Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl delivers a virtual Friday weekly address (khutbah) and congregational prayer (jumu'a)
via Facebook livestream beginning at 1:15 pm Los Angeles time.
In response to the increased alienation that Muslims, particularly women and converts, experience at their local mosque due to the lack of inspiring, spiritual uplifting and intellectually stimulating khutbahs, The Usuli Institute offers this ALTERNATIVE virtual khutbah and jumu'a for those who cannot or would not attend jumu'a otherwise. Please join us online every Friday at 1:15 PM Pacific Time for the Facebook livestream (www.facebook.com/usuli.org). You do not need to have a Facebook account to watch.
If you are in our time zone (ie. it is Zuhr where you are when we are livestreaming), this can count as your jumu'a prayer. If you are in a different time zone, it can be sunnah prayer. Gather your friends to listen and pray with you. This will allow those who have been alienated from the mosque to create alternate spaces for Friday prayer, with Dr. Abou El Fadl as your virtual khatib. Or, watch the recording afterwards for a weekly intellectual and spiritual invigoration.
Is this Islamically permissible? Watch the First Virtual khutbah to hear Dr. Abou El Fadl explain the purpose, history, meaning and juristic opinions about virtual congregational prayer. Listen to why he has resisted offering such a virtual khutbah until now, and why he has come to the conclusion that our current circumstance as Muslims warrants such alternatives.
Dr. Abou El Fadl begins with a reminder that we remain committed to the truth that everything is from Allah, and everything will return to Allah. One of the central narratives of the Quran, that many Muslims learn and often repeat, is Ayat Al Kursi (Chapter 2, Verse 255). It is a monumental reminder of the truth of our existence and our relationship to our Maker. The wisest of Muslims are the ones who reflect even just on this verse, for the amazing amount of insight it yields into our Maker and what we as Muslims believe.
Ayat Al Kursi starts, “There is no God but Allah”. Allah is the one reality outside the natural laws of our existence and is not confined by the logic of time and space. Although God is outside the laws of time, space, and creation, this does not mean God is not intimately involved with us. Ayat Al Kursi states that Allah is ‘alive’; not alive in the sense that humans are, but God is fully aware of the way that we live and our affairs, struggles, emotions, and problems.
God reminds us repeatedly in the Quran that the heavens and earth are not all of existence, but all of existence that human beings can be aware of. Modernity has secularized the human mind, and made it drift away from the Divine, but it also has allowed us to see glimpses of the truth that the Quran has described to previous generations. Allah is the Sustainer of our created reality. Modern science tells us how fragile this reality is and without God, the Preserver, the Sustainer of this existence, it would collapse.
God reminds us that everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God. We are only guests. Nothing in this creation can fulfill its potential or serve its purpose without God. While preserving the heavens and earth may seem like an arduous task in our minds, it is not arduous for God. Allah is not overcome neither by slumber nor by sleep. Allah does not need to rest; that is a concept among created things, not a concept fit for The Creator.
The ethics that could follow from understanding that we are but guests in what we do not own would produce a revolution in our world. When you cut a tree, when you kill a plant, when you even kill an insect, you are not acting in something that you have sovereignty over. So if you do, you can only do it in Allah's name and with Allah's permission, because if you don't have Allah's permission, you will answer for it in the Hereafter. Can you imagine if we fully internalized this as to everything from the relationships we have, to the homes that we have, the cars we drive, the jobs that we hold?
Nothing has a compulsory force or power over Allah. God knows everything that is apparent, and everything that is hidden. It is critical that we understand that none of human knowledge progresses without Allah's direct involvement and permission. All advancements in knowledge are stages that Allah regulates and permits, because everything we learn is new to us, but was forever known by the Maker.
Imagine, for how many centuries we lived not knowing about electrons, neutrons, molecules, and cells; none of that was news to Allah. And yet, the wise person would study history and the progression of knowledge in human history, and recognize the fact that in an age in which atheism has become acceptable, Allah has also allowed us--in that same age--to understand things like black holes or realities about the cosmos that could aid those who want to believe.
It is not possible for a Muslim to be a Muslim without reflecting upon Ayat Al Kursi. To understand that you are in an existence in which nothing unfolds without a purpose; and nothing escapes the awareness of your Maker; and that, in fact, whatever knowledge you will achieve, you achieve with the permission of your Maker. And whatever you remain ignorant of, it is because your Maker has not permitted for that knowledge to unfold. That every step you take, you are stepping in a universe that belongs to its Maker. Every act with every human being or non-human being, is in light of full gaze of your Maker. And every word and action is done in full view of your Maker. The past unfolded with the full awareness of the Maker, and nothing in the present eludes your Maker. To be fully aware and fully internalize that, is a healing to the heart because we live at a time where humans are increasingly deceived by the mirage of independence and autonomy; at a time where we have ejected the Divine from so much of our lives, and yet we wonder, where is the Divine?
Ayat al Kursi is not just a verse to recite as a talisman for protection, but it is a verse to reflect upon. This single ayat in the Quran can completely transform one from an anxiety-ridden, disturbed, and addicted spirit; to a powerful, flourishing, healthy, and beautiful spirit.
Shaykh Muhammad al Ghazzali, in all of his years as a teacher, would remind students that a Muslim is a human being with dignity and intelligence, ie. always well-read. To be otherwise made no sense. When students would tell him that they were scared because they lived in an oppressive country, Egypt, he would tell them that God is the owner of everything from beginning to end, and we are only guests; that one’s faith will either give you inner courage to overcome the fear, or it is incumbent upon you to migrate to a place that allows you to maintain and preserve your dignity. Shaykh Al-Ghazzali would lament the lack of intelligence, courage or both, among the Muslim leaders of his time, reminding that Allah will only help those who help themselves and those who desire justice; and that Muslims must demand their rights as a matter of entitlement from creation, not as a favor from the rich or powerful.
There has been absolutely no reaction by any Muslim country to the now nearly weekly violations of the Aqsa Mosque by Israeli settlers, who have made it clear that they plan to re-establish a temple where Al-Aqsa sits. Much like the planned dam in Ethiopia from the early 1990’s and the planned immigration of Zionists to Palestine in the early 1900s, both of which are now a reality, Muslims continue to deny the reality of a situation until it is too late. American Muslim organizations, with rare exceptions, have chosen to sell out all the major issues that concern the Muslim Ummah: Palestine, Al Aqsa, Kashmir, Myanmar, China, even justifying the Muslim ban, to the point that they do not stand up for anything. Allah has told us, God will only help us if we help ourselves. Allah repeatedly tells us to establish justice, using our intellects and bodies to create a just society, not just sitting passively and waiting for change, which is what is being advocated as “sabr” (patience). Allah emphasizes patience in persevering as you work to make change, not simply waiting for Allah to miraculously create justice in your midst.
Dr. Abou El Fadl reminds that Allah has given us the Shari’ah, a path, a guidance, like a map. So, follow it and do not follow the whims of those who do not know. If you enter into a relationship with the Divine, you will feel the Divine and the Divine will guide you.
The unjust are supported by the unjust. The nature of injustice is like an infection. It starts small but grows and extends, and when supported, results in further injustice. It is not just a theological principle; it is a sociological one. It is impossible for injustice to exist without enablers. Most times, when people go astray, a community helps by strengthening and empowering injustice and removing the sense of shame. And injustice, like evil, is an evolution. It is rarely a revolution; people evolve into it. This is precisely why Allah warns us that if you support injustice, you are unjust; and if you aid the unjust, you are unjust.
In the Nuremberg trials, many German officers argued that they were not unjust, they just carried out orders. But the principle enshrined in these trials is that they should have known better. “Carrying out orders” does not excuse evil behavior. By legitimating an infrastructure of injustice, they have become unjust. Claiming ignorance of the law is not a defense.
A professor from Zaytuna, who holds the great responsibility of teaching many of our Muslim youth, wrote an article (https://bit.ly/2VQH3Cs) defending the Muslim ban, enumerating why Muslims are wrong in their negative reaction to the ban; and arguing that it is important to not just speak truth to power, but to speak “truth to pain,” an unclear concept. This professor compares the family separation caused by the Muslim ban to the family separation that Allah (SWT) ordered of prophets; argues that the ban is not specifically targeted towards Muslims; justifies the ban’s policies; and urges Muslims to be patient for the eventual lift of the ban. This professor also defends the incarceration of children in the same article. This is the relationship of some people to power--that they equate between Trump and Allah (SWT)--this is the level of twisted thinking.
Dr. Abou El Fadl quotes and criticizes the article by elaborating on the Supreme Court decision itself; various circuit court opinions; the evolution of the Muslim ban legislation from the first to the last iteration; the manipulations of the technicalities of law used to get the ban passed; and conventions of international law, human rights law, civil rights law, and even American law that answers whether or not immigration to America is a human or civil right. It is clear that the author is not well versed in any of these critical areas.
The Supreme Court is clear that there was overwhelming evidence that Trump’s executive order was motivated by anti-Muslim animus. The inclusion of Venezuela and North Korea in the ban was solely to protect the Muslim ban from being declared unconstitutional. America has the right to regulate immigration but does not have the right to do so on the basis of religion.
This professor ignores the overwhelming Islamophobic rhetoric that Trump used to get elected as well as to pass the Muslim ban. This ban will end the academic dreams of students and prevent spouses from joining each other in America, yet this professor calls it a mere inconvenience. claiming that Muslims who want to visit family members can simply travel outside of the U.S. to do so. This professor argues that the Muslim ban will eventually be lifted when Trump leaves office. But if the Muslim ban is not a Muslim ban and the victim legitimates the crime of the criminal, why would anyone have an incentive to remove it?
If this is Muslim compassion; if Islam doesn’t lead to justice and if justice doesn’t lead to Islam, then who wants to be Muslim? An Islam that tells a victim that is suffering beyond endurance to suffer in silence is not a morally upright or ethical Islam.
In recent weeks, Israeli settlers have repeatedly violated the sanctity of the Aqsa mosque, most recently on Yom Kippur. Israel razed to the ground new homes of Palestinians, confiscated new farmlands, decreased the amount of water Palestinians can use to irrigate their lands. India is finishing its concentration camps for Kashmiris. Amidst these and the ongoing devastations in China, Myanmar, and elsewhere, the Muslim response has been absolute silence. This article decries the call for a focus on Palestine, the UAE and Trump’s policies as misplaced, notwithstanding the centrality of Jerusalem to Islam; and the massive investments by the UAE in unjust and anti-Muslim ventures. The allies of the unjust are the unjust. Philosophizing injustice is worse than any other crime, because it's a crime against history and generations.
A just non-Muslim is more respectable than an unjust Muslim. An ethical religion of any name is superior to an Islam that teaches passivism before injustice and suffering.
Dr. Abou El Fadl reminds us that Allah in the Qur’an gave us Shariah, a path that we are instructed to follow. There are many people who think that Shariah is something as simple as a group of positivistic laws. However, laws that lead to practices are only half the process, because any practice decreed by law must have a purpose. If one is not following these laws with an understanding of why, how it fits in within the Shariah of Allah, then there is a fundamental breakdown. If it was simply following these laws with no greater purpose, Islam would have been a failed project a long time ago.
Allah gave us the same Shariah that he gave all the prophets, and there is a common theme: Allah's message is a message of liberation and moral progress. It is a moral vision of human dignity, and human liberation.
The Islamic message was an equalizing, liberating message in an abusive social structure. In the Qur’an, Allah tells us to not coexist with injustice, to protest unjust rulers. To do this, to follow this path, is difficult. It requires moral courage and persistence. But every prophet came with a revolutionary message: Fear Allah, don't fear anyone else but Allah, and you are responsible for justice in your society. To speak truth before an unjust ruler; that is the greatest jihad.
In the modern age, one can practice the greatest jihad through social media, print, publications—the modern mechanisms of discourse. But most Muslims instead slump back with moral and ethical lethargy, forgetting what the path of God is about, and instead believing that God’s message is only about ritualistic practice. As a result, a study recently found that by the third generation, Islam, in many cases, is lost in immigrant Muslim families. Because we don't understand what our Shariah is about, we can't offer our children something to get excited about.
Scholars have the primary responsibility to think and talk about the path of God in a way that presents moral vision and moral leadership. What happens when scholars are moral cowards? The entire ummah becomes exactly like them—they become cowards.
Among the biggest disasters inflicted upon modern Islam was the Orientalist dogma of the idea of “political Islam.” Today, what is often meant by political Islam is that scholars should not speak up against injustice. But, if a scholar’s position is silence before injustice, then that scholar has lost the very reason for their existence. The main role of a scholar is not to tell you how to do your salat correctly, what are the rules of fasting, how to pay zakat, etc. The main role of a scholar is to be an example for how a human being can establish justice through fearing Allah and no one else; and to practice the greatest jihad, testifying to the truth.
Dr. Abou El Fadl returns to the example of the video of Hamza Yusuf mocking the Syrian revolution and the weak hadith cited as support--all that was discussed at length in a previous khutbah. He addresses the alarming phenomenon of moral cowardice. After this video was posted, there was an effort to take down the video every time it appeared. However, it was not because Hamza Yusuf changed his ideas, but rather that it was easier to teach the same ideas of quietism, political cowardliness and lack of moral vision behind closed doors. A scholar must be brave, and if you say something, you must know what you are saying and stand to defend it. To say it and then have it be taken down so you can still say it in private is moral cowardice. This is an example of exactly what is wrong with our institutions.
The fate of our Islam is up to us. If we continue teaching only the rituals of Islam, if scholars continue to show moral cowardliness, if we do not raise our children with any moral vision or purpose, or even with the cause of standing up for justice, we will lose future generations of Muslims, and we will have to answer to that before Allah on the Final Day.
For Dr. Abou El Fadl's Friday Khutbahs prior to 2019, please visit https://www.searchforbeauty.org/friday-khutbahs-latest/