Friday Khutba: Imitating Disbelievers by Su’ood Ash-Shuraym
I advise you, as well as myself, to fear Allaah in times of prosperity and misfortune, in secret and in public: "O mankind! Worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous." (Al Baqarah: 21).
O people! When a person meditates upon the histories of past nations and populations, he will be instantly amazed at the revolutions and transformations they went through. For instance, there was a pioneering nation (i.e., the Muslim nation) which led the world for many centuries but then, it faltered and lost its leading role; it fell in the midst of blind imitation and followed the paths of other nations in terms of manners and beliefs. Once it was at the acme of development and reached the highest level of power and glory, but it later fell to the lowest point and was afflicted with misery. It died after it had been living, deteriorated after it was once flourishing and withered after it was blossoming. It was the nation that discovered the sources of knowledge and developed the Islaamic civilization and sciences, which the West later obtained significantly, without having to exert the least of efforts. Thus it seems as if the gates towards progress had been shut off for the Muslims as they turned into artificial consumers of the Western civilization. They even began to adopt certain features of it, which were originally theirs but had been stolen away from them.
O Muslims! When a Muslim blindly imitates the West, he turns into a loyal supporter of their beliefs and customs; he is like one who tries to reform something but spoils it while he is unaware. He is just like a defeated follower, like a baby who bites and severs his mother's breast while it is in his mouth. Such a person does not know that blind copying of the West involves hidden hazards and that our rights, honor and dignity are violated by such imitation and imbecilic pride.
O Muslims! The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "You will imitate the nations before you very closely to the extent that if they went into a lizard's hole, you would enter it as well” his companions, may Allaah be pleased with them, inquired: “(Do you mean) the Jews and Christians, O Messenger of Allaah?” He sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam replied: "Who else?” (Bukhaari & Muslim). The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam also said: "The Day of Judgment will not come until my Nation closely imitates the nations before them.” It was asked: “Like the Persians and Romans, Messenger of Allaah?” He sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam replied: "Who are the nations (I could mean) except those?” (Bukhaari).
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam foretold that some of his nation will imitate the People of the Book, namely the Jews and Christians, as well as other non-Arabs, namely the Persians and Romans. Allaah says that which means: "[You disbelievers are] like those before you; they were stronger than you in power and more abundant in wealth and children. They enjoyed their portion [of worldly enjoyment], and you have enjoyed your portion as those before you enjoyed their portion, and you have engaged [in vanities] like that in which they engaged…" (At-Tawbah: 69). Ibn ‘Abbaas, may Allaah be pleased with him, commented on this verse by saying: “These are the Children of Israel that we will imitate.” Ibn Mas’ood, may Allaah be pleased with him, also said in this regard: “You are closely similar to the Children of Israel as far as outside appearance and manners are concerned, but I do not know whether you will worship the calf (as they did) or not.”
O servants of Allaah! The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to prohibit imitating other nations. It is worth mentioning that these traditions do not indicate that the entire Muslim nation will commit this sin as he sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also foretold that a group of his nation will continue to stick to the Straight Path until the Day of Judgment.
The Muslims constitute the most guided and well-mannered nation in this life; and on the Day of Judgment Allaah will make them witnesses over all other nations as He says that which means: "And thus We have made you a median [i.e., just] community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you…" (Al-Baqarah: 143). Indeed, this is a very prestigious position. How is it, then, that Muslims imitate others in their customs, traditions and feasts? The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam even forbade the Muslims from acquiring religious information from the People of the Book; once, ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, may Allaah be pleased with him, was reading some parts of one of the scriptures of the People of the Book to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, so he got angry and said: "I have conveyed to you a clear religion. Do not ask them (the People of the Book) about anything, for they may tell you the truth while you belie them or they may lie and you might believe them. I swear by Him in Whose Hands is my soul, if Moosaa was alive, he would not have any choice but to follow me.” (Ahmad & Ibn Abi Shaybah).
Allaah made human beings and all other creatures accustomed to interacting with their similar counterparts. When the degree of similarity increases, such interaction and hence imitation in morals and characteristics becomes more complete, until it is hardly possible to distinguish between them. Accordingly, human beings are affected by each other and acquire each other's traits through cohabitation and imitation. It is also known that if a human being stays in the company of a certain type of animal, he would pick up some of its features; that is why, for example, those who tend camels are known for their pride and arrogance, while shepherds are known to be humble and calm, whereas those who raise both camels and mules acquire some of the bad attributes of both. Similarly, a domestic animal acquires some human characteristics, such as the ability to live with others.
Furthermore, when a person puts on the clothes usually worn by scholars, he may feel himself as somehow closer to them, because similarity and imitation in outward appearance leads to resemblance in inward characteristics such as personal characteristics and morals, as is witnessed in reality and is confirmed by Islaamic jurisprudence and common sense. In the old times, it was said: ‘Birds of a feather flock together’; this is a realistic proverb which conforms to the manner in which Allaah has formed His creation. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam spoke the truth when he said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." (Ahmad & Abu Dawood)
Shaykh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “We have seen that the degree of polytheism is less in those Jews and Christians who reside with Muslims, and that the degree of faith in the Muslims who have dealt extensively with the Jews and Christians is lesser than that of the pious Muslims.”
O servants of Allaah! Imitating polytheists and atheists in their clothing, customs, rules, politics and economics has become widespread among many Muslims to a very large extent, so much so that the one who blindly imitates and tries to Westernize might even be respected by the foolish masses and the youth, including the rich, intellectuals and even the poor, who are attracted to such a person. Woe to imitation and subordination! What weighty and oppressive constraints they have! What a dark path theirs is! What a great loss for whoever follows them!
Yes, woe to imitating and following the West! It has trapped some Muslim generations in the dark, narrow prisons of subordination and dependence, and prevented them from thinking, meditating and heading for glory. It has blocked the means to the real happiness of their souls.
Woe to imitation and dependence! They are obstacles for the intellects and prevent everything that may revive them.
The Muslim Nation should lead, not be led; others should depend on us and not the reverse. Our Nation should not be deceived by the artificial adornments possessed by some devastated people, as Allaah says that which means: "And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendor of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more lasting." (Taa-Haa: 131).
The Western civilization is like a mirage, which, when seen from a distance is like a large sea, but it is as Allaah says which means: "But the disbelievers – their deeds are like a mirage in a lowland which a thirsty one thinks is water until, when he comes to it, he finds it is nothing but finds Allaah before him, and He will pay him in full his due; and Allaah is swift in account." (An-Noor: 39).
The weak and ignorant Muslims, who try to remodel the principles of our nation through imitation, should know that even though such temporal morals may ruin some of the deeply rooted ones, they will never remain or become innate. If some people believe that our nation must change its ways for development, then let it be known that our resorting to the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the best means for change. Allaah says that which means: "…Indeed, Allaah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allaah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron." (Ar-Ra`d: 11).
If we embrace the means to be powerful, stick to deep-rooted principles such as strong will, piety, courage and Islaamic zeal and adhere to our distinctive code of life which indicates that we are religious and ethical people, what harm would we get from it? Are these not the true Islaamic morals? Are there any other solid foundations for progress besides them? Allaah says that which means: "[And say, ‘Ours is] the religion of Allaah. And who is better than Allaah in [ordaining] religion? And we are worshippers of Him’” (Al-Baqarah: 138) and also: "[Say], ‘Then is it other than Allaah I should seek as judge while it is He who has revealed to you the Book [i.e., the Qur’aan] explained in detail?’…" (Al-An’aam: 114)
However, if we are to adopt foreign customs and traditions alien to our religion, from the West, we should remember that Islaam is Islaam and polytheism is polytheism, and that they live in one hemisphere and we live in another. We were the masters before we assumed these Western traditions that ruined the free Muslim nation – its men and especially its women, who have rushed after the unknown in a breathless attempt to imitate the West. They are amazed by the eye-catching products of its industries and have followed its disgraceful women to the extent that their clothes became almost the same as those of Western models. When you see any Muslim woman wearing a dress barely covering her private parts, you should know that this is an example of their kind of clothing. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said about such women: "I have seen none lacking in common sense and failing in religion and (at the same time) robbing the wisdom of wise men, besides you (women).” (Bukhaari & Muslim).
This is why when Allaah says that which means: "…and amended for him [i.e., Zakariyya] his wife…” (Al-Anbiyaa’: 90) it denotes that He thereby bestowed much grace upon Zakariyya, peace be upon him: He also says which means, "…So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allaah would have them guard…" (An-Nisaa’: 34)
O Muslims! The restrictions imposed by our religion on the human being are not meant to torture or deprive him from the pleasures of this life. Rather, their aim is to elevate him from mere animalism to complete humanity. Thus, a Muslim will become capable of overcoming subservience and dependence, and his faith and piety will overpower animalistic lusts.
Whenever a society ignores such restrictions or belittles them, it jeopardizes and opens itself to serious problems and positions itself on the brink of destruction, as Allaah says that which means: "…And whoever transgresses the limits of Allaah – it is those who are the wrongdoers [i.e., the unjust]” (Al-Baqarah: 229) and also: "…And who is more astray than one who follows his desire without guidance from Allaah? Indeed, Allaah does not guide the wrongdoing people." (Al-Qasas: 50).
Our Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam prohibited whatever acts lead to the imitation of the polytheists to such an extent that one of the Jews said about him: "This man does not wish to set aside any of our affairs until he acts in nonconformity with it." (Muslim).
It is also reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam forbade Muslims from offering prayers after dawn until the sun rises and following the afternoon prayer until sunset. He explained that the sun rises and sets between the horns of the devil and at this time, the polytheists prostrate before it. It is well-known that a believer never prostrates himself to anything except Allaah; most people may not even be aware that the sun rises and sets between the horns of the devil and that the polytheists prostrate before it, yet, the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam commanded Muslims not to pray at this time so as not to imitate the polytheists in any way.
Imitating the People of the Book and the non-Arab polytheists will surely lead to some degree of affection towards them. For this reason also, imitation is prohibited in order to block the way before such love transpires and to prevent allegiance to them; this is aside from the legal evidences that prohibit such imitation.
It is plainly evident that some people who copy the polytheists in their clothes, manners, traditions or speak their language, harbor love and admiration for them. In this way, the polytheists succeed in disseminating ideas such as globalization and a universal religion which affect some sick-hearted Muslims; all of these aim at weakening the Muslim character and identity. Whenever a person objects to such ideas, he is labeled as an introvert, an isolationist and even a narrow-minded person alienated from this world and who should have died in his cradle.
Such people seem to ask why the bells of churches do not chime along with the minarets reverberating "Allaah is the Greatest." They ask why there are not many religions being practiced in the Arabian Peninsula, but they forget or seem to forget that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: "There must not be two religions in the Arabian Peninsula.” (Maalik & Ahmad).
Allaah says that which means: “And never will the Jews and the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say: ‘Indeed, the guidance of Allaah is the [only] guidance.’ If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allaah no protector or helper.” (Al-Baqarah: 120). He also says that which means: "They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike…” (An-Nisaa’: 89).
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