Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Stray

The Stray

My second Hajj was phenomenal not just because of the multitude performing the rites all together and at the same time; a kaleidoscope of peoples and cultures. Nor because of the necessity of relying on other people within your group and helping still others. Nor because of the nearness of God to our everyday necessities and duas through simple remembrances.

But mostly because after the days of Hajj had finished a slow realisation of our state had once again dawned on me.

I try my best to perform simple acts of goodness; like the placing of my prayer mat under one who needs it after my own obligation had finished, or the simple salutations of "Hajj Mabrur" to my fellow Hajis from different nations with a smile and a hug even when we can only communicate in sign. And then on the road outside our residence in Aziziye I encouraged and helped a friend of mine feed a stray gangly cat.

The following day I entered the Grand Mosque at Mecca to pray my Jumaa Salaat. The Imam cried in the Khutbah when he recollected the great personalities of our glorious past and the people were moved. I have always had a disdain for people who cry in speeches ever since Abu Muntasir cried when talking about "these people".

Sincerity is never as simple as the shedding of tears. Nasser performed it to perfection and whilst some might argue that his aims were nationalistic, and ours are Islamic, the parallel is the same "what gain is there to be had from it other than pulling the wool over the eyes of the gullible?"

Was the Imam speaking from the heart even when we realise that his was a Nationally scripted Khutbah? For all the Saudi emphasis on the Sunnah, did the Prophet (saw) ever cry whilst giving a sermon?

(I have heard that Imam Ali (ra) cried whilst giving a sermon. But I have not looked into the context of that, nor verified its truth.)

And then on the way back to our hotel I saw another emaciated kitten and I could not help it. Recollections of small things that I had seen over the past days caused my heart to tremble first in anguish and then in anger.
But I did not cry, nor shed a tear.

A Turkish woman threatening another cat at a distance with a pipe or other implement, whilst her husband or male relative smiled on as if it were comedy. Piles of food left on the street not out of consideration for the animals of the kingdom but because of sheer waste. With such waste why are the cats of the kingdom not well fed?

The picture that pained my mind was that mercy had left this Ummah. That whilst GOD is known as ar-Rahman, for most Muslims this is simply a verbal intonation and not a pressing invitation to emulation. That just with that Imam on that day his tears and his anguish belong in the books that he reads but do not extend to the everyday lives of our people.

In stark contrast to the lives of the companions who fell over backwards in trying to help one another. Theirs was not a socialist society but a 100% mercantile and capitalist society. The imam remembered them with tears but could not frame that remembrance as a call to action for the Muslims not here, not now. The obvious reason for such a lack is that he himself did not feel that same passion for the here and now Muslims.

Off course I could be wrong with regard to that particular Imam, but I know that I'm not wrong when it comes to Imams in general. For our Prophet (saw) informed us that we will get the leaders that we deserve. Did he use the word AMIR or IMAM when referring to those leaders? I do not know.

And being at present far from home, my books and the internet I cannot check.

But I can surmise.
The Prophet (saw) also informed us that each Prophet was a shepherd (Shwan in Persian) before he became an imam of his people. The shift from shepherd to one of imam was a shift from caring to one of leading from the front.

That an imam must also care for his flock can be seen by the fact that the greatest of imams, Muhammad (saw), was blessed with the miracle of being able to see through his thighs in both Ruku and Sadja. What use that miracle if he were not supposed to care for each and everyone of them even whilst he led them from the front.

But whilst a shepherd leads from the back and cares for the weakest as a means of caring for them all, an Imam leads from the front and the people play catchup. An Imam's job is to educate, to think about how to better the people's situations, to plan and then to mobilise the people to action by encouraging words and by, more importantly, example.

At the battle of Tabuk the Prophet (saw) mobilised his men to action against a threat from Rome. The Prophet (saw) lead from the front and arrived at the oasis first. Abu Dharr al Gifari (ra) narrates that he had a slow and old mount and he fell behind. The Prophet (saw) did not slow the army's march, but on arrival looked out across the dessert anxiously hoping that Abu Dharr (ra) would fulfil his obligation. And when he saw him walking through the dessert he was happy. Abu Dharr (ra) had realised that his mount would not carry him any further and dismounting let it go, knowing that it would find its way back to Medina. He continued on foot wishing to fulfil the command and follow the example of his Imam, and that during one of the hottest summers.

This is how an Imam acts, he consults, surmises, thinks and articulates about a position. And then he puts it into action and first with himself. He provides you with the boundaries to know what needs to be done and then leaves you to accomplish it. And then he looks out for you and aids you in it.

Most of our Imams do none of these things.

The Prophet (saw) said that we will get the leaders that we deserve. And yet an Imam leads and does not follow the people. This contradictory circle can only be squared when we realise that our leaders are not leaders, and when we cease to accept and honour
-those that cry on the pulpit,
-those that do not preface their words with meaningful action,
-those that do not lead by example,
-those that do not make their prime motive the betterment of the lot of their people,
-those that keep their heads in their books.

For those who keep their heads in their books they should remain in the scholastic classes but let them not aspire to being Imams of the People. For they are the bane of our World.

It is they who have failed the Prophet's (saw) nation miserably.

Why do I say that?
Because of what I have seen of the lack of mercy present in our Nation. Because of the lack of cleanliness on this city's streets. Granted five million people will create a lot of mess, but an Imam's job should be to help people on the ways of belief. And our Prophet (saw) instructed us that the least of it is picking up something from the way that people walk. Then what about providing receptacles to encourage people to dispose of their trash easily?

Such simple things can make a world of difference to everyone's experience.

When all of that has been said, Muslims are still one of the most generous and trustworthy people.

A Muslima had left her wallet in a taxi. The taxi driver only found it on arrival back in Jedda from Mecca. He drove all the way back to Mecca to fulfil his trust and refused a reward.

All of these good acts are not because of our Imams but in spite of them.

And in spite of them Mecca is the greatest of cities. Made great by what lies at its centre and then by the myriad noble people that come to go about it.

Later I will inshaAllah write about the Hajj in particular.

Shafeesthoughts.
At the centre of the World.


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