Hypocrisy or Sincerity? The future of Islam in America

Khutba delivered in the Milwaukee Islamic Da’wa Center on July 17, 2009 By Dr Waheeduddin Ahmed

[I delivered the khutba extempore; so the following transcript is not verbatim]

Hamd wa Thana.

Allah (T) said: Inna khalaqnakum min zakarin wa untha wa Ja’lnakum shu’ban wa qabaila li ta’arafu. Inna akramakum I’ndAllahi atqakum.

Indeed We created you from one male and a female and made you peoples and tribes so that you may identify each other. Indeed the best among you are the God-fearing.

I discussed this verse in one of my previous khutbas. However, this verse is so profound that each time I read it, I find in it new dimensions of meaning and implications. Therefore, once again this is the opener for today’s discussion.

As can be seen this verse has three parts:

Part 1: Inna khalaqnakum min zakarin wa untha (We created you from one male and a female). This signifies the biological unity of man. We are all one species of creation, with commonality of anatomy and physiology. People, from the aborigines of Australia to the Nordic people of Scandinavia can interbreed. Also, we have a common ancestry, having descended from one pair of human beings

Secondary differences of color and physique are due to the different habitats that we found ourselves in: the climate etc. Our habitats have formed our habits.

We also have individual differences, which help us to tell one person from another. The greatest miracle of creation is that over the past tens and thousands of years of human history, no two individuals have been identical and this principle will hold for all the future generations. Thus our color, our complexion, our size, our sex, the shape of our nose and eyes and many others are the elements in our individual identity. This is how we know each other.

Part II: Wa ja’alnakum shu’ooban wa Qabai’la li ta’arafu: (and made you peoples and tribes so that you may identify each other).

Whereas the first part was concerned with biology and anthropology, the second part is to do with the sociology. Human beings are social animals. No man is an island. They need to live in association with each other for safety and protection from the hazards of the environment and for the division of labor. Thus they become peoples and tribes (shu’oob and qaba’el) as the necessity demands. Their different habitats bestow upon them different characteristics and habits. They become distinctive as groups of people. These distinctions give them different group identities. These distinctions however are only the composites of personal identification. It is natural to ask when two people meet in Hajj: What is your name and where are you from brother? This is Ta’arruf and has no social significance other than that.

Part III: Inna akramakum i’nd-Allahi atqakum: (Indeed the best of you in the eyes of Allah are those who are God-fearing).

Having declassified human beings from their compartments of race, genealogy, nationality etc, Allah (T) then reclassifies them into different grades according to their piety. Recall Rasoolullah’s signature speech in his final Hajj… This was the revolution, which dwarfs the French and the Bolshevik revolutions in the universality of its message. Your race, genealogy, your wealth, your social status do not make you superior to any other human being. Your degrees: Ph.D. and M.D. do not upgrade you if they do not provide you with a higher degree of humanism. If they do not make you a better person, they are simply tools for the exploitation of other human beings. Islam knocked down the slave master, dragged him into dirt and elevated the slave to the status of a commander. Read the story of Bilal and Umayyah, the history of Mamluk of Egypt and the Ghulaman dynasty of India. The Urdu poet Iqbal has depicted this revolution beautifully in the following verses:

Ek hi saf men khade hogaey Mahmood O Ayaz

Na koi banda raha aur na koi bandanawaz.

Banda O sahib O muhtaj O ghani ek huve

Teri sarkar meN paNhche to subhi ek huve.

Mahmoud* and Ayaz * stood in one line, shoulder to shoulder

No one a master, no one a slave.

The slave and the master, the poor and the rich together

When came to Thy rule, they were one forever.

* The reference here is to Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni (the great Mujahid and conqurer) and his slave Ayaz.

In the Aftermath of the Revolution:

This was the voice, which rose from the desert of Arabia. Hundreds, then thousands, then millions harkened to the message. We took this message from Asia to Africa and to Europe. This was the message that we brought to America. Simple people, the oppressed and those, disillusioned with the prevalent hypocrisy in Christianity were attracted to it, like the early Sahaba of the Prophet. Masjids arose in almost every city in America. Once, Br. Ayyub and I went to a synagogue in the city to give a lecture on Islam. They asked Br.Ayyub: what it was that brought him to Islam. (Br.Ayyub is an African-American) He answered that it was the message of brotherhood and equality, which had attracted him to Islam.

Islam and the Future Generations of Muslims in America:

If I was giving this khutba in a masjid in Amman, Cairo, Delhi, Lahore or Mogadishu, the audience would be elated and congratulating each other on the good fortune of being born as Muslims. Because of the homogeneity of race and culture, their perspective would be pure and simple. Their congregations would be mostly uniracial and monocultural. The situation in America is, however, unique. All the continents of the world are represented in our communities. It is as though Allah (T) has, for the first time, provided the Muslim Ummah a test for the practice of the principle that has been propagated in the literature and in our rhetoric. The question we must ask ourselves now is whether we are passing the test. Honestly, you cannot put your hand on your chest and say: Yes we are.

The Responsibility of the Leadership:

The masses are like herds. Muslims are generally easygoing all over the world. The hassles and the difficulties of their daily lives do not give them a chance to sit down and review their conduct using ideality as a criterion. They entrust this task to their scholars and their leaders.

We have immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, who have inherited cultural Islam. Their ritualism does not permit them to understand the letter and the spirit of the Quran. They are misfits in the land, where Islam is pristine. They also come from a land, where prejudices based on caste, class and color affect every walk of life. The leadership is muted in dealing with this problem.

The pioneers of the Islamic work in America were people of vision and of ideals. They worked hard selflessly to start us our communities and built us our masajid. Islam was their criterion and the integrity of the Ummah was their motto. Some of them did it, knowing very well that they or their children would not be the beneficiaries of their work as they were only transient in this country. They are now gone and gone with them is the idealism. The present crop of leadership is highly professional but is lacking in idealism. We now have masjid mangers and department mangers but where do we go to look for Islamic leadership?

Our communities are now divided between the Elite and the non-Elite. The Elite are looking for company among the non-Muslim Elite, looking for “respectability” and prestige. Interfaith dialogue is a priority but not the dialogue with fellow Muslims.

They are so busy in their pursuits that they do not even have time to turn their heads and look at the other segment of the society, which is looking at them in utter dismay and wondering whether this was the Islam they were introduced to by the pioneers.

Early on cracks developed between Black America and Muslim America, because of the attitudes of some people among us.  This has now become a gap, which is widening. Soon it will be unbridgeable. This is now being followed by the disillusionment of Muslims, who happen to be black. This is the biggest tragedy of our time. We are leaving a terrible legacy for the future generations. They will read the verse that we discussed before, then look out and see the reality in stark contrast to the fiction in their hands. For non-Muslims it will be a bonanza. With clear proof they will be able to point out the “the Grand Islamic Hypocrisy” which is unveiling in America.

If we want to avoid this catastrophe, we have to act now. If we are able to stop this slide into ignominy and build the only real multiracial Islamic community in the world, we will have perfected the practice of the Message. We are standing at a crossroads. One road leads to disaster and the other to glory. Now, which one do we take?.