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Detain Injustice, Not our Fathers

by Muhammad Alshareef

"There is no God for them today." One of the conditions in the treaty of Hudaybiyyah stated that whoever wished to join the camp of Quraish may join it, and whoever wished to join the camp of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam may join it. The tribe of Banu Bakr joined Quraish, while their ancient rivals, Khuzaa’ah, joined Muhammad sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam.

In the 8th year of Hijrah, Banu Bakr decided to return to the pre-Islamic call for vengeance. They ambushed Khuzaa’ah near the Haram sanctuary in Ramadan. As they chased behind them, Banu Bakr entered the Haram sanctuary saying to their chief, "O Nowfal! Indeed we have entered the sanctuary! (Pay heed) to your Lord! (Pay heed) to your Lord! (Desist from killing)!"

"There is no God for them today," said Nowfal. "O Banu Bakr, take vengeance for what is rightfully yours. For verily you steal in the sanctuary of the Haram, shall you not take vengeance?" The men of Khuzaa’ah were all slain, except one, ‘Amr ibn Saalim, who escaped and without rest, traveled to Madinah until he stood in front of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam and his companions. By means of poetry he announced the solemn news:

My Lord, verily I appeal upon Muhammad...We entered Islam and never did we detract our hands (from the allegiance). Champion us (O Muhammad) with unmeasured victory…and call the slaves of Allah that they may come in cavalry. Verily, Quraish has deceived what they were charged with and breached your most affirmed covenant. They claimed you would rally no one. They ambushed us at nightfall in AlWateer…and slayed us as we prostrated and bowed.

And then ‘Amr ibn Saalim said, "They slaughtered us even though we had entered into Islam!"

Allah’s Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam stood up and proclaimed, "Nusirt! (You will be aided, and your cause championed, and your blood avenged)!"

Dear brothers and sisters, my father, Helmy Alshareef, was imprisoned in Egypt (or detained, as they wish to call it) after Hajj this year. Subhan Allah, he’s 63 years old! At the airport, they said they would only question him for a few hours, which turned into days, and then into weeks. For 20 days my father was denied a lawyer, denied communication with the Canadian consulate, and denied permission to tell his family where he was or what had happened to him.

A rally joined to champion his plight. CAIR Canada was first to help; joining ranks was Amnesty International. The news media ran the story across Canada on Saturday. By Monday, a coalition of Muslims across the USA and abroad gathered together to bombard, with emails and phone calls, anyone who stood in the way of my father’s release. The negative, sensational stories began appearing quietly, but by early Tuesday, my father had been released. Those stories looked foolish and were overshadowed by the moment of joy.

In the past 20 days, I have contemplated a great deal over the plight of the detainees. "Let my people go!" I would hum to myself. And then it dawned on me. "Let my people go!" was the call of Musa alayhis salaam. For what reason? To facilitate the release of the detainees of that time: Banee Israa’eel. And then I was like, "What’s up with these Egyptians? Even from ancient times they have had a passion for detaining people!"

And so I opened the Qur’an and began reading again and again how Musa alayhis salaam rescued the detainees, Banee Israa’eel, from Pharaoh. And in today’s khutbah, in sha Allah, I would like to share my reflections with you.

But before I begin, you are probably asking yourself, "Why does this concern me? My family has never had such trouble and I think it’s best if I just went home and closed my window shades." The problem, dear brothers and sisters, is that the issue will not go away by us merely closing our window shades and canceling our membership to Islam. Like Bosnia and Chechnya before, they will knock down our doors and pull us out. We must define ourselves or else others will define us. We must stand up for our rights, together and unified, or else we collectively will have no rights. Even if we do not accept these challenges, people with evil intentions will impose them on us.

After 9/11, our Muslim communities disassociated with anyone who was accused of the 'T word.' We would defend and support each other until some dubious person accused one of our Muslim brothers of the 'T word.' Then, we abandoned that person as if he had just been diagnosed with the plague. And thus began the very ancient strategy of 'divide and conquer'.

Reflection One: Go to Fir’own!

Allah ta’ala tells us in the Qur’an:

Go, both you and your brother, with My signs and do not slacken in My remembrance / Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed (Taha 20/42-43).

Musa alayhis salaam, after many trials (his salvation from the baby murders, his upbringing in the home of Pharaoh, his mother being the only one able to nurse him, the killing of the Egyptian man) had now found asylum in Madyan. He was married to a most righteous wife, his father-in-law was one of the most blessed father-in-law one could have, and life had returned to normal.

When he was told of his mission to save Banee Israa’eel, why didn’t Musa alayhis salaam just say, "Why do I have to go? It’s not my problem." Why didn’t he say, "I should not be associated with them." Why didn’t he say, "So long as I close my window shades, the evil of Pharaoh will go away."

All the gifts of Musa alayhis salaam were given by Allah, and they were all a test. Allah was preparing Musa alayhis salaam for the return to champion the cause of Banee Israa’eel.

As Allah ta’ala says in the verse right before this:

And I produced you for Myself!

Meaning, Allah had already selected Musa alayhis salaam and made him strong in body and character according to the requirements of the mission.

And so I reflect: So many of us have been saved from the trials that are afflicting our brothers in this country and abroad. It is not acceptable for us to say, "It’s not my problem." No. With all our talents, voices, and unity, we must stand up to champion the cause of anyone who is detained unjustly. Let injustice be detained, not our Muslim brothers and fathers!

Reflection Two: Placing Trust in Allah

Allah tells us how Musa alayhis salaam reacted when given the mission. He reacted by making du’a for the tools he would need in order to fulfill this responsibility. He said:

My Lord, expand (i.e. relax) for me my breast (with assurance) / And ease for me my task / And untie the knot from my tongue / So that they may understand my speech / And appoint for me a minister (i.e. assistant) from my family - / Haroon, my brother / Increase through him my strength / And let him share my task.

And so I reflect: In times of trial, how often is it that we forget to turn to Allah in sincere and constant du’a? We remind each other of making du’a – true – but in reality, how consistent are we in praying for justice and praying for the tools we need to be victorious? The more we focus in our du’a, the more determined and focused we shall be in driving towards victory.

Reflection Three: Media Distortion of the Truth

When Musa alayhis sallam made his plea to Pharaoh to release Banee Israa’eel, Pharaoh argued with him. He argued about the oneness of Allah and he argued about their forefathers. None of this moved Pharaoh and he laid bare his version of Musa’s mission. He (Pharaoh) said"

Oh Musa, have you come to us to drive us out of our lands with your magic?

What? Is that what Musa alayhis sallam was there for? Notice that Musa alayhis sallam was not given a chance to counter the accusation before Pharaoh pronounced:

Then we will surely bring you magic like it, so make between us and you an appointment, which we will not fail to keep and neither will you, in a place assigned.

And so I reflect: In this war of words, it is not about lies – it is about half-truths and the spinning of the truth. Whoever makes the media their source of ultimate truth has indeed failed in their estimation. They have misled themselves long before others mislead them. Allah demands from us to seek out the truth and to question our sources. Prepare yourselves with third-party knowledge and challenge the false interpretations.

Reflection Four: The Game of Fear

In the days of my father’s detainment, I was surprised to learn of so many cases of others whose families confided in me. "Don’t tell anyone," it would begin, "but such and such and such and such family member of ours were detained."

"Why have you not gone public," I would ask. Some answers would be: Fear of angering those governments, fear of community shame, and fear of public condemnation. It was just fear upon fear upon fear.

In the story of Musa alayhis sallam I realized that it is okay to be afraid. It is something natural. Allah ta’ala told us that even Musa alayhis sallam was afraid:

And suddenly their ropes and staffs seemed to him from their magic that they were moving (like snakes) / And he sensed within himself fear…

But Allah ta’ala taught Musa, alayhis sallam:

We (i.e. Allah) said, "Do not be afraid. Indeed it is you who are superior."

And so I reflect: In this game of fear, we need not shun this emotion. Rather, we should respect it and channel the power that it gives us to a feeling of confidence – a confidence that it is we who have committed nothing wrong. It is we who have been treated unjustly. And if there is anyone who should feel fear, it is those who have transgressed the commandments of Allah.

My brothers, do not be afraid.

PART II: Victory in the End Will Always Be for the Believers

Dear brothers and sisters, when Allah ta’ala sent Musa alayhis sallam to Pharaoh, He reminded Musa alayhis sallam of all the ways he had protected him in the past. Just as Allah protected Musa in the past – do not be afraid – Allah has the power to protect you today. In the end, victory will always be for the believers.

Musa and his people were followed by Pharaoh and his henchmen. The latter’s intent was nothing less then the total slaying of the former. The day the sea parted, was the day Banee Israa’eel was saved, and that day Pharaoh was drowned – a lesson for every believer until the day of resurrection.

Allah’s Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:

"This is a mighty day (the 10th of Muharram). It is the day when Allah saved Musa and his people, and drowned Pharaoh and his people. Musa fasted this day in thankfulness to his Lord, and so we too shall fast it." And in another narration, RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said, "(Fasting this day) expiates (the sins) of the past year."

Normally, when people look at the horrific acts of Pharaoh, it is only natural that they want to reply with the strongest of words. As common knowledge goes, only toughness can be met with toughness. But this is not the wisdom Allah sent Musa with:

Go, both of you, to Pharaoh. Indeed he has transgressed /And speak to him with gentle speech. Perhaps he may be reminded or fear (Allah).

This is a characteristic that the believer should never be without – the characteristic of gentleness of speech. When egos blind the tyrants from the truth, only gentleness will help them see through the fog and guide them aright.

Let us not forget that the magicians, who in the morning were the most wicked of people, were on their way to the highest level of paradise by nightfall. And their blessedness was recorded in the Qur’an to be recited till the Day of Resurrection. If Pharaoh’s magicians repented and became who they became, let us not lose hope in guiding people to Allah.

Ibn Abbas radi Allahu anhu narrates that RasulAllah, sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, said:

"Jibreel said to me, 'O Muhammad, if only you could see me on that day pouring dirt into the mouth of Pharaoh, (for fear that after all he did, he would beseech the mercy of Allah) and that mercy would embrace him.'"

And as RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:

"Whoever was denied gentleness (with others), was denied all goodness" (Muslim).

In those times of fitnah, Musa alayhis salaam taught his people how to remain firm. And today, as we live through these times of fitnah, let us recall his teachings:

One: We will overcome with patience and seeking aid from Allah. Said Musa to his people:

Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah. He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the outcome shall always be for the righteous (Al-A’raf 7/128).

Two: We will overcome with faith in Allah, placing our firm trust in Him. And Musa said:

O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then rely upon Him, if you are indeed Muslims (Yunus 10/84).

Three: We will overcome through our supplications to Allah. So they said:

Upon Allah do we rely. Our Lord, make us not (objects of) trial for the wrongdoing people / And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people (Yunus 85/86).

Allah ta’ala recorded all of this in the Qur’an and so on the 10th of Muharram we shall fast to remind us of the lesson – not just the ritual – of standing firm in the face of injustice.