The other day  Mawlana Shaykh Nazim mentioned something which I have spoken about so many times. He said that religion is not a toy, that it is not a game. Sometimes Allah Almighty causes us to become embarrassed when we think back to periods or events in the past during which we considered Islam as a game. The continuous dissension in our community on a variety of issues, from the time our forefathers put their feet on the soil of this country, is a classic example of how they and we have been treating Islam as a toy. I have come across, on so many occasions, of people boasting or bragging about how they were able to trip other people on aspects of our religion. At one time I found this very exciting. Today I hang my head in shame that people in our community see our religion as a game.
What has gone wrong with us that over the centuries Islam took to reach our shores it has produced individuals who lost the seriousness of our religion. This is to be found amongst our forefathers or among former generations and also amongst us. Sometimes when one sits with the Qur’an, there is an awareness in one that this Book consists of the Sacred Words of our Lord. If we look at how tattered and torn many of the Qur’ans are in some of our mosques, then that tells a different story. Many of the major losses of the Prophetic Practices that have occurred in our community and also in other communities tell us that we are not serious enough about the religious lessons that have come to us through the Qur’an and the Prophetic Practice.
On many occasions I sit in mosques built with millions of rands and I feel embarrassed because in the townships the cost of one of the walls of these mosques would be enough to put up a religious structure for the poor people. If we were serious about our religion, we would stop building monuments and use the money to build structures in poor areas where our Muslim brothers and sisters can pray and be taught. We have not received a single message from any of these “monuments” about sharing the cost of a religious structure in the poor areas with us. It is not that I’m complaining. Allah Almighty has been seeing to our needs. From the depths of my heart I believe this. When Allah provides, who is there to compete in such provision? I am stating this fact about how we can spend millions of rands on building mosques or bringing about improvements in other mosques while the poor people pray in shacks. I have nothing against the praying in shacks, because the prayer in the shacks might be at a much higher level than the prayers in “monuments”. I am referring to the lack of consideration, to the lack of feeling, to the lack of seriousness about our religion.
You see, if the decorations in some mosques will add to the spirituality of our prayers, then I would support such decorations but we all know that those decorations have no impact on the hearts of those in prostration. We know that these decorations have nothing to do with the hearts. It has to do with a display of wealth of those not in prostration, or perhaps they are in prostration. I do not know. In the townships we see people unaware of the rules regarding prayers putting their foreheads on the floor “towards” their Lord and we ask ourselves: Where does the serious lessons of our religion lie? Does it lie in the hearts of those who have just recently recited the Shahadah and who are intensely poor, or does it lie in the hearts governed by silver and gold? I sometimes wonder who is in prostration? Who is really in prostration; the one in the shack without any electricity and water or the one in a “monument” with an abundance of electricity and water? Does our Lord judge hearts or does He judge bank accounts? Is He concerned with the hearts or what?” Of course there are religious rules governing our bank accounts and for that we shall be judged. On so many occasions when I look at the poor in prostration and when I am in prostration amongst them in those areas where there are few toilet facilities and little water, my heart cries, because that is all that it can do amongst hearts that have recently come into Islam. One’s heart can only cry, because one knows where the Divine Lights pour down.
One day we were sitting in a mosque and a lady recited Shahadah. In the photograph taken she was bathed in Divine Light. And all of us sitting around? Nothing! The photograph was more of an indictment against us than the highlighting of her special status. There were no lights for us, there were only lights for her. We must think. I’m sure that the Divine Lights are because of the nothingness on her Record. I’m sure of that. But I’m also sure of ourselves.
What are we talking about? We are talking about seriousness with regard to Islam. What are we doing so that when we cry out to our Lord, His Response raises our spiritual stations. When I battle with some of you with regard to the many things that you could be doing and not doing, it has to do with our seriousness with regard to our religion. And so we wish for ourselves that our Lord should place in our hearts an understanding of our religion that it is so serious that it characterises our personalities and our behaviour.
You see, on many occasions there are specific needs in our organization and there are few responses. It is as Allah wants. I believe that but I do not know what it is that He wants with regard to each one of us. I do not know the specifics, I only know the generalizations. He has brought us into Tariqah because the path of Tariqah is a path of seriousness in Islam. In Tariqah Islam is not a toy, it is not a game. Most of those outside Tariqah play games but we must be very careful that in our walking a path of seriousness of religion, we must take on board all the responsibilities associated with this.
There are many of you whom I find taking this path extremely seriously. I am very proud of you. They are in the forefront of our organization. You carry the banners of Islam. You don’t hesitate to work amongst the poor. You are the mufarriddun, those walking in front. But we all want to walk in front. My word! Where do we want to stand on the Day of Standing? With whom do we want to be on that day? We ask Allah Almighty that He must put all of us at the forefront of things, at the forefront of those who appreciate the seriousness of the Divine Call, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]