ON A NIGHT OF REMEMBRANCE
By Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
(Official transcript of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s speech at the Night of Remembrance, Royal Albert Hall on the 20th of October 2003.)
In the name of God, most beneficient, most merciful - peace be upon you all. Peace and prayers be upon all of the Prophets of guidance and upon our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. I want to thank Sidi Yusuf Islam for really inspiring us this evening by giving us an evening of beauty and wherever there is beauty there is truth and wherever there is truth there is beauty. If Islam does not appear to you as beautiful then it is not Islam that you are seeing. Our Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “God is beautiful and loves beauty” and therefore anything that is not beautiful is not from God.
I would like to share a few concerns with you tonight. One of them that we are facing unprecedented times as a generation and every generation of people since the beginning of humanity has faced difficulties because that is part of the reason why we are here is to face struggle and to face it head on and accept that life is struggle.
The Quran reminds us that we were created in struggle and the Arabic word jihad means to struggle. It is to struggle against what is wrong and therefore, anytime that wrong is used in a struggle it is not jihad. That is something that must be understood by the world today. We need to look again at the meaning of jihad because in essence the world needs jihad. It needs to struggle for what is right because we as a people and I am talking about banu Adam, the children of Adam and Eve, because that is who we are first and foremost. We are one tribe. We are of different branches. When I met these beautiful South African Zulu people I said that we are from the children of Adam and Eve. You are from the tribe of Zulu and my background is another tribe but we are from the same tribe and that is the children of Adam and Eve. And then I asked each one of them what their names were. The first one told me “Bongani” and I said, “What does that mean?” And he said: “Be thankful” and I said to the next man, “What is your name?” he said: “Linda” and I said, “What does that mean?” and he said: “Be Patient.” And then I asked the last one “What is your name?” he said: “Sipho” and I said, “What does that mean?” and he said “Gift”.
It is amazing but it was clear to me that the names brought a message from us from South Africa: “Be thankful, be patient and recognise that you are a gift from God.” You - all of us - are a gift from God and share that gift with others because that is why we were put here.
We were put here to overcome the wrongs. We were put here to strive and struggle - to make it a better world and we are celebrating tonight a school. A school is a place were we teach our children because we are preparing them to inherit what we leave behind and this is something that will unify all of us when we recognise the immense burden that we have in making this a better world for our children. That is why it is our children that need, more than at any other time, adults to wake up to what is happening in this world. We need to recognise that we are being confronted with social disintegration. We are faced with environmental degradation.
We are being confronted with arms proliferation and each of these calamitous problems are rooted in a loss of the sense of sanctity, a sense of the sacred, a sense of why we have been put here because we have been put here to be enchanted by the world not to be disenchanted.
That is the perpetual reminder of our children. It is to call us back to enchantment, to call us back to innocence in order that we set aside our cynicism. We set aside our skepticism and we begin to recognise that in their light, in their eyes, in their souls shines the truth of hope because they are God’s reminder to us that as along as there are children there is hope. There is hope that we can overcome the trials and tribulations that we are facing. It is our children that give us this constant reminder and it is our children that we are celebrating tonight because the desire to institute this school came from children coming into the world and recognising that we have to have a place where, like so many years ago Yusuf Islam asked, “Where do the children play? Where do the children play?” That question which was asked over thirty years ago is more relevant today in an increasingly complicated world in which they are getting digitalised day-by-day. They are becoming so over-wrought with the amount of information and with the amount of confusion that they are seeing us perpetuate with our silence and our complicity.
Many today ask “Where is God?” but the question God puts to us in the Quran is “Where are you?” Ma la-kum la tuqatiluna fi sabili ‘Llahi wa ‘l-mustad’afina fi ‘l-ard. What is wrong with you that you do not struggle to help the weak in the earth? Men, women and children who are crying for your help. The question is not where is God? The question is where are we who have been given so many gifts and talents and been challenged by our Lord to use them for the sake of God, for the sake of the weak and the oppressed, for the sake of our children.
One of the words that was told about our Prophet, kana ahlama ‘n-nas, he was the most forbearing of people, the most patient of people but one of the meanings of hilm, which means intellect, is also dream and our Prophet was a Prophet that dreamed big dreams. He imagined a different world. A world where women would be treated with respect, a world where children would not be buried alive out of fear of poverty, a world where vengeance would no longer be perpetuated in cycles of violence that never end and he said, “Today the blood of the ages of ignorance, the blood of vengeance is under my foot and from this day forward there is no vengeance in my community.”
We have forgotten these prophetic messages as so many Christians have forgotten the prophetic messages of Jesus ‘alayhi ‘ssalam, peace be upon him, who reminded us, Blessed are the peacemakers, not blessed are the war mongers, not blessed are the arms manufacturers, not blessed are those who make wealth on the blood of others. Jesus Christ reminded us to love those who revile us and this is a message as valid for the Muslims as it is for the Christians. It is a message that we must learn and we must reject the anti-Christic natures of our age because the Muslims consider the latter days not to be the days of anything other than the anti-Christ or the anti-Christic phenomenon which is the removal of love from the world. It is the spread of hatred and hatred is only imbedded in the grounds of ignorance and so it is ignorance we must work to remove.
Our Prophet dreamed dreams and I hope that all you will dream the dream of a better future for our children that you’ll go out tonight and dream a dream of a better future. People who dream in their sleep are dreamers but people who dream while they are awake are dangerous people because those are people that change the world. This is the time for change. I hope all of you renew your commitment because when you were young you dreamed dreams and those of you who have lost your youth, don’t lose your innocence. Don’t lose that spark that God put into your heart to desire a better world, to hope for a better world. Hope is from God: it is one of the great spiritual teachings and lessons that were given to us by the Prophets. Hope’s spring’s eternal. Let us hope and keep hope alive. And tonight as we remember twenty years of Islamiyya, let us hope that a hundred years from now that there will be people who remember this night of remembrance which is to remember God, that we might in remembering God be remembered by God. Let us hope that this night is indeed a night of remembrance and finally, Yusuf, Sidi Yusuf reminded us also, “Sleepy horses heave away turn your back to the golden hay”. Don’t ever look behind at the work you’ve done for your work has just begun. There’ll be the evening in the end but till that time arrives you can rest your eyes and begin again. Tonight is a resting of the eyes and hearts so that we may begin again tomorrow. God bless you, God keep you, keep hope alive. As-Salamu ‘alaykum.
Source: http://www.q-news.com/ - http://www.q-news.com
"I am a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.", Beloved, sallallahu alyhi wa-sallam.