We are in the month of Dhu’l Hijjah. By all accounts, the Prophet had emphasized the blessings of this month, particularly the first 10 days that lead to Hajj. The 8th, 9th and 10th of Dhu’l Hijjah are the most critical days in Hajj. In addition, Dhul Hijjah is one of the four months in the year that are known as the sanctified months. In these four months, there is an added Islamic obligation to avoid bloodshed, enmity, hatred, and all forms of violence.
The Prophet has emphasized that good deeds in the first 10 days of this month are multiplied many-fold, and that du’a is especially close to the throne of God. When God swore by Fajr and the 10 days, many scholars believe that these 10 days are in reference to the first 10 days of Dhu’l Hijjah, the month that we are currently in, rather than the last 10 days of Ramadan. Other scholars believe it is a reference to both the last 10 days of Ramadan and the first 10 days of Dhu’l Hijjah.
Like all days that are emphasized as special days in the Islamic calendar, the purpose is that we make an added effort to come closer to God. But by definition, to come closer to God means contemplation and reflection. One can increase their worship in the first 10 days of Dhu’l Hijjah, the last 10 days of Ramadan, or at any time in the year.
The increase in worship, by itself, is not what leads to the kind of enlightenment that draws one closer to God and that brings blessings in one's life. It is that worship coupled with a very necessary element - self-reflection and self-criticism. Worship that is mindless is meaningless. Worship that is mindless can be performed by any non-rational, non-reflecting, non-contemplating animal. But worship that is meaningful is worship that takes account of one's life, that holds oneself accountable, and that aspires one to do better. That is the nature of meaningful worship; that you think of the past, you contemplate the present, and you hope for the future. You cannot hope for the future without reflecting upon the past and contemplating the present.
It would be the act of an irrational being to do the same thing and hope for better results. An irrational being keeps doing the same thing and simply hopes for better results. The rational, when they find, upon reflection, that what they have done in the past has not led to the results they hoped for, they realize that they must do better and adjust their behavior. That is the secret in worship. Worship is not some type of talisman, is not some type of formula that we call upon God with. Worship is not some magic call we articulate, that God suddenly becomes aware of if uttered. The very nature of mythological magic, the magic of the ancients, the magic of mythology, is that if you articulate certain coded words in a particular order, the gods, or the demons, or the angels, or whatever supernatural power there is, suddenly becomes alert. It is as if the supernatural powers unthinkingly and inevitably respond to these magic words. That is the nature of old primitive religion. If you articulate certain words in a certain way, immediately, you get results because it is as if the gods are automized beasts. If called upon in a certain code, they respond.
Obviously, this is not Islam. You do not need a particular code to call upon God. There are no magic words to call upon God. There is no magic ritual to call upon God. There is nothing that resembles the mythologies of primitive religion. In Islam, God is always present. God is always with you. You can call upon God in any language, in any form. God knows what is in your heart, and God knows your intentions. God responds to this heart and to these intentions without formulas, without fabricated language. Indeed, it seems that Muslims have forgotten that, as Muslims often repeat pietistic language as if it is supposed to function like the religions of primitive ages; as if certain du’a articulated in a certain way would get God's attention. This, obviously, is deeply flawed and erroneous.
Dhu’l Hijjah, like time designated as special by God, is an opportunity. It is as if God is saying, "I know that life is all-consuming, and so I designated certain days in the year, not for my benefit, but for your benefit. During these days, make an added effort to reflect upon your affairs, to reflect upon your past, to contemplate your present practice, and to think about whether your hopes for the future are reasonable in light of what you have done in both the past and the present. If you do that, then you have done your part, and the rest is on God. If you do your homework, then, as a matter of merit, you deserve aid from God.
The first 10 days of Dhu’l Hijjah are intended to be an occasion for the entire Muslim ummah because, after all, the entire ummah is invited to remember Hajj. The entire ummah, in the first 10 days of Dhu'l Hijjah, is invited to reflect upon the obligation to perform Hajj. The entire ummah is invited to think about Mecca and Medina, and about those who are performing Hajj. The entire ummah is called upon to think about that duty, to yearn for the performance of that obligation, to think of the hajjis standing in the Mount of Arafat supplicating to God, and to pray with them.
When we do so, we contemplate the past: when the Prophet Abraham took his wife and child to this arid desert, and prayed to God that it would become a point of security, tranquility, and repose; that people from all over the globe will flock to worship God and to affirm the principle that all of those who worship the one and only God, and who surrender to the one and only God - all those who are Muslims - are sisters and brothers of equal merit, faith and worth before God. It took centuries before the prayers of the Prophet Abraham were answered.
In the case of the Prophet Muhammad, for this prayer to be answered, it was not automatic nor simple. It required a great deal of struggle to allow the prayers of the Prophet Abraham to see the light of day. So many Muslims sacrificed everything for that prayer, made centuries before, to be answered. So many Muslims sacrificed everything for that prayer to be answered; until Mecca could be described as a land of tranquility and repose, a land where people flock as a single ummah. God reminded us, time and again, that our ummah is but a single ummah. The unity of our ummah is symbolized in the unity and the oneness of the Kaaba, which we circumambulate, affirming our equality and our unity before God.
It took an enormous amount of sacrifices. This is precisely why, when God speaks about periods like Dhu'l Hijjah, when God speaks about the sanctified month in which we have an added obligation to do more, or days like the first 10 days of Dhu’l Hijjah, God tells us very simply, "Be on the lookout, so that you are not unjust during these special sacred times, like the first 10 days of Dhu'l Hijjah; that you avoid all forms of injustice, that you are meticulous, that you are not committing any injustice, especially any injustice against oneself. If you miss the opportunity to hold yourself accountable before you are held to account, you have been unjust to yourself. If you miss the opportunity to think of what it meant for the Prophet Abraham to utter that prayer and appeal to God, and for the centuries and sacrifices that it took before that prayer could be answered, then you have been unjust to yourself.”
If you miss the opportunity to wonder, why is it that we all worship wearing the same clothes - no difference between black or white, no difference between men and women, no difference between rich and poor - we all stand one next to the other and go around the Kaaba supplicating to God, then you have been unjust to yourself. If you miss the opportunity to reflect upon why God has symbolized our unity through a particular spot in the earth and said, "Flock to it, for your Father is one, your prophet is one, and your God is one, then you have been unjust to yourself. But God does not stop there. Although this is a sacred month, when God says, “Reflect upon your relationship to God in the sacred space and sacred time, do not be unjust to yourself.” Immediately, God says right after it, "Fight your enemies all as one, like they fight you all as one.”
Although these are sacred, God immediately wants to make it clear. Yes, we are under an added obligation to avoid enmity, to avoid aggression, to avoid violence, and to avoid war, but this is never an excuse to accept oppression. There is a difference between sakina and istikana. Sakina is tranquility and repose. It comes from a sense of security, a sense of conviction, a sense of safety. But istikana is to surrender to oppression, to surrender to aggression, to convince oneself that they are preferring sakina. It is not that they have sakina; rather, they are oppressed and dominated. What is in their heart is cowardliness, not tranquility. It is not the repose, tranquility and safety that the Prophet Abraham prayed for centuries ago, but rather submissiveness, a lack of dignity, and a sense of being broken, dominated and controlled.
If God has taught us anything at all in the Qur’an, God taught us the moral worth of honesty. God does not like those who are dishonest. God does not like those who are dishonest, whether it be with themselves or others. If you are dishonest with yourself, indeed, you have been unjust to yourself. If that time comes, and I reflect upon the past and the present, and hope for the future, but in doing so, I am dishonest, then I have become unjust towards myself.
In the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah, many imams in mosques stand and talk about hajj, about the days that you should fast in the first 10 days of Dhu'l Hijjah, about how you should increase your dua and your prayer, about all types of things except what is honest and truthful. God tells us in the Quran to speak with honesty. What is the honesty that we are supposed to talk about? It is that Dhu'l Hijjah comes and the Muslim ummah is very ill, because the Muslim mind has allowed itself to be invaded, so thoroughly that it has lost belief in the Muslim ummah.
Muslims around the world no longer understand that this is a single ummah. Muslims around the world - of all races, of all languages, and of all nationalities - come together around the Kaaba, but then later separate from around the Kaaba and never remember that we are a single ummah. Muslims from around the world go to the Kaaba and stand next to one another, man and woman, and leave the Kaaba completely oblivious to the gender inequalities and gender oppression that continues to exist all over the Muslim world. They go around the Kaaba, wearing the same clothes, looking indistinct from one another, but then they leave and live with gross inequalities and inequities. They cohabitate with horrible injustices.
But most important of all, during Dhu’l Hijjah, our eyes turn to Mina, Arafat and the Kaaba. All of us know that a tyrannical, unjust state controls Mecca and Medina. All of us know that Jerusalem is occupied and held hostage by the Israelis. All of us know that the regime that controls the holy site is among the most oppressive regimes on the face of the earth. All of us know that the Muslim ummah is in shambles. All of us know that the Khalifah has been destroyed. All of us know that Islamophobia has taken over - even the Muslim mind - so that Muslims themselves are afraid of their own religion. We all know.
When God speaks to the early Muslims and says in Surah Al-Nisa: “Those who die and upon death the angels ask them, ‘What was your state?’ What an expression! What was your state? Why did you live on earth without dignity? Why did you live without honor? Why did you live dominated and subjugated? Why is it that you would say ‘God is Great,’ but, in reality, that who was truly great in your life was everything and everyone but God? When justice was as far removed from your life as possible, when oppression was a complete reality in your existence, when all types of hypocrisy, paradoxes, and oxymorons plagued your existence, what was wrong with you? How could you have lived this way?”
These are Muslims that the angels are talking to. Not only Muslims, but Muslims at the time of the Prophet, the Prophet’s companions. Those people respond, "We were oppressed. What could we do?” The angels respond, "Could you not have migrated to escape oppression?” The problem is that so many Muslims, at this point, say, "Well, these days, where would we migrate? Where would we go?” The Qur’an clearly tells us, if you are oppressed, you migrate to a place where you are not oppressed. We understand this was at the time of the Prophet, who was talking about Hijrah from Mecca and Medina. In our day and age, what is the significance of that?
Do you really think that if the companions were asked why they lived oppressed, that you are not going to be asked? Do you really think that you can simply say, "Well, there was no Medina to migrate to, so we lived oppressed?" Yes, there is no Medina to migrate to. Yes, when these verses were revealed, it was talking to Muslims who remained in Mecca, saying, "Why did you not join the Prophet in Medina?" Yes, in our day and age, Muslims are oppressed everywhere you turn. There is hardly a land you can migrate to. Yes, in our modern age, with the way the world is structured, if you are Jewish, you can migrate to Israel for safety. If you are a Christian, you can migrate to Europe or the US for safety. But if you are Muslim, there is hardly any place you can migrate to. Yes, so many of the Muslims that get lucky enough to migrate to Europe or the US forget that the whole point of migration was empowerment, to free themselves, and free fellow Muslims from oppression. Instead, they settle, they get rich, they get fat.
But what is God talking about? The angels say, "Why were you oppressed?" The angels say, "Why did you allow yourself to live in this horrible state of contradictions and disempowerment?" If you respond, "I was oppressed," the angels will respond, "Why could you not have migrated?" But once we say there was no place to physically migrate to, what do you think the angels will say next? Once you say, "There was no Medina. There were no safe lands. We could not migrate anywhere safe," what do you think the angels will say next? This is a critical point.
"So you were prevented from migrating to escape oppression. What did you do to continue challenging oppression where you are?" No other answer is possible. At a minimum, if you could not physically migrate, did you migrate spiritually? Did you migrate intellectually? Did you understand what injustice is? Did you understand what the corruption of Islam is? Did you understand what was wrong? Did you do everything within your powers to distinguish yourself and distance yourself from what is wrong?
The early Muslims were required to sell everything, leave everything behind, and go migrate to where they are not oppressed. Did you do everything possible to distance yourself from oppression and injustice? Did you instead say, "I will just take care of myself and my children? What can we do? This is just the way things are." If you could not do a physical Hijrah, where was your spiritual and intellectual Hijrah? How can you do a spiritual and an intellectual Hijrah if you do not recognize what is wrong in the first place?
The first 10 days of Dhu'l Hijjah come heavy. Mecca has been turned into a Las Vegas, where the rich can rent hotel rooms overlooking the Kaaba and sit watching the Kaaba from the windows of their hotel. Do you know what the Prophet said about building anything higher than the Kaaba in Mecca? Do you know what it means for Mecca to have this type of economic inequity weaved into the fabric of the city? Mecca is run by people who persecute Shia, Sufis, and rationalists. If you go to Hajj and Saudi Arabia does not like what you say, you will disappear. If you are a Chinese Muslim and you go to Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia arrests you and turns you over to the Chinese authorities. How do you distance yourself from this injustice?
Did you recognize this injustice? Did you reflect upon this injustice? Did you distance yourself from this injustice? Did you do spiritual and intellectual Hijrah, even if you could not perform physical Hijrah from this injustice? If the answer is no, you will be questioned. When you die, the angels will say, "How could you live in so much injustice, in so much degradation, and do nothing? Yes, the ummah is lost. How many of us, when Hajj comes, ponder and reflect upon the dream of unity as a Muslim ummah once again? For God's sake, they stole from us the concept of the ummah. They convinced us that Europeans have the right for an ummah. Jews have a right for an ummah. Catholics have a right to have an ummah. Everyone has a right to have an ummah, but not Muslims.
Have you taught your children that the Khalifah must return? Have you taught your children why there was a Khalifah, and that Khalifah is an article of faith? Have you taught your children that Mecca and Medina must be looked over by the Khalifah? Have you thought about how a Khalifah could unite Muslims once again? The Khalifah would not exist to oppress anyone, or to invade anyone, or to fight with anyone. It would be a symbol of moral unity, a land where all Muslims would be welcome without visas, just like the Israelis do with Palestine, a land where the best seminaries and theological and jurisprudential schools exist, a land where Muslim scholars from all the world would unite.
Have you dreamt of that symbol of unity? Or you have just given up and said, "There is no point. Everything is lost, we are dead"? If you are dead, then admit you are dead. Do not pretend to represent Islam. If you cannot do Hijrah physically, the least you can do is to do Hijrah intellectually and morally. If you cannot physically separate yourself from evil, the least you can do is intellectually and morally distance yourself from evil.
Am I insane to think of the return of the Khalifah as a symbol of Muslim unity; to dream that Mecca and Medina are not going to be controlled by a corrupt, foul, rich family that only God knows where it came from? Who is Al Saud? Why did they control Mecca and Medina? Who are they? Among the most corrupt people on the face of this earth! Their corruption is legendary. Am I insane to dream that instead of the high rise hotels in Mecca that there are going to be first-rate universities where all Islamic schools of thought, from all perspectives, will be represented; where Muslims from around the world will flock to study and to analyze, and to research? Am I insane to think that the land of the Prophet and the land of the companions should be the land where justice is epitomized and practiced; where there is a symbol of Muslim unity for Muslims from all around the world?
Yes, but only if the Prophet Abraham was insane when he supplicated to God that in this arid desert, there would be people to flock to worship in God's name. Maybe the Prophet Abraham, eventually, very late in his life, was able to do Hijrah to this desert, a place where there were no supermarkets, no pharmaceuticals, no conveniences. His Hijrah was to an absolute arid land. If you cannot do a Hijrah to an absolute arid land, to start from scratch, the least you can do is to do a Hijrah in your mind so that you distance yourself from what is wrong and immoral, so that you recognize that what is going on now is not right and can never be right. You teach it to your children so that they will teach it to their children and that we will dream the dream until the dream becomes a reality. Not in my lifetime, nor in your lifetime. But we would never give up because if you read the Qur’an, that is the lesson: never give up.
Yes, Dhu’l Hijjah comes, and the first 10 days of Dhu’l Hijjah come. Do you know how I worship? I spent a lot of time yesterday reading a very, very important article that I saw in the Atlantic Magazine about the Holocaust taking place against Muslims in China. It is a must-read article that is very worthy of being considered worship in the first 10 days of Dhu’l Hijjah. It was written by a Muslim who managed to escape the Holocaust.
A man is caught with a copy of the Qur’an and is sentenced to seven years in prison. The state ordered all Muslims to turn in their Qur’ans and any other Islamic books. If a person is caught with a copy of the Qur’an, or any Islamic book, the least that could happen to you is to be sentenced to seven years in prison. A man took out a book on Pan-Islamism and was sentenced to five years in prison.
The state goes out of its way to indoctrinate Muslims in China that Pan-Islamism is evil. Any form of Muslim caring for another Muslim or Muslims talking about a single ummah is evil. Any type of thinking about the Khalifah is evil. But the state does more than that. As you get ready for Eid and think about Dhu’l Hijjah, those Muslims in China are disappearing in the millions in so-called study centers, where they are raped, where their organs are harvested, where they are indoctrinated in communism, where they are not allowed to practice any article of their faith.
Owning the Qur'an is a crime. Reading the Qur’an is a crime. Memorizing the Qur’an is a crime. Reciting the Qur’an is a crime. Read the article in The Atlantic. It is more worthy than a thousand rakahs you pray. Read a simple article in The Atlantic. A holocaust is taking place against our fellow Muslims. When these fellow Muslims escaped to Al-Azhar in Egypt, the Egyptian government turned them in, surrendered them to the hell they escaped from. When they escape to Hajj in Mecca, the Saudi government turns them in, surrenders them to the hell they escaped from.
You sit there, and you think that it is okay to make plans for Hajj, to watch Hajj, to accept the status quo. No, it is not okay. History and God will never forgive us that we live through a holocaust being committed against Muslims in our lifetime. Where are the Muslims? Where is the Al Saud? Where is Egypt? Where is Iran? Where are all the Muslim countries? Where is Turkey, as Muslims are being obliterated in a genocide indistinguishable from the horrors we saw before World War II and during World War II? We are oblivious.
The least you can do is to tell God, "My heart and my intellect did do Hijrah, did go to them, did feel for them, did pray for them. Every opportunity I could find to help, I helped.” That is the least you can do. What you cannot do is be like the Islamic Center of Southern California and say, "We are American Muslims. It is none of our business. If it does not happen to America, then it does not concern Muslims." That is a different religion that they have invented. That is not Islam. What you cannot do is be like Zaytuna and say, "God controls who is in power and who is not. It is all up to God. You just pray, fast and learn hadiths. We ignore everything.” That is a different religion, not the religion that the Prophet brought, and not the religion of Abraham. The least you can do is recognize that this is a corrupt religion, and to understand the right religion.
Read the article in The Atlantic. Pray for your brothers and sisters, and help, in any way you can, your brothers and sisters. This is precisely why it is an obligation upon Muslims in the United States to gain as much power as they can because the truth of the matter is all these Muslim countries are colonized, powerless, and useless. Only a country like the United States could stop a genocide like the one that is being committed in China against Muslims.
Let us not, for the millionth time, forget that the genocide against Muslims in China was preceded by a genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. That went alongside a genocide against Muslims in Kashmir. That was preceded by a genocide against Muslims in Bosnia. That was preceded by Islamophobia. Islamophobia is the ideological trope that allows the engines of oppression to work against Muslims everywhere. Let us not forget that we have done nothing about Islamophobia. Let us not forget that those who have money will not spend it to fight Islamophobia, while those who have money are happy to fund Islamophobia. Let us not forget.