Sunday, September 25, 2016

speech at Islamic society of Darwin open day

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

(Delivered Saturday 17 September 2016)

Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison, Br. Ghulam Abbas, Br. Khaled, distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen.

Peace be with you all - Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

We are about to go onto a journey together, I pray that I can keep your interest.

Allah says:  O people (or O humanity), We created you from a male and a female and made you into peoples (or nations) and tribes, so that you can: li ta’arafu لتعارفوا
Meaning: get to know one another, or
 learn about each other, or
 learn from each other

From a male and a female = common origin = equality of all humans.
Peoples or nations = unity.
Tribes = can be the negative side of difference, distinction, tribal affiliation, tribal pride etc.

Our origin is shared, our common human origin defines our equality which is also defined in the first verses of the Holy Qur’an to be revealed (found in ch 96): The human being was created from ‘Alaq.  Without going into the scientific meaning of this word that has three meanings, it reflects that we are all made from the same substance and other verses explain how God breathed life (or a soul) into the first human).
When I talk about equality, I don’t refer to how much each of us weighs on the scale.  When any of us sits in reflection and ponders, we all realise that there is more to us than this physical body.
We are equal in that we are from the same substance and we all have a soul that comes from the same source (God).  This is irrespective of our national differences or our tribal affiliations.
Our diversity is a source of enrichment for us, it is not a source of class distinction.  It all fits into an elaborate and perfect plan by our Loving and Compassionate Maker.
Does this diversity give us different outlooks?  Yes it does.
Does this diversity create different cultural experiences?  Yes it does.
Are these different outlooks to our benefit?  Yes they are because they open our thinking to different perspectives and through that to greater creativity and more encompassing solutions.
A single view or a single outlook or a single approach can lead to stagnation.
Islam promotes an approach that takes in diverse views and perspectives.  We have a saying: The person who consults will not be disappointed.
So consult, discuss, explore ideas together, especially when these ideas bring change and this change impacts on others.  You should consult with those who will be impacted by the changes that you seek to introduce.  The mosque committee for example should consult with mosque neighbours when they wish to make changes to the buildings.  They might just be able to improve on your ideas, or at least minimise suspicion or apprehension.

Our beloved prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him was asked by someone two questions:
1 – Who are the people whom Allah Loves the most?
2 – What is the most beloved deed to Allah?
(Now for those amongst us who are not Muslim, Allah is a special name for God, it is a name that cannot be made into plural nor given a feminine gender.  God is neither male nor female, God is absolute.)
How easy would it have been to answer the first question by saying: Muslims are the most loved by Allah?
But no, that was not the answer of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him.
He is a man of exact words, he does not speak from whims or desires, his words are inspired by God and he delivers them faithfully.
He said: “The people whom Allah loves most are they who are most beneficial to the people.”
Please note, there is no religious distinction or identification in this answer.  People who are helpful to other people, regardless of their religion.
The more helpful a person is to others, the more that Allah will love that person.
The answer to the second question was different, this time, it was a biased answer and this bias shows the distinction.  That God loves the most helpful people even if they are not Muslim.
But the most loved deed to God is:  “To bring happiness to a Muslim, or to help expel his hunger, or to help pay his debt…”
Why the bias here?  God loves you when you are helpful to all people, but he loves your deeds more when saving a Muslim?
The answer to that is that a Muslim is a description of a person who surrenders to God, a person who seeks to build peace and a person who, through this, will receive salvation.
Historically, we know, those who have surrendered to God faced persecution because they put right above their desires and the desires or designs of others.  They stood up for what is right and just even to their own detriment, so they became hungry, they amassed debt and they faced serious trials.  Bringing happiness to them, or helping to feed them when they are hungry or helping them with their debts is indeed a great deed.  More so, this defining of Muslims in the middle of the answer makes us understand that if the prophet, Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, intended to name Muslims in the answer to the first question, he would have, but he left it general, relative to all people, as he did with the next part of his reply where he said:
“Walking with my brother to tend to his need is more loved to me than spending a whole month in worship in my mosque.”
He, Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, was an only child and an orphan, so he had no blood brothers.  The fact that he defined Muslims earlier means that this time, he is not defining a follower of any religion, but his brother is his brother “in humanity”, it means any human being who has a need and this is certainly evident in his actions when he risked his safety to help a stranded stranger in his claim against the most powerful person in Mecca, even though this stranger was not Muslim.
The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him ended his answer saying:  Bad character corrupts deeds the way vinegar corrupts honey.
If you do something sweet to help someone, don’t sour it by saying something stupid our ungracious to the person you have helped.
Revisiting the point of being helpful to others – Islam has made a clear distinction between cooperation and collusion.
God commands us in the Holy Qur’an to cooperate on goodness and God-consciousness.
He forbids us from colluding in inequity or transgression.

Be helpful in everything good knowing that God knows your motivation, hears your words whether you whisper them into the ear of someone or say them indistinctly amongst a crowd, He knows what you said and why you said it.  God also sees everything that you do.

These my dear friends are universal truths, when you reflect on them, they make sense as a positive way of life regardless of your religious or ideological perspective.  These teachings become a legacy to benefit all humanity.
Amongst the advice from our beloved prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him:
“You will not experience paradise until you love one another.
“Shall I inform you of what you must do to create love?
“Spread peace amongst yourselves.”
Love and peace go hand in hand.
Just like faith in God and security are synonymous in Islamic discourse.
Faith is called Eeman, security is called Amn or Amaan.
A believer is called Mu’min, and a trustworthy person is referred to as Ameen, and
A Muslim spreads Salaam (peace).
Exploring these carefully chosen nouns, we realise that Allah is telling us that to be a Muslim and a firm believer, you must be a source of safety (Salaam or Salaama) and be trustworthy and a source of security (Amn or Amaan) wherever you go. 

I move with you now to a great instrument with which God has blessed us in order to cooperate and be helpful.
This great tool is: the ability to express our ideas clearly.
The ability to articulate thoughts.
This is an instrument that can:
Bring unity or sow division
Create peace, or incite war
Bring unity or wreak havoc
Lead to building or to destruction
Bring happiness or sadness
Create joy or misery
Create love or hatred
Or things in between.
We have all experienced the power of words that can transform them from a blessing to a curse.
With these words, God has also given us the ability to learn, and from learning, to build on the knowledge.
The blessings of expression and learning are clearly outlined in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, both of which also illustrate the constructive benefits of unity and cooperation and the destructive and degenerative results of division and collusion.

In Chapter 55, Allah tells us:
“The Most Compassionate
“Taught Al Qur’an (The Oft-read book)
“Created the human being
“Taught him to clearly articulate.”

You can clearly see that it is the divine attribute of Compassion that is used to teach us His Holy Book, Al Qur’an (The Oft-read book), it is through the divine attribute of Compassion that Allah created humanity and it is through the divine attribute of Compassion that Allah gave us the ability to articulate our thoughts and ideas.
It is important to also draw your attention to the first verses to be revealed from the Holy Qur’an, these verses are to be found in Chapter 96:
“Iqra’ (read, recite, repeat) in the name of your Lord…”
Reading, whether the Holy Qur’an or other texts should start with compassion, (and should be done in the name of The Lord),
Approaching your spouse should be with compassion, (and hope they reciprocate), and
Speaking should be done with compassion.
When I adopt this in my life as a Muslim:
I learn in the name of the Most Compassionate, so my learning becomes beneficial or helpful to others.
I procreate with love and compassion, therefore, I bring forth offspring whose purpose is to promote love and compassion, and
I articulate my ideas with love and compassion.
Through this, I bring unity in this diverse world
I have a better chance to soften the hardest of hearts
And win the hearts and minds to the side of a loving, caring united world.
Our prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, made very clear warnings not to speak without checking the facts and the impacts of the words, saying that a careless word can cast a person into hell for seventy years, one careless word that could mislead, or cause tremendous hurt, or incite violence or break a family.
With the power to articulate comes responsibility, just like with any powerful tool comes the responsibility to use it wisely.
He also gave us the good news of the benefits and blessings a positive constructive, helpful word can bring, a word that can unite, create peace, ameliorate.
We are taught to be humble in our discourse, to minimise argumentation and that the best discourse is to invite people to reconnect with their Maker.
Our prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, taught us that true faith is demonstrated in loving for others what you love for yourself.

These teachings were conveyed to Arabs to take to the world.
The Arabs at that time excelled at language, they had mastered the science of words and their meanings and they took pride in how eloquently one might express themselves.
To these people was revealed a book that proved to them that God is far more eloquent than they are, that He can beat them at the very thing in which they excelled.  To further show His power, He revealed these words through a man who could neither read nor write and they could not find fault or refute any of these words.
These are words that continue to this day and will forever continue to be a source of wisdom and grace for humanity.
A book whose words are elaborate.
A book whose words are clear
A book that proves that it is from God
A book that proves our unity and cooperation are the key to our success and felicitation.
A book that proves the Love of God and the complete and overall mastery of God.

When we look to each other with respect and appreciate our common humanity and our equality before God, we begin to understand that wisdom and knowledge are a legacy for all intelligent people and that these should be grabbed wherever they are found.
Our ancestors demonstrated this most capably. 
When they discovered ancient Greek manuscripts detailing scientific and philosophical works, they translated them, they studied them and they put them to the test (thereby teaching humanity the science of experimentation), they moved this knowledge from the theoretical sphere to the practical sphere and they built on this old human legacy.  By learning the old legacies, they were able to develop new legacies in many fields that were unknown to that day.
So, when Europe was in the dark ages, Muslim scientists brought to the world: Algorithm, Algebra, Alchemy, and many advances in Optics, Medicine, dialectics and many other fields.  These Muslims even brought the number “zero”, a digit that has been instrumental in the binomial switches that have digitised and connected our world.  In a closer to home exercise, the Afghan Muslim Cameleers also helped connect Australian cities.
Islam has made great contributions to the world recognising our equality and connectivity, despite our diversity and Muslims have made and continue to make great contributions to Australia.
But I caution everyone from reading half teachings or half verses in isolation from the comprehensive system.
At this point, I will share with you the few verses preceding the verse I cited at the start of my talk which highlighted our common origin along with the secret behind our diversity:
“Believers: Men should not mock other men lest they be better than they are
“Neither should women mock other women lest they be better than they are
“Do not defame one another nor use offensive nicknames, doing this is a deviation from faith whoever does this is an oppressive wrongdoer.
“Believers, avoid much suspicion, indeed, some suspicion is sinful, do not spy, do not backbite one another.  Would any of you like to consume the flesh of his dead brother, surely you would detest this.

“Be conscious that Allah (knows your motivations, hears your words and sees your actions), Know that Allah accepts repentance and is merciful.

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