Khutba – 3rd March 2017 –
Today is the 4th Jumada al-Akhir 1438
He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Islam began as a stranger and will return as a stranger, so fragrant good fortune to the strangers.”
The Companions agreed unanimously at the time of Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him and with them all, that the beginning of Islam is the Hijra of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the small group of individuals and families with him from Makka to the town of Yathrib, then inhabited by sundry Arab and Jewish tribes with uneasy treaties and truces between them and continuous internecine warfare and raiding. Thus ‘Islam’ begins not with a pure Islamic polity but with a messy mix of people of different races, tribes and religions. The idealisation of that beginning causes us much confusion.
It is important to understand that the primordial story of Islam, the sira, is intrinsically one of beginning. The very story of Islam itself is about a beginning.
The great problem for the modern Muslim is that we do not look to that beginning but we look nostalgically to the greatness of the caliphate of Baghdad or the Osmanlis or the Mughal Empire. When we look to Madinah, we are looking at a complex and sometimes messy beginning which we can easily extrapolate to our circumstances today. Looking to the Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad as our model is like expecting to have an oak tree without an acorn. Conversely, if you have this tiny insignificant acorn in your hands, you must understand that in spite of its insignificance, tending to it properly it will result necessarily in the mighty oak tree.
Thus, there is nothing intrinsically un-Islamic about our situation here today, for we few Muslims, emigrants and indigenous alike, have from a din whose inspiration is the arrival of a few emigrants among a group of other people only some of whom had accepted Islam before their arrival, twelve people at the first meeting at ‘Aqabah and seventy-two at the second.
You cannot understand our situation if you imagine that there is something called ‘the Muslim world’ from which we are exiled. Rather we have a historic moment, as we have had repeatedly through the last one thousand four hundred years in numerous circumstances all over the world, of new beginnings in new lands. After the first unavoidable jihad against the two great tyrannical empires of Rome and Persia, Islam has spread very much in this same way. A very small number of people went to Indonesia in comparatively recent history and now this is the most numerous Muslim nation on Earth, without great battles. Recent historical studies show that the Muslims didn’t conquer al-Andalus. It appears that there was only one battle there. The Muslims emigrated there and many of the Spanish accepted Islam.
So when we look at this Madinah, we see the eternal problem of the human being. We are intrinsically social beings. The Arabic word insan has two derivations: first, that it derives from nasiya – he forgot; second, it derives from anisa – he was or became sociable, companionable, amiable, convivial, inclined to company and converse.
Allah, exalted is He, says:
Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah’s sight is the one with the most taqwa. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Surat al-Hujurat 49:13)
This sociability has different concentric circles. First, there is the family, and by the natural processes of marriage and kinship this extends out to clan and tribe. An earlier form of Islam, that of Bani Isra’il, was centred on the tribe. But with the age that was to come into being, the central issue became the circle of sociability beyond the tribe.
Islam does not abolish the tribe, the clan and the family, but the issue for us is how do we as families, clans and tribes become a society? This has become all too dangerous an issue today with the current ideologies that hold sway both in the UK and the US. Today, the nation is seen as being incompatible with the immigrant, but the people who uphold that most strenuously are themselves immigrants or the children and descendants of earlier immigrants. All of the white people of the US are immigrants or descendants of immigrants some of whom displaced the indigenous peoples most brutally. The entire history of the UK is of successive waves of immigration and invasion. Far from being the indigenous people, the Anglo-Saxons were themselves immigrants, and the UK’s traditional élite, the descendants of the Normans, are the children of invaders.
This society today has failed to resolve this problem of indigenous people and immigrants and we simply cannot afford to be subsumed under or enframed within their misunderstanding.
There is one issue within this theme, which is the family. Families provide the warp – sada – of the fabric of a society. In families, in addition to the transmission of genetic inheritance, traditionally and still today, there is transmission of certain traits: thus the child of the woodworker is often a woodworker and that of the merchant a merchant and the child of a scholar a scholar too. We see also that Prophethood was transmitted in certain familial lines, as Allah says:
Allah chose Adam and Nuh and the family of Ibrahim and the family of ‘Imran over all other beings descendants one of the other. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.(Surah Al ‘Imran 3:33-34)
Familial transmission of traits is not an invariable fact and it is certainly not something that is legislated, but it is a broad pattern that holds true in vastly different societies throughout history. Similarly, there is a wealth transmission from generation to generation through inheritance, something that is both carefully safeguarded by the laws of inheritance in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and its worst excesses curbed by the breaking up of capital into smaller portions in each generation. And we of all people ought to be aware of the terrible dangers of great capital accumulation.
This generational transmission serves as the warp of a society, upon which is woven, by means of the weft the fabric. The weft – luhma – comprises all the numerous transactions and interactions known as the mu‘amalat.
To understand the modern age, you must understand that a number of extremely wealthy families assumed power behind the scenes, through the means of usury finance. They made sure to hold their capital together across the generations and to accumulate it through the exercise of usury until their capital came to dwarf the nation-states’ own. The natural wealth of the family was their main desire. Families’ thrift and mutual interdependence is their main obstacle. Their natural allies are the isolated individuals and couples of the modern age who express themselves democratically, who establish no stable families but merely serve as elements of the state or the increasingly corporatised workplace. Their other natural ally is the modern state which undermines the family in two ways: first, through its undermining the finances of the family by taxation, and second, by its insinuating itself into the family through tax credits and benefits. The effect of both is to weaken this warp upon which the fabric of society is woven.
Our task is to protect this family as much as we are able and to resist the very powerful forces that work to undermine it whether through inviting us to ever new romantic relationships, or reducing us in our self-definition to workers for corporate entities and the state, or making us think of ourselves as banking customers, or redefining us, men and women, merely as citizens. None of these are fitting for the Adamic person whose ancestor Allah taught all the names, nor for the person of the Muhammadan d?n, whose Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, brought us in his revelation the very reason for our creation and our existence in these words:
I only created jinn and man to worship Me. (Surat adh-Dhariyat 51:56)
And as we have seen before one of the Companions famously interpreted “to worship Me” as meaning “to know Me.” In other words, the entire world is created so that you can know your Lord, not know ‘about’ your Lord, and this is for you and it is your message to others. In order for that to happen you have to protect all of these elements: your own heart, your self, your family and your society and expand that society. And ‘protect’ is the meaning of this word which we mention so often and which is the core of the khutba: taqwa, for taqwa comes from the word wiqaya – protection, giving taqwa the sense of ‘protecting yourself’.