In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace
22nd Rabi` al-Thani 1439
During the past few weeks we have witnessed the passing away of a number of elders within our community. We pray that Allah, the Lord of Compassion and Mercy, embraces them with infinite tenderness, forgive their sins, and grant them a beautiful abode in jannah. In my khutbah today I would like to pay tribute to our beloved elders by briefly reflecting on an inspirational Qur’anic verse, 134 of Surah Ali `Imran, which one of these deceased elders shared with me shortly before his passing.
Exactly a fortnight ago, on Friday 29 December 2017, Ebrahim Rasool delivered a moving khutbah reflecting on his state of transition and mourning after the passing of his dear father, Boeta Ismail (Miley) Rasool, on Friday 15 December 2107. Ebrahim’s words were so poignant and meaningful that I think it worthwhile to begin my khutbah by citing his opening remarks delivered from this pulpit (minbar). Ebrahim Rasool began his khutbah in this way:
الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ
قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
“Those who, when afflicted with calamity, say:
‘Verily from God we come,
and to God we are returning!’” (Qur’an 2:156)
In the great journey of any earthly life there are only two fixed points, the origin and the destination. In moments of great tragedy or loss these are the two fixed points we invoke to give comfort and meaning. We invoke it with finality – God has claimed that being! We evoke it with resignation – what can you do about it? And we invoke it with gratitude – the being has fulfilled its task.
Yet, for those left behind, this reminder should evoke a warning that is contained in the present continuous tense – “we are returning” – so that we understand that every step of life is a return, a step closer to the destination, a step closer to death, a step in preparation for the next phase of life, and a step closer to accounting for life.
Uncannily, as Ebrahim was speaking these profound words, one of our elderly congregants, Boeta Abdul Moutie Isaacs, was literally experiencing the reality of “returning”. As soon as the jumu`ah salah ended, Boeta Moutie collapsed in his chair at the back of the masjid. One of the medical doctors, who attended to Boeta Moutie, recounted that he could not find a pulse and immediately started administering a heart massage. After a couple of minutes Boeta Moutie was revived and was sitting up on the floor. I recall trying to comfort and console Boeta Moutie and everyone else who had been attending to him by reciting a du`a of gratitude and healing. Boeta Moutie, called me closer to him and reciprocated by saying: “Imam ek is nog nie Maninghal nie (I have not yet died).” Almost exactly a week later on Thursday 4 January 2018, sadly, al-Hajj Abdul Moutie Isaacs passed away peacefully at his home in Newlands.
Four weeks earlier on Friday 8 December 2017, we buried and paid our last respects to a well-known community medical professional, Dr. Allie Hoosain Mahate of Grassy Park. I have known Dr. Mahate for over three decades and during this time he served as a great mentor to me and many other social justice activists within our community. Dr. Mahate was a prolific reader and used to regularly share literature with me and scores of others for many years. I fondly remember him even snail mailing me his monthly dose of “propaganda” during the time that I was studying in the United States of America in the early 2000’s. During my last visit to Dr. Mahate in late November 2017, he once again shared a bunch of articles with me. Included in the literature he had shared with me, was a single page, which contained a translation and brief commentary of the Qur’anic verse 134 of Surah Ali-`Imran. At the end of the page in bold lettering the following words were written: “Memorize the above verse with its meaning and Insha-Allah it will change your life.”
I cannot think of a better way of paying tribute to Dr. Allie Hoosain Mahate, Hajj Abdul Moutie Isaacs, Boeta Ismail (Miley) Rasool, and all of our deceased relatives and friends, than by encouraging all of us to memorize and reflect on the meaning of this verse of the Glorious Qur’an, and asking Allah the Lord of Compassion and Mercy, to grant them all a perpetual reward (sadaqa jariya). I have made copies of this page and will be distributing it after jumu`ah today. I urge you to not only memorize verse 134 of Surah Ali-`Imran, but also to reflect on its meaning and most of all try to embody its gracious teachings.
Reflections on Three (3) Virtues of the Righteous (Qur’an 3: 134)
In the last part of my khutbah I would like to briefly reflect on the meaning of this Qur’anic verse. Allah, the Sublime, proclaims in verse 134 of Surah Ali-`Imran:
الَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ
وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ
وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“(The Righteous Believers) are those who spend (out of what God has provided for them), both in Prosperity and in Adversity: and who subdue and control their anger, and pardon and forgive their fellow human beings (for offenses committed against them);
for God loves those who are devoted to doing
good and acting virtuously.” (Qur’an 3:134)
The above Qur’anic verse identifies three key characteristics and virtues of those it describes as the muhsinin (i.e. those who imbibe the quality of ihsan and thus accomplish beauty and excellence in their execution of acts of goodness and righteousness). The three sublime qualities and virtues of the muhsinin are described as follows:
- Infaq fi Sabili Allah – First, the muhsinin are those who embody the natural desire to be benevolent. They are philanthropic and charitable not only during times when they are well off and it is easy for them to do so, but also during times of difficulty and strained financial circumstances. It is also instructive to note that infaq or spending does not only refer to giving of their wealth but also of themselves (i.e. their time, energies and skills) in the way of God i.e. the way of the marginalized in society. Infaq fi Sabili Allah or spending of one’s wealth or oneself is so critical to the life of a Muslim that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessing be upon him) taught:
كُلُّ سُلَامَى مِنْ النَّاسِ عَلَيْهِ صَدَقَةٌ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ تَطْلُعُ فِيهِ الشَّمْسُ قَالَ تَعْدِلُ بَيْنَ الِاثْنَيْنِ صَدَقَةٌ وَتُعِينُ الرَّجُلَ فِي دَابَّتِهِ فَتَحْمِلُهُ عَلَيْهَا أَوْتَرْفَعُ لَهُ عَلَيْهَا مَتَاعَهُ صَدَقَةٌ قَالَ وَالْكَلِمَةُ الطَّيِّبَةُ صَدَقَةٌ وَكُلُّ خُطْوَةٍ تَمْشِيهَا إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ صَدَقَةٌ وَتُمِيطُ الْأَذَى عَنْ الطَّرِيقِ صَدَقَةٌ
“Each person’s every joint must do a charity every day the Sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it is a charity; a good word is a charity; every step you take to perform prayers is a charity and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (This hadith was reported by the companion Abu Hurayra and recorded in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim)
- Kazimin al-Ghayth – Second, the muhsinin are those who control their inner rage. Here it is expedient to note that there are two key words for anger in the Qur’an. The commonly used term for anger is ghadab, which is externally expressed anger in the form of words or deeds; and the term ghayth, which refers to the internal aspect of ghadab or anger, and to distinguish it from the former it can best be translated into English as inner rage. This means that it is natural to become frustrated or annoyed with someone’s wrongful or provocative behavior but to be able to subdue and restrain its external expression is a sublime characteristic. A corresponding teaching from the Sunnah is the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) repeated advice to one of his companions to not become angry (la taghdab).
وعَنْ أبي هُرَيْرَةَ -رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنهُ- أن رجلا قال للنبي – صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم – أوصني. قال: ((لا تغضب)) فردد مرارا، قال: ((لا تغضب)) رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ.
On the authority of Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him): “A man said to the Prophet, ‘Give me your best advice? The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), replied, ‘Do not get angry (la taghdab).’ It appears the man was not impressed with the advice he received and so he asked the same question repeatedly and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) answered each time, ‘Do not get angry (la taghdab).’” (This hadith was related by Bukhari & Muslim)
- `Afina `an al-Nas – Last but not least, the muhsinin are those who are magnanimous, pardoning and forgiving towards all of humanity. They are self-reflective and do not judge or gloat in the wrongs and indiscretions of other people. They are fully conscious of their human frailty and do not hold grudges. They thus try their utmost to embody the divine quality of al`Afwue. the all-Pardoning God, who not only freely pardons but loves to pardon. This divine attribute is most eloquently expressed in the well-known supplication that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) loved to repeat during the holy month of Ramadan:
O God, Indeed! Thou Art the Pardoner,
Thou loves to Pardon, so Pardon Me
(This hadith was reported by the by the beloved wife of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) `Aisha and was recorded in the hadith collection of al-Tirmidhi)
In conclusion, I advise myself first, and all of us, to try our best during this New Gregorian year of 2018 to embody these three sublime qualities of Infaq fi Sabili Allah – spending of our wealth and time in the path of Allah in times of prosperity and adversity, Kazimin al-Ghayth – controlling our inner rage and anger, and `Afina `an al-Nas – pardoning and forgiving those who transgress and offend against us. We make du`a and pray that Allah pardons al-marhum Dr. Allie Hoosain Mahate, al-marhum Hajj Abdul Moutie Isaacs, al-marhum Boeta Ismail (Miley) Rasool, and all of our deceased relatives and friends. We pray for their comfort in Allah’s compassionate embrace, for their peaceful rest in His loving care, and for their blessed passage into the most fragrant and highest of the gardens of Paradise.
اَللّٰهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَرْحَمْهُمْ وَسَكِّنْهُمْ فَي الْجَنَّةِ
O Allah Pardon and Forgive them,
have Mercy on their Souls,
and Grant them the Abode of Paradise.