By Imam Yahya
Dear brothers and sisters, we always begin with praise, praise and gratitude is a natural inclined lifestyle for the one who recognize the multiple favors and blessings that we have been given by the One that brought us into existence. We begin our days with praise. We begin our speech with praise. We are always in a state of gratitude. Now, no matter what happens, you should not allow that standard of the bliss, and mercy, and favors that surround the vast majority of us every day that we would put that aside, all the bad things are happening. Depression and anxiety is not the way of the believer. Right now we find ourselves in a climate in a time where people are looking at Islam and Muslims, and they do not have a good view. They’re saying that Muslims represent something destructive to the world, even though and while Islam means to live for the will of the Creator of the world, right? The creative force that made this beautiful place that we’re all part of. Right now we see that they have made various policies and legislation that put all Muslims as suspects the way people are treated when they fly. There is all kinds of unfortunate circumstances surrounding us as believers right now.
We have a presidential candidate saying that if he’s president, he will stop any Muslims from coming in, and those Muslims that will be here will be registered, and all mosques will be under surveillance, and regular upkeep with the security apparatuses of the government. If any mosque deems to have bad characters, whatever that’s supposed to mean in it, that mosque will be shut down. This is exactly and in no way different to the policies of Adolf Hitler towards the Jewish people of Germany. If you study, that is exactly how he came into office, and don’t forget Adolf Hitler won an election and voted in before he became the dictator. It’s very dangerous in the time we find ourselves in. That being said, if we look, we find that our current president has gone leaps and bounds to try to defend the religion of Islam against people who would say these things. He would make it crystal clear that Islam is not our enemy, and that here in America, our Muslim community are good people, so that’s our current president. We would hope to elect somebody who would continue in that truthful representation of who we are. We saw that our beloved sister Ibtihaj Muhammad just went as the first American Muslim to the Olympics, and she won the bronze medal with the hijab on while France, claiming this idea to have this idea of freedom and all of that, are now telling women you can’t wear hijab. Unfortunately she won with a sword which probably doesn’t work out well. This is good news. We’re seeing good things. Of the thousands of people, dozens of thousands of people who converted to Islam this last year, one of them is the grandson of Nelson Mandela who is in the parliament of South Africa, who is the head of his tribe. There is good things going on, and we should not forget that. We should focus on that, and build upon it. Hope in times of distress is the pure prophetic model of our faith, my dear brothers and sisters.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) whenever he and his close companion Abu Bakr (ra) had to escape Mecca because these pagan people have oppressed, and humiliated, and abused the believers for 13 years, and they were all forced to leave, and they put a ransom on the head of Muhammad dead or alive for so many camels, a thousand camels, so the Prophet (saws) and Abu Bakr (ra), they went a different route to just stay alive, and they found themselves hiding in a cave, and they’re sitting there. These people who are looking for them, they hear them walking up, and so Abu Bakr who is a normal human being like me and you, he got scared. He’s like, “Oh my God, they’re coming.” He’s telling the Prophet (saws), “We’re dead, man.” The Prophet (saws), our beloved prophet, the example we are called to, and what Abu Bakr learned, and you see him grow into this after this moment was, “No. What is your opinion of two who Allah is the third among them?” (Quran – 9:40) “Don’t worry. Allah is with us. God is with us.” Now, let me ask you a question, did the Prophet (saws) know for sure that they were going to be saved, or they wouldn’t even be caught at all? He did not know. He (saws) was a human being. He doesn’t know the unseen world. His trust and his faith that this message is meant to be completed, his absolute certainty that God is with us even if I get caught, and tortured, and die I should not be filled with anxiety or depression.
At some point, this flawed world that we are all a part of will come to an end. The true reality of the believer is to have fortitude, to have steadfastness, to work as hard as we can, sticking with our Creator, and what He has revealed to us, until that day comes to us that we’ll part from this place. That’s the same thing with Moses (peace be upon him) before. Whenever he escaped with all of the Israelites because of a similar situation, the oppressive Egyptian pharaonic people, and so they secretly escaped, and they’ve gone, and now here they are in front of the big sea, the people are like, “Oh my God, what are we going to do now?” There are no boats, no bridge, and they turn back, and here it is Pharaoh’s armies coming. They said, “We are going to be killed by these people. Here they come.” What did Moses say? (Quran – 26:62) “Know that is not the case. My Lord is with us. He will guide us.” Now did Moses know what’s about to happen? Did he have any idea what’s going to happen? He has no idea, but his attitude is the right attitude, and that’s how we have to look at it, what is our attitude. Are we going to hide in the corner and change our name, and try to act like we’re not Muslim? Are we going to try to even act from somebody else’s religion just to fit in with people because we think they hate us or something? This is not the attitude of a believer. It’s very much captivated or captured in the first verse of Surah Al-Ankabut, (Quran – 29:02) “Do the people think that they will just say I am a believer, I’m with God, I’m with piety and righteousness in a world filled with desires, and ego, and flaws, and defects. I’m going to work towards perfection, and they will not have hardships, and they will not be tested, and tried with this flawed world that they are living in?” It is a ridiculous thought. (Quran – 29:03)
If we look back in history, every time a prophet came out, every time people tried to stick with good values and morals, people will come against them. People will cause problems, and the prophets were attacked and rejected by their people time and time again. We see it with Jesus. We see it with Moses as he went on. We see it with so many of the prophets. This is the reality. (Quran – 29:04) “Do the people who do evil in the world think that God is not aware, and capable of bringing justice to them? How foolish is that they judge.” Why is that? He created everything. Every atom in the universe has a specific, beautiful plan built into it. You think he can’t call you to account? What is God telling us? He is telling us that “Don’t worry about what they’re doing. Don’t worry about what they’re saying. They will be taken care of. It’s not your job to worry about them. You worry about yourself. You worry about doing the right thing instead and standing for justice. This is the way of the believers.” He says, (Quran – 29:05) Here He captures it exactly the point, “Whoever plans to meet with God after they pass from this world then know your time of death will for sure come, and He hears your prayers. He is aware of what you do, and how you live.” (Quran – 29:06) “Whoever struggles and strives, whoever embraces that true jihad then they’re doing it for their own benefit.” God does not need any of us. He does not need anything we do. It is our struggle to prove ourselves worthy of perfection. To stand up for righteousness, goodness, piety, and justice in a world filled with otherwise. We are the ones called to do that, that is our calling, that is what we’re here to do. That’s basically a passage that tells us what is our attitude towards this hardship. We realize it’s going to be there, and we’re planning for a day in which our souls will meet its Maker and be accounted for the way it lived.
I want to tell you about a beautiful story that I heard on NPR earlier this year. This is a local story that most of us, many of us know about. Basically there is a sister named Summer Hammad sitting in her house in Raleigh, minding her business, doing her normal day, and she gets a call from her daughter Marjan. This call is going to change her whole life. Her daughter Marjan, and with her voice trembling and shaking, “Mama, Duyya is dead. Duyya is dead, Mama.” Summer, her mom, knows exactly who she’s talking about, but she can’t imagine how or what she’s saying is happening because Duyya is a beautiful young man with a budding life, finished his college, and starting great things, good manners, good character, righteous young man, doing good things in the community, known for his faith and his values. Actually Summer tried to get her daughter Marjan engaged to him a year before, only to find out that he had been recently engaged to Yusur, his wife. What happened was Duyya, his wife Yusur, and her little sister Razan were murdered in cold blood by some crazy neighbor who was going on angry rants about religion, and people following religion, and constantly telling them that there’s something wrong with them. He goes into their house and kills them execution style. This is what she’s talking about.
At that time, Summer and Marjan are common Muslims, average people. They go fast in Ramadan with the family, and they go to Eid salah, the average Muslim. They weren’t praying, hijab, and praying all this everyday. But I want to let you see the attitude as is properly understood in those verses from Surah Al-Ankabut that we just talked about. The conversation that ensued is pure faith. It is the light that was Duyya and still is Duyya as insha’allah. She talked to her daughter, and she said, “Look, this is a disaster, but as people that are calling themselves Muslims, we need to own up to it.” Summer and Marjan decided let’s be more active about our faith. They didn’t say, “Oh, the guy killed someone we love and know, we should hide. Maybe we should go back home somewhere else.” They didn’t say that. They said, “This is the time to not think it’s okay that we’re Muslim alhamdulillah. It’s time that we be proud of being Muslim.” They started praying five times a day. They both started wearing the modest dress, the hijab. They’ve never worn this before. They both started to get socially active and engaged, and taking care of the less fortunate, and being involved in interfaith discussions, and presenting Islam to their neighbors. The whole community over there is actually, that’s what happened as a result of this. This is the response of people with true faith. We get engaged. We try to establish ourselves as who we really are when people are trying to attack us for someone that we’re not.
Dear brothers and sisters, the odds are stacked against us. People are picturing us as a very unrepresentatitive type of people, and the only way to fix that is to be the solution. It is absolutely unacceptable for anyone of us to stay reclusive, to just stay in the little exclusive niche of only Muslims in our home with people who talk like us, and speak like us, and think like us, going into our halal restaurant, and to our masjid, and to our house. This way is absolutely not Islam. This is against the concept of being in a land where people don’t know really what Islam is. We are obligated to engage. Number one, (Quran – 41:33) Let’s be Muslims, be proud of that, and let’s let people know it. I’ll give you an example. One time, my son, masha’allah, trying to do what we told him, and he opened the door for the lady. She was like, “That’s so nice. We don’t have that kind of chivalry and manners these days anymore.” We left. I told my son, “Next time, tell her as a Muslim, this is what I have to do to treat others as I want to be treated and better, ihsan, the lofty concept of spiritual excellence to others.” We have to let it be known who we are, what we represent. As I was going to the check-out, “How are you doing today, sir?” I said, “I’m thankful to God.” She said, “Wow, that’s a really good way to be.” I said, “Well, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told me that that’s how I should be, so I’m following that.” “Prophet Muhammad?” “Yeah.” This is how we have to be, we have to own Islam. We have to shine the light. People have to experience it firsthand.
If you call your neighbors over, if you visit with your classmates and build a bridge, you’re not going to get anywhere if you think you’re going or something like this, argue about your religion, no. You will build friendship with good character and good values, and then they’ll ask you, and then you’ll answer their questions that they asked, and they will see what is the beauty of Islam. But it is imperative that we engage our neighbors, our colleagues, our classmates, and then we become socially active. If everyone in this room gets involved in some project that is going to make Charlotte a better place, that is going to make the less fortunate feel more comforted and more eased. If we get involved in these projects then we are fulfilling our purpose. When you live in a swing state, you have to realize. Somebody is saying we want your witness upon so and so, and so and so, one of these is going to be elected to have authority over you whether you like it or not. If you don’t give what you think is the best one for you, according to the Qur’an, you’ve made a sin. This is Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Assadi (rt), he is the teacher of Muhammad ibn Salih Azamin, one of the last hundred years, he was asked about this. He was asked, “In a non-Muslim land we live in Europe, we’re getting votes, some people are telling us, “These are non-Muslims, you’re supporting a non-Muslim thing.” He said, “No, you’re representing your Muslim community, and what’s in your best interest. We have to pick which one we feel is in the best interest of our society, looking at our own well-being obviously first. Somebody says, “We don’t like those Muslims.” You’re making a sin. You cannot support that person obviously. This is where we have to be active.
Lastly and finally, it is highly important that we make our mosques better, more engaging, more attractive. It cannot be that the mosque is a place where a bunch of old people go to pray five times a day. The masjid of the Rasulullah (saws), There’s lots of business for many things, for many causes, for many discussions. Prayer was just the fundamental joining force to bring them there. Everybody had some interaction. We have to make our mosques a place where everybody can feel comfortable, they feel welcome, that the young people feel there are stuff that I can do there, that I can enjoy, that I can visit with my friends and so forth. We have to support Islamic schools. We have to build upon them. We have to take part in this, sacrificing our time, and our wealth to make these places a better place.
I ask Allah (swt), our beloved Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Ya Allah, please motivate our hearts with Your wisdom, with Your knowledge, with Your greatness, with Your might. Ya Allah, illuminate our hearts with mercy, compassion, with wisdom, with knowledge, with understanding, with engagement of the world in the way that Your Prophet (saws) engaged it. Ya Allah, we ask You to unify our hearts, and make us see our role together with our fellow Muslims, and with the other people at large who are standing up, and working for just causes, and righteous causes. Ya Allah, we ask You to be merciful with us, and do not call us to account for the shortcomings and weaknesses we have. Please forgive us for our sins, and our laziness, and our weaknesses in our lives, and our prayers, and our practice. Ya Allah, we ask You to bring an inclusive understanding of diversity in the human reality within the Muslim and the greater community. Ya Allah, we ask You to help us to be those who are steward for righteousness, and justice, and peace, and piety. Ya Allah, please help us be solutions for the problems of the world, and let Muslims be known for great dignity and moral integrity. Ya Allah, please help us to achieve greatness again as was for many centuries. Ya Allah, please awaken us from the sleep that we found ourselves in these last few centuries. Ya Allah, please remove tyranny, and turmoil, and corruption, and oppression from Syria, from Palestine, from Africa, from elsewhere, from here in America. Please make Muslims be part of the solution rise among us leaders who will call against evil and corruption, and not fear anything but the day they stand in front of you. Ya Allah, please guide our hearts, make us be people worthy of Your contentment, and Your pleasure. Make us be a people who truly stand up for the values that You revealed in the Holy Qur’an, and the example of Your final messenger Muhammad (saws).