Friday, 2 September 2016

Fear (sermon for El-Tawhid Juma Circle, 2016.09.02.)

Pre-Khutba Formalities
* Taslim
assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah
* Ta'widh
a'udhu billahi min ash-shaytani rajim
* Basmala
bismillahi rahmani rahim
* Hamd
alhamdulillahi rabbil 'alamin
* Shahada
Ash-hadu al-la ilaha illa Allah wahdahu, la sharikah lah. Wa ash-hadu anna Muhammad `abduhu wa rasuluh. (Allahumma salli `ala Muhammad wa aale Muhammad.) 
* Taqullah
ya `ibadullah, wa nafsi, itaqullah

God's peace be with you, and Divine  mercy, and Divine blessings. I seek refuge with God from the the one whose arrogance pulls us away from the truth and begin in the name of God, the Tenderly Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful. Praise be to God, the Nourishing Sustainer of the universe. I testify that there is no deity except God, Who is One and without partner. And I testify that Muhammad is Her servant and messenger. (O God, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.) O worshippers of God, and myself, maintain due reverence towards God.

I begin by acknowledging that God created humanity in and of this Earth as God's Khalifa and this land that we are on Indigenous land of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nations.

Verse from Qur'an

Huwa al-ladhi anzal as-sakinata fi qulubi lmu'minina liyazdadu imana m^a imanihim. Wa Allahi junudu samawati wal ard. Wa kana Allahu ^aliman Hakima.

Liyudkhala al mu'minina wal mu'minati jannati ttahtiha alanharu khalidina fiha wa yukaffara ^anhum sayya'atihim. Wa kana dhalika ^inda Allahi fawzan ^athim.

It is God who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they might have more of faith added to their faith. And to God are the hosts of the heavens and the earth. And God is Knowing, Wise. In order that God may cause the believers to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow to abide therein and remove from them their evil; and that is a grand achievement with God.
Quran, 48:4-5

Body of Khutba
It happened while I was at church that Easter morn so that I could spend time with my grandmother. We were all seated in the pews waiting for the service to begin. Then it happened. A man in the pew head of us extended his arm around his family. I gave a start.

It doesn't make sense, does it? People put their arms around their families all of the time at church. At the time that this act of love took place, however, my brain took it to mean something altogether different based on various experiences that I have had in my life. I felt mortally afraid for an eternal half-second.

Have you been afraid recently? Given circumstances lately, it isn't surprising that many have indeed been frightened. Many people have been scared of going out of the house. Others are fearful of violent encounters with law enforcement.


Where does it come from? How does it impact us? What would happen if it magickally disappeared from our lives one day?

Out of curiosity, I looked up a brief word history for the word "fear." It comes from an older English term relating to "danger" (Oxford, location 141316) Interestingly, one of the derivations of the Arabic word for fear means "bullying" or "intimidating" (Cowan, p 306). Its opposite, "sakina," refers to the kind of tranquility that one feels in stillness or quietness (Cowan, p 488). This is also a reflection of the English word history for tranquility, in which the "qui" comes from a root meaning "still, quiet" (Harper, "tranquility").

We have been designed to react to potentially dangerous situations with fear. Brief biology lesson: The hypothalamus, a part of the brain, works with the pituitary just below the brain to cause the adrenal gland to secrete more of certain hormones when we are startled or frightened. Some of these hormones include adrenaline and cortisol. They pump blood to the muscles and fill the blood with more glucose, as well as prepare the muscles for action. (Clancy, pp 13, 99, 102, 205)

Sometimes, however, our minds works against us and interpret neutral situations as dangerous. This is particularly true of people who live with PTSD. The kind of stress leading up to PTSD leaves such an imprint on the nervous system that everyday extrenal stressors, as well as internalised trauma, result in an exaggerated response from the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland combo each time.

Ibrahim, a trafficking survivor interviewed by trafficking expert and author Kevin Bales, now lives with PTSD. He described an episode of flashbacks that he once experienced, and the sleep disturbances that he experiences. "Last Tuesday, it was a kind of slow, kind of a quiet day, and for a moment I began to doze off. When I did, all the scenes came back to my head, they were so real, and I was frightened. This is common for me. Sometimes also, I wake in the night in a panic, so afraid, shaking and sweating."
-Bales, p 164

My own fear has come from the way that people treated me all of my life, beginning in my childhood with my stepmother. Aside from the now-apparent physical aspects of my experiences (I cringe at sudden movements), it is also noteworthy that since I was eight years old or so, I have thought that I was never good enough - that I had to earn love.

I came to fear abandonment, losing someone's love, being left behind. Now, I fear that if I do not do enough to maintain someone's love for me, that person will stop loving me and walk out of my life.

This fear has definitely impacted how I interact with others. I have been in performative relationships in which I felt as though I had to work hard to continue meriting the relationship. Of course, I do not expect the same effort from the other person in each relationship.

I still live with my fears. They continue to affect how I interact with others. Once, I became too clingy for one person's comfort; and that person did in fact walk out of my life. I mourned that loss. I grieved hard. The intensity of it lasted for some months - and then a time of less intensive grieving followed. Such is the strength of the attachments, whether that be good or bad.

It is now four years since that incident. I now barely blink at reminders at we are no longer friends. I just don't care much about it. I have managed to grow new friendships. While I don't feel secure in many of them, I have gained a new confidence with some. If we part and go our separate ways, I have a growing confidence that I can make new friends.

There was nothing to fear in losing that friend. There was nothing to fear from the churchgoer's arm. Of course, I still start and jump if someone makes an unexpected move near me.

Using self-affirmations, reminding myself of where (and when) I am, holding onto something tangible - these and other tools have helped me deal with the fear that I experience.

Imam El-Farouk Khaki often councils me when my mental health symptoms flare up. One day, when I was figuratively crying on his shoulder because of the flashbacks that I was experiencing, he told me about the Gesserit Liturgy.

"I must not fear.
"Fear is the mind-killer.
"Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
"I will face my fear.
"I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
"And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
"Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
"Only I will remain."

What works for you? Also, how would your life be different if you were free of fear?

Mid-Khutba Formalities
* Basmalla
* Hamd
* Salawat
* Istighfar
* Taqullah

Bismillah, walhamdulillah, wassalatu wassalam `ala sayyidina Muhammad wa `ala aalihi at-tayyibina at-tahhirin. Allahumma salli `ala Muhammad wa aale Muhammad. Astaghfirullah lil mu'minina wal mu'minat, wa lil `alamin. Ya `ibadullah, wa nafsi, itaqullah.

In the name of God. Praise be to God, and blessings and peace be on our dear Prophet Muhammad, and on his cleansed and purified family. I seek forgiveness for the believers and for the whole world. O worshippers of God, and myself, maintain due reverence for God.

Second Half of Service: Invitation to Discuss

Post-Khutba Formalities
* Verse
* Hadith
* Supplication
* Verse of Taslima (with yet another Salawat)


Alaa! Inna awliya'i Allahi la khawfun ^alayhim wa la hum yahzanun al-ladhina amanu wa kanu yattaquna laumu al bushra fi  al hayati dunya wa fil akhirat. La tabdila likulimati Allahi dhalika uma al fawz al ^athim.

Behold! Surely the allies of God, fear will not set upon them, nor will they grieve. Those whoe believe and maintain due reverence towards God, they will have good tidings in the hereafter. There is no changing God's words. That is the grand achievement.
Quran, 10:62-64

"Tranquility is a breeze from Heaven. It has a face like that of a human being."
[Freedom's note: In sacred Islamic texts, "face" is often understood to mean mercy.]
(Ma'anil Akhbar, At-Tafsir al 'Ayyashi)

"Righteousness is that by which the heart gets tranquility and you get peace of mind, and the sin is that which upsets (your) heart and creates uncertainty - even if people give you rulings over rulings."
(Ad-Durrul Manthur)


Subhana Allahi al ^athimi a bihamdihi astaghfirul Allaha wa as'aluka min fadlih.

Glory be to God, and praise be to the Divine. I seek God's protection and I seek the benetifts of God's graciousness.

TASLIMA: Inna Allaha wa mala'ikatuhu yusalluna `alaannabi. Ya ayyuhalladhina 'amanu sallu `alayhi wa sallimu taslima. (Qur'an 33:56) Allahumma salli `ala Muhmmad wa aale Muhammad. Truly, God and his angels invoke blessings on the Prophet. O you who believe, invoke blessings on him, and complete peace. O God, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.


Bales, Kevin. Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World. Spiegel & Brau, 2016, New York, NY.

Clancy, John and Andrew McVicar. Physiology and Anatomy for Nurses and Healthcare Practitioners: A Homeostatic Approach. Taylor & Francis, 2009, Boca Raton, FL.

Harper, Douglass. Online Etymological Dictionary.

Oxford Dictionary of the English Language. eds Soanes, Catherine and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Quran: a combination of the translations of Yusuf, Shakir, Pickthall, and my own interpretation.

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