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Means and ends

All the visitors to this institution could be positively amazed: this place, these halls, offices, library and so on, are Allah’s blessing, wal-hamdulillah. All these amenities to work and to study, opportunities to write and to speak are impressive indeed. Only few of our brothers and sisters throughout the world can benefit from such conditions. We know that and we should thank Allah for providing for us with all these means and opportunities. This is the case for all our brothers and sisters who are working in other Islamic organisations, associations or institutions in Europe; they have the chance to serve Allah in comfortable and protected environment, safe from persecution, free to say what they want to say. We, collectively, have to thank Allah for giving us the possibility to serve Him in such conditions; we have to thank Him from the depths of our hearts, to be involved in one of these organisations which, throughout the world and our continent, try to serve the Almighty and One God, Allah. We have to measure our opportunities at their real and just value… Truly, we have to pray and to thank Allah.

At the same time, each and every one of us knows, somewhere in the back of his/her mind, somewhere in his/her heart, that this great opportunity entails a great responsibility as well as an important risk. Let us today talk about this risk, which might be one of the greatest for everyone who decides to work for Allah and for Islam within an Islamic institution or in an Islamic organisation. This danger lies in confusing the means with ends; it is to work solely for organisation rather than to work for Allah. In other words, the risk lies in being organised, active, and dedicated only to engage in some Islamic studies, Islamic activities, Islamic lectures and discussions or Islamic publications, all the while forgetting the purpose of it all. The risk, in other words, is to speak about Allah, to write about Allah, to discuss eight-hours-a-day religion, Islam, faith, fiqh and so forth, and at the same time forgetting what this really means at the level of the heart and depths of our inner being; we forget what it is to be with Allah, to love Him, to serve Him, to respect His rights and to answer His call. The risk for each of us is to speak of Allah without being with Him, to speak about respect, as we are neglectful of our relationship with him. to speak about Allah as we forget Him. Allah says:

Do you bid other people to be pious, the while you forget your own selves – and yet you recite the divine writ? Will you not, then use your reason” (2/44)
“O you who have attained to faith! Why do you say what you do not do”

These two verses were revealed in Madina to people who already knew their religion; those educated ones from Bani Israel or from among Prophet’s companions. Today, most of the brothers and sisters involved in Islamic institutions have at least working knowledge of what it means to be a good Muslim; but, like Bani Israel or the Prophet’s companions, we are facing the same danger: to think of Allah with our minds, speak about Allah through our lips, while our hearts are empty or, more perniciously, empting under the weight and the charge of too many Islamic activities that need to be implemented. And so too busy and unaware, the heart hardens with the distance from it Lord.

“And yet, after all this, your hearts hardened and became like rocks, or even harder” (2/74)

The risk is having an aware and enlightened mind analysing every social or political situation, while the heart is indifferent, hard as a rock. How, then, are we to avoid this risk? This is the question everyone of us must answer by deeply reflecting and pondering how to find a way to not only work for Islam but also to live as an authentic Muslim with a heart illuminated by the light of faith.

Allah and his Prophet (SAW) have shown us the path that we have to follow to keep our heart alive. The first step consists of a strict self-discipline through daily dhikr. One can be very involve in an Islamic institution while he/she is completely neglecting adh-dhikr. There is no dhikr without relative solitude and silence: he who wants to remember Allah has to learn to keep quiet and listen… we must be able to receive from Allah alone before we try to give or serve other beings. The constant remembrance (dhikr) of Allah is a process the requires some conditions:
_ First: To reserve, every day, a moment of silence and solitude to think of Allah and his Prophet, doing so makes Allah and the Prophet present in our heart and in our memory; it is as if we were seeing Allah and having the prophet living in our midst. Allah reminded the companions that the Prophet was among them:
“And know that God’s Apostle is among you”

Through dhikr we are reminded that Allah is with us wherever we are and that, wherever we might be and whatever challenges we may encounter we have the example of the Prophet to follow. His example is elucidated by the numerous ahadith, which we know with greater confidence in their authenticity today than the earlier companions or followers did. This should enable us to be very close to our model in our day-to-day life in order to become nearer to God, to be min al-muqarrabbin (of those most close).

_ Second: To be close to Allah means to be very close to His word: the Qur’an; we must be people of, a friends of the Qur’an –ahl wa sahib al-Qur’an– by reading a part of it everyday. This reading must not be only with our eyes or our mind but rather with our hearts. The Qur’an is a medicine and blessing:

We bestow from on high through this Qur’an all that gives health and blessing (grace)” (17/82)

_ Third: Prayers must be perform at their prescribed times without delay and with the best of preparation by above all exerting ourselves to wake our hearts and to make it present in a state of reverence and submission (al-khushu’) and to develop our God consciousness (at-taqwa) and strive for an the elevated state of faith (al-Mu’minun). Supererogatory pray during the night and fasting at least three days per month are the paths we have been taught to fight our natural negligence. And as everyone knows, but we must remind ourselves, that gestures alone and empty rituals are not sufficient before Allah; and the process of tazkiyya al-nafs wa jihad an-nafs start with and within the prayers which is the major pillar of our religion. It is the source, the base, the heart of ath-thabat of which the Prophet himself was in need:

And had We not made you firm (in faith) , you might have inclined to them a little” (17/74)

The prayers, the true prayers, with deep God consciousness should remind us of the priorities, and help us distinguish the means from the ends: that is we are working in an Islamic institution in order to perform our prayers in a better way, we are activist so that we can be better in our worship. We are workers, students, or activists (means) so that we are able to worship Allah more completely (ends). This has to be the meaning of our actions and we have to seek aid in patience and prayer:

And seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: and this, indeed, is a hard thing for all but the humble in spirit” (2/45)

For, behold, prayer restrains (man) from loathsome deeds and from all that runs counter to reason; and remembrance of God is indeed the greatest good. And Allah knows all that you do” (29/45)

_ Fourth: All this has to influence our way of living, especially with our relatives, our brothers and sisters and the society in general. We need to exert a daily effort to protect our brothers and sisters from our tongue. We have to cover their faults, to help them to be better. In their presence, we should be sincere companions, honest, generous; in their absence we speak well of them or say nothing as the Prophet said: “Don’t mention an absent but in a good way/manner”.
To pray is to learn to apply these teachings: to control our instincts, to control our tongue and to dispense our love, our warmth and affection around us. This is Islam. And if someone is unfair or does wrong, our help to him, as said the Prophet, is to stop him from doing wrong or committing injustice. But we have to do this in the best way, with good manners, with sincere respect and in person and in private in order to avoid hypocrisy and ghiba among Muslims. Doing otherwise would be a sin and a transgression against our brothers and sisters in Islam. We know that we have to avoid speculation, avoid speaking ill of one another behind our backs, but knowing is not sufficient, we have to apply this in every circumstance and with everyone. Brothers and sisters, try to protect your brothers from your own tongues. We must celebrate this brotherhood and the bond of love it holds; let it be known to whomever we live with, whomever we work with by saying: “You are my brother/sister and I love you in Allah”.

_ The fifth and final point is, for everyone of us, to remember that, one day he will go back to Allah and that could be tomorrow or in half an hour. Nobody knows. The remembrance of death is the remembrance of Allah:

No one knows what he will reap tomorrow, and no one knows in what land he will die” (31/34

These are points that we must think about it in this institution and elsewhere. Daily reflection and deep contemplation of our means and ends help us be sincere and true believers and not to become “civil servants” of faith, of Islam, wearing Islam as a simple dress, without light, without nour. But Allah sees what we hide. The challenge to each of us is to learn and to know the way of his/her own heart and sincerity.

I have often heard brothers and sisters saying: “I know that, I already know… and so on”. Brothers and sisters, in fact it is not a mere question of pure knowledge but it is, truly, a question of behaviour, of implementation, a question of purifying our heart and this is a life long work. This is our individual and community jihad. Wa Allahu ‘alem al-ghayb wa ash-shahada. Wa sabrun jamil wal Allahu al musta’an.
This text is a transcription of a khubah (sermon) given at an Islamic centre.)

3 commentaires - “Means and ends”

  1. I wish I could read more of this work. It’s rare to find these ‘islamic writings’ of your hand in English. It seems most of this is in french, or am I mistaken? The English work seems to be more political.

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