Khutbah #1 – On Mercy

A couple of disclaimers.

Ramadan is about to begin this coming Friday night (May 26, 2017), with the first fast on Saturday. In anticipation for this coming holy month, I’ve put my khutbahs, sermons, that I wrote a year or two ago. If you are non-Muslim, fell free to read on, but it may not speak to you as intended. But I urge an open mind. The first section is always the same ritual supplication, followed by the sermon split in two parts, ending with parting supplication and a call to prayers.

Secondly, I am open to feedback, on this or other posts, even if it may seem like I am not (my contact page is a little off-putting, I suppose). I encourage discourse and will participate if it is meaningful, imho. As Voltaire once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

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Meaning and Etymology – the 99 Parts – the Amish Forgiver – the Battle of Tabouk – the Story of Tahabah – the Man with 99 Murders – the Three Sources of Mercy – Mercy and Depression

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[In]al-hamdu Lillaahi [nahmaduhu wa] nasta’eenahu wa nastaghfiruhu, wa na’oodhu billaahi min shuroori anfusinaa [wa min sayi’aati a’maalinaa]. Man yahdih Illaahu falaa mudilla lahu wa man yudlil falaa haadiya lahu. Wa ashhadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allaah [wahdahu la sharika lahu] wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasooluhu

[Verily] all praise is for Allah, we seek His help and His forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls [and from our bad deeds]. Whomsoever Allah guides will never be led astray, and whomsoever Allah leaves astray, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, [alone and without any partner] and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.

 “Yaa ayyuha’lladheena aamanu-ttaqu’Llaaha haqqa tuqaatihi wa laa tamootunna illaa wa antum muslimoon” [3:102]

“O you who believe! Fear Allah (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared. [Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always], and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) with complete submission to Allah.” [3:102]

 “Yaa ayyuha’n-naas uttaqu rabbakum alladhi khalaqakum min nafsin waahidatin wa khalaqa minhaa zawjahaa wa baththa minhumaa rijaalan katheeran wa nisaa’an wa’ttaqu-Llaah alladhi tasaa’aloona bihi wa’l-arhaama inna Allaaha kaana ‘alaykum raqeeban” [4:1]

“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” [4:1]

 “Yaa ayyahu’lladheena aamanu-ttaqu’Llaaha wa qooloo qawlan sadeedan. Yuslih Lakum ‘A’maalakum Wa Yaghfir Lakum Dhunoobakum Wa Man Yuti’i Allaaha Wa Rasoolahu Faqad Faaza Fawzaan ‘Azeemaan” [33:70-71]

“O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) he has indeed achieved a great achievement (i.e. he will be saved from the Hell-fire and made to enter Paradise).” [33:70-71]

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Asalam wa alaikum beloved brothers and respected sisters, inshallah today we will discuss mercy and Islam. Mercy is undoubtedly a large component of Islam as 113 of 114 surahs begin with “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem” – in the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful. The magnitude of Allah’s (SWT) mercy is implicated by Abu Huraira رضي الله عنه who narrates that Nabi صلى الله عليه و سلم  said:

عن أبي هريرة قال : سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يقول ( جعل الله الرحمة في مائة جزء فأمسك عنده تسعة وتسعين جزءا وأنزل في الأرض جزءا واحدا فمن ذلك الجزء يتراحم الخلق حتى ترفع الفرس حافرها عن ولدها خشية أن تصيبه ) صحيح البخاري  كتاب الادب

“Allah Ta’ala has divided mercy in hundred portions. He kept ninety-nine portions by Him and sent one portion in this world. It is through this one mercy that the creation has mercy amongst them, to the extent that a horse will lift its hoof from its young fearing that it might harm it.” (Bukhari)[1]

To further elucidate this example, recall the 2006 Amish West Nickel Mines schoolhouse shooting. On October 2, 2006 Charles Roberts IV took ten Amish schoolgirls hostage, killing five and severely injuring the others. National coverage focused on the tragedy of the event but also on the peculiar response of the families of the victims: forgiveness. The grace of the victims’ families even amounted to them, the victims, consoling Roberts’ family. Now understand that every creature has the potential for this extension of mercy. Multiply this act across all living creatures, across the entirety of existence and then times 99 and then you might be able to imagine the mercy of Allah (SWT).

You might be asking, “Why is this brother talking about the Amish? We’re Muslims!” and you would raise a fair point. But as the hadith and the example has illustrated, mercy is ubiquitous across all creation so the question becomes “What insight regarding Mercy does Islam bring that is unprecedented to the rest of the world?” To answer this question, I would like to share three stories and the lessons that I drew from them.

The first is the story of the boycott of Ka’ab ibn Malik and the Battle of Tabuk. The story is long, detailed and filled wisdom that cannot be covered in a single khutbah, so I strongly suggest some independent research. During a particularly hot season, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) initiated a call to arms for the expedition of Tabuk. Any able-bodied man of financial capability was obligated to engage in the expedition and for the most part the majority of the sincere believers responded accordingly. Three men did not respond, one of which was Ka’ab ibn Malik who gave the most detailed account of his procrastination.

Ka’ab ibn Malik, by his own admission, was financially the most well off he had ever been and in good health. Yet he did not make the necessary preparations and kept delaying until the only ones left in Medina were himself, the hypocrites, the sick and the elderly. When the Prophet had returned from the “Battle” (there in fact was no battle), those who remained behind went to see him to justify why they remained. The Minafiqueen gave excuses that Prophet Muhammad accepted and Ka’ab thought to give an excuse too, but when the Prophet turned to him with an angry smile Ka’ab instead spoke the truth and admitted he had no good excuse to not join the battle. The Prophet turned him away and left the matter for Allah (SWT).

Ka’ab learned he was one of three to admit wrongdoing. All three were boycotted – no one spoke to them or mixed with them. They were completely isolated from their people and their community. The isolation was unbearable. The most Ka’ab got from his own cousin during this time was “Allah and his Nabi SAW know best.” A test of Hadrat Ka’abs deen came from a Christian King from Ghassan, who sent a letter inviting Hadrat Ka’ab to the Christian land. Hadrat Ka’ab, of course, refused. After 40 days, he was told to separate from his wife.

Luckily, the trial was near its end. On the fiftieth day, Hadrat Ka’ab was praying fajr on his rooftop when from across Mt. Sula “Glad tidings to you, O Ka’ab”. Hadrat Ka’ab fell to the ground in sajdah, tears of joy rolling down his cheeks, because he knew that the trial was over. One can only imagine the relief he felt. A messenger from the Prophet came to Ka’ab to tell him the same, and when Ka’ab went to the masjid everyone ran to greet him. He had been forgiven.

There are, as previously mentioned, many lessons to gather and only a short amount of time, so I’d like to bring your attention to one lesson I drew with regards to mercy. Hadrat Ka’ab and Charles Robert’s stories both illustrate the most common conception of mercy, namely as something you ask from others. The prevalent pop culture visualization of mercy is that of a servant begging from a king or a victim forgiving a transgressor, and this view is supported in Islam as evidenced by Hadrat Ka’abs story. Keep this in mind…

The second story is the story of Thalaba ibn Abdul Rahaman. Thalaba was a polytheist before he reverted to Islam; however once he accepted the faith he held on to it and became steadfast in his religion. He was a young boy of 16 years and he was one of the most sincere companions of the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger used to send him most of the time to receive from someone or give to somebody things on his behalf. In short he used to run errands for the Messenger.

One day Thalaba was walking down the streets of Medina when he saw a house with its door open. Out of curiosity or perhaps inadvertently he peeped into the house. At the very moment the wind blew and the light curtain at the entrance of the bathroom blew with the wind and there was a woman inside who was bathing. It was all so sudden that Thalaba could not realize what was actually happening. However, he immediately realized his mistake and lowered his gaze but the feeling of extreme guilt and remorse surrounded him. He became so much depressed with his act that he began to think that he had turned munafiq (hypocrite). He said to himself, “How could I be of the companions, one that is close to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), one who runs his errands and be so horrible as to disrespect people’s privacy?”

*Blog Edit: I must interject for the sake of any non-Muslims reading this. It is easy to read the above as an example of the puritanism within Islam. While this is a possible interpretation, I prefer to focus on the conviction of Thalaba in his principles. What those principles are and whether you agree with them or not is really not the focus of this example, what is the focus is his sincerity to his belief system.

The feeling of guilt reached so high that he started to fear that Allah would reveal his name among the munafiqin (hypocrites) to the Messenger and hence he thought how would he show his face to the Messenger, so he ran away and started living in some mountainous regions. Back in Medina the Messenger became worried about Thalaba as he did not show up for many days. Every single day would elevate the tension levels and so the Messenger decided to send Umar Ibn Khattab and Salman al Farsi (may Allah be pleased with them both) to look out for Thalaba. They searched the whole of Medina and even the outskirts of Medina until they reached a set of mountains in between Makkah and Medina. There were people who used to herd their sheep there and Umar and Salman inquired about Thalaba with them. When they narrated the characteristics of Thalaba, the nomads replied that they know a boy who wept and only wept and had been there for the past 40 days. When they inquired where they can meet him, the nomads said that the boy returns from the mountain once during a day and then they offer him milk which he drinks by mixing it with his tears (he used to cry profusely while drinking milk that tears would drop into the milk) and then again he goes back to the mountains weeping and asking Allah to forgive him. The two companions waited for Thalaba to come down from the mountains and they observed that he had become weak.

When he saw the two companions he got terrified and tried to run but the two got hold of him. To this, Thalaba cried, “Please! Please! Don’t take me to the Messenger of Allah, I am too scared!” He even asked them as to whether Allah had revealed that he had become a munafiq. As the two had committed to find and take Thalaba to the Messenger, they brought him even though he was very reluctant and did not want to face the Messenger fearing his sin.

When he was taken to the Messenger of Allah, he again asked him as to whether Allah had revealed that he had turned munafiq. The Messenger assured him that there is no such verse and placed his head over his lap. He was so ashamed of himself regarding the sin that he said to the Messenger, “Oh Messenger of Allah! Remove the head of a sinner away from you.” The Messenger comforted Thalaba and until he became calm and then he said to the Messenger, “I feel as though ants are walking between my flesh and bones.” He told Thalaba that it was death and his time to depart from this world had come. His head was still lying on the lap of the Messenger of Allah and he witnessed Thalaba saying the Shahadah, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) is the Messenger of Allah.”

After his soul departed, the Messenger of Allah washed his body and carried his body to the grave. While walking, Umar noticed that the Messenger was walking on his toes. He asked him as to why he was walking on toes as people had given him enough space to walk. The Messenger replied, “I could not put my feet because of the large number of the angels who were sent to escort him to his grave.”

Aqoolo qawli hadha wastaghfirullaha li wa lakum

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Brothers and sisters, as with Hadrat Ka’abs story, there are many morals to recognize in Hadrat Thalaba’s tale. Eschewing the obvious “Lower your gaze” and “Sincerity is important” lessons (although they are important and it is necessary to recognize those lessons), one thing I found to be important was the idea of having mercy on yourself. This is the second way our society understands the concept of mercy, to forgive not someone else but yourself. That forgiveness is for you. We often see this aspect of Mercy at play in victim support groups or the various empowerment movements sweeping our society. Indeed, when asked why they forgave Charles Roberts, the Amish claimed that they did so to build to a better future for themselves and to heal.

When I first heard this story my first question was whether or not Thalaba forgave himself. It is obvious that Allah forgave him, but did Thalaba open himself to Allah’s mercy? I choose to believe that he did, in his final moments. Although, is it even important to “forgive oneself”? This question led me to the story of the unnamed man with 99 murders.

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said: “There was a man from among a nation before you who killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the most learned person on the earth. He was directed to a monk. He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the negative and the man killed him also completing one hundred. “

To interject with my own commentary here, it should be noted that this monk was in fact in the wrong. We already discussed the near infinite extent of Allah’s (S.W.T.) mercy, so from this we can also ascertain that the monk, although seemingly religious and outwardly knowledgeable, lacked true insight. Just because someone looks to be a valid source of information does not mean that they are.

To continue: “He then asked about the most learned man in the earth. He was directed to a scholar. He told him that he had killed one hundred people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the affirmative and asked, `Who stands between you and repentance? Go to such and such land; there (you will find) people devoted to prayer and worship of Allah, join them in worship, and do not come back to your land because it is an evil place.’”

“So he went away and hardly had he covered half the distance when death overtook him; and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded, ‘This man has come with a repenting heart to Allah,’ and the angels of punishment argued, ‘He never did a virtuous deed in his life.’ Then there appeared another angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between them. He said, `Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer.’ They measured and found him closer to the land (land of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels of mercy collected his soul. ”

Remember my original question at the beginning of this khutbah? “What insight regarding Mercy does Islam bring that is unprecedented to the rest of the world?” That is insight is that mercy only comes from Allah (S.W.T.). How many people seek forgiveness from others and still do not find peace? How many forgive themselves with ease but still do not find peace? Why is the mercy of this world not enough? Because these little mercies, this 1-of-100 bit of mercy is incomplete without the mercy of Allah (S.W.T).

Maybe this is the source of depression. Not to substitute neurological or medical explanations, but maybe there is a secondary component. I am often astounded by the stories of those who’ve suffered depression. There was a man who was severely depressed and tried to commit suicide. He put the gun to his head, pulled the trigger and…lived. Then he made an omelet. Wallahi, solely by the grace of Allah (S.W.T.) not only did he survive his suicide attempt, it actually cured him of his depression. I read another story about a man with the intention to kill himself, drove to a park with a shotgun in his trunk. When he got there, there was a group of children playing and he lost the will for suicide. He kept the gun in his trunk for months afterwards and drove by the same park, but never again did he consider the act again. Subhanallah, look at how in all of these stories literally one moment of Allah’s mercy can change the trajectory of a person’s life.

For a nation with material access and stability to have such high documentation of depression (estimated at a 3rd of the population), we have to ask why? Our neurologically inclined brothers might disagree, but I believe that our spiritual doors are shut, so our physical and emotional health suffers. Even if we forgive ourselves and forgive each other, mercy only comes from Allah (S.W.T.) so we have to be open to accept Allah’s mercy.

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[1] Similarly, Salman Al-Farisi reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Allah has one hundred portions of mercy. From one portion the creation has been given mercy between them and ninety nine portions are reserved for the Day of Resurrection.”

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