Last weekend I entered an Islamic bookstore and took a deep breath, indulging in the sweet smell of new books. I love to read so much, and being in that doorway put my heart at ease. I walked to the nearest shelf and began sifting through all the books, wishing, for a second, that I could buy every single one. Back to reality—I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I promised myself that I would only buy one that day, since my wallet wasn’t really going to allow me much more. As I walked down the aisles, I picked up book after book—each time I picked up a book, I painstakingly convinced myself to put the previous book down. I continued doing this until I reached a book that I knew I had to have. No other book in that bookstore could or would be bought that day. Its green cover and white words jumped out at me, and the shaykh‘s name sealed the deal. I paid the cashier, and walked out of that bookstore, content with the decision I had made. I have been reading that book ever since.
There is one point in this book that has been playing in my head over and over ever since Algeria and Egypt went head-to-head at a soccer match that seems to have been taken way out of proportion. With two Muslim countries bashing each other, cursing each other, even physically harming each other, I feel the need to shove them all into my Sunday school classroom and teach them a lesson or two. Many people have been giving excuses for either side, stating that their lives are rough, they are in so much poverty, and who knows what else. But honestly, it is from what our own two hands have reaped. This book, The Purification of the Soul by Jamal al-Din M. Zarabozo brings to light the state that the Ummah is in currently. Sure, Shaykh Zarabozo was not talking about the current feud over a mere soccer tournament, but it fits here hand in glove. He says,
“…the problems faced by the Muslims are the result of the actions that they themselves are performing.”
Even more so, the Shaykh mentions Ibn Al Qayyim’s commentary on the following verse:
“Indeed, We will support Our messengers and those who believe during the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses will stand…” (Qur’an, 40:51)
Ibn Al Qayyim says, “This verse means that whoever has a shortcoming in his faith will thereby receive a correspondingly lesser amount of help and victory from Allah. If a believer suffers any form of affliction from his enemy, it is due to his own sins.”
The actions that are taking place in Egypt, in Algeria, and even here—halfway across the world—are a signal: a signal to tell all Muslims to wake up and see the state that this ummah is in. We complain about the injustices that are being done against us, from the oppression of Israelis against Palestinians to the oppression of governments against veiled women, yet we don’t realize that we are part of the problem. Yes, the oppressors play a major role, but we can’t do anything about that. Rather what we can do is purify ourselves.
In the Qur’an, Allah says that when the Muslims went into the battle of Badr they were,
which can be translated as “a contemptible little force.” Compared to their enemy, they were nothing in number. Nonetheless they won the battle. Why did they win this battle? They won because of their taqwa (faith in God) and their lack of sins. A famous letter written by Omar ibn Al-Khattab to Saad ibn Abi Waqas further clarifies this issue. He said:
I order you and the soldiers who are with you to be aware of Allah under all circumstances as taqwa of Allah is a better weapon against your enemy and a stronger strategy in battle. And I order you and those with you to be very much on the defensive against any sins, more than your enemies are, for the sins of an army are more feared than their enemies. Verily, Allah helps the Muslims due to the sins of their enemies. If it were not for that we would not be able to overcome them for our numbers are not like theirs and our power is not like theirs. If we are equal in sins to them, they will be able to overtake us due to their (military) power. If we were not aided by our virtue, we would not be able to overcome them due solely to our power…And ask Allah to help yourselves in the same way that you ask for help against your enemies.
Now I ask – ummah, where has our virtue gone? Have we secured ourselves against our enemies? Imagine the ocean of sins that we seem to be drowning in, so much so that we cannot even play a simple soccer match without turning it into a battlefield. Any blood that is shed is only worsening our situation. It’s about time we invested our lives in purification. We need to purify ourselves so that our state can change, so that our situation will change. Remember:
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11)