Surviving The Freedom
All Praise is due to Alláh, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Alláh, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Alláh, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wasallam) is His servant, and His messenger.
O You who believe, – Fear Allah, as He should be feared, and die not except as Muslims.
O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory…
I recently visited South Africa, where Muslims have lived as a tiny minority, [less than 5%] for over 300 years. For the first 150 years, Islam was a banned religion in that country, and if you were caught trying to convert others to Islam, you faced the death penalty. Even when Islam was legally recognised, Muslims were still treated as second class citizens. For the next 150 years, they could not vote until Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1989, and became State President of a non-racial South Africa. Three centuries of hardship produces a certain calibre of Muslim. When you are treated unjustly, when your faith is in danger, and when you have no legal protection for your human rights, then you really seek Allah’s help, and you are drawn closer to your God.
Now that South Africa is free, there are other challenges. Muslims have survived the oppression, but are they surviving the freedom? The answer is far from clear. There are simply so many distractions and opportunities for Shaytaan to do his work. There is a huge difference between the rich and the poor, and the gap widens by the day. Crime, gambling and financial debt along with the breakdown of family life, drug and alcohol abuse, have become serious problems over there. Does this sound familiar? It’s a problem over here also. Brothers and Sisters, these are worldwide problems of modern life. These are the challenges we all face, inside and outside the Muslim communities. We say that here in the West, we are free. But free for what? We may be politically free to think and speak and write and vote as we please. But are we really free from crime? Are we free from financial debt? And, most importantly, are we free from the burning desire to have those things that distract our attention from Allah, swt? Are we free from the misguidance of Shaytaan, from greed, envy, and the love of material things? These are questions we must answer.
Has our political freedom made us better Muslims? Have we come closer to Allah than our forefathers were? If Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wasallam were to visit Britain today, would he be proud to see the condition of his followers here? Brothers and Sisters, many of us have suffered hardship just to get here to Britain; but the bigger challenge remains: now that we are here, can we survive the freedom without damaging our faith and our moral values?
Here in Britain as in South Africa and elsewhere in the West, the success of Muslims in politics, business and the professions is well known. Muslims in private and public life are making a big contribution to their country’s progress. For the small numbers that we represent, we are punching well above our weight. But there are some worrying tendencies. We’ve become so materialistic. Our lives are centred on trivial and silly things. We must have that new car, those designer clothes and all the latest gizmos and gadgets. Some of us really believe those adverts that promise so much pleasure, but they deliver so little lasting happiness.
With pressures from all sides, inside and outside, how can we ensure that we and our children and grandchildren will hold fast to Allah’s rope, and stay united? How can we survive the freedom and prosperity even better than we survived the difficulties in our countries of birth?
Brothers and Sisters, there’s something about human nature we must understand. We human beings are not evil by nature, but we are forgetful, and our forgetfulness can lead us to do wrong. Allah made us that way. We are easily distractible, and we only remember Allah with effort and practice. We remember Allah mostly when we are in danger, when fear grips our hearts. That’s why they say there are no atheists on a sinking ship, or a plane that’s making an emergency landing. Even atheists and agnostics quickly find God when death stares them in the face. But when the plane lands safely, or the lifeboats rescue the survivors from the sea, how many of us truly turn to Allah in gratitude? In Sura An ‘aam [6:63] Allah swt asks us a beautiful rhetorical question:
“Say: Who is it that delivers you from the dark recesses of land and sea, when you call upon Allah in humility and silent terror, saying: If only Allah would deliver us safely from these dangers, we vow we shall truly show our gratitude.”
Most people are ungrateful, and they forget the Hand of Mercy that reached out to save them from disaster.
Brothers and sisters, we must thank Allah swt for helping us to keep our Iman and Taqwa intact for all these years. We are politically free, but we must still keep Iman and Taqwa even stronger, to avoid the temptations of shaitaan. We must work hard to ensure that we leave our children a good legacy on which they can build. But life has become so cosy and safe for us and some of us don’t think we need Allah’s help as much as we did before.
We must not be seduced by the attractions of this life, the attractions of dunya, and forget what’s even better, waiting for us in the akhira, in the life to come. In the last verses of Sura Al-A’la:
“Bal tu’ thiroonal hayaatad dunya. Wal aakhiratu khairu wa ab’qaa!”
“Behold, you prefer the life of this world, when the life to come is better for you, and more enduring.”
“Inna ha thaa lafis suhufil oolaaa; suhufee Ebraheema wa Moosa”
“This has been explained in the earlier Books; the books of Abraham and Moses.”
Allah does not want us to be like monks in a monastery, to turn away from His favours that He bestows on us from this world. In Sura Al Rahmaan He constantly asks us the rhetorical question:
“Fa bi ayyi aalaa-i-Rabbihumaa tukath thibaan?”
“Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not want us to deny His favours. He wants us only to put them in their proper place. He wants us to enjoy his favours without forgetting Him. He is he Main Agenda. His favours are only the bonuses. The material benefits of this world, the nice car, the big house, the clever gadgets we play with, these are only the by-products of our Ibaadah, of worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala . They should come incidentally, not intentionally. It’s not the main agenda. The main agenda is to remember Allah at every moment, with love and gratitude. When we put Allah first, at all times, then he sends us all these comforts and conveniences both as a test for gratitude and as a bonus. So let us not be distracted by the bonuses, the by products of worship, and forget the main agenda. Let us be Allah-aware at all times.
The Holy Quran reminds us,
“Wa thikrul-Laahi Akbar”
“And Remembrance of Allah is the greatest thing in life.”
It’s not just good enough to remember Allah in the Masjid or when we’re making salaah at home or when we make du’ah. We must keep ourselves in that state of Allah-awareness all the time, 24/7. Our connection with our Lord must be like one of those broadband internet connections that’s always on, always connected. We shouldn’t be like old dial-up modems that sometimes work, but mostly give problems. Our spiritual life should influence all our worldly affairs. Our Salaah, du’a and dhikr must not be disconnected from our family relations, our business affairs or social life. This is wrong. When we put our heads down in prayer, we are especially close to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala . When we worship sincerely, then He is closer to us than our jugular vein. We should try to keep this mindset, this state of intimacy with Allah swt beyond our prayer time, and let it guide us through our many dealings at work, at leasure and in our own homes. This is especially important when we deal with other people. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t back-bite. Allah’s watching us, 24/7.
If we can remember Allah in good times and bad, in illness and health, in youth and old age, day and night, winter and summer, Allah will remember us also, and He will shower his blessings, His barakah, on all our actions. I’d like to share one of my favourite Hadith and ayah to illustrate this point:
“Remember Allah in times of ease, and He will recognise you in times of distress. What hit you could not have missed you. What missed you could not have hit you. Remember that victory comes with patience, relief comes with affliction, and ease comes after hardship.”
“Fa innama al usri yusraa; Innama al usri yusraa.”
“After every hardship comes relief, truly, after every hardship comes relief.”
Let us keep ourselves focussed, heart and soul, on remembrance of Allah. Let our busy lives never detract from this remembrance. Let every thought and every action become blessed with the barakah of Allah. In a recent newspaper article, a western journalist defined Barakah as a unique quality of being blessed and being the channel of blessings at the same time. May Allah give us this special quality of barakah, to be blessed and to pass His blessings through us to others. May Allah through his ever wondrous and mysterious ways, illuminate our lives so that we can be a light for ourselves, our families and for our wider communities. May we not only survive the freedom of western society with our faith intact, but may Allah increase that faith constantly.
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