Ask Not What Obama Can Do For You – Sh. Faraz Rabbani

Ask Not What Obama Can Do For You
Faraz Rabbani

President Obama made some very important statements in his historic speech in Cairo earlier today. Many Muslims are excited, enthused by the positive tone and attitude. Indeed, Obama’s gestures were significant; his choice of symbols and issues, careful; and his message, hopeful.

As Muslims, we shouldn’t be armchair pundits, merely wondering whether Obama will follow is great words with real actions. Rather, we have to look at ourselves. We have to consider how we can positively engage; how we can get serious about learning and living the way of our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace); how we can get out of our shells and be people who spread the good not just in our communities but for humanity.

There is so much to do. We should stop asking what Obama will do for us; roll up our sleeves; trust in Allah; and do what we must, to make a change.

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani,
(Somewhere in or near Rhode Island)


Couldn’t have said it better.

2 Replies to “Ask Not What Obama Can Do For You – Sh. Faraz Rabbani”

  1. Salam wr wb,
    I concur wholeheartedly regarding placing our trust in Allah Most High alone, and as a means in His Awliya as well, starting first and foremost in HIs Beloved Messenger (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). However, I think we have to use wisdom in the world of means (a world that interestingly enough is called “Al-Hikmah” in certain books of Tasawwuf, as opposed to “Al-Qudra”, i.e. the realm of pure Divine Existence and Omnipotence, which has to do with tawakkul) and part of having hikmah/wisdom in the realm of “al-Hikmah/means” is to build bridges w/ those nonMuslims that extend their hands to do so – which obviously is completely different from “depending on the Enemies of Allah.” We have to see the good in these people and work with it, while still condemning the evil and working to stop it. But complete demonization of the “other” with a black-and-white/Machiavellian worldview serves neither the Ummah nor its interests. Khalid ibn Walid waged war against the Best of Creation (Salla Allahu alayhi wa-sallam) for years and was an integral part of the Uhud onslaught that led to the killing of many Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them), yet the Beloved Messenger (Salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) did not demonize him or affirm Allah’s war against him due to his “hostility to a Waly of Allah.” Not only did he become Muslim, but he ended being “the Sword of Allah!” (May He be pleased with him). Likewise, we do not know the outcome of these people; we don’t even know our own outcome. There are actually many examples of individuals that fought vehemently against Islam, yet the Messenger (peace be upon him) dealt with them with incredible adab/ihsan, giving them valleys full of expensive camels and other wealth, while they were nonMuslim. Ihsan towards the “other” and building bridges with them does not contradict tawakkul at all; to the contrary, it represents an embodiment of the Sublime Prophetic Sunna. And Allah knows best.

  2. Salams wr wb al-Suyuuti,

    I’m not sure if “severely disliked” is an accurate description of how the Beloved (peace be upon hiim) felt about the person (as opposed to actions) of Abu Sufyan before his conversion. I do recall, however, how he (peace be upon him) would pray that Abu Jahl – the fir’awn of this Ummah – be guided.

    I agree that we can only judge by actions, and I’m not trying to justify the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, or to claim that Obama is free from any error/injustice/acts of aggression/etc. Nor am I trying to claim that Obama’s speech was anything more than words. I’m just saying that if an aggressor makes one step towards reconciliation or resolution – even if by mere words – than I don’t know if the most appropriate response is to demonize him and highlight only his crimes without any hint whatsoever of acknowledging the good in the person/effort and working with it. Hudaybiyya alone is a pertinent and sufficient example of dealing with the worst of people in a manner directed towards resolution, despite past AND CURRENT crimes. They were holding innocent Muslims as prisoner at the time, and yet the Beloved (peace be upon him) overlooked that for a greater good based on a long-term vision. The Qur’an itself says, “And if they incline towards peace, then (also) incline towards it.” The mere fact that a US president would give a speech like that in our heartland, especially considering the concurrent view of Americans towards Muslims, is both historical and unprecedented. Recognizing it as a positive step is by no means a justification of US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, of US unilateral support of Israel, nor of the millions of Muslims suffering as a result. But it is merely an acknowledgment of something good – even if only at the surface – coming from the US Head of State. You’re absolutely right that the Sunnah was to judge by outward actions, but people of faith can do wrong, just as people without faith can do right. Saints make mistakes and can hurt people, just as oppressors can do good and make positive steps toward stopping their oppression.

    In any case, I believe we got off on a tangent, as your original post was about not relying on Obama but rather relying on Allah. The aim of my response was simply to point out that one can work with nonMuslims – even ones that are responsible for much harm – to try to alleviate that harm, all the while placing no hope or reliance in anyone but Allah Most High. One is a means that we work with, just like a match to light fire or water to put it out, while the other is a state of the heart vis-a-vis true Omnipotence of the Divine, the only Creator, who creates good, evil, as well as the means of both. Whether working with Obama as a means to bringing about good is the right option or not, is a completely different discussion. I hope that at least regarding the original discussion, we can both agree that those who do work with Obama can still be believers with complete Tawakkul in their hearts to no one but Allah Most High.

    With regards to the second discussion of whether it is proper to work with Obama and whether such an act has precedent in the Sunnah, I feel both sides of the argument can produce evidence. I will just say that many righteous Muslims do incline towards working with him and acknowledging whatever positive steps he makes, however little or many they may be. I will end by quoting a fellow American whom I believe to be a righteous scholar and follower of the Sunnah – Shaykh Jihad Brown – as he noted in a recent article,

    “I’m not sure that Muslims realise what a risk Obama has taken by extending himself to this degree in reaching out to the Muslim world; a risk that is at once political and otherwise. His opponents believe that he is wasting his time as well as squandering diplomatic capital and depleting the fund of martial clout. They gamble that their prejudices
    toward the abilities of Islam will prove their cynicism correct.
    A sea change in American diplomacy has opened a window of possibility for those who have resolved to be truly great persons. Muslims are once more presented with an opportunity to be on the right side of history.
    If Michelle couldn’t say it, I will. This is the first time in my adult life that I have been truly proud of my nation’s leadership.”

    And Allah knows best.

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