Words of Pain
Allah says in Surah Ale-Imran 3:167, “They say with their mouths that which is not in their hearts.”
The Pious Predecessors used to say, “Words that come from the mouth, stop at the ears. But words that come from the heart, reach the heart.”
How many fiery sermons and eloquent speeches are delivered yet they fail to move even a hair on the bodies of the listeners? How many books and articles are written, awash with Quranic verses, sayings, quotes and evidences, yet they fail to inspire their readers to think or act? How many eloquent lines of poetry are scribed yet they fail to penetrate the hearts of people, as if they were cold drops of water dripping onto blocks of ice? And how many prayers are led, complete with beautifully recited Quranic verses, yet they fail to moisten the eyes of the congregation with tears and melt their hearts with the flames of Iman?
Why would Umar bin Al-Khattab recite the Quran in salah and both he and the congregation would weep excessively until those in the back rows would hear his sobs? Was the Quran in his possession any different to the one in our possession? Why would Fatima Az-Zahraa, the daughter of the Prophet (SAWS), bring female audiences to tears every time she spoke about Allah? Was the Allah that she would talk about, any different to the Allah that we have today? Why did the oft-repeated lines of poetry, “O Worshipper of the Two Holy Sanctuaries!’, written by Imam Abdullah bin Al-Mubarak, pierce the heart of the scholar Fudail bin Ayyad and moisten his eyes, whilst thousands of, perhaps more eloquent verses fail to deserve even a mention today? And why do the books of the likes of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Al-Qayyim, Ibn An-Nuhaas, Syed Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, etc. continue to inspire and motivate millions around the world, whilst there are countless other books, perhaps written by more knowledgeable scholars that hardly ever leave the shelves of the booksellers?
The answer to all of the above is the pain that each of these individuals experiences in their hearts whilst speaking, writing, or reciting. The one who feels pain in his heart, in his nerves and in his blood is able to infuse the same passionate emotions, via his words, into the hearts of others. The authors and orators who have experienced no pain, no hardship, no trials and no tribulations in their lives will produce heaps upon heaps of cheap, empty and lifeless words. That is because their words were born in a dead heart accustomed to a life of luxury and comfort. That is because words pour forth from their pens or their tongues, but not from their feelings and emotions. Though they may use the most eloquent of words, the reality is that their hearts and bodies have not lived the experience. Therefore the words of such authors and orators are cold, like blocks of ice, and they fail to penetrate even the softest of hearts.
On the other hand there are the likes of true believers, such as the Companions of the Prophet (SAWS), may Allah be pleased with them all, and all those who followed and follow them in righteousness until the Day of Resurrection. They felt the pains of hunger, of thirst, of poverty, of rejection, of banishment from home and country, of estrangement from loved ones, of abandonment of all material pleasures, of imprisonment, of torture, of physical and emotional wounds and death, both their own and that of others close to them. That is why they are shining beacons on the path to Paradise: “All those are the ones whom Allah has guided, so from their guidance take an example.” (Quran 6:90)
The ultimate feeling of pain, feeling and emotion is imparted by the words of an individual who has given his life in pursuit of his words, as per the famous quote of Syed Qutb:
“Indeed our words will remain lifeless, barren, devoid of any passion, until we die as a result of these words, whereupon our words will suddenly spring to life and live on amongst the hearts that are dead, bringing them back to life as well…”
“So do not weaken and do not grieve, for you will indeed be superior if you are truly believers.”
This verse was revealed to the Messenger (SAS) by Allah The Almighty from above the Seven Heavens, soon after the Muslims suffered a defeat in the Battle of Uhud and returned to Al-Madinah dejected and downtrodden. It was revealed as an encouragement to the believers after a victory that was in their grasp, was snatched away from them and turned into a defeat. And why should the Companions (RA) not have felt devastated at this defeat? Seventy of the best human beings on Earth at the time were killed and countless others were injured. Even the Messenger (SAS) himself was seriously wounded until blood flowed from his face and he said in great anguish whilst wiping the blood from his noble cheeks: “Allah’s Wrath is Great upon the people who besmeared His Messenger’s face with blood.”
However, this defeat was only a temporary setback so that the believers could reflect upon the reasons for the defeat, described in successive verses of Surah Ale-Imran. The mistakes and sins of a few believers had deprived the whole army of victory.
When Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA) despatched the army of Saad bin Abi Waqqas (RA) to the Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah, he advised him: “Fear your sins more than you fear the enemy as your sins are more dangerous to you than your enemy. We Muslims are only victorious over our enemy because their sins outnumber ours, not for any other reason. If our sins were equal to those of our enemy, then they would defeat us due to their superior numbers and resources.”
And so Saad (RA) proceeded to fight the Persians and, sticking to the advice of his leader, he imprisoned the alcoholic Abu Mahjan Ath-Thaqafi lest his presence in the army delays the victory. Until, Abu Mahjan lamented in his shackles and composed verses of poetry that touched the wife of Saad (RA) to temporarily release him so that he could participate in the battle with his brothers. Abu Mahjan thus went out riding the horse of Saad (RA) (as Saad (RA) was bedridden with fever) and performed unmatched feats of valour before returning to his cell in the evening and wearing his shackles back by himself. This continued for three days until, when Saad (RA) found out about the heroics of Abu Mahjan, he untied his shackles with the words: “By Allah! I will never imprison you again for drinking alcohol!” Upon this, Abu Mahjan replied, “By Allah! I will never again touch alcohol after this day!” The army was victorious and Saad (RA) appointed the ascetic Companion Salman Al-Farsi (RA) as the new ruler of Persia, who lived on a meagre salary of one dirham per day.
Victory and defeat, gains and losses, and successes and setbacks are not decided by money, resources, numbers or skills. Rather, they are decided by the balance of obedience and disobedience of Allah The Exalted. The more we obey Allah, both individually and collectively, the more we hasten His Victory. The more we disobey Allah, the more we delay the arrival of His Victory. One Muslim’s sins can delay the victory for everyone. It is very easy to blame Bush and Blair, the ‘West’, the ‘kuffar’ or simply ‘them’ for all our woes and worries. But it is not so easy to look in the mirror and point the finger at ourselves.
Look at us and our pathetic state. We have abandoned Salah or we delay it or rush through it. We are too stingy to give Zakah, let alone optional charity. We prefer to go on holiday than to go for the obligatory Hajj. We drink alcohol, we use and supply drugs (Muslims are amongst the biggest suppliers of drugs in the world today), we cohabit outside wedlock, we steal, we cheat. We eat haram, earn haram and sell haram. We beat our wives and force our daughters into marriages then use Islam to justify it. We are quick to spend on fashion and luxuries but slow to spend on orphans and the needy. We fail to utter a single word, let alone raise a finger, when we see our fellow Muslims imprisoned , tortured, house-arrested, extradited or slain for fear of being ‘linked’ to them. We waste our lives watching television and playing computer games then complain that we don’t have enough time to become better Muslims. We are too addicted to music to find time to listen to or memorise the Quran. We are too busy in fun and games to fulfil our responsibilities as vicegerents on Allah’s Earth. And after all this (and more), we have the audacity to wonder why Allah’s Victory has not yet arrived. With our paltry state, we should more likely expect Allah’s Wrath and Punishment rather than His Victory.
Every sin we commit delays the arrival of Allah’s Victory. Every Salah we delay extends the incarceration of a captive at Guantanamo Bay. Every drug we take allows another Quran to be flushed down the toilet. Every hour we waste watching TV allows another Muslim to be kidnapped and extradited into the hands of savage beasts. Every time we gaze at something forbidden, we place an obstacle in the path of Allah’s Victory. A sin is not a ‘private matter between me and Allah’ but one sin can make the difference between victory and defeat. Every sin we commit is one more reason why Allah should not grant us relief, safety and victory.
Allah has made us a Promise in the aforementioned verse: “So do not weaken and do not grieve, for you will indeed be superior if you are truly believers.” He promises us relief, assistance, superiority and victory on the condition that we are true believers. If we suffer defeats today then it does not mean that Allah’s Promise is false. Instead, the question we must ask ourselves is: are we truly believers?
The Carrot and The Stick
The example of the ‘carrot and the stick’ is a commonly used principle in negotiation dynamics. The trainer offers the carrot to the rabbit as an incentive to listen to the trainer. However, if the rabbit refuses, the threat of the stick in the trainer’s hand looms in the background. Nation states use this principle all the time: if you drop your nuclear programme we will grant you economic aid. If you persist and refuse to listen to us we will impose sanctions upon you and even military action.
The ‘two begging bowls’ concept is unheard of except in some Muslim communities in the West. Since we always approach the Government with a begging bowl in each hand we never get anything in return that we want. Yes, our bowls do get filled with ‘talk shop’ coffee mornings with ministers and maybe even a few photo shoots to frame on our living-room walls. Other than that we really have to ask ourselves what the two begging bowls have done for us.
The same can be said of local ‘community relations’- if such a thing exists. Mr Policeman asks us to inform on, spy on and hand over our sons to him so he can extradite them (fast-track) to hungry predators around the world. In return, we are overjoyed if he just steps into our mosque in uniform for some tea and samosas, just like the days of the colonialist British Raj in India.
Yet when two negotiating partners approach each other, each with a carrot and stick in their hands, the end result is usually an amicable compromise between the two. Because each knows that the other also hides a stick behind his smiling face.
The ‘stick’ does not have to literally mean a stick of violence or bloodshed. In racist 1950’s South Africa, the African National Congress used a combination of strikes, boycotts, sit-ins and voluntary imprisonments in order to demand justice from the oppressor. As Nelson Mandela wrote, ‘A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire.’
After the recent decision of the Home Secretary to extradite Babar to the U.S. (the first time ever that a British Government has approved the extradition of a Muslim ‘terror’ suspect to the U.S.), we may have today reached that ‘certain point’. The equation is simple. What do we want from the Government and what does the Government want from us? We want the Government to stop extraditing our sons to brutal regimes under its phoney ‘War on Terror’. Instead if our sons have done anything wrong they should be put on trial in Britain since there certainly is no shortage of terrorism legislation here. The Government, on the other hand, needs our ‘support’ and co-operation’ in fighting ‘terrorism’. This is our stick and maybe now it is time to use it.
Maybe it is now time to notify the Government: If you do not stop extraditing our sons to your brutal ‘allies’ then expect no help, cooperation or support from us. You want us to hand our sons over to you just so that you can fast-track them to America or Guantanamo Bay? Sorry, this is not going to take place without a price. And that price is that you can expect our communities to stop cooperating with you in your ‘War of Terror.’ This time you have gone one step too far. You opened this can of worms and you can close it.
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said, “The believer is never stung from the same hole twice.” Several Muslim organisations and individuals (may Allah reward them) made frantic efforts directly with Government ministers to prevent this decision of the Home Secretary, but they were chewed and spat out. It is clear that the idea of the ‘British Muslim’ is just a public-relations exercise since if the British Passport meant anything (like the German, Dutch or French one) it would have protected its holder from extradition to a foreign country.
If any Muslim is extradited from Britain to the U.S., he will be the first of many. Moreover, it will mean one bottom line. That bottom line will be that our community will go down in history as the two-million strong Muslim community that could not stop one man being forcibly taken to one of the most brutal regimes the world has ever known. The next few months will decide which course history will adopt.