Embedded within my conscience, and what should be embedded in the conscience of every Muslim who takes his or her religion seriously, is God's refrain in Surah Al Imran: “...and that there might grow out of you a community [of people] who invite unto all that is good, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong: and it is they, they who shall attain to a happy state!” (Q 3:104). This is further underscored in the same surah: “You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind: you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong,” (Q 3:110).
God’s command, which is actually a covenantal charge, is to be a nation that calls for what is good and that combats, resists, challenges, and seeks to fight and stop what is evil. What follows is God's refrain that: “You are indeed the best community” – meaning the best nation, the best people, the best bearers of God's message – if this is what you engage in, if you discharge your obligation to recognize and advocate for what is good, and become a living force for the establishment of goodness and against what is evil, foul, and ugly. In the world in which we live, that charge will lead every conscientious Muslim to a state of cognitive dissonance.
So much of our world challenges the ability of a Muslim to make sense of God's charge to be a nation that upholds what is good and resists what is evil. What is a Muslim scholar, student, and intellectual supposed to do to be a living, demonstrative example of the dynamic power of Islam, to pursue goodness, and ward off evil? That charge to “enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong” (Q 3:104) is, in its core, precisely that. A Muslim has to become a dynamic, demonstrative example of the way that Islam can pursue goodness and ward off evil.
Right before the khutbah, we received the kind of news item that, as Muslims, we are by now all too accustomed to receiving. The level of cognitive dissonance is such that we have been almost programmed to immediately marginalize the news item and discount it from our lives, so that life can continue with some semblance of order and sensibility. This news item is that a suicide bomb attack on Kabul killed 19 young women in a school. This followed twin bombings at schools in the same neighborhood earlier this year, and a blast in 2021 that killed 80 people - most of them female students - and wounding 300 others.
Because they are Afghans, and because human psychology develops coping mechanisms as seamlessly as it constructs reality in endlessly inventive and imaginable ways, we have been programmed not to pause and ponder upon what a news item like this tells us about our Muslim world. Can you imagine the theology and the thought process that goes into convincing a young man, or even perhaps a young woman, to blow themselves up and kill fellow Muslim women in a school, to tell them that killing Muslim women who are attending school is a praiseworthy act in God's eye, and that they secure their place in heaven by killing these girls who are attempting to get an education?
What do you think the reasoning process is? It is that these women seeking an education are engaged in a program that follows in the footsteps of Satan. It is that female education in our society, one way or another, lends legitimacy and support to the colonizers of their country. Afghanistan was invaded by Russians and then by the Americans. In these people’s minds, the fact of Afghan women receiving an education supports the colonial project in Afghan lands. When they kill these young Afghan girls, then, they are, in their minds, striking a blow against the Westernizing project in the Muslim world. They are striking a blow to the remnants of the Russian and American invasions of Afghanistan. The suicide bomber is somehow led to believe that the lives of these school girls is an entirely acceptable price to pay in the paradigm of “enjoining what is good and resisting what is evil” (Q 3:110).
Pause for a moment. The image of 20-something young Muslim girls blown to pieces, mutilated by the power of the blast, laying dead, and all the other girls who sustained wounds that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, is made to be an acceptable tapestry upon which to write statements of defiance against one’s colonizer. The bodies of Muslim women have become the platform upon which we stick our tongue out to our colonizer, upon which we flip off our colonizer, upon which we say, "Here, I am giving you an obscene gesture to defy you, but the price is written on the bodies of Muslim women."
This is, you see, connected in so many ways to another image that is emerging from the Muslim world. The continuing protests in Iran are a result of Iranian women getting fed up with their being the tapestry for Iran’s reaction against the colonial project implemented by the Shah. After the revolution, Iran became preoccupied with defying the colonial project that was clearly being implemented from the time that the British, French, and Russian powers—powers that rarely came together as colonial projects—came together to dominate and subjugate Iran. Through the entire span of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, but particularly the 19th and 20th centuries, colonial powers who often could not agree on anything would agree on the necessity of subjugating Iran, ensuring that it never emerged as a Muslim power in any sense.
If Iran emerges as a power that is thoroughly secular and westernized, and a natural ally of Israel in the region, then that was deemed to be acceptable. But if Iran in any way turned to its Islamic heritage, then the program of subjugation was quite clear. Unfortunately, despite the brilliant principles of the Iranian revolution, the lofty goals and the endless hopes, when it came time to defy the colonizer, once again, it was the bodies of Muslim women that were used to make a statement of defiance to the colonizer.
I visited Iran during the time of the Shah, more specifically an urban area like Tehran. I still remember my surprise when I saw that pornographic magazines were sold at corner streets. This was in addition to the excessive, nearly extreme displays of sexual promiscuity – as if Iran at the time wanted to be more westernized than the West itself, which is a common phenomenon among colonized countries.
Instead of being one heart and soul, becoming part of an Ummah that enjoins what is good and resists what is bad, Muslim women are instead fetishized into becoming a stereotypical caricature, a symbol of defiance to colonialism, by a largely meaningless act – the act of being forced to cover their hair.
Obviously, it is far more extreme in Afghanistan. Muslim women are being forced into becoming the tool, the ammunition, to make a statement of defiance. As some psychotic criminal group decides to murder Muslim school girls in Afghanistan, mullahs in Iran decide to continue discounting the autonomous will and free self-determination of Iranian women, insisting upon canceling the voice of Iranian women and telling them, “Whether you are convinced or not, this is how you are going to attire yourself.”
They forget all about the Qur’anic teaching that there is no coercion in religion (Q 2:256). They are forgetting all about the fact that if someone is coerced to wear the hijab, even if it is a requirement, there is no hasanat (credit for good deeds) that accrue from it. They are forgetting about, or choosing to turn a blind eye to, the deep hypocrisies that plague Iranian society. Everyone knows of the deep entrenched corruptions that have seeped into Iranian society. Meanwhile, the mullahs sit comfortably, saying that “As long as Iranian women are covering their hair in public, we will pretend that everyone is also a good, pious, and believing Muslim when they go home." Of course, everyone knows that this is far from the case. Everyone knows that the policies of coercion in which Muslim women were forced to bear the burden of defiance to colonialism has resulted in the loss of the hearts and minds of Muslim women. We have dominated their bodies but, in the process, we have alienated their hearts and minds. We tell them, “Wear the chador in your streets.” But the minute they go home, they have no regard for you, your laws, your fiqh, your thoughts, or your theology.
“You are the best nation in enjoining what is good and resisting what is evil” (Q 3:110). Really? Is this what it is supposed to look like? Afghan and Iranian girls being murdered? Iranian women being abused and murdered in police custody? Iranian women reaching a point of being so sick of everything that they are taking off their hijabs and burning them in public?
Meanwhile, I have read that since the 1990s, 4 million Muslims have been killed in Western wars. 4 million Muslims since the 1990s have lost their lives in Western-instigated wars in Muslim countries. This does not include the Rohingya of Myanmar, the Uyghurs of China, or the Muslims killed in the Philippines. It does not include those killed in non-Western wars. But 4 million Muslims were eradicated in wars instigated by the West. If you are interested and want to hear more, check out CJ Werleman, who talks about issues of this sort.
God, Afghan school girls are being blown to pieces. Iranian women are boiling with dissatisfaction and anger, blaming Your religion, blaming Your Sunna, blaming Your tradition.
Meanwhile, amid an actual holocaust being perpetrated against Muslims, I check what Muslims are talking about. They are still having debates about the hijab and nail polish. They exist, practically oblivious. Their cognitive dissonance has reached a point in which they can hear that 4 million Muslims can perish in wars instigated by the West, and yet they still think that they are entitled to organize and manage their lives as if nothing exceptional is going on.
A recent event brings so much of this into focus. It comments so poignantly about our current state as Muslims. Recently, Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi passed away. Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi came to prominence when I was still a teenager with the publication of his book, al-Halal wa al-Haram fi al-Islam (“The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam”). At the time. Wahhabis attacked Yusuf al-Qaradawi vigorously because they thought that his book was so liberal, they accused him of being Westernized. This is because he did not ban music and allowed certain things such as art, painting, and the like. They used to mock his book and call it al-Halal wa al-Halal fi al-Islam (“The Lawful and the Lawful in Islam”), claiming that he hardly made anything haram. The big controversy was that al-Qaradawi refused to condemn suicide attacks carried out by Palestinians against Israelis, even if the targets were a civilian target. I once debated this matter with al-Qaradawi himself in Qatar. Al-Qaradawi's perspective was that all Israelis are colonizers, they have no right to be in Palestine, and that all Israelis could turn into a fighting force because all Israeli men and women serve in the military; one day they have civilian jobs, and the next, they are carrying weapons to kill Palestinians. I still took issue with al-Qaradawi's position on ethical, moral, and legal grounds. I thought he made assumptions that were not factually verifiable about who was and who was not a combatant. Eventually, al-Qaradawi changed his position. He realized that targeting civilians in suicide attacks did not serve the Palestinian cause and, indeed, hurt the Palestinian cause.
During al-Qaradawi's lifetime, he produced close to one hundred works on Islamic law. In the events leading to the Arab spring, al-Qaradawi became a prominent voice in the pro-democracy movement from an Islamic perspective. Al-Qaradawi's long life friend and collaborator was Shaykh ’Abdullah bin Bayyah. Both Bin Bayyah and al-Qaradawi created the International Union for Muslim Scholars, an influential organization that at one point had a very close relationship with the al-Azhar University in Egypt. The current Shaykh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, was a student of Shaykh al-Qaradawi.
When al-Qaradawi passed away, however, no condolences were heard from Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Shaykh of Al-Azhar. No condolences were heard from Bin Bayyah. No condolences were heard from the organizations that Bin Bayyah heads in the Emirates, and that Hamza Yusuf is a member of.
Al-Qaradawi wrote one hundred different works. He has been one of the most influential figures of Islam in the modern age, whether you agree with him or not. Yet, there has been complete silence after his death from all religious institutions in Egypt, including the school that he graduated from, at Al-Azhar, and from his long life partner, friend, and collaborator, Bin Bayyah. The Emirates, in fact, has made it clear no one is allowed to perform salat al-gha'ib ( absentee funeral prayer) on the soul of al-Qaradawi, and no one is allowed to offer any condolences. The only thing that is allowed to be printed in Egypt, the Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are articles accusing al-Qaradawi of being a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism.
The friends and students of old are completely silent. Bin Bayyah, Ahmed el-Tayeb, and Ali Gomaa are all completely silent. But there is even more. Do you want to measure the influence of the UAE and Saudi Arabia upon Muslims in the West? Listen carefully. See how many places there are in which the podiums of the Prophet say anything that communicates condolences for the death of this grand scholar of Islam.
Social pathologies develop from unresolvable paradoxes in the psychology of the Ummah. They develop when the Ummah learns that 1+1 is not always 2, that up is not up and down is not down, north is not north, and south is not south. They develop when the voice of conscience in the Ummah, the so-called “scholars,” learn to be cowardly, hypocritical, and treacherous, without loyalty or principles, used by despots who treat religion like the shoes on their feet, to get them where they want, but, once they get there, take them off and put them aside;
This is the state of an Ummah whose people take the easy route and resist colonialism through the laziest and most dishonest means. That is, using the bodies of women to resist colonialism. Instead of saying something that truly resonates in the world of ideas. Instead of excelling in knowledge. Instead of building institutions of knowledge that can truly return the gaze upon colonialism. No, they take the easy way out: women must cover up.
Make a statement through a piece of cloth that tells women that they cannot show their hair. Make all Muslims in the world think that this is the hottest issue. A prominent scholar dies, who cares? As long as we get together and read The Hikam of Ibn ‘Ata’allah al-Iskandari. So long as we read some mechanical book on theology, have a discussion about correct tawhid, and debate all the ways in which there are rules and restrictions upon women. So long as we remain in our segregated spaces. We can then feel good about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back, thinking that we have actually discharged the obligation of being an Ummah that enjoins what is good and resists what is evil.
But what we have done, in fact, is embody the idea of the party of Satan, Satan himself.
How could it be that 4 million Muslims have lost their lives since the 1990s in wars instigated by the West alone, and there is no reaction? It does not light a fire or produce an earthquake? It does not radicalize the ways in which Muslims think about morality, ethics, and a sense of priorities? When there is such an immense casualty list, how do we still have the heart to make hijab an issue?
An article came out in which Amnesty International yet again documents Facebook’s compliciyt in the genocide against the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar. Unsurprisingly, the consequences to Facebook are zero. Amnesty's report makes no splash beyond the field of experts, or so-called experts, in international human rights. Among other things, Amnesty suggested that Facebook should pay reparations to the families of the Rohingya who were butchered in the genocide. Of course, Facebook dismissed the idea. Facebook knows that there is no political cost attached to simply dismissing Amnesty's report.
In other news, Mussolini's regime in Italy butchered Muslims in Libya. No one talks or cares about the crimes against humanity committed by the Italian regime. The entire Muslim population of Libya was placed in a concentration camp. The descendants of that regime have just been elected to power in Italy. In Italy, a fascist party, quite literally, with clear ideological ties to Mussolini's regime won the election. The reaction of our government is to minimize their fascism and describe them as “conservative centrists.” Why does that matter? Well, it matters because of yet another thing.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had a conference in Warsaw. In this conference, extensive material was reviewed about the rise of rampant Islamophobia in Europe. The report goes into great detail about the explosion of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims, particularly in countries such as France and Denmark, and discusses a very Islamophobic operation engaged in by the Austrian government called “Operation Luxor,” in which 70 Muslim households were raided and 30 Muslim academics and activists were arrested, but none were charged with any crimes. The reports given at this conference document a terrifying picture in which Muslims all over Europe, particularly in France, Denmark, Austria, Germany, and now Italy, are systematically denied their civil rights while Islam is systematically vilified and demonized by the ruling parties and the active governments in these countries.
There is a rising tide of fascism and racism in Europe that is going to change the face of the world in which we live. And the first victims of this rising fascism in Europe and the genocides that are going to be committed will not be Jews this time. It will be Muslims. If you want to get a taste of what it will be like, study the Bosnian genocide. Read how millionaires paid millions of dollars for the privilege of going on weekend trips to snipe Muslims for fun.
To add irony upon irony, while Muslims are busy debating things like hijab and nail polish, busying themselves with discussing the evils and conspiracies of the other side in the Sunni/Shi‘a conflict, radical Hindus in the Hindutva movement have realized that no one cares if the victims are Muslims. They realize that they will not be able to successfully carry out their genocide against Muslims in India unless they invest in the rise of Hindu nationalism in the West and contribute to the radicalization of Western politics against Muslims. So, in a very organized and methodical movement, they have organized well-funded demonstrations in Muslim neighborhoods in Leicester, England, and the instructions they have is to provoke. Once they successfully provoke, they call the police. The way that the British media has covered these events was exactly as the Hindu nationalists predicted. Muslims can never be seen as victims, so the media reports it as merely “simmering tensions” and “ethnic conflict.” In reality, it is Hindu nationalist provocation, victimization, and targeting of Muslims.
The irony is that the Hindu nationalists learned from Zionists how to provoke, dominate, and subjugate Muslims. The close ties between the Hindu nationalist government of India and the government of Israel are well known and well documented. How do we make sense of this fact? In another element of cognitive dissonance, the other close partners of the Hindu nationalist Islamophobic government of India that is now actively spreading Islamophobia in Europe and the U.S. is the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two countries that gave that same ideological movement a share in the profits of Hajj, and who Bin Bayyah and Hamzu Yusuf and their Zaytuna College, are closely allied to.
That is why we will never hear a word about Hindu nationalism. It is why we will never hear a word about Israel. We will never hear a word about Palestinian rights. We will never hear a word about the 4 million Muslims slaughtered since the 1990s. Indeed, we will not hear a word about the Uyghur Muslims or the Rohingya. What issues, then, will we hear about? Tawhid, hijab, nail polish, and music.
I close with one final example, which is the news that the Israeli killing of Palestinian children has become so commonplace. A 7-year-old Palestinian boy has died after an Israeli army chase. Here is the 7 year old boy that was killed as Israeli army was chasing him.
Gruesome details have emerged about how he was coughing up blood before he died. Four other Palestinians were also killed in a Jenin raid.
Meanwhile, and closer to home, we have a story regarding Katie Halper, an American journalist. Recently, Rashida Tlaib made a comment that got her in hot water. In a statement made during the livestreamed “Palestine Advocacy Day” conference, organized by Americans for Justice in Palestine Action, she said, “I want you all to know that among progressives, it has become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values and yet back Israel’s apartheid government.” Recently, Amnesty International issued a report that was, of course, ignored, clearly accusing Israel of committing the international crime of being an apartheid state against Palestinians. Human Rights Watch did the same, as did prominent Israeli human rights organizations. But, of course, once Rashida Tlaib made this statement, all hell broke loose against her. An American journalist who happens to be Jewish, who engages in research, prepared a perspective that what Rashida Tlaib said was, in fact, reasonable; that what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and numerous human rights organizations have said was accurate; that is, that Israel is an apartheid state, and that Israel is in violation of international law by creating an apartheid regime.
As a result, not only was Katie Halper not allowed to present her segment on the television program she prepared it for, but it was canceled and she was fired. I encourage you to look up the story. I go back, yet again, to the hypocrisy of focusing on how Muslims need to learn to respect the values of freedom of speech, and how Muslims are burdened with the historical and social defects of not understanding what it takes to have a democracy. But the other hypocrisy is that censorship is easily exercised when it comes to anything that relates to the civil rights and human rights practices of Israel.
God, in our lifetime, has shown us a living example of a people who care about their cause, as ugly and unjust as their cause may be. This time, the example is not the Zionists that came from all over Europe to colonize Palestine, claiming that they were there 6,000 years ago and that God promised them this land, so they reclaimed it and brought Hebrew back from the dead – the Hebrew language had become a curiosity, like Aramaic. It was close to a dead language. These strong willed and committed people brought back the Hebrew language from death. Untold sacrifices and numerous principled moments created what we see now as the state of Israel.
This time, God gave us a living example of Hindu nationalists who are inventing a mythology and preparing to commit an actual genocide. It is a thoroughly immoral cause. Instead of buying cars and expensive homes, they have redirected their resources to reshape the world, to serve their agenda, and help their cause. Every Muslim who says that Iranian women do not have the right not to wear the hijab if they do not want to is complicit in the Muslim plight. Every Muslim who chooses to talk about nail polish instead of the poor Afghan schoolgirls who were incinerated to death is complicit in the Muslim plight. Every Muslim woman who is married to a man who says, "I want to dedicate my life to serving the Islamic cause, to empowering Muslims, to fighting Islamophobia, can you stand by me and accept a vastly lower standard of living?” and responds “No”, is complicit in the Muslim plight. Every Muslim man married to a Muslim woman who says to him, "I want to dedicate my life to fighting Islamophobia, and lifting and empowering Muslims in the world, and to do so, I need to study more. I need to be away from the house more. I need to not serve you as much," and he objects, is complicit in the Muslim plight. Every person who chooses to marry someone who will be richer or provide more luxuries in life instead of living a principled existence is complicit in the Muslim plight. All of our complicity is tracked by God, very carefully.
Think of every moment you have spent in which, instead of thinking of what duties are incumbent upon you, you thought about your rights. Yes, you have rights. But you also have duties. Let us talk first about your duties before we get to your rights. How can we prioritize our rights in the current circumstances? With Hindutva nationalism on the rise and us anticipating a coming genocide against Muslims in India? 20 or 30 years from now, a genocide will happen against Muslims in Europe. I can see it. I can smell it. I can feel it. It will come, and we are complicit. If we think about our rights instead of our duties at this moment in time, then we are fully complicit.
Every Muslim doctor who enjoys the half a million dollar income and busies themselves with a more prestigious zip code, a larger home, fancier cars, and the latest furniture are complicit in the Muslim plight. Others sacrifice for their cause. At the bare minimum, we can support someone like CJ Werleman to make sure that his voice, that so often speaks for Muslim causes, is heard.
I have despaired over this dunya. In my lifetime, regardless of what I talk about, those who listen remain the same number. Those who care, more or less, remain the same number. I run into rich people left and right, but I have never run into a rich person who truly understands that their wealth is not theirs, and that they are simply entrusted with this wealth. I have seen Jewish people write checks for $150,000 to support their cause. I have seen Hindu nationalists do the same. A medical doctor will write a check for $30,000, $60,000, even $75,000. But unless it is to build a mosque in which the Muslim doctor will serve on the Board of Directors, I have never seen Muslims do it. How are we the “best” Ummah? What is God talking about? It cannot be that God is talking about us. And if that is the case, then in what sense are we Muslims at all?