Jumuah lecture on Friday 23 October 2020 (6 Rabiul Awwal 1442)

Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider

Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town

During this great month of Rabiul Awwal, we celebrate the auspicious birth and arrival into this world of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). In doing so, we continue to study his noble character and personality in the light of Quranic verses.

One of the areas which the Holy Quran emphasizes upon, in respect of the Prophetic Seerah (lifestyle) and approach to the people during his mission, is that of rationality and reasoning. What we mean here is the manner in which he was asking people to accept his message and his religion was based upon a rational approach. This means he did not want to force people towards his message.

Rasulullah (SAWA) challenged the people to use their intellect in accepting his message and abandon what they are practicing. In fact, the Holy Quran commands him to employ this basis of rational reasoning in his engagement with the people.

Very important to note that with this approach, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) does not believe in compulsion and forcing religion on the people. Rather, he wants people to accept Islam based upon rational, intellectual foundations.

THERE IS NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION

The Holy Quran makes it very clear in verse 256 of Surah Baqara (chapter 2), which is a commonly known verse as it is part of Ayatul Kursi:

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ ۚ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

“There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.”

The reason for this principled position of there being no compulsion in religion is because the nature of acceptance of religion is not something which can be forced. Accepting religion is deeply entrenched in your heart, mind and soul. You can force people to act a certain way or compel them to perform certain actions. But you cannot force people to think a certain way or to believe in something.

It is not really possible, practically speaking, to force somebody to become Muslim or believe in any other religion. Yes, they could comply purely out of fear and being pressurized. However, this is not acceptance of religion, as such a person would be verbalizing something which is different to what is in their mind and heart.

PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) AND HIS RESPECT FOR FREE WILL

The very nature of faith and religion is not possible to be forced. You can force someone to SAY something, but you cannot force someone to BELIEVE in something. This takes us back to a very important principle in the Prophetic Sunnah, and that is RESPECT OF FREE WILL.

Rasulullah (SAWA) respected that human beings are human beings due to their free will. Almighty Allah (SWT) explains in verse 3 of Surah Insaan (chapter 76 of the Holy Quran) that His job is to show the true path, and then it is up to us whether we want to be grateful or not.

إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا

“Surely, We have shown him the way: he may be thankful or unthankful.”

If we revert for a moment to verse 256 of Surah Baqara (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran) referenced earlier, it is clear that nobody can force you into religion or believe a certain way. It is not possible because free will is involved.

Furthermore, religion has a deeply internal basis for its outward expression to be real. Otherwise it is a façade, because the external aspect can be forced, whereas the internal aspect cannot be forced.

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ ۚ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

“There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.”

This particular verse also explains that right and wrong has been made clearly distinguishable. So, while there is no compulsion in religion, you will be able to clearly see what is right and what is wrong, if you use your common sense and rationality.

Interestingly, what we can conclude from this verse is that if someone chooses to submit to anything other than Almighty Allah (SWT), then that would not be a rational choice! Such a person is not doing a favour to him/herself. In fact, such a person is taking an extremely unreliable position as the basis for his/her life.

Someone who decides through rational thought to submit to Almighty Allah (SWT) and reject anything other than Him, has committed to hold fast onto a reliable rope.

PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) BASED HIS PROPAGATION THROUGH RATIONAL REASONING

This is indeed one of the most outstanding qualities of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), in that he never used force. History bears testament to this even in the interaction between Rasulullah (SAWA) and an old lady, who was not capable of any philosophical, rational, intellectual arguments.

He did not impose upon her to accept Islam. Rather, he diverts her basic common sense to that wheel which she is moving to weave the cotton. He asks the old lady whether the wheel to weave the cotton will move by itself if she moves her hand away from rotating the wheel. She replied categorically that the wheel cannot move by itself.

Rasulullah (SAWA) then challenges her by asking if that is the case, then how is it possible for this world to be moving without someone in control? Through this, this old lady immediately submits by declaring the Kalima Shahada.

There are plenty of examples one can cite from the Prophetic lifestyle on his use of rationality as the art of persuasion, which was also evident from his engagements with the non-Muslims and idol-worshippers. Therefore, he never forced, and when people accepted his invitation to Islam on a rational basis, then Alhamdu Lillah. And equally important is that he also respected the opinion of those who did not accept. Numerous examples can be referenced on this point.

IDOL-WORSHIPPING WAS MEANT TO ENSLAVE THE MINDS OF PEOPLE

Freedom was practiced by Rasulullah (SAWA) in its true sense and respect for the free will of a human being was upheld at all times. The approach he established was that rationality shall be the common ground whereby we can engage in dialogue.

This is indeed one of the most outstanding qualities from the Prophetic Seerah, while being extremely critical of the attitude of those opposing him. He challenged them by questioning their worship of idols who cannot help them. He explains that the philosophy of idol-worshipping is that they exploit you with these superficial beliefs and keeping you enslaved.

He explained that this ideology of idol-worshipping is shackles around the necks. Since this ideology is meant to imprison your mind, it is against free will and the dignity of human beings. This was the argument that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) presented to the people, to release them from the mental slavery.

Idol-worshipping was all about exploitation of the faith, for certain people to keep control, such as the big deals like Abu Jahal, Abu Sufyan and others in the Meccan Quraysh society. This was their modus operandi to exploit, control and manipulate. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) came and challenged this.

CRUCIAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN BEING CRITICAL AND INSULTING

The very important point I would like to draw your attention to is that he presents this critical challenge, exposing their warped beliefs, and invites them to think freely. What we see from the noble, moral character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is that being critical is one thing but being insulting is something else! Insults is not in the moral character of Rasulullah (SAWA).

This is where we read in verse 108 of Surah An’aam (Chapter 6 of the Holy Quran), where Almighty Allah (SWT) addresses those people who want to use insults and abusive language to promote their message:

وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ مَرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance. Thus have We made fair seeming to every people their deeds; then to their Lord shall be their return, so He will inform them of what they did.”

When we speak about Shia-Sunni unity, we say that we may be critical of each other’s position or belief, but we should not be insulting each other’s belief.

Being critical and being insulting are two different things. Therefore, the fatwa (religious decree) of all the Shia Maraji’ (grand spiritual authorities), be it in the past or present, including the leading spiritual authorities whom the Shia follow currently, like Ayatollah Khamenei and Ayatollah Sistani, is that you are not allowed to insult the sacred beliefs of our Sunni brethren.

Now, this does not mean that we are not allowed to be critical in our analysis of history, or that we should refrain from talking about where we differ with each other. Yes, we can do this. However, insult is a different matter and that is what we should refrain from and denounce.

The purpose of this religious decree from our grand spiritual authorities is to cultivate unity amongst Muslims, which is absolutely crucial. However, the Quranic principle of denouncing insults and abusive language goes way beyond Islamic unity. The above verse cited from Surah An’aam explains that we should not insult or use vulgar language towards the sacred symbols of ANYONE, Muslim or non-Muslim, even the idol-worshippers!

What is conveyed through this verse is that we should not hurl abuse towards them, as they would retaliate with abuse against our God (SWT). This will result in an emotional tit-for-tat of insults instead of any meaningful dialogue or intellectual discussion.

RESPECT FOR OTHERS IS FUNDAMENTAL TO PRESENT TRUE ISLAM TO THE WORLD

In principle, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, respect for free will are on the one side of the scale. On the other hand, unfortunately, you have insults and abuse. These are clearly two diametrically opposite positions.

The Prophetic Sunnah is amazingly respectful towards the other. This is the practical lifestyle and approach of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).

This is especially crucial for us to understand in our interaction as followers of Rasulullah (SAWA) with each other as Muslims, and with diverse opinions and approaches. The primary condition is ensuring respect for the sensitivity of sacred symbols of others is maintained, instead of using vulgar language or hurling insults.

This distinction is critical to understand from the noble, moral character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).

The same applies on us who are a distinct minority in this society, when we interact with non-Muslims. Of course, we need to uphold the true message of Islam as the ultimate path of salvation, and be critical of other ideologies, such as trinity for example. Absolutely crucial to ensure that this is done without humiliation and insults to those whom we differ with.

The problem that we need to guard against is when we use terms such as “nasarah”, “kuffaar”, “yahud” in a manner which has nothing other than the ugly smell of contempt, degrading others and not showing any respect for their opinion. This is not in line with the Prophetic Seerah (lifestyle) and the divine mercy which he manifests.

SECOND KHUTBAH
CARTOONS EXPOSES HOW MORALLY BANKRUPT THOSE SECULARISTS ARE

The lesson from the verse of Surah aal-Imraan (chapter 3 of the Holy Quran) says indirectly that abusive language and insults are the tools of someone who does not have a rational, logical argument. Such a person uses abusive language to achieve his goal.

Today, this reality is very evident in its reverse form! When they cannot fight with the rationality and logic of Islam, they come with the tool of insult and humiliation against Islam and this most respectful and merciful personality in the history of mankind, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).

They come under the banner and headline of freedom of speech and they commit the worst humiliation and insults to a personality who never insulted, hurt or humiliated even his enemies. This is a clear sign of their bankruptcy!

If you want to speak about Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), then why can you not speak in the form of logic, by presenting a rational counter argument about the message of Islam and personality of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his lifestyle?

Instead, you present your point in the form of cartoons to hurt and insult the feelings of nearly two billion people! This has nothing to do with freedom of speech!

FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS USED AS A DIRTY GARB TO PROMOTE ISLAMOPHOBIA

What is happening in France is really worth reflecting on the hypocrisy of these Western moral values and their human rights. How can speech which hurts and humiliates people and damages their dignity be called free speech?

If this is the case, then why is it regarded as a crime when you speak about the holocaust in even the slightest form of alternative narrative? It is regarded as highly offensive because it hurts the feelings and emotions of victims of the holocaust. Amazing it is that hurting the feelings of victims of the holocaust is a crime but hurting the feelings of nearly 2 billion people is regarded as freedom of speech!

Of course, we do not condone what the Chechen person did by beheading the teacher in France who showed cartoons of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). However, what is particularly distasteful is that the French government uses this to promote Islamophobia and a front against Islam.

FRANCE IS BLINDED BY PETRODOLLAR WAHHABI DOCTRINE FROM SAUDI ARABIA

Who acts in this barbaric manner of beheading someone for their gross insults on our Prophet Muhammad (SAWA)? It is none other than those same people who were produced by the French government!

It was this secular French government who stood against a purely secular government in Syria and supported all these fanatical extremist rebels, providing them all the weapons to slaughter and massacre anyone who came against them, thereby presenting the worst image of Islam in front of the world.

It was the French who openly supported these radicals. Now, when the same people come back home and react in the form of what the Chechen did, the French government shuts down more than 300 mosques! The question is, who built these mosques? Who are the Imams of these mosques?

These mosques are established from the money of those with whom you are in bed with day and night! These mosques in France are built from the money of those whom you continue to sell your weapons to until today!

The clerics who act as leaders of these Muslim communities whom you are attacking today, are the same leaders who are trained by your allies, whom you as France have the highest trade relations with, including deals for the sale of weapons! Where is the ethical and moral imperative in all of this?

You stand shoulder to shoulder with them in every international front! You both support each other, and they send these clerics to your country to promote this hatred and extremism.

FRANCE’S BRAND OF EXTREMIST ISLAM VERSUS SECULAR ISLAM

It was you, France, who promoted this concept of two versions of Islam – extremist Islam and secular Islam! Secular Islam which has no relevance to life and the world. This is Islam which is confined to a few ethical guidelines and that’s it.

This is the secular Islam which does not challenge your monopoly, or resist injustice and oppression. This is your point of convenience as France, because you are not prepared to accept an Islam based upon rationality, sound reasoning, moral values and ethical principles.

This is the diabolical state of these people who are leading the so-called movement of free speech.

For Charlie Hebdo, we see the whole world getting together to support them! But when the mosque attack occurred in New Zealand last year, how many leaders came together to protest against this merciless and barbaric attack? Where is the moral compass of these people?

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