Ramadhán, Millenium and Chechnya
Arshad Gamiet/Royal Holloway College/Univ. of London /UK. 10th December 1999.
A-úthu billáhi minash shaytánir rajeem. Bismilláhir rahmánir raheem.
Al hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen. Was salaatu was salaamu alaa ashrafil mursaleen. Sayidinaa wa nabina wamoulanaa Muhammadin waala aalihee wa sahbihee wasallim.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
Ramadhán has begun, and may I wish for my family, and me and for you and all your families, and for all Muslims everywhere, Allah's peace and blessings during this holy month,
We have begun this auspicious month of Ramadhán, in response to those beautiful words in Sura Al-Baqara,
"Yá ay-yuhal latheena ámanu, kutba alaykumus siyámu, kamá kutba alal latheena min qablikum, la-ál lakum tat-takoon."
183 "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may (learn) self-restraint."
This is the essence of Ramadhán. There is no better way to show our gratitude and appreciation to Alláh, than to show Him self-restraint. We show that we are willing to resist our normal human needs, for those things we legally enjoy at any other time. We show that we can resist the temptation to have food and drink and sexual relations with our wife or husband, for the special times during this Holy Month.
If you look throughout the animal kingdom, you will see that every creature on this planet is driven by instinctive behaviour. The instinct to find food, to find a mate, the instinct to find a safe place to reproduce and to defend its young. We, too, are instinct-driven. But it is our ability to control our instincts, to resist temptation for a higher purpose that makes us uniquely human.
And it is our uniquely human role on this planet that sets us apart from all other creatures. Alláh swt asked the heavens and the earth and the mountains to take on His 'amánah [trust], but they all refused. Only man accepted that responsibility. And because man has the power of moral choice, he has the capacity to rise above other creatures, including the angels, when he resists evil and does good.
By doing one good action, like fasting just one day, and repeating it, we sow an action until we reap a habit. And then we sow that habit, until we reap a character, and then we sow that character, until we reap, a Destiny. And what finer destiny could we seek, dear Brothers and Sisters, than to meet the good pleasure of Alláh, our Creator, our Lord and Master in Dunya and Akhira?
Further on we read in Sura Al Baqara v185:
"Ramadhán is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting; but if anyone is ill or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance you shall be grateful."
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam, how many times a day, do we not turn to Alláh, and ask him for something? How many times a doy, do we not seek his help and guidance? I am sure that we have all lost count of the number of times we prayed to Alláh, since our dear parents taught us how to pray. And He always answers our prayers. It may not be the answer that we want or expect, but He always answers us. Sometimes, the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, not now, not just yet . But Alláh always answers our prayers, and he gives us what He knows, is best for us, in His own good time. Let us consider the next verse.
"Let them also with a will listen to My call and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way ." How can any Believer resist this invitation? Alláh has a 24-hour helpline. His Mercy is open to us even on weekends and bank holidays. How can we not want to please Him? He does so much for us, His angels guard us even as we sleepl. All he wants, is for us to show some gratitude for his countless blessings, by fasting during this Holy month of Ramadhán. We must show that our obedience to Alláh, our Love for Him, and our readiness to please him, is far greater than our instinctive need for food, drink or sex.
By fasting correctly during Ramadhán and constantly Remembering and Glorifying Him through Zikr, Alláh makes this promise to the Believers in Súra Núr ch24v38:
"That Allah may reward them according to the best of their deeds and add even more for them out of His Grace: for Allah does provide for those whom He will without measure."
innalláha wa malaaikata yusallúna alan nabi. Yá ay yuhal latheena ámanu sallú alayhi wasalli mú tas leema. Allahumma salli alá Muhammad, wa ala áli Muhammad, kama salayta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali Ibrahim. Allahumma barik ala Muhammad, kama barakta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali ibrahim. Fil ála meen, innaka hameedun majeed.
Sub hanallahi wal hamdu lillah, wala hawla wala quwwata illah billah yu althi yual theem
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
This year, Ramadhan has arrived at the crossing point of some significance to those who follow the Gregorian calendar. None of us could have missed all the fuss about Christmas, New Year, the new Century, and indeed, the New Millennium. There is a lot of hype in the media, about the greatest, the biggest, the best of the year, the best of the century and of course, the best of the millennium. Its all about looking backwards into the past, and looking forward into the future.
Some have predicted that the millennium computer bug might cause planes to fall out of the sky, and nuclear missiles to be fired by accident, or our gas and electricity supplies to be cut off from Midnight on 31st December. If we werent so concerned about these worries then we might even be able to look forward to what the new year, the new century and again, the new millennium holds out for those of us whove survived all these dark and depressing predictions.
Last week the annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture on the BBC was presented by Susan Greenfield, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford.
She raised some interesting questions about the future direction of Science and Technology, in a world where computers play a greater role. Someday computers may even be transplanted into our bodies to replace damaged nerves and organs. In the past, scientists worked in a world of their own, rarely concerning themselves with ethical, moral or religious matters.
But things are changing. The prospect of Silicon chips implanted into our brain to restore lost memory, or to control depression and to switch on a happy mood, that will last least until the Duracell batteries run out, is interfering with the chemistry that makes us so uniquely human. It raises some fundamental questions of our identity and our purpose. Who are we, and why are we here?
This question is as old as time. As individuals, and as a community, we need to ask ourselves, Where have we come from, where are we going? The Qur'án answers this, in a simple declaration:
"Inna lilláhi wa inna ilayhir ráji oon."
"From Alláh have we come, and to Him is our return.!"
And in Sura Zariaat, ch52v56, Alláh, glorified and exalted is He, declares:
" I have not created men and jinn, except that they should worship Me."
The coming 21st Century and 3rd Millennium will repeatedly challenge our individual and collective sense of identity, and our children and their descendants, will Insh-Alláh re-affirm and restate our divine mission.
"Inna lilláhi wa inna ilayhir ráji oon." "From Alláh have we come, and to Him is our return.!"
If we look back to consider how far we have come as a Muslim Ummah, we have some reason to be disappointed.
A thousand years ago, no one dared to harm a Muslim. Khalíf Mu'tasim heard the call of a woman who had been taken prisoner by a Roman Emperor. He warned, "If you don't release that woman, I promise you, I will send an army against you. And, my army will be so big that when the first soldiers reach your gates, the last ones will not have left my palace!" Mu'tasim launched a powerful attack at the Battle of Amouria, in which the Muslims scored a decisive victory. A Millenium ago, the safety of just one Muslim woman was enough reason to put an army into battle.
Today, we have no Mu'tasim. The cries of Muslim men, women and children go unanswered. Sadly, not just one Muslim woman is being detained against her will, but entire Communities are being bombed and massacred. The Chechens are being exterminated. First Bosnia, then Kosova, now Chechnya. Not a whimper of protest can be heard from our Muslim rulers. As an Ummah we are failing our brothers and sisters, we are failing ourselves.
But is the situation so entirely hopeless? Is there really nothing we can do?
A well-known Hadíth says, as Believers, we must fight injustice with our hands. If we cannot do that, we must speak out against it. If we cannot even do that, at least we must hate it deeply, in our hearts. But this is the weakest of Ímán.
Perhaps you and I are not able to physically stop the Russian army from committing genocide in Chechnya. But we can write letters, we can send email to Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and to the Head of NATO and the World Bank, to tell them of our concerns. We know they will not risk nuclear war with Russia. But we can persuade them that it is in nobodys interest to have a Chechen Holocaust. We can urge them to stop Aid and freeze all IMF loans to Russia. We can collect warm clothes and blankets, we can donate money for medicines to Muslim charities working abroad.
In Alláhs good time, He will answer all our prayers, and of the Chechens. Allah will not hold us individually accountable for the fate of Chechnya or Bosnia or Kosovo or Kashmir. But he will hold us accountable for the way we spent our time, our money, our health, our knowledge, within the sphere of responsibility that he has given us. However small or big our influence, we will have to answer to Allah, for how we used it or abused it.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
Let us use our time, our money, and all our skills and resources, to strengthen ourselves, our community, our Ummah. In this Holy and Blessed month of Ramadhán, let us re-dedicate ourselves to the divine purpose for which we were placed here on earth. As we say in our daily prayers:
"Innas salátí, wanusukí, wamah-yáya, wamama'tí, lilláhi rabbil 'álamín."
"Truly, my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death is for Alláh, Lord of All the Worlds."
Humankind's moral and spiritual development has not improved a great deal, over the past Millennium, or two, or more. Indeed, since our ancestors hunted with sticks and stones and bows and arrows, our scientific and technological progress has gone way ahead of our moral and spiritual development.
Over many thousands of years, much of our material progress has been simply a by-product of developing more hideous and efficient ways of killing each other. Just think of it. The knowledge that produced our Nuclear power stations, was first used to make the Nuclear bombs, used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Drive down any street and you'll see dozens of Sky TV dishes on rooftops. Satellite TV and navigation aids, weather forecasts, and so forth, are taken for granted. But how many of us know that the technology came from developing guidance systems for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles? The internet itself, is merely a by-product of a military communications network.
If we reflect on what all this means, we must come to one basic truth. Real human happiness, real progress cannot be measured in material or technological terms. The true measure of human worth, and quality of life, must be on a higher plane. It is our moral and spiritual life that defines our true progress. In the beautiful words of that oft-recited Súra, Al-'Asr:
"Wal-asr, Innal insaana lafee ghusr. Ill lall latheena aamanu waamilus saalihaati, watawaa saubil haq, watawaa saubis sabr."
"By the token of Time (through the Ages), Verily Man is in [a state of] loss, Except those who have Faith, And do righteous deeds, And (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy."
O Alláh, help us all to develop true faith in You, help us to cultivate ímán, patience and constancy in our families and our community.
O Alláh, when we look at the sorry state of the Ummah, the problems seem huge, the power of our enemies seems irresistible. But we know, that with Your help, any challenge can be met, any foe can be defeated.
O Alláh, You helped the Muslims who were outnumbered at Badr and Uhud, You helped our noble ancestors win many decisive battles over the centuries, because they put their trust in You. O Alláh, help our brothers and sisters at this crucial time, in Chechnya. Do not let their murderers go unpunished. Give strength to our Muslim leaders and their followers, to uphold justice, and forbid evil.
We put our trust in You, O Allah, O Lord of All the worlds.
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