"WHAT DO YOU HEAR WHEN THE WORLD GOES SILENT?"
6 March 2020
Dr. Abou El Fadl begins with the reminder that because humans are often oblivious and forgetful, we take much for granted. The Prophet Muhammad was a moral example of how we should live our lives, and those who fail to understand this guidance lose so much because they cannot truly be guided to the path of Islam.
Last week, Dr. Abou El Fadl shared the news that he had become functionally deaf and reflected upon his thoughts as he coped with this life change. Like most humans, he did not reflect upon the blessing of hearing until he lost it. The nature of human beings is to take blessings like our senses, safety and stability for granted until these blessings are threatened. Loss educates and humbles. Upon loss, some become angry and ask the question that will never be answered, “Why me?” This is a selfish question, why does someone else deserve the loss? What truly matters is what one chooses to do with their loss.
An interesting thing happens when the world becomes eerily silent. There is a voice that cannot be shut off, that continues to speak in one’s head, a voice that must be listened to, and that is the voice of the self. There are no longer distractions, so one must confront this voice. When you confront the self, you start reflecting upon what you are made of. That is the blessing of what God gives and takes; it becomes an amazing educational opportunity. In this case, it is an opportunity to listen to what is going to testify against you or for you in the Hereafter before it does. If the world going silent opened the door for the voice of God to come through more purely, then there is no loss or loneliness, only beauty. Do not wait until blessings are lost to appreciate, reflect and be grateful now. Think about every sense that God has given you and how you are using it. When it testifies in the Hereafter, will it elevate or degrade you?
That is the power of religion. Those who think everything is by chance, when diagnosed with an affliction, will question, “Why me?” and often attempt to spread their misery. Religion teaches us that nothing is by happenstance and that there is an entity who sees us and holds us accountable. We cannot allow ourselves to devolve to barbaric behavior, we are elevated by the reality of the Divine. If a religion fails to elevate one into beauty and make loss an opportunity for elevation, not degradation, then it is not religion.
Thank God for what God has given and taken. Repeat “Alhamdulillah” constantly because when you acknowledge your gratitude, you become cognizant of your own faults and aspire to be better, and that is what God wants for us.
Reminding ourselves of the essence of what Islam is – a mercy unto humankind - is so critical, particularly now, as Islam has been demonized around the world and Muslims have become confused about the message of Islam. The threat of “Islamic jihadis,” “political Islam” and terrorism has become a common defense to justify the murder of Muslims in numerous territories, including the Bosnian, Rohingya, and Chechnyan genocides. This same defense is being used now in the torture and murder of Uyghur and Kashmiri Muslims, and the violence against Muslims by the nationalistic Hindu government in India. Worse, the governments of powerful Muslim countries also justify the killing of civilians in Libya and Yemen as a protection against “Islamic jihadis” and “political Islam.”
The problem is not just these governments, but that they are served by an army of imams that justify their murderous, Islamophobic behavior. Colonialism confronted an ideology of resistance within the Islamic civilization, and this ideology of resistance was often called jihad. Colonialism’s propaganda said, ‘resistance is wrong’, even if the resistance was for a just cause. Any despot is a corrupter of the earth because despotism is shirk (associating partners with God). When a despot says, "Listen to me and me alone," they negate divinity. Two types of Islam emerged from colonialism: a non-confrontational, pacifist Islam; and a resistant, justice-based Islam. The first logics that obeying the ruler is obeying God, making this Islam favorable among despots.
The elite in Muslim countries were not educated in Muslim institutions, their political and social awareness being created by institutions run by colonial powers. As a result, the way they understand Islam is through the eyes of the colonizer, viewing resistance as futile. These elite lead Muslim countries and cater to powerful colonizers, regardless of the injustices they may have committed against Muslims. What is worse is that Muslims who are supposed to best exemplify the Islamic message do not stand up to this injustice.
A Pew Research Center study about European attitudes towards religion was recently published, which included European attitudes towards Muslims. One of the questions asked if people would accept Muslims and/or Jews as members of their family. Research found that the majority of Europeans interviewed would not accept a Muslim as a member of their family. In every country studied, people were more likely to accept a Jew than a Muslim. Yet, compare discourses on anti-Semitism to discourses on Islamophobia and the sensitivity of the Israeli government to any anti-Semitic act to the sensitivity of any Muslim government to an Islamophobic act. When something anti-Semitic happens, Jews are righteously outraged. But when something Islamophobic occurs, many Muslims justify the act.
Among the questions the study answered is whether religion is an important part of Europe's identity. In some European countries, the majority thinks religious identity is core to the identity of their country. Compare this to the Muslim world, where many Muslim leaders want to distance themselves from Islam. Religion, even in the West, is a key component to identity. But in the Muslim world, we often apologize for our Muslim identity.
Last jumu’a, the Muslim world lost a very important man, Dr. Muhammad Imara. He was a prominent scholar, publishing over 100 books and being part of the Council of Scholars in Egypt. Despite his achievements, he was very humble. In the years that Dr. Abou El Fadl has known him, Imara never made him feel inferior or spoke down to him. Imara was the epitome of a man who lives for a principle and the idea of Islam. He never took money from corrupt Muslim governments, and as a result lived and died in poverty. Yet, in post-military coup Egypt, he was banned from publishing books, writing articles, appearing on TV, and posting YouTube videos. He was banned in the same country that people could impugn the Prophet and his companions regularly on TV.
God has given us a brain, so we do not fall victim to following these despots. Dr. Abou El Fadl concludes by praying Allah puts us in the Hereafter with those whom we love, whether it be the Prophet or the despots.