We have already approached the last 10 days of Ramadan, where this journey is supposed to intensify and reach its natural conclusion. The last days are where we are meant to take stock of the year that passed and deeply reflect upon the year that will come, fully aware of the possibility that in this upcoming year, we may not be around.
The companions of the Prophet, in the last 10 days of each Ramadan, would intensify their practices of isolation. They would come together in Tarawe’eh prayer, but then participate in their own solitary places of worship for most of the night.
There are even some reports that in the last 10 days of each Ramadan, Madinah would seem to almost be overcome by a somber mood; a tranquil, quiet, solitary, reflective mood because it seemed that everyone in Madinah would become preoccupied with saying goodbye to the month that is now ending, as well as coming to terms with the fact that the next Ramadan will come to ask them whether they upheld their promises from the previous Ramadan, and whether they progressed.
Progression meant something concrete. Their relationship to the Qur’an, the ethics of the Qur’an, the morality of God's revelation. From Ramadan to Ramadan, how much of it have they internalized? How much of it have they digested? In what ways have their commitments to God transformed them? In what ways have they evolved from the mundane to the divine, from one month to another?
The last 10 days of Ramadan require that we think very seriously about our lives, as well as the trajectory of our lives, with an essential anchor that cannot escape us. Reflecting upon life without fully understanding death is really a waste of time. You cannot reflect upon life without reflecting upon death, in the same way that you cannot reflect upon light without reflecting upon darkness. The only way that we human beings can understand things is through contrast, by comprehending something and its absence.
Because we are not gods, we do not have the ability to understand eternity because eternity is an absolute, and we do not have the ability to understand absolutes. We can only understand things in relation to other things. That is what makes us thoroughly human.
If you reflect upon your life, you must take stock of the inevitability of death and that there is a record of how you have used each Ramadan that you have lived through. How you met the beginning of that Ramadan, how you handled yourself during the month of Ramadan, and what you did especially with the last 10 days of Ramadan, where Laylatul Qadr is reported to be.
Did Ramadan find you engaged in frivolous thoughts? Were you preoccupied with your ego? Were you busy with ideas of, "Where am I in this world?", "Where do I want to be in this world?", and, "Who am I in competition with?"
Did Ramadan find you capable of transcending the all-encompassing thought of your own ego, reflecting upon God? Was life for you basically something that begins and ends with the “I”? Or, were you capable of understanding that the “I” is only significant when it is an extension of the Divine, that your own significance only derives from the significance of the Divine?
If that is so, have you understood God better? Have you grown closer to God? Have you become more capable of smelling that perfume of faith? Have you become more capable of seeing the light of iman (faith)? Does your heart become more serene and at peace with the mention of God's name? Have you come to understand in a more meaningful way, the characteristics and the attributes of the Divine? Have you striven to fulfill that covenantal obligation to mirror and internalize the ethics of the Divine? Has Ramadan been a journey beyond the self, to the true self, in fulfillment of the only self?
Do not let the last 10 days of Ramadan go to waste, because even if you forget them, they do not forget you. That is, even if you do not spend them in the way that they should be spent, there will still be accounting. There will be a time in which you will be forced to remember the last 10 days of each Ramadan, when God will tell you that within those 10 days is Laylatul Qadr. How can you possibly know the significance of this night?
Just its existence is a clear invitation from God to make the last 10 days of every Ramadan in your life a movement towards liberation, from the mundane to the divine. To put it bluntly, get over yourself. Get over yourself, all of us, because we are human beings. Every year, our grievances, issues, complaints, and concerns are accumulated in our bank. Every year, whether we like ourselves or not, that goes into our bank account.
Every time we interact with others, we are either flattered by them, affirmed by them, or hurt by them. Even when we are neither affirmed or hurt, the very obliviousness that we treat other human beings with goes into our bank account. Then we meet each Ramadan, and there is a personal story with the self, the moments where we exuberantly gave the self more worth than it deserves, and the moments where we deny the self its God-given rights.
Every year, Ramadan comes, and we have many personal narratives that we have woven about us in relation to the world. Who has treated us right? Who has treated us wrong? Who did what? Who said what? Who is who, in relation to us? As if we are the beginning and the end of the world.
The last 10 days of Ramadan is an opportunity to cleanse all of that and begin fresh. The last 10 days of Ramadan is an opportunity to understand that death mocks us all. Whatever grievances you hold, whatever flatteries you have enjoyed, whatever you felt you have accomplished, or whatever you have been frustrated with not accomplishing, death and the afterlife comes and tells you something very profound: None of it matters. The only thing that matters is your relationship to your Maker, to the Divine, and that is it. If only we could comprehend.
As if Muslim countries cannot produce more tragedy, and sorrow, and pain, a few days ago, we got the news that the Egyptian government chose to execute 17 people who were all convicted after grossly unfair trials. Trials where the defendants were denied access to their lawyers not just during the investigation, but even during the trial. Trials where all 17 defendants were tortured to the point that they signed false confessions. The Egyptian government chose, in the midst of Ramadan, after Fajr, to execute these 17 people.
Among the executed was a man in his eighties, his name was Abd al-Rahim Jibril. There was another man in his mid seventies. There was a young man who was paralyzed, the government actually wanted to arrest his older brother. They showed up at his place of residence but did not find him, so they took his younger brother. Eventually, his older brother turned himself in, but instead of releasing the younger brother they were holding hostage, they fabricated a case for the paralyzed kid and ended up executing him in the middle of Ramadan.
Abd al-Rahim Jibril, the man in his eighties, was a well-known Qur’anic reciter. The issue was not the beauty of his recitation, but that he was a very well-known, kind, generous, quiet man who actually lived in and taught the Qur’an in Germany. It was his misfortune that that summer he was visiting Egypt to spend time with his family. Although there were numerous witnesses who said that he was in a different mosque, far away from the location of the crime that he was convicted of, and although there were numerous witnesses to the fact that he was in that mosque all day, teaching Qur’an and leading prayer, it did not matter. He was convicted and executed right in the middle of Ramadan.
Abd al-Rahim Jibril was a man who would post on his Facebook every time he took someone’s Shahada in Germany, and so his pride and joy were a large number of converts. He was a mild-mannered man, a respectable, truly beautiful, elderly gentleman. The very thought that he was involved in anything such as a terrorist attack is absurd, and the government knows it. Although Egyptian law forbids executions in Ramadan, Sisi's government does not care about the law, and has carried out these grotesque executions in the midst of Ramadan, the holiest month.
Some extremely painful events followed. There is a family in Egypt known as the Shuwaikh family, who dared demonstrate against Sisi's regime, and as a result, the entire family has been destroyed. Abd al-Rahman al-Shuwaikh, a young man in his first year of college, was arrested. He managed to eventually sneak out a letter to his mother saying that the government found out that he and some other people had managed to sneak out of the prison a complaint about the horrible conditions and the torture, so he was beaten and tortured savagely. And, in the course of this torture session, he told his torturers that they are going to pay for their sins in the Hereafter. When they heard this, they became enraged and gang-raped Abd al-Rahman al-Shuwaikh.
The mother, receiving that letter, crumbled, and swiftly filed a complaint through all the legal venues about what was happening to her son. But when she filed the complaint, the government's response just this last week was to arrest the mother, the father, and the younger daughter, an 18-year old. The only members of the Shuwaikh family that are not under arrest now is one son who previously escaped to Turkey, and their 12-year old child. We do not know what has become of the young man who was raped, but the father is now gone and the mother who received the complaint is gone.
It is clear that Sisi's government is a fascist government, out of the worst hellhole; a page out of the worst scenarios of human dictators, the likes of Hitler and Pinochet. It is clear that the point is to demoralize, de-spirit, utterly humiliate, and insult anyone who has any sense of Islamic pride, and to tell them, "We will kill in the middle of your holy month whoever we want; we will rape and torture in whatever way we want and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it."
But once again, the martyrhood of Abd al-Rahim Jibril, and the plight of the Shuwaikh family - and the plight of so many Muslims in Egypt, Saudi, the Emirate, Yemen and Syria, and the endless array of family after family that has been destroyed - have all occured because they embrace Islam and want to practice Islam in the way that they see as morally appropriate. Abd al-Rahim Jibril was never involved in violence and in fact, never even involved in politics. He was basically someone who had memorized the Qur’an and who had taught children in Germany and the US how to memorize and read the Qur’an.
Trump was right. The King of Saudi Arabia would not remain the king of Saudi Arabia for even 20 minutes if we did not provide cover for him. The same can be said about Sisi. If we stopped supporting Sisi's regime, if we stopped training his officers, if we stopped funding their military and their security forces, Sisi would not stay in power for even half an hour in the same way that Assad of Syria would not stay in power for a single hour if Russia stopped supporting him. Sisi, Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed of the Emirates would not be in power for any real amount of time if the United States of America stopped supporting them, if Israel stopped calling upon the United States to support these horrific dictators. Because, of course, these dictators are also good for the future of Israel.
This hypocrisy is creating deep-seeded pathologies in the psyche of the Muslim world, pathologies that eventually manifest in Al Qaeda, ISIS, and militants. How many Abd al-Rahim Jibrils have been executed, tortured and killed? Mild-mannered, peaceful men. How many of them will be executed before another bin Laden is born? How many, before eventually someone says, "I hate myself. I hate the world. I hate everything. I am taking vengeance against all"? Then we love to hypocritically sit back and say, "See? Islam, clash of civilizations. These people cannot understand our values…”
If we were faithful to our values, it would be a very different world. It would mean that we would stop supporting dictators, not just spiritually, psychologically, or politically, but that we would also cease to support them with material power. Egyptian security forces are trained by us, equipped by us. The crimes of the Saudi regime, the crimes of the Egyptian regime, and the crimes of the Emirati regime have American blood all over them, in the same way that the crimes of the Syrian regime have Russian blood all over them.
My biggest issue in Ramadan is actually not with the racist, bigoted politicians who are willing to see a million colored people perish, who only care about white people; my issue is with Muslims in the United States because until now there are American Muslims who we celebrate, who are in bed with the Emiratis, who are in bed with the Saudis, who are in bed with the Egyptians, who are in bed with the Syrians, who are in bed with actual demons.
Yet, there is no blowback. A so-called American Muslim scholar can go to the Emirates as an honored guest, and there is no blowback. An Islamic center can ban a Muslim scholar for speaking up against the Sisi regime, and there is no blowback. Salman al-Ouda is jailed forever, and there is no blowback. Saudi Arabia does not even lose to any significant extent - does not even experience a reduction - in the number of pilgrims coming from the United States. It is as if Muslims, instead of being the witnesses upon humanity have become witnesses for the devil and demonic activities. Callous, unfeeling, and immoral.
Remember that in the Hereafter, you will be categorized with the people that you have supported in life. The supporters of Sisi will share the fate that Sisi will encounter, and the same will fall upon the supporters of bin Zayed - including the American imams who support bin Zayed. For all their pietistic affectations and all their ability to show up on their conferences and their programs, and their “Subhanallah”s and “Alhamdulillah”s, when it is all said and done, they will be placed in hell with bin Zayed. You can finish the Qur’an as many times as you want, but if you are a bin Zayed supporter, you share the fate of bin Zayed. The same thing will fall upon the supporters of the fascist Mohammed bin Salman.
These are the Hitlers of our age. Do you want to tell me that there could be a Muslim scholar who supports Hitler, and who will not share Hitler's faith in the Hereafter? If so, you follow a faith I do not recognize. All of those people who met Abd al-Rahim Jibril when he came to the US - all of those people who were competing to take a photo with Abd al-Rahim Jibril so they could say, "See? I am a legitimate imam because Abd al-Rahim Jibril took a picture with me" - all of those people remained silent when he was executed. Not one of them has uttered even a word. It pains me to see Muslims, instead of being the best of nations, now being the worst of nations. Bearing witness upon nothing, which means that they bear witness on behalf of Satan, and nothing else.
People in the Islamic Center of California, shame on you. The fascist regime of Sisi just killed 17 people, in the middle of Ramadan, and there is not a peep from you. The murdered include someone who is over 80 years old, another who is over 70 years old, and a crippled child. Yet, there is not a peep from you. You go around talking about Islamic principles, civil rights, and morals, but none of you are moral.
All of you Islamic centers, Zaytuna and otherwise, have you forgotten Musa Abu Marzouk? The Emiratis arrested him and tortured him as a favor to Israel in 2012, and after torturing him and his family, they gave all the intel that they got from Musa Abu Marzouk to Israel. Have you forgotten, in 2014, when the Emirate sent a medical crew to Gaza, and it turned out that they actually were not there to give medical assistance to Gazans. Instead, they were spies to call targets for the Israeli Air Force to bomb.
Have you forgotten, in 2019, when the Second Israeli Channel exposed the fact that there was a joint Emirati-Israeli agreement to wage raids in Gaza and Sinai? Have you forgotten all the Emirati money spent to buy territory in Al-Quds, from Palestinians, to give to Israeli settlers? Have you forgotten that while the entire world boycotts the produce of illegal Israeli settlements, the biggest client for the produce of Israeli settlements is the Emirates? And you sit there, and you say: “You cannot attribute a saying to someone who is silent.”
Someone who is silent when it is time to speak is a silent shaytan. I am tired of your Islam. May God put you and the people you support in the same place in the Hereafter. You have destroyed our Islam. You have destroyed our faith. You have destroyed our history. You have destroyed our community. May God forgive you, Abd al-Rahim Jibril, and may they all pay for your blood. There is nothing I can tell you, other than this is the ummah - the aids and the supporters of shaytan. This is the ummah.