The Humble I

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

How Sins Can Destroy Relationships of True Love & Friendship

THERE ARE A PLETHORA of verses in the Holy Qur’an and prophetic hadiths that speak about how the consequences of sins impact upon the well being of the social order. Their ill effect upon individuals is no less debilitating. One hadith tells us that:

مَا تَوَادَّ اثْنَانِ فِي اللهِ جَلَّ وَعَزَّ أَوْ فِي الإِسْلاَمِ، فَيُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَهُمَا إِلاَّ بِذَنْبٍ يُحْدِثُهُ أَحَدُهُمَا‏.‏

‘No two people love each other for the sake of Allah, or for the sake of Islam, then fall out with each other, except due to a sin one of them commits.’1

Al-Munawi wrote while elaborating on the above hadith: ‘The punishment of seperation happens due to the sin. This is why Musa al-Kazim said: “If you see your friend change towards you, know that this is due to a sin that has been committed. So repent to Allah from every sin, and the love [between you] shall be rectified.” Al-Muzni said: “If you find from your brothers some alienation, repent to Allah, for you have committed a sin. If you find increase in affection from them, this is as a result of some act of obedience; so thank Allah, exalted is He.”’2

The hadith speaks of one sin which one of them commits. What about if it’s a case of both friends sinning or committing multiple sins? Can relationships stand up to the divine consequences of unrepented sins? Will sins not harm the divine blessings which keep hearts intimate or close in the first place?

So whether it be in our marriages, or our family life, or any other meaningful relationship we have with others, if there’s a rift or breakdown in friendship, we might want to consider our relationship with Allah first. It might be a case of being careful to guard against sins and not rebel against Allah’s commands. Which is to say, the solution might not be running to a counsellor to resolve marital problems or a strained relationship at the first hurdle. Instead, it could simply be the case of genuinely repenting to Allah, mending our ways, and of getting with the divine program God created us for. One of Islam’s early pietists said: ‘If I sin against Allah, I see [the effect of] it in the behaviour of my wife or riding beast toward me.’3

Now that’s a radically different way of looking at the world, and of keeping our relationships in it. 

Wa’Llahu wali al-tawfiq. 

1. Al-Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, no.401. The hadith is hasan. See: al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2001), no.7879.

2. Fayd al-Qadir, 5:236. 

3. Cited in Abu Nu‘aym, Hilyat al-Awliya (Egypt: Dar al-Rayyan, 1406H), 8:109.

Humiliation of the Muslims: Causes & Cure

In one hadith that is so incredibly relevant to our times and our plight – which pinpoints the causes for why Muslims shall suffer collective humiliation and weakness, and what the cure for such socio-political degradation is – we read: ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, narrates; that he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying:

إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ بِالْعِينَةِ ، وَأَخَذْتُمْ أَذْنَابَ الْبَقَرِ ، وَرَضِيتُمْ بِالزَّرْعِ ، وَتَرَكْتُمْ الْجِهَادَ ، سَلَّطَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ ذُلًّا لَا يَنْزِعُهُ حَتَّى تَرْجِعُوا إِلَى دِينِكُمْ

‘When you deal in ‘inah transactions, hold on to the tails of cows, are content with farming, and abandon jihad, Allah shall permit your humiliation and He will not lift it from you, until you return back to your religion.’1

Let’s unpack the hadith and break it down into bite size chunks, so to speak, in order to better deliberate over the lessons and implications embedded in it:

إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ بِالْعِينَةِ – ‘WHEN YOU DEAL IN ‘INAH TRANSACTIONS’:

‘Inah is a form of a sale which, on the face of it seems completely legitimate as far as Islamic law is concerned, but in reality it is merely a cunning legal ‘trick’ (hiylah) to make money through usury/interest (riba). It is to sell something at a price to be paid at a later date (i.e. deferred payment), but to then buy it back at a lower price for cash on the spot. The upshot is that the initial buyer walks away with cash, but must pay back a higher amount at a later date.

So, as an example, Bilal needs to borrow £500 for one year from Zayd, but Zayd wants £600 back; which, of course, Bilal cannot agree to because that would be riba – interest! So Zayd suggests the following: Zayd sells Bilal a laptop for £600 to be paid for at the end of twelve months. That done, Zayd then buys the laptop back from Bilal, there and then, for £500 cash on the spot. The end result is that Bilal walks away with £500 cash; however, at the end of one year, he owes Zayd £600. Whilst the two transactions, taken separately, are each lawful and sound, combined together, they amount to Zayd lending Bilal £500, but Bilal having to pay Zayd back £600 a year later – the extra £100 being riba. Such a legal ‘trick’, with the aim of skirting around the Islamic rules concerning the prohibition of interest, is considered forbidden (haram) by most jurists.

Although the person may consider themselves shrewd or clever at having found a loophole in the law, or at having evaded the shari‘ah ban on riba; in reality, all they have achieved is combining a sinful act with trying to cheat or deceive God! How clever is that?! The attitude is worse than the actual deed. When such an action; or indeed, such an attitude, becomes widespread in society, it doesn’t take the religious imagination much to realise the possible consequences.

As a side point: Classical Muslim jurists recognised two types of hiylah – legal ‘tricks’ or ‘stratagems’. One used to circumvent a divine order or divine aim, the other for ta‘lim al-makhraj: providing an exit for one in difficulty, all the while keeping Allah’s commands and the purpose of the law uppermost in mind. For most legalists, the first is the forbidden type of hiylah; the second, the lawful type. Ibn al-Qayyim explains: ‘If the aim is good then the hiylah is also good, if it is bad then the hiylah is also bad. If the aim is obedience and worship then the hiylah is likewise: if the aim is disobedience or iniquity so is the hiylah.2 In other words, the legality of a hiylah is tied to the individual purpose it serves.

وَأَخَذْتُمْ أَذْنَابَ الْبَقَرِ – ‘HOLD ON TO THE TAILS OF COWS’

This is a figurative expression, referring to how – in pre-modern societies – a farmer who ploughed the land would walk behind the cow or ox, driving it on. Hence it is like holding on to the tail of a cow. And as we shall soon see below, this isn’t a censure or blame of farming or ploughing the land, per se. But it is a censure of becoming so preoccupied with one’s job or vocation, that it becomes of greater concern than works of faith and preparing for the afterlife.

وَرَضِيتُمْ بِالزَّرْعِ – ‘CONTENT WITH FARMING’

This is similar to the above, in that it is a rebuke of becoming so engrossed with farming and tilling the land, to the extent that this worldly matter is of greater concern, or greater priority, than Allah and the afterlife. This is particularly so when we prefer devoting our time and energy to our jobs or other worldly goals, over and above jihad – striving and sacrificing – for the sake of Allah. We read in the Qur’an: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَا لَكُمْ إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ انفِرُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ اثَّاقَلْتُمْ إِلَى الْأَرْضِO you who believe! What is it with you that when you are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah you cling heavily to the earth [Q.9:38]; that is, you show a reluctance; an aversion, even, clutching instead to a life of ease, comfort and materialism. The Prophet ﷺ stated: ‘Whoever dies without partaking in a military expedition, or even desiring to do so, dies upon a branch of hypocrisy.’3

The verse continues by asking: أَرَضِيتُمْ بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا مِنْ الْآخِرَةِDo you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? [Q.9:38]; i.e., as one scholar wrote in explanation to this part of the verse: ‘The reaction is like that of someone who is pleased with the world and strives his utmost in it, having no care for the Afterlife. It is like he doesn’t really believe in it.’4

The verse concludes: فَمَا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا فِي الْآخِرَةِ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌBut little is the comfort of this life as compared with the Hereafter. [Q.9:38] Unto that, the believer holds.

وَتَرَكْتُمْ الْجِهَادَ – ‘ABANDON JIHAD’

That is, forsaking the duty of jihad wherein lies the strength, honour and glory of the religion. Thus one does not wage jihad (or even desire to do so) for Allah’s sake: neither with one’s wealth, one’s physical self, or one’s tongue in defence of revealed truths – not a military jihad against the enemies of Al-Rahman, nor a spiritual jihad against one’s hawa, nafs or shaytan.5

سَلَّطَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ ذُلًّ – ‘ALLAH SHALL PERMIT YOUR HUMILIATION.’

Which is to say that when people engage in acts of disobedience and ignominy, Allah will afflict them with humiliation, dishonour and disgrace, since: al-jaza’ min jins al-‘aml – ‘The recompense is proportional to the deed.’ Indeed, every time we disobey the command of the Prophet ﷺ, we expose ourselves to some share of humiliation. The Prophet ﷺ cautioned: ‘Humiliation and ignominy is for one who opposes my command.’6 This echoes the Holy Qur’an, which warns us in no uncertain terms: Let those who oppose his order beware lest an affliction befall them or lest there visits them a painful punishment. [Q.24:63]

So when people try to evade the prohibition of riba through legal trickery and, by extension, evade other commands or prohibitions of the religion; and when they are so absorbed in worldly pursuits, giving them precedence over religious obligations or working for the afterlife; and when they give up jihad for Allah’s sake, then Allah will allow lowliness and humiliation to be inflicted upon them at the hands of other nations – a sad reality that has already occurred.

In fact, whenever a believing community or nation begin to change themselves from putting their religious duties above all else, to making them play second fiddle to worldly goals and consumerist ambitions, then this is only unleashing the genie from the bottle, and a change in fortunes from good to bad is the only inevitable outcome. The Qur’an speaks to this reality, declaring: That is because Allah never changes the blessings He has bestowed on a people until they change that which is in themselves. [Q.8:53]

Likewise, whenever wrongdoing and disobedience to Allah become endemic in society, despite the presence of some saintly souls and godly worshippers in it, the Holy Qur’an tells us that this is inviting tyrants and wrongdoers to be given the reigns of political authority, as a consequence of the sinful behaviour of the masses: Thus We let some of the unjust have power over others because of their misdeeds. [Q.6:129]

In 28H (649CE), the first Muslim naval expedition was launched against Cyprus, which was under the Byzantine empire’s rule; now in the twilight of its years. The Muslim army quickly overran the small Byzantine garrison and its people were soon paying tribute to the Muslim victors. On seeing the ease with which this once powerful empire lay defeated, Abu’l-Darda began to cry. When asked why he wept on the day Allah had given victory to Islam and the Muslims, he said: ‘Woe to you, O Jubayr! How insignificant a people become to Allah when they neglect His commands. Here is a nation which was once mighty, powerful and had dominion. Then they neglected Allah’s commands, now look what has become of them.’

And this ummah will never escape its humiliation or its fall from grace … hatta tarji‘u ila dinikum: until you return back to your religion.

حَتَّى تَرْجِعُوا إِلَى دِينِكُمْ – ‘UNTIL YOU RETURN BACK TO YOUR RELIGION.’

Lessons of history may, in many cases, require interpretation. In this case the lesson here is spelt out in simple words, for all to read: That this humiliation will continue to plague us until we return back to establishing our religion and fulfilling our religious duties – as Allah intended, in the way He intended. And no amount of secularising, liberalising or compromising on Islamic norms will change this servile reality. In fact, it will only make it worse.

What is required is nothing less than courage and a prophetic uprising in order to return back to the religion. This entails that we first and foremost honour Allah by revering His orders and prohibitions; work for the Hereafter and give it priority over earthly aims or acquisitions; and wisely and courageously engage the various types of jihad that Allah has obligated us with. In fact, the matter is more dire than most people realise. For the upshot of doing those things spoken of in the above hadith is so grave that the Prophet ﷺ: ‘likened it to apostatising and leaving the religion.’8 The Holy Qur’an says: Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your tribe, the wealth you have gained, the trade you fear may slacken, and the homes you love – if they are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His command. Allah guides not the corrupt. [Q.9:24]

 IN CONCLUSION

The truth of the matter is that when we become too comfy in the consumerist world; when we allow the dunya to distract us from our religious obligations, which includes the duty of jihad; and as we get more and more entangled in the monoculture’s deceptive mind control in a way that makes us servile and numbs our soul, then this is the destruction that is meant in the verse: And do not cast yourselves into destruction by your own hands. [Q.2:195] Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, may Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘This verse was revealed about us, a group of the Ansar. When Allah gave victory to His Prophet and made Islam dominant, we said: “Come, let us stay with our wealth and properties in order to improve it.” It was then that Allah, mighty and majestic is He, sent down the verse: Spend in the cause of Allah, and do not cast yourselves into destruction by your own hands. [Q. 2:195] To cast ourselves into destruction by our own hands meant we stayed with our wealth and properties, and neglected jihad.’9

Let’s close with this thought. Given the confusion and intra-Muslim squabbling over the best way out of our subjugation and socio-political malaise, it could be that there are only two questions which really need asking. Despite us Muslims having tried the various isms and ideologies which others have demanded we follow – nationalism, Marxism, capitalism, and now liberalism – are we as an ummah still humiliated? And does the above hadith offer us a clear-cut answer and method of how to reverse our fortunes? The answer to both questions is in the affirmative. That being so, isn’t it high time we buck the trend, put all of the political philosophising to bed, and earnestly pursue the ways of the Lord?

Wa’Llahu wali al-tawfiq.

1. Ahmad, no.4987; Abu Dawud, no.3462. Ibn Taymiyyah declared its chains to be excellent (jayyid) in Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 29:30; al-Albani analysed the hadith and its many chains, giving it a grading of sahih, in Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arif, 1995), 1:1:42; no.11.

2. Ighathat al-Lahfan (Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 1999), 659.

3. Muslim, no.1910.

4. Al-Sa‘di, Taysir Karim al-Rahman (Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 2012), 374.

5. See: al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 2010), 1:514, no.514; also consult my article on this blog: Jihad & Martyrdom, War & Peace.

6. Abu Dawud, no.4031. Ibn Taymiyyah said, Iqtida al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2003), 163: ‘Its chain is excellent (jayyid).

7. Cited in Ahmad, al-Zuhd (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1999), 117; no.763.

8. Al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, 1:514.

9. Abu Dawud, no.2512; al-Tirmidhi, no.2972, stating: ‘The hadith is hasan sahih gharib.’

On Praiseworthy Trials, Patience & Firmness Upon the Path

While describing the ordeal endured by Imam Malik in which he was severely beaten, to the extent that ‘his arm was wrenched out of its socket and a huge injustice had been perpetrated against him. Yet, by God, Malik didn’t cease to be held in high esteem,’1 Imam al-Dhahabi wrote the following:

‘This is the result of a praiseworthy trial which only serves to raise a person’s rank and esteem in the sight of believers. Whatever the case, it is what our own hands earn; yet God pardons much. “Whoever God intends to show goodness to, He tries him through ordeals.”2 The Prophet ﷺ also said: “Everything decreed for the believer is good for him.”3 God, exalted is He, said: We shall try you until We know those of you who strive and those who patiently persevere. [Q.47:31] The following words were revealed by God about the battle of Uhud: When disaster befell you after you had inflicted losses twice as heavy, you exclaimed: “How did this happen?” Say: “It was from yourselves.” [Q.3:165] God further said: Whatever misfortune befalls you, it is what your own hands have earned, and He pardons much. [Q.42:30]

‘Thus a believer, when he is tried, shows patient, takes admonition, seeks God’s forgiveness and does not busy himself in blaming the one who mistreated him. For God’s judgement is just. Instead, he should thank God that his faith remains intact, realising that worldly punishment is both lighter and better for him.’4

But patience amidst trials, adversity or suffering – without the heart becoming resentful, bitter or hard – exists only if there is a sense of proportion. Suffering is bearable only if it is understood; even when such understanding is vaguely formulated. The fact that I am grieving, does not mean the world is out of sync. The fact that I have been done injury to, does not mean that God is unjust. The fact that my life is now darkened by tragedy, does not mean that no sun shines upon creation.

The believer endures precisely because adversity and suffering are not seen as senseless or meaningless. Instead, he or as she sees such trails as invested with purpose. They know this worldly life is a preparation for what comes after. The believer views trials as being, not something negative, but part of life’s learning where the divine intent is to nurture our latent potential in order to bring out the best in us, or to refine and raise our rank with God, or prune and purify us from sins, or to simply humble us and bring home to us how powerless we are in the face of affliction and how in need we all are of God’s grace. Moreover, the believer is less concerned with why they face trials and ordeals – which he or she is content to leave to a Wisdom far greater than their own – than with the appropriate response we should offer God in such situations.

1. Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risalah, 1998), 8:80-1.

2. Al-Bukhari, no.5645.

3. Muslim, no.2999.

4. Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala, 8:81.

On Narcissism: My Oh My! It’s Just Me, Me, Me & I, I, I

Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him, wrote:

وَلْيَحْذَرْ كُلَّ الْحَذَرِ مِنْ طُغْيَانِ ’أَنَا‘ ، وَ’لِي‘، وَ’عِنْدِي‘، فَإِنَّ هَذِهِ الْأَلْفَاظَ الثَّلَاثَةَ ابْتُلِيَ بِهَا إِبْلِيسُ وَفِرْعَوْن، وَقارُوْن، (فَأَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْهُ) لِإِبْلِيسَ، وَ (لِي مُلْكُ مِصْرَ) لِفِرْعَوْن، وَ (إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ عِنْدِي) لِقارُوْن. 

وَأَحْسَنُ مَا وُضِعَتْ ’أَنَا‘ فِي قَوْلِ الْعَبْدِ: أَنَا الْعَبْدُ الْمُذْنِبُ ، الْمُخْطِئُ، الْمُسْتَغْفِرُ، الْمُعْتَرِفُ . وَنَحْوِهِ : ’لِي‘، فِي قَوْلِهِ: لِيَ الذَّنْبُ ، وَ’لِيَ‘ الْجُرْمُ ، وَلِيَ الْمَسْكَنَةُ، وَلِيَ الْفَقْرُ ، وَالذُّلُّ . و’عِنْدِي‘ ، فِي قَوْلِهِ: اغْفِرْ لِي جِدِّي ، وَهَزْلِي ، وَخَطَئِي ، وَعَمْدِي ، وَكُلَّ ذَلِكَ عِنْدِي.

‘Beware of the tyranny of “I”, “mine” or “me”. For Iblis, Pharaoh and Korah were put to trial by these three words. “I am better than him” [Q.7:12] was Iblis’ [trial]. “Is not mine the sovereignty of Egypt?” [Q.43:51] was Pharaoh’s. And: “I have been given it only on account of my knowledge” [Q.28:78] was Korah’s.

‘The best place for “I” is when a person says: “I am a sinful, wrong, repentant, confessing servant” or its like. And “mine” when he says: “Mine is the sin, the crime, the poverty, the indigence and the shame.” And “me’ in his saying: “[O Allah] forgive me for the sins I have done intentionally and in jest, mistakenly or deliberately; for I have done all of that.”’1

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a young man who was incredibly beautiful. Many fell in love with him, but he responded to their affections with scorn and contempt. Once while walking in the woods, Narcissus saw his own reflection in a pool of water and fell in love with it. His fixation with his own beauty led him to eventually commit suicide when he realised he couldn’t have his object of desire. It is from his name that we get the word, narcissism – an obsessive, egotistical admiration with one’s own self or self-importance.

A narcissist does more than just monopolise the conversation. A narcissist is a person who feels a false sense of entitlement, constantly needs other people to praise and admire them, be jealous of others, or someone who lacks empathy for others because of being totally absorbed with his or her egotistical self. Me, me me, or I, I, I are the usual tell-tale signs of narcissism. Psychologists speak of various types of narcissistic personality disorders. There’s the toxic narcissist who is always causing drama in the lives of others, constantly demanding to be the centre of attention and upset when they are not. Or there is the bullying narcissists who take great pleasure in mocking people and putting them down, so they can feel smug about their own selves. And then there’s the exhibitionist narcissist who has no shame in letting everyone around him know that he is a narcissist.

Social media is the opium of the narcissists. In terms of teaching or preaching Islam, YouTube seems to be awash with Muslim narcissists, particularly when it comes to refutation culture. – i.e. Muslims attempting to refute or rebut other Muslims on some religious point or another. Instead of rooting such criticisms or correctives in sincerity; sound scholarly research; following the Islamic rules of criticism; fulfilling the trust of quoting the words of the one being rebutted accurately and in context; not transgressing the rights of the one being refuted; and giving them room to retract their mistake and return to the truth, we have a carnival of characters who show little of this, content with being narcissistic exhibitionists and show-offs. Such are the fruits of giving up on godliness. Such is the blindness and deadly poison of the I, I, I or me, me, me culture; may Allah save us from ourselves.

The cure, as Ibn al-Qayyim stated above, is to acknowledge that the I and me is swimming in a cesspit of sin and ignorance, and that the best place for my I or me is to confess with as much humility and sincerity as can be mustered that: I know very little about Islam such that I could be one of its guardians; and that may Allah forgive me my sins and speech about His religion without sufficient knowledge, and save me from the blazing Fire.

Amin!

1. Zad al-Ma‘ad (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risalah, 1998), 4:434-35.

2020 Review: Covid, Personal Loss, BLM & Israeli Peace Deals

In her Christmas Day speech, some were half expecting the Queen to describe this year as annus horribilis, a horrible year, as she described 1992. Her speech, as it turned out, was a rather upbeat, religiously peppered message of thanks and hope (unless, that is, you were watching Channel 4’s ‘deepfake’ irreverent send up of it).

For me, 2020 started off on a note of sadness. In June of the previous year, my father passed away from cancer, rahimahullah, and my mother – having just completed her ‘iddah, or ‘mourning period’ – was struggling. The light of love and laughter that could always be seen in her was fading, and life without my father – her soul mate for almost sixty years – was starting to truly sink in. By January 2020, her sorrow precipitated the onset of acute kidney failure and on March 8th of this year, she too returned to Allah. From my earliest memories, till the end, the atmosphere in my parents’ home was, by God’s grace, always one of love, laughter, ease and adab. And all whom Allah allowed to bring into their orbit – family, friend or stranger – would find themselves being bathed in such love and kindness. Ours was a small family: two parents, two children. My older sister, a person who was known never to harbour a grudge or enmity against any soul, died in 2008; cancer was the culprit there as well. May Allah have mercy upon them, and unite them together in His paradise and presence. Amin!

By the end of January, while caring for my late mother, the Covid-19 virus had made its way from China to our shores. By March 8th, the day my mother died, there were almost three hundred cases of Coronavirus in the UK. On the third day after my mother’s funeral, following three busy days of relatives, friends and neighbours coming to offer their comfort and condolences, my family and I made a collective decision to voluntarily self isolate. By 23 March, the whole country was in lockdown. The humbling pandemic made face masks and social distancing the new normal, and has upended almost every aspect of the world in which we live. On plagues and pandemics, the Prophet ﷺ said: ‘If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; and if plague breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave it.’1 Of the many Muslim voices that tried to help ease any of the anxieties or agitations we believers may have harboured, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s Perspective on the Pandemic was by far the most socially insightful and spiritually intelligent. When it came to persuasive and practical fiqhi advice on Covid related issues, the commendable, yet relatively unknown British Board of Scholars and Imams offered UK Muslims the sane and much sought-after guidance (including qualified fiqh responses to common concerns about taking Covid vaccines: read here).

A month after lockdown was announced here in Britain, Ramadan began for us Muslims across the world. And how different it was! With lockdown putting a halt to gatherings in mosques for the five daily prayers and the tarawih prayer in the Ramadan nights, as well as large iftar dinners with family and friends, these were unscripted times. Without the communal energy Ramadan supplies individual believers with, this was going to be a bit of a go-it-alone Ramadan. With Allah’s grace, most Muslims rose to the occasion and, with good counsel from our scholars reminding us of the immense virtues and religious benefits of ‘uzlah – spiritual ‘isolation’ or ‘solitude’ – many dug in deep to muster the spiritual concentration needed to be present with the Qur’an and be alone with the One. About solitude (not to be confused with loneliness), sayyiduna ‘Umar advised: ‘Take your share of ‘uzlah.2 And when asked in what salvation could be found, the Prophet ﷺ replied by saying: ‘Control your tongue, stay in your home and weep over your sins.’Ramadan was also the time the Cambridge Muslim College began to garner the appreciation it deserves. Its Ramadan Live programme offered a veritable feast of spiritual instruction and inspiration on how best to live the religious life, deepen our degrees of fasting, and cultivate Divine love (you can watch their programme and talks here).

A day or two after Ramadan, George Floyd, an unarmed black American, was unjustly killed by a policeman using lethal force while arresting him – a tragic event that’s becoming a tale as old as time. This triggered protests and riots in America, and here in Britain too; and it again brought to the fore the question of whether our society is institutionally racist: whether discrimination on the basis of race or colour is systemically embedded in the criminal justice system, political power, education, housing, healthcare, and other such institutions or organisations in society. I wrote about this in On British Muslims & Racism: Do Black Lives Matter? There I concluded by saying that we ought to support Black Lives Matter as a cause, rather than a movement; striving to tackle racism and to improve racial equality in Britain. And that we Muslims should support any grassroots programme that is working for a more just and fairer Britain for all people, not just for our particular tribe, as per the teaching of the Holy Qur’an: Help one another in righteousness and piety, but do not help one another in sin and transgression. [Q.5:2]

As Muslims, it must be the Revelation which shapes our social outlook; and it must be the universal Quranic archetypes of good and bad, right and wrong, which animate our social justice activism. In fact, any Muslim activism which ignores how seeking Allah’s approval and assistance in social change is tied to certain moral imperatives, forfeits the right to be labelled ‘Muslims activism’, and is simply activism undertaken by Muslims. The Qur’an must be our prime driver. But BLM as a movement and the Critical Race Theory it is embedded in is, I submit, out of step with even the basic Quranic vision of society and its strategy of righting social wrongs (a statement I hope to explore and justify in a future post, God willing). That the BLM founders are self-professed ‘trained marxists’; that it seeks to tear down the family structure; or that it currently divides more than it unites; that criticism of it invokes the most vicious cancel culture or accusations of being a racist; that white people are now all deemed to be in the grip of ‘white privilege‘, which itself is just the tip of the iceberg of them being intrinsically and incurably racist – all of this should at least cause an eyebrow to be raised and the religious mind to be very concerned. Where is the righteousness or piety in any of this, such that it could be supported as a movement? And yet Black people in the UK are, according to the statistics and data, disproportionately aggrieved against because of their colour. What is the solution? What are the underlying drivers? What policies need to thoughtfully and wisely be rolled out by government or local authorities? I don’t know the answer to any of these. But I do know that one extremism cannot be corrected with another extreme; that’s for sure.

Of course there can be, and often is, a vast difference between a movement’s founders and ideologues, and the rank and file who function as foot soldiers. Many of your day-to-day BLM activists may not share, let alone even know, the core philosophy underpinning the movement. They may simply be angry, disillusioned people who feel that they must raise their voices in civic protest against the social injustices and racial inequalities that they see or witness, or feel are systemic in society. And only a fool or an out and out bigot would deny there aren’t any such injustices or inequalities. The Muslim scholarly tradition is, however, predicated upon conserving whatever is best in any given system, collective or society, and advocates addressing and rectifying imbalances and injustices, rather than desiring to topple and tear the whole structure down in the childish and forlorn hope that something better will arise out of the ashes! And Muslim activism – whether here as minorities in the West, or in Muslim majority countries – would do well to reflect this.

On the topic of racism or ethnic aggression, by September 2020, we had more proof of China’s racism and repression against its Uighur Muslim population. Satellite images revealed nearly four-hundred detention centres and political indoctrination camps in which over a million Uighurs have been detained, as part of a bid to ethnically cleanse Uighur social, cultural and religious identity from China. Little has been said by political leaders, Muslim or otherwise, one assumes, in large part, because China economically ingratiates itself to an ever growing number of countries and organisations; and one customarily doesn’t bite the hand that feeds it – nor, it seems, make any significant statement of political outrage, not even if it be just a little whimper.

Five years on, and Yemen 2020 is still the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. While charities have been working relentlessly to supply food, medicine and other essentials – a small, but highly effective charity called Forgotten Women being one of them; with aid workers on the ground – Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been bombing Yemen ceaselessly, creating and worsening this grotesque carnage of death, destruction, famine and human suffering; all in the name of their geo-political aims. British-made arms lucratively sold to the Saudis have played a major role in the carnage, famine and the quarter of a million people killed due to the fighting, famine or humanitarian crisis.

While we are on the subject of the UAE, it seems its hands can be drenched in the blood of tens of thousands of Yemenis; or it can have hostility towards its Muslim neighbours, but it is okay as of mid-September, 2020 for it to make peace with Israel? Politics, trade, arms deals and suspicion of the Iranians can, it seems, make strange bed fellows. That said, our du‘as are for the guidance, welfare and rectification of all the Muslim rulers and heads of state; and that, in these politically difficult times, we pray that they not be so spineless when it comes to the message of tawhid and the glory of God.

1. Al-Bukhari, no.5728.

2. Cited in al-Khattabi, al-‘Uzlah (Damascus: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1990), 70.

3. Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan, no.2408, saying that the hadith is hasan sahih.

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