In the Name of ALLAH, The Infinitely Kind, The Most Merciful.
Reflections of a 21st Century Muslim:
An open letter to all my Brothers & Sisters. Assalamu-alaykum wa-rahmatULLAHi wa-barakaatuh.
Today I felt like a failure! I felt like a failure in everything that I am, in everything that I have learnt, in everyone I associate with, in the life that I lead and in the Hereafter to follow.
Today I felt ashamed to even send Salat, Salam, Durood, or anything else upon my beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him)! Why you may ask? Why did I feel that reciting the Salat & Salam that I was doing on this, a Friday, the most blessed day to send such a gift to Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) felt merely like rubbing a simple ointment onto a cavernous wound? Why did I feel like I was placing a sticking plaster on a gaping cavity caused by massive trauma to someones heart in the hope that it would aid the healing process? In truth, it was not Muhammads pure heart (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) that I was hoping to heal; it was my own diseased, weakened and blackened heart for which I was desperately seeking remedy! With every Durood I felt a stab of shame that my precious Prophets very character (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH Be Upon Him) was being trampled upon around the world and that my puny dua was of little consequence in affording solace to him at this time of shameless attacks upon his honour (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him). It was with a heavy heart and with my neck bent down in shame that I entered the Masjid for Juma Salat only to feel even less deserving of being described as a follower of Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) because of what I heard from the Imam.
(The Imams words are intentionally described in slightly vague terms in order that he remains anonymous and unidentifiable).
Did the Imam chastise us for not defending the man sent as a Mercy to All Mankind (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him)? Did he rouse us from our neglectful slumber with words of love and couplets of compassion towards The Most Blessed One (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him)? No, indeed he did not!!! In actual fact I was told that The Quraan forewarned Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) that the unbelievers would cause him (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) great hurt. We were told that the Quraan advised us that at such a time we should have patience and taqwa.
Of course this is true & good advice but the Imam went on to suggest that we reflect upon ourselves before blaming others. He then swiftly moved on to recommend a daily act of worship which would help us have our sins washed away. I wanted to shout out in the middle of the sermon, What about the sin of neglecting insults to the Prophets honour (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him)? Have you seen what is being shown; heard what is being said; read what is being written?!!! Not very much could wipe that sin from our records! I looked around me at the hall full of my community being herded by this shepherd towards our own personal abyss, left to teeter on the edge of destruction. The destruction of our souls! We were left with our moral conscience hanging by a thread, our proclamations of love for our beloved (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) ringing hollow in our hearts. That is at least, in the hearts of those who might still have a claim to being alive. The focus of the gathering was best illustrated with the Imams next advice for which we could be guaranteed Paradise.
The congregation exclaimed in happiness! Paradise for a simple act such as that? Of course I can do that dear respected Imam, even though I have never understood what you say in your Khutba and probably never will because neither will you explain it, nor will I ever be taught to understand it and never will I make the time to learn for myself ! I will look up like the obedient lamb staring up at the shepherd not knowing what his words mean! I will look up smiling in complete ignorance of the fact that what you are reciting in Arabic bears no relation to the talk you have just delivered in our mother tongue! I can follow your orders to watch you sermonising, content in my ignorance of the words you utter though nonetheless utterly convinced of my guaranteed redemption if I follow your orders. The great irony was that we should all have been advised to continue hanging our heads in shame at the state we were in and at the fact that we were content with being as hopeless we were!
As the Imam recited the Hadith about the Sahaabah (May ALLAH swt be pleased with them) and went on to recite Durood on the Prophet (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) I imagined those very same Sahaabah (May ALLAH swt be pleased with them) sitting enraptured by the words of their leader (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him), gazing at his noble face, totally satisfied with following this great man to the ends of the earth and back! How far removed were we from such a gathering? I wondered if ALLAH swt would have allowed us to lift our heads to witness the greatest man the world has ever seen (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) had we been in such a blessed gathering! At that moment I wondered whether, even if permitted to look up by ALLAH swt, the leader of all mankind (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) might have turned his face away in disgust in the knowledge of what our hearts concealed.
At the end of the salah the Imam raised his hands in supplication and I raised myself from the congregation. I did not wish to be one of the lambs being led to the slaughter of our spirit. I was choking and had to get out and seek a breath of fresh air to help resuscitate myself. On the way out I was fortunate to find, with no indication or encouragement from Imam Sahib, a petition declaring the congregations disgust at the treatment of our great Messenger (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him). I signed it thinking of how differently others around the world might be expressing their revulsion at recent events at that very moment! What else could I do? This was my communitys way of dealing with the insults! The same community that can go out & march every year on the supposed birthday of the very same Prophet (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) out of love for him but could not even organise a peaceful gathering in an appropriate local place to express our solidarity with the rest of the Muslim peoples of the world, in brotherly spirit out of respect for the very same Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him).
I am boycotting YouTube & Google for three days along with God only knows how many others, in the hope that these companies will notice and actually care. How will they if all those taking part do not inform YouTube & Google of what is happening? The phrase storm in a tea-cup comes to mind! This year, populations around the world have staged revolutions, thrown out dictators and in peaceful co-operation (when allowed) ousted tyrannous regimes and even their replacements in some cases. Here are we, unable to effectively orchestrate a simple boycott effectively! ALLAH swt help us out of our sorry state of affairs.
What makes things worse is that all week Salman The Satanic Verses Rushdie has been parading himself on TV and his memoirs have been abridged and broadcast on Radio 4 along with a feature length interview with him on Start the week, first thing on Monday morning! Memoirs indeed! I cant help but feel that had that affair been properly dealt with many moons ago, maybe others would forever think twice before daring to insult Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him)! Instead, what have we witnessed this week? The video on YouTube; Rushdies evil Cheshire-cat grin; cartoons satirising Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) in France; and to top it all, news reports that adverts declaring and promoting support for Israel could not be stopped from being posted in the New York subway even though they brand Muslims as savages for supporting their religious beliefs!
Where is our defence? Of course ALLAH swt will recompense all those blasphemers and tyrants with their just desserts. Of course I know that ALLAH swt has not abandoned us! What I ask is where are those in authority on this earth who should be speaking up for us? Where are our leaders? Where are our Imams and our Scholars? Where, for goodness sake, are the computer experts who might be able to remove the offence from the internet, with or without the co-operation of those permitting its presence?
Where are the Muslims? Killing each other? Killing innocents? Destroying their own people and their own infrastructure indiscriminately! My dear Brothers and Sisters, blame those who deserve it and focus your efforts on those truly responsible! Why show the world that we are an emotional bunch of rag-tag, violent ignoramuses reacting to intentional provocations? Why not show that we can be intelligent, organised, eloquent and effective human beings capable of defending ourselves, our beliefs and all that is dear to us without resorting to mass hysteria? Why not channel and target the hysteria appropriately and make our Prophet (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) and our Lord, ALLAH Almighty proud of our actions and set an example that can impress on (and warn) the world that Islam is not to be trifled with?
Muslims are not content to be mere targets used for the practice of any abuses others may wish to practice. We are not animals, we refuse to be treated as such and, most importantly, we refuse to act as such! This is our time to come together, to display the unity which was so powerful in the time of our Prophet (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him). This is a time to tell all those who think nothing of humiliating us that they will not succeed in destroying our morale, our faith and our ethics! These attacks against us can easily backfire on the perpetrators and instead of their intended impact, serve as a unifying force helping us to overcome our defeatist mentality in favour of a new hope, a new fervour, a new action and a reunification of Islam across the globe! Let us join together and support one another if for no other reason than the simple fact that this is what our opponents and critics are doing amongst themselves to defeat us! Let us do it for ourselves, for each other, for our families and children, our world and our Lord!
Here I sit, spilling my guilty, frustrated, heartfelt emotions onto these pages in the middle of the cold, lonely night, contemplating what to do next. I sit, still sending Salat, Salam and Durood upon Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) because ALLAH swt has ordered it and HIS swt word is NEVER wrong. I pray along with each one though, that my Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) does not reject my greeting. I know he wont (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him), because of who he is and what he is, the most beloved of ALLAH and The Most Praised man in all the world (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) regardless of what anyone may say or do to try and suggest the contrary. So what have I learnt from this experience? What do I do now? Where do I go? I have learnt that no matter how sinful a Muslim may be, love of Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) is hardwired into us by the infinite blessings and mercy of ALLAH swt and by virtue of our faith. In times of crises, be they personal or otherwise, this default setting switches on unless the programming has become so corrupt that the hard-drive is no longer viable and one has no backup! My first reaction to any insult targeting him (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) is therefore always emotional which is the correct response of a lover for his beloved and long may it continue! However, I should take a moment to gather my emotions, reflect upon the situation and channel my efforts into a productive, coherent and respectable response.
I need to truly connect with the teachings and character of our Prophet (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) because it is the distance we put between ourselves and his Sunnah (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) that both weakens us and emboldens our ill-wishers. The true manifestation of love for our Muhammad (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt Be Upon Him) is not to resort to profanities, intolerance and violence; thereby inviting the same in return; perpetuating a never ending cycle of pain for all involved. Rather it is to look to his example (Peace & Mercy of ALLAH swt be Upon Him) and that of his Companions (May ALLAH swt be pleased with them) and emulate them in every way. If the example is that of mercy, in the correct context, we should be merciful. If we are taught that the correct response in a particular context is to be firm in words and in action, so be it! We should not become accustomed to regular abuse and keep turning the other cheek nor should we become desensitised to constant insults thereby reacting to each with lesser vigour until one day, there is no response at all! We should however be mindful that any firm action is properly focussed in the correct manner and directed towards the correct goal.
In essence, I need to look deep within myself and be honest about how my actions are impacting on the world around me. As we all know, as sins increase, so ALLAH swts mercy is lifted, granting of prayers is delayed and trials, tribulations and tyranny become more frequent and prevalent. Despite the need for a balanced hope in ALLAH swts mercy I should engender a greater fear of HIS wrath! I need to avoid falling into a state of hypocrisy but as Hadith teaches us I should also change evil where I see it by either my hand or my speech or at least think of it as evil within my heart, always taking care that I do not choose the wrong action of these three in response to a given situation. There is a time and a place for every response after all!
We must not lose hope! We must not lose faith! We must not lose ourselves! May ALLAH swt forgive me & us all and help us to find and remain on the straight path and to hold tight to the rope of Islam together. May ALLAH swt send abundant Peace, Mercy & Blessings upon HIS most Beloved Muhammad and open our hearts to true love for him. Aameen. I need to make my effort the correct effort, with sincerity and for ALLAH swts sake alone and then trust in ALLAH swt for the best outcome because HE is our Protector, The Infinitely Kind, The Most Merciful and HE has power over everything!
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