The Humble I

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

When Will Our Lands Return to Us?

PalestineA young man enters a gathering in which an elderly scholar is addressing an audience. Clearly agitated, the young man struggles to wait for a pause in the scholar’s speech in order to interject. Finding his moment, the man gets up to say his piece. Voice raised and angry, he asks (or rather he shouts): Mata ta‘udu ilayna afghanistan? – ‘When will Afghanistan be returned to us?’ Mata ta‘udu ilayna al-‘iraq? – ‘When will Iraq return to us?’ Mata ta‘udu ilayna falastin? – ‘When will Palestine be returned to us?’ Mata, mata, mata!? – ‘When, when, WHEN!?’

The shaykh takes a deep breath and lets out a gentle sigh of pain, as his head bows to the hurt. He takes a moment to gather his thoughts, lifts his head to respond … But by then, the youth has already stormed out of the assembly.

Somewhat dismayed, the scholar turns to the audience and says in a subdued tone: Mata ta‘udu ilayna baladuna? Idha ‘udtum ila’Llah ‘adat ilaykum baladukum: ‘When will our land return to us? When you return to God, your land will return to you.’

The idea that the political fortunes of Muslims are tied to their collective worship and obedience of God may be anathema to secularised Muslims; it may even have become a tired cliché in royalist circles; but it is a true notion – and one that has a firm basis in the revealed texts.

Indeed, such a true Islamic political concept is rooted in the words of the Qur’an: God has given an example of a town which was once secure and peaceful, its provisions coming to it abundantly from every quarter. Yet it was ungrateful for God’s favours, so God made them taste hunger and fear because of what they did. [16:112]

So their state of safety and economic prosperity is replaced by their opposites – fear and hunger – only when they denied God’s blessings and became ungrateful for them. The Qur’an says elsewhere: When your Lord proclaimed: ‘If you are grateful, I will grant you increase; but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is indeed severe.’ [14:7] Scholars say that ingratitude, here means disobedience and gratitude obedience. Now the received wisdom in this regard states: al-ni‘matu saydun wa’l-shukru qaydun – ‘Blessings are like hunted game, and gratitude is what secures [them].’

The same political conviction can also be heard in the Prophet’s words, peace be upon him: ‘When you deal in ‘inah transactions, hold on to the tails of cows, satisfy yourself with farming and give up striving [in God’s path], God will cover you with humiliation and will not lift it from you, until you return to your religion.’ [Abu Dawud, no.3462]

So this is clear as day. Humiliation will not be lifted from the ummah, nor honour and dignity restored to it, hatta tarji‘u ila dinikum – ‘until you return to your religion.’ If humiliation still plagues us; if Muslims are still mere pawns in someone else’s grand game – then yes, we may incriminate shabby political leadership, blame the economic policies being followed, point fingers at this thing or that thing; but bottom line, the problem stems from a serious flaw in religious observance: hatta tarji‘u ila dinikum. If, as a few people avow, we have returned to our religion, in the way God ordained, then why is humiliation still haunting us? (And yet there is still much to be grateful for, and much more to look forward too.)

There can be no doubt that the affairs of believing communities, in terms of receiving divine blessings, is tied to how much their lives reflect loving obedience to God. Being able to live a goodly life (hayyatun tayyibah, the Qur’an calls it) is linked to the quality of faith and the doing of righteous deeds: Whoever does good deeds, male or female, and has faith, We shall cause him to live a good life and give them their reward according to the best of what they used to do. [16:97]

To conclude: there can be no doubt that the political fortunes of Muslims are tied inextricably to the degree of their worship of God and submission to His will. Mata ta‘udu ilayna baladuna? – ‘When will our land return to us?’ Whatever other political convictions or opinions we feel to factor in, at the forefront must come the Islamic response: Idha ‘udna ila’Llah a‘ada’Llahu ilayna ma suliba minna – ‘When we return to God, God will return back to us what was taken from us.’

And that’s a mata of fact!

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16 thoughts on “When Will Our Lands Return to Us?

  1. Abdullah Saleem on said:

    Jazakallah khayr, Shaykh! A powerful reminder that is needed, most urgently, in these times when our lands are beset with war, famine and a host of other disasters!

  2. JazzakAllahu khairan Ustadhuna AlFadhil, A great reminder full of hope mashaAllah..

    These past weeks have been very intense and anxious for Eritreans at home and in the Diaspora. As news messages came in and tweets were flooding in through my handset about my beloved home these were my sentiments towards the political violence in times of great turmoil not just wrt to Eritrea but all around the world.

    **Eritrea.. They talk about An “Eritrean Spring” .. However, I fear for you from the whims and aspirations of leaders and parties, that will not put you & My people at the top of their list…

    I fear for you, from the youth that will not use their intellect, wisdom and vision in planning ahead. A youth that lives “a hollywood dream”; believes in a “man made democracy” and misunderstands “Freedom of expression & speech”… A youth from the video games era, who press their controls from the comfort of their sofas and believe they can make a change.

    A youth that lacks respect and care towards the values for which my beloved father and many like him have sacrificed so much for- ultimately paying the ultimate price.

    Men who fought and struggled for an Eritrea where no child cries because he was hungry.. or no parent feels impotent and humiliated because they couldn’t provide for their family, where the weak and elderly are taken care of, and where compassion, tolerance and reciprocity kept our society together making our diversity cause of unity rather than division.

    Change is good and Change is needed instantly. By no means, I accept the rule of a dictator, yet real change occurs from the bottom-up. THE Real change WILL happen because of you and I truly care for a “Better Eritrea” and not endeavor to fulfill our selfish desires. Wa billahi tawfiq**

  3. Adil Cole on said:

    As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

    I would like to add that returning to the religion includes, wa Allahu ‘Alim, returning to unity. Dissolving our minds from the grips of fanatic nationalism and returning to the (political) unity of our din. This means unifying under a grand leader and bringing together our lands. For even when a portion of the lands of the Muslims were joined under one ruler, then success was more likely.

    • Indeed, under one “grand leader”, success, security and well-being for the global ummah is more likely. Textual sources and historical experience both point to this. But please do read Zahid Sheikh’s comment below, which reminds us that such comprehensive unity is from the great blessings of Allah, which have been withdrawn from us and can only be returned to us with obedience to Him.

  4. Allaahu Akbar! This post was a breath of fresh air. No matter how unpopular this fact may be within the Ummah, it does not make it any less true. Allaahu A’lam!

  5. Raza Khan on said:

    I think the ayah you have used is out of context as the reward here is linke to the next life, clearly, rather than reward in this life:
    Whoever does good deeds, male or female, and has faith, We shall cause him to live a good life and give them their reward according to the best of what they used to do. [16:97]

    Returning to God means also obedience to God. So it is clear lands are not implementing Islam politically-our ruling systems are unislamic and they also need to return to The Almighty’s way, i.e. to the Islamic Khilafah system.

    We must follow Islam completely and not in parts. We are not going to become like the Jews or Christians following a part of the book and rejecting a part.

    • There are three points I would like to make here:

      1. You will find that the verse is actually not out of context. If one consults classical books of tafsir, one finds there are two (and sometimes three) views about “goodly life” Thus, al-Baghawi, Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Qurtubi, al-Suyuti, al-Sam’ani and others all relate that the “goodly life” can refer to Paradise, or to a contented and faith-filled life on this earth. And since they are not mutually exclusive, the term can actually be applied to both worlds.

      2. Just as an author must ensure he/she is following qualified scholarship in using Quranic verses to affirm something, one also has the same obligation when denying something from a verse. It is not sufficient for you or I to “think” this is what the verse means or does not mean. We must have firm knowledge. If unsure, we pose it as a question; not as a possible fact.

      3. A point of Islamic courtesy. It would have been more in keeping with the essential adab of Islam if the comment were phrased something like: “Does the ayah you have used refer to this life as well as the next.” For this would have been more respectful to the writer and given him the benefit of the doubt that he hasn’t just quoted a verse from his own opinion or whim. (In my case, I rarely use a verse, except that I have learnt its context or use from my teachers. Or failing that, it is my usual habit – and all praise is to Allah – that I consult at least five or six classical books of tafsir before I venture to cite a verse in my writings).

      Finally, tamkin fi’l-ard or being “established in the land” is a huge blessing from God and, as such, it is conditional on faith and righteous actions – which was the main thrust of my post.

      May Allah gives us each the tawfiq to follow Islam completely, as you so rightly have pointed out, and that He bind our hearts in love and brotherhood.

  6. zahid sheikh on said:

    Salams, yes I agree wholeheartedly Abu Aliyah. The blessings of Allah Subhanatallah must be earned through deep devotion to Allah’s Commandments. We do little to please Allah and yet expect profound rewards from Him. The Ummah is duty bound to unite and observe all the tenets of Islam laid by the Shariah and then one can hope for victory like the one in Badr.May Allah guide us on the true path.Ameen.

  7. My dear brother, first, Salaamun ‘Alaykum wa-Rahmatullaah. I am vamping on your blog entry for my next khutbah. In preparing my notes, I found that the first Ayah you quote, from Soorah an-Nahl is incorrectly referenced. It should be Ayah 112, NOT 122. Baarak Allaahu Feekum!
    I hope you don’t mind my using your words to inspire and inform my khutbah. Also, if you’d like, I can send you and audio of it once it’s been presented. I’d just need a way to email it to you or whatever.
    Baarak Allaahu Feekum!!!

  8. Atif Jung on said:

    Brilliant article! The proof that establishment of this ummah is only through Allah’s obedience is in the Quran:

    Allah has promised those among you who believe and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practise their religion, that which He has chosen for them (i.e. Islam). And He will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear (provided) they (believers) worship Me and do not associate anything (in worship) with Me. But whoever disbelieved after this, they are the Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah). Quran 24:55

    Proof if ever there wad that establishment of rule is a reward given by Allah yo this ummah through their obedience to Him and NOT primarily through other worldly means that may seem obvious.

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