Zombies in the Quran
The audience will understand the ubiquitous nature of cell-phone distractions and learn to create ‘off times’.
The journey together: There is a huge difference between “You’ve got a problem. You need help. You should…” and “We’ve got a problem. We need help. I am going to…” In the words of Michael Jackson, “You are not alone. I am here with you.” Include a few personal examples of how you struggle with this same dilemma.
How many of you have a cell phone with you right now? Look around.
Inshallah, I’ll be giving the khutbah here. And I’m going to give you three reasons why you would NOT attend.
- This upcoming khutbah will be about iPhone, FB, Angry Birds.
- Khutbahs should be serious. There ought to be a little screaming, a little crying. Instead, you will get a joke or two, a few famous quotes, perhaps a little sarcasm, and I will not give you five ayaat, not even three. Rather I will give you just one.
- Khutbas are supposed to be free. The economy is getting tighter, so unfortunately, I have started to charge for all my khutbahs.
If I don’t explain myself better, no one will show up. So let me explain:
- It’s fairly obvious that the overwhelming majority of us are addicted to our cell phones. So addicted that we bring them inside the masjid…just in case we get a call/text/email during our prayers.
- Yes, you will only hear one aya in the khutbah, but you will love it and fear it. More specifically, every time you hear the word Ghaflah, your wandering mind will immediately be pulled back to reality.
- Most of us have been Muslims now for 10, 15, even 20 years. That is at least 500 khutbahs—the equivalent of a Master’s degree. But what do we have to show for it? Don’t you want to make a difference, to grow? To change? Yes, I have a fee. My fee is going to be a commitment from you to change. If you are like me and you don’t have anything to show for 2011, it’s not too late. Come to my khutbah, and together we are going to make a change.
How many of you know the full name of the person sitting on your right or left, without asking? Look around.
If you want the same old routine, the same recycled speeches, the same formula year after year, then please don’t come to my khutbah.
But if you believe that our community needs to stand up and face some of the storms on the horizon, if you believe that we can grow, and change, and make a difference, then please attend this khutbah.
Before the Khutbah begins, get and distribute name stickers. Encourage people to write in their names then wear the tags.
Khutbah tul Haajah
Praise be to Allah. We seek His help and His forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls and from our bad deeds. Whomsoever Allah guides will never be led astray and whomsoever Allah leaves astray, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the One, having no partner. And I bear witness that Muhammad (S) is His slave and Messenger.
Al-hamdu Lillaahi nahmaduhu wa nasta’eenahu wa nastaghfiruhu wa na’oodhu billaahi min shuroori anfusinaa wa min sayi’aati a’maalinaa
Man yahdih Illaahu falaa mudilla lahu wa man yudlil falaa haadiya lahu
Wa ashhadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allah wahdahu la sharika lahu
wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasooluhu.
O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and always speak the truth.
- Surah al-Ahzaab [33:70]
Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo ittaqoo Allaha waqooloo qawlan sadeedan
Yuslih Lakum A’malukum wa yaghfir lakum dhunubakum wa mayin yuti illaha wa rasulahu faqad faza fauzan adheema.
Indeed the best speech is the speech of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (S). And the worst of matters are those innovated by the people, and every innovated matter is a bid’ah and every bid’ah is astray, and every going astray is in the fire.
Fainna khairal hadeethi kitabullah, wa khairal hadi, hadi Muhammad (saw), wa sharrul umur muhdathatuha, wa kullu bida’atin dalaala, wa kullu dalalatin finnar.
The new iPhone, version 4S, was not designed to compete with other smart phones on the market; rather, its target was to usher in a new era of hyper multitasking. This is Apple at not only its most creative but also its most aggressive. The Wall Street Journal pointed toward a record production of 25 million units for 2011 .
The Guinness Book of Records reported that the iPhone 4 was the fastest-selling portable gaming system. They also awarded Apple’s app store for having the most downloads, at 6.5 billion downloaded applications, and Angry Birds as the most downloaded app in the world, at 6.5 million downloads . The iPhone 4S was releasedin October. If nothing else, it is the ultimate distraction—whoops, I meant to say “multi-tasking machine.”
- Americans now spend 8.5 hours per day with their PCs or smartphones. We spend more time plugged-in than any other single activity.
- Facebook has 750 million active users. There are 30 billion pieces of content shared on it each month , and 95 million people update their status every day. Avid users spend 2 hours on Facebook while they are at work—that is 1.5% of our gross national productivity.
- But FaceBook is just social networking, and that is only the 4th most popular online activity. Way ahead of that is texting. The average American teen sends more than 100 texts per day . And ahead of texting is using search engines. When did we start Googling our questions, and who did we ask before Sheikh Google? It is estimated that Google gets a billion searches per day . But wait, ahead of Googling is email. American office workers check their email 30-40 times per hour.
We are addicted
- How many of you have your cell phones with you right now? If you left your cell phone at home, how many of you would turn around and go back home to get it? Personally, if I’ve left my cell phone upstairs, I would go get it…not necessarily because I’m expecting a call, but just in case.
- I went to the masjid to meet someone. I saw them making dua’a so I just waited in the lobby. Right then I got a text from that person asking where I was. It turns out that they were on their phone the whole time. To me, it just looked like they were making a dua’a.
- Many of us stand for the prayer with our phones on the ground in front of us. We might not put it face up, but just in a way that we could see if anyone called or texted during the salah.
- One evening during the Hajj when we were making tawaf, we saw flashes coming from every direction. People on the second and third floors were posing, and their family or friends were taking pictures. People were going back and forth between Safaa and Marwaa and talking on their cell phones.
- One guy shared a story of a time when he was busy texting someone when he stepped off a curb into the path of a cyclist. Obviously, they collided and both fell hard on the concrete. His first thought was not whether he was OK or the cyclist was OK—he wanted to know if his iPhone was OK!
- At a major oil & gas company, employees in a large department were given the option of getting unlimited minutes and data on new Blackberries, or keeping their regular phones. However, the Blackberries came with the responsibility of responding to their office email, even after hours and on holidays. It was an electronic leash—a corporate trap. The Verizon representative said 100% of the company’s employees chose the Blackberry (also commonly known as Crackberry).
Mohammed Ibn Faqih recommended that the primary verse of this khutbah should be the end of verse 205 from Surah al-A’raf: Wala takun minal-Ghafileen “Don’t be heedless” [7:205]. Other supporting verses include Surah al-A’raf, verse 136 [7:136], and Surah ar-Ruum, verse 7 [30:7].
Bauerlein, M. (2009). The dumbest generation: how the digital age stupefies young americans and jeopardizes our future (or, don’t trust anyone under 30). J P Tarcher.
Carr, N. (2011). The shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains. W W Norton & Co Inc.
Allah says they are in a state of Ghaflah. “Ou-laa-eeka humul gha-fil-oon.” People are heedless.
When kids are watching TV, you can yell at them and they are oblivious. But as soon as you shut the TV off, the kids go berserk. A beautiful, panoramic sunset with hawks catching field mice, a hike in the mountains to a waterfall, or the colors of aspen leaves on a fall day…these things mean nothing anymore. Our real life is not as entertaining as reality TV. Despite growing up on the Information Superhighway, the Millennial generation is less informed, less literate, and more self-absorbed than any before it . Our thirst for electronic stimuli is changing the brain’s wiring. As we hop through web links, Twitter, email, online maps, and video games, we stunt our neurological ability to remember facts or pay attention long enough to fully digest what we read. The more distracted we become, the less we are able to empathize or experience compassion or express emotion. Psychologists and Sociologists are studying IAD: Internet Addiction Disorder. We are losing our humanity.
“Ou-laa-eeka humul gha-fil-oon.” People are losing their human-ness – their humanity.
- Watch a random group of students walking out of a classroom. Their heads are down looking at their cell phones, or they have their phones on their ears, making an immediate phone call. Physically they are walking together, but they are talking to students somewhere else. They move together, but they don’t acknowledge the people immediately next to them.
- The gym was once a place where you could go to meet or make a group of friends. Now, everyone is in their own world with their headphones on. The same thing has happened on planes. You can easily sit on a 3-hour flight next to two people and not exchange more than 3 words.
- Even at the office, many people choose to eat a sandwich at their desk while they browse the internet. Or they might go downstairs to the cafeteria to eat alone with their headphones on. We are losing our human closeness. Instant messaging (IM) has become very popular in many offices. Even when people are in adjacent cubicles, they still IM each other rather than talk face to face.
- A young lady was in the checkout line at Walgreens, talking on her cell phone. If you assume that when she got to the front of the line she would hang up, or at least put her cell phone down, then you would be wrong. When her turn came, Cell Phone Girl stayed stuck to her cell phone, paying for her gum, magazines, and lip gloss, all without so much as a hello to the cashier. She treated the person, the cashier, like a machine, and treated the machine, her phone, like a person.
Listen to this
“They have hearts with which they do not understand. They have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. They are like livestock… No, no, no—they are even worse. They are heedless.” [Surah al-A'raf 7:179]
Islam: The Dangers of Heedlessness – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ejQXZdh-Z4
Allah says people are in a state of Ghaflah. Ghaflah has many meanings. Generally when words begin with ghayn, it means something that is hidden. Some say that Ghaflah means that the intellect is hidden, but another interpretation is that the voice of our hearts is hidden. We are drowning it out with video clips, music, news, websites… Are we trying to hide from ourselves?
“Ou-laa-eeka humul gha-fil-oon.” People are on automatic pilot.
- n The next time you are stuck in traffic or on a freeway, look around. People are like zombies. They are asleep at the wheel. You can see the blue glow on their faces as they text, email, or watch a movie while driving at 60 mph in 2-ton automobiles that are weapons of mass destruction. Hamza Yusuf says that driving is ibaadah. When you get on the road with zombies, your life is in Allah’s hands. If I could give you a homework assignment, it would be to check out his YouTube clip, “Dangers of Heedlessness.”
- Go to a mall and you will see people sleepwalking.
- At the office, people are amped-up on caffeine just staring blankly at their computer screens.
- Students come physically to class, but mentally they are nowhere
This is not an anti-internet khutbah. Don’t worry, I will not ask you to re-label your smartphone by writing Abu Jahl on it. This is a message on distraction. I want to tell you that something is wrong when you hear the ding of a new text message or a new email and you can’t resist the urge of checking it in the middle of a real live conversation. The cell-phones are just a tool. We are filling our lives with distractions. We are becoming heedless.
“Ou-laa-eeka humul gha-fil-oon.” We are turning into zombies.
Law of Modern Life
The Law of Modern Life: If you do not take your time, it will be taken from you.Does this ever happen to you? You start a project but get inundated with a dozen tangents along the way, some of which have higher priorities. The original project takes three times as long to complete and the final product is not your best work. This is the result of multi-tasking. This is the result of being distracted.
1. Recognize that there is a problem. Radon gas is dangerous because it is odorless and invisible. Distraction is dangerous because it is invisible and unnamed. Do you need proof of your addiction to connectedness? Answer the following:
- Do you sleep near or with your cell phone?
- Have you ever taken your cell phone to the restroom? (Would you answer it there?)
- Would you panic if you lost your cell phone?
- Do you lose track of time when you get online?
- When you enter someone’s home, do you ask about their Wi-Fi signal?
- Would you rather text a friend while grabbing a snack, over getting a snack with the friend?
- Do you use technology in ways you would not want others to know about?
- Have you ever stood uncomfortably in the cold or rain or afternoon sun just to get better cell phone reception?
- Would you be afraid to trade cell phones with your spouse? Share all your emails, text messages, and call records—right now?
- Do you get irritated when a person interrupts you when you are texting someone else or answering an email?
- Do you wish you could check your smartphone right now?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any single one of these, then there is a problem.
“Call upon Allah while you are certain of being answered and know that Allah does not respond to the supplication of the unmindful and heedless heart.” From Sikilatul-Ahadeethis-Saheehah, no. 594.
So how do you know if you’re becoming a zombie? The Prophet (S) gave us a beautiful litmus test: He said, “Allah does not answer a prayer from a heedless heart.”  If you find that you are constantly making the same dua’a without any result, then you need some open-heart surgery. Look into your own heart and see what type of junk is blocking your spiritual arteries. It’s not uncommon to find high blackberry levels, an elevated TV count, satellite, music, internet, games. How do you know if you are becoming a zombie? Look into your heart.
I am not recommending that you get rid of all your electronic instruments; that would be like getting rid of cars because cars lead to accidents. It does mean that that you should take the risks seriously and learn to use electronic seat belts.
2. Find the ‘off’ button. Did you know that every kind of technology has an off button? Find it. Create “off” zones or times:
- During dinner with the family
- When you are having lunch with a friend
- Before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m. In our home, if you call us after 10 p.m., you will get our voice mail. That’s not because we’re asleep; our evenings are an “off” zone.
- When you go to the masjid. Foulan’s Law states that at least one cell phone will ring during the salah. (Usually its some techno beat or rap remix ringtone.)
I have actually heard someone answering their phone during the salah! He said it, too: “I’m praying now. No, I am in the middle of the prayer right now. OK, OK yalla.”
“Ou-laa-eeka humul gha-fil-oon” We are turning into zombies.
This is what I have say. I ask for forgiveness. I ask forgiveness from the Coverer of Sins, the Most Merciful
A cool ou koule hadha, astaghfirullahe wallkum, astaghfiruhu innahu wal-Ghafur rur-Raheem.
Alhamdolillah, summa alhamdolillah. Amma baadh.
- According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of matrimonial attorneys said that the internet or cell phone played a significant role in the divorce. In half of their cases, one-third of all divorces filed in the U.S., the cell phone or computer was implicated.
- One lady called her husband’s laptop his “plastic mistress.” He is online late at night, and by the time he comes to bed his wife is already asleep. My wife and I created a rule early on: we always go to bed at the same time–no matter what. If she needs to study, I stay up. If I need to work, she is awake,
- We all suffer from “continuous partial attention.” How many of us are checking email when we are speaking to our spouses or friends? We are even distracted while we are checking our email! I open Gmail, and my account is even open, I have already opened another tab and am at digg.com, and within the first 60 seconds, I will easily have six or seven parallel web pages open—all while I’m on the phone to my mom.
“Ou-laa-eeka humul gha-fil-oon.” We are destroying our relationships.
Distraction is the modern epidemic
- Google is in the business of distraction. They make money when you click on links.
- We are programmed to reply to text messages within a few seconds of receiving them, to answer any call.
Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other. Basic Books (AZ).
There is an outstanding book which is worth mentioning here: Alone Together—Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle.  It highlights the emotional undercurrents of today’s technology, and the impacts on our relationships. The author points to ‘smarter’ cell phones leading to our inability to focus on one thing, fewer friendships, broken marriages, depression, and disloyalty.
The enemy is very adept at distracting us—he’s been doing it since the Garden of Eden. What happens when you start reading the Qur’an in the evening? Suddenly you will experience a level of exhaustion that you have not known. I get my most important calls as the adhan is going off. And as soon as I stand for the salah, Shaytaan whispers the most distracting thoughts. The enemy wants you to become a zombie.
The only way to stop yourself from transforming into a zombie is to recognize that it’s happening to you. Then start being heedful, or mindful, of what really matters: the people around you.
One huge difference between the Muslim communities that last and those that die is not money or minarets: It is the amount of personal interaction within the community. This obligation of the Friday prayer has as much to do with the message as it does with getting to know each other. I challenge you to learn one new name and face at every khutbah. Do not leave without creating that connection. These people will help prevent you from becoming heedless.
If you remember just one thing as you leave here today, let it be this: If you walk into this masjid, make your prayer, then walk out without saying a word to anyone else, you are a zombie. However, if you know the name of the person sitting next to you, you might at least say, “Hey, Abdullah. How are you today?”
I challenge you to learn one person’s name every week. It will take 3-8 seconds per week, or 4 minutes out of your whole year. But from this Ramadan to the next, you can be 50 brothers stronger.
Indeed Allah and His angels send blessings upon the Prophet; O you who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke Peace upon him in a worthy manner. (Quran 33:56). O Allah, send blessings upon the Muhammad and the Family of Muhammad, in the same way you send blessings upon Abraham and the Family of Abraham – Verily you are worthy of all praise full of all glory!
Innal-lahu wa Malaaikatuhu yassaloona aln-Nabi
Yaa aiyuhal latheena aamanoo, salloo alaihy, wa sallimou tasleema
Allahumma Salli ‘Ala Muhammad, wa ‘Ala alee Muhammad,
Kama sallaita ‘Ala Ibrahima wa ‘ala alee Ibrahim
Fil ‘alameena innaka hamidun Majeed.
Oh, Allah, we all wish to be happy, so help us understand that only in remembering you do our hearts find rest and contentment and happiness. Ya Rub.
Oh, Allah, our minds are so distracted to our daily affairs, so help us focus on the actions which You love.
Ya ath-thawwab, our limbs are constantly looking for gratification in this world, so help us create good habits and make our bodies love those actions.
Let’s make dua’a that Allah not let us become heedless. Oh, Allah, help us wake up.
This khutbah is part of a series on the Islamic household. Our homes are supposed to be our sanctuaries. But our sanctuaries are cluttered and filled with addictions and obsessions. Inshallah, we will continue this series by talking about materialism, food, sleep – basic things. Simple rules.
Today, I hope that we’ve really made the Enemy upset. This year, I want Shaytaan to be fuming with rage. Shaytaan hates it when you learn each other’s names. As you get up to leave, you will think, maybe I ought to ask that guy his name. Then Shaytaan will immediately pounce on you and say, “You’ve got to get back to the office—you’ll be late. That message was lame, you’re not really gonna ask for someone’s name.” Don’t listen to him. Before you get up, just turn to the person on your right and on your left and ask for their name.
Let me share my Vision with you. What if you walked into the masjid, and everyone here knew your name? And as you looked around, you realize that you knew all of them?
Zombies don’t have names. You do.
We are going to take back our community. We are going to take back our homes. We are going to take back our families. We are going to take back our hearts.
O Allah, forgive us for our shortcomings.
Ya Rub bil-Alimeen, purify our hearts and our souls.
Ya Rahmaanu Ya Raheem, from now on let us do deeds of the people of Paradise.
Ya Ghafoor Ya Shakoor, help us to be grateful to you and to our parents.
Ya Malik Ya Salaam, make the trials of our parents easier in their old age.
Ya Dhul-Jalal wal-Ikraam, give us Jannah through our parents.
Ya Aqeemas salati yarhumukumullah.
Post Khutbah Announcement : How to Use a Cell Phone
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island, what one item would you take with you? A major publisher conducted a survey and the top three responses from adults are: (3) a boat or fishing pole, (2) a good book, and (1) a picture of their family. The top three responses of teens are: (3) super model, (2) chocolate, and (1) a cell phone.
This khutbah is about relationships—it is not about cell phones, and it is not about the internet. Here are Four Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette as they relate to relationships.
- Never respond to your cell while you are with a live person, especially your spouse.
The #1 complaint from wives at the time of a divorce is that their husbands don’t listen. One wife said, “Before we got married, he told me that he would lay down his life for me. After we got married, he won’t even lay down his newspaper for me.” Another complained to a marriage counselor that her husband always answered his cell phone as soon as it rang, no matter what. The Prophet (S) said, “The best of you are those who are best to your wives.”
The most important marriage skill is listening to your partner so that they can’t possibly doubt that you love them. Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, the two are almost indistinguishable.
- Don’t have long conversations on your cell when you are among a group of real people, even total strangers. This happens in airplanes, elevators, busses, and in our masajed.
One time I was at the Dawah Center in downtown Houston, waiting for the khutbah, and a guy was talking on his phone. The topic of his conversation was really distracting, so I got up and went to the opposite side of the saff. It’s a big masjid, and as soon as I sat down, I realized that the person he was talking to, based on the same annoying topic, was sitting in front of me.
- Always put your phone on vibrate at home or at a restaurant. Don’t talk on the phone while you eat—eat when you eat. Any time the lights are dimmed, turn your cell phone on silent. In fact, let the default mode on your phone be silent.
- Stay alive, don’t text and drive. Drive now, talk later.
There is not an email, or text message, or call you can make that is more important than your life or the life of another human being. Please resist the urge to multitask while you are driving. We love you, we and want you to be a part of this community for a long time.
The Fiqh of Cell Phones by Sheikh Kamal el-Mekki delivered at Abu Huraira Center (Toronto) on November 21, 2009. http://thefactsaboutislam.blogspot.com/2011/05/fiqh-of-cell-phones-kamal-el-mekki.html
If you want to learn more about this topic, then see The Fiqh of Cell Phones by Kamal Mekki. 
Jazakullah khaire wasalam.