بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
“Has not the time yet come for those who believe that their hearts should be submissive when remembering Allah and what has come down of the Truth?” Al-Qur’an, Surah 57.16
O brothers and sisters, ikhwah and akhawaat, in our efforts to wage the inward Jihad against the nafs, against the inner-Shaytan, we must be ever-increasing in our forthrightness and honesty with one another. If we are to view things as they truly are, then we must tear down this mask of dualism and see beyond the illusion of “selfhood,” of “you” and “i.” First and foremost this means being honest and introspective with ourselves; seeking out, finding and destroying the faults within our”selves.” But secondly it calls for forthrightness and honesty with our brothers when they manifest things which we perceive as problematic (whether these things are actual sins, or merely misunderstandings or the like). If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we must truly know that our neighbors ARE our true selves, and that there is no difference or separation between them. Thus, in whatever we do, whether delivering kind words to our neighbors, encouraging them, or denouncing them when we see them to be in error, it must stem ultimately from our love for one another.
Much is said in the Ummah today about aaaab and akhlaaq; about manners and morality. But what is today practiced of manners and morality? When one is practicing Akhlaq, then they are engaging in an act of co-creation, wherein the thoughts within the Construct of Allah’s Divine Mind are engaged to create (khalaq), through moral (khulqi) behavior. Such acts are in and of themselves creative (khaliq), acts of the Creator within the Construct of Hu’s Mind, THROUGH Hu’s thoughts. For how else is a Mind’s Construct to come into perpetual existence but through thought?
Nevertheless, people today will tell you that morality is subjective, and Akhlaaq is delegated to a sort of sociological moral consensus. For to be sure, in some cases one thing is moral and in another case it is immoral. How do you say “Anger” for example is “Moral” or “Immoral?” There are things to be angry about and things not to be angry about. Similarly, adab, or manners is delegated to the sort of Southern Belle mannerisms: “Put your fork here when you sit at the table and your napkin here; say ‘excuse me’ after you belch, and always hold the door for ladies.” This is not what aadaab is dealing with. For in such Southern societies, etiquette is considered a virtue, but backbiting and gossip are traditional mainstays. The same Southern families which would hold “etiquette” in such high regard would also ruthlessly beat slaves working in their plantations. The same who would consider etiquette so essential would treat `asabiyyah, racism, nationalism, and tribalism as though it were normal and acceptable.
Similarly in the Ummah today, people will be afflicted with all kinds of spiritual diseases of the qalb or heart and yet on the surface will appear clean and well-mannered. This is not aadaab. This is two-facedness (thunaa’iyyatu-l-wajh). Yet today so many will treat others with respect to their faces and then behind their backs they will tear them apart, and arouse suspicion against them. Brothers and sisters, this is not adab, this is the worst kind of backbiting or “ghibah,” and we are commanded in the Qur’an to disengage from it.
Disengaging from ghibah does not mean that you merely pretend in your hearts to not be partaking in gheebah, when your actions amount to the same. When someone says to you about your brother, “So and so has done this or that” and you do not renounce him for speaking in SECRET, with his words and intentions in ghaybah, then you are in fact partaking in this backbiting, this ghibah.
It is written in the Qur’an al-Karim: “…Nor backbite one another; would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor it.” Al-Qur’an, Surah 49:12
Muhammad has also said: “Exaggerating and gossiping about the Muslim is as sinful as the highest levels of riba (usury).”
Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi`ah, vol. 8, hadith #16336
When you listen and you say nothing then you are not enjoining the good and forbidding from evil; two branches of our Din. When you do not do these things you are no better than one who has not fasted nor made Salat. Do you think you will be looked upon as flawless as you take yourselves to be?
Prophet Muhammad once said to Imaam `Ali: “O `Ali! When someone hears the backbiting of his Muslim brother committed in his presence, yet he does not rally to his assistance despite being capable of doing so, Allah shall humiliate him in the world and in the Hereafter.”
Al-Hurr al-`Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi`ah, vol. 8, hadith #16336
When someone says “So and so has done this or that,” and you reply as though you are considering these words in the least bit, then your sin is increased. You are like a judge who allows a prosecutor to come before him in his courtroom and present nothing other than hearsay, and on the basis of this you condemn a man. Such a judge is a clear oppressor, and the consequence of such actions is clear oppression and the violation of your brother’s spiritual rights.
To the contrary, no righteous Judge would ever accept such hearsay. He would require proof. The prosecutor would approach the judge and say “So and so has done this and that.” The defense attorney would then stand and raise the objection that this is merely hearsay. The Qur’an tells us the same when we are told to “Bring proof if you are truthful.” If a man comes to you with proof of what your brother has done, and this is necessary for you to know for your safety, for the safety of others, or for any similarly essential matter, then you are to take this as any court would: as evidence. You are then to confront your brother on this matter, providing the evidence against him, not hearsay. A Mu’min does not waste his brothers time with hearsay, for if he does, and if everyone else which the diseased of heart spread their hearsay to do the same, then what is this brother to do but spend every waking hour responding to hearsay and backbiting? Of course not!
Imagine if every time you went out of your home you were accosted by people accusing you of a crime. Imagine if ever step you took there was a Police Officer telling you that you had trespassed on someone’s property, that you had been drunk and disorderly, that you had committed rape, arson, kidnapping, murder, whatever he could muster? You would have no doubts that this was a corrupt Police Officer, and a clear oppressor. So too are you oppressors of one an other when you act in the same way.
The sixth Imaam Ja`far as-Sadiq narrated from the Prophet Muhammad who said: “O you who have embraced Islam with your tongues but in whose hearts faith has not yet entered, do not disparage Muslims and do not seek their defects. Verily, Allah will seek out the defects of he who is after their defects; and one who has Allah after his defects will be humiliated, even in his own abode.”
‘Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, “Kitab al-Iman wa al-Kufr,” “Bab man talaba ‘atharat al-Mu’minin”, hadith no. 2
If we seek the defects of others then we are like that corrupt Police Officer, following people around town, harassing them, telling them that we have heard this or that from a “reliable source.” Brothers and Sisters, we all have seen such things happen many times in cases of Police corruption. We all know that these so-called “reliable sources” are most often criminals themselves who are trying to get out of trouble for their own crimes by implicating those whom they know and care nothing about. This is no secret.
On the contrary, `Isa, the Ruh’ullah, the Spirit of Allah, has instructed us in the way that we are to approach our brother when real evidence is given against him.
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the congregation; and if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
So if you are not doing these things when evidence is presented, even if the evidence seems to be proof, then you are backbiting your brother, because the nature of gheebah is that it is hidden, that it is ghaybah. The nature of gheebah is to conceal and hide what is being said about the other, and for this reason it is translated as “back” biting, because according to the Book of Allah, you are biting your brother, you are eating his flesh from behind his back, from a hidden, secret place where he is not present, and is not able to respond.
To even speak your brother’s name in such a disparaging way, or to allow him to be spoken of in such a way is tantamount to the same thing. If you reply, “Oh my!” or “I never knew this about him!” or “I would have never thought!” Then you are not only guilty of ghibah, but you are guilty of riyaa’, of false piety, of false virtuousness. You are like the Bet Shammai of the P’rushim, a rival sect of the Pharisees of the days of Yahyaa, `Isa and the Hawariyyun who stood on the street corners loudly proclaiming their wordy and worthless prayers and ‘ad`iyyah, as though they were reciting the vain repetitions of Battus, and yet inside your qulub, your hearts are filled with a rotten disease.
Of such individuals the Qur’an tells us: “When they stand up to prayer they stand up sluggishly; they do it only to be seen of men and do not remember Allah except a little.” Al-Qur’an, Surah 4:142
This does not mean that when such people stand for Salaah that they merely stand sluggishly of body, but rather of SPIRIT. If they merely stood sluggishly of body then we would all see this and would have no wonder about their niyyah, their intentions to only be seen by men performing what is expected of them. No! Rather they are those who stand sluggish of spirit; doing so to be seen by men, and not to Remember Allah. Such things are false piety, not righteousness, and will not be added unto you. Such muraa’oon are white washed tombs; pure and clean on the outside, yet inside decaying and dead.
Imam Ja`far as-Saadiq said: “Riya’ in any of its forms amounts to shirk, (polytheism); verily, one who works for the people, his reward lies with them, and one who works for Allah, his reward lies with Allah.”
‘Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 402
You may say to yourself in your heart, “How does riyaa’ amount to shirk?” It amounts to shirk because it is the deification of the self, the nafs. It amounts to shirk in the same way that we are told that whosoever does not believe in freewill is a kafir and whosoever does not believe in Destiny is a mushrik. For if “you” do not believe in freewill then “you” have not submitted your”self” to belief, or Iman. Furthermore, if “you” do not believe in Destiny, then “you” believe that “you” are in charge of your fate, and this sets you up as a lord other than Allah; and thus you are a mushrik. In the same way, riyaa’ deifies the self and sets it up as a lord other than Allah.
`Isa said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”
Yes brothers and sisters, it would be better for you to be dead and discontinue living and attempting any further battle with your ego-self, or any further works than to be the one through whom sin is manifest, as such are already dead on the inside, but clean on the outside. And still, we know that the Book of Allah tells us that “Allah is Hu that brings the living out of the dead and the dead out of the living.” For we know that the nature of living is to be in a world of trial and fitnah. There is no escaping that. The Qur’an tells us that our very families, our very children are a fitnah to us, and yet are these not the things which we love and will die to protect?
We spend money, we pay facilities to go and lift weights this way and that, heavy weights which tear down our muscle fibers, destroying and rebuilding back stronger. We pay for this fitnah, because while we know that it is a difficulty, the end result with be enhanced strength.
Oh brothers and sisters! Do you think for one minute that Allah ta`aala is unaware of this? Do you think that this was not part of the design of the very fabric of Nature itself? Do you think that it was by mistake that the Qur’an tells us that the Malakayn Haroot and Maroot descended from the sky to ancient Babylon? Was it a mistake that there they tried and tested the people with their “fitnah” of exposing the Babylonians to a science that they were told to respect but not partake in; just as a child may be in a room illuminated by an electric light, but he is told to at no time touch the electrical socket, let alone get a screwdriver and remove the faceplate from the wall, and tinker around with the wiring? No! Rather, the nature of fitnah is to expose those disobedient children who go and do what their Guardians have instructed them not to do. They are then undone by their own disobedience, either being destroyed by it, or condemned to judgment by it.
Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq said, “Allah is very forgiving. Allah says, whatever trouble, problem, or crisis you confront with in your daily life, is always because of your deeds, or actions and Allah always intends to forgive your sins. If someone has even minor pain in head or mild sickness, Allah forgives some sin against such trouble’s. So trouble, problem, or crisis are blessing in disguise for Mu’minin.”
‘Usul al-Kafi Vol. 4
So we know that when fitnah afflicts us, it is Allah trying to purify us and purify our ranks. We know that there is no fitnah which does not cause pain and trial, for this is the very meaning of the word. We know that Gold is refined by fire. We know that wheat must be caste to the threshing floor and that in days of old the chaff was separated by trampling. Fitnah is never a pretty thing, but it is a reality of life, and an integral tool of the Construct of the Divine Mind in which we all find our”selves.” A weightlifter never looks pretty when he is struggling to lift a heavy weight. The veins in his neck and arms will bulge out, he will grunt and groan and perspire. After a while he will stink and will have to go take a shower to cleanse himself of the stench of the fitnah. If he does not do these things then he is not likely lifting a very heavy weight and he will not grow much stronger.
If Allah seeks to strengthen us, then Allah will expose us to fitnah. If Allah seeks to purify our ranks then Allah will expose our ranks to fitnah, like Hu has done with every Movement for Social Justice and the like in the past 50 years. Many of these groups were either neutralized or rendered incapacitated, neutered, by the result of such fitnah. There did not need to be any face to face battle. Instead the Shaytaan has done the job that no counter intelligence operation could have done half as well and those who had claimed to be committed to the Struggle, allowed the Shaytaan to do it through them.
O Brothers and Sisters, this is not a call to castrate your emotions, for we know that many of the Divine Names of Allah are themselves emotional in nature. While we are told by Muhammad to abandon our anger, we know as well that the A’mmah foretold a Jaysh al-Ghadab, an Army of Anger, which would unite and rise to sweep away all injustice, and avarice, all things which displease Allah. This is the nature of the `aarif though; one who is angered by only that which angers Allah, in things small and great, and does not get angered by pettiness. This does not mean that if we are `urafaa’ then we will never anger others. As we walk down the street we step on tiny insects which we will never see or be aware of. It is an easy thing to offend others, and thus we must just as easily be patient and forgiving of others, as we would want them to be with us.
The true `aarif, a true Mu’min, can be called any number of names and not grow angry at the names he is called, for these are only words, but will instead grow angry at the attempts by the slanderer to mislead others and entangle them within the web of fitnah. This is the true meaning of loving and hating for the sake of Allah; al-Walaa’ wa-l-Baraa’. This does not just mean that we love and hate FOR Allah, but that our Love and Hatred flows from a Divine Source, and is not rooted in the pettiness of personal offense and nafs, but is a principled response.
Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq said: “A mu’min (believer) is the person who when angered, his anger doesn’t lead him away from that which is true…”
‘Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 186, hadith #11
Thus, we know that it is not the anger itself which is a sin, but when that anger leads to insanity, as Imaam `Ali said, then it trespasses beyond the bounds of the permissible and the good, the halaal and the tayyib. Then just as eating the flesh of a human being is haraam for us, from behind our brothers back we bite at him and devour his flesh like vampires. The Mu’min will experience anger, but this anger will be provoked by transgression against Divine Principles. It will not come from trivial things or pettiness. It will not come from envy or hasad, of what is possessed by your brother, be it possessions in this construct of Dunyaa, be it authority, power, strength, or any other thing. It will not come from enmity or resentment. This is not the ghadhab of the Mu’minoon. The Mu’minoon are instead vessels that are poured out of their nufoos. But when a vessel is poured out, there is still residual taste from what was therein before. If you pour in something else thereafter then it will be tainted. Thus, these vessels must be cleansed many times over by Allah, if Hu is to fill these vessels with the pure, unbridled Spirit, or Rooh. Only then can the purity of Allah’s Love and Allah’s Hatred, manifest on Earth as it is in Heaven.