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Friday Sermon: Doubt & Certainty

Delivered by Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown in Abu Dhabi on 12 February 2010

To Listen: 

To Download: 12-02-10_Doubt and Certainty




Stand and Deliver, Your Religion or Your Life

Jihad Hashim Brown ~ 09 Oct 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

[Note: This is the full unedited version. Updated 10-10-2010]

One of my Shaykhs once told me that the value of the path to God is indicated by the number of highwaymen along its road. Perhaps, at the time I thought I knew exactly what he was talking about. Perhaps, at each moment in our lives we perceive at the depth for which we’re prepared. It’s this constant potential for growth that provides the eternal possibility of renewal and infinite “becoming” that makes life a terribly wonderful experience.

The “terribly” side is represented by the many down sides to life; chief among them disappointment. It is an inextricable element of this world in which we live. It is inescapable. The naïve optimist (as opposed to the critical optimist) would dismiss it entirely.  But success lies solely in how you negotiate that disappointment.

Our experience with the path to God is not different from the world in this way. It too will suffer its share of disappointments. This brings us back to our highwaymen. They know the power and attraction of religion. Religion communicates with the soul and awakens the mind that feels suffocated by tactile material experience, prevented from reaching its holistic potential. It inspires and infuses existence with meaning.

The highwayman knows that these capacities may all be mounted and ridden to personal gain. He or she himself is captivated by the possibilities that lie therein; to take hearts and minds hostage and hold them for ransom.

An encounter with a highwayman can leave a person feeling violated and betrayed. But despite this, the journey must go on. The Quran speaks of the earth becoming constricted around a person, despite its vastness, to the point of his or her own self becoming constricted; until he or she realizes there is no running from Allah except to Allah.

The journey is greater than its pitfalls. We cannot allow disappointment, betrayal, or manipulation to make us disillusioned; or better yet, dis-hopeful or divested of resolve. The end or objective of the journey is greater than the perceived enjoyments or exhilarations that obtain during the process. As Mahalia Jackson said, you’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize.

One English public philosopher has said that, “for historical reasons religions have a grossly inflated place in the public domain out of all proportion to the numbers of their adherents or their intrinsic merits.” But regardless of those who may or may not decry this fact, religion does enjoy a profound influential place in the history of human society. This because of what it comprises of intense spiritual meaning and connection to metaphysical reality; not to mention the transformative power on individual lives that is exponentially greater than any paucity in the numbers of its adherents.

Religion must be about much more than anything that could be derailed by hangers on. But it is well known that the Latin religionem is not deemed a fitting translation for the word deen, which in Arabic means “transaction”.

Al-Sayyid al-Jurjani defines deen as, “a divine convention that motivates rationally minded people – by way of their own praiseworthy choice – toward what is good in and of itself, being beneficial to them in this life and the next.”

Religion, in this conception, provides shape, coherence, and integrity to people’s engagement and interaction with their vertical relationships with the Divine as well as their horizontal relationships with one another.

But just as important, it is a source; a source of spiritual fulfillment, enlightenment, and the nourishment of healthy and balanced souls. The value of religion – or  deen – in your life depends ultimately on what you are getting out of it. When you sell it short, you are selling yourself short. And when you sell it, or allow another to hijack it, you are the one in control of your own suffering.

Friday Sermon: Rights & Responsibilities of Brotherhood Pt.9: Prohibition of Racism

Delivered by Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown in Abu Dhabi on 29 January 2010.

To Listen:

To Download: 29-01-10_Brotherhood pt 9 – Prohibition of Racism [mp3]

Imam Zaid Shakir in Abu Dhabi


We’re pleased to announce that Imam Zaid Shakir is currently in Abu Dhabi and will be delivering a series of three lessons on the book “Treatise for the Seekers” by the Imam al-Harith al-Muhasibi. All are welcome to attend.

Tuesday 20th – Thursday 22nd April

Mohammad b. Zayed Mosque

Between Maghrib & Isha Prayers

For a map of the location please refer to

Making Sense of the World Before the Eschaton

15 Jan ’10

No surprises. “This is not your grandfather’s world,” the advertisement might read. Contrary to popular notions of progress, the world is winding down. Human nature is not “virtually the same” and the future is not – in every way – superior to yesterday.

Although we have definitely increased in the quantity of our things, and the human services on tap for the fortunate have been amplified, the world has become a less human place. For example, we are now able to kill more people with the push of a single, unfeeling, unbothered button than ever before. Progress!

“Man is born free, yet everywhere in chains,” Rousseau bemoaned. Perhaps his enlightenment project broke material chains for many, but today, still more people than ever continue on in the chains of diversion. And in this state of diversion, by 24-hour cable, tabloid culture, 401Ks, positive psychology and all the news that’s fit to “digitise”, he is commodified. He becomes a tool, an object, a “resource”, a cog in someone else’s industry.

The signs mentioned by the Prophet Mohammed, that we have reached the end of history have begun. Fukuyama got that much right. The part about the last man being an executive at Lehman Brothers didn’t work out so well, though.

We continue to experience a state of loss in the environment, both human and natural. This, along with the turning on its head of once familiar virtue and principle, combines to give the feeling of a silent barren vacuum. It is enough, in the words of Mohammed, the son of Abdullah, “to leave a gentle man confused”. Ethics become a “talking point”.

We are witnessing a time of hyper-individualism that promotes a self-first ideology with disregard to the public good. The Prophet said: “When you see greed obeyed, every passion pursued, the material world prioritised, and every opinionated person self-impressed with his own opinion, you are advised to keep to yourself and avoid public affairs; because before you are days that will require great patience.”

We live at a time in which truth and falsehood are deceptively blurred and public discourse is characterised by flagrant immaturity. To this the Prophet intimated, “a deceptive time will overtake the people, when a liar will be considered truthful; and an honest person will be branded a liar. The treacherous person will be trusted, the trustworthy branded deceitful; and the ‘ruwaybidah’ will speak.” Who are the ruwaybidah they asked? “A superficial man who pontificates on public affairs,” he answered.

In another statement, he foreshadowed, “woe to the Arabs for a troubling discord that draws near like a portion of dark night. A man will awake a believer and go to bed a disbeliever. He sells his religion for some cheap trinket of the world.”

He spoke glowingly to his companions, of those with courage enough to stick to what is wholesome and maintain right action in times to come. “For those among them who would make an effort to do good will be the reward of 50 of you.” To which they questioned: “Do you mean of us or of them?”

“Of you,” he replied, “because you find help to do what is good and they will find no help to do what is good.”

I don’t mean to paint a grey portrait of our times, but only to say that happiness is not found in things. The quality of life is not in mechanics, technology, stock options or by-laws; instead it is in meaning and being grounded in your centre. The adulation of celebrity cannot replace the warmth of family. These are meanings that are timeless.

This Endless Cycle of Violence Serves No One

Shaykh Jihad H Brown

The shock of unexpected violence and death can bring about trauma in the lives of the living that is difficult to make sense of, let alone bear. Muslim families are uniquely placed to empathise with the families of victims, as this has been their own daily reality in a region of the world plagued by uninvited violence for more than six decades now.

So it is with great sorrow and sympathy that we respond to the grief of the families connected to the tragic event at Fort Hood in Texas. The actions that led to the deaths of 13 people and the wounding of more than 30 warrant condemnation.

The killing of unarmed civilians is unconditionally prohibited in the sacred law of Islam. As an American citizen and a soldier in the US army, Major Nidal Malik Hasan had a covenant with the people of the United States, who were his neighbours.

This relationship is sacrosanct. Neighbours have no choice but to rely on one another, and to violate that trust is to undermine society itself.

In addition to this, soldiers who are unarmed and outside a combat zone are not actively engaged in harming others. In such circumstances, they may be tempted to reconsider their own involvement in violence. Violating this assumption of safety in the environment of civil society undermines the principles of trust and reliability that are held so dearly by the followers of the Prophet Mohammed. The traits he was known most for, even by his enemies, were truthfulness and trustworthiness.

If anyone, soldier or citizen, finds himself unable to continue in the covenant or obligation into which he has entered, he should seek to extricate himself publicly through the official and recognised means provided in the terms of the obligation. Conscientious objector status, honourable discharge or, if need be, the direct refusal to be involved in harming innocent human beings are all correct courses of action. Taking people’s lives, even if not civilian, outside a recognised combat zone, is not acceptable.

At this time, however, it is important that we call on everyone to reflect on the continuing tragic state of affairs in our combined lives, domestically and globally. It is not correct to continue to treat each of these painful ruptures in our routine lives as isolated moments without having responsibility for, and consciousness of, a wider state of affairs.

We seek sympathy in the moments of our own discomfort. But let us recognise that we seek that sympathy from people when we are prepared to be indifferent to the discomfort that is so often visited upon them.

The point I am making is that globalisation should have thoroughly driven home to us by now that we are all in this together. Just as Gandhi said that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, the Prophet Mohammed considered the entire world to be his community. He said about that community: “It is as one body, when one limb is in pain, the rest of the body lies awake in fever and sleeplessness.” Empathy has to complete the full circle.

We are the sum of our choices and as such bear responsibility for them before God. The continuing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan were born in ethical controversy. And when violence is born out of ambiguity it will inevitably lead to circumstances of moral confusion.

Violence begets only more violence. Leadership and courage are required to stop the vicious circle. The global public has yet to see that leadership or courage on any side of these conflicts, yet it is they who continue to suffer the consequences, as disproportionate as that suffering may be. 

There continue to be American citizens, both Muslim and otherwise, who feel just as strongly about the illegitimacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as did Nidal Malik Hasan, but have found other ways of expressing that dissent than more violence. If we have learnt anything from the great men of history – the Prophet Mohammed foremost among them – it is that compassion always wins in the end.

Hurt is hurt. And a Muslim family that has experienced the bitterness of tragic loss would never wish that upon another. Muslim community leaders continue to implore their respective constituencies to stand by their principles, to be balanced and responsible citizens, and to renounce wanton violence.

Let us hope that other leaders will likewise hold up their end of responsibility. Now is the time for healing. And just as healing is a historical trait of Muslims, resilience is the proven trait of Americans. Would that the two could come together.  

Shaykh Jihad grew up in the United States and currently resides in Abu Dhabi where he serves as the Director of Research in the Tabah Foundation and teaches and delivers the Friday sermon. For more information please refer to the “Classes” tab above.

“Reliance of the Traveller” Class back on

Dear all

Please note that the Monday night class on “Reliance of the Traveller” and Imam al-Ghazali’s “Minhaj al-Aabidin” have recommenced at Mohammad bin Zayed Mosque after Isha.

See you there

For a map:


And its Middle is Forgiveness

Sheikh Jihad H Brown – 05 Sept

“You will never enter the Garden until you believe; and you will never believe until you love one another. Shall I indicate for you a thing that were you to do it you would love one another? Spread peace amongst one another.”

– Prophet Mohammed

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tradition says that Ramadan is a month the first of which is mercy, the middle of which is forgiveness, and the end of which is freedom from the fire. The Prophet said: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and stands in prayer on the Night of Power – in faith and counting on his reward from Allah alone – all that has preceded of his sins will be forgiven.”

Ramadan is a season of forgiveness. Every son of Adam is prone to shortcomings. It is a flaw built into the system. But no matter how far we think we’ve fallen, no matter how separated we feel we’ve become, Allah warns us never to despair of His mercy. And like the parable of the man who killed 100 souls and died on the road to repentance, it requires some resolve and a show of effort. The angels of salvation and the angels of damnation are fighting over him, so they settle it by measuring the distance, finding that with his last breath he has pulled himself in the direction of his objective. You get points just for coming out.

But can those so in need of forgiveness expect to receive it if they cannot give it? Forgiveness is healing, (shifa). It brings about a mending of rifts and makes things whole again. Acceptance in the final reckoning will be for those of sound (saleem) heart. A sound heart is one that is free of hatred, free of grudges. When a seemingly inconsequential companion was asked by the others why the Prophet had singled him out as so significant, he replied that he had no idea; except one thing, he never went to bed at night with anything in his heart against any other person.

The second secretary general of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld, said of forgiveness that it is “the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean”. The peace that must be spread among one another is not the greeting of “al-salam alaykum”, but it is peace of heart toward one another.

Forgiveness – whether granting it or seeking it – is a story of return. It brings things full circle. It is a prescription to right imbalance. It makes a vibrant and healthy future possible. The Dutch botanist Paul Boese is noted for saying that, “forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future”.

A healthy future needs solidarity and a sentiment of fraternity; a consciousness of responsibility (fard kifaya) for the public good (maslaha amma). The Prophet said: “My community is like a single body, when one limb suffers, the rest of the body lies awake in fever and sleeplessness.” Both solidarity and fraternity are not possible when hearts become hardened by harbouring spite and anger. Ramadan is a prescription to treat these types of heart conditions.

Sheikh Jihad H Brown delivers the Friday sermon at the Maryam bint Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi. For more information please refer to

The First of it is Mercy

Jihad H Brown – 28 August

In the collection of Al-Bayhaqi, the Prophet refers to Ramadan as a month “the first of which is compassion, the middle of which is forgiveness, and the end of which is freedom from the fire”.

Compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress coupled with a desire to alleviate it. Mercy, another word commonly used in the same context, implies forgoing punishment even when justice demands it, or lenient compassionate treatment.

But how is a month mercy? What is the nature of its source, the mercy of Allah? How does this extend to the compassion of His subjects, one for another? And how does all of it form an integrated whole, or a closed system?

In Ramadan, we are informed in the soundest narrations that on the first night the sky is opened and the gates of the hellfire are locked. The doors to paradise are flung wide and the demons are bound and shackled. It is a month in which sins are forgiven, prayers are answered and all colours of goodness are on tap. It is a season of worship and devotion, the promised rewards for which are doubled.

The mercy of Allah is an expression of the giving, the blessings, and the generosity that He pours over His devotees in this month. In the Quran He says: “My mercy encompasses everything”; and the pious used to call out, reminding Him, ‘O Allah! I am a thing!’

In the chapter of “the Cattle”, he says: “And your Lord has prescribed mercy upon Himself.” The rain is employed as a metaphor for His grace that He sends out even after people have despaired of its arrival.

In the chapter of “Rome”, he says: “Do you not see the effects of the ‘mercy’ of Allah, how he resuscitates the earth after it was dead?”

The hearts of people that have been lost in the dry barrenness of materiality are like the earth in autumn and winter, awaiting a spring of awakening in Ramadan.

Gratefulness for these blessings entails that the hearts of the faithful overflow in return with fraternal compassion for other human beings and sentient life.

Giving and catering to needs unmet is a sign that compassion has taken up residence in the heart. The fasting person has tasted hunger and thirst and experienced difficulty and deprivation. Empathy is one of the fruits of fasting that people can share with one another.

The current healthcare crisis being hotly debated in the United States marks a decisive deficit in compassion.

Some 47 million Americans do not have health care and many who do have a boat are insisting that the others should be left in the water. It’s not their problem that others less industrious than themselves couldn’t find a way to stay dry.

The fruit of the tree of individualism can be bitter. The myopia of parochialism and the fetters of xenophobia prevent us from comprehending that other less prosperous nations have sorted out ready solutions in which all boats rise.

The Prophet said that mercy is not removed from the heart of anyone but the wretched.

In the celebrated hadith designated as the first to be taught to any student of Sacred Law, the Prophet says: “Those who show compassion to others will be shown mercy. Have compassion for those in the earth, and those in the heavens will show compassion to you.”

Shaykh Jihad delivers the Friday sermon at the Maryam bint Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi. For more information visit

Welcome to ADK&M!

As-salamu ‘Alaykum and welcome to our blog!

Pretty soon we’ll be uploading audios and articles by Shaykh Jihad Brown that were delivered/composed in Abu Dhabi (hence the name). Due to the nature of summer here (very quiet) the first audios will be uploaded, inshaAllah, in the first week of Ramadan. For now please enjoy the articles!