Friday, September 12, 2014

Acquaintances and Friends

A’uzu Billahi Min ash-Shaitain ir-Rajeem.
Bismillah ir-rahman ir-raheem.
Al Hamdu Lillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen.
Wasa’atu Wassalamu ‘Ala Muhammad wa ‘Ala Alihi was Sabhihi was Sallim
Ahmaduhu Subbhanahu wa Ta’ala wa Ashkuru, wa Huwa Ahlul-Hamdi wath-thana. I praise Him, the Exalted One and the High, and I thank him. It is He Who deserves the praise and gratitude.
Man Yahdillahu Fa Huwal Muhtad, wa man yudlill falan tajida lahu waliyan murshida. Anyone who has been guided by Allah, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been misguided, you will never find a guardian to guide him.

The title of my khutbah today is: Acquaintances and Friends

There are a lot of ocean metaphors in the Quran, which I find interesting because the Prophet spent the last twenty-three years of his life in landlocked areas. I have often wondered why are there so many ocean metaphors:  was this just a common pre-Islamic poetic trope, were there a lot of visiting merchants who told stories of the sea, or perhaps, did Mohammad visit the ocean as a youth? Are the ocean metaphors a nostalgic look at a lost innocence or youthfulness? Perhaps I am reminded of this because I grew up in sleepy beach-side community and now find myself to have lived the past fifteen years in the land-locked Midwest.

Some of the more memorable ocean themes in the Quran are found in the sea voyage where people are suddenly sailing through stormy weather.

He it is who enables you to travel on land and sea. And when you go to sea in ships and they sail on in them in a favorable wind, and they rejoice thereat—until there comes upon them a tempest, and waves surge towards them from all sides, so that they believe themselves to be encompassed (by death, and then) they call unto God, sincere in their faith in Him alone. ‘If Thou wilt but save us from this, we shall most certainly be among the grateful.’ Yet as soon as He has saved them from this (danger), lo! they behave outrageously on earth, offending against all right! O men! All your outrageous deeds are bound to fall back upon your own selves!.” 10: 22-23

These ayats tell us a lot about human nature, particularly default human nature not informed of faith.  When humans encounter adversity, any kind of distress, illness, poverty or other trouble, they become impatient and full of despair. This is the default mode. The next thing that happens, is if a person has a vague notion of faith, he or she may at this point ask God for help, negotiate some kind of deal, beg.  God seems to help other people, why not me? That is reasonable logic, but inevitably with this kind of relationship with God, I guess I’d call it an “acquaintance”, as soon as the trouble is lifted, the person goes on his or her merry way and never thinks about God again, or at least, not until the next predicament.

Now let’s think about how this relates to our lives. How would you feel if you knew someone, maybe some of you have these kinds of ‘aquaintances’, who only called you when they wanted something from you? And once you gave them what they wanted, they never called you again? How would you feel about that person’s behavior? Let’s say you have a friend. That friend calls you for no reason, just to check up on you and make sure you’re ok. Maybe that friend cheers you up when you feel low, or compliments you, or makes you feel guilty when you are not meeting your goals. This person is there for you through good times and bad. What is it like to have a friend who is grateful for your friendship?  How are you going to treat that friend when they ask you for help?


(Khutbah Part 2)
Wa barrik ‘Ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala ‘alee Muhammad, kama baarakta ‘ala Ibrahim, wa ‘ala alee Ibrahim, fil ‘alameen innaka hameedun majeed. Oh Allah, send your blessing upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, in as much as you blessed Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. You are the Majestic in the whole universe.

The Quran encourages us to cultivate a friendship with God, which we do this through prayer. When you pray, you are doing that for God,  that is your time together to connect. You don’t always have to be asking for things. Asking is fine, but you know, sometimes in your life things are going ok, and when that happens, then you need to thank God. Thank Him for the gifts you have received, praise Him for this world He has created and for your opportunities.

A hadith of Prophet Muhammad says,

Seek approach to Allah in the time of ease and comfort, so He will consider you in the time of adversity.

This means pray to God even in good times. If you can’t think of anything to ask for, then praise what you do have around you. Thank Him for your ability to see, and praise Him for making a cardinal’s wing so red against a gray winter landscape.

When misfortune does strike, and troubles will always happen to you in this life, then that is also the time to pray to God. What do friends do when another friend is in trouble? They help. Now sometimes your friend can completely remove the trouble, but other times not. Sometimes your friend may not be able to help in this way. This is particularly true when I have created the problem myself. In other words, sometimes misfortune is a consequence of something I have done all by myself. God says,

 Whatever misfortune happens to you is because of things you have wrought, and for many of them, He grants forgiveness.” 42:30

So, when I am driving too fast on an icy road and my car slams into a snow bank, that isn’t the car’s fault. It isn’t the road’s fault. It is my fault because I chose to drive too fast, and now I have a broken bumper. God is not going to magically fix my bumper and make it like new. However, there is something that God can provide us to help us with our problems- inspiration! (friends can help us in this department, too). In my case, the inspiration was duct tape.

When someone questioned Prophet Muhammad about the inspiration of Allah, he said,

Whoever was busy engaging in My praise instead of just asking Me, I will give him the best of that which I give to all men who ask favors.

Use prayer to cultivate a friendship with God. He really is the best friend you can have in good times and in not so good times. Don’t be just a fair-weather friend or an acquaintance, be a good friend. Praise God, tell Him you are grateful for His gifts, be mindful of your own shortcomings, and be respectful of other people’s rights. When you do fall into trouble, keep up your prayers, reflect on what- if any-of your actions may have gotten you into this predicament, apply your problem-solving skills to the situation, and be patient.  The Quran says,

And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and labour’s fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity- who when calamity befalls them say, ‘Verily unto God do we belong, and verily, unto Him we shall return.’  It is they upon whom their Sustainter’s blessings and grace are bestowed, and it is they, they who are on the right path!” 2: 155-157

Wa lanablu wanna-kum-bishay ‘im-minal-khawfi  wal-ju’I wa naqsim-minal ‘amwali wal- ‘anfusi wath-thamarat. Wa bashshiris-sabirin. Alladhina ‘idha ‘asabat-hum musibatun-qaluu. Inna lillahi wa innaka ilayhi raji’un. Ulaa ‘ika alayhim salawatum-mir Rabbihim was rahmah. Wa ‘ulaa ‘ika humul-muhtadoon. Ameen

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