In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace
Khutbah – Masjidul Quds, Gatesville
16th Ramadan 1439
Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
We praise and thank Allah the Lord of Mercy and Compassion for once again affording us the wonderful opportunity of experiencing the great blessings of the fasting month of Ramadan. We have reached the 16th day of this blessed and sacred month and we are well into its second ashra (third). These are the days of maghfira (forgiveness) and during this time Allah’s forgiveness is at its peak. We are therefore encouraged to increase our supplication for forgiveness. One of the ways we can do this, is by reciting the well-known du`a (supplication) that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him) loved to repeat during the sacred month of Ramadan:
O Allah, Indeed! Thou Art the Pardoner,
Thou loves to Pardon, so Pardon Me
(This hadith was reported by `Aisha the beloved wife of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and was recorded in the collection of Imam al-Tirmidhi)
May Allah accept our fasting and our supplication, have mercy on us, forgive our sins and may we all emerge from Ramadan with polished hearts to sustain us through the next 11 months, inshallah.
This jumu`ah service takes place on the eve of the 17th day of Ramadan, which is significant because it marks the day on which the Battle of Badr (Ghazwat Badr) took place. This momentous battle was a key moment in the history of Islam as it was the turning point in the response of the early Muslim community to their persecution and oppression by the powerful Quraysh elites. After fifteen years of passive resistance or non-violent action, the early Muslims under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him) was given permission by Allah, the Lord of Compassionate Justice, to defend themselves through armed combat, known in Islamic parlance as jihad al qital. In this jumu’ah khutbah it therefore behoves us to briefly recall the significance of this event in the early history of Islam and more importantly to reflect on some its great lessons for us as Muslims today.
Lessons from the Battle of Badr
The Battle of Badr took place on the seventeenth of Ramadan, two years after the Hijra (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from Makkah to Madinah and fifteen years after the beginning of his Prophetic mission. The encounter took place in the rural city of Badr, about 150 miles from Madina, and was therefore named as such. Furthermore, the day of the battle was declared as the Day of Criterion or Distinguishing, Yawmul Furqan, for it was the day that Allah, the Lord of Wisdom, set apart the distinction between truth and falsehood by aiding His Messenger and providing the believers with a decisive victory against all odds.
The Battle of Badr is by far the most renowned armed defence of Islam, because of several extraordinary events that occurred during it. The early Muslims went out into battle with only 313 soldiers and were confronted by an enormous army of the Quraysh, that included 1000 men, of which six hundred were wearing shields; 100 horses; 700 camels; and luxurious provisions to last for several days. The Quraysh wanted to make this a victory that would put fear into the hearts of all the believers. They set out to crush the Muslims once and for all and the odds were overwhelmingly in their favour.
The small and ill-equipped defenders of Islam positioned themselves strategically and then lured the Makkan army to battle and despite the superior numbers of their persecutors, scored an overwhelming victory which was to turn the history of Islam. Allah, the Lord of Wisdom, records the event in the Glorious Qur’an, in Surah Ali-`Imran, chapter 3, verse 123 as follows:
وَلَقَدْ نَصَرَكُمُ اللّهُ بِبَدْرٍ وَأَنتُمْ أَذِلَّةٌ فَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
Allah helped you at Badr,
when you were a small and meagre force;
develop then conscious of Allah;
so that you may show your gratitude.
In this verse of the Glorious Qur’an, Allah, the Lord of Compassion, reminds us that one the chief lessons we can learn from the Battle of Badr, is that our small numbers and meagre resources should not discourage us from defending our just causes. Allah’s help will be with those who stand firm, steadfast and united in their just cause. Allah’s succor is with those who show resilience for a just cause in the face of great odds, and who are prudent in their strategies and tactics. This is the kind of consciousness that this Qur’anic verse is calling on Muslims to embrace. By imbibing the critical lessons of the Battle of Badr, Muslims display true gratitude and thanks to their Lord and Sustainer.
It is also instructive to note that the Battle of Badr took place during the sacred month of Ramadan. This raises a critical question: Was it coincidental that the battle of Badr occurred during the holy month of Ramadan? The answer is an emphatic no! Many of the historic battles of Islam occurred in the month of Ramadan and the first generation of Muslims achieved great victories during this blessed month. The conquest of Makkah, the treaty of Baqt and the Battle of Badr, all took place in Ramadan. This fact teaches us that Ramadan indeed brings a heightened sense of consciousness, which develops a spirit of unity, social belonging, and equality before Allah, the Lord of all-Humankind. While the primary purpose of the institution of Fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behaviour, and to develop empathy for the less fortunate, fasting is also a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of change in various spheres of our lives, including: social and economic, intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical – all of which brings us closer to God. We should therefore, during the blessed month of Ramadan, increase our engagement and support for just causes and stand as witnesses to justice, fairness and equality. Allah reminds us of the importance thereof, in the Glorious Quran, Surah al-Ma’idah, Chapter 5, Verse 8:
اعْدِلُواْ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى
Be just, for it is closest to Allah-consciousness.
The Bo-Kaap Protests: Embracing the Spirit and Lessons of the Battle of Badr
During this Ramadan, some Muslims have embraced the critical lessons and spirit of the Battle of Badr and in the past few weeks they have inspired us with their social justice activism and resilience. Here, I am referring to the protest actions undertaken by the residents of the Bo-Kaap against the unsolicited gentrification of the area and Manenberg residents drawing attention to the scourge of gangsterism in their community. In both cases the protestors represent communities who are powerless in the face of the injustices that are a result of the legacies of our Apartheid past and a result of indifference to these injustices by our local government.
Last Friday evening the 25th of May 2018, Bo-Kaap residents held an “iftar” (locally known as boeka) protest in Wale Street, Cape Town. The protest action saw hundreds of residents and their supporters break their fast with a shared meal in the middle of Wale Street, Cape Town. The “boeka protest” was the culmination of weeks of protest action intended to raise concerns about the virulent gentrification of the Bo-Kaap area. Through exorbitant property rates that the City of Cape Town is imposing on Bo-Kaap residents, they are forcing many working class residents and pensioners to sell their ancestral homes to greedy Capitalist developers who plan to replace these homes with high rise buildings for foreign direct investment.
Furthermore, the Bo-Kaap has been turned into a so-called tourism “zoo” with some unscrupulous tour guides informing people that the reason for Bo-Kaap homes being painted so colourfully, was to help owners recognise the colour of their homes when they came home drunk at night. The City of Cape Town is also accepting huge amounts of money from movie producers who require licences to use the Bo-Kaap as their movie set. Bo-Kaap residents are not consulted about this, nor do they benefit in any way. The Bo-Kaap residents with their innovative #BoKaapRise campaign are the last remaining community that has managed to stave off the vicious banishment of black and working class people from this City.
The Bo-Kaap “boeka protests” have inspired the Manenberg community to adopt a similar form of protest. On Friday 8 June 2018, the Manenberg community will be convening a “Boeka in Die Laan” protest action to vent their frustration at the longstanding suffering that the community has experienced at the hands of powerful and ruthless gangs. In both Bo-Kaap and Manenberg, the protestors aim to take back their streets and restore their God-given dignity and pride to their communities.
In response to the injustices that these communities experience, the innovative Bo-Kaap Rise protest action is employing their heightened Allah-consciousness generated by fasting in the sacred month of Ramadan as a mobilising platform. This platform has been a great source of inspiration for local communities as they stand for justice. It is, therefore, my considered view that through their legitimate protest actions, Bo-Kaap and Manenberg residents have imbibed not only the spirit of the Battle of Badr, but also its important lessons: firm belief in a just cause, resilience in the face of great odds, and judiciousness in strategies and tactics.
The struggle of residents in Bo-Kaap and Manenberg are intimately connected to the broader struggle for social and spatial justice in the City of Cape Town. The principle of spatial justice requires that apartheid spatial and development imbalances be redressed through improved access to and utilisation of land. This requires that oppressed people who were previously excluded, especially the poor, must be given access to land and must be included in future planning policies. In the Bo-Kaap the protest is about resisting the violent gentrification policies of the City of Cape Town. In Manenberg it is about demanding safety, security, and economic opportunities for communities that were dumped in the Cape Flats after being forcibly removed under the draconian Group Areas Act. Elsewhere in the City of Cape Town in recent weeks we have witnessed other protest actions that have also demanded land, affordable housing, and safety and security for marginalized and disempowered communities.
All of these marginalized communities standing up for a just cause with meagre resources need the support of conscientious Muslims and responsible South African citizens. I call upon all peace and justice loving citizens of the City of Cape Town to show support and solidarity with the communities of the Bo-Kaap, Manenberg and elsewhere in the city, where the struggle for social and spatial justice and the struggle for the recognition of human dignity and rights continues.
During the second half of this blessed month of Ramadan, we ask Allah, the Lord of Compassionate Justice, to fortify and revitalize our spiritual resources and to instil in all of us a deep sense of solidarity and compassion with the poor and the marginalized.
O Allah, help us to overcome attitudes of superiority and oppression and guide our minds to a meaningful understanding of the struggles of people of the Bo-Kaap, Manenberg, and elsewhere in our city and country.
O Allah we pray for greater consciousness of the problems of the poor, the oppressed, the unemployed, and all in need of assistance anywhere. Help us to stand with the weak, the powerless, the poor, the abandoned, and all those who, by victim of circumstance, bear the fieriness of the day.
We pray that Allah, the Lord of Compassion, support and assist all who are struggling towards socio-economic justice and human dignity in the same way that He did for the courageous mujahidin of the Battle of Badr.
May we always be inspired by the great lessons of the battle of Badr.