KHUTBAH: NATIONAL HERITAGE DAY- 7/9/2012 - C.M.R.M.
Imam Noor Salie.
Surah 49/v13 "O mankind! We have created you from a single pair of male and female, And made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. The Most Honoured of you is he who is the most Righteous of you" surely Allah is all knowing and aware.
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) stated: – Whosoever obeys me (Muhammad (saw) - is obedient to Allah - And whosoever disobeys me - is disobedient to Almighty Allah.
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) also stated: "Do not hate one another - Do not be jealous of one another – but be brothers to one another and servants of Allah
The 24th.September will be National heritage day – it was declared a public holiday in order to affirm and celebrate the diverse cultural, racial, religious and linguistic groups which constitute the population of this country. It is a reminder that the past is our inheritance and that we cannot and should not underestimate its historical socializing influence. It reminds us that the society, of which we are a part, is a melting pot of different multi-cultural and ethnic groups and this is the reality of South Africa.
The noble month of Ramadhan has come and gone. Most of us have encountered many months of Ramadhan in our lives but unfortunately, it is a reality that our lives most often have not been touched or affected by this month of fasting, even though every ceremonial aspect of Islam has special purpose and significance. Indeed, there is no aspect of Islam that is without a purpose or significance. It is either the lack of understanding or negligence to understand that renders our Ibaadah into mere outward rituals.
One of our purposes of fasting during the month of Ramadan as the Quran clearly states: “la‘alakum tatakun” -- that perhaps you acquire Taqwah or God consciousness. One can only come closer to one’s Creator through His creation. It is not merely good enough to participate in all the compulsory (Fara’ids) acts meaning your Salaah (prayer), Zakaah (alms), Siyaam (fasting), Hajj (pilgrimage) and then expect to come closer to Allah. In fact all our acts of Ibaadah are tools and should have deep ramifications and should assist us to become better human beings, - to become more caring, kind and loving towards each other. In other words our Ibaadah should not become an end in itself – but a means to an end.
The legacy of Apartheid seem to overwhelm other positive developments that could possibly galvanize our new history. There seems to be little doubt that apartheid and its spin-offs is ingrained in our psyche- to such an extent that we are forced to deal with the unbearable part of our heritage on almost a daily basis. As a Muslim community we are not immune to being trapped into racial bigotry. In fact racial discrimination may be found at all levels of social interaction and therefore we need some serious introspection. We need to ask ourselves - what are we doing in order to bridge this racial divide? -We must also admit that the response to this question is not an easy one, but there must be a starting point, -meaning we need to take the first step. My suggestion is that we engage our fellow brothers and sisters from the diverse cultural, racial, religious and linguistic groups -- so that we can at least be able to identify some of our differences and at the same time nurture and strengthen our commonalities.
In this way we can at least start to address this lingering problem. Also inherent in this interpretation is the fact that we admit to our shortcomings with reference to other ethnic groups, meaning that we realize that South Africans are not a homogeneous community and identifying our differences with the intention of understanding and accepting them is congruent with the Islamic belief system.
In the Islamic perspective these differences are acceptable, as long as they are not a source of mistrust, discord or conflict. Our differences should rather be a blessing giving expression to the innovative spirit of our Creator. For Allah (swt) declares in Surah Hujuraat, Chapter 49 Ayah/verse 13 the verse which I quoted in my Introduction-- O mankind! We have created you from a single pair of male and female, And made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. The Most Honored of you is he who is the most Righteous and Deeply conscious of you" surely Allah is All Knowing, All Aware.-- This verse from the Quran justify that Islam endorses cultural, linguistic and religious diversity. These attributes of cultural, linguistic and even religious diversity play an important part in shaping the human condition. To appreciate the different cultures, religions and languages, we have to interact with other groups in order to understand the diversity of our societies and ultimately create an environment of harmony, peace and tranquillity.
We also find that On the really big issues, Almighty Allah addresses us in the Holy Quran - not as Muslims or Believers, but as Mankind, or the children of Adam. - (BANU AADAM) and therefore we are essentially one tribe – One people – There should be no reason for hostility – Almighty actually tells us that the differences in our colours and tongues are signs of God (Wa Min Ayaatina) and reasons to marvel / and reasons to get to know / respect/love one another – (LI –Ta- AARafu) Based on this Ayah, all humans enjoy equal rights in the sight of God. But, as always, the criterion and basis is practicing Taqwah (absolute piety, righteousness), and avoiding committing evilness or sins. Piety is the very criterion to distinguish the degree and scale of the person’s closeness to Allah. People from different countries, with different backgrounds, may all differ in colour, features, language, or social status, but none of these features can be used to lower or modify anyone’s rights with the Almighty (according to Islam.) Islam does not approve thinking or discriminating against others based on nationality, colour, language, and place of birth, etc. over which no one has any control. On the contrary, Almighty Allah has put a criteria for proving a person to be best and honourable in His sight, which is within the reach of everyone, is: "Taqwah" (piety and righteousness). A person living in the East or West, in a small town or big city, having black or white colour, speaking any language, rich or poor, has been given equal capability by Allah (SWT) to attain and increase his piety.
We should be thankful to our creator who declared this just standard for the whole humanity in this verse of the Quran as well as by the tongue of His last messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In his historical sermon of Hajj he declared that no Arab is superior over the non-Arab, no non-Arab is superior over the Arab, no red man (including white) has superiority over the black, and no black man has superiority over the red man (including white) except in piety and righteousness. Therefore, thinking someone superior over others based on any other criteria is rejected and condemned in Islam. Almighty Allah has also created all human beings with honour and dignity,-Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and He has elevated the status of Humans above much of His creation. - Almighty Allah says in the Quran: (Quran 17:70) WALA QAUD KARAMNA BANI ADAM -- “And We have ennobled and gave honour and dignity to the children of Adam (KARAMAAT) - Human dignity is an important theme of Islam; it runs throughout all its teachings. Dignity does not mean arrogance, self-conceit, haughtiness or false pride. Dignity according to Islam is: Izzah (honor), Karamaat (nobility), Qeemah (value), Shraf (distinction) Fadilah (virtue). Dignity is in moral excellence.- Dignity is in giving rather than taking - Dignity is in justice not in injustice - Dignity is in love, not in hate - Dignity is in Iman (faith), not in Kufr and faithlessness. –
Islam is all about human dignity and honour and gives a very universal and comprehensive concept of dignity. It tells us that we must recognize our own worth and value, we must not loose this worth and value. It is a very precious gift of Allah.. It tells us that we can increase our worth and value and we can loose it too. It teaches us the ways to increase our honor. It also tells us that we must promote dignity and honor among all people in the world. Every human being – whether Muslim-Jew -Christian-Hindu –Buddhist - black or white have honour and dignity – Therefore like we (As Muslims) want to be honoured and shown dignity – we have to recognize the dignity and honour in others. As a token of this honour and to elevate man’s status, Almighty Allah commanded the angels to prostrate out of humility before Prophet Adam,(AS) the father of humanity. Allah informs us in the Quran: --“When We commanded the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam,’ they prostrated themselves, but not Satan; he refused –and was haughty –filled with pride- he was of those who rejected faith.” (Quran 2:34) this was the birth racism / the birth of racism, arrogance, egotism and bigotism. We are constantly reminded in the Holy Quran that Prophet Muhammad sws did not come as a mercy only to Muslims, but as a mercy to mankind, and a mercy to all the worlds. “ “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], but as a Mercy unto all the worlds.” We are also reminded in Surah Al-‘Imraan 3:v110:
You are indeed the best nation produced [as an example] for the good of mankind. You (should) enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah
Note that the Qur'an does not speak about the good of Muslims or even the good of believers.-- It speaks widely and inclusively about the good of mankind. Therefore our main preoccupation must be to serve all humanity as Allah decrees. If we ignore this and narrow our concerns only towards Muslims, then we disobey the clear orders from Allah. Remember that every Christian, every Jew, every Hindu and Buddhist, even every atheist and agnostic, is also a creature of Allah. (BANI ADAM) It behooves us to treat them with kindness, honour, dignity and respect - out of love for Allah.
This honour and dignity must be acknowledged – It is a divine gift- we have to recognise that – otherwise we will look at others with contempt – that they are less than us. -- just as many Western people are guilty of this – many Muslims are guilty of this. –We must recognize that people have the right to be different - When we talk about human rights we forget “that we all have the right to be different.” – Further more, in Surah Yunus, Chapter 10 Ayah/verse 99, Allah (swt), the sublime declares:
“And If your Lord had so desired, All the people on the earth Would surely have come to believe, All of them; do you then think, (O Muhammad (saw) - that you could compel people to believe?- This verse indicates that our choices to differ are so vast, that we even have a choice to determine how or what we want to believe. Nowhere in the Quran are individuals compelled to believe. In another ayah Allah (swt) declares in Surah Rum, chapter 30, verse 22:
“And among the wonders - And the signs of Allah is the creation - Of the heavens and the earth, - And the diversity in your languages - And pigmentation/colour of your skins; for in this, behold, there are - messages and signs for those who have knowledge and can reflect.
The incident between a companion and Sayidinaa Bilal illustrates to us that even in the time of our beloved Prophet (saw) when in a moment of anger Bilal was referred to as the son of a black mother. Upon hearing this, the Prophet of Allah (swt) reprimanded the Sahaabah (companion) severely. The individual felt so bad that when he again saw Sayidinaa Bilal (ra) he prostrated at Bilal’s feet and told him that he will only raise his head if Bilal will put his foot on his head and forgive him. Reflecting on this Hadith (tradition) we can see that derogatory remarks or the degradation of people because of the colour of the skin is totally rejected in Islam. The reality is that this practice is still prevalent in our society. We were brought up to believe that people with darker skin pigmentation, are people that are violent, dangerous, uneducated and generally uncivilized. This is part of the legacy that we inherited from the Apartheid era.
However, Muslims in particular, while not immune to such forms of indoctrination, should not subscribe to such behavioural patterns, for, in his last sermon (Khutbah tul Wid’a) our beloved Prophet Mohammed (saw) said: “There is no superiority of an Arab over a no-Arab, Or, of a white person over a black person, Except through piety or good conduct. While leaders of most religions instructed their followers to use coercive means to make others adopt their faith - which led to the murder of thousands - one notices that Islam instructs its adherents never to compel anyone to give up his faith and embrace Islam:
"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth thus stands out clear from error" (2 : 256).
"Had it been thy Lord's Will, all who are in the earth would have believed; wilt You then (O Mohammad!) Compel mankind, against their will, to believe!" (X: 99).
In other words, it was neither in Prophet's own ability, nor was it expected of the Message he was sent to reveal, to compel people to embrace Islam. It was by this principle that the Muslims abided in their relations with Non-Muslims. Whenever they conquered a certain country, they granted its people the freedom to stick to their faith. And in Surah-Hud, Chapter 11 Ayah/verse 118, Allah the sublime declares:
“And had your Lord so willed He could surely have made All human beings into one Single community: But (he willed otherwise, and so) They continue to hold divergent views and will not cease to argue and dispute.
These teachings were reflected in the first generation of Muslims. It included Sayidinaa Abu-Bakr (ra) of the noble tribe of Quraish, - Salmaan Farsi from Persia and Sayidinaa Bilal from Africa. To further enhance this point, the Prophet (saw) contracted multiple marriages joining individuals from different racial, ethnic and even religious backgrounds in order to promote and affirm diversity and differences among humankind. The Prophet himself exhibited through his own practice how this diversity may lead to harmony. His wives Khadija and “Aishah were from the noble Arab tribe of Quraish, Safiyah was a Jewess and Mariyah was a Coptic Christian- who embraced Islam.
The challenge facing us is how we pass this rich Islamic heritage on to our future generations. Let us embrace our democracy as the starting point for a new consciousness and appreciation of the role of the different cultures in the reconstruction of our civil society in our country. Let us make a commitment to foster understanding, tolerance and harmony between diverse cultures, diverse views, opinions and interpretations. We as South Africans must send a message the rest of the world that we do not like to import centuries-old hatred into our fertile soil. It is not necessary for the different nationalities and different religious and cultural groups, -- which comprise the rainbow nation of South Africa, to completely melt down and lose their ethnic and religious identity. Thus, the concept of "melting pot" I believe must perhaps change to a "salad bowl," in which all the ingredients are encouraged to preserve and display their distinct individual tastes and flavours.
We need to work together with others - for world peace. The last 100 years, has been one of the bloodiest in world history. In less than 100 years, we have seen two world wars, the second one killed at least 30 million people. – The Korean War, Vietnam War, the use of Atom & Nuclear bombs. -The Israeli war on Palestinians, India/Pakistan wars. Gulf wars, concentration camps, and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, 20 million refugees worldwide including 2 million in Bosnia alone and several million in Palestine.
We must agree on a human bond. -- Injustice brings out hostile response therefore injustice must stop. - In a religious context Islam means attainment of peace, inward and outward, through voluntary submission to the will of God. . Islam is then a way of life - of peace, mercy, justice, forgiveness, tolerance, inclusiveness and human dignity for all. - We must also recognize that peace in the Arabic language – Salaam- and the same root in Hebrew – Shalom- comes from a tripartite radical – SALIMA which means to be whole –The nature of peace is wholeness – It’s an integrity that people must be allowed to live their lives holistically. Islam is also Salaam (peace) and Tasleem (submission to the Divine). In Islam - Peace is the standard, it is the principle, and each person of faith has the moral obligation to maintain peace - without compromising on truth and justice. Islam invites to the Subulas-salaam (pathway of peace); peace of mind, peace of conscience, peace in the family and society, peace with one's Creator and His creation. And in working together for peace - we are in conformity with the Quran where Allah (swt) declares in - (Surah 16:90),
Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
In conclusion --Family issues, greed in the marketplace, falling educational standards, prejudice in the workplace, inter-religious and intercultural conflicts: and many other issues cry out for the attention of all people of faith. By responding to such needs, we can build mutual understanding and partnerships among our diverse religious communities in our Country. We can become better Muslims, better Christians, better Jews, better Hindus, better Buddhists, and better believers by any name. We can help to re-awaken the essential goodness that resides within every human being. We can fulfill the trust that we bear. “For,” as Allah Almighty instruct us in the Holy Quran:
...every community faces a direction of its own, of which Allah (Almighty God) is the focal point. Vie, therefore, with one another (as in a race) towards all that is good. Wherever you may be, and Almighty Allah will bring you together; for He Allah (Almighty God) has power over all things (Quran 2:148).
The Islamic awakening, unlike the media's stereotyping, is not to be feared by those who do not subscribe to Islam since Islam calls for courteous and sincere relationship with Non Muslims -- especially the "people of the book", the Christians and the Jews. - It is a deep-rooted belief in Islam that the better understanding and practice of Islam can only lead to world peace, prosperity, justice, and freedom for all.
We pray to the Almighty to guide and protect us - instil in us the capacity to overcome our shortcomings. To open our hearts and minds and to create communities who has the capability and will to learn and progress because of our historical heritage. - We pray that each individual would embrace this opportunity to working towards transforming our South African nation of religions and cultures into a unified nation.
O Allah! Grant us that supreme love which will prevent us from disobeying You, Grant us Your Divine love, which may compel us to obey your commands, Bless us with that love which may please You and be acceptable to you.
O Allah! Save us from the temptations of the Shaytaan and our nafs, We are but weak and frail, O Allah! Guide us and Help us! -- Ameen