Dear Friday Jemaah,
On this blessed day, let us boost our taqwa by heeding all of Allah’s commands and leaving behind what Allah s.w.t has prohibited upon us. May Allah s.w.t. continue to grant hidayah and His forgiveness upon us and our families.
I would like to start today’s sermon by sharing a story that was told by Rasulullah s.a.w. There were once two men who were from among the early generations of Bani Israel. They were close friends. One was a member of the synagogue and diligently performed acts of worship, while his friend always sinned. He was always advising his friend to leave behind those acts of transgression, but each time he gave advice, his friend would respond by saying: This is between me and my God. Were you sent by God to look after me?
One day, the member of the synagogue saw his friend doing a sin that was in his eyes, too big a sin. He said: Leave this behind! But his friend gave the same answer: This is between me and my God. Were you sent by God to look after me?
The man who was always performing acts of worship then said: "By Allah! Allah will not forgive your sin and you will never be allowed to enter His Paradise!"
Allah then took away both their lives. Allah then said to His servant who had sinned: "You will enter Paradise because of my Rahmah and my compassion. Allah then said to the man who was always performing acts of worship: "Do you think you are the All-Knowing? Do you have power over something that belongs to Me?" Allah then commanded the angel to send the man to the Hellfire. Abu Hurairah, who narrated the story from Rasulullah s.a.w., explained: The man who was always performing acts of worship had uttered words that destroyed his life in the world and the hereafter. [Hadith narrated by Imam Ahmad]
My dear brothers,
What are the lessons that we can learn from this story?
First: Allah’s mercy is too vast and majestic. Allah reserves the right to forgive anyone that He wishes to. Allah also reserves the right to determine who will dwell in Paradise,as long as His servant does not pass away in a state of shirk (associating others with Allah). Allah s.w.t. says in surah an-Nisa’ verse 48:
Which means: "Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin."
The story shared earlier also reminds us of our position as humble servants of Allah. It is not our place, our duty or even our right to punish others as dwellers of hellfire, for as long as they believe in Allah and Rasulullah s.a.w. When we see someone has sinned, our role is to try and advise him, in the hope that we can help to spark a sense of realisation in his heart and to help him leave behind his sin and repent. We are not taught to insult, humiliate, make doa that he will be sent to the hellfire; what more to curse and hurl abuses on him.
My dear brothers,
What I have highlighted today is an extension of the topics that we have been discussing in the Friday sermons for the past couple of weeks. Imagine, if we are not allowed to even taunt those who have obviously sinned, what more our brothers who simply have different opinions from us?
Today’s sermon calls upon all of us to continue to come together as one and pursue excellence as khaira ummah, or the best of ummah, as outlined in the Quran. The best ummah is an ummah that has beautiful akhlak and manners. The best ummah does not simply ask others to do good and prevent bad deeds, but is also wise and full of adab in encouraging others to perform good deeds. A good mukmin is aware that he should not simply consider his opinions as maaruf and degrade the opinions of others as munkar.
If we notice, the conflicts and divisions that have weakened our ummah today are driven by differences of opinion, which actually result from an illness of the heart. This illness is called i’jab bil-ra’yi (إعجاب بالرأي), or being proud of one’s own opinions.
When one’s heart is inflicted with this sickness, it will boost one’s ego. We may feel that we are the only ones who are right and we have the deepest knowledge of any matter, and we will look down on others and feel that they are not as smart as us. If we allow this illness to take control of us, without realising it, we will waste a lot of time looking for the mistakes and shortcomings of our own brothers, and we will then exaggerate it. As a result, we will no longer feel at peace with ourselves because we will view others with hatred.
As such, my brothers blessed by Allah,
After talking about the importance of respecting diversity, as long as the different opinions do not violate the agreed tenets and principles of the religion, I would like to call upon all those who are listening to this sermon to be constantly vigilant against diseases of the heart. We are facing many challenges as an ummah. There is still room for the Muslim ummah to improve itself. This would require a lot of our ideas, time and energy. If we still continue to fill our hearts with hatred; wasting our time on matters that are not conclusive and are khilaf in nature; busy ourselves seeking evidences to degrade and belittle the opinions of others, then we will not be able to effect any meaningful changes to our lives and our society.
Let us rise together to pursue excellence within ourselves and our community. And for us to achieve that, we have to deepen and widen our religious knowledge. At the same time, we must cleanse our hearts and rid it of any traces of i’jab bil-ra’yi which we spoke about earlier, which is to be proud of one’s own opinion. We should come together, put our minds together, using the ability to think that Allah has granted upon all of us, as our source of strength and excellence. To conclude, let me quote the wise words of Sayyidina Umar as narrated by Ibnu Mardawayh, which means:
"What I fear most for you is when a person becomes proud of his own opinion. And when he says (with arrogance): I have faith, it is feared that he will become kafir. And when he claims (with arrogance): I am a learned person (alim), when in fact he is ignorant (jahil). When he claims: I will enter Paradise, and in fact, he will enter the Hellfire ".
May we be blessed by Allah s.w.t. with noble character, and may He protect us from disgraceful qualities and bad character. May we maintain the bonds of ukhuwah among us as Muslims, and may we be prevented from any conflicts that can weaken our ukhuwah. Amin Ya Rabbal Alamin.
Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura
30 August 2013 / 23 Syawal 1434