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The Crisis of Knowledge, ISIS and Terrorism


Khutbah Delivered at the University of Southampton
20th Nov 2015/ 8th Safar 1437


Praise be to Allah, we seek His help and His forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls and from our bad deeds. Whomsoever Allah guides will never be led astray, and whomsoever Allah leaves astray, no one can guide.

I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the One, having no partner and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.


Muhammad (pbuh), our teacher

My dear brothers and sisters,

Allah (swt) sent Messengers to teach the people. The Prophet (pbuh) said

“innamu bu ‘ituma ‘alima” I was taught to teach people, he says, I was sent as a teacher.

It is said that he once entered into the masjid and saw two circles. One was a circle of people sitting and doing dhikr, another circle was a group of students sat studying.

He went and sat with the students and said “I was sent as a teacher”.

The Prophet (pbuh) came to teach us how to live in the world and how to be in the world.

The people who come after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have a sacred trust, they are known as the “warratha” – the people that inherit the teaching of the Prophet (pbuh).

The scholars, are the inheritors of the Prophets. He didn’t leave us money but he left us knowledge as a sacred trust. So we Muslims have an intellectual and a spiritual inheritance from the Prophet (pbuh).

The Prophet (pbuh) said (related by Imam Ahmad)

“La tazarul ummatu ala shariatan” – this ummah will still be on a road / sharia / remain steadfast to their Lord

“Maalam yadh har feeam thalat” – as long as three things don’t manifest in them

  1. Knowledge gets removed from them
  2. There will be an abundance of illegitimate children
  3. ‘Saqqaaroon’ will arise from them.

The Sahaba asked, “What is Saqqaaroon?” It was said, “During the last days there will be people who, on meeting, will greet one another with lewd language and curse”.

How many of our young people do this? They meet each other now more online than in reality – some of them have hundreds of interactions a day, on Snapchat or WhatsApp.

This lewd behaviour is common place. They call it banter. In my estimation this terms seems more often than not a purdah, a veil, for wrong behaviour.

This is a real crisis for our communities. We have created a moral vacuum where people, Muslims, our youth, they use messaging apps and go onto social media and they think this is a place which is or should be free of their Islam. SubhanAllah.

They also suffer from an ignorance around sexuality, sexual behaviour and sexual identity is rife in our communities. The youth are our future, and they are growing up in a world of distractions. The world can so often be a prison for the enlightened person.

Young people are naturally inquisitive and they need guidance. We are not addressing these issues so they are going elsewhere to look for advice – they look to their friends and to other sources of knowledge.

Who are they getting their guidance from, who are they getting their information from? In fact, who are we getting our information from?


The Crisis of Knowledge

This first of those three matters which the Prophet (pbuh) spoke about, was the disappearance of knowledge.

We have all this information at our finger tips on swipeable screens and yet we still don’t have the knowledge (‘ilm) and perhaps more vitally, the ‘aql (the intellect) – why is this?

If knowledge disappears this is a dangerous sign. It has desperate, dangerous and long lasting consequences.

We have to accept that we Muslims are suffering from a real and existential crisis in knowledge.

When I meet non-Muslims in the media, or debating, some of them are academics and some of them, Alhamdulillah, are virulent critics of Islam.

One of the things they often claim is that in the West societies went through The Reformation – the great separation of church and state. They had their wars.

They claim that Muslims and Islam, need to go through the same to reform itself. SubhanAllah. We went through this 1400 years ago – it’s where they got their ideas of reformation from. It would be absurd if it wasn’t so bizarre. They either deny, or they don’t know.

I try explaining to them that they are looking at Islam through a Western prism – even the term Western is wrong, because we Muslims pioneered the prisms and the scientific culture and the critical thought behind it – they don’t know about Islam and our history. Even Muslims today do not.


Naql vs Aql

There have always been anti-rational strains in Judaism and Christianity but also in Islam. They stem from a lack of reason.

The two key elements here are Naql, the texts and revelations; and ‘Aql, intellect and reason.
Early Muslims grappled with reason versus revelation. It was a fundamental early debate.

In the earliest times after the Prophet (pbuh) the Muslims broke into three camps.

We had the Mutazzilites, who said religion must be consistent with reason, at all times. It comes from the root i’tazala, to separate oneself or withdraw.

They took the Aristotelian position: if it was not justified rationally, they rejected it. Their opponents were in two schools of thought.

  • ‘Traditionalists’ who said that reason has no place; we just accept; that intellect can lead people astray if taken too far. This used to be a small school of thought but in modern times has now grown and it is now found in some of current extremist traditions.
  • The Majority View, the dominant strain, was and remains the main body of Muslims. Those who seek to find the balanced way between faith and reason.

There is a habit, especially in the West, to label certain ethnic, national or groups such as Saudis or Wahabists, as those who are extremists.

Sadly, I’ve often heard other Muslims doing this. Not all are like that and it’s wrong to say that.

It is not so easy to label people on the extremes simply as ‘salafi’, ‘wahabi’ or from any other madhab or fiqhi tradition.

As our governments and communities start being open about this, it will create a challenge for the authorities who are pushing a newly, neoconservatively, reformed Islam onto us and our children.

People who refuse to employ reason and rationality can come from ANY faith tradition and madhab.

Fakhuruddin Al Razi says that when Allah (swt) says about the “Light Verse” in Surat An Nur in the Quran (24.35)

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”

“Nuuran Ala Nur” which is translated as “Light upon Light”.

Al Razi says that this is “Reason upon Revelation” and he explains that you can’t see with the light of God. You need your own intellect and reason, that without it you are blinded by the light – not guided by it.

Islam is based on reason and rationality. You need reason (‘aql) to interact with revelation (naql).

Muslims have been given a gift of a religion – it is the idea that we have a completed revelation from Allah (swt). That there is a great theological jigsaw puzzle and we have the final pieces completing the picture.

With this we are meant to be protectors of the wider communities – of the “other”.


People Do Evil Things

Good people do evil things in the name of religion. It’s undeniable that there are dangers inherent in religion.

Right now we have to recognise that religious freedom is a problem in the Muslim world. We have groups of Muslims trying to create societies in a single uniform image.

It’s completely futile because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Islam is, and what human nature is, an what the settlement between Muslims and Allah (swt), our holy covenant, our promise, is meant to be.

The Quran and Bible are books of peace, guidance and inspiration. They are also dangerous books to be handled carefully. It’s why rationalism and reason is so vital. Texts can be easily misunderstood and manipulated in the wrong hands.

We know that the dangers are not within the religion or the books themselves but within the hearts of people, within their minds. Either from a lack of reason and rationality or due to their base inner desires, their nafs.

You need rhetoric, logic, rationalism to understand these things. This has been recognised even outside of the Islamic traditions.

St Augustine said liberal arts were needed to understand religious texts. We need to learn how to think differently.

There’s a strain of thinking amongst Islamic thinking which is dangerous and needs to be marginalised. In fact it is not Islamic thinking. We must deal with our toxic waste issue – we can’t hide from it.

Rather than creating a single monolithic condition for all of humanity – the condition of Islam is pluralist. It creates the glue for all of society that binds us together in a state of peace and prosperity

But we are going to need to find new models to engage democratically with our Islamic identities, with our Islamic morality.

There are some that wish to create a single state. Conflating state and religion is unhelpful – it makes things passive, easy, we stop thinking, being rational, it washes-out the colour from life. It takes us away from Islam. We can do so much better.

Islam supports religious freedom – or more correctly, freedom in ways of life (‘deen’) – to believe or not to believe, so long as one doesn’t attempt to harm the public space and the rest of society.

There are no verses of Quran which are about coercion in Islam. Chapter 18 of the Qur’an allows people to believe and disbelieve:

“Waquli alhaqqu min rabbikum… faman shaa-falyyumin waman shaa falyakfur”

“And say: The truth is from your Lord, so let him who please believe, and let him who please disbelieve.”

Allah (swt) says literally: “Falyumin” – let him believe / “Falyakfur” – let him disbelieve.


The End Times

There is a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah on the authority of ‘Anas and Abu Hurayrah.

Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman said, “People used to ask the Prophet, peace be upon him, about good things, but I used to ask him about bad things because I was afraid that they might overtake me. I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, we were lost in ignorance (jahiliyyah) and evil, then Allah brought this good (i.e. Islam).

Will some evil come after this good thing?’ He said, ‘Yes’

I asked, ‘And will some good come after that evil?’ He said, ‘Yes, but it will be tainted with some evil’ 

I asked, ‘How will it be tainted?’ He said, ‘There will be some people who will lead others on a path different from mine. You will see good and bad in them.’ 

I asked, ‘Will some evil come after that good?’ He said, ‘Some people will be standing and calling at the gates of Hell; whoever responds to their call, they will throw him into the Fire.’ 

I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, describe them for us.’ He said, ‘They will be from our own people, and will speak our language. ‘I asked, ‘What do you advise me to do if I should live to see that?’ He said, ‘Stick to the main body (jama’ah) of the Muslims and their leader (imam).’ 

I asked, What if there is no main body and no leader?’ He said, ‘Isolate yourself from all of these sects, even if you have to eat the roots of trees until death overcomes you while you are in that state.’ “


From Our Own People

We have been warned by the Prophet (pbuh) that there will be people

They will be from our own people, and will speak our language”

There are at least two categories of people I know of that meet this criteria. The ones that speak in our name. For our religion. They are self-appointed and are only misguiding people.

The first of these groups are the likes of ISIS, Daesh and ISIL.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made it absolutely clear, in the soundest traditions, in the best sources, that torture, killing by fire, killing innocent people, oppression and inhumanity, is strictly prohibited.

This kind of sub human savagery are not acts from Islam. They are opposed to Islam. They do not represent, nor do they stand for, Islam.

The Prophet (pbuh) has described these people in no uncertain terms: “Khawarij”.  He has condemned them, they are merciless barbarians.

The Prophet (pbuh) stated 1400 years ago that these black-clothed Khawarij, under a black flag, will leave Islam like “an arrow shot from a bow”.

These are one of the groups of people who are using Islam for their own interests. These groups are looking to sponsor and support, to take credit for acts of terrorism around the world.

They have openly stated they want Muslims to be mistreated in the West, and to go to join them in Shams. We need to stand against this.

Then there is a second group which is “from our own people” who are just as dangerous to you and our communities. Whilst Daesh are at one end of the spectrum, this group is at the other.

This second group of people also say they are Muslims. They spend their time working with those who are looking to undermine and attack Muslims and Islam.

They issue fatwa saying you don’t need to wear hijab, you don’t need to eat halal, even this last Ramadan they came on to the British media to say that we can alter the length of the Ramadan day here in Britain.

They also promote the idea that Islam should be changed by the state.

These same interests have been taking money to spy on Muslims, and even helping software companies – so that when your child is in school and using the computer Googling “Islam” or “jihad” that it will take a screenshot of the information and record his name and details.

This is now spying on kids in schools. Believe me when I tell you this is whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria and McCarthyism in society. And now teachers are being asked to monitor Muslim children. Our rights are being cut away as we speak.

These people are actively working with those who are spreading anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice, individuals and organisations who have been outspoken in the global media as wanting to “go to war with Islam”.

They want to make conditions harsher “for Muslims across the board”.

These are direct quotes.

We now have another crisis in knowledge where we are seeing young and impressionable Muslims who are looking at Daesh / Khawarij and thinking that this is the romantic identity of a golden age of Islam reborn. It is not. It is brutal, unislamic and barbarism.

We then have another clutch of young people saying I am not one of them (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL / Khawarij)

Instead they are looking at this other group of so-called moderates, who are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing.

They are attempting to reform Islam by disconnecting our behaviours from our practices and drawing your children in.

So we are back to the beginning. We have one group who follows reason to the point of departing from the religion.

We have another group that says we don’t need reason we just follow without thinking. That thinking takes you away from Islam.

It is up to us to be the corpus, the majority, the body of Muslims that gets the balance right between ‘aql and naql.


A Duty To Be Citizens

This week we have seen our societies being places no longer of safety and security but of fear and insecurity. Of fear and terror.

In Britain, although we Muslims make up only around 5% of the British community, we visit the mosque more each week, than the Christian population visits the Church.

As we gather here today, as we gather here each and every Friday, for our spiritual guidance and our reminders, the world around us is asking us questions, and they want to hear answers from us.

They world is looking for reassurances and it is once again, looking towards Muslims to provide them. And it ok for us to provide them. In fact it is essential.

There are many Muslims who quite rightly are voicing their concerns. They ask about the 43 people killed in Lebanon, the 73 killed in Palestine in October alone, 100 killed in Ankara, 3,500 people killed in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The 2,300 dead in the open air prison of Gaza. 300,000 in Syria. More than a million in Iraq. Kashmir. Yemen. So many others.

Children are being washed up on the shores of Europe. And our people are in camps whilst political leaders invoke a disgusting twisted ideology of an extremist Christianity with which they are trying to protect Europe.

There are people who are already exploiting these terrorist attacks to undermine Muslim refugees and Muslims – we have already seen a number of incidents on the streets of Southampton.

Communities need to remain vigilant.

For a while, until tensions settle down, I don’t know that it is wise for Muslim sisters especially, to be wandering alone. Most of the attacks and hate crimes against Muslims are opportunistic attacks against hijabed Muslim women.

Sisters, you are bearing the brunt of this. Such attacks are overwhelmingly from white men against solitary hijabed women walking alone in the street and in parks.

We cannot be overcome with anger. There were few Twitter twibbons for those people. There were few flags for Facebook profile pictures. But our duty as Muslims is to pray for peace for all of them, to remember all of them, to create conditions of peace and safety for all of us.

Muslims are not exceptionalists. We have been warned against nationalism.

If we live in the land of the non-Muslims, we are obliged to follow the law of the land. We are citizens.

Islam does not allow us to live here and undermine the nation. We have a covenant with the people of this nation, they are our fellow citizens.

“Allah does command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due, and when you judge between people that you judge with justice.” (Surah al-Nisa, v58)

And regarding the one who breaks an agreement and is guilty of treachery, Allah Almighty says:

“Allah loves not the treacherous.” (Surah al-Anfal, v58)

Islam is the completed revelation. It is a high religion, a high way of life that asks us to be the best we can be to reach the highest heights in our ambitions and goals.

We are to be people who set things aright, not sow mischief throughout the earth; we, as Muslims, are called upon to be healers, not corrupters.


Brothers and sisters,

For the Muslim, we are told that we were created to adore Allah (swt) and to know him through ma’arifa, through the intellect.

It’s sad to say but many modern academic institutions today create people who cannot think and are unable to look in broader terms.

They have become conditioned in fact, not to think, but are required to absorb accepted truths.

We Muslims are facing so many crises. The first and foremost it is one of ‘aql. A matter of thinking. Of intellect.

Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Ar-Rum that (30:28)

“ this way We explain Our signs for a nation who use their intellect”

Al-Ghazali in his ‘Ihya Ulum al-Din’ related the following hadith:

“God created Intellect and said to it: Advance! and it advanced.

Then He said to it: Return! and it returned. And He said: By

My power and majesty, I have created no creature more

amiable to Me than you.”

Reformation in Islam is not easy for Muslims because Islam is already considered to be the reformation of Jewish and Christian sectarianism.

As a result, we Muslims are warned off from breaking into sects or changing the religion after it was delivered complete. The reformation is actually renewal of the self, we call it: ‘islaah’.

Too many of us mistake knowledge, ‘ilm, for ‘aql. Knowledge is not the same as intellect. Knowledge is not the same as wisdom.

In Islam, we are asked to be ‘muslihun’ – people of ‘islaah’, of correction, or renewal of renovation. We are not ‘mufsidun’ – people of ‘fasad’.

The groups who terrorise us around the world and in our own country and our neighbours here – they want war. They will seek to divide our communities. We cannot allow it.

They will seek to pit Muslim against the West. We need to reject this.

We need to condemn acts of violence and terror that seek to divide our communities. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided. Terrorism has no religion.

Muslims have always been in the West, we are citizens, we contribute.

At this time, it is vital that you are active in your communities. You need to engage with non-Muslims and work hard – your futures and the lives of your families depend on it.

Build strong and successful businesses, strong and successful communities. The Prophetic traditional definition of ‘ummah’ is the entire community. Inclusively. Everyone.

I know there will be some who dislike such direct talk but we cannot be shy about speaking about the most relevant and urgent matters of the day.

The Prophet (saw) wanted us to speak in the common language and to elevate ourselves.

May Allah (swt) grant us the ability to stay clear of the people who are from us but seek to misguide us;

May Allah (swt) protect and grant sabr to all those people around the world who are suffering under the oppression of those who seek to do them hard;

May Allah (swt) protect our people in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen an across the world wherever they are suffering oppression;

May Allah (swt) forgive us for our misguidances and for not being stronger; may he grant us izza’ and patience during these times of tribulation and fitna.


Almighty God, forgive the Muslim men and women,

Forgive the believing men and women,

Those who are alive and those who died,

You are indeed the One who listens and accepts all supplications


Servants of Allah:

Indeed Allah orders us to be just and to excel in what we do,

Be generous and to take care of our kin and relatives,

Never do what is forbidden of all sins and

Not to transgress,

He almighty advises you so you can remember


One comment on “The Crisis of Knowledge, ISIS and Terrorism

  1. Pingback: The Muslim Problem and How Not To Solve It | Mo

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This entry was posted on 21/11/2015 by in Religion, UK Politics, World Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

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