Jumuah lecture on Friday 8 October 2021 (1 Rabiul Auwal 1443)
Maulana Syed Aftab Haider
Islamic Centre for Africa
Alhamdu Lillah, we have concluded the two months of mourning (Muharram and Safar) and entered the great month of Noor (light) of Rabiul Auwal. We thank Almighty Allah (SWT) who once again granted us the opportunity to offer our Aza (mourning) and our Ibadah (acts of worship) in the form of Aza for the family of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
May Almighty Allah (SWT) accept all of our efforts during these two months of mourning Sayyid as-Shuhada Imam Husain (a.s) and the martyrs of Karbala.
RABIUL AUWAL: SACRED MONTH OF RASULULLAH’S (SAWA) HISTORIC MIGRATION TO MADINA
Naturally, the month of Rabiul Auwal is where our central emphasis is on the personality of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), the best of Allah’s (SWT) creation. It is the time to express our utmost respect to Rasulullah (SAWA) and learn from his mission and legacy.
Since it is the start of Rabiul Auwal, I want to highlight a relevant and timely discussion, which is very much connected to Rasulullah (SAWA) as well as to the month of Rabiul Auwal. What I am referring to is a very important chapter in the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), namely the Hijrah (migration) from Mecca to Madina, which also occurred during this month of Rabiul Auwal.
If I can take a moment to respond to the ignorant: Rasulullah (SAWA) did not migrate to Madina in Muharram! Rasulullah (SAWA) departed from Mecca on 27th Safar and had a few stops along the way. There is a difference of opinion on when he entered Madina. Some historians believe it was 1st Rabiul Auwal (a day like today), while others believe it was 8th Rabiul Auwal. However, most of our Shi’i religious scholars and Sunni religious scholars believe that Rasulullah (SAWA) entered Madina on 12th Rabiul Auwal.
Moral of the story, the migration of Rasulullah (SAWA) occurred in Rabiul Auwal. It is therefore ignorant to use this to justify “Muharram Mubarak”, as the Hijrah is unrelated to Muharram!
HIJRAH EXPLAINED FROM THE QURANIC NARRATIVE
This chapter in early Islamic history, pertaining to the Hijrah is very important and expansive. There are two very important principles in Islam, namely Jihad (struggle) and Hijrah (migration). These are the two strategies employed to fight against the enemies of Islam. You have the tool of Jihad and Hijrah to protect your faith.
One of the greatest lessons we can learn from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is that of the Hijrah. The Holy Quran is, in fact, very clear about it, having addressed the topic of Hijrah around 14 times. I would like to cite verses 97 – 100 of Surah Nisaa’ (chapter 4 of the Holy Quran) which will give us great insight into understanding why this topic of Hijrah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is so crucial.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنْتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا ۚ فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا
97. When angels take the souls of those who die in sin against their souls, they say: “In what (plight) Were ye?” They reply: “Weak and oppressed Were we in the earth.” They say: “Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (From evil)?” Such men will find their abode in Hell, What an evil refuge!
This verse says that the oppressed will have their excuse ready, saying that they are oppressed because they live in an environment where fulfilling the command of Almighty Allah (SWT) is not possible. The angels in the grave will then challenge them by asking the oppressed why they did not migrate (Hijrah) to a place where they could follow the religion. This verse ends with the grave warning that the excuses of the oppressed will not be accepted, and their apathy has secured them a place in Hell, which is a terrible destiny!
إِلَّا الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ حِيلَةً وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ سَبِيلًا
98. Except the weak from among the men and the children who have not in their power the means nor can they find a way (to escape).
فَأُولَٰئِكَ عَسَى اللَّهُ أَنْ يَعْفُوَ عَنْهُمْ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَفُوًّا غَفُورًا
99. So these, it may be, Allah will pardon them, and Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving.
These verses give exception to the oppressed who were physically very weak and therefore unable to migrate. They were stuck in a bad situation and hence no escape route. These verses promise that the mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) will be upon them. However, those who could move from the oppressive environment but did not, will certainly not be accepted.
PURPOSE OF MIGRATION SHOULD BE TO BE IN A BETTER PLACE TO PRACTICE YOUR FAITH
Now to come to the key verse in this regard, namely verse 100, addressing those who migrate for the sake of attaining the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT), with the good news of the guarantee of His shelter, protection and abundant resources:
وَمَنْ يُهَاجِرْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ يَجِدْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مُرَاغَمًا كَثِيرًا وَسَعَةً ۚ وَمَنْ يَخْرُجْ مِنْ بَيْتِهِ مُهَاجِرًا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ يُدْرِكْهُ الْمَوْتُ فَقَدْ وَقَعَ أَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
100. And whoever flies in Allah’s way, he will find in the earth many a place of refuge and abundant resources, and whoever goes forth from his house flying to Allah and His Messenger, and then death overtakes him, his reward is indeed with Allah and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
This verse then very importantly clarifies that whoever emerges from the house, to migrate towards Almighty Allah (SWT) and dies in the process before reaching the divine destination, will be rewarded from the infinite treasures of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Now, the intent of citing these verses is to draw your attention to the crux of this matter. The logic of the Holy Quran and Islam is that the condition and environment prevalent in society is not an excuse for committing sin or avoiding migrating to a more righteous environment.
The exact opposite is also important to remember. We have the Hijrah and Ta’arrub, which refers to a situation where you are in an environment which allows you to practice your religion, but then you move to a society which does not practice religion!!! This is regarded as a major sin in Islam, when you move from a place where you practice your religion, to a place where you are not able to display your religious identity.
ISLAM ENCOURAGES MIGRATION FOR CONTINUED RELIGIOUS PROGRESS AND WORLDLY PROSPERITY
Many people migrate to different cities, countries and continents, for various reasons. However, the main purpose of migration should be to rescue your faith.
Jihad has two phases, the minor Jihad (Asghar: fighting with weapons in a battle) and the major Jihad (Akbar: the internal jihad to develop self-control).
Similarly, Hijrah also has two phases, the minor Hijrah (Asghar: external migration when confronted with a place where you cannot practice your faith) and the major Hijrah (Akbar: the internal migration from darkness to light). This is your repentance from sin, and you move to a better situation.
It goes without saying how crucial this Hijrah is, and therefore requires our thorough reflection!
In principle, Islam encourages people to migrate, because there are plenty opportunities, divine mercy and blessings conveyed through this travel, provided that its purpose is to serve the mission of Islam.
When our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) saw that his people could no longer tolerate the pressure from the harassment by the disbelievers in Mecca, he asked his cousin Jafar ibn abi Talib to lead the migration to Ethiopia. This was the first Hijrah (migration) in Islam, followed by other smaller migrations.
Then, a few years later, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) undertook the most noted Hijrah, from Mecca to Madina. Interestingly, in Mecca, the focus was on individual religious identity, but when Rasulullah (SAWA) migrated towards Madina, then the focus of religious identity became more communal and societal ie. the religious identity of the Muslim Ummah (nation) or civilization.
SHARP INSIGHTS FROM THE HIJRAH OF RASULULLAH (SAWA)
The spirit of the Hijrah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) started from the two categories in the Ummah, namely the Muhajireen (emigrants) and Ansar (supporters). There are so many points to reflect on this classification. Example, Rasulullah (SAWA) did not refer to the two groups as Meccans and Madanis, which would have been very convenient for him to do so. Instead, he referred to the Meccans who migrated as the Muhajireen and the people from Madina as the Ansar.
There is something worth noting here, especially with one of our major social ills in this country being xenophobic tendencies. The basis for the categorization was not ethnicity, skin colour, language or tribal identity.
Rather, Rasulullah (SAWA) referred to the one group as the Muhajireen, because they emigrated for the sake of Almighty Allah (SWT) and the other group as the Ansar, because they were the hosts in Madina of those who migrated from Mecca. This is the culture and spirit of Islam and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Then, we see very beautifully how Rasulullah (SAWA) established a pact between the Muhajireen and Ansar immediately after settling in Madina, for both parties to recognize themselves as brothers and sisters of each other.
At this juncture, Rasulullah (SAWA) called upon none other than Imam Ali (a.s), held and raised his hand to announce their brotherhood!
MIGRATION SHOULD RESULT IN IMPROVING THE ADOPTED COUNTRY AND NOT BE SELFISH
A key lesson to highlight is that when you migrate to another place, you respect those people and recognize their culture, background, history and rights. One should never make it feel as though your immigration is an invasion or occupation, bossing the locals around and enslaving them, as this is indeed against the culture of Islam.
Rather, your immigration should enrich the local culture. It is perfectly fine to migrate for financial reasons, as verse 100 cited above confirms that there will be plenty of opportunities upon migration. That being said, we need to be acutely mindful while we are chasing these worldly provisions that our priority should be our faith.
We are required to create an environment which will protect our religion, in the land we migrated to, such that our children and future generations are not drowned in this world at the expense of their Akhirah.
This is another very important lesson from the Hijrah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), in having clear vision on the direction we pursue to ensure continued progress of the mission of Islam, rather than it being surrendered when you migrate.
OUR ACTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS OUR BELOVED COUNTRY THROUGH THE LOCAL ELECTIONS
I focused the discussion in the first khutbah (sermon) on migration and drawing lessons from the Hijrah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), as many of us have migrated or know of people who have migrated to our blessed, adopted home of South Africa.
We continue to enjoy the blessings and favours of Almighty Allah (SWT) in this land. Accordingly, we should constantly take heed of verse 7 of Surah Ibrahim (chapter 14 of the Holy Quran):
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِنْ كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
And when your Lord made it known: If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe.
If we are thankful, then Almighty Allah (SWT) will give us more. And we can only be thankful by appreciating what He has given us and giving back to this land and the people of this land, as well as through continued loyalty to this adopted homeland.
Indeed, there is a Hadith which says that love for your country is part of faith (Imaan). By living in this country and enjoying its benefits, we have responsibilities and obligations towards this country and its people. It is therefore our responsibility as Muslims, and especially as the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s), to play an important, constructive role in the development of our society and country.
The Ahlul Bait (a.s) never taught us to simply milk the land and turn away. Their approach was always to appreciate the land you are inhabiting. Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) taught us the rights of the land, its people, the rights of a companion, and even the rights of someone who walks along with you.
We see this spirit as a constant theme from Imam Ali (a.s), and we often reflect on that famous letter to his governor in Egypt, Maliki Ashtar, where he says: “People are of two types: they are either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity.”
I am raising this point, particularly in reference to the upcoming elections. As South African citizens, our responsibility is to be involved and contribute, especially since the upcoming elections are local elections ie. electing officials whose prime focus should be on service delivery.
If we choose to simply be bystanders, then we have no right to be critical tomorrow when the elected officials fail us on service delivery.
I therefore wish to remind all South African citizens, Muslims and especially the followers of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) to fulfil our responsibility towards our beautiful country and its people, particularly the under-privileged who continue to be on the receiving end of suffering upon suffering.
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