- Khutbah delivered by Nouman Ali Khan on April 19, 2013
Obviously what's on everybody's mind today are some of the major events in the news that are very tragic that all of us have heard about and have been thinking and can't help but think about. Of course from a Muslim perspective it's probably not shocking to say that most of you when you first heard that terrible news out of Boston said, “God I hope that's not a Muslim.” And that's just naturally how the Muslims now are thinking because we're just bracing ourselves for the next catastrophe that hits all communities including our own and especially our own. But I don't want to turn this khutbah entirely reactionary and condemn the acts of violence alone which is obvious. What I'd like to do inshā'Allāh is to break this brief 20-25 minutes I have with you into three parts, the first part of which is just some things about how as Muslims we're supposed to react. Not for others, not towards others, not to explain ourselves to anybody else, but how we are supposed to think about these kinds of events and what our attitudes are supposed to be, because there seems to be a lot of confusion even among Muslims. The average Muslim sometimes doesn't really know what to think about a lot of these things. These events, one piled after another after another can really tear down a sense of what Islam really says about these things.
The other problem with this is that in some circles, this terrible manipulation of Islam has happened in which some people give off the idea that somehow in Islam, we think that when Muslims suffer, that's a tragedy. And when non-Muslims suffer, “meh, what's the big deal? They're not one of us. We don't have to feel bad for non-Muslims suffering.” And this is actually one of the worst attacks on Islam itself. Because Islam, we believe, is the message taught to all Prophets ('alaihi salatu wa as-salam), all of them. Across nations, across ethnicities. Every Prophet preached the same message of the Oneness of Allāh, the Uniqueness of God, and submission before Him. And all of these Prophets, you read what the Qur'an even says about these Prophets, and it says for example Shu'aib [as] – speaking about the crimes of the disbelievers – said:
وَيْلٌ لِّلْمُطَفِّفِينَ. الَّذِينَ إِذَا اكْتَالُوا عَلَى النَّاسِ يَسْتَوْفُونَ. وَإِذَا كَالُوهُمْ أَو وَّزَنُوهُمْ يُخْسِرُونَ
Allāh talks about the worst kinds of destruction falling upon those who cheat others in business! This is early revelation. There's not even a believing community to speak of. Yet the people who get hurt, the orphan who gets pushed around, many of you know this surah: فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ - he pushes the orphan; the orphan is not a Muslim in the āyah! The passage is talking about the orphan being mistreated in the community. And this is early revelation where the majority of people around are non-Muslims. The Qur'an concerned itself with the plight of humanity, as all prophets did.
And before the Prophet himself became a Messenger , it's very well-known that he was part of a humanitarian organization – Hilf al-Fuḍūl – and he used to go and help as many people as he could in whatever way he could. It was basically a humanitarian cause in the local city of Mecca. Whatever little wealth he had towards this cause of helping others, trying to help others.
We believe, personally, as Muslims, that the Prophet was the most concerned person for humanity and he had a love for all of humanity. He was sent by Allāh as a Messenger to all of humanity, as someone who would invite them. You cannot possibly invite someone to anything if you hate them. Or if you don't honor them. Or if you think less of them. Invitation is like inviting someone to your house – you don't do that to someone you look down on. Or if you think of them somehow as people who should be hated. We're not supposed to have that attitude.
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ
We honored the children of Adam. Allāh says He honored the children of Adam. Now, which children of Adam? He didn't specify, He didn't say some children of Adam. Or the believing children of Adam, or the Muslim children of Adam, or the European children of Adam, or the American children of Adam. It's the children of Adam. They're all honored human beings! And this is not something that you or I gave – it's an honor that Allāh gave. Every human being – the ruh was blown into him, or her. The soul is blown into them. And the ruh (soul) itself is an honored thing, because Allāh says
وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي
Allāh attributes it to Himself. So human beings are inherently honored in our religion, and all life is sacred. And that's why even when the prohibition of murder is talked about in the Qur'an, and who should have the right to seek justice on behalf of the victim, Allāh says
وَمَن قُتِلَ مَظْلُومًا فَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا لِوَلِيِّهِ سُلْطَانًا
Whoever gets killed unjustly, then his family has a right to seek justice. The family has the right, when the murderer is caught, to qisas. The Qur'an says “an eye for an eye” – they can ask the court to do that, or they can seek some other form of retribution, like a lawsuit in modern times, or even forgive them. But that right should be given to the victim's family, not some arbitrary court, not some anonymous jury. The Qur'anic principle, if there was such a thing in a society, then that victim's family has the right, even if they were non-Muslims! Remember this is a Makkan surah, an early revelation, Muslims aren't established yet and there is no governance yet and these ayaat came down, because these were principles of justice that dealt with all human beings.
So now, having said that I want to share something more with you, how the Prophet trained his companions. We have to understand – he was concerned for humanity before he even knew about revelation. But once he receives revelation, he knows that there is such a thing as suffering in this world. There is suffering of disease, of crime like we're seeing in the news now, suffering from war, from death, all kinds of suffering in the world. But when he came into contact with revelation, he learned about another kind of suffering – a far worse kind of suffering, one that lasts forever. It's the suffering of the afterlife. He was already concerned with humanity before, but after receiving revelation the level of concern is incomparable. There's really no comparison before and after. Now he's not only concerned now about suffering in this world but also their suffering in the next world.
And despite that, you look at some of the unique cases among the Sahaba, the Companions of the Prophet , who he educated and cultivated their thinking himself [saws],these Companions would come by some non-Muslims that were sick, and they would read Qur'an over them as ruqya - the ruqya we do from the Prophetic practice – they would do that for a non-Muslim. Because they believed that recitation of Qur'an is healing, so they wanted to heal even the non-believer. Somebody now, as a contemporary, would argue how would a non-believer benefit from the spiritual healing of the Qur'an, they would have to have īmān first, then they could benefit from the healing. But that's not how the Companions thought. They were just concerned for other people.They just wanted to help, however they could.
One time the Prophet was interacting with a Jewish man, and this man does something good for the Prophet. He says to this man – and the Companions are sitting there – he says may Allāh make you beautiful. And the narration says that this man outlived the Prophet and he grew old, and not a hair on his head was gray. Like the Prophet prayed for his eternal youth, almost. His entire life he looked young. The Prophet prayed even for non-Muslims. He did that, in his lifetime, sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam.
Why am I bringing all this up? Because obviously news from all around the world is much more easily accessible to us today. More accessible than ever before. We get to know what's going on in other places in the world, especially the bad news, because that's more sensational. So we know about the kinds of horrible suffering that's happening in the Africas, what's going on in so many parts of Southeast Asia. The terrible catastrophes that are happening in Bangladesh right now. The families that are suffering in Syria. Unimaginable things are happening, and now this news is accessible to us. But you know what, when something happens in the United States, when an 8 year old child is killed just standing next to people watching a marathon, I am saddened deeply by the loss of that child. I have an 8 year old in my family. I have children too. I feel the sadness of that parent who lost their child. What did they do to deserve that?
أَقَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا زَكِيَّةً بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ
You killed an innocent child without any justification! They didn't kill anyone. And I feel sad about that, and for some Muslims this is confusing. Is it OK to feel sad for non-Muslims? Is it OK to do that? There's something wrong with that mentality. And then when you feel sad for them, someone comes and says – hey why aren't you sad for all the other children in all the other war zones of the world? I say, this is a politicized manipulation of reality and human decency. Human beings can only feel so sad. I feel sad for whatever news comes to me, whether it's from down the block or across the Atlantic, I feel sad. But that doesn't mean that you go and say, “oh you know what, I'm really sorry that this child died, but there's so many more dying there too.”
No, it's not a contest. Imagine if somebody came to you and said that, “I'm sorry to hear your child is sick. But you know there are so many other children that are sick too.” It's insensitive. It's inhuman to think this way. It's not like we're comparing the tragedies, and we shouldn't be comparing tragedies – it's wrong to do so – suffering is suffering. And we feel bad.
The next question – and this is still the first point of the three I wanted to talk to you about – this is the last bit here. There's so much suffering all over the world today that we if keep watching the news, we'll be in a perpetual state of depression. I don't know if you'd have a reason to smile. And that's just us, we're not the best humanitarians. We just watch the news and get overwhelmed by the horrible things that are happening around us. Now I remind you of what I said earlier, the Prophet was the most concerned human being for the plight of humanity ever. But then you find something unique about the personality of the Prophet . Allāh tells us that the Prophet is so worried about the state of humanity that he's about to almost die out of depression. So Allāh tells him:
فَلَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَكَ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ إِن لَّمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا
and in another place
لَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَكَ أَلَّا يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ
Once in Surat al-Kahf and again in Surat al-Shu'ara. Are you going to kill yourself from grief? Are you going to worry so much about them that you'll die yourself? That they won't believe in this speech? That they will suffer the eternal torment of Hellfire? Is this going to kill you? Allāh is telling him not to grieve that much. And then you find the internalization of that teaching from the Prophet .In prayer he used to pray and cry for those who are suffering but at the same time the Companions say that whenever we saw him he was always smiling. He was able to balance it. You have to live your life too. Having joy and happiness in your life doesn't mean you're less of a human being. If you feel any kind of happiness in life while others are suffering, it's not because you're insensitive. No, because that's a human thing. There's a part of us that feels sad and a part of us can be happy at the same time. The Prophet had more reason to feel sad than anybody else because he knew, better than anyone else, what humanity was headed for. And yet, he had occasions of joy and happiness.
So we can't be overwhelmed by negativity; we have to have that balance in our personality. And that's the final thing about the first of three things I wanted to share with you. The final thing, I promise this time. If we're overly depressed and negative, we're not going to be able to be productive for the world. Human beings need to have some positivity in their lives to be able to do things for themselves and for others, for their families and societies. That's part of what makes us functional for the world. That's what the Prophet himself needs. There are multiple places in the Qur'an where Allāh actually encourages the Prophet , congratulates him, tells him “Don't be sad! Let me give you a reason to be happy.” It's even a need for the Messenger of Allāh, and it's a need for ourselves.
The second thing I want to talk to you about and inshā'Allāh remind myself of in this khutbah is an idea I want to introduce to you, not necessarily have a long conversation about. The Qur'an says something really unique about itself.
يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا
which means that Allāh allows many people to be misguided by means of this very revelation, and He guides many by means of this revelation. When we first listen to this we ask: why would Allāh send this revelation and then allow it to be used for misguidance? In fact, misguidance is mentioned first, and then said وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا. But then at the end of it, Allāh mentions the kind of people that get misguided by God's guidance itself. What kind of people they will be. He says:
وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ
He never misguides anybody at all, by means of revelation except those who are inherently corrupt. They have a deeply rooted corruption in themselves. So what I want to bring to your attention is that there are either psychological forms of corruption, people who don't even realize they're being manipulated, like young people are very gullible. There are people who are emotionally corrupt or traumatized, there are people who are actually outright evil and corrupt. Corruption takes many forms. It could be purposeful or not purposeful, it could be circumstantial. But you know what, when you come to this book with some kind of corruption – maybe you don't have complete information and you're rushing to conclusions – then the Qur'an has the option for someone to manipulate it. Someone to make the wrong conclusions. Someone to use things in the Qur'an and say “oh this is what that means.” But that can only happen when something is corrupt. If the intention and the approach and the emotions are corrupt. Something corrupt has to be there for the wrong conclusions to come out.
Islamic civilization has existed for a very long time, and our scholarship is a proud scholarship that spans continents. It's not even one continent, it's several continents of Muslim scholarship that go back several centuries. It's not a small civilization. This one book has been studied by millions upon millions of people, and each one of them didn't casually read it, they spent their lives studying it. And none of them came to the kinds of conclusions that some young people today come to. We don't even know their rationale, specifically Boston. But I know some people are going to be thinking “oh this is because of Islam”, or “this is a kind of jihad fee sabeelillah” or whatever else. This is nothing like jihad fee sabeelillah! This is nothing sanctioned by the Qur'an. It's a form of corruption. It's a form of manipulation of the sacred text. And we have to understand this first, that it's a violation of Allāh's Word. There are some people who read the Qur'an in translation and they come across those ayaat. And I'll just say them to you, so you don't have to look for them. Read Surat at-Tauba; you'll find them yourself. It's going to be very politically incorrect for you to read Surat at-Tauba. The 8th surah, 9th surah, 33rd surah, even the 2nd surah. Read them. You'll find things like
وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ
Somebody can pull out a translation of the Qur'an, and say look, it says “kill them wherever you find them.” That's what they do when they read Qur'an – they're going to say that. How come, in 1400 years of history, nobody thinks of that statement the same way as these people just did? How come they don't see it that way? How come everybody else saw something far more advanced? Far more complex and contextual?
We have to study this Book carefully. We have to understand it clearly. We can't just take something out of it and quote it out of context. Because if you want to get into that habit, here's another one for you:
This is a complete āyah. The worst destruction shall fall upon those who pray. You want to just quote something from the Qur'an – here, Qur'an says this. Somebody says, “I don't pray.” If you ask them why not, they say the Qur'an says فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ, my favorite āyah! But the Qur'an goes on to say:
الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ. الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ.
There's more to it! Those who pray to show off. Those who are lazy and careless when they're praying. There's more to it! There's more to what's being said. To simply pull something out of context is easy manipulation. It's an easy target. And this is an unfortunate misuse of the Qur'an that is so common. And since most average Muslims aren't even very well-educated in the Qur'an, they start thinking “well, I don't even know how to explain that. It does say it, I guess.” And we're defeated internally. But we have to understand this is a manipulation and a corruption of the pure teachings of Islam.
The final thing I want to share with you is our response to non-Muslims – your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, who might look at you a little bit weird when we go into work tomorrow. There have already been several violent incidents across the country against Muslims before the news came out that these two young men were Chechen. And I want to remind myself and all of you, number one, just be vigilant. You don't know what kind of crazy people are out there. Not everybody out there is crazy. Most people are very normal and very nice, but there are some crazy people out there. And they use these kinds of things as an excuse to perpetuate some kinds of violence or hate speech – you might hear something on the street , somebody just hurls something at you, someone drives by and does something inappropriate.
So first of all, be careful where you go and look at your surroundings. Second of all, don't respond! You don't respond to ignorance. Allāh's Messenger is told
وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاهْجُرْهُمْ هَجْرًا جَمِيلًا
Just be patient over what they're saying, leave them in a decent way. Don't resort to indecency yourself if somebody is resorting to indecency with you.
You're not a criminal, I'm not a criminal; I don't owe an explanation to anyone. You and I haven't done anything wrong. You don't have to feel like you owe anyone an apology, because you don't. You and I don't; we're not criminals. If people decide to bunch an entire religion together and say all you people are the same, that's their problem, not yours. So you don't have to feel apologetic. But at the same time, if ignorance does come your way, the right thing to do is to ignore and not respond back. It's as stupid as a dog barking at you and you're barking back at the dog. It doesn't make any sense and it's not a good idea. That's not wisdom.
These are the three things I wanted to share with you in this khutbah. The first and foremost – just as our heart bleeds for those who suffer in Muslim lands, our heart goes out to those who suffered anywhere. This deen teaches us to feel the suffering of humanity. That's part of our faith, and if we don't feel this, then there's something wrong and something missing.
The second thing – just as a quick reminder – that if it is motivated by religious motives, then this is a manipulation of religious teachings. It doesn't sincerely or genuinely or even in an academic or scholarly way represent what this religion has to say.
And finally, the third and the last things as I close inshā'Allāh ta'ala is that first of all we have to be careful in our surroundings. Find this to be an opportunity to talk to your friends and neighbors. They might be curious, they might even be worried when they see you. They might not say it, but they might be a little creeped out when you and your wife in hijab go up to their house. Take over some cake, and talk to them. We're in a weird situation in America, Muslims in particular. We have to go out of our way to just at least let our neighbors know who we are. We have to go out of our way. Not artificially, not just to say, “look, I just came over to give you some cake and let you know that I'm not crazy.” But because our religion teaches us to at least know our neighbors. To be good to them, to care for them. That should be our motive, not PR.
If PR is your motive, then Allāh will not put any barakah in your reaching out to your neighbors. If you just want to go over and let them know, “Oh by the way, not fanatic OK? Just a normal Muslim. I'm not that Muslim” then there's not going to be any blessings in that effort, and it might even make your relations with your neighbors worse. You want Allāh's blessings – be a sincere neighbor. Be a good neighbor. Go over to them, talk to them because they're your neighbors, just for that reason. And if Muslims just did their job and fulfilled one of the instructions of the Prophet – taking care of 40 neighbors – I'm not even asking you for 40, how about 4? How about 2?
Even if we that, then a lot of misconceptions about Muslims out there will start disappearing. Because we wouldn't have to speak for ourselves – our neighbors will. Our neighbors will say, “no we know these people. I trust my house keys with them when we go on vacation. I trust my kids with them; they go for sleepovers all the time. What are you talking about? Muslims aren't like that!” But we don't engage with our neighbors. We go on PR campaigns, we publish newsletters, we do press releases. All of those are artificial - they come and go. But our neighbors are always there and they need to know who we are. When they see who we are, then those barriers are dropped because you humanize people that way.
May Allāh 'azza wa jall help us all deal with this catastrophe.
And may Allāh 'azza wa jall bring solace to those who have lost loved ones and those that suffering as a result of this tragedy and tragedies around the world.
May Allāh 'azza wa jall help Muslims understand the true essence of their faith and help them become decent families and decent neighbors and decent citizens of the world.