Because of the nature of our organisation, we draw people from all walks of life and different domestic cultures. In other words, almost each person’s socio-economic conditions differ from that of every other person. But this is the nature of the community in which we live. In dealing with these matters, Allah Almighty cut across all divisions in Muslim communities or in the Muslim Ummah by declaring that: “All believers are brothers or (sisters) to each other”. This statement reduces all Muslims to a common set of people of similar belief.
Although Islam teaches us this, this is not the reality at ground level for any of us. A large number of factors, generally out of our control, impact on our behaviour, thinking and attitudes. And I sometimes wonder whether the absence of certain people from the poor areas is not related to bad attitudes that some of us have to “others” who are not on the same “social level” as us, as we think.
In previous letters I have spoken to you about acculturation and the movement of people up the social ladders, and how these social processes make people behave in certain ways. This is a worry for all of us, because one knows that if every individual is not as at home in Blikkiesdorp as he is in Rondebosch East, then there is something wrong with his or her social attitudes.
In Tariqah we are under a shaykh with a group of common murids, one only better than the other in the extent of his or her piety. The only factor that is accepted in Tariqah to draw divisions between people, is the factor of piety. And so, in a sense, there are those who occupy different positions in the Tariqah but these are religious positions that have to do with the person’s response to his Lord. It has nothing to do with titles, degrees, bank accounts, the kind of cars we drive, or the areas where we live. In a certain sense it only has to do with the quality of the person’s heart. And so, on the Final Day, hearts are going to be judged (what Allah Almighty calls the qalbin salim in the Qur’an) and not by social trappings. Those of us who today consider ourselves in the forefront socially, and those in a place like Blikkiesdorp in the back of the social queue, might be shocked to find how the arrangements are going to work on the Final Day. I am telling you all these things, most of which you know, in order to encourage you to concentrate your eyes on your hearts and not social trappings, which will have very little or no meaning on that Day.
I’ve spoken to you on numerous occasions about how we should open our hearts to the poor and that this was characteristic of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ). He started his work as the poor people’s Prophet (ﷺ) and not as many of us imagine. And we must look at ourselves and our children to see the extent to which we are prepared to make the actively religious heart the centre of our activities. Many years ago, I addressed a school assembly in Retreat. I told the children: “Although you live in this location behind me, don’t let the location live in you”. You see, we all have the ability to rise above our environments, whether good or bad. And although we live in those environments, they are unable to distort our vision of what we want to be. This is extremely difficult, because it is so easy to allow ourselves to be engulfed by the environment in which we live, whether good or bad. And so, you might live in an area and enjoy its benefits, but are not of the area, because your heart, during many parts of the day, is engaged with your Lord. This is what Tariqah is all about. You live amongst people but you are not of them, because you are of your Lord. You establish social connections, but these are very temporary and very fragile, because it is the connection with your Lord that is important. You see, all of us have to learn to be like this. Allah Almighty placed the greatest of all human beings in a degenerate society. That society could not change him. He changed the society. In the same way we should not allow all these special environments in which we live to change us, because our presence in that environment is a very temporary one. I hope you understand what I am telling you. I sometimes see characteristics in people from all over the Cape Peninsula that I do not like. I do not like to see a murid from one of the poorest areas acting as if that location is in him; or a person living in a smart area developing attitudes that make it clear where that person is living.
Muslims are supposed to be spatial changers not be changed by space. I know this is difficult but I can’t tell you to act in any other way. We are supposed to be the strongest forerunners in our communities but when we sink below or when we sink within the social-economic conditions, we are going to lose our Islam or our children are going to lose it. How many times have I not told you about people in the poorest areas who are only Muslim by name? Similar processes that change these people are at work in the better areas and there will also be people who will later be recognised as Muslims just by their names. I remember when I came to live here in Kensington this was a predominantly Christian area. I had never worn a jubbah anywhere else to the same extent to which I wore it here. I had to wear my Islam on my sleeves. We must all wear our Islam on our sleeves and we must pray to Allah Almighty that that Islam makes us forerunners in whatever the nature of the community in which we are living, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]