In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.
All praise is due to Allah, we praise Him and we seek help from Him, we ask forgiveness from Him, we repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our evils and bad deeds.
Anyone who is guided by Allah, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray will find no one to guide him.
I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the only one without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad (saw) is His servant, and His messenger.
“O you who believe, – fear Allah, as He should be feared, and die not except as Muslims”.
“O you who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory…”
My respected brothers and sisters,
The shocking news we are hearing every day that young Nigerian Muslims were responsible or have hands in the mass murder of innocent civilians in Nigeria, is hitting us all like a tsunami. We are, all of us, still in a state of shock and disbelief. Ever since we started hearing of the bombings and the killings, I’m sure that most of us had been hoping and praying that the culprits would not turn out to be Muslims.
Now we must come to terms with the fact that young men from our own communities are both capable and willing to commit such horrific crimes. We must try to make sense of this. We must ask ourselves what went wrong? What have we done or not done to deserve this? And how can we ensure this massacre stops and that it never happens again? We must be honest and we must have the courage to ask questions that some people will not want us to ask. Those responsible for all the bombings and killings is one part of the question. But who else must share the wider responsibility? Terror does not happen in a vacuum. If we really want to find the truth, we ourselves must be truthful and, as the Holy Qur’an commands us, “and speak a straightforward word”.
Acts of terror on innocent civilians can never be justified in the name of Islam. Those who do so are utterly misguided. I need not remind you that Islam teaches us that “to take one life unlawfully is like killing all of humankind. And to save one life is like saving all of humankind.”
Militants, insurgents and extremists usually point to the injustices in Nigeria and on them and their people when they try to justify bombing so-called ‘soft target’ that includes innocent civilians. I will remind you, that there are many non-Muslims who work much harder than you or I do, defending human rights around the world, including the rights of Muslims. They don’t go around bombing innocent people.
Brothers and sisters, sincerely speaking, there is no such thing as ‘halaal terrorism’. There can never be any Islamic justification for what is happening in Nigeria. I will not be surprised if many of those victims personally opposed the invasion of Muslims, and were sympathetic to the plight of Nigerians and other victims of injustice around the world. Remember the huge anti-war march in some places around the world? Hundreds of thousands of people from every community, white, black, rich, poor, Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists and agnostics, all walked shoulder to shoulder to protest the invasion of innocent people’s territory. Muslims are not alone in opposing injustice anywhere. We have many leaders, supporters and friends who are often more active and more committed to human rights issues than we are.
So, why do some misguided Muslims believe that such reckless acts of mass murder are permissible and necessary? If you look through the entire Qur’an and the life-examples of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his noble companions, you will not find a single precedent for mass murderer or killing of innocent civilians. In fact, our noble ancestors always endured the most unspeakable hardship with extraordinary grace and forbearance. They knew that Allah is with them. They knew they were being tested and that their duty was to remain focused on doing what pleases Allah, regardless of the pain and suffering they might have to endure in the process.
Some Muslims can become so overwhelmed and melodramatic about the troubles around them. They forget the He who created us all is still firmly in charge of the universe, even during the apparent misfortunes that visit us from time to time.
On this point, the last verse of Surah 36 [yaseen] reminds us:
“Glory to Allah, in whose hand lies the dominion of all things, and to Him we will all return.”
This confirms that despite appearances, history, the world and the universe are all in safe Hands. It is again stated in the opening verses of Surah Mulk [ch 67]:
“Blessed be He in whose hand is Dominion; and He has power over all things. He who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-forgiving”.
My respected brothers and sisters, how did our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his companions deal with extreme torture, humiliation and death inflicted by their enemies? Did they retaliate by committing mass murder or bombing people? No. They endured pain and hardship with remarkable dignity, with resilience and perseverance. They reposed all their trust in Allah, confident that history is in good hands.
Today’s radical extremists have become impatient with history, and indeed, have become impatient of Allah’s mercy. Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad deals with this topic in an excellent article entitled, “Muslim Loyalty and Belonging.” The article is too long for a khutbah, so I have summarized some of the main points. He writes, and I quote:
“The triumph at Makkah came about not through anger, anxiety, fear, and rage at the difficult, sometimes desperate situation of the Muslims, a small island of monotheists in a pagan sea. It came about through their serenity, their sakina (tranquility). Ibn Juzayy tells us that this means stillness, contentment, and also mercy. These are the gifts of reliance on Allah’s promise amidst apparent misfortune. The alternative is to be of those who are described as: “Those who think ill thoughts of Allah”, which, the commentators explain, means the suspicion that He will let the believers down. The monotheistic God, of course, does not let the believers down. As he reassures us in the Holy Qur’an, “weaken not; nor grieve. You are the uppermost, if you have faith.” (Ch 3:v139): This verse was reveled in the aftermath of the shock defeat of Uhud. So the young zealot, driven half out of his mind by his sense of alienation and despair, reads the Sacred Texts [Sunnah] with the wrong dictionary. His view of the history of his community is one of abandonment – that God has effectively abandoned it.” That was a short extract from Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad’s article.
Brothers and sisters, Muslims who commit crimes against humanity are criminals, whatever they choose to call themselves. They are criminally overwhelmed by their anger and hate. Their sense of desperation has therefore driven all reliance on Allah from their hearts, so they decide to take history into their own hands. No good can come of this. We must teach our young people the danger of misguided groups and sects.
“All glory is for Allah, and all praise is for Allah; there is no power and no strength except with Allah.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
What can we do, to prevent or stop more bombings of innocent people, and how can we stop further damage to the good name and honour of Islam?
- Firstly, if we know for certain that someone is planning an attack, or is involved in any way with acts of terror; we must immediately report this to the security agents. It is our Islamic duty and our duty as citizens of this our great country Nigeria, to help ensure the safety of life and property for everyone. Nigeria is our home, our country also. We cannot condone terror, wherever it comes from, nor can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. We, or someone we love, could be its next victims or their next targets.
- Secondly, we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable consequences that follow this period of grief and mourning. The anger and blame will come, and we Muslims are right in the firing line. Already, some innocent Muslims have been arrested, molested, harassed, attacked and abused, and many mosques and Islamic centres have been vandalized. Thus far, the media, the security agents, some churches and other institutions have been careful not to stigmatize or stereotype the whole Muslim ummah. We must do our bit as well. We must be more conspicuous in our condemnation of these acts of mindless terror. We must join rallies, visit hospitals, donate blood, write to the media and make our feelings clear. Alhamdulillah, the newly established Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism, FAIR, has set up a hotline and is doing research on all attacks on Muslims. They are passing on information to the police. They are desperately short of funds, and have asked us to appeal for your support. You will find a collection box at the entrance, and I will appeal to you please to give generously so that their important work can continue.
- Thirdly, we must help to cultivate competent and effective leadership in our community. Our Mosques need to be run by people who know how to address our spiritual, social and educational needs. The mosque committees can no longer remain exclusive clubs for retired Muslim gentlemen. Our communities are rich in human talent as well as financial resources. All these have to be recruited and managed for our mutual benefit.
- Muslims must relized that learning is a lifelong process, and in our homes, we must continue to learn and improve ourselves. We must become better husbands and wives, and wiser parents and more appreciative children. Our core values of justice and compassion must grow from within ourselves, in ever widening circles, to our families, to our communities and to our country. And from there, core values of justice and compassion can reach out to the world beyond.
Once we know what we need to do, we must get organized, and help others in the process of community building and nation building. It all starts with us as individuals.
This process of building healthy, balanced communities made up of well-adjusted individuals is described in the Qur’an as the “ummatan wasatan.”… “The justly balanced community.”
As I said in a recent khutbah, the key to a healthy community is a well-balanced individual. And the key to a well-balanced individual is a generous heart. When we allow Allah’s presence to reside in our hearts, we will be blessed with ‘SAKINA’, i.e. serenity, contentment and mercy. Allah’s presence in our hearts must have a permanent residence, if not full citizenship. Remember, a short-term visa will not do!
The earliest years of Islam, in Makkah before the Hijrah, were times of extraordinary hardship. Muslims endured torture, humiliation and death for the sake of their faith. You will find that those earliest chapters of the Holy Qur’an were therefore concerned with building sound character and purifying the heart. This was a vital stage of preparation, so that the Muslims could handle the big challenges that came with expansion and victory. Makkah was therefore the crucible that transformed wild Bedouin tribesmen into the leaders of a world civilization, just like a furnace separates base metals from pure gold.
Brothers and sisters, let us consider our own difficult and dangerous times as our Makkan crucible, so that we can purify our communities and transform ourselves into the balanced community, the ‘ummatan wasatan’, that Allah wants us to be. Our noble and illustrious predecessors were less concerned with the ‘Zahir’, the outer forms, than the ‘Batin’, the inner reality. When our world is literally exploding around us, this is no time to make issues about the length of beards and our taste in clothing (although all are part of Islam). The noble companions of the Prophet were not concerned with what they wore on their heads, but what they wore in their hearts.
Let us pray, and seek Allah’s help in turning disaster and misfortune into a catalyst for change.
O Allah, help us to remove the evil from within ourselves. Help each and every one of us to construct a strong and healthy Islamic character. Help us to build communities that enjoy peace and serenity, SAKINA. Help us to glorify your name, to enjoin right and forbid wrong, and do all this in a lawful and exemplary manner. Help us to defeat prejudice and Islamophobia so that Muslims and our neighbours in the wider community can live together in peace, mutual respect and security.
O Allah, the owner of all hearts, purifies our hearts and softens the hearts of our enemies. Ameen.
This Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today (Juma’ah) Ramadan 7, 1435 A.H. (July 4, 2014). By Imam Murtada Muhammad Gusau, the chief Imam of Nagazi Jumu’at Mosque Okene, Kogi State Nigeria. He can be reached via 08038289761 and firstname.lastname@example.org