Based on a khutbah by Imam Omar Suleiman.
By Ammar M Ali.
Once upon a time, three bulls lived in a forest: one white, one brown, and one black. They were brothers and lived together in harmony. In that forest also lived a tiger that had his eye on the bulls. But every time he attempted to attack one of them, the others came to his aid, and together they drove the tiger away.
The tiger decided that he needed to improve his strategy. So one day, when the black bull was away, the tiger approached the other two and whispered, “You know, the black bull is black, dirty, and evil. Why do you keep him with you? He is a disgrace to you both. You are beautiful and noble. If the black bull is no longer here, you will have all off this land to yourself. He takes away your food and adds no value to you.” The two bulls listened to the tiger’s spiel and said, “After all, he is our brother. What can we do?”
“You need not do anything,” said the tiger. “I will do what needs to be done. Just turn your back, and don’t come to the aid of the black bull when he calls you.” They agreed.
The next day, they heard the black bull calling desperately for help. They listened to him in his anguish and continued to graze. Gradually, the cries for help ceased, and the two brothers avoided eye contact. The luscious green grass wiped away memories, and after a short while, it was as if the black bull never existed.
Then one day, the tiger came to the white bull when he was alone and said, “Are you happy with the advice I gave you? Did I not advise you well? Now here is some more advice: you are the real king of the forest. You are white and clean, beautiful and pure, wise and holy. You deserve to live in solitary splendor like a king. Why do you need the brown bull? He is an embarrassment to you.” The white bull asked skeptically, “Well, what should I do?”
“Nothing at all. Turn your back, and ignore his screams. I will take care of the rest.”
The next day, the white bull heard the dying screams of the brown bull and closed his ears as he went back to his grazing.
The white bull lived by himself for a few days, grazing where he wanted and drinking from the clean streams of the forest. One morning, the tiger came again. From the look in his eyes, the white bull knew that this visit was different, and suddenly his whole life flashed before his eyes. He recalled the time when the three brothers stood together, shoulder to shoulder, and recalled all the incidents since then. As the tiger sat before him, not in any hurry, knowing that the result was pre-determined, the white bull said to him,
“I do not die today. I died the day the black bull died.”1
In October 2011, a graphic video sparked outrage as it spread across the Internet. Surveillance camera footage showed a two-year-old girl in southern China, who was run over by two vans while wandering through a market, where her parents run a shop. Both of the drivers sped off without checking the girl’s condition. In addition, 18 people walked, cycled, or drove past the toddler as she lay bleeding in the busy market. Not a single one of them chose to protect, help, or even scrape her dying body off the floor.
Upon hearing stories like these, I am reminded of the statement from our beloved Prophet ,
“A time will come when adultery with women will be committed in the middle of the street, and nobody will object to this.”2
No matter where we are in the world, filth is being shoved down our throats. We are exposed to nudity in movies, lewdness in magazines, and vulgarity in music. Shameless acts are not only discussed, but are propagated and encouraged on the Internet. Turn on the news, sports games, and now even programming targeted towards children, and it becomes clear that we cannot escape it. We breathe it in and expose our eyes and ears to it, but no one says anything about it. Instead, we have become so desensitized, that we’re left unfazed.
When people see wrong or evil and they don’t change it, then it is eminent that the punishment of Allah will fall upon them [all.]”3
With the passing of time, this chronic muteness is spreading rapidly, and is sparing no one. Not even us Muslims; the so-called people of truth and justice. The people whom Allah praises in the Quran: “You are the best ummah singled out of all of mankind:” Why are we the best? Because, “you enjoin what is right (ma’roof), forbid what is wrong (munkar), and believe in Allah.”4
This passiveness has corroded our hearts to such an extent, that is has become the norm to turn a blind eye, to pretend to not see anything, and to ignore injustice and transgression taking place before our very eyes.
Rasoolullah said, “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever”5
My Reflections and a Call to Action
How can we call ourselves believers, when we know this full-well, yet sleep peacefully throughout the night? When we know our limbs around the world are in excruciating pain, yet feel nothing. When our brothers and sister are literally suffocating their own souls in front of our eyes, by committing the most evil sins, and we remain mute. What has happened to us? We used to be the best at caring for each other, and in turn became the best of all people. Now we pretend that we don’t see what’s going on, and presume we’re not responsible. That it’s every man for himself.
And just like that, we have become the white bull.
Rasoolullah said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not sit at a table where liquor is served.“6 It is narrated in the books of fiqh, that four men who drank alcohol were brought to ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez and he ordered that they be lashed. It was said to him, one among them didn’t drink, rather he is fasting. Umar -[ra] said, “start with him.” For he knew of the evil around him, and remained silent.
Rasoolullah said, “Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hands; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith.”7
Do: It is said that Bashar Al-Assad’s father massacred around 40,000 people in the city of Hama in 1982. We must realize that the reason Al-Assad cannot oppress and butcher innocent civilians as blatantly as his father did, is because of the presence of reporters, videos, and the internet. All of this public pressure was not possible in 1982 in Hama. We must therefore, never trivialize acts that we deem insignificant. However little it may be, some good will come out of acts like petitioning and holding demonstrations in front of embassies.
Speak: When asked why we don’t speak out against transgression, let it be against other human beings, or against our own souls, how often do we hear excuses like “we don’t want to seem judgmental” or “we don’t want to feel awkward” or “we are afraid of appearing too ‘conservative.’” For this reason, many of our scholars and imams don’t make global injustices and tyrannical oppression the subject of their sermons and talks. Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, the famous scholar from Andalus, was so frustrated and fed up with the situation of the scholars and the imams of Andalus, that he said, “Do not be deceived by these corrupt people, who claim to be scholars while they are wearing the skins of sheep on hearts of wolves. They are doing nothing for the Ummah. The Ummah is falling down, the Ummah is being fought against, the land of Andalus is being invaded, and they are talking about other issues.” Rasoolullah said, “The best Jihad is a speech of truth in the presence of a tyrant ruler.”8 Yes, it is usually tough. But we must still “say the truth, even if bitter [for you].”9
Feel: And if you are too weak to say something, then at least hate it in your heart. For so long have we allowed poison to seep into our hearts through our eyes and ears that we no longer feel. We have become numb. We are more hurt over the death of one celebrity, then we are over the death of thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world. When we see an inhumane tyrant who is killing children in front of their mothers just for a little bit of power, the least we can do is despise it in our hearts. When you see your brother and sister saying and doing filthy things, at least feel a sense of disgust in your heart. Keeping in mind though, that you hate the sin, because of your love for the sinner. Unfortunately we have strayed so far from this point, that the only time we feel hate or disgust, is when we despise a particular individual; we have learned to hate the sinner, and could care less about the sin.
However, when those of us with a little bit of decency look around at the transgression and tyranny in the world, we feel an immense amount of pain. How can we not feel pain when we see those who lack an ounce of humanity in them? How can we not feel pain when we see a barbarian kill his own civilians and his own population? No human can abduct and kidnap 10-year old kids and torture them to death. No human can take a warplane and bomb it upon a civilian building. This is not a part of humanity. How can we not feel pain when the world is silent as this happens all around us? How can we not feel pain when the thirst of oil led NATO and the UN to intervene for Libya, but they leave the people of Syria to die and rot?
Let us realize that Allah (swt) is testing us. Just as He is testing them with deprivation, bloodshed, oppression, and death, He is testing us with the opposite. Allah (swt) wants to see whether we break out of these luxurious lives that we have immersed ourselves in, and take on some discomfort for His sake. Our Lord is filtering out those amongst us with true faith, versus those amongst us who only claim to have it. “Do people think that they will be left alone because they say we believe, and will not be tested? We indeed tested those before them. And Allah will certainly make it known the truth of those who are true, and will certainly make it known the falsehood of those who are liars.”10
It is at times like these, that weak start to doubt their lord and ask questions like, “O Allah, are You not seeing what’s happening? Why are You allowing this?” However, we must never lose our hope in Allah (swt). We must place our trust in him, and show the world that we are Muslims, and we will never lose faith in our Lord. When we think to ourselves “When will the help of Allah come,” let us be reminded, “Verily, the help of Allah is near.”11 It is in this last year that we have seen multiple tyrants fall like dominoes, one after the other. How can we lose hope in Allah (swt) when we have seen how He humiliated them?
There is no doubt that a day will come on which Allah (swt) will punish the wicked transgressors.
Rasoolullah (saw) said, “Verily Allah gives respite to the oppressor. But when He seizes him, He does not let him escape”12
But what about us? What alibi will we present when our brothers and sisters stand up before Allah and say, “he knew that thousands of us are being tortured and killed, but he turned away and kept silent. All he did was change the channel, and stayed away, because it looked too ‘messy’ to him.” What excuse can we possibly give when they tell our Lord, “I cried for his help, but he laid in his bed sleeping. He turned a blind eye, and by doing so, handed me over to the oppressor. I bled, and it didn’t affect him in the slightest.”
What will be the case when your best friend in this world, who will then be your worst enemy, appears before you with tears in his eyes and says, “I thought we were friends? You saw me sin every single day, you saw me do things I wasn’t supposed to do, you saw me transgress the bounds that were set by our Lord. Why did you never say anything? Where were you? I don’t understand why have you done this to me. You could have saved me. You could have helped me. Why didn’t you correct me? O Allah, You told him we are brothers, but he treated me like a stranger.”
What will your answer be on that day? “Oh, I didn’t want you to think I’m judgmental, I didn’t want to seem ‘backwards,’ I didn’t want to look too ‘extreme,’ I didn’t want to appear too ‘religious.’” Umar [ra] said, “I seek refuge in a day, that the one that’s disobedient is proud of his disobedience, and the ones that’s obedient is shy and embarrassed of his obedience.” We have turned into silent ghosts that can’t even save our friends from the hellfire, out of fear of coming off as awkward or strange. Have we forgotten that Rasooullah said, “Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as when it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”13
“Imagine a person dying of dehydration, and he needs a sip of water, and you’ve got that bottle of water in your pocket. But you say, ‘I don’t think I’m going to give it to him because I think he might feel a little degraded if I go down and put water in his mouth. He’s going to feel like an animal, I will let him die instead.” -Omar Suleiman
What have we done to save our fellow bulls from the tiger?
We ask Allah (swt) to grant us the decency to feel pain for humanity. We ask Allah (swt) to grant us the dignity to beg Him in the middle of the night. O Allah! Respond to the prayers of the oppressed, just as you have promised. O Allah! Lift the massacres and bloodshed. O Allah! Grant them fortitude and patience. O Allah! Accept their martyrs and comfort their widows. O Allah! Send your tranquility and mercy to those who are living deprived amongst them. O Allah! Cause us to feel hate and disgust when we see injustice, transgression, and sin. O Allah! Grant us the courage to stand up to the oppressive devils of the world, and moreover, to stand up to the devils within.
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice to go on. But I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” –Anonymous
1. Old Arab legend
2. [Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rasul Barzanji, Al-Isha’ah li-ashrat al-sa’ah, p.142]
3. [Abu Dawood and others]
4. [Quran 3:110]
6. [Tirmidhi (2801)]
8. [Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi]
9. [Related by Ahmad from Abu Dharr]
10. [Quran 29:2-3]
11. [Quran 2:214]
12. [Bukhari and Muslim]
Related Video: Video Link to khutbah by Imam Omar Suleiman (video cannot be embedded).