"Alcohol, Gambling, Self-Loathing and the Demonic Instrumentalities of Hate" and More from The Prophet's Pulpit!

Dear Friends,

Greetings of Peace! I pray you are well! Winter is upon us! Here in America, we have set our clocks back, which means the days feel extra short and it gets dark outside very early! Please note that to accommodate our switch to Daylight Savings Time, the khutbah today will begin at 12:45 pm ET. :)

I continue to be blown away by the power of the words as we continue our work on preparing Volume II of The Prophet's Pulpit, which we are planning to release insha'Allah (God willing) Ramadan 2023. Last week, I shared a few powerful excerpts from the new, upcoming volume. I thought I would share another amazing excerpt today - this one a bit more lengthy. This comes from our section dedicated to Muslim Youth, which is out of this world. The essays in this section are nothing short of inspired, illuminating, and empowering - but most of all, truthful. 

"This Ramadan arrives amid a virtual flood of young Muslims who are confused, if not skeptical, about their faith. So many young Muslims are unsure about their place in the world. They are not sure what they are supposed to do with their lives. Worse, they feel ambivalent about their identity as Muslims.

There is a clear generational gap to this dynamic. Many young Muslims are skeptical, if not outright disappointed, about the generation that raised them. Many young Muslims look at the generation that raised them and wonder whether that generation did a horrible job with the lives they were given. This is because they look around and see the state of the Muslim world. This younger generation was raised in an age of Islamophobia, social media, and mass communication. We cannot ignore that they were raised in an environment that has been colonized by Islamophobic discourses. They were taught by their parents that religion is very important. If they were raised in a Muslim country, however, then they were raised under despotism, injustice, and hypocrisy. If raised in a non-Muslim country, then they were raised with discontent and double standards, a world in which action is different from speech, platitudes, and dogma. For young Muslims, the generational gap has bred confusion and disappointment.

Few of them, however, openly confront their parents’ generation with their disappointments. "Why have you handed us the world the way it is, with so much inequity and bloodshed?” Indeed, very few from the older generation are satisfied with the world that they are handing over to their children. It is not as if the parents think that they have done a wonderful job. But there is no adequate language by which the parent can tell their child why they are handing over things in the state that they are in. In other words, if there was openness and honesty between parent and child, then they could share their collective confusion and disappointments about the state of the Muslim world. They would find, in fact, that the feelings of alienation are something that they can bond over.

I want to focus on one aspect of this. I want to reflect upon how we got here and how the Qur’an speaks to us, giving us solace and direction in times like these. The Qur’an is a living prophet. It came to speak to every day and age. God, in God’s wisdom, revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet in Mecca and Medina as events unfolded. Yet, the way the Qur’an was revealed and what it said to the Prophet were intended as a demonstrative living example to address every age to come.

The opening verses of Surah al-Baqarah address the early Muslim community in Medina, which faced an environment as hostile to Islam as the world we live in today. In Mecca, Muslims faced open and sworn enemies. Like today, the Meccans were hostile to Islam and openly oppressed Muslims. Yet this, in many ways, was the easy part. In Medina, Muslims faced a far greater challenge. The Jewish tribes in Medina had a complicated and ambivalent relationship with the Prophet. On the one hand, there was a formal alliance between the early Muslims and the Jewish tribes, the so-called “Constitution of Medina.” Yet the Jewish tribes of Medina were well established and had grown accustomed to dealing with the tribes of Medina from a position of superiority. They controlled much of the financial market of Medina. The Jewish tribes were also literate and educated, unlike most of the Arabs of Medina. Beyond the formal alliance, then, the rhetorical and propaganda war never truly ended. Islam was the new religion on the block, so to speak, and Muslims faced criticism, skepticism, and doubt from more established Jewish tribes. Add to this the problem of the so-called “hypocrites” (al-munafiqun) among the natives of Medina, who nominally converted to Islam but remained sworn enemies of the Prophet. The hypocrites only pretended to convert. They uttered the Shahadah (testimony of faith), but mocked, jeered, and sought to subvert the new religion of the Prophet from within.

Reflect on the position of the early Muslims in Medina. They arrived in Medina having fled the sworn enemies of Islam – the Meccan Quraysh, the external enemy – but soon faced the Jewish tribes and the hypocrites. Imagine being among these early Muslim pioneers. Imagine facing external and internal enemies. Now think of this in relation to our time. How does Surah al-Baqarah address us and speak to our present circumstances?

This is the book, there is no doubt in it. It is a guide for those who are mindful of God. (Q 2:2)

It is as if God is telling us that God knows that we are going through the hardest time. God knows that the road ahead is difficult. God is saying, “I know that you exist as an island in a sea of hostility. But if you want to walk this journey, the starting point is that this Qur’an is the truth. There is no doubt in it." We must always ask ourselves a fundamental question, which the Qur’an, incidentally, posits numerous times: is God's word sufficient for us, or not? No one can convince you that this is a book from God unless you are willing to accept the testimony of God. If you tell yourself, "I am not sure that God is testifying," then you do not know if you are Muslim. If you do not truly believe that this is God's testimony, then there is a problem from the get-go. God is assuring you. Take God's word that this is the book in which there is no doubt, and that it is a guide for those who live in reverence of God, those for whom God is an important part of their existence.

…who are steadfast in prayer and spend from the wealth that We provided them. Those who believe in the revelation sent down to you (Muhammad), and in what was sent before you, and firmly believe in the life to come in the Hereafter. They are the people who are rightly following their Lord and it is they who shall be successful. (Q 2:3-5)

There are those who believe, pray, and are generous with God's money, knowing that it is not really their money. Having told us this truth that should anchor our lives, Surah al-Baqarah then addresses the sources of confusion and alienation in the psyche of the early Muslims and in our psyche today.

As for those who are bent on denying the truth, it makes no difference to them whether you warn them or not. They will not believe. God has sealed their hearts and their ears, and over their eyes there is a covering, and they will receive terrible punishment. (Q 2:6-7)

If your relationship to the truth is affected by the beliefs of others – if you are the type to look around and say, “But I know so many who never respond to the call” or “There are so many whom I respect and it confuses me that they are not Muslim,” which was very much like the early Muslims – then God is intervening to tell you, explicitly: “Here is the truth. This is the truth.” Know that God is speaking to you. Know that if your psychology is dependent upon who converts to Islam and who does not, then you have a very hard road ahead of you. Your belief in God cannot be contingent on your relationship to other human beings. That is a fool's errand.
There are believers, deniers, and then the most serious and most dangerous category of all.

There are some who say, “We believe in God and the last day,” and yet they are not really believers. They seek to deceive God and the believers but they only deceive themselves, though they do not realize it. In their hearts is a disease which God has increased… (Q 2:8-10)

If you seek beauty and goodness in your life, God will help you achieve it. If you seek hypocrisy and ugliness in your life, then God will leave you to achieve it. God enables you to do what you want to do."

If you liked this excerpt, you will LOVE The Prophet's Pulpit series! Thank you to everyone who has supported our work over the years and allowed us to reach the point where we can be create beautiful books like The Prophet's Pulpit! May God bless our collective efforts to produce and spread more light in the world!
Looking forward to today's khutbah and the continuation of our engagement with Surah 9: Al Tawbah (Day ) TOMORROW at 6 PM ET! Hope to connect with you online soon insha'Allah (God willing)!
In Peace and Hope,

Executive Director
The Usuli Institute

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