Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahay wa barakatuhu
Hajj and Eid Mubarak,
We pray to Allah subhana wa taala (SWT) that He accepts the Hajj of every brother and sister of our community and everyone else who made this effort this year. For those, who desire this journey and so far have not been able to make it, we pray that Allah SWT provide them with guidance and means to accomplish it next year, or as soon as possible. Ameen.
For most of us, the time of Hajj is when Eid ul Adha is celebrated. The celebration, in this case, is the celebration of the essence of sacrifice. In my understanding, the underlying message is much more and beyond the concept of just taking an animal’s life and sharing & enjoying the meat. We are supposed to remind ourselves that if a need arises or if we are asked to do so, somewhat similar to but not exactly like the Prophet Ibrahim (may peace be upon him), we can sacrifice or let go of temporary or false ideas or things even as dear to us as our children. This is, so that we may pay attention to and strive for what is permanent and true, and nothing is permanent and true but the God Almighty.
Wealth and material resources might be the typical examples of something temporary and are usually dear to us all. Many trends, habits, ideas and concepts that we easily get attached to, could also be equally short-lived. Every year, remembering the sacrifice that the Prophet Ibrahim (may peace be upon him) was willing to make, we are asked to review our lives and see what we could be willing to depart with. Can we let go of some of the money or resources so dear to us? Can we relinquish or abandon unnecessary habits we might have gotten so accustomed to? Can we renounce ideas that might be dear to us but in reality might be false and unjust? Every year, we are given an opportunity to reflect in these terms, take an action and improve our lives.
Sometime, we seem to believe that if we could teach and convince everybody to accept Islam, read Quran, pray and fast in Ramadan, we would have done our job and the society’s problems would disappear. Paying a little attention to the present day world should open our eyes. It does not work. Some of us seclude ourselves believing that if they could only pay attention to their own lives and withdraw from the rest they would be safe. For a society and ultimately for them, this does not work either. What is it then that makes a society successful?
The guidance and instructions about this are rather clear and straightforward, but I am afraid, not that well understood or practiced. The message is in the few words of Surat Al-Asr that we have been routinely overlooking. A simple English translation of the words of Surat Al-Asr is as follow, “By the time, mankind is in loss. Except for those who believed and done righteous deeds, and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” The two most important words in this sura are righteous deeds, but the question is, what are these “aamalus saalayhaat” or the righteous deeds we have been told to perform”?
Allah SWT has also conveyed that he did not create us, the human beings, as a single tribe or with one religion, so that we compete with each other in doing the good or virtuous or righteous (5:48). The “aamalus saalayhaat” or righteous deeds mentioned in Surat Al-Asr, in my opinion, refers to much more than believing and praying. If that was the only message, Muslim societies would have been doing much better. The fact of the matter is that Muslims as a society have failed in this one particular aspect, while others have excelled in it. This does not mean that there are no pockets of success; I am talking about things in general. Firstly, we have to understand the meaning and scope of the righteous deeds required from us and second, we as an individual, family or a society, have to pay utmost attention to this particular aspect of Allah SWTs message, so that He be pleased with us and rewards us with success.
For practical and simple understanding, righteous deed is something that undoes anything that is wrong or unjust. Secluding or separating ourselves, personally or as a group, does not work. We have to open our eyes, minds and hearts to know about anything wrong or unjust around us or in the society we are living in, or wherever we might be, study them, reflect on them and then take part to find a way to undo them.
For example, in our area, Springfield is the largest city. A large part of our own Muslim community lives in this city. We should know that in terms of performance, most of the public schools in the city of Springfield are ranked lowest in the state. Comparatively speaking, there is more crime in this city than most areas of this state. These are excellent examples of things that are wrong or unjust. On the other hand, they are also the opportunities to do some righteous deeds.
Any work like this is not possible without the voluntary efforts of individuals like you. It does not matter if you live in this city or not, you can contribute in many different ways and provide a lot of help. ISWM is already involved in three different areas, education, crime and housing. These committees need many volunteers and I request you to reflect on what I stated and consider taking part. The decision to be part of this project would likely not happen unless you are willing to accept an element of sacrifice on your part and to do the righteous deeds. In the meantime, recite Surat Al-Asr often, so that the message does not fade away.
Now for your information, a number of things are happening in and around our society. We have a number of educational programs for children and adults. We are involved in a number of social projects in this city and the larger Springfield. We have started a pilot TV program in a local channel in Ludlow for education about Islam. We are reaching local schools, town administration and law enforcement people to build a healthy relationship. We are involved in multiple interfaith programs. We are arranging an Islamic education conference in the Springfield Technical Community College on October 18th. We continue to bring wide variety of educational and social opportunities. We need to do more and we need to do it better; we know it. But we are limited most importantly due to just one factor: lack of enough volunteerism in our community. I hope that you would reflect on this message and be willing to make a small sacrifice of your choice.
Switching gears, I like to talk about the affairs of our own society now. We are reaching the end of the year and the election process. This year, at least three and may be four new board members are needed. Unlike before, the previous 3 or 4 existing members are not coming back for re-election. This provides an excellent opportunity for the community to elect 3 or 4 brand new board members to provide a new direction and/or momentum to the society and the work it does. I specially request my sisters to come forward and take part in this noble and important work, and I would request my brothers to let them take this responsibility.
On a different note, in the coming state and national elections in November, there is a ballot question about the establishment of casinos in Massachusetts. There should not be any doubt in our mind when making a decision about this question. Firstly, we all need to vote because of this particular question on the ballot, and secondly, we must vote according to the Islamic principle on this matter. In Islam, gambling is illegal or not allowed or haram. This is the time and our chance to make a statement. We need to talk to the people around us and convince them to vote. I can give you a list of arguments to prove the validity of Islamic position but it is not really required in the light of clear injunction against gambling in the Quran (Re: 5:90 and 5:91).
You should be aware, that this ballot question #3 (Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming) has been put in a rather tricky manner. The proposal is requiring from the government to stop building casinos, so you have to vote for YES to make it pass. Do not vote for NO, if you want to vote according to the principles of Islam.
At the end, I like to thank those brothers and sisters who helped to make this event successful. May Allah SWT reward them and their families. Also, from the people who give Adhan to the ones who come for the daily salat and the one who leads them, we are thankful to them. We are thankful to the brothers and sisters involved in the educational work, social work, interfaith work, building and maintenance work, administrative work, fund-raising and collection work and many other types of work that we do. We are grateful to our well-wishers, donors, the ones who pray for our success and also the ones who might just have a good feeling about the society. Our hope is that all of you, in some ways, small or large, would contribute to the wellbeing and success of the society, so that it would be able to make a realistic and positive change to its neighborhoods, InshaAllah. On behalf of the board and my family and I, Eid Mubarak to all of you. May Allah SWT be pleased with us and blesses this gathering, blesses our neighborhoods, our state and our country, the United States of America.
M. Zubair Kareem