A human being, like the mystery of life itself, is an enduring puzzle. The very fact of consciousness defies definition. Whatever the mysteries of life are, and whatever mysteries are behind the remarkable, brilliant, and majestic reality of the intellect, and the even more brilliant and elusive majesty of the heart, a human being is marked by concrete stands. You are what you stand for, and what you stand for is how you meet the sum total of moments in which something needed to be said or done. From the moment we gain consciousness and slowly grow into adulthood, the logic of God, as God says, is to test each of us through each of us (Q 25:20). We are tests for each other. From the moment of creation, a human being is presented with challenges in which a human being is called upon to prove their mettle.
A human being is called upon to say or do something, and their choice is what defines them in the eyes of God. What you choose to say when something needs to be said, and what you choose to do when something needs to be done, is ultimately what will create your record. A believer knows that this record exists, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we recognize it or not. A believer knows that there is a constant record of how we have chosen to confront and deal with each of the challenges that God presents us with throughout our lives.
Think of a situation that calls upon you to warn someone of an impending disaster. For instance, you see a car hurtling toward a child in the middle of the road. If your choice is to remain silent, that is a moral choice and you will bear the moral consequences of that choice. If the car strikes the child while you had the opportunity to warn and possibly to save a life, you are culpable for the silence. Whether the child would have heeded the warning or not is immaterial. It could turn out that the child you tried to warn was deaf and could not have heard you, so ultimately your warning would have had no consequence. Nevertheless, because you did not know this child was deaf and because you had the opportunity to warn, and yet you failed in your moral obligation to warn, you are culpable, even if the disaster was unavoidable.
Morality does not hold you accountable for the consequences. Morality holds you accountable for how you chose to discharge the duties that confronted you at the time that they confronted you. Duties, by their very nature, are contextual. If, in the Hereafter, you explain to God, “Well, I did not attempt to warn the child about the danger of the car coming down the road because in the privacy of my room the day before, I stood before a mirror and warned all the children of the world about the danger of cars driving down the road,” that is very nice, but you have discharged a moral duty in a context that is entirely irrelevant. So you did not, therefore, discharge the duty at all.
What many Muslims have forgotten is that this is precisely the art of Shari'a. The art, morality, and ethics of Shari'a is to discharge the correct duty in the correct context. Not to discharge any duty in any context, and not to simply sound off a list of hypothetical duties without a context. Those who understand the Straight Path (Q 1:6), which is the path of Shari'a, the path of God's light, understand that life presents a series of contexts, one after the other. The true Shari'a challenge, the true challenge of God's applied law and God's applied morality, is to respond appropriately to the context as it presents itself.
If, for instance, someone gives brilliant lectures about the obligation to lower the gaze, but every lecture relates only to lowering the gaze toward sisters in a mosque or Islamic center, and consistently ignores the reality that the center is blocks away from an LA-style beach where naked bodies abound; in other words, the brother constantly talks about lowering the gaze but ignores the reality outside that center in which lowering the gaze must deal with new nuances, permutations, and conditionalities, and must take into account things like pornography, the internet, movies, and film. Has this person discharged their moral obligation?
No, they have not. Islam is not a license to divorce reason or proper ethical thinking. The ABCs of ethics is to affirm and apply the ethical principle to an actual living situation. If what you master is the affirmation of ethical principles but your perception of the challenges to these ethical principles is skewed because you misperceive or choose to ignore reality, have you discharged your ethical obligations? Clearly, no. Take, for instance, a person who is learned in medicine. Every time I meet this person, they talk about all types of diseases and various remedies. But I then show up extremely ill, presenting myself to this person, and I ask, "What illness do I have? What medicine do I need?" They look at me and say, "That is entirely irrelevant to my work." Is this truly a learned person? The regurgitation of principles divorced from context. Do we really have a medical expert?
This is so much like the Muslim condition. It is the Islam that dictatorial governments around the world support, the Islam of the Egyptian, Saudi, and Emirati governments. It is the Islam that Israel wants. The Islam that the colonizers of the Muslim world want. The Islam that the Swedish, Austrian, Australian, American, British, Indian, and Chinese governments want.
The Islam that is desired by these parties is an Islam that regurgitates the abstract principles. It is the Islam of the so-called doctor who describes diseases but is unable to cure a single patient. It is the Islam that pronounces principles but consistently fails to deal with the moral challenge of the moment. All these parties, from the Egyptians to the Saudis, to the Emiratis, to the Israelis, to the Americans, to the British, to the Austrians, to the Australians, to the Russians, to the Chinese want this kind of Islam. In the '80s, they talked about “fundamentalist Islam,” then it became “militant Islam,” then it became “Jihadi Islam,” and now they use the expression “political Islam.” What they describe as “political Islam” is the Islam that, indeed, exercises trying to warn the child in the road, regardless of whether the child can hear or not, regardless of whether you end up saving a life or not. It is the Islam of moral and ethical practice.
In order to neutralize the threat of real Islam, in order to get an Islam of proclamations but no applications, they must convince you that common sense and normal ethical thinking is irrelevant to your faith. They must convince you that to use the intellect to reason through a moral choice and a moral challenge, you need mystical levers from within your religion. It is as if they are saying that, in your religion, before you can yell to try to save the child in the middle of the road, you must first go through very complex processes of licensing and permission by duly authorized authorities. First, you have to go to the people with the mystical powers and ask them, “Did I really see the child in the road? Is there a road? Is the car really hurdling down this road? And if it is all true, am I permitted to warn the child? How loudly am I permitted to yell out? Should I call once? Should I call twice?”
They want to engage you in all of that. They want to tell you that your religion does not give you the license to use your moral common sense, because there is no place in your religion for moral common sense. There is the mystification and alienation of the will of God into a secret code that is only accessible to men of power, who are chosen by other men in power. Before I can even think about exercising a moral choice, then, I need to go to the clergy chosen by Sisi in Egypt, by the Saudi government, or by the Emirati government, and I have to keep my silence until I am given permission by the keepers of the so-called mystical, Divine secret.
That is an absolute corruption of the Divine will. Islam liberated the human will. Islam broke the chains of permission and license to access God, to speak with God, and to speak on behalf of God. Islam appealed to our innate common sense when it told us to read and think, when it told us that we are personally accountable for how we handle a moral challenge as it presents itself. Islam criticized the priestly and rabbinic classes because they alienated God and made God's will remote and foreign.
In the last khutbah, I told you that I could not confirm whether or not Awad Al-Qarni has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. Today, sadly, I can confirm it. Pause to think about this. Why was someone like Awad al-Qarni sentenced to death in the land of the Prophet? I have realized that very few people in the United States have read Awad Al-Qarni or have listened to his lectures. Awad Al-Qarni was the type of Muslim intellectual who criticized judiciaries that lack independence and integrity. Awad Al-Qarni made an obvious point that one of the firm principles of Islam is due process for justice and that everything the Prophet taught underscores the independence and moral integrity of the judiciary as a necessary institution for the possibility of justice. Awad Al-Qarni said what so many of us intuitively know about the role and importance of shura as an ethical value in Islam, and how Islam condemns despotism and authoritarianism in all its forms. For that, he has been sentenced to death. Yet another major Muslim scholar is likely to be killed by the Saudi state at any time.
Keep in mind that the blood of the scholar will testify against all of us in the Hereafter. His son is here in the United States, and I am sure that his son, like the son of Salman Aloda, suffers from the neglect, isolation, moral laziness, and moral cowardliness of the Muslim community. Look at all the forces that are today allied against Islam, from the Egyptian government to the Saudi government, to the Emirati government, to the Russian government, to the Chinese government, to the American government, to the British government, to the Swedish government, to the Australian government, to the Austrian government. Notice that not one of them says a single word about a grossly, shockingly unjust sentence.
A scholar has been sentenced to death. According to the papers of his conviction, he has never committed or even encouraged an act of violence. He has been sentenced solely for his speech. Yet, these governments have nothing to say about the situation. Even more, they want to convince us that God's Islam is to look at a situation like this and just go on as if it does not concern us. As if the pain of Awad Al-Qarni's family is not our pain. As if the pain of Salman Aloda’s family is not our pain. As if these are not the guardians and protectors of Islam who articulate the living conscience of Islam.
The Saudi government also arrested Saleh Al-Shami and his son. Saleh Al-Shami is about 90 years old. He is a scholar of hadith who has written numerous books about the Sunna, the Sira, and the authentication and commentaries of hadith. The Saudi government has decided to move against and arrest a large number of Syrians living in Saudi Arabia, and among them was Saleh Al-Shami, a major scholar, someone who has lived an entire career serving the science and tradition of hadith as he sees it. He was arrested and has since disappeared. With his age, it is very doubtful that he will survive. Yet, none of those who go on about “freedom of speech” and “human rights” have raised a peep. Again, the Islam that is being created and supported is an Islam that tells us, “It does not concern you. Move on, it does not matter.”
I found an article that was published in 2011, over 10 years ago, that talks about how Mecca is being turned into the Las Vegas of the Middle East. The article written over a decade ago talked about the destruction of 400 Islamic historical sites as the Saudi government reshaped the cosmopolitan face of Mecca, turning it from a shrine to Islam to a living shrine to capitalism. In the article, there is the voice of a few Saudi dissidents who talk about the atrocities being committed by the Saudi government against Islamic historical sites.
Not only did the Saudi government destroy the houses of Khadija and Abu Bakr, but the Saudi government even destroyed the gravesites of a number of Companions. This, in order to turn Mecca into a living shrine for capitalism, a playground for the rich. This article, published 10 years ago, warned that among the sites at risk are the Ottoman and ‘Abbasid-era columns of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. I checked. They are now gone. The article said that among the sites at risk was Jabal al-Nour, where the Prophet first received his Revelation. Now, Jabal al-Nour has been altered permanently and irreversibly. Parts of it have been demolished, its historical character completely changed. I have now confirmed what I feared and mentioned in the last khutbah: the Saudi government is destroying Jabal Uhud. This is the mountain about which the Prophet said, "This is a mountain that we love and it loves us."
Well, we are now in the process of making that very mountain vanish. I confirmed it, but the only voice that I have found loudly meeting the moral challenge of the moment was the voice of a non-Muslim, CJ Werleman. A brilliant, masterful, and brave voice, but a non-Muslim voice. The Islam that all these powers want is an Islam that sees the house of Khadijah and Abu Bakr destroyed and says nothing. That sees Mecca turned into Las Vegas and says nothing. That sees Jabal Uhud razed to the ground, turned into a medical resort, and says nothing. I have also confirmed something that CJ Werleman talked about, but I was very reluctant to believe it until I did my own research. This is the news that the Saudi government is seriously talking about moving the grave of the Prophet from the Masjid in Medina. Some of the plans propose moving the gravesite altogether to an undisclosed location, while other plans are to rebuild the Masjid of Medina so that the gravesite of the Prophet is no longer within the Masjid. So you can visit the Masjid and not even run into the gravesite of the Prophet. Furthermore, the gravesite of the Prophet would be closed to the public.
If only Muslims stopped pretending that they are practicing morality when they get together in their mosques and Islamic centers and engage in these bizarre performances of moral pretenses, like children playing dolls. Moral pretenses that have to do with separating men from women. Moral pretenses that have to do with whatever food they consume. If only Muslims stopped all the moral pretenses they engage in and instead paid attention to the world in which they live.
Do you realize that it is as if God is summarizing the entire moral challenge of our historical moment in a single demonstrative incident? What else would you say when a country like Austria moves to arrest a hundred Muslims and brings charges of terrorism against a prominent Muslim academic, Hafez Farid, who became famous for publishing an academic periodical on Islamophobia called the “Islamophobia Yearbook”? For his academic and intellectually rigorous studies on Islamophobia, the Austrian government invaded his home, terrorized his family, arrested him, froze his assets, and destroyed his life. Not only that, but an Austrian judge even dared to say that studies on Islamophobia constitute “supporting terrorism,” which was later reversed. After destroying this academic's career in Austria, he was forced to escape. He is now at Williams College in the United States.
Imagine if this happened to a Jewish academic. This happened to a Muslim academic, and instead of hundreds of thousands of people saying, “Can I please write you a check?” “Can I please support you in any way?”; instead of hundreds of Muslim organizations saying, “We are outraged, we must bring all attention to this egregious precedent”; I am sure, without ever having talked to Hafez Farid, that none of that happened. Because I know Muslims, and I know their false morality. I know they will do all sorts of cartwheels if they do not like a woman's hijab, but when it comes to hard work, like protesting the treatment of a scholar of Islamophobia, they will say, “Ah, that is too hard. We want to play in our Islamic centers where we have medical doctors, engineers, computer scientists, and businessmen pretend that they are Islamic scholars, pretend that they are meeting the challenges of the world, and pretend that they are fighting for Islam. And after we do that, we can all go home, fill our bellies with a nice dinner, and raise our children.”
Someone sent me a notice about a documentary produced by the BBC about the genocide against Muslims in India. I watched seven minutes of that documentary. In those seven minutes, a Muslim testified how he and his family were stopped and forced to lower their trousers because the Hindu extremists that stopped them wanted to see if they were circumcised. Upon discovering that they were Muslim, his family members were assaulted, maimed, and killed. The most incredible thing is that I could not see the rest of the documentary because Modi's government and wealthy Indian businessman have exerted so much pressure that this documentary, which documents Modi's direct involvement in the genocide against Muslims, has been removed from YouTube, Twitter and other social media. My mind was boggled.
Hindu businessmen are willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars to cover up their hatred of Islam and their criminal activity against Muslims; to defend a criminal, a Nazi, a fascist like Modi; to cover up the butchering and raping of Muslims in India and Kashmir. Where are the wealthy Muslim men and women? Why is someone like CJ Werleman not swimming in Muslim money? Why is he not being empowered with millions of dollars donated by Muslims? It is because Muslims like to play morality, not practice morality. They like to go to CJ Werleman's site to say, “Thank you for saying an honest word about Islam.” Instead of that, do what ethically matters. Sacrifice your own luxury and comfort to write the man a check. Learn to support a cause with your money. Learn to testify with your money. Learn to be effective. Learn to uphold morality in dynamic and practical ways. Instead, Muslims want to give money to places that will treat them like kings, that will say, “Dr. Mahmood, Dr. Ahmed, come give us a khutbah. Come give us a nice lecture about Laylat al-Qadr.” One word applies: immoral. Morally bankrupt. Shame on us all.
There is a storm, a raging ocean, and people floating on a small boat in this ocean need saving. Those who rise to the challenge of true jihad—yes, that word that has become a dirty word because the Americans, Austrians, Egyptians, and Saudis want it to be a dirty word—will get on a boat, ride the waves, try to reach that boat in danger, and rescue those who need to be rescued. Yet, we Muslims have chosen another model. It is the Saudi model, the Egyptian model, the Emirati model, the Zaytuna model, the model that the Austrians, the Swedes, and the Danish want. This model is that we stand at the shore and play pretend. “Let us pretend that you are in danger and that I will come to save you. Let those who drown in the ocean drown. That does not concern us. What concerns us is our little play scenario that we do in the safety of our shores.”
So, yet again, like every week, Palestinians have been murdered by Israel. This time, ten Palestinians have been murdered by Israel. Another Palestinian village is going to be demolished by Israel. Ben-Gvir, again, violates the sanctity of the al-Aqsa Mosque. And again, Israel and the United States continue talking about how they are going to have “peace” with the Saudis and the Emiratis. Everyone is ignoring what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. Not only that, but the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the U.N. organization that was created to take care of Palestinian refugees, is complaining that they have hit an all time low in Muslim donations. This is, again, the agency that takes care of Palestinian refugees around the world.
They do not have enough money to feed Palestinian refugees. They do not have enough to help them run their schools. They do not have enough to keep their hospitals open. They do not have enough. The Islam that we keep learning in our institutions is an Islam of moral irrelevance. If it is an Islam of amorality, I wonder what we are going to tell God when God asks us about all the sites that were loved by our Prophet; the Mecca that he loved; the Medina that he loved; the Islamic historical sites that survived for hundreds of years until Al Saud took over Mecca; when we are asked about the blood of scholars; when we are asked about those who tried to speak the truth and found little to no support.
I have been doing this for 30 years. I have been offered very lucrative bribes to shut up. But support? No. I have reached the point where I pray to God that the reason I have not found support is that people find me personally obnoxious. That way, it does not represent anything about the Islamic Ummah. Because truly, if it does, then we are all in massive trouble. All that God demands of us is what God demanded of the Prophet: declare the truth. Read Surah al-Hajj (Q 22). You are not responsible for the consequences. But you must recognize the truth and declare the truth. Do not whisper the truth. Do not keep the truth deeply buried in your heart, but shout it out. Yell it out to signal a point. Meet your moral record. If you cannot shout with your voice in today's age, remember that all causes need financial support. Shout out your support for the truth through material support. Make your money testify for you.