Id ul Fitr,  29|07|2014 – Progressive Social Transformation by Dr A. Rashied Omar

Id ul Fitr, 29|07|2014 – Progressive Social Transformation by Dr A. Rashied Omar

In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace

1st Shawwal 1435

أالله أكبر، الله أكبر، الله أكبر، الله أكبر
ولله الحمد

Allah is Greater than
Allah is Greater than
Allah is Greater than
All Praise, Thanks & Gratitude belongs to Allah Alone


Introduction

We extol and thank Allah, the Sublime, for having graced us with the ability to successfully complete our fasting in the blessed month ofrashid_prayer_profile
Ramadan. We pray that Allah, the Dispenser of Grace, will accept our fasting (siyam), our ritual prayers (salawat and qiyam) and acts of charity (zakah and sadaqah), and reward us abundantly for these devotions aimed at achieving Allah’s pleasure and love. As for those who have been exempted from fasting owing to frail health, infirmity or a disability, it is our sincere prayer that Allah, the Most Compassionate, accepts their ransoms (fidyah) and grants them an even greater reward for their patient perseverance (sabr).

Our fervent fasting, prayers and alms-giving which we undertook during the blessed month of Ramadan were all endeavours in our quest for the love of God. To correctly understand what we mean by the love of God we need to recognize that it is integrally linked to a deep and abiding love for God’s creation. It is a sign of hope and positive embracing of all of humanity. Such a sanguine faith commitment enables the believer to perceive the good that exists in our world and it is the fruit and mark of divine action in human hearts. Armed with such a positive faith commitment notwithstanding the despondency, which abounds both within and outside our community, the conscientious believer is enabled to keep alive the lamp of hope, showing the pathways leading humanity to safety and felicity (falah), both in this world and the next.

Ramadan 2014 has been a special one for us at the Claremont Main Road Masjid, as we launched our celebrations of the 160th anniversary of this institution established in 1854. A significant part of our commemorations is the congregational sharing in the recitation of six khatam al-Qur’ans, to honour the memory of those pioneers who founded the Claremont Main Road Masjid, those who contributed to its maintenance, as well as those who patronized it over the past 160 years. We ask Allah, the Most High, to grant them a perpetual reward (sadaqah jariya), and salvation in the hereafter, insha-Allah.

It is fortuitous that the Claremont Main Road Masjid’s 160th anniversary comes in the year we are celebrating twenty years since the onset of democracy in South Africa.

At this time in our country’s history many of the institutionalised barriers which apartheid had erected to inhibit the growth and full dignity of the large majority of our citizens have been successfully dismantled. We have strong institutions which uphold the freedom of all South African citizens to participate in political, educational, legal, social and economic activity without restriction based on race, ethnicity or origin.

And while there are many triumphs to celebrate after 20 years, there is no getting away from the sobering fact that change in the social and economic conditions for the betterment of a large proportion of our citizenry remains elusive. Much more needs to be done.

It is, therefore, expedient in this ‘Id al-Fitr khutbah to share some reflections on how best our congregation can play a role as both conscientious Muslims and responsible South African citizens at this critical juncture in the history of our country. More precisely, in this ‘Id khutbah I will provide some inspirational stories to illuminate my affirmation that social transformation is not instantaneous but rather a gradual and progressive process which requires of us perseverance and resilience. This perseverance and resilience must allow us to nurture small amounts of hope and celebrate minor victories, as continuous and incremental progress is the blueprint for transformation which we are taught to adopt in Islam.

An Islamic Theory of Social Change

I would like to begin by briefly expounding on an Islamic theory of social change.I have, during a khutbah delivered at the beginning of 2014 arguedon the basis of the well-known ayah of the Qur’an, in Surah al-Ra’ad, Chapter13, verse 11 that the Qur’anic theory of change is not deterministic.  In this ayah Allah, the Sublime declares

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ

God will not change the condition of a people

as long as they do not change themselves[Q13:11]

Transformation and social change according to the Islamic worldview is not merely the outcome of objective conditions, technically known in Islamic terminology asibtila’, but is also the result of the moral choices and ethical responsibilities that human beings assume. In other words, social change requires a subjective factor, the critical agency and role of individuals who join together in collective action to seize the opportunities of the moment for social transformation.

In this khutbah I further expand on this theory by proposing that social change and transformation according to Islam takes place gradually and progressively, technically known as tadrij or tadarruj. I reference two important Qur’anic verses in support of my view that social change is incremental not instantaneous. The first is verse 106 of Surah Bani Isra’il, chapter 17 in which Allah, the Sublime proclaims:

وَقُرْآَنًا فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَى مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنْزِيلًا

And (it is) a Qur’an which We have gradually unfolded, in order that you might read it out to humankind by stages.

And We have revealed it step by step. [Q17:106]

The second Qur’anic reference is verse 32 of Surah al-Furqan, chapter 25, in which Allah, the Sublime, proclaims:

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الْقُرْآَنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً كَذَلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ وَرَتَّلْنَاهُ تَرْتِيل

And those who are bent on denying the truth say: “Why has the Qur’an not been revealed all at once?” (It has been sent down in stages), so that We may strengthen your heart thereby.

And We have revealed it to you gradually[Q25:32]

Both of the above verses concur that the Qur’an was not revealed all at once but was revealed gradually and in stages over a period of twenty-three years. The key Arabic term tartil, employed in the above verses translated here as “gradual revelation”, indicates successive steps which sought to balance the contextual condition and the readiness of the early Muslims to receive this Divine guidance.

It is critical to understand that the overall purpose of revealing the Qur’an was to enlighten a community and to establish an egalitarian society in which the dignity of all human beings is fully affirmed. Since human behaviour does not go through a transformation overnight, such a lofty goal requires time in a protracted process of apposite education. The Qur’an was thus revealed in small parts, interpreting events first to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and strengthening his resolve to fulfill his noble mission. The Qur’anic revelation progressed, one passage or surahafter another, as suited the different stages along the road of the social transformation that the community traveled. Most importantly, for our purposes here is that such a progressive process of social change and transformation was inspired and driven forward by small incremental successes and minor victories.

For example, during the most trenchant and difficult early days of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) mission he was forced to send some of his followers into exile to Africa known in the sirah literature as the minor hijrah. In the ensuing negotiations with the Quraish who tried to extradite the Muslim fugitives back to Makkah, the companion Ja`far ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) was able to convince the Christian King of Abyssinia, Negus, to provide the Muslims with refuge and asylum. This was a small but significant victory which was to establish the basis and platform from which the future success of the Muslims ensued. The great significance of this minor hijrah to the later success of Islam often eludes historians because they are unable to appreciate the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) theory of social change and thus to locate this within his broader strategy of social transformation (For a useful perspective on this see:Muhammad: Man or Prophet by Adil Salahi: The Islamic Foundation, UK, 2008).

Let us also be reminded that the Qur’anic methodology for enacting social change is critical to understand so that we can use these means to achieve the full meaning of being a Muslim – and honouring the Creator through serving and uplifting those in need.

As I have preached from this mimbar on countless occasions, one of the defining characteristics of what a Muslim is – is her/his concern for those who are on the margins of society, those who are destitute and vulnerable. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in an authentic hadith advises us that:

اِبْغُوْنِيْالضُّعَفَاءَ،فَإِنَّمَاتُنْصَرُوْنَ،وَتُرْزَقُوْنَبِضُعَفَائِكُمْ

You will only succeed and prosper to the extent that you show solidarity with and care for the marginalized and disenfranchised in your society

(reported by Abu Darda’ and recorded in the hadith collection of Abu Dawud)

Social Transformation in South Africa

In the second part of this ‘Id al-Fitr khutbah I would like to employ the above elucidated Islamic theory of social change to share some success stories and examples of small contributions to social transformation in our country, as a way of inspiring us not to underestimate the amazing potential of our own modest acts of social activism and individual acts of compassion and altruism.

In my January 2014 khutbah I argued that currently the conditions are ripe for social transformation and the time is truly upon all of us, as people of conscience, to mobilise ourselves to become active agents of social change. In support of my contention I identified a number of factors that have come together at this time to produce conditions that we should exploit for advancing the struggle for greater social justice and economic transformation. Chief among these factors was that the vibrant South African social activism that characterised the struggle against apartheid is beginning to rediscover its dynamism. A rich array of civil society groups have emerged and grown significantly during the past few years. These groups and organisations have begun to form coalitions to hold government, from national to municipal, to account and to give voice to the needs and aspirations of ordinary citizens. This is an encouraging development that needs to be celebrated and supported.

My invitation to each one at this joyous time of ‘Id al-Fitr is to join this growing social movement that seeks greater socio-economic justice and dignity for all South Africans. On this great day of ‘Id each one of us needs to ask ourselves what can I do to enhance socio-economic justice in South Africa? What difference can I as a single individual make to the alleviation of poverty and the empowerment of marginalized individuals and families in our society? I would like to reflect on three examples of graceful triumphs of compassion and benevolence that bears testimony to my proposition that incremental success and minor victories provides us with hope for genuine social transformation. It is my sincere hope that these three examples will serve as a way of inspiring us not to underestimate the difference one person with a sincere intention and positive disposition can make to society.

1.      Acts of Social Solidarity

I would like to begin with an inspirational story that occurred right here at CMRM. I was deeply moved and inspired by the generosity and social commitment of our very own congregation on Mi’raj evening. We had invited three striking Marikana mineworkers to speak at the conclusion of our Mi’raj programme. I took the collection box around and invited congregants to make donations in support of the mineworkers who had already been on strike for close to four months. On this single evening we collected R10 000 in support of the starving families of the striking workers. Afterwards some people joked that the congregation may have been intimidated by the Imam coming around with the collection box. I did not however witness that. What I did witness was the sincerity with which our congregants’ women, men and children, young and old discharged their charities. I was re-inspired by the great social commitment of our congregation.

In these acts of charity, people were displaying their solidarity with some of the most marginalized workers in our country. Subsequently we were also able to provide food parcels to the striking workers and this modest contribution from this congregation served to support the struggle for a living wage for this marginalized sector in our society. The Marikana workers who visited our masjid were profoundly moved by their experience and told me afterwards that they could not wait to go back and inform their comrades about the solidarity they witnessed at the masjid. This inspiring event has given me great hope that we have a socially responsive and committed congregation and that while we are still fighting apathy and indifference among large pockets of our society things are not as hopeless as we sometimes imagine it to be.

2.      Supporting Institutions and Organizations that Hold Government to Account

Another useful example of how ordinary citizens can contribute to social transformation through social activism is to support organizations and institutions which hold government, public and private institutions accountable. In this regard, the most audacious and emboldening public institution to have emerged in post-apartheid and democratic South Africa, has been the office of the Public Protector. This office is a constitutionally provided Chapter 9 institution charged with the mission of strengthening the constitutional democracy of the Republic of South Africa and came into existence in October 1995. Under the competent leadership of human rights lawyer, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, since 2009 the Public Protector has staked out its independence and has called on a number of key public and private individuals and institutions to account for irregularities.

Just last year, the Public Protector’s office received 37 770 cases of possible indiscretion in the public service. These cases were reported by ordinary citizens. This is astonishing especially since we only get to hear about the high profile cases. Commenting on the Nkandla report of the Public Protector during a khutbahdelivered at CMRM on Human Rights Day, Friday 21 March 2014, Professor Aslam Fataar described the office of the Public Protector as follows:

“I want to suggest to you that this week we have seen a moral beacon shining brightly on the darkness that accompanies our apathy and indifference. Under enormous stress created by delays and political stone walling, insults and abuse, the office of the Public Protector was able to clearly and without drama or fanfare lift the lid on corruption, irregular tendering, overspending and the general abuse of public money to fund presidential opulence at Nkandla.”

Following Aslam Fataar’s khutbah CMRM issued a statement commending the Public Protector’s office and called on all South Africans to continue to support the vital work of the Public Protector. Here is one public institution that gives us hope for greater accountability and transparency in government that results from vigilant social activism. There are many civil society organizations that similarly mobilize ordinary citizens to hold government, public and private institutions accountable. The successes of these organizations are incremental but make a difference in the ongoing struggle for social transformation and social justice.

3.      Individual Acts of Compassion and Altruism

A final example, is of how we, as individuals can contribute to the alleviation of poverty and the empowerment of marginalized individuals and families in our society. I have the honour of being the patron of a novel organization called Cape Town Embrace. The aim of Cape Town Embrace is to connect vulnerable parents and caregivers to volunteers in our city who are willing to walk the journey alongside a person who is raising a young child in a vulnerable context and ultimately ensure that all children born in our city have the best chance to fulfil their developmental potential. The Embrace model draws on research findings that identify three critical factors which make children more resilient in the face of poverty. These are caring parents, the presence of another significant mentor, and modest connections to opportunity at critical points in their lives.

Cape Town Embraceoffers every citizen in this city an opportunity to become a connector and play a transformative role in the life of a baby born into poverty.More than this, it provides us with an opportunity to unite across racial and class divides by encouraging us to reach out to each other and cross the highways and railways that keeps us divided. After a pre-khutbah talk on 16 May 2014 on this initiative delivered by Cape Town Embrace CEO, Dr. David Harrison, five CMRM congregants volunteered to became connectors. Cape Town Embracehas appealed for five more CMRM connectors so that this masjid can become a significant champion organization in its citywide network.I would like to commend those five congregants who have already volunteered to become connectors and encourage others to seriously consider volunteering for this initiative. This is a wonderful opportunity for you as an individual to make a significant difference in the life of one child and his or her parents.

This initiative is but one of countless others which are scattered all over the length and breadth of our country. Every year, on July 18, Mandela Day, we see people from all walks of life giving 67 minutes of their time to make a difference in the lives of others less privileged than themselves, and many others do more than this.  All of these are modest in scale and represents small acts of compassion and benevolence which collectively can contribute immensely to social transformation and socio-economic justice in our country.

Conclusion

These are but a few of the innumerable inspirational stories and examples that adorn the lives of ordinary South Africans. I place these before you on this auspicious day of ‘Id al-Fitr and invite you to join in celebrating them as small incremental steps towards our common goal of affirming the dignity of all the people of our land, more especially the poor and the marginalized, and in so doing, fully embody and articulate important cornerstones of our deen (religion).

Our country is at a critical juncture in its history. Let us seek ways of working with each other to make a meaningful contribution as Muslims to the transformation of our society. We need to keep the spirit of hope alive in our communities. We need to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. There are many Qur’anic passages which exhort us in this regard. Let us conclude by citing one of these passages from which we at the Claremont Main Road Masjid have derived great spiritual comfort and solace:

فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا  إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا  فَإِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ  وَإِلَى رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ

Verily after difficulty there is ease.
After difficulty there is ease.
And when the difficulty is over still strive,
and make your Lord the object of your striving
[Q94:5-8]

In conclusion, on this blessed day of ‘Id al-Fitr, which coincides with the 160thanniversary of the Claremont Main Road Masjid, we give thanks to our congregants for their commitment to a socially responsive vision of Islam and for their love, compassion, and affection for each other. In particular, it is humbling to witness the spontaneous generosity with which our congregants have responded to all of our Ramadan Jihad Against Poverty programmes. We pray that the wonderful spirit of solidarity that has been nurtured through this past Ramadan will continue to gather momentum during the rest of the year, insha-Allah. I call those who have not yet taken up membership of CMRM to join us in celebrating the 160th anniversary of the establishment of CMRM and in building on the legacy of this masjid’s socially responsive vision of Islam. Let us today and every day celebrate all people who spend their lives helping to make the world a better place for all.

Let us take forward the great levels of ikhlas (sincerity), sakinah (tranquillity),khushu` (humility and devotion), andtazkiyya al-nafs (self-discipline and inner rejuvenation) fostered during the past month of Ramadan, and work to sustain and nourish these beautiful characteristics through the coming year.

Prayer for Gaza

On this sacred, joyous and blessed day of ‘Id al-Fitr, our hearts and thoughts are with the oppressed masses of Palestine who are suffering grave injustices at this time. The impunity with which Israel has killed innocent Palestinian civilians with their air-strikes on Gaza during the past month of Ramadan is indefensible and should not be countenanced by any society. Israel’s policy of collective punishment of Palestinians and the illegal occupation and settlements of Palestine is unconscionable and must end immediately. We implore each one of you to join us in doing even more in calling on and pressurizing our government to express genuine solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine by severing all diplomatic, cultural and trade links with the Apartheid State of Israel.

Remembering Our Deceased

Finally, ‘Id-al-Fitr is also a day on which we remember and honour the memories of our family and friends who are no longer with us and have passed on to the hereafter. In particular, on this celebratory day of ‘Id al-Fitr our hearts go out to Imam Shaheed Gamieldien and his family. Their dear mother, Aunty Mariam Gamieldien passed away during the first week of Ramadan. Today Aunty Mariam is no longer physically with us, but her memories live with us forever. We remember her, her husband, Boeta Gasant (Santjie) Gamieldien, his father Boeta Isma`il (Boeta Maai) Gamieldien and all of our deceased loved ones by saying a special prayer (du’a) on their departed souls.

اَللّٰهُمَّاغْفِرْلَهُمْوَرْحَمْهُمْوَسَكِّنْهُمْفَيالْجَنَّةِ

O Allah Pardon and Forgive them, have Mercy on their Souls

and Grant them the Abode of Paradise.

CMRM PRESS STATEMENT – 11 July 2014

CMRM Calls on ANC Government to Sever Links with the Apartheid State of Israel

The Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM) condemns in the strongest terms Israel’s policy of collective punishment of the Palestinians and the ongoing illegal occupation and settlements of Palestine. The impunity with which Israel has killed innocent Palestinian civilians with their mounting air strikes on Gaza is indefensible and should not be countenanced by any society. More importantly, governments the world over have the power to isolate and sanction Israel for their wanton attacks on the people of Gaza that have resulted in the deaths of over 80 Palestinians, the injuring of over 300 hundred Palestinians and the traumatising of thousands of others.

As such, CMRM calls on our ANC led government to back their apposite words of condemnation of Israeli attacks with matching actions, by severing all diplomatic and trade ties with the Apartheid State of Israel. It is not good enough for the ANC to hide behind the illusion that boycotting the Apartheid State of Israel is the responsibility of civil society, ANC structures on the ground and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Our government must employ the same peaceful means of boycotting and isolating the Apartheid State of Israel as we so successfully called on the international community to implement against the Apartheid South African regime.

We call on all South Africans to pressurize our government to express genuine solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine by severing all diplomatic, cultural and trade links with the Apartheid State of Israel.

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