Khutba: Emphasis on human rights in the Prophet’s teachings
Khutba, Cambridge University/Mahad’ ad Dawat al-Islamiya
From the Cambridge Muslim Chaplain and Founder/Rector of the Islamic Vocational Academy (Mahad’ ad-Dawa), John Mohammad Butt.
January 27th, 2012:
Emphasis on human rights in the Prophet’s teachings
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
ألْحَمْدُ للَّهِ، ألْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ أَسْتَعِيْنُهُ وَ أَسْتَغْفِرُهُ وَ نُؤْمِنْ بِهِ وَ نَعُوْذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنْ شُرُوْرِ أنْفُسِنَا وَ مِنْ سَيِّأَتِ أَعْمَالِنَا. مَنْ يَهْدِهِ اللَّهُ فَلَا مُضِلَّ لَهُ وَ مَنْ يُّضْلِلْ فَلَا هَادِيَ لَهُ. وَ أَشْهَدُ أن لَّا إلَهَ الَّا اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَهُ، وَ أَشْهَدُ أنَّ مُحَمَّداً عَبْدُهُ وَ رَسُوْلُهُ، أَرْسَلَهّ بِالْحَقِّ بَشِيْرًا وَ نَظِيْرًا بَيْنَ يَدَيِ السَّاعَةِ. مَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَ رَسُوْلَهُ فَقَدْ رَشَدَ وَ مَنْ يَّعْصِهِمَا فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَضُرُّ إِلَّا نَفْسَهُ وَ لَا يَضُرُّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا. أمَّا بَعْدُ، فَأَعُوْذُ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيْمِ، بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيْمِ. «وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِّمَّن دَعَا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ. وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ.». صَدَقَ اللهُ مَوْلانَا الْعَظِيْمِ، وَ صَدَقَ رَسُوْلُهُ نَبِيُّ الْكَرِيْمُ. وَ نَحْنُ عَلَى ذَالِكَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِيْنَ وَ الشَّاكِرِيْنَ. وَ الْحَمْدُ للهِ رَبِّ الْعَالمِينَ
Praise be to Allah, I seek help and forgiveness from Him. We believe in Him. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil in ourselves, and the evil things that we do. Whomsoever Allah guides, no one can send astray and if He chooses that anyone should go astray, then no one can guide that person. I bear witness that there is no one worthy of being worshipped except for Allah. He is One and has no partner. And I bear witness that Mohammad is His slave and His Messenger, whom He sent with the Truth at the time of advent of the Hour – a bearer of good tidings and also a warner. Whoever follows Allah and His Messenger will have found the true path, and whoever disobeys them will only harm himself. He cannot harm Allah in any way. So I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan. I begin in the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful:
“Who is more gracious in their speech than one who invites others to Allah, and himself does good deeds and proclaims himself to be among those who have submitted. Good and evil are not equal. Requite with good, then one who is your enemy, will become like your warm friend. (Al-Quran, 41:33-34).”
My brothers and sisters in Islam, considering the upcoming Islam Awareness Week, which is due next month and for which I will not be able to remain in Cambridge, I thought that I would say something about the nature of what is variously called the preaching of Islam, Islamic awareness-building, Islamic dawa, Islamic outreach. In the Quran it is called dawa – literally the call to Islam – as in the verse that I recited to you at the beginning of this khutbah, and tableegh – literally communication of the word of God – as in the verse of Surah’al-Maida:
يا أيّها الرّسولُ بلِّغ منا أنْزِل َ علَيْكَ منْ رَّبِّكَ
Oh Messenger! Communicate what has been revealed to you from Your Lord.
And in the very last sermon of the Holy Prophet, the Prophet addressed his followers as follows. I am giving the address in full, as it appears in the Sahih collections of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, so that you can get an idea how the Holy Prophet used to build up suspense in his discourse, in order to increase the impact of the punchline:
عن أبي بكرة – رضي الله عنه ، قال : خطبنا النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يوم النحر ، قال : «إن الزمان قد استدار كهيئته يوم خلق الله السماوات والأرض ، السنة اثنا عشر شهرا منها أربعة حرم ، ثلاث متواليات ، ذو القعدة ، وذو الحجة ، والمحرم ، ورجب مضر الذي بين جمادى وشعبان . وقال : أي شهر هذا ؟ قلنا : الله ورسوله أعلم ، فسكت حتى ظننا أنه سيسميه بغير اسمه . فقال : « أليس ذا الحجة ؟ » قلنا : بلى . قال « أي بلد هذا ؟ » قلنا : الله ورسوله أعلم ، فسكت حتى ظننا أنه سيسميه بغير اسمه . قال : «أليس البلدة ؟ » . قلنا بلى . قال : « فأي يوم هذا ؟ » قلنا : الله ورسوله أعلم ، فسكت حتى ظننا أنه سيسميه بغير اسمه . قال : « أليس يوم النحر ؟» قلنا : بلى . قال : « فإن دماءكم ، وأموالكم ، وأعراضكم . عليكم حرام كحرمة يومكم هذا ، في بلدكم هذا ، في شهركم هذا ، وستلقون ربكم ، فيسألكم عن أعمالكم ، ألا فلا ترجعوا بعدي ضلالا ، يضرب بعضكم رقاب بعض ، ألا هل بلغت ؟ » قالوا : نعم . قال : «اللّهم اشهد ، فليبلغ الشاهد الغائب ، فرب مبلغ أوعى من سامع » . متفق عليه
Abi Bakrah – may Allah be pleased with him – tells how the Prophet addressed his Companions with these words on the day of sacrifice: Time has passed full circle, and is back where it was when Allah created the heavens and the earth. There are twelve months in the year, four of them are sacred. Three of these sacred months follow one after the other – Dhu’l-Qaadah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram – while the other sacred month – Rajab – is in between Jamadi’ath-Thani and Shaaban. So which month is this? The Holy Prophet asked. Allah and His Prophet know best, his followers answered. Then the Prophet remained silent for so long, and so poignant was the silence, that we thought he would name the month without even having to mention its name. Is it not Dhu’l-Hijjah, he finally said. We answered in the affirmative. So which city are we in? The Prophet asked. Allah and His Prophet know best, his followers answered. Then the Prophet remained silent for so long, and so poignant was the silence, that we thought he would name the city without even having to mention its name. Is the not the city (of Mecca)? We answered in the affirmative. Then he asked: And which day is it? Allah and His Prophet know best, his followers answered. Then the Prophet remained silent for so long, and so poignant was the silence, that we thought he would name the day without even having to mention its name. Is it not the day of sacrifice, he finally said. We answered in the affirmative. Well, the Prophet said, let me tell you that your lives, your properties, your possessions – all these things are sacred and inviolable, just like this day is sacred, this town is sacred, this month is sacred. And you should also know that you are going to come face to face with your Lord. He is going to take you to account for your actions. So be careful not to lose your way, after I have left you, with some of you killing others. So have I communicated the message? You have, his companions answered. Allah! Bear witness. Those who are present should communicate what I have said to those who are not here. Many of those to whom the message is communicated will carry it more capably that those who are present.
So it is pretty clear that whatever one calls it, raising awareness of Islam, communicating Islam, that the communication of the teachings of Islam to those who have not been necessarily been apprised of them, is the essence of raising awareness about Islam. What we also can gauge from this final sermon of the Holy Prophet is how he built up suspense as he went along, in order to increase the impact of his punchline. A further point which is clear from this sermon is that the Holy Prophet gave such importance to human rights that he chose his final sermon – the sermon that would remain in the minds of his followers more than any other – to emphasize what has become known in the modern world as human rights.
What is clear from the verse I recited to you at the beginning of this sermon, the call to Islam, which was the call of all the Prophets, is born of immense and intense adversity. It is the act of requiting adversity and persecution with patience and wishing others well.
I would like to take the example of the first emigration of Muslims to Abyssinia. You will remember that the Quraysh sent some emissaries to attempt to wrest the Muslims back from the King of Abyssinia – in modern terminology to seek their extradition. It was Jafar bin Abi Talib who was chosen to speak on behalf of the Muslims. Again, his speech focusses to a considerable degree on the rights of others – neighbors, relatives, our duty to care for the poor and needful:
«أيّها الملك، كنا قوما أهل جاهلية، نعبد الأصنام، ونأكل الميتة، ونأتي الفواحش، ونقطع الأرحام، ونسيء الجوار، ويأكل القوي منا الضعيف فكنا على ذلك حتى بعث الله إلينا رسولا منا، نعرف نسبه وصدقه، وأمانته وعفافه، فدعانا إلى الله لنوحده ونعبده، وأمرنا بصدق الحديث، وأداء الأمانة، وصلة الرحم، وحسن الجوار… فعبدنا الله وحده، فلم نشرك به شيئا، وحرمنا ما حرم علينا، وأحللنا ما أحل لنا، فعدا علينا قومنا، فعذبونا وفتنونا عن ديننا، ليردونا إلى عبادة الأوثان، فخرجنا إلى بلادك، واخترناك على من سواك، ورغبنا في جوارك، ورجونا ألا نُظْلَمَ عندك أيّها الملك».
”Your majesty,” Jafar bin Abi Talib began, “we used to be an ignorant people, worshipping idols, eating carrion flesh, committing acts of indecency, cutting off ties of kinship, ignoring our neighbors. The strong among used used to oppress the weak. This was our condition when Allah sent a prophet among us, whose genealogy and good character, his trustworthiness and chastity, were well-known to us. He called us to believe in one God and worship Him. He told us to be truthful in what we said, to hand over things which had been entrusted to us, to foster good ties with our relatives. So we began worshipping on God, and not associating any partners with Him. We stayed away from things He had prohibited and considered lawful what He had allowed us. But our people turned against us. They persecuted us, with a view to turning us away from our religion and forcing us to return to the worship idols. That is why we left our native country. We chose to seek refuge with you, above all others. We wished to live in your kingdom, in the hope that we would never be wronged, and would live under your protection, your Majesty.
1. Dawa born of persecution: One thing that one notices is that in the case of dawa, adversity is indeed the mother of invention. Dawa is born of intense persecution, misunderstanding, ridicule and beleaguerment, the kind of treatment which led the Muslims to emigrate to Abyssinia. The reaction to this treatment is one of patience and piety, and then from this is born a resolve to help one’s former protagonists mend their ways, so much so that the Holy Prophet was advised by Allah not to destroy himself due to their failure to believe:
فلعلك باخع نفسك على آثارهم إنْ لّم يؤمنوا بهذا الحديث اسفًا
You are close to destroying yourself in their wake, due to their failure to believe.
Hence the speech of Jafar bin Abi Talib before the King of Abyssinia did not attack the Quraysh, but just concentrated on explaining the Muslims’ position on various points of faith.
2. Confidence to contribute to the community: To get an idea of the type of confidence and well of wisdom from which the Muslims sought to contribute to humanity, let’s go forward ten years, to when a delegation of Christian theologians came from Abyssinia to Medina. One could say that their aim was similar to that of Christian missionaries today, but the Holy Prophet had such confidence in the truth of Islamic dogma that he allowed the delegation into the Prophet’s mosque and engaged in a discussion with them, in accordance with the tenets laid out in Surah Al Imran. Contrast this confidence with the defensive and obstructive mentality of Indian Muslims, when Salman Rushdie was slated to speak at the Jaipur Literature Festival last week. If Muslim scholars had a dawa-mentality, they would surely welcome an opportunity to engage people like Rushdie in a constructive discussion. But in order to be in a position to engage intellectuals like Rushdie in such a discussion, considerable homework has to be done, and some Muslim luminaries are more interested in making political capital as opposed to really making headway with dawa-oriented discussion.
3. Exemplary model of Islamic lifestyle: Places like India and England are perfect countries for such constructive discussion around matters of faith and the contribution that Islam has to make to the community and humanity. Such countries, such as that in which I reside and most of you reside, are also perfect places for providing an exemplary model of a good Islamic lifestyle. Even from afar, I can see that you are taking the lead in coming up with innovative schemes – such as with your current Siblink programme – in making a constructive contribution to the community. It can be done in a structured way like that, or it can be done in an individual, everyday manner by giving a good account of oneself – in terms of honesty, integrity, generosity, good character – in one’s daily dealings with others.
End of the first part of the sermon:
Next week, I would like to go into what the themes around which our dawa discourse in the modern Western world should be.
أقول قولي هذا و أستغفر الله لي و لكم و لسائر المسلمين. إنه هو الغفور الرّحيم
I say these words to you, and I seek forgiveness from Allah for myself and for you, and for all the Muslims. He is the Forgiving, the Compassionate.