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Khutba: Its time to clean up our streets

It’s been a few days since the best day of the whole year, the day upon which Allah(SWT) freed more people from the Fire than any other day – the blessed day of ‘Arafah. And what made this day so special was that it was the day upon which every fortunate person raised their eyes to the heavens and recognised that not a moment of their lives passes except that it is with the permission of Allah (SWT). The word ‘arafa in Arabic means to recognise and has many words which we are probably familiar with such as ta’aruf (introduction) and ta’reef (recognition).

Today, I want to reflect on one of the most important derivatives of this word – ma’rouf – defined in Islam as “anything which is known to be from the obedience of Allah, anything which takes you close to Allah, anything which is known as a kind act to people”. Examples of this include you all remembering Allah(SWT) this Jumuah. Thinking about His Word as we listen to the Qur’an. Giving way and respect to an elder. Smiling at a young person. Giving in charity and so on.

The opposite of ma’rouf is munkar – anything which is known to be from disobedience of Allah, anything which takes you further from Allah, anything which is known as harm to people. Examples of this include missing your prayers. Social media which drives you to distraction. Giving away your mind to drink or drugs, spreading poison between people through gossip or lying and spreading poison on the streets through drugs.

Why am I mentioning this? Because Allah(SWT) tells us about one of the most important reasons why the Qur’an was revealed. Do you know what that is?

We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidence and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance so that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.

Hence, our scholars say the purpose of the Qur’an is to establish justice and fairness.

And Allah (SWT) commands us to rise up and be distinguished by one characteristic when He said:

وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

Let there arise from you a nation inviting to good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. [Surat Ali Imran 3:104]

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever among you sees evil should change it with his hand. If he is unable to do so, then with his tongue. If he is unable to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest level of faith.” [Sahih Muslim 49]

Sufyan Ath-Thawri, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “None may enjoin good and forbid evil unless he has three qualities: gentleness in what he enjoins and forbids, justice in what he enjoins and forbids, and knowledge of what he enjoins and forbids.” [Source: Jāmi’ al-‘Ulūm wal-Ḥikam 2/256]

عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيّ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الْإِيمَانِ

49 صحيح مسلم كتاب الإيمان باب بيان أن النهي عن المنكر من الإيمان والأن الإيمان يزيد وينقص

قَالَ سُفْيَانُ الثَّوْرِيُّ رحمه الله لَا يَأْمُرُ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ إِلَّا مَنْ كَانَ فِيهِ خِصَالٌ ثَلَاثٌ رَفِيقٌ بِمَا يَأْمُرُ رَفِيقٌ بِمَا يَنْهَى عَدْلٌ بِمَا يَأْمُرُ عَدْلٌ بِمَا يَنْهَى عَالِمٌ بِمَا يَأْمُرُ عَالِمٌ بِمَا يَنْهَى

2/256 جامع العلوم والحكم


Many of us often ask why we are going through such difficulties today despite being a people who Allah(SWT) boasts to the angels about? Why are we going through such difficulties today despite having a miracle which has remained since the time of the Prophet(SAW) and will remain till the Day of Judgement – the Qur’an? Why are we going through such difficulties today despite having the best and final of all Messengers? Why are we going through such difficulties today despite being amongst believers of the fastest growing religion in the world?

Abu Bakr (RA) answered the question for us when he (RA) told us that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوْا الظَّالِمَ فَلَمْ يَأْخُذُوا عَلَى يَدَيْهِ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمْ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابِهِ

Verily, if the people see an oppressor and they do not seize his hand, then Allah will soon send punishment upon all of them. [Source: Musnad Ahmad]

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مَا دَخَلَ النَّقْصُ عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ كَانَ الرَّجُلُ يَلْقَى الرَّجُلَ فَيَقُولُ يَا هَذَا اتَّقِ اللَّهَ وَدَعْ مَا تَصْنَعُ فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَحِلُّ لَكَ ثُمَّ يَلْقَاهُ مِنْ الْغَدِ فَلَا يَمْنَعُهُ ذَلِكَ أَنْ يَكُونَ أَكِيلَهُ وَشَرِيبَهُ وَقَعِيدَهُ فَلَمَّا فَعَلُوا ذَلِكَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَ بَعْضِهِمْ بِبَعْضٍ

Verily, the first deficiency in religion among the children of Israel is that a man would meet another and say to him: Fear Allah and leave what you are doing, for this is not lawful for you. Then he would meet him the next day and find no change in him, but this would not prevent him from eating and drinking with him and sitting in his assemblies. When it came to this, Allah led their hearts into evil on account of their association with others.

Then he recited the verses:

لُعِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ عَلَىٰ لِسَانِ دَاوُودَ وَعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوا وَّكَانُوا يَعْتَدُونَ كَانُوا لَا يَتَنَاهَوْنَ عَن مُّنكَرٍ فَعَلُوهُ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ تَرَىٰ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتَوَلَّوْنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا قَدَّمَتْ لَهُمْ أَنفُسُهُمْ أَن سَخِطَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَفِي الْعَذَابِ هُمْ خَالِدُونَ وَلَوْ كَانُوا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالنَّبِيِّ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مَا اتَّخَذُوهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءَ وَلَٰكِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ

Those who disbelieved among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus the son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and were transgressors. They would not forbid one another from the evil they were doing. (Surah Al Mai’da 5:78-81)

Then the Prophet said:

كَلَّا وَاللَّهِ لَتَأْمُرُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلَتَنْهَوُنَّ عَنْ الْمُنْكَرِ وَلَتَأْخُذُنَّ عَلَى يَدَيْ الظَّالِمِ وَلَتَأْطُرُنَّهُ عَلَى الْحَقِّ أَطْرًا وَلَتَقْصُرُنَّهُ عَلَى الْحَقِّ قَصْرًا

By Allah, you must enjoin good and forbid evil and seize the hand of the oppressor and make him follow the truth and restrict him to what is just.” [Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4336]

But I’m sure we all know this. So what prevents us from righting wrongs of prejudice? What stops us from discouraging our neighbour from disturbing the children and families on their road while they celebrate an upcoming wedding with fireworks in the street blocking traffic. Why do we turn a blind eye when we know that our cousin is making more than most people earn in a month within a week by hauling or pushing drugs? Why don’t we find a way to discourage our friend or nephew who we know may be carrying a blade or a gun?

There are many reasons but the one I would like to focus on today is APATHY. Apathy literally means being “without feeling” – it is a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern – that “…and what?” attitude. While many people feel apathetic as a teenager, it is generally a feeling that fades away as we age. Apathy is, in fact, a significant indicator and symptom of many mental health problems.

It is said that only one enemy is worse than despair: indifference – not caring.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “your life begins to end the moment you start being silent about the things that matter.” And it was Helen Keller who said: “We may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.”

Although apathy can occur in mental disorders as schizophrenia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, it can be due to problematic lifestyles – not getting enough sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, heavy use of certain drugs (from painkillers to marijuana and heroin). Although ultimately, it can come down to low aspiration and actually not seeing the point.

I can see a tangible benefit from doing overtime and serving the boss but I can’t see the benefit of increasing my time serving Allah(SWT).

I feel more relevant and loved by chatting with my friends while playing Fortnite but don’t feel loved when chatting with Mum, Dad or even Allah(SWT).

I feel a sense of achievement by working hard for my GCSEs and A-levels but I don’t seem to get any achievement understanding how to pass the exam of my life and receive my results when I stand before Allah(SWT).

I can see a shortcut to making money on the street but don’t know a shortcut to build a mansion in Jannah.

The reasons for not being bothered to change the situation we live in include:

  1. Insecurity about ourselves and our worth. We can see the value of keeping our office and front-room clean but can live on a street where mattresses and furniture can get left on our street corners. That’s someone else’s problem, isn’t it?
  2. Inability to communicate with each other effectively. This can lead efforts to address issues into arguments (narazgi in Urdu), domestic violence, knife crime and even political conflict.
  3. Fear: What will happen to me and my position? It is said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. In the Qur’an, Alla(SWT) preserved a story in Surah Yasin which you may be familiar with. Allah(SWT) tells us of a people who lived in Antioch, current day Antakya in Turkey.36:13
    The people there worshipped idols and so Allah(SWT) sent them Messengers – first Sadiq but he was rejected by the people. Then Masdooq who was also rejected. Then Shaloom and he too was rejected.36:15
    First, the people called them irrelevant, then they said they couldn’t be believed. They said that they were bringing trouble and they were not welcome. Does this sound familiar to our situation today? Then they threatened them with severe consequences, verbally and physically.36:20
    Then a man came running from the furthest side of town. He called his people to listen to him accepting the Messenger’s call openly. At that point, his people killed him. It is said that they killed him either with a stick or by stoning him to death or by treading on him till he died. It was said that the name of the man declaring his belief in the messenger’s call was Habeeb an-Najjâr.‘Abdullah ibn Abbâs (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Habeeb an-Najjâr was afflicted with leprosy. He was a very charitable man but his people killed him. For this reason, Allah said to him, ‘Enter Paradise.’ Allah entered him into Paradise the moment his people had killed him and then when he saw what Allah had provided for him therein of pleasures, ‘He said, ‘I wish that my people knew that my Lord has forgiven me, and placed me among the honoured.’’ He meant that I wish my people knew that Allah had forgiven me and that they believe in what I have believed, thus obtaining the same reward.”

    There are many lessons from this story including:
    > the importance of being connected with the reality – know your streets. A Nabi means one who is informed, and in the case of the Prophet(SAW) it took him 40 years of preparation knowing the people before Prophethood.
    > Don’t let your sins be an alibi for doing some good. This man came from the furthest part of the city because he wasn’t the best of them, rather he was far away and slow to respond, but now realised that the three Prophets are at massive risk.
    > This is not about him, rather it’s about his people. Even after he dies, he is still concerned for them.
    > He was passionate in his belief and came racing – yas’aa. Communally, there are reasons why we hold back – apathy, self-confidence, fear etc.

    Indeed the example of Ibrahim(AS) is renowned and remembered by us all because he was evidence that one man can change the world. This is why he was termed an Ummah by Allah(SWT) and Allah’s close friend – Khaleel.

  4. Arrogance. I’m not going to work with that person or lower myself to someone’s level because we feel we don’t need anyone, considering ourselves too good for that. This is why the scholars said tests and enemies are a blessing as they remind us of our need for each other.The Prophet(SAW) modelled humility and responsiveness to social issues. Generally, it’s not permitted to interrupt the khutba but there was an occasion reported by Anas ibn Maalik where a man entered the mosque on the day of Jumu’ah from the direction of the courtyard whilst the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was standing and giving the khutbah, to complain of dire social need. The man turned to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, our wealth (livestock) has been destroyed and our means of transportation (camels) has been cut off; pray to Allaah to help us.” So the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) raised his hands… (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 967; Muslim, 897).Also, the Prophet(SAW) on the route to Makkah prior to the treaty of Hudaybiyyah, his camel stops, and he (SAW) points to Makkah and says if those people asked me to work on something good, in coalition, or establishing family ties, or establishing one of the rights of Allah, I will work with them to do it. Imam Ibn ul Qayyim says in Zaad ul Ma’ad that all Muslims should learn from this that we are charged to work towards good, even if that is working with people who hated the Prophet(SAW).

So where do we start?

We start with our selves. We start on our own street, our own neighbourhood, our own town. Tomorrow, there is a community clean going on from the Discover Islam centre, Upper George Street, Luton. Join us at 10.15am to start a cleanup operation with the intention that this humbles us, it unites us and we literally can start cleaning up our streets one piece of litter at a time. The journey of 1000 miles starts with a step and we pray that this becomes a means for us to clean our own hearts, our own families, our company, our coming generation and our whole society.

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “I have seen a man enjoying himself in Paradise due to a tree in the road he cut down that used to harm people.” [Sahih Muslim 4751]

 عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُ رَجُلاً يَتَقَلَّبُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ فِي شَجَرَةٍ قَطَعَهَا مِنْ ظَهْرِ الطَّرِيقِ كَانَتْ تُؤْذِي النَّاسَ

4751 صحيح مسلم كتاب البر والصلة والآداب باب فضل إزالة الأذى عن الطريق

Abu Barza al-Aslami said, “I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, show me an action by which I will enter the Garden!” He said, ‘Remove harmful things from people’s path.'” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 228]

Establish justice

If we fear speaking out for Steven Lawrence, our Palestinian brothers, our Turkish community, our women, our revert brothers and sisters, our youth, our disabled, our family dealing with mental health issues, we should remember nothing is more Powerful and Dominant than Allah – we say Allahu Akbar more than any other statement in our conversation with Allah, our salaah. Let’s make it a reality.

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَاصِمٍ، عَنْ أَبَانَ بْنِ صَمْعَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي الْوَازِعِ جَابِرٍ، عَنْ أَبِي بَرْزَةَ الأَسْلَمِيِّ قَالَ‏:‏ قُلْتُ‏:‏ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، دُلَّنِي عَلَى عَمَلٍ يُدْخِلُنِي الْجَنَّةَ، قَالَ‏:‏ أَمِطِ الأَذَى عَنْ طَرِيقِ النَّاسِ‏

Hasan ibn Dhakwan reported: David, peace be upon him, said, “My Lord Almighty enjoined upon me nine traits. He enjoined me to:

  • revere him in privacy and in public
  • be just in a time of anger or pleasure
  • be moderate in a time of wealth or poverty
  • reconcile with those who cut me off
  • give to those who deprive me
  • forgive those who wrong me
  • let my observation be a lesson
  • let my silence be a reflection and to
  • let my words be a remembrance of Allah.”

Source: Iṣlāh al-Māl 311

عَنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ ذَكْوَانَ أَنَّ دَاوُدَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ قَالَ أَوْصَانِي رَبِّي عَزَّ وَجَلَّ بِتِسْعِ خِصَالٍ أَوْصَانِي بِخَشْيَتِهِ فِي السِّرِّ وَالْعَلانِيَةِ وَالْعَدْلِ فِي الْغَضَبِ وَالرِّضَا وَالاقْتِصَادِ فِي الْغِنَى وَالْفَقْرِ وَأَوْصَانِي أَنْ أَصِلَ مَنْ قَطَعَنِي وَأَنْ أُعْطِيَ مَنْ حَرَمَنِي وَأَعْفُوَ عَمَّنْ ظَلَمَنِي وَأَنْ يَكُونَ نَظَرِي عِبَرًا وَصَمْتِي تَفَكُّرًا وَقُولِي ذِكْرًا

Listen to audio: Khutba – Overcoming apathy, clean the streets


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