This jumu’a, there are a considerable number of events and issues that are transpiring, all of direct concern for Muslims that we could speak about. But as with all affairs, we reflect upon the challenges that the world presents us with in light of the foundations that the divine revelation has left us with. There is, or at least there should be, a constant conversation in the mind of a believing, faithful Muslim between the lived experiences in the world and the wisdom imparted through revelation to a Muslim. In Surah Al Nahl, God gives us an image to reflect upon and ponder. God tells us about the tendency for human beings to become so engulfed in the dynamics of constructing and inventing such that it becomes its own intoxicant; when construction is pursued as its own cause and purpose, not tied to any moral goal or purpose, and not to lay the foundation for or to bolster any real meaning, but simply as an affirmation of human vanities.
Humans are driven because of the part of us that was given to us by the divine - that part of us that is able to exercise its own choices and engage in reflection. That part of us that exercises voluntary choices. Creation, invention and construction become its own intoxicant, so much so that God warns us in Surah Al Nahl that human beings can construct, build and pursue goals, and when they think they have constructed what is durable, dependable and reliable, because the foundations were corrupt, because the foundations were not anchored upon the only reality and only truth in existence, which is God, the entire edifice collapses. The ceiling, the walls, everything collapses, and a human being is left to repeat the cycle again: Construction and invention for its own purpose, and the pursuit of vanity that ultimately results in the entire edifice falling apart and crumbling upon the dreams that human beings have constructed. God then presents us with this image in Surah Al Nahl. God receives at the end, these human beings that built for the sake of building, that invented for the sake of inventing - human beings that thought that the pursuit of creation is a moral goal in itself, as if it is an ultimate goal.
Ultimately, they were unjust to themselves. They lived and died in a state of injustice. In the Hereafter, their defense is: “We were not evil doers. We were not the bad guys. We do not see ourselves as the bad guys.” In fact, in Surah Al Nahl, we get the sense that these human beings are surprised that ultimately they were part of the camp that is wrongful, and a part of what God counts as amongst the evil doers. They exclaim in the Hereafter, “We were not wrong doers. We were not evil doers. We were not among the party of the condemned. So, why are we here in the Hereafter?” As it turns out, you lived a life of delusions, a life where you believed that you are among the good doors because you have constructed and built, but ultimately you realize that what you have built is a mere mirage. You have built nothing; that in the Hereafter, you are not in the divine camp. You are not in the camp of the light, the supernal, the good, the saved, but in fact, you are in the camp of the lost. The remarkable thing is that time and time again, God warns us against the human tendency to find meaning in simply propelling itself so that it becomes its own deity, that the symbolisms we create, the purposes we create, the causes we create are not really about any true ethical content or true ethical meaning. They are not about establishing justice on this earth. They are not about furthering the divine. They are not about teaching fellow human beings humility, honor, goodness and knowledge, but they are simply pursuits of vanity upon vanity.
One wonders, how many of us in the Hereafter will respond to God's judgment by saying, “We are not wrong doers, why are we in trouble?” Whenever you live within the boundaries of the self, whenever you wake up only concerned about yourself and you pursue the events of your day and finally go to sleep, having thought solely of yourself and what you can do for the self, you are at a very high risk of being among those who have constructed nothing but mirages in life, and at the end, you will be forced to exclaim to God, “Truly, I was among the wrong doers.”
Let me share with you just a sample of the range of issues that can take one beyond the self and can truly get one to understand what those who live as good doers, as opposed to those who live in the delusion of doing good, might be. Let us take something as simple as Facebook's mother company, Meta. Meta issued its first human rights report, which is supposed to be the first in what is planned to be an annual human rights report that Meta produces in order to further the human rights accountability of Facebook. Facebook has played an gigantic role in the genocide in Myanmar against the Rohingyas and continues to play an enormous role in the explosion of Islamophobia in India, along with the perpetuation of many acts of violence against the Muslim population in India.
Because of the criticism against Facebook for its critical role in promoting the genocides in Burma and Myanmar, as well as the genocidal acts in India and the promotion of Islamophobia around the world, Facebook finally responds by saying, "We will produce an annual human rights support." But if we read the report that Meta came out with, it is largely a huge disappointment. It greatly understates Facebook's responsibility in the genocide against the Rohingyas. It greatly minimizes Facebook's role in violence against Muslims in India. It practically leaves alone the ability of Islamophobes and the phenomena of Islamophobia, which is not just about religious bigotry but also racism. It leaves that phenomena largely untouched. It is woefully oblivious to the targeting of Palestinians, to the explosion of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in Israel, and basically pays lip service to human rights issues that are fairly safe and standard.
I was struck as I looked into who is saying what to Meta's human rights report. Once again and not surprisingly, all those who took Meta to task and said, "This is too little, this is highly inadequate, this is highly unfair, et cetera,” were all non-Muslim voices, although what they were criticizing Meta about nearly exclusively was the way that Facebook has chosen to deal with Islamophobia and Islamophobic issues.
Muslim voices? [Only] the classic voice of organizations like CAIR, which, despite their best efforts, are a simple voice who do not control the norms of communities. They cannot shape the social mores of Muslim communities everywhere. CAIR cannot get Muslims to care if Muslims do not want to care. You pause and think, what a classic commentary upon our age. Muslims who leave their countries and immigrate to the West to pursue careers, to buy homes, to send their kids to school. Muslims who look back at their lives and assess their success or lack thereof by what Islamic centers they have built close to home, how often they took their kids to Sunday school, and perhaps how often they got involved in the board of their local mosque. Muslims who went to law school only to brag about calling themselves a human rights lawyer, although no one is quite sure what they do that relates to human rights. Muslims are into the appearances of things.
Tons of Muslims who have gone to law school call themselves civil rights lawyers and again, it is not clear what, if anything, in their career has to do with civil rights. Where are all these Muslim voices that love the appearance of influence and engagement? Where are they when it really matters? Why is it that Meta issues a human rights report and the only people that are taking Facebook and Meta to task about Muslim issues are non-Muslims? I imagine all the Muslims that spend however many hours on social media, talking about "Islamic issues" or whatever else they think is a priority in life.
If people construct a home that is theoretically to shelter them, but in reality, they construct a home that only shelters ghosts and phantoms, they live a life in which what they have built is nothing; it is not in any way connected to the most basic, direct needs of a people. They have created a shelter for phantoms. When these people meet their Lord and God presents them with the simplest, most direct question of, “Who are you serving, and for what purpose?” it is all interconnected.
Saudi Arabia, with Biden's visit to the Middle East, announced that it is opening its airspace to Israel. By doing so, Saudi Arabia has given Israel a huge financial gift. Because Israeli planes can travel over Saudi space, commercial transportation for them will now be cheaper and plane tickets on Israeli airlines will also be cheaper. Israel is jubilant. Of course, the news did not appear first in Muslim or Arab venues, the news appeared before it even became a formal announcement in Israeli media. Haaretz had already published an article saying that Saudi Arabia will do so.
While we are at it, Haaretz published an article that every self-respecting Muslim should read, about how for years now, Saudi Arabia has been secretly dealing with Israeli Intelligence and how Bandar bin Sultan, acting on behalf of the Saudi government, has had numerous dealings with Israeli Intelligence over the years, and that the Saudi government was cheering the Israeli government as they attacked Hezbollah; that Saudi Arabia urged Israel to destroy Hezbollah and was very upset when Israel called a ceasefire; that Saudi Arabia did the same with Hamas; that Saudi Arabia had been a long time conspirator with Israel against Iran, and so on and so forth.
Of course, the Israelis are jubilant and I wish you could have followed Israeli media as they are jubilant about another thing - that for the main khutbah at Hajj, the khutbah at Arafat, the Saudi government chose Shaykh Muhammad Al-Issa, who is the president of the Muslim World League; who in Israel, they fondly called the Zionist shaykh. In Israeli media, they fondly call Muhammad Al-Issa “the Zionist shaykh”. Why? Because while Muhammad Al-Issa has visited Auschwitz and said that fighting antisemitism is a top priority, he has said nothing about Islamophobia, nothing about Israeli racism against Arabs and Muslims. Muhammad Al-Issa makes it a point to go around saying, "Zionist causes are our causes." This is the person that was chosen to speak at Mount Arafat, to represent the Muslim voice to the Muslim pilgrims.
Israeli media understood precisely what this meant. The selection of the Zionist shaykh meant great things for Israel. But what does great things for Israel mean? If you have been following Biden's visit to the region, Biden, once again, stood next to this cartoonish character, this joke of a politician, Mahmoud Abbas, and talked about how the US remains committed to a two-state solution. If Muslims bothered reading history, I would recommend to them that they read the history of Native American tribes in the United States. Because if they followed the speech dynamics of the American government vis-à-vis Native Americans - how year after year, they would preach to Native Americans about the evils of fanaticism and barbarism: “Do not be barbaric, do not fight for your land, do not fight for your rights because doing so makes you barbarians.” - and every time Native Americans thought to make a stand, they were told, "Be civilized, live in peace.” But in reality, peace meant, “We take your land whenever we want, and you move along whenever we want. If you ever protest or object, you are barbaric and uncivilized."
Native Americans all along were told that to be truly reasonable people, they should abandon their languages, traditions, religions, and yes, even come to Christ. “Maybe Christ will have a civilizing influence upon you.” Indeed, many Native American tribes came to Christ. Many Native American tribes became Christian. Did it win them any reprieve with the colonizer? Did the colonizer allow them better terms? The colonizer may have paid them lip service, but whenever the colonizer wanted to take their lands and natural resources, they would, even until the recent Supreme Court decision that further eroded the rights of native American tribes. So, an American politician telling Palestinians, "Be patient. We believe in your rights," all while eroding those rights, making us live in a house of cards, a house of phantoms that will collapse upon us is so typical. If only Muslims were educated, if only Muslims read, if only Muslims learned.
As Biden is standing next to Mahmoud Abbas saying, "I believe in a Palestinian state," and as Saudi Arabia opens up its airspace to Israel, meanwhile, Europe and America are tightening their sanctions and boycott against Russia. As the Saudis talk about the covenant on civil aviation and say, "Well, according to the covenant of civil aviation, we have to give access to all commercial aircraft regardless of identity.” Europe and the United States, despite the covenant on civil aviation, deny Russian planes access to airspace.
As all of this is going on, in the silence of corridors, in the real world where phantoms do not dwell and ghosts do not prevail, the UN issues yet another report to be filed away that found in one year, Israel killed 78 Palestinian children, maimed another 982 Palestinian children, and arrested 637 Palestinian children. Yet no one cares, not even Muslims. Not even the Muslims on social media, not even the followers of Bin Bayyah and Hamza Yusuf. Even as the Zionist Shaykh gives the lecture at Arafat and as Meta, once again, sweeps under the rug its responsibility for Islamophobia and for the genocides against Muslims.
Does Israel, in celebration of the Biden visit, announce it is suspending its “doomsday settlement,” the new Israeli settlement that will cut the West Bank into two halves? Absolutely not. Construction in the new settlement is proceeding without pause. The irony is, as Biden is standing there talking to Mahmoud Abbas, the new American embassy that is being built in Jerusalem is being built on land that was stolen from Palestinians. The irony is that the family that used to own the land where the American embassy will be built is the family of Professor Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian American professor at Columbia University.
It comes down to these incremental things. In light of all of this, I imagine a scenario where in the Hereafter, an angel comes and says, “You, intelligent Muslim sitting on your computer. You know that Facebook has played and continues to play an enormous role in the spread of Islamophobia in the world. Was it of any interest to you, how they dealt with the issue of their moral responsibility? I have a list of Jews that cared. I have a list of Christians that cared. I have a list of non-Muslims that decided to spend time and energy on this issue. But how about you, Muslim? Nah.
“How about the American embassy that is being built on stolen Palestinian land? How about Israel's continuing apartheid regime that murders, maims and arrests Palestinians every year? How about the constant, non-stop violations against the Aqsa Mosque? Israelis are digging under the foundations of the Aqsa Mosque from under and above ground, they are constantly violating the sanity of the Aqsa Mosque. How about the floods in Yemen? Right as we speak, there are floods that are sweeping away the tents and provisions of Yemeni refugees who have already been brutalized by the same Saudi regime.
“How about the Zionist imam giving a khutbah at Arafat? Was that of interest to you? No? Okay, Muslim, what was of interest to you?” “Oh, what was of interest to me was some discussion about, I am not sure.” I truly do not know what is of interest to the intelligent, informed Muslim; except that whatever it is, it tends to be trivial, brainless, mindless and soulless, like a house for phantoms, where ghosts dwell and Muslims are absent. These are unblessed houses, unblessed abodes full of anxiety, tension and fear that have no principles, morals, light or beauty. That person who comes into the Hereafter asks God, “Really? Why am I among the wrongdoers?” If only you reflected in your lifetime, if only if you heeded the warning, if only you paused for a second and thought about how you have spent your life and where you are taking the rest of your life. If only.
History is a great educator to those who are truly students of history. It is clearly true that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Part of the playbook of the colonizer is not just to define the contours of reasonability and rationality for the colonized. The colonizer as part and parcel of the colonial project is not just to take your land, not just to take your money, not just to control your destiny, but to invade and to define for your psychology what is rational and reasonable. So with that, objecting to being colonized becomes irrational. Saying, “I have rights,” becomes unreasonable. Saying, “this is not fair,” becomes impractical. But part and parcel of every colonial project is to intervene directly in your relationship to God.
Whatever gods the colonized worshiped, the colonizer cannot afford to leave this relationship alone. This is precisely why the colonizer bastardized Native American religions and turned them into cutesy dogmas about mother nature, so that even the Native American religion and culture becomes a source of entertainment and comfort for the white colonizer. They cannot practice their religion the way they want to practice it, and in fact, the way that they relate to their religion must go through symbolisms and normative connections that bring us, as the colonizer, comfort and a sense of security. White man's Christianity, Protestant Christianity, was exported nearly to every Native American tribe in the United States so that no Native American religion maintained its authenticity. It all became a hybrid between Christianity and a highly watered down version of Native American cultures. Now the medicine man is a cutesy guy that blesses the white man when the white man feels like paying lip service to Native American cultures and paying their due respect, as long as paying their due respect does not cost the white man any of their real material interests.
As we speak, what God taught us about the Prophet Abraham - the Prophet Abraham who said, "I am the first Muslim" - has become bastardized by the colonizer. Biden, following Trump's footsteps, is selling us the Abrahamic Accords. Is Abraham the name of any of the presidents involved? No, they are referring to the Prophet Abraham. “Oh, you Muslims realize we all come from the same prophet, Prophet Abraham.” But the Abrahamic Accords, and hence the symbol of Abraham means accepting an American embassy in Jerusalem, abandoning your claims over Jerusalem, not being offended about violations against the Aqsa Mosque, and not insisting on demanding your rights when an American citizen, a journalist, is shot dead and the American government white washes the event and says, "Who really cares?"
So the Prophet Abraham is about Muslim reasonability and Muslim rationality. How does Muslim reasonability and rationality look in this co-opted image of the Prophet Abraham? Is it the Abraham who says, "I am the first Muslim?" No, it is a very different Abraham. It is an Abraham that tells Muslims to be reasonable, to be rational. That tells them, “Do not take Facebook to task. Do not demand your rights. Do not be sticklers about a genocide against the Rohingyas, the Uyghurs, the Kashmiris or against the Chechenians. Let it all go.”
All while the Israelis will not accept any person demanding that they sacrifice, even any of the claims that they have made unlawfully over Palestinian lands. These are taboo topics. Being part of the Abrahamic religion for Israelis does not include any type of restrictions on any Zionist organization, regardless of how fanatic it is; it does not include any type of compromise on anything; it does not include even holding Israel responsible for the persistent and consistent human rights violations that it continues to commit. But being a part of the Abrahamic paradigm for Muslims means accepting Jews and Christians as colonizers without protest or objection. If only we would learn from history. How many parts of the world were colonized under the same precise paradigm? How many parts of the world, from Australia to New Zealand to the United States itself, where the colonizer talks about inclusivity and tolerance, these humane principles, but relies on your ignorance and your passivity for their colonial project to succeed?
The same government that supports Bin Bayyah, supports Hamza Yusuf and that has brought the whole paradigm of the Abrahamic religion, the Abrahamic faith, and the Abrahamic Accords—the United Arab Emirates, which is literally like a knife in the hand of the colonizer—that same government has just invested $2 billion. This is just a new deal, $2 billion invested in a high-tech Indian crop growing industry. So, even the simple rationality that says when someone is behaving badly, do not reward them, is suddenly suspended and not applicable when it comes to Muslims.
The Indian government that has been responsible and continues to be responsible for an enormous amount of Islamophobia, for consistent violations against Muslim rights, and the same Indian government that refuses to hold anyone that rapes and murders Muslims in India accountable, is rewarded by the United Arab Emirates, supposedly a Muslim country in some sense, as part of its paradigm of tolerance with another lucrative contract. You can spit on Muslims. You can beat Muslims. You can torment Muslims, and there are no consequences because the minute anyone says, "This is wrong, there should be consequences,” they are being fanatic, unreasonable and irrational. This is the Islam that all of us validate in every choice we make in our lives.