In a recent Khutbah, I heard Allah’s divine name, Al-Afoo, The Pardoner, and a very touching
qudsi hadeeth that exemplified it: A servant [of Allah’s] committed a sin and said: “O Allah! Forgive
me my sin.” And Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who
forgives sins and punishes them.” Then the man sinned again and said: “O Lord! Forgive me my sin.’ And Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who
forgives sins and punishes them.” Then the man sinned again and said: “O Lord! Forgive me my
sin.” And Allah said: “My servant has committed a sin and acknowledged he has a Lord who
forgives sins and punishes them. [My slave!] Do what you wish, for I have forgiven you!” (Bukhari and Muslim) This is no free ticket to sin as you please. But it did make me realize we should always have hope that Allah will forgive our sins and guide us to become better Muslims. How many times have we sat down to count our mistakes and recognized we’ve sinned so much we can’t even keep track anymore? We think that there’s no way Allah can forgive us now. To our minds, we don’t even deserve forgiveness. This shows only the extent of Allah’s mercy, which no human mind can even imagine. “And do not despair of Allah’s mercy. For, most surely, none despairs of Allah’s mercy except the disbelieving people.” [12:87] Take note. Hope is no luxury to make our lives better. It is a Muslim obligation, part and parcel of faith.
When God Answers
THE STARTLING ADVENT of the Quran’s revelation, in about 613 c.e., announcing the prophethood of Muhammad, sallahu alayhe wa sallam, in Makkah, immediately set off an unremitting tide of anxiety and spiritual awakening among his people, the Quraysh, which sparked a profound and virtually illimitable obsession with questioning the traditional Arabian way of life. Nearly everything about the emergent experience was strange to “authentic” Arabness. No Arab (since hazy antiquity) had professed himself a prophet. No culturally paradigmatic Book—and
expressly one so clearly Arabic and arrestingly eloquent as the Quran—had ever appeared in the decisively defining tongue of this still nomadic-minded people, whose community (ummah) had come to be objectively identified in the human setting of Arabia by its complete scriptural
illiteracy (al-umiyyûn). No heavenly revelation, in any form, had reclaimed provincial Arab purpose in the larger world since Ishmael, alayhe salam, and his father, Abraham, alayhe
salam, raised the Ka‘bah in ancient millennia. And no Arab heart had conceived of a belief, an idea, even a chimera, that would have remotely moved the individual—any individual—to the center of human existence, independent of familial connection or tribal association, let alone envisaged
a religion that would declare all of humanity—irrespective of language, lineage, or affluence—a single family under one, sole, unseen God, without likeness, to whom every individual human being was immediately and ultimately responsible. Here, of course, is the new call’s single-most “novel” assertion in the ancient Arabian milieu: That their provincial idols—like every other graphic, iconic, or mental commingling of God or His divinity with His creation, whether of physical or metaphysical human manufacture—must go. The new faith’s by-word, Lâ ilâha illa-Allâh, there is no god but the God—as the compatriots of Muhammad, sallahu alayhe wa sallam, directly and correctly apprehended—spelled the end of the legitimacy of Arabian life, and of
every inference that fed into the fountainhead of their particularized tribal ethos or that flowed from it. More significantly (though this could not have been fathomed by the Quraysh in those early years)
it permanently introduced into the world’s belief matrix a dynamic of “denialin-perpetuity” of the right of man to fashion ethnocentric isms and self-verifying idols in the name of the progression of the species (whatever the category of human estimation by which this claim would be legitimized) in order to lend them the force of missionary religion. In the terminology of the Quran, man is vicegerent, not sovereign, over the earth, acting on the authority of an imperial God. Thus the Quran not only challenged the nature, bases, and assumptions of the old values regime that the Arabs felt and knew but roused them to conceptions, eventualities, and possibilities they could never have imagined. So inveterate had the particularized mythos seeding their
worldview become, and so intuitive their tribal impulse that, quite literally, most of their leading political figures and controlling cultural alliances could not accede to, therefore, would not believe in, something so “radically” unifying, universalizing, and, in its way, leveling as the invitation to the culture of spiritual, social, and moral “oneness” (tawhîd) that the Prophet, sallahu alayhe wa sallam, was now openly issuing in the households and fairgrounds of Makkah. Few of the Quraysh accepted the validity of their clansman’s elevation to the status of God’s Messenger or the veracity of his divine communication, the Quran. Motivated by a highly self-interested mercantile oligarchy
I T IS RIGHT around this time that the images of starving Somali men, women, and children will disappear from news splash screens and front pages, making their way to last month's online archives. This is a predicable evolution of news-and reports of the most dire human suffering, unhappily, are no different. They have their place in the queue. Even if the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and its Horn of Africa neighbors stayed on the front page, it is an unfortunate reality that we ourselves are giving less sadaqah the further away we get from Ramadan, the month of giving. Great appeals are made during the holy month in a rush to try to maximize donations, but the truth is, without consistent giving throughout the entire year, the money ends up being spread too thin. The slow-down in charitable giving is not a phenomenon specific to Muslims. People on the whole tend to reduce their donations to any given cause that is more than one or two (media) months old. Moreover, chronic crisis, like the ongoing drought and food shortage in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti, tend not to receive as muchattention as spontaneous natural disasters, which there re ever more of in our climate-collapsing world, like the earthquake in Haiti and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (Note that even though both these countries remain in dire need of aid, Haiti being particularly desperate, how
little we hear of them through the news media now.) It may be that we allow the overabundance of impatience we have accumulated while living in an immediateresponse world to spill over into our expectation of what our charity should do and how fast we should see results. The strife in Somalia did not arise overnight, however, and it cannot be reversed without the most resolute kind of patience and perseverance. Somalia has been suffering for the entirety of my life. Every summer of my childhood, late-night Save the Children commercials expressed the reality of rail-thin children and mourning mothers. Fathers were conspicuously absent, a detail that spoke of Somali’s social crisis to anyone who would listen. Why has nothing changed? To understand this, one must look to the history of the area and the origin of its recent unrest.
An account of a journey in quest of lending
When Calamity Strikes
WE SAT MESMERIZED
Listening to it all with eyes wide open and every now and then watery pearls twinkling in them. I could sense all the hearts heaving with emotions, wearing out just by listening about the pain
wreaked upon our fellow Muslims due to the recent floods in the Northern areas of Pakistan.
It was my brother who was narrating to us an account of a touching travel he experienced to carry out his bit in answering the call of the grieving. He lamented the numerous houses being torn apart and the honor of our Muslim brothers and sisters at stake. But then very enthusiastically also appreciated the fierce desire of our countrymen to help the victims by all means, for the relief camp that was set up by Mufti Taqi Usmani and his deputy Shaykh Maulana Abdul Sattar received an overwhelming response when on the very first day an enormous crowd approached the camp and started contributing. My brother narrated: "The sight made me imagine the days of the Holy Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wassallam. Young and old, men and women, rich and not-so-rich, everyone seemed to contribute to their last penny, promising to bring even more next time. Many women even gave their necklaces, bracelets, and rings. "In the meantime two young boys riding on a bike passed by the camp, staring at the banner above. To my utmost surprise, they took a U-turn
and stopped their bike in front of the camp. They were wearing chains around their necks and one of them had earphones inserted in his ears. They came and each gave five hundred bucks. Besides constantly invoking Allah, ta‘ala, for mercy and praying for the victims, this camp stirred the
slumbering conscience and urged us to put our efforts into some worthwhile action."
How We Need the Needy