Overthrowing the Tyrants of our Hearts

As-salaamu ‘Alaykum

Beginning in the Name of our Lord, Allah, The Creator of all things, we testify to His Oneness and we seek proximity to Him. We pray that our Lord send peace and blessings upon our noble and beloved Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace. We pray that those peace and blessings extend to the Prophet’s noble and pure family as well as his companions in their entirety and unto you and I with them through God’s Gentleness and Mercy.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been approached by a few friends inquiring about the political developments around the globe. Some were wondering about how my family was doing, others were concerned about their families, and yet others were concerned for the global community of believers, our umma, and mankind more broadly. We pray that God’s sends tranquility upon the hearts of all of our loved ones here and abroad. We pray that God lifts the burden of the oppressed and those in need and that He gives us light to become the means through which His creation is aided and helped in Gentleness and ease.

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said that if a man hears about someone being killed unjustly in another part of the globe and is not disapproving of that then he shares in the sin. He also, Allah bless him and grant him peace, reminded us that we are one community, one body, we aid one another as we can and we feel each other’s pain. The Qur’an describes the brotherhood of the companions and those who followed as being loving and caring to one another as being individuals who prayed for one another even in each other’s absence. In fact the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said that the individual who does not have concern for the community is not one of “us.” We pray the we are all included in that “us” with the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, because I could not think of a more wretched end than to be distant from the best of creation and ultimately his Creator and ours.

That all being said we are a community of values and priorities. Where you were born and what God has given you is not by coincidence. Similarly one cannot give that which one does not have. We often are moved and driven by ego rather than by principle. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is described as having never gotten angry for himself, and when he was angered he was angered for God and no one could quell that anger. We must be careful to differentiate between that which we are driven to by ego or simple nationalistic pride and that which we are driven to by real concern through God for humanity. A good barometer is to ask ourselves why we are only concerned for certain peoples and not others. If the estimates are true about our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity in the Congo then we have sat idly by as millions have been killed. What also needs to be asked is why we are driven to be concerned about conflicts abroad when individuals in towns adjacent to ours and sometimes down the street from us are gravely oppressed and in need.

Of course none of this is a zero sum game. In other words it is not either or. The point is not to get individuals to stop being involved in the helping and aid of their brothers and sisters abroad but rather to start seeing past just simple family or nationalistic affiliations and start seeing humanity in a more holistic fashion. Even more importantly we hope to be a community that sets its priorities. Does it make sense to send millions of dollars to organizations you are not sure will be using them properly or spend night and day working for organizations you are uncertain of their ultimate aim or is there a better means to use your wealth and effort? If we can use those same millions to help people in own own town go to sleep on a full stomach or help the homeless get off of the street or empower young men and women to fend for themselves all while we are there exerting our own energy to aid in that struggle, shouldn’t we take part in such blessing?

I challenge my brothers and sisters not to pick one or the other but rather to start seeing that if we really want to aid those in need we don’t need to look too far. Also to remind them and myself that we cannot begin to help unless we are committed to not just overthrow tyrants and oppressive systems from without but rather we are committed to overthrow the tyrants found deep within our own hearts. Our worst enemy the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) informed us is our own ego. The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said that a man will be written as a tyrant and he has control over nothing apart from his own family. If our ultimate goal is knowledge of God, proximity to Him, the companionship of our Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, we need to ask if our actions are taking us along that path. There are many organizations, national government bodies, movements, ideologies, calling you to join their ranks… will you heed their call or will we heed the call of their Creator and yours?

What separates the belief structure we hold tightly to from good works attributed to any other meaning or deity? If our true aim is God then it should reflect in our intentions and actions. If the global community of Muslims returns to its rightful place as vanguards of transformative spiritual change who are committed to the care, concern, and service of humanity then perhaps God’s Mercy and Gentleness will descend upon our community to rid us of the evils from within. However if we maintain that our life is about tribe, nation, pride, ego, power then just as we have relied on ourselves and this world God will leave us to rely on our selves. Are we turning to our Lord or are we turning to our own weak selves? As the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is narrated to have said, those who are in the aid of others God will be in their aid and those who rely on Him, He will be their reliance and Victor.

Finally we are a community that should support and encourage diversity. Not everyone will be working on the same project. We aren’t seeking uniformity. We are however seeking the spiritual and emotional support of the group for one another. While some will be working hard in this field and that and others struggling for this cause and that we should all maintain that we see each other’s work as priceless and remain always supportive. Similarly we should be constantly gathering together in prayer for Divine acceptance of the little that we do and for those in need here and abroad. Nothing reminds us of our Creator like prayer since it is an ultimate form of the expression of poverty and weakness before The Powerful, The Merciful, The Generous.  I seek your forgiveness and remind you and myself to recommit to our Covenant with God.

I leave you in God’s care,

Mohammed Tayssir

“With-ness” – Chaplain Tayssir reflects on ASB

In the Name of the Creator of all things, the First, the Last, the
Merciful, the Compassionate, we begin in the Name of the One whose name out
shadows and envelops all names… The Lord of the Worlds.

We ask that He send peace and blessings on His beloved Prophet Muhammad a
peace and blessings that cure us all of our ills inwardly and outwardly.
May these peace and blessings purify our hearts, redirect them to their
Creator, and unite them forever with their Prophet with Gentleness and
ease. May God’s peace and blessings be sent upon our Prophet Muhammad,
the gate of God’s mercy, according to the knowledge of God, a peace and
blessings that are never ending through the never ending domain of God, and
upon the Prophet’s pure family, companions in their entirety, and those
who tread on their path. And upon you and I with them for all of eternity.

Knowledge of God. That’s the answer to the often asked question, “Why
were we created?” The Qur’an refers to it as worship and our
tradition’s exegetes, Qur’anic commentators, explain that worship as
knowledge of the Divine. Interestingly enough our faith’s sages explained
that all aspects of the human experience are called to come to know God.
Our limbs in their outward worship, our intellect in its reflection and
logical outward knowledge, and our hearts in their spiritual journey. Like
the sages of old Muslims understood the most noble knowledge, the knowledge
of God, to be achievable through what is traditionally called knowledge
AND action. Simple scholastic endeavors cannot help the wayfarer travel the
distance to knock at the gates of the Divine. While our spiritual ancestors
were committed to the idea that only the Divine could truly have you come
to know Him, they still espoused that the proper way for a servant to ask
for that knowledge was to learn and to act accordingly. Character is born
of knowledge and character is the tangible result of wayfaring.

This past weekend the Muslim Student Association at the University of
Michigan embarked on its first Alternative Spring Break. As a young man
growing up in the 90’s I remember quite vividly the growing culture of
the MTV Spring Break phenomenon. An unfortunate turn in our community’s
development it seemed the glorification of money being wasted, of the
excessive use of alcohol and drugs, as well as the horrid popularization of
all things promiscuous enveloped the college experience. Yet while this
characterized a segment of the community many young people before, during,
and after refused to succumb to the material, to the consumerist model of
life, to the carnal desires that seemed to never be quenched and to never
address our spiritual thirsts. While the 90’s popularized some of the
worst of what spring break had to offer, as early as the 1980’s
organizations across college campuses began initiatives to use their
college spring break to give back to the community. One expression of
spring break involved the very epitome of heedlessness and the other
attempted to flip that notion on its head and to be conscious, cognizant,
aware, mindful, and in service of others. This is the tradition that the
MSA at U of M was attempting to take part in.

Our sages and scholars remind us that prayer and the remembrance of God are
blessings in and of themselves. One of the blessings associated with prayer
and remembrance is that God Willed the worshiper to be in His presence and
to speak to Him; and so He Willed his prayer into existence. Worship is a
sign of Divine blessing to the worshipper and something that the Divine
should be thanked for. This is so central to our faith that we are told to
thank God for our very ability to thank Him. My spiritual teachers would
call out to the congregation to remember the blessing of calling out to
God, “Ya Allah,” (O’ God!) when so many others were busy calling out
to God’s creation instead. Our trip to Chicago, to be in service of the
elderly community, particularly those who are of lesser means, should be
thought of as a blessing for us. We did not help those beautiful people but
they helped us. By coming to know a bit about them and by our being blessed
with the chance to serve them our Creator allowed us to come to know Him a
bit more we hope and pray. The famous sage Ibn Ata’ Allah explained in
his pearls of wisdom that God varied the means of worship in His Knowledge
of the changing states of His servants. Community service, travel, bonding,
are all means of worship that are not taken advantage of on a day to day
basis. This trip allowed us to drink from a spiritual river that many of us
barely visit.

I cannot adequately express to you all how much I benefited from the young
men and women who went with us on our trip. Their beauty, dedication,
sincerity, intelligence, and support are unfathomable. I feel blessed and
ennobled at just knowing them. The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and
grant him peace) is narrated to have said that all of God’s creation are
His dependents and that the best of God’s servants are those who are most
beneficial to His dependents. I testify to the beauty of those souls who
took part and I pray I can one day be more like them.

One of the grand spiritual masters of our time when asked what the end of
this path looked like, he answered, “With-ness.” May God grant you and
I a with-ness with God that is unbreakable. May all those who read this
message be forgiven of their sins large and small. May we all be included
in the circle of God’s mercy and love. May we become Muhammadan in our
service and character. May we be people of true values and have hearts that
are connected to our Lord; full of light, love, mercy, and knowledge. We
ask God of what He asked of us and we seek His protection from the evils of
this world and our own selves. We ask God sincerity in worship and to be
able to give what’s due unto Him.

I leave you in God’s care,
Mohammed Tayssir Safi