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Sermon to Muslim Friday Prayer

on occasion of the Three Faith Summer School Ammerdown, August 19th, 2004

All praise belongs to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of all the worlds. And blessings and peace be upon the seal of the prophets and upon his family and his companions altogether.

I bear witness that there is no deity but God alone, and He has no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger, and I bear witness that Moses belongs to God's sent prophets, and I bear witness that Jesus belongs to the righteous servants of God -
The peace of God be with them altogether.

Peace be upon you as well as the mercy and the blessings of the Lord.

God most high says in the noble Qur'an:

1) Most gracious!
2) It is He who taught the Qur'an.
3) He has created man.
4) He has taught him speech.
5) The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly computed).
6) And the herbs and the trees - both alike bow in adoration.
7) And the firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the balance.
8) In order that you may not transgress (due) balance.
9) So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance.
10) It is He who has spread out the earth for His creatures.
11) Therein is fruit and date palms producing fruit-stalks (enclosing dates).
12) Also corn with its leaves and stalks for fodder and sweet smelling plants.
13) Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny.
(Sura 55:1-13)

As shown in the recited verses, God's creation is in balance, beauty and it is complete. However, the Lord decided to create a being living on earth as his vice regent. Here of cause the question arises, if creation was complete and sufficient for all, why did God bring into being such creation?

We are remembered by the Qur'an that even the angels themselves asked the Lord why he would place a new creation on earth and what it was good for. And they had good reasons to argue against it. They foresaw the following: "Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood, while we celebrate your praises and glorify your holy name." And God said: "I know and you know not." (Surah 2:30)

So it was not enough for the creator to indulge in the praising of the angels, He wanted someone besides them that - as the Qur'an says in another place - He created man and jinn only to serve Him and to praise His name.

And even in other places in the Qur'an we find arguments which speak against mankind in fulfilling their task. In the Qur'an we can read in many places that God created man weak and forgetful; that man is inattentive, unjust and that he behaves foolishly. On the other hand, the human soul is capable of distinguishing between good and evil. (Surah 91:8)

So man seems to be drawn into different directions. He is a living contradiction. How can such a being bear a burden like this?

How can the human being live up to the trust given to him and rule as a vice regent?

So far we have been talking about creation and man from the view of the creator. So what kind of man is proposed to cope with the task to be a vice regent (khalifah) of God on this earth?

In the process of revelation confronting mankind with the message of Qur'an, the Qur'an presents several groups of human beings.

Some of these aren't capable of fulfilling the task to be khalifah of earth - others are.

The first ones among those are missing the aim by applying partners to God. Instead of serving God they serve their own greed, their own arrogance and their strive for short term of fulfilment of needs. Because those people do not believe in a life and a reckoning after their life's end, they have lost the measure or the balance in their deeds. Those are called in the Qur'an mushrikun / idol worshippers.

Then we have those who know better and know what should be done on earth. But they are not willing to draw the consequences. They are called kafirun, because they "cover" (Arabic: kafara) the truth. So truth cannot find its place in their lives.

In our Islamic and Qur'anic terminology we also have the munafiqun, the hypocrites, who say that they are believers but who are not in their hearts.

Those who accept the message brought to them by the prophets will be sorted out into three classes. They are called muslim, mu'min and muhsin.

The muslim - the submitter - accepts the rules of the religious law. He or she knows that he/she will get his/her reward for his/her obedience. They resemble those who would say: "We shall not throw the litter into the street!"

In a tradition of the prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him - he said about the muslim: "The muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue his brothers and sisters do not have to fear any harm. He/she brings peace to his surroundings/environment."

The second category is called the mu'min. The mu'min is the believer. Mu'min is derived from the root "amana", to believe, to be secure, to have confidence.

He is the one who has found certainty in his believe. His deeds are not only avoiding the limits set up by the Lord. He does not act out of fear of the punishment of the fire or of joy of the garden but finds pleasure in doing more than what is necessary.

He is the one who would remove the litter of somebody else from the street without complaining. The definition of iman (believe) in the Qur'an is very wide and is not only limited to the followers of the prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him - but to man as a whole.

The group most excellent are called the muhsinun. They do good although they cannot see the Lord with their eyes but they know that He sees them. They try to be constantly in His presence. They remember the question of the Lord to the contingent of the souls before they were sent down to this world: "Am I not your Lord? And the contingent of the souls said: 'Yes you are our Lord'."

About them the prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him - said in a tradition: "When they speak they speak with the tongue of the Lord, when they act with their hands, they are guided by God and when they walk they are walking in the Presence of the Creator."

Returning to the topic of creation, it is he who can take the responsibility of caring for creation and the environment by taking responsibility for this amanah - that part of creation that is entrusted on us.

Nobody should be sure that he belongs to any of these groups. In each of our hearts is living, acting and struggling the idol worshipper, the denier. They fight the submitter, the believer. So we should strive or fight to reach the level that we can reach and leave the things that are not in our capability.

May we find our place and our task in this world and accept the challenges of the burden.

And so we pray with the verses of the Qur'an:

"Our Lord, condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You which you did lay on those before us; Our Lord lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our protector; Help us against those who stand against Faith."
(Surah 2:285)

Taufiq Norbert Mempel
Wilhelm Sabri Hoffmann

Deutsche Muslim-Liga Bonn e.V. - 1425 / 2004