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.
Tawhid, in the sense of monotheism, is the realization that this existence has a Maker, an Owner; someone responsible for it that is not the product of chance. The one God, which is the core of Tawhid, can have no partners precisely because it is a God who is not subject to the laws of human beings, nor the laws of physics, nor the laws of time and space, nor the logic of human beings, physics or mathematics. Islam is the only religion on this earth that is firmly anchored in the theology of Tawhid, such that when you say, "I surrender my will to the will of the Owner of this universe," you know that everything that happens anywhere in the universe is within the control and sovereignty of God. God is aware of everything that unfolds, and from this comes your strength and your sense of being.
Monotheism is strong in the Jewish faith, but Judaism has gone through various trials and tribulations in history that has fitted the Jewish faith for the Israelite people as an ethnic, racial and nationalistic group, and the lines between what is Israelite and what is Judaism have been significantly blurred.
Christianity is a different story. We know the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Musa). The First Commandment says there is no god but God: “La illaha illallah.”. The irony in Christianity is that despite this First Commandment, Jesus does not unfold upon the scene until centuries later. How could all the prophets until the time of Jesus come and not tell us that embedded within the First Commandment is this jaw-dropping idea that God is a God of three essences that are co-equal, co-eternal and co-substantial, as is core to the Christian faith?
None of the prophets tell us that, and in fact, Jesus himself does not tell us that. But rather, after dying and being resurrected, according to the Christian belief, the disciples of Jesus tell us that. The problem is that the first teacher of the gospel and the person who wrote the first Gospel and the majority of the New Testament, according to Christian belief, is Paul. However, Paul never met Jesus, and in fact, was a Jew who persecuted Christians until he says that on the way to Damascus, he had a vision in which Jesus appears to him and teaches him what needs to be taught. All the other Gospels were written after Paul and copied from Paul.
Why do Muslims need to know and understand this? The biggest threat posed to the secular ideal in the United States is the mixing of religion and state, which comes primarily through the vehicle of evangelical Christianity, a sect that works fervently to colonize the world. We live in a colonial moment in which religion and politics mix with the main target being Muslims. The more Muslims know, the more Muslims will be able to protect themselves and raise their heads in pride, knowing who they are and what the truth is.
All the gospels were influenced by Paul and his teachings of the message of Christ. These are historical facts, not opinions. We do not know who the authors of the Gospels are. We do not know who wrote John, Matthew, or Luke; so for example, when you hear the familiar, “In the beginning was the Word…”, it is the author of the gospel who said it, and that author is unknown. The gospels were not written until at least 90 years after the death of Jesus. The idea of the Trinity is never clearly and firmly stated in any of the gospels. Jesus repeatedly refers to God as, "The Father who sent me."
In most churches today, there is hardly any talk about God, yet instead, they talk mostly about Jesus Christ as God. Further, the Bible does not provide a clear understanding of God the Father, God the Son, or the Holy Ghost. As a result, Christians know and connect far more to Jesus Christ than the Father of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Abou El Fadl gives numerous examples from the Bible that illustrate how Jesus refers to himself and to the Father, both in support of and in tension with the idea that Jesus is God. For example, in Luke 22:42, Jesus is worried about his impending trial and possible execution, so he prays fervently to God. God sends an angel to comfort Jesus and Jesus continues to pray while drops of sweat fall off him. These are not the actions of a god, but the actions of a man not wanting to be crucified. Further, Dr. Abou El Fadl demonstrates how certain words have been translated and mis-translated to create opposite meanings. In fact, the text of the Bible, as it exists in printed form, creates an enormous amount of tensions within the idea of a one and only God and reflects the choices made through various historical institutions. Of the many Gospel manuscripts that have reached us, no two manuscripts of the Bible agree with each other.
In another example, it is true that in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as a son of God. But various, undisputedly human prophets, including Moses, are also referred to as sons of God. Here, “son” is a term of endearment, and is not meant in the literal sense.
More significant is the use of the word “rabb” in the Bible, which is often used to refer to Jesus. “Rabb” is the Hebrew word for teacher. In John 1:38, Rabb is translated as teacher, but everywhere else where the word “rabb” is used in reference to Jesus Christ, it is translated to “Lord Jesus Christ,” completely altering the meaning. In the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic Bibles, it is clear that Jesus far from considered himself equal to God. But the English Bibles translate to exactly the opposite message.
As a result of this colonial project, many Muslims come to doubt Islam and even consider converting to nondenominational Christianity. “Nondenominational” means not being able to address the hard questions that differentiate Christian sects (e.g. whether Jesus is equal to or lesser than God; or whether Jesus was made by God or not), so instead, ignoring or pretending such differences do not exist, especially when speaking with Muslims. As is typical of how colonialism has worked, colonizers pretend that natives (i.e. Muslims) know nothing about the colonizing culture, and therefore never expect that the gaze will be returned upon them. An example is the way misogynistic British culture criticized women’s treatment in Muslim colonized countries while ignoring their own sexist behaviors. For young Muslims who have doubt in their hearts about their faith, the answer is to get an education.
Vice President Mike Pence recently was talking about how the U.S. has helped to define Islam to combat fanaticism and radicalism; the Islam they want is a hesitant, restless and insecure Islam. Islam is coming under a massive onslaught, and the role of evangelicals like Pence, Bannon and Trump is to eliminate the doctrine of separation of church and state and try to sneak in Christianity, especially among Muslims in the West. The Jesus they have constructed is a Hollywood racist image—the handsome figure of a Jesus Christ that you want to date, not worship. It is a racist and colonial project, and the battleground is over the Muslim intellect.
The answer is to gain serious knowledge in order to protect yourself and your children; and to support knowledge so that Muslims can stand on their own feet, return the gaze, and say, “La illaha illallah, Muhammad ar Rasulallah. We know who we are, and we are proud of it because it is the truth.”
Dr. Abou El Fadl begins with the troubling fact that despite consisting of over one billion people and collectively controlling over half of the world’s sources of energy, material and natural resources – everything that would enable them to empower themselves – Muslims worldwide are plagued by powerlessness. Many Muslim countries are led by corrupt puppets that effectively rule for someone else’s interests. Since colonialism, it is common that a Muslim ruler would rule over Muslim lands but answer not to their constituency, but to the powers that effectively colonized the territory over which these rulers rule.
So, for instance, the rulers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and many others find it far more important what Europe or the U.S. thinks or wants than what their own respective peoples want. That is the epitome of disempowerment when collectively, the people being ruled don’t matter. There is no means by which to translate the people’s desires, preferences, or willpower, into a means for self-determination and autonomy, because rulers are not interested in accountability to the people.
Every human being must define a relationship with the idea of autonomy and self-determination. The challenge is whether their sense of autonomy or self-determination is superficial or real. At the superficial level, some think that as long as they can indulge in distractions, entertain themselves, or have fun, that they are exercising autonomy or self-determination; in reality, they ultimately might not have the power to influence their development or progress spiritually, morally, or intellectually as a human being, as is happening now in Saudi Arabia for instance. The Saudi government has opened up virtually all forms of entertainment for the Saudi people to give them the illusion of autonomy and self-determination. In typical authoritarian format, in Saudi Arabia the idea is, if you can party, then you are. But meanwhile, you control nothing about what happens at the national or multi-national level. You are, in fact, entirely powerless and without self-determination.
Similarly, another form of delusion is where people believe, as long as I can fight, then I am. Young kids become convinced that if they can engage in acts of violence and be killed in the process, that somehow they control their own destiny. This is another form of disempowerment.
The only true venue for self-determination in this day and age is the flow of information – information that shapes, crafts, chisels, and defines consciousness - or in other words, education. This is precisely why Islamophobia is a very extreme form of disempowerment. When information is managed, manipulated, and engineered in such a fashion as to cause a sense of dread among Muslims and non-Muslims about Islamic theology, law, history, and philosophy, then the autonomy and trajectory of Muslims has been affected in clear and undeniable ways.
For example, Muslims have been put in a persistent, defensive position when it comes to Islam. One cannot say the word "Shariah" anywhere in the Muslim world today without immediately making Muslims uncomfortable or being gripped by a sense of dread. If any Muslim uses the word “jihad,” or talks about Islam or the Prophet Muhammad, he or she immediately feels the need to explain (ie. engage in some form of apologetics) that jihad is not evil; Islam is not violent; or the Prophet was actually good. Any human being that is placed constantly on the defensive loses self-determination.
Autonomy and self-determination in the modern age are direct products not of military power, but of informational power. Information is controlled in order to control Muslims’ ability to engage in autonomy and self-determination, effectively colonizing the Muslim mind. Colonizing the Muslim mind does not mean injecting Western values into the Muslim mind; a lot of Western values are simply values of modernity. Colonizing the Muslim mind means injecting a sense of dread or insecurity about their own tradition, faith and law.
It is critical that Muslims understand that what we call the campaign of Islamophobia in the world is a power movement to control information and consciousness regarding Muslims. Islamophobia disempowers Muslims by creating a deep-seated insecurity about their own tradition. This has gone to extreme levels that Muslims in the West are often not even aware of. The minute one feels the need to explain and defend why they are not a bad person or apologize for their being, that being has been compromised.
The monotheistic faith is a faith of empowerment. It is a faith that teaches recognizing one’s self worth, the equal value of human life, and the direct connection between humans and their Creator. It is a faith in which each prophet comes to embrace the disempowered and resist the powerful. If monotheism is reduced to just practicing ritual, but does not teach a sense of autonomy, independence, dignity and self-confidence from within, then monotheism fails its purpose.
Islamophobia succeeded in making the gift of Islam, a gift of dignity and worth, hard to feel empowered by. The colonialism of Islamophobia is far more dangerous than military colonialism, because in Islamophobic colonialism, many Muslims are unaware of their colonization. Today, it is nearly impossible for a Muslim's relationship to Islam to exist without going through the filter of Islamophobia.
The Rand Corporation issued two reports in the early 2000s arguing that the way to fight terrorism is by shaping the Muslim mind and identity. In language resembling a colonial power, the reports set forth Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji as exemplars of the type of Muslim that the West wants. However, both are effectively atheists who hate Islam. Hirsi Ali believes that for the West to not be at war with Islam, Islam needs to reform per five conditions, among them abandoning jihad, denouncing “violence” in the Quran, and denying the Prophet Muhammad as a moral exemplar.
Hirsi Ali’s version of Islam is indistinguishable from the Islam that official state medias of many Muslim countries push. Media broadcasters speak of “reforming” Islam, as they believe that Islam is a violent faith that requires much of its material condemned. Counter-discourse is banned from these networks, and those who attempt to provide such discourse are often barred by Muslim governments.
A troubling trend from the early days of colonialism that has reemerged in the modern Muslim world is Arab Christians pretending to be Muslims or former Muslims, then denouncing much of Islam and altering it. An example is Walid Shoebat, who provides training seminars to Homeland Security and F.B.I. about Islam, despite his clear track record of being a fraud.
Islamophobia has resulted in an energy of dread surrounding Islam in the modern world. Nearly every Muslim today has felt doubt towards their own faith and the morality of the Prophet, Islamic history, and the Quran. Muslims must wake up and realize that a country does not need to be occupied to be colonized. Minds can be colonized through the control of information. Muslims do not control the flow of information about Islamic history, law, philosophy, or theology. As a result, almost all Muslim PhD students studying in these fields experience a severe crisis about the worthiness of their identity as a Muslim, wondering if they can be a good scholar and a good Muslim at the same time.
American Evangelists have dedicated an enormous amount of resources to achieve the same goal that was at the heart of colonialism: getting Muslims to have a troubled relationship with their tradition and colonizing the Muslim mind. That is the story of Islamophobia and the story of our present reality. The net effect is that many Muslim children around the world are now atheists or converting to Christianity and we are not even being honest about it. Our minds, the minds of our children and grandchildren have been colonized. The way Muslims relate to their religion, their tradition, and even God has been penetrated, invaded and colonized from within.
To resist, Muslims must invest in knowledge, information and data. Our governments are colonized, so we can only count on private resources. If Muslims are not willing to invest because they don’t think their religion is worth investing in, then there is nothing left to say.
In Surah al Furqan, God reminds us of the quintessential character of a Muslim. A Muslim treads on this earth lightly with humility and with the blessing of certitude—that there will be accountability and justice, and that God is the anchor that stabilizes us in our existence, giving us a sense of direction and a commitment to what is truthful, good and beautiful. This certitude does not make us arrogant, self-entitled or self-centered. True humility comes when you do not transgress on the rights of others, take anyone for granted, and do not deal with this world as if a race, color, ethnicity or religion is entitled to have hegemonic power over others.
A Muslim, by definition, lives committed to the principle of justice. There is a difference between treading upon this earth lightly and apathy. Our certitude that this universe has an Owner who is sovereign, and who placed us on this earth to live a life of reflection and the pursuit of justice means not being apathetic towards what is just, fair and beautiful.
Jumu’a was decreed for Muslims to come together for the remembrance of God. Not a theoretical, abstract remembrance, but rather, to reflect upon current affairs in light of what our belief in God demands of us. In the Islamic tradition, you cannot separate your belief in God from the living affairs of your life, in the same way that you cannot suspend God in the way that you deal with your family, your society or your community.
One such issue that must be addressed is the so-called “Peace Plan” proposed by Trump and company in the Middle East. The reason we cannot simply marginalize it as an issue of foreign affairs that might or might not impact our lives is fundamentally because of Jerusalem and more specifically, the Aqsa Mosque (Masjid al-Aqsa). Even more, there are Muslims in the U.S. that have taken the bizarre position of working with and/or supporting the Trump administration as if this is consistent with their Islamic ethics and morality.
The Trump administration, after having moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, now ignores international law, the numerous resolutions passed by the U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council, the Geneva Convention, morality, natural law, and the rule of ethics. What is the rule of ethics? Simply that you cannot usurp the homes of others, take their land and their homes, and eject them out, and then say it is someone else's problem. While the international community has repeatedly condemned Israeli colonial settlements, the colonizing of the West Bank, and the destruction of Palestinian homes, this plan follows a long procession of concessions that Muslims have made in historical Palestine.
Muslims eventually accepted the idea of a divided Jerusalem in which West Jerusalem would be the capital of the Palestinian state and at a minimum, Muslims would have access to and control of the Aqsa Mosque without having to go through Israeli authorization and sovereignty. However, the Trump peace deal would give all of Jerusalem, including the Aqsa Mosque, to the Israelis and allow for truncated settlement spots in the West Bank for Palestinians under effective Israeli sovereignty. No Muslim would be able to visit the Aqsa Mosque without going through Israeli authorization first.
Trump claims that Israel is a democratic state that has done a great job taking care of the Aqsa Mosque. This is nonsense. Israel has done extensive excavation under the Aqsa mosque, destabilizing its structural integrity. Not a week passes without Israeli settlers invading the Haram and violating the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque. Muslims that wish to visit the Aqsa Mosque are subject to humiliation and even forced by Israeli security to strip naked. Ultimately, they may or may not be allowed to enter.
Previously, Israel’s solution for displaced Palestinians was for other Arab nations to take them in, but the new plan is to cut out a part of Sinai, Egypt, where Palestinians should move from the West Bank, another displacement, to become the Palestinian state, partly in Gaza and partly in Sinai. However, it would become a Palestinian state without sovereignty, to be run by Egyptian and Israeli militaries.
It would look very much like an apartheid with Palestinians constantly at the mercy of Israeli military authority. Basically, it is the same exact plan proposed by Netanyahu years ago, taken literally verbatim, and now proclaimed as a U.S. plan. Shockingly, this plan is in fact supported by the leaders of Arab States, not because they represent the sovereign will of their people but because they want to stay in power at any cost.
This is the epitome of injustice and the epitome of what colonialism does. Does this have the potential of ever ending terrorism? When you displace human beings, usurp their homes, destroy their dreams, confiscate property and territory, and move human beings like chess pieces on a chessboard, all for the sake of Jewish or Israeli identity and Israeli self-determination, you give full measure to Israeli self-determination and tell Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world: “Israeli self-determination should determine your self-determination. Israel has a sovereign right to determine what it wants and what is in its best interest, and then your role is to accommodate, accept and adapt.” How will this actually create long-term peace?
As the leaders of many Muslim countries continue to support immoral, unethical and unjust acts such as this and many others, it is important that Muslims pay attention to what is going on. To be unaware is to go against the ethics of Islam, as it means one sides with the powerful against the disempowered, and with the arrogant against those who have no means for self-identity and self-determination.
The most important thing in this day and age is to know what is right and what is wrong. What can you do about it? If you are an American Muslim, what you support, what you watch and who you donate to matters. Your vote matters. Politics, political activism and your voice matter. Do you think that God on the Final Day will say to Muslims, “Well, you basically abandoned Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque, and that is fine with me, no problem”? God will ask each one of us, “What did you do? What did you contribute?”
God teaches us to tread upon this earth with humility and humbleness, so we cannot deny the rights of others or look only at what benefits us. To establish humility and humbleness, we must understand our rights and have a sense of justice. As the Prophet taught us, if we can change something with our hands or our speech, we must do it. But if we cannot, the least we can do is know what is right and what is wrong in our heart, and this is the weakest of all.
At a minimum, we should know that the displacement of Palestinians is unjust, and that Muslims have a right to Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque. Generations of Muslims over hundreds of years sacrificed everything for the Aqsa Mosque, the place where the Prophet visited Isra’ and Miraj, the land of Ibrahim, the territory that represents the pure monotheism of Islam. The Aqsa Mosque is the meeting point for all the Abrahamic prophets, ending with Muhammad. If you take Muhammad out of the equation, then you do not have an Aqsa Mosque anymore, but if you only consider Muhammad and not the other prophets, then the Aqsa Mosque becomes meaningless. If you do not at least know what injustice is and at a minimum, your heart rebels against injustice, then Islam has translated into nothing for you.
There is no place for tyrants, not just in a state, but also in a community or a family, because God taught us that our affairs should always be run according to the principle of shura; consultation and consensus building.
Al-Azhar University in Egypt recently held a conference on renewing Islamic thought. This conference and discourse are founded on a platform of tyranny. Islamic reform in a tyrannical framework works in a way in which one can critically engage anything involving Islam but cannot critically engage the ruler. This discourse was not propelled by a sense of self-determination and free will, but mandated by those who have guns, prisons, and torture humans. Tyranny in any setting is shirk (associating partners with God) and it is an offense against God directly.
The Quran was translated into Hebrew by the King Fahd Foundation in Saudi Arabia and found to contain over 300 mistakes that legitimate Israeli points of view, including the Aqsa mosque being called a temple, and deleting the name of the Prophet Muhammad. The foundation withdrew the PDF of the translation after the story broke, but the reaction of Muslims reflects the state of our affairs. Because Muslims feel powerless, we live in a state of suspicion and anxiety rather than repose and humility.
The Prophet taught us that until the Final Day, there will always be a small group of Muslims that will persevere and hold onto the truth regardless of which direction the world goes. The Quran always refers to the majority of human beings as not doing the right thing; most people will always swerve. This should encourage us to hold on to the basic principles that iman (faith) gifts us: allegiance only to God and not to any other human being. As Muslims, we live vigilantly believing in the principle of justice and beauty as our salvation.
For Dr. Abou El Fadl's Friday Khutbahs prior to 2019, please visit https://www.searchforbeauty.org/friday-khutbahs-latest/