Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I just read the account of the battle of Badr in Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him. He records the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, telling ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Muayt that Hell will take care of his children before his execution. Also, below is a hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud. Ibrahim said, “Al-Dahhak ibn Qays intended to appoint Masruq as governor. Thereupon Umarah ibn Uqbah said to him: Are you appointing a man from the remnants of the murderers of Uthman? Masruq said to him, ‘Ibn Mas‘ud narrated to us, and he was trustworthy in respect of traditions, that when the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, intended to kill your father, he said: Who will look after my children?’ He replied: ‘Fire. I also like for you what the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, liked for you.’”
What is the authenticity of these two reports? Why would the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, utter such harsh words? And how can we reconcile them with his character, blessings and peace be upon him, as a mercy to the worlds? Need help.
Your brother in faith.
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
Thank you for your question.
The event of Uqbah bin Mu’ayt’s execution is one of many incidents that those seeking to undermine Islam and skew the perfect character of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, choose to focus upon. When read objectively, these narrations do not present any issues, nor contradict the noble rank of the Prophet or his being a mercy to the worlds, blessings and peace be upon him.
Uqbah bin Mu’ayt was one of the fiercest and vilest antagonists of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and the Muslims. Despite being a neighbor to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, his acts of hatred towards the Prophet include; insults, mockery, throwing the entrails, blood, and waste of a camel on the Prophet as he prayed at the Kaba. Stepping on the Prophet’s neck while he was in prostration, spitting in the Prophet’s face, attempted murder of the Prophet by strangulation, blessings and peace be upon him, rejoicing at the death of the Prophet’s son Abdullah, and much more.
As you rightly said, the death of Uqbah is mentioned in the books of Prophetic biography, such as Ibn Ishaq. After the Muslims won at Badr, the enemy soldiers were taken captive. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, ordered that two of these captives were to be executed; Uqbah being one of them. This is absolutely understandable given his vitriol towards the Muslims and the suffering he had caused.
When about to be put to death, ‘Uqbah said, “Who will look after my children?” to which the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, answered, “The Fire.” Then he was executed. (Sunan Abu Dawud. The hadith has a sound chain of transmission.)
The scholars have commentated on what the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had meant by his answer “The Fire,” and it suffices us to quote what they have said as an explanation:
There are two opinions to his answer ‘The Fire,’ blessings and peace be upon him. The first is that the Fire will be their [‘Uqbah’s children’s] destruction, meaning if the Fire is to apply to them then so will it be [i.e if they die as disbelievers, then that will also be their fate].
The second possibility is that he, blessings and peace be upon him, was using a specific style of speech [uslub al hakim – in Arabic rhetoric, when one addresses a person with words that are not anticipated by the addressee, and which goes against the outward understanding of the word, in order to make it known that the import of the words are directed specifically to the person addressed], so the meaning is, ‘For you is the Fire,’ i.e. ‘Concern yourself with yourself and what is destined for you in the Fire, and leave the affairs of your children alone, for Allah is their Provider … and this [second opinion] is the correct opinion.
(Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih)
Perhaps the Prophet’s words “The Fire,” blessings and peace be upon him, were meant as additional castigation and punishment [of ‘Uqbah], not that he, blessings and peace be upon him, was stating that his [‘Uqbah’s] children will be in the Fire, for Walid and Umarah became Muslims on the Conquest of Mecca, and Allah is pleased with all the Companions. (Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud li Ibn Raslan)
In regards this event, we should note the following:
2. At least one of his sons, Yazid was legally an adult and a disbeliever at the time, who assisted the Quraysh at the Battle of Badr. Both he and his brother Umarah later became Muslims.
3. ‘Uqbah had done everything in his power to hurt and destroy the Muslims, who up until Badr, had not fought with the Quraysh at all. ‘Uqbah was well aware of what the loss at Badr would mean for him. Additionally, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, had previously warned him that he would execute him one day for his oppression and aggression, but since ‘Uqbah was in a position of power, he mocked the warning.
The response of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, to ‘Uqbah’s plea was deserved and just. If the response seems harsh to some, then it is important to know that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, never took personal revenge or acted out of spitefulness for the sake of his own person and grievances.
The person of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is an intrinsic part of the the religion, and abuse and attack on his person is abuse of Allah, the religion of Islam, and the Muslims in general. And it is for their relentless and vehement crimes against Allah, his religion, and the Muslims, that certain figures such as ‘Uqbah were put to death and given harsh treatment. This is the context in which the answer of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is correctly understood.
This is made clear by the fact that Allah revealed a verse mentioning the death of ‘Uqbah, “On the day when the wrong-doer gnaws his hands, he will say: ‘Ah, would that I had chosen a way together with the messenger!’” (Sura al-Furqan 25:27)
If critics take exception at the Prophet’s words, blessings and peace be upon him, and use it as a proof of a lack of his mercy and an example of a barbaric “medieval” nature (particularly compared to the false “meek-as-a-lamb” image put forward in regards the personality of Christ) they need only to look at the New Testament to find similar “harsh” expressions reportedly expressed by Christ, such as when he addresses the scribes and Pharisees and their evil designs against him and his followers: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Mathew 23:33) In other words, Hellfire has now become your fate.
Given what we have mentioned above, it’s important to now put the death of ‘Uqbah in perspective. Out of seventy something captives taken at Badr, only two were executed: ‘Uqbah being one of them. And this was due to their unrelenting persecution of the Muslims.
As for the remaining prisoners of war, we will allow the words of William Muir, who we should note was a Christian evangelic orientalist, and held very biased and unfair criticisms of Islam, to describe for us the treatment of the remaining captives from the Battle of Badr, so we may draw our own conclusions as to the mercy and character of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him:
In pursuance of Mahomet’s commands, the citizens of Medina, and such of the refugees as possessed houses, received the prisoners, and treated them with much consideration. ‘Blessings be on the men of Medina!’ said one of these prisoners in later days; ‘they made us ride, while they themselves walked: they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates. (The Life of Mahomet)
From the above, it is clear that these is not the cold-hearted acts of a callous leader, nor the principles of a barbaric religion, as some would have people believe to be the case.
For mercy to be attributed to a person, it does not mean that the person is obliged to always turn the other cheek or pardon, nor to refrain from exacting just punishment. This is a false notion. In the same way, God’s punishing those who deserve punishment does not inhibit His being attributed by Mercy or being deserving of the Names Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim: the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate.
In worldly affairs, particularly affairs of the state, every situation must be assessed on merit, and sometimes it is necessary to exact the law or bring people to justice. To not do so in situations which demand it can be considered a weakness and dangerous.
It is well known that in war, there are times when certain individuals must be put to death. For not only are they deserving of such a fate for their heinous crimes, but it also serves the purpose of putting a final end to the threat they pose (and thereby bringing justice and peace), sending a clear warning to enemies that such aggression will not be tolerated, as well as showing a sign of strength.
We see a similar incident concerning Salahuddin al-Ayyubi and Reginald (Reynald) of Chatillon when the former regained Jerusalem from the crusaders. Salahuddin had captured King Guy of Jerusalem and Reginald, and chose to spare the life of the King, yet did not extend the pardon to Reginald, who was a particularly lawless crusader who had robbed, killed, and enslaved Muslim civilians, as well attempting to dig up and kidnap the body of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him!
Reginald was executed shortly after being captured by Salahuddin. Yet despite this, Salahuddin remains a revered figure who was and still is acknowledged and praised a great deal in the West for his chivalry, generosity, and mercy. Salahuddin’s decision to execute Reginald is generally accepted as an expected and normal decision of a military leader in that situation.
You mentioned the hadith that, “Al-Dahhak ibn Qays intended to appoint Masruq as governor. Thereupon Umarah ibn Uqbah said to him, ‘Are you appointing a man from the remnants of the murderers of Uthman?’ Masruq said to him: ‘Ibn Mas‘ud narrated to us, and he was trustworthy in respect of traditions, that when the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, intended to kill your father, he said, “Who will look after my children?” He replied, “The Fire.” I also like for you what the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, liked for you.’” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
This hadith has a fair chain of transmission. What is apparent from the narration is that the words of Masruq: “I also like for you what the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, liked for you,” was a bitter retaliation to Umarah opposing his appointment as governor and connecting his name with assassination of Sayyidna Uthman. It is not to be understood as something the Prophet actually meant, as discussed above. And Allah knows best.
I hope this clarifies the matter.
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
Stewardship a necessary part of living in this world. We are actually commanded to work towards justice to everything around us, and we have been given the moral ability to do so.
Allah commands us in the Qur’an:
Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded. (16:90)
Justice entails giving everything its due, whether it be other humans, plants, and animals. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, would give names to his tools and household objects, signifying that he had a relationship with them.
Muslims have an overarching commitment to environmental protection, and are called to have a good balance with everything in our daily lives. This includes doing things like avoiding waste, knowing that small amounts of waste and extravagance are disliked, while gross waste is sinful.
It also involves having a commitment to do well in work, studies, and family and social life, but not be excessively attached to them. This balance involves being in a position where we seek the good for ourselves, while still seeking good for others. We do this while being mindful of Allah, and doing everything with the intention of reaching Him.
What is the place of green and environmental stewardship in Islam? How does the Qur’an view concern for the environment? What is your responsibility towards the environment? Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin and Shaykh Ali Hani answer these are other critical questions by citing several prophetic traditions emphasising environmental consciousness and awareness.
Answered by Shaykh Mohammed Tayssir Safi
Question: Assalamu alaykum
How can Allah be All-Forgiving and All-Just at the same time?
An example will be of a Man who rapes a women and later becomes truly religious. And does not repeat any of his sins.
Answer: Assalamu alaykum
Allah, Exalted is He, is indeed الغفور, the Forgiving, and العدل, the Just. As Allah says in His Generous and Exquisite Book, “The Most Excellent Names belong to God: use them to call on Him,” [Koran 7:180]. The answer to your question lies in understanding certain elements pertaining to Allah’s names and attributes as well as understanding what Allah has told us concerning how we will be judged and held accountable in the next life.
As for Allah being, the Forgiving, that does not mean He forgives all things completely without condition. This is clear and evident in revelation. For example, Allah tells us about the fate of Abu Lahab and his wife, “he will burn in the Flaming Fire–– and so will his wife, the firewood-carrier,” [Koran 111:3-4]. Had Allah intended for us to understand from revelation that He will in actuality forgive everything without condition then these verses would contradict that meaning. But there is no contradiction for Allah’s forgiveness is based upon His Will. He forgives whomever He Wills. He forgives things we are aware of and things we are not. He is indeed the Forgiving.
As for judgement and being held accountable, Allah has informed us through reports from our beloved and noble Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that His forgiveness for those who repent does not remove the obligation to right the wrongs committed against others. In other words, while Allah does indeed forgive those who repent He has informed us that those who harm others must first right the wrong they have committed until the one harmed has forgiven them before they can be forgiven for that sin before God. This is what Allah has informed us about His Forgiveness and His Justice.
Given all the above if in the theoretical scenario you posed the woman has not forgiven the man in this life then he will not be forgiven for his crime in this life. However, in the next life, should Allah Will to do so, He will give the woman compensation for the crime committed against her until she is pleased and accepts to forgive the man in question. The man will not be forgiven for the crime until the woman is compensated and agrees to what Allah has given her in compensation and is pleased with the outcome.Of course we do not know what will occur and the reality of such things is left up to Allah. We are merely attempting to answer the question based upon revelation and how the ulema have understood revelation in our tradition.
Finally, the case of our master the Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) is different. The killing of the man was a mistake and not intentional. The noble Prophet was trying to stop the aggression and in the process accidentally killed the man in question. In the Sacred Law one is not held accountable for such mistakes.
And Allah knows best,
[Shaykh] Mohammed Tayssir Safi
The tale of the first murder committed in human history and the ripples of sin that would emanate therefrom is one from which many lessons are drawn. The pride of Qabil, the elder brother, his disobedience of his father Prophet Adam, and his inability to accept God’s divine decree all came together to culminate in him committing the vile act of murdering his own brother in cold blood. Of his sin God says in the Quran,
The Prophet Muhammad further explained in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim,
Greater than that perhaps, as some scholars have pointed out, Qabil’s transgression marks mankind’s first open defiance of his Lord, and it would serve as a divide for all the descendants of Adam to come. From that day there would now be two groups in human civilisation: those who follow prophetic guidance, and those who turn away.
But just before that fateful moment when Qabil struck down Habil, the younger of the two, Habil spoke inspired words. Threatened by his brother, he is quoted by God as saying to him,
Referencing this thousands of years later, the Prophet Muhammad would say in narrations collected by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Imam Ahmad, and others that when in times of incredible tribulation, it is upon us to “be like the better of Adam’s two sons”.
Anger and outrage are natural reactions to encountering injustice. When the injustice is towards our fellow Muslims, we are understandably angered further. But sometimes we find Muslims themselves committing wrong. Be it in the sphere of our immediate family, local community, or on a global level, when injustice and oppression occur so close to home we typically feel shaken and betrayed. We cry out for justice and wish that the perpetrators get their comeuppance. Sometimes the powers that be handle the situation correctly and we are blessed with closure, but other times justice escapes us, be it through systemic failure of a trusted establishment or another reason. At times the guilty party is so close to us and so respected by us that we feel that no matter the outcome, true forgiveness can never take place.
We are all entitled to justice, however in its pursuit it is pertinent we keep two things in mind: we cannot let our pursuit of justice be an excuse for transgressing the sacred law, and true justice in God’s sight extends to beyond this world and is ultimately carried out on the Day of Judgement.
The vast majority of us can be thankful that no one is immediately threatening their life, but when we are wronged, the Prophet’s advice to “be like the better of Adam’s two sons” remains golden. For us, his words mean that we should maintain high standards in all our interactions, and that whatever situation we find ourselves in, it is upon us to remain bound by the rulings of the sacred law.
In the Quran, God advises us as to what we should do when facing injustice. He says,
More than simply being words to utter in times of tribulation, what God is outlining for us here is an understanding that Muslims should have in all their interactions. A way of thought that guides us in our daily dealings. Scholars who have commented on this verse have noted that there are two kinds of adversities which can befall us, and this verse is teaching us how to behave with both:
“Surely we belong to God” means that when God tests us with some affliction, we reaffirm our status as His slaves, surrender to Him all our affairs, and are ultimately pleased with His decree. As for when another person wrongs us, “surely we belong to God” means we turn to Him for retreat and do not seek appeasement for our anger thorough unlegislated means, for He who we belong to has ordered us so.
Indeed God specifically mentions three traits of the pious as those “who expend both in joy and tribulation, who suppress their anger, and pardon the people” [3:134]. God also gives us further direction in how to respond saying, “Good and evil are not alike: respond [to evil] with the better deed” [41:34]. We aught to be mindful of this verse and not stoop to the lows of our oppressors. We do not subscribe to the notion that two wrongs make a right and we always strive to seek the pleasure of our Lord through the means he has permitted.
A look at the examples of our Prophet, his Companions, and the pious people in Muslim history gives us further guidance in these matters. One of the greatest examples we have is in the well-known Ifk Hadith, or the hadith of the lie.
A lengthy hadith narrated by Imam al-Bukhari, the Ifk Hadith deals with an incident where the Prophet’s wife Sayyida Aisha was falsely accused of promiscuity outside of her marriage. Over a period longer than a month, false accusations were spread in Medina causing much distress to the Prophetic household and the household of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. Aisha’s innocence was eventually proclaimed by God in a revealed verse and the propagators of the lie were duly punished. What remains for us are several lessons in correctly dealing with communal problems.
Firstly, throughout the narration Aisha does not slander any of the individuals who blackened her name. She was proven innocent and justice was served, and she did not seek more than that. Indeed during the ordeal, her only words to the Prophet were, quoting the prophet Yaqub, “patience is best. I seek the aid of God alone for what you impute” [12:18]. Out of the several individuals involved, only two are mentioned by name; one who is somewhat essential to the story and the other, the main source of the lies, is only named in passing. We also find that when the Prophet stood on the pulpit in his mosque and addressed his Companions regarding the allegations, he refers to the source of the lies simply as “a man”. The anonymity of those who spread the lie was maintained to the point that even modern hadith scholars disagree as to who exactly was punished.
Furthermore, probably the most astounding thing we see is the behaviour of Abu Bakr, the father of Aisha, during the turmoil. One of the accusers was Abu Bakr’s first cousin once removed. He was a poor man, and Abu Bakr provided him with aid. While his daughter was actively being slandered, Abu Bakr continued providing for his relative fully aware of his role in the matter. Even when the accuser’s own mother cursed her son, Abu Bakr continued to financially support him. It was only when Aisha’s innocence was revealed by God that Abu Bakr swore to end his charity. However even then, upon revelation of the verse, “Let not those of means amongst you swear that they will not give to their relatives, the poor, and those who leave their homes in the service of God. They should forgive and overlook [their failings]. Would you not like God to forgive you?” [24:22], Abu Bakr resumed his aid, saying, “Yes, by God, I wish that God should forgive me”, and, “By God, I will never withhold it from him ever”.
Even in modern times, we find amazing examples of “responding with the better deed”. In parts of Yemen once under communist control, Islamic scholars were silenced with threats, abducted, and even killed, sometimes publicly. The collapse of the USSR brought with it the fall of communism in the region, and religious scholars returned to the vanguard of traditional society. Their return, however, did not usher in of a wave of bitter reprisals for abducted fathers and murdered uncles. Not one scholar used their position of influence to seek revenge on those who had ransacked their homes and evicted their families. Those previously aligned with the oppressive party found that the scholars did not expose them as wrongdoers, and instead encouraged their repentance and return to sound behaviour and faith. The pious scholars, like the pious of the Muslims before them, busied themselves with God’s words, “Indeed, God orders justice, good conduct, and giving to relatives, and forbids immorality, bad conduct, and oppression” [16:90], and their trust was with his verses, “Whosoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whosoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it” [99:7-8].
We have been blessed with a religion so complete that we can always find guidance, and a God so merciful that we are never left forsaken. Many scholars state that one of the reasons our Prophet Muhammad endured so many hardships in life was to provide us with a sound example to guide us in our own tribulations. As followers of the Prophet, we cannot let scandals and acts of oppression cause us to forget the moral standards we strive to live by. We are to remember that our God is merciful, and no injustice goes unpunished, be it in this world or in the next.
When we seek justice, we do so for all creation, but without crossing the lines defined by the religious law. We cannot take matters into our own hands in acts of anarchism. We have no rights over any other person’s property. Slander, back-biting, and vilification are all strictly prohibited by our Lord. If justice escapes us, we should remind ourselves that true justice takes place in the hereafter.
As Muslims, we are ordered to do good, but God continuously encourages and calls us to excellence. In acts of obedience and in acts of wrongdoing, we are reminded by the words of our Prophet, “God the almighty is good and accepts only that which is good”.
“Perhaps you have noticed that even in the slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways.”—Black Elk
Since the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, the Sioux of Standing Rock and other Six Nations Tribes have seen a great number of promises broken with devastating consequences. One of the most well-known battles of the Great Sioux War of 1876 between the Sioux, allied with Arapaho and Cheyenne, and the US Government was the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
The war is also know as the Black Hills War due to the central object of contention between the Sioux Tribes and the Government, namely, the Black Hills—a site sacred to the Sioux. What sparked off the war was a 1874 violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty by General George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry. They entered the Black Hills and found gold, which started a gold rush on Sioux Lands. The Standing Rock Protests of today are, in a similar way, the result of a contemporary gold rush.
The Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota (Montana, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) were discovered in 1951. But only recently, with the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, has oil production boomed since 2000. This kicked off a modern day gold rush, and marked improvements in the economy of North Dakota.
“You have to follow your heart and it will tell you what you can do to help. It’s not for me to say, we need this, we want this, or we have to have this. It’s up to you. Just being here is enough for me: to know that you are here, and that you’re supporting us.”—Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, David Archambault II, to Imam Zaid Shakir
As a result of this oil production increased and shipment of Bakken Oil from the fields to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico became necessary. The solution to this logistic problem was pipelines. The main one being the Keystone Pipeline. However, several plans for new pipelines that can accommodate the volume produced have been on the table for years. One of the more notorious of these is Keystone XL, which has also been met with a great deal of resistance. This was, however, rejected by the Obama administration in 2015.
An alternate plan, known as the Dakota Access Pipeline or the Bakken Pipeline, was made public by Dakota Access, LLC in July 2014. This plan, in turn, gave rise to the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests (NoDAPL) we see today. At the center of these protests are various Native American Tribes, most notably the Standing Rock Sioux. A protest camp was established by a tribal elder in April 2016.
Mainstream media coverage of the protests has been very limited until recently. It seems clear that the coverage is nowhere near that given to the Keystone XL protests in their time. Despite that the protests have received a great deal of international attention and support from other tribal and religious communities throughout the world. Many Muslim leaders and groups have stepped up in support of NoDAPL, among them, Imam Zaid Shakir, who visited the camp in October 2016.
Sources and further reading:
1. From a local protest to a Global Movement: What Standing Rock is about and how it grew
2. Imam Zaid Shakir visits the protest camp.
3. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe History.
4. The bigger picture: “The Bakken is the most dangerous oil field to work in the U.S. The energy producers never pay for their mistakes.”
5. Bad News For The Bakken As Obama Administration Blocks Pipeline
6. A Special Report on Standing Rock: The Environmental and Social Justice Consequences of the Dakota Access Pipeline
7. Standing Rock protests: this is only the beginning. The world has been electrified by protests against the Dakota access pipeline. Is this a new civil rights movement where environmental and human rights meet?
8. Standing Rock Sioux Pediatrician: Threat from Fracking Chemicals is “Environmental Genocide”
9. The Injustice At Standing Rock Is An American Story
10. Boom and Bust in the Bakken Oil Fields
The discovery last decade that fossil fuels could be tapped from rock deep beneath the windswept prairies of North Dakota acted like a magnet on American working people. By the thousands they came, from as far as Texas and California, fortune-seekers in a modern-day Gold Rush.
11. Muslims Defend the Sacred – Solidarity with Standing Rock
Is this how we should be known to this beleaguered and hurting world of ours? Is this the sum total of what Muslims have to offer humanity? And on top of that, not even justice for all, but only that which extends to our own kind?
We have reached this place of valuing justice above all else because we nurture this concern in ourselves and our children above the concern for moral integrity and spiritual refinement (ihsaan) and kindness, magnanimity, and empathy (rahma) in our personal behaviour and interactions with others. An international survey evaluating levels of empathy in children of various religions found Muslim children to have one of the lowest levels of empathy (which is another word for rahma) and the highest sense of justice, ie. swiftness in declaring the actions of another as “unfair” and demanding punishment of the other for perceived wrongdoing.
I visited an Islamic elementary school a short while ago, and when I asked the children what they wanted to do with their lives, those who had some sense of mission were in the minority. Amongst them, those whose mission had something to do with Islam were an even smaller minority. And amongst the latter, their sense of mission revolved around the need to defend Islam and its image.
This is what we have bequeathed to our children – this sense of concern for their rights, and a sense that the rights of all Muslims are under attack. Thus those who feel some sense of awareness among them can think only of how Islam is under constant attack and needs to be defended.
The truly oppressed is he who allows himself to believe that he is oppressed. He believes that other human beings have the ultimate control over his circumstances, have power over him and are able to give him the justice he seeks or withhold it. Such a person will be reacting to the action of injustice like a ping pong ball thrown at the wall, not having any other option but to rebound eternally, getting weaker and weaker each time until it gets crushed.
Re-action is simply the continuation of action. Thus he who reacts is never free because his actions are in reality but a perpetuation of the original action of his oppressor.
What made the Muslims of Makkah liberated, even when they were in the midst of severe oppression and persecution, was that they did not believe their human oppressors had any actual power. What made Bilal a freeman even when he was a “slave” is that he only ever acknowledged the One (Ahadun Ahad) as having any power, control or role in his life.
Our obsession with the wrongs others are committing against us as a community gets us nowhere. And takes all our energy. Just today a sister wrote to me to say that seeing all the horrible things happening in the world is disabling. This is exactly right. We allow ourselves to be disabled when we fixate on these things – they get the better of us. And then, we have no time or attention left to seek God and to make an honest evaluation of our own ihsaan (where are we in terms of moral integrity? are we more refined spiritually today than we were yesterday, or less so?). When we become fixated on what is happening in the world, we are no longer able to take on the most important battle that stands before us : that of begging our Lord to guide us toward moral integrity and spiritual refinement, living everyday in search of the opportunities He sends us for this. This is the true and inevitable battlefield – even for those who are out on a battlefield!
One who turns to face the battle for the heart, before attending to the battle for justice, will hold himself to four principles, which will produce in him four qualities.
1. cultivation of compassion and empathy (raḥma) before cultivation of anger (ghaḍab), such that the former controls the latter, establishing correct limits for it
2. cultivation of love for God’s sake (al-ḥubb fi Allah) before cultivation of aversion for God’s sake (al-bughḍ fi Allah), such that the former controls the latter, establishing correct limits for it
3. cultivation of permeability to beauty and goodness and those who uphold the like (athillatan ‘alal mu’mineen), before cultivation of impermeability towards wrongdoing and injustice (a’izzatan ‘alal kaafireen), such that the former controls the latter, establishing correct limits for it
4. cultivation of loyalty to what is pleasing to the Lord (al-walāʿ) before cultivation of the disavowal of what is displeasing to Him (al-barāʿ), such that the former controls the latter, establishing correct limits for it.
As a result of the believer holding himself to the above four principles, four qualities will arise within him, and these are the missiles of the heart, the fuel of a true Islamic Revival:
1. forgiveness for the one who wrongs him
2. generosity and a giving attitude to the one who denies him
3. a continuous reaching out and connecting to the one who disconnects from him
4. moral integrity and magnanimity towards the one who mistreats him.
With these qualities, a person treads the Earth as a shining guide (dāʿī) and not as an arrogant judge (qāḍī).
He puts aside his own expectations for people’s spiritual improvement according to what he would like for them, in order to submit to God’s Wisdom and Will with respect to the guidance of His Creation. As a result of this surrender to God’s Will, God uses this person as an instrument by which He guides whomsoever He Alone has chosen to receive His Guidance. (Thus this person is truly living and acting for God and by God.)
In contrast, one who chooses to face the battle for justice before the battle for the heart, operates by four principles that are the exact opposite of those mentioned above. These four principles are:
1. cultivation of anger (ghaḍab) before cultivation of compassion (raḥma), such that the former blocks and shuts out the latter
2. Cultivation of aversion for God’s sake (al-bughḍ fi Allah) before cultivation of love for God’s sake (al-ḥubb fi Allah), such that the former blocks and shuts out the latter
3. Cultivation of impermeability towards wrongdoing and injustice (a’izzatan ‘alal kaafireen) before cultivation of permeability to beauty and goodness and those who uphold the like (athillatan ‘alal mu’mineen), such that the former blocks and shuts out the latter
4. Cultivation of the disavowal of what is displeasing to the Lord (al-barāʿ) before cultivation of loyalty to what is pleasing to Him (al-walāʿ), such that the former blocks and shuts out the latter.
As a result of a person structuring his inner being according to the above four principles, four qualities arise within him, which are the destroyers of the Islamic revival:
1. judgement of others’ faults (tafsīq)
2. pointing out of innovations in the religion (tabdīʿ)
3. excommunication of fellow Muslims (takfīr)
4. exploding with violence and destruction (tafjīr)
Thus, he walks amongst people as an arrogant judge (qādī) and not as a shining guide (dāʿī). Satan misguides through him more people than he himself – out of his apparent concern for the Ummah’s wellbeing – sets out to guide, correct, and reform. He holds fast to his own vision of how people should improve religiously, and seeks to impose this vision on them even if it destroys them.
Because he does not submit to the Will of God, he is not used by God as an instrument of good.
#Blacklivesmatter to me not because it is politically prudent for Muslims to side with African-Americans.
They matter to me not because it’s viewed by some as the new countercultural trend that people should hop on.
They matter to me not because it is a convenient and beneficial alliance for my community.
They matter to me not because of a mere desire to be integrated into mainstream society and its indigenous people.
Why do they matter to me? Because my Lord has “ennobled all the children of Adam” (17:70) and commanded me to “stand firmly for justice.” (4:135)
They matter to me because my Prophet (God bless him) said that when his followers become “afraid to say to the oppressor that you are an oppressor, they will be abandoned by God.” [Ahmad, Musnad with a rigorously authentic chain]
They matter to me because my Prophet (God bless him) spent his entire life serving the weak, underprivileged, and those treated unjustly. His justice and mercy extended to all regardless of their religion or color. His teachings condemned racism as he stressed that virtue lay in doing good and being pious, not through possessing “white skin over black skin.” [Ahmad, Musnad with a sound chain].
They matter to me because oppression, killing, racial injustice and the systematic abuse of a people is a heinous crime in my religion. I dread the day I have to stand in front of my Lord and in front of my Prophet having witnessed police brutality against a black father, the shooting death of an innocent black teenager, the mass and oppressive incarceration of an entire black generation, the racial inequality experienced daily by the black community, and say I did nothing to fight this plague that occurred every day in front of my eyes.
We ask everyone to support such movements in keeping with the directives of God to “cooperate with one another in righteousness” (5:2) and the directive of our beloved Prophet (God bless him) who advised us to “make such alliances in order to return rights to their people, that no oppressor should have power over the oppressed.” [Musnad al-Humaydi]
We ask God to give us the strength and courage to stand up against all forms of injustice in the way our Prophet Muhammad (God bless him) did. May His blessings descend upon us and all those suffering throughout the world.
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Every night our Ramadan scholars will explore one of the three key spiritual goals of Ramadan. Each talk will conclude with a dynamic conversation as we explore mercy, forgiveness and salvation deeply and see how we can attain these divine gifts practically. These talks will enliven and inspire us as we begin our nightly ‘isha and tarawih prayers.
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Let’s #GiveLight to Millions More
We envision a world in which no one is cut off from the beauty, mercy and light of the Prophetic ﷺ example. A world where the dark ideology of a few is dwarfed by radiant example of the many who follow the way of the Prophet ﷺ. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support. This Ramadan, we need you to help us #GiveLight to millions more. Here’s how.
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