For the last 6 weeks, I’ve been living in Cape Town, South Africa. This has been a blessed opportunity to grow, to gain more knowledge, and to reach outcomes that are beneficial both for my work as an activist and for my life as individual. One of the challenges I took up, on Friday, July 24th, was to offer my first Khutba ever: the text of which I share with you:
I thank God for this day. I praise Allah for the paths I had to walk that led me to its light and the present day. I ask the protection of the Divine that lives in the essence of everything. and I invite my female ancestors to walk with me in this journey.
On Imaan and The Divine Presence
Allah speaks about Imaan (Faith) in the Holy Qur’an in Surat number 2 verses 1 to 5, which some scholars call “The verses of faith and belief.” I like especially ayat 2 that says:
“That is the book. There is NO DOUBT in it, a guidance to those who are truly conscious.” Another translation says, “Sure, without doubt, a guidance for those who are God-fearing.”
Let’s think a moment about this:
1.- Allah tells us that the Holy Qur’an is, without doubt, surely, with complete certainty, a guide. There Is No Doubt, that we can put our faith and trust in it, and we won’t be deceived. That’s a beautiful aspect of Faith. We can trust in the promise of Allah that the Qur’an is… without doubt… a guide, a path of spiritual growth and happiness in this world and in the hereafter.
2.- A guide to whom? Allah says in the Qur’an “For those who are truly conscious and God-fearing.” Reflect on this. What kind of Imaan is that? Being “truly conscious” is being aware, and this is to be awakened, alert, attentive,and in possession of knowledge with our senses and reasoning functioning properly. Then, this is not a blind Faith, but a conscious Faith, an Imaan over which we have direct and personal accountability. Then, the Qur’an is certainly a guide to those who are God-fearing, meaning those who are aware and accountable for their faith; for those who have come to certainty after an effort of conscious reflection, because, as God says in the Qur’an: “Truly in that there are signs for a folk who reflect” (45:13). There is no Imaan without a personal Jihad in matters of belief.
As you know, I was raised in the Catholic Faith that in Latin America, happens to be quite conservative. In the Catholic Church, Faith relies on dogma and believers do not have the possibility of questioning, but just follow what is called the Mastering of The Roman Church. As a Muslim I can’t just accept what it’s said, I have to reflect, especially since I realized Islam is more than the 5 Pillars and the list of haram and halal. I have found in Islam the FREEDOM to reason about matters of faith and in that, I found room to grow spiritually. This has impacted my life in a very positive way and I praise Allah for this.
Upon this reasoning, I say Islam is a way of life and being a Muslim, a state of being. Therefore, when we speak about Imaan, we speak about something that goes beyond the rituals, beyond the limits of what we identify as religion. Something that is present in our everyday lives, in each one of our activities.
In my years as a Muslim, my experience is that being in a state of Islam is about Imaan. I define Faith like this:
Imaan is the disposition of will and the openness of heart needed to find the blessing and the purpose in everything.
There is a beautiful example of this in the history of Islam itself. Let’s go to the moment when the Qur’an was revealed for the very first time to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Aby Hurayra reports that he came back to his wife Jadiya, May Allah be pleased with her, troubled and affected. Once he felt better, he told her what had happened to him. What was the response of Jadiya? Hadiths report she said:
“I believe this comes from Allah. Verily, Allah shall never subject you to any indignity… and your time (to show your Faith), if Allah wills, has come.”
What a powerful statement. Really, Jadiya was a woman with a powerful Imaan. Not only in religious matters. She challenged the people of her time, putting her faith in Allah and being accountable for her own life decisions. This courage proved to be a blessing for Muslims. Thanks to her Faith, we can call ourselves, nowadays, believers.
This should make us reflect on Faith as an energy that drives us toward greater spiritual growth, to levels of joy, courage, balance and determination that allow us, with the blessing of Allah, to meet the goals we want for our lives. Jadiya’s words make sense too in the history of Prophet Yusuf, peace and blessings upon him. Both the Bible and the Qur’an tell us about the tragic destiny of Yusuf. But the Holy Books also tell us that all his pain had a divine purpose: to save the Egyptians from a major crisis. And even when he didn’t know what was ahead for him, he knew there was a blessing and a purpose for what was happening. So he never turned away from God. He kept his Imaan. Because he was sold by his brothers, he could help later his family in difficult times… here is the blessing. Because he was made a slave in Egypt, he could save an entire country from starvation… here is the purpose.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, Let us ponder upon Jadiya’s words: How do we each react to life events? When something good comes into our lives, do we immediately start to look for flaws, for example? “This trip to South Africa is OK, but I came in tourist class, and I really wanted to go to Paris”; “This person is nice but she or he is not white (rich, slim, beautiful, etc.) enough.” And when Allah send us a test, do we complain? “Oh, God hates me” or “Life is a curse.” Or are we inspired by our Imaan, seeking the blessing and the purpose in everything? Because we know that “Allah shall never subject us to any indignity…“
My favorite verse of the Qur’an says: “Every day Allah manifests Itself in a new and glorious way” or “Allah is everyday in a new task.” (55:29) Here is a promise and a challenge to our Imaan: Finding the way in which Allah shows to us his presence in our lives. Because everything comes from Allah and every day is a new opportunity to believe, to thank, and to grow. How is Allah manifested in our lives today? What is the task that the Divine has set for us? My dear Brothers and Sisters “our time, to show our faith, if Allah wills, has come…” and that time is HERE AND NOW.
Maybe it is time to forgive those who have hurt you or forgive yourself.
Time to break free from the trap of ego and start talking honestly with your soul
Time to end the excuses and embrace yourself as you are, perfect as a beloved creature of God.
Time to face your fears and pain and move yourself through them to a new state of inner peace and joy.
Time to speak up and express what you have been concealing inside your heart.
Time to engage the courage you need to make that change in your life about which you have been procrastinating.
Time to love and accept being loved. Time to abandon the comfort zone of your loneliness to become a companion, a partner.
Whatever the challenge or the gift may be that Allah has sent to our lives, today is a good day to believe that through them, we experience His Divine presence and Glory in our lives. WITHOUT A DOUBT.
Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a Writer, Mentor and Community Educator in Capacity Building for Grass Roots Female Leaders and Advocates. A Muslim Feminist who is an Independent Researcher of Gender and Islam in Latin America on Feminist Hermeneutics, Muslim Women Representations, Queer Identities and Movement Building. She blogs in Spanish at Mezquita de Mujeres, a site dedicated to explore the links between Gender, Religion and Feminism as well to Women from the Global South as Change Makers in their communities.