Growing up and being educated in London, there was one speech that I had studied, which really moved me. It was a speech full of passion, hope and desire for equality at a time when few men dared to speak out. In August 1963, Martin Luther King made his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech in Washington in front of 250,000 spectators. This was a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement as the road to equality seemed achievable.
However, 1400 years earlier in Arafah, a speech was made that continues to resonate today. In his farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet too made a speech, but this was a speech that not only stressed equality but unity, co-operation, trust and love. These were life lessons that were to carry the ummah forward until the end of days.
Some of the key points of his sermon were:
O people listen to and understand clearly what I say: know that every Muslim is the brother of his fellow Muslim. Muslims are brothers unto one another. Al-Bukhari, Hadith 1623, 1626, 6361
SubhanAllah! For me, this is what really defines the bond that we Muslims have with one another. No matter where we are living and from what ethnic background we are from, the thing that binds us together is our Islam. Can any other religion claim to have such unity?
In fact, it reminds me of my experience when I first wore the hijab. Before wearing the hijab I didn’t perceive of this notion of the ummah, yet as soon as I wore the hijab there was this sister giving me salaam, another smiling at me. There was even one mother of 3 who got on a bus and despite having to deal with her 3 children as well as find a seat for herself, she managed to turn around, smile at me and give me salaam!
Indeed Allah says:
The believers are nothing else than brothers Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 10
We may not be blood related but our deen ties us in a special bond.
[paranum]You’re superior only by piety and righteousness
An Arab is not superior to a foreigner, nor is a foreigner superior to an Arab. The white man is not superior to the black man, nor is the black man superior to the white man. The only qualities that make any of these people superior to any other of these people are piety and righteousness. Al-Bukhari, Hadith 1623, 1626, 6361
The Prophet outlined the universal rule that nationality and race was not a factor in determining a person’s superiority over another. Yet 1400 years later, these prejudices are still evident and ironically in developed countries where it would be expected that people’s rights would be preserved, not violated.
[paranum] Women in Islam
Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. Al-Bukhari, Hadith 1623, 1626, 6361
Not long before this speech, the Church had organised a meeting to discuss whether women even had souls. Pre-Islamic Arabia too was plagued with inequalities as female infants were buried alive and women were passed around like merchandise.
Yet here was the Prophet, reminding his ummah of the invaluable role of women – “committed helpers”. It makes me smile when people say that Islam restricts women and has taken away their rights. If they were to know how the Prophet spoke of women they would think twice about repeating this stereotype.
It is also quite amazing how history repeats itself in that, women are still viewed as merchandise, plastered on billboards and scantily dressed on TV in an attempt to advertise and show women that this is how to be ‘free’. But in reality, it is Islam that holds women in high esteem regarding their honour and intellect superior than their appearance.
These are just few examples of how the Prophet’s final sermon applies to all generations and times. We may not have been present when the Prophet said these words but these words still impact us now just as much as it did then. It still contains wisdom that can help us today and most importantly, it contains solutions that can help our ummah inshaAllah.
Martin Luther King stated that he had a dream; well I too have a dream. A dream that this ummah will rise again and fulfill the duties that the Prophet eloquently spoke of in his final sermon. Ameen.
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