Reflecting on the recent calamity in Palestine, a dear friend mourned, “Since when did we become the foam on the ocean?”
Rasulullah ﷺ said: Soon, the nations will invite one another to devour you, as diners devour a dish. Someone asked: Because of our small number, then? He ﷺ replied: No, you are numerous then, but you will be like froth on a torrent. Allah will remove reverence of you from the hearts of your enemy, and He will cast enfeeblement into your hearts. Someone asked: What is this enfeeblement? The Messenger of Allah ﷺ replied: Love of the world and hatred of death.
Rasulullah ﷺ foretold the umma’s enfeeblement. And he ﷺ explicitly stated its cause: The embrace of materialism, its philosophy, values and lifestyles.
What will become real to me is only the sensorily experienced. I devote my time and energy to temporal, worldly pursuits and pleasures. And I espouse and live by the values (akhlaq) — selfish individualism, hedonism, ingratitude to the Divine — spawned by secularism.
The spiritual realities of the unseen become gradually distant to me. The veil between me and the other realms of existence grows dense and impermeable. Not only do I not experience it anymore, I believe, less and less, in its very existence. I become a materialist with a Muslim label.
These changes are realized, ironically, in the Muslim analysis of Palestine and many other places — China, Kashmir, Myanmar or India, to name a few — where we are plagued by injustices.
While accurate and nuanced historical, social, economic and political context must inform analysis and action, where is the integrated — even, overarching — framework of Divine Unicity (tawhid), its norms and consequences? A Muslim integrates mind and matter, sense and soul, the rationalizable and the supra-rational, the world now and the world ahead.
Any other ontology, epistemology, methodology or action is partial, partisan and, ultimately, parochial. It will not realize true ‘afiya (welfare), whether individually or collectively, in the here or Hereafter.
I live in a world of unceasing successions of pain and pleasure to actualize ‘ubudiyya (loving servitude). I am appointed to be a khalifa (vicegerent) of Allah’s Divine Names and Attributes to the greatest extent of my human potential. But I cannot fulfil this exalted vocation without an envelope of knowledge and experience of His Rububiyya (Lordship).
Zoom-in, zoom-out. I must always navigate the contingencies of my world with the compass of my faith’s constants. My life is a pendulum swinging between the contingencies and fragmentations of human existence and the permanence and unicity of the Divine.
I must zoom-out to maintain my sanity, and not devolve into desperation and despair. And, once nourished through, and by, the Source of All, I re-enter the frenetic fray to work ihsan — virtue, beauty and excellence — inspired from that experiential Unicity.
In light of this, what can I practically do when I see the plight of Gaza? I pledge to seven commitments.
1. I will be vigilant to keep the issue of Palestine alive, ardent and sacred in my mind and heart as an unremitting personal concern of every Muslim, and never relegate it to a Palestinian or transnational Arab concern.
I will not “normalize” my relations with an occupier. Normalization is Orwellian newspeak for the legitimation of injustice and the illegal and, ultimately, the superfluity of human life.
2. I will anchor in my heart the constants and certainties of Allah’s Names and Attributes: He is the Source of Loving-Mercy (al-Rahman); the Infinitely Compassionate (al-Rahim); the Protector and Guardian (al-Muhaymin and al-Hafiz); the Subtle in Care (al-Latif); the Infinitely Wise (al-Hakim); the All-Vigilant (al-Raqib); the Just (al-‘Adl) and the Ultimate Judge (al-Hakam).
The story of Gaza does not end today or tomorrow. Justice will be done in Allah’s court. The oppressors and their enablers are only adding fuel to their Fire; while Allah is taking to Him as shuhada’ those that He loves. If I don’t connect the dots to the Divine, how will I understand the full, true picture?
Allah is timelessly al-Latif. His subtle, loving care penetrates every circumstantial impossibility. The light of His care is present in the darkest spaces. Ya Latif — penetrate with your lutf the plight of our brothers and sisters. Grant them certainty, solace, steadfastness and your most special solicitude. Amin.
3. I should regularly remember my brothers and sisters in my sincere du‘a, after salah, between salah, and during the times when du‘a is accepted, such as before Fajr and Maghrib — for this is the least that I can do for them.
I must transcend my reliance on material means, while taking them as an imperative of my ‘ubudiyya. Du’a is the swiftest and surest means to solicit from the Owner of all means and ends. If I am not daily in sincere du‘a, how much do I truly believe or care?
4. I should never permit my mind and heart to become an occupied territory by espousing the normative values and lifestyles that are alien to Islam and subversive to a life of true human freedom and happiness.
The first step of liberation is intellectual and spiritual. “You cannot fight an enemy with its checkpoints in your head.” Add to this: its checkpoints in my heart. How can I envision any emancipation when the core that must drive my resistance — my values (akhlaq) — are the values that define, not only the oppressor, but the very causes of his oppression?
5. I should commit and sincerely act to reform and transform what is most immediately within my power and responsibility — my self — and lovingly submit, internally and externally, to the commands of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ.
The Messenger ﷺ teaches: Preserve Allah and He will preserve you. There is no preservation of the umma except if the individuals that constitute it preserve the commands, prohibitions and values of the Divine. After all, is what is true of the principles of Allah’s preservation of the individual — at every level of preservation— not also true collectively?
6. I should subdue my personal caprice in my collective activities to ensure that I always sustain and maintain Muslim unity, and not be an accomplice or naive instrument in my enemy’s design to compromise, fracture and weaken this umma.
It is our sectarianism and lack of unity that grants Israel and its enablers the impunity to act. And this sectarianism — even religiously inspired — is often the result of perceived interests of power, resources and prestige. Can there be unity of the umma except through the unity we cultivate in our families, associations, mosque committees and other collective action?
7. I should adhere in my activism — relief, educational, political, or otherwise — to the Shari‘a, its values and its higher objectives; and work with a spiritual consciousness knowing that all means are Allah’s creation and results will arrive only on His schedule and calendar.
In recent times, we have learned a bitter lesson — hopefully unforgettable — that our political activism and solidarities that did not preserve basic Shar‘i constants had devastating consequences in desensitizing and legitimizing ways of life definitely rejected in Islam. Was not much of this haste due to seeking perceived gains at the expense of the rational and spiritual constants of our faith?
I commit to trying my level best to live up to this manifesto of change.
If I do not, I will be a statistic in the umma that enables the ongoing plight of Gaza — and the plight of Muslims anywhere.
I must not forget my guilt in Gaza’s innocence. I must free myself from the subtle and subdued shades of my complicity. And if I do not work for change, by striving to change, then I have betrayed my values and betrayed Gaza.
The promise of Allah is true; the variable is me:
Allah has promised those who believe among you and do good that He will surely grant them succession of authority upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them; and that He will surely establish for them their faith which He is pleased with for them; and that He will surely substitute for them security after their fear — they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that — those are the defiantly disobedient (24:55).