With the remarkable rate by which time passes, and how time is seemingly experienced in such a relative, specific and intimate fashion, life seems to slip by one's fingertips. Every day rolls into another, every week rolls into another. Nothing remains constant nor unchangeable in this journey that is life, except for God. One way or another, we encounter a question in this journey that often is like a companion in existence, a question that perhaps every mumin (believer) feels, or at least should feel; and the question is quite simply, “What does my iman (faith) amount to?”
I believe in God. I believe in resurrection. I believe in accountability and, ultimately, I believe in justice, because the very belief in accountability is belief in justice. I believe that, at the end of it all, justice will be rendered and those who deserve good things will receive it, and those who deserve bad things will receive it. You believe in a just god, a god who is committed and wedded to the principle of justice. Without that belief, the belief in God itself becomes a matter of whimsy and fantasy. Without a belief in a just god, the belief in God simply becomes a projection of one's own ego. Without the belief in a just god, each individual effectively constructs their own image of God, so instead of a singular god rooted in a principle, we have many whimsical gods, as many as human whimsy allows. What does your iman amount to?
To put it bluntly, if my belief is in a just god, that justice will be rendered, that things do not escape God's attention, and that what a person says and does in life matters and brings consequences, then that introspective perspective is inescapable. What does my iman make of me? Does my iman make me feel entitled above others? Is that sense of entitlement perhaps, for some, a sense of superiority? How will that fare before the scales of justice?
Does your iman make you into a worshiper who engages dhikr, prayer, and fasting, but largely benefits no other human being other than themselves? How will that iman fare on the scales of justice? If your iman makes no difference in the way that the world perceives justice, if you have iman but are agnostic towards the injustices that exist in the world, if you are largely self-centered and do not bother with what happens to other human beings on the face of this earth, how will that fare in the scales of justice? If your iman is one of performing basic ibadah (worship), but you live your life largely aware of one human being and that is yourself, largely serving one human being and that is yourself, and largely empathizing with one human being and that is yourself, how will that fare in the scales of justice?
Although I normally avoid being aware of any comments about myself on social media, one of the comments that did reach me and made me pause described yours truly as depressed. That made me reflect, so I thank that person.
What does your iman amount to when God tells us that the believers are like brothers and sisters, that our ummah is a single ummah, and that the nature of believers is to be compassionate and merciful towards one another, even if they are forced to be hostile towards an outside party?
And, as I spend the time practicing my iman, can I help it when my mind goes to a Muslim scholar known for his knowledge and piety, like Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, sitting in a Saudi prison? Can I help it when my mind goes to the daughter of another prominent Muslim scholar, the daughter of Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, sitting in an Egyptian prison? Can I help it when I think of a young man who dared to love knowledge enough to learn ancient languages and to speak in defense of his religion, like Ahmed Sabee’, who continues to rot in an Egyptian prison?
Recently, I have learned of another amazing Islamic personality, Ayman Abdul Raheem, an interesting man who had a large following on social media, who excelled in educating Muslims about the basics in fields like linguistics and sociology, but who is also anchored in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet; who taught Muslims about the Sirah of the Prophet and taught Muslims about the Qur’an, but had a special gift in mixing traditional sciences with modern sciences while presenting material to the common average Muslim. And, lo and behold, Ayman Abdul Raheem has been arrested and thrown in prison, although he has never had any political activity whatsoever.
Can I help it when, every day, I think of the likes of Ahmed Sabee’, Ayman Abdul Raheem and Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, and I cannot enjoy things that are materialistic and distracting? Can I help it when these worries interrupt my meals, when they interrupt my sleep? What does your iman amount to? Can I help it when I worry gravely about what God will say in the Hereafter, when I am asked about people like Ahmed Sabee’ and Ayman Abdul Raheem and Salman al-Ouda? When I am asked, "What was your role? What did you do about it?" And if I tell God, “Well, they were in Egypt. They were in Saudi Arabia. I could not do anything about it.” God can just ask, “How about other injustices that were more local? What did you do about those?" If you are going to use inability as your defense, it is only natural that God would then hold you to answer about things that you are able to change.
Can I help it if I worry about the even bigger question? If God says, "Maybe you were not able to do anything about Ahmed Sabee’, Ayman Abdul Raheem or Salman al-Ouda, but what about your own injustices that you perpetuated in life because you were selfish, self-centered, egotistical, arrogant and cared not about the rights of others?"
There is an enormous difference between a human being that is depressed, living in despair, and a human being that lives anchored in the question: What are the consequences of your iman?
When God warned Muslims in the Qur’an: Don't ever give in, surrender yourself, acquiesce and accept the unjust in the world. Don't ever simply accept the unjust and their injustice as a fact of life, as a matter of what it should be like, or what it is. The biggest support of injustice is when you fail to simply recognize it as injustice at the very basic level. Does your iman amount to an ability to recognize injustice? In your heart, do you take a principled position against injustice? Or are you simply self-centered, self-referential, egocentric, and care very little about what happens outside your own little domain? Again, what does your iman amount to?
Can I help it when I remember the hadith of the Prophet that says, “Either you, as people, will live a life of action where you effectively restrain and prevent injustice, or God will remove all blessings from you.” The earmark of God removing these blessings is that our hearts become antagonistic towards one another, so that we fall in discord and hatefulness with one another. A scary picture in which we exist without God's blessings. A scary picture in which God’s barakat (blessings) fail to restrain and moderate our egos, so we all clash with one another like animals in a forest.
Or, when the Prophet warns us that if people see injustice and the unjust, and they are apathetic and do not act to prevent injustice, God's punishment will befall these forsaken people as a people. Or when the Prophet taught us, "If you see my ummah in fear to confront the unjust and tell the unjust that they are unjust, then they have been forsaken by God."
What does your iman amount to? Do you listen to the teachings of the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet? Do they bring life to your heart and concerns to your intellect, so that you understand that at a minimum, when presented with the scales of justice, God will ask you the most basic questions: Did you care? How often did you think about someone like Salman al-Ouda in prison? Did you care? How often did you think about someone like Ahmed Sabee’ in prison, or someone like Ayman Abdul Raheem? How often did you think about the Uighur Muslims who are raped, beaten, assaulted, and killed every single day?
What was your position when the Shaykh of the Emirate paid lip service to the Jewish holocaust, but showed no care in regards to the holocaust taking place in China against Muslims? What was your position when the Shaykh of Saudi Arabia lectured us about how our humanity teaches us that we must extend a friendly hand to Israel, but failed to mention even a single word about the holocaust taking place right now against Muslims in China? What was your position when the Emirates recently circulated a picture of Israeli soldiers playing soccer with Palestinian children with the comment, "Look how beautiful,” when just a few short weeks before that picture was taken, there was another picture taken in the very same town, maybe with the same Israeli soldiers, talking and joking with one another while a Palestinian child laid dead on the street? Where was your heart? Where was your mind? What did you do with your time? What is the nature of your iman? What does it amount to?
And, if you worry about all of this, is it just to call you depressed? Are you depressed, or is it simply that you exist with the weight of responsibilities at a time that is truly challenging for the Muslim ummah?
"What does your iman amount to?" is a remarkably tricky question because of how quickly we can try to satisfy ourselves that our iman makes us the type of Muslim that truly deserve the deputyship of God’s agency, to be God's agent in this world and to withstand the scales of justice.
I keep coming across, in one form or another, stories that constantly speak to the Muslim condition itself. There is a family here in the United States that recently spent millions building a new home for themselves in a very expensive area, and remarkably, upon the completion of that home, a string of disasters befell that family. First, the father is hit with enormous losses in his business. Then, one of the children falls into addiction and an enormous amount of money is spent trying to deal with that problem. Then, the wife turns out to have an illness that completely robs this family of all happiness.
I was struck by the question asked by the father of this family, "I don’t know what I did in my life to deserve this? I don't know why God is doing this to us. Maybe it's a test. Maybe we need to persevere." That same family that spent millions of dollars on a new home, have donated over the decades thousands to MPAC, Palestinian refugees, and Syrian refugees; but notably, all of it was tax deductible money, because they seemed to care whether their donations were going to go to a non-profit status or not.
If you compare the wealth and the money spent just on the new home, the amount of money made, and the amount of money donated, is it fair for this family to be tested that way? If you believe that you are entitled to the money that you have, and that it is justified by donating a thousand dollars here and a thousand dollars there when you are capable of giving so much more, but instead choose to save your money in favor of building a mansion in the most expensive area in California for yourself; you answer the question.
At the same time, another family in Egypt built a home that cost about one million US dollars. They have this luxury home, and drive cars that cost hundreds of thousands of Egyptian pounds. All of the kids went to private schools. Recently, several members of that family got corona, and because of treatments for complications and the lack of health insurance in Egypt, this family has spent millions of dollars on medical bills. Again, their father wondered, "Do I deserve this? Why is this happening?" Again, this is a family that would donate a hundred pounds here, a hundred pounds there, but what does your iman amount to? Does your iman amount to little droplets of goodness while you reserve the bulk of your wealth for yourself, and then asking, "What have I done to deserve this?" in times of hardship?
Again, just in these recent weeks, a man who lived oblivious to the existence of God and his Islam one day woke up to find two of his children as drug addicts, and at that point he says, "I want to restore my relationship with God. When I was a young man, before I became an accomplished doctor who lives in a very expensive part of the city, I used to have a good relationship with God, which I have now lost for many, many years. Where is God in my life?" But again, emerges the question, "Did I deserve this?"
I am not going to answer that question, I would never dare to answer that question. Adopt the scales of justice, look at yourself and look what your iman amounts to. Does it exist to service your sense of ego? "I worship, so I'm good." But effectively, do you exist in service of yourself? Or does your iman make you a servant to the scales of justice?
A servant to the scales of justice; that is my understanding of what a Muslim is. A servant to the scales of justice. Because to serve justice is to serve the just God, the God of justice, the most just of all judges. Ask yourself, before you are forced to ask yourself, "What does my iman amount to? What difference does it make, not just for me but for the people around me, for the Muslim ummah, and for humanity at large?" What does your iman amount to?
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