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Friday Sermon: Untimely Death

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By Babatunde Jose

O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk… Sahih Ibn Majah

An erudite Imam delivered a verdict that struck at the heart of our whole notion and classification of death. His verdict: Death is death. No death is untimely.

What is untimely about death? Who set the ‘death clock’ in our body? Who determines when we would live or die? Who determines where we would die and the type of death? The mystery of death is the greatest limit of medical science, as it imposes the conditional ‘if’ on most of its theories. The tortoise is presumed to live longest among animals, some living up to 300 years and more. But it does not follow that they must all live long. I have a tortoise that is 26 years old since I bought it, but late last year a friend gave me a small one to keep it company, but it never lived long. That is life. We have our entries and exit, predetermined and written. Even identical twins do not share the same longevity. This is the joker God Almighty holds in his hands and is never revealed to anyone, even the Angels. No one knows about that day or hour……. Matthew 24:36 And Quran 31:34 says : Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah (alone). . . . Nor does anyone know in what land he is to die.

Except if we are thinking of the dialogue in Isaiah 38 where God gave Hezekiah 15 more years to live. Nowhere in the dialogue was the hour of death revealed to either Hezekiah or Isaiah the prophet who delivered the message. God is Great!

Something untimely is defined as what has occurred prematurely. The most common use of this term is probably in discussing someone’s untimely death, meaning they died young. This has been the usual notion and interpretation of the concept. However, spiritually it is a wrong notion. Our death does not lie in our hands but that of God. Death comes to a newborn as it comes out of its mother’s womb; it comes to an infant just learning how to walk, so also does it come to an adult who is neither sick nor infirm.

Doctors define sudden death as unexpected deaths that are instantaneous or occur within minutes or hours from any cause other than violence, sudden death following coronary occlusion especially sudden cardiac arrest. For a variety of reasons, something causes the heart to beat out of control. This abnormal heart rhythm is known as ventricular fibrillation. Some specific causes of sudden cardiac death in young people include: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Despite all these medical mumbo jumbos, it is still death; it cannot be hastened or delayed. A man could be placed on life support to keep alive; this does not mean that his death is delayed. Unfortunately, God determines the day and time when the machine will be unplugged.

Premature mortality is a measure of unfulfilled life expectancy. Because it is believed that deaths of younger people are often preventable, the premature mortality rate is a measure that gives more weight to the death of younger people than to older people. … A person dying at age 60 has lost a potential 10 years of life. Death is an inevitable part of life, but dying before our time is presumed entirely preventable: But is it? According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average life expectancy for Americans was 78.7 years in 2012. Dying at any point before that age could be considered a premature death. The questions posed are: Who determines life expectancy? Who says a man must live to a certain age? Is death of young people actually preventable or that of an adult as the case maybe? The best looked after patient who records excellent results in all medical tests often stun medical experts by dropping dead in unexpected circumstances.

To the Muslim, death is exactly like sleeping; complete with dreams (Quran 6:60, 40:46). The period between death and resurrection passes like one night of sleep (Quran 2:259; 6:60; 10:45; 16:21 😉 See Sura Kahf, story of the Companions of the Cave; (Quran 18:11, 19, 25; and 30:55).

The Quran contains various death themes that add significantly to our insight into the meaning of death, the concept is left undefined and always portrayed in close relationship with the concepts of life, creation, and resurrection.

All that is on earth will perish. (Quran 55:26) Allah says in the Quran: “Everyone shall taste death. And only on the day of resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the fire and admitted to paradise, this person is indeed successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception.” (Quran 3:185)

Death is the termination of an individual comprehensive being, capable of believing and disbelieving, and not simply a living organism. Life does not end with death. In the same way that a person does not cease to exist in sleep, similarly he does not cease to exist in death. And in the same way that a person comes back to life when waking from sleep, also he will be revived at the great awakening on the Day of Judgement. Hence, Islam views death merely as a stage in human existence. Physical death should not be feared but one should, however, worry about the agonies of spiritual death caused by living a life of moral decadence and corruption, a life of brigandage and self-aggrandizement, a life of injustice and cheating, a life of unbridled venality.

A young man, died recently in his sleep. He was 42 going 43. If that were all, it would not have raised our attention, but behold, he was the son of the foremost Pentecostal personality in the country, a man whom many of his followers believe commune with God; he calls God his daddy. With an exceptionally large estate in Ifewara which he christened ‘prayer city; a serene and opulent collection of edifices dedicated to the glory of God; one would have felt that he would not be the object of trial of the Almighty. But God does not play favorites; even prophets of God were subjected to trials. The diseased was also a pastor who had dedicated his life to the service of God like his father, mother, and his younger brother. His death is a reminder to us: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away: Job 1:21. May his soul rest in peace.

At the beginning of Ramadan, we prayed that Allah should spare our lives to partake in the fast and see the end of Ramadan. Unfortunately, many started the fast with us but never made it to the finishing line; they answered the call during the month. Their death was written. It was this fate that befell our brother and friend, Sheikh Raman ibn Seriki (1954-2021) who died on the morning of Thursday April 29th and was buried same day. He was an Islamic scholar, well versed in the holy books and coordinator of The Centre for Inspirational Development for Mankind into which we contributed funds for the feeding of the needy during Ramadan. Unfortunately, Rahman was unable to see the end of the laudable project. We are rest assured that Allah will reserve a place for him in Jannatul Firdous. Rahman was an old student of Anwar-ul-Islam Model College (old Ahmadiyya College) Agege. He was a good man.

Death should not by any stretch be defined as untimely. People die when it is their time just as we would all die when our time comes. The only thing is that we never know for whom the bell tolls.

Barka Juma’at and Barka da Sallah

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Friday Sermon: The Soul: The Mystery of Life, Death and Resurrection

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By Babatunde Jose

The soul is a controversial concept that is defined from several perspectives. Since the soul is an immeasurable material, it is impossible to prove whether or not it actually exists. However, many people express their own viewpoints on the soul and argue they have indeed figured out the answer. The concept provides an abstract perspective on the notion of life, and who we are as individuals.

The human soul is a concept that has been accepted for a long period of time; however, the perspective on the human soul has evolved with time. Generally speaking, the human soul is the unphysical part of the human being. Various disciplines (religion, psychology, and neuroscience) use different terms to describe the human soul, but they are all referring to the same general concept.

“Soul” is a term that is most commonly used within the Christian context while academic disciplines and other religions may use the term interchangeably with other words.

Psychology uses words such as “consciousness”, or “mind” to describe the soul while neuroscience uses the term soul but do not fully believe in its existence.

Before modern science, humans defined the concept of the soul from a religious point of view. They portrayed the soul to be a mystical and divine non-visible entity that existed within the body. As science advanced, the concept has evolved into a physical/materialistic viewpoint.

For a long time, it was not socially acceptable or technologically possible to research the human soul. This would go against traditional religious views and would be looked down upon by society.

In What Becomes of The Soul After Death, Sri Swami Sivananda, said Soul is spirit. “It is immaterial. It is intelligence or consciousness. It is this individual soul that departs from the body after its death and goes to heaven, with the senses, mind, Prana, impressions, desires, and tendencies. It is endowed with a subtle astral body when it proceeds to heaven.”

Oskar Ernst Bernhardt (1875-1841), that sage, author, and founder of the Grail Movement, in Resonances to the Grail Message, conjectured, “As soon as the heavy earthly body together with the astral body has fallen away, the spirit remains clad in the more delicate cloaks only. In this condition the spirit is called “the soul” in contradistinction to the earthman of flesh and blood! He went further to emphasize “only the animal has a soul that guides it. Man, however, has spirit!”

In retrospect therefore, we find that soul and spirit are interchanged in usage: The spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.

What, therefore, is the perceived difference between soul and spirit? The Greek word for spirit is pneuma. It refers to the part of man that connects and communicates with God. Our spirit differs from our soul because our spirit is always pointed toward and exists exclusively for God, whereas our soul can be self-centered.

Where then is our soul located? The soul or atman, credited with the ability to enliven the body, was located by ancient anatomists and philosophers in the lungs or heart, and according to Descartes in the pineal gland, and generally in the brain.

When a person dies what happens to the soul? When we die, our spirit and body separate. Even though our body dies, our spirit—which is the essence of who we are—lives on. Our spirit goes to the spirit world. The spirit world is a waiting place until we receive the gift of resurrection, when our spirits will reunite with our bodies.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible allusion is made to the spirit of man and beast: For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.  All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Ecc. 3: 19-21

In theology, the soul is further defined as that part of the individual which partakes of divinity and often is considered to survive the death of the body.

Many cultures have recognized some incorporeal principle of human life or existence corresponding to the soul, and many have attributed souls to all living things. There is evidence even among prehistoric peoples of a belief in an aspect distinct from the body and residing in it.

Despite widespread and longstanding belief in the existence of a soul, however, different religions and philosophers have developed a variety of theories as to its nature, its relationship to the body, and its origin and mortality.

The Qur’an talks about the Soul, but the meaning of Ruh in verse 85 of Surah Al-Isra has been translated in many places to mean spirit: “They ask you, Muhammad, about the Soul (Ruh). Tell them: ‘This is confined to the knowledge of God. Whatever knowledge you have been given about that is a very little portion.’”

When the ulama (religious scholars) talk about the Soul, they talk about its characteristics only; they do not talk about what it is. Some scholars say it is like the water in a rose or a flower, it gives it life. Others nowadays offer an analogy with electricity in a wire – if there is electricity flowing in the wire it is said to be alive, if not the wire is dead.

But the Soul, per se, no one has been able to define it and the field is wide open for more thinking; it is not closed. We are urged to seek knowledge about the Soul. We may not reach our goal, but we have to try.

And there is the other question: Where was the Soul before it entered the body? Nobody knows. All we know is that the Soul is the second stage in the creation of a human being. It is often regarded as the ‘breath’ that gives life to God’s creation in the womb.

In Sura Al Mu’minūn, Quran 23:14, Allah describes the process of the new creation.

Then comes the third question: When the Soul separates from the body upon death where does it go? And what happens to it?

Al mawt, or death, is a separation of the material element – the body – from the spiritual element – the Soul. The body goes back to the earth from where it came, and the Soul goes back from where it came. The Qur’an says: “From the earth We created you and to it We will return you.” (Quran 20:55) But the Soul, not even knowing what it is, and since it is a secret, we don’t know where it goes.

Some ulama think that the Soul in certain contexts continues to hear and to observe. The practice of visiting the grave, especially after ‘Asr on Thursday and on Friday morning is on the basis of this opinion because some ulama say that the Soul visits the grave in which its body was buried at those times. And those same ulama say that the Soul hears the greeting of “As Salaam” and it observes those visitors who offer the greetings.

But in the final analysis they say that the place of the Soul is with God and its position differs according to what that person did during his life. These are the ijtehad (research) of the ulama, but the Soul is shrouded in mystery and secrecy, and it is very hard to discover its secrets though we are urged to seek knowledge about it.

Death is separation of the soul from the physical body. Death becomes the starting point of a new and better life. Death does not end your personality and self-consciousness. It merely opens the door to a higher form of life. Death is only the gateway to a fuller life.

According to the Hindus, birth and death are jugglery of Maya. He who is born begins to die. He who dies begins to live. Life is death and death is life. Birth and death are merely doors of entry and exist on the stage of this world. In reality no one comes, no one goes.

Just as you move from one house to another house, the soul passes from one body to another to gain experience. Just as a man casting off worn-out garments takes new ones, so the dweller in this body, casting off worn-out bodies, enters into others which are new.

Death is not the end of life. Life is one continuous never-ending process. Death is only a passing and necessary phenomenon, which every soul has to pass to gain experience for its further evolution.

Dissolution of the body is no more than sleep. Just as man sleeps and wakes up, so is death and birth. Death is like sleep. Birth is like waking up.

Resurrection is rising again from the dead. Resurrection, judgement by God, reward or punishment are the three important tenets of Islam, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism.

The Jews, who lent this doctrine to the Christians and Muslims, themselves borrowed it from the Persians. According to some writers the resurrection will be merely spiritual. The general opinion, however, is that both body and soul will be raised from the grave.

It may be asked how will the body which has been decomposed rise again? Prophet Mohammed says one part of the body is preserved to serve as a basis for future edifice, or rather a leaven for the mass which is to be joined to it. For he taught, that a man’s body was entirely consumed by the earth, except only the bone called al Ajib, which we name the coccygis, or rump-bone; and that as it was the first formed in the human body, it will also remain uncorrupted till the last day, as a seed from whence the whole is to be renewed: and this he said would be effected by a forty days rain which God would send, and which would cover the earth to the height of twelve cubits, and cause the bodies to sprout forth like plants.

The Jews also say the same thing of the bone Luz, but they say that the body would sprout by a dew impregnating the dust of the earth.

As to the answers to the many questions raised by the concept of Soul, Allah knows best.

It is therefore in this vein and with total submission to God that we commiserate with our brother Enitan Oshodi and his wife Bisola on the passing of their daughter Hameedat Olamide Oshodi. May Allah admit her to Jannatul Firdous. “Heaven has gained an Angel and Earth has lost a beautiful Soul.” Inna Lillah wa Ina Ilehi Rajiun.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend. 

 

THE MEANING OF LIFE:

Robert Louis Stevenson said: “Every person is capable of performing his daily tasks, no matter how difficult they are, and every person is capable of living happily during his day until the sun sets: and this is the meaning of life.”

 

Babatunde Jose
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Friday Sermon: Thoughts on Islam 5: Sufism and Islamic Mysticism

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By Babatunde Jose

Sufism also known as Tasawwuf, is a mystic body of religious practice, found mainly within Sunni Islam but also within Shia Islam, which is characterized by a focus on Islamic spirituality, ritualism, asceticism, and esotericism.

Sufism originated after the death of Mohammed in 632, but it did not develop into orders until the 12th Century. The orders were formed around spiritual founders, who gained saint status. There are over 300 Sufi orders.

It has been variously defined as “Islamic mysticism”, “the mystical expression of Islamic faith”, “the inward dimension of Islam”, the “main manifestation and the most important and central crystallization” of mystical practice in Islam, and “the interiorization and intensification of Islamic faith and practice”.

According to the late medieval mystic, the Persian poet Jami, Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (died c. 716) was the first person to be called a “Sufi”.

Sufis believe in intercession of saints which can provide solace from the travails of life. Away from the desires of the material world, Sufis believe a connection with a saint can build a connection with Allah.

Practitioners of Sufism typically belonged to “orders” known as tariqa – congregations formed around a grand wali (Wali is an Arabic word with a number of meanings, including, protector, helper, a man close to God, or holy man).

Among the Sufi tariqa, the two most prominent in West Africa are the Qadiriyyah and Tijaniyya.

The Qadiriyyah order is one of the oldest Sufi Orders. The tariqa got its name from Abd-al-Qadir al-Jilani, who was a Hanbali scholar from Gilan, Iran. The order relies strongly upon adherence to the fundamentals of Sunni Islamic law. The order is one of the most widespread of the Sufi orders in the Islamic world, and can be found in Central Asia, Turkey, Balkans and much of East and West Africa.

Qadiriyyah are adherents of the doctrine of free will (from qadar, “power”). The name was also applied to the Mu’tazila, the Muslim theological school that believed that humankind, through its free will, can choose between good and evil.

The Tijaniyya order attaches a large importance to culture. Ahmad al-Tijani (1737–1815) was born in Aïn Madhi in Algeria and died in Fes, Morocco. He founded the Tijani order in the 1780s.

Tijanis established Centers in Medina Munawwarah, Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Mauritania, and Algeria. It also expanded into West Africa and grew to become the largest Sufi order in that region.

The two dominant Sufi orders in Nigeria are also Qadiriyyah and Tijaniyya. In the late ’70s there emerged a group popularly known as Izalatul-Bid’a wa-iqamatus Sunnah (Movement for the removal of innovation and establishment of the tradition), inspired by late Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, the former grand Qadi of the defunct northern region.

The Izala group differed in a number of fundamental aspects. They primarily attacked Sufi groups, accusing them of innovations, apostasy, intercession, celebrating maulud, and Salat al-fatih. This critique resulted in fostering unity between the two prominent Sufi orders who joined forces to defend Sufism against the criticisms of Izala

One contentious issue is the view with regard to the death of Jesus which the Izalas firmly believe that he will not return to earth. But the Sufi orders argue contrary to this view.

Sufis believe that Jesus did not die and will one day return as clearly stated by the prophet. For example, they said that God had raised prophet Idris to heaven in the same way he raised Jesus. The Sufi followers also argue that God also made it possible for Jonah to supplicate in the womb of a whale without any harm, and later continued with his life in this world.

In the Qur’an, Surah al-Kahf,  God also made it possible for the “People of the Cave” to remain in their cave for 309 years without eating or drinking anything and they later continued with their normal life in this world (Quran 18:10-25).

Another point of departure is the issue of Tawassul (intercession). It is translated as “a means that can be used to gain nearness to God”. Therefore, the typical meaning of tawassul or tawassulanis is use of wasilat to obtain nearness to God. Requesting assistance from a spiritual intermediary when seeking divine help has also become a central issue in the Middle East and beyond. Scholars disagree on the validity or otherwise of intercession; some argued that it is valid in Islam, while others disagree.

Tawassul means a fervent plea. There are the permitted and the prohibited. The permitted is by means of faith and righteous deeds, and use of the glorious names of God, and his attributes.

The prohibited one is entreaty using the name of the messenger, pious people and the awliya. The Izala assert that it is shirk (idolatry) to perform such worship as it breaks the belief in the oneness of God. They support their argument with the following verse: “O you who believe, be mindful of your duty towards God and seek the means of approach and strive in His cause as much as you can, so that you may be successful” (Quran 5:35). But incidentally, the same Ayat in Surah al-Ma’idah is used by the Sufis to counter this claim.

Sufis argued that intercession through the prophet Muhammad and the saints is permissible in Islam. “O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek a ‘wasila’ to him” (5:35). In Arabic ‘wasila’ stands for a link, a means to an end or an intermediary.

The major conflicting areas as far as Salat al-fatih is concerned includes the authenticity of its origin, its form of revelation, the reward ascribed to it, its content and when it was discovered. The Izala group, stressed that God only reveals himself to his prophets and messengers, and prophet Muhammad is the last of them and therefore the seal of revelation. The following verse of the Qur’an was often used to substantiate such a position: This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (Quran 5:3)

Specifically on this issue, the adherents of tariqah (Tijjaniyya, Qadiriyyah) argued that the above verse did not mark the end of revelation. They maintained that prophet Muhammad lived for 81 days after the revelation of the above verse. Between the times when the above verse in Ma’idah was revealed and his death the following verses were revealed:

Ayat 176 of Surah al-Nisa’. The prophet lived 50 days after its revelation.

Ayat 128 of Surah al-Tawbah. Muhammad lived 35 days after its revelation.

Ayat 281 of Surah al-Baqarah. Prophet Muhammad lived 21 days after its revelation.

The above explanation clearly shows that, many verses were revealed after the verse of Ma’ida, and according to many scholars several hadith qudsiyyah were recorded few days before he died.

Prominent Sufi leaders in history were Emir Abdelkader al-Qadir al-Jazairi (1808-1883) a venerated Algerian Islamic scholar and a military leader who led a collective resistance against the mid-nineteenth century French colonial invasion of Algeria.

Omar al-Mukhtar Muḥammad bin Farhat al-Manifī, called The Lion of the Desert, known among the colonial Italians as Matari of the Mnifa, was the leader of native resistance in Cyrenaica under the Senussids, against the Italian colonization of Libya.

Yusuf ibn Ayyub ibn Shadhi, commonly known by the epithet Saladin, was the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. Hailing from an ethnic Kurdish family, he was the first sultan of both Egypt and Syria.

The branch, known as the Tijāniyyah Ibrahimiyya or the Faydah (“Flood”), is mostly concentrated in Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, and Mauritania, and has a growing presence in the United States and Europe.

Ibrahim Niasse (1900–1975) was a Senegalese Sufi leader, a Wolof, of the Tijānī Sufi order. His followers in the Senegambia region affectionately refer to him in Wolof as Baay, or “father.”

Niasse was the first West African to have led al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt, after which he was styled “Sheikh al-Islam”. He was friends with and an adviser to Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, and friends with Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Sheikh served as the Vice President of the Muslim World League with Faisal as President.

Born in 1900 in the village of Tayba Naseen, between the Senegalese city of Kaolack and the border of Gambia, he was the son of Allaaji Abdulaay Nas (1840–1922), the main representative of the Tijānī Sufi Order, often referred to as Tareeqat al-Tijaniyya. Ibrahim relocated with his father to the city of Kaolack, where they established the zawiya (religious center) of Lewna Naseen.

After his father’s death in 1922, Shaykh Ibrahim’s elder brother, Muhammad al-Khalifa, became his father’s successor or Khalifa.

In 1929, the youthful Shaykh Ibrahim announced that he had been given the Key to Secrets of Divine Knowledge, and thus became the Khalifa of Sheikh Tijani in the Tijaniyya Order.

Tareeqa al-Tijaniyya al-Ibrahimiyya, as the Shaykh’s disciples came to be known, flourished, and gained large numbers of followers during the 1930s and 1940s throughout North and West Africa.

In 1937 upon meeting Shaykh Ibrahim during a pilgrimage to Makkah, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji ‘Abdullahi Bayero gave his oath of allegiance to the Shaykh and declared himself a disciple of Shaykh Ibrahim. That incident made Shaykh Ibrahim gain the allegiance of many of the prominent Tijānī leaders of Northern Nigeria and also many others who were not Tijani prior to this time.

Alhaji Abdulmalik Atta – a prince from Okene and the first High Commissioner of Nigeria to the United Kingdom – was one of Shaykh Ibrahim’s closest disciples as well as the his father-in-law through his daughter Sayyida Bilkisu.

Shaykh Ibrahim became a renowned Shaykh al-Tareeqa (Master of the Sufi Order) throughout the Hausa areas of West Africa. In the end, he had more disciples outside of Senegal than within it. At the time of his death in 1975, Shaykh Ibrahim Niass had millions of followers throughout West Africa. His branch of the Tijaniyya, Tareeqa al-Tijaniyya al-Ibrahimiyya has become the largest branch in the world.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, known by the religious title Khalifa Sanusi II, is a spiritual leader in the Tijaniyya Sufi order of Nigeria. He was emir of the ancient city-state of Kano. He was born in Kano in 1961 into the royal family as the grandson of Muhammadu Sanusi I. As the Khalifa of the Tijaniyya Sufi order of Nigeria, he arguably has a politico-spiritual authority over the second largest Sufi order, with over 30 million adherents.

Barka Juma’at and happy weekend.

 

DO NOT GRIEVE – THERE IS ANOTHER LIFE TO COME:

These are indeed trying times in our clime, but Allah, the Exalted, said: Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning. (Qur’an 39: 10)

Do not grieve — There is another life to come.

The day will come when Allah will gather together the first of the creation and the last of it. The knowledge of this occurrence alone should reassure you of Allah’s justice. So, whoever’s money is usurped here shall find it there; whoever is oppressed here shall find justice carried out there; and whoever oppresses here shall find his punishment there.

Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, said: ‘The drama of this life is not complete; there must be a second scene to it, for we see the tyrant and his victims without seeing justice being executed. We see the conqueror and the subjugated, without the latter finding any revenge. Therefore, there must be another world, where justice will be carried out”

Ash-Shaykh ‘Ali at-Tantawi, commenting on this, said: ‘This statement suggests a confession from this foreigner (to Islam), of the existence of a Hereafter where judgment will take place.”

An Arab poet said: “If the minister and his delegates rule despotically, And the judge on earth is unjust in his judgments, then woe, followed by woe after woe Upon the judge of the earth from the judge Who is above.”

“This Day shall every person be recompensed for what he earned. No injustice (shall be done to anybody)’. Truly, Allah is Swift in reckoning.” (Quran 40: 17)

 Therefore, Do not grieve — There is another life to come. In  Sha Allah, There is  another life to come!

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Friday Sermon: Thoughts on Islam 4: The Different Traditions Within the Sunni Branch of Islam

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The term Islamic tradition may refer to: Islamic Traditionalist theology, Islamic scholarly movement, originating in the late 8th century CE. Ahl al-Hadith, “The adherents of the tradition”, Traditional Islamic schools and branches, Islamic mythology, and the body of traditional narratives associated with Islam.

Sunnis regard themselves as the orthodox branch of Islam. The name is derived from the phrase “Ahl al-Sunnah”, or “People of the Tradition”. The tradition or sunnah in this case refers to practices based on what the Prophet Muhammad said, did, agreed to or condemned.

Traditional Islamic law, or Sharia, is interpreted in four different ways in Sunni Islam. The schools of law, or madhab, developed in the first four centuries of Islam. The four schools of law are the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali traditions, each based on the beliefs of their founders.

Even though the main split in Islamic practice is between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, there are several rifts within the Sunni community raging from the so-called fundamentalist or extremists, Islamists and the ultra conservatives who seek a return to the era of the caliphate.

There are some liberal and more secular movements in Sunni Islam that say that Shari’a is interpreted on an individual basis, and they reject any fatwa or religious edict by religious Muslim authority figures.

There are also several fundamentalist movements in Sunni Islam, which reject and sometimes even persecute liberal Muslims for attempting to compromise traditional Muslim values.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami organizations are fundamentalist Islamic groups that have given rise to offshoot groups like Hamas who wish to destroy secular Islam and Western society through terrorism to bring back to the world a period of religious Muslim rule.

Sunnism is one of two broad movements that evolved in the Muslim community after the Prophet’s death in 632 c.e. Disagreement over who was Muhammad’s legitimate successor led to a schism between two groups, Sunnis and Shiites, resulting in two interpretations of Islam and two different sacred histories.

Sunnis were not the only Muslims who embraced the Shari’a as a spiritual guide, but because Sunnism provided the foundation for its development, the Shari’a became inextricably connected to how people understood Sunnism.

When scholars speak of the classical period of Islam (900–1200 c.e.), they are usually referring to a time when consciousness of the Shari’a combined with other great achievements throughout the Muslim world, forming the pinnacle of Islamic, and Sunni, civilization.

By the end of the classical period, however, Sunnis faced an important question: whether new perspectives could be incorporated without seriously modifying the assumptions of its system. Some ulama argued that the door to new insights should be closed, and the result was a social order that found it difficult to confront changes associated with modernity. Since then, Sunni Muslims started living in the past.

Beginning in the thirteenth century a unified sense of Sunnism was also challenged by the emergence of independent states and emirates, who relied less on an international Sunni value system. That, along with the loss of any real power behind a unifying figure like the caliph, led to political fragmentation in the Islamic world, which signaled a weakening of Muslim cohesion. By the time of the Renaissance in Europe in the 1500s, when the West challenged Muslim civilization, the word Sunni had taken on a meaning close to “doctrinaire.” Thus, Sunnism often appeared to Western commentators as Islam’s “orthodoxy.”

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries political issues increasingly dominated Sunnism. As a result of Western colonialism, the Muslim world was severed into small nation-states, each vying for legitimacy, further weakening Muslim cohesion. By the end of the twentieth century most Muslim countries were dealing with militant fundamentalist groups bent on reform.

These anti-Western and anti-regime movements were characterized by a commitment to the international triumph of Islam and a rigid opposition to all things not of Islamic origin. Although such groups considered themselves Sunni, their views were not shared by the majority of Sunnis; instead, they represented a new Islamic identity that could not be understood in terms of classical Sunnism. Today, we see them as the Islamists, fundamentalists and extremists who prefer violent interpretations of the Quran and hadith.

Early in the classical age of Islam another view of the religion, known as Mu’tazilism, developed within Sunnism. The scholars who shaped this perspective tried to apply a rational and allegorical interpretation to the Quran. Ultimately Sunnis rejected their approach, insisting that the Quran was not a matter for philosophical speculation but rather a set of codes by which one should live. This is why some commentators do not speak about orthodoxy in Islam but “orthopraxy,” meaning a standard way of living.

Islamic law does not function as law in the West does. Sunnis generally practice according to one of four schools of jurisprudence, which vary on some issues and are distributed regionally: Hanafi (Iraq, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan), Maliki (North and West Africa), Shafi’i (Yemen, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines), and Hanbali (Saudi Arabia). Because of historical factors such as population movements and changes in the ruling dynasties, Muslims in areas such as Syria or the West may find multiple schools in the same location.

While the Kaaba serves as the prime symbol for all Muslims, it has always been in the hands of Sunnis, with the King of Saudi as the custodian of the Holy Mosques.

An important leader at the pinnacle of Islam’s classical period was Harun al-Rashid (786–809), whose caliphate in Baghdad was seen as taking Sunnism to unsurpassed excellence and splendor.

Sunnism was also invigorated by Akbar (1556–1605), a Mughal emperor who firmly established Islam in northern India.

Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk (1881–1938), was responsible for a major rethinking of traditional Islamic statehood. His reforms in Turkey shifted the state’s goals away from embodying religious ideology and toward adapting Sunnism to a modern society.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876–1948) founded the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1947, attempting to maintain a Sunni identity within a Western political structure.

Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–70) applied a socialist ideology to the Islamic state when he established a republic in Egypt in 1956.

Backlashes against non-Islamic trends have resulted in Sunni reform movements. One of the most important was Wahhabism, a conservative reform movement founded by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703–92).

A second movement emerged around Hasan al-Banna (1906–49), whose Sunni Egyptian organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, spread throughout the Arab world, providing institutional growth for Islamism, or fundamentalism.

Sunni radical leadership has continued to express a wide variety of perspectives. Osama bin Laden (born in Saudi Arabia in 1957), Al-Qaeda encouraged the use of terror and indiscriminate violence to overthrow Western culture and political structures.

Of perhaps equal relevance, though representing a different outlook, is Wallace Warith Din Muhammad (born in 1933), head of an Islamic movement in the United States—first called the Nation of Islam and then the American Muslim Society—begun by his father, Elijah Muhammad (1897–1975). Warith has dramatically changed an American sectarian movement into one of the most respected Sunni organizations in the Western world. In the United States the Muslim feminist perspective has been expressed effectively in the writings of Egyptian-born Leila Ahmed (born in 1940).

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058–1111), head of a school in Baghdad, underwent such a spiritual revolution that he abandoned his career and wrote books reconciling the mystical tradition with Sunni legal thinking.

Sunni civilization was also influenced by writers such as Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (1207–73), a Sufi poet and savant; Ibn al-Arabi (1165–1240), a theosophist and metaphysical thinker; and Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), who founded the study of societies (and by extension, sociology) with his concept of ‘asabiyya (group cohesion).

Modern religious reformists include Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1839–97), a political revolutionary who resisted British imperialism in Islamic territories; Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–98), a Muslim modernist and advocate of Westernizing reform in India; Muhammad Abduh (1849–1905), an advocate of Islamic modernism in Egypt; Sayyid Abdul Ala Mawdudi (1904–79), a neoconservative reformer and fundamentalist ideologue in Pakistan; and Sayyid Qutb (1906–66), the principal theorist of the contemporary radical Islamist movement.

Because Sunnism has no priesthood and no explicit religious hierarchy, there is no one spokesperson for the tradition. Over the course of history, the ulama have come to be considered official authorities of Islamic learning, and they have often represented Sunnism.

The scholarly class has exercised more control over the Sunni point of view than any other group, except, perhaps, until the rise of Islamism, or fundamentalism, in the contemporary period. Under the influence of Islamism another aspect of contemporary Sunni life has come to the fore: a small number of people, using media and technology, have been able to have a disproportionate power over public opinion.

Finally next week we look at Sufism and Islamic mysticism; the various Islamic orders, especially Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend.

SEEKING ALLAH’S PROTECTION:

I seek the protection of Allah’s perfect words from the

evil of whatever He has created. (Muslim)

I seek protection in the perfect words of Allah – which neither the upright nor the corrupt may overcome – from the evil of what He created, of what He brought into existence, and of what He scattered, from the evil of what descends from the heavens, and of what rises up to them, from the evil of what He scattered in the earth and of what emerges from it, from the evil trials of night and day, and from the evil of every night visitor, except the night visitor who comes with good, O Merciful One. (Ahmad)

I seek the protection of Allah the Supreme, than whom there is nothing greater. And I seek the protection of the perfect words of Allah which no man – virtuous or evil – can even transcend; and I seek the protection of all of The Most Beautiful Names of Allah – the ones I know and the ones I do not know – from the evil of everything He created, brought into existence, and spread over the earth. (Muwatta)

I seek protection in the perfect words of Allah from His anger and punishment, from the evil of His servants, and from the evil suggestions of the devils and from them appearing to me. (Ahmad)

Life is bread, water, and shade; so, do not be perturbed by a lack of any other material thing. And in heaven is your provision, and that which you are promised. (Quran 51: 22)

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