Cherif on Surah Al Azhab! We Are Off Next Week! :)

Greetings of Peace dear Friends,


I pray you are well and that you enjoyed a blessed Eid! Just a quick note to say that we will be away next week, so there will be no halaqas or khutbah the week of 18 July. We plan to be back in action on Tuesday, 26 July with our next halaqa God willing! I am looking forward to what we anticipate will be the conclusion of Surah 33: Al Ahzab (Day 4) tomorrow at 6 pm EST. In the meantime, I share with you this profound (as always) reflection on Surah Al Ahzab by our honored guest writer, Cherif Abou El Fadl, below. Enjoy!


In Peace and Hope,



Executive Director

The Usuli Institute


Cherif's Message




Surah al Ahzab begins with a stern warning to the Prophet (saw) to not follow the disbelievers and the hypocrites. A warning to be cautious of being influenced by them. If one views God as draconian this comes off as a demand for loyalty under the threat of punishment. If you cross God then into the punitive barbecue you go, spit-roasted over the fires of God’s power. Yet if one realizes and accepts God as God presents Himself, that is, as merciful, compassionate and loving, we have to consider this more deeply. In what way can I interpret this verse which yields the most compassionate explanation?


I have heard many people negotiate and debate the Qur'an. Usually, their arguments are pragmatic compromises to explain why donating a certain amount is impossible, why selfies are no big deal, or why they should be allowed to date. They’re completely oblivious to the fact that these debates are null and void because they have started incorrectly. They have begun with trying to justify values prevalent in society rather than trying to foster a Qur'anic value in our society. You see, this is an issue of sincerity. The questions expose values that are coming from somewhere else, and expose that people are working backwards in their question. For example, if the Qur'anic value is sacrificing wealth, then you will automatically violate that value by arguing legalities to limit how much wealth you sacrifice. Sincerity. Your heart is in two places. Your values come from two homes. You are attached to two things, God and your whim, treating them as equals, and so you have associated partners with God. 


One need only look back to fall of the Ottoman Empire to see what following the disbeliever and the hypocrite has done. When Lawrence of Arabia came to dismantle the Ottomans, he turned Arab against Turk. The Arabs allowed their pragmatism to justify violating God’s warning. And now we live in a groundhog’s day of divide and conquer. The same cycle playing itself over and over again. Muslim against Muslim, and Muslim seeking refuge in the power, values, and pragmatism of non-Muslims. Whether you investigate geopolitical trends or zoom into your Muslim friends in the west, we are all compromising for the sake of values that have not sprouted from the Qur’an, while maintaining that we are Muslim. We have two hearts. We have two homes. And it has reached a breaking point. It just cannot continue on like this. 


That’s the problem, here is the solution. Go back to the Qur’an. Tend to the soil from which your values grow. Plant the seeds from the Qur’an. You do this by striving to understand the Qur’an everyday, consistently, pushing yourself to do it for longer and longer. And if you mess up, get back on the horse. I have also heard many complaints over the years that our halaqas and khutbahs are too long. Turn that frown upside down. Now you will never run out of material to dive into. You have more seeds than you can plant. Good. Does it really make sense to use that as an excuse to not plant? I submit to you that you’re lying to yourself. You’re not planting because the other heart is louder. It tells you your yoga class is more important. It tells you your friend time can’t be sacrificed. It tells you your career already asks too much. But it also tells you that hour a day on Netflix is acceptable. 


Which heart will you choose? This is not a single choice. This is a choice you must strive to make every day, every hour, and in every minute. What I can promise you is that it will get easier. The more you choose the heart of the Qur’an, the more natural it will become. Have you heard the parable of two dogs within you? They are at war, and the one that wins is the one you feed. The truth is we all have these two hearts. Hypocrisy exists in me as much as it exists in you. The true difference is between the one who goes to war with their hypocrisy by feeding the heart of the Qur’an. 


I believe in you. You wouldn’t have found this if you weren’t meant to succeed. But the choice is yours, and you have to work at it. One day at a time. Easy does it. Stay in what you can do now, and not the whispers from shaytan telling you how hard that future will be. It’s a lie. God aids those who seek Him. Are you willing to make your life magic? Are you willing to plant those seeds spread freely at your feet?


Cherif Abou El Fadl


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