Imam Zaid Shakir expounds on the crises of despair in society, its impact on the Muslim community, and Islam as the cure for this disease.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا
Our praises due to Allah who has revealed the scripture unto his servant and has made no crookedness therein. (Sura al Kahf 18:1)
Allah Most High has blessed us to live in interesting times, as they say. One of the characteristics of our time, speaking specifically of this land that we reside in, is the despair that we see. That despair can be measured by what collectively are referred to as the diseases of despair: drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, depression.
In terms of drug addiction, just discarding other forms of drugs, every day in this country, there are 170 fatal overdoses from opioids alone – heroin, morphine, percocet, oxycontin – the whole family of opioids. One hundred and seventy.
Were it not for Narcan which revives overdose victims, maybe it would be eight hundred a day, because for every one who fatally overdoses seven or eight are revived who would otherwise fatally overdose.
The Ravages of Despair
There are 241 alcohol consumption related deaths every day in this country. Just consumption. Excluding alcohol-related deaths, most fatal fatalities from auto accidents, the majority are alcohol-related. Most killings in domestic violence are alcohol-related. Maybe not most. A large percentage. But excluding all of that, 241 who die from overconsumption of alcohol every day.
There are 123 suicides every day. Almost 4,000 suicide attempts every day, which means that there are far more, because a lot of suicide attempts aren’t reported to the authorities. Increasingly large numbers of our children who should be the most hopeful find themselves dead as a result of suicide. Diseases of despair.
You see Muslims increasingly falling into many of these categories which indicates two things. One is a ignorance of our religion, because one who has knowledge of this religion understands that this is the antidote to despair: the anti-despair medicine.
The other is weakness of faith, which means there might be knowledge of the religion, but that knowledge hasn’t penetrated to the depths of the heart, so that it affects the hearts in ways that insulate the individual from the ravages of despair.
Understanding of Religion
We should understand. Understanding is very important. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: “The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion.” We can mention a balance of the hadith because it has benefit in it.
It was related from Mu‘awiya, Allah be pleased with him, who said, “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, says: ‘The one Allah desires good for, He gives him or her a sound understanding of the religion. I dispense the Revelation, it is Allah who gives understanding.’”
So the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gives it freely to everyone but Allah causes those seeds that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, spreads out to take root in some hearts. “And there will always remain from this community of believers a party, a group, who will establish their affair on the basis of the commandment of Allah.” (Bukhari)
What the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is telling us is that understanding translates into action. The foundation of our action is establishing our affair on the commandment of Allah. People are rejecting their traditional religious teachings. As people increasingly turn to atheism and that’s part and parcel of the crisis of despair.
Atheism and Meaninglessness
There’s no coincidence that as atheism goes up suicide goes up, because atheism is telling a human being that you’re no different from this […] this minbar I’m standing on. You are no different than these walls. You’re no different than a fly. You’re no different then feces or urine. You’re just physical stuff.
If a human being comes to believe that he or she is just physical stuff, there’s no relationship to a higher power, there’s nothing to hope for beyond the demise of this physical body, why not commit suicide? Why not end it all? There’s nothing beyond this to hope for. That’s one of the reasons you see this upward trajectory.
The believers must hold on to the commandment of Allah. The believers must hold as lawful that which our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, has declared to be lawful. And the believer must maintain and hold on to what our Lord through his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, directly from Revelation, which came through the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, or through his Sunna, have declared to be unlawful.
The lawful is unambiguously clear. The unlawful is unambiguously clear. Between those two are doubtful matters. Most people don’t know their rulings. There are people who want to make that which is unambiguously clear from the mutashabihat in terms of its lawfulness, and that which is unambiguously clear in terms of its unlawfulness, amongst the doubtful matters.
Adhere to The Book and The Sunna
Well, we need to reassess this. 1,400 years of Islam and scholarship from some of the most brilliant minds to ever walk this planet couldn’t figure out how Muslims are supposed to dress? 1,400 years of scholarship with clear unambiguous evidence, scriptural evidence, couldn’t figure out who Muslims should go to bed with?
We need to reassess? No, we need to adhere to the Book of Allah and the Sunna of his Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, and die upon that and pass it on to our descendants. If we do that, we’ve done our job. If we fail to do that, there’s going to be more suicides. There’s going to be more alcoholism. There’s going to be more drug overdoses, because people will be lost.
The prophets were sent to guide people. And this Umma, the scholars of this Umma are the heirs of the prophets. And their communities are the community of believers in this world. They will establish their affair on the commandment of Allah. They will not be harmed by those who oppose them until the command of Allah.
Some scholars say [the command] is the emergence of the dajjal. Some scholars say it is the wind that will blow at the end of time and take the souls of the believers. Most scholars say it is Doomsday. They won’t be harmed.
Hold on to Your Inheritance
Our task, brothers and sisters, if you want to be safe and you want to be sound, make sure you’re in that group. Ibn Hajar al Askalani says it could be one group in one place, but most likely it is many groups. There’s some here, there’s some there. Some in America. Some in Africa. There’s some in Asia. There’s some in Europe.
This is a source of mercy, not just for us but for the world. As we said, the world, this country and the world in general, is being besieged by despair and hopelessness. We are the people of hope. Not foolish optimism, but the people of Hope.
We are the people of prophetic guidance and prophetic guidance brings clarity. We are the people of mercy. One of the reasons a lot of Muslims are so downcast and gloom-struck in our day and times is because they believe the lives of people who profit from their being no source of hope for people.
There are people that profit from that and say, “Oh, you Muslims, you have no mercy and compassion in your heart.” And Muslims start believing that. You want to know no compassion? No compassion are people who would sell nine million narcotic pills in a small town in Appalachia.
The Invention of Falsehoods
Prescribe nine million knowing this is going to addicting entire population. Where is the mercy in that? Then the people are dropping like flies from overdoses. Where is the mercy in that? Where is the mercy in fabricating enemies for the sole purpose of feeding a war machine that’s financed by 700 billion dollars of our tax money to keep the factories making bombs?
Inventing enemies in this country to keep this a machine of Islamic hate going. They’re stealth jihad. They’re taking over. Taking over what? “The Muslim Brotherhood’s taking over Congress and the Senate and our institutions.” Well, they’re doing a terrible job. there are 535 congressmen and 100 senators; 435 representatives.
There are zero Muslim senators and one Muslim congressman. Zero out of 100 and one out of 435 and that’s stealth jihad. That’s a merciless scheme to demoralize the community, to villainize and demonize the community, for the sole purpose of making money. They’re financed by tens hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s an industry.
Where is the mercy? Right now, this hurricane, the winds died down, but the rain is coming. And they have open lagoons of pig manure and pig fetuses and pig blood from these hog farms next to African-American communities. Poor people who can’t go anywhere. They’re going to flood over. Even without flooding the spraying in the air coats their houses. They can’t breathe the air. People have respiratory problems. They have to breathe that garbage.
And the North Carolina legislature banned a bill that would even declare this a harmful practice. Where’s the mercy in that? You go up and down the ledger, there’s no mercy. There’s total exploitation of people.
They won’t even give you a meal. You can fly on Ethiopian Airlines – one of the poorest countries in the world – you can fly from Addis Ababa to […]; they give you a hot meal, a hot towel to clean your hands with, for a two-hour flight. You fly from New York City to Los Angeles, five and a half hours, you’re lucky if you get a bag of pretzels.
When you got on the plane, the sky cab, the company is going to take their tips. Where is the mercy in all that? And they’ll tell you, “Muslim, you’re not merciful.” And then you believe it and get all demoralized. Stand up! Be proud to be a Muslim. Don’t hang your head. Don’t give those people the satisfaction of demoralizing you. Thieves and killers.
A lady, Beth Macy, wrote a book about this whole opioid epidemic recently [Dopesick] and the subtitle: “[…] the [drug] company that addicted America.” Purdue Pharma, responsible for tens of thousands of dead Americans and no one went to jail. Tens of thousands of dead people, millions of addicts, and to misdemeanor charges for false advertisement, because they said this stuff isn’t abusive.
Pure morphine repackaged is not abusive. So when the abuse rate was almost a hundred percent, “Oh, we’re guilty.” Misdemeanor on two of their executives. No one goes to jail. But all these little people, not selling heroin, selling marijuana on the street corner, are going to jail feeding this prison industrial complex. Where is the mercy in that?
Never Despair of Allah’s Mercy
And you, demoralized, believe your religion has no mercy. “Oh, my servants who are going to excess in terms of abusing the rights of their soul.” This is addressed of people who are idolaters. What does Allah say about the idolator? Allah doesn’t forgive that partners are joined with him, but he forgives any sin other than that to whomsoever he pleases. But if that idolator repents, then Allah says, even if you are an idolater, “do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Verily, Allah forgives all sins.” (Sura al Zamar 39:53)
Allah forgives the idolater. Allah forgave the man who killed 100 people. Allah forgives people. One man came, long story short, and mention his sin and he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that to atone. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, he started laughing and said, “Just scram. Get out of here.” Allah bless him and give him peace.
Your sin is one against you. You do a good deed and it’s immediately multiplied ten times. Seven thousand. Seventy thousand. Seven million. Allah is Rahim and Karim. How hard do you have to work to go to hell, if that’s how things are reckoned? One sin is one against you.
The Reason for Hope
Even if you conspire to sin and then you leave it, then it’s credited as a good deed. Leaving a bad deed is a good deed. You know, I’m gonna do this and that, masha Allah. I get home, get dressed, go call up someone. I’m gonna go visit and we’re gonna go out and … “astaghfir Allah, that’s totally haram.” That’s the good.
You left the bad deed, it’s a good deed. Don’t you say you’re a sinner. Leaving the bad deed is a good deed and so the cycle kicks in. How hard does one have to work to go to hell? This is the mercy of Allah Most High. Allah forgives all sins. What did you do? Just repent to Allah and Allah will forgive you.
Why do you have no hope? Why are you despairing of Allah’s mercy. If those are the odds and if this is the mercy of Allah, then it’s rightfully said, “It is only a disbelieving people that despair of Allah’s mercy.” (Sura Yusuf 12:87)
So believers, never despair of Allah’s mercy. Don’t walk around here in a state of doom and gloom. Lift up your head, smile in the face of your your fellow believer. Smile in the face of everybody: the ordinary people. Spread peace, spread greetings of peace to people. Feed people.
“Oh, Messenger of Allah, what is the best manifestation of Islam, the most virtuous manifestation of Islam?” “That you feed people and greet people, those you know and those you don’t know.” Our sister, in the Rainbow Rec Center, just feeding people for 20-something years. Every Saturday. It’s one of the best manifestations of Islam.
And greet people those you know and those you know not. You should be a greeting machine. Everyone you pass:
– Assalam alaykum, how you doing? Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaban.
– What does that mean?
– That means, Hey, you’re welcome. You’re like my family.
– Really? No one ever said that to me.
– We Muslims. That’s how we roll.
Islam Is The Beautiful Religion
Pick your head up. This is a beautiful religion. Don’t despair. It’s not a believing characteristic. It’s a characteristic, as we said, of people who have no faith. Those are the people, unfortunately, falling into drugs, falling into despair, falling into suicide, falling into alcoholism. We’re the antidote. We should be going to people.
That’s why they want to demoralize the Muslims, so we don’t believe we have anything to offer anybody. “Who wants to listen to us? They all think we‘re a bunch of terrorists.” I’ll tell you who wants to listen to you, those hundreds of people every day who are taking their Shahada, all over this country. They don’t want to see that.
We have to organize ourselves to serve them. And to serve those people who aren’t Muslim. The sister feeding the people at the Rainbow Rec in East Oakland, most of those people aren’t Muslim, but they’re human beings and they have human needs.
We should be rising up and organizing ourselves to meet their needs and don’t let them politicize our religion. They’re willing to politicize it so they can frame the discussion and frame the way that they present Islam to people. No, we have to we have to spiritualize it. It’s not a political struggle.
This Is Not a Game
We. as Muslims, we do a disservice when we frame it like that, because we’re playing into their hands. It’s a spiritual struggle. It’s a struggle between truth and falsehood. It’s a struggle between people who want to victimize and exploit and destroy people, and people who want to give them life, and to give them hope, and to give them direction.
That’s the struggle and we have to keep it at that level, because that’s our strength. Everything else will take care of itself. The politics, the economics, will take care of themselves.
But if we become wrapped up into this political struggle the parameters of which have been defined by the enemies of Islam, we’ll never get to the spiritual and the people will never get the hope, because in their mind they’re looking at Islam through a frame that we as Muslims sometimes help to reinforce.
We have to frame the issue along the lines that play into our strengths. When you have one congressman and zero senators, politics is not our strength. I hope you understand that. You can hoop and holler all you want. But when those are the odds, I’m not saying there’s no politics in Islam, I’m saying that our struggle is a grassroots struggle.
Our struggle as a struggle to save people. Our struggle as a struggle to give people hope. Our struggle is a struggle to inspire people. Our struggle is a struggle to put people back in touch with their humanity. And when that happens to tens and hundreds of thousands of people, to millions of people, everything else will take care of itself. May Allah give us tawfiq.
We Are a Joyous People
Let me leave you with this verse, brothers and sisters. Allah Most High mentions in the Qur’an:
قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ
Say, [O Muhammad]: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy let them rejoice. It is better than anything they can gather [from this world.] (Sura Yunus 10:58)
We should be a joyous people. All this stuff has happened out there. Islamophobia and all this other stuff is happening. Depression, suicide, we went through the whole gamut and the first khutba. We still should be a joyous people, because we have faith in our heart, because we have belief in the Hereafter, because we know no matter how bad things get in this world, if we patiently persevere, if we struggle and we forge on, then we’re opening the gates for unimaginable bliss for the rest of eternity.
Eternal bliss. When we understand what eternity means, and we understand that everyone’s life in this world will end, young or old, rich or poor, black or white.
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Sura Aal Imran 3:185)
Life Begins in The Hereafter
Everyone is going to die. Everybody’s going to die and so our life really begins when we die – in the big scheme of things, in the greater scheme of things – and once we die the gate is opened to eternity. This world is finite. Paradise and Hell are eternal.
dwelling therein forever
خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا
dwelling therein forever and ever
Either Hellfire. Not forever and ever for believers, but who wants to experience a second of that? Or Janna [The Garden]. That’s what it’s all about. And Allah Most High, in giving us faith, has blessed us and placed us on a path to Janna.
We have to nurture our faith, and cultivate our faith, and rejoice in our faith. “Let them rejoice in this. I is better than anything anyone could gather from the world.” What does it mean that someone gets all the cars? They have the whole collection. They have the 1965 Mustang all the way up to their 2018 Tesla. They have them and everything in between. They got the Rolls Royce, they got the Lamborghini, you name it. They even got the Bugatti.
They got the whole lineup. They have the whole residential lineup. They have the condo at Lake Merritt. They have their chateau in the Rocky Mountains, in Aspen. They have their home in the Hamptons that they never get to. They have the whole line up from the condo to the chateau to the the house in the Hamptons. Check everything on the list. They got it.
Wardrobe. They have it all. From the alligator shoes to whatever you’re supposed, if you have money. They got it. In the house in the Hamptons they have horses they never ride. Because they never get over there. But they got the horses, too. They got the house and they got the horse.
Faith Is Proof of Allah’s Love
What does it mean if they don’t have faith? What does it mean that as soon as they get the house with the horses and they’ve checked the final check the final box on the list, they die? People are deceived into thinking all this means something.
“If this world meant to Allah as much as a gnat’s wing,” do you know how small a gnat is? If it meant a gnat’s wing “He wouldn’t have given an arrogant rejecter a single drop of water to drink.” (Tirmidhi) Allah gives it freely to whomsoever He pleases.
He gives it to the Muslim. He gives it to the person who’s not a Muslim. He gives it to the rich. He gives it to the black. He gives it to the white. He gives it to those who come who inherit it and those who get it because they can throw a ball in a basket. He gives it freely to whomever He pleases.
But He only gives faith to those He loves. That’s why the believer rejoices. May Allah give us faith that leads us to rejoice no matter what is happening in the world, because we can look beyond the world. We can look at something that transcends the world. We can look at something more valuable than the world and everything in it.