What is Islam all about? Is it the religion of peace? Of submission? Love? Is it the religion of endless worship and ritual? Or rules and regulations? Islam is a religion of knowledge. Truly we can say it is the most important and fundamental thing in Islam. But what is knowledge? What does it mean to have knowledge and why is it so important in Islam. To answer the first question what is knowledge, we can ask what is not knowledge. Knowledge is any belief which leads directly to action. Knowledge is not just information. It’s not just words. It’s not just ideas that lead to no action. This is paramount. Therefore we can conclude that true knowledge is understanding this distinction. True knowledge is knowing what knowledge actually is. True knowledge is epistemological. But we can answer this a different way. What is the sole purpose of a muslim? To worship allah. But why? To gain taqwa? But why? Because this is what protects the heart. Like a shield, taqwa protects the heart. But in order to protect anything from anything, you need what? Knowledge? You need to know your enemy. You need to know what will harm you. And many things will harm you, we are born knowing this, and so we are born seeking knowledge. But after a while this knowledge-seeking widdles down? Why? Because of a hidden enemy. Ignorance. And the spreading of ignorance. This does not mean not knowing. It means thinking you know when you don’t know. Allah describes such people as the greatest losers. But how does it happen? Why does ignorance spread. Besides individual apathy and negligence, how does ignorance spread? Ignorance spreads systemically through any medium because it is advantageous for many of those in power. Again, this does not mean simply keeping you out of the loop. It does not mean not telling you all the details. What it means is that there are people out there with a lot of power and a lot of money and they do not want you to know who they are or what they can do, and they will manufacture anything and everything they can to get you to accept the reality they are selling to you. They will manufacture your consent by means of false ideologies. This is not simply just lies and deceit, but it is lies and deceit that dictate your reality. They tell you what to pursue and how, what to fear and why. And usually in very simple and obvious tactics that are easy to pierce through if you are aware.. the problem is that over time these ideologies situate themselves and become norm. We all know how easily the word terrorist is associated with certain people. We all have seen the face of pure demagoguery in the last presidential election. Extremely simplistic speech that is simply packed with emotion and polemic rhetoric. We can say that islam was given to humanity purely for this reason. To protect us from ignorance. To protect us from poisonous ideologies, and to enlighten the world as to the nature and tactics of evil. How it works. We will revisit this idea in the second half of the khutbah with the most classic example of false ideologies and the spreading of ignorance and it’s eventual destruction. And for now let us look at how we can battle this kind of evil.
As we mentioned earlier, knowledge is necessarily entangled with action. If you look at the roots for the concepts of knowledge and action in Arabic, they are the same letters which leads us to believe that they stem from a more comprehensive concept. Most of the ways the ignorance spreads is through language. So, truly then, the only weapon against weaponized language is the proper use of language. The only thing that battles ignorance is knowledge, of course this is obvious, but how to the two fight each other? In the arena of language. Look at the comprehensiveness of language in Islam, not just the Arabic language but how it is implanted within the quran and ahadith and Islamic sciences. There is a richness that cannot be matched and if we delve into this richness we cannot be won over by anything poorer or of less quality, no matter what it seems to promise. Proper use of language is meant to do one thing, strike the heart so that the mind ignites. And we see this in the quran in the most excellent of manners. Allah asks rhetorically us rhetorically: “have they not deeply contemplated the quran, or are their locks on their hearts?” you see allah says on their hearts, not on their minds or brains or intellects or whatever else. True knowledge begins with faith, and so it begins in the heart. Think of how many classes you have taken, where you study and you take exams and you pass the class, maybe you ace the class, but you walk away slowly forgetting. Why? Because there was no impact on your hearts, there was no physical connection made with the ideas and the information you were given. There was no action whatsoever associated with the ideas presented. And now we know why we remember anything, why we can never forget somethings we’ve learned, because they directly touched our hearts. It could be as simple as a professor with a good lecture style, it could have been an interactive class where you were learning by doing projects, it could have been simply because you have an immense passion for ideas and benefiting others with your knowledge and passion and so you soak it all up. Or it could be because you truly loved the person that taught you or shared ideas with you, it could simply be because you admire the person and follow them and see them as a leader or someone… ok so let’s take these ideas and reflect for a moment and try and understand how ignorance has spread so much, and how the ummah has faced so much strife and oppression. If knowledge spread by physical human connections, heart-to-heart.. it doesn’t matter if it’s rocket science or learning someone’s name, intellectual honesty requires a true community.. when lots of connections are happening you have a truly knowledgeable community.. this doesn’t mean that we all have to be scholars.. it just means that we all know what knowledge is.. because otherwise we are fragmented and only concerned with our differences.. if we feel alone in a crowd it doesn’t matter how much you study, how many papers you write how many degrees you have.. none of it will have any true effect.. and that’s what has happened to muslims today.. fragmented and divided by trivial differences and petty alignments.. politics.. silencing tactics.. “communities” which seem so out of touch with reality and concern themselves with nothing relevant but rules and regulations.. there is no inspiration or true unity or if there is it is quickly dissolved.. and we know this is what would happen to the muslim ummah as the hadiths dictate like the foam of the see.. so prevalent but ineffectual.. but it doesn’t mean that we are doomed.. it simply means that there is little hope for the biggest collectives and movements and organizations.. what it truly means is that community building must start from the ground up.. from the most basic of beginnings.. from the family, from friends and neighbors.. how strange is it that we travel so far to go speak or see different speakers and contribute to these huge events and programs but we don’t even know our own neighbors names? We don’t even talk to the people we are living with… what does that say..
Let us look in the second half of the khutbah insha’allah about the most classic example of false ideaologies and ignorance spreading and most importantly how this evil was defeated from the very beginning..
We likely know that this story is the story of moses and pharoh.. why is this story so important? Because allah talks about it more than any other story. that is more than enough reason right? so first let us look at the false ideologies and ignorance that was spread and how it was spread. we know that pharoh’s sin was the he claimed to be god and so it is obvious how this is such a treacherous sin that deserves punishment but allah doesn’t present the case so simply.. how does allah describe the crime of pharoh in the quran.. I will look specifically at surat al qasas but this is universal in the quran: “indeed pharoh transgressed in the land, elevated himself above everyone else and made it’s people in to sects.. this is an important point because it is the fundamental tactic of oppressors and tyrants.. divide and conquer.. if you can divide the people and make them fight against each other, then you can rule over them and control them and manipulate them in anyway that you wish.. and we can imagine the many ways that this can be done, and we already mentioned a lot of the tactics of false ideologies, outlandish weaponized language, lies, deceit, corruption and silencing.. but allah actually gives us a little more of a hint about how exactly pharoh divided the people and reached such power and this is the most repeated phrase in the quran when it comes to allah’s description of the crimes of pharoh, he pitted the Egyptian copts against he Hebrews, by weaking the Hebrews: “they slaughter all the first born sons and leave the women to fend for themselves. now this seems so cruel and inhuman that it’s unimaginable and we easily cast aside these stories as just stories.. but these things realy happened and allah tells us about them in a specific way so we learn about them.. I said that the plot of tyrants and oppressors is always the same.. divide and conquer.. and that’s what allah says pharoh did.. but allah also mentions that other bit, that other very important bit over and over again in the quran.. what does it mean that pharoh slaughtered their sons and let the women to live.. it means that he went to destroy the communities at their most fundamental level.. at the level of the family.. if you can destroy the fundamental structures of families then you can destroy the unity of a people.. now how does this happen today? surely there is no leader out there killing male babies.. or is there? the thing is in the modern world, you don’t have to actually physically kill someone in order for you to extinguish them or make their value irrelevant.. it is symbolic castration of the male.. especially when we live in a world of images and stereotypes, if you can destroy the image and idea of someone, you have effectively killed them.. and this is what happens in the world today… the symbolic castration of the male.. and this is very beginning of the loss of knowledge and the destruction of communities in people.. but we know there is hope and allah sent a messenger to deal with this villain who is unmatched in the history of humanity.. so let us look closely at how pharoh and his regime were defeated, how allah describes the earliest beginnings of the revolution.. we all know this story.. but how does it begin? with a woman. and why is this important because of the tactics of false ideologies.. we saw that the tactics of tyrants and oppressors is methodical.. it’s not just ruthless killing.. it’s about spreading a false ideology.. and that false ideology pits us against made-up enemies.. it makes us feel like victims.. how often do we hear nowadays about the oppression of women and the agenda of patriarchs throughout history.. but what do we see happen in the story of moses and pharoh.. how does it all come to an end.. it begins with a woman.. a woman who defied all odds and did the unthinkable with the aid of allah.. pharoh wanted to destroy the people and enslave them and he did that by basic divide and conquer and by eliminating the greatest threat to him.. men.. but what did allah do.. he came at him from where he could never anticipate.. allah could have just drowned him where he was sitting.. allah could have not let pharoh even be born.. but he did and then it was a woman whom he inspired to begin his destruction.. so let that be a reminder to us all if we ever feel like victims that we do not lose hope.. and let us all internalize this story and truly believe in it as history.. let’s not hear the concepts and watch them disappear.. even if we walk way today forgetting everything that was said.. let us know that we can always go to the quran to find something that will give us true knowledge.. something that will strike our heart with ideas so that we never forget them.. let us imagine the actions of our righteous predecessors.. envision their lives so that what they teach us never leaves us.. a story is a structure.. like a mini-ideology and it is an effective tool for learning.. and we all have a story.. each and everyone one of us and that’s how we connect to each other.. and with our hearts and with our creater.. may allah make us of those who are stable in their hearts and minds