One of the issues that we have in our past that has the potential of coming back and haunting us in our present is the issue of what is called kufr or TAKFIR. Before we try to take a calculated look at this issue, we should remind ourselves that this concept is a Qur’anic concept. It's not an accusation to begin with and it is not the improvisation of a group of people as it may have been intended at times to be. The word kufr and its multiple derivatives in the Qur’an are plentiful.
There are many ayaat in the Qur’an that mention this word in context- this is the key to understanding it- "in context". This is by no means an exhaustive attempt, but we will attempt to try to have a sense of what this idea or definition is so that it cannot be abused by individuals and utilized by political powers as it has the potential of becoming if we ourselves are not there to absorb and to behave according to its meanings. Allah states in the very first ayaat of Surah Al Baqarah- and His words are the eternal truth- this is just one context of the many other contexts in the Qur’an. It's as if it was meant for us to begin this elementary understanding of two opposite concepts. We cannot understand kufr in the absence of our understanding of imaan. Therefore, in a sense, the definition in the last two ayaat that were quoted is a further definition, even though it is a contrarian follow up to the definition of Imaan. Let's take these ayaat- we're not going to leave you in a mental wilderness. These are the beginning ayaat of the second Surah in the Qur’an.
The letters ALIF-LAAM-MEEM; constitute that Holy writ about which there is no doubt, a source of guidance for those who are conscious of Allah’s power presence in human affairs (Surah Al Baqarah verse 1-2)
A further description of this group of people who are on guard against Allah’s ever present power in our daily and lively affairs is
those who are committed to the un-palpable or that which is beyond human senses and those who have institutionalized or standardized in society this relationship with Allah through the daily observance of Allah through the daily observance of Allah… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 3)
This is another meaning for As-Salaah. As-Salaah is no longer an individual trait. Allah did not say Alladhina Yusallun. He said Alladhina Yuqimun As-Salaah. Iqamah As-Salaah needs a combined human effort and it intends for a social dimension.
… and out of that which We provided them with, they give or disperse (Surah Al Baqarah verse 3)
Anything that comes their way, they in turn distribute it. It is very important to follow these meanings of Imaan that are going to help us understand the meanings of kufr.
And those who are committed to that which has been bestowed upon you (O Prophet) and that which has been bestowed upon those who have come before you from on high and they are certain of the approaching life- of the final life. It is they who are on a course of guidance from their sustainer and it is they who are successful or felicitous (Surah Al Baqarah verse 4-5)
Now, we have a definition for what is now to follow.
As a matter of fact, those who are in denial, it is the same whether you caution or relay an ultimatum to them or whether you do not do so, they will not commit themselves to Allah. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 6)
Brothers and sisters- let us go through this in a way that we will understand each other. We're not just here to pontificate. This is a matter of you and us understanding what Allah is explaining to us. When Allah’s Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) came to the people in Makkah, these people had no Islamic feature or character to them. They had no conviction or commitment that is drawn from the book of Allah into their social order, but, when Allah’s Prophet spoke to them at the beginning of this divine communiqué, he didn't say to them "O Kaafirs". Even though in a lopsided understanding of the word, there are people who are more than willing to brand people who are not familiar with Allah, His scripture and His Prophet just the same way the people in Makkah, at the beginning, were not familiar with Allah, His scripture and His Prophet; but, Allah’s Prophet was not broad brushing them with the title of kufr. He was saying to them "Ya Qawmi", "My People". This makes for a chemistry of communication. Allah’s Prophet knew that the people around him were on the wrong path. They were potential followers or potential enemies of his, but they were not in the future where they had made up their minds regarding what position they were going to take for or against Allah’s Prophet. That is why as this momentum of Islam and Imaan began to build up in Makkah, a counter momentum began to build up also, in opposition to Allah and His Prophet. When this momentum began to express hostility to Allah and His Prophet, then the words of kufr was introduced to Islamic communication. Then we began to hear these ayaat from Allah explaining who a kaafir is. Notice in this ayah at the beginning of the Qur’an, the wording
Certainly, those who are denial (In denial of whom?) and rejection of Allah, His holy book and His holy Prophet, it matters not whether you break bad news to them or you don't, because they are not going to commit themselves to Allah. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 6)
Notice- in this ayah, Allah did not say "Innaladhina kafaru sawaaun alaihim adawtahum am lam tud uhum laa yu' minun". The fast and loose thinking that is preponderant amongst the Muslims and the non-Muslims today… There are people who have no warm relationship with Allah, His Prophet and the Qur’an who step into this area for dubious and sinister reasons- it's as if they get a kick out of disturbing this Islamic psychology which dwells in people like me and you who have not yet activated the delicate meanings of this Qur’an with the issues of this life. The word Andhara and Yundhiru is that you (O Prophet of Allah) whether you tell these people (of the opposition) of Makkah of the horrible consequences that await them in the matter of the social laws of this world or in the matter of the ultimate accountability that they will face in the coming world- in any case, whether you express this ultimatum to them, for them it's the same- "It doesn't matter." So now, Alladhina kafaru are not just subjects of a conversation. They are not interlocutors of two sides- one being the Prophets side and the other one, the opposite side. Now, they have hardened their position of opposition so that the Prophet is no longer just a communicator of a message, but a purveyor of a threat to them. This meaning flows in the rest of the ayaat of the Qur’an. There are people who have hardened their positions, entrenched their opposition to Allah and His Prophet from what is a theoretical argument to Allah and His Prophet to what will eventually become a physical and a military opposition to Allah and His Prophet.
Just for a moment, let us select a few other ayaat from the Qur’an which we hope to understand within context so that we don't have any Joe Blow coming and imposing their definition of kaafir upon us and we run away with it.
In Surah Al Kahf, there is an encounter between two individuals. Most of the time in the Qur’an, we realize that kufr pertains to a block of people or a social trend, but it also pertains to individuals. In Surah Al Kahf, (verses 32 to 38), there is an encounter between one individual who is on the side of Allah and the other opposed to Allah. We will try to give you the context and then zero-in on why one individual is presented with the question "Are you in denial of Allah?" This can take some time, so we'll just quote the ayaat and then give you the compact meaning. Ok- what's going on in these ayaat? For those of you who cannot follow this verbatim ayaat from the Qur’an. There is a person who is in possession of agricultural, financial and worldly wealth. That type of wealth has caused this type of person to think that this type of wealth is going to endure and continue forever. Even if he were to return to Allah, he will find better than what he has in this world. This psychology is described by the words of the Qur’an "Dhalimu li nafsi"- this type of person, with this particular type of psychology is doing injustice to himself. So, what does his colleague tell him? He asks him a question- after laying out this human characteristic, he says to him "Are you in denial pertaining to He who has created you?" Now, this person didn't say "I don't believe in God." To the contrary, he confessed to a Sustainer, a Lord and a Sovereign. He said "And if I were to revert or return to my Lord, my Maker (that's what he's saying), I will find better than the wealth that I have." So, even psychological injustice that germinates in the internal mind and emotions of one person can extend itself to become a practical denial of Allah. That is why his companion asks him "Are you in denial pertaining to He who has created you?" Do you see? If we can contextualize these meanings, in this case, Allah says about one individual who is doing injustice to himself – the inference from the quoted ayah of his colleague is that "by asking this question, it is inferring that he is in denial of Allah."
Another ayah in Surah Al Baqarah says
And the kaafirs are the dhalims (Surah Al Baqarah verse 254)
If we understand these ayaat in context, we begin to understand that these people who are in a lifetime of denial of Allah eventually become in their own positions and status tyrants, oppressors and otherwise, individuals who are responsible for injustice. There is a transition- it can take sometime- either in the life of one individual or in the life of societies, and, the life of society is much more than an individual life. There is an inevitable transition that goes on for those who are in theoretical denial of Allah, to one day become practical deniers of Allah.
And the kaafirs are the oppressors (Surah Al Baqarah verse 254)
There are other ayaat in the Qur’an when you look at this word. This is a key word and it has to be understood. We can't look the other way and say "we don't want to use this word." or we want to overlook its meanings- we can't do that. A word is used hundreds of times in the Qur’an and you want to overlook its meanings! Impossible! The only alternative we have left to us is to approach these holy words and this holy writ with our open minds, so that we can understand what they mean in context.
In another ayah, Allah says
Those who say that Allah is a third of three are guilty of kufr (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 73)
They are not guilty of kufr simply because this is a verbal statement. You can give this statement to a parrot and the parrot will repeat these words. If the parrot repeats these few words, can you look at that parrot and say "he's a kaafir?!" NO! Unless there is a human paradigm for which these words stand- and when there is a human paradigm in objection to Allah, then, that human paradigm is guilty of kufr- especially when there are notions of racism that are drawn from it as anyone who has opened his mind can see abundantly around.
In the opening chapters of our history, we want to remind you that one of the polarizing issues at that time was concerning leaders or rulers who usurped power- power no longer came to them via the channels of Shura and bai'ah. In the time of the Umawi monarchy, when Muslims had rulers who were illegitimately in power, there was a debate that took place pertaining to these rulers. They called them Al-Murtakibi Al-Kabira, which would roughly mean those who are guilty of a cardinal sin. To them, rulers who had grabbed power and were imposing their personal will on the masses of Muslims who were around were Al-Murtakibi Al-Kabira. How do you define this Al-Murtakib Al-Kabira? This was the position of those who were called Al-Khawaarij- they said that "Al-Murtakib Al-Kabira is a kaafir." There was another trend, something like what we called in our political phraseology of today "centrists". There were these centrists, called Al-Murjiah, who said "No! As long as you profess or verbalize your Imaan, it doesn't matter what you do, you are still a Mu'min." This Al-Murtakibi Al-Kabira, from this point of view is a Mu'min. Then, there was Al-Mu'tazilah, the rational school of thought that developed in Al-Kufa and Al-Basrahh (if you can recall from previous khutbahs) who came and said "Al-Murtakib Al-Kabira is found in a position equidistant from the extremes of kufr and imaan." They called it "Manzilah bayna Al-Manzilatain", which means a status between that of kufr and imaan, so they said that he is a munafiq. But from that day, up until this day, there hasn't been some level minded Muslims … We are not trying to simplify this matter and we are not trying to be sarcastic about it- we're trying to stick to the facts as much as we can because you can see- nowadays, if you just open your eyes and ears- look and listen around, and you will see that there is a trend of what is called Allah’s among the Muslims. You probably heard it in the news last week or in the past couple of weeks because of what has happened in Iraq. Because there are powers who want to ignite this defamation, place it out of context, use it for its political ends and in the interim, we ourselves are the victims, not because of what they are militarily planning, but because what we what mentally incapable of sorting out. So, you come today to the average Muslim and you tell to him "Ok- What does this word and its offshoots in the Qur’an which is used hundreds of times mean?" And most of the time, the answer is going to be a secular answer. As if we don't have problems enough trying to rethink ourselves, we borrow answers from those who don't even belong in our context or psychology. Then, we say a kaafir is an unbeliever, a heaven, a pagan or an infidel. All of these words, as ambiguous, misleading and sometimes impractical as they are- no person with a thinking mind encounters living human beings around, and the firstthing, if someone encounters a person that doesn't relate to God, the firstthing that comes on your thinking mind is the word infidel or heaven. It just doesn't exist. These are words that are found in some religious literature and some books of history, but in the active mind of today, it doesn't exist. So, why do we come and try to latch onto them, as Muslims, to try to give to them definition or even insight into what an active and practical word like this word in the Qur’an should mean to us? So, it is taken for granted that when we come to a short Surah, which probably many of us may have memorized, that we should know what we are saying when we read a short Surah like this.
O You who reject Allah and His signs, and His messengers, and His Power; I conform not to that which you conform to; Nor will you conform to that which I conform to; And I shall not conform to that to which you conform to; Nor will you conform to that which I conform to; To you be your way and to me be mine. (Surah Al Kaafirun)
Here, we find that the word kaafirun is conjoined with the word Na'bud. Once again, Al-Ibadah is not to be understood through secular references or definitions- it is to be understood through the Qur’anic definition and context. Al-Ibadah is the lifelong consuming effort of complying with a source of influence. Al-Kafirun, in their individual or public configurations do not comply with Allah, whereas we comply with Allah- every thing we do and every effort that we exert is channeled towards Allah- this is our lifelong conformity to Allah and that is their lifelong denial of Allah.
Brothers and sisters on As-Siraat Al-Mustaqim…
Some of you may have been following very closely what was said and some of you may have found some gaps in what you've just heard. We hope that your common knowledge and common sense is enough to help you understand that we are not talking about hypothetical issues and this is not conjecture into the unknown. These are the real issues that are issues of disagreement in an underground of active Muslim fermentation. In the past as in the present, Muslims who want to express their heart-felt convictions of the meanings of this Qur’an find themselves in torture chambers or dislocated from their homes, home towns and home countries- refugees, exiles, expatriates. What is the reason for this? The reason for this is that they try in their own way to bring the meanings of Allah’s narratives to real life. Some of them in these prisons and in these horrible conditions have evolved and expanded on a literature that makes it easy to brand other Muslims as kaafirs. If we can go back to one part of history- when this accusation (it was an accusation and not a word of truth and a statement of fact) first surfaced, it surfaced when the Khawaarij had their disagreement with Ali (radi Allahu anhu) and this disagreement climaxed in the accusation by the Khawaarij telling Ali that "you are a kaafir" . That is the first time it was expressed with the type of reverberations that we are beginning to notice in todays world. This was taken from that difference which happens to be in the same land that is played today with the scheme of igniting these internecine differences- remember Al-Jamal, Siffin, An-Nahrawaan and Karbala- these were all unfolding in the same territory that today we begin to hear this labeling of kaafir being played, used and exploited out of context so that it can sweep in tempers, ignite rages and drop bombs. When it began with this accusation against Ali, Al-Khawaarij went as far as saying "all the rest of the Muslims are kaafirs. We cannot eat their meat, intermarry with them and in the extreme cases, we cannot pray behind them or attend their Jam'aat. We have to fight and kill them because they are kaafirs." Brothers and sisters- because the way public discourse is in the Masaajid, in Islamic congregations and periodical meetings, no one is stepping into this area with their minds. They are stepping into it with their emotions. What do we want to do? Do we want to go and repeat this mistake from which we should learn? If we do not learn from it, we are going to bear its everlasting consequences. Who wants to do that?
In their narratives, there is an instructive lesson (Surah Yusuf verse 111)
But who wants to learn? Do you want the door wide open for the trouble-makers? There was a survey that was done and the person, Al-Zarqawi, who was killed in Iraq by some of his sponsors- we know that we're opening ourselves up to more questions than we are trying to provide answers for- but a survey was done and 75% of public opinion in that part of the world consider him to be a hero. This is how much misinformed many of us have become and this is how much influence the media has when we can't speak to ourselves. When you and I can't open our minds to ourselves and we cannot have a meeting of minds and feelings in Makkah and Al Madinah the way we are supposed to, then we leave open these wide gaps and cleavages and this is what begins to happen.
This khutbah was presented by Imam Muhammad Asi on the occasion of Jum’ah on 16 June 2006
We’re not going to give up speaking about (and) clarifying the issue that has been fabricated against us, the Muslims, of today in different parts of the world. There is warfare and there is law-fare and there is all types of strategies that point fingers of accusation against us saying that “we are…”- you know the word, the t-word- “…terrorists.”
We’ve latched onto this subject wince this last September, with the event of that month, and we will continue to pursue it to dust off these accusations and claims made by those who have an abstic line or interest to secure. We’ve said (and) quoted the ayaat, and some of these ayaat we’re going to quote again. Allah says in Surah Al Baqarah
When it comes to the issue of settling on your convictions and your commitments pertaining of the world order that you prefer we, as far as Muslims are concerned, can’t force you into it or out of it… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 256)
So Muslims are never authorised by Allah and His Prophet to force anyone of whatever conviction they may have to change their, (in today’s language), religion. Another ayah in Surah Yunus says
Do you, O Prophet, force people to become committed Muslims? (Surah Yunus verse 99)
In another understanding of this ayah, in today’s plain language it would go like this
Do you mean to tell me that you want to force people to become committed Muslims?! (Surah Yunus verse 99)
Meaning the construct of the question is- that’s not within your capacity and that’s not what is expected of you. There’s no issue of using pressure of force to make him or her heartfelt convictions. These are established facts coming to us from Allah and from His Prophet. Now, if something happened along the course of history and there were Muslims who were forcing others to change their convictions, this behaviour or that policy is not Qur’anic and it’s not Prophetic- it can’t be attributed to Allah not to His Messenger. There’s nothing in what we have that tells us to do something like that. But then, we covered when there were instances when Muslims used force or went to war or were mobilised- we have a full history of that and we covered some of the chapters in this history to shed light on the dark areas in our minds where this information doesn’t enter into the thinking domain of our intellect.
All of us know that in our shared Islamic history there is what is called Hurub Al Futuhaat (or) the wars of military breakthroughs- that’s the type of literal rendition of the meaning of this word or in other flexible translations, the wars of liberation. Obviously this was a fact that goes back to those grounded years in our history- the first generation of Muslims. There were wars of liberation in areas that were controlled at that time by the Byzanytines and other areas at that time that were controlled by the Persians. In the details of these wars, we don’t find that Muslims are forcing people, (i.e.) here’s a sword or here’s a type of killing instrument over someone’s head- you either become a Muslim or you are dead. This never happened. We mentioned earlier that a-hundred years after the hijrah in the geographies and territories that Muslims were in, the number (or) the percentage of Muslims there was around twenty per cent or so. There was no one forcing others to become Muslims; so don’t let some fancy looking academic or some degreed scholar come along and make the argument. Alhamdulillah- Allah has preserved His divine writ, and when you listen closely to them, you notice that they do not refer to Allah’s Book. They don’t speak the language of the Qur’an- they may be reading it (and) they may understand it, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of it there’s no substance in Qur’an or in the Prophet’s verified statements that gives credibility to what they claim that becomes the propaganda and the mainstream media around. There was never a Christian or a Jew or a Zoroastrian or any other religious conviction that existed at that time that the Muslims can to and said “look- we are here and its either death or Islam!” It never existed! We spoke about Hurub Ar Ridda’ (or) the wars of regression or the wars of cessation. We hope there was enough information there to clarify that once again there was nothing there that had to do with Muslims killing others because of freedom of belief or freedom of expression or freedom of assembly (and) these other freedoms that are spoken of today.
Then, even though we have somewhat of a good record when it comes to treating the other who is not a Muslim; when it comes to clashes and conflict we have a lesser record when it comes to intra-Islamic affairs (and) issues that have to do with us, Muslims among ourselves?! This is where we have problems with our ownselves and we have to take a look at this to learn from our ownselves. We can’t miss an opportunity like this. We’ve gone through some history and it offers us a rich experience to think and to ponder when we right and when we were wrong. The first internal clash (with) Muslims against Muslims after the Prophet passed away was the revolt against the third successor to Allah’s Prophet- Uthman ibn Affan (radi Allahu anhu). That was the first time Muslims clashed with themselves, (in may be called), a violent way. This had nothing to do with the outside world. Don’t have some other person who’s not a Muslims with whatever faith and with whatever conviction they may have come to you and say “you know- you guys have problems with the Christians or the Jews or whoever they are who don’t belong to the Islamic fold.” In that area we don’t. The issue is clear but when we look at ourselves we do have a problem- a problem that we’re going to have to solve by our own selves. No one’s going to help us solve this type of problem that is germane to us. We are going to have to solve it ourselves and if we don’t take a look at it, how are we going to solve the problem?! So the first clash in which there was bloodshed in the House of Islam was when there was a revolt against Uthman ibn Affan. Once again, you can go back to your reliable history books- in this clash we never heard from whichever side you are reading about - there were two sides obviously in this case- doesn’t claim that the other side or the opposite side on this issue is a Kafir. It’s not there. There were serious differences but it wasn’t to the extent that someone could say just because he seriously disagreed all the way to a violent confrontation that the other was a Kafir. It didn’t exist! No one even said that this is a difference between two religions. There was no two religions involved in this! Everyone involved in it, to whatever degree, was a Muslim. There issue in this first clash in our history- that offers us a lesson that we should be learning from- was basically to undo an injustice. Those are the few words that can describe this clash. Some Muslims way out there in distant lands felt that something has gone wrong with our government in Al Madinah and that wrong has to be set right. There were communications and we covered this territory before. It ended up with the hard positions of both sides that became irreconcilable even though there were attempts to reconcile the two sides. This is part of our history. We, in one sense or the other, are guilty of violently going into a mode of warfare with the other. Can we just reconsider this chapter in our history with calm nerves, with clear minds, with open hearts and say “was there something wrong here? Did something go wrong? Or is it going to continue to be this grey area that everyone is right or everyone is wrong or I wasn’t there (so) you know I don’t want to have anything to do with this. Don’t get me involved!” How can this be when they are a part of an Islamic history, an Islamic continuum, an Islamic Jama’ah (and) an Islamic civilisation? All of this is within that and here you are- for what reason (do) you want to conveniently step out of this and say “wait a minute- something happened, forget about it. Something happened.” No! You can’t say that. Allah has given us enough information along with His Prophet to deal with these issues very frankly and very calmly. Now, from this revolt against the third successor to the Prophet to what can actually be called wars during the time of Imam Ali (radi Allahu anhu), when we had wars- when we can say we, Muslims, went to war against our ownselves. In this war there were two sides and these two sides were Muslim sides and here, still, until a little later, we don’t hear that some one within this Islamic domain come out and say the other side is Kafir. This is a serious (battle). The Battle of Al Jamal is a very serious internal battle. It’s warfare, it was Muslims at war with themselves and even though Muslims were at war with themselves, no one came and said the other side is a Kafir. Can we learn? We don’t care what your reference point is! We’re not trying to take sides here. We’re just trying to look at what happened and whatever way you relate yourself to whatever side in this, none of these sides said the other side is a Kafir. On one was Ali and his supporters and on the other side we had Talha ibn Ubaydillah, Az Zubayr ibn Al Awwaam and Aa’ishah, Umm Al Mu’mineen (radi Allahu anhum) and their supporters and there are other prominent figures on both sides and none of them were saying the other is a Kafir. We have to break in here once again like we did in the previous khutbahs- we can’t and simply just don’t have the time to break out of this rendition of our history and come to the world today where we have Muslims disagreeing with other Muslims and now we have those Muslims who disagree with others come and say “oh- they are Kafirs.” This accusation of takfir was not there are this is a life-and-death issue. These people are going to war but no one was saying the other was a Kafir. So we go back to the ayah that was also previously mentioned
If there are two camps of committed Muslims who go to war against each other, you reconcile them … (Surah Al Hujurat verse 9)
So it’s possible these things happen. They did happen. It’s not that no one is denying that this ever happened, it’s what is our position towards this? Have we thought through this? No. That’s the problem right there. Let’s be a little factual and dramatic- Immediately after the war, those who won the battle would take the victims, i.e. those who were killed in the battle from the other side and give them an Islamic burial- there would be salah al janazah. Imagine, there would be Muslims from the other side just killed and you would have salah al janazah for them and then you would bury them in, (what is called today), Islamic cemeteries and they’d ask Allah to have mercy on them and to forgive them. All of this should- if we just give it a little thought and put our emotions aside and put our passivity aside and just bring our minds into this subject- if we just take a good look at it as this is an issue between an Imam, Ali, and a transgressor, Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan; but even though this is how we categorise these two sides, no one comes and says Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan was not a Muslim. No one said it at the lime except a little later. A few years later after Siffin we had a new strain of Muslims called Al Khawarij. They were the first to come and say to those who were opposed to them that they are Kafirs. This should be revisited too. How come? Where did this come from? How do these who are saying that their enemies are Kafir justify this? Has anyone ever taken this strain, which incidentally is not historical- it lives on today. There are Muslims today who if you disagree with them or they disagree with you, then all of a sudden the word kufr begins to play in the internalisation of these differences. Ali said, in the middle of all of this speaking basically about his opponents and enemies, I hope that whomever is killed, whether he is one of us or one of them, with a pure heart that Allah will cause him to enter Al Jannah. You notice that this statement doesn’t have any fanaticism in it, it doesn’t have any hatred of the other in it even though the differences were so serious as to come to military blows and to frontline casualties and the flow of blood! It was that serious and beyond that seriousness there was the inclusiveness of a Muslim and an Imam who said I hope that who dies from these two sides whose heart is pristine (and) is not polluted and is not tarnished that he will enter Al Jannah. So this wasn’t a war between kufr and iman. We have some speakers today and forces today (who) in this issue of Sunni/Shi’i who are trying to move it in the direction in which one side thinks of the other as a Kafir. These blows (or) these wars that we are looking at in the formative years of our history and our Islam were between what is right and what is wrong, not between what is iman and what is kufr. You can be a Mu’min and while you are a Mu’min you can be right or you can be wrong on some issues; you can be a Kafir and you can be right on some issues and you can be wrong on some issues. So these wars were between what is right and what is wrong, not between who is a Mu’min and who is a Kafir. This statement is attributed to one of those who was close to (Allah’s Prophet). We don’t want to say the name because once again we know the sensitivities that are out there, but these internal or internecine conflicts among us was described in the words this is a conflict or a war between the people of jannah. We don’t want to be judgemental here, Allah will judge them- we’re all approaching that day, (i.e.) the final day of judgement and everything is going to be clear then, but what we want to do is we don’t want to break away from our own past and our own experiences. We want to integrate that into our minds and into our experiences so that we don’t do this again and again and again! Ali described this whole issue pertaining to the revolt against Uthman, pertaining to Al Jamal and Siffin and these other developments, our affair or our issue is one except the differences we have concerning the shedding of Uthman’s blood which we are innocent of. Ali is speaking about him and his side- he was innocent of that revolt but there was another side- an aggressive side, a baghi side that didn’t want to recognise this reality. If you read this history slowly, thoughtfully and carefully you will notice that there is one side that doesn’t want to speak to the other side. The aggressive side doesn’t want to sit down and reach an understanding and accommodation with the other side. It wants to solve this issue by resorting to the use of arms. What’s wrong? If we, Muslims, are mature, inclusive (and) in the presence of Allah, we sit down with anyone. Speak to them. But what do you do with people who don’t want to sit down with you? (Its) just like here- this is a thirty year affair and these people don’t want to talk, they don’t want to sit down, they don’t want to reason. This is the problem and this will lead to war. I mean, we’re not here advocating war in this but eventually in the course of history over many years and generations this attitude will lead to revolt, to instability (and) to pent-up feelings and social conditions that are going to implode.
Then we had this strain (of) Al Khawarij who came along. They broke from Ali’s camp and they began saying those who disagreed with them are Kafirs- Ali, Muawiyah and Amr are Kafirs. This has to be revisted. We’re not here going to go into the details of this- Allah has given you a thinking capacity and yours minds have to zero-in on this occasion and sort it out. If we don’t do that, we’re going to have neo-Khawarij, we are going to have latter day Khawarij, we are going to have end-of-time Khawarij and we’re going to have recurring Khawarij and we’re going to live the consequences of saying another Muslim is a Kafir. Ali made it clear we did not go to war with the people of Shaam because of what the Khawarij are saying. They didn’t go to war because the other side is Kafir; the other side is wrong and there had to be an adjustment to the aggression of the other side and the other side didn’t leave any option except the war front. That’s as clear as it becomes.
Then, the years and the decades go by and we had these new groupings in Islam. We had the Asha’irah or the Ash’aris, we had the Salafis, we had the Mu’tazilis. Did anyone hear about them going to war with each other? They had very real differences, very significant. The issue of khalq al Qur’an was one of the major issues in Islamic history. Was the Qur’an created or not? That divided the Muslims right down the line and there could have been a call to arms because of this but it never happened. Muslims didn’t go to war because of the way they understood the Qur’an and the Prophet and they should never go to war because of the different ways that they understand Allah and His Prophet. This is the un-learned lesson from our common history.
Then the centuries passed by and then we had these wars. There were these wars between the Safawids in Iran and the Uthmanis in Turkey. They were beyond Turkey, but that general area. Then we had the wars between the Uthmanis on one side and the Wahhabis on the other side. Can we just catch our breath for a moment and say what happened here? Why did we do this? But no one brings these issues to the fore. Concealing these issues (and) not speaking about this common history of ours condemns us to repeat these types of mistakes many times over and we simply cannot afford to do that, especially in the climate that we are in today. Once again, the ayaat that are central, pivotal and very critical in this context
When it comes to the issue of settling on your convictions and your commitments pertaining of the world order that you prefer we, as far as Muslims are concerned, can’t force you into it or out of it… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 256)
That’s one ayah. The other ayah in Surah Yunus
Do you, O Prophet, force people to become committed Muslims? (Surah Yunus verse 99)
And the other ayah in Surah Al Hujurat
If there are two camps of committed Muslims who go to war against each other, you reconcile them … (Surah Al Hujurat verse 9)
Dear committed brothers and sisters on As Siraat Al Mustaqeem…
In today’s world there is a behind the scenes coordinated strategy to have us, the Muslims, turn against each other. This is extremely serious; it is not something that we can look askance at and make believe that it is not happening. There are lives that are lost, there is blood that is being shed (and) there are wars that are being planned in addition to what is happening. In this context, this is not a monolithic environment- the conditions in one country is somewhat different from the conditions in other countries; but generally speaking there is this push by some Muslims that uses a broad brush to tarnish other Muslims with the label of kufr. This comes from many sides and is done with many voices. To give you an example- today, this Jum’ah, this day in Egypt, as you may know, there’s preparation for voting by the individual Egyptian person on the constitution and today in some Masajid attended by thousands of prayer attendees or Musalleen, some of these preachers, Khateebs (and) Imams, because of their Islamic background and understanding they encouraged those who are attending their Jum’ah prayers and listening to their khutbah to vote for the constitution. As a result of this fights broke out inside the Masajid and in the courtyard of these Masajid. One of these Imams or preachers from the Mimbars said “whoever does not vote yes for the constitution is a Kafir.” (Do) you see what happens when we don’t study our own history, when we don’t learn from our own mistakes (and) when we don’t revisit our own tragedies? Look what happens! People were injured and some Imams were immediately taken to safe places and locked up in some of the rooms of these Masajid. This is happening as we speak- today. Why should it go to that extent? We know it’s very serious. If we were going to vote we would vote for a constitution that moves in an Islamic direction. It’s not an Islamic constitution but someone who I come and say to someone who disagrees with me ‘you’re a Kafir?!” This is not an issue of iman and kufr as much as it is an issue of what is right and what is wrong; but some Muslims cannot get it because these types of Masajid condition people every week not to think and when you don’t have thinking Muslims you have oxymorons! You have fertile populations for all the troublemakers in the world- native troublemakers and foreign troublemakers. The populations become combustible and the troublemakers light a match! That’s all it takes. Why are we guilty of becoming combustible materials for those who have the torches and who have the matches and they light up civil wars here are civil strifes there and these Masajid and these Manabir and these Mosques and these pulpits on Fridays have no message to communicate and immunise the Muslims from the diseases and from the calamities that await the consequences of their ignorance- imposed ignorance and institutionalised ignorance. What do you want us to do? Open up the chapters of what is happening in Syria? Open up the chapters of what is happening right now in Northern Africa, Mali, not to mention many other places. We can’t remain to be the victims of our own un-education. Let’s put that behind us and think for a change.
(This khutbah was presented by Imam Muhammad Asi on the occasion of Jum’ah on 14 December 2012)
There is a fad of sorts that has taken hold in some Muslim quarters which comes out with the expression that certain other Muslims are not Muslims. This is known as takfir al Muslim. Due to this fact and the consequences of this fact that is resulting in bloodshed and civil strife and civil war and internal instability in the Islamic realm we’re going to have to speak about this issue of takfir al Muslim li al Muslim i.e. this passing judgement by one Muslim against another Muslim or by one group of Muslim against another community of Muslims that they are Kafirs. We, (meaning yours honestly here), attempted to find whether we can trace any of this type of character or any of this type of attitude to the time of Allah’s Prophet, in other words has it ever occurred that while Allah’s Prophet was alive was there any other Muslim because of some disagreement or because of thinking about Allah and His Prophet in a different way accused another Muslim of being a Kafir. As far as our limited human knowledge goes and the effort to dig up this information goes, we didn’t come across anything like that. There were disagreements amongst Muslims at the time of Allah’s Prophet, there were different interpretations about what the Prophet said or of what the ayah quoted means but these differences of understanding and interpretations and opinion never led any one individual at the time of Allah’s Prophet to point the finger of kufr against another Muslim in Makkah, Al Madinah, Al Hejaz or in that area which became Islamic in the lifetime of Allah’s Prophet. Rather there is an incident that took place during the time of Allah’s Prophets when Allah’s Prophet dispatched Usama ibn Zayd (radi Allahu anhu) or assigned him a military operation to go to a people who were opposed to (and) who were enemies of the Muslims and this was a fighting force. We’re speaking here about a military encounter to be. So Usama ibn Zayd and those Islamic fighters with him went to this particular area and these people who heard the Muslims were coming left. They were afraid or whatever. They left so there was no military encounter between an Islamic military expedition or contingent and these others but there was a man who was still around. So when the Muslims over powered this man (and) when this Islamic force surrounded him he said ashadu an la Ilaha illa Allah. These armed people (or) these Muslims heard him say ashadu an la Ilaha illa Allah. After he said that they assaulted him and he was killed after having expressed these words ashadu an la Ilaha illa Allah. Now we don’t want to go into the details of whether he said wa ashahadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah or whether he did not say that because you’re going to find both these in these history books. So when Usama ibn Zayd and those with him returned to the Prophet, Usama said I felt something uncomfortable in me because this happened. He looked back at everything that happened and inside of him there was something unsettling about this all. So he said to himself I’m going to go to Allah’s Prophet and tell him exactly what happened. So he approaches Allah’s Prophet said to him, after Usama explained these details, who do you have who is going to come to your support when that is needed concerning a person who went down when he said ashadu an la Ilaha illa Allah. This means that the Prophet was rebuking Usama for what happened, in other words he is saying to him why did you do that? This person said La Ilaha illa Allah. Then Usama said I responded because he said that because he feared arms and death (or) he feared our weapons and the consequences of using those weapons which is to finish him off; in other words we felt that he was saying that to protect himself. So the Prophet said to him (or) answered him, did you open his chest and know his internal feelings so that you can say what you just said that this casualty (or) this person who was killed said what he said because of the reason that you just stated, (i.e.) he feared the weapons and he feared that he was going to die so he said that? And then the Prophet repeated once again to him, who is going to support you against a person who said La Ilaha illa Allah? Who is going to come to your aid on the day of Resurrection? This is the closest that we will find in the life time of Allah’s Prophet when a Muslim with other Muslims all of them together take on one person who said La Ilaha illa Allah given these military circumstances. What the Prophet, in other words, is trying to say is you give the person who said La Ilaha illa Allah the benefit of the doubt especially when you are in power if there’s doubt here. Remember, the Muslims here are in power (and) this is a person who has no power. The Prophet wasn’t doubting the suspicions the Muslims had about this person but even though there may be this type of suspicion and even though it may be shared among everyone, you can’t kill a person after he says La Ilaha illa Allah, these being the circumstances. So this is the closest example you can have in the lifetime of Allah’s Prophet of Muslims, as credit worthy as they are around the Prophet, killing another person who said La Ilaha illa Allah which technically made him a Muslim just like that.
Please listen very closely and please understand the previous hadith and incident between Usama ibn Zayd and the Prophet with this current ayah and its meaning. There’s an ayah in Surah An Nisa’ which says (and) the general meaning of this ayah is that
O you who and divinely and securely committed to Allah: if you militarily strike out in the land then be very observant of what you do … (Surah An Nisa’ verse 94)
You have to be observant of your own force, meaning you have to understand your own capabilities, your own wherewithal, your own potentials as well as those who are in opposition to you there in this military encounter.
… and don’t say to people who approach you with the character, the attitude (and) the behavior of peace “you are not a committed person”; … (Surah An Nisa’ verse 94)
Here, Allah is opening up our in-depth psychology because, (for those of you who have been in military service or have been at war fronts), there’s this over-riding charge in the psychology of this condition to obtain the spoils of war. You want to win and you want to possess what the other has. Many times, this military momentum rides roughshod over Islamic principles and over Islamic values. These Islamic principles and values get buried in the military thrust, in the military psychology and indoctrination that is part of military life. So Allah is bringing, even, these military commanders and these upper echelons back to their principles, to their Islamic foundations. Be observant (and) be cautious of what you do. So if you doo encounter a force and they may surrender. They may be in Islamic history contingents and communities of people who surrender. They may say La Ilaha illa Allah. What do you do? You kill them for what they were of you deal with them conscientiously for what they may become?
Then, if we visit another ayah in the Qur’an. This is ayah number fifteen in Surah Al Isra’. We get the feeling that we should be very reluctant to use the word kufr on people who are actually not Muslims. This ayah says
Whoever is guided, that guidance is the privilege of his or her own self and whoever goes wayward does it against his or her own self; one psychology (or) one self is not going to be burdened with the psychology and with the life of another self… (Surah Al Isra’ verse 15)
We’re all responsible for our ownselves. Then, the transition comes from a self (or) an individual to societies. Allah says
… We, Divinity, Providence, the Almighty, is not going to punish until he sends a Rasul. (Surah Al Isra’ verse 15)
This brings us to a very important issue that is either overlooked or not detected by those who should know better and that is who is it? The word kufr and all its derivatives in the Qur’an is used probably hundreds of times in the Qur’an so it begs our understanding. We should be cautious in not using or not throwing it around and saying “this person is a Kafir and the other person is a Kafir.” So who is it? When do we really begin to notice that this word applies to people? Kufr is the counter effort of Iman. Listen very carefully to this brothers and sisters- if there is no Iman then there is no Kufr! Consider this hypothetical or consider this almost impossible but for purposes of understanding lets say no one in the world has Iman; then we don’t have Kafirs. These people who are not guided, who don’t have a commitment to Allah (and) who don’t have Iman- they never were presented with Iman because Iman needs a presence; it needs human beings, it needs society (and) a power culture- when that comes into existence, (and we learn this from reading the Qur’an and understanding the Prophet), what happens is when Iman becomes a social behaviour then it is always going to happen that there’s going to be a thought out opposition to that social behaviour. To have a mentally formulated counter Iman you’re going to have to understand, at least mentally, what Iman is. How is anyone- Establishments, power structures, governments, dictators, rulers- going to be counter Islamic if they don’t know what Islam is, if they don’t know what Iman is? How is that going to happen? So if you go back to the books of seerah and history and revisit the way Allah’s Prophet or the way Allah’s Prophets, (go back to the history of Prophets themselves), the way Ibrahim or Musa or Dawud or Sulayman or Muhammad (alahim as salaam) or any of them spoke to people. When they came to their societies, these societies were not Imaani societies and they were not Islamic societies but they never (and) you’ll never find- that in the first years of explaining Allah to society (and) explaining scripture to people- any Prophet saying to people that they are Kafirs. None! It didn’t exist because it couldn’t exist! You can’t have Kafirs who don’t know what Islam is (and) what the Qur’an and the Prophet are all about. It’s impossible! It’s like you won’t understand what darkness is if you don’t know what light is. That’s why when you listen to these Prophet’s who came and they spoke to their people- who were not Muslims, who were not guided, etc. etc. They were in their jahiliyyah, they were in their own materialistic types of life because we’re talking about different societies throughout different eras of history- they said Yaa Qawmi, my people. This was before things developed. At the beginning, my people. Anyone who read and understood this history never said the Prophet’s were nationalistic. When a Prophet is beginning to speak to his neighbours and his friends and his relatives and his acquaintances he says my people. These are people who are not guided yet. But he used (language) just like you’re in a family. Let’s make this simple. Some people get a little lost, let’s simplify it. Let’s say you, yourself, are in a family; you have brothers and sisters and mothers and aunts and uncles and all- this is your family and then you receive this guidance from Allah (and) you understand what this Islam is and then after you understand this you realise your brothers and sisters, your parents, your uncles, your aunts and all are not Muslims so you want to explain this Islam to them. What do you do? You char them? You shock them? You say “you Kafirs?” Does that make sense? They never heard of this Islam! What are you talking about? You come and tell them to their face “you are Kafir?” This is not the way it’s done. You say “my father, my mother, my brother, my sister- consider this (or) think about this.” You explain an ayah (or) you explain a hadith. You explain these things to them and then you give them time- a month, a year, some years- to think through this (and) to decide where are they going to stand on this issue. In the meantime this base and this reality of Iman gels, it begins to gain momentum; the counter momentum to it is called kufr, the hostile momentum against it is called kufr. You can’t have a hostile anti-Imani momentum when there is no Iman. These Prophets said Yaa Qawmi, my people and then they showed a concern for their people even if their people proved that they were going to embark now on a future decision of kufr.
My people: indeed I fear for you the consequence of a very painful day. (Surah Al Shu’ara’ verse 135)
There’s concern here. Now we make a small transition here from this body of information and we take a look at ourselves. Today in this world this takfiri mentality and propaganda is basically now, (if you are hearing this for the first time), there are people who are not like you and I; they are against you and me. They understand what is involved here. They say “take a look at these Muslims.” They take a look at us (and) they say “look, there is these Sunnis and there is these Shi’is- what we turn them against each other? What is it going to take?” So they took a look at this history that we have- all of us have this history, we may read it in different ways but they read it in a way that will cause us to hate each other. Then they used all of these channels of communication that they have a began pumping this information that can fuel this takfiri mindset. So it goes back to when the Prophet passed away. When the Prophet passed away there were two understandings of how to fill in this void. There was no longer an Islamic leader; it’s an empty seat. Who is going to fill it, (so to speak)? Some Muslims said this has to be done through the process of what may be called, (let’s facilitate the understanding here), through a social contract what they call al ikhtiyaar, wa ash shura wa al bai’ah. This is how they understood. At the beginning (or) at this time, we are talking about when the Prophet passed away, this understanding was not as a matter of selfishness, it was not a matter of nationalism or tribalism, it wasn’t a matter of scoring against someone else. It was done in good faith. This is what they understood in the depths of their hearts and in the core of their brains they understood that whoever it is who is going to fill in for Allah’s Prophet has to assume that responsibility as a matter of ikhtiyaar and shura and bai’ah which we abbreviated into what is called in political language a social contract. This is how it’s going to be done. Now mind you, these people who are plotting and planning sectarianism and takfir looked at this and then they look at the other Muslim. They said no. This they did also in a genuine, selfless approach to the issue; no nationalism or tribalism or selfishness involved in this. They said by quote or by nass the person to fill in for the Prophet after he passed away is the first Imam of the Muslims, Imam Ali. So here is where we, Muslims altogether, part company. Right now this is history so when we read and study this history we part company on a theoretical and then what has become almost a theological issue. There are people who are behind the scenes who took all of this (and) they looked at this just with their minds to begin with. They were looking here at what happened to the Muslims- something that we ourselves are incapable of doing! We, with the good intentions (and) with the affinity for our own selves, were not able just to take a very hard, objective, unbiased, mental look at the facts so we created this vacuum in which these trouble makers came in and said “look this is a serious difference here between these Muslims. This can make for a very good polarisation of opinions and from there on it could lead to one Muslim saying of the other Muslim you’re a Kafir.” And thus it was. This type of information settled in to the fanatic wings of both Sunnis and Shi’is to such a degree that the fanatics among the Sunnis say “look at the Shi’is- they believe that al wilayah…” Remember, we mentioned earlier that these Muslims who are saying this themselves haven’t given us a definition of the word al wilayah (but) still, without this definition they come say “there are these Muslims sho are Shi’is who believe that this Imamah or this walayah is usul min usul ad deen.” Generally speaking the Sunnis have settled on three usul and al Imamah is not one of them or al walayah is not one of them. They say “look they fabricated a religion for themselves.” Remember these are the fanatics speaking, the ones who come out with this takfiri attitude (that) “they fabricated this asal and therefore Muslims who do not believe, i.e. Sunnis, who do not believe in al Imamah or al walayah are Kafirs” Remember, these are the fanatics. On the other hand we have the Shi’is. The Shi’is, (depends on who you’re reading), “believe in this integral part of Islam that is called al Imamah or al walayah and some of them consider the Imams just like the Prophets- not in as much as being Prophets but in as much as fulfilling the social roles of Prophets. The Prophets were leaders and therefore these Imams are leaders in the absence of the Prophet so if you don’t believe in these Imams it’s like not believing in Prophets and then if you become selective and you believe in some Imams and don’t believe in others it’s like saying that you believe in some Prophets and you don’t believe in others.” Now this puts other Muslims in a very critical position and here is where the trouble makers come in -they say “look at you Muslims- you don’t have the same faith, you don’t have the same religion.” So some people are more frank, they say “we believe in the Shi’i religion.” They just come out and say it that way and this is what happens when we don’t do our own homework. We ask some of the Muslims who are around what do you do when this is the case (and) when there is not enough necessary and critical information in our possession to extend our hand of togetherness to the other? That’s why we say what we need in our times- we don’t need rhetoric, we don’t need propaganda- are Sunnis who are so aware and versed and confident of their Sunni character or their Sunni convictions that that confidence makes them extend a helping hand to the other Muslim; likewise in the same fashion we need Shi’is who are so confident, so aware (and) so tuned in to their Tashayyu’ or their Shi’ism that out of that confidence they extend a hand of togetherness and understanding to the other Muslim. But that’s not what the master plan is all about. The master plan is to instigate this area of misunderstanding among us that has its historical origins and flare it up by those who are in today’s world, there are fanatic Sunnis and fanatic Shi’is who take the holier than thou approach and point fingers of inferiority and also may be sub-human level to the other who doesn’t agree with how they define or how they interpret these developments that occurred in our history.
Beloved brothers and sisters…
This mentality of excluding the other of being a Muslim has its consequences. We see in today’s world how this issue is playing out in the two geographical areas that lived this issue in that first generation of Muslims who disagreed on this whole affair- al Khilafah or al Imamah in Iraq and in Syria. (It’s) as if history is back to tell them have you learnt from your own history, have you learnt from your own mistakes, have you learnt from the thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives that have gone down because of your ignorance. We’re back to it. (It’s) as if we’re back to square number one right now and where are the Muslims who think through this issue right now? We ask you where are our minds to think- put our emotions on the side for the time being. What is required now is concentrated thought on this issue or else we’re going to have what we have. Recently, in the past week or two week, a big fuss has developed concerning what is called jihad al munakaha (or) the jihad of nikah. What does this mean? This is something new. What does this mean to some people? This is what it means in our current context- this is right now an issue in Tunisia. Young Tunisian ladies in their teens and in their twenties are leaving Tunisia to go to Syria not to fight but to offer sexual satisfaction to those who they consider to be Mujahideen in Syria. Some person tried to detect where does all this come from and detected this one person in Saudi Arabia who when presented with this issue said “no I have nothing to do with it.” This is how these explosions are going off in Masajid, in Islamic congregational areas, in Syria, in Iraq (and) in all of these places. Why is this happening? If this tells you and me anything, it tells us we’ve never done our homework! We’ve never considered our own history in a way that combines and binds us. What type of history is thrown around and explained? It’s the divisive one, the chapters that will separate Muslims from each other. This is the type that is being printed in books and lectured in universities and in seminaries- divide! What is this? We don’t know if we mentioned this before. A fanatic comes out and it’s picked up by certain media to have Muslims look at each other. Astaghfirullah for what was being said but the person who pronounces the words of kufr to explain them is not a Kafir. We’re going to pronounce the words that this person said- don’t attribute that to the person who’s trying to relate to you what was said and there was a fatwa by Imam Khamenei to repel this type of attitude. This person is in front of the camera and he has some five (or) ten year old young children repeating “Aa’isha fi an naar, Aa’isha fi an naar.” He is singing this as if he is enjoying himself. Is this Islam? Is this Iman? This is the Qur’an? This is the Prophet? Are these the morals of Muslims? These are facts of life that- unfortunately when we come into contact with something like that it’s our emotions, it’s not our minds- if you listen to something like that try to think why is this person saying this? Who is this person? He says it in England and the cameras are there and then it spreads all over like fire in a barn. This is what is meant for us when we don’t think and these Masajid are part of that problem because they reinforce that emotionalism and they try as much as possible to chain our minds. They don’t want us to think- that’s a danger to them. “Muslims thinking? Oh no! Muslims should not think. Muslims should be emotional. Muslims should not be scholars they should be fanatics.”
(This khutbah was presented by Imam Muhammad Asi on the occasion of Jum’ah on 29 March 2013)
(We have to cut to the chase because of the conditions of the whether here). We have a problem. There’s nothing wrong with saying, number one, that we have a problem and, number two, with identifying that problem; or else how are we going to solve the issues that we have if we don’t begin to speak about them? We don’t want to continue to live like ostriches burying our heads in the sand and making believe that there are no significant issues that are bleeding us to death. One of these issues is- this issue has been on steroids in the past couple of years, even though it pops up every once and then in Islamic history but this time it has come out with vengeance- is the issue referred to as at takfir (and) the inability of a Muslim to recognise the difference in the other Muslim (and) to acknowledge the difference. What we mean over here is not physical differences. There’s no question about the fact that Allah has created us with different features, with different colours, with different ethnic origins, etc. etc.
One of the illustrations of Allah’s power and authority is the differences of your colours and of your languages… (Surah Ar Rum verse 22)
No one has an issue with that. The issue here becomes a problematic issue when we cannot afford or we cannot exchange mutual recognition with each other; at this point we certainly have an issue and it is complicated when that inability to exchange recognition with the other turns into accusing or claiming that the other is not a Muslim. We say to you that this issue does not arise from our good human nature. Anyone who has lived and interacted with Muslims will tell you that they are open hearted and open minded so where did this come from, i.e. one Muslim accusing the other Muslim come from. May be we will have some extended time in better weather to speak about this with some saturation but at this point we will generally express it this way. We don’t like to go into the domains of others but we think the problem is not generated with Muslim peoples as peoples. As peoples they have no problem with co-existing, living with each other, sharing mutual acceptance and history proves this; but the problem is (that) we have other societies in the world who cannot live with each other. We think many of us have a feeling of this after 9/11 (and) how hate crimes went up, how Muslims were harassed, new laws have been enacted to target Muslims just because Muslims are Muslims not because there’s legal ground for these laws to come to existence. This phobia or this xenophobia has resulted in, (and this is the tricky part here), in this attitude (that) manifests itself in western society outside the context of religion as racism. Racism is the inability to live with the other who Allah has featured with another colour- that exists. It’s a fact of life, it is preponderant but what is more subtle than that, but more deadly, is this issue that has become sectarianism. Sectarianism now just in the past few years has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims but our observation of the phobia outside of our house, (so to speak), is very weak and we’ll bring an example of this. In the year 2000 pope John Paul the second went to the Sinai. There’s a monastery there, a church called Saint Catherine’s and this is run and belongs to Christians who are of the eastern orthodox persuasion, Roman orthodox. He wanted to pray in that church and would you know it they did not allow him to pray in that church. Of course this went under the radar. Not many people paid any attention to this and if it was mentioned it was mentioned in such a way that the mind doesn’t dwell in the significance of what had happened. Of course later on there was some literature coming out from different churches saying “they are the only true church” and this type of in house quibbling that followed or accompanied this event. This tells us beyond the facade of the liberal imagery that we have “oh this is a liberal country. Everyone is free to practise their religion and express their conscience and their mind” and all of this, (that’s there for public consumption), but the fact of the matter stands that propaganda on its head. They are not like that but because, (we hate to say this because we’ve said this so many times), we just don’t think! We don’t have the assertiveness to take our mind into areas that they want to be off limits to us. So we can’t diagnose xenophobia when it has a system and when it has militaries that exist outside of our Islamic territories. When it comes to our internal affairs this external xenophobia makes its way via its agents into our lives. Who are the agents? What are the catalysts that has brought about (or) that has transferred this xenophobia from the racists and the sectarians on the outside to the racists and the sectarians on the inside? To say a word of truth on this day of taqwa that many other speakers are not willing to do- it is the instrument of the Saudi regime that makes that possible. That is where takfir is breeded; that is where accusations of Kufr are made. They fabricate these things and then they throw it against other Muslims.
If we go back to the time of Allah’s Prophet, (we haven’t mentioned this before because it is not preponderant. You will not find it everywhere in the books of Islamic history), but when the Christians of Najran came to Al Madinah the Prophet didn’t say “you can’t come to Al Madinah.” If the Prophet was in Makkah would he say “observant Christians (and) Christian clergymen cannot come to Makkah” as is the case in today’s world because of the Saudi regime? But there is mention by some Islamic writers, (few as the are), that these Christians from Najran prayed their Easter in Al Masjid An Nabawi. Now do we have a phobia? Are we xenophobic? Are we racists? Are we exclusivists when something like that dwells in our history? Something is wrong! The attitude and the behaviour during the time of Allah’s Prophet was one of an open mind and an open heart and then today we have what you can see all over the place?! Not only are those are running the affairs of the Arabian Peninsula, i.e. Saudi Arabia, unwilling to contemplate the existence of observant Christians in Arabia they are also not willing to countenance the presence of Muslims who see things differently than they see it so they come out with all of these statements of Kufr and takfir.
We’re going to take just a few more minutes of our time and we’re going to bring some statements from Islamic scholars who come from the context of Ahl As Sunnah wa al Jama’ah and what they had to say about this attitude of accusing other Muslims of Kufr. Muhammad Abdou- a scholar who passed away about a hundred years ago is well known in Islamic circles. (A) prolific writer, a Shaykh from Al Azhar, a graduate of Al Azhar who has written extensively and studied extensively. A Scholar in his own right. What did he say on this area of takfir? He says the following, these are his words: “a statement that in a hundred ways can be interpreted to disclose meanings of Kufr but in one way can disclose a meaning of iman- if that is the case it is not permissible to pronounce Kufr against the person who said that statement.” Abu Haamid Al Ghazzali the Islamic scholar and philosopher and theologian of hundreds of years in the past said this and we quote, (we address our self here to people today who are accusing other Muslims of being Kafirs), “you should be very careful (or) caution should be the order when it comes to takfir as long as a person finds a way out of this accusation of takfir then no one should hasten to express it.” (These are our words, we want to add it parenthetically so that you understand.) When a Muslim says “another Muslim is a Kafir” the Muslim who was saying this follows this up by shedding the person’s blood and repossessing the Muslim’s possessions. The person who is accused of Kufr loses his life and loses his valuables so Al Ghazzali is saying “this permission to shed Muslim blood and to repossess Muslim wealth from those who pray towards Al Qiblah and those who express the kalmia (or) the shahada Laa illaha illa Allah Muhammad Rasulullah then that is a mistake.” He says “a mistake that results in an amnesty of a hundred Kafirs is less than a mistake in shedding a thumbnail of Muslim blood (or) a small amount of Muslim blood.” Muhammad Abdou, Abu Haamid Al Ghazzali; what did Al Imam An Nawawi say about this issue of takfir? “You, the average Muslim out there, are expected to judge by obvious deeds and whatever the tongue expresses. As for the heart you have no access to what is inside a person’s heart”- that was Al Imam An Nawawi. You hear that you takfiris, you Wahabis, you agents of the Saudi instruments of divide and conquer and sectarianism that now has claimed now hundreds of thousands of lives of innocent children women and men? There is a type of consensus among all the scholars and we ask (and) we plead with these out there who are dolling out these accusations of Kufr left and right (and) we tell them if anything we are saying is incorrect then we stand to be corrected. Come forth! Let us hear what you have to say? So there is a general consensus among the Muslim scholars “when the statement of Kufr is expressed- let’s say a certain person says something is Kafir- that goes to what a certain person said not to the person himself.” This is an important distinction. If someone expresses a sentence or a paragraph that seems to leak with meanings of Kufr and this has to do with matters pertaining to faith and belief- it has nothing to do with matters that are more complicated than that, that become policies and then become instruments of war- “so when there is a statement of Kufr out there then that statement has to be scrutinised for its meaning.” In scrutinising the statement the person who expressed that statement has to explain what is meant by it. So to begin with, hurling the accusation of Kufr is done initially against a particular statement (and) a particular doctrine and then after that the person is brought forward (or) is summoned, “come explain to us what you mean by that.” When that is done (with) a person explaining himself that explanation itself may have certain ways of understanding it- it’s called ta’wil. It may have a priority meaning to it (or) it may have shades of meaning to it. These shades of meanings would exclude the person who pronounced a statement that could be understood by some people as meaning Kufr but the fact that a statement has multiple meanings is what is called in Islamic legality is called shub’hah i.e. that’s a question mark. The Prophet of Allah says you sideline the penalty because of the presence of a question mark about a certain issue- whatever the issue is. So even though some statements that are said by some individuals that may tolerate meanings that indicate this issue of Kufr, (but) if there is a shub’hah (or) a question mark then that is enough- even though the person may be Kafir- not to apply the death penalty as these people are doing. Everyday almost a hundred or two hundred people are killed because of this sectarianism that comes back to this issue of Kufr and we just stated (and) we just quoted some of the words of scholars and some of the consensus and agreements amongst scholars when it comes to this issue and we find out that it is contrary to the attitude and to the frame of mind and to the policies and to the killing machine that is out there that has nothing to do with our Islam, our iman, our Qur’an, our Prophet and our relationship with Allah. Allah says
… recall Allah’s blessings to you (or) Allah’s bounty to you as you were before time enemies and then He reconciled your hearts together and then you became brethren of each other… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)
What a distance there is between the meanings of this ayah and where we are today.
Dear committed brothers and sisters guided by Allah and eventually on a course to meeting Allah…
In today’s world definitions have been turned upside down and a lot of confusion has set into the Muslim public mind. The Prophet of Allah says, (and we’re trying to pre-empt these trouble makers who don’t take their time and their fervent relationship they have with Allah, (if they have any), to understand what’s being said to them by Allah and His Prophet and what they rely upon). They come to you and say the Arabian Peninsula by orders of the Prophet should not have two religions in it. That’s not what the Prophet said! So what did the Prophet say? We quote in the Arabian Peninsula there should not be the combination of two Deens. Deen here is not understood here through the remnants of the Judaeo-Christian mind (and) through oriental definitions- that’s not how we understand what Deen means. The Prophet of Allah welcomed the two Deens that were there in the Arabian Peninsula to begin with- Al Yahud and An Nasara. He entered into an agreement with Al Yahud in Al Madinah. He entered into an agreement with the Nasara from Najran. These are two Deens. He didn’t say “you don’t belong here. Get out of here!” What happened though- our teachings, our instructions, our guidance tell us to honour the belief and the convictions of others. We Muslims guarantee freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of belief to everyone. Atheists are guaranteed freedom belief. Everyone is! So no one is telling anyone “you can’t live in the Arabian Peninsula because of your belief or your creed or your persuasion.” That’s not the case. What happened was some of these scripturalists began to act out- they began to take actual material, combatant, hostile positions towards the Prophet and the committed Muslims. That’s another issue. They have to be dealt with. when Banu Quraydah committed high treason in Al Madinah they had to leave- not because of their belief, not because of their creed, not because of their religion. No! But because of the acts of aggression and undermining or their attempt to undermine the foundations and the validity of Islamic self determination in the Arabian Peninsula. Because of that “bye-bye” not because they have crosses or they have synagogues or they have churches; but in today’s world all of this issue has been turned topsy-turvy and so clergymen belonging to these religions are told “you are not welcome in the Arabian Peninsula” but those who have fire power, military bases, the military- “Oh you can come. You can live here. You can have bonuses, freedoms, al fawahish and al munkar. You can have all of that.” It will take some time for we, the Muslims, to draw the line and to understand our principled position. We should welcome people of faith and conscience and morality and we should say no to people of aggression and invasions and occupations. That day is certainly coming.
(This khutbah was presented by Imam Muhammad Asi on the occasion of Jum’ah on 3 January 2014.)
The above are excerpts of Khutbas presented on the sidewalk of Embassy Row in Washington D.C. Imam Muhammad Asi previously led the daily and Jum’ah prayers inside the Masjid. His speeches were revolutionary and thought provoking, and eventually irritated and threatened the Middle-East Ambassadors who control the Masjid. Finally, the Imam, his family, and /other Muslims faithful to the course of Islam were forced out, into the streets. This khutbah originates from the sidewalk across the street from the Islamic Center, currently under seige.
All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought