Calling to Allah and Responding to Him
Transcript of the Friday Sermon delivered by Dr. Munawar Haque on Jan 27, 2017
Brothers and sisters! There is an ayah in Surat al-Baqarah, in which Allah (SWT) addressing the Prophet (SAW) said,
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“When My servants ask you about Me, say that I am near. I respond to the call of one who calls, whenever he calls to Me: let them, then, respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided” (al-Baqarah, 2:186).
What is meant by calling to Allah and responding to Him? This is the topic of my khutba today. Dua or calling to Allah means to invoke Allah for any help or need, whether it is for something of this world or the next. It is quite normal and justified in this worldly life to ask someone for something that one may need, but it is important that before we ask people, our first stop should be Allah. Based on our sincerity and intention, and His knowledge and wisdom, Allah will make things easy for us with or without a medium.
There is a hadith which says, الدُّعَاءُ مُخُّ الْعِبَادَةِ . “Dua is the essence of worship.” According to the meaning of another hadith, “There is no Muslim who calls to Allah with words in which there is no sin or cutting of family ties but Allah will give him one of three things: He will answer his prayer soon, or He will store it up for him in the Hereafter, or He will remove from him some harm or evil of an equivalent amount."
The latter part of the ayah under discussion says,
فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ “Let them, then, respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided.” The mufassirin of the Qur’an interpret the meaning of “let them then respond to me” to mean “let them then obey me.” To be able to respond to Allah, one has to know what Allah wants from him. This can only be known through the Qur’an, which mentions all that is to be known. But, this would require a person to read the Book of Allah in its entirety, paying attention to each and every word. In present times, many people find this difficult to do because of their busy lifestyles and their time constraints.
This problem, however, can be overcome by benefiting from the advice of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RA) who is reported to have said that special attention should be paid to the ayat that begin with يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ “O people” and يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا “O you who believe” because Allah is addressing us directly in these ayat, and therefore, we better listen. By reading these ayat, we can find out what Allah wants from us, and then we can respond to Him accordingly. A section of the Qur’an comprising of three ayat—102 to 104 of Surat Aal ‘Imran is one of the many examples of what Allah wants from us. The translation of the meaning of these ayat is:
“O you who believe, have taqwa of Allah with the taqwa due to Him and do not die except in a state of complete submission to Him. Hold fast to the rope of Allah and let nothing divide you. Remember the blessings He has bestowed upon you; you were enemies and then He united your hearts and by His grace you became brothers; you were on the brink of a pit of Fire and He rescued you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you, so that you may find guidance. Let there be a group among you who call others to good, and enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong: those who do this shall be successful” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:102-104).
At the individual level, Allah wants us to have His taqwa, which means that we become righteous and pious, and remain conscious of Him. The first thing that needs to be done individually is to carry out the modes of worship such as salah, zakah, siyam, hajj etc. Beyond that, there has to be total obedience of Allah and submission to Him, and there has to be total conviction while saying,
إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ “You alone we worship, and to You alone we turn for help” (al-Fatiha, 1:5). We should be worshipping only Allah and turning only towards Him for help. Unfortunately, there are Muslims who turn to dead saints, angels, palm-readers, fortune-tellers, and their like seeking their help or intercession.
We are also told to collectively hold on fast to the Qur’an, and not to get divided. We are asked to remain united, as we are members of one single Muslim ummah. As a matter of fact, Muslims do remain divided on the basis of their race, nationality, language and cultural backgrounds. To emphasize the importance of leaving behind all traces of tribalism and racism and to remain united, the Prophet (SAW) addressing a multitude of believers in his farewell sermon during Hajj said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa). Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”
There is no problem of being proud of one’s cultural heritage, but the same should not override one’s faith. We are Muslims first, and then we are who we are. After all, differences of race and tribe among people have been made by Allah Himself so that people may recognize each other. This diversity among human beings is something to be celebrated, and not something that should cause enmity among them.
The ummah has to remain united under the banner of la ilaha illallah. Then only it is possible to collectively embark upon the real task—the task of calling people towards what is right and good and forbidding them from what is wrong and evil. A community or group has to rise from within the larger ummah to carry out this obligation entrusted upon the Muslim ummah. This would entail calling Muslims back to the Qur’an. Most Muslims, even though they may be praying, and fulfilling their other modes of worship, have either strayed away from or are unaware of the Qur’anic injunctions and guidance pertaining to different spheres of life, whether moral, ethical, personal, social, economic, or political. The invitation to come back to the Qur’an is invitation to all that is good.
قُل بِفَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ
“Say: "It is the blessing and mercy of Allah; so let them rejoice. It is better than all that they gather." (Yunus, 10:58). The ‘blessing and mercy of Allah’ mentioned in this ayah refers to the Qur’an, which is indeed better than all the wealth than one can accumulate.
The non-Muslims have to be called to Islam. This has been the call of all the prophets and messengers of Allah. They all invited their people to the worship of One God.
يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَهٍ غَيْرُهُ
“O my people worship God; you have no other god but Him” (al-A’raf, 7:73).
Before we go out to make da’wah to non-Muslims, the first and foremost people worthy of our da’wah are those who are close to us. This is the Prophetic methodology. The Prophet (SAW) began his da’wah with his own kith and kin and others who were very close to him.
May Allah (SWT) give us a true understanding of His deen and make us live by it.
أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمينَ وَالمُسْلِمَاتْ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين.
Brothers and sisters! As Muslims, we have a responsibility toward all our brothers and sisters in humanity. This is because Allah sent prophets and messengers, specifically for their nations, their tribes, or their people. It was only Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the last and final messenger of Allah who was sent for the entire humankind for all times to come. Since the institution of prophethood has come to an end after his demise, the responsibility of guiding humanity now devolves upon the Muslims.
Inviting people towards good is not enough unless it is complemented by forbidding them from evil. This is crucial because of the evil all around us. The shayateen among jinn kind and humankind are busy corrupting people’s minds, thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. Social evils are rampant. There is a sharp decline in the standards of morals and universal values such as honesty, truthfulness, and trustworthiness among individuals as well as institutions. At the same time, bigotry, racism, and other malpractices and vices are on the rise everywhere. Drinking, drugs, gambling, prostitution, and all types of blatantly obscene activities (fawahish) are contributing to breakdown of families.
Muslims are duty bound to fight evil (munkar). The Prophet (SAW) said, “He who amongst you sees something evil should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should hate it from his heart, and that is the least of faith.”
The Qur’an repeatedly warns us that past nations who did not pay heed to Allah’s prophets and messengers, and kept committing major sins were utterly destroyed. The humanity as of now is not going to be completely destroyed by divine punishment despite the evil, mischief, corruption, and transgressions of evil-doers, because Allah says, “We never punish until We have sent a Messenger” (al-Isra’, 17:15), and there is no prophet or messenger to come after Muhammad (SAW).
However, being the last ummah, we have been entrusted to try to change the condition of the people for the better, and this is not possible if we do not change ourselves from within. There is hardly an evil that is not found in the Muslim community. We have to keep in mind that unless we change ourselves, we cannot change the society at large. The Prophet (SAW) said, "By Him in Whose Hand my life is, you either enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment to you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be accepted."
Rather than procrastinate our God-ordained obligations, we should live with a sense of urgency because once that day comes, there is no turning back.
اسْتَجِيبُوا لِرَبِّكُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ يَوْمٌ لَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ مَلْجَأٍ يَوْمَئِذٍ وَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ نَكِيرٍ
“Respond to your Lord before a Day comes from Allah which cannot be turned back. On that Day you will have no refuge and no means of denial” (al-Shura, 42:47).
So, calling to Allah has to be accompanied with responding to Him, which means obeying Him and submitting to Him. May Allah give us the tawfiq to call Him and to respond to Him till we leave this world for our eternal abode.