Counting Allah's Blessings:
A Serious Muslim Problem
Fa-bi-Ayyi Aalaa-I Rabbkiuma Tukaddhibaan (Ar-Rahman: 13).
Which among the blessings and bounties of your master shall you deny? (55:13).
Wa In Ta-'Uddoo Ni'amatallahi Laa Tuhsoohaa (An-Nahl: 18).
If you were to count the blessings of Allah, you will not be able to exhaust them (16:18).
Obviously, we Muslims have a problem - a serious one. And it is not what we may think it is. Nor is it what most people may tell us it is.
It is this inability we have to count our blessings - to do simple math.
Allah says in the Qur'an which one of his blessings will we discount or deny. And how right he is!
We are steeped in Allah's blessings. We are surrounded by them from all sides. We are conceived and brought forth in them. We are sustained and kept alive by them. We are soaked and immersed in them. We are saturated and inundated by them.
In one word, we are them. In fact, all of us is all of them - Allah's blessings top to toe, every single man, woman and child among us.
Just look at us!
Every pore in our body is a mix of a million blessings from Allah. So is every cell; every joint; every organ; every part; every muscle; every bone; every nerve; every hair; every nail; every function; every movement.
Every breath we take is a blessing, wrapped in a billion blessings from Allah. Every drop of water we drink is a blessing, comprised of a billion molecules of blessings from Allah, each larger than this universe.
We are caught in a flood of Allah's blessings and mercy with every morsel of food we eat; with every step we take; with every glance we cast; with every sound we hear - and every time we are able to touch, feel, taste or smell something.
Every time our heart beats, it proclaims the untold blessings of Allah upon us. And yet we cannot count. We cannot do simple math.
It is as if we have eyes but we see not; we have ears but we hear not; we have hearts but they fail to comprehend; and we have minds but they fall short of understanding.
We so utterly and miserably, and so all too frequently, fail to see, count, recognize, understand, appreciate and celebrate the blessings of Allah.
Blessings that are in us; that are around us; that pack the universe in which we live - the universe that was custom crafted for us by a loving, caring, doting God, before we even made our appearance.
We should be overwhelmed by these blessings of Allah that surround and smother us from every side. But our tragedy is we can't count. We cannot do the simple math.
Our inability to count is so monumental that it prevents us from seeing some of even the most obvious of Allah's blessings.
Or thanking him for them.
How many of us even know that a simple Alhamdulillah gets us even more of what we thanked Allah for?
Or that it is the finest form of Dua there is?
That is how Allah treats us - his favorite slaves! The more we thank him, the more he gives us.
Wa Idh Ta-Addhana Rabbukum,
La-In Shakartum, La-Azeedannakum (Ibrahim: 7).
When your master made it known:
"The more you thank me, the more shall
I give you!" (14:7).
What a Blessing from Allah
Take one such blessing from Allah - the Jum'ah Khutbah.
What a special gift it is from Almighty Allah to the Ummat of his beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam!
A gift unlike any. A gift not given to many other nations, peoples, cultures and societies of this world.
In fact a divine bounty and grace not given to anyone else at all. An exclusive gift, just for the Muslims.
What do we Muslims do with this blessing? How do we treat it? And how do we make use of it?
How do we thank Allah for this most amazing blessing?
And how do we Muslims, all over the world, use and abuse the Jum'ah Khutbah the way we do? And have done so who knows for how long?
The Muslim Story
In many ways, the Muslim story is a story of great pain and loneliness. It is part of the Ghurbah - homelessness - Allah's beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam talked about in relation to Islam and Muslims.
"Islam began as a stranger," he said. "And it shall return to being the way it began."
And it is part of the great Hijrah or migration, that is built into the system of Islam - as Muslims, and the rest of the world, hurtle, at breakneck speed, from Allah to Allah. As we move forward, we leave things behind. And as our souls notice the absence of the objects of their attachment, they miss them - and they suffer.
Some turn to tobacco, alcohol or other people's company. Some wander around on Allah's earth in search of fun and adventure.
But some - those specially blessed by Allah - take their complaints directly to Allah and say:
Inna-maa Ashkoo Baththi wa Huznee Ilallah (Yusuf, 86).
I complain of my anguish and my sorrow only to Allah (12:86).
But the pain and shock of parting from our roots and being plunged into an unfamiliar future is every soul's common lot.
See how beautifully Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi (May Allah bless him!) articulates this predicament:
Bishnu Az Nay Choon Hikaayat Mi Kunad;
Waz Judaa-yee-haa Shikaayat Mi Kunad.
Listen to the lute as it tells its story;
And complains of the agony of separation.
While the Muslims have many joys given to them by Allah, they also have tales of sorrow that are never ending. One such story is the story of what happened to the Jum'ah Khutbah at the hands of the Muslims - all around the world.
Jum'ah Khutbah in Muslim Hands:
Riding a Gift Horse to Ruin
God Almighty bestowed the Jum'ah Khutbah on the Muslims as a tool of social change, community development and national empowerment on the one hand and of personal purification, spiritual uplift and divine blessings on the other hand - all in one complete package.
But in Muslim hands the Jum'ah Khutbah has ended up being an almost empty ritual - a sacred and time-honored practice of mysterious spiritual value but of little practical or social use.
Some of the abuses of the Jum'ah Khutbah at the hands of the Muslims are monumental. Decades after the demise of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and the death of the last Ottoman Khalifah, Muslims in some places continued to read in Jum'ah Khutbah - in Arabic, what else - Du'as for the Emperor's wellbeing and safety.
Khutbahs in many places in the United States assumed a new focus beginning with the 1980s. They became increasingly geared toward the minutiae and intricacies of Islamic Fiqh - technical details of Islamic law and jurisprudence.
One could almost detect a pattern in the movement of the Jum'ah Khutbah in several of the American mosques from a broader social, spiritual and community-based approach to a markedly greater preoccupation with the issues of abstruse individual Fiqh.
This trend was then overlaid by a current of solicitation for cash and kind. Jum'ahs in general became an occasion - and the Jum'ah Khutbahs in particular an instrument - for raising funds for all kinds of Muslim causes, mostly foreign ones.
As medical doctors and other professionals and business people from Indo-Pak-Bangla background struck roots in America and began to prosper, Kashmir was elevated to the Mimbar along with other Muslim causes, issues and "problems" such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia, Chechnya and the rest.
Language proficiency no longer seemed to matter. Ability to reason and make sense of the environment and the issues of the day no longer seemed to have a premium. Communication effectiveness had no use or value. No one seemed to care any more about skills of social analysis, review or comment.
It was mostly whoever could recite the most Aayats and read the most Du'as in Arabic and had the inside track to those running the affairs of the Masjid, that was called upon to give the Khutbah. This was when there were no itinerant Khatibs visiting the community from other places to solicit funds for some deserving Islamic or Muslim cause or issue and thus pre-empting the Khutbah for that day. Sometimes, intrigue and insider information and influence played their role in who got to climb the Mimbar and who was shunted aside.