Khutbas


In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

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I was originally supposed to talk about something else on Friday, but I decided to address this because so many people went for ballroom dancing.

 

The night before Touch of Class, everyone was anxious about what to wear the next day. Expensive dresses and suits, extravagant shoes and jewellery – all were part of the preparations. I was optimistic, hoping for a break from the norm of form-fitting t-shirts and jeans. People should have been dressing beautifully, traditionally – but they were not. Societies once believed clothing should adorn the body; modern society stresses clothing should reveal it. The tight t-shirts and jeans had been replaced by tighter and scantier dresses and skirts. Girls walked through the hallways barely dressed, exposing their bodies to anyone with a curious eye*. I realized that this spectacle was not attractive; it was demeaning. Attempting beauty, we had drowned our morals in a repulsive display of body. What, then, can be defined as beauty?

 

In the Islamic paradigm, beauty relates the temporal and spiritual. Because the outward reflects inward realities, the Divine Law (sharī`a) prescribes dignified dress. The Law legislates for the benefit of its adherents, and modesty is required to ennoble us as human beings, the descendants of the representative of God, Adam; and as Muslims, the community of the paragon of Creation, Muhammad salawat.gif. Our predecessors were mindful of the relationship between outward dignity and inward perfection. For example, the Imams Abu Hanifa and Malik would dress like kings and give money to their students to fulfill the same. The wisdom behind such embellishment was that the people of knowledge would be respected, drawing the link between one’s appearance and others’ perceptions of character. As inheritors of sacred knowledge, they recognized external and internal excellence is requisite to carrying this responsibility. Likewise, Martin Lings relates that students would inquire from his shaikh, who was sensitive to beauty, about details such as the carpets and curtains in their homes. Many overlook the insight for such questioning, but Lings explains, “The nearest thing to the soul is the body, then the clothes in which it is dressed, then the rooms it lives in.” Muslims should realize that all facets of life, from the sacred to the profane, must be conducive to spiritual perfection and growth. The dignity Islam imbues in its adherents anticipates emotion that transcends the temporal and approaches the Divine. When we express ourselves through this lens, we will experience a beauty that carnality can never replace.

* This statement is not a condemnation. Women are forced into a degrading position, ‘liberation’, by an “industry… largely controlled by men who seek to persuade women to denude or adorn themselves to add to a public spectacle created largely for men” (TJ Winter, Boys Will Be Boys). The blame rests on those who feed the oppression.

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

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Shaikh ‘Abd-ul-Hayy of the Subcontinent explained, “God’s mercy looks for excuses to envelop a person.”

Islam is based on this principle, so that mercy blankets the believer. But compassion cannot be expected; it must be earned. Despite our faults, we must understand and strive for God’s clemency to attain it.

Though we make mistakes, the forgiveness of God can cover them all. The Prophet salawat.gif remarked, “The children of Adam are all sinners, and the best of sinners are the penitent” (Tirmidhi). Error is part of human nature: we have been designed to make mistakes. God created humanity imperfect to reveal His perfection, so that He could manifest the meaning of His name, ‘The Merciful.’ He pardons the faults, however great, of all who turn to Him. Salvation comes only through this mercy.

Felicity after death is attained by God’s compassion. The Prophet salawat.gif said, “No one will enter Paradise by his good works” (Bukhari). Whatever good we accrue amounts to little before the blessings God has bestowed. For example, amongst the Jews lived a saint who worshipped for 500 years and appeared before the Reckoner after death. God proclaimed, “Enter the Garden by my mercy!” to which the worshipper protested, “No, by my actions! By my actions!” The Reckoner ordered, “Take him to account,” and the Scales were brought forth. Against this man’s piety vied the blessing of the eye, which far outweighed his actions. The slave was asked if he wanted the account to continue but replied, “No, by Your mercy! By Your mercy!” The worshipper came to understand that one’s actions cannot suffice him the gifts The Merciful conferred upon him. Because of man’s incapability to worship God as He deserves, the Prophet salawat.gif sought forgiveness 70 to 100 times per day. Though blameless, he salawat.gif strived to merit God’s favour by his deeds. The Prophet salawat.gif established that although mercy is encompassing, it has conditions.

The doors to God’s compassion are unlocked by actions. Works, though outweighed by God’s benevolence, are its requisite. Imam Hasan al-Basri said, referring to the words of God, “Allot mercy to My servants, and divide it amongst them according to their deeds.” How can we appear before God on the Day of Reckoning, hoping for forgiveness, when we have done no good action? How can we expect God to be gentle when we have not merited such treatment? We find solace in His mercy and forgiveness, but what will protect us “[w]hen the Generous appears with the name Avenger” (The Poem of the Mantle)? Opportunities open to us but we neglect them. Mercy “looks for excuses” to cleanse us but we reject it. When we pursue vain desires, we ignore such openings and forget that we have a purpose, that we live to worship the Merciful. Recognizing and fulfilling this precedent unfolds clemency to the believer. And God, the Distributor, does not disapoint those who turn to Him.

The favours of God encompass His worshippers. Despite our deficiencies, we can enjoy God’s benevolence if we recognize and seek it. And when we turn to The Merciful in sincerity and devotion, only He knows what blessings await us.

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

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“The people are asleep, so that when they die, suddenly they become aware.” – Imam ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him.

Ramadan is a moment of awakening. Filled with blessings, it is unlike other times. As Muslims, we must use this opportunity by occupying our time wisely so that we can accomplish our purpose.

During this month, we need to be wary of our time. In Surat al-‘Asr, God reminds us (what can be translated as), “By the declining day: Lo! man is a state of loss, save those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience” (Qur’an, 103:1-3). Some scholars mention that every moment spent in other than belief and good works is lost and will be held against us. Ramadan will either be a proof for us or against us. If we make use of this trust, then we will taste its rewards and the sweetness of faith. But if we abuse it, then so much the worse, because this month is a blessing that so few of us are thankful for. These days are of God’s Forgiveness and Mercy, so that it is the best time to turn to Him sincerely. Most of us waste our lives in heedlessness, but Ramadan is a time of higher consciousness, of filling our lives with meaning.

Ramadan is our opportunity to wake up. The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, commanded, “Consider yourselves already in the graves.” In other words, as Shaikh Hamza Yusuf notes, die before you die. Wake up before you die, because at death all awaken to spiritual realities, but it is too late to change. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, told us, “Fasting is a shield.” It preserves our humanity from our desires and animalistic characteristics. One goal of fasting is to attain samadiya, or steadfastness. as-Samad, or The Steadfast, is a Name of God and fasting helps us acquire some of this divine attribute. Following the sunna entails acquiring divine characteristics because the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, embodied these virtues on Earth. We can only attain this awakening if we strive for it. Sitting through Ramadan and expecting to gain benefit from the blessings of the month is not enough.

Ramadan is our chance to draw closer to God. If we bring our time to account and use this bounty, then we will experience reward in this life and after. Remember that until death, change is never too late. The Qur’an encourages, “Say: O My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgiveth all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful” (39:53). Do not despair if thus far your Ramadan has been unfulfilling, because the door of Mercy is always open.