An older lady was standing in line to vote in Egypt. And she was asked, “How long have you been waiting here in line to vote?” She replied, “For 30 years.”
Many people in this room have been standing in line waiting their entire lives to vote.
I’ve had the privilege, this week, of being in Egypt, and I’ve listened as every conversation gravitated towards politics. I’ve rode through the streets of Cairo and seen the once pictures of Mubarak replaced with countless posters of political candidates and messages. I’ve witnessed the fury of emotion for or against each political party.
But the question I’ve come here today to ask you, is: during this critical time in Egypt’s history—rather in our world’s history—do we really have the correct focus? My question is essentially a question about the nature of success—about where success comes from and how do we attain it. Does success really come from our heated political discussions, our countless posters and political messages, even from our activism itself? While we are told to take part in the asbaab, in the means, I want to ask you: where really is our heart facing? Where really are we placing our hope for the future of Egypt?
Perhaps, today, there is a widespread sentiment of disappointment—maybe even hopelessness, as fears grow that things aren’t working out the way we’d hoped. But you see, you only become hopeless when you placed your hope in the wrong things. Is my hope in Egypt placed in a particular party or political figure taking office? Is my hope in Egypt placed in a particular outcome from this election?
Where are you and I placing our hope? I ask you: from where does success come?
Musa (AS) was once trapped. He had a Pharoah behind him and the Red Sea in front of him. He was stuck. Or so his people thought. Allah tells us:
“And when the two bodies saw each other, the people of Moses said: “We will surely be overtaken.” (Quran 26:61)
They doubted. They feared. They lost hope. But what made them doubt? What made them fear? What made them lose hope? The reason for their doubt, their fear and their loss of hope, was because they only saw the Pharoah and the Red Sea.
They did not see Allah. They did not see Allah behind the Pharoah and the apparent failure and blockade in front of them.
But Musa (AS) did. Musa (AS) saw through all the blockades, all the apparent failures, all the hopeless situations—all the illusions of the asbab. And so, while the people around him doubted, feared and lost hope, Musa (AS) replied:
[Moses] said, “By No means! Indeed my Lord is with me, He will guide me through.” (26:62)
You see, Allah had trained Musa (AS) before this, to never depend on the means. In His very first meeting with Musa (AS), Allah commanded him to throw his staff. Musa was asked, “Ma tilka bi yaminika ya Musa?” “What is in your right hand, oh Musa. And so Musa replied,
“It is my staff, I lean on it…” (Quran 20:18) Musa was leaning on the asbab, so Allah commanded him:
“Throw it, ya Musa” (Quran 20:19) He was depending on his staff, so Allah told him to throw it.
Brothers and sisters, we need to throw our dependencies on who takes office and who doesn’t, who gets worldly justice in court and who doesn’t. We need to throw our dependencies on the asbab. Realize that is very different that eliminating the asbab, completely. Nakhuth bil asbaab, wa lakin lan tatawakal alal asbab: We still take part in the asbab, but never, ever depend on it.
Like Musa (AS) we need to throw the staff.
And once you do that, what happens? Allah—not the staff, not the asbab—ALLAH, opens up the Red Sea for you! You saw it with Mubarak. Who saved you from him? Who opened the Red Sea for you on Feb 11, 2011? Was it you? What it your own efforts or your large numbers? Was it your use of Facebook to gather people? No. It was not you or your efforts or your large numbers or your social media…any more than it was Musa’s staff that split the sea.
Now, one might wonder, at such a critical point in history, why we would retell an ancient story of a Prophet standing at the Red Sea. Why would something that happened thousands of years ago be relevant today? The reason is, that it is not just a story. Nor is it ancient. It is an everlasting sign, an ayah, and a lesson for all time. In the very next ayah, Allah says:
“Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe.” (26:67)
It is a sign of the Reality of God and the secrets of this world. It is a sign that tyranny never wins and that obstacles are only illusions, created to test us, to train us, and to purify us. But most of all it is a sign of where success comes from. And it is a vision of what that success, against all odds—at a time we think we’re trapped, defeated, and powerless—really looks like.
But what happens after some success comes? What happened after the people of Musa (AS) were saved from Phirawn? They had, as a people, internalized the slavery of so many years that even after being saved from Phirawn, they had not broken free from that slavery.
Today in Egypt we have shown the world that you can remove a dictator from government. But have we removed the system of dictatorship from our families, our schools, our organizations? The Pharoah can be removed from office. But, have we removed the pharaoh that lives inside ourselves?
We still lie. We still cheat. Are we really so different than Bani Isreal? After being saved from the Pharoah, we did not worship an idol. True. BUT, did we take idols of our hearts and love them as we should only love Allah? Do we love our money, our girlfriends, our boyfriends, our hafalat (parties), our sheesha, our mobile phones and our Facebook more than we love Allah and His thikr? Do we place our hope, our dependencies, our tawwakul, on other than Him? Do not place our hope in the powerless creation, and on the illusions of dunya and power structures, instead of on the Creator of all this illusion?
We were conditioned to believe that our enemy was outside of ourselves. That he had power over us. This is an illusion. The enemy is inside of us. All external enemies are only manifestations of our own diseases. And so if we want to conquer those enemies, we must first conquer the enemy inside ourselves. This is why the Qur’an tells us:
“For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.” (Qur’an, 13:11)
Within this ayah, are 2 very crucial lessons: One is a lesson about how change happens. The other is a lesson about where that change comes from:
First, Allah says that the external condition of a people will never change, until they first change their internal condition. What does that mean? It means that if we as a people think that changing our government is what is going to change the future of Egypt, we are sorely mistaken. We can change the government all we want, but if within ourselves we are still full of diseases, nothing will change. We can change our government all we want, but if within ourselves we are still lying and cheating and abusing, nothing will change. We can change our government all we want, but if within ourselves we still love our mobile phones, our girlfriends, our boyfriends, our cigarettes, and our Facebook more than we love the remembrance of Allah….nothing will change.
We must first conquer immorality, greed, selfishness, shirk, ultimate love, fear, hope and dependence on anything other than Allah.
The Prophet, pbuh, said: “inama buithtu li utammama makarim al akhlaq.” This is a very heavy statement. The Prophet, pbuh, is saying that the reason he was sent was to perfect our akhlaq, our inner image, how we look on the *inside*…not how things look on the outside. So shouldn’t we ask ourselves, where is our akhlaq? Where is our respect for women? Where is our ghad al basr? How is our treatment of our elders? Are we honest? Are we trustworthy? Do we take care of our amana? Do we keep our word? How do we treat our families? Our neighbors? What are our priorities in life? What do we love most?
What do you love most? What are you spending your life doing? What are you running after? Will it last? The things you chase….will…they…last? Will they help you….or will they hurt you….when the illusion of this life has passed?
We must conquer hubb ad-dunya (love of dunya)—the root of all our diseases, and all our oppression. Prophet Muhammad (saw) predicted our condition. He said: “The People will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their food.” Someone asked, “Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?” He replied, “No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be froth and scum like that carried down by the current, and Allah will take the fear of you from the chest of your enemy and cast wahn into your hearts.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is al-wahn?” He replied, “Love of the world and dislike of death.” [An authentic hadith recorded by Abu Dawud and Ahmad]
Think about the froth on a current of water. What power does it have? Why does the Prophet (pbuh) say a nation will become powerless and weak? Is it because it doesn’t have democracy? Is it because it doesn’t have enough money? No. Because the hearts of that nation are full of the most deadly disease: hubb adunya.
If you want to know what will destroy a nation, study this hadith. It is not the government or the ruler who destroys nations.
Our beloved Prophet, pbuh, has said: “ala wa inna fil jasadee mudgha, itha saluhat, saluhal jasadu kulu, wa itha fasadat, fasidal jasadu kulu. Ala wa hayal qalb.“ “Indeed in the body there is a lump of flesh. If it is set right, the entire body is set right. If it is corrupted, the entire body is corrupted. And verily it is the heart.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Just as a corrupted heart destroys the entire body, the corrupted hearts of people destroy nations. It is a heart full of dunya, a heart poisoned by looking at the haram, earning of the haram, listening to the haram, speaking and eating of the haram…a heart whose greatest concern is hanging out with friends, having the latest mobile phone, talking to the opposite sex, smoking its sheesha and cigarettes, listening to its loud music and surfing the net, that destroys nations. It is a heart that has lost honesty and integrity that destroys nations. It is a heart lost in ghafla. It is a heart that no longer sees Allah.
Brothers and sister, do we know that every time we look at something haram, every time we don’t lower our gaze, we are pouring poison in our hearts? Before we can defeat the Pharaohs in our lives, we must defeat this Pharaoh inside ourselves. So the fight in Egypt is a fight for liberation. Yes. But liberation from what? Who is truly oppressed? Are you and I free? What is true oppression? Ibn Taymiyyah (ra) answers this question when he says: “The one who is (truly) imprisoned is the one whose heart is imprisoned from Allah and the captivated one is the one whose desires have enslaved him.” (Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil)
When you are truly free inside, you will never allow anyone to take away your freedom. And when you have inner freedom, you can look through tyrants and thugs to the Lord of the tyrants and thugs. When you are free inside, you become unenslaveable, because you can only enslave a person with attachments. You can only threaten a person who is afraid of loss. You only have power over someone when they need or want something that you have the ability to take away. But there is only one thing which no person has the power to take away from you.
That is Allah.
And so when we fight to free Egypt, on a grander and Truer scale it is a fight to also free ourselves. It is a fight to free ourselves of the tyranny of our own nafs and desires. A fight to free ourselves from our own false attachments and dependencies, from all that controls us, from all that we worship—other than Him. It is a fight to free us from our own slavery. Whether we are slaves to ourselves, to money, to our desires, to status, or to fear—the purification of Egypt is a purification of us all.
The second lesson of the ayah tells us from WHERE victory comes. Does it come from us? Does it come from the power of the people? No. That is just a deception. The change, the nasr comes only from Allah and Allah alone. The ayah says: “Inna ALLAHA la yughairu”
Look at the Sawrah, the Egyptian revolution: Who gave you victory in just 18 days, while men, women and children in Syria until this very day continue to be slaughter for over one year where the UN says more than 7,500 people have died?! Where did your nasr come from?
How many people will experience something like this in their lifetime? How many people will experience the opening of a Sea, the humbling of a tyrant? Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why we were chosen to see it? What happened to Mubarak? What happened to Saddam? What happened to Qadaffi? All within our lifetime. Is it not a sign to wake us up? Is it not a sign of Allah’s words:
3:26 Say: “O Allah. Lord of Power (And Rule), You give power to whom You please, and You strip power from whom You please. You honor whom You please, and You bring low whom You please. In Thy hand is all good. Verily, You have power over all things.
How can we witness these signs and still put any hope or dependency on a political candidate? How can we see any power or might anywhere other than Allah?
Truly, La hawla wa la quwat illa billah. There is no change in state, no power, no might except by Allah.
Many people are very worried about the results of this election and what that will mean for the future of Egypt. This is a very difficult and scary time for this country. Why does Allah put nations through struggle? Why doesn’t victory come easy? The answer to this question is given to us by Allah:
“And We did not send a prophet in a town but We overtook its people with distress and affliction in order that they might humble themselves (reach a state of tadaru’).” (Qur’an, 7:94)
Here, Allah says that the purpose of the affliction is for you and I to reach a state of tadaru. Tadaru is humility before Allah – but it is not just humility. To understand the concept of tadaru, imagine yourself in the middle of an ocean. Imagine that you are all alone on a boat. Imagine that a huge storm comes and the waves become mountains surrounding you. Now imagine turning to Allah at that point and asking for His help. In what state of need, awe, dependency and utter humility would you be in? That is tadaru. Allah says that He creates conditions of hardship in order to grant us that gift. Allah does not need to make things hard for us. He creates those situations in order to allow us to reach a state of closeness to Him, which otherwise we’d be unlikely to reach.
If we are facing this hardship today and not being pushed to tadaru’, then we have missed the point. If we are not being pushed to our knees praying, crying, pleading to Allah, then we have not found the purpose of all that is happening. That priceless state of humility, nearness and utter dependence on Him is what Allah is blessing the Egyptian with today. If you’ve missed it, you’ve missed the point.
Allah mentions another purpose for these hardships and struggles. He says:
“And We divided them throughout the earth into different groups. Of them some were righteous, and of them some were otherwise. And We tested them with good [times] and bad that perhaps they would return [to obedience].” (Qur’an, 7:168).
We were asleep, and Allah chose to wake us. We were dead and Allah wants to give us life.When a body is in a deep, deep slumber—a coma—it is only out of His infinite mercy that He sends a wakeup call. It is only from His infinite mercy that He sends to us life where there was once only death. We were heedless, so He sent us a sign. We were asleep, so he woke us up. We worshiped this life, and preferred our material possessions to the liberation of a soul attached to, and afraid of nothing but Him—so He freed us.
It is Allah who brings the living out of the dead. He has brought us back from the dead. Don’t think for a moment that a single moment of this is not happening with a purpose—a deep, profound and beautiful, liberating purpose. For decades the Egyptian people had lived a life of fear. But when you let fear control you, you are a slave. Allah has liberated the Egyptian people from this slavery, by making them face–and overcome–their greatest fear. Allah has liberated the Egyptian people by allowing them to look their oppressor in the eye and tell him, and the whole world, that they will no longer live in fear. And so regardless of who takes office, or who gets justice in worldly courts—it doesn’t really matter. The Egyptian people have already been liberated.
You have been liberated from fear.
Which political candidate takes office is irrelevant. He is nothing but a tool—a tool by which Allah carries out His plan for the Egyptian people and for the entire Ummah. A tool to carry out His plan to purify, beatify and liberate the Egyptian people and the Ummah. And whether we are in Egypt today or not is unimportant. Egypt is just one limb of our body. The purification of Egypt is a purification of the whole body of our Ummah. It is our chance to ask ourselves to what are we attached. What are we afraid of? What are we striving for? What do we stand for? And where are we going?
In Surat ali-Imran, Allah tells us:
“If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses (to Truth). And Allah loveth not those that do wrong. Allah’s object also is to purify those that are true in Faith and to deprive of blessing Those that resist Faith. Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (In His Cause) and remained steadfast?” (Qur’an, 3:140-142).
Here, Allah describes the purpose of hardship as being tamhees. Tamhees is the same word used to describe the heating and purifying of gold. Without heating it up, gold is precious metal—but it’s full of impurities. By performing tamhees, a process of heating, the impurities are removed from gold. This is what Allah also does with the believers. Through hardships, believers are purified—just like gold.
Allah found us full of inner dirt, so He wished to purify us, that we too may be like gold.
Because the truth is, we are so busy fearing the false political storms around us, that we have neglected the Real storm that is coming. As a matter of certainty, just as certain as I am standing in front of you today, that you and I, will meet our Maker. You and I, will stand in front of Allah on the Day of Judgment and we will be asked.
On the Day of Judgment, every man and woman will stand alone in front of Allah. And there is nothing anyone can do for you—except by the permission of Allah. On that Day a mother will be willing to throw away her own child just to save herself! Please understand the Reality we have forsaken because we are so caught up with our phones, our internet, our friends, and our parties. We’re so caught up with the cute guys and the pretty girls. Please understand, ignoring a Reality doesn’t make it less Real. It’s still going to happen. Being unprepared for something doesn’t stop it from happening. If you chose to stay up all night partying, instead of studying for your final, it doesn’t mean the final won’t happen. It still will. And you only end up failing. If we spend this life just partying, pretending that the final isn’t coming, it won’t stop it from happening. Nothing will stop death. Nothing. Nothing will delay the Day of Judgment. Like that final, the question is only: are…we…prepared?
Or are we too busy playing?
Imagine that the news reported that a huge storm was coming. Imagine that we were told that unless we seek shelter, we and our families would be destroyed. What would we do? If we really believed that a storm was coming, we would run to shelter, right? Only a person who didn’t believe the forecast, would continue playing and ignore the countless warnings. Only if you thought it was a lie. Only if you didn’t really believe. But how could someone KNOW–really know–that a storm was about to hit, and do absolutely nothing to protect themselves and those they loved?
The fact that we cannot leave the haram things, the fact that we cannot leave smoking or pornography or dating, that fact that our worship has become only a burden, is a sign that there’s a problem internally. There a problem with our sight. We don’t really see the Storm coming. We don’t really see the Day of Judgment. We haven’t purified and rectified that mudgha the Prophet (pbuh) spoke about. And as a result, the rest of our bodies, the rest of our actions, the rest of our society has become corrupted.
Brothers and sisters the Prophet (saw) has said, “ajaban li amr al mumin, inna am-rahu kullahu lahu khair, wa laysa thalika li ahadin illa lil-mumin. In asabathu saraa shakr fa kana khayran lah, wa in asabathu daraa sabir fa kana khayran lahu. (muslim): “The matters of a believer are strange, everything is good for him and this is not the case for anyone but a mumin. If good comes to him, he is thankful, so it’s good for him. If difficulty comes to him, he is patient, so it’s good for him.”So if you stay close to Allah, no matter what happens with this election, it WILL be good for you. And Allah promises you something else as well:
“Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that – then those are the defiantly disobedient.” (24:55)
And I ask you today the very same question that Allah asks us in the Quran:
“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said,”When is the help of Allah ?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” (2:214)
Brothers and sisters, the help of Allah is near. But we must remain firm on 2 things: sabr and taqwa:
“O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear God (alone) that you may be successful.” (Qur’an 3:200).
Brothers and sisters, the Red Sea will open again. But we must truly believe that no matter how impossible things look, no matter how closed, no matter how hopeless…
ۖ إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ
“Indeed my Lord is with me, He will guide me through.”