بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي
rabbi ishrah lee sadree
“My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance]
وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي
Wayassir lee amree
And ease for me my task
وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِّن لِّسَانِي
Waohlul AAuqdatan min lisanee
And untie the knot from my tongue
That they may understand my speech.”
(Surah Ta-Ha, Quran 20:25-28)
My dear brothers and sisters, Alhamdulillah, we are blessed with the great day of Jummah and with the blessing of the time that we have with family. We have the many blessings of food, shelter, and water as well as the blessings of a wonderful summer outside here in this area. Every day we should thank Allah for the many blessings that we have. The most incredible of them is the blessing of faith. The blessing of Imaan, the blessing of لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ , the blessing of having the Quran, the blessing of having Allah, the blessing of having a role model in the form of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Today, I’d like to talk about how Allah rewards every small thing. Nothing actually goes unnoticed by Allah. We believe that one of his names is Ar-Raqeeb, the Watchful, the Observer, and He sees everything small and large. So no matter how small an effort of a good deed that we do is, Allah sees it and He rewards us for it.
It’s about all those little, small things that add up. And do we have faith that when we are taking the means that Allah has created, and those that have been told to us through various experts? Do we truly believe that this is a part of our faith? Do we truly believe that protecting ourselves as a part of our faith and that taking these means however small they may be for us in the larger picture? However small we may think they are?
Allah tells us to take the means in order to make change. And that the means is a part of our application of sabr which I talked about a few weeks ago. It’s the application of sabr, of perseverance, of patiently persevering, taking the means as a part of that. Actually true gratitude means to accept the circumstance that we are in. And then to make the most of it with the tools that Allah has given us, because each of us has our own context. Each of us has our own circumstance. How are we making the most of the blessings and the tools that Allah has given us; our mind, our body, our intellect, our faith. How are we making the most of these blessings in a difficult time?
There’s the analogy that’s given of a man who dies and is brought before God. And he complains to God and he says, “Oh God, I died in a fire. You didn’t save me. Why didn’t you save me? Oh God.” And God replies, “I sent a firetruck. I made that a part of your community.” It’s not Islamic or from our tradition, but it is something that we can benefit from, which is this idea of taking the means that Allah has given us. And I think the best example of that is found in the different stories in the Quran. You have the story of Musa (as), for example. So when it comes to the story of Musa (as), you have several examples here. What I mentioned in my Khutbah at the beginning was the duaa of Musa (as):
قَالَ رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي
وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي
وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِّن لِّسَانِي
When Musa (as) was going to Pharaoh, he was afraid for many different reasons. He said, “Oh God, my tongue is tied up. My tongue gets tied up. I have a stutter. I have an issue. Pharaoh is not going to listen to me.” So even Musa (as), a prophet of Allah, is having difficulty with the means.
And so Allah said to him,
فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا
Faqoola lahu qawlan layyinan
And speak to him with gentle speech
(Surah Ta-Ha, Quran 20:44)
“Don’t worry about all that other stuff. Just go and take the means of speaking to Pharaoh and pursue that. That is your role. Your role is not to worry about, ‘what about my stutter? What about the way I speak? What if I don’t say it right.’ And so on. Just speak, calmly. Speak gently. قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا – Speak in a gentle speech to Pharaoh who was a child murderer in order that he may perhaps receive some guidance. Perhaps he’ll change his way. Perhaps he’ll be purified.”
So from the story of Musa (as), we also have his staff, which is the symbolic means taking. Allah gives Musa (as) this task of throwing down his staff. Allah doesn’t just split the river for him. Allah doesn’t just have a serpent come and eat up all the other serpents. Rather, Allah has the means in the form of the staff. Symbolically, or literally, when Musa (as) throws the staff, and through that staff these miracles happen, Musa is still told to take the means that is in front of him. To take the action on his behalf and let Allah take care of the rest of it. And that’s something that’s a part of our faith, isn’t it?
So something that’s a part of our belief. We do our best within the laws of physics, within the laws that Allah has created, we do our part. We take our means. We use the tools that Allah has given us, and then we leave the rest in the hands of Allah to work His miracles and work His decree out. And so Musa’s (as) staff is represented by that.
You also have the example of Maryam (ra). She gives birth to a baby, to Jesus, to Isa (as) under a tree, and she’s in no condition for any physical kind of activity or movement. And yet when she’s hungry, the angels tell her, “Shake the tree.” And she’s in no way going to be able to. If you’ve tried to shake dates from a tree, the date palm is very strong. It withstands the sand storms, the dust storms, the strong winds, and the dates don’t fall down. And this woman who’s just given birth, how is she meant to do it? But yet she does it because Allah said take the means and put the rest in My hands. And she’s able to get that provision.
And so for us to be truly grateful for the blessings that Allah has given us means that we appreciate them and then make use of them in the best of ways for our benefit, for our family’s benefit, for our community benefit, for humanity’s benefit, for the benefit of all mankind. And so taking the means is an important factor when it comes to making any kind of change.
Even in different industries, the best companies ask for feedback from their customers, “How can we do better?” Technology companies make sure that their applications and programs are up to date. The best teachers are investing in professional development so they can learn new ways to teach their students. Students want to improve their grades and so they seek out a way to improve their grades. The best parents are looking for ways to improve their family and looking for ways to make use of the means that are in front of them.
And yes, there is part of it that we leave to Allah, but we have to do our part as well. And that is what Allah asks. Just like Musa’s (as) staff, just like Maryam’s tree, just like so many other examples. When change happens, it can be an incredible stressor. We can become incredibly stressed. We can become incredibly vexed, even angry, anxious, uncertain, because of all the uncertainty that change brings and difficult times bring. And we can sit there and mull over it and get depressed over it and get sad over it. Or we can try to think about how we can make the most of it.
And Allah says,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
inna Allaha la yughayyiru ma biqawmin hatta yughayyiroo ma bianfusihim
Allah does not change people until they change themselves.
(Surah Ar-Ra’d, Quran 13:11)
And so when it comes to any type of change or any kind of difficulty, if we want the situation to improve even though it may seem so far off… Now companies are announcing, oh, we’re going to keep working from home until 2021 now, or indefinitely. And so it might seem like that change for COVID or for any other circumstance is far away. But it’s about those small steps that we take now. And Allah, as I mentioned at the beginning of my khutbah, He sees every single step that we take for our betterment and for society’s benefit.
And so someone might say,
- Am I really obligated in some way?
- Can’t I just be, as I am?
- Do I really need to change?
- Do I really need to change how I am or how my life is or my connection with Allah?
- Do I need to actually make change in my life when Allah tells me that Allah does not change your people until they change themselves?
- What if I don’t want to change?
But the thing is that He (Allah) created us. He gave us free will.
إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا
Inna hadaynahu alssabeela imma shakiran waimma kafooran
Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful.
(Surah Al-Insan, Quran 76:3)
He has enlightened us to the way. And now it’s up to us. Are we going to be grateful servants of Allah who make use of our blessings or are we going to be the opposite? So He’s created us this way. He’s given us intellect. He’s given us our minds. He’s given us our bodies. He’s given us so many blessings. How are we making use of those blessings? How are we making change for ourselves, for our families, for humanity. And He’s created us all in this unique way. We all have our unique circumstances. We all have our unique challenges, but we have to try. And make the most of our blessings, no matter what they are. We can’t look down on our blessings and say, well, I don’t have as much as this person has. And if I had, as much as that person, then I would do something.
Look at the example from this Quran. And I don’t want you to take it in a way of adding a burden, but I want you to take it in a way of how we should think about our place on this earth.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنتُمْ
Inna allatheena tawaffahumu almalaikatu thalimee anfusihim qaloo feema kuntum
Indeed, those whom the angels take [in death] while wronging themselves, [the angels] will say, “In what [condition] were you?
(Surah An-Nisa, Quran 4:97 )
So Allah talks about how those who commit sins and do evil deeds try to blame others, but really they’re only oppressing themselves. And so those people, when the angels come to take their souls, they angel say to them, “What happened? Why are you amongst this group? فِيمَ كُنتُمْ – What’s your justification? What’s your excuse?”
They will say,
قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ
qaloo kunna mustadAAafeena fee alardi
They will say, “We were oppressed in the land.”
(Surah An-Nisa, Quran 4:97)
We were مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ – this is usually a translated as, “We were weak.” A deeper translation would be, “We were esteemed to be weak. We were deemed to be weak. Others thought we were weak and we were weak as a result.” And in this form of verb in Arabic مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ – istif’al – family of verbs. There’s this idea of we were seeking to be weak on the earth. In the land. “We were seeking to be weak. We were trying to find a ways to come out to be weak, that others had power over us. We had no power ourselves. We were weak people. We were poor people and so on.”
And the angels replied,
قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا
qaloo alam takun ardu Allahi wasiAAatan fatuhajiroo feeha
The angels will say, “Was not the earth of Allah spacious [enough] for you to emigrate therein?”
(Surah An-Nisa, Quran 4:97)
“Wasn’t the land of Allah, the earth that Allah has given us was – وَاسِعَةً – vast? فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا – and you could have left. You could have gone somewhere else.” And it’s not saying that the only solution is to leave or to migrate. But it’s about how we think about our blessings that Allah has given us. This earth is vast. The ways and means are vast. We just have to put our effort into it. We have to put our mind to it. And some things take time and some things may never change. But the believer is asked to do what the believer is asked to do: their part.
There’s a beautiful Hadith. I love this hadith so much. I mention it a lot, but it’s just so beautiful where the Prophet (pbuh), tells us, that “At the end of time, when the day of judgment is about to come and we are in the final moments of this earth, of this land, of everything. And someone is about to plant a seed.” What are they hoping? What is the hope that we have when we plant a seed? We’re hoping that the seed will establish itself in the earth. We’re hoping that it’ll start to grow. We’re giving it a few years that maybe it will bear fruit. It’ll bear shade for those who need shade.
And a seed is so symbolic. It’s not just that tree, but anything that we do, any deed that we do is like a seed. Allah describes words as being seeds. Words are like trees. And so you can have a rotten tree and you can have a rotten seed or a rotten tree through your evil words and rotten words, or you can have a beautiful tree that establishes itself whose roots are firm, whose fruits are many, whose fruits generations can enjoy. That’s the power of a good work.
And so the Prophet (pbuh) says that, “At the end of time, if someone is about to plant a seed and they hear the trumpet, the trumpet is blown,” and that’s it. The universe is done, creation is done, but, “yet the believer should still plant the seed.” So even in the face of doomsday, even in the face of the end, the believers should still plant the seed. And that just tells you the optimism that we should have, the hope that we should have, the realization we should have, that every small thing Allah is aware of it.
That every small seed that is planted, Allah is aware of it. Whether it’s an actual seed, whether it’s a word, whether it’s an action, whether it’s even a thought. We are even blessed by Allah for our own intentions and our ideas. That “if one of you thinks about doing a good deed, then you are rewarded as if you had done that deed. And if you actually go and carry out that action and carry out that deed, you get rewarded many more times, 10 times or more.” You get rewarded for one action based on one good intention. And so we have to think about Allah’s mercy here. And we can’t tell ourselves that we are powerless or we are too weak – كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ
Rather, we have to do our part. There’s new unique challenges and circumstances arising. And so how can we overcome this? The way to do it is to understand our place, to understand that even the smallest of seeds has a significance before Allah. Even if we don’t see what the result will be, we’ll try our best to intend the result that we want. But even if we’re not seeing it, to have that hope and that optimism that a believer has because we are the nation.
What is our first verse after Bismillah, after saying in the name of Allah, the first verse is – الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ – All praises are due to Allah. You ask a believer, how are you feeling? – الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ – “All praises are due to Allah in times of good in times of bad.” Because I know that whatever I assume is bad for me, whatever I assume is this huge unsurmountable challenge for me, whatever I assume to be so difficult, Allah has something there for me, for my family, for my community, for everyone. There is something in it for everyone. There is some blessing to be had. There’s some good to be had even in something that I deemed to be evil, even something that I deemed to be bad, even something that I deemed to be a tragedy or a calamity. There’s something there that Allah wants us to benefit.
And so this message is a message of hope. It’s a message of optimism. It’s a message of how can we see that the glass is half full and not be people who look at the glass and say, “Oh, it’s half empty. I can’t believe it’s half empty. Where did the other half go?” We have to be people who say, “Well, there’s there’s half a glass of water here. We can make use of this. What’s the most that we can do with this?”
Now someone might say to themselves, “What if Allah doesn’t want me to change?” Actually I’ve had people ask me this. “What if Allah wants for you? What if Allah created me this way that I am, and I think this way, and I act this way and there’s no way around?” But of course, Allah does want us to change. Allah wants us to be better. Allah wants us to better our situation. Allah wants us to better our circumstances. Allah wants us to be a net positive for the world around us.
Allah wants that when our time comes as inevitably our time will come one day. It might be today. It might be tomorrow. And when we leave this earth, our existence and presence on this earth, be a net positive for this earth and the people on this earth. When we leave will the people that were in our lives or in whose lives we were in, will those people appreciate us? Will those people miss us? Well, those people wish us back? Not because it’s possible to have us back, but because of the benefit that we brought them, because of the good that we brought them. Or will they say good riddance, will they say whatever they’re going to say. Because this person was a negative influence in our life. Of course Allah wants us to be of the former. He wants us to be amongst those who are a net positive.
The Prophet (pbuh) told us, “If we walk to Allah, He will come to us running.” So imagine that analogy that’s given. Allah doesn’t run in a way that we would understand, but it’s this idea that we come to Allah as we are able to, slowly. And Allah will rush towards us. There’s a beautiful Hadith Qudsi where the Prophet (pbuh) told us about Allah,
Allah the Almighty said: “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him (my servants) when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a cubit, and if he draws near to Me a cubit, I draw near to him a fathom. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.“
That’s a beautiful way of how Allah wants us to think about Him. The scholars actually took from this. And they said that when you hear of a virtuous act of something that the Prophet (pbuh) said, that is good. You might have heard people say that, “Oh, if you say these words, or if you say this specific duaa or supplication or prayer, then this will happen or this goodwill come about.”
And many of those are real authentic narration. And I’m going into the science of this a little bit, but others are not so authentic. But the scholars said, “Allah is what we think of Him to be.” So we should engage in blessing as much as we can. Yes, we should authenticate. We should be rigorous. But at the same time, there’s a flexibility. That’s there that “I am as My servant thinks of Me.” If we think that when we give this $1, that’s all we have is this $1 to give. And to us, when we put it in the box or we give it to the person we’re like, “This is a billion dollars to me right now. Oh, Allah accept this as a billion dollars.” Why can’t Allah set that as a billion dollars? Why can’t Allah accept it as infinite amount for you?
And so with that said, when it comes to any kind of change, change in mentality, change in action, change in context, change in circumstance, people start to think about, “Why is change so hard? What makes it so difficult?” And actually there’s a whole process to it. And according to psychologists, there are steps to change.
Number one, the first step to change is ignorance. Isn’t that interesting? The first step to change is actually that you are in a state of ignorance of whether that change even needs to happen. Whether you need to make some kind of change in your life, whether it is your connection to Allah, whether it is the way you are with your family, whether it is with how you are in your community, whether it is how you are at work. Whatever that change is, whether it’s your weight, your finances, or anything that you want to improve, the first step to change is ignorance.
The second step is reflection. So you’re reflecting on, wait a second, “This is something I want to improve on. This is something they want to make a change in.”
The third step is action.
The fourth step is maintenance. So now you’ve taken that action in order to have true change in your life. You want to lose weight. It’s not enough to do that action. You have to maintain that action. That’s the fourth step.
And you think this is done. Okay, you were ignorant, you reflected, you took action, and now you’re maintaining. Aren’t you done?
The fifth part of change is relapse. The fifth part psychologists say is relapse, which is this idea that the change will have faults, that it won’t be perfect. Yes, you want to make changes, changes in your routine and yes, there has been three- March, April, May, June. It’s been four. I was about to say three, but it’s been four or five months now since we started quarantine and all of this. And in that whole process of change and that process of new routine, there’s times of faults and there’s times of flexibility. There’s times of, “Oh, I failed at this. Let me get back up again.”
And what’s interesting is that this entire process that modern day psychologists talk about is actually the exact process of forgiveness that’s in the Quran. That first a person is in the state of ignorance as to that realization that they’re in a state of ignorance. They don’t have the knowledge of the fact that what they might be doing, saying, thinking is wrong. Then the second step is okay, you have to feel it in your heart. That’s reflection. The third step is you have to see it in your words. “Ya Allah, forgive me.” If you wrong the person, go to that person and ask for their forgiveness. The fourth step is action. You know what two things Allah puts together in the Quran? الَّذِينَ تَابَو أَصْلَحَ – Those who repent and reform. So take action. And then Allah knows that we will fall into it again. And so whenever Allah talks about this, He uses that repetition.
The Prophet (pbuh) said the best of those who continuously make mistakes – كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ – all of the children of Adam are those who continuously make mistakes and وَخَيْرُ الْخَطَّائِينَ the best of those who continuously make mistakes are the التَّوَّابُونَ those who continuously repent. So Allah knows we continue to make mistakes in our routine and whatever it is that we hope to achieve. But it’s our job to do our part to take the means that are available to us. To realize that there will be times where we’re not perfect and to take the steps of ignorance, reflection, action, maintenance, and relapse, just like that.
And so I ask Allah that He helps us to make beneficial change in our lives. I ask Allah that He helps us to continue to adjust to our new normal. I ask Allah that He helps us to take the means that He has put before us. I ask Allah that He gives us strength to tackle the challenges that we have in ourselves and our work and our families and our community and in society at large. I ask Allah to help us to follow the way of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I ask Allah that He forgives us for our shortcomings and accepts from us our good deeds.
وَآخِرُ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
waakhiru daAAwahum ani alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameena
And the last of their call will be, “Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds!”
(Surah Yunus, Quran 10:10)
جَزَاكَ ٱللَّٰهُ خَيْرًا
السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ
Beautifully written essay (khutbah)!