Muslims around the world have welcomed the holy month of Ramadan once again this year. Mosques and the Muslim mass media are resonating with the usual exhortations to fasting and extra prayers to earn maximum reward during the most blessed month of the Islamic calendar.
As I hear these exhortations, I am thinking in my own mind as to what would be a perfect sermon that would be most relevant to contemporaneous Muslims, particularly Muslims in Pakistan today. It is unlikely that I would be asked to deliver a khutba this month. However, if I were asked, here's what I would say:
My Dear Muslim Brothers and Sisters:
I begin in the name of Allah, the most beneficent and the most merciful.
"Ramadan is the (month) in which the Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind and a clear guidance and judgment (so that mankind will distinguish from right and wrong).." (Quran 2:183)
Clearly, the Holy Quran is our guide to living our lives as Muslims. It is about praying, fasting and giving to the poor. However, it's clearly not just about Huqooq ul Allah. It's as much about Huqooq ul Ibad as it is about Huqooq ul Allah.
What does respect for Huqooq ul Ibad mean in Pakistan's context?
1. Respect Human Life:
First, the respect for Huqooq ul Ibad means that we should respect the needs and the rights of our fellow human beings. Not just Muslims. But all humankind. The Quran (13:117) says "And We have sent you not but as a mercy for the 'Alameen" (all creation)". Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came to us as "Rehmat ul lil Alameen", not just Rehmat ul lil Muslimeen. The first among these rights is the right to life. We must not accept or condone the taking of innocent human life under any circumstances. We must not sympathize with groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban who proudly take "credit" for killing innocent people.
2. Do Not Steal:
Second, the respect for Huqooq ul Ibad means that we must not steal, and yes, that includes stealing electricity. We must not "fix" our meters to avoid paying fully and honestly for what we owe to the electric company or any other utility companies.
|Bribe in Ramadan|
Please take seriously the ads such as the following from Peshawar Electric Supply Company: "Do your fasting, pay zakat (charitable donations) and serve your parents, but do these things by the light of legal electricity."
3. Earn an Honest Living:
Third, the respect for Huqooq ul Ibad means earning an honest living. We must not use fasting as an excuse for not doing an honest day's work for our employers. Breaking your fast with food or beverages that have not been honestly earned will void your fasting and prayers.
4. Don't Harshly Judge Others, Particularly People of Other Faiths:
Prophet Muhammad sought counsel with Christian monk Waraqa ibn Nawfal and protection for 90 of his persecuted followers by appealing to Negus, the Christian King of Abyssinia.
Will non-Muslims who do good be excluded from paradise? The answer is NO. Here's Chapter 2 Verse 62 of the Holy Quran:
Translation: "Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve"
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam:
We often lament the decline of the Muslim world in the last few centuries. We vociferously complain about corruption and violence in our countries. We often pray to Allah SWT to make things better for us. But we must heed Allah's words in the Holy Quran: Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. This Ramadan will be another wasted opportunity if we don't begin to act to make things better for ourselves. As Allah SWT says in the Holy Quran (13:11):
|Surah Ar-Ra'ad in Al-Quran 13:11|
Translation: For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah . Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.
Here's how Allama Iqbal captured the spirit of this Quranic ayah in the following Urdu couplet:
Khuda nay Aaj tak us qaum ki halat nahi bedli
No ho jis ko khyaal aap apni halat kay badalnay ka
Here's a video discussion on Huqooq ul Ibad in Islam:
Respecting Rights in Ramadan; Abbottabad Commission Report; BBC Documentary on Altaf Hussain from WBT TV on Vimeo.
Is Ramadan an Excuse to not Work?
Huqooq ul Ibad--Respecting Rights of Fellow Humans
Appeal to Stop Power Theft in Ramadan
Ramadan Commercialization By Mass Media
Misaq e Madia ad Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan
The Prophet I Know