Society Ummah

State of the Ummah Address

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.

Paris (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Paris (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

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:

إِنَّا لَنَنصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْأَشْهَادُ

“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:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11)

About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.

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  • yes, we are to blame. I agree… There so many thing I could do better… but I am lazy, bored or whatever…. So how can I pass judgment on others… If I take my mistakes and sins over the years… i could built a castle… and I am only 30 or so… I pray for Allah’s mercy because I would not pass me… May allah(swt) have mercy on all of us. And forgive our mistakes and sins that we know and don’t know and safe us from azab-e-nar, azab-e-kaber, azab-e-dunya, and give us heaven ie. jannat. Innshallah.

  • We tend to focus on the thulm perpetrated against us from without and neglect the thulm that we committed against our own souls.

    حب الدنيا و كراهة الموت
    “Love of the material world and hatred of death” – signs of Al-Wahn in the hearts of Muslims – are also issues that we need to work on in regards to purification of the soul.

  • A great insight by a very creative writer. Baraka Allahu fikum

    One minor technical observation to the attention of the web site editor, whenever you need to include a segment of the Quran or a Hadith (in Arabic) , it is best to use cropped screen capture of the original source (i.e. a small graphic, instead of a line of Text). This will eliminate the distortion created by varying browsers, Character Encoding and Font availabilty and variations.
    Case in point, change the character encoding (while viewing this page) and observe what happens to the Quran quotes included.

  • @Dawud Walid VERY good point…subhanAllah. The Prophet Sal Alahu Alayhi wa Salam made the effect of wahn clear in this hadeeth:

    On the authority of Thawbaan , the Prophet 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 a torrent (of water), and Allah will take the fear of you from the breasts (hearts) of your enemy and cast al-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]

    May Allah purify our hearts.

  • Jazaakillaahu Khayran. A much needed article indeed. I need to get my hands on that book…

    May Allaah purify our hearts and keep us on His Path. Aameen.

  • as wr wb

    JazakAllah khair that was a good article. but i’ll have to disagree with you. the reason why the ummah is the way it is because we left the Quran and Sunnah and adopted the way of the kuffar. So Allah took away their fear for us from their hearts and now they spread their curruption everywhere.
    the solution to our problems are to return to the Quran and sunnah and to stop their evil

  • @Umme Umar
    waiiyaki. Actually sister–thats not disagreeing at all :). Part of Tazkiyatu nafs is actually coming closer to Allah through means that he has obligated or allowed. We wont refrain from sin nor will we reach any kind of purification if we do not return to the Quraan–and ponder upon the ayaat that have been sent to us by our lord–as well as adhering to the sunnah and using those means to get closer to Allah and farther from the sinful acts of the societies we wish to follow.

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