بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ لِلَّهِ ,نَحْمَدُهُ ,وَنَسْتَعِينُهُ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُهُ , وَنَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ شُرُور أَنْفُسِنَا وَمِنْسَيِّئَاتِ أَعْمَالِنَا ,مَنْ يَهْدِهِ اللهُ فَلَا مُضِلَّ لَهُ , وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَلَا هَادِيَ لَهُ , وَأَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ
Verily, all praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His assistance and we ask for His forgiveness. And we seek refuge in Him from the evils of our selves. Whoever Allah guides, none can misguide. Whoever He misguides, none can guide. And I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.
أعوذُ بِٱللَّهِ مِنَ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِ ٱلرَّجِيم
Seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled.
بِسْ مِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
Qul ya ‘Ibadiya allatheena asrafoo ‘ala anfusihim la taqnatoo min rahmati Allahi inna Allaha yaghfiru althunooba jamee’an innahu huwa alghafooru alrraheemu
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
(Surah Az-Zumar, Quran 39:53)
I’d like to talk about hope today. And many of us have heard the comparison of hope with fear – that these are two partners. Ibn Qayyim, the famous scholar, the student of ibn Taimiya was called ibn ul Qayyim al-Jawziya because he was the son of the principal of the school called Al-Jawziya. Ibn Qayyim said “The relationship of the servant is related to that of a bird with two wings. One wing represents the hope and one represent represents fear, and the head of that bird is love for Allah.” So guiding the hope and guiding the fear is love for Allah, which is an important point to make. It’s not just hope and it’s not just fear, but it is guided by love. There’s a difference between fear on its own and fear that is guided by love. There’s a big difference.
If someone intrudes on your home, your worst nightmare comes true. That is not a fear guided by love. So that hope in Allah is a different kind, that connection that we have to Allah is balanced between hope and fear. That fear is a different kind of hope. It’s not the hope that’s associated with most other things besides Allah. In our faith, this bird is balanced between hope and fear. We cannot give into extreme examples of hope, where you feel like you don’t need to do anything because it’s all good, and you can do whatever you want, because there’s no repercussions or consequences. And so we must not fall into extreme hope.
We must also not fall into, and this is more important in our times, extreme fear – extreme fear of a lie, which leads to consistent and persistent guilt and shame that erodes ourselves, where we feel constantly guilty, where you keep thinking about that guilt and what you can do to overcome the guilt. That can come out in strange ways that we can’t comprehend. We wonder how someone could do or say such a thing.
When I was growing up in Texas, I remember the Khutbahs. There was an overwhelming sense of a focus on fear, an overwhelming sense of a focus on fire and brimstone, as they say, because we were out of our comfort zone as immigrants to this country. We’re out of our comfort zone. Where have we arrived? What’s going on with our children? What’s going to happen in 10 years? What’s going to happen in five years? There’s lots of guilty pleasures around. We have to protect ourselves. And so we gave into the fear.
If you’re not an immigrant, think of when you go out of your comfort zone, what is the fear that you feel? That is what many felt and that plays out in our conversations, especially in the masjid. And so, when you hear that the youth are misguided, and say that they should be careful and be afraid and be guilty, that has an impact on the heart and the mind. And so it’s important to balance. It’s important to rebalance and to realize:
لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّ
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا
Don’t ever despair in the mercy of Allah. He forgives all sins.
He is the enormously forgiving, very merciful. So there was a study that was done on the concept of hope. In the nineties, there was a team of psychologists led by Charles Snyder that came up with the hope theory and their definition of hope was that it has two components.
The first component of hope is agency/willpower/determination – what the Quran terms as a sabr. It’s not just patience. What it’s about is that you go through the obstacles and you’re determined and you have the grit that you need in order to accomplish things.
And the second component of hope is what they described as pathways. What that means is that you see the pathways to the goal that you have, whatever the goal may be. Are you able to see a path to that goal? If your family is trapped in a cycle of poverty, where your grandfather, your great grandfather, as far as you know, were extremely poor, then you don’t see a pathway out of that, and you begin to feel a sense of despair and hopelessness.
So they said, hope has these two parts. One is the willpower, and one is the path towards reaching any kind of goal, whatever it may be, spiritual, financial, whatever it may be. And they came up with a scale called ‘the hope test‘ or ‘the hope scale‘, which in however many steps were able to identify how hopeful a person was.
So, as an example, they looked at law school performance. This is interesting law school performance. That predicts how well someone will perform in law. They realized that the LSAT, which is the test you take to get into law school, doesn’t actually predict performance. You can take the LSAT and then fail law school. It’s not really a good indicator of whether you will do well in law school. But do you know what was a good indicator of whether you were going to perform well in law school?
It was your hope.
It was not your ability or your high GPA or your high score or whatever. That was a lower indicator. The higher indicator was your answer to these questions: “Do you have determination? Do you feel hopeful that you will actually succeed in this, that you will actually be able to succeed and perform in this given time?”
It’s hope that’s so important to us. They did another study in the New York Times, in different countries that were in need of aid. In this study, they basically followed 21,000 people in a random trial. And they called it the graduation program, because the idea was that these people would graduate out of poverty.
As a part of that program, they would give the poor some kind of livestock – a goat and bees. They would train them on how to take care of that lifestyle. And they would also give them a small amount of cash, so that the they’re not incentivized to go and then sell that livestock immediately.
They tracked these people over time and they realized that these people were not only spending time to use the livestock to milk the cow or get honey from the bees or whatever it might be, but they were also getting other kinds of employment, working other jobs, and their mental health improved.
They asked themselves, “What was it? What was the thing that helped these people the most? More than the cow or the goat or the bees would help them. What was it?” It was the sense of hope, the sense that there’s a way out for me, out of the cycle that my family has endured for generations.
This is the power of hope. This is what we’ve learned about hope in this day and age. Of course we have it in the court. We have many stories that talk about hope and trust in Allah, which we have known. You have the example of Zakariyya (as), the prophet. He was old, his wife was old, and he asked something of Allah. What does he ask for? For offspring that will help him to carry on his legacy.
And so he takes that action. He goes to Allah. He says:
إِنَّكَ سَمِيعُ الدُّعَاءِ
innaka sameeAAu aldduAAai
You are the Hearer of supplication.
(Surah Al-Imran, Quran 3:38)
Allah gives him Yahya. Our deen encourages us to take action. You have the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) when he said, “If only you were like the birds, that indeed birds trust a lot”. Birds go out and they seek their rizq, their sustenance, and they trust that they will return with their bellies full.
It didn’t say the birds wait in their nest and say, “Ya Allah, bring it down”. The birds go out, they seek, but they trust that their efforts will not be wasted. That’s their trust in Allah. They don’t find something, they go somewhere else, they persist. And so how can we persist?
When we face a difficulty, how can we enable ourselves to persist? How can we enable ourselves to have that? We are able to persevere through a challenge. We are able to persevere through a difficulty and to realize that Allah has our back. He’s not going to let us go.
لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ
Don’t despair in the mercy of Allah.
Don’t ever lose hope. We look at the story of Yaqub (as). He loses his son Yusuf and he is so overwhelmed by grief that he loses his eyesight. Look at the effect the grief has physically on him. It’s not just an emotion, but it actually has a physical outcome. That’s how stricken he is with grief. And yet he does not lose hope in Allah.
And that is where we have the verse that tells us that only the non-believing people are the ones who despair. We should always have hope in Allah. And Yaqub continues to tell his sons that when they go to Egypt, they should seek out Yusuf and lo and behold, they find him. And then there’s Yusuf (as) himself and what he goes through, all of the challenges. He faces the betrayal of his own brothers. The fact that he is sold by the caravan into slavery. He goes through so many challenges. He still has hope in Allah, even when he is in prison, he has hope in Allah. And he realizes that Allah will find him a way out of this situation. Not only does he leave the prison, but he is given such a high status as a minister, in the most important sector, which is managing the drought that is to come, managing the economy in a time of drought.
And so we must have hope in Allah. We must do the things which will increase our hope.
If we look into our history, we find the examples of those who took on insurmountable challenges. We see the example of Musa and Harun who are going to persuade Pharaoh, and Pharaoh is the strongest one in the land. He is the most powerful in the land. He has the ability at the snap of his fingers to sentence you to death. And no one will be able to say anything. And they’re told to go to him and to speak to him.
Maybe he will repent. Maybe he will come back. Maybe he will remember. They are told to speak gently to this oppressor, this tyrant. “Speak to him, gently, have some hope.” Do they succeed in that? Are they able to convince Pharaoh? They are not able to convince Pharaoh, but they take the action that is required of them. You might wonder why Pharoh didn’t have them sentenced to death. Why didn’t Pharaoh just execute them? They were under the protection of Allah. Because they were doing what Allah had asked them to do. And they had hope and trust in Allah and they persevered.
We look at the example of Maryam (as). She gives birth and she is weak from the birth and she needs sustenance, but she is out in the barren area, away from the city, away from civilization. That is when the angel says, “Shake the tree”. She was not able to, as a woman who has just given birth. She is not able to shake a tree at first. I could not shake a tree and get dates. It would be difficult. But she shakes the tree. She does what she is commanded, she takes some action, and she eats the fruits of that labor immediately.
So what is the action that we can take to increase our hope, and to make our lives more hopeful?
Number one is to remember Allah, but remember him, not just in general, but to remember who Allah is. Remember that Allah is all powerful, that He can do anything. If I was to ask you today is Allah limited, what would you say? You would say He is unlimited of course, but do those words reach your heart? Do we truly believe that He is unlimited? Does it come out in our actions? Are we able to realize that He can help us in ways that we never dreamed, of in ways that we deemed impossible? Just like He helped Musa and Harun, just like Zakariyya, just like Maryam.
Another thing that can increase our hope is giving others hope. How do we give others hope? Through our generosity, through our charity. You know that some refugees are coming. The refugees are here. You know that these people need your help. Those people need your help – give them hope.
And Allah will give you hope.
Merciful are those who receive mercy from the most Merciful.
And that includes forgiveness of others, not just those that are the poor, but those that are in need in a different way, which is your forgiveness. Your sibling, your cousin, your friend, who you haven’t spoken to – that forgiveness is a way of giving hope to others.
Another concept that will increase our hope is repentance to Allah – if we suffer from guilt, if we suffer from shame for something we did wrong. How can we repent to Allah? We should turn back to Allah and that will increase our hope, that will relieve us, because that is the way in which we relieve ourselves of our mistakes, which is part of our human nature is to make mistakes.
Another way to increase our hope is belief in Allah’s forgiveness and mercy.
Allah says: “I am what to my servant thinks of me.”
So if we think of Allah as all merciful, then He is merciful. If we think of Allah as being able to forgive us and accept our repentance, then He is.
Another way to increase our hope is to have trust in Allah, whatever He does, He does for a reason. Remember that, a lot of times when we are in difficulty and we do not see a way out and we ask Allah, “save us from this, save us from this”, what does Allah say? He says: “Isn’t it true that Allah has saved you all your life and He has protected you all your life and that you have come so far?” Who would have thought that you would be here at this moment 10 years ago? Who would’ve thought that you would be here in this moment five years ago, where you are today? Allah is the one who brought you here and He is the one who will continue to help you.
And finally, in order to increase our hope, we must support each other. This is something that is incredibly important in our time, because we live in a time of stress. We live in a time where people do give in to despair, where they commit suicide, where they harm themselves. So how can we support each other if our friend or family member comes to us with the difficulties that they are facing?
We must first be listeners. The best support is just to listen. Listen to what the person is saying. And don’t think when can you jump in with your solution. Don’t say, “Oh ! I have the solution to all your problems.” Wait. Listen first. Sometimes when a child comes to the parent with a problem, the parent first thinks of themselves. Where have I failed that my child is suffering in this way? What have I done? And how is this possible for my child? That’s not what the child needs. The child doesn’t need you to think about you. The child needs you to listen to them. What is it that they’re saying? Are you able to repeat back and summarize what they’re saying? Are you able to repeat it back? Or when you repeat it back, do they say, “No, no, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying something else entirely. You’re not listening”.
So can we take that moment to listen? We must take that time to listen and to support our friends and our family who come to us in despair. So in that situation, you are the greatest support. They are coming to you for support. They are not coming to you to insult you. They are not coming to you to tell you that you are a failure and you did a bad job as their parents. No, there’s something going on inside. The are a creature of Allah, but they are a creation of a Allah unto themselves. And so listen to them and be there. Support. May Allah help us to do that.
May Allah help us to have hope. May Allah help us to have love for him. May Allah put His love in our hearts. May Allah unite us in our families in our community. May Allah have mercy on those that have asked and may Allah forgive them. May Allah Forgive us our sins. May Allah enter us into Jannatul Firdaus. May Allah give cures to the sick. May Allah fulfill the needs of those in need. May Allah help those all over the world that are oppressed. May Allah grant them justice. May Allah unites us all on the day of judgment with the ummah of the Prophet (pbuh) raise us with him.
And enter us into Paradise, into Jannatul Firdaus, and raise us to the highest levels. Ameen.
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors, He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him, He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him, He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.
What did you think? Please share your reflections and questions below.
And come back next week for another khutbah!