cambridge khutbas etc.: Religious Freedom & the Sunna

In this talk, the sheikh discusses the role in the modern world of following the sunna (‘example’, ‘practice’) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He begins by analysing the fragmentation of the modern world, in which different aspects of human existence and even of an individual are disconnected from each other. As humanity learns more and more about the material details of our existence, there seems to be a correlating reduction in our real understanding of the overall meaning of creation and our place in it. Yet how can we find an antidote to this in the practice of the Prophetic sunna, which, superficially at least, is concerned with the very fine details of our day-to-day life? The sheikh explains the importance firstly of the fact that it is a source of harmony by allowing us to integrate our outward and inward states and conform both to the fundamental reality of our existence. Secondly, the sunna is a shelter and liberation from the imprisonment with which our uncultivated egos (nafs) and desires (hawa’) threaten us. To the modern eye, trained to judge only by the criterion of personal freedom, limiting oneself to a prescribed type of behaviour seems a surefire route to misery and repression. Yet what real freedom is there in living according to the unrelenting demands of the nafs, which will always push for more and more because any apparent happiness it finds in transitory acts is just as fleeting? Unfortunately, for many of us religion has become just another way of acting out the hyperactive impulses of our unquiet souls. But, the sheikh reminds us, its real function is just the opposite – a route to inner contentment (sakina) and thereby freedom.

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)