We are very fortunate, very blessed to be among people who have had to claim the Deen, because those people who have had to claim the Deen also are those people who have in a sense had to reinvent the Deen. I’ve just travelled extensively in Muslim countries and what has really shocked me in these countries was the degree to which people have the form of being Muslim but not the content. You may even find somebody praying five times a day. You find somebody being able to converse knowingly about various schools of fikr and have long discourses about a number of tariqas and shuyukh, but at some point one has this funny sensation that you’re listening to somebody who is reciting something like a poem, that what the tongue is saying is somehow disconnected from the heart.
..what the tongue is saying is somehow disconnected from the heart.
The most dramatic of this, I just quoted to some brothers this evening, I was in a city called Rawalpindi in Pakistan last week and I was conducting a seminar for a large group of Pakistani executives from a company. Every single person in the room was Muslim and was talking to them about how the issue of intent is the core issue with regard to their business and the success of their business. And when I finished talking the human resources director of the company said, “This is wonderful philosophy. It’s very spiritual. But here in Pakistan we have to deal with practical things. Here in Pakistan, you can’t bring your Western ideas here! You must understand what the cultural context is!” I looked at the man as if he’d slapped me. I couldn’t believe what I had heard.
I said, “Sir, where does the quote ‘inna ‘amal bi niyyah’ come from? Is this also just Western?” And I said, “You complain about this not being practical. Where does your rizq come from? Is this also not practical? Is this still too philosophical for you?” I said, “What you say is fine but you should be ashamed to call yourself Muslim. You should be ashamed to be a follower of the Rasul (SallAllahu alaihi wasalam) who showed us the way to success both in the hereafter and this side of the grave!” at which point they all nodded knowingly and said, “You’re very right!” and I knew that I may just as well have been shouting at the trees.
This is the level you get reduced to when all that you do is platitudes that you repeat.
This is the problem when people disconnect what they say from what is in their heart. We have a bird that lives in a cage on our verandah. This bird makes a sound like a cat, so much so that you think the cat’s wanting to come in the door so you open the door to look for the cat. It makes a sound sometimes that sounds like Sayyida Muneera talking. Now this is very funny and we all laugh but that is not the cat and it’s not Sayyida Muneera. This is the level you get reduced to when all that you do is platitudes that you repeat because it’s been put into your ear like a sound, like a recording – like you just talk when it is not in your heart. Rather know one sura, know it in here [heart] and live accordingly than know the entire Qur’an by heart and behave like a rat.
So we have a small advantage as people who have come into the Deen. The advantage is that all of this stuff is new to us, it’s all strange. We have to work it out from scratch which means we learn it as adults and we can be deliberate about it. Then understand that this is only a small window that we have because very soon you also start to behave like a parrot where what is in your heart and what is on your tongue are not the same. Understand, if you have wickedness in your heart, if you have selfishness in your heart, it’s better to put that on the tongue. Unite your inside and your outside because then the Great Washer who is Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala manifest, who is the world around you, can clean you. But when you play games, when what is on the tongue and what is in your heart are not the same you are the fool who thinks he can cheat life. Then it doesn’t matter that you call yourself Muslim because you are no better than a Christian with your Sunday church and your rest-of-the-week practical life. The only thing is you don’t go on Sunday – you go to Juma on Friday. But the phenomenon is exactly the same.
Until you have united your intent and your action you haven’t started on this Path.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib said, “The scorpion on top of the rock is better than the scorpion under the rock” because the scorpion on top of the rock, at least you can see it. Until you have united your intent and your action you haven’t started on this Path. Don’t do something and not mean it. Don’t stand in salah and not mean it. Don’t go into sajda and not mean to completely surrender to your Lord, Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala. Then say to somebody “Assalamu alaikoum” and wish a curse on him. And worst of all don’t claim to be Muslim if you have a bad opinion of the world, that the world is so unjust and that the Americans are such monsters and that we’re so terribly oppressed! Don’t say Laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa billah and then ascribe independent action to anything else because you are a liar to yourself.
Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala says He will only change the condition of a people if they change what is in their hearts. So why is wherever you look in the world you find the Muslims oppressed, that they are under the heel of the kuffar? – Stripped naked in front of woman in prisons and photographed for the world to see – humiliated! Why has this happened? What is the condition of their heart that this is the situation that Allah put them into? One can only assume that what is in their heart isn’t connected with what they profess because Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala says that if what is in your heart is what you profess as a Muslim then you will be under nobody’s heel.
This is because after fourteen hundred years all that we have is the form and not the content.
In fourteen hundred years of Islamic history we’ve never experienced the humiliation we are experiencing today. This is not because the Americans are so bad or the Europeans are so tyrannical and the West has colonized us and manipulated us and whatever. This is because after fourteen hundred years all that we have is the form and not the content. We have a very beautiful cup that has taken fourteen hundred years to fashion and design and shape but the water that was inside it has dried up.
This is why you as new Muslims are blessed. Because for most of the time this beautiful cup is attractive but it’s something you don’t entirely understand but what you do connect with is the essence, the water that was in the cup. So the revitalization of the Deen is in your hands. It is to put the intent back into the matter.
May Allah Grant us success on the Path.
May Allah Grant us nearness to Him.
May Allah Grant us nearness to Him.
May He Grant us death before we die.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on 27th August 2004.