Assalamau Alaikum everyone.
How have you all been? Have you missed me? I missed you.
I sincerely apologize for the brief intermission between my posts. I will attempt to be more regular and hope to provide you all with quality reading material.
Let's begin with this week's Jummah khutbah. I attended Friday services at the Downtown Islamic Center located on State St.
The first time I visited this mosque was 11 years ago. I was attending a conference at the Palmer House and a group of the Muslim delegates convened in the lobby of the historic hotel and led us to the mosque.
Structurally it was much the same as it is today, but it was quite dank, dreary, and, it smelled like feet. It also wasn't in an obvious setting. If you don't know there is a mosque at 231 S. State St. You will not see it. It's a humble entryway, surrounded by stores. But the mosque itself is actually quite large, it's 5 stories tall.
The present condition of the mosque is something to feel happy about. It's quite clean, no smell of foot wafting in the air. The wudu areas are clean and modern. Meaning, you can actually make your wudu and come out cleaner than when you went in. There is a nice section for the women as well.
When you reach the top of the mosque, the 5th floor, you enter the main prayer hall. On two walls you can see the names of God written in nice calligraphy. (Something you don't really see in mosques in the US in general.) Although the mihrab is bland and without any holy symbols or calligraphy.
The khutbah was given by Inam ul Haqq. An elderly desi man, who is very articulate and speaks clearly, so it was easy to understand him. He also gave a pretty nice khutbah. Below is a brief account of his khutbah, following that is my response.
We finished sacred month of Ramadan and are now being led to the sacred month of Dhul Hijjah. Moving from one sacred act to another.
Fasting has been obligated upon you so that you should develop taqwa.
There is no virtue should you turn your face eastward or westward.
When the Qur'an talks about Hajj, the best provision you take with you is God consciousness.
When I teach my non- Muslim students, I explain Islamic vocabulary, since they are obviously not aware.
This religious vocabulary exists in Aqidah, unfortunately we [Muslims] don't know this vocabulary. We don't understand the moral virtues that the Qur'an is explaining. [Mentioned several Islamic religious Arabic words].
In contemporary Islam, we focus on Shariah or politics. We do not focus on other equally important dimensions of Islam.
The purpose of religious learning is not to gain the respect of others. Religious acts are not merely acts, ignoring the deeper spiritual meaning.
Many of my students are atheist.That is not to say anything bad about them, most of them are intelligent and ethical people. When I ask why they want to learn about Islam, they respond that religion has no proof. Also, they say that religious persons are not better than atheists.
*Old hip hop ringtone goes off.* -- Someone's cell phone began ringing during the khutbah so the khatib waited until he silenced his phone.
A segment of our young people are losing faith.
A religion that is so deep and profound produces no change in us. This is strange.
In life, whatever we do, we wish to see some progress or development, if we don't see this, we grew worried.
If a child is being fed properly and the child is not growing, we are worried and take them to the physician.
Fasting fosters taqwa and God consciousness and prayer helps also.
If I look back and calculate all the number of rakats and fasting I have done in the last 50 years, millions of rakat, and many days of fasting I should be a saint, a really holy person. But it's not happening. Why?
Shaikh Sharifuddin Maneri, a South Indian saint [Wali (s.) Awliya (pl.)], had a disciple who wanted to go for Hajj, he wrote him a letter,
I went around kissing the walls of the house and asked where is the person who lives in the house. I returned, knowing this was not Hajj.
I went again, prepared this time after a couple years, I felt God's presence, it is the right of the guest to be welcomed by the one who lives in the house. God said to him, "O Sharrafuddin, now you have really come to see me."
In the Qur'an we are told about the Nafs al Ammara which is the compulsive soul, the first step for us to develop. Once we develop it enough it becomes reflective of God's light.
This is a necessary process.
This religion is like a tree, whose roots are deep in the earth but the branches reach the sky.
If you consider the soil as the ego, why is our tree not growing?
There are hundreds of thousands of trees that form a jungle, in the soil of nafs there is a tree for greed, power, lust, and many other vices. Then we plant a tree of prayer and fasting, these trees don't grow since the nutrients are being sapped by the other trees. The evil trees need to be removed for the righteous trees to grow.
When you reach this point, quality is more important than quantity.
1 small diamond stone is better than 10 tons of rock stone.
An excellent khutbah, delivering an important message. The khatib did a wonderful job in not belittling the jama'ah.
I especially liked the story about Shaikh Sharafuddin. You see, the Indian subcontinent has a rich history of Islam, as well as saintly people. If you are of the opinion that Islam and its teachings only matter if they come from an Arab, please look again. Islam is a religion for all of mankind, you will find beautiful people in all corners of the earth.
Also, the mention of the Nafs, specifically, the Nafs al Ammara, this was a good introductory overview of what we have to face as human beings. Not each other, not different ideologies or religions or religious people, but ourselves. Our vices, our shortcomings, our flaws. Look deeply within yourself and you will realize that we are all riddled with flaws. Find just one flaw in yourself and work on it. Try to remove it. You will see God's help coming to aid you in this noble goal.
May God bless us all. Ameen.