This is one of the forgotten verses in the Qur’an. If not forgotten, then, of course, ignored, because the Muslim Ummah has been split into numerous pieces, with some at war with others. I can understand today why on so many occasions Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “Ummati, Ummati, Ummati: my nation, my nation, my nation”. This call must have come from the very depth of his heart when the realization dawned upon him that his nation was going to split and ignore all the teachings of brotherhood and togetherness. This must have been so painful to him (ﷺ). All his teachings and what he has left behind as a religious legacy for his (ﷺ) nation, were going to be trampled on. The pain must have been even more severe when he came to know that very soon after his death, the Muslims would have swords drawn against each other and kill members of his family. One sometimes wonders at the nature of this pain of the killing of his family while he was in a state of witnessing his (ﷺ) Lord. He had suffered so much for us while on earth, and he has continued to suffer in the Akhirah because of us. This is perhaps the greatest disgrace of this nation; causing pain to him when he should be enjoying eternal bliss in the Presence of his Lord. I do not know if there’s anything lower than this or if this nation can go lower than this. It can’t be!
From the moment he (ﷺ) closed his eyes, and later with the murder of Sayyiduna Umar (r.a.) and the murders of Sayyiduna Uthman (r.a.) and Sayyiduna Ali (r.a.), and the poisoning of Sayyiduna Hasan (r.a.) and the killing of Sayyiduna Hussain (r.a.); this nation has been on a roller coaster of killing each other, and others. One hangs one’s head in shame when one thinks of what happened after he had just about closed his eyes. What he saw and endured … he must have endured pain. How his heart must have pained when he saw the horses of a Muslim army trampling the body of his grandson in the sand of Karbala. And so, our history from that period up till today, has been one of major dissension. We are not considering the rightness or the wrongness. We are just thinking of the happenings. We do not think that this dissension will ever end.
Today the Muslims are not only at war with each other, but there are major differences in discourses and interpretations amongst them. These differences have pitted different groups against each other, from international to local levels. And so, even here in our own country, we are seeing the growth of group vendettas, because of different discourses. Our forefathers from different parts of Africa and Asia, came here with an understanding of Islam that is known as the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah and in generations that followed this understanding was acceptable and produced many of our pious forefathers. All this has changed.
Events in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere produced a discourse of Islam that opposes the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah and this discourse has also penetrated our community here in Southern Africa. Today, mosques and madrassas and in certain cases organizations, are divided along sectarian lines. Sectarianism is not of the life-blood of our religion. Sectarianism has produced an exclusiveness that is slowly bringing this community to its religious knees. All over the country and locally we have seen the penetration of this discourse in one form or the other.
Nobody appears to care. Very few voices are raised against what is happening. Almost no writing is taking place against this. There’s just a quiet submission, and unless we are prepared to raise our voices, we might find that in the future, the Islam in this country will be an Islam with no spirituality and with no spirit. This is the Islam that we are going to leave to future generations, and what happened in Malawi might also happen here, where people desert Islam for the church or for spaces of no religion.
In my study of the history of Islam and also of its teachings, and in my experience of the teachings and practices, it dawned upon me years ago that the remembrance of Allah (ﷻ) is a major resistance to foreign discourses. All over Africa, where the spirituality of Islam has been systematically eradicated and with this the celebration of His praises, Islam has been in decline. This is being reflected in a number of things such as dramatic decreases in the number of people that are Muslim, and where struggles against foreign invasions are taking place, these struggles are not for the Cause of Allah (ﷻ). This is a major concern, because our enemies are teaching us how to behave and we justify this behaviour in different ways. Spirituality, and all that it involves, creates in one’s heart a resistance to religions and forms of belief that are contrary to Islam. Today we see the gradual collapse or rather the ignoring of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah in all our affairs.
The state of dissension that has prevailed in Islam from the time the Prophet (ﷺ) closed his (ﷺ) eyes, up to today, is a direct result of a major weakening of our relationship with our Lord. It appears almost as if He “is looking away from us” and so all our supplications for help and direction appear not to be responded to. With Allah’s (ﷻ) help, there can only be victory of both a personal and a social nature. Without His help, we have landed ourselves in a situation in which we are more on the retreat than advancing. The more people are ignoring their Lord, and the more they are refusing to celebrate His praises, so the more we are all being pulled into a quagmire of dissension and sectarianism. Today one has to search for the Islam that the Prophet (ﷺ) brought, because very little of it is available. What we have today is only a caricature, a small distorted view of the original. And so Muslims grapple in the sand. It is only in a few areas of religious quest that the original Islam is still surviving. I have found it nowhere else. This is intensely sad, and I can understand today why the Prophet (ﷺ) is still calling out in the presence of His Lord: “Ummati, Ummati, Ummati.” What does he see? He sees his nation at each other’s throats, and in ruins. His pain and disappointment must be so intense, but here and there a few individuals are raising his banner and he knows, and they have been made to know, that they are raising the banner of the truth of Islam. Allah Almighty must grant to us, as we work in His Cause and as we celebrate His praises, to raise these banners to the heavens. These banners are of the heavens, displaying the power of Islam.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]