God's Heroes on God's Timing

History is a deliberate and most sagacious teacher. It is no accident that throughout the Qur'an, time and time again, God calls upon us to reflect upon history, to study the past nations before us, and to reflect upon the patterns of human complexity. God calls upon us to study what makes people come together and what makes people follow a certain path and not another. God calls upon us to follow the pulse of sociological dynamics and the very record of human conduct. It is not simple jargon to say that a people without a history are a people without a present and, most certainly, without a future. People who do not know their history and reflect upon their mistakes are doomed to repeat their mistakes. The khutbah today, as has been our practice in these khutbahs, will reflect upon some of what is unfolding in our present and see how our present seems to repeat mistakes from the past that we have not yet learned from.


We know that the genocide in Gaza has not let up. The daily brutality and murder unfolding in Gaza continues unabated. By now, we have reflected upon the painful fact that well over 200 million Muslims in the Arab world, surrounding a nation of perhaps 7 million in Israel, are either unable or unwilling to come to the aid of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza who are being starved to death, brutalized and murdered before the entire world. For all the hypocrisy and complicity of the West in this genocide, the fact of the matter is that it is not just the Arab Muslim world that is either unwilling or unable to do anything about the genocide. Well over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world at large are also largely ineffective.


As has been the practice of Muslims since the establishment of the United Nations system, representatives of various Muslim nations deliver speeches in the UN, complaining about the plight of various Muslim populations in the world. But when all is said and done, Muslims have very little political weight in the international arena and very little power to even represent their own interests or exercise any real sense of self-determination. The unfolding events in Gaza demonstrate that.


It has become so tiresome that just saying it is embarrassing, uncomfortable, and shameful. The world has stood by and seen Israel, time and again, attack UN institutions, kill UN personnel, and kill journalists, medical personnel, and civilians. And for all the eloquent speeches given in international institutions, nothing is stopping this genocide. Muslims, whether in the Arab world or in the world at large, are showing once again that they hardly have a notion of one nation, one Ummah, united by a common goal, a common interest, and a common purpose.


Muslims, in fact, continue to act as they have been since the dawn of colonialism, pursuing limited and largely selfish goals for their nation states, and these nation states are themselves made subservient to the interests of a corrupt and self-serving elite that represents the Muslim state at the expense of the population at large. The norm is for a corrupt and despotic elite to rule a Muslim country and pursue its interests in the name of the nation state; in reality, it is the interests of the elite that are pursued at the expense of the nation at large.


In the midst of this, God allows events to unfold that ought to educate us collectively as to why we are where we are and what type of collective moral failures are the causes of this tragic state of events. What explains the depth of powerlessness and ineffectiveness of Muslims in the international arena? Consider what took place in recent weeks.


I remind everyone that Israel itself, to a large extent, has been hijacked by corrupt politicians: Netanyahu and his right-wing allies, who have long public records of racism, bigotry, and genocidal language. Recently, Netanyahu experienced a limited amount of pressure from the U.S. because of repeated Israeli violations against UN personnel. It was pressure that Netanyahu was not accustomed to. One of the long-standing issues is the UN's ability to protect its personnel. The UN relies on the willingness of nations to commit and volunteer their citizens to the efforts of the UN, as UN personnel are supposed to be inviolable. If the UN is unable to protect its personnel in conflict zones, then the entire project of the UN becomes ineffective; then, when the UN calls for workers, volunteers, and employees to be sent to conflict zones, the UN will receive no response; if the UN gets no response, it is rendered even less effective than it already is. The inviolability of UN personnel has been an ongoing issue for one Secretary-General after another since the establishment of the UN. And if UN personnel are ever injured, hurt, or killed, then the UN is meant to hold the nation responsible for these injuries accountable. One Secretary-General after another has tried to get global superpowers to support this simple principle: if you hurt UN personnel, you must be held accountable; you must compensate the families of the victims; you must compensate the UN itself.


Well, immediately before Israel attacked the Iranian Consulate in Syria, this had become quite a hot button issue. Since the genocide began in Gaza, Israel has repeatedly killed UN officials. Days before Israel attacked the consulate in Syria, Israel killed World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid workers. When the UN and aid organizations send workers, the first thing they do is to notify the warring parties of the exact location and logistics of their workers. In other words, they say, "I am sending the following people, and here are the coordinates. This is a safe zone area. All warring parties, please respect that principle so that our workers are not hurt."


Again, let us all remember that Netanyahu’s government is a right-wing fascist government that, before the onslaught in Gaza, was confronted with massive demonstrations by Israelis protesting this government’s corruption. Let us not forget that before the onslaught in Gaza, there were numerous articles in Israeli and Western media about the crisis of democracy in Israel; about how Netanyahu is doing everything he can to hijack and usurp Israeli democracy and turn it into an oligarchy; about how he and his allies are in firm control so that he can enjoy impunity from corruption. We know the second Netanyahu leaves power, he will face corruption charges. It is well known that he is corrupt. It is no secret. Americans know it, Israelis know it, Netanyahu's allies know it, and even the Israeli legal system most definitely knows it.


Again, despite the fact that Israel was notified of the coordinates of the aid workers, Israel repeatedly bombed their aid convoy as they left one of the World Central Kitchen warehouses, killing seven. Afterwards, Israel informed the UN Secretary-General that it would not pay any reparations, making the most absurd claim that, somehow, these workers were in league with Palestinians and hiding weapons in their food centers. It is a claim that no one, including Israeli representatives of the UN, took seriously.


And let us not forget that shortly before Netanyahu bombed the Iranian consulate, Biden was on the phone with Netanyahu, supposedly angry and upset, telling Netanyahu that this genocide has to stop. In fact, he reportedly told Netanyahu that the U.S. would support the call for an independent UN investigation. Not an Israeli-Netanyahu investigation, which simply vindicates Israel pro forma, without any scrutiny. It looked like this time, finally, the US actually meant it. This time, commentators, including U.S. diplomats in the State Department and representatives of the White House, were saying they will be tough on Israel. “This time, we will even threaten to hold back aid if Israel does not properly investigate this last attack on aid workers. This has now become embarrassing. We keep warning Israel, and Netanyahu keeps ignoring us.” Lest we forget, it was so serious that Netanyahu was forced to remove three Israeli generals from their commands, reassigning them to positions away from Gaza.


We have such horribly short memories when it comes to inferior races. The colonized Western mind—colonized by its own racial stereotypes and bigotry—sees the crime as very huge when it is against people that look like them. But the same mind has a horrible memory when it involves crimes against darker skinned people. This has been the legacy since the age of colonialism, since the so-called “Age of Discovery,” when Europe colonized the rest of the world and destroyed indigenous cultures all around the globe. Racism has been, and continues to be, a staple of European civilization.


But here is the truly shameful part. I know my Muslim counterparts will not like what I am going to say, but the truth hurts. And the truth is that it is not just White Europe that is racist. There is plenty of racism to go around. Arabs are racist when it comes to Persians and Black people. Persians are racist when it comes to Arabs. Racism, in all its forms, offends God because racism, as I have often said, was Satan's original crime. It does not matter whether the story of Satan and Adam is real or symbolic. The moral lesson is clear: supremacist thinking and supremacist morality is unacceptable.


Israel knows that because of racism, Persians are a ready punching bag in the Middle East. If you strike that bag, everyone essentially praises you for it. So, Netanyahu does the same old trick that he has done for years. “The Americans are pissed off and pressuring me. My right-wing allies are pissed off because I removed generals in response to American pressure. So, let us do what the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Emiratis, and Americans like: we should strike the Persians.” So he bombed the Iranian consulate in Syria.


Was there any military necessity to bomb the Iranian consulate? Have there been attacks from Syria? There have been attacks from Lebanon, but there have been no attacks from Syria. In fact, Israel has been repeatedly striking Syria for years without any hint of a Syrian response. Not once have armed insurgents succeeded in crossing the Syrian border to do anything in Israel, let alone in the occupied Golan Heights. But it does not matter because Israel knows very well that Persian life is expendable. You can kill as many Persians as you want, because so long as they carry the label of the “Islamic Revolution” or the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” you will get away with it. Even more, everyone will be interested in whether or not Iran will respond, and that will become the issue.


I wonder whether Netanyahu chuckles to himself at the stupidity of the world. It was entirely predictable that, for Netanyahu, the solution to a political crisis would be to do what he has done for years. He solves every political crisis by killing Muslims. He has done that throughout his career, so he attacked the Iranian Consulate, which is clearly illegal under international law. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity clearly states that even if there is a declared war, you cannot attack embassies or consulates, let alone the consulate of a nation that you are not at war with and a consulate of a nation in a host country. But Netanyahu knows it does not matter. Netanyahu knows that Europe, due to its racism and bigotry against Muslims, will not insist on the fine print of international law. He knows that Europe will suddenly not be offended by the fact that a consulate and diplomats have been attacked. He knows this is the same Europe that declared the Persians “barbarians” for violating the sanctity of the U.S. Embassy in Iran years ago; this is the same Europe that was supposedly extremely offended by the murder of a journalist in the Saudi consulate in Turkey; this same Europe will happily look the other way when it comes to killing Persians.


So Netanyahu attacked the Persian consulate and, as predicted, Israel was hardly condemned. There is next to no recognition of the well-established principle that Israel owes Iran reparations for killing personnel in its consulate. Whether we like it or not, that is the international system. Imagine if Iran had said, “Well, any Israeli consulate in a country we do not like is fair game to us.” If Iranians attacked an Israeli consulate anywhere, we would call them “barbarians.” Here is where we see the clear imprint of racism. There was hardly a response from the White world, and there was also hardly a response from the Arab world. In fact, the Arab world pretended as if it did not happen, as if those killed in the Israeli provocation were not human at all.


I often wonder, what does God think when He looks upon us? How does God appraise the morality and moral standing of Muslims in the world? Think of the clear hypocrisy, racism, and Muslim bigotry. From a Muslim theological perspective, it is these moral offenses that make Muslims unworthy of God's favor and God's blessings. And this is all evident in the way Muslims reacted to what unfolded after the attack.


Iran fired some 300 missiles in retaliation, and Iran actually did the diplomatically measured and wise thing. Iran informed America that they would strike Israel, so the Americans could warn the Israelis, ensuring that the casualties from the attack were measured and limited. Why did Iran do that? For a logical reason. They do not want open warfare with Israel, let alone with America. They know that if they fired 300 missiles resulting in a thousand casualties, they would be in deep trouble with Israel and the U.S., and that would force the hand of the U.S. to then come to Israel's aid. But if the casualties from the strikes were limited, they knew the Americans would pressure the Israelis not to respond.


So, out of the 300 missiles, all were shot down except for seven. The seven remaining missiles struck two Israeli military bases, seemingly with no casualties. In the entire Sunni world, the response to this was to dismiss it as “just an act” and “theater,” and here is where it gets extremely offensive. The only reason Sunnis responded to this by describing it as “theater” is because of antipathy and hostility to the Shi'a.


The Sunni world hates its own weakness and vulnerability. The Sunni world knows that although Israel has repeatedly bombed Arab countries from Lebanon to Syria, Egypt to Jordan, Israel itself was bombed only once, in 1991, when Saddam Hussein, in response to the U.S. forcing Iraq out of Kuwait, fired some Scud missiles at Israel. But other than that, Israeli cities have been free from any attack by any Arab country. Sunnis all over the Arab world hate their own vulnerability and weakness, so they responded to Iran’s retaliatory firing of these missiles, some of which did actually strike Israel, by saying, "Ah, this is just theater. It is an act."


An act for what purpose? What is it that Israel and Iran are supposed to be acting for? Did we forget that it was the Jordanian Sunni Muslims who busied themselves with shooting down the Iranian missiles, acting promptly and effectively to protect Israel, just as the Egyptians have been doing since Sisi came to power? Just as the Saudis have also done when Houthis fired missiles at Israel? The fact of the matter is that, wherever we go, Sunni Arab leaders have become proxies and bad client states. They are no better than satellite states protecting the welfare of Israel as it commits a genocide against Palestinians.


I often wonder, if I was God, what would I think as I gaze upon Muslims? Sunnis hate the Shi'a, and the Shi'a hate Sunnis. Sunnis hate the Shi'a so much that amid an ongoing genocide, what I see on social media are "great Salafi scholars" rising to attack and expose the Shi'a and their theology, speaking about how they are “worse than Zionists.” Amid an ongoing genocide, if you were God, what would you think as you gaze upon us? The things I hear on Sunni channels about the Shi'a are beyond absurd. I will give you but one small example: “All the Shi'a do is lament and cry over Husayn and beat themselves.” Have you ever asked yourself, what do Shi'i scholars actually say about this practice? What percentage of Shi'i Muslims actually engage in this practice? How many Shi'is do you personally know who have gone to Karbala and beat themselves or hailed dust upon their head? It is a practice condemned even in Shi'i legal sources.


But it does not matter. Generalizations and stereotypes about the Shi'a are found all over the Sunni world, and it reaches the point of moral absurdity when we respond to the deaths of diplomatic representatives and the subsequent retaliation from Iran by simply saying, "Ah, it is just theater. They are just acting to try to trick us Sunnis." Why? Is it because they fear Sunnis? Is it because Sunnis actually matter? Is it because Sunnis have any political weight in the world? It is absurd, and the fact that Muslims are engaged in sectarian hate amid an ongoing genocide is a testament to our moral failure as Muslims. If you were God, would you aid a people so lost in error?


As Muslims are busy with the nonsensical divide between Sunni and Shi'a, a moral and truly righteous journalist whom I have mentioned before, CJ Werleman, posted a most alarming episode. The title of the episode was “India Charged with War Crimes in Gaza.” I strongly encourage you to watch this episode. Werleman talks about a leaked Israeli government paper about a conference, called the “Victory for Israel Conference,” that was held in Israel and which discussed in detail how Israel is importing 40,000 Indian workers in cooperation with the Modi government to rebuild Gaza. Not for Palestinians, however, but for Israeli settlers. CJ Werleman talks in detail about how Netanyahu's government spoke at this conference, openly announcing that its plan is to build settlements in Gaza, annexing Gaza as they have annexed so much of Palestine already. Their plan is to expel the over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza to the Sinai desert in Egypt. In fact, the Egyptians have already built compounds and a huge prison to receive Gazans. CJ Werleman talks about how Israel is actively planning for the importation of some 40,000 workers from India. In fact, he even films Indian volunteers as they sign up to work in Israel.


But CJ Werleman discusses something else that is even more alarming: Muslims are at the precipice of another genocide, this time in India. He mentions something that all human rights workers already know: throughout Ramadan, Muslim mosques in Gujarat were attacked and Muslim students were repeatedly beaten in Gujarat while praying taraweeh. It happened time and again as the violence against Muslims in India escalates.


As CJ Werleman sounds the alarm about this, there is another micro event that speaks volumes about us. A young Palestinian in his 20s, Saleh Aljafarawi, is living in Gaza. Every time he hears of a new massacre against civilians, Saleh Aljafarawi picks up his camera, goes to the location, and films it, posting what he films on social media. For doing this, Israel has openly been calling for the killing of Saleh Aljafarawi and has tried to assassinate him. I beg of you, go look at the videos yourself. Go look at that kid who will end up murdered by Israel. But Israel even went a step further. When several assassination attempts failed, the Mossad thought that it could perhaps get Muslims to kill their own. An Israeli account, owned by someone called Eli David, announced that Saleh Aljafarawi is, in fact, a Mossad agent, claiming that his real name is Shalev Yariv and thanking him for his “service to Israel.” Aljafarawi appeared on camera, laughing at the attempt by Israelis to get Palestinians to kill him.


I reflect upon the entire Muslim world, upon the entire great Muslim theologians and so-called jurists, upon all those who spend hours on social media quoting hadith and Qur'an, upon all the Muslim organizations. Can any of them protect Saleh Aljafarawi, a 20-year-old who has only a camera and is filming Israeli atrocities? Make no mistake, this kid will be killed. Israel will eventually get him. As we know, they have killed well over 50 journalists since the start of the genocide. No aid, no protection, but here is the thing—no ummah. There is no ummah for Saleh Aljafarawi. There are Sunnis who hate Shi'a, and Shi'a who hate Sunnis. There is idiocy and nonsense. But there is no ummah.


I want to close with a lesson from history. Often, because we are human, we look at this mess and say that there is no hope. But those who know history know that it is the height of hubris to say that there is no hope. Recently, I read a book that moved me beyond words. The book is called Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and Its Origins, by Jacob Wright. It is not really an “alternative history.” Wright says what many other historians have said, but he says it in a more effective, succinct, and clearer way.


When Babylon invaded the ancient state of Israel, destroying the Jewish temple, Jews suffered a genocide of atrocious proportions. It is ancient history that unfolded some 2,500 years ago, so the details are murky, but we do know that the genocide the Jews suffered some 2,500 years ago was atrocious. I do not know what else to say. Jews were starved to death, slaughtered, murdered, and ultimately enslaved. The defeat of the state of Israel was so total, so complete, that Jews were driven in captivity back to Babylon. Yet the response of Jews in the diaspora was to affirm the idea of an ummah, a nation. To do so, the heroes of this battle were not those who took up arms against Babylon. No, the real heroes were the Jewish scribes who philosophized the defeat and the promise of God. In short, it was these heroes who wrote the Jewish Bible, the Torah. In response to that defeat, could they have imagined that the narratives about the pain of defeat and the promise of God would lead to a Jewish victory 2,500 years later?


Brothers and sisters, this is God's time. You want victory in your lifetime, but that is not God's time. God's time could, quite easily, be 2,500 years later. It was the great act of moral courage in responding to defeat by affirming the ummah in text, reaffirming the Jewish nation in text, and imagining and scribing the text of the Jewish Bible—that is what saved the Jewish nation and the Jewish people throughout history. The heroes of that story were the scribes and scholars. The heroes of Jewish identity throughout history were the scribes and scholars. I hope that we become good students of history and learn, especially from the history of others. I believe the heroes of the Muslim plight and the heroes of the Muslim future will, also, be scribes and scholars; those who affirm the Muslim ummah as a moral principle and refuse to fall prey to the ignorance and bigotry of sectarianism, nationalism, and war; those who rise above it and write for the sake of God, even if their fellow humans fail them time and time again.

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