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June 13, 2014

The Deen and the Modern World

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Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim

One of the things I understood from Shaykh Abdal Qadir is that Deen isn’t culture. It’s a filter for culture, which means Deen is a codification of fitra. It gives you access to fitra. It gives you a way of understanding what your intuitive sense of right and wrong is and what is appropriate in the moment. The problem is that Deen itself has been turned into culture. So many things that are described as Deen are actually getting people to do things that are fundamentally not acceptable because – “This is how we do it! This is how our fathers have done it and this is right!” What one experiences in Pakistan for example absolutely makes the point.

There’s a fundamental superordinate cooperation that goes on anyhow.

The brutality against woman is a bizarre thing – that the woman gets raped and she ends up being the one who is accused because there have not been four witnesses, so by definition this is not a rape anymore, this is a confession of adultery. It’s inconceivably perverse, then, in terms of the Shari’a courts she ends up having to be protected. The whole thing that comes out of that is an absolutely unspeakable nightmare. I’m sorry but my fitra comes out and it rails against this. This can’t be right.

So why is it that people do things over a period of time, which are demonstrably, intuitively – your heart says there’s something wrong here! So why do they continue doing it? Because this has become an inherited thing which they sense they are being disloyal to by their not doing it. It’s actually about loyalty. It’s about loyalty to the practices of our tribe and our people. It’s about a heritage of things that we’ve gotten from our fathers and from the past. It’s no longer about what is a fundamental sense of what is right. It’s not that at all.

Ninety percent of what happens, I mean harsher than that, ninety nine percent of what happens in the context of Deen today is of that character. If I could imagine the Rasul (SallAllahu alaihi wasalam) sitting in the conversation now I could imagine him being completely bemused, you know! What are you talking about! How can you! No! It can’t be right. So what’s happened to the Deen is what has happened to every other Deen that has come since Sayyiduna Adam and that is, an accretion over time has produced something that is a complete parody of what it was originally where it is about an inherited culture. It is about traditions.

I do this because it’s where my sense of significance comes from.

I mean, honestly I think that we’ve – what’s happened in the last year is that whole way of looking at life has walked into a wall because if you have a look at what the claim is, fundamentally, it is a competitive claim. Our tradition is better than your tradition. I do this because it’s where my sense of significance comes from. It’s my importance so I do the dances, I belong somewhere. It is my identity. What sits underneath the whole thing is this discourse around competition. Now the discourse of competition basically says we cannot coexist and it’s rooted in an immature self that’s here to take. If I want your shirt, because you can withhold it you are dangerous to me and precisely because I want the shirt I’m dangerous to you. So while we are dangerous to each other we repel each other. We are in conflict. We become competitive.

So what sits at the heart of this whole competitive world view is a fundamental assumption that I have to look after myself. I have to pursue my own good. I am here for myself. I’m here to get. We can do that. We could do that until the twentieth century when there are short of six billion people on the planet. We can’t do that anymore because there’s no place to hide. There isn’t a new world to conquer. There isn’t! Where do you go? You live now cheek by jowl with the Jew and the Hindu and the Buddhist is your neighbour on top. The kafir, the atheist, Marxist is your neighbour downstairs. Where do you go? Where do you draw the battle lines?

..the problem is when my identity is based upon what I’ve gotten historically.

So we have to find out what it means to be human, not what it means to be Muslim. Not what it means to be South African. I mean, that’s a bizarre identity. What does it mean – South African? You stand in an airport. You see every single shade of the universe – that’s a South African! So this competitive world view which is about my tradition, my identity, this thing that we’ve inherited – people who hold onto that are going to be destroyed by the development of events of the next ten years because we’re going into a world that is just fundamentally intolerant. It’s no longer sustainable. That competitiveness is no longer sustainable. You know the problem is when my identity is based upon what I’ve gotten historically. It makes me unique. So I base myself, my sense of who I am contra distinct to others.

Sidi Saleem comments: That’s what I was asking you earlier on Shaykh. Surely they must be reversible, if you’re saying the harvest can be broken.

When “n” is equal to 1, you can change it. I’m certainly battling to change it in my own life because that’s where I can change it. I can’t stop these crazies blowing themselves up but I aspire to be human, not to be Muslim. I aspire to discover who this being was that scintillatingly came into this world fresh from his Lord, fifty years ago. Who was that? Before these names, first there was a Christian name. Then there was a Muslim name. Who was that being who came here?

That being I know is fundamentally wholesome and when I’ve recaptured who that being is I can probably trust what I’m going to do. I’ll probably cause a lot less damage around me and I’ll probably be helpful to myself and certainly I won’t need to compete. Because I know one thing, that that being understood, and that is that the universe wasn’t against him. It was on his side because if it was against him, I mean, even as you are – it’s a huge place out there.

If all that was fundamentally hostile to you, you would be in serious trouble – really – this is a competitive thing. It’s fundamentally futile. Wa’l asr. In the fullness of time whatever you do to pursue your own good is fundamentally futile. Inna al adheena aamanu – except those people who believe there is a continuity to existence. There’s a oneness that – I don’t exist separately from other-than-me. I don’t have to compete. There’s a fundamental superordinate cooperation that goes on anyhow.

This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on 28th September 2010.

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