Shaykh Yusuf da Costa: The Truth? What is that?

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A number of persons have asked me about some of the major issues bedeviling Muslims throughout the world. This paper is a very humble attempt to change the “eye glasses” through which we normally look at the world, and to pose the questions about Islam and its adherents in another way.

Especially during the last few decades, what has been left of the truth of all the major religions and other human discourses and thought has to a large degree disappeared. The greatest display of hypocrisy is to be found, very unfortunately, in the fields of religion and politics, and the expression, “lies, lies, and more lies” can quite aptly be used to express what is going on in these two fields. It is almost impossible today to trust most politicians and religionists, whatever their ilk, and to trust what they say and do. From very minor interpersonal relationships to the grandeur of international relations, lies, silences, cover-ups and distortions have all replaced the truth about matters, and so we have all become victims of ways of thinking in which the truth has almost totally disappeared.

Perhaps because I am a Muslim, the shame is greatest because we so comfortably say and believe that we function in terms of the Truth when in fact throughout the world “Muslims” have become of the greatest distorters of the Divine teachings despite all their suffering and humiliation over the centuries. They do not need their enemies to distort their religion. They have become masters in cutting their religious cloth to suit their politics. And this applies especially to those groups who profess to be acting in the Cause of God. Here in Cape Town, a few months ago [2006], a meeting called by “our” religious leaders had a member of the South African Communist Party on the platform, and 10 000 Muslims called

اللهُ أَكْبَرُ

(Allahu akbar: Allah is Greatest) at the end of his speech. They dared to call the Name of Allah to praise someone who rejects Him. The religious leaders who all cheered with the crowd, of course, profess to be devout Muslims. The truth about our relationship with the Divine was unceremoniously buried at Vygieskraal where the meeting was held. The meeting was called in support of the Palestinian struggle. On the platform with the religious leaders were members of a political party that had introduced legislation legalizing abortion. Almost a quarter million foetuses have been killed in this country over the last few years as a consequence of this legislation.

In different parts of the world, Muslims professing to be fighting in the Cause of Islam base their political strategies on “You kill my mother, I kill yours”, and they call this Islam, and quote chapter and verse to “prove” that the indiscriminate killing of people is part of the Islamic Cause. And nobody dare contradict them for fear of their lives and property. And nobody dare mention that combating evil with evil and revenge is contrary to fighting in the Cause of God. The ease with which Muslims kill others and each other sends shivers down one’s spine.

You see there is very little left of Christianity, Judaism and Islam amongst us with regard to what most of us do although we glibly mention the Name of God to justify the barbarism that is sweeping different parts of the world in the name of religion. We say that people are fighting a war against Islam and we do not mention the war against Islam being waged in “Muslim” countries by the ruling classes and religious cliques of those countries. Why are we so dishonest? Where is this Islam that is being fought against? In what country? People need not fight Islam. The Muslims have almost totally destroyed Islam themselves. People need only pick up the pieces if they so wish. Do you know that it is easier to practise Islam in the “West” than under any of the rulers in the Muslim world. Can you believe this? Ask the thousands of Muslims who have escaped out of the Muslim world, and who are today living in the “West”. It is one of the ironies of history that there is more freedom of religion in the “decadent West” than in the “Muslim” countries. The “West” is full of Islamic scholars who have had to run for their lives from their countries of birth. What have we done to Islam that Muslims have to seek asylum under the Cross? Can you believe that those people who carry the Unity of God in their hearts have to seek protection under those who carry the Trinity in their hearts. This is what we have done to Islam!

Where do we stand on all this? Our stand has nothing to do with being pro or anti this or that. Our stand has to do with the re-assertion and protection of Mainstream Islam against all those forces throughout the world that are systematically trying to destroy it. This is a major battle cry that has to do with the turning of our faces in the direction of Allah Almighty as we engage, inside and outside the “Muslim” world, those discourses that have converted Islam into a shadow of its original teachings. These discourses have closed the Qur’an. We need to open it again.

Some of the major enemies of Islam are lurking within “Muslim” institutions, societies and communities throughout the world. You might find strange what I am going to say now but I consider these enemies far more dangerous to the survival of Mainstream Islam than the open enemies. We know the open enemies. We do not really know the silent enemy occupying our pulpits and our madrassah, and who teach day after day a version of Islam that is destructive to the Divine teachings. They are taking over everywhere, and they quietly, and with our approval, distort the Divine teachings so that these teachings fit into the demands of powerhouses elsewhere. I watch them operating in Cape Town, and how dollars and riyals are used to buy over one cleric after the other. Islam is being changed here as it is being changed elsewhere by the power of money.

You see, eventually, when the Divine measuring rod is applied to people and events on earth, everything will be measured in terms of the Divine Law, not my and your interpretation but its Divine Meaning. We are all going to be dealt with in terms of our adherence to, and our contravention of, the Divine Law. This is what it is all about. And it does not matter who it is, that person will be judged in terms of the Divine Law as meant by Allah Almighty, and not as meant by us. Whatever the strategies are that people use to spread or consolidate Islam, those strategies will be judged in terms of whether they had contravened the Divine Law or not.

And when we realize that every moment of each event in the cosmos is an expression of His Will and that every day He goes about His affairs, we will bring greater humility in our understanding of what goes on around us. Our appeal will then be to Him for help, and we will cease excluding Him from what is essentially His affairs. Large parts of humanity, including Muslims, act as if God does not exist and they appeal to Him only as a last resort, as part of social tradition or in desperation, and they use Islam as a convenient means to mobilize people for agendas that have nothing to do with Islam. Those of us who do not see religion as some social game need to place God first, and subject our will to His Will. When we do this, our primary concern would be to please Him in all things we do, and to get others to please Him. And we can only do this if we are serious about our obedience of Him and of His most honoured Prophet ().

We must try very hard to utilize our physical and mental resources for this process of obedience, and draw whosoever we can to become part of this process. Only in our obedience to Him, can we bring about those social changes that are needed to enhance that obedience. Whatever happens in the world, whatever the socio-political struggles, if they are not being conducted to enhance that obedience, then they are not being conducted in His Name. This does not mean that one should not help others to ease the burdens of people but one should be aware when such relief of burdens is in His Name or not, and one should then work hard to change the complexion of such relief so that it is done in His Name. If this is not possible, then one should try, as far as is humanly possible, not to become involved in causes conducted in the name of other than God. Allah Almighty instructs us in the Qur’an:

كُوْنُوا أَنْصَارَ اللهِ

Be helpers (in the Cause of) Allah (lxi: 14).

The Qur’an provides the final word on all matters, Suratul Fatihah.

And Allah knows best, and I ask forgiveness for any mistakes or distortions in what I have said, Amin.

Selected Talks by Yusuf da Costa [Published 2008]


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