We ask Allah for support. There is nothing that we can do without His support. It appears to many of us, of course, that we can do a lot of things without Allah’s support but if He should withdraw His support from the universe, this whole universe will collapse. It is important for us to understand that. It is important for us to understand that whatever we do as Muslims, we are able to do because Allah has given us the physical strength to do those things. He has also given us the mental capability to do them, and also to understand what we are doing. Because of the grants that He has given us, of physical strength, of mental capabilities, of spirituality and of all other things, we are able to sujud and ruku’, to recite Qur’an, and to make du’a and adhkar. We are able to worship Him.
When we reach a certain age, the physical abilities and sometimes the mental abilities slowly start to decrease and decrease. That is why we have a large number of individuals sitting on chairs here because Allah has made our bodies grow old and so we are unable to do the kinds of things that we were able to do in the past. Many other things are disappearing from us with age because Allah has decreed it like that for us. So it is important for us to understand that we are able to pray because Allah allows it. We are able to make dhikr because He allows it. We are able to recite Qur’an because He allows it. We must come to understand that Allah is in charge of our affairs and the things that we do. It is important for us to understand that. Everything has to do with Him, and so all our affairs are with Him. Later we become very conscious of this, and we resort to Him in whatever we do. We must understand that. Part of tariqah is that, and that is that our Lord is in charge of us. He helps, He guides and He supports. He is the First Cause of all things. He is the
Musabbibal asbab, the First Cause of all things, the Originator.
At the beginning of time Allah created this vast universe. It is so vast that it is beyond measurement. Now and then we get photographs of certain sections of the universe that shows its immensity. “Then” Allah created the first human being and blew into him of “His Ruh” (of His Spirit). We do not know what the “Spirit” of Allah is. What we do know is that Allah breathed into Nabi Adam (a.s.) something from Himself, what He refers to as “His Spirit”. He then called all the angels and instructed them: “Come make a sujud of respect for this creation of Mine. This is My most respected, most honoured creation.” Countless numbers of angels surrounded the body of Nabi Adam (a.s.) and made a sujud of respect. This means that the first creation that showed respect to man was the angels, and they had to do it by means of a prostration. In a sense, the first human being was the embodiment of respect and dignity since he had been fashioned by the “Divine Hand.” What an honour! The rest of creation was brought into existence with “kun” (be!) while man was “personally fashioned” by Allah, and He declared man to be His most honoured creation. And thus, Allah granted us respect, honour and dignity. These qualities were an essential part of the original human personality. It could not have been otherwise. It is an insult to the Divine to even consider that Allah would have created the original man in the way He did without man having these qualities as part of his personality make-up.
Allah, speaking about this honour, says:
وَ لَقَدْ كَرََّمْنَا بَنِى ءَادَمَ
And we have honoured the sons of Adam (xvii: 70).
According to a report from Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab, Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) made the following du’a: “O my Lord, increase me in dignity” (Al-Muwatta). And in a tradition reported by Jabir ibn Abdullah and Abu Talhah, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “A Muslim will not desert a person who is a Muslim in a place where his respect may be violated and his honour slandered, or Allah will desert him in a place where he wishes for help, and a Muslim will not help a person who is a Muslim in a place where his respect may be violated and his honour slandered, or Allah will help him in a place where he wishes for help” (Abu Dawud).
Allah has given us certain special qualities. He has given the descendants of Nabi Adam (a.s.), all of his descendants, extraordinary honour. And when Allah sent Nabi Adam (a.s.) and his wife, Sayyidatuna Hawa (r.a.), to this world because they had transgressed, He did not take away their respect, dignity and honour. They took their honour, dignity and respect with them. Out of all of creation in the universe, we are the most dignified, the most respected, and the most honoured. That honour, and that respect, and that dignity have come down and down and down over the course of time. Unfortunately we caused major deterioration of these highly specialized qualities that were granted to us because we were not prepared to listen to the Divine Words in the Holy Books. The degeneration of our respect, the degeneration of our honour, the degeneration of our dignity, were to such a degree that humanity passed into what was called the Dark Ages. Before the coming of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) and even during the period when he was here, before he received revelation, people, for example, were making tawaf around the Ka’bah singing and hitting drums. Many of the women were naked. This was the extent of the degeneration. Mankind was lost in the darkness of ignorance. It had lost its respect, its honour, and its dignity.
When Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) came, it was primarily to restore all of those qualities. It is related by Malik ibn Anas that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “I was sent to perfect good character” (Al-Muwatta). What did he (ﷺ) say? “I have come to perfect your behaviour, your religious behaviour, your personal behaviour, and your social behaviour. I have come to perfect your behaviour as a human being and as a Muslim. I am here to restore the respect your Lord had granted you, the honour your Lord had granted you, and the dignity your Lord had granted you so that you can be a person of exceptional character.” We are in this universe the most respected of His creation, the most dignified, the most honoured. We! When Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) came, he came to teach us to be dignified, honoured, respected human beings under his (ﷺ) banner, so that whatever we do as Muslims we give expression to those qualities. When we raise the banner of Islam and we say: “O my Lord, I am a Muslim. All my actions express the dignity, the honour, the respect that Thou hast placed in me.”
But there was more to this. The first generation of Muslims, carrying the banner of Islam and inspired by its teachings, were prepared to lay down their lives for the religion, and large numbers of them attained martyrdom. From this generation came the most martyrs in Islam. In addition to this, Islam later brought with it a massive explosion in knowledge and Muslims researched and contributed to most of the common fields of human thinking, and helped to sweep aside the Dark Ages. Names such as Al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina and others became part of the surge in knowledge that was sweeping parts of the world. At the same time the teachings of Islam on spirituality came to the fore and some of the greatest figures in spirituality in the history of humanity straddled the human stage. Unprecedented achievements in knowledge and spirituality, sometimes in combination, characterized Islam during the first few centuries of its existence. This is where we as Muslims started, not from the dumps of history but from its peaks. The Call to Prayer was also the call to martyrdom, to the striving for major successes in research, and for major achievements in spirituality. This is where we all started! Large numbers of our forefathers were martyrs, scholars and spiritual figures of a civilization based on the Divine Law. Islam sets the highest possible standards for human attainment. Muslims have to be achievers in all fields of human endeavour.
Islam spread to parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. From about the beginning of the 16th century European colonialism swept through Africa and Asia, and, amongst other things, intensified the slave trade. Colonialism and the slave trade brought our immediate forefathers, the early Cape Muslims, to our shores during the latter part of the 17th century. They came as slaves, political exiles and “criminals”, suffering unbelievable trauma, social rejection and pain. Despite all of these, and inspired and guided in many cases by sufi masters, they preserved their religion in their hearts, and Islam survived. In the process they left us, their descendants, with a heritage of a religion that established our links with the Divine.
We are living today in a society that is slowly trying to destroy that heritage, especially those aspects to do with the qualities of respect, dignity and honour, and to do with spiritual and intellectual achievement. At the end of each year, thousands of Muslims dressed in satin clothing of different colours, and with painted faces, dance in the streets of Cape Town. Their daughters, dressed in the tightest of garments, and their little children, accompany them in these parades. These are the coon troupes. They do this as part of the entertainment for tourists. Large sums of money are poured into these parades by the government of the Western Cape. At times leaders of this government dance with the coons to show their support for what amounts to a major attack on the respect, dignity and honour granted to Muslims. What is happening today in this community is that those qualities that we have been granted as part of the Nation of Islam are being consciously discouraged by activities, which go against the grain of our religion. And these activities are encouraged by local politicians.
We must not have anything to do with these activities that happen at the end of the year within our community. I can’t understand how people who call themselves Muslims can behave like fools and coons and idiots to entertain other people. And in the process we lose what God has given us. We are supposed to be dignified people, always conscious of our Lord. What happens to that consciousness when we jump up and down to the strumming of guitars in the streets of Cape Town? Gone! All gone! Allah Almighty has instructed us to use the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as our model for our behaviour, at all times and under all circumstances. What happens to that instruction? All gone! The coon parades are a major form of “forgetting Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ).” The politicians do not care. They only care about votes in the next election, and so it does not matter what happens to our dignity and respect as Muslims, what happens to our obedience of the Divine Law. They do not care as long as their political agendas are in operation. And they twist the community and some of its religious leaders around their little fingers to satisfy these agendas. My word! We should hang our heads in shame at what we allow.
Did the first generation of Muslims behave like coons? They were too busy laying down their lives for Islam and establishing their connection with Allah, to behave like that. Under the watchful eyes of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) they became a generation characterized by martyrdom, intense spirituality and sacrifice for Islam. They were not coons. And our immediate forefathers, the early Cape Muslims, did they behave like coons? Heavily traumatized by slavery, exile, and the sexual abuse of their women, they suffered the worst possible indignities. Did the pious people of our community ever encourage us to become coons? Never! They never did! They knew that Muslims are supposed to be highly dignified people. What has happened to our heritage from our pious forefathers? What did they do and what are we doing?
I’m going to say a strange thing to you. The only places, the only structures in which we are trying very consciously to restore that dignity, to restore that respect, to restore that honour, are in the Tasawwuf Orders because in these orders people are busy with their Lord, saying: “O Allah! O Allah! O Allah! Ya Rabbi! Ya Rabbi! Ya Rabbi!” You must understand this. It might be a strange thing that I’ve said. I’ve not seen it anywhere else. In my association with people over a very long period of time, the only places where I’ve come to see people trying to restore within themselves the kind of dignity they are supposed to have, the kind of respect they are supposed to have, the kind of honour they are supposed to have, are in the Tasawwuf Orders. I’ve not seen it anywhere else. I might be wrong. I’m talking to you about my own experience. Please, I am appealing to you. Always remember we are Muslims. Remember that. Each one must say everyday: “I am a Muslim. I have declared my testimony. I have accepted Allah as Lord, and Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) as Messenger. I have accepted the Words that Allah has sent to me. I try to live in terms of His Words.” Please remember this. For me and for all of us, these things are so important. Of course we blunder, of course we make mistakes, of course we do all kinds of strange things sometimes, but that’s part of our growth. We do things that show dishonour but we grow again. We do things that show lack of dignity, but we grow from there. We do things that show a lack of respect, but we grow from there. We are not perfect human beings. We try within these structures to restore the qualities Allah gave us.
All people are supposed to be dignified people. At least we are trying to restore that dignity. So please, I am appealing to you, most of you sitting here are murids of the Sultanul Awliya, the greatest living spiritual figure today . We must not disgrace ourselves. We must ask Allah to help us in all these things, to restore in us the dignity that He had granted to us at the beginning of time, to restore in us the respect that He had granted to us at the beginning of time, to restore in us the honour He had granted to us at the beginning of time. We must be dignified people, respected and honoured men and women.
I am just absolutely shocked by what goes on in our community today. Our community is out of control, completely out of control. Our children are being destroyed by a culture that comes from a country that is killing our brothers and sisters in major parts of the world. Let me repeat that to you. Our children have become imitators of a culture of people who are killing our brothers and sisters in Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere. We imitate that culture. Shouldn’t they be imitating our culture? Is our culture so weak, so useless? The clothes that our children wear, the music they listen to, the songs they sing, the hairstyles they wear, the food they eat, are all in imitation of the same things in the United States of America and Europe. Those parts of the world have become their models. What does Allah say? Our model is supposed to be Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ). We must remember who we are.
We ask for repentance and for the restoration of our honour, respect and dignity through the blessings of 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]