Brief synopsis of the khutbah that I gave yesterday at the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs (MCWS) in Canton, Michigan:
America just finished recognizing the 50th year anniversary of the historic March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK). In that historic speech, MLK discussed a dream of an America that would evolve to be a nation free of racism and classism. The closest manifestation of that dream that MLK was looking for had previously taken place in Al-Madinah in the final years of the life of Prophet Muhammad (prayers & peace be upon him & his family).
A standard of the proactive work that the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) exemplified was in the public love that he showed to non-Arabs and the poor.
The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “Oh gathering of people! Love the freed-slaves with your love as you would love our family, this Zayd bin Harithah and his son Usamah are prestigious freed-slaves, so love both of them. I swear by He who sent Muhammad to with the truth that loving both of them will benefit you.”
He (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) also once took Usamah bin Zayd (may Allah be pleased with them) along with his grandson Al-Hasan bin Ali (blessings be upon them) then prayed, “Oh Allah, surely I love both of them, so love both of them.”
Allah (Glorified & High is He) commanded the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) to tell the people (42:23), “Say! I ask no reward from you except that loving my close kin.” In effect, the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) was telling the companions that after loving Allah (Glorified & High is He) and loving him and his family that these two should be loved in close proximity.
Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him) was purchased by Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (may Allah be pleased with her) then freed by the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family). The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) loved him so much that he (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) used to refer to him as Zayd bin Muhammad until the ayah was revealed (33:5), “Call them by their fathers’ names.” Thus, he was then referred to as Zayd bin Harithah.
Usamah was birthed through the union of Zayd and an Ethiopian freed-slave named Barakah also known as Umm Ayman (may Allah be pleased with her). Umm Ayman was very much beloved to the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family). She was the first one to hold the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) when coming out of the womb of his mother Aminah. Umm Ayman in fact used to be referred to by the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) as “My mother after my mother.”
Such public recognition of non-Arabs and freed-slaves was very important in working to purify the Arabs of the tribalistic mentality. Those who were from weaker tribes used to be taken advantage of and the poor had no chance of being economically empowered in the Days of Ignorance in the Arabian peninsula.
The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) was also very deliberate in cultivating brotherhood/sisterhood between the companions. One of the first acts that he did when entering Al-Madinah was to start a brotherhood/sisterhood system of pairing off companions with each other to become best friends. Hence, Zayd, a poor freed-slave, was made a brother with Hamzah bin Abdil Muttalib, a Qurayshi. Bilal bin Rabah, a poor black freed-slave, was made a brother with Abu Darda, an Arab merchant from Al-Madinah. Such relationships cultivated the feeling of love and emphathy between the believers.
Al-Islam is based upon love, for the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “None of you believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for his own soul.” This love is in recognition of the intrisnic dignity that Allah (Glorified & High is He) gave all souls as the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “People are equal like the teeth of a comb.”
Muslims in America cannot be haphazard in working towards cultivating brotherhood/sisterhood that transcends ethnic and class differences. It should be deliberate just as the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) was deliberate. This means placing community resources to cultivating relations between urban and suburban Muslims, wealthy and poor Muslims, and Muslims who are from different ethnic backgrounds. These relations should produce both social and economic benefits.
This cultivation must also include giving equal consideration of community affairs to all groups; this needs to be done as a matter of protocol, not just every once in awhile. The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) just did not take shura with his wives such as Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her), Ali (may Allah ennoble his face) and companions from Quraysh and wealthy. He (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) also took shura from freed-slaves & non-Arabs.
Allah (Glorified & High is He) said (18:28), “Keep yourself content with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and evening seeking His face.” This ayah specifically refers to a group of poor companions that slept in the masjid upon migration to Al-Madinah. Many of them were freed-slaves and were not Arab such as Salman the Persian (may Allah be pleased with him), Suhayb the Roman (may Allah be pleased with him) and Bilal the Ethiopian. These companions were kept company with and were included in discussions, even given extra attention by the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family). In fact, Al-Hasan bin Ali even kept company and slept with them in the masjid to show that the Prophet’s family empathized with the plight of the poor and non-Arabs.
Prayers must also been done, especially late at night in tahajjud, asking for the diseases of tribalism and sectarianism to be purified for Muslims abroad. In many places in the Muslim world, the old system of the Days of Ignorance causes Muslims to fight and kill each other. The Day of Jumu’ah, in fact, has unfortunately become the preferred day for ignorant Muslims to kill others during prayer or shortly afterwards. This just took place in Afghanistan where Muslims were killed at the masjid. The week before was Lebanon and before in Iraq. As much as Muslims suffer from oppression by non-Muslims such as in Palestine and Burma, those who call themselves believers are harming other Muslims from Mali to Somalia and from Egypt to Syria at greater numbers in recent years.
The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “I fear the most from what I fear for my nation is a group who is sends others astray.” There is a movement of tribalism and sectarianism among us that is being fomented by misguided Muslims; it must be robustly countered by Muslims with preaching and displaying love and empathy for others.
It’s mandatory that American Muslims cultivate unity here, so that the community can better function according to the complete Sunnah as well as serve as an example to Muslims abroad. American Muslims are the most diverse community in the world; only at Hajj and during Umrah in Ramadan do Muslims taste the diversity that we have in America. This places an extra responsible upon us to serve as a model in showing love and empathy towards all.