Being Part of the Ummah

[These are rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on March 12, 2017]


وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا 
In the same way, We made you a moderate Ummah (community), so that you should be witnesses over the people, and the Messenger a witness to you… [2:143]

The concept of ummah in our deen is vast; it is not enough just to be a believer. Allah (swt) has mentioned many different attributes and features of this ummah – if we don’t have these features in us, we are not really members of the ‘ummah’. Same is the case with the organisations of the world; merely joining a company doesn’t mean you will have the company’s ethos, spirit etc. Just like that, many of us are believers, we are muminin , but we don’t have the spirit of ummah within us!

What does the word wasata mean? Many think it means moderate, in the sense of being somewhere between Abu Bakr and Abu Jahl. This is wrong. Moderate isn’t that we are mediocre. Jannah is an extreme place; it has extreme happiness, bliss, joy, purity; and so is Jahannam- they will both last forever. What wasata means is that we are an ummah of balance; it means our approach to dunya should be balanced. We should take from this world a reasonable amount of comfort. One female sahabiyah complained to Nabi (sws) about her husband, that he fasts all day and prays all night, and Nabi (sws) said your body has rights over you, your spouse has rights over you – meaning don’t fast all the time, and don’t pray all night long.

In the ayah mentioned at the beginning, Allah (swt) also said ‘you will be a witness’ – why? Because we are the last and final ummah, and we have the last and final book! Nabi (sws) was the last and final Messenger, hence we are witnesses to the previous generations.

This is an ummah for all of humanity – part of being from this ummah means we have a feeling of companionship with fellow believers. Previously we have discussed how to be a true believer in seclusion, in suhbah etc. Tonight, we will discuss how to be a true mu’min as part of the ummah.

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah [3:110]

You are the very best ummah- you enjoin towards that which is known to be virtuous and pure, and you call away from those things that are rejected by Allah (swt). This is ihtiyat; to stay away from those things Allah dislikes, and to do things which Allah likes.

Whenever I come to England, I’m always amazed at how little capacity we have to do da’wah on the non-Muslims. There is so much capacity in our colleagues, neighbours, friends etc, but so few of them do we bring to deen of Islam. Sahabah (ra) always had fikr. The original meaning of da’wah is to engage with people who don’t have iman, and then to bring them to iman. We don’t even try; we say we are too scared, and embarrassed. We find it awkward. You’ve known someone for 1 year, 5 years etc, and you can never talk to them about Allah (swt)? What if they grabbed you on the Day of Judgment, and said my colleague and friend never ever told to me to prepare for this Day. We should at the least do our duty, we should care. We shouldn’t feel awkward. Even if its awkward for a couple of weeks, at least we can say on the Day of Judgment that we tried.

Allah (swt) puts barakah in da’wah when we are truly sincere – we don’t appreciate and value our own iman. If you valued it, you would want to share it. For most of us, we didn’t actively accept Islam, since we were born in families of deen, and hence we don’t appreciate this iman, and we don’t share it.

The core of iman is tawhid and ubudiyyah. Our whole focus should be this. Once there was a Shaykh who asked his students, ‘What is tawhid?’ The students replied it is to believe Allah (swt) is one. The Shaykh then explained that it is not solely to believe in the oneness of Allah, but also to live your entire life for the sake of that one Allah (swt). This is called ubudiyyah.

Allah (swt) has many names. One particular one is Malik, which goes with our identity of slave. We have one name, we are one thing – we are ‘abd (slave). Allah can be Rahman with us, He can be Wakeel, He can be Malik, but we will always be ‘abd. We only have this one identity. We are ‘abd ur-Rahman, ‘abd ul’Halim, ‘abd ul-Malik etc. We always remain ‘abd!

At the conquest of Makkah, Nabi (sws) said Alhamdulillahil-lazi sadaqa wa’dahu, wa nasar ‘abdahu – Praise is to Allah (swt)  who has fulfilled His promise, granted victory to His slave – he (sws) didn’t enter as  a leader, as a conqueror; he entered as a slave. Even in tashahhud in salah, we attest he (sws) was ‘abd before rasul. Nabi (sws) was Rasulullah, but he acknowledged that he was ‘abd first. We also need to understand this; ‘abd first, engineer second; ‘abd first, doctor second!

True tawhid and ‘ubudiyyah will make us live a life of yaqin (certainty in faith) and tawakkul (reliance on Allah). You cannot invite others to the deen without tawhid and ubudiyyah.  Whatever difficult circumstance might happen, our faith should not decrease if we have true yaqin and tawakkul. In the battle of Ahzab, the disbelievers gathered as a coalition against the believers. This was when they should be fearing the enemy, but how did Allah (swt) mention this in Qur’an:

الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُواْ لَكُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَاناً وَقَالُواْ حَسْبُنَا اللّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ 
those to whom people said, ‘the people have gathered against you; so, fear them’ – it increased them in faith and they said, ‘Allah is fully sufficient for us, and the best One in whom to trust.’ [3:173]

Whenever we face some opposition, maybe from our own nafs, maybe from some creation, maybe from some enemies – do we have the same yaqin and tawakkul? Most people suffer and fall into laziness, apathy, inaction, anxiety, and depression. They don’t even feel like making du’a. Do we only fear Allah (swt)?

فَلاَ تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي
…so fear them not, but fear Me [2:150]

‘Ulama go through difficulties, people doing relief work go through difficulties; individuals go through difficulties; people of da’wah go through difficulties. This world is a world of test – Allah (swt) wants to see who is the most virtuous in behaviour. This is the world of test and the world of effort. There is the world with no test – that is called akhirah (afterlife).

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 
O’ you who believe, seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere [2:153]

You must persevere in your good deeds, and you must patiently bear whatever difficulties Allah (swt) sends your way. Allah is with such people. Many times, we aren’t able to do this? Why?

وَاسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلاَّ عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ 
Seek help through patience and prayer. It is indeed exacting, but not for those who are humble in their hearts. [2.45]

Many people have ujub and value themselves as something, and when a difficulty comes to them, they find it extremely difficult to have sabr (patience). One core attribute is to develop this humility in us. If we are humble, we will be able to survive the tests and trials that come our way, otherwise we’ll just panic. These are things we can’t learn in difficulty.

Another attribute we need is taqwa – if we don’t leave sins, we don’t have this feature of ‘ummah’

إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
Surely, Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change themselves [13:11]

So we need iman, khushu (humility) and taqwa, and this will all enable us to have sabr and salah – and it is then that we will have this balance and equilibrium.

What is a sign of a person truly being a part of the ‘ummah’

Nabi (sws) has said; A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he does not oppress him, nor does he fail him, nor does he lie to him, nor does he hold him in contempt. Taqwa is right here, and he pointed to his chest three times. [Muslim Sharif]

1. Don’t oppress anyone.

Taqwa is something internal. It is in the batin – and if we have this, we will never oppress or belittle anyone.

Don’t ever be a zalim (oppressor) – this means husband shouldn’t oppress the wife, and the wife shouldn’t oppress the husband. Children should not oppress their parents and parents should not oppress their children. There should be no zulm! Don’t be an oppressor, and don’t let anyone be oppressed – do something about it if you see someone else being oppressed. As a believer, we should rescue anyone else who is being oppressed.

2. Don’t view anyone with contempt.

Another thing is to not view anyone with contempt. Why don’t people care about the Rohingyas so much; because they are not some sacred ethnic group like Palestinians? Many haven’t even heard of the Rohingyas. Many didn’t even know there were muslims in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand etc. They are abandoned, they have no rescuers, illa masha-Allah. We viewed them as below our notice/time. Why does this happen? It happens when a person has worldly blessing, or they have some religious blessing maybe  – then we start viewing others as haqir (inferior) and faqir (destitute)!

Notice in this hadith of taqwa, there was no mention of anything about leaving sins. It was all about our relationship with others.

We know Allah (swt) has said in Qur’an:

إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ
Surely the noblest of you, in Allah‘s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. [49:13]

إِنْ أَوْلِيَآؤُهُ إِلاَّ الْمُتَّقُونَ
The friends of Allah are none, but the God-fearing. [8:34]

It becomes a fashion for people, that they want to become a wali of Allah, but many think becoming a wali has nothing to do with taqwa. They might think it has to do with wearing certain clothing, listening to a certain amount of nashid, doing certain dhikr. The friends of Allah are none, but the ones with taqwa!

Our pious predecessors would serve the needy, they would help the poor. Yes, they also did a lot of worship and dhikr, and they stayed away from sin – but this was also one of their attributes. They had feelings for ummah. How did islam spread in the subcontinent? Shaykh Moinuddeen Chishti (rh) sat with the poor people, and there were masses of such people who were known to be downtrodden, subdued, powerless etc in society. They were the lowest in terms of caste. He showed them so much compassion, and they accepted Islam. At least we should have a special feeling to do the same, because many of us owe our iman to such people. Half of the ummah is in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh! 600 million Muslims are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It’s a joke in our communities, that when someone gets some money, they upgrade their neighbourhood. We leave the people. Someone in the family might get a degree, and then they don’t come back to help their neighbourhood, they hang out with the elite university crowd. Being a believer doesn’t mean default, we are a member of the ummah. It involves a lot of features. How many from the 1.2 billion muslims are actually the ‘ummah’.

Abu Dharr reported Rasulullah (sws) as saying that he reported it from his Lord, the Exalted and Glorious:

‘Verily I have made oppression unlawful for Me and for My servants too, so do not commit oppression.’

Allah (swt) also this in Quran;

لَا ظُلْمَ الْيَوْمَ 
No injustice will there be that Day… [40:17]

This is the way Nabi (sws) made society; a zulm-free society! You support the truth, you help the needy, you serve the needy, you help the oppressed, you serve the oppressed.

Once Nabi (sws) was sitting with some of the sahaba and he tested them. He (sws) said, Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. So the sahaba (ra) asked, O Rasulullah (sws), It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor? Rasulullah (sws) said, By preventing him from oppressing others.

Nabi (sws) liked that Sahaba (ra) asked questions. So there are three aspects here. Firstly, don’t yourself oppress others; secondly, help the oppressed; and thirdly, try to roll back the zulm in the zalim! We have to help the oppressor also!

Nabi karim (sws) had a very different way of thinking; we just brush things under the carpet. Nabi (sws) said you must go to them, and help them!

To show the importance of this, there is another hadith:

It was narrated that ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr said: I saw the Rasulullah (sws) circumambulating the Ka’bah and saying: How good you are and how good your fragrance; how great you are and how great your sanctity! By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of the believer is greater before Allah than your sanctity, his blood and his wealth, and to think anything but good of him.

One dent in one brick of ka’bah! We would drop everything to save even one brick of ka’bah from one dent. That is our passion, emotion and jazbah! One scratch on one believer should be even more offensive to us than even one dent on one brick of ka’bah. K’abah is baytUllah, but ummah is ‘Abd-Allah! Forget scratch, slaughter, mass murder is happening. Burma is the lowest we can go. Burma is a backwards third world country; they are not even a superpower- even the Burmese army are slaughtering Muslims. This is how low we have become; we are not an ummah anymore.

It comes in another hadith:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Rasulullah (sws) said, Verily, Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘O’ son of Adam, I was ill but you did not visit Me.’ He would say: ‘O my Rabb, how could I visit you and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ Thereupon He would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine was ill but you did not visit him? Did you not realize that if you had visited him (you would have known that I was aware of your visit to him, for which I would reward you) you would have found Me with him?’

Look at how strongly Allah (swt) expresses. Sickness is a natural thing. Imagine oppression.

‘O’ son of Adam, I asked food from you but you did not feed Me.’ He would submit: ‘My Rabb, how could I feed You and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ He would say: ‘Did you not know that such and such a slave of Mine asked you for food but you did not feed him? Did you not realize that if you had fed him, you would certainly have found (its reward) with Me?’ 

Hunger is still less than oppression…

O’ son of Adam, I asked water from you but you did not give it to Me.’ He would say: ‘My Rabb, how could I give You (water) and You are the Rabb of the worlds?’ Thereupon He would say: ‘Such and such a slave of Mine asked you for water to drink but you did not give it to him. Did you not realize that if you had given him to drink you would have found (its reward) with Me?’

It shows us how much compassion we should have; we fall into israf (extravagance). How much we waste is amazing. Even when we go for umrah, we waste there. Many are blessed to fast Monday and Thursdays, but even there, many roll up so much good food after iftar. There is some extreme poverty in Muslim parts of the world. In another hadith, Nabi (sws) has mentioned;

Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah (swt) is engaged in helping the worshiper as long as the worshiper is engaged in helping his brother.

This also could mean, as long as he doesn’t help his brother, then he is in danger Allah will stop helping him. Sometimes, we have to look at the simple things. Normally we discuss spiritual topics, but sometimes it is important to remember that it is not only about our own ibadah etc, it is also about our own ummah.

Practical steps

Begin with those who are closest to you – spouse, siblings, children, neighbours, friends. We fail right here. We fail with our spouses. Your wife is also part of ‘ummah’. Children and parents is also ummah. If you aren’t good at home, how can you be good to the global ummah. Begin close, and Allah swt will accept us for far.

May Allah (swt) accept this from us.


وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ


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