The Mountain Pass
by Muhammad Alshareef
When you were growing up, did you grow up under the shade of a mountain? There weren't too many mountains where I grew up, but when I was young visiting Egypt, many of the buildings did not have elevators. And some of those buildings were up to 9 or 10 floors high.
So, if one wanted to make it to the top (the relatives always lived on the 8th floor, go figure), one could never take it one step at a time. One had to gather their garment, take a deep breath, close their eyes, and charge up ... two and three steps in one bound. (I know you must be breathing hard just thinking about it.)
In Surah Al-Balad, Allah teaches us about the mountain pass that must be climbed in our lives. And this way of climbing that I've just described is very close to how Allah wants us to overcome this mountain pass – hard and strong! But wait ... what mountain pass? Allah explains:
[The mountain pass] is the freeing of a slave / Or feeding on a day of severe hunger / An orphan of near relationship / Or a needy person [grasping the dirt] in misery / And then being among those who believed and advised one another to Sabr [patience] and advised one another to Rahmah [compassion] / Those are the companions of the right (Al-Balad 90/11-18).
When we look over the institutions that 'care' about the welfare of American society, we seldom see Muslim run shelters for the homeless. We seldom find Muslim run soup kitchens for the hungry of our society. When a husband beats his wife mercilessly, does she run to the Muslims or does she run to the kuffar?
Dear brothers and sisters, caring about our society is not meant to be a public relations stunt. It is from the core of our deen, a core message that is repeated all throughout the Qur'an. And it is the way and example of our Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam; an example which he left for us to emulate.
The topic for today is about taking responsibility of our society; it’s one of the principal messages of Islam!
In Surah Al-Haaqah, Allah couples the disbelief of the kaafir with the fact that he does not encourage the feeding of the poor:
Indeed, he did not used to believe in Allah, the Most Great / Nor did he encourage the feeding of the poor (Al-Haaqah 69/33-34).
In Surah Al-Mudaththir, we are given an interview with the wretched of hellfire. Listen to the reason they arrived there:
They said, "We were not of those who prayed / Nor did we used to feed the poor" (Al-Mudaththir 74/44-45).
In Surah Al-Fajr, Allah describes the ungrateful arrogant:
Nay, you do not honor the orphan / And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor (Al-Fajr 89/17-18).
And in Surah Al-Maa'oon, a surah we recite quite often in salah, Allah characterizes those who have strayed from His path:
Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? / For that is the one who drives away the orphan / And does not encourage the feeding of the poor (Al-Maa‘oon 107/1-3).
The respected Shaykh Ja'far Idrees, was once commenting on these verses. He mentioned that these verses were all revealed in Makkah and then he said, "How many Muslims were in Makkah at that time? There were only handfuls. These verses were not directed to Muslims taking care of Muslims exclusively. They were directed to Muslims taking responsibility for the entire society!"
When RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam received the first revelation from Allah, he raced home shivering in fear. Khadijah consoled him, covered him as he wished, and listened as he spoke of his fright. Listen carefully to what she said to our Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam to console him:
"Allah will never disgrace you. You unite your relatives and you bear the burden of the weak (of our society). You help the poor and the needy, you are honorable to all guests and you bear harm in the path of truthfulness."
This was his character, sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, before and after becoming the Messenger of Allah.
Growing up in the prairies of Canada, there was almost no location a Muslim could buy meat slaughtered in the name of Allah. So my father would go out to the farm and bring back a freezer full of chicken to sell to the community.
My father may not recall this, but one brother became Muslim in our area and he related this to me. He said, "When I embraced Islam, the entire community kept telling me about the what (they thought) was the most important thing in Islam: to eat halaal shiken. Everyone kept lecturing me about it and then they would leave. Your father was the only one who actually took me outside and gave me some halaal meat to take home to my family. I never forgot that."
What have we sincerely done as a collective community for these Americans? I'm not speaking of workshop lectures here and there. What have we done to help them and to show them – in action, not in empty words – the mercy that Islam teaches us?
The upper class of Makkah once found Allah's Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam with the poor and weak of society – notice that these were the ones who stood at his side; he did not brush them away in his da’wah. There sat with him Bilal, Suhayb, Ammar, and Ibn Masood, may Allah be pleased with them all. Abu Jahl said to him, "O Muhammad, if you wish for us to sit with you then you must first expel from your presence such slaves!" Then Allah revealed the verses:
And do not expel those who call upon their Lord morning and afternoon, seeking His countenance. Not upon you is anything of their account and not upon them is anything of your account. So were you to expel them, you would then be of the wrongdoers (Al-An'aam 6/52).
In a heated debate between the Roman king Heraqle and Abu Sufyan, Heraqle asked Abu Sufyan who was following Muhammad. Was it the weak of society or the eminent? Abu Sufyan, not a Muslim at that time who was trying to seize any chance to put down Muhammad, said, "Only the weak follow him."
Heraqle replied, "Such are the followers of true prophets."
RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam would go out to the corners of the city and visit the elderly 'aunties'. Someone may ask, “Why did he not delegate Sahaabaa to go on his behalf? Surely he was much too busy to set aside time for these visits.”
The answer is that these visits to the elderly and weak were much more valuable than dozens of conferences and lectures. They meant much more than pamphlets and booklets. This mercy allowed knowledge of Allah to enter hearts that would not have been found in khutbahs.
How far have we strayed from this Sunnah of Al-Mustafa sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam?
Today, in our local region, there are 25 different Alcoholics Anonymous 'halaqas' advertised! Twenty-five in just one day in this specific region, that does not include the night 'halaqahs'! On Sunday there will be 16 daytime classes, 27 at night, 43 in one day in one region! There are even AA 'halaqahs' for the deaf!
Let us not allow ourselves to believe that we do not have enough Muslims to carry out our mission. Dear brothers and sisters, we have enough to stuff an amusement park like Six Flags. We have enough, but are we working together as a community for the sake of Allah? What have we done for Islam and what have we done for these people?
In our recent DC conference, Dr. Ingrid said something very profound which I would like to mention here. She said that she did not enter Islam because she thought Islam had liberated women – a popular theme in our Islam awareness lectures. She said that she did not enter Islam because she thought Islam had the greatest civilization – another popular topic in our talk. Her path of Islam began when she recognized and accepted her relationship with the one true God, Allah.
It was mentioned in the seerah narrations that there was once an elderly woman who fled Makkah with a heavy load of her things because of the befalling tribulation that, in her mind, was the work of Muhammad sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam. An honorable man saw her with the heavy load and offered to help. She was very grateful but made a condition:
"Don't talk to me about Muhammad and we will get along just fine. Because of him there is no peace and there is trouble in my mind."
They traveled together. As the time passed she spoke to her companion about the evil that Muhammad had brought. "He's misleading all the weak ones, and the poor ones, and the slaves. They think they've all found wealth and freedom following his ways."
When they arrived at their destination, she thanked her companion and realized that she had not asked his name.
"What's that? Pardon my hearing but it's funny ... I thought I heard you say your name was Muhammad."
“Ash hadu an laa ilaaha illa Allah, wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan RasulAllah! If you are Muhammad then take me take me back, for it is in you that I can only hope for peace."
In the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, it is narrated that a man came to Allah's Messenger and complained of a heavy heart. Allah's Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said to him, "Wipe the head of the orphan and feed the poor."
The ‘ulama of the past understood this message of Islam. When Ali ibn Al-Husayn rahimahullah died, those who were washing his body found themselves staring at his back's deep bruises. They inquired about this and were told, "Not too many knew, but he would go out in the middle of the night, carrying on his back flour. He would stop at the doors of Madinah's needy and feed them."
Feed the hungry so that Allah will feed us on a day when we will be in most need of His, subhaanahu wa ta'aala, mercy.
Growing up in North America, in our Sunday school there was a Hadith that caught the attention of our class. It was the hadith of the men who came to Umm Al-Mu'mineen Aisha radi Allahu anha, asking her about the character of Allah's Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam. She said concisely, "His character was the Qur'an."
Myself, and others in our class, did not understand this hadith. We thought, how could surahs like Surah Al-Lahab be the character of the Prophet?
I have slowly come to realize why we could not understand Aisha radi Allahu anha’s statement. It was because we did not understand the Qur'an.
Today I am going to make a bold proposal to those who are involved in da'wah. It is a proposal that we remodel our da’wah efforts to sincerely – for the sake of Allah – help the society that we live in. Let us help the hungry, help the homeless, help the downtrodden, help the illiterate, help the abused, and help the scared ... help each and everyone that we can.
If we truly adopt this da'wah mission, a mission which Islam requires of us, I pray to Allah ta'aala that we will have much more success in bringing Islam to the American people than ever before.
One of the sisters in our tafseer class wrote a du‘a and with it I conclude:
"The one thing that I can say that I have truly learnt from this tafseer course was the Aqabah, the mountain pass. Close your eyes and just run for it. May Allah help me implement it in my life and may Allah make your Aqabah easy for you, in sha Allah."