بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
Alif, Lam, Meem.
ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
Thalika alkitabu la rayba feehi hudan lilmuttaqeena
This is the Book! There is no doubt about it—a guide for those mindful [of Allah].
This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah –
(Surah Al-Baqarah, Quran 2:1-2)
My dear brothers and sisters, we are currently facing in our country times of uncertainty, uncertainty about the beginning or the end of COVID, uncertainty about the economy, about employment, about many things.
When it comes to times of uncertainty as Muslims, we believe that one of the aspects of this life is that it is a Fitnah, that it is a test, a trial, and that it is through the process of Fitnah that you are purified.
When it comes to uncertainty and times of tribulation and trial, there are two end points. On the one hand, you have the end point of giving in to the uncertainty and increasing in stress and anxiety and the pessimism. On the other hand, you can turn to Allah, and you can place your trust in Him. You can try to control the things that are within your capacity and leave the rest to Allah.
Most of us are somewhere in between these two. None of us are perfect. So most of us are somewhere in between, on a spectrum. How do we begin to take control back and how do we begin to reach conviction?
Times of uncertainty can also lead to crisis of faith. Times of tribulation and trials can lead to crisis of faith. It can lead to people asking questions about Allah, so how do we counteract that? How do we counteract that and make sure that we are on that other side – the side that looks to hope and optimism for the future and trusts in Allah?
There are multiple pathways to conviction, to yaqeen. That is a characteristic that Allah wants us to have, but how do we nurture that yaqeen? How do we nurture that conviction? How do we nurture that certainty in Allah and how do we take back that control?
The first pathway that I would like to discuss today is the social aspect of yaqeen, the social aspect of conviction and service. Who are the people that we surround ourselves with? Most of us were probably cooped up with our families for the past seven months. But even then, we still have our WhatsApp groups and our Facebook groups and our FaceTimes and our video calls and the things that we are doing with our coworkers at work. We still have many connections. Islam, from its very core, encourages collective worship and spirituality.
If you look at our Salah, we do it in jama’a. If you look at Ramadan, we do it together. You look at Zakat, we do it for each other. You look at a Hajj, that’s when everyone comes together from all over the world. So this collective aspect is intrinsic in our Deen. The Prophet (pbuh) said:
المرء على دين خليله
al-mar’u ala deeni khalilih
A person is on the religion of their closest companion.
That’s advice that we give a lot to young people. “Watch who you are friends with because your closest friend is your religion.” But it goes even for the grownups, doesn’t it? Who are the people that we surround ourselves with, who are the people to whom we lend our ears, who are the people to whom we talk to on a daily basis? That is what’s affecting us.
If we are around people that are giving into that pessimism, those doubts and those uncertainties, then we will also begin to have those ourselves, whether it’s offline or online. So that first aspect is the social aspect. How can we go about associating ourselves more and more with people that will encourage us, with people that will give us hope, people that will give us encouragement, people that will teach us.
There are those people, when you are in their presence, you are reminded of Allah. Who are those people in your life? Cling on to them. Cling onto them as fast as you can, as best as you can, hold tight because they are the ones who can improve your connection to Allah. And many might say, “I can’t choose my family”. That’s true. We can’t choose our family, but there’s so many connections that we do choose. Which of our family members do we talk to more? Which of our friends do we talk to more? Which of our neighbors, our coworkers, do we talk to more? How can we go about connecting more with those who lead us to yaqeen, who lead us to certainty and conviction and trust in Allah?
The second pathway is intellectual. What are we spending our time consuming? If we are spending our time consuming only entertainment or only things that are fun, that’s great. We are allowed to have fun. We’re allowed to be entertained. It’s fine. But if that’s all we are doing, where are we learning about our religion? If you don’t know, that’s a problem. If you feed yourself fatty foods, you will gain weight. If you feed yourself toxic things, if you feed your body something that is toxic, that toxicity will come into your body.
It’s the same way with the knowledge that we learn, the things that we consume, the things that we listened to on the radio, on TV, on our devices. All of that has an impact. So what are the things that we are doing to intellectually stimulate ourselves and bring ourselves to a better understanding of our religion, to a better understanding of our lives?
The third pathway to conviction is the spiritual pathway.
That is that when you actually engage in the labor, in the spiritual work. That is when you bring yourself closer to Allah, when you actually make the prayers. When you make dua to Allah and you really want to connect to him, that’s how you can improve your yaqeen. That’s how you can have more certainty. That’s how you can improve. Think about Ramadan, right? We’re fasting. We’re praying. Our Imaan is at an all-time high in Ramadan. We’re reading Quran, we are making dua, we’re staying up late to make prayers. And that’s not just correlation, it’s causation. The more we engage in those spiritual acts the closer we come to Allah.
So if you find ourselves lacking in Imaan, if we find ourselves wanting to bring more Imaan into our lives, that we want to connect with Allah more, that something is missing in our lives, then that is the key, that spiritual work, just like we do in Ramadan. People fall off after Ramadan, but there’s a lot of correlation there that the more spiritual work we do, the more prayers we make, the more do our, we make the more Quran we read, the fasting that we do, the Zakat that we give even charity that we give leads to certainty and conviction.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “If you wish to soften your heart, then give to those that are in need”. If you find that your heart has become hard, you’ve become desensitized, and you wish to soften your heart, then give to those in need.
Finally, the last pathway I want to discuss today for achieving yaqeen is reflection. That’s something that comes about through the spiritual side, and it comes about just by being aware. Islamic scholars talk about one of the diseases of the heart being Ghaflah, which means heedlessness. That is the state in which you are unaware of your reality. When we indulge so much in the world and forget everything else, we forget our reality. When we make a prayer, it brings us back. When we fast, it brings us back. It makes us mindful of Allah and when we get to a prayer, we realized that actually, our time on this earth is limited. It reconnects us with our purpose. Doesn’t it? Because you live a very fast life. You live a very fast and busy life going from this, to this, to this, to this, with Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and TikTok in between.
So you fill in everything. Everything is full, full calendar, always busy and so when we take those five minutes for our Salah, that’s when it all comes back. Doesn’t it? It all comes back. “Hold on a second. What am I doing? Where am I? Why am I here? To what end am I doing all of this? Actually my life on this earth is limited.” So what are the actions that I can take to ensure that I am making the most of my life, not only for this life, but for the next as well. Reflecting on our condition is important. We don’t reflect on death as Muslims to be sad, but we reflect on death because it prepares us, it puts us in the right perspective.
If the doctor came today and told you you have three months left, how would that change your life? It would drastically change your entire life, that busy schedule that you have created for yourself, it would be completely different. Wouldn’t it? The thoughts that you have would be completely different and that’s the benefit of pondering and reflecting on ourselves and our lives.
The other aspect of reflection is the reflection on the creation of Allah. If we look at the creation of Allah, we look at the natural world. We look at our own bodies, the intricate nature of our bodies, of the earth, of the universe. We reflect on that and we reflect on the greatness of Allah and so that is the fourth pathway to certainty.
So what were those four again? The first one was the social aspect. The second one was the intellectual aspect. The third one was the spiritual aspect and the fourth pathway to your yaqeen is reflection.
We’re talking about yaqeen and how can we achieve certainty in a time when we have so much uncertainty, how can we connect to Allah? A part of me says, “oh, don’t talk about this. Just talk about happy things”, right?”
People want to come to the Khutbah, and they want to be happy and it’s true. We do want to be happy and there’s so much hope and optimism there, but it’s also important to address that elephant in the room. So what is the fifth way in which we can achieve more Imaan, more conviction in our thoughts and our actions in our lives?
The fifth thing is a’mal – action. It’s related to the previous ones. Of course they are all some form of action, but what are the actions that we can take? A lot of times when we get stressed, we get nervous. What does it do? It debilitates us. What can we possibly do to solve this situation? The experts say to break down the big action that needs to be done. You need to break it up into smaller pieces and then act on each smaller piece. Step by step. For all of my engineer friends, you have a big project you need to do, so you break it up into all of its smaller components and you tackle one at a time.
You can’t do a project all at once. You have to break it apart. That’s how you can begin to say, “Actually we can get this done. Actually, it’s not as bad as I thought it was”. If you want to really start exercising, start with the smallest unit of exercise. A pushup, a sit-up, a walk. Start with the smallest unit, the least amount of time that will tell you actually it’s not such a big deal. If you wish to take action, that’s one way in which we can do it.
And how does action lead to certainty? Because it gives you hope. “This big thing that I’ve made huge in my mind, actually is not so big now that I’ve gotten started, now that I’ve broken it up, now that I’m taking some action.” It relieves that stress because you’ve taken action.
When you do your taxes, you’re stressed out for months and months. But then when it’s April 15th, you finally get it done. You’re like, “oh, finally, finally got it done”. Once that action happens, that relieves pain. So what is the action that we can take? Will it incorporate all or some of the previous things I’ve mentioned – the people that we mix with, the things that we consume, the things that we learn, the reflection that we have on our own lives, the spiritual acts that we act upon, the charity that we give.
One thing that’s especially relevant now is engaging on an individual level. How are we engaging with our neighbors, with our coworkers, with family members? Are we checking in on elderly people in our family, amongst our neighbors? Are we checking in with them? With those that are really suffering, those that are going through a lot? So that’s on the individual level.
Then we have the community level. Are we engaged with our Muslim community? Do we know what’s going on? Do we know how we can give back?
And the third level is at the societal level. How can we, as Muslims, engage on the societal level? There’s small differences that we can make here and there. But then as a system, how can we change the system?
A lot of people say, “What’s the point? The system is broken. The system is an evil system. How can we engage with it?” Well, in Islam, we don’t have this guilt by association kind of thing. If we did then all of us would be guilty, because all of us, we live here, we pay taxes. So we’re all a part of the system. Whether we like it or not, we’re all a part of the system. This last year we voted in our first two Muslims into public office. And so that gives us a lot of hope for changing the system and for affecting the system. The individual level is great. The community level is great, but then look at the system, how can we affect that? How can we change that? How can we bring about societal change? How can we as Muslims have our part to play?
Some people might say, “If you, if you play any part in the system, then you are evil, just as much as it is”. But if we look at the Quran, in the story of Mussa (as), there’s the secret believer in the committee of Pharaoh and his advisors. There’s that secret believer who defends Musa when it comes time to defend Musa, who warns Musa that this impending doom is about to happen. He is the one who was able to warn them. So if you jump off the ship, then you leave the ship to be directed by the oppressors. So the response is not to jump off the ship. The response is how can we begin to steer?
The response is not to run away. The response is not flight. The response is, “How can we fight for the rights of those that are oppressed?” That is the correct response. The believer doesn’t say, “This person is drowning in impure water. I can’t dive into the impure water because I’m going to break my wudu, and I won’t be able to pray later. So I can’t save the guy from drowning”. That’s ridiculous. So you can’t say, the whole thing is corrupt and so there’s no point. The believer is optimistic. The believer is hopeful. The minimal thing that we can do is we can vote.
That’s the minimal thing and voting is not perfect. The system is not perfect, and voting is not the only solution. No one’s saying it’s the only solution, but it is a good way for each and every single one of us to exercise our right, to decide who leads us. Not taking action is basically an action. It’s an action against our own selves. That kind of inaction is an action against our own selves. I say that because Muslims are, by religious groups, the least registered to vote. 80% of us are citizens. We’re the least registered to vote.
We have to work on that. We have to do this. That’s the smallest thing that we can do. Everything else is bigger than that, but we all have to do it. There’s people who fought and died for that, right. There’s people who are fighting now and dying now for that right to vote. It’s happening right now. It’s continuing to happen in Washington. We’re relatively lucky. There’s not so much voter suppression, but in many other states that’s what’s happening. And so we should exercise the right that we do.
So I ask Allah that He increases us in certainty. I ask Allah that He helps us to place our trust in Him. I ask Allah that He leads us to your yaqeen. I ask Allah that He helps us to gather around ourselves people who will increase us in Imaan. I asked Allah that He guides us to consume those things which will benefit us in this life, and the next. I ask Allah that He gives us beneficial knowledge. I ask Allah that He helps us to reflect on the universe that He has created. I ask Allah that He guides us, that He guides our children, that He guides the youth, that He guides the elders. I ask Allah that He guides the men, that He guides the women. I ask Allah to cure the sick. Those that have passed, ya Allah have mercy on them, give patience to their families. Ya Allah cure the people that are sick, of COVID-19 give them shifa. Ya Allah, give us good in this life and the next .
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. 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.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.