No Time To Waste and The Lifeline of "Current Events"

Greetings of Peace (al salamu 'alaykum) dear Friends,


I pray you are well! Today, I had a lovely conversation with someone who has been following our work at Usuli for a few years and he said something that struck me - in my paraphrasing, he doesn't have time to waste anymore on what tries to pass off as Islam or "authentic" in the Muslim community. He has stopped going to jumu'a (Friday congregational prayers) because all of the khutbahs are repetitive and not very valuable, to say the least. Very kindly, he praised our work, but more importantly, recognized that what we offer is an engagement with things that are happening in the world, things that affect us not just as Muslims but as human beings. For example, he mentioned the khutbah from this past Friday, "On 'Global Boiling,' Murdering Mother Earth and The Greatest Tragedy of All," which concerns every human being on the planet, but which it seems other Muslim spaces are reticent to speak about.


It is an obvious point, but the truth is, we don't have time to waste, ever. Our tradition repeatedly tells us that time matters, especially how we spend it. So when it comes to the one topic - our faith - that presumably should be the source of light, guidance, comfort, wisdom, and elevation, why should anyone waste any more time on things that are more prone to cause the opposite reaction? Sadly, of all things that one would hope would NOT be a waste of time is our weekly devotional gathering that was exactly intended for the learned to speak of the most pressing issues before Muslims and humanity. But the truth is that many of our Friday gatherings leave us stagnant, uninspired, frustrated, bored, and more often than not, full of doubt. 


One of the things I absolutely love about Dr. Abou El Fadl's writings and work in general is that he provides specific examples of how faith should make you react and feel, not the least of which is uplifted, inspired, energized, and activated. He draws this directly from the Qur'an and reminds us that God's light should imbue us with peace and love. Anxiety, fear, and the lack of tranquility are signs of the absence of light; the opposite of what this journey towards the Divine should evoke.



I was reminded of the power and immediacy of Dr. Abou El Fadl's wisdoms anew this week as I began reviewing our latest draft of Volume III of The Prophet's Pulpit! Kudos and mad respect to Josef Linnhoff for his exceptional work on turning powerhouse khutbahs into eloquent short essays that pack a punch. Let me share a short excerpt from Volume III that came to my mind after the conversation with my friend today: 


"...God has created invariable laws in existence. One such law is that life is inseparable from movement. If you do not move, then you become static, you disintegrate, and you die. Life is inseparable from growth. If you do not grow, then you atrophy, you become static, and you die. This development is not only physical but, even more so, it is intellectual and spiritual. A Muslim existing in the state of wisdom is a Muslim who exists in a state of constant growth. Today, they are spiritually less than tomorrow. Their best days are ahead of them, not behind them. A true Muslim – meaning a Muslim with the revelation and wisdom – is in a constant state of motion, growth, and development. If they know something today, they want to know twice as much tomorrow, ten times as much the day after tomorrow, and twenty times as much the day after that. This is the nature of a true Muslim. This is the true Islam that we invite others to (Q 16:125). The Islam that has become popular today is one of constant repetition of the same language and the same ideas, day after day. It is an Islam of monotonous atrophy, not the Islam of revelation and hikma (wisdom). It is the Islam of stupidity and death.


"Brothers and sisters, we started our khutbah today by thanking God for the gift of Islam. If the 'gift' of Islam is for us to remain static and undeveloped day after day – in our consciousness, our intellect, our spirituality, and in our very state of being – then that is no gift at all. We have then turned God's gift into something rotten and static. Remember that what does not move and grow atrophies and dies. It is as if we are turning God's gift into poison, and then saying that we thank God for it! God does not gift us poison. God does not gift us death. God gives us the gift of wisdom, meaning growth and development.


"Let me tell you that the key to revelation and hikma, to a state of movement and growth, to the true Islam that we invite others to (Q 16:125), is to love God. Fear of God could very easily become static and un-evolving....But to love God is something else. To love God is the very essence of revelation and wisdom. The key to the treasure of wisdom is love, and love, by its nature, is non-static. By its nature, it develops into infinity. By its nature, love has no limits.


"To love God is to be fully aware that your Lord is ever-present with you (Q 57:4). If you are alone, God is your second. In the world of revelation and wisdom, in fact, “alone” does not even exist. If you are two, God is your third. If you are three, God is your fourth. If you internalize this, then step by step, through critical self-engagement, your consciousness will grow from one day to the next. Your understanding of the profound implications of God being ever-present with you increases. Your perception of your own body, heart, and mind increases. Your perception of others increases. Your perception of time, space, and death itself grows from one day to the next. This is the movement and growth.


"I close with this. The Prophet, alongside a group of men and women, individuals just like us, started a revolution in the world. It was a spiritual revolution. An intellectual revolution. A revolution in human consciousness and in human civilization itself. You would truly lack any vestige of wisdom to think that the Prophet achieved this with Companions who remained the same, day after day, after they converted to Islam. If they did not grow, day after day, then they would not have changed the world. If they did not demand that their hearts and minds expand, then Islam would not have had the impact that it had upon the world. Through the Prophet, Islam gave these men and women a true understanding of themselves and their potential, so they changed the world.


"The reason Muslims today are over one billion people but we have no impact in the world is because we exist in great numbers but we are as if replicas of each other. We have no understanding of what we are. We have no love for our uniqueness. And because we have no love for our uniqueness, we fight with each other over petty, egotistical minutiae.


"The nature of wisdom is to invest in the individual. It is to invest in the individual not by turning every individual into a megalomaniac – that is part of the problem – but in terms of knowledge and the love of God. It is to teach them to love God so that they truly feel God is with them, wherever they are, and wherever they go. This is what the Prophet did with his Companions. Do this, and you will change the world..."




My friend and I discussed the state of Muslim affairs today, and very quickly arrived at the obvious conclusion that we are at our nadir in history. The next most pressing question is always, where is the hope? To me, this is the hope: Wisdom and Loving God As Revolution, which also happens to be the title of the chapter where this excerpt comes from. :) 


Wishing you a blessed week full of love, light, and engagements with beautiful Islam that are NOT a waste of time! :) Look forward to seeing you online soon insha'Allah! 


In Peace and Hope,


I have been with my parents for a week now, and tomorrow I return to my own home. For most of the week, I have been holding back my own sadness that comes with the awareness that precious moments like these might not come to pass again or nearly as often. I worry about the increasing vulnerabilities of my aging parents. Time is not on our side in this regard. I contemplate how quickly the last 18 years has passed and how our youngest son now must confront the challenges of adulthood. To me, the time has passed all too quickly from his birth until now, and time continues to march on in its amazing and confounding ways. Meanwhile my absence from my own home this past week made life at home more challenging for all those left behind - both two- and four-legged loved ones! Every night, I call to remind everyone that with how quickly time passes, I will be home tomorrow! I have said it so much that it has become a mantra recited in unison! And in an instant, it became truth. I will be home tomorrow, insha'Allah (God willing)! Time, time, time. Nothing but the varied impacts of time on my mind this week.

Then last night, as Shaykh made his prayers to decide which surahs to discuss in today's halaqas, what was the answer? Surah 103: Al Asr, which means "Time" or "The Flight of Time"! I tuned into the Project Illumine livestream to hear Shaykh explain that of the variety of connotations for the meaning of Al Asr, among them is "the passage of time." I immediately thanked God. Yet another divine gift and timely comfort!

The Movement to Reinvigorate Beautiful and Ethical Islam has begun.  Join us.

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