A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad
Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV
When I first became Muslim in 1992, alhamdullilah may Allah accept it from me, in that time when Allah took me from the darkness of being a member of the Bloods to being a member of the sunnis, I went to a masjid. Now, this is not to offend anyone, please don’t take this the wrong way. I went to a masjid and I didn’t know anything, because as a new Muslim really whatever you see, you take. So I walk into the masjid and suddenly this one chacha (uncle) he grabs me and he tells me, “Let’s go pray, my son.”
So I agreed and I went and prayed with these brothers. After the Imam finished the prayer, I heard the adhan (call to prayer) being announced again. I realized there was another jama’ah (group for prayer) in the same masjid. I was surprised, I hadn’t read this in Maududi’s “Towards Understanding Islam.”
I asked if there was something else going on and they told me, “No brother, those are the non-MQM Muslims.”
“MQM? What’s MQM? I know of ABC, CBS, ESPN, MTV. But MQM?”
So they explained, “MQM is a political party founded in Karachi by Altaf Hussain, an ex-taxi driver from Chicago who is seeking to free the people who migrated from India, who have the true right to be in Pakistan, from the yokes of the Punjabi.”
I don’t know what that is. I’m a new Muslim. In this masjid, subhan Allah, they were all praying their five prayers, but because of political differences they had different groups.
So if you were to ask them, “Brother what are you doing?” They would say, “We’re worshipping Allah, we’re praying.” But look at the mu’amalat (behavior). They had two different salah and they didn’t feel ashamed to be doing this in front of a new Muslim. Why? Because their understanding of `ibadah was limited to the fact that they prayed. It is assumed that how we treat each other has no consequence on our worship. This is not correct. It’s not correct at all. I told them, “Well what if I’m a Democrat? Should I have my own salah for Democrats?”
We can take other examples, especially on the college campuses. We have a lot of brothers and sisters who are not here right now. Maybe you have a lot of Muslim friends who don’t come to jum`ah (Friday prayer) or to the Eid prayer you just had.
So you go to them and you say, “Brother, why don’t you pray?”
He says, “I don’t pray.”
And you say, “Subhan’Allah! Why not?”
He replies, “Well, I eat zabiha (meat that is Islamically-slaughtered).” Such a person has a mindset of someone who has regulated the understanding of worship.
So we see that Muslims have a misunderstanding of worship, like if you go to some poor neighborhoods in North America – it’s really sad. You’ll find that the African Americans are being subjected to enslavement to alcohol. And unfortunately we find that many of our brothers are selling this alcohol to them.
I remember I was living in Saint Louis and there was a brother who owned a store. He was selling alcohol and he had a copy of the Qur’an hanging above on the wall. I asked him, “Brother, you have this Quran on top of this alcohol.” He replied, “Barakah (for Allah’s blessings) brother. Barakah!” The brother was telling me, at least I have the Qur’an with me. Yes, the Qur’an is a barakah, masha’Allah, nobody can deny it, but look at his understanding. He’s destroying the neighborhood. I was a second-grade teacher at an inner-city school. For the majority of children who are physically abused it’s because of alcohol. So we are selling this alcohol then the father goes home after he gets drunk and he beats his kids. We are responsible for this.
So this misunderstanding of `ibadah has created a lot of problems amongst the Muslims. Some examples:
The first is that Islam has become regulated in the hearts and minds of Muslims.
Most importantly, and this is something I’m sure you see everywhere you go, is the splitting of the ummah (Muslim community) into different sects. For example we find some people who say Islam is only political activism. Some people say Islam is only tasawwuf (to purify ourselves). Ohers say that Islam is only to leave bid’ah (innovations) and follow the sunnah (example of the Prophet). Some people say that Islam is only to give da’wah (invitation to Islam) to non-Muslims. Another person says no, Islam is only to give da’wah to Muslims. And then you find that these people have dissected Islam into different parts and they begin to fight each other. This makes ‘adawah (animosity). ‘Adawah is what we should have to shaytan (Satan) because he’s our enemy. It also breeds baghya (jealous animosity). Allah describes this in the Qur’an where He says that nations received the book and then they divided their religion into different parts and then baghya came between them (45:17). This is a major problem.
Can we say that political activism is `ibadah? Can we say that tasawwuf is `ibadah? Of course; it’s so important. Can we say that having the correct ‘aqidah (creed) and leaving bid’ah is `ibadah? Yes. Can we say that giving da’wah to non-Muslims is `ibadah? Yes. Can we say that giving da’wah to Muslims is `ibadah? Yes. So, subhan’Allah, these groups are fighting each other over `ibadah. This is scary.
For example, you find a brother prays his tahajjud (late night prayer) every single day. And this brother makes his wadhifa of his athkar (daily supplications) every day. Then you find some people who don’t do that, but they’re involved in Islamic political activism. They start to feel in their hearts that they don’t like this brother. Wallahi (by Allah) this is a trick of shaytan. The activist might say, “I don’t like that guy.” When you ask him why he says, “Because he worships in the night.” What? Think about what you’re saying. Another person might say, “I don’t like that guy.” Why? “Because he believes in Islamic purification of the soul.” So what? Fear Allah. Another person might see someone who is socially active but not very active in spiritual things like tazkiyatul nafs (purification of the soul) and he says, “You know I don’t like that person.” Why? “Because they’re active Muslims.” What? You see how shaytan has blinded us because of our small understanding of worship.
The third thing is that you will find people who have made `ibadah only their nation and race. Look at marriage, especially for sisters. I know, because I’m a father now.
So a sister goes home and says, “I’m a junior and I’m going to finish school very soon. I think I need to get married.”
Then the father says, “Masha’ Allah, my child, we are so happy! Masha’ Allah, you can marry whoever you want…as long as it’s your cousin.”
Or they say, “Masha’ Allah! Masha’ Allah, we are so happy that you want to complete half your deen (faith)! We’re so pleased that you feel you can trust us with this kind of news! You can marry anyone you want…from our village back home.”
This happens to brothers too.
Then the child asks them, “Can you please tell me why?”
Now you’re not supposed to ask why, but in some families you can ask why and they’ll say, “Because we are the only true inheritors of the deen.”
And the child might say, “But I thought there were one billion Muslims?”
“There are one billion. But they’re not like us.”
Subhan’Allah why do we have this? Because of the concept of worship. I know a sister from Scotland, and her family forced their children to marry their cousins for so many generations that now she has this degenerative eye disorder, so at the age of thirteen she went blind. When they went to the doctor they said it’s because her genes were crazy. And still her parents right now are forcing her to marry a cousin. She’s blind, her brother’s blind, and her other sister’s blind because of this marriage system. And still they are going to force her to marry a cousin. Why? “Because we are the only inheritors of the faith.”
This is a big misunderstanding of worship, and it has created social problems for us.
Now, this is a really beautiful story. Imam Malik used to dress like the kings. He did not dress badly. Sometimes you find some brothers and sisters dress raggedly.
You go to them and you say, “Subhan Allah brother, I mean…masha’ Allah, I can see that…well, I can see. I wanted to ask you, why do you dress like that? I’m not trying to be offensive, but I just want to know. Do you belong to some special group? Because now the Muslims have more flavors than Baskin Robins, so are you peppermint or are you rocky road? ”
The brother tells you, “I don’t like the dunya (this worldly life).”
You should tell him, “And the dunya don’t like you.”
Imam Malik used to dress very nicely.
Aisha radi allahu `anha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that whenever the Prophet ﷺ came home the first thing he did was brush his teeth out of respect for his family (Bukhari). This is very important; look at the type of husband he was. The Prophet ﷺ was very clean. One time they were traveling and the Prophet ﷺ told his Companions, “Straighten your saddles,” (Dawud). This is an authentic hadith. As Muslims we should look nice, look good. Not be arrogant, but look nice. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” This doesn’t mean we should dress inappropriately and say this is beautiful, because this is qabeeh (ugly). This is not beautiful. But in the area of the halal (what is acceptable) we should dress nicely. Sheikh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghudda used to always have his thobes ironed, even if he dressed in the Arabian type dress he would always iron it. I remember I was reading in the book “The Muslim Manners” series by him that he would even have his perfume brought from Syria. It smelled very nice. I remember Sheikh Muhammed Hassan ash-Shanqiti told us that the Imam should have a budget for clothes, and he should dress nicely. Why? Because he’s the Imam, he’s the leader. No matter what style of dress he wears, he should look nice.
So Imam Malik used to dress nicely. He used to be known for teaching and studying. He was not known for his zuhud (asceticism) although he was from the zahideen (ascetics). But he was not famous for this, like Imam Ghazali was. There was one person of zuhud who wrote a letter to Imam Malik and he said, “You need to be more from the people of zuhud. You need to start to pray more in the night, you need to start to dress down, and you need to be known more for your fasting.” One of the reasons we don’t know these things about Imam Malik was his ikhlas (sincerity). He didn’t let people know he was doing it.
Now, maybe some of us here feel closer to purification of our souls, others maybe feel closer to the Islamic movement, maybe some of us feel closer to ad-da`wah as-salafia (the Salafi da`wah). That’s ok, that’s your business. Imam Malik wrote back to this person, and look at what he said: “Allah (swt) has divided worship amongst His servants as He has divided their provisions.”
So for example you see someone who has a Lexus and you see someone, like me when I was in college, with an ’82 Corolla. You find some people have very nice things, some people are middle class and some are lower class. This is because Allah (swt) has spread provisions. It’s the same with `ibadah. Maybe for this sister Allah (swt) has put in her heart the love to make dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Maybe that sister there, Allah (swt) has put in her heart the love of Qur’an. Maybe for this brother Allah (swt) has put in his heart the love to go for forty days in tablighi jama`at. Maybe for this brother Allah (swt) put in his heart the love to study at Zaytuna, and maybe for this brother Allah (swt) put the love in his heart to be with the people of the Islamic movement. So, the same way that Allah (swt) has given them these provisions in the dunya, is the same way He has given them, as Imam Malik said, provisions in `ibadah. This is beautiful what Imam Malik said. Imam Malik continued,
“As for myself I love to teach and I love to learn, and as for you, Allah has put in your heart the love to pray in the night and fast. I have no doubt that both of us are on goodness. Assalaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah (may the peace and mercy of Allah be upon you).”
This was his letter. Worship has been divided to Allah’s servants.