You are not a Minority | Khutbah Transcript

[The following is a transcript of a Friday Khutbah]

There are two types of people in this world. Both dream, but there are those who dream during the day and turn those dreams into a reality and then there are those who dream during the night and leave those dreams by their beds.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” 

Why is it that allows one group to dream during the day and the second group dream only during the night? There are two key differences:

  • The first group this outside of the box because they are not afraid to think outside of the box whereas the second group is afraid of thinking outside of the box.
  • The first group is bold and determination whereas the second group is neither bold nor fearless.

Today I want to speak about these two characteristics. Let me begin with the first characteristic, those “boxes” that we think through and inhibit us from dreaming during the day. One of those boxes is the “minority complex” – the idea that you are a minority.

The truth is brothers that being a minority is not a statistical reality, it is a mindset, and you have the choice to be a minority. As Muslims in the United States you can be chose be 1% of the population or you can choose to be part of a global community, an Ummah of 1.6 billion. You can choose to be a minority Arab Muslim, a Black Muslim, a Bengali Muslim or you can choose to be a Muslim whose community spans all continents, blacks, and white and so on.

This is what the Qur’an teaches us. You see, the Qur’an teaches us how to think, it teaches us to put things in perspective and most importantly it teaches us to see the bigger picture. Allah told the Muslims that “ummatakum ummatun wahida” – “wahida” it is one Ummah, not two, three or four; it is one Ummah.
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.” [Al-Hujjurat, 49:10]

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم described the Ummah as one body; if one member becomes sick then the other members of this one body will take care of the sick one:

“The Believers, in their mutual love, mercy and compassion, are like one body: if one organ complained, the rest of the body develops a fever.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

This hadith is critical. Let us reflect upon it. The Prophet is telling us that the Ummah cannot function properly unless it functions as one body. An arm cannot function without a brain, the left leg cannot walk without the right leg.

When the Prophet established the Islamic State in Medinah, the constitution started with the following words:

“In the name of Allah (The One True God) the Compassionate, the Merciful. This is a document from Muhammad, the Prophet, governing the relation between the Believers from among the Qurayshites (i.e., Emigrants from Mecca) and Yathribites (i.e., the residents of Medina) and those who followed them and joined them and strived with them. They form one and the same community as against the rest of men.

What is this Ummah that I speak of? First and foremost let us state a fact: a nation is only as strong as the idea that it carries. As Adam Smith said “ideas are the wealth of a nation”. Now I ask you brothers, what is the idea that we carry? It is La ilaha ila Allah and by Allah I ask you; is there any idea that is greater than this idea? This revolutionary statement which on one hand united the likes of Bilal ibn Rabah, Salman al-Farisi and Abu Bakr on one hand and shook the thrones of the world’s most powerful kings on another?

It is the ‘Aqeedah which allowed a former slave, a short man, from a poverty-stricken background to enter the lavish gold-filled tent of Rustum and tell him that “Allaah has sent us to liberate man from the worship of man to the worship of Allah?”

It is the ‘Aqeedah which transformed a minority, a group of Arabs, into leaders who reached all four corners of the world

It is an ‘Aqeedah through which an Ummah was able to conquer in 80 years what the Romans could not conquer in less than 800 years?

In concluding this point; it is clear, to think outside the box requires that we liberate our minds from the “minority” complex and identify with a global Ummah, new political horizons and a global vision. The second characteristic is: boldness and being fearless.

Let us return to the Qur’an. The Muslims in Mecca were indeed, numerically speaking, a minority. In fact, the Muslims were in the belly of the beast, the bastion and capital of Jahiliyyah. But Allaah revealed the Qur’an in Mecca despite that because Allah wanted us to pay heed to the fact that numbers mean nothing in the face of an idea. These men understand that; “even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth”

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. 

This first group recognizes that a dream comes to life only when those who possess it are willing to be ridiculed and oppressed because they recognize the importance of that dream.

“It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
― Samuel Adams

Let us look at the boldness of the Prophet even while a “minority”. It was the year 627 AD, during a very harsh winter. The Arab and Jewish tribes had sieged Yathrib, which later became Mediah and they numbered approximately 10,000 whereas the Muslims were no more than 3,000. Salman al-Farisi advised the Prophet to build a trench around the city. Now, imagine this; the Muslims are about to be besieged, they are outnumbered, a minority so to speak and there stands the Prophet with his sleeves smashing the stones in order to dig into the ground and as he does so he exclaims “futihat ar-rum” (Rum has been conquered”). Imagine, at this time of weakness, an approaching army, a harsh winter, the Prophet is declaring “futihat ar-rum”!

Musa ‘alaayhee as-Salam carried the idea and followed the commands of Allah. But where did this lead him? They reached what many saw as a “dead-end” – a wide sea lay in front of them and the massive numbers of fir’awn’s army behind him. Some of Musa’s companions stated: inanana la muhlikoon (we are ruined) now look at the response of Musa, look at his conviction in the idea and the boldness it produced despite facing what seemed like an impossible situation; kala ina ma’ rabbi sayahideen (Nay, for Allah is with me and He will guide me” Allah Akbar!

Are you still a minority?

Democracy and the Importance of Methodology

What is a Methodology:

To understand why a particular jurist (e.g. Shafi’) reached a particular opinion (e.g. touching a woman nullifies ones wudu’) it is essential that we understand the methodology behind the process through which such opinions were reached. Methodology refers to those set of assumptions that guide the jurist in interpreting a particular phenomenon e.g. a verse from the Qur’an of narration from the Prophetic tradition. In fact, assumptions are part of our day-to-day thinking-process. Any proposition one makes, no matter how mundane, is always grounded in a set of underlying assumptions. And while we are quick to address certain propositions we seldom address the assumptions behind them. For example, both Shafi’ and Abu Hanifa both cite the following verse in establishing what type of contact [with women] nullified ones wudu:

“O you who have believed, …And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]…” [Surat an-Nisa; 43]

And yet, Abu Hanifa was of the opinion that if one was to merely make physical contact with a women, for example, bumping into a coworker, does not nullify wudu whereas for Shafi’ any form of contact resulted in its nullification. Why, then, would they disagree? The answer, again, lays in a difference in the two methodologies employed by these great scholars. In deducing opinions from a legal-text (an-nas) scholars had two differing principles in relation to language. For al-Shafi’, the default (al-asl/the original) meaning of any word is its literal meaning (al-asl fil-kalam al-haqiqa) whereas Abu Hanifa held that the default meaning for any word was its metaphorical meaning (al-asl fil-kalam al-majaz). Now, back to our aforementioned example regarding wudu and its nullification. Notice that the word used in the verse – in lamastum – can carry two meanings: a literal meaning i.e. physical contact and a metaphorical meaning i.e. sexual discourse.  And thus, given that Abu Hanifa’s methodology contains the assumption that words are to be understood metaphorically, the term lamastum refers to sexual intercourse whereas Shafi’ would – given his distinct methodological assumptions – conclude that lamastum refers to any form of physical contact. In other words, these differing assumptions explain the differences in fiqh – and that is why scholars refer to them as Usul al-Fiqh, the basis upon which fiqh is built.

Why Knowing Methodologies Matters:

Why is this important? It is important because it illustrates the fundamental role which a methodology – or lack thereof – can have on one thinking process. It also demands that we shift our attention from the particular instances of ikhtilaaf (differing) to the underlying methodologies and their assumptions. Having said that, let us take this point – regarding the need of having methodological assumptions – to another level. The fundamental basis, the ultimate reference point of any methodology is a worldview. That is to say, a series of assumptions about man, God and the universe. Returning to Shafi’ and Abu Hanifa, their assumptions about language and shari’ rulings is grounded on three other assumptions; (1) there is a Creator who is all-knowing i.e. a metaphysical assumption (2) the Creator revealed the Qur’an and the Qur’an is the word of God i.e. an epistemological assumption and (3) the validity or invalidity of an action is judged by that Qur’an i.e. an axiological assumption. These metaphysical assumptions are what scholars rightly and accurately referred to as Usul ad-Din; the ideas upon which the totality of the din is established.

Methodology and the Debates on Democracy:

This brings us to a final but critical point. The importance of knowing a methodology in order to understand the opinions it produces applies to not only Islamic methodologies – such as ijtihad – but also non-Islamic methodologies. Let us take the idea of a Parliamentary Democracy as an example. Contrary to popular opinion, the idea of Parliament and Democracy are not neutral ideas that emerged out of some-sort of ideological vacuum. For example, when John Locke made his case for Parliamentary Democracy, he did so based on certain assumptions: (1) man lacked direct access to the will of the Creator (2) however the Creator expressed his divine will through nature and thus (3) man must employ his rational faculties to derive public law from those laws of nature and lastly (4) man possessed the objective and rational mental faculties needed to ascertain certain and objective laws. Simply put, if man is a rational being, an assembly of men amounts to an assembly of rational beings who in turn can produce objective laws that are in accord with a certain standard of truth (e.g. the laws of nature).

This brings to fore the problem in trying to absorb ideas such as Democracy into Islam. In trying to establish an argument for the compatibility of Islam and Democracy, scholars selectively draw on a series of evidences without dealing with the more fundamental assumptions. To ask whether or not we should vote presumes an awareness of the assumptions behind the proposition that “voting is a civic duty” and the proposition that Democracy and Islam are compatible presumes an awareness that not only is Democracy based on a set of assumptions emanating from a non-Islamic worldview but also that such assumptions are true. In short, the point I am trying to make here is quite simple; Muslims must adopt critical and enlightened modes of inquiry in order to properly address some of the pressing issues facing the Muslim world.=

IDOLS IN GOLD

If the reformist is to have his way, we need not carry those heavy and burdensome hammers. To reform, all we must do is paint the idol with gold. 

If the reformist is to have his way, we need not worry about tearing down the walls of our mind. To reform, all we must do is adorn those walls with paintings. 

Do not worry about those chains on your wrists, there is nothing a good polishing cannot solve. If you ignore them long enough, they aren’t as heavy as you may think. 

If there are two idols, do not panic, just choose the lesser of those two evils. Reform dictates no more. 

If the idol you choose has a strange and foreign name, do not get caught up in semantics. Simply give it a native name. 

In an age of idolatry, reform is the most counter-productive idea to liberation. 

Beyond Market Islam

There was once a time in which;

To seek knowledge, one had to undergo arduous journeys only to find, upon reaching their destination, that the journey was in itself a necessary requisite to acquire such knowledge. The blazing sun of the deserts they traversed, humbled men, usurping the idols of an ego sublimated by false-knowledge.

To speak, one had to be fully present. To speak required that one speak with his character and actions before enunciating words of wisdom. To be defiant, one had to overcome the fear of death and invest all which they possessed into those words they would come to utter in the face of the tyrant.

To do justice, one was required to seek out the poor, the impoverished and the oppressed and to sit at their feet. It required that the just man garner the strength needed to look those whom he had forsaken in the eyes. To be just, one could not afford the pleasures of blindness.

Anger was meaningless if it was not followed by action. And compassion was never sufficient. Tears, we were taught, could not put out the fires set upon us by Rome. No petition was sent to the monarchs of Persia, we sent the likes of Rabi’ bin ‘Amr and with him men who understood the meaning of manhood.

The Muslim was gentle, avoiding virulent debates. The Muslim was gentle but his enemies paid heed to the advice of a wise man who once warned that all must fear the anger of a gentle man.

Market Islam knows no such things.

It is an age of instant spiritual gratification. It is an age in which chains are painted gold and the noose is now in fashion.

To be, one must be-like the god of the Market, to re-create oneself in its image.  To live, one must live-for the god of the Market. To be powerful, one had to appease those in the ivory towers and beg for their recognition by appearing on Playboy magazine and walk down a fashion runway.

All but the god of the Market become commodities, including “Islam”. An “Islam” which should dare not anger the gods in the ivory towers lest they be banished from the “civilized world” only to become extremists, radicals and terrorists. There is no diversity, all man and all religions must be recreated in the image of those gods. To submit, one may submit to multiple gods under the guise of plurality, intercivilizational dialogue and tolerance. You are free to speak but only if you are careful not to question the modern orthodoxy of the new gods.

The Prophets of God are replaced by the Prophets of Hollywood and the Enlightenment. The Shari’ah is replaced by Locke’s “laws of nature” and the all-powerful hands of God are, mistakenly, replaced by the “invisible hand” of the Market. Progress meant not equity but the hoarding of wealth, structural adjustment programs and the blessings of a rogue empire. It is a religion with a new eschatology. It announces the “end of history” – the triumph of liberal-capitalism – and with it one must forgo our dreams of a new world.

The white patched robes of the scholars – the inheritors of those forgotten Prophets – were replaced with the Armani suits of men in Wall Street and “experts on Islam” in Washington. A self-proclaimed Secular President becomes the new “Caliph”

A civilization of death brings with it a new religion and proclaim that they are gods. It introduces us to this new religion through its missionary armies and above them, a sky now claimed by those gods, with their B-52 bombers and watchful drones. But, we are told there is no clash of civilizations.

But like the many gods before it, it will be buried under the rubble of its own ivory towers. And history, once more, will tell us tales of those foolish men who claimed Lordship.

 وَلِلَّـهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ۚ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ 

@asharfouch

An Open Letter on Priorities

Respected brother, in an attempt to shy away from the Youtube and/or Facebook video debacle, I will restrict myself to writing a simple letter. I am not interested in entering or accepting a debate, nor am I interested in causing any online drama. I am sincerely and simply interested in relaying a naseehah from myself, your poor brother in Islam to you: our esteemed da’i, Imran bin Mansur.

As I mentioned once, I live not very far from Syria. On a daily basis, I encounter Syrian refugees – young children and widowed women who are left begging on the streets. Approximately an hour away from where I sit as I write this, a revolution is taking place, one which is likely to determine the fate of our Ummah in the coming years. As I’m sure you know, the “debates” and discussions currently ensuing in the Muslim world revolve around existential topics like:

  • What would an Islamic post-Assad Syria look like?
  • How can Muslims confront the exploitative and savage onslaught of neoliberalism?
  • How are we to deal with American, Russian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Qatari, Kuwaiti, Saudi, Lebanese and French intervention in Syria?
  • How can we seize Damascus and topple the draconian regime of Bashar al-Assad?
  • How can we stop the Syrian Arab Army from dropping barrel bombs on Syrian cities?
  • How can we get food into seized cities where children have become walking skeletons?
  • How do we prevent sectarian militias in Iraq from destroying more of our Masajid and incarcerating our scholars?

I ask myself these questions, not because I happen to live near Syria. I ask these questions because I am a Muslim who knows his priorities. The scholars referred to this as fiqh al-awlawiyat (the fiqh of priorities). Imam Ibn al-Qayyim rahimuhullah in answering “what is the best act of worship” explains:

“…They say that the best worship is to do what will please the Lord at every time in accordance with what that particular time calls for.

So, the best acts of worship during the time of Jihad is Jihad, even if this leads to abandoning certain rituals such as night prayer, fasting, etc. In fact, this applies even if you are to not pray a complete obligatory prayer as you would in times of safety and calm.

And the best thing to do when you have a guest, for example, is to see to his rights as a guest and to preoccupy yourself with that instead of the recommended rituals you would usually engage in at the time.

Such is also the case in fulfilling the rights of your wife and family.

The best thing to do during the early morning hours is to be preoccupied with prayer, Qur’an, supplication, remembrance of Allah, and asking His Forgiveness.

The best thing to do when teaching a student or ignorant person is to completely turn your attention towards teaching him.

The best thing to do during the call to prayer is to leave whatever rituals you are engaged in and to occupy yourself with repeating after the one making the call.

The best thing to do during the five prayers is to try your best in carrying them out in the best possible manner and to rush to perform them right away, and to go out to the mosque – even if it is far – is better.

The best thing to do when someone needs help physically or financially is to busy yourself with helping that person, relieving his distress, and to place this as a priority over your private worship that you’d usually be engaged in.”

Now, I ask you; what is the best act of worship to engage in during these tumultuous times? In your recent series, followed by the debacle with your contenders, you have invested an enormous amount of energy to prove that celebrating the Mawlid is bid’ah. While in other parts of the world, Muslims are becoming infatuated with a far more grave bid’ah; servitude to fetishized modes-of-governance which vest Sovereignty to man besides Allah. In other words, what is at stake is la īlaha īla Allah. Is the strongest knot of Islam not; rejecting the taghūt and affirming the Sovereignty of Allah?“…So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it…”. And is al-kufr bit-taghūt not the grandest of Sunnan – the Sunnah of all the anbīya? “…And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, [saying], “Worship Allah and avoid Taghut…” If you were to come across a group of Muslims making their way to a market-place of idols, surely, you would not run behind them and exclaim: do not celebrate the Mawlid! You would recognize the priority of the moment.

During such times, we must ask ourselves what is the Sunnah of the Prophet (Salallahu ‘Alaayhee wa-Salam) in bringing about change, alleviating the conditions of the Ummah, engaging with hegemonic regional and world powers, confronting the economic crisis in the Muslim world, and so forth. Have you forgotten that Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah rahimuhullah, the iconoclastic pioneer against “innovation” put his differences with the “innovators” aside during the invasion of Baghdad and fought alongside those “innovators” after having recognized that Tawhid was at stake?

Wa as-Salamun ‘ala man ataba ‘ al-Huda

Your Brother,

Ali Harfouch

An Exposition of the Neo-Maqasidi School

The human intellect is limited in its explanatory powers. Its limits of inquiry are defined by those inherent cognitive limitations and as such the human intellect cannot explain that which is more complex than itself. These limitations manifest themselves in the limitations of language. If an individual X were to communicate a mental picture to individual Y vis-à-vis language – Individual Y cannot definitively ascertain that mental picture without retort to the linguistic expression [the words and sentences enunciated] of person X. Furthermore, person Y cannot explicate the intentionality of person X unless it is stated in the linguistic expression (that is to assume that person X is telling the truth). By extension, the same problematic exists in the communication between the Absolute-Creator and the Relative-Created vis-à-vis revelation through language. Man, as a result of his cognitive limitations, cannot ascertain the intentionality of the Absolute unless the Absolute manifests, through language, the Absolute’s intention. This applies both to the divine message as a whole (e.g. the entire corpus) of the Shari’ as well as the individual ahkaam (legal-rulings). Therefore, it is fallacious to state that the ‘illah (raison d’être or effective cause) of the Shari’ (in its totality) of a body of akhaam is such-and-such unless that ‘illah is manifest in the text.  In other words, we cannot project our own epistemic limitations onto the Divine-Absolute.

Furthermore, these objectives (e.g. rahma, ‘adl and so forth) do not exist as abstract ideals (or Platonic forms) existing independently of the Shari’. To state such would mean that these ideals served as the independent basis upon which the Absolute was bound. This, in and of itself, is another epistemic fallacy. Thus, these objectives are the concrete result of implementing the Shari’. This becomes all the more clear when one considers the fact that these objectives are not universal in the sense that all men, regardless of their ideology, agree on their content and mediums-for-implementation. For example, the concept of ‘adl (or “justice) for adherents to a Liberal ideology differs from the concept of ‘adl for adherents to a Socialist ideology. In fact, what a Liberal might consider “just” – a socialist will regard as fundamentally unjust. That being said, objectives or “principles” (mabadi’) cannot exist independently of different and distinct conceptual and legal-frameworks. Islamic legal theory, unlike Western legal theory, never differentiated between the “moral” and the “legal” (substantive) – for to be moral one must adhere to the law. The distinction between the “moral” and the “legal” is the product of a distinct Secular episteme which was premised on the “moral” emanated from a basis (irrationality) different than that of “positive law” (reason). The Modern reformist’s notion of “the principles of Shari’āh” is based on this Eurocentric distinction – a distinction which is untenable in Islamic legal theory.

طلب النصرة…بين الوضعية التاريخية والشريعة الإسلامية

بدايةً فإن موضوع طلب النصرة، وهو الوصول إلى الحكم عن طريق أهل القوة والمنعة، لا يجب أن تتم مناقشته على أساس اعتباره الاستراتيجية ما يسمى بالمصلحة السياسية ؟ وإنما يجب أن يكون الموضوع هل هذا الحكم الشرعي ملزم أم لا؟ فإنه كثيراً ما يبني “إسلاميون” طريقتهم التي يسلكونها ويبررونها بمرجعية إسلامية، على أساس أنها
الاستراتيجية المثلى والوسيلة المتاحة سياسياً