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Friday Sermon: Legacy of Shame: Unfulfilled Promises of Change

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By Babatunde Jose

Verily, what reaches the momin of his good works and good acts, after his death, is the knowledge (benefitted from)… and a righteous child which he has left (behind him), or a book which he has given to inherit, or a place of worship which he has built, or a house for the homeless which he has built, or a canal which he has caused to be dug, or an act of charity which he has done out of his wealth while in his health and life. (The good effects thereof) reach him (even) after his death.” [Bayhaqi, Ibn Majah]

With the current exposure of the true color of our leaders, one is at a loss as to what goes on in their minds. How do they want history to judge them and what legacy do they want to leave behind? Are they really leaders or opportunists, carpetbaggers, or fortune hunters, buccaneers, or freebooters? Are they conscious of the need to put their footprints on the sands of time or do they want to engrave their names in the black book of history?

Since the oldest times known to man, people and communities have been led by efficient leaders. Such men and women have been responsible for ushering their people into a new and more modern world as we know of it now. Although times have changed, the contributions of these great leaders cannot be forgotten and though practices and ways of doing things have changed as well, the ways of these great leaders cannot be overlooked. What made them great might still be applicable today as it was in the past.

Strive to live your life as a mensch, and you’ll have left your greatest legacy for anyone who has met you. Our leaders today do not fit this billing. They are not only selfish, but inordinate in their self-aggrandizement. They are cheats and liars and at other times knaves and scoundrels. They have no sense of history because they lack vision and mission. This being so, they are oblivious to the need to leave a legacy. As far as they are concerned, they live for the moment.

With all the promise of a better Nigeria 8 years ago, what really has changed? The power sector is still in a quagmire. Despite much rhetoric, insecurity still triumphs with its attendant kidnapping, herdsmen invasion, Boko Haram, and other terroristas.

Unlike great men of history, whose characteristics were resilience, knowledge, people-skills, motivational approach and leading by example; foresight, vision, strategic planning, and the ability to lead people to success; determination, persistence, beliefs, and courage. The historical trajectory of post-colonial Nigerian predicament is hinged on the emergence of various corrupt leaders (civilian and military). They have not only found it difficult to institute or run the semblance of a modern state but have also failed to build the country as a nation.

Over the years, the country has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the average human being. One Nigerian political leader, late Obafemi Awolowo raised a salient issue when he said, “since independence, our governments have been a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk, under those circumstances everybody runs over everybody to make good at the expense of others.” (Awolowo, 1979).

After 8 years of ‘the change mantra’, there has been no review of the contentious revenue allocation formula. Only token attention has been given to the issue of restructuring which was a cardinal promise of the party on its road to power.

Nigeria society is not homogenous; diversity of cultures should be a source of strength due to the different variety of skills, abilities, knowledge, and large human capacity it brings with it. However, it has remained a source of tribal and social conflict. The political elites in Nigeria, since independence, have not managed this social complexity well.  Rather it has been weaponized in their quest for political power.

Under the atmosphere of ethnic struggle for control of the central authority, the quest for good governance is not only jettisoned, but lost altogether.

There exists an uneven wealth distribution in Nigeria, with the wealth residing in the hands of a few who mostly are not engaged in productive ventures. These few have access to government patronage which is consumptive and not productive in nature. That trend has not changed after 24 years of civil rule.

Economic reforms are designed to stimulate the economy and especially help the poor; unfortunately, these reforms have not met the expectations of the populace. For instance, the reforms are supposed to improve basic infrastructure such as electricity generation, potable water, and roads but, unfortunately, these public utilities are still inefficient. While relatively few rich people live in affluence, (most of which were acquired through corrupt means), the poor masses live in squalor and abject poverty.

Weakness of our institutions have continued unabated in the last 8 years especially the judiciary, police, education, and health.

The judiciary in most developed societies is the last hope of the populace for justice and adjudication. A society lacking in good values and an equitable justice system presents an environment for anarchy and socio-economic problems.

The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is the principal law enforcement agency in Nigeria with 36 State commands grouped into 12 zones and 7 administrative organs. The strength of this force is too small for a country of our size and population. Their crime fighting equipment is obsolete, which compels them to employ antiquated policing methods.

Hence, the country is largely under-policed. A police force that is poorly paid, poorly motivated, poorly trained, poorly equipped, and with meagre retirement benefits cannot be an effective organization. Even then, monies voted for the police still find their way into private pockets. Can we count on the incoming administration to ameliorate this situation?

“No bed space” is a metaphor coined by ThisDay columnist, Simon Kolawole to describe the poor state and gross inadequacy of our healthcare delivery system. This is nothing but a legacy of shame. The healthcare system is terminally sick.

Let it be said that the root cause of our problems is the elite. As for the average citizens of this country, all they ask for is their daily bread. As late Awolowo said: The common man is not concerned with who is in power; he is more particular about food, clothing, and shelter; of a wretched type.

A critical appraisal of the political environment in the country reveals that Nigerians do not have a problem with democracy, or system of government, but are tired of corrupt leadership and poor democratic values.

To maintain a stable and secure environment, the new administration must endeavour to provide an equitable justice system and most of all provide essential services to the populace.

The demands of the various political groups must be addressed within a holistic framework. The context must be inclusive to incorporate all the key political interests, social values, and economic interests of the various regional or ethnic groups.

The ills of the Nigerian economy should be urgently addressed to stem the current over-dependence on oil. Investments should be directed to revamping and expanding the moribund industrial base, especially in the less advantaged parts of the country, to address unemployment. The pay-off of this strategy will not only address the problem of unemployed youth but will substantially increase productivity, reduce importation, and reduce poverty in the country.

The fight against corruption is one that may have a political backlash, since a large majority of the elite groups are involved, but the consequences of not fighting the menace may be more atrocious in the long run.

Undue interference in the operations, processes and decisions of anti-poverty agencies should be avoided. There should be adequate funding of anti-poverty agencies and programs.

Problems in the education and health sectors must be tackled frontally. The rot in these sectors cannot continue. Enough is enough.

No doubt, Nigeria is one big crime scene: “Political actors behave like characters from pulp fiction Gangster Chronicles. . .. They have no political ancestry, being mostly political orphans with no solid convictions or even ethical moorings or moral qualms whatsoever. Most are in politics because there is nothing else to do: businesses have failed, professional practices have collapsed, and unemployment has often driven many to the limits of creative survival. All eyes seem to be fixated on the national treasury, the giant cheque book of oil royalties.” –  Chidi Amuta. These are not the men who would effect change in the structure of our political system.

One cannot see the present crop of political leaders, meeting or exhibiting any exemplary attributes. Singing ‘Ajekun iya’ or coining moribund slogans, ‘jeun soke’, ’emi lokan’, is not what historical legacies are made of. Men of outstanding contributions to society are never remembered for the magnificence of their mansions or the stolen wealth in their ‘bullion vaults’.

The legacy of leaders is measured by the quantum of change they bring to their societies and the index of human development.

An administration that spent billions on moribund refineries and which failed to construct new ones, and which superintended the continued importation of fuel, and which could not effect a transformation in the energy sector, and which continued to leave majority of us in darkness, can only leave a ‘legacy of shame’.

Can the new administration rekindle our hope of a better Nigeria? Can, it set out renewed values and visions for a better Nigeria? Can the new President look us in the eye and answer the question: Are you the ‘Promised Messiah’?

May Allah deliver us from the hands of failed messiahs, Amen.

“Our Lord! Lay not on us that burden which we have not the strength to bear. And pardon us; absolve us; and have mercy on us; You alone are our Friend and Helper; help us to triumph over the unbelieving folk.” (Quran 2:286)

 Barka Juma’at and happy weekend.

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Friday Sermon: Monuments of Wasted Faith: The Idiocy of Religion

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By Babatunde Jose

In exasperation a reader once commented: “The passivity of Nigerians, young and old, is largely due to our faith in divine intervention as indoctrinated by our various religions.  His conclusion is germane to the discussion under review.

Our people are lost in the ‘Lord’s Vineyard’. Like Quest in the maze, we are searching for salvation, wealth, and prosperity in the ‘prayer-house’ instead of through gainful economic pursuit. No nation is as prayerful as Nigeria. We pray to God to intervene in every aspect of our life, even in those things we ought to have labored on our own. We see God as a magician who will contradict the laws of nature on our behalf; by resorting to miracles in our lives.

We pray for deliverance from known and unknown sources, we pray for money to descend unto us like manna from heaven; we pray for cars and sometimes houses when our salaries cannot buy us a bicycle or rent us a room at Makoko.

We ask God for children we cannot cater for because we believe that Allah will provide; in the process we exacerbate our economic woes. We spend quality and productive time in prayer and worship at the expense of the search for daily bread.

While honest men are going about their quest for daily bread, the multitude, in search of spiritual shortcut to prosperity, congregate in mosques and churches; especially those churches of syncretistic nature such as the Pentecostals, white garment and their ilk. Some even journey afar to the outskirts of the towns to prayer cities. Engaging in money rituals is a topic for another day.

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success) is a religious belief which holds that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.

Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and man: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity. The teaching made popular by influential leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement in the United States has spread throughout the world.

Prominent leaders in the development of prosperity theology include E. W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts, A. A. Allen, Robert Tilton, T. L. Osborn, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Reverend Ike, and Kenneth Hagin: The theology is often based on non-traditional interpretations of Bible verses, with the Book of Malachi often being given special attention. An observer said “they engage in charismatic error, which goes far beyond nonsense gibberish, spirit slaying, “holy laughter,” and “spiritual drunkenness. They claim a special anointing of God’s Spirit. They claim double blessings and triple anointings and super Spirit baptisms. They claim to operate in the Spirit and flow in the Spirit and talk in the Spirit and prophecy in the Spirit and laugh in the Spirit and soak in the Spirit and even get drunk in the Spirit. They claim to have the “full gospel” and the “four square gospel” and to operate in the “five-fold ministry.” Many are con-men and fraudulent but incidentally they continue to bamboozle their followers.”

On a good day you will see a hoard of able-bodied souls putting on human signposts of different hues, proclaiming one religious activity or the other. Crusades, revivals, conventions, deliverances, and holy ghosts have taken our time rather than hard work.

Yet, the good book tells us that faith without work is dead: James 2:17 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” No matter the amount of Grace you receive, without work, UPS will not deliver a parcel of money to you.

Meanwhile, the con-artists who now go by the name ‘men of God’ are busy ripping off the congregants and living it big, in superlative splendor; posing with Rolls Royce’s and private jets; with palaces in choice areas to match.  These are not the ingredients of a serious people or a nation that is aspiring to evolve and escape the vicious cycle of poverty.

Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders from various Christian denominations, including within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, who maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to scripture. According to Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, “poor citizens of impoverished countries often find the doctrine appealing because of their economic powerlessness and the doctrine’s emphasis on miracles. One region seeing explosive growth is Western Africa, particularly Nigeria.”

While the Europeans and North Americans are making giant strides in science and technology, we are busy congregating at ‘waasi’ and Asalatu. We are not ashamed of being labelled stupid and gullible specimens of Homo sapiens.

We would never copy the right attitude from those who have managed to escape the poverty trap. Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are Islamic nations but boast superb economic achievements. China is neither a Christian or Islamic nation, they have crossed the Rubicon of poverty; the same could be said of India, which has a majority Hindu population:  And on festivities, the crowd would put to shame the population of pilgrims of the largest Hajj: Once in every 12 years, tens of millions of Hindus gather in Allahabad for what is thought to be the largest religious meeting in the world — the Maha Kumbh Mela. In 2013, the gathering drew between 30 million to 80 million people, who camped on banks of the Ganges. Despite this, Indians have dominated the IT world, and they now export knowledge to the United States and other nations that require the services of software gurus, including Nigeria. Most of our banks depend on software developed in Bangalore, India.

We are noted only for the export of spiritualism in the form of ‘Redeemed’ churches in Europe and America, including Brotherhood of the Cross and Star in Elephant and Castle in London.

From America the prosperity message has permeated the whole world, most notably Nigeria where two of the biggest promoters are David Oyedepo, whose Canaan land church seats 55,000, and Enoch Adeboye, who’s Redeemed Christian Church of God claims branches in over one hundred countries, 14,000 branches in Nigeria, and 5 million members in Nigeria alone. In 2008 Newsweek magazine listed him as one of the 50 most powerful people in the world: Our own version of Einstein. Useless people: while other nations pride themselves as making strides in technology, we are busy debating collection of tithes: Five of our pastors are constant fixtures on the Forbes list of the ‘World Richest Pastors’.

In 2005, Matthew Ashimolowo, the founder of the largely African Kingsway International Christian Centre in southern England, which preaches a “health and wealth” gospel and collects regular tithes, was ordered by the Charity Commission to repay money he had appropriated for his personal use. In 2017, the organization was again under criminal investigation after a leading member was found by a court in 2015 to have operated a Ponzi scheme between 2007 and 2011, losing or spending £8 million of investors’ money.

The Charity Commission reported that senior pastor Matthew Ashimolowo acted as both a trustee and a paid employee of the charity, in contravention of charity law. He had been responsible for approving payments and benefits to himself and his wife, Yemisi, totaling more than £384,000. Benefits received included free accommodation for himself and family, an £80,000 car, purchase of a timeshare in Florida for £13,000 using a charity credit card, and over half a million pounds paid out to Ashimolowo’s private companies, which were operated from church property and had unclear business relationships with the charity. £120,000 was spent celebrating Ashimolowo’s birthday. He repaid £200,000 to the charity. Here in Nigeria, Ashimolowo would have been untouchable.

The sad part of this is that of our Moslem brothers and sisters, now ape the churches by their convocation of what they now call Asalatu on Sundays.  Islam recommends five daily prayers which at any time does not last more than 5 to 7 minutes with the Friday prayer lasting 30 minutes. You are also encouraged to wake up at night to talk to your God and make supplications. Islam does not tax its adherents. We have only two annual festivals or Eids (Eid al Fitr and Eid Adha). We now waste valuable time competing with our Christian brethren in the time-wasting pursuit and search of a God who is not lost. The Holy Quran, Chapter 62; Sura Jumuah specifically tells us:

“O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic): That is best for you if ye but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: And celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): That ye may prosper.” (Quran 62:9-10)

The idea behind the Muslim weekly “Day of Assembly” is different from that behind the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) or the Christian Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath is primarily a commemoration of Allah’s ending His work and resting on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2; Exod. 20:11): we are taught that Allah needs no rest, nor does He feel fatigue (Sura 2:255). The Jewish command forbids work on that day but says nothing about worship or prayer (Exod. 20:10); our ordinance lays chief stress on the remembrance of Allah.

Jewish formalism went so far as to kill the spirit of the Sabbath and called forth the protest of Jesus: “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark. 2:27). 

Our teaching says: `When the time for Jumu’ah Prayer comes, close your business and answer the summons loyally and earnestly, meet earnestly, pray, consult and learn by social contact; when the meeting is over, scatter and go about your business’. In short, Allah is asking us to go to work. There is no food for a lazy man! Unfortunately for us, faith does not grant man prosperity; only hard work does.

The purpose of faith and belief in an ‘unseen God’ is to shape and nurture our moral values and spiritual upliftment. Let us not be deceived, even if your faith is as big as Mount Kilimanjaro, it cannot move a mustard seed

; only knowledge and technology can. We should stop wasting our faith in the pursuit of a God who is not lost: It is we who are lost and God has sent his prophets and the ‘books’ to guide us and lead us to the right path: If only we knew.

“Ih dinas-siratal mustaqeem” Show us the straight way (Quran 1:6)

Barka Juma’at and happy weekend

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Friday Sermon: The Quran and the Fall of Nations

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By Babatunde Jose

We have already sent down to you verses making things clear, an illustration from (the story of) people who passed away before you, and an admonition for those who fear (Allah). (Quran 24: 34).

During a discussion of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, R. Briffault, in his book, The Making of Humanity, made some thought-provoking observations, which we will do well to ponder over:

“A society based on false principles inevitably disintegrates. What really happens is that the phase of society, the order of things in which disregard of right is habitual and accepted, inevitably deteriorates and perishes. However much the individual may temporarily benefit by inequity, the social organization of which he is a part and the very class which enjoys the fruits of that inequity, suffer inevitable deterioration through its operation. They are un-adapted to the facts of their environment. The wages of sin is death by the inevitable operation of natural selections: And for a nation, it’s cessation.”

The Quran has, repeatedly directed our attention to the phenomena of nations that flourished in the past, but which went into ruin because of their way of life, the goals they pursued, the values around which their culture was organized, their actions and the consequences of those actions. By looking back at them we can avoid pitfalls. That is why the Quran exhorts us to go round the world and see for ourselves “the fate of those who defied God”. History has judged them, as it will, in time, judge us. The prognosis is within our grasp.

The blame for what Nigeria has become therefore falls on you and me. Our wickedness and iniquities stinks to high heavens; pulling down everyone and everything to become rich. We import substandard products, fake drugs and expired baby food unfit for human consumption, container loads of dangerous addictive drugs, arms and ammunition when we are not at war, and we have the nerve and temerity to complain about leadership?

Is it the leadership that perpetrates the hooliganism on Oshodi bridge, drive recklessly on the wrong side on a one-way street, and kidnaps its fellow citizens?

We even steal from widows, orphans, and refugees. We take the food of IDPs and sell it for profit. A conscienceless people: nothing is sacred. From the construction of substandard roads and buildings, all for profit at the expense of human life; an invaluable item which all our profit and contract sum cannot buy.

Sadly, the perpetration of iniquities is all inclusive: They are Christians, Muslims, husbands, wives and sadly youths. We pervert justice and enthrone injustice and inequality. Slave traders pale into insignificance in comparison to what we do to ourselves: No surprise, after all, we sold our people to the Whiteman for looking glass and gin. We are wickedness personified. We fast and starve ourselves believing that we are bribing God; we pray and go into trance, speaking in a strange language called ‘tonguing’, hold deliverance services and vigils during which we call upon the ‘Holy Ghost’, invoking the sacred name of God in vain. Our problem today is beyond prayer and fasting.  We need a moral rebirth and behavioral reformation.

For the downtrodden and the righteous few, there is solace in the words of the Bible:”For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 4:1-3)

The Quran inspires unquestioning faith in its pronouncement when it says: Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the End of those before them? They were more numerous than these and superior in strength and in the traces (they have left) in the land: Yet all that they accomplished was of no profit to them. For when their apostles came to them with Clear Signs, they exulted in such knowledge (and skill) as they had; but that very (Wrath) at which they were wont to scoff hemmed them in. (Quran 40: 82-83).

How many were the populations We utterly destroyed because of their iniquities, setting up in their places other peoples? Yet, when they felt Our Punishment (coming), behold, they (tried to) flee from it. Flee not, but return to the good things of this life which were given you, and to your homes, in order that ye may be called to account. And that cry of theirs ceased not, till We made them as a field that is mown, as ashes silent and quenched. (Quran 21:11-14).

A nation which takes to destructive ways is invariably granted a respite, long or short. It is saved if it retraces its step and turns back to the right path before reaching the point of no return.

“To every People is a term appointed: When their term is reached, not an hour

can they cause delay, nor (an hour) can they advance (it in anticipation). (Quran 7:34),

The limit beyond which a nation cannot pass without being irretrievably lost is determined by Divine Law: In the Quran we read about the misguided leaders and rulers of the past like Pharaoh (political power), Haman (Religious hierarchy) and Qaroon (Economic control). They paid the price for disregarding the universal moral order. The Quran also cites the example of Aad and Thamud; both were rich and powerful nations, highly intelligent and keen observers (Quran 29:38); but their scales of values were wrong.

If a nation suffers, it has brought the suffering on itself. It cannot blame it on any outside agency. Success or failure are the eventual consequences of our good or bad conduct. The Quran makes this clear: God does not do injustice to anyone. It is the people who do injustice to themselves; See Quran 11:101.

The “demise of nations” is a recurrent theme in the Quran. The Quran says that a nation begins to decline when it pursues wealth and takes to hoard money it should have spent for the general good. The rich, instead of helping the poor and the needy, amass wealth for themselves. The inevitable consequence was that the nation began to deteriorate. See (Quran 47:38).

The meaning is clear. If a nation refuses to work for the development of its people and for the establishment of Divine Order and pursues the ignoble end of self-aggrandizement, it will be supplanted by another nation carrying more weight in the balance of humanity.

The Quran rightly exhorts us to study history:

Do they not travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those before

them? They were superior to them in strength: They tilled the soil and populated it in greater numbers than these have done: There came to them their apostles with Clear (Signs), (which they rejected to their own destruction): It was not Allah who wronged them, but they wronged their own souls. (Quran 30:9).

The Quran says that it is the duty of the Mustabsirin, the intellectuals and the leaders of thought, to discover the right path and persuade the people to follow it. When these men do not discharge their duty properly, the nation slides into injustice and tyranny and heads for ruin. The leaders of thought are bound to keep a watchful eye on the nation and to warn when it goes wrong. The leaders are to blame if the nation pursues false values.

If a nation begins to decay, the process usually starts at the top. The upper stratum of society first becomes corrupt and the corruption percolates downwards. Is it strange that men of high intelligence should be the first to be corrupted? It is because they cannot resist the temptation to use their intelligence to further their own interests.

And verily, We had empowered them with that wherewith We have not empowered you, and had assigned them ears and eyes and mind; but their ears and eyes and mind availed them naught, since they rejected the laws revealed by Allah : and what they used to mock befell them (Quran 46:26).

The masses too, as they allowed themselves to be misled by their leaders, are not quite blameless. Though it is true that common people do not have the intelligence and knowledge that their leaders possess. As free responsible beings, however, it is their duty to think for themselves and reign in their leaders when they go wrong. If they fail to do this, they too cannot escape punishment. Resilience under a condition of misrule is tantamount to docility and it’s a crime. However, in Hell the common people will hold their leaders responsible for the fate that has befallen them:

Oh! If thou couldst see when the wrongdoers are brought before their Rabb, how they cast the blame one to another; how those who were weaker (the followers) say unto those who were proud (the leaders): “but for you, we would have been believers” (Quran 34:31).

In conclusion, it is pertinent to say that corruption starts at the upper layer of society and spreads downwards. Common men, by shirking their duty to think independently, become accomplices in the crimes of their leaders. Had they rebelled, the leaders might have been brought to their senses and checked themselves. Their willing obedience to errant leaders is in itself a crime and they have to expiate it.

May we not fall into ruin. That is why we have to make a hard choice and pursue change so that we may avoid the path which led others into ruin.

The great lesson that the Quran teaches us is that individuals as well as nations are the architects of their own fate. Their destiny lies in their own hands.

“Ih dinas-siratal mustaqeem”; guide us unto the straight path. (Quran 1:6)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend!

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Friday Sermon: Reflection on Allah’s Mercies: Rhapsodies of His Kingdom

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By Babatunde Jose

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.

Whosoever is in the heavens and on earth begs of Him. Every day He has a matter to bring forth such as giving honor to some, disgrace to some, life to some, death to some. (Quran 55: 29)

From the very beginning of Man’s creation, the issue of gratefulness and thankfulness to Allah has been debated. After refusing to bow to ‘Adam, Iblis (Satan) said:

“Then I will certainly come to them from before them and from behind them, and from the right-hand side and from the left-hand side, and Thou (Allah) shall not find most of them thankful.” (Quran 7:17)

This statement from the worst of liars has proven to be true, not only among the disbelievers, but also among the Muslims. Unfortunately, many have fallen into the trap, and have gotten so caught up in our comings and goings, that we very rarely take the time to reflect on the favors of Allah, and to thank Him with the thanks that is due Him. We are so busy conducting our daily lives that we forget to appreciate and give thanks. This is not the way, for Allah says:

“Therefore, remember Me, I will remember you, And be thankful to Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me.” (Quran 2:152)

The problem that most of us face is that we are constantly focused on the things we don’t have, instead of being grateful to Allah for the things we have.

This is a very serious illness, for which the Prophet (SAW), has given the cure. He admonished us, to always look to those beneath us, for this will keep us thankful: And  Allah says that in him we have the best of examples.

The Prophet (SAW), advised us, the best way to stay thankful to Allah is to count His Favors in our lives everyday. For Allah says:

“And He gives you all that you ask for. But if you count the favors of Allah, never will you be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude.” (Quran 14:34)

This statement of Allah is so true, yet we put so little value on it, and do not take heed.

Thankfulness frees the heart from greed, jealousy and envy. When we are thankful to Allah, we remain mindful of Him and His continuous Mercy toward us, and this in return humbles us and improves our characters.

Allah also says that only a few of His servants thank Him. Let us then strive to be among these few by keeping our tongues wet with His remembrance and our hearts soft with His praise.

To Allah ascend all good words, the sincere supplication, the tears of the innocent, and the invocations of the afflicted. Hands and eyes are extended to Him in times of hardship and misfortune. The tongue chants, cries out, and mentions His name. The heart finds peace, the soul finds rest, the nerves are relaxed, and the intellect is awakened — these are all achieved when we remember Allah. ‘How perfect He is, the Exalted.’ Gracious is Allah to His servants: He gives Sustenance to whom He pleases: And He has Power and can carry out His Will. (Quran 42:19)

And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favors of Allah, never will ye be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude… (Quran 14:34)

Health, safety, nourishment, clothing, air, and water — these all point to the world being yours, yet you do not realize it. You possess all that life has to offer yet remain ignorant.

It is not a coincidence that you were born with functioning eyes, nose, ears, tongue and other functioning parts of the human body. Your sense of sight, hearing, speech, touch and smell are blessings from Allah to you. But nay! You have taken them for granted; you think they are your birthright. You have at your disposal all this things which many others are deprived of.

Do ye not see that Allah has subjected to your (use) all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made His bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, (both) seen and unseen? Yet there are among men those who dispute about Allah, without knowledge and without guidance, and without a Book to enlighten them! (Quran 31:20)

You have at your disposal two eyes, a tongue, lips, two hands, and two legs. Then which of the blessings of your Lord will you both [jinn’s and men] deny? (Quran 55:13)

Can you picture yourself walking without feet? Should you take it lightly that you slumber soundly while misery hinders the sleep of many? Should you forget that you fill yourself with both delicious dishes and cool water while the pleasure of good food and drink is impossible for some, due to sickness and disease? Consider the faculties of hearing and seeing with which you have been endowed. Look at your healthy skin and be grateful that you have been saved from diseases that attack it. Reflect on your powers of reasoning and remember those that suffer from mental ailments.

The Quran contains 27 verses (Ayats) on thankfulness. At times Allah commands us to be thankful and at times Allah warns of not being thankful. There are 9 ayahs that warn us of the negative consequences of not being thankful.

“And certainly, we have established you in the earth and made it a means of livelihood for you, little it is that you give thanks.” (Quran 7.10)

Similarly, ayats, 10.60, 12.38, 23.78, 32.9, 34.13, 40.61, 56.70 and finally ayah 67.23, are all worded in such a way that they contain the same meaning that mankind does not give thanks for blessings, provisions, creation, signs such as night and day, the sea and its provision and various other blessings that are enumerated from Allah, that mankind is ungrateful for.

This leaves 16 ayats that relate to thankfulness towards Allah. They all command the giving of thanks for various reasons in various ways. It is here that Allah addresses Bani Israel for their ungratefulness towards Him after all He had done for them.

“Then we pardoned you after that that you may give thanks.” (Quran 2.52)

 “Then we raised you up after your death that you may give thanks.” (Quran 2.56)

Bani Israel became ungrateful for the favors. Allah showered blessings upon them, delivering them from the people of Pharaoh, who persecuted them in Egypt. In the first instance they took to worshipping a cow when their Prophet Musa was receiving revelation from Allah, and had gone away to Mount Tur, and the second ayat refers to when Musa was contested as to the authenticity of the Torah. He took seventy men and purified them then took them to mount Tur, whereby Allah confirmed with them the divine origin of Musa’s book. However, they still did not believe, and said to Musa they would only believe if they could see Allah himself. For their insolence Allah killed then with a lightning bolt. Musa became concerned that the Bani Israel would accuse him of killing the leaders, so he prayed to Allah to bring them back to life. Allah revived them and made it clear that they should be grateful. Two arguments appear here, Allah does not like insolence, and he does not like shirk, or worship of others such as cows. The Bani Israel were punished for both.

Allah said to him, in Quran 14.7; “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you in favors.”

However, the Bani Israel were ungrateful and were eventually superseded in faith by Prophet Muhammad, and the Islamic faith.

A more favorable ayat discusses the favour of Ibrahim where in Quran 16.121 Allah states; “He showed his gratitude for the favors of Allah, who chose him and guided him to a straight way.”

The 35th beautiful name of Allah is the Grateful/the One who accepts Gratitude. Thus, Allah acts in a grateful manner towards us by giving more of his grace and is also the one who accepts our grateful worship such as dua’s and Quranic recitation and worship.

Quran 7.180 states; “The most beautiful names belong to Allah: So, call on him by them; but shun such men as use profanity in His names: For what they do, they will soon be requited.”

Imam Ghazali states; “Know that thankfulness is from the highest of stations, and it is higher than patience and fear and detachment of the world.”

The prophet Muhammad (SAW) has indicated in hadith that whoever learns and recites the names of Allah will be admitted to paradise.

The next way of expressing our gratitude is by performing Sujood As-Shukr, the prostration or prayer of gratefulness. This is a two rakat prayer that we perform and then we make dua of gratefulness for whatever has occurred to us.

In conclusion, we can see that we owe a duty to Allah to be thankful towards him and his many blessings. We realize his divine presence, omnipotence, and its benefits through this worship. It is not only remembrance, but it means to internalize the virtues and beauty emulating from the name of Allah and try to embody it in our actions. Thus, do we develop spiritually in our hearts, minds, body and souls with which we worship Allah. Perhaps the final goal is to reach such a station of praise with Allah as a grateful one as some of his Prophets did and to try to serve him in this way, ensuring success on the day of judgement and in the Akhirah.

“On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.”(Quran 2:286)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend.

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