"Truth Justice, and Hope at Christmas"

The words of your Lord, the revelation of your Lord, their completion, the way that these words become perfected, is by upholding truth and justice. God's words do not exist frivolously or in vain. These words are called truth because truth exists beyond the veils of human egos, vanities and desires, beyond the little squabbles and big fights. Truth is there. The relationship between truth and justice is intimately tied. The very nature of truth calls for justice, and the very nature of justice calls for truth. The words of your Lord do not exist to inflate egos. They do not exist to be used in a silly competition between tribes or nations. They do not exist to be used as a token to gain favor between parties. The very purpose of the words of the Lord is to uphold haqq; to uphold what is truthful, what is right, what is correct, and what is decent. By its very definition, it is to uphold what is beautiful. 


The Qur'an is an anchor. It can only be understood if one keeps present in their mind that the Qur'an calls upon us to remember our Maker, and to remember that this entire existence, including you yourself, has an Owner. The idea that a human being is free to be what they are and do what they want ignores the fact that they already belong to a Supreme, Divine Being. By belonging to the Divine Being, you cannot belong to any other. By laying claim to you, God is your owner. No human being can own you. No human being can dominate you or hold the type of power over you that is reserved only to God. Once you are mindful of the fact that you have an Owner, then it becomes logical to understand that the words and revelation of your Owner have a purpose and a cause. That is what is right, what is truthful, what is decent, what is beautiful, and what is just.


Every time you confront a situation that is not righteous or just, then, immediately, you must know that the revelation and the word of your Lord is being contravened. And worse than that, it is being directly violated. We are accustomed to thinking of small scale violations. We are accustomed to think about whether you prayed sunnah, whether you placed your hands correctly in sujud, whether genders mix, whether someone wears hijab, whether drawing is halal, whether music is halal, all of that. But compared to what this very revelation has set as a goal for itself, God tells us that those who accept God's revelation hold to the firm covenant -- the covenant that is of absolute integrity. It cannot be compartmentalized or segmented to where you do little and ignore the rest. God’s covenant takes people out of darkness and brings them into light.


What is this light? When people are dying in the thousands from a pandemic, that is darkness. When someone finds a cure for the disease, that is light. When the rich get first-class treatment, but the poor are mistreated and often die because they do not have the same level of care, that is darkness. When you treat all people equally, that is light. It is only our own stubbornness, obstinance and egoism that make us ignore what is darkness and what is light.


When someone like Ahmed Sabee’, a young scholar, a husband and a father, who has mastered Hebrew and Syriac and dedicated his life to studying the Bible, as well as comparing the Bible to the Qur’an, ends up rotting in prison, that is darkness. When people like Ahmed Sabee’ find a place where they are honored and given their due, that is light. When someone like Salman al-Ouda -- who had become the face of Muslim moderation, who wrote beautifully about the Prophet and displayed the humanistic side of the Prophet’s teachings, who emphasized everything that is humanistic and tolerant in Islam -- currently sits in prison while the rest of the Muslim world just goes on, that is darkness. When people like Salman al-Ouda are honored, granted freedom, allowed to speak their mind -- and those who disagree can respond in a way other than imprisonment -- that is light.


Blackwater, a military corporation under contract by the US military, who are paid our tax dollars to help our military carry out missions, has committed numerous atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. They took our tax dollars and murdered hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of the many atrocities committed by Blackwater and similar corporations, only one was taken to court, as it was intolerably egregious.


People working for Blackwater stopped clearly unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and methodically executed them. Children wept as they saw their mothers and fathers being murdered. Then, some of these children were, in turn, killed by people wearing the American flag. It was so atrocious that people working for Blackwater testified against their colleagues. People working for the American military testified against their fellow Americans because the massacre was so horrendous. You can read the details in the New York Times. If you read the details and fail to shed a tear, something is wrong with your heart. Those people were convicted of murder and sentenced. Yet, our current American president has pardoned them, wiping their record clean as if they were never convicted.


The massacre is darkness, and the pardon is darkness. There is a darkness that Muslims protect and safeguard. Let us not forget, and let us not pretend, that there were no Muslims who supported Trump. Let us not forget that there were Muslims who defended the Muslim ban and who were more Trumpian than any white vicious zealot. Let us not forget those who vigorously defended Trump and passionately sit in Zaytuna, receiving Emirati money. There is no accountability in the Muslim Ummah. Trump pardoned criminals that massacred Muslims, and so many Muslimss remain silent. Darkness upon darkness. 


Recently, because of the COVID crisis, CNN hosted a pastor and a rabbi as representatives of the religious community to ask them, "What do you say to people who are suffering during this difficult pandemic, this hardship?" Of course, I thought to myself, "Where is the Muslim representative?" The world has lost interest in the Muslim voice, not just CNN. When I came to the United States in the 1980s, it was inconceivable that you would have people speak on behalf of religious communities without a Muslim being invited. Now, no one cares what a Muslim has to say. This is at the same time that the Muslim ban happened, and Muslims were fine with Trump, although he hated them to the point of banning them. This is at the same time that Jerusalem was annexed, and Muslims did nothing. This is at the same time that the pornographic cartoons of the Prophet were displayed on French governmental buildings, and Muslim states imprisoned those who called for the boycott of France.


If you fail to respect yourself, no one respects you. When we sell out Jerusalem, when we sell out the Palestinians, when we sell out the Kashmiris, when we sell out the Rohingyas, when we sell out the Muslims of China, when we even sell out those who stood by us, and instead philosophize that things are not that bad, nothing remains. The Qur'an is there to uphold righteousness, and to perfect truth and justice. But if you yourself are not about truth, justice and righteousness, what is your relationship to the Qur'an? In what way are you connected to the Qur'an? To know a few short surahs, and recite them, and remember God when you need something is not enough.


In response to my khutbahs, someone sent a message saying, "You always tell us about problems, but you do not tell us what to do. All you want us to do is to give money." If all Muslims did was donate generously to those who are willing to do something and know what to do, our problems would end. The more you cannot do yourself, the more you should give. Giving money is no small feat, because we human beings love money more than we love God. That is the one thing that we refuse to part with. Yes, I want you to give money. But before you give money, I want you to get an education. Because raising the banners of Islam is easy, but explaining to people in what way Islam takes people from darkness to light, that is difficult. For that, you need knowledge. Not activism. Not energy. Not a bunch of heated people. You need knowledge of darkness and knowledge of light. You need to know how to transform a situation from darkness to light. The problem is a problem of lack of awareness. Indeed, the problem is ignorance. 


So many young people say, "With everything that you talk about, isn't it logical to despair?" So many people admit, "We have a hard time holding on to hope. Is there any hope?" In the Qur'an, God answers. First and foremost, those who despair in the mercy of their Lord are truly the ones who have gone astray. Furthermore, God reminds us that human beings often despair because of the evil that their own deeds earned. In other words, when you are afflicted with hardship, either personally or even nationally, the first questions that should come to mind are, "Have I earned this calamity? What was my role in bringing it about?" Do not sweep it under the rug. Do not pretend that God does not notice. Even if you hide it from the entire world, God knows. Most of the time, we play a role in the evil that befalls us. But the minute we suffer, we immediately want God to step in for us and mitigate the effect of the harm that we earned.

Before you start talking about the mercy of your Lord, have you discharged your obligations towards truth and justice? Have you been truthful with yourself? Have you been honest in confronting the ways that you played in your own calamity? Have you been unjust to anyone? Do you need to redress a harm before you expect God’s mercy? Have you heard of another in crisis, and did nothing? Not even a donation, for instance, to the family of Ahmed Sabee’, a poor young scholar whose future is destroyed? Have you heard of people being thrown out of their homes and murdered, yet did not even bother to pay attention? Have you supported a racist? In what ways have you betrayed truth and justice? Before you have the gall to say, "God, where is your mercy? Why are you not helping me?”, think, have you done your part? God tells us, "I am about upholding righteousness, truth and justice."


After you have confronted yourself, and after you have made amends to the extent possible, then you may beg for God's mercy. But God tells us that those who despair are truly the ones who have gone astray. Why? God is the Maker and the Owner. This world, in the knowledge of the malakut, is temporary and transient. God has the total picture. A little bit of injustice that falls upon you could mean a great amount of fairness for a lot of other people that you will never know.


“Why me?” Maybe God is giving you the opportunity to suffer on this earth, so your accountability in the Hereafter will not be as difficult as others. Remember that this world has an owner, and that God sees and knows everything. If your own misdeeds are an obstacle preventing your prayers from being answered, you have to cleanse your misdeeds. Or it could be that your prayers are heard, but are instead blocked because, in God's infinite wisdom, God does not want to answer your prayer.


True iman (faith) is to say, "God, I'm suffering, but I know that you are the Owner. You are the ultimate sovereign. If this is what you want for me, then I accept it." That is the iman that we should all aspire to. We may pray fervently, we may beg and plead, but ultimately, we have to reconcile ourselves to that this is a merciful God, who has a total picture; whose mercy extends not just to this life, but to the Hereafter, and that, for this God, the Hereafter is more important than the here and now.


In the CNN interview, the interviewer asked the rabbi and the pastor, "So many people are suffering due to COVID. So many people lost loved ones. So many people lost jobs. So many people cannot pay their bills. What do you tell them?" Both the rabbi and pastor said, "We tell them you are not alone." First, I thought that they meant, ‘You are not alone. God is with you.’ But it turned out that they were saying, "You are not alone, there are other people with you." I thought to myself, "What a shame that there is no Muslim voice, because what a silly answer." The CNN interviewer’s response was, “Wise words! Truly wise words to live by!”


What does that mean, ‘You are not alone?’ If you have lost your job and cannot pay rent, should you call the rabbi for a check? Should you call the pastor for a check? If you are about to lose your home, will the rabbi or pastor provide a house to live in? What does that mean, ‘You are not alone?’” It is just jargon, and exactly an example of the type of non-truth that the Qur’an would never support. Because when a Muslim speaks, it must be words of truth and words of meaning.


Instead, what should you tell those suffering? "Turn to God, and work very hard to achieve justice on this earth by bringing a government in power that looks after the poor and cares about the insolvent and dispossessed." That is the real Muslim answer. A complete, total answer.


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