Khutba: The Transformative Nature of Islam
Friday 23nd June 2000
As for him who overstepped the bounds and preferred the life of the dunya, the Blazing Fire will be his refuge. But as for him who feared the Station of his Lord and forbade the lower self its appetites, the Garden will be his refuge. (79:37-40)
That is because Allah would never change a blessing He has conferred on a people until they had changed what was in themselves. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (8:54)
The second ayat is repeated twice in the Qur'an and is usually quoted in the context of improvement, in other words: Allah will not make things better for us until we better ourselves. But in fact, although it clearly can mean this, the meaning both times it is used appears to be the opposite: that Allah will not make things worse for us unless we change for the worse. The change can be in both directions. The important thing to grasp from the ayat is that everything in existence is in a state of constant change and that this also applies to Muslims both as individuals and communities. Islam is a dynamic, it is a process, it is an organic patterning. It is not a fixed, solid structure, a rigid legal framework which you somehow get hold of and fit yourself into. It is vital to understand this if we want Islam to spread and become fully established and implemented in the world again.
Islam is all about change, about growth, about transformation on the one hand or, and we seek refuge with Allah from it happening, the opposite of this, about stasis, shrinkage and deterioration. When someone becomes Muslim, they change. The change can be seen in their faces. Their lives are transformed. This is absolutely inevitable and if it does not happen, it means that they have not really become Muslim, their Islam has not "taken". The transformation is the result of the heart's exposure to the Muhammadan light and when we speak of the heart it must be understood that we are not speaking in any way figuratively. There is in the breast of every human being an organ of perception which is our access point to the subtle worlds of meaning, angelic energy and Divine power which interpenetrate with this world of physical appearances which we inhabit.
The root meaning of the Arabic word for heart, qalb, is turn over, change, transform, convert, transmute. Becoming Muslim entails turning one's heart upside down, so that instead of facing downwards towards the opaque density of the dunya, it faces upwards towards the subtle worlds of the spiritual realities, towards the potential of your own perfectibility as a human being whose highest possibility is the Muhammadan light itself.
Although we commonly talk about inward and outward it must be understood that there is no hard and fast line between them; they are interpenetrating realms. Therefore so-called inward transformation inevitably manifests itself outwardly, so that being Muslim involves our lives in inexorable and irreversible change. What happens is that we begin to take on the Muhammadan form. This connects with the ayat in Sura Ali 'Imran:
Say, 'If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love youÉ' (3:31)
Being Muslim means being drawn to all those things that the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, did and taught his Companions to do. First the basic practices of the deen and gradually those qualities of character, such as taqwa, generosity, fortitude, courtesy and other virtues, which found their perfection in the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and inseparable from this is the desire to share the invaluable gift of Islam we have been given with as many other people as possible.
A word of warning here for the many Muslims who do treat their deen as a rigid structure, as a series of outward actions they impose on themselves and others without true inward acquiescence and submission. Doing this inevitably leads to a split in their being which almost always results in periodic acts of self-gratification of the most repugnant kind and in extreme cases to madness. And warning also for those who say that they are Muslims inwardly while refusing to take on the obligations of the Shari'a. Their lack of outward transformation shows that they are deluding themselves in a most dangerous way and putting their ultimate fate in the gravest jeopardy.
There is never any room for complacency. Being a Muslim means being willing to undergo a never ending process of self-transformation. The transformation process is endless because perfection belongs to Allah alone and is a goal which can always be approached but never attained, but we can never give up trying. There can be no such thing as sitting back and saying to yourself, 'That's it. That's as far as I can go. I've done as much as I can do.' If you settle for the status quo it means you are losing your deen. As we have said Islam is a dynamic; there is no such thing as stasis. If you are not going forwards, you are going backwards. If you are not gaining ground, you are losing ground. You are in fact giving the lie to Allah's great blessing to you by not taking it on to the full. He himself says of such a state:
We will lead them, step by step, into destruction from where they do not know. (7:182)
We seek refuge with our Lord from that and ask Him to give us success in drawing closer to Him and in following His Messenger inwardly and outwardly and in establishing His deen and the sunna of His Messenger within ourselves and round about us.
An evil generation succeeded them who neglected the salat and followed their appetites. They will plunge into the Valley of Evil except for those who make tawba and have iman and act rightly. They will enter the Garden and they will not be wronged in any way: (19:59-60)
So far we have been talking about the individual Muslim but there is no doubt that what applies to the individual also applies to the community as a whole. Just as Islam transforms every aspect of the life of an individual Muslim, so it also inevitably makes itself felt in the life of society at large. If there is a genuine growth of Islam this is bound to happen. What this means is that the kafir society within which this occurs will either welcome it and adopt Islam or, and this is far more likely, vehemently reject it and try to spit it out. If neither of these things happens, it can only mean that what is being presented is not a genuine expression of Islam or, at best, Islam on the retreat.
This is particularly pertinent in the case of the Muslim communities of Europe, many of whom have now been here in some strength for thirty years or more and yet shamefully have had no real impact on their host countries. We should take salutary warning from the fate of those previous significant Muslim minorities in Australia and South America who have disappeared without a trace. As with individuals, if the Muslims are not dynamically expanding on a communal level, it inevitably means that they are in the process of being wiped out. There is no third option. The moment the Ottoman khalifate agreed the border between itself and the Austrian empire, it sealed its fate and doomed itself to destruction. The Dar al-Islam has no fixed frontiers. We must continually strive to increase our numbers and extend the influence of Islam in our society or we will suffer the same fate as those who failed to do so in the past.
Those individuals referred to previously who make Islam a matter of inward conviction without outward expression or say it is a matter of outward imposition without inward transformation, also manifest themselves in a social way. The communal equivalent of the individuals who claim inward Islam without outward transformation are firstly the pseudo sufis who openly misguide their followers by preaching the possibility of tariqa without shari'a, falsely claiming that it is possible to have knowledge of Allah without following the guidance of the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Perhaps even more importantly, it also applies to those Shaykhs who, while apparently affirming the Shari'a, allow and even encourage their followers to live contentedly within a kafir environment with no intention whatsoever of seeing the deen established in its entirety. They represent, in the long term, the greatest danger for Islam because by accepting the unacceptable, they endanger the whole body of Islam.
The outward imposers find their communal equivalent in those Islamic regimes who impose a rigid, harsh, socially biased understanding of the shari'a on a largely resistant, unprepared populace. The examples of injustice, hypocrisy and corruption which such policies engender are manifold. The casinos and escort agencies of every European capital are regrettably full of abundant and repugnant examples of the deviance of such places at one end of the scale and the social deprivation and seething discontent clearly visible in the streets of the poorer quarters of the cities of such countries are evidence of the injustice prevalent at the other end of the scale, the whole social edifice being sustained by intimate involvement with the usurious world financial system.
No! Authentic Islam, the Islam brought to us by the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, can only be re-established in the same way as it was established by him and his Companions, radiya'Llahu 'anhu, first in Makka and then in Madina al-Munawwara. They were people who recognised Allah and his Messenger, vigorously took hold of the guidance they were given, purified and transformed themselves through it and then, like a benign virus, infected others with it, dedicating their lives and energy to an unremitting and successful struggle to see Allah's deen implemented among them and definitively established on the surface of the earth. This was what Allah required of them and what is also required of us if we are to attain the same result. There is no changing the sunna of Allah.
I ask Allah to bring our hearts to life and to fill them with love for Allah and His Messenger so that, like the Companions and all who have followed in their footsteps, our own lives may be transformed and we may in turn transform our society by implementing Allah's deen and calling people to it. And all guidance and success are from Allah and by Allah.
Return to Home Page