Tuesday, May 06, 2008

International Relations in Islam lecture series - 2

'Alaqat Ad-Dauliya (Introduction) Lecture Two

Imam Muhammad Abu Zahra

A series of talks delivered by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks on International Relations in Islam based on the classic work 'Alaqat Ad-Dauliya by Imam Muhammad Abu Zahra

Lecture by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks 2 - 24.02.06

Methodology and approach in Islam is important. This is critical as to whether we are true representatives as the khulafa of Allah fil Ard (representatives of God to humanity on earth) – in terms of how we conduct our affairs.

As an Ummatun Wasata (A balanced people) we are charged with the responsibility by Allah, which is a unique and divine one to project the central message of Islam and the outer central message of Islam takes its embodiment as an Ummatun Wasata – a balanced umma.

This is a moral charge and at no time are we allowed to lose site of that particular approach. There is a growing ideological trend in Islam, which we have to be conscience about that is battling to take the centre and to project itself as mainstream Islam.

Inside extremism there is a whole universe of difference and attitudes and approaches to particular things (and we need to be aware of this.) The Sahaba (Umr, Abu Bakr and Saydina 'Ali) were all aware of extremism, consciously aware.

Saydin 'Ali is the supreme example here of challenges of this sort.

We have a wealth of examples we can use when we need to approach these things.

In this spirit it is important for us to recognize what Allah and his Rasul are trying to tell us, in no unclear terms, what the ultimate objectives of Islam are,

'It is to create a society that, while it has its objective, which is to obtain the satisfaction of Allah and equally a social objective, which is the development and building and creation of a community that has the capacity, charged with a duty to live the highest values possible and to realize these values in our lives'.

As Muslims, we cannot back off from this responsibility. This has nothing to do with Imams and Shaykhs alone but everything to do with us as a community.

We have our specialists in every field, medicine etc but we also have a joint and collective responsibility and that is to uphold these values and to project these values very forcefully to the rest of the world

The idea of moderation in Islam is to set up an Umma, which lives up to the highest levels of justice, freedom, fairness etc.

Without losing site of the fact that while charged with these social responsibilities, we can never lose sight of the Adab of Islam. This is why our classical scholars have said, 'Al-Adab fauqal 'ilm' – Adab – good conduct, good manners, and good behaviour is a level above knowledge'.

Allah (S) for example says

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلاً مِّمَّن دَعَآ إِلَى اللَّهِ

(And who is better in speech than he who invites to Allah,)

وَعَمِلَ صَـلِحاً وَقَالَ إِنَّنِى مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

But in the same time they are or engage themselves in acts of righteousness

The Adab of the verse itself, the ways it's written, it moves you, when you read the Arabic, (وَقَالَ إِنَّنِى مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ),

we are the people of peace, we are Muslim's).

There is a sense of concern here with humanity when you say (وَقَالَ إِنَّنِى مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ), it's not a harsh statement or a shouting statement because you are one who invites to Allah (S) and this is our response (we are the people of peace, the Muslimin).

The verse carries on - A classic verse in the configuration or the approach of our methodologies.

وَلاَ تَسْتَوِى الْحَسَنَةُ وَلاَ السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِى هِىَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِى بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِىٌّ حَمِيمٌ

Allah says: goodness and evil can never been the same, there is no equivalence to that which is evil or bad and that which is good…

And then says, immediately after that: when you are confronted with whatever, when you need to defend yourselves (ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِى هِىَ أَحْسَنُ), when you are pushed to defend yourselves.

When you are called upon to defend yourselves, then you do so with that which is better, in a manner which is better.

These are our moral tasks and our responsibilities.

There is no doubt that we need to defend our prophet and if there is one person we would rather die for, then its Muhammad (saw), this we wont even debate, there is no one more important in our lives than Muhammad (saw).

When you defend yourselves, you do so in a manner which is better. Why? - To sustain and maintain and take charge of the higher moral ground.

We cannot afford to lose our morality no matter what we do, whether it's at home with the children or at work with colleges or employees or in governments.

We have a morality which we need not be ashamed about and we can and should be proud of this.

But you feel ashamed when you see people dressed in Islamic garb acting completely contrary to the dictates of the Quran

فَإِذَا الَّذِى بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِىٌّ حَمِيمٌ

The purpose is clear here. That as Khalifa's and representatives here on earth, it is our duty to invite people with Ihsan and when you are defending yourself or subjected to the worst animosity and hatreds and injustice because in that action of yours (responding with Ihsan (in a manner, which is better as the Quran commands us) we present ourselves as a khalifa of Allah here on earth as a function of that divine will which we all bow down to when we Salah. We have to ask ourselves if we are really bowing to that will if we are not executing that will in our daily lives.

That is the objective, to bring people closer to us as a

(وَلِىٌّ حَمِيمٌ) – the root of this verse is directed at non-Muslims who are exercising, perpetrating hostilities of all sort's against Muhammad (saw) and the Muslims.

The purpose is to bring them closer to you as an intimate friend, with the hope, that as a khalifa of Allah on earth, you will be the part of the course of that person entering Islam.

Added on (You will be a means of people becoming your warmest friend and as a Muslim, a person of justice, peace, forgiveness and tolerance, you will be the cause of another person accepting your way and if Allah will, Islam).

That is the purpose of the Din, not to defend it over and against someone else with the objecting of dishing out punishments to them and of demeaning another person or pounding them into the ground.

How can that be the message of Islam?

Allah (S) goes on to say,

وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ صَبَرُواْ

(But none is granted this goodness or ability as a living representative of Allah on earth except those who exercise patience and self restraint) Sabr is an immense quality and the most used word in the Quran, this virtue is the most mentioned.

وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَآ إِلاَّ ذُو حَظِّ عَظِيمٍ

And none but people of immensely good fortune will experience that

Then Allah (S) continues

وَإِمَّا يَنزَغَنَّكَ مِنَ الشَّيْطَـنِ نَزْغٌ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

(36. And if an evil whisper from Shaytan tries to turn you away, or if someone comes to divert you from this or your straight path or course, if this satanic speech of revenge or hatred comes/approaches and calls you (then make dua that Allah protect us from sinking to this level) then seek refuge in Allah and know that Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.)

But know in all your actions and deeds and whatever you do that He is the One who hears and knows all things.

We always have to charge ourselves with that confidence that as Muslims as when we engage ourselves in anything, that Allah is the Alim, the Basir,

He is the one who see's and hears and Allah will respond to us in a manner to an extent in which we have embraced our responsibility and our function here on earth as His khalifa. That is an enormous responsibility.

Imam Ghazali quotes a hadith in the Ihya and says,

'A man came up to the Prophet and asked him (Ma Din?) what is the Din? Explain to me what the Din is – Muhammad (saw) replied – Husul Khulq – good conduct and manners –

Fata humu Shimalihi – and he came to him from his right hand side – Fasa alahum – faqal – Mad Din? What is the Din? And he responded – Husnul Khulq

and he came from the right and he asked Mad Din?

What is the Din? And he responded – Husnul Khulq

and he came from behind and asked him Mad Din?

What is the Din? And he responded – Husnul Khulq – good conduct and he came again to him and asked him again Mad Din?

He then replied – 'Ala Tafqah? Do you not understand? Huwa an la takhdab – for you never ever to lose your temper or to grow angry.

The context of the hadith is that every time the person came to the prophet, this person became more agitated and here the prophet was demonstrating, not only through words but through a deed. So the last time the man came to Him, he was annoyed by these cryptic answers – and the prophet told him – 'Do you know what the Din is?

It is for you not to grow angry because you as you are standing there and questioning me are not a representative of the Din.'

That is what the prophet was saying there.

Anger can express itself in an individual deed but it can also manifest in groups and masses and it becomes even more fatal and it is particularly at those moments that we need to take charge of this and act as Muslims in the true sense of the word and we need to take strong charge of ourselves because we are the representatives of an Ummatan Wasata.

Added: We are representatives of anti-oppression and not just when Muslims are oppressed, we are against oppression regardless of who is being oppressed as Muhammad (saw) has taught us in the Hadith narrated by Abu Dharr, he states that the Prophet related that Allah (S), said:

يَا عِبَادِي إِنِّي حَرَّمْتُ الظُّلْمَ عَلَى نَفْسِي وَجَعَلْتُهُ بَيْنَكُمْ مُحَرَّمًا فَلَا تَظَالَمُوا

O My servant! I have prohibited oppression for Myself and made it prohibited for you, so do not oppress one another.

As Muslims, our charge is in fact not to act as moral policeman but to act as moral representatives of the highest entity we know and that is Allah (T).

We have our Quran to support us and an entire Hadith literature to guide us.

Our objective is to represent Islam as an Ummatan Wasata

that is our duty and few people in history have executed their duty as Muhammad (saw) and we do not want to die with our conscience, knowing or feeling that we in our behaviour have undermined the very essence of what that Man, our Prophet and Hero Muhammad (saw) stood for and what was revealed to him.

We would like to appear on Qiyam with a free conscience saying that we did justice to the approach and methodology of Muhammad (saw). We should never lose sight of the centrality of Muhammad (saw) in our lives.

Documented by Muhammad Allie Khalfe

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