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Islam promotes tolerance not terrorism
Imam Siraj Wahhaj

A lecture presented in Sydney on Monday 15 May 2000, organized by the Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth, NSW branch.

To my beloved brother and sisters, those standing, those sitting, those in the front, those in the back, those trying to get in, I
greet everyone of you with the greeting of peace, 

Assalamu Alaikumwa rahmatullahi wa barakatu./

Brothers and sisters, I pray to Allah, the Almighty that tonight Allah will bless me to articulate what I feel in here (pointing to
his heart). I ask Allah to bring whatís in here (heart) so that I may articulate with my tongue and help every one of us. If we are
Muslim, a Muslim scholar (aalim), haafith Quran/ (who have memorized the entire Quran), the muttaqeen (those who fear Allah)
I pray to Allah that you will get closer to Allah. I pray to Allah that those Muslims who are weak in faith, some of you barely holding
on, some of my sisters struggling to be a good Muslim but weak, some of my brothers struggling to be a good Muslim but weak, I pray to Allah that you will be stronger tonight and will get closer to Allah. Those of you who are not Muslim in the audience, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and even atheists I pray tonight that Allah guides you to His truth.

Tonight I want to talk about you, all of youÖ and all of us, 1 billion 500 million Muslims around the world. A third of them (500
million Muslims) left Muslim countries, scattered throughout the world. Where are they? They are in America, 9 million Muslims in the United States of America. They are in the United Kingdom. MuslimsÖ in Germany, France, India. Where are they? Four hundred thousand Muslims in Australia. I want to talk about you and our role in this country, in this city of Sydney and in Melbourne and in Perth. Why are we here? One third of the Ummah  in minority countries. Migration to non-Muslim countries.

Why are you here in Sydney? Why are we in Australia? What are we doing? What do the people think about us? The Australians, the Aborigines, what do they think about us? What goes through their minds when they hear Muslims, when they hear Islam, when they hear Quran, when they hear /Sunnah/? What do they think about us? Some of you might say "so what!" You donít care what they think about us! If you are Muslim, you care what people think about you. Because in effect everything, and you better know every time you walk down the street and somebody sees you as a Muslim they are thinking about something. What are they thinking about?

When I was a little boy in school, sometimes I would go home from school and maybe somebody in school laughed at me, made a mockery of me. Like most little children who run home they tell their mother, they tell their father. I'll never forget what my mother told me. She said son, say this: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me". You know, sometimes children can be real cruel, they laugh at you because your skin is black, because your skin is white, because youíre a little bit heavy, because youíre skinny, because you have a beard, because youíre young, because you dress differently, because you wear a kufi, because you wear hijab, because you wear long dress, people are cruel. My mother did not have to tell me son donít worry about that, donít worry about what people say, words donít harm, but my mother was wrong.

Words do harm you! Sometimes a true word is more harmful. How many of you brothers are not married? Raise your hands. You think words mean anything? If you want to get married and that woman hears a bad word about you and she doesnít want to marry you because of what she heard, you donít think words mean anything? You want to get a job and they wonít give you a job because of what they heard about you! You donít think words donít mean anything! Words mean something and what people think about you has a tremendous effect on your life!

This is why for a Muslim not only is our property sacred, Kullu Muslimin Ďalal Muslim haram, maaluhuÖ my property is sacred, /wa
damuhu/, my blood is sacred, /wa Ďirduhu/, my reputation. Reputation is important to us and my question is what is the reputation of
Muslims in Sydney, among the non-Muslims? What is the reputation of Muslims in Australia among the non-Muslims? What is the reputation of Muslims around the world? This is what I want to discuss tonight.

Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you about an African American man named Haroon. He took /shahada/ four years ago. He is the first Muslim in his family. Let me tell you how he became Muslim. One day somebody gave him a CD, on the CD was /ayat/ from the Quran in the Arabic language. Haroon speaks no Arabic, he doesnít even know /alif/, /baa/, /taa/. Haroon was a songwriter and a poet. But when he heard the Quran on the CD he said: "I have never heard anything like that." And he became a Muslim right on the spot -- when he heard the Quran. Months later somebody said: "Haroon, let me tell you the translation of what you heard of the Quran on the CD that you didnít know". Somebody translated the verses from Quran to Haroon. When Haroon heard it he started crying. And all he could do was cry. He couldnít believe that something so beautiful sounded so good can be this what we call Quran. How many of us here born in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, born in a Muslim country, who know Quran, who know Arabic and we canít appreciate the greatness of this book, but an African American knowing no Arabic learns to appreciate the Quran.

I want you to listen to me tonight. In this society we have all kinds of music. We have jazz, blues, rock and roll, hip-hop and all have a beat and sometimes you Muslim, standing on a corner, and somebody plays some music, all of a sudden your foot starts moving, you donít know why, itís the beat of the music. The music has a beat and you begin to respond to the beat of the music. The Quran doesnít have that kind of beat, the Quran has a rhythmic sound, it has its own cadence. So therefore when a Muslim has the Quran in his mind and the people of this society want to commit  zina  (adultery), a Muslim has on his brain laa taqrabuz-zina (do not come near adultery). He has a beat in his brain, itís the beat of Allah (swt), the cadence of the Quran.

Brothers and sisters, I am saying this for a reason. I only pray tonight that Allah can move us to become servants of this book (the Quran). How many of you have in your name, first, middle, the name of your father, the name of your son, Muhammad? Raise your hand. Muhammad is the most famous name on the earth. Many Muslims have the name Muhammad. I know a Muslim with the name Abu Muhammad Muhammad ibn Muhammad. Yes, because we love the name Muhammad, and even
though we love the name Muhammad the name most loved by Allah is Abdullah and Abdur Rahman. Why Abdullah? Because Abdullah is a servant of Allah, wa maa khalaqtul jinna wal insa illaa li yaíbudoon - Allah only created men and jinn to worship Him.
Abdullah, yes. Youíre Abdullah. If he comes from Indonesia, Abdullah, Malaysia, Abdullah, Somalia Abdullah, Bangladesh Abdullah, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Turkey Abdullah. And if youíre in Australia - Abdullah. We are the servants of Allah. Therefore everything we do is for Allah (swt).

Weíre not like everybody. Our wives go shopping, sheís in the store looking for food, she picks up a loaf of bread, sheís looking. Why? Nobody else is looking, youíre looking. Youíre looking at the ingredients to make sure that there is no pig in the ingredients. You want to make sure everything in it is halal. Why, Abdullah. You go to the store to buy something to drink but before you buy youíre looking. What are you looking for? No wine. Why? Abdullah, You brother, you want to get married, but you donít marry any woman. You want to marry a woman who believes in Allah (swt), who believes in Prophet Muhammad (s), who believes in Quran. Why ? Abdullah!

So now brothers and sisters, everything that we do we must do it because it is in  kitabul Allah. Khairu hadith kitabul Allah, the
best speech is the book of Allah. I am telling you today every one of you, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK AL-QURAN everyday! /Khairukum man taíallamal Quran wa Ďallama -/ the best of you are those who learn Al-Quran and teach it. Teach it to whom?

Tonight brothers and sisters, I want to talk about the perception of the people of this society. They say Muslims are terrorists. We as Muslims say Islam promotes tolerance not terrorism. Wait a minute, we have a problem, a problem in definition, what do we mean by tolerant? We are tolerant. What does that mean? Tolerance doesnít mean "live and let live". Tolerance doesnít mean you can do whatever you want to do. You do your thing and I do my thing. That is not tolerance. What is tolerance?

In New York city we have a very infamous mayor named Juliani. How many of you have heard about him. He is famous for fighting against crime. Forty thousand policemen in New York City, and you know what the mayor says, he says we have a zero tolerance level. Zero tolerance level for crime, and so what. He has no tolerance for crime. What crime? Whoís crime? Who determines what crime is? I am telling you tonight that Muslims are the most tolerant people on the face of this planet earth if you understand the true meaning of tolerance.

We understand that people have different religions. We know that. Many of you, yourself and your parents have migrated to this country. In the United States, my country, there are people who left Cuba on a boat, risked their lives, to go to America. To live in America, a land of opportunity. A land of freedom. Yes, some of them die. How many Muslim countries do you know where non-Muslims risk their lives because they want to go there? Think? How many non-Muslims lost their lives because they want to go to Pakistan? How many non-Muslims risk their lives because they want to go to Syria, Jordon or Lebanon or because they want to go to Bangladesh or Sudan? Or because they want to go to any Muslim country, how many non-Muslims have risked their lives so that they can go to our countries? Even though we might not know many, if any, let me tell you something, in the united States of America I know African American Muslims, born in America, packed their bags and there is a college of them now in Cairo, Egypt. A college of Muslims from America in Cairo, Egypt because they went there, left America, they didnít go to Egypt for money. They went there because they went to seek knowledge and they thought they could find knowledge in Egypt. I know Muslims in America who got on boats and went to Yemen. They went to Yemen to study.

I know a Muslim in America, a white European American Muslim, Hamza Yusuf. He left America and went to the west African country Mauritania and studied the religion of Islam. These Muslims left America to go searching for Allahís /deen/. So while there are Muslims coming here, Muslims born in Australia, Muslims born in the United Kingdom, migrate to Muslim countries. My question to you is this, then what are we doing here in Sydney? What are we doing here in Australia, what are we doing in America?

Now brothers and sisters, some of us are very foolish. I donít mean you, you are probably the smartest people on the earth, so Iím not talking about you. Iím talking about others. How can you be on a ship and you hope the ship sinks? It doesnít make sense, because if the ship sinks, you sink. But yet there are Muslims in Australia who say I hate this /kaafir/ country. But you are here in Australia. The Prophet (s) made the parable of people on a boat, the good people and bad people on a boat, and if the bad people put a hole in the boat, if you let them go you kill them and yourselves. If you hold back their hands you save yourself and you save them. Weíre on a boat, so itís in our interest that we make sure that the boat stays afloat. We are here in Australia, we want to make Australia better, but we want to get guidance to Australia.

What is tolerance, donít get excited with what I am about to say, some of you are going to get very excited. The Prophet (s) said whoever sees an evil let him change it with his hand? Is that tolerance? If you cannot change it with your hand, change it with your tongue. Is that tolerance? If you canít change it with your tongue change it with your heart and that is the weakest of faith, but you must change evil. Tolerance doesnít mean you let everybody do what they want to do. We want to be tolerant, but we want to be tolerant like Muhammad (s). We want to be tolerant like Issa (as). We want to be tolerant like Moosa, like Ibrahim (as). We want to be tolerant, but we want to know what tolerance is!

If Muslims speak out against homosexuality it doesnít mean that we are intolerant. How can you say we have a free democratic society where people have freedom of speech, but yet when we stand up to speak our freedom of speech you condemn us and plead intolerance because we are in disagreement with the lifestyle of what Allah has condemned. What is tolerance? Tolerance doesnít mean everybody do what you want to do, thatís not tolerance. The truth of the matter is that everyone has their own perspective of what is right and what is wrong. If a mayor of the city says zero tolerance for crime, what crime? Murder is wrong, we all agree. Rape is wrong. Stealing is wrong.

But we live in a time that is called the evolving standard of decency. What does that mean? In one country, in one state something may be permissible in one state, but not permissible in another. Something may be permissible in one country and not in another country. Something may be permissible in one time in history and changed in another time in history. Things change. If you go back to the law book, I donít know about Australia, if you go back to the law book in the United States of America adultery used to be a crime. It is no longer a crime. I bet you if you check the archives in Australia you will see at one time adultery was a crime. I guarantee it. In some societies the punishment for adultery was death. Why did it change? Who changed it? In a democratic society they say people determine the law, government of the people, by the people and for the people. People determine what is right and wrong, what is a sin and whatís not, what is tolerant, what is intolerant. But for us as Muslims there is but one lawgiver and that is Allah and His Messenger (s). Whatever Allah makes /halal/ (permissible) is permissible -- 1400 years ago, a hundred years ago, five years ago, a thousand years in the future, it will always be the same because it comes from the same one lawgiver that doesnít change. Adultery will always be wrong, murder will always be wrong.

Having said that brothers and sisters, let me take a moment and make sure that you understand the Islamic principle about tolerance and let me tell you what tolerance means. Prophet Muhammad (s) was tolerant. How do we respond to someone attacking us in the street? Human nature: if somebody attacks you, you fight back. If somebody spits on you, youíre angry, you fight back Ė human nature. I want to tell you something, this Quran, it is one thing to know what it says, but itís another thing to know the historical context. What was happening when it was revealed? This /ayat/ /uthina/, permission to fight, was revealed in the first year of migration. There was no order for the Muslims to fight back until this verse was revealed. Muslims were oppressed but they never lifted their hands to fight back. Why? Because they are cowards? NO. Because they are servants of Allah and they didnít move until they got the word from Allah, and Allah ordered them to fight back. You can do anything to them. You can spit on them, you can stomp them, you can kill them but they will not lift their hands against you because Allah is their commander and Allah did not order them to fight back.

So what happened? Muslims were oppressed so much that they had to make migration. They had to leave Makka. At first they went to Abyssinia. They had to make migration and they left Makka and went to Madina. But in the second year of /hijra/: /qaatilu fee sabeelilaahi latheena yuqaatilunakum wa la taítadu, innallaha laa yuhibul muítadeen/. Now fight in the way of Allah those who fight against you even then do not go beyond the boundaries, Allah does not love those who go beyond the boundaries. Now the battle of Badr. Now the battle of Uhud. Now they are going to fight back. Why? Because Allah commanded you to fight back and you are Abdullah, you are the servant of Allah. But you are not fighting because you want to take somebodyís land, you are not fighting because you want to take somebodyís property, you are not fighting because you want to take somebodyís woman. You are fighting now to defend your faith. Now you are a /mujaahid fee sabililaa/. Now you obey the commandments of Allah (swt).

So, you want to know if Muslims are terrorists? This is the book you have to look at (Al-Quran), you have to look to the hadith. If you show me in this book (Quran) where a Muslim is a terrorist and show me the hadith where Muslims are terrorists then I would agree with you. But you canít find it, you wonít find it. If you look to the practice of some bad Muslims you might find terrorists, yeah, but not if you look to this book, the book of guidance. And everything we do, everything we say, must be based upon this book, the Quran and the /Sunnah/ of Prophet Muhammad (s).

How many of you have ever made /hajj/? When you made pilgrimage how many of you had to make a sacrifice? In 1978 I made my first /hajj/ and I had to sacrifice a sheep. I had never killed an animal before, so they brought me a sheep to sacrifice for my hajj. They gave me a knife, and Iím looking at that sheep and it looked at me. And I did not want to kill it, but I remembered prophet Ibrahim (as) when Allah ordered him to sacrifice his own son Ismaaeel (as) and he was going to do it for Allah; so I looked at the sheep again. I said: "Iím sorryÖ /Bismillah Allahu Akbar/!" And notice the sheep, the sheep did not run. You can take a knife, a blade and put it to the neck of the sheep and the sheep wonít run. Why? Because Allah (swt) has given you control, "Donít you see Allah has subjected to you what is in the heavens and what is in the earth." Look at you, even the weakest of you, you go and you slaughter a lamb, but before you do that what do you say? /Bismillah/. Why? Because you say "Allah I slay this in your name, by your permission. You gave me the power to eat, you gave me the lamb to eat, you gave me the camel to eat."

Now I must make sure my knife is sharp because I donít want the animal to suffer. Itís an animal, but it is a creature of Allah. Donít take life that Allah has made sacred, it may only be a lamb, it may only be a sheep, it may only be a cow, whatever it is it is a creature of Allah. And you be careful, donít you go hunting animals for sport. Some people take guns and go shoot Allahís creatures for fun. Not Muslims, Muslims donít kill animals for fun. Even Allah (swt) admonished a prophet who burnt the house of an ant. An ANT. Muslims donít go around indiscriminately killing animals, they donít go around killing insects indiscriminately. Why? Because you are not a terrorist, you donít even terrorize animals.

Bear me witness the Prophet (s) said "/imra-atun fi naar li hirr/, a woman in the Hell fire for a cat." She tied up the cat and would not feed it until it died. This woman is in the hellfire because of a cat. Not for harming a prophet, not for harming a human being but a cat.

A prostitute from the Bani Israel was thirsty, she went to get water, and when she drank the water she saw a dog thirsty just like her. A prostitute, she climbed in the well and took off her shoe and put water in the shoe, put it in her mouth and climbed out of the well. And gave water to the dog and the Prophet (s) said because of that act Allah (swt) forgave her her sin and in another narration, gave her Jannah. A dog! Muslims are not terrorist, we donít harm innocent people, we donít do indiscriminant acts of violence.

I close with these words, "/wa maa arsalnaaka illa rahmatan lil aalameen/ - I have only sent you O Muhammad as a Mercy to all the
worlds." The people of Australia, you have something, brothers and sisters, for them. You know what your gift is? Your gift is
/Al-Huda/, guidance, thatís your gift. Your strength is the knowledge, the Quran and Sunnah. That is the gift that you have for the Australian people. Guess what, you have to promote it. Do you know what the biggest business is in America? General Motors. In 1978 GM spent $2.2 billion to advertise their product. $2.2 billion to convince you to drive their car. That is more than the Gross National Product of many countries, and they spent that just promoting advertising. You should ask the question, if they spent that much in advertsing how much revenue did they get? Over $161 billion in revenue.

I donít want to stop there. It doesnít mean that because you advertise and promote you have a good product. Philip Morris, what
do they sell? Cigarettes. In 1998 Philip Morris spent $1.2 billion dollars to convince fools to smoke their cigarettes. I donít want to
hurt your feelings, Iím sorryÖ I want all the brothers who have cigarettes in their pockets, before you go I want you to throw it in
the garbage bin. SeriouslyÖ I know itís hard, I am saying it to you for many reasons. They spend $1.2 billion to advertise their
product, get people to smoke their cigarettes. They get over $57 billion, out of your pocket. And now they have some great
spin-doctors - Public Relations. And they try to convince you that its okay even though 500,000 people die a year as a result of
smoking cigarettes. Still they puff away, puff away!!! They puff away their lives. You get poorer and poorer and sicker and sicker.
And they get richer and richer. They spend money, good money advertising. And they get some of the best scientists in the world
who know psychological affects on people. They move people, so you turn on the TV and they got the beat of the music and there is your foot, before you know it you light one up with your foot like that (tapping away). Because itís a beat in your brain. Itís a psychological game they are playing on you and I. Who are the terrorists? 500 000 people a year dying!! Dying because of cigarettes, but its okay. You know why its okay? Money, money!!! They make money.

We contribute to the society. We pay taxes, we make money. Yet people die. You talk about AIDS, but gays in comparison to cigarettes is so minor, so small, so insignificant.

I say Muslims are not terrorist, if truth be told, we are the saviors of the society. Believe it or not! When we as Muslims do
our job. What is our job again in Sydney? Our job is very easy. Number one: to live a good Muslim life. The people in Sydney
brothers and sisters, they may never pick up this book (the Quran) and read one verse of it. They may never read one hadith. Can I tell you something, somewhere along the line they are going to run into a Muslim. A neighbour, a schoolmate, a classmate, a professional worker at a business. They are going to run into a Muslim. What will they find when they run into a Muslim? What will their attitude be when they run into you and I? And ultimately, they are going to judge Islam by what they see in us. Donít be an excuse for someone to run from Islam. You can say, donít judge Islam by the Muslims. Judge Islam by the Quran, judge Islam by the sunnah. Right, but they canít get to the Quran. They canít get to the sunnah, because they are looking at us. You represent the Quran to them, you represent the sunnah to them. Number one, let us have the best examples as individuals.

Number two: to all of the imams I make a recommendation. I make the same recommendation to you as I make to myself in the US. We need a national policy on how to deal with non-Muslims. Consistent, uniform not sporadic policy. A spokesman so that the people can better understand Islam.

We are not here to kill the people of Australia. We are not here to hurt the people of Australia. We are here to help these people. And I admonish you and myself to be patient. Some of them will say bad things against you, donít worry. They said bad things against the Prophet (s). Many of them will laugh and make a mockery of you, donít worry about that. If they laugh at you, make mockery of you, it doesnít matter. You are a servant of Allah, smile and still be the best person. I remember a long time ago, there was a dog that was wounded and the man went to help the dog, and when he went the dog bit him. Sometimes in trying to do good the one you are trying to help will fight you. But donít worry about that.

I give my last example and then Iím finished. Aisha (ra) asked the Prophet (s): "Was there a day harder on you than the day of Uhud, (when the Prophets tooth was knocked out, when Muslims died)" and he said: "Yes. You know what day that was, it was when the people of Taif rejected the Prophet and then /Al-Malik ul Jibaal/ (the angel of the mountains came) and said Allah has heard what the people have done to you. Just give me the commandment and I will rain down on them mountains." And the prophet said: "No. I hope that Allah will raise from among them one who worships Allah, not associating gods with Him." That is our Prophet (s). When they angel could send down mountains, the Prophet (s) said no. Why? He was a mercy.

We did not come to kill the people of Australia, we came to give them guidance. May Allah bless us brothers and sisters, bless all of us and bless us to be patient.

(Transcribed by Sr Faiza Abdullatif)





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