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,
The ayaat that we have cited many times in previous khutbahs and in past years are the ayaat in Surah Al Baraqah that begin with
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O You, who are committed to Allah, fasting has been declared a mandatory service upon you as it has been on those before you so that you may take heed of Allah, so that your awareness of Allah will become a barrier to the punishment and the penalty of Allah. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 183)
that end with
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 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)
Not reading these ayaat, but behaving them, as is the case with all other ayaat give us a sense of freedom and liberation. In this month of Ramadhan we should feel liberated and free. The word freedom is used many times in a political context. “A certain country or a certain people gained their freedom.” When this is used in that context it refers to a type of civil freedom that they have acquired for themselves. In another context, (we’re not talking about Muslims in particular, we’re talking about the usage of the word out there in this world), when someone uses the word freedom it sort of implies a person can do whatever he or she wants to do. So if a person wants to have sex however way that is done, (according to this vocabulary out there), they are supposed to have the freedom to do that. So freedom in this context would include illicit or haraam relationships between men and women. This is another area where the word freedom is used. But we know and everyone with common sense and observation who is living in this society, (not necessarily a Muslim but just a common sense person), knows that he or she should know that with all of the usage of this word freedom, freedom is not what Hollywood and the mainstream media make it out to be. A simple example is if you had or I had or we had unlimited freedom- this is how they want us to walk this course of freedom- then you can drive your car in the opposite direction of the traffic, (i.e.), the traffic is going in one lane (or) in one direction and you can put your car in the same lane and go in the opposite direction. Obviously you can’t do that. You don’t have the freedom to do that. These people who speak about sexual freedom in the type of society that sings the songs of freedom don’t have the freedom to expose themselves in public. Can you walk down this sidewalk (or) this road here with absolutely no clothes on? You can’t do that. So if we begin to think about the world around, we know we don’t have infinite freedom (or) what they call absolute freedom. There are inhibitions, restrictions and limitations on what this freedom is supposed to be. Here is where our fasting of Ramadhan should bring to our attention “who is to tell me what my limitations are.” Is it a body of people- judges and lawyers and the legal system that comes from historical experience and what they call in legal practice, precedence? Is that how I gain or how I define my limitations i.e. what I can do and what I cannot do? Sometimes freedom requires inhibition- you can’t do something and that’s freedom. Just by doing everything you want to do doesn’t mean that you enjoy freedom! If a person is sick, ill (or) bed ridden and there is medical advice i.e. “you can’t eat certain types of food”; that is restricting that person but in that restriction that person is free because he is not subjected to the consequences of the exacerbation of the illness or disease that he or she has. So there can be freedom in what we call restrictions or inhibitions. But the question comes back to present itself: “who is to tell me what those limitations and what those restrictions are?” The answer to that is, (and we should know the answer to that), it is Allah and His Prophet. They define to me what these boundaries are. In the ayaat that you read in the Qur’an Allah says
تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا
… those are the boundaries of Allah… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 229)
Or in other ayaat
تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ
… those are the boundaries of Allah… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 187)
In these ayaat pertaining to as siyam.
This taqwa of Allah- when we observe His limitations or His restrictions or His prohibitions we are free. The total fulfillment of my ubudiyah is in affirming these limitations that Allah explains to me and to you and to the rest of mankind- in that we enjoy what is called maximum or maximalist freedom. The Prophet of Allah mentioned or expressed a condition to bring this point home. Remember, you or anyone else does not live in this world alone. You’re the only one in this world?! There are other people in this world. You interact with members of your society. Whatever you do, there’s this interaction; so in considering these restrictions- we are restricted in this month of Ramadhan, (i.e.) we don’t eat we don’t drink and we don’t have sex as prescribed or as defined in Ramadhan. So we do this understanding that we are a member of a larger society around. We’re not by ourselves. This is not a jungle! So the Prophet of Allah wanted to drive this point home so he said there were people on a two deck ship (or) a ship that has two layers to it (i.e.) the upper deck and the lower one and they used to draw water from the water beneath that vessel. So the people who were on the upper deck used to come down to draw water. There was an effort here. You have to walk down and then you have to walk back up with this water. Now that could be exhausting for some individuals so an idea occurred: why can’t we just drill a hole in the bottom deck so we don’t have to go up and down. It’s easier to extract water that way. What’s all of this thing getting a bucket and throwing it overboard and getting this water? We’re getting exhausted here! Don’t we have the freedom to just drill a hole in this thing? (In) that way the water comes to us and that’s the end of that- no effort, no labour (and) no sweat. This is akin to society- if you want to do something that’s easy for you and then it’s going to cause the destruction or the debilitation of the rest of society, you don’t have the freedom to do that. The Prophet says if you leave this person to do something like that- with this type of idea which seems to be in the scope of freedom, “hey I have the freedom I can just drill a hole here do whatever I want to do’- that person is going to bring down the ship. He is going to sink the ship... If you give these types of individual’s freedom in society they will sink society. … but if you restrict them (or) if you hold their hands then these individuals themselves will be saved and the rest of society will be saved. What we should be feeling in this month of Ramadhan, (now that we are more than two thirds into the month of Ramadhan), is that we are not creatures of our lusts (and) our inordinate desires, we are not secondary to our greed, and we are not human beings who go by our animal instincts. If we were to define freedom the way Hollywood and the mainstream media are leading people to define freedom then the creature that has most freedom in this world is the animal because animals have no inhibitions; they have no restrictions, they have no limitations. They eat when they want to do and they indulge themselves when they want to but in this month of Ramadhan we should know that we have liberated ourselves from our carnal desires. This is freedom. When you liberate yourself from your carnal desire, you are free. There’s nothing here that you are subject to. This is the fulfilment of our compliance with Allah or our ubudiyah to Allah. Ubudiyah doesn’t mean our worship of Allah; it means our conforming to Allah. When we honour His limitations we conform to Him and when we do that we feel the freedom that no others can feel. People who are addicted- this is a prime example of those who are slaves to their own internal inordinate desires and there are extremes to this and these extremes stand out as a prime example. There’s many substances out there that cause an individual to become addicted- the better known of them is alcohol. Who says “if you want freedom that is defined outside of scripture and outside of the teachings of Prophets you can drink- meaning you can drink alcoholics, you can drink substances that blow your senses and knock you out, you can ingest them (and) you can inhale them if freedom has no limitation.” We have people who are like that. These are the opposites of whom we are in Ramadhan- the exact opposites. People who fall under the pressure of their carnal desires, their urges (and) their fetish (and) individuals who come under that spell are locked into it. They are prisoners of their own errant instincts. These are not ibadallah. We have come out- Alhamdulillah. Some of you did not live fifty and sixty years ago or even forty years ago in which it was an indicator of freedom and liberty and progress and liberation (when) some Muslims considered they were free and liberated (when) they broke away from Allah. That is how they thought. We’re not speaking about something historical (or) something you have to go to history books to dig up. It’s something (of which) traces of it are still around but this was a fad- “aah- a person considered himself a progressive individual. Who says I can’t drink and I can’t smoke and I can’t have of sex in the manner that they describe?! Who says that?!” (This) is what they use (to) say and they went even further. A person would change his name if his name was Abdur-Rahman or Abdul Kareem or Abdul Hafeedh or Abdullah or Abd from Allah’s attribute he says “I want to even liberate myself from that. I am going to change my name- I am not an Abd of Allah.” So the person who comes from a Muslim family and who was born in a Muslim culture and who is located in an Islamic geography, (we’re telling you this is just forty to fifty years ago); it was a type of social trend. That’s how they felt liberated not knowing that they were taking themselves right into slavery. But now this whole scenario has changed. It’s no longer like that. The ayah in Surah Al Jaathiyah says
أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ
… have you considered that person who has made out of his own carnal desire his own deity… (Surah Al Jaathiyah verse 23)
These are the types of people who cannot be liberated by Ramadhan. In this month of Ramadhan we experience hunger, we experience thirst- we experience those limitations for our own good and for our own sake (and) for our own betterment.
As a follow up to the last khutbah, we said that Allah wants those who are affluent and rich to be hungry and thirsty and to deny their reckless desires (and the urges that are in us. In this month we deny it and we want those who are affluent in society to experience this so that we may get rid of poverty and hunger and thirst and malnutrition and starvation- that is the way to do it. There’s different ways of presenting an idea and for some people this may explain it- in medicine there is a conviction that if you give the physical human body a small percentage of the pathogen that ails the body, the body will rejuvenate itself (or) the immune system will reinforce itself in a way that will expel that pathogen or that disease from the body. In whichever field of medicine you pursue this, you can understand this as it is practised in homeopathy and in allopathy where (they give you) the vaccination or they give you a shot (and) what is being put in your body is a very weak form of the disease that you want to avoid and then the body rejuvenates itself and then you are liberated from that disease. (Its) the same thing with fasting. No one wants to be hungry (and) no one wants to be thirsty just like no one wants pathogens in their body but Allah has calibrated this dose of hunger and thirst and deprivation so that our social body expels hunger and thirst and deprivation from it. But we ask: we are in the month of Ramadhan- are Muslims in Ramadhan ingesting, (so to speak), this hunger and this thirst and this deprivation into our own psychologies so that we can expel it from our own societies? We ask you- who is doing that?! If we are not doing this what happened to us? What went wrong? Why can’t we understand our Ramadhan and our fasting for that purpose? Once that is done then we are liberated, we are free from hunger and from thirst and from starvation and from the rest of what ails human societies. The first character of being subject to Allah is to liberate yourself from these urges, from these animal instincts, from this selfishness and this greed in your own self, as a person, and in your own self, as a society because you have a social self too. Some people just can’t understand that they have a social self?! What’s difficult with that? When you attend certain activities, (we have to explain this for some people who can’t catch it), you get together with other people. Whether it is a religious activity, you know we try to avoid using that word “religious” because of the connotations and the secularisation of the word, but those who attend some type of ritual ceremonies or national occasions or cultural get-togethers or sectarian activities- that’s how you define your social self. If you don’t attend any of these activities (and) if you live by yourself in this world (and) you don’t interact with anyone else then you don’t have a social character; but when you think about yourself outside of your body- what characterises the people you associate with (and) the people that you meet with? Are they something else before they are Muslims? Or they have taken this Islam and then squeezed it to a narrow definition? Who are they? That’s your social self. We have to liberate this social self from the greed that has mis-defined us and we think that we are fulfilling the meanings of Ramadhan when we are individually and personally experiencing hunger and thirst and some other forms of deprivations and that message does not take its course into society. We don’t think this is what is meant by fasting the month of Ramadhan or by fasting- period. Just to quote an ayah here of what fasting can do to those who observe the fast- a lesson that belongs to our history. This doesn’t belong to Israeli history (and) it doesn’t belong to a nationalist or a racist history. These ayaat number two-hundred-and-forty-nine to two-hundred-and-fifty-one of Surah Al Baqarah. These ayaat, (just a couple of them), speak to us about Muslims, committed Muslims, who are going out to fulfil the order of Allah which means they are going to have to fight in this occasion (and) in this particular circumstance.
قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مُبْتَلِيكُم بِنَهَرٍ
… So their leader Talut says to them: right now Allah is going to test you with water… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 249)
They’re thirsty. They want to drink and they’re going to war. Now does that make sense? If you’re going to war and you say “I’m not going to drink when I’m thirsty?” You may end up tomorrow or next week dead! You have to nourish yourself to become the warrior that is going to defeat the enemy.
قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مُبْتَلِيكُم بِنَهَرٍ فَمَن شَرِبَ مِنْهُ فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي وَمَن لَّمْ يَطْعَمْهُ فَإِنَّهُ مِنِّي إِلَّا مَنِ اغْتَرَفَ غُرْفَةً بِيَدِهِ
… Talut says to them: Allah is going to test you with this running water; whoever drinks of it doesn’t belong to me and whoever does not drink of it he is with me, with the exception of just a handful of water… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 249)
True- they came to that river and they drank. These are Mu’minin. What did they do?
فَشَرِبُوا مِنْهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنْهُمْ
… they drank except for a few of them… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 249)
So now only the few qualified to face up to that military force and when they did the few won. This tells you and me that when we deny our lower instincts we invite Allah into our lives (in) whatever we are doing- whether we are at a warfront or whether we are in our backyards, it doesn’t matter. When you deny your lower instincts you are in the company of Allah and if you are out to defeat an enemy the enemy is going to be defeated. This month of Ramadhan is not a month that we are observing with the absence of an enemy. This month of Ramadhan is a month of giving. People used to give and they were asked but what did you leave for yourself and your family? The answer was I left for them Allah and His Prophet. When committed Muslims went out with this spirit of Ramadhan, with this behaviour of Ramadhan (and) with this character of Ramadhan they didn’t want to live. They wanted to die. The same way the opposite side, the enemies, want to live and they don’t want to die, the Muslims wanted to die and they didn’t want to live and that was determined through the military clash. This is the spirit of Ramadhan. This is what we have to recapture and this is what has to extend beyond our personal selves into the world around us.
Dear observant, fasting brothers and sisters…
If we define our freedom in our relationship with Allah, in other words “I am with Allah and therefore I am free” and if we can feel what this means in the month of Ramadhan then we should not be as lacking in courage to state the truth. It would be foolhardy to make belief that there are not issues that are coming in our direction that require us to speak the truth. One of these issues is the sectarian issue. Sectarianism has always existed. We would be either uninformed or misinformed or mal-informed if we were to say sectarianism doesn’t exist. It exists and it exists among those who say “they are Sunnis” and among those who say “they are Shi’as.” Sectarianism is there. What is being done in our world, that we are responsible for today, is a spiking of this sectarianism around. In different times in the past these types were under control. Yeh- you’ll find here and there these types but they never came to positions in which they were making decisions for the rest of us. What is happening now is that we have a flare up of this sectarianism that is financed very generously and now being armed very heavily but the sectarians in Arabia. They are concentrating all of their efforts around that geographical area called Syria. For good measure, the imperialists and the Zionists come along and they have bleeding hearts now for Muslims in Syria. Remember, these are the ones who are responsible for a carnage (and) a holocaust of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan among other places and now they are showing us their tears concerning Muslims in Syria?! They are behind the scenes on both sides- they want this bloodletting and this bloodbath inside of Syria to continue. Don’t think that they are on one side, they are on both sides. Mark our words- they are on both sides inside of Syria. Just like they were on both sides inside of Iraq they were on both sides inside of Afghanistan. They brought us the Taliban in Afghanistan and then they brought Karzai in Afghanistan; they brought us Saddam in Iraq and then they bring us the current regime in Iraq and they want to do the same thing in Syria. If you can go back just seventeen years ago- the Taliban came out of the blue. Where did these people come from? Where did tanks, artillery (and) all the gadgets of war come from? Right now we have a Free Syrian Army who has appeared the same way Taliban appeared- where did they come from? Some of these Islamic organisations today, here in the United States, made this Jum’ah a Jum’ah to speak about Syria. We wish we had the time, because we have an experience with this), to speak about what is happening in Syria. To put it in a few words, what is happening in Syria is (that) the Saudi government which is an extension of the American government which is an extension of the Israeli government are now playing fools out of certain Muslims. (They are) giving them however much money they want (and) offering them salaries. If a person defects- “what do you want, $1million dollars to defect and $25,000 a month as your salary? Come to our side.” As a reaction to, (let’s call it), this type of Wahhabi extremism or Salafi extremism we have pockets of Shi’i extremism. It doesn’t express its way in the same form but what exists are those ill feelings. They don’t have enough of what it takes to say that the Saudis are playing this nasty game here, they generalise and say “the Sunnis want to kill us.” In this mix there are the trouble makers, just like there were in Iraq; they will go to a predominantly Sunni area in Syria and blow something up and kill hundreds of people and say “look at what the Alawis did to you.” Then on the other side they will go to an Alawi district or neighbourhood in a certain city and they will blow up buildings and they will kill numerous people and say “look at what the Sunnis are doing to you” and they will play off these contradictions that came into existence. Why? Because these two communities are not familiar with each other?! They live in the same land, they may live in the same neighbourhood (and) even they may live in the same building but they don’t know each other?! There are Muslims- are we going to be able to break this psychological barrier? We ask you very frankly and very brotherly- if you are Shi’i and you go to a Masjid that is predominantly attended by Sunnis, do you go there and follow the Imam? You know from your Tashayyu’ that you follow that Imam. Let’s say that a certain Imam puts his hands in front him- do you follow him? If you don’t, the person next to you is going to say “what’s wrong with this person next to me? Is he something else?” Exactly the same thing can be applied to a Sunni who goes to a Masjid that is predominantly Shi’i and this Sunni has the hadith in front of him that says an Imam is there for you to follow exactly what he is doing. So if he’s praying with his hands to his side, you’re like a sore thumb- you have your hands in front of you. What is this? Allah’s looking at your hands? Or is He looking at your heart? Is He looking at your individuality? Or is He looking at you within the larger membership of Muslims around you? This inability for us to step outside of our personal selves and affirm our social selves have left gaps for these troublemakers and warmongers to do what they are doing to us now and today. Let’s outgrow this individualism and let’s take control of our social character.