Saleem, you’re probably right; on Jum’atul-Widda’, the last Jum’a of Ramadan, 50,000 people had gathered at the masjid. In fact, the number was probably even higher than that. I also agree with you that it was utterly enchanting to see such a great number of Muslims harmoniously standing and prostrating by a single voice. Its enchantment was shown by the many visitors who came from great distances to take pictures of this spectacle, and who also gave the leaders of the masjid donations so that they would not forbid the taking of photographs.
Anyway, these were just a few cursory remarks. I ask you Saleem that in this immense gathering, how many Muslims who were mutually harmonious in their bodily movements were also mutually harmonious in their hearts? Islam came to teach the oneness of thought as well as the lesson of oneness of action; this is encompassed in Iman. These were types of gatherings that used to be the best examples of oneness of thought and action. But Saleem, ask yourself if today this is still the case; ask yourself whether it is unity or discord which characterize our religious gatherings.
You’ve probably seen the Molwis and Imams telling people how important it is to pray in a group. They tell the people how to line up properly during prayer, how much space should remain between the feet, how much punishment there is for shoulders not touching shoulders, and how much reward there is for praying in the first row. But Saleem, has any one of these Molwis ever said that as Muslims, we are here for such and such purpose, to meet such and such goal? Prayer should mean this to you? Why is it necessary to pray in a jama’at? Why do we have to stand up and sit down? Why should the lines be straight? Why is there only one imam, and why everyone by his single voice, without a grumble or complaint, completes the movements of prayer? When the imam forgets something, a signal is given, but why the group still follows him? And why the whole group has to pray the extra rak’a for atonement? At one time why is there only one jama’at? Why can’t there be numerous jama’aat praying at the same time?
When the amusement seeking visitors describe this sight in their own words, the Muslims’ tolerance and discipline, oneness of thought and action, harmony and synchrony, obedience and perseverance within a group, all receive boundless praise. But I believe even they realize that these marvelous characteristics are limited only to the bodies of the Muslims, and that there is no impact upon their hearts. The spirit of prayer has been forgotten, and it remains nothing more than a mere ritual.
Today, every nation is concentrating its efforts to bring together its citizens by creating within them a unity of thought and action, unanimity in their hearts and sights, and harmony in their movements and rest. That they, on the voice of their chosen Imam (leader), will bow their heads and stand up. If a nation can accomplish this, then their power and efficiency will increase manifold. Many new doors of opportunity will be open to them. Now tell me, if all these things are in a nation, but no result can be derived from it, then if you do not call those actions spiritless and mere rituals without aim, what else would you call them? Nations are searching for rules and self-discipline, all so that they can develop their own power to subdue weaker nations and obtain the supplies to quench their thirst. But in an Islamic nation all these things are established so that the hearts of its citizens become pure; that their souls receive nourishment; that they keep Allah’s laws in front of them at all times; that their bowing is for Him and that their standing is for Him; that their power be utilized to help the weak; that their strength be used to uphold the rights of the helpless; that they from their iman and good works develop such power that they receive the blessing of victory and success in this world; and finally, that this success not be used to dominate others, but to establish Allah’s system of rububiyyat in this world (that every person receives the essential nourishment that is his right).
Saleem! Imagine what great psychological significance the last juma of Ramadan could hold for the achievement of these goals. For an entire month, the hearts and bodies of the servants of Allah are being transformed. For an entire month, they have been habituated to a rather simple, soldierly life. Their hearts are purified from evil and lust, and their sights are cleared of all types of pollution. For an appointed time, they have even controlled enjoyment of good and halal things, so they will not even glance in the direction of evil and haram things. After this, they are gathered in one area to receive rewards for their efforts. Through this training process, they have not only reinforced themselves, but have also become a collective, pieces of a whole. Obedience of the leader, centralism, selflessness, steadfastness to the group, oneness of action and thought, are all brought to life in a wondrous spectacle; the covenant of Allah has been renewed. Over and over, standing and sitting, in front of Allah, they bring forth in action that covenant.
"Truly, my salat and all my various sincere actions, my life and death, are all for Allah, the Perfect Nourisher of the worlds." (6:162)
Saleem! Ask yourself if there is anything that could not be accomplished by this gathering of individuals embracing transformation of themselves for a single, higher purpose. But after pondering about this assembly of believers , examine once again their prayers. Not even the entire prayer, but just a portion of it. Think about an assembly of 50 or 60 thousand people, all facing neatly towards the Qibla, standing within their masjid, proclaiming that
‘Oh Allah, we only consider your rule as acceptable. Outside of your rule, all types of servitude and subjugation are forbidden for us.’ However, they only utter these words from their lips, while their minds are slaves to countless Gods. Now if you don’t call their covenant and their proclamation a self-deception and a deception of God, what else would you call it? Now, if you tell these people that they have not prayed, but have actually betrayed themselves and have deceived Allah, then from the north to the south and the east to the west, the so called bearers of Allah’s sacred covenant will chase you down with sticks in their hands. But you know Saleem, the reaction of these unfortunate people would not even be their fault, because they have been told if the hands are placed at a certain position, and the feet are placed a certain distance apart, in sajda such and such body part touches the ground first, and if the various recitations are said at the appropriate times, then the prayer is complete. And if you ask how do you know for sure the prayer has truly been completed and that goal was achieved for which prayer had been made compulsory in the first place, then the response will be "We cannot know this until the day of judgment! In this world we must do our duty, and we will get the result in paradise, the afterlife, not in this world!" And when you tell them "But brother! Allah mentions in the Quran that one of the results of our action and iman will be the inheritance of power in this world (istikhlaaf fil-ard)!" They reply with "The meaning of ard (earth) in those ayahs of the Quran is the ground of paradise." But Saleem, do not ask anyone about these matters. Find the truth for yourself! The Quran is in front of you and contains within it the history of man’s greatest accomplishments.
In 2 A.H. fasting was made compulsory, and on that very Ramadan’s 17th date, the test of strength was taken for the believers. European historians say that the battle of Waterloo changed the face of Europe, but if they could see past themselves, they would see that the battle which took place at Badr in 2 A. H. changed the history of the entire world. The powers of oppression and evil gathered all their resources to wipe out the light of Allah from this world. As for the Muslims, they consisted of about 300 individuals, some of whom had just left their own homes to find shelter in a far away town, leaving behind all their worldly possessions and embracing poverty. But now a matter of life and death was at hand. Actually, it was a battle between good and evil itself. What had these fasting people done? With their children in their arms, donning armor of branches of date trees and bones of camels, they came to the field of Jihad. Saleem! Ponder upon the delicacy of this moment and reflect that even the Prophet (p) himself, in this barren desert, with ultimate fear of Allah and humility calls out to his Nourisher, "Oh Allah! This gathering of a handful of your people, are all ready to die today in this field of battle simply for the sake of propagating your deen and spreading your greatness. If today they were all to be martyred then no one will remain in the world to spread your name. The Prophet (p) barely finished his dua’ when Allah favored the Prophet (p) with his mercy.
"I will help you with a thousand angels each behind the other (following one another) in succession." (8:9)
The angels will come to help you, and what will they do when they reach you? They will be told:
"…keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved..." (8:12)
In reality, those angels which prostrated to the khalifa-fil-ard (Adam (AS)), should have helped the mujaahideen in the same way. When mankind sets out to put Allah’s laws into action, all the powers of nature side with him. But Saleem! Allah did not say to simply sit around in bliss and complacency, hoping the angels will do everything. Rather, He put forward a complete system of life describing what you should do. Pay close attention to what that system is and what His guidance was. He said:
"Oh you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve in a battle-field, never turn your backs to them. And whoever turns his back to them on such a day- unless it be a stratagem of war, or to retreat to a troop (of his own),- he indeed has drawn upon himself wrath from Allah…" (8:15-16)
Saleem! Do you hear what type of Muslims are being addressed? Do you understand what a great crime it is to leave your nation and show your enemy your back on the day of battle? And then He said:
"Oh you who believe! Obey Allah and his Messenger, and turn not away from him while you are hearing. And be not like those who say "We have heard," but they hear not. Oh you who believe! Answer Allah and his Messenger when he calls you to that which will give life..." (8:20,21,24)
Do you understand why dying in the way of Allah is called life? Think about this great reality; the hidden secrets of life and death will reveal themselves to you. Notice, this obeying has a condition of listening on it. This face-to-face obeying can only be the obeying of a living center. From this, it becomes clear that Islam becomes a deen (system of life) at the time when there is a living center within it, whom the Muslims obey. In individualistic lifestyles, deen is not present. (This actually is a whole other topic which will be discussed in a future letter). Then again He said:
"Oh you who believe! When you meet an enemy force, take a firm stand against them and remember the Name of Allah much both with tongue and mind, so that you may be successful. And obey Allah and his Messenger, and do not dispute with one another lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely Allah is with those who are patient." (8:45-46)
Saleem! Do you hear what the guidance is? This is the message of life. This is the spirit of Islam. This is the real exposition of the expression of obedience of an obeying believer. This isn’t just a temporal rule applying to the battle of Badr in 2 A. H., rather for however long there is battle between truth and deception. For however long there is a confrontation between good and evil. For however long the mischief of Abu Lahab confronts the light of the Prophet (p). Until that time, it will be the foundational constitution for all Muslims of the world. It is a guidance of action. It is for this guidance that the fasting of Ramadan and Jum’atul-Wida’ exist.
Saleem! Now you decide for yourself if those 300 Muslims were the ones whose fasting and praying produced the desired results, or those 60 or 70 thousand Muslims’ ritualistic gathering in which no one even had any care or attention of a spirit or purpose. So my brother why do you remain so naïve? Can’t you even understand that the blank shots fired for display by a parading army, despite the thunderous booms and wisps of smoke, cannot break down the walls of a fort?
In regards to Eid, I told you last year that it was an Islamic celebration in honor of the revelation of the Quran. Think about the various celebrations and festivities of this world. They will either be for the memory of some person, event, or festivities for the sights and wonders of nature. But mankind’s memories and souvenirs can be wiped away. Worldly occurrences can be forgotten. The pages of history can be lost. Solid trees engraved with tales could be enclosed in great mountains but still be destroyed by the hands of time and nature. However, God’s first and primary message will always remain safely recorded in the pages of the Quran. They can never be eradicated because He Himself has taken responsibility for its preservation who is alive and can never die, who is unwavering and can never end. He is ever-continuing and his message is also ever-continuing. He is alive and his Quran is alive. This celebration of Eid is a commemoration of the revelation of the living book, the Quran, from this alive and firm God. And for however long this world remains, so shall this commemoration. Allah is great! Allah is great! There is no God but Allah, and Allah is great! Allah is great, and for Allah is all praise!
The Quran is unique from every other book in this world, and it’s commemoration is also unique from every other commemoration. The celebrations of the world are carried out by energetically shouting, laughing, cheering and playing, but an entirely different suggestion is made for the celebration of the memory of the signs of Allah. For it, people have been preparing an entire month. They were being taught to turn their faces from all false powers in the world and to become ruled only by Allah’s laws. If you ask, then ask from him. If you bow, then bow to him. Despite hunger and thirst, complete your duties. This is the training that would be given to a warrior prior to entering the field of battle. For an entire month, through exercise and effort lofty perceptions have been borne into their minds. They are then asked to come together in one place to bring their heads together and concentrate with a clean heart and sanctified mind. They Concentrate on what they can do, according to the characteristics of Allah’s nation, for the attainment and continuance of this special lifestyle of the Quran.
Saleem! Islam is not a religion preaching monasticism or asceticism. Islam does not teach one to give up on worldly things, to despise elegance and beauty, to become fed up with laughter and happiness to the point of becoming strict and testy. One is not transgressing Islam by wearing nice clothes, cooking delicious food, giving presents to friends, providing your children with toys for their joy and happiness. In the same way that Islam brings the laws of Allah as guidance to us in the troubled times of mankind, in in luxurious and joyous times, it does not forget the poor and needy. But keep in mind Saleem! The existence of the poor and the needy should only be temporary, until the time when Allah’s system of rabubiyah (perfect nourishment) is fully established. No poor and no needy people can remain after the system is in effect. Because of this, the rules and laws concerning the poor and needy are restricted only to that transitory phase in the establishment of Islam as a living deen.
Saleem! Do you know what the status of the Muslim nation is. To perceive this, do not simply observe this gathering of Muslims in front of you with, smiling complacently, donning their new clothes. To perceive this, go and look at the world from which these Muslims have stepped out of. Count how many houses there are in which the jars and pitchers remain upside down for lack of flour to fill them. Look at how spiders have spun their webs on the stoves, as there has been no fire in them for days. Look at how many women cannot get out of their house even for desperate needs because there is no sheet to cover themselves with. Look at how many elderly and children have to huddle around a bonfire during the cold nights because they have no blankets to keep themselves warm. Look at how many young men and women are taken by an early death because there was not enough money for their medicines. Look at the frightening sights of cold, hunger, poverty and devastation and then perceive what the status of the nation is. If there remains in your chest a heart, and in your heart any spark of feeling, then think whether today’s celebration is of joy or of devastation! Saleem! I understand that on a joyous occasion, bringing up problems and difficulties is considered ominous, but in the period in which we live in today, seeing this happiness as true happiness is simply self-deception. This is the condition of the nation.
But Saleem! Do you know what important issues the nation’s leaders and those knowledgeable of Islamic shariah are engrossed in? If you want to know this, then look at a paper published in New Dehli called "Muhammadi", and also take a look at a paper being published in Amritsar, "Al-Hadith." In the October and November editions, there is a hot debate about whether or not it is permissible to accept an invitation to a male or female circumcision. And these two newspapers, in their hot debates quote the respectable and shining names of their knowledgeable ancestors before them, Sayyid Ahmed Barelwi and Shah Isma’eel Shaheed. It is said that when the Turks took Constantinople and their armies reached the walls of the city, within the city, the priests were engrossed in debate and had been having large meetings for 40 days to determine if the table at which Jesus ate the last supper had leaven or unleaven bread. Muslims read about this incident and cannot help but laugh and snicker at this ridiculous situation, but they do not realize what is going on in their own house.
Saleem! Now all that remains is your last question, that if all these groups and societal gatherings do not have the spirit and goals which they should have, then what is the use in keeping them. It was natural for this question to arise in your heart. My friend! The first point is that these rituals, having lost their spirit and intended goals, have become signs of our nation. If those rituals are not harmful and do not contradict the principles of the Quran, then it is good to keep them. To a limit, they also help establish a society. The second point is that if somehow our fate were to take a turn, and that a feeling of revolution and perception awakes in us which the Quran wants to awaken, then once again these lifeless vessels will be filled with spirit and life. The rituals and signs which were only memories of a system of life, will serve to facilitate the fresh establishment of that system.
That is the reason I told you not to talk during the khutba of Jum’atul-Wida’, even though not a single word of the speaker’s could reach your ears. And even if they did reach your ears, you wouldn’t understand a word since it was in Arabic and you do not understand Arabic. And even if you did understand then you would not find any current issue or problem within it. The khutbas are mainly concerned with the rules of shariah and its rewards in the hereafter. Understanding and reflection have no place in it. But why in such a large gathering was a loudspeaker not used? Don’t ask me, ask those respected Molwis who consider the use of a telephone to transport one’s voice as permissible, but consider it haram if the imam uses a loudspeaker to allow the audience to hear his words. And do you know by what means our respected muftis (passers of fatwas, legal injunctions) can declare this? In determining this, it was first necessary to find out this device’s nature and whether or not the sound that it transmits is the true voice of the speaker or of someone else. Now listen carefully how this careful assessment took place. A mufti from our illustrious religious center, Dar-ul-Uloom of Devband, has published a collection of fatwas within which he declares the use of this device as haram. He mentions an inquiry made to a high school science teacher from Alexander High School located in Bhopal, Mr. Brijnand Lal, in page 20 of his letter. The teacher said "Because of the involvement of the force of electricity, I at least hesitate in accepting that it is indeed the same voice. But because of lack of evidence, I cannot altogether deny it either." These are means to find the truth for our respected muftis. These are the honorable men claiming to be the successors of those ancestors, regarding whom the Quran has said:
"And He has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and that is in the earth." (45:13)
Now Saleem! You can understand for yourself where the Quran wants to take us, and where we are.