There are those who understand that their relationship with their Lord, with God, is the most personal thing in their universe. It is the most central thing, valuable and valued thing. It cannot be replicated, compared or reproduced. The relationship of a believer with their Maker is extremely personal and individual, as individual as one’s genetic code, or even more. It is the most truthful, real, honest and sincere thing in existence. Yet at the same time, it is the thing that we most easily falsify. It is the most easily ignored, corrupted and misunderstood thing in our existence.
The personal relationship of a human being to their maker is one of trust, and it is a trust like no other. It is what we exist in, every waking moment; what we exist in, even in our sleep; what we exist in, even when no one else is around us, when no other human being can see us. God reminds us that God is closer to us than our jugular vein; that wherever we are, God is with us, closer to us than our jugular vein. Try to exist anywhere without your jugular vein. If we are stressed, excited or moved, the first thing we do feel is the flow of blood within our bodies. Our bodies testify to our affairs constantly, as God is embedded in us closer than our blood to ourselves. One’s existence with God can be a testimony as intimate and as personal as the flow of blood within our bodies. The remarkable thing, though, is that our blood does not have a choice as it testifies to our affairs in life, but we do have a choice whether to acknowledge God’s embeddedness in our very spirit, our very intellect, in the flow of our very blood. Or, we can choose to ignore God.
Remarkably, so many people choose an escape route. They objectify this relationship in terms of a set of settled upon laws, settled upon within their own intellect. They imagine that God is reducible to a set of hard and fast truths. They imagine that God is dealt with as long as they perform their prayers and fasts, and take care of particular performative acts. Then alas, that is done with that. They defined and bracketed the role for God. But of course, they are delusioned. They live the heart of a lie. God cannot be locked within simple performative acts and we cannot lie to God. If you do not feel God's company, you cannot lie to God and say, "Indeed, I feel your company." If you do not acknowledge God's pervasiveness in all your affairs, in the breath that you take, in every move, in every thought, in every molecule that surrounds you, you cannot lie to God.
The remarkable thing is that that is the choice. We either choose to live in the full gaze of truth, dealing with the challenges of this truth, or we choose to deceive ourselves because there is no deceiving God. We can choose to acknowledge God's pervasiveness when it suits us, acknowledge God's pervasiveness when we are tested, acknowledge God's pervasiveness, or when mood swings take us there. It is all various levels of deception. In the same way that blood flows through within us, it does not flow sometimes and stop flowing at other times. Imagine, God is more intimate, more essential and more pervasive than the blood that flows within. Blessed are those who testify to the truth of their Lord, because we live in a truly challenging world. We live in a world in which a Muslim has to be anchored and fully conscious of that personal relationship they have with their maker.
We live in a world that - through centuries and centuries of malfeasance, negligence, error, misjudgment, and ignorance - challenges the intellect and the soul of a Muslim at every waking moment. In this world, Muslims need to be fully aware that their relationship with God is not contingent or somehow derivative from, not just human beings, but especially what other Muslims do. If we lose sight of the fact that our relationship with God is fully yours and within; and we allow for the contingencies of the unfolding world around us, especially what other Muslims do, to influence us and perhaps even define our relationship with God, then we have fallen in the abyss of fitan. Fitan is a word that the Prophet warned us about, though, in a typically misogynistic way, we have turned fitan to be about women. Or, in a typically oligarchical way, we have turned fitan to be about those who rebel against unjust rulers. In reality, fitan are the things that alienate us from our Lord. The things that make one feel, “I am Muslim, I know God, but I do not feel God,” and from that, all types of unhealthy things unfold.
Personally, the recent events involving the invasion of Ukraine have been among the most challenging in my life, because these events were brutal in the truth that it presented us with. These events are like an act from God, stripping bare the world we live in and confronting us with an ugly picture, but only for those who see. At the basic level is what I touched upon in my last khutbah. These events revealed an uncompromisingly racist world.
Someone sent me an email about my last khutbah, saying, “You were right. The coverage of Ukraine is racist,” and attached clips from various news agencies. Of course, on NBC, we find someone commenting on what is happening in Ukraine saying, "These are Christian, white people. These are not Middle Eastern people, or people from Afghanistan or Syria. These are Christian, white people,” and so our response has to be very different. On BBC, we have someone that says, "These are blue eyed, blond haired people. They are not Syrian, Afghan or Iraqi refugees; these people are us.” On Al Jazeera, someone said, “These are prosperous middle class, European people; just like people that live next door to us. These are not some third world, underdeveloped people from a third world, underdeveloped country.” On CBS, someone said, “These are civilized, European people. They are not refugees from some third world, underdeveloped country like Iraq or Afghanistan. So yes, these events reveal to us in a vulgar way, as it reveals an amazingly racist Europe.
Not only is it our response to refugees, not only is it the fact that Romanian and Polish authorities have forced African, Middle Eastern and Asian, especially south Asian, students who are studying in Ukraine and running from the war to give up their seats to white Ukrainians, and to further mistreat these students at the border. And there are numerous reports of gross mistreatment. Not only is it this type of racial discrimination, but the very narrative itself. When it comes to, as these commentators put it, “civilized, Christian, white, blue eyed, blond people,” we recognize and celebrate that they love their country, and that they are heroes. We do not do as we did with Bosnia, where we imposed a weapons embargo that solely impacted the Bosnians and allowed the Serbs to slaughter them comfortably. We do not do as we did in Bosnia, saying, "We want peace, so we are going to impose a weapons embargo." We do not do as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, speaking about those who resist occupation as “fanatics,” “psychotics,” and “extremists.” We do not say, “Why are they resisting? They are there to civilize them after all, to teach them whatever we are supposed to teach them.” Like typical colonial discourse, it is deeply racist.
But it is not only this. Remember we criminalized any Muslims who thought to come to the aid of their fellow Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere. That includes any Muslim who thought to volunteer to fight the invading Russians in Syria, including Americans in Iraq and of Afghanistan; but not only that, there are Muslims who thought of resistance in Chechnya, in Kashmir or in China, and we designated all such Muslims as terrorist organizations. People wrote endless books about the dangers of jihad ideology, meanwhile, Ukraine reports that they are receiving volunteers to go to war fighting for Ukraine from all around the Western world and we clap and admire. There is no talk about Christian fanaticism, there are no documentaries about the role of Jesus in those who decide to volunteer to go to war.
There are no reports about those who believe that if they die fighting the Russians, they die as martyrs and that Jesus will be there at the gates of heaven to receive them. None of that. It is as if we are living in the heart of the 18th and 19th centuries, with blatant, open, bare racism. It is not that I am offended by how we are standing up for Ukraine. I am offended that we are not applying these same standards for Palestine, for Iraq, for Afghanistan, for any Muslim population, for that matter. When it comes to Muslims in their countries, we see the typical colonial, racist tropes. A good Muslim is a Muslim who informs upon their own people. A good Muslim is a Muslim who is ashamed of the mainstream fellow Muslims. A good Muslim is a Muslim who recognizes that they are fundamentally flawed and therefore is complicit with us, and essentially a traitor to his own people.
Of course, these are not the standards we apply to Ukraine. This is not what is the true fitnah for me. The real fitnah for me, and this is old news, is that we live in a racist, colonial, imperial world that has not changed in centuries, but that God simply allowed the masks to be taken off. If only Muslims would notice and learn. What is deeply troubling and life altering is what it exposes and what it tells us about us. Look at the way all of Europe reacted to the situation in Ukraine. As I witnessed the way countries such as Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany reacted, what comes to my mind is the hadith of the Prophet, that the Muslim Ummah is a single body. If one part is hurt, the entire body reacts. Article V of NATO states: “If you attack one of us, you have attacked all of us.”
There is the whole discussion about, “Ukraine is not a member of NATO. But maybe we can then arm Ukraine, feed Ukraine, do everything for Ukraine, but not fight.” But if you dare attack any member of NATO, then all bets are off. Did they attend a seminary in Qom, Iran, to learn how to be unified? To learn how to actually translate what the Prophet said about a single Ummah? What is a real fitnah? Suddenly all the talk about how when it comes to international relations, “the prevailing law is the law of political realism, not ideology,” comes to an end. Major businesses immediately withdrew from Ukraine, taking enormous financial losses.
Gulf Company announces it is divesting from Russia. This company announces it is divesting from Russia, that company announces it is divesting from Russia. Where is all that talk about how, when it comes to politics, it is only realism that works? Here, there are thoroughly ideological people reacting at a thoroughly ideological level. They are actually sacrificing - making huge financial sacrifices - because of what they believe in. Not only that, but Disney decides it is canceling the release of movies, Facebook decides it is withdrawing, European sports teams announce that they refuse to play Russian teams, artists cancel performances in Russia. I think back to when the Emirates announced that they were going to have sporting events with the Israelis and we said, “What about Jerusalem? What about the Palestinians?” and we were told by a chorus of Muslim pseudo intellectuals that it is uncivilized to mix politics with sports. Politics is one thing, but sports is another. When we talked about imposing real financial sanctions against those who supported the annexation of Jerusalem, we were lectured ad nauseam about political realism and how business is one thing, politics is another. That it is only the religious fanatics, those crazy fundamentalists, who do not understand the world of political realism.
What are we going to say to God, who is closer to us than the jugular vein? Let us compare the reaction of the non-believer Europeans about their fellow non-believers in the Ukraine, to the reaction of us Muslims about Palestinians, the Rohingyas, the Bosnians, the Uyghurs, the Kashmiris, and to top it all, about Al-Quds. If this does not wake you up, then in my view, there is no hope for you as a Muslim. If this does not shape your world, if this does it make you say, “Thank God that I lived to see all the lies exposed in my lifetime,” there is no hope for you as a Muslim.
Banks divest, not because of political realism, but because of principle - the type of principled behavior that we could not bear to bring about Al-Aqsa. So what does that tell me? I have lost faith in all Muslim institutions and organizations. I have lost faith in all the Dar al Ifta. I have lost faith in Al-Azhar and every other institution like Al-Azhar. I am now at a point of certitude about the fisq and fujur of every government that is in power in the Muslim world. I have even lost faith in the law, because the law is the refuge of the hypocrite and the cowardly.
Everyone who wants to feel like a good Muslim, while their soul is corrupted and foul, finds refuge in the law. As long as they follow the law, one can ignore the foul degradation and stink of their soul. It stinks to high heaven, but that does not matter, as long as they can hide in the ostentation of the law. There are non-believers declaring jihad, coming to the aid of their fellow. non-believers. May God bless them, they have principles. In the Muslim world, all those Muslims who thought of coming to aid of their fellow Muslims ended up in prisons, written on designated terrorists lists. They ended up in Guantanamo or detained in some country.
When all those Muslims talked about boycotting France when it insulted the Prophet, what was the response of all the institutions? “Come on, be civilized. Think, freedom of speech.” Where is freedom? Europe just banned RT, the Russian news agency, from broadcasting in Europe because of the offensive lies of RT. Where are all the heroes that lecture ad nauseam about how Muslims respect freedom of speech? We did not hear a peep from them. We live in a world where the United Arab Emirates abstained from condemning the invasion of Ukraine in the security council and the United States was very upset about the UAE’s abstention, but the American government knew that they did not carry weight with the Emirates like the Israelis do, so the White House contacted Israel and asked Israel to speak to the Emiratis, to get them not to abstain in the general assembly. Indeed, the Israelis and told the Emiratis not to abstain in the general assembly vote against the invasion of Ukraine. And this is why the United Arab Emirates voted to condemn the invasion in the general assembly, but not in the security council.
Israel. Not real politics, not values, not principles, not fellow Muslims, not even in America, Israel. I forgot whether it was the live news feed from the French channel, or the British Sky News, but a media channel showed a report about a brave Ukrainian child who stood up to a Russian soldier, hurling insults at the Russian soldier and even threatening to punch him. As I watched this, I went insane. My memory kept telling me, "Where have I seen this before?" Lo and behold, God sent an article my way that nearly made me fold and cry. I was right. There was a Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi. When she was 11 years old, in 2012, she challenged an Israeli soldier. What broke my heart is that this same girl, when she was 16 years old, was sentenced to prison in Palestine.
Of course, we did not care about her, as an 11 year old challenging an Israeli. We did not care about her as a 16 year old thrown in prison. We only cared about co-opting and usurping the image of a brave child against a fully armed soldier, co-opting it for Ukraine, not for Palestine. Why can we do that? Why can the forces of evil do that? Why are the forces of lie and deception capable of doing that? Because Muslims are sitting idly by, arguing about law, hiding behind law, camouflaging behind law; because Muslims see the immorality and they do not stand up to the immorality of their fellow Muslims. It is amazing. Muslims are very good about saying, “Brothers, sisters, donate to build the masjid. May God allow us to build the masjid.” That is what Muslims are good for. But will Muslims build institutions of truth, of power, institutions that empower the truth? No, instead, we build a masjid, so that we can segregate women to one side and men to another side.
As the entire world expresses outrage about what is happening in Ukraine, throwing real politik and political realism to the side and says, "We are about principles. Raise the price of oil, fine, we will stand for principle. Raise the price of wheat, fine, we will stand for principle. Divest banks in Russia, we stand by principle. We will lose money in the entertainment industry, we stand by principle." As the world does that, when it comes to Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa, they say, "Oh, Brother, be realistic. Civilized people are about political realism.”
Another article tells us that since Biden came to power, Israel has demolished over 1,000 Palestinian homes. More demolitions have happened since Biden came to power than what had been done in the entire Trump era. Of course, Trump is complicit, because without the Trumpian decision to move the American embassy and to force “the deal of the century” and Kushner and his foul friendship with MBS, none of this would have been possible. Nevertheless, Israel has demolished more than 1,000 homes since Biden came to power. What is the reaction of Saudi Arabia, the “Guardian of the two holy sites”? Zero. Closer and intimate relations with Israel. What are the actions of the Egyptians? Zero. Sisi cannot stop praising the Israelis at every juncture. What are the actions of other Muslims? Israel has a peace treaty with Sudan, a peace treaty with Morocco, a special treaty with Oman, a special treaty with Bahrain, and the mother of them all, the United Arab Emirates, who cannot get in bed quick enough with any force or power that is hostile to Muslims and Islam. The part that truly breaks your heart is that the peons and the agents of the Emirates in the United States, in England, in New Zealand, all over Europe - all those people who are on the payroll of Emirates - do they feel any amount of blow back from their fellow Muslims about being agents of a country that has dedicated itself to the thorough deconstruction of all Muslim causes, from China, to India, to Jerusalem, to Palestine? Absolutely not.
“I can live on the payroll of the Emirate. I can enjoy Emirati largess. I can live it up. I can pretend to be a pious Muslim. And my popularity is not affected one iota.” Tell me how does that affect your own personal relationship with Allah? Tell me: for all these Muslims who admire the agents of the Emirates, or the scholars, the imams, and the religious figures, who all sold their souls to the Emirates and to Saudi Arabia, how does that affect their relationship to Allah that flows through their veins like their blood? Do they recognize the extent to which it makes them hypocrites, liars, deceivers, traitors? I honestly do not know. May God protect us from the fitan.
Remarkable, when an 11 year old Palestinian girl challenges an Israeli soldier in 2011 - no one is admiring the nationalism of Palestinians, how Palestinians love their freedoms, how Palestinians care about their homes, how Palestinians love their mothers, love their fathers, how they are separated from their brothers. When the same girl is jailed a few years later at 16 years old, no one cares. She is not white. She is not Christian. She is blue-eyed and blonde, ironically, but it is not about skin color. Your race is your identity, but she passes. And so we can steal that image and leverage it, and we know we can get away with it, because Muslims do not exist.
I talked last khutbah about a man named Adnan Ibrahim. Among the never ending fitan that confronts Muslims: listen to the lectures this man gave in 2011 and 2012. The man is condemning the dictators of Libya, of Egypt and of Saudi Arabia. The man is constantly talking about how authoritarianism and dictatorship has corrupted the soul of Islam. Fast forward to today, and something has happened to Adnan Ibrahim. I have been trying my best to learn the details but I have been unsuccessful. Something happened where he sold himself to the Saudis and the Emiratis, and he is suddenly praising MBS, MBZ and the Emirates. He used to consistently praise Hasan Farhan al Maliki and praise his scholarship. But ever since the imprisonment of Hasan Farhan al Maliki, Adnan Ibrahim has not said one word about the imprisonment of his friend, even though this man does not live in the Emirates or Saudi Arabia. He lives in Geneva.
So one may wonder, “What happened? Are they blackmailing him somehow? Is it really possible that it is just cash? Why is it that so many Muslims sell out for cash? Is it because law allows us the comfort of deception and camouflage? Is it because we can hide in the law and pretend that we are good Muslims, so we believe we are good Muslims? As I was watching some of the old videos of Adnan Ibrahim on YouTube, I was struck by how many commercials kept interrupting these videos. Among these commercials was one that came up for Prager University.
Prager University is a ridiculous conservative institution created by Dennis Prager, and it is not a university at all. It creates these documentaries to champion right wing agendas, to attack things like the concept of Islamophobia. And the commercial that played was a commercial by Prager University about how the real racists are people who stand up to white supremacy, and that Trump and company are not the racists. There are people who teach critical race theory and people who talk about racial injustices; those are the real racists. But while the Prager University commercial came up once, what kept coming up in video after video was this commercial by an organization called Know The Truth, which is, amazingly, a missionary organization dedicated to converting Muslims to Christianity.
The commercials on the Adnan Ibrahim YouTube channel that kept coming up are different folks in very well produced, short ad clips, that clearly cost money, that were clearly well filmed and well edited. They looked extremely professional. They featured people who claim to have been Muslims all their lives, who saw the light of Jesus, and converted to Christianity. I will assume that whoever is responsible for Adnan Ibrahim’s channel, considering how carefully he regulates and controls, is involved in this. But I will assume that they did not choose to have these missionary groups advertise on his channels.
Look at the level of the insult. Are we so powerless, so ineffective, in this world? It is already problematic that a clearly missionary group, dedicated exclusively to converting Muslims to Christianity, its content consisting of people testifying to the evils of Islam and how Jesus liberated them from the evils of Islam, are all over YouTube without a problem. But for them to invade the space of inner Muslim discourses, and we Muslims, including whoever is responsible for Adnan Ibrahim’s organization, is either unaware or unable to do anything about, is absurd. It is a true fitnah. I actually sat and watched every single video on Know the Truth’s site. The amazing thing is that I can completely imagine Muslims who simply get fatigued and exhausted from all the lies, the hypocrisy, and the weakness. And to think about the testimony of all these individuals who claim to have been Muslims and converted.
The very common thing to all of them is not their rational, deep discourse about how God can have a son with a virgin woman, and how that son is co-eternal with God. Some forms of Christianity, including the Protestant Christianity that prevails around here, believes that God did not actually create the son at any point. The son is co-eternal. But, in what way is that a son, if the father actually did not actually create that being? Why would he not just be another God, with God? Instead, they are one and the same. They are the same, but different. The mystery of the Trinity. It is a mystery. It is amazing, it is mind-boggling. They talk about how Jesus loves us, but if Jesus loves us so much, why is it that Jesus only saves those who believe in Jesus? If Jesus just loves human beings, if he truly loves human beings in the way that you describe love, why do we need to believe in Jesus to receive grace?
Jesus loves human beings, so, just forgive everyone, whether they believe in you or not. None of these videos address anything of substance. What they all talk about, video after video, is, "As a Muslim, I was unhappy, but when I met Christians, they loved on me." I did research on that idea, “they loved on me.” Well, these morons, like so many Muslim morons who convert to Christianity, did not do their homework and they do not understand that Missionaries are taught that the way to convert Muslims is to “love on them.”
It is not out of the generosity of their heart, it is not a natural impulse. It is actually a training technique, that when they find a Muslim, they are to pour love upon them. According to missionary manuals and the missionary literature about converting Muslims, if they and their spouse are fighting, even if they are separated, they are not to tell the Muslim they are separated. Bury your differences and disagreements, and “love on the Muslim.” Do not ever talk before a Muslim about how you are angry with this person, or how you are offended about what your neighbor did, or about the controversy that broke out in the church, do not ever bring up any of that around a Muslim, instead “love on them.” Give them food, give them gifts, constantly ask about them, constantly call them, text them, do everything, pour it on.
The creation, in the same way that we manufacture the image of Ahed Tamimi, the 11 year old girl, from a Palestinian to a Ukrainian, here we are manufacturing. How the minions of a loving Jesus translate into loving missionaries, surrounding that Muslim until the Muslim says, "It is such a wonderful world." All the videos that I watched, I heard, "As a Muslim, I could not feel God. But then Jesus, the Holy Spirit, came upon me. And I am so happy because Jesus is always with me. Love is always with me. Jesus loves me." Well, of course, Jesus lets the Palestinians, the Uyghurs and the Rohingyas suffer to no end. Jesus does not seem to have a lot of love for those who are not his followers, and he is not bothered by the hypocrisy of the missionaries, nor the racism and the colonialism of the missionaries.
This is precisely why your iman (faith) is such a personal thing. If your iman is affected by what the Emiratis do, what the people at Zaytuna do, by what Adnan Ibrahim does, by the imprisonments of Hasan Farhan al Maliki and Salman Al-Ouda, by the ugliness and hypocrisy of Sisi, by the ugliness and hypocrisy of Asad, by the criminality of MBS and of MBZ. If your iman is affected by the hypocrisy of the Islamic Center of Southern California, by the hypocrisy of Muslims in this or that institution, you have been walking down the wrong path. That is not what a relationship with God is about. My heart can break as I see the way Muslims have portrayed Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds. It enrages me, it angers me, I might even cry about it. But it does not touch my iman, in the same way that the existence of viruses and bacteria all around me does not make me scared of my own blood.
My relationship to my own blood is so intimate and so personal, because it is what sustains me. It is what gives me life. My relationship with God is even more personal, more essential, more unique, more singular, and more specific. I do not hide in the law. Performance, discharging the law, or violating the law is not what defines my relationship with God. What defines my relationship with God is the way that I feel God within, in every heartbeat, in every thought, the way I truly feel God's step next to mine, feel God's breath with my breath, in every second, in every instant. And in the age of deception, where we can steal the images of brave Palestinian girls, in the age of hypocrisy, where we can cry for some people because they are blond and white, while thoroughly ignoring the misery of other people, in the age of treachery, where scholars and learned people sell their souls for money and prestige. In an age full of things that are truly fitan, we must hurry up and discover that personal relationship with God, because if we do not, the fitnah will catch up with you. And the garbage I heard spewed by the missionaries from the ads on Adnan Ibrahim's channel, Know the Truth, will actually affect some of us.