With Whom Does Your Loyalty Lie? Lessons from Surah Al-Zukhruf

I begin in the name of God, the kind, the compassionate, the loving, the caring. The ultimate Creator, the singular Creator, the only Creator, the One who is indivisible. The Singular. The Singular Unity, the One. The One who has created many, the One who is the originator of multiplicity. The One who, by His hand, this creation turns. The One who, by His hand, the day rolls into night and the night rolls into day. By His hand, the summer rolls into the fall and the fall rolls into the winter, and everything dies and is reborn again once again in the spring. By the One who orders our solar system with meticulous precision, who without, all existence would be chaos. In fact, all existence is chaos, but that it is brought into order by the One, the One God, the indivisible God, the complete Sovereign, the kind, loving and merciful Sovereign who is immaculately and intensely invested in every single moment of creation, whether that creation has the conscious mind of a human being, of a cat, of an ant, of a planet or of a star.


The stars submit to Him. The galaxies submit to Him. The mountains submit to Him. All of creation submits to Him, speaks praise of His glory, bows to Him and is annihilated in His presence. But that He places veils between Himself and us, and that we construct veils between us and Him, all would fall apart. That merciful God sent to us prophet after prophet to expound upon these examples of this unshakable, undeniable reality. God is the ultimate Sovereign. God is the ultimate power. There is no power but His power, and He shares it with creation, within the confines of His sovereignty and jurisdiction. He can give it and He can take it. He gives life and He takes life. He gives power and He takes power. All belongs to Him.


Our prophets were sent with the incredibly difficult task of reminding human beings, jinn, and all creation that all must submit before this one truth. Although humankind and jinn have been given the divine grace of volition, this but exemplifies it shows the unbelievably amazing reality that God has constructed: that the entire universe serves at His behest, ever prepared to rearrange itself such that it might comply with God's order and command. Despite this, the creation of humankind and jinn still turn away and refuse to submit. Humans and jinn fancy themselves greater than the mountains, greater than the weather, greater than the planets, greater than the stars, and greater than the laws of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, the angels and of all of creation itself. They perceive themselves to be above all of these things. How wrong they are. How misguided they are.


Alhamdulillahi-l-ladhi hadana lihadha wa ma kunna linahtadi-a-lawla anhadana-llah (Praise be to God who guided us unto this, and we would not have been guided had God not guided us).  All gratitude to the One who has preserved this learning and this truth in the supernal Book, in the Book that is above and beyond all other books, the Book which makes itself accessible to the reader who is sincere and sincerely pursuing learning and the truth. The Book that opens itself in meaning to the child at their level, to the high schooler at their level, and to the learned faqih at their level. The Book that reveals its secrets to the one who treads the path of seeking the Oneness of God; the Qur'an meets them above that individual's level. The Qur’an reveals its secrets and invites each sincere individual in each and every stage of their life to come to the realization that this Book still has even more to offer. This is the Book which is ever-impressive. It impresses the child, it impresses the student, it impresses the lifelong reciter. It impresses and again tells you that there is more.


This Book is a book of sophistication at every level that an individual is throughout their life. If the human being lives with this Book, they will feel the sophistication and they will tangibly feel that this Qur'an elevates their intellect, their body and their spirit. This Book is beyond all other books and yes, beyond all other creation. I do not apologize for that word because the Creator is the one who originated all of existence, and it is in this Book where but a taste of His empyreal intellect, beauty and greatness is enshrined and continues to live. 


That is the reality. All other descriptions of reality are but constructs. Constructs can either be connected to this reality or they can be self-alienated from this reality. The construct that is disconnected and alienated is deluded. It is deviant. It is an aberration and an abomination; offensive to God and to the servants of God. These constructs are offensive to the creation of God; offensive to the trees, the birds, and the beasts. Offensive to the stars and the galaxies. O servants of God! Return to the book of God! Return to reality and guidance and increase your supplications for blessings upon the Holy Prophet and his Holy household.


The khutbah from just two weeks ago was an incredible khutbah that left a very lasting impression on me. I am sure that if you heard it, it had the same effect on you. It is not the first time that we have heard the Shaykh speak about the hadith that we get the leaders deserve and that our leaders are representative of where we are morally and socially, as communities. That is a very difficult thing to hear about and ponder as we live during a time in which hundreds of Sudanese people can be butchered in broad daylight and it hardly occupies a footnote in the human consciousness of the world; the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) can continue to butcher the Sudanese people such that they have no choice but to accept a temporary alliance and offer support for the Sudanese National Army, the very same government which the Sudanese people stood up against to demand freedom from. And now far worse horrors have befallen the  dear Sudanese people. All of this is brought to you by who? None other than the United Arab Emirates. Oh, Muslim! What are you doing to hold the United Arab Emirates to account for enabling these horrific crimes in Sudan? What are you doing?


Just a few weeks ago, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran died unexpectedly in a helicopter crash. It was international news, and the world discussed the event and did its best to make sense of who Ebrahim Raisi was. As the Shaykh eloquently put it, even those who we might wish to look to as our heroes have blood on their hands. Because the disempowered crave the feeling of being able to support a symbol of strength, some Muslims and some justice-minded individuals sought to aggrandize Raisi as a person and label him a martyr or as a champion for the Palestinian cause.


I grew up in an Iranian household. For many, the revolution of 1979 simultaneously brought both a lot of hope and a lot of fear. The Iranian Shah and his fearsome SAVAK, which could be described as an equivalent to the Israeli Mossad in a lot of ways, were well known for disappearing individuals, for torturing them, for extrajudicial killings, and for generally harsh repression of political dissidents and public intellectuals.


I grew up in a household where my family library was filled with books documenting the torture and the execution of Iranians, both before, and certainly after the revolution. I was a young child when I first saw pictures of dead bodies, hangings, and torture. Face after face after face, thousands of prisoners who were executed. I read their names and I wondered, “what could make this okay?” As a child, I did not understand the complicated nature of political pragmatism or the difference between a monarchy, a democracy, or an Islamic republic. All I knew was that my countrymen were engaged in torturing fellow countrymen, imprisoning fellow countrymen and murdering them. That was a deeply damaging truth to my psyche as an Iranian-American. It made me feel that my people were primitive, that my people were violent, that my people were power-hungry, that my people were barbaric, and thank God that I grew up in the West where I do not have to live that reality. Those were the thoughts of a child. 


I recalled these memories as I pondered the previous khutbah and the incident of the presidential helicopter crash. People from all camps jumped to conclusions. "In this particular moment of time, the president of Iran just happens to crash into the side of a mountain?" they queried suspiciously. Depending on their political views, some said this was an inside job. Some claimed that certain Iranian politicians wanted Raisi out of the way and they found a way to help him meet his demise on the mountainside. Others said that this was clearly Mossad! Mossad has carried out dozens of assassinations and attempts that have been well-documented over the decades, and this is no different. I do not think any of these are true, nor do I think anybody else really think so anymore either.


Whatever the reason for the helicopter crash, it does not really matter. It did not matter because even Ali Khamenei himself, the Wali al-Faqih of the Islamic Republic, immediately consoled the Iranian people and said, "Do not worry. With the death of Raisi, nothing will change. The day-to-day government activities will continue, just as they were before.” That made me wonder, if the president of any other country were to slam their helicopter into the side of a mountain, would things suddenly change for their nation, or would the system continue unabated?


Then I thought further, what if bin Salman of Saudi Arabia died? What if Abdel Fattah El-Sisi died? What if bin Zayed died? What if any of these so-called “Muslim” rulers died? What would change? Would we see the end of the genocide in Sudan if bin Zayed died? If bin Salman crashed and  died today, would we see the end of the misery of the Yemeni people? If the king of Jordan died and the pharaoh of Egypt died, would we see the end of the suffering of the Palestinian people?


Let us think about it together. Would the Muslim world suddenly become the bastion of ethics and liberty? We get the leaders that we deserve, but then the natural follow-up question is why do we deserve these leaders? I implore you to return back to the khutbah from May 24, 2024, because this is a question that needs to be answered from multiple different angles.


I read a book recently called “Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran” by Ervand Abrahamian, published in 1999. This book captured my attention at the very beginning, so I will share with you a few selections to show you why I was so intrigued.


"Iran had followed Europe's example of banning torture from the whole judicial process," back in the '20s and '30s. "Policemen were prohibited from using brute force to extract information and confessions. Judges lost their age-old array of corporal punishments. Similarly, prison wardens no longer routinely inflicted prison or physical chastisements even though they were not averse to killing their wards if ordered to do so. They murdered, but they observed the taboo against torture. By the 1980s, however, torture had returned with a vengeance. Prisoners, especially political ones, were now routinely subjected to physical torments reminiscent of bygone centuries. The taboo of torture had been broken.” This is the question that the book poses: "If torture was so ingrained in the Iranian culture, why did it recede from the national scene for more than half a century from the early 1920s until the early 1970s?"


That is fascinating. What this book is arguing is that for over fifty years, the longstanding practice of torture came to an end in a Middle Eastern, Muslim country and then suddenly returned. Strange! As human beings, we tend to build habits in a mere few months. The habit and the custom of something as serious as torture was completely set aside for over five decades, only to suddenly return? How could that be?


Some tried to argue that torture is more intrinsically linked to the traditional nature of the present Iranian government due to its “Islamicity.” But, Abrahamian aptly retorts, "But why did this return to torture predate the Islamic Republic?" Torture reemerged in Iran during the "modernizing Pahlavi monarchy," a decade before the revolution and the establishment of the clerical rule of the Islamic Republic.


As I read on, there were other interesting historical facts, which the author used to make his own arguments. This particular historical nugget provides pertinent perspective useful for answering the question: how can torture disappear for fifty-years in a society only to reappear as suddenly as it had disappeared?


Abrahamian writes about the influence of the British over the Qajar-era Persian king, Naser al-Din Shah, "The British envoy tried to persuade the chief minister to forgo these 'revolting tortures', arguing that they would 'disgust Europe' and tarnish the country's reputation of 'advancing towards civilization.'" Now, this Qajari shah in particular did not necessarily end torture, but this quote does push one to think. The British were grooming the Qajari elite into accepting the idea that if you want a fruitful relationship with the Imperial West, Westerners will be the ones to tell you when and where something is tasteful or distasteful. It says it right here in this passage, “the revolting tortures that the British saw in Iran would disgust the Europeans and would tarnish the Iranian reputation and their project of advancing towards civilization.” So, the Iranians, by the British gaze, are uncivilized people from the outset. The assumption is the Brits and the West are the civilized folk and the Easterners, being the Muslims, are the uncivilized folk. If the Eastern world wishes to be recognized as civilized, whose system of thought should they adopt with regards to torture and punishment? The European West, of course.


Why? Because further, the author argues and demonstrates, "The modern prison had come to Iran via a modified and more humanitarian system of early 20th century Western Europe. Like much else in the Pahlavi architecture, ancient Iranian motives were grafted onto the building to give it a more authentic look, but the western penitentiary had been Iranianized."


So, even when it comes to crime, punishment and prisons, it was the West that set the standard in Iran and the Muslim world. "If you want to do business with us, if you want to be accepted by us, we will be the ones to tell you how much torture is too far and how much is too little, how much is too disgusting and how much is palatable. Stick to Western standards. Why? Well, we are civilized and you are not." This is where the argument begins and ends. "We have done more thinking than you. We have made more progress than you. We are more moral than you primitive folk. If you want to learn how to torture in a humanitarian way, take notes from us." So we must ask ourselves, did the fifty-year abolition of torture come as a result of a moral awakening in the Iranian-Muslim leadership and society? In the second khutbah, we will examine this further by turning to the Qur’an to better understand this phenomenon and its potential moral lessons.


To be able to understand why the torture ended in the early 1920s and then suddenly resumed in the 1970s, we have to think critically about the passages we just read. The Iranians decided to abide by the guidelines of the West. But, I thought that the Iranians are a proud and ancient people? “The Persian nation is thousands and thousands of years old. King Cyrus had x moral quality and achievement, King Darius did this, and King Xerxes did that, the true Persian religion are the Zoroastrian values of thinking good, saying good, and doing good,” on and on the nationalists will go. Is this what brought about the end of torture in Iran? Was it a moral choice?


Did the Iranians say, "It is the 1920s, it is time to get real. Torture is a problem. Torture is inhumane. We mustn't torture, enough is enough," and that reflected the social reality of Iranian polity? No, that is not what happened. What happened is the power that the Iranian shahs were enamored by, dictated to them, "This is how we do things, and if you want to look powerful like me and you want to be accepted into my power circle of influence, if you want to be higher than these lowly Arabs, these lowly Indians, these lowly Africans and these lowly central Asians, then look like me. Just get rid of the ancient Iranian garb. What is this? You wear long frocks and turbans on your heads, and you do not shave your face? Your women wear a long garb and no one can see their figure? You want to be like us? Remove it all." And they did.


Reza Shah forcefully removed hijabs and chadors off of practicing Muslims. He forcefully removed turbans and replaced them with the “Pahlavi hat.” He removed the clothing and the frock of the clerical class and imposed his own examinations in the seminary of Qum. I know this thanks to the research efforts of Sayyid Ali Imran from IqraOnline. He imposed examinations within the seminaries, and students of knowledge passed these examinations that were administered by the state, then they would be allowed to don the clerical clothing of with state-sanctioned legitimacy. Yes, they adopted the despotic structure of the West because they were enamored by the “glamorous” power of the West.


Leading up to the 1979 Revolution, the concept of gharbzadegi  a phrase coined by Ahmad Fardid in the 1940’s, became popularized thanks to the efforts of intellectuals like Jalal Al-e-Ahmad and Ali Shariati. In short, the critique was that Iranian society had grown far too enamored by the West and thus became gharbzadeh, or “Westoxified," as some academics have called it. After the ‘79 Revolution, the Islamic Republic’s take on responding to Westoxification essentialized was as such: “We Iranians need to detox from the structures of the West, and whatever makes the West appealing, cool, flashy and powerful. So we start by doing everything in opposite. If you removed our hijabs, we will put the hijabs back on. If you limited the clerics, we give unlimited power to the clerics. If you did X, then we will do Y.”


But what is one of the only things that they did not change? Torture, executions, and prison sentences for political dissidents. You do not want to do the opposite there? You want to change clothing, you want to take away American cinema, you want to close down the cabarets, you want to change the cars, you want to kick out all of American industry and commercialization in your country. There is no McDonald's, Burger King, or Starbucks in Iran. But what is the one thing that they would not change? Prisons, torture, and executions. This affected many, many Iranian families, including my own. I grew up hearing the story of my cousin, who was executed as a 17-year-old because he was affiliated with the wrong political party in the late '80s, thanks to Ebrahim Raisi, the president who recently passed away. He was one of the main spearheads of the mass executions of 1988 as he was the Deputy Prosecutor General; he would later become Head of the Iranian Judiciary. That was the context I grew up in. Now as an adult, I do not agree with the political party my young 17-year-old cousin was distributing flyers for, but I know it was wrong to kill him.


Why are we like this? The Qur'an is the root and the anchor. If you are rooted in the Qur'an, you can begin to understand. If you are not, then you can write a book like this and offer all kinds of different opinions, but the analysis is often mostly just guesswork.


I turn your attention to Surah al-Zukhruf which is an incredible surah and many people know it quite well, especially given its famous title. In short, most know that Surah al-Zukhruf emphasizes that the world is driven by embellishments, adornments, and ornaments: “materialism,” as we would call it in our modern language. Islam has a long-standing culture of asceticism, self-denial, and regulation, and the Qur'an consistently reminds us that the material reality of this world is but an illusion and a test. The Qur’an reminds that life is temporary and the real reality and life is the one to come, and thus directs Muslims to not be of those who sell their future in the Hereafter at the price of the embellishments and the adornments of the current material reality.


Surah al-Zukhruf is consistent with this, but I think that surah also says a lot about power: about the human being's relationship to power and how the human being relates to power through the material world of glitz and glamor, and of comfort and safety above all. As is said in the tafsir, not all zukhruf is necessarily bad in itself, but it becomes bad when it defines the criteria for our value system. Then zukhruf is a major problem.


Surah al-Zukhruf is comprised of a number of sections that expound on each other. Each section outlines some of the failures of human beings, about being musrifin, or extravagantly, wasteful individuals. Ultimately, I believe the sections of this surah culminate in a coherent message about how the concept of zukhruf erodes social and cognitive capacity. It even erodes your ability to experience a truth, recognize it as the operative reality, and to then to logically base your rational decision making upon this reality. 


Why do I say that? Because of the section in which the Prophet Moses approaches the Egyptians and the Pharaoh. This begins around verse 46, and I will read several verses to you so you get the understanding of this section. It says, 


We did indeed send Moses with our signs unto Pharaoh and his notables, and he said, 'I am a messenger of the Lord of the worlds.' But when he brought them our signs, behold they laughed at them. Not a sign did we show them but that it was greater than its sister. And we seized them with the punishment that they may happily or perhaps that they may return. They said, 'Oh, sorcerer call upon your Lord for us in accord with that which he has covenanted with you. Surely we shall be then guided.' Yet when we removed the punishment from them, behold they reneged. And Pharaoh called out amongst his people and said, 'Oh my people, is not the sovereignty of Egypt mine and do these streams not flow beneath me? Do you not then see? Am I not better than this one who is vile and can scarcely speak plain? Why then have armlets of gold not been cast upon him? And why do angels not accompany him?' Then he incited his people to make light of Moses's message and they obeyed him or to take lightly Moses's message and they obeyed him. Truly, they were an iniquitous people. So when they roused our anger, we took vengeance upon them and drowned them all together. (Q43 46-55)


Moses brings his prophetic message to the Egyptians and acknowledges that Pharaoh is unjustly enslaving the people, the Israelites. This is a serious injustice because they are human beings, not simply because they are Israelites. The Pharaoh must relinquish his unjust usurpation of power and he must fall into submission, like all of the rest of creation, subservient to God. Moses brings signs to them within their epistemic framework to show that what he is saying is anchored in the truth. Moses demonstrates miraculous signs, and each miracle is more amazing than the last, and the people are affected by it, but they do not listen. Instead, they remain obedient to the Pharaoh.


Then Moses brings punishment on behalf of God. The rejectors begin ailing from disease and difficulty, and they say, "Oh, sorcerer, won’t you remove these difficulties? Perhaps when you give us what we need, then we will follow your message." He does so, but yet again, they do not obey the prophet and his God.


It is at this point that Pharaoh says, "Let me remind you of our system of reality. The system of reality of the Pharaoh is I am the Pharaoh, and you are a minion, you are small. You are smaller than me. Some of you are serfs, some of you are slaves, and some of you are soldiers. Some of you are the ones that whip the soldiers, some of you are the ones that whip the slaves, some of you are my servants, some of you are my viziers, and some of you have some other role. I have ordered this system of reality based on external superficialities that will mark your level in my society. You who are lowly are naked, and you who are middle of the way have some ornamentation or silk robes, and my viziers and I are the ones who are draped and embellished in gold. Why? Because ultimately, it is the rivers that are under my command. Your livelihood is under my command. What you know is under my command. What you have come to accept as reality is under my command. What you are accustomed to is under my command. Are you prepared to give away what you are used to, the comfort of familiarity, for the fear of the unknown? What say you? Do you know what your life will look like under the reign of this God who talks about equality for all? How could it be when the rivers run under my control, when your livelihood, your safety, and your dignity, little that you have, is based on whether I say mercy unto you or whether I say punishment? There are no systems of accountability. I am accountable to no one and certainly none of you. When I, Pharaoh, elect to be merciful, you will fall to my feet and praise me. And when you are disobedient, I will punish you, whip you, imprison you, torture you, murder you, kill your children, and rape your wives. You can only hope that I will stop doing it and if I stop, you will come to know that as mercy. Your appeals for mercy are only to me and I will decide on whether it is enough punishment, or not. If I say it is enough, you will kiss my feet. I know you will, because the alternative is my torment and torture. You are psychologically and spiritually under my control. Even if God sends a messenger that proves and establishes the truth of his prophethood and message, I will reassert the fact that I have subjugated you for years and you will fall always back into place because you do not want to give up the comfort of familiarity, and that is how I own you. You do not know what the world will look like.” This is essentially what the Pharaoh said and did.


In Surah Al-Baqarah (Q2:61), when the Exodus from Egypt finally liberates the Israelites and are enduring the desert, they say, "We are tired of the food of the desert. Let us eat the foods that we were used to back in Pharaoh's palace and in Pharaoh's society," and God tells them, "Go then. Go back and accept your miserable existence of subjugation, you fools. Go back then, if you are willing to sell your own dignity for the price of a few legumes, of a bit of garlic, or of what you are used to, you fools. You choose to trade yourself back into slavery over dignity, self-determination, autonomy and true submission to the real sovereign?"


This is the wisdom of this Qur’an. Fastakhaffa qawmahu fa-ata’uhu innahum kanu qawman fasiqin (Q43:54).There are numerous translations for this verse offering several differing meanings, thus I will offer my own. Pharaoh held his power above the heads of the Egyptians and Israelites to remind them that any reality that they have grown comfortable with is because Pharaoh said so, and that is the ultimate truth. They were all subjugated to that reality for so long they had become comfortable with its familiarity. Despite knowing that there is another reality through the Prophet Musa, they still were bullied by the power of comfort. Power. It is the exercise of power that can protect one's comfort and luxury, as does the submission to that power. Submission to power. 

Why would they give in? Because they deem their lives with some level of luxury and comfort, not enough to accept the reality of a prophet coming, telling you, showing you, and proving to you through intellect and through miracle that, “You do not have to be subjugated anymore. You can rise, and God will be behind you, in front of you, above you and to your sides. No longer will your light be lit by a torch of material reality, of flames, of carbon and oxygen and nitrogen. Divine light will cast away the darkness if but you just believe it to be true, if but you take the leap of faith in the truth that you know is true. But, you are too addicted to the comfort and too afraid of the unknown.


Yes, it is scary when you walk by yourself downstairs into your basement with the lights off. But what if you walk down into that basement with three, four, or five other people? It is scary to stand in front of the Jordanian embassy and light yourself on fire. It is scary to stand up on the pulpit and to risk not being able to go back to your home country. It is scary to line up and protect the youth in this country who are risking everything, including their entire future, to simply say, "No, we will not allow it, and if you do it, it was not with our permission." It is scary, but it would not be as scary if more of us stood up at the same time and said the same thing. If more of us showed courage.


Hajj is upon us, and the minister of Hajj warned all the pilgrims, "This is a ritual. Observance of a ritual must be protected at all costs and we will not tolerate any political slogans." It is scary to say, “I am not going to let this man dictate to me what I do in my holy site anymore,” but it would not be as scary if more of you looked at the minister of Hajj and said, "I am sorry, do the streams of the rivers flow beneath you? Is the sovereignty of the Hijaz yours? You arrogant man, you fool, you deviant, you abomination and aberration in creation! You are an aberration and an abomination. You are filthy and you do not have the requisite purity to speak or let alone stand in the holy sites."


Why then not join me in saying that? Why then continue to go on Hajj and Umrah over and over? Oh servants of God! Go to Hajj once. Go to Umrah once. Go to Hajj and Umrah in one trip! You continue to subjugate yourself to these modern pharaohs. If these pharaohs crashed and died a fiery death, nothing would change. You would still go and you would still say, "Yes sir, I am just here to do my ritual." Your Hajj is thus rendered meaningless. If you go Hajj and you stay silent when the minister of Hajj says, "Do not dare mention Palestine, do not dare mention the fact that the UAE is the sole responsible factor for why Sudanese genocide is still taking place," then you render your Hajj batil (invalid), and that is if you are lucky. I hope it is just batil.


I cannot contain my emotions and anger any longer. Who else on the planet Earth must wake up every morning and look at the kinds of horrific images like we do? Our children lynched! Body bags in the middle of God knows where, just piles of body bags-–how many more janazah (funeral) prayers will it take? Fastakhaffa qawmahu fa-ata’uhu innahum kanu qawman fasiqin (Q43:54)–you obey Pharoah out of habit and comfort and render yourselves an immoral people!


Yes, the Saudis have bullied you. They exercise their power over you by reminding you, “We hold the keys to the holy sites,” all while prepared to abandon Masjid al-Aqsa. You can forget about calling Masjid al-Aqsa the first, second, or third holiest site in Islam. In our world Masjid al-Aqsa is neither number one, number two, or number three. In our world, it is number zero. Masjid al-Aqsa seems to matter only to the Palestinians and the Southern Lebanese. As for the rest of you, don't you dare say Masjid al-Aqsa is the third-holiest site in Islam. It is the zeroth holy site in Islam. Your local mosque is more important to you than Masjid al-Aqsa. Stop lying!


If Masjid al-Aqsa did matter to you, would you be bullied and subjugated back into obedience to the minister of Hajj? The Hajj minister knows he can bully you into submission just by threatening you, “Don't you dare. Don't make us. Mess around and you will find out. No funny business!” Innahum kanu qawman fasiqin! You were an immoral people; you have no morality! Do not be a people of no morality. Demand that those who represent you, represent your values. Because if you do not, then you are just like the Israelites and the Egyptians who said, "I know there is a duty here. I know that what I saw is true. I know, but I will just accept the lie that Hajj and Masjid al-Haram is only for mechanistic ritual observance." The Hajj minister will remind you, “How dare you speak about the plight of Muslims? How dare you convene as an ummah and talk about the injustice Muslims face around the world?” Instead of immoral obedience, what if the Muslims stand up and proclaim, “This Hajj is the Hajj in which we, the people, will come to a solution. We the people will finally say, ‘Yes, Israel is bad. Yes, America has been bad. But if it were not for our own leaders, this would never happen!’"


I will give you the final proof. Qatar, the darling of the Arab world that presents itself as the one real protectorate, the Sunni protectorate of Palestinian interests, who is involved in the supposed ceasefire process as an integral and crucial member, is once again flirting with treachery. This happened back in March and it is happening again. I have also mentioned Qatar’s slipperiness before, when they leaked a ceasefire announcement. As a result, we saw the people of Gaza prostrate in thankfulness and saying, "Ya Allah, thank you for finally bringing it to an end," only to find out with more bombs and more destruction that it was completely farcical. That was not Qatar making a mistake. Qatar was playing dirty, trying to pressure Hamas to accept a ceasefire deal for Qatar’s own benefit. Qatar wants to brand itself as an influential alternative, much like the Iranian Shahs who wanted to position themselves as the alternative, as the powerful, influential governor on behalf of the Israeli-European-American ummah. "We will be the policemen here. You are the Pharaoh and the rivers run under your feet, and our livelihood, our protection, and our glitz and glamor will be decided by you. We will buy your products, wear your clothes and play your games, please accept us. Let us be one of you and protect us from the evil other groups that are in our region. We serve at your pleasure."


This is from CNN, “The US has urged Qatar – who allows Hamas to operate a political office in its capital – to declare that it will kick out the terrorist group if they don't accept the deal according to one of the US officials." The same CNN article continues, "After months of telling Hamas that they could risk getting kicked out, Qatar has now actually made that threat, that official said.” I hope to God it is not true, but I am sure that it is.


We asked a number of questions in this khutbah. If torture in Iran was abolished for fifty years at the behest of the West, for whomst did it return? It returned for the benefit of the West. When it got too hard to maintain the dissident voices, they clamped down with more torture, more imprisonment, more exile, and more of all of the awful things that you can imagine that take place in Muslim lands because the West said, "This is getting out of your hands. Do not forget that there was a democratically elected representative in 1953 that came on and you lost your value Mr. Shah, Mr. Pahlavi. And if it was not for us bringing you back and propping you up, you would not have the power. Clamp down!" The Mossad was integrally involved in training the SAVAK in order to clamp down.


So, why did the Islamic Republic, who decided that everything Western was ugly, go back to torture, imprisonment and execution, and lying about it? Because their reliance was not truly on God. There, I said it. And you know what? I do not have any friends, so I have none to lose. Maybe more of you should be like me. Stop making friends with those whose friendship comes with being bullied into moral cowardice.  Stop making friends with those who can morally censure you by telling you, “My friendship comes at a price. If you criticize Hamas, you are out. If you criticize Israel, you are out. If you criticize Iran, you are out.” My loyalty lies not with Hamas, not with Israel, not with the United States, not with Iran. My loyalty lies with the true Sovereign, which is God.


Who does your loyalty lie with? Whose reality do you accept? Were you ensnared by the zukhruf of the power? The Islamic Republic looked at the power of the Shah and the West, and thought, "Now that is power." That is the conclusion they came to. They effectively said, “Now that is power. We were the ones that were in the jails, being tortured, being exiled and being told what to do in our own seminaries. Not under our watch anymore. Now you will be in the jails and you will be tortured, and you will be told what clothes to wear, what brands to buy, what to think because I am Pharaoh now." It was the adornments of the power of pharaoh that ensnared them.


In Persian, when you want to say something is nonsensical or absurd, you call it “muzakhraf.” In colloquial Arabic, it does not have that meaning, it instead refers to house decor. But in Persian, the term “zukhruf” clearly took root in the consciousness of the people and it came to mean something. The muzakhrafat on the crown of the king calls back to the zukhruf of the gold donned by the Pharaoh. The Iranian Islamic Republic government traded in the power of the gold crown and instead donned the clerical garb. The government took off the crown that was embellished with gold and replaced it with black and white turbans, and they rendered those turbans muzakhraf, useless, nonsensical, and absurd. Abominable. Gold has natural value and uses, but it should never be usurped and subjugated to serve ugliness and despotism.


People be honest with yourselves? We as a community, as a society, have to be honest with ourselves. The reason why we are really trapped is because we are afraid. We are afraid of losing the comfort that we are familiar with, but we would not be so afraid of losing what we have if we were united. Instead, we are rendering our belief system, our prayers, our fasting, and our Hajj to be little more than muzakhraf.

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