Jumuah lecture on Friday 29 November 2019 (2 Rabi-ul-Akhir 1441)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) addresses his most beloved servant and Rasul (SAWA) in verse 159 of Surah aal-Imraan (chapter 3 of the Holy Quran), as follows:
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust.”
In this verse, Almighty Allah (SWT) is referring to one of the most outstanding and striking aspects of the character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), and that is his extraordinary gentleness and humility towards the people.
This is a common trait in several verses of the Holy Quran where Rasulullah (SAWA) is described. Similar adjectives used in the Holy Quran to describe the Prophetic character are “rauf” (very kind and compassionate), “uzunun” (listener for the people), “khuluqin adheem” (sublime morality) etc.
So this particular aspect of being gentle, is one of the most outstanding aspects of the Prophetic character of Muhammad (SAWA) as described in the Holy Quran. Similarly, when we reflect on the practical life of our Nabi & Rasul (SAWA), we find this attribute flourishing. He never fights back, especially when it comes to personal issues, where we read in history about how people would throw their trash on him, and he would not react.
Uncouth bedouins would enter a filled mosque, and they would show extreme disrespect towards Rasulullah (SAWA), and pull his clothing to the point where it scratches his neck. Despite this taking place in a packed gathering, he does not fight back. People do the worst things to him in the wars, but he does not respond with harsh words or retaliate out of anger. This is one of the most remarkable character traits of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
It is noted from the historical records that Rasulullah (SAWA) had a permanent smile on his face, through hardship and ease.
LESSON 1 FOR US: CORRUPTION WAS TOTALLY REBUKED BY RASULULLAH (SAWA)
Today, I would like to draw your attention to something completely opposite to this. Does it mean that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) never got angry? Not at all. Indeed, there were rare occasions where he expressed his anger. Let us unpack this further today, to understand what situations made this most gentle, kind-natured, excellent exemplar to sometimes become angry.
I will narrate a couple of incidents, as there are great lessons for us all to draw from these situations where Rasulullah (SAWA) became angry.
History has recorded an incident where Usama, the son of Zaid, comes to Rasulullah (SAWA), regarding a crime committed by a woman from a prominent tribe called Banu Makhzum. The crime was theft and Rasulullah (SAWA) accordingly issued the punishment. She was from the elite of this tribe, as she was related to the head of this tribe of Banu Makhzum. So, it was a matter of dignity for them, that a woman from their elite household should be punished, which is insulting for them in society.
The main negotiators of this tribe approached Rasulullah (SAWA) for a reprieve, but he refused. They clearly felt under pressure, so then decided to approach Usama for him to present their plea, as he was very much loved by Rasulullah (SAWA) and close to him.
History records that Usama, the son of Zaid, came to Rasulullah (SAWA) and begged if he could kindly be lenient regarding the punishment of this woman, for the crime that she committed. History has further recorded that this is one of the rare occasions where Rasulullah (SAWA) expressed his anger. He did not only express his extreme displeasure to Usama, but instead requested the people from Banu Makhzum who sent Usama to all come into the Masjid as he wants to put them all on their place.
Rasulullah (SAWA) addressed them decisively, starting off by expressing the reason for his anger. He then explained why prior nations were destroyed. This analysis which he went into is particularly interesting and truly relevant to us all today, on multiple levels!
Rasulullah (SAWA) explained to them that nations before were destroyed because those in prominent positions were being treated more leniently for the same crime, compared to an ordinary citizen in the street. To explain his seriousness, Rasulullah (SAWA) goes as far as to say that even if it were his own daughter who commits a crime, he will have no hesitation to invoke the same punishment. We know very well the supreme status of this perfect daughter of Rasulullah (SAWA)!
CORRUPTION RESULTS IN THE MORAL DECAY OF SOCIETY
We therefore understand from this episode, that one of the situations which invoked the serious anger of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is when society is divided between classes and the higher classes are afforded special rules, such that they get away with murder, while normal people are punished for the smallest of crimes! This is what corruption is about, where society is being divided into classes and the rule of law is not being applied fairly.
We can very much relate to this reality in our own country, and even further away in countries like Iraq and Lebanon, where we see courageous youth fearlessly taking to the streets to express their anger and frustration, because they see this injustice.
Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali (a.s) has a sharp, insightful statement in this regard. He says that a system of governance can survive with kufr (disbelief) but cannot survive with injustice! So, injustice is one area where Rasulullah (SAWA) became very angry.
LESSON 2 FOR US: CLAIMING THE ARROGANT MORAL HIGH GROUND DAMAGES THE IMAGE OF ISLAM
I would like to relay another incident. There was a Jewish man in Madina who had a dispute with one of the companions of Rasulullah (SAWA). Now, while they were arguing with each other, this Jewish man said to the Sahabi, that he swears by Nabi Moosa (a.s) that he is innocent from the accusations levelled against him by the Sahabi.
This Sahabi took exception, challenging him on why he is swearing by Nabi Moosa (a.s), and not by our Nabi, who is around, and he is the highest of the Prophets (a.s) and the best of creation.
This Jewish man knew full well what the exceptional akhlaq of Rasulullah (SAWA) is, and therefore decided to lay a complaint with Rasulullah (SAWA) about the behaviour of this Sahabi who has a tiff with him. This Jewish man complained to Rasulullah (SAWA) about the Sahabi arguing about why he took oath by the name of Nabi Moosa (a.s) and not his name.
This is another incident recorded in history as the rare occasion where Rasulullah (SAWA) became angry, and he again gathered people to address the issue. From this, we see how sensitive Rasulullah (SAWA) was to this matter. He clearly knew that he was the best. Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) cannot be compared. Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) is the leader of all the Prophets (a.s) and the seal of Prophethood.
Nabi Moosa (a.s) is nothing but the reflection of Nabi Muhammad (SAWA), but the point is not about who is higher in ranking. The issue which Rasulullah (SAWA) took exception to is the manner in which his companion treated the Jewish man. The issue is really about how you address people and the impression you leave on society as a result.
Rasulullah (SAWA) requested everyone join in the Masjid and he addressed those involved by saying that they should not try to fight and destabilise society based upon arguments which have no benefit. The Jewish man and the Sahabi were ostensibly arguing about who is better, for which the result is only to create discord by accentuating our differences.
We can speak for days on end if we bring this point back home, and the amount of time and energy we expend daily to prove each other wrong or better/worse, with division in the community being the ultimate result.
LESSON 3 FOR US: DISUNITY ONLY BENEFITS OUR ENEMIES
The third example is an incident involving one of the prominent people from the Jewish community of Madina. The Aws and Khazraj were 2 of the main Arab tribes in Madina at the time. They never got on well and were at loggerheads for centuries. Upon the arrival of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), they united in support of him. This created a beautiful, harmonious society, which was very difficult for the prominent leader of the Jewish community to witness this.
He decided to send someone to sit in the streets of Madina, where the people from these 2 tribes (Aws and Khazraj) would pass by. The role of this person, whom the Jewish leader sent, was for him to be in this street and read the poetry about the historical conflicts between Aws and Khazraj, where they would denounce and humiliate each other through poetry. The intent was clearly to stoke the fire of discord! 14 centuries later, we see the same modus operandi working successfully!
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) immediately took decisive action and announced for everyone to congregate in the Masjid, where he addressed this issue by saying that this divisive action is going to take them back to the era of Jahiliyya, after Allah (SWT) has shown them the light of Islam through him – Rasulullah (SAWA).
Rasulullah (SAWA) reminded the people that they have been rescued from Kufr (disbelief) and that Islam saved them and brought them together. Rasulullah (SAWA) challenged them if they want to turn back and go back to where they came from, which was nothing but an era of ignorance.
Rasulullah (SAWA) was emphasizing unity in society, and if anyone wants to play with that unity by stirring emotions and referring to the past, then that invokes his anger.
CAPE FLATS INTERFAITH DECLARATION REAPS POSITIVE REWARDS
In this second khutbah, I intend to focus only on one issue, which is local to our society. We are all well aware of that challenge and facing it in our daily life, and that is the challenge of violence and abuse of women and children. The worsening statistics speak volumes on this subject, and we have become neutralised to the point that we simply regard this as another statistic when we hear of the gruesome details. It is as if this is the norm and therefore not a big deal.
As people of religion and faith, we have a great responsibility towards our society, and towards this scourge in our communities. Religious leaders have an even greater responsibility to address this big issue.
We are in the annual period of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, but the scale of the problem requires much more work than this awareness campaign. It is in this spirit when a group of religious leaders, along with trade unions got together with the intent of trying to see what we can do. This is the background on which the Cape Flats Interfaith Declaration came in existence a few months ago.
A wide range of clergy from diverse religious backgrounds came together, which included our Muslims leadership too. Before agreeing on this declaration in August, we embarked on a walk through the hotspots of Bridgetown, where shootings were taking place almost daily. These were the roads where people were killed mercilessly, with children attacked and women victimised.
We prayed on every corner along this walk, according to the different faith traditions present. You will not believe, that this particular endeavour at the grassroots level by the religious leaders has had an amazing effect. The support which they felt from the religious leaders was inspiring, as it was not simply about religious leaders enjoying their comforts from the pulpit and delivering sermons, but rather, rolling up their sleeves to take action.
Based on the latest statistics, we see that crime has reduced drastically in this neighbourhood. This same walk was repeated in Parow, Delft, Mitchells Plain and various other areas on the Cape Flats. This is what led to the Cape Flats Interfaith Declaration being passed, which is calling for religious leaders and religious communities to address this issue, because none of us are safe or insulated from this reality of crime.
It is our responsibility towards the creation of God (SWT), with all our diversity of religions and faith traditions, that we should stand together and respond to the call of Almighty Allah (SWT), which is to reach out to the oppressed and downtrodden who have been subjected to injustice in the form of crime, violence and corruption.
We are very proudly part of this Cape Flats Interfaith Declaration, which is a collective action for the restoration of communities, social cohesion and safer communities. This is the commitment and I hope and pray that more and more religious leaders will join as we meet to create change at grassroots level, where it is extremely dangerous and traumatic for the children to go from one street to the next street to attend even Madrassa!
The Cape Flats Interfaith Declaration is therefore a very positive initiative and we fully support with active participation and action as religious leaders of the Cape Flats.