We are approaching the days of Eid. The Eid known as the Eid-al Akbar, the bigger Eid. Of course, it is the Eid at the end of the pilgrimage period where Muslims are supposed to think and act in a way that goes beyond themselves and to take care of others. The whole point of Eid al-Adha, the Eid of sacrifice, is that we do not simply celebrate by taking care of our family or worrying about the happiness of our family, but we go beyond ourselves and make it a point to take care of those who are less fortunate, to bring joy and happiness to their hearts.
That is the point of Eid al-Adha, and this is the essential service that is supposed to be performed in Eid al-Adha. But like every Islamic event— and this one, as we said before, marks the end of one Islamic year and the coming of the next, makes one pause and think about this ummah. Especially this ummah, this nation where God told us when the Qur'an was revealed that God offered the Amana, the Trust, to the heavens and to the earth, and that they shied away from carrying it, so human beings carried it.
Yet, human beings often prove themselves to be both ignorant and unjust. In Surah Al-Ahzab, God speaks to the believers - those who should be believers, those who claim to be believers, or those who want to be believers - and in a simple, straightforward fashion, God tells these believers that when they speak, they should do so in speech that is described as sadid.
To speak truthfully, to speak rationally, to speak reasonably, to speak honestly - all of that is encapsulated in the word sadid. When you speak, make sure that you are not speaking nonsense, that you are not making excuses for your selfishness, your inconsistencies, or your lack of transparency and honesty, even with the self.
When you speak, make sure it is the truth, but also make sure you are always truthful, rational, reasonable, straightforward and decent. After that preamble, God tells us in Surah Al-Ahzab that the Trust was offered to all creation, but creation turned it down and human beings carried it. Obviously, we know that this is a metaphor. We know that there was no moment in time in which God offered the Trust to animals, to mountains, or to trees, but that God is alerting us to something very basic. In the Islamic tradition, many scholars took the Trust that is offered to the mountains and earth to be the intellect - the ability to choose right from wrong.
I believe that is correct, but we cannot overlook that preamble. It is an affirmative command to speak, but to speak in a way that is fundamentally decent. You see, it is possible for one to be logical but indecent. It is possible for one to be philosophical but indecent. It is possible for one to be eloquent, elaborate and intelligent but fundamentally indecent.
Let us remember that at the heart and core of Surah Al-Ahzab is the problem of the hypocrites - the hypocrites who often ignore the fact that their psychology and their emotions are as if they have two hearts in their chest, meaning they are conflicted. One heart pulls them one way and the other heart pulls them another way. In Surah Al-Ahzab, God tells us that they are fundamentally indecent because a human being with two hearts is a hypocrite and a hypocrite is indecent.
So the Amana that is offered and carried by human beings is not just the responsibility of the intellect, but the responsibility of speech and expression, whether that be by words or action. All of the ways that we express is foreign to the mountains, the rivers, living creatures; expression to them is whatever is encoded in their DNA. They are incapable of lying. A cat, dog, bird, tree, flower or rock on a mountain cannot deceive. Whatever speech emanates from all these living things is, by its very nature, truthful. It is by definition reasonable because it has no greed. It does not conspire. It does not aim to control. It does not aim to dominate. It does not aim to humiliate. It does not aim to subjugate. But human beings are the only creatures on this earth that have been given that fantastic power - the power to express and to communicate. But with that power is also the power to be extremely deceitful, dishonest, self-serving, and self-promoting; fundamentally, the power to be hypocrites - munafiqun.
That is precisely why after God says that the Trust was offered, God then comments, “God will indeed punish the hypocrites.” You look one moment, and you remember the days that you were in late teenage-hood, beginning your life, starting college, thinking of the journey ahead, thinking, “I, with my whole life ahead of me, will get right what my parents got wrong.”
Then, in a flicker of a moment, you wake up to discover that most of your life is behind you, and that all the years have flashed by as if in an instant. And with time, you increasingly think, “How many of my dreams were tied to the welfare of this ummah?” that is, if you are a reflecting human being that has hoped to live a life where what you say can be called sadid - that when you speak, you speak truthfully, rationally, and reasonably.
You remember in the earliest days of your life learning about how important God is supposed to be and how central the Prophet Muhammad is to our message. As much as you learn about faith, commitment and belief, you also learn about history. Especially when the days of Hajj come around, you learn that Muslims, after having become a colonized people at the wake of modernity— the same powers that colonized Muslims convinced Muslims that the primary battle in their lives that they should be focused on is not colonialism, not the loss of Palestine, not even what is going on in India and the destruction of the Mughal Empire, but to turn Arab against Turk. So many people that thought that they as Muslims were carrying the Trust and they were speaking the truth, allowed colonial powers to persuade them. Not only that, but to finance and arm a rebellion by Arabs against Ottomans.
At the wake of modernity, a deeply flawed character like Lawrence of Arabia travels to the desert to lead the Arab masses into a rebellion that ultimately destroys the Khilafah, was indirectly responsible for the loss of Palestine, and that pitted Arab Muslim against Turkish Muslim, and ultimately ended with the destruction of the Khilafah. You think to yourself, "How could it have been that so many Muslim authorities, scholars and shaykhs were so committed to the cause of Muslim fighting Muslim, Arab rebelling against the Turk; the destruction of the Khilafah; the loss of Palestine; the loss of India; leave alone the many other Muslim territories and Muslim populations that were annihilated and destroyed?”
You ask yourself, “How could it be for a people who had the Qur'an in their midst, constantly teaching them to be honest, truthful, reasonable and decent?” And you could not believe that by the time you reach the end of your life, you are going to live to witness another historical moment that is no less shameful, no less indecent, and no less destructive - that is no less contrary to everything about bearing the trust before our Lord.
For those who do not know, after the Trump administration empowered the Israelis to arrogantly flout the annexation of Jerusalem by giving it the stamp of legality. The Trump administration took what was previously thought to be a crazy idea, and the colonial powers in the White House embraced this idea, not just as rational and reasonable, but as fitting for what Muslims are. This time, however, the colonials are not leading an alliance of Arabs against Turks.
This time, the alliance is against Persians. There is a flurry of activity as Biden is preparing to visit the region. What is on the table is the so-called Arab-Israeli NATO. Arabs are to form an alliance with Israel, this time not to confront the Turks, but to confront the Persians. Muslim against Muslim, as if history taught us nothing, as if we have learned nothing. This time, it is not the puritanical Wahabis against the corrupt, mystical Turks, but it is supposed to be the Arab and Israeli against the Shi‘a…and as we confront the coming Muslim new year, you think to yourself, “What Amanah?”
What are all these Muslims that fill social media with endless dribble talking about? When God says, “be rational, be relevant, get yourself straight,” and we started modernity with colonial powers leading an alliance of Muslim against Muslim, and we all saw how the rest of the story went.
Now in yet another alliance, the Biden administration is keen on forming an Arab alliance against Iran, which effectively means a Sunni alliance against the Shi‘a. The irony is that it was not too long ago, in the '60s and '70s, when diplomats in the White House and in Israel thought that the Shi'a could be our natural allies against the Sunnis. But after the revolution in Iran and the invasion of Iraq, Israel and the United States resolved that the Shi'a are no allies. In fact, the Shi‘a are dangerous for the colonial projects that the US and Israel have in the region. So once again, in the same way they sent Lawrence of Arabia to treat Muslims as infantile and irrational - as people not even worth taking seriously at any serious intellectual level - this time it is the United States that are saying, “We want all of you Sunni Muslims to join in an alliance against the evil Persians and the evil Shi'a. Israel is our buddy, but not the Persians…” who have been Muslim from the very first beginning of Islam and who have played a critical role in the Islamic civilization, like the Turks.
“We will turn your civilization into an Arab civilization,” meaning, “We will convince you that the Turks were a heretical aberration, as we will convince you that the Persians are a heretical aberration. We will convince you that Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud were Arabs,” even though they were not. “And Al Ghazzali was an Arab,” although he was not. “That Al Shirazi was an Arab,” although he was not. “We will convince you that you Arabs actually represent the true Islam, and we will play you like the pieces in a chess game…”
This deserves pause and thought - that a figure who is important, especially for Muslims in the West because he is Hamza Yusuf's mentor and teacher, Bin Bayyah, is sitting there with the chief rabbi in the United Arab Emirates, Ephraim Mirvis; and Bin Bayyah praises not just the rabbi, but more importantly, praises Israel and says that the record of Israel is a move to a more peaceful existence.
Bin Bayyah, who is supposed to be an influential Muslim scholar, sat with a chief rabbi known for his hawkish positions and praised Israel’s record of peace. At the same time that Bin Bayyah brags that he and the government that he is close to - the government of the United Arab Emirates - are stepping up efforts to fight religious discrimination against Jews. Well, I am very happy that he is fighting religious discrimination against Jews, but has he ever heard that same rabbi that he was talking to talk about the evils of Islamophobia or talk about the apartheid regime against Palestinians, or even acknowledge that Muslims have any right in Jerusalem whatsoever, as he is sitting there praising Israel's record of peace?
This is at the same moment yet again that the United States betrayed another American citizen, allowing Israel to murder yet another American citizen with impunity. Israel has neither apologized nor compensated, and even the American government has whitewashed the event and swept it under the rug. I am talking about the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, who was a US citizen. In 2003, Israel also murdered Rachel Corey, a US citizen, no consequences.
In 2010, Israel murdered another US citizen named Furkan Doğan with no consequences. In 2014, Israel murdered 14 year old Urwa Hameed - no consequences. In 2016, 16 year old Mahmoud Salem, another US citizen, was murdered by Israel. Again, no consequences. In 2022, Omar Assad, an 80 year old, was killed in cold blood by Israel. He was a US citizen, but there were no consequences.
Now, Israel murdered Shireen Abu Akleh, a US citizen, with no consequences. A few weeks after Shireen Abu Akleh was killed, Israel murdered yet another Palestinian journalist. As Bin Bayyah is sitting there praising Israel's record and as the Biden administration is marshaling Muslims to stand against fellow Muslims, there is a further deepening of the divide between Shi'a and Sunni. What do they say?
“The reason Assad is still in power is because of Iran.” No, I am here to tell you that the real reason Assad is still in power is the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates did more to keep Assad in power than Iran could have possibly done. You allowed the colonizer to play on your ethnicities, your bias, your bigotry, and your ignorance. At the same time that Bin Bayyah is praising Israel's record of peace and the Biden administration is preparing to declare another Muslim against Muslim Alliance, has Israel even made a lip service acknowledgement of our rights in Jerusalem? No.
Has Israel at all acknowledged its own racism against Arabs? Absolutely not. Has Israel in any way modified its Islamophobia and its bigotry against Muslims? People like Bin Bayyah are precisely the hypocrites that the Qur’an is talking about: incapable of truthful, honest speech, and incapable of decency, because at the same time that all of this is happening, what is Israel busy with? The so-called doomsday settlements.
Israel has announced that it is finally going to implement its long planned settlements of Ma'ale Adumim. Ma'ale Adumim are the settlements that would split the West Bank in half, stealing more Palestinian territory, displacing more Palestinians and forever cutting the West Bank in half, making it a virtual impossibility to have a Palestinian state. In my opinion, it is already an impossibility. But despite the Biden administration begging the Israelis not to implement the so-called doomsday settlement, Israel has completely ignored America’s pleas.
They look and see that the Arabs are eager to join in an alliance against Persians. While they are united as Jews, while Jerusalem is in their hearts, they see Muslims, and what are Muslims about? “We steal your land, you are happy and you praise us. We murder your children, you are happy and you praise us. We colonize you as Britain, France and the US colonized you, and you say, ‘You are our masters, and we are here to please you.’”
Say something honest, something decent, something truthful. I would not care about Bin Bayyah if his student Hamza Yusuf was not sitting smugly in the United States, teaching Muslims the corruption of their faith and the destruction of their future. What decency is there when the entire Qur’an repeatedly tells us, "You Muslims are one. You Muslims must care for one another as a single body”?
Yet what we see Muslims doing is falling all over themselves to appease their colonizer, to kiss up to whoever dominates, controls, and subjugates them, meanwhile, going off spewing nonsense about obedience and submission to God, about this issue and that issue. The Amanah, I fear, is lost.
When I was a kid, these stories in history would confuse me. How could it be that Muslims allied themselves to British or French colonial forces to fight fellow Muslims? To murder a fellow Muslim, to allow the colonial non-Muslim to dominate and control? And in the blink of an eye, I am no longer a teenager. I am no longer a young man.
In a blink of an eye, life has gone by, and I still ask myself. It is remarkable, what I read about as a theoretical construct in history books, I am actually living through. The Prophet and God told us, we are a single ummah and that does not register. Told us, "Do not ally yourself with non-Muslims against Muslims,” that it is a big no. That it is an absolute prohibition, and the same people that are more than happy to sit spewing off about the most mundane and asinine topics, seem to get blinders when it comes to sectarian, ethnic and racial issues.
We discover that the Amanah, the real challenge and the real Trust that human beings failed so miserably in caring for, is not the rational intellect, but it is in basic, fundamental decency - the type of decency that tells me if my fellow Muslim is having their land ripped out from under them; that they are being evicted, displaced; being persecuted and oppressed; that they are suffering, then it is simply bad character, morality and ethics for me to ignore that and put my hands in the hands of their oppressor.
Basic decency that makes you read that if the custodians of the two holy sites have given the contract to manage Hajj to an Indian company that is part of an Islamophobic, fascist ruling regime, that it is basic decency that says, "I am not going to give my money to something like this. I am not going to support someone like Bin Bayyah or anyone affiliated with Bin Bayyah, even with a simple kind word.”
Even if I like what the student of Bin Bayyah says, the hypocrisy is enough, because hypocrisy is indecent. Article after article tells us how the Indian company, the Mutawa Company, has committed fraud upon fraud when it comes to those doing Hajj. They have canceled bookings, people who have booked the higher package were given the lower package, and no refunds. They have booked the same room to 10 different groups, and herded the people in the single room.
People breaking down and weeping because they found out that after going all the way there and after spending all this money, that there had never been hotel bookings and that there are no reservations - it is a complete and utter mess. It makes me say Subhanallah. You did not have the decency to care about whether your money is going to be used to kill Yemenis, Sudanese or Libyans. You did not care about whether your money is going to be used to perpetuate a genocide in India, continue oppressing Kashmiris, continue ignoring the suffering of the Uyghurs, or continue adding to the suffering of the Rohingyas.
You did not care about any of that. You only cared about one thing: “I wanted to do Hajj,” and God put in your way someone that steals your money, and makes you suffer the consequences of your own decisions. Someone who had the same lack of basic decency that you suffered from when you decided to put your hand in the hand of the unjust and the oppressors.