to you; we can show you the way. (As it is said) “you can take the horse to the pond but you can’t force the horse to drink.” When Allah says at the end of these ayaat when He says

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)

Then, and we know some of you are probably are not very versed on the many other ayaat in the Qur’an but there are some short surahs that you can follow this ayah with-

وَيْلٌ لِّكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُّمَزَةٍ

الَّذِي جَمَعَ مَالًا وَعَدَّدَهُ

يَحْسَبُ أَنَّ مَالَهُ أَخْلَدَهُ

كَلَّا ۖ لَيُنبَذَنَّ فِي الْحُطَمَةِ

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحُطَمَةُ

نَارُ اللَّهِ الْمُوقَدَةُ

الَّتِي تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى الْأَفْئِدَةِ

إِنَّهَا عَلَيْهِم مُّؤْصَدَةٌ

فِي عَمَدٍ مُّمَدَّدَةٍ

Woe/the most miserable condition belongs to al humazah and lumazah. Al Humazah and Al Lumazah are people who have accumulated wealth and he keeps on counting his profits, his shares, his stocks and whatever there is that keeps on generating more of that type of wealth. He reckons, has a notion and figures that he is going to live on and on the same way he is living with the abundant and affluent wealth that he has. Absolutely not! This type of person is going to be ejected, dejected and expelled into the crusher. And do you, (Oh Prophet) know what is Al Hutamah- this crusher? It is Allah’s incinerating fire. Which has a way of seeping into a person’s locus of sensations. Indeed they shall be locked into it. In a course that extends without an end. (Surah Al Humazah verse 1-9)

That comes in this context. Surah At Takathur is another Surah that follows in this direction. Another Surah that fits into the sequence of these ayaat of fasting in Surah Al Baqarah.

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ

الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ

Have you taken notice of the person who contradicts the deen? That’s the person who distanced himself from the orphan or he shoves the orphan aside. And he does not encourage/promote/facilitate the feeding of those who are in need. Woe to those who are praying- who are oblivious to the meanings of their own prayers. Those who are absent minded about what it means to perform as salaah. (Surah Al Maa’un verse 1-5)

And another surah is

تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ

مَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُ مَالُهُ وَمَا كَسَبَ

سَيَصْلَىٰ نَارًا ذَاتَ لَهَبٍ

وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ

فِي جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِّن مَّسَدٍ

Perish the hands of the father of flame, perish he; He will not profit from all his wealth and all his gains; Soon will he be burnt in a fire of blazing flame; his wife shall carry the crackling wood as fuel; a twisted rope of palm leaf fibre will be around her own neck (Surah Lahab verse 1-5)

And the Prophet of Allah says you may have a person who’s observing the fast and the only thing he’s getting out of the fast is mere hunger and thirst. In another hadith if people only understood the true meaning of Ramadhan, they would wish that the rest of the year be Ramadhan.

Our dear brothers and sisters who are fasting and who are trying their best to obey and conform to Allah…

It breaks a person’s heart in this month of Ramadhan to watch many Muslims in the world who don’t have food and who don’t have water and at the same time watch other custodians of Islamic sanctuaries and countries who run to the hospitals and the medical centres in the West because they are treating too much. There’s a quote related to one of those who were educated in the household of Allah’s Prophet who said the reason why we have hungry people in the world is because we have other people who stuff their bellies- the quote goes to that effect. We can see this demonstrating itself in our lives. What do you say- what can you say? You know, at the beginning of our history in the presence of Allah’s Prophet, as much as possible within those who were the immediate circle of Allah’s Prophet, there was no class consciousness as we know it today; there was no Nationalist consciousness as we know it today; there was no ethnic divisions as we know it today; there were no cultural barriers as we inherited them today- no. None of them existed and then yet, as the years went by, these elements began to come into the Muslim realm. We saw it and we spoke about it during the time of Uthman (radi Allahu anhu) who in his own mind thought that people had become, (all of them) what we call today “a middle class.” Yet another person, Abu Dharr (radi Allahu anhu) began to notice- no, we have an emergence of a new class of novo-rich/the super-rich individuals. No one was saying a this person is a Capitalist and another is a Marxist and these types of things that deluded our ability to look at the facts of life. Do we or do we not have a segment of people in the world who are super-rich- who are dying because they are super-rich? Who have diseases and ailments and sicknesses because they are super-rich? (It’s) a simple question. Don’t get tricked by the ideologies of other people; they speak about them in their own ways, but what does that have to do with us? We can’t look at the facts of life? In a certain country in the Muslim world there are “those greenies” who are looking at the National interest first. Mu’awiyah in that sense was a greeny. He had his justifications just like today those types of people have, (what they call), their arguments and both sides think of themselves as if they are the number one Muslims in the world. Let us, in this month of Ramadhan, outgrow our selfishness and let our selflessness give us access to the facts of life so that we are no longer reactionary, inferior and apologetic about our fasting and about its intentions and purposes.

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