Habib Ali al-Jifri: “Humanity before Religiosity”


Why “Humanity before Religiosity?” All Praise be to Allah. Profuse peace and blessings be on our Master Muhammad. Thank you for posing this question. Firstly, people confuse religion with religiosity. Many students sent to me ask how I can say “humanity before religiosity?” I reply: Religion is before humanity and everything else because it is attributed to Allah the Sublime. However, religiosity is how we practise the Religion. A Bedouin came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and asked, “Who are you?” The Prophet said: The Messenger of Allah
He asked, “Who sent you?” The Prophet said: Allah
He asked, “With what has He sent you?” He said: “Strengthening the ties of kinship, protection of life, security of passage.” He then mentioned tawhid (Oneness of God): “To destroy idols so Allah alone should be worshipped.” Even though the foundation of the Message is tawhid, he first mentioned the characteristics of humaneness. Because if one’s humanity is sound, his religiosity will ensure that his connection with those around him is based on his connection with Allah and having a lofty transaction with Him. But if one’s humanity is lacking or has a defect, a fault, then any step one takes towards religiosity leads to the opposite of what is sought. The Kharijite who killed our Master Ali ibn Abi Talib spent the entire night before the murder standing in worship until his feet became swollen. [People like him] perform the rituals of religiosity but do not possess the reality or receptacle for religiosity. I was talking with my dear brother Shaykh Usama about this. He called my attention to another hadith. The Prophet, peace upon him, said: “Spread (the greeting of) peace, feed others, uphold the ties of kinship, and pray during the night when people are asleep, and you will enter Paradise in peace.” He mentioned prayer at night after matters to do with human connections. Spread (the greeting of) peace amongst people, uphold the ties of kinship, feed others. He mentioned these ahead of [voluntary] worship. In the first hadith, he made characteristics of humanity a receptacle for tawhid or creed. And in this hadith, he made characteristics of humanity a receptacle for worship by which one draws near to Allah. No doubt, whoever sees the crimes committed today in the name of the Religion will fully realize upon reflection that the problem is with [the state of] our humanity. So we need to look again at the state of our humanity. This is why the book began with criticism of myself, then criticism of the [current state of] religious discourse. Then I spoke about the problems facing the youth. Then some concepts and how they should be understood. All Praise be to Allah. The book will be enlightening, Allah-Willing. Many wrote to us saying, “Please tell Sayyidi al-Habib Ali to stay in Egypt.” They ask you to give Egypt some of your time. I have a comment on the same point Mawlana Habib Ali made. Humanity before religiosity is true without doubt. After our last meeting, an allusion to humanity before religiosity occurred to me in a short surah we all recite in Prayer. {Have you considered the person who denies the religion?} Allah then begins to explain how denial of the religion is manifested. The first [manifestation] is: {It is he who pushes aside the orphan} i.e. pushes him violently; devoid of all humanity which urges sympathy and gentleness to an orphan. {It is he who pushes aside the orphan and does not urge others to feed the needy.} Allah equated his stone-heartedness and refusal to honour the human need for food and drink with denial of the religion. Allah then rendered this inhumanity to lead such a person to do worship in a lifeless way. {So woe to those who pray but are heedless of their prayer} What caused him to be distracted, heedless, not attaining the reality of the Prayer or exaltation of the Lord of the worlds and His rites? It is due to his harsh interaction with other human beings. When he became stone-hearted, this was reflected in his lifeless worship. The worship no longer resulted in its real purpose. He prays but does not show mercy to others. {So woe to those who pray but are heedless of their prayer; those who are all show and forbid common kindnesses.} i.e. giving. Ibn Abbas says refusing to give even utensils [such as] if a neighbor asks to borrow a container, a cup, or something. If the lady of the house refuses to fulfil her neighbor’s needs she should know that Allah made the failure to show kindness a form of denial of the religion. So, there is religion. There is humane conduct. There is worship and religiosity. He even linked ostentation to this.. {those who are all show} Ostentation creeps into the worship of those who lack humanity. Their worship is mere outward show and its light does not enter their hearts. Then it develops into the oppression that we see today.

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