I do not know why, but perhaps it is what we call “blue Monday”, I thought a lot this morning  about the divisions in the Muslim community throughout the world. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) predicted this when he said that the Ummah will be divided in seventy-three sects of which only one will go to Paradise. The one he defined as that group that would follow him and his Companions. Today the only group that adheres very strictly to his Sunnah and the Sunnah of his Companions (r.a.) is the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah. Why do we believe this? Surely, each group has a right to declare itself as being the one most favoured by Allah the Almighty. Why is it that we are so sure that the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah is the only truly authentic mainstream of Islam? I have always said that if one wants to judge the religious authenticity of any group or any individual, in fact, then one has to use the measuring rod of piety. The whole history of Islam tells us that the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah has produced generation upon generation of some of the most pious people in our religion. There is no doubt about this. It is from this group that the greatest Awliya’ of Allah Almighty have come. You see, piety, or to put in another way, the attaining of special spiritual stations or darajat is what Allah (ﷻ) grants. One can work for it as much as one wants to, but the actual granting, in the final analysis, rest with our Lord. And so, if one has a designated group of Muslims from which our greatest spiritual figures have come, then this is a clear indication that this group is religiously authentic. You see, many of us tend to judge people by what they know, but the actual measuring rod is what their Lord has granted them of spiritual stations or of knowledge of His Presence or of the Presence from His Messenger (ﷺ). If one does not have this, then one has very little, because one is little by one’s Lord and of little value, if we may say so.
One knows that the passage of Islam throughout the long cause of human history, should have been a peaceful movement of love and brotherhood, of caring; supporting each other towards a combined state of Divine Satisfaction. The variety of satanic historical variables that have destroyed what was revealed to this planet through the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), are too numerous to tabulate. But what those historical factors did was to reduce what was the greatest spiritual awakening of mankind to the rubble it is today. It appears from our history that each generation added to the rubble. One is sad and depressed when one sees how a golden age of humanity could have continued to produce generation and generation of people striving for Divine Satisfaction, but did not. Even here in the Cape Peninsula, we see how people juggle with religion, add to the rubble and use religion as a commodity for self-enrichment. To Allah Almighty, of course, in His initial decree at the beginning of time or whatever you want to call it, had decreed this, because those who were to stand aside from the rubble were going to give Him His inhabitants of Paradise and from these people were going to come His choicest servants. Today one can only stand in awe when one sees the destruction that has deliberately been perpetrated against what is holy and sacred. Perhaps it is not awe, perhaps it is shock. All over the world we see Islam on the retreat, and pushed into retreat by Muslims or whatever you might call them.
Many of us, in our attempts to avoid the destruction of religion that is taking place around us, have moved to the poorest areas with the flag of Islam. In many of the other areas, this flag is flapping lazily in the wind without energy and without direction. Perhaps in the poorer areas with all the new reverts, the flag can again be sent high into the air.
On Sunday, 29 July 2012, again a number of people recited Shahadah. These are very poor people living in areas on the fringes of the metropolitan city. They have small mosques but their hearts do not need the luxuriant religious structures in the suburbs. Their hearts are their mosques, not the buildings; and I believe or dream that these reverts, like in many other countries, will eventually become the carriers of the remembrance of Allah Almighty in this country. Who else then? Who else can carry a banner that spiritually uplifts and raises the human dignity of people through their worship of one Lord. This capability appears to lie in the hearts of the poorest people. They have no attachment to this planet, and so, when in the recital of the Shahadah their hearts become mosques, then those hearts give expression to an Islam that has very little attachment to this world.
When the sun of Islam rose in the Arabian Dessert, it rose amongst the poor who also reverted; and it was the poor that carried this movement forward. I sometimes wonder, as we carry out our work; building small mosques, feeding people and in all of these, establishing for each other an authentic attachment to their Lord, whether there will not arise from amongst these people those who will takbir in honour of their Lord.
When one sits in any one of these very poor townships amongst the great “unwashed” as poor people were once cynically described, one knows that one is busy with hearts that when turned to their Lord, will blossom as receptacles of His remembrance. One old lady told me: “Shaykh, I am here everyday”. Where else do we get Muslim ladies sitting in mosques everyday? These people bring their hearts as mosques to the mosque of their Lord. And their poverty means little or nothing when they sit quietly in the mosque of their Lord with their hearts remembering Him.
Perhaps somewhere along the historical line, the sun of Islam that shone over the poor of the first generation of Muslims, will shine once more over the poor of the first Muslims in the black townships. You might think that this is again my imagination at play, but look at their faces and ask yourselves what is the most important thing in the lives of these people who want to sit in the mosques the whole day, and what is the position of those who remain out of the mosques most of the time.
Many years ago in Johannesburg, Mawlana Shaykh Nazim commented to me that from Africa will come battalions of support for the final battles that were going to be conducted by Imam Mahdi (r.a.). Perhaps I was a little bit cynical at that time, because I thought that he was referring to parts of the South African people. Today, when one sees the process of reversions in the townships, one wonders if these reversions are not the beginning of what he was talking about. Our gravitation today, away from the affluent areas, especially during Ramadan, to the very poorest areas, tells us where our work lies. And as we traverse the country areas looking for the poor to bring them within the ambit of the Naqshbandiyyah Tariqah, the words of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim might still become true. My only regret is that perhaps my age would not allow me to see the finality of these processes. But at least I can write about them or at least I can speak about them. Our gravitation to the poorest areas and the increasing periods we are spending there, is in fact one of the small miracles in social relations and inter-religious relations that are happening in the townships. These small miracles in terms of which the Naqshbandiyyah Tariqah works, will eventually draw more and more people into its structures and if it continues to teach the pure Islam it may, if Allah (ﷻ) so wishes, be the initiators of having the sun to rise once again in the townships as it rose more than 1400 years ago in the desert. I am not romanticizing this, although it might appear so, but if one does not have dreams or desires for the future, how can one achieve? It is our desire to enlarge the Naqshbandiyyah structures wherever we can that we all hope will become the vehicles through which the Oneness of Allah Almighty will spread through this country. It does not matter if this is a dream or a desire, but for every da’wah worker, this should be the goal in his or her heart. On Sunday, 29 July 2012, perhaps for the first time I noticed the sun rising in Driftsands or I think I have enough optimism left to believe that, that moment was the beginning of the eventual full glare of the sun of Islam on these townships. We might ask every day, and perhaps stingily, that we be part of the makers of a new religious history in the lives of these people. Although we use the term makers, we mean in fact that Allah Almighty must use us as His instruments in the making of a new religious history of these people, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]