Alhamdulillah, we have reached the last jumu'a in Ramadan. Another signpost has completed in the history of the Islamic Ummah: a Ramadan that will bear witness for and against us in the Hereafter; a Ramadan that offered us opportunities to look deep within ourselves and find a path to bring us closer to God. With the end of the Ramadan, a new chapter begins. We must approach the new chapter with zeal and without despair of past missed opportunities. The only path is forward, never to despair in the mercy of your Lord.
We do not control the time that we are born into, we are a very small part of the divine momentum that moves this world. In the same way that there were people born at the prime of Islam, there were also people that were born right before the Prophet lived, who missed out on the Islamic message. There are people born during a period of considerable turmoil. The time we are born into is God’s decision. Finding yourself in the historical moment that you were born in, what do you do with the challenge? How do you understand your role in the larger scheme of things? If you are born at a time of trials and tribulations and you persevere, rejoice because your rewards in the Hereafter are proportional to the difficulties that you confronted in life.
Many Muslims become overwhelmed by the historical moment they are in, asking the pointless question, “Why was I born in this moment when things for the Muslim world are so difficult?” Or they ask, "Why wasn't I born in the time of the Prophet?" God is thoroughly just. Maybe you would have not been up to the challenge to fight in battle to defend the Muslim Ummah. The Sahabah of the Prophet were expected to give their wealth, health, and emotions to the cause. From a different perspective, maybe God wanted to honor you. If you hold onto the path of God through difficulty, your status in the Hereafter will be higher than those born in historical periods of ease and prosperity for the Muslim Ummah. Do not occupy yourself with why God chose you at a certain historical moment. This is like the pointless, impossible question of, “Why life?” We lack the brain wiring that would allow us to think beyond what we experience as human beings; we are limited by the laws of causation.
Make it a point to make Eid celebratory and jubilant. God gave us Eid so that we can fulfill its intended purpose: to be happy, within and between families, within and between communities, and in the entire Muslim Ummah. It is your obligation to fulfill the objectives of Eid. If there are arguments or difficult conversations, postpone them. Go out of your way to contact friends and family. Whatever frictions, misunderstandings or hardship might exist, Eid is an opportunity to mend and forgive.
To put it a different way, the Quran constantly reminds us of the virtue of those who persevere and are patient. The Quran also reminds us that sabr (perseverence) by itself is not enough. Patience must be accompanied by an intent to strive, work hard, and struggle to change the reality and overcome challenges; to become a vehicle through which those who are oppressed and disempowered can gain greater equity and justice. Depressed, miserable people cannot affect change. Those who have become addicted to self-loathing, skepticism and apathy eat themselves up, producing nothing. That is why if you study the traditions of the Prophet, you will find that the Prophet went out of his way to bring joy and jubilation.
Think of the life of the Prophet - his life was full of tribulations. He lost his closest wife, his parents, his dearest uncle, all of his children except one. There was hardly a year that passed without something major that would cause many of us to give up on life. Many become angry with God after one loss, but the Prophet went through loss of every kind. In a life full of tragedy and hardship, how did he manage to smile every day, spreading cheer in his community? He and his companions understood the importance of renewing trust in God and renewing the awareness that even if this world is not organized to your liking or breaks your heart and lets you down, to despair is kufr (disbelief). To despair in God’s mercy is to give up on God.
Eid is an exercise in happiness. During the pandemic, it is very easy for us to forget that element because we often confuse happiness with social pretenses. To be happy, you do not need to waste money splurging on food as many do. Happiness is to spread joy and help others. The amazing thing is in Islam, you are rewarded for spreading happiness, bringing the bonds of family and community together.
Remember that whether or not we are aware of it, we renew a HEAVY covenant every time we recite al Fatiha (the first chapter of the Quran), which we recite in every prayer. We recite it so often that we no longer reflect upon what it means.
We start with “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim,” ("In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate"), saying, "I am in this life by the permission of God; I am not here because I am pointless or confused. I am here because of the deputyship that was given to me by 'Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim'. I am here as an agent of God in the name of God." Make it a point to mean this when you say it.
God gave you a methodology and told you that being My deputy means compassion and mercy. If you do anything that is not compassionate or merciful, then it is outside the purview of that deputyship. Mercy and compassion are what God places in our hearts, the absence of which is either demonic or an illness that needs to be treated.
If you accustom yourself to acts of cruelty, you will become a cruel person, and forget how to be merciful and compassionate. When you say, 'Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alameen", you are saying, "I am thanking God, the God of the heavens and all that exists," and that my gratitude – this relationship of gratitude – is a philosophy of life. There are people who are always dissatisfied, overcome by victimhood and feeling as if they have not been given their due. Then there are people who understand that they do their best but ultimately it is in God’s hands, so they do not approach the world bitter and angry, blaming everyone else for their state. Their relationship with the world is one of forgiveness, kindness and gratitude. If I claim I am grateful to God but I hurt, steal, cheat, torture or ruin people, that is all inconsistent with, "Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alameen, Ar-Rahmaanir-Raheem". If you want to know whether you are following the path of God, look at the results of your actions. If they are the results of mercy and compassion, that is the path of Allah.
When we say, "Iyyaaka na'budu wa Iyyaaka nasta'een", we tell God that we know there are people who trust in money, power, privilege, class and ideologies, but our trust is in God. God is our path. This world is full of people that claim to have the path of truth. But for a Muslim anchored in the understanding of: "Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim, Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alameen, Ar-Rahmaanir-Raheem", our fervent prayer to God is give us, "Ihdinas-Siraatal-Mustaqeem", the gift of God’s path; not the path of those who imagine themselves autonomous or those who have been confused by the lack of mercy and compassion on earth, losing confidence that God exists. When you say, "Iyyaaka na'budu wa lyyaaka nasta'een, Ihdinas-Siraatal-Mustaqeem", you are saying, “I know that there are many pathways and illusions, but I want God’s path of mercy, compassion, guidance and light.
We live in this historical moment as Muslims, which is full of reasons for unhappiness – suffering, injustice, defeatism and all types of ailment. You and I don’t control that. This is what God chose for us. Embrace it, because it is God’s will. Vow to change it. Your pathway to change must be built on mercy and compassion, not cruelty and injustice. Part of faith is to say, "This is all owned by God. I do my part, I pray for God to keep me on the path, but the results are in God’s hands."
When Eid comes, spread good cheer. Do not despair because Ramadan has gone, instead wait eagerly for the next Ramadan to arrive. If God has kept you alive to the following Ramadan, do everything within your capacity to do better than you did the Ramadan before.
Recently, the U.S. approved new arms sales to the U.A.E., despite evidence that they violated the last agreement. The U.S. looks at the Muslim world as a cash cow, viewing Muslim life as worthless. When it comes to western countries, white countries, there are principles to be followed. When it comes to Muslims and Arabs, America does not follow its own laws. We sold the United Arab Emirates weapons, despite them being in clear violation of American and international law, illegally transferring those weapons to nonconventional combatants in Libya and Yemen. These weapons were used to kill hundreds of Muslims. The law means nothing when it comes to money and the lives of Muslims.
Learn how to contact your politicians and voice your strong opinion against an immoral, illegal sale like this. Just by paying taxes, we take part in murder committed using American weapons. If God has given you the talent, run for office, get elected and work to bring an end to immoral contracts like this. It is unlikely you will find another khutbah anywhere that comments on something like this. This is exactly why God leaves us in the mess we are in. God will not help us as long as we witness injustice and do not raise our voice against it.
There are people amongst us who are hardly known on this earth, but in the heavens, they are superstars. Then there are people who are famous on this earth, but in the heavens, they are worth nothing. There are events that happen on this earth that people ignore, but the heavens are turned upside down because of these events. Among those is the egregious death of the Saudi scholar Abdullah al-Hamid, a nearly 70-year-old man who suffered and died in a Saudi prison because he was denied heart treatment by the Saudi government. Why was he imprisoned? For creating an organization for political and civil rights. For saying Islam protected human dignity. For saying it is not consistent with Islam to torture, kill and rape. Because he cared about humanity and innately understood that to be a Muslim and say Bismillah, In the name of God, is to commit to al-Rahman al-Rahim.
Aya Ismail Hachem, a 19-year old second-year law student was shot on her way to the supermarket in England. The police claim this was not an Islamophobic attack although this is doubtful. After her death, Muslims donated money to the family until they found out that they were Shia. Then, some Muslims wanted to withdraw their donations or regretted their donations. This is obscene. First, Aya is a human being and that should be enough. There is much more that can be said, but the Shia have been a sizeable part of the Muslim community for centuries and are part of the Islamic fabric. They have a coequal right to exist as Muslims, even if you disagree with their theology. You don’t control God’s will.
Part of understanding the meaning of "Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim" is learning to coexist with shared respect, even with those that you disagree with the most. Every human being, especially a fellow Muslim, is entitled to full due and respect.
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