Why do bad things happen to good people?
by Arshad Gamiet
Jurgens Centre, Englefield Green, Surrey, UK. 30th March 2017
“A-úthu billáhi minash shaytánir rajeem. Bismilláhir rahmánir raheem
Al hamdu lillahi nahmaduhu wanasta’eenahu, wanastagh-firuhu, wanatoobu ilayhi, wana’oothu Billaahi min shuroori an-fusinaa, wamin sayyi aati a’maalinaa. May- Yahdillahu fa huwal muhtad, wa may- yudlill falan tajidaa lahu waliyan murshida. Wa ash-hadu an Laa ilaaha ill-Alláh, wahdahoo laa shareeka lah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhoo warasooluh”
All Praise is due to Alláh, 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 own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Alláh, 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 Alláh, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad, peace and blessings on him, is His servant, and His messenger.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem! Ya Ay-yuhal-latheena ‘aamanut taqul-laaha, haqqa tuqaatihee wala tamu tun-na, il-la wa antum Muslimoon.”
O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, with correct awareness, an awe-inspired awareness, and die not except as Muslims.
Ya Ay-yuhal-latheena ‘aamanut taqul-laaha, wa qooloo qawlan sadeedaa. Yuslih-lakum a’maalakum wa yaghfir lakum thunoobakum, wamay yu-til-laaha warasoolah, faqad faaza fawzan atheemaa.”
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.
In the opening verse of Sura An-Nisaa’, Allah says:
“O mankind! Show reverence towards your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate and from the two of them scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;― Be conscious of Allah, through Whom ye demand your mutual (rights) and (show reverence towards) the wombs (that bore you): for surely, Allah ever watches over you.”
My Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The two-year countdown for Brexit has just begun. As we’ve all seen, there’s been a sharp rise in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim feelings, across Europe and North America, and even as far as India and Burma/Myanmar.
In previous khutbahs I’ve touched on this subject, but today I’d like us to consider some very important questions. Why do Muslims almost everywhere have to endure so much racism and Islamophobia? Why does it seem that so many people hate us? Why do we suffer bigotry, prejudice and discrimination? Why indeed, do bad things happen to good people? I’m sure most of us consider ourselves to be fairly good Muslims. Why don’t we then enjoy more respect and appreciation from others? Don’t we deserve better?
I’m sure we’ve all pondered these questions. Some of us may have asked our learned elders, or searched on Google and social media for an answer.
One answer that we often hear (and I’ve also used this in some of my previous khutbahs), is to say that Life is always, a test from Allah. Allah tests us with good times and with hard times, to see whether we have Sabr and Shukr. Are we patient in hard times, and are we constantly thankful in the good times? That’s a good way of looking at it. There’s nothing’s wrong with that. But is that all? Are we not missing something else here? Is there another answer? Is there perhaps another reason that we invite so much hatred from other people?
As always, whenever we read the Quran carefully, we will often find some unexpected gems waiting to be discovered. One precious jewel is verse 11 in Sura Ar-Ra’d (13:11)
Here, Allah says that, “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.” (repeat). We may have heard this verse many times, but how often have we linked it to the trials and tribulations that come our way? Sure, Allah is always testing us. But isn’t there perhaps another lesson hidden in this verse?
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.”
Think about it. What is there within ourselves that might need changing? What is there in our hearts, in our behaviour, that is so displeasing to Allah, so displeasing that Allah has withheld his Grace from us, and puts us through difficult tests, so that we may be forced to change what is within ourselves?
Let’s get to the point. If we are victims of racism and injustice these days, are we not sometimes just a little bit racist ourselves? Do we not sometimes commit injustice to others? Let’s be honest! Do we not sometimes make disparaging remarks about black people or white people? Do we make crude generalisations like: “Oh, you know, the Arabs are like this, or the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis are like that..” Do we sometimes talk carelessly and unkindly about “the Jews, the Christians, or the kufaar?” If we still talk this way, it has to stop.
My dear Sisters and Brothers, we often forget that people are not all the same. There are good ones and bad ones in every community, in every nation, in every religion. Look at your own family. Aren’t there good ones and bad ones there also? Look into your own heart. Don’t we all have very strong impulses to behave badly? Anger, jealousy, greed and lust: you name it, all those demons are right there in every human heart. You and I have both the demonic and the angelic forces fighting for control in our own hearts. Our “Jihad al Nafs” is a constant daily struggle to tame the animals inside us. We have to become good Zoo keepers to keep our higher and nobler instincts in control. It’s the same in families and in communities. No one has the monopoly of good or evil. We all stumble around through life. We all make mistakes. We all have the capacity for the best and the worst of human nature.
This fundamental truth is beautifully declared in Sura Al Teen:
“Wat teen, Waz zaytoon, watTuuri seeneen; wa hathal baladil ameen. Laqad khalqnal insaana fee ahsani ta’weem. Thumma radad’na hu asfala saafileen. Il-Lal latheena aamanu wa’amilus saalihaati falahum ajrun ghairu mamnoon. Fama yukathi buka ba’du bid deen. Alaysal Laahu bi ahkamil haakimeen.”
“By the fig, and the olive, By Mount Sinai, And by this city of security (Makkah) , Truly, We created man of the best of moulds, Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low, Except those who have faith and trust in Allah, and do righteous deeds, then they shall have a reward that never ends.
Then what (or who) causes you (O disbelievers) to deny the final reward(the Day of Judgement)?Is Allah not the Best of judges?
My Dear Sisters and Brothers, the hardship that comes our way is indeed a test from Allah. But if we also look inwardly as well as outwardly for a reason, we can begin to get a grip on things. Part of Allah’s test is that we have to change what is within our hearts. Let’s deal with our greed, our anger, our vanity and envy of others. Let’s deal with our selfish egos, always thinking we are better than others. We must deal with those awful diseases of the spiritual heart that prevent Allah’s light from shining within us. Bit by bit, we can practice to be more critical of our own behaviour and more patient with others. Make excuses for others’ faults, but don’t make excuses for yourself. Don’t play the blame game. If you’re always blaming others and forgiving yourself, be careful! You’re fooling no one but yourself!
So, let’s put others’ needs first. Allah will always provide for our own needs, when Allah sees us serving others generously and sincerely for His good pleasure only.
My dear brothers and sisters, I pray that Allah will help you and me to succeed in this great task of changing what is within ourselves so that Allah will change all our conditions into something much better. Ameen.
“Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen. Was-salaatu was-salaamu alaa Khairil mursaleen. Muhammadin-nabeey-yil Ummiy-yee, wa-‘alaa aalihee, wasah-bihee, aj-ma’een. Ammaa ba’ad:
“Innalláha wa malaaikata yusallúna alan nabi. Yá ay yuhal latheena ámanu sallú alayhi wasalli mú tas leema. Allahumma salli alá Muhammad, wa ala áli Muhammad, kama salayta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali Ibrahim. Allahumma barik ala Muhammad, kama barakta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali ibrahim. Fil ála meen, innaka hameedun majeed.”
“Soob’ hanallahi wal hamdu lillah, wala hawla wala quwwata illah billah yu althi yual theem”
Glory to Allah! Praise to Allah! There is no power and no strength except from Allah!
My dear sisters and brothers,
I touched on a few things we should not be doing. What should we actually be doing instead?
Let’s make a good start with our non-Muslim neighbours and colleagues. Let’s engage more widely and inclusively with people beyond our ‘comfort zone’ of the usual family and friends.
Let’s avoid making crude generalisations, and let’s avoid demeaning remarks about “those Jews, those Christians, those Arabs or those Pakistanis.” You and I have a sense of dignity. Remember that every individual, every community and every nation also has a sense of dignity. If we want others to respect us, we must show them respect also. It goes both ways. We have no right to complain that Muslims are being blamed for the bad behaviour of a few individuals, when we do the same to other ummahs.
“Harm no one and no one will harm you,” said Prophet Muhammad sws at his last khutbah on Arafat. He was simply reconfirming the Golden Rule, the Ethic of Reciprocity. This Golden Rule is the bedrock of so many world religions. You’ll find it expressed in many different ways, but it means the same thing. Confucius said “That which you find most hateful if it was done to you, do not do it to anyone else.” Jesus, Nabi Isa said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Nabi Muhammad said: “A believer is not a believer until he desires for others whatever he desires for himself.” All these memorable quotes are simply different ways of expressing the Golden Rule.
To conclude, my dear sisters and brothers, I would like to remind myself and you of this beautiful Hadith of our beloved Prophet, sws:
“A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands other Muslims are safe. A Mu’min (a true Believer) is one in whom the wealth and lives of all the people are safe.
Consider the Prophetic example. When Rasool-Allah was Governor of Medina, he guaranteed the safety of everyone who lived there, not only the Muslims. He dealt with all people fairly and honourably. He was faithful to all his contracts, to his legal and moral obligations.
Let us today learn from his example. Let us be more open, more accessible and more trustworthy to our neighbours in the wider community. We have a simple choice. We can either stay locked into our cultural ghetto, choosing only to associate with like-minded Muslims, while the suspicion and hatred grows around us. Or, we can set a good example for our children and grandchildren. For their future, for their sake, we can and we must cultivate good neighbourly relations with the wider communities: build bridges of mutual understanding and trust. This way we will earn our neighbours’ respect and we build a solid foundation for the future of Islam in this country.
I pray that Allah will accept our sincere efforts to pass all the tests and trials that come our way. I pray that Allah will also help us to change what is within our hearts, so that on the outside, Allah will change our condition into something much better, something more worthy as a legacy to the future generations of Muslims.
Brothers and sisters, to conclude our khutbah:
InnaAllaha, Yamuru bil adel, wal ihsaan, wa eetaa-i zil qurba; wa yanha anil fuhshaa-i, wal munkari walbaghi; ya-idzukhum lallakum tathak-karoon. (Sura 16:90), Fadth kuroonee adth kurkum, wash kuroolee walaa tak furoon [2:152]. wala thikrul-Laahi akbar, Wal-Laahu ya’lamu maa tasna’oon.” [29:45].
“Surely Allah commands justice, good deeds and generosity to others and to relatives; and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, so that you may be reminded.” “and remember Me: I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject faith.” “and without doubt, Remembrance of Allah is the Greatest Thing in life, and Allah knows the deeds that you do.”
Ameen. Aqeemus salaah