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[Friday Sermon] The Muslim Ummah, Death Of Queen Elizabeth II And The Appreciation Of Islam By King Charles III

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy

All praise is for Allah, we praise Him, we seek His help, we ask for His forgiveness, and we seek refuge with Allah from the evils of our own souls and the wickedness of our actions, whoever Allah guides, there is none that can lead him astray, and whoever Allah allows to go astray, there is none that can lead him to the right path.

I testify and bare witness that there is no deity worthy of worship in truth but Allah, alone, without any partners. And I testify and bare witness that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His Servant and Messenger. As for what’s after:

My dear brothers and sisters! On Thursday 8th September, 2022 Queen Elizabeth II passed away. As you all know, she was the longest reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom, having celebrated her platinum jubilee earlier this summer, completing 70 years on the throne. In her wake she leaves behind four children, eight grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren. Her eldest son now accedes to the throne as King Charles III, the new head of the British monarchy and the Commonwealth.

During her reign she witnessed 15 Prime Ministers, beginning with Winston Churchill and ending with Liz Truss. Her reign saw the slow degradation of British power from the twilight of colonial era to new post-colonial Britain. During her long life she lived through times of prosperity and security for many in the United Kingdom as well as times of war, crisis, and recessions.

However, her legacy is not without controversy. Whereas Prime Minister Liz Truss credited “her devotion to duty” as “an example to us all”, as reported by Scottish Daily Express, others have seen her death as a moment to remind us of the role the British monarchy has played in colonialism.

For example, Uju Anya, an associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie University, tweeted on Thursday afternoon that:

“If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.”

Also Julius Malema, a politician, youth leader and activist from South Africa has this to say on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, as reported by Pan African Daily TV:

“We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth, because to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa’s history…. If there is really life and justice after death, may Elizabeth and her ancestors get what they deserve.”

Queen Elizabeth was on the throne when UK colonial administration committed one of the many heinous crimes of British colonialism in East Africa during the Mau Mau rebellion, killing tens of thousands to perpetuate British occupation all in the name of the Crown. Despite numerous opportunities to offer an official apology the Queen was not forthcoming.

Whilst it can be easy to get swept up in these discussions, I will reminds us of the important lessons that we as Muslims should take from her passing. How should Muslims react at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II?

There are three lessons that I wish to draw to the attention of my Muslim brothers and sisters, from the death of anyone, not just the Queen:

Firstly, we should recollect that we are all going to die; that Allah created death in order that we reflect upon the reality of this life, that we pause and ponder over what we have prepared for the real life that comes after death. Death is the biggest challenge presented to humanity by Allah Almighty. It is the end of this life; every individual will start another life following it. A wise person would take the opportunity to reflect on how s/he has spent this transient life in preparation for the everlasting life to follow. That’s why the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“Remember death frequently.”

The reason for this is given in another narration of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). We are informed that death strikes a balance, if you are in a difficult situation, remembering death will remove that feeling of difficulty from you. And yet if you have a carefree life, then remembering death will remind you of the reality of this fleeting life. Allah Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:

“Every soul will taste death.”

Allah also said in reference to the Prophet (Peace be upon him):

“You are going to die and all of them are going to die.”

So this is the first point of reflection. Do not lose sight of the fact that whatever ups and downs, whatever joys and sorrows, whatever disputes and disagreements all of which you will forget, do not forget that you are going to die and the death of the Queen—or of anyone else—should remind us of the reality of this life.

The second lesson is, that Allah almighty decreed that the Queen died at 96 years of age and her husband died when he was almost a hundred. This is Allah’s decree. He chooses whether you have a long life or a short one but whatever your situation you will surely die in the end. Even if you live for a hundred years you will die, even if you are a king, a queen, a governor, a president, a minister, a senator, a local government chairman or the most wealthy person, you are not going to live forever, this is another important lesson we should take from the passing of the Queen or any other seemingly powerful person. When we look at these people we ask, where is their wealth, where is their power, where are their supporters? Have any of these things protected them against death and will they help them whilst they are in the grave? The answer is NO!

The final thought is that people feel sad upon the passing of those who are close to them. Sometimes we also feel a sadness for those who are not so close to us but have some connection to our lives. This is not reprehensible in of itself. It depends on how you react.

For example, people may repeat the traditional Islamic invocation uttered on news of person’s death:

“Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun (meaning: truly we belong to Allah and to Him we shall surely return).”

Can this be said with regards to the death of a non-Muslim such as the Queen?

Respected servants of Allah! I do not think there is an issue here. It is simply uttering a truth that applies to mankind, rich and poor, believer and non-believer, that every human belongs to Allah and every single one will return to Him to be judged. There is no direct supplication in this statement. It may become an issue if there is an implicit supplication made for the salvation of a deceased non-Muslim.

In this regard, what about praying for their salvation? In terms of praying for Allah’s mercy for a deceased unbeliever, from an Islamic perspective, saying ‘Oh Allah have mercy on this person who died as a non-Muslim’, this is not permitted. This is by the consensus (Ijma’) of all Muslim scholars. This is not contradicted by saying Allah is the most merciful because the understanding of Allah’s mercy must be understood in light of the rest of the Islamic scriptures. Allah Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:

“It is not befitting for the Prophet and the believers to seek forgiveness for the polytheists…”

Here ‘polytheists’ refers to all those who died as non-Muslims. Allah further says in the Qur’an that anyone who dies as a non-Muslim, he is either a polytheist or an unbeliever. Therefore we are not allowed to supplicate for those who have died as non-Muslims. We know that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had his uncle who was the most beloved person to him, when he died the Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not pray for him whatsoever.

Furthermore it is not sufficient that the deceased are those who believe in Allah Almighty and are monotheist like Unitarians. Allah sent Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as a Messenger to all mankind. Those who do not believe in him and follow his message remain unbelievers even if they are Unitarians. They are not considered Muslims which is why the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“No one hears about me, whether he is a Jew or Christian, and he does not believe in me and in my message, except he will enter the fire of hell, he is not Muslim.”

May Allah give us the wisdom to understand our religion and apply it in different contexts, ameen.

My dear brothers and sisters! Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the accession of King Charles III to the throne has been dominating airwaves in an unprecedented fashion. This has prompted a race to understand more about the new “Head of the Commonwealth” containing 2.4 billion people across the world, drawing Muslims into the vortex, too. Among this coverage has been the curious fondness and appreciation he has shown for Islam over the years.

Yes, the new king’s appreciation of Islam is well established for those who have followed his career over the long years of his time as Prince of Wales. His positive attitude towards Islam, is indeed something rare in the governing classes of the United Kingdom and is undoubtedly appreciated by Muslims, particularly considering the overabundance of Islamophobes in the ruling establishment attempting to make daily life more and more difficult for Muslims across the board.

In a speech given at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies—of which he is a patron—King Charles gave a speech entitled ‘Islam and the West’, in which he sated that:

“It is odd, in many ways, that misunderstandings between Islam and the West should persist. For that which binds our two worlds together is so much more powerful than that which divides us. Muslims, Christians – and Jews – are all ‘peoples of the Book.’ Islam and Christianity share a common monotheistic vision: a belief in one divine God, in the transience of our earthly life, in our accountability for our actions, and in the assurance of life to come. We share many key values in common: respect for knowledge, for justice, compassion towards the poor and underprivileged, the importance of family life, respect for parents. ‘Honour your father and your mother’ is a Qur’anic precept too. Our history has been closely bound up together.”

King Charles goes on to say:

“If there is much misunderstanding in the West about the nature of Islam, there is also much ignorance about the debt our own culture and civilisation owe to the Islamic world. It is a failure which stems, I think, from the straitjacket of history which we have inherited. The medieval Islamic world, from Central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society and system of belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history. For example, we have underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic society and culture in Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowerings of the Renaissance, has long been recognised. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenistic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern Western world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilisation, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour – in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music. Averroes and Avenzoor, like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards. Islam nurtured and preserved the quest for learning. In the words of the tradition, ‘the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.’ Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilised city of Europe. We know of lending libraries in Spain at the time King Alfred was making terrible blunders with the culinary arts in this country. It is said that the 400,000 volumes in its ruler’s library amounted to more books than all the libraries of the rest of Europe put together. That was made possible because the Muslim world acquired from China the skill of making paper more than 400 years before the rest of non-Muslim Europe. Many of the traits on which modern Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, various types of medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities.”

It is here King Charles highlights a sentiment rarely appreciated in the Western world:

“Medieval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians the right to practise their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent to which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long…”

King Charles is not only praising what Islam has bought to the Modern European world, but emphasising that Islam is an intrinsic part of European history, and its growth was influenced by Islam:

“…first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilisation which we all too often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and our present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart. Islam can teach us today a way of understanding and living in the world which Christianity itself is the poorer for having lost. At the heart of Islam is its preservation of an integral view of the Universe. Islam – like Buddhism and Hinduism – refuses to separate man and nature, religion and science, mind and matter, and has preserved a metaphysical and unified view of ourselves and the world around us.”

He has also praised many Muslim scholars and authors such as Rene Guenon, Seyyed Nasr and Martin Lings. In particular, when Martin Lings’ book “A Return to the Spirit” was published after his death, King Charles wrote a letter of admiration in which he praises a book written by a prominent English convert, about the last Prophet sent to mankind:

“One of Martin Lings’ greatest legacies was his remarkable biography of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).”

Kings Charles is not a closet Muslim, but clearly literate in some aspects of Islamic thought probably unparalleled in the history of the British Monarchy, being described as an “Islamophile” by some:

Others have been questioning this special pleading for King Charlie’s appreciation of Islam. While he appears to be in little need of such good will, the same cannot be said for other prominent figures in UK public life who have likewise expressed an appreciation for many aspects of Islam but have also been publicly maligned.

Dr Salman Butt, a Journalist, warns that:

“It’s good to celebrate positive news, but important not to fall into some traps, such as using events like these as a plaster to cover over a weakness that we might feel: requiring validation from a powerful or famous non-Muslim. If we do feel that, we need to take a step back and build our appreciation for Islam with knowledge and, more importantly, good deeds; since Ibadah (worship) increases our intelligence and reflective capabilities, and strengthens our Iman (Faith) and character.“

All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusauimam@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Safar 19, 1444 AH (September 16, 2022).

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