The Sixth of eight Discourses on ‘Amal,
8th December 2007,
Nizamia Mosque, Tokai, Cape Town, South Africa
In recognising the law of Birr, the fundamental reality becomes clear. The realisation that just action – good action – is itself the confirmation of the Power of Allah, and the open declaration that Allah is One and nothing is associated with Him, defines the Deen as the transformative, indeed competitive process that elevates men and women above ignorance and arrogance, or Jahiliyya. Islam as ‘Ibada IS Birr. Through and through. It is the elevation of mankind from the state of loss – Khusr, to the state of remembering.
Abu Hurayra narrated that the Rasulullah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Iman has around seventy branches. The best of it is saying that there is no god but Allah. The least of it is the removal of something injurious on the road.”
This permits us to note the all-inclusive nature of the Deen. This in turn indicates that it is the duty, the taken-on duty of the Muslim to remove injustice and replace it with justice. To the false post-Islamic religion of the Shi‘a the “covering of the earth with justice as it was before covered with injustice,” is the affair of the Mahdi and the end of the world. To the Muslim it is the order of the day. The task of all the life-time. The task of Islam.
The evidence of this new order comes on the authority of Anas in the great Hadith narrated by Abdalwarith:
The Rasulullah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “No person believes until I am dearer to him than the members of his household, his wealth, and the whole of mankind.”
Anas ibn Malik related it also:
“None of you is a believer until I am dearer to him than his children, his father and the whole of mankind.”
Look at the oath of Jarir Abu Amr: “I pledge allegiance to the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, on the establishment of Salat, the payment of Zakat, and Sidq and Nasiha for every Muslim.” Nasiha is thus another stone in the wall of the Muslim’s protection. It is more than counsel in the moral sense. It is counsel that brings with it the weight of the giver’s affection and friendship. It has no disapproval, reproach or judgment in it. It is from the heart. It heals because of the love the giver of Nasiha has for his fellow Muslim.
This permits us to say that those who speak of ‘Islamic Principles’ have failed to understand the Deen. We do not have principles based on reason and argument. We have concern and then counsel, and this is based on love. Abu Hurayra reported:
The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “You will not enter the Jannah until you affirm your belief, and you will not believe until you love one another. Let me direct you to a thing which will foster love among you if you do it: spread the practice of saying, ‘As-Salaamu ‘alaykum.’”
This means that this greeting is said as a Du‘a. It is not as a kafir salutation. It is not the, “Hey!” of the kafirun. It has to be said with the intention of asking the blessings of the Lord of Peace on the Muslim who is greeted. You must, especially Sufis, refrain from saying, “As-salaamu ‘alaykum” in a frivolous, light and social manner. It is a Du‘a. It is an act of worship of Allah. The Sahaba used to walk together, and if a group of them would go round a tree and one half went on one side and the other half went on the other, when they came to the other side of the tree they would say, “As-Salaamu ‘alaykum.” It was love, you see. Let us look at Surat an-Nisa‘ (4:86):
When you are greeted with a greeting, return the greeting or improve on it. Allah takes account of everything.
Thus the greeting itself is written for you and recorded for you, so it is a Du‘a. What has emerged is that the life of the Muslim is enmeshed in a series of good actions which radiate out from love and respect for parents, out to the nearest neighbours, and on out to an all-encompassing active concern for the Muslims. Since this right action, which itself affirms Allah’s dominion over the human situation, penetrates every sector of life, it places similar obligations and duties on the Muslims’ dealings in wealth and commerce.
Just as Ramadan is the annual reminder and curb of appetites, both of food and sex, so too Zakat is the annual reminder and curb of both ownership and the deception that possession is permanent. The curb on ownership lies in the handing-over of the required amount. The curb on the illusion that we are the possessors lies in the necessity that our wealth be firstly assessed by the Zakat Collectors, and secondly that it should be TAKEN from us by the Collectors.
There is no Islam in the absence of Zakat and Salat. The two are almost in every case mentioned together in the Qur’an. Abu Hurayra reported:
The Rasulullah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, sent ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab to collect the Zakat. He was then informed that Ibn Jamil, Khalid bin Walid and Abbas, the uncle of the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, refused to hand it over.
On hearing this the Rasulullah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Ibn Jamil is taking revenge, for he was destitute before Allah made him rich.”
At that time Ibn Jamil was one of the munafiqun. This is in Surat at-Tawba (9:74-77):
They swear by Allah that they said nothing,
but they definitely spoke the word of kufr and returned to kufr after their Islam.
They planned something which they did not achieve
and they were vindictive for no other cause than that Allah and His Messenger
had enriched them from His bounty.
If they were to make Tawba, it would be better for them.
But if they turn away, Allah will punish them
with a painful punishment in the dunya and the Akhira,
and they will not find any protector or helper on the earth.
Among them there were some who made an agreement with Allah:
“If He gives us of His bounty we will definitely give Sadaqa and be among the Salihun.”
But when He does give them of His bounty they are tight-fisted with it and turn away,
so He has punished them
by putting hypocrisy in their hearts until the day they meet Him
because they failed Allah in what they promised Him and because they lied.
Later on, because of this matter, he asked forgiveness and returned to Islam. Thus refusal to be assessed and give Zakat is here openly indicated by Allah as a disaster for men. The Messenger then examined the other two. He said, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:
“As for Khalid, you are being unjust. He dedicated his armour and his weapons to the Way of Allah.”
By this it meant that the Jihad excused him from needing to hand over the Zakat. He then said, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:
“As for Abbas, I shall be responsible for it, and an equal amount alongside that.”
He added, “‘Umar, bear in mind that the uncle of a man is like his father.”
Thus, in the last case, only the making-up of his contribution by the Rasulullah himself, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, exempted Abbas from the tax of Zakat.
Jarir ibn ‘Abdullah reported:
There came a group of Bedouins to the Rasulullah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who said to him, “The Zakat Collectors came to us and they treated us unfairly.” Whereupon the Rasulullah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ordered them, “Please your Zakat Collectors.” Jarir said, “Ever since I heard that from the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, no Zakat Collector ever left me but that he was pleased with me.”
This is an evidence that being assessed and stripped of one’s Zakat dues is a Ruhani affair, sweet and pleasing to the Muslim who by it feels the burdens of Dunya lifted from him and his heart at peace, as the Muslim also does on breaking his fast. As for those who reject or refrain from being taxed, the judgment is clear. We go back to Surat at-Tawba (9:34-35), starting at the second half of Ayat 34:
As for those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the Way of Allah,
give them the news of a painful punishment on the Day it is heated up in the fire of Hell
and their foreheads, sides and backs are branded with it: “This is what you hoarded for yourselves,
so taste what you were hoarding!”
In the light of the judgment we noted by the Rasulullah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, this situation refers both to the kuffar and to the munafiqun. Until the Zakat is collected after assessment, the guilty are clearly in Nifaq. In final Qur’anic confirmation of the Divinely discriminated difference between private Sadaqa and civic Zakat we turn to Surat al-Mujadala (58:13):
Are you afraid to give gifts of Sadaqa before your private consultation?
If you do not and Allah turns to you, at least establish Salat and pay Zakat,
and obey Allah and His Messenger.
Allah is aware of what you do.
So the giving of Sadaqa is distinguished from submission to the payment of Zakat. This permits us to say that we have understanding of the Deen. Until we have grasped this, we have not understood the Deen. And that the Deen is itself the functioning of the high ‘Amal. It follows from this that there is another human community which rejects the Divine Contract. It is essential that we identify who they are since we have been commanded to love with the love of Allah and hate what He, glory be to Him, hates.
The enemy is denounced in Surat al-Fajr (89:17-20):
No indeed! You do not honour orphans nor do you urge the feeding of the poor;
you devour inheritance with voracious appetites and you have an insatiable love of wealth.
It follows from this that the community of safety and Allah’s love is uniquely the community of Zakat and Salat. We now discover that this Divine Discrimination is not only an affair of this world but of the Next. It cannot any more be a matter of asking from us ‘TOLÉRANCE’ – but rather on our part WE must insist on justice for the poor. Let us look at Surat al-Haqqa (69:19-40):
As for him who is given his Book in his right hand,
he will say, “Here, come and read my Book!
I counted on meeting my Reckoning.”
He will have a very pleasant life in an elevated Garden,
its ripe fruit hanging close to hand.
“Eat and drink with relish for what you did before in days gone by!”
But as for him who is given his Book in his left hand,
he will say, “If only I had not been given my Book and had not known about my Reckoning!
If only death had really been the end! My wealth has been of no use to me.
My power has vanished.” “Seize him and truss him up.
Then roast him in the Blazing Fire.
Then bind him in a chain which is seventy cubits long.
He used not to have Iman in Allah the Magnificent,
nor did he urge the feeding of the poor.
Therefore here today he has no friend nor any food except exuding pus
which no one will eat except those who were in error.”
I swear both by what you see and what you do not see,
that this is the word of a noble Messenger.
In our confrontation and obligatory conflict with the unjust, Allah indicates our Path to security and victory over them. The people of Allah are spiritually superior to the unjust. Look at Surat at-Tawba (9:20):
Those who have Iman and make Hijra
and do Jihad in the Way of Allah with their wealth and themselves
have a higher rank with Allah.
They are the ones who are victorious.
This grants us a discovery of our own strength over Allah’s enemies. Among us, there are those who are raised up to a higher condition. States and Station. In place of the material weaponry of Allah’s enemies we find that Allah’s Friends are armed with spiritual Ruhani power from Allah. Let us look at Surat al-Waqi’a (56:1-14):
In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful
When the Great Event occurs, none will deny its occurrence;
bringing low, raising high.
When the earth is convulsed and the mountains are crushed
and become scattered dust in the air.
And you will be classed into three:
the Companions of the Right:
what of the Companions of the Right?
the Companions of the Left:
what of the Companions of the Left?
and the Forerunners,
Those are the Ones Brought Near in Gardens of Delight.
A large group of the earlier people but few of the later ones.
The Muqarrabun are, in the scientific language of the Sufis, the Awliya, the ‘Arifin and the Salihun. Look how the kafir pig, Ataturk, was terrified of Mawlana Rumi, dead hundreds of years before, and did not dare set foot in Konya throughout his rule. How much more do the enemies of Allah fear and dread the living Awliya?
Now, in one of those particularly precious Suras, Allah lifts veils from His Power and how it functions in the world. We go to Surat al-Ma‘arij (70:1-5):
In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful
An inquirer asked about an impending punishment.
It is for the kafirun and cannot be averted from Allah – the Lord of the Ascending Steps.
The Angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years.
Therefore be patient with a patience which is beautiful.
Here, we are given one of Allah’s secret Names which encodes the structural nature of events in this and the Next World.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Ajiba says: “These are the Ascending Steps that the Angels tread in carrying out their orders and their work. These are the degrees by which the Salihun ascend, and which the Muminun ascend on their Suluk.”
Shaykh al-Akbar, Ibn ‘Arabi, says: “These are the Stations through which creation rises from mineral to vegetal, then to the humans moving from one Station to another. These steps are the Stations and Manazil – Ranks, of the hearts, leading to the Station of Fana’ in the Acts and the Attributes up to the Fana’ in the Essence.”
This brings us to the thunderbolt of the Suluk of Tasawwuf. Here is the unveiling in the Qur’an of the highest Stations. We go to Surat al-Balad (90:11-18), bearing in mind we have taken this Name of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, which is Dhil-Ma’arij:
But he has not braved the steep ascent.
What will convey to you what the steep ascent is?
It is freeing a slave
or feeding on a day of hunger an orphaned relative
or a poor man in the dust;
then to be one of those who have Iman
and urge each other to steadfastness
and urge each other to compassion.
Those are the Companions of the Right.
The Qur’an lays out the task that has faced and today now faces the Muslim Ummah. We turn to Surat al-Mujadala (58:20-22):
Those who oppose Allah and His Messenger,
such people will be among the most abased.
Allah has written, “I will be victorious, I and My Messengers.”
Allah is Most Strong, Almighty.
You will not find people who have Iman in Allah and the Last Day
having love for anyone who opposes Allah and His Messenger,
though they be their fathers, their sons, their brothers or their clan.
Allah has inscribed Iman upon such people’s hearts
and will reinforce them with a Ruh from Him and admit them into Gardens
with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever.
Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.
Such people are the party of Allah.
Truly it is the party of Allah who are successful.
We embark on our task with the promise of the Lord of the Worlds. We turn to Surat al-A’la (87:8):
We will ease you to the Easy Way.