الحمد لله، الحمد لله الذي نزع خوف الدنيا من قلوب أوليائه المومنين، وجعل مكانه خشية السميع العليم، نحمده تعالى ونستعينه، ونشكره تعالى ونستغفره ونستغيثه، نعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا، من يهد الله فهو المهتد ومن يضلل فلن تجد له وليا مرشدا، ونشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له، له الملك و له الحمد، يحيي ويميت، بيده الخير، وهو على كل شيء قدير، ونشهد أن سيدنا و مولانا محمداً عبده ورسوله، وحبيبه وصفيه، بلغ الرسالة وأدى الأمانة ونصح الأمة، النبي الأمي الذي أرسله الله بالهدى والدين الحق، بشيرا ونذيرا بين يدي الساعة، صلى الله عليه وسلم وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين. أما بعد! فيا عباد الله اتقوا الله حق تقاته ولا تموتن إلا وأنتم مسلمون. يأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله وقولوا قولا سديدا يصلح لكم أعمالكم ويغفر لكم ذنوبكم. ومن يطع الله ورسوله فقد فاز فوزا عظيما. اتقوا الله فيما أمر وانتهوا عما نها عنه وزجر.
As a continuation to last week’s khutba on taqwa, I want to delve into the matter of fear a little more deeply. Allah says,
وَخُلِقَ الاِنسَانُ ضَعِيفًا
the translation of which is, “Man has been created weak” Fear is a natural part of the human condition, indeed in some ways, it can be said to keep him alive and prevent him going out of certain boundaries or exposing himself to unnecessary risks that might imperil his life, wealth or well-being. Every human being is subject to those fears apart from those who are mentally or psychologically impaired in some way. That care and cautiousness is one of our most basic survival mechanisms, and it is not blameworthy. Indeed, many parts of it are enshrined in the maqasid as-shari’a, the purposes behind the law, the preservation of life, health, wealth, deen, and reputation or honour, that is to say one’s good name.
Then there is fear at a cellular and chemical level, something over which none of us has any control. That unconscious animal response in the face of certain stimuli. It cannot be prevented – it is an autonomic reflex of the human body – chemicals flood through the body and cause the heart to race and the limbs to shake. This type of fear is also a survival mechanism, designed to trigger an immediate response.
And then there is the fear of new things, the fear of change, the fear of things or situations or ideas which fall outside of one’s experience of life. Man is a creature of habit, and his identity is often an accumulation of those habits. What he does habitually becomes who he is and who he sees himself as being, so anything which upsets that creates a deeply-seated fear response. Anything which is alien and different is to be distrusted. This form of fear is conditioned by society, often deliberately and often actively, and lies at the root of most prejudice.
And then there is the fear of failure and the fear of being wrong. Again, this cuts right to the heart of who you are as a human being, and the path in which you have chosen to take your life. Can it be that your whole life, or the most significant moments of it are a lie, are false? Have you been actively engaging in something which is displeasing to Allah? This fear of which we speak sometimes makes it impossible to admit that, and causes a person to continue down that path, even though he knows at some level in his being that that path is wrong.
We are all, at some level, subject to these fears. We are all human beings. But fear, whatever its form, can be combatted and can be overcome. It is ongoing lifelong process, but it must be undertaken and can be done. Indeed, so important is this battle against it, that our Lord constantly reminds of it throughout His Book. And please remember that these ayats are addressed to the best community of Muslims, as well as the rest of us. So never be disheartened if you find yourself frightened and afraid, better men than you have experienced the same emotions. Allah says, addressing Musa and Harun, two of the Messengers of Allah,
لا تَخافا إنّني معكُما أَسْمَعُ وأَرَى
the translation of which is, “Have no fear. I will be with you, All-Hearing and All-Seeing.” And He says, addressing the Muslims at Badr, and the rest of us,
إنما ذلكم الشيطانُ يُخَوِّفُ أولِياءَهُ فلا تَخافوهم وخافونِ إن كنتم مؤمِنينَ
the translation of which is, “That is only Shaytan frightening you through his allies. Do not fear them – fear Me if you are believers.”
The first cure for this paralysing fear, as we mentioned last week, is taqwa. That starts by redirecting whatever parts of those fears are conscious away from the asbab, the immediate causes, to the Musabbib, the Causer Himself. We remind ourselves constantly of how existence actually works, how things are the way they are and how things come to be. We remind ourselves of Who brings benefit and harm, and that if something cannot harm us then why should we fear it. But at the same time, this involves a rejigging of our understanding of what is of benefit and what is harmful, for those concepts have been warped in the modern era through doctrines such as utilitarianism, hedonism and the cult of the individual. Benefit is not determined by human reason, nor by individual whim and caprice – it is not even determined by what brings us a superficial form of happiness and material contentment, it is determined by our Lord, the sole Legislator and only Judge. We must make Him and what pleases Him our direction.
And as the deen is as much about the group as the individual – for the individual can only truly live in the group – this implies seeking out and keeping the company of like-minded men and women and working together with them to make Allah’s deen a reality. Allah says,
وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الْبِرِّ والتَّقْوَى
the translation of which is, “And help one another to goodness and to taqwa/ to the fear and awe of Allah.”
And it implies increasing in knowledge, as the only way to do what is pleasing to Allah is to know what is pleasing to Allah. Allah says,
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ
the translation of which is, “Only those of His slaves with knowledge have fear of Allah.” It is only when we truly know, in our hearts, what is important and what is trivial, what matters and what does not matter, that we can overcome those barriers within ourselves and act. Having taqwa of Allah gives us that necessary perspective.
أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين من كل ذنب فاستغفروه إنه هو الغفور الرَّحيم
الحمد لله الحمد لله رب العالمين، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وأشهد أن محمداً عبده ورسوله، صلى الله وسلم وبارك عليه وعلى آله وصحبه، والتابعين وتابعي التابعين ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.
أما بعد! فيأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله ما استطعتم واسمعوا وأطيعوا وأنفقوا خيرا لأنفسكم. يا عباد الله أوصيكم وإياي بتقوى الله وطاعته وأحذركم وإياي عن معصيته ومخالفته.
The second cure is courage. Courage is a remarkable quality for a man to have, and is rare indeed. For, as we mentioned in the first khutba, there are fears which are instinctive and autonomic to the human being, a form of panic that takes over the cells of the body, an impulse to flee. The ability to withstand this is uncommon indeed. Those who can do so are raised up by their people, and their stories are immortalised and put into verse and song. They are those counted as heroes, the Antars, the Mandelas, the Spartans of this world. Courage is one of three qualities that among the Arabs could raise a person on its own to the level of nobility, alongside generosity and eloquence.
This quality is a gift from Allah that He places in the hearts of certain men, but it is not beyond the reach of others. The seed for this quality lies within every man, and the key to watering it and nourishing it lies in absolute trust in Allah. In not just believing, but knowing at an instinctive and cellular level, that He will safeguard you and protect you. Allah says,
وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ وَلِيًّا وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ نَصِيرًا
which translates as, “Allah suffices as a Protector; Allah suffices as a Helper.” The first community were not unique in terms of their genetic make-up nor in terms of the physical prowess granted to them. They were no more inherently brave than their peers, so what gave them the extraordinary levels of courage that they displayed in the course of their lives? It was their unwavering trust in their Lord, their knowledge that as long as they did as He commanded, He would stand by them and give them all they needed to accomplish their task. They could not lose for as long as they were engaged upon a course of action pleasing to Allah, whatever the outcome. When fighting, fi sabili-llah, for example, they were guaranteed victory or an immediate passage to the Garden, as the Messenger of Allah told his men in the lead-up to the battle of Badr. It was this courage based on trust of Allah that allowed a small band of men to overcome the two greatest empires of the day in less than a single generation, often overcoming armies ten times their size.
The stronger that trust in Allah, the greater the levels of courage displayed by the man. Look at the Messenger of Allah, who had complete and absolute trust in Allah. Every cell of his body was engaged constantly in remembrance of Allah, never forgetting Him for an instant. And as a result, he was the most courageous of men. So courageous was he, that the Muslims used to take refuge with him when the fighting grew its fiercest. So courageous was he that at the battle of Hunayn, when the fighting grew fierce, some of the Companions retreated, leaving the Prophet alone surrounded on all sides by the enemy. But the Prophet himself did not falter or retreat, but continued to fight on, proclaiming,
أنا النبي لا كذب أنا ابن عبد المطلب
“I am the Prophet and that is no lie. I am the son of Abdal-Muttalib.” Thereby alerting the enemy to his presence and causing them to make an immediate beeline towards him. But as for his Companions, when they heard his words, they immediately came back to him and fought on until victory was theirs. So courageous was he that when the Muslims were beset and impoverished and his own life was threatened in Makka, he never held back from speaking the truth and never held back from calling to Allah. Even when an idolator surprised him while he was sleeping and took his own sword and held it to his neck. The idolator said, “Who will protect you from me now?” The Prophet calmly replied, “Allah”, and the man found himself unable to use his hand and the sword dropped from it.
The second way of acquiring this courage is to condition our bodies to it. Whenever we are confronted with a terrifying situation or a difficult choice, we must consciously decide to overcome it rather than flee in the other direction. That is not to say we become reckless or foolhardy. We do not put ourselves or our families or our names or our wealth at risk just for the sake of it. But we must not be afraid to do so, when there is clear benefit – when the benefit outweighs the harm. When doing so will strengthen Islam and the Muslims.
In this time of Islamophobia, it has become commonplace for Muslims to internalise their deen, and retreat from society into their ghettoes and communities, often hiding their Islam from even close family and work colleagues. It is almost as if they have become ashamed of their deen and made their imagined and usually baseless fears into a reality. They have chosen to succumb rather than overcome, and as a result have made their lives a schizophrenic nightmare, bringing them little joy and satisfaction. They have become like the people Allah describes in the Quran,
يَحْسِبُونَ كُلَّ صَيْحَةٍ عَلَيْهِمْ
the translation of which is, “They imagine every cry to be against them.” Fear governs their life and conditions every response. It has consumed them and rendered them useless. They do not live, they barely even exist. But this aya is a description of the hypocrites, not the believers. That is not who we are and cannot ever become our reality. We must, while always using our wisdom and good sense, still have a high expectation and high opinion of our Lord. And if we are to err, we must err on the side of courage, not cowardice. We must condition our reactions and our responses thus. We must speak out when we need to speak out, and act when we need to act. And if things truly are so bad that we can do neither, then we must make preparations for a time when such options will once again be open to us. It is by taking the path of courage that we will have success in both this world and the Next.
Courage will make your life easier, and you will no longer feel the hopeless and helpless victim. Indeed, the fear that once engulfed you will transfer over to your persecutors. It is they who will shy away from you, and not the other way around. For when you transfer your fear and awe away from creation and replace it with taqwa of Allah, He clothes you in a cloak of His awe so that people look upon you and are stupified. There is a well-known story of al-Hasan al-Basri. He openly spoke out against al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf’s excesses, following the instruction of the Prophet inherent in the hadith:
أفضل الجهاد كلمة صدق عند سلطان جائر
“The best form of jihad is speaking the truth to the unjust ruler.” But al-Hajjaj was angered by what he heard, so he commanded that al-Hasan be executed. So the executioner was summoned and with al-Hajjaj in attendance, al-Hasan al-Basri was brought forth. The executioner’s sword was already drawn, ready to strike, but as soon as al-Hajjaj saw al-Hasan, a deep feeling of awe and reverence overcame and instead he invited him to sit with him and eat with him, dismissed the executioner and referred to him as the chief of the ulama. This is what results from true courage and reliance on Allah.
We ask Allah to place courage in our hearts and on our limbs, and free us of worry, fear and cowardice. We ask Allah to place us at the forefront of the Muslim umma and re-establish the deen through our efforts. We ask that He return us to a position of strength and place us above the unbelievers. We ask that He give victory to all of those who are struggling and fighting in His way and that He free the tongues of the ulama in those lands so that they can speak the truth and champion His deen.
إِنَّ اللهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ، يَا أَيُهَا الذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً.
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ وَبَارِكْ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ أَجْمَعِينَ. وَارْضَ اللَّهُمَّ عَنِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ وَعُثْمَانَ وَعَلِيٍّ، وعن أم المومنين عائشة التي أمرنا الله في سورة النور أن ندافع عنها، وَعَنْ سَائِرِ الصَّحَابَةِ أَجْمَعِينَ، خُصُوصاً اِلأَنْصَارَ مِنْهُمْ وَالمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَعَنِ التَّابِعِينَ وَتَابِعِي التَّابِعِينَ وَمَنْ تَبِعَهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ.
اللَّهُمَّ اهْدِ وُلَاةَ أُمُورِ المُسْلِمِينَ لِمَا يُرْضِيكَ وَلِاتِّبَاعِ سُنَّةِ نَبِيِّكَ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَهُمْ عَلَى الصِّرَاطِ المُسْتَقِيمِ، وَأَصْلِحْهُمْ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى شَيْخِنَا، وَعَلَى أَمِيرِنَا، وَعَلَى جَمِيعِ أُمَرَاءِ وَزُعَمَاءِ المُسْلِمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى المُسْلِمِينَ فِي هَذِهِ المَدِينَةِ، وَوَفِّقْهُمْ لِمَا تُحِبُّهُ وَتَرْضَاهُ يَا أَكْرَمَ الأَكْرَمِينَ.
اللَّهُمَّ أَعِزَّ الإِسْلَامَ وَالمُسِْلمِينَ، وَاخْذُلِ الْكُفْرَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ، وَانْصُرِ المُجَاهِدِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ. وَاجْعَلْ كَلِمََتَكَ هِيَ العُلْيَا وَكَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ هِيَ السُّفْلَى.
رَبَّنَا ءَاتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقَِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ.
إِنَّ اللهَ يَامُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى، وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ، يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَّكَّرُونَ، وَلَذِكْرُ اللهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ. وَقُومُواْ إِلَى صَلاتِكُمْ يَرْحَمُكُمُ اللهُ.