In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Peace and blessings of God be upon our Master, Muhammad, the Seal of the Messengers
The lecture below is from a course Shaykh Hamza Yusuf taught at the Rihla program* in Samsun, Turkey three years ago. The class was a commentary on select Hadith from the 40 Hadith Nawawi and was taught a few days following the failed coup attempt in Turkey. In this particular class, Shaykh Hamza discusses several foundational principles in the Islamic tradition such as rectifying one’s intention and sincere introspection. He points out that we must examine the metaphysical realities that underlie our individual and collective condition.
Unfortunately, a clip from this lecture, stripped of its context, was posted on an unauthorized private YouTube channel. As is not unusual on platforms designed to incite discord, it was re-shared with such sensationalist headlines as “Shaykh Hamza Yusuf mocks the Syrian refugees” or “Shaykh Hamza claims the Syrian refugees humiliated themselves.”
Those familiar with Shaykh Hamza’s collective body of work would immediately recognize these false and odious accusations. He has never ridiculed or mocked the oppressed. His past statements, videos, lectures and classes reveal only the opposite. His lecture “We are All Refugees” from a past RIS program attest to the time and care he has given to their plight. He has spoken at rallies and fundraisers in support of the Syrian people. He has also presented a summary paper on the refugee crisis at a high-level meeting in Rome with faith leaders, government officials, and academics.
For those who are not familiar with the depth and breadth of his work, it would be sufficient to watch the class in its entirety and definitively conclude that he criticizes only those who started the bloodshed and expresses great sympathy for the innocents who have lost their lives, loved ones, and homes in this ugly and inhumane civil war. Let there be no doubt that his criticism is for the architects of what has led to the decimation of the blessed land of Syria, while his sympathy is for the innocent civilians who suffer the horrific consequences. People are free to disagree with his position, but to say that Shaykh Hamza mocks the refugees is utterly wrong.
Unfortunately, some have used these types of clips to malign Shaykh Hamza by taking select portions of his talks or interviews out of context and twisting his message. This is quickly followed by a reactionary response and refutation by many who have not taken the time to understand their full context. Others are obviously engaged in a concerted effort to discredit Shaykh Hamza and his years of service to the Muslim community.
He has countless lectures, interviews, blogs, articles, and essays online which stand in contradistinction to the baseless accusations made against him. However, there does not seem to be the same sense of urgency by our community to share those. A select online group seems to focus on circulating hate-baiting clips, and then mercilessly attack him. Surely, this is not the best we can offer as a community when we disagree with one another.
So let us return to the opening of this class, the beautiful words of our noble Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him): “Verily actions are only according to intentions, and each person shall have that which he intended.” May God rectify our intentions and guide us to His Truth.
*The Rihla program teaches the fard ayn (obligatory sciences) to students from across the world. Scholars from around the globe teach classes rooted in the Sunni orthodox tradition with the intention to facilitate a foundational literacy in the core Islamic sciences. Our thousands of alumni can attest to the life-changing nature of our programming.