بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ
Kuntum khayra ommatin okhrijat lilnnasi tamuroona bialmaAAroofi watanhawna AAani almunkari watuminoona biAllahi
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.”
(Surah Ali-‘Imran, Quran 3:110)
Allah says in the Quran, “You are the best people produced for the people and this world”. There’s this idea there of being in service of that; we are a nation that is in the service of the rest of mankind, that is in service of those around us. As Muslims, we have a duty to bring about good to society.
Allah follows that with what that service is. “You enjoin the good, and you forbid the evil, and you believe in Allah.” So as Muslims, we have this duty and this was the way of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
In my studies of Islam, one of my teachers introduced me to this very interesting topic – the concept of Takaaful. Essentially it comes from ‘Kafala’, which means to take someone under your care. The idea behind ‘takaaful‘ comes from the verb family, which means to take care of each other, to take care of one another. Like you have Takāthur which is to compete against each other or to compete with each other. You also have Ta’eawun, which means to cooperate together. So you can hear that ‘Ta‘ sound, right?
So Takaaful is taking care of each other, and the scholars based this concept around many evidences from the Quran and Hadith – in particular, the words of the Prophet (pbuh) when he said, “I am the Wali of the one who has no Wali”. So if someone does not have a Wali (guardian), then the Prophet is the guardian of that person. And what does the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) represent? He represents the system, he represents the leadership, he represents the government.
So what the scholars took from this is that when someone does not have a protector, then a truly Islamic form of leadership is to take care of those who have no care, to protect those who have no protection, to guard those who do not have guardians, to serve those who have no one to serve them, to heal those who don’t have anyone to heal them.
We see this throughout the Quran and the sunnah where Allah, for example, always mentions Salah and Zakat together. Salah is our spiritual connection to Allah and Zakat is our spiritual connection to the people around us. Not only spiritual, but it’s our financial connection, our emotional connection, because once we give money to a cause we have an emotional connection to that cause. Right? We choose, don’t we? We look at all the different causes that we could give our Zakat to, and we choose the one we want to give it to.
So there’s that emotional connection, There’s that spiritual connection that, “I am doing this because Allah has commanded me to give this Zakat. And Allah has told me that Salah is important, but Zakat is also important”. Connecting yourself with Allah is important and then also connecting to Allah through the people around you, through serving the people around you, using the blessings that Allah has given us, is also important.
We also have the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) where he said that “the one who takes care of the needy is like the one who spends their nights in prayer and their days fasting”. So prayer and fasting are in this category of worship in Islam. This is pure worship, where we really worship for Allah, whereas taking care of the needy, it has the benefit of that connection to Allah, but it also has the benefit of the connection to people. And the Prophet (pbuh) equates the two. He equates the one who fasts and prays with the one who gives and takes care of those that are in need. Whether that is through actions, whether that is through financial means. It can be through many different ways.
And it was reported that, in a narration from the early generations, that “the best of people are those that are the most beneficial to people”. And in my conversations with local officials, we talked about how on an individual level you can give, on a community level you can give, and you can make things happen to a certain scale, to a certain degree, but we also have to think about, as Muslims, the entire system that regulates our life, the entire system. And what I’m getting to is that means ensuring that we are engaged on a civic level. We’re engaged in our local government. We are engaged in the state government and the federal government. We’re engaged in some way. So we can’t see that charity and taking care of the poor and taking care of those in need and protecting those who need protection – we can’t see it as divorced from the whole system. As Muslims it is our responsibility to engage with the system
The system is not perfect. No one is saying it’s perfect, but has it ever been perfect? Has any human made system been ever perfect? No, it’s simply not possible, but that doesn’t mean we don’t persist towards change. It doesn’t mean that we don’t try to make some kind of change happen. Right? Anyone who studies anything – just because you didn’t get a hundred, does it mean that the world is over? Maybe you had those thoughts when you were younger, right? Maybe you had those thoughts, but as you grow older, you realize, well not everyone’s perfect. You can’t get a perfect score every single time.
So you become realistic about what you can do and what’s within your grasp. Similarly we have to work towards making things better, and not expecting that everything will be perfect, and if it’s not perfect, then there’s no point. We can’t give into that despair that people give into. If we look at how the Prophet (pbuh), how he engaged with the society around him – Look at the specific example of when times were tough in Mecca. This was before Islam. This was pre-Islamic times. Pre-Prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This stranger entered Mecca with some merchandise and the merchandise was essentially taken from him, unjustly. And it was at that point when he came to complain and was ignored that several of those of honor, and those of virtue, came together and they made a contract with each other. It wasn’t a give and take kind of contract. It was simply a contract to do something, essentially a promise. All of these people, including the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), they all promised that if someone comes into Mecca and does not have protection, that they will be that person’s protection. Because the way those pre-Islamic times worked was that if you came to Mecca and you had no one to vouch for you, then it was free, for anyone who wanted to to take advantage of you, and no one could do anything because no one had vouched for you, and no one had said that I will protect you.
So these virtuous people, they got together and among them was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They said that if anyone doesn’t have protection, we will offer it to them to ensure that no person walks into Mecca and doesn’t have protection and gets taken advantage. Because the city of Mecca was not governed by a system or a governor or an official. It was simply a tribal system. So if you had no tribe, essentially, you had no power. And the Prophet (pbuh) in late his later years said, “if those who had signed on to this promise was called upon, then I would answer that call even today”. He said that years later.
So we see how the Prophet (pbuh) wanted to change the system, how he wanted to make sure that the system worked for those that were, in particular, unprotected, for those that were, in particular, in need. And so from our Deen we learn that it’s important for us to engage. It’s important for us to want to make change, and it’s important for us to serve people. But then also think about what the most impactful way to serve those people is. Yes, on an individual level, we can volunteer, on an individual level level we can give to charity, on a communal level we do a lot Alhamdulillah. We can always do more, but we do a lot as a community. Then the next step for us is to think at the system wide level to think about the ramifications of the system and how we can bring about change in that system. Even if it is a small change at a time. I was very impressed to learn that when you call for help to the Redmond city, if you input the non-emergency number, one of the numbers that you’re given, one of the places that you’re given is MAPS mCRC to go for help. That’s incredibly powerful. So things like that, that bring about systemic change for the society around us, so that we can be beneficial to everyone. And so I ask Allah that He helps us to do that and to put thought into how we can best go about doing that inshaAllah.
So what I wanted to discuss was we as a community – are we thinking about the long-term? Are we thinking about what’s coming next? Are we thinking about, not just the short-term, but what’s coming up next? Where we are going to be as a community five years from now, where are we going to be as a community, 10 years from now? What does it look like when those who were just born today – what does it look like when they are grown up?
The Prophet (pbuh) used to think strategically. He would think long-term.
If you look at the amazing example of Hudaybiyah – the treaty of Hudaybiyah. It was a time when the Muslims were in doubt of what was happening. The Muslims themselves complained to the Prophet (pbuh) because the Prophet (pbuh) was signing a contract, a peace treaty with the Quraysh of Mecca, who they had been at war with for so many years., and who had killed so many Muslims in that war. So many Muslims had died at the hands of the Quraysh and vice-versa. How could they enter into a peace treaty? Not just a peace treaty, but a peace treaty that put Muslims at a disadvantage because the treaty said that if any Muslim, if any person wants to accept Islam and move from Mecca to Medina, then that is not allowed under the treaty of Hudaybiyah. But if any Muslim wants to leave Islam and go back to Mecca, then that is okay. And so it was clauses like this that upset the Muslims. How can the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) accept this for us? Many of them were confused and they were questioning. But the Prophet (pbuh) took one step back in order to take some steps forward.
What ended up happening was that, during that time, during the treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Prophet (pbuh) no longer had to focus on those tensions with Mecca and the constant threat of war and loss of life with Mecca. Instead he could focus on spreading the message. He sent envoys and messengers to Yemen and to Egypt and to Persia. To many different places, he sent messengers and envoys to spread the message of his Islam. And in that period of Hudaibiyah, the number of Muslims increased from thousands to tens of thousands because now there was room to grow.
So when those that were doubting the Prophet (pbuh), they were only looking at what was right in front of them. Whereas the Prophet (pbuh) was looking at the whole.
How can we as Muslims think about the bigger picture? How can we ensure that we’re thinking at that level? And how can we prepare the next generation to think at that level? I went to the state government in Olympia to lead a Dua before the governor’s address at the beginning of this year. Alhamdulillah, they told me that I was the first Muslim to have done that. That was a great honor for our community, to give the prayer before the governor. But as a part of that, I saw the environment there. I saw that there were teenagers helping and volunteering in that process. They were in uniform. They were helping with the process. They were in that environment. They were learning how it all works. Most of us, we don’t even know how it works. But them, from a younger age, they’re able to start learning that. They’re put into that position and they can decide for themselves whether that is something they wish to pursue, to affect change at that level, at the system level.
I would love to see a Muslim Senator, a Muslim representative from Washington state. Last year we had our first two Muslims elected to local office. So we are making changes in that process. Now, some people they say, well, you know, “we feel that we can’t vote for someone who has good in them because there’s some evil that they’re also committed to, there’s some policies that they’re committed to that we don’t like, and so it must be haram to vote for someone because of that”.
The short answer is it’s not haram. I think many of us are already over that fact. Because the fact of the matter is that there’s no perfect candidate. These are human beings. No one is ever going to be perfect. Some Muslims are waiting for a local city council member to agree with them in all international relations, international affairs, but that’s not really the effect of local office. That’s not really the concern of local office, as much as other things.
International affairs do matter to us. We are connected to our Muslim community, internationally, but sometimes we have to make some compromises there. Then once we are a part of the process and people realize that we are engaged, that’s where we can start to hold people accountable. We’re seeing Islamophobia, on both sides, more on one side than the other, but once we’re a part of that process, then we can begin to call it out.
We can begin to hold people accountable. We saw some things. We saw mostly good things, but we saw some, some things to be criticized at the DNC this week. We saw it at a local level as well. But once we’re part of, part of the reason why those things are coming out is because now we’re a part of that process.
So people are seeing us and some people don’t like that. We’re a part of the process and they want to push us out. But that doesn’t mean we run away. It means that we actually push more. We hold people accountable for what they say. And once people realize that Muslims vote, that Muslims are a part of this process and that, if they don’t get Muslim votes, then they’re not going to be able to retain their positions.
Then that’s when we start to have more and more of a voice. And as Muslims, we’re not asking for special treatment, we just want to have fair and equal treatment. We want our communities, and especially, those that are the most disadvantaged in our community, to have equal rights. We want our sisters to be safe. I was recently reading that the most discriminated group religious group in America is Muslim women, which was a study conducted by ISPU. They said that Muslim women are the most discriminated in this country from a religious perspective. So we need to make those changes at a systemic level to protect our sisters, and to protect those that are disenfranchised.
Some others people are saying we can’t blindly follow one party. And that’s true. We’re not saying to blindly follow anyone we’re saying, as Muslims let’s engage, let’s be a part of the process, and let’s see how we can bring about change to that process.
And, of course, as Allah tells us, it starts with ourselves. “Allah lot does not change your people until they change what is within themselves.” So of course we start from ourselves, but we also start to keep an eye on what action there is at the system level change that we can make, even if it’s just a vote, even if it’s a small thing that we’re doing. And we might feel it’s small, but actually in the grand scheme of things, it’s a big thing, and we can’t think, “someone else will vote, someone else will do it, and we don’t need to do it this time”.
My dad always used to give me this analogy growing up. There was a King who had a pool and he said, this pool must be filled with milk. Milk was a luxury good. He said, “This pool, I don’t want it to be filled with water”. Whatever the reason was for filling the pool with the milk overnight, the citizens came with their buckets and they filled the pool. In the morning when they woke up to look at the pool, it was filled with water.
When they asked, “Well, what happened here? Why did everyone fill it with water when the King asked to fill with the milk and that’s because everyone thought everyone thought “everyone else will fill it with milk, so I’ll fill with water and no one will notice”, but in actuality, what happened is everyone thought that way. Then the pool was completely filled with water.
So we can’t think that way – that someone else will handle it. We have to make sure that we do our part and we can’t always trust that someone else will do it because when everyone thinks that way, that’s when things start to fall apart.
The scholars had this discussion, they talked about this. They said, “Can you pledge allegiance to a Sultan or a leader in your country who is pious but not really competent? Or should you pledge your allegiance to a sultan or to a leader that isn’t as pious, but is very competent and overall a fair and just ruler?” So what the scholars said that – yes, we should actually support the one that, as Muslims, we would support the latter – the ruler who isn’t as pious but is much more competent. As Muslims, we need to consider what our history actually says and what our tradition actually says and what the scholars have actually discussed. There were other dissenting opinions, some who preferred the pious person, but that exists – that room for difference and opinion exists. But many of the great scholars said it should be someone who is competent because that person is in that position to be competent. And if they’re pious enough that it helps them in their process. That’s great. That’s wonderful. And that’s something that we can look at as a preferred quality, but not the main quality.
So we need to look at how we can make change at the system-wide level. We can’t be afraid of voting. We can’t be afraid of making the wrong choice. We should do our research Alhamdulillah, in Washington, it’s incredibly easy. The ballot comes to your mailbox, right? And you can send it out. You don’t have to leave work for it. You don’t have to do all the things that people do in many other states. We actually have one of the highest voting rates as a result. Whereas where I’m from, Texas, has one of the lowest voting rates. So, we have it quite easy here in Washington, and we should take advantage of that as Muslims.
The surveys have said, the studies have shown that as Muslims, we are the most optimistic group, the most optimistic religious group when it comes to the future of this country. This was after the last election in 26, the last presidential election, 2016, still Muslims were the most optimistic about the future of America. But at the same time, Muslims were also the least registered to vote to group in America. So that tells you there’s an imbalance there, between our optimism and our action, our belief in our action and as Muslims, we can’t accept that.
We have to make sure that our belief aligns with our action and just voting is a part of that.
So that’s at the system-wide level. Then there is the individual level. How are we adapting to COVID? How are we helping those around us? If we have elderly neighbors, are we reaching out to them, when we go to the grocery store, when we go to the pharmacy to see what they need from us? Can we do a good deed for them? For our elderly neighbors that might not have someone or for those that are lonely amongst our neighbors that might not have someone, to say hi to them to give them a gift that says, “Hey, we remember you”.
Something that gives people a sense of encouragement, a sense of community, a sense of neighborliness, especially in a difficult time where many are feeling isolated, where many are feeling socially distant or many are afraid of catching COVID. So how can we be those best neighbors? How can we be those best coworkers? Even though we might be working remotely, how can we think about the way in which we can be a positive force for good at an individual level?
And then at a communal level, as a part of our MAPS community. Think about how you can get involved. Think about how you can volunteer on our website, we have a volunteer form. I encourage you to go to mapsredmond.org, and click on volunteer and select an interest that you have. And inshaAllah, someone will reach out to you so that you can volunteer. And so you can be part of this effort. Look at your local mosque, and see how you can serve and be a part of it, even during a difficult time. Because when you give, Allah will give you more. When you give from your time, you give from your skills, you give from your wealth, Allah will give you more. Now you cannot become poor through giving, the Prophet (pbuh) told us. You cannot become poor through giving. Actually giving will only enrich you. It will only bless you, and only bring about more barakah in your life. It will bring about good in this life, as well as in the next life.
So inshaAllah let’s have that commitment to that systemic change, that communal change, and that individual change. And let’s make the most of the time that we have on this earth before it comes to an end, so that we can be a force for positive good in the world.
I ask Allah that He helps us to be forces for good. That He helps us to be beneficial to those around us. I ask Allah that He helps us to make change at a system wide level and I ask Allah that He helps us to take action. I ask Allah that He helps us to take action on our beliefs. I ask Allah that He help those that are in need, that He fulfills their needs. Those that are sick may Allah cure them. Those that are passed away, may Allah have mercy on them and give patients to their families. I ask Allah that when we leave this world, that He makes our last words لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ . Ameen.
جَزَاكَ ٱللَّٰهُ خَيْرًا
السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ