The Case For Empowering Muslim Women, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

The greatest unsung heroes and advocates for Muslim women are the Muslim mothers who work to preserve and pass down faith, character, self-respect, knowledge and dignity to their daughters (and their sons) and to other Muslim women. Most of these women are unknown except by their families and small circles. Some of them have been scholars, activists and teachers themselves, who Allah used to uphold the honorable status of women in Islam, to preserve and spread the religion of Islam.

Muslim Women have as much right to religious knowledge as they do to secular education. One of the most effective ways to empower our women, strengthen them in their struggle for respect, fair treatment, and in their fight against abuse and injustice, is through the acquisition of religious knowledge. I first learned that, from the example of my mother Umm Luqman (May Allah bless her soul). We have so many smart and capable women in our ummah. When a woman learns and understands herself and her religion, and is able to stand intellectually upon the foundations (usool) of our faith, it increases her potency as an advocate for justice and an opponent of oppression by a thousand. The Prophet صلي الله عليه و سلم  said: “one knowledgeable person is harder against the shaitaan than a thousand (unlearnt) worshippers“. [Bukhaari].

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Sister Aisha is a 50 year old American Muslim convert to Islam who is homeless. With your help, we’ll get her back on her feet.

This has been the case for many women in our history such as Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the wife of the Prophet صلي الله عليه و سلم , and and Umm Hasan bint Abi Lawaa’ the female Andalusian (Spanish) scholar who was a great contributor to Muslim intellectual tradition of Spain. She was a descendant of slaves, and she died in Mecca, and was buried there. And there was Fatima bint Ali,(d. 599 a.h). the Muslim woman scholar of Islam from whom famous scholars of hadith such as al-Mizzee, and al-Damyaati, used to narrate hadith (prophetic tradition). There was Umm al-Fadl bint Muhammad al-Maqdasi, one of the Shaykhs of Jalaaludden as-Suyooti), and there was Asmaa bint Asad who was a scholar of Hadith, and was respected by the people Iraq and the followers of Abu Hanifa, as a keen jurist (faqih) and a narrator of Hadith, and Fatimah bin Abbaas al known as Fatima al-Bagh’daadiyya, who was a student of both ibn Taymiyyah, and Shamsuddeen al-Maqdasi. Women used to come from all over to study under her. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali said that she was a muj’tahid.

Then there was Zaynab bint Makki, al-Haraani (d. 688 h,). She narrated the entire texts of the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, the Jaami’ of at-Tirmidhi, the Sunan of Abu Dawood, and  the Book of Zuhd bu Abdllah al-Mubaarik. The scholar and historian ad-Dhahabi said about her, “she possessed more asaaneed (chains of narration), than any woman left in in this world). Then there was Zaynab bint Yahya, the granddaughter of ibn al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abdussalam she died in (d.735 h.)_, and was the only person at her time to have a continuous chain of al-Mu’ajm as-Saghir المعجم الصغير of at-Tabarani! Imam a-Dhahabi said that on the day she died she still had been listening and checking the recitation of her students of Quran. There was the scholar of hadith, Khaatoon, the granddaughter of Salaahuddeen al-Ayoobi, and in modern times we have Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, and my auntie, Dr. Aminah McCloud the well-known professor at Depaul University. I used to babysit her children when I was in my teens.   Also, there is Zaynab bint Muhammad al-Ghazaali, the well-known Egyptian scholar and advocate for women, who died in 2005, as well as the intrepid champion for Kashmiri  independence, and literacy for Kasmiri women, Asiya Andrabi.  and so many other Muslim women of courage, knowledge and determination to make a change.

There is no need for Muslim women to emulate, be programmed by, or to hold in high esteem, disbelieving women or fowl mouthed rappers or (rapperettes) who invite women to kufr, or to disbelieve in Allah and His Messenger, or who call to lewdness, nastiness, bad language and character, or to unclothe yourselves in the name of liberating you, or who glorify fornication and disobedience to Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. No sisters, you are better than that. You don’t have to take your ideology [aqeedah] from them, or from men-hating, reckless, feminist extremists. If you as Muslim woman, have the desire to be an effective advocate for women, and help improve, and raise their condition of the oppressed, then learning your religion correctly will help empower you, strengthen you, and shield you in more ways that you may not realize.

A sister once asked me about where she can go to learn Islam from a women’s perspective. My advice was to learn Islam as Islam, according to what Allah revealed for mankind because knowledge that benefits a woman will benefit men and humanity also and knowledge which benefits men, will benefit women and humanity also. The goal of Shaitaan is turn men and women (particularly, spouses) into enemies, create discord between them, and to break the family, like he is doing through messaging being pumped into our community. Many of these callers to kufr, are a part of his army. Some knowingly and some unknowingly. The aim of Allah for the believer is to join spouses, keep the family whole, and to guide them to the straight path. My dear sisters of Islam, your role in this is essential, therefore I implore you to be vigilant. Sisters; you have to push back. I stand with you in this. – Imam Luqman Ahmad

These are difficult conversations for sure, and we are making huge strides in bringing these types of conversations to the forefront. If you believe that topics like these need to be addressed in our community, then please click on this link and make a donation to our organization, Mosque Without Borders  Your donation of $5, $10, $100, or more will afford us the added resources to reach more people, expand our platform, and start the Mosque Without Borders radio program by the month of Ramadan.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also and the author of the book, “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

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Islam; Submission, or peace? By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

 

5654757_keep_calm_and_islam_means_submission_not_peaceThe great, 14th century Muslim scholar, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani once said, “you can’t take something that is a component of something and make it the whole of it”.  Just because peace is a component of the religion of Islam does not give us the license to reinterpret the meaning of Islam to mean peace, or to say that the whole of Islam can be summarized as peace. Islam is no more or less peaceful than any other religion except maybe Christian Quakers who traditionally have been very dedicated to peace and non-violence.

Reinterpreting the meaning of the word ‘Islam’, which for over 1400 years had been understood by Muslim scholars, lexicologist, laypeople and the Prophet himself (صلي الله عليه و سلم)as submission, to all of a sudden mean peace, was a very risky although perhaps well-intended public relations gamble that did not turn out the quite the way that it was intended. This is because language in Islam and in the Quran has actionable legalities connected to it. There are distinct sharia (legal) ramifications), attached to the words and concepts found in the Quran. When you change the meaning of the word, you change the legal principle or creedal foundation that is attached to that word.  When you change the meaning of Islam from submission to peace, the actionable verbal imperative of submitting is replaced by the passive non-imperative of being peaceful.

Being a Muslim who submits to Allah requires action. Being peaceful requires no action at all. You can be peaceful simply by remaining in your bed in the morning instead of getting up for the Fajr prayer. You can be peaceful by taking a warm bath, by watching a good movie, or taking a hike through the woods. You can be peaceful by popping a prescription muscle relaxer or  a taking a dose of nighttime cough and cold medicine. In fact, you don’t even have to be a Muslim to be peaceful or to find peace and if a person can find peace without being Muslim, as many people do, then why should they bother with Islam in order to achieve what they already have?

In reality, Islam is not always peaceful and practicing Islam is not always peaceful. If we were so much at peace, we wouldn’t complain so much about how bad we’re treated, or try to make every incident of islamophobia go viral, and we wouldn’t have such high rates of depression. Think about that.

Islam is a “deen” (way of life) as Allah calls it, and if you say that Islam means peace, you’re saying that your deen is peace. Peace is not a deen unless you are a peacenik or pacifist who rejects jihad (holy war), self-defense, capital punishment, hunting, thabeeha slaughter during Eid al-Adhaa, or stoning Shaitaan (the devil) during hajj pilgrimage which are all without question, parts of Islam.  However, none of the aforementioned constitute the totality of Islam.

Nowhere in the entire corpus of Islamic law and theology has the word Islam been used or considered synonymous with peace. If it did, then it would affect about twenty issues of fiqh. Some people say that Islam is, “peaceful submission”. However,  you can’t take an adjective and apply it to a verbal noun and supplant the meaning of the noun. That’s pretty far-fetched. But then again, we live in crazy times. This is why instead of practicing Islam, many Muslims are just content on being peaceful , which for most folks, requires very little effort.

American Muslims, especially amongst many of our leaders, have a acquired a notorious reputation for not wanting to admit we were wrong, of hardly ever issuing a retraction, and for being reluctant to take responsibility for any of our failed public relations strategies. The end result being that although the lexical or sharia meaning of the word Islam will never mean peace, many of us insist on doubling down and sticking to the innovated meaning that we conjured up. So you have people trying to find round-about ways to make the meaning of peace work. Like; You can get peace when you submit, or the only peace is when you submit to Allah, or Islam is peaceful submission, or Muslims say peace be upon you , therefore Islam must mean peace, or Muslims are about peace, therefore Islam must mean peace. Or my favorite; Islam and peace share the same root, therefore Islam means peace.

Of course these are desperate, and intellectually dishonest lines of reasoning, but since we bought it, many of us are prepared to go down with it.  We could’ve simply said; Muslims are generally peaceful people, or Muslims like peace, or all Muslims aren’t violent, or something to that effect but no, we have to go all the way down the Rabbit hole and throw a monkey wrench into our aqeedah (creed) and say; Islam means peace. Period.  Funny thing though, when Muslims are in power, we proudly proclaim that Islam is submission to Allah. However, since we’ve been on the ideological defensive, we caved in an started to say that Islam means peace. We should not be so desperate for acceptance, that we unilaterally change the meaning of Islam from submission, to peace without any divine authority. Islam does not belong to us, it is the religion of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala and we do not have the authority to change it’s meaning.  Not for Da’wah, not for the press, not for our detractors, not for anybody.

So when we say Islam means peace and then people look it up in a dictionary or a lexicon, (because people can read) and see that it means submission,  or look at the world and see that Muslims also believe in war, and participate in fighting and killing,  it catapults our credibility out the window. People don’t even bother to argue the point with us.

So if you’ve run plum out of ideas and you are looking for a way to explain Islam to non-Muslims and you feel the need to ease it on them or feel you need to keep the peace thing in the forefront , then you can simply say that peace, is one of the many components within the religion if Islam. But if you insist on saying that Islam means peace or that the entire religion of Islam can be summarized as peace, then you’re dead wrong and you’re basically misrepresenting our faith.

Islam is what it is. People who know that and understand, accept Islam for what it is, and in the way it was revealed. Such people know that Islam is certainly bigger than peace. However, people who need Islam to be something else so they won’t have to take a moral position on contemporary issues or so they won’t have to offend anyone or because they want to hold on to a failed, morally bankrupt, public relations strategy, will find a lot of utility and maybe even some comfort in the Islam is peace thing.

Look we live in a time of ignorance, so a lot of Muslims just get caught up following slogans instead of having an actual aqeeda. Obviously, neither statement; “Islam means peace”, or, “Islam is peace” are scriptural truths, or prophetic axioms. They are more like political slogans or psychological pacifiers for Muslims,  in order to deflect criticism and so we don’t have to address the real, deep-rooted problems of sectarian violence within our Ummah. Interestingly enough, non-Muslims in general, never fell for the Islam means peace line. You literally have to pay politicians and non-Muslims to say that Islam is the religion of peace or to publicly state that Islam means peace.

The late American soul singer James Brown made a song where he said, “talking loud, but sayin nuthin”. People who make these ridiculous triangular arguments to try to rove that the word Islam means peace, do just that. Saying that Islam is about peace does not mean that the word Islam means peace and mentioning that one of the names and attributes of Allah is peace (السلام) as many people do, does not mean that the meaning of the word Islam is peace either. While it is true that Islam is about peace when appropriate, Islam is also about war. In fact, Islam is about worship, about forgiveness, about punishment, about repentance, about fasting during the month of Ramadan, about charity, about feeding the hungry and about many other things in addition to peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand our dilemma.  As Muslims, we have lots of violence in our history. Since 9/11 that violence has been highlighted, targeted and attacked repeatedly. So, in an attempt to sway public opinion, and being the image conscious people that we are, we changed the meaning of Islam from submission, to peace.

One of the unintended consequences of reinterpreting the meaning of Islam from submission to Allah, to peace, is that now a whole generation of Muslim children grew up believing that the meaning of Islam is peace. So, when you present the idea of submission to them, they look at you sideways and say; “look, I’m peaceful. What more do you want?” Muslim youth, as well as many adults have abandoned the traditional practice of Islam and now strive to be peaceful and not make any waves.  Many of our youth are starting to look at peace as mandatory and prayer for example, as optional. Our kids don’t even raise their voices in public. So as we come to realize that by engineering this meaning makeover we may have embarked upon a path of moral bankruptcy, some of us might still find comfort some in the fact that we now have  some of the most peaceful, docile, malleable and agreeable kids in the country.

The meaning of Islam, is and always will be submission. Practicing Islam requires belief, knowledge, action, and in some things requires intentions (niyya). Practicing peace does not require knowledge, does not require belief, nor action, and does not require intention since it is not considered an act of worship, nor an Amal saalih (righteous deed) unless for example, you make peace between two people.
If Islam meant peace, then our religion would be something that requires no knowledge, no action, no belief, and no intention. To be peaceful you do nothing, to be a Muslim, you submit to Allah.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

These are difficult conversation for sure, and we are making huge strides in bringing these types of conversation to the forefront. If you believe that topics like these need to be addressed in our community, then please click on this link and make a donation to our organization, Mosque Without Borders  Your donation of $5, $10, $100, or more will afford us the added resources to reach more people, expand our platform, and start the Mosque Without Borders radio program by the month of Ramadan.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also and the author of the book, “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

A White American Muslim Conference? By Imam Luqman Ahmad

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Use your zakat or sadaqa to help this homeless Muslim woman not be homeless

On the heels of the recent Black American Muslim conference held in California, a White Muslim brother recently bought up the idea of a White American Muslim conference. Wow!

At first I thought it was tongue in cheek, and for the record, I’m not for or against but come to think of it, a White American Muslim conference is an interesting idea that would certainly draw attention to a very important topic. Additionally, It would give Black Muslims and other Muslims something to talk about, and probably something to whine about,  and occupy their thoughts with. A lot of Immigrant Muslims would be in suspense waiting to hear what whitey had to say. Some of them might be appalled, others delighted maybe, and of course there are people who wouldn’t care a bit. Still, I suspect that people wanna know what the White man thinketh. Especially the White American Muslim. All the rest of us have gotten the opportunity to get our grievances out. Immigrants, Blacks, Women, Black women, immigrant women, Arabs, refugees, even detainees. Just about everyone in the ummah had an opportunity to highlight their story. White American Muslims are like the last people in our ummah to tell their tale.

Bear in mind though that when white Muslims get to telling their story, it might come with some high expectations and the pressure might be on white Muslims to come up with something that is phenomenally enlightening. Something that will catapult Islam. People still have complex emotions regarding white people and many folks still believe that the Whiteman knows best . Only Allah knows, the whole thing could be a game changer on multiple levels.

White Muslims do not feel the need to prove their Islam. At least the ones that I know don’t. They are more disappointed, frustrated, and sometimes simply flabbergasted at what many of them and not just them, regard as sheer ignorance, arrogance, and stupidity coming from the immigrant community. Of course you probably couldn’t say such a thing at a conference if you are a scholar or a high profile white Muslim. However, you get an average White American Muslim who is known but not too known and who does not have to think about future speaking opportunities and you could get some really raw sentiments. Of course the gift of Islam is immeasurable for any Muslim who understands but, there has been pain, and there has been damage and there has been disappointment as well as a few other surprises for many white people who converted to Islam.

The many anecdotal accounts of how some white Muslims have been treated and how they fared as a minority within a minority within another minority, while being a part of the majority (white), are similar and follow the same patterns so there probably are only so many story variations about white Muslim suffering and disappointment that you could tell. But the stories of White American Muslins are real nevertheless and part of our sojourn. Interestingly enough, white Muslims tend not to be racist towards Blacks at all. By the time they come into Islam, they’ve morally outgrown most if not all of the standard varieties of white bigotry that we’ve all grown accustomed to in this country.

The perspective of white American Muslims especially with respect to where how they were treated had a lot to do with their being white American Muslims, is important in ways that a lot of people may not even realize at the moment. Many stories have been told but because the issue of the White American Muslim has only recently come out in the open, there are at least a half a dozen ways you could direct this conversation. Correspondingly you would in turn, get quite an assortment of responses across the board, if you’re talking about a conference. It could be anything from, a’oothu billaah! to astaghfirullah! to ho-hum…, to ma sha Allah, to subhaana Allah! , to yeeee-haaaa! Al-humdu lillaah!

I’m a Muslim but I’m not white, I haven’t internalized the stories of White American converts to Islam, and I’m not in a position to say whether I agree or not with the idea of a White American Muslim conference here in the United States, nor does my opinion matter. It was just too intriguing of a notion for me not to write about it.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Important Note:

Race is a difficult conversation for sure, and we are making huge strides in bringing this conversation to the forefront. If you believe that topics like these need to be addressed in our community, then please make a donation to our organization, Mosque Without Borders  Your donation of $5, $10, $100, or more will afford us the added resources to reach more people, expand our platform, and start the Mosque Without Borders radio program by the month of Ramadan.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also and the author of the book, “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

The Post Janaaza Repast: Permissible or Not? by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

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repastThe question is probably better phrased as; is having a repast after a funeral prohibited? Since according to Islamic law, social and cultural events and affairs are deemed permissible until proven otherwise. A few days ago, an old friend of mine contacted me and asked me about the permissibility of people getting together to eat after a funeral in what is commonly referred to in the United States as a ‘repast’. This article is a response to his question. Wal Allahul Musta’aan.

What is a repast anyway?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the origin and etymology of repast is from Middle English, from Anglo-French, from (soi) repaistre to feed upon, from re- + pestre, paistre to feed, from Latin pascere… A repast in simpler terms is; 1 : something taken as food :meal. 2 : the act or time of taking food. In the United States, when people get together to share food after a funeral, it’s called a repast and it usually involves family, friends, and acquaintances of the deceased, gathering after the funeral, to eat food, give condolences, remember and maybe say some good things about the deceased person, pray for them, seek closure and to generally let the family know that they acknowledge their loss, and to provide some emotional support.

This is how a repast is done in the United States. Muslims do it, Christians do it, Jews do it, and people who don’t have any religious affiliation do it as well. It is pretty common in the United States and I’m quite certain in other countries as well that when someone dies, people come together to console the family and people who were closed to the deceased. One of the ways of doing that is in feeding food is what is commonly called a repast. The Repast: Is not a religious celebration

  • The repast is not a religious celebration or an act of worship.
  • No one has to be in a state of ritual purity to attend or participate in a repast.
  • There are no special prayers or invocations.
  • There are no set liturgical utterances or special du’aa.
  • There is no set menu of food to be served.
  • There are no set amounts of food to be served.
  • There is no procedural methodology except that people eat food and socialize.
  • The repast is not a re-occurring holiday (eid) since people only die once.
  • No one considers it incumbent if you attend a repast, or a slight if you don’t attend.

The repast tradition in the United States is a way of giving condolences to the family of the deceased, and a way for groups of people to console one another after a shared loss. It can help ease the pain a little, at least temporarily, that families experience due to the loss of a loved one. It simply consists of eating, wishing the family well, sometimes offering assistance, and then going home.  Sometimes the repast consists of family members only, and sometimes family, friends and associates, who gather to eat, to mourn the loss of a loved one, to console each other, and to strengthen relationships. The idea that gathering to eat is prohibited, simply because it happens after a funeral, or because it’s called a repast, or because it’s something that they do in America, is totally without scholarly, or textual merit.

The Islamic ruling: The Repast is permissible

In short, if eating with your family and friends is permissible, then having or participating in a repast is permissible, as it simply means to taking food. There is no connection between a repast and a religious act or worship. There are several Sunnan and Quranic injunctions that are found in the observance of a repast such as the Prophet’s exhortation upon the believers to feed food; when asked what is the best type of Islam, he replied: “feeding food, and spreading the salaams”.[1] The repast also is marked by gathering with family and strengthening family bonds, which is a praiseworthy act. Many times, families who have not seen each other sometimes in years, come together for a funeral of a loved one. The repast then serves as an occasion for them to not only console and comfort each other but to gather, make sure people are alright, and to catch up.  “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship”.[2] The repast is also a way and a venue for extending condolences to the family of the deceased, which is a praiseworthy act according to most scholars. It was related in the collection of Ibn Majah, that the Prophet ﷺ said, “No believer consoles his brother due to a tragedy that befell him except that Allah will cloth him with the clothing of honor on the Day of Standing (Day of Judgment).[3]  It can also contribute to having a prayerful attitude for the deceased. For Muslims, having a prayerful attitude toward those who have passed away is a sanctioned part of good Muslim character; “And those who came after them, saying, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts [any] resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Kind and Merciful.” [Quran, 59:10]. For Muslims, having a repast can help encourage that,

Additionally, it is not prohibited in Islam to visit the homes of your relatives, and eat there, simply because the meal takes place or occurred after a funeral;  “It is no fault on the blind nor on one born lame, nor on one afflicted with illness, nor on yourselves, that ye should eat in your own houses, or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers, or your brothers, or your sisters, or your father’s brothers or your father’s sisters, or your mother’s brothers, or your mother’s sisters, or in houses of which the keys are in your possession, or in the house of a sincere friend of yours: there is no blame on you, whether ye eat as group or separately. But if ye enter houses, salute each other – a greeting of blessing and purity as from Allah. Thus does Allah make clear the signs to you: that ye may understand”. [Quran, 24:61]

  • Saying that the repast is prohibited would seem to contradict the aforementioned verse of the Quran. 
  • Saying that a repast is prohibited is tantamount to saying that eating after a funeral is prohibited, and there are no proofs in the Quran and the Sunna that supports such a notion.
  • If we were to accept that a repast is prohibited on the basis that it occurs after a funeral, then we would also have to accept that for a person to stop by a restaurant and have lunch after a funeral is also prohibited since it happens after a funeral.
  • We would also have to accept that it is prohibited in Islam to eat a congregational meal after a funeral which again, seems to directly contradict the verse we mentioned earlier.

Now it’s one thing to say that certain types of foods are prohibited like pork, food killed in the name of an idol or deity other than Allah or food seasoned or marinated with alcohol, or an alcoholic beverage. It’s entirely something different when people try to say that simply eating is prohibited, in other than the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan. The problem here is, that there some people in the American Muslim community who look into nearly every aspect of cultural practices in the United States, to find ways to somehow make it haram/prohibited.  We see this all the time. They often base their conclusions upon a proclamation from a Muslim scholar from abroad. With all due respect to the esteemed scholars of Islam, it is a fact that every scholar is not intimately aware of every situation that they pronounce judgements upon, and as far as the repast as practiced in the United States, most Muslim scholars have not participated in, or witnessed such events.

The Prophet ﷺ, and his learned companions, knew how to navigate their way through their society in ways as to avoid what was prohibited upon them. This is true for most Muslims, once they know what is prohibited upon them according to the Quran and the Sunna.  Thus, if we can accept, as the majority of scholars do, that the companions of the Prophet were able to navigate through Arab society using the guidance of the Quran and the Sunna, then how can we not accept the possibility that American Muslims could do the same?

Another thing that we have to consider is that Muslim scholars are not always aware of the intricate details and nuances of the people and societies that they render fatwas about.  To read more about fatwas and the responsibilities of Muslim scholars, click here.

There is no evidence which expressly supports a repast being prohibited.

There are no verses in the Quran or authentic ahaadeeth of the Prophet ﷺ that expressly prohibit people from eating after a funeral. What if people are hungry after a funeral? Does the ruling of haram mean that they can’t eat? If so, how long must they wait before eating some food? What about if they have children? How long before they feed their children after the funeral? Thus you can see how problematic such a ruling could be.

Some of the benefits of a repast.

  • Feeding food
  • Remembering Death
  • Du’aa for the Deceased
  • Ease on the family
  • Consoling and comfort for the family
  • Developing husnul thann (positive assumptions) about the deceased.

Conclusion:

I’m not encouraging people to have repasts after their deceased, or to have post janaaza gatherings where they share food. I’m not discouraging people from doing so either. Death is a serious matter and families deal with it differently.  what I am saying is that deeming it haram is a bit of a stretch. There are no conclusive proofs from the Quran or the Sunna that I am aware of, that would even remotely render eating after a funeral, or what people call a repast as prohibited.

The strongest argument that I have seen so far about prohibiting the repast, or a meal after a funeral is that the Prophet ﷺ didn’t do it. However, the fact that the Prophet ﷺ didn’t do something does not alone make it forbidden. Furthermore, there are no proofs that the Prophet ﷺ or any of other companions never ate after a funeral, or that they never, ever discussed the deceased, their merits, or their virtues. In fact, evidence would suggest otherwise;

The repast or getting together to visit the family and eat after a funeral does not replace the janaaza, and you don’t even have to call it a repast. The janaaza is a fard kifaaya and part of islamic ritual law as pertains to the rights of the deceased. The janaaza is an act of worship and has specific conditions, regulations and utterances that govern it. After the janaaza, people move on with their lives, and they are free according to islamic law, to do as they wish as long as they do not participate in prohibited acts, as long as they do not invent new religious practices, and as long as they respect the proper laws of Islam. After a funeral a person or persons may decide to visit the family to offer condolences, there is not harm in that according to islamic law. Also, a person may decide after the janaaza to go to the local McDonalds and have a chocolate milk-shake. There is no harm in that either. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also and the author of the new book, “Double Edged Slavery “, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

[1] Sahih Muslim

[2] Bukhaari.

[3] Deemed hasan by al-Albaani

American Muslim Converts and the African Connection; A Viable Solution? By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

african Muslim.jpgIf the purpose of exploring, and learning about sub Saharan African scholars and their timeless and monumental contributions to Muslim history, was to give African American Muslim converts a greater appreciation of Black scholars in history, especially in light of the racist climate in some parts of the Arab and Muslim world, and to offset the negative emotions that some African Americans have as a result of being marginalized, and disrespected by other Muslims, then there is a whole lot of benefit in that. Jalaaludden as-Suyooti (1505 C.E.) made a similar attempt when he wrote the book; “The Raising of the Status of the Ethiopians”, and so did Jamal al-Din Abu’l Farj ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1208 C.E.) when he wrote the book; “The Lightening of the Darkness on the Merits of the Blacks and the Ethiopians”. These books were written according to Dr. Bernard Lewis, “to defend both groups against the various accusations against them”.[1]

However, if the current trend of associating attachment to Africa or to African scholars and their scholarship is somehow put forth as an essential solution for reversing the downward spiral of convert communities, or a packaged panacea for the African American, Muslim convert dilemma in the United States, then such is just another example of misplaced, wishful thinking. Looking towards Africa for answers is not the answer in my view. It’s not even close to the answer. I fail to see how building a connection or a bridge to Africa in itself is a solution or even a part of a solution other than for the reasons of maybe building some self-esteem, or augmenting historical knowledge of Africa and Islam. Otherwise, how does building this connection Africa improve the lives of converts and convert communities as a whole? How does it impact our future? Furthermore, what exactly is the African connection?

The first question that I have about building on the African connection is; what is meant by it? Africa is a pretty big and complex continent. How can we even come to a consensus on what we mean by an African connection? As if we don’t already have enough to argue about. Africa has scores of different Muslim cultures, 140 different languages, different ways at looking at the world, different ways at looking at Black Americans, and different ways at looking at the United States. There is no clear indication that as a rule, African Muslims respect us as equals, and there is very little evidence, if any, to indicate that Africans, whether here as immigrants or those still in Africa, are prepared to invest in convert America, or have made any appreciable investment in terms of material support, or serious problem solving. The way that some of us fawn over them, I’d doubt that behind closed doors, African brothers and sisters extol, or look up to Black Americans.  If anything, it would seem that Africans do all that they can not to end up like African Americans.

According to data by compiled in 2010 by sociologists, including John R. Logan at the Mumford Center, State University of New York at Albany, “black immigrants from Africa averaged the highest educational attainment of any population group in the country, including whites and Asians.”[2] In fact, 40% of African immigrants from sub saharan Africa have at least a bachelors degree.  While according to the Journal of Blacks in education; “in 2008, 19.6 percent of all African Americans over the age of 25 held a college degree’.[3] So while Black immigrants hold the highest averages of educational attainment in the United States, African American born blacks, hold the lowest. So if we want to make an African connection and follow the African way, I would start by taking better advantage of what the United States has to offer, because that is exactly what Africans who live in America are doing.

In fact, if it was permissible for me to gamble, I would lay odds that Africans in general, look at African Americans as a degree or two below them in class, except for a few exceptions. Now, if the people of mother Africa want to come over and take the same political risks that we have to take in order to move forward, and build masaajid and schools to be controlled and operated by the convert community, without any strings attached, then I’ll go out and buy a couple of dashikis, some new African sandals, and be all ready to make that connection. Otherwise, we need to consider severing all umbilical cords, not establishing new ones.

If we want to establish an African connection then I suggest we take note of how Africans come to the United States, work hard and take advantage of what the country has to offer. Otherwise we can do research, hold forums, conferences, write books and engage in a variety of low budget intellectual, spiritual or cultural pursuits, we can even have educational exchanges, or teach African islamic history in our schools (if we had more of our own schools). But first we have to have something of our own that serves our immediate needs and interests as Muslims and that’s not going to happen running in the wind to feel some Africa.

There’s are thousands of reports and documentaries on Africa, there are planes that fly to Africa (about $1000 for a ticket), as well as African Embassies, African cultural, religious, and political organizations, as well as thousands of African artists, academics, and artifacts for us to look at and hang in our homes. I’m hearing a lot of brothers talking about this undefined ‘African connection’, and that’s just the point. It is undefined.   What exactly do we mean by building on the African connection. While many of us seem to be day-dreaming about an African connection, other Americans outside of our Muslim communities, are way ahead of us.

Millions of Americans visit Africa each year. Many do business, buy property, and engage in a large variety of religious, commercial, educational and cultural exchanges. American Christians have built and are maintaining hundreds, if not thousands of churches, orphanages, and schools in Africa. What do we as African American Muslims have to offer? Are we just talking about connecting with a few shaykhs, learning some African religious treatises, learning African languages or adopting some African cultural practices as our own? If that’s all we’re talking about then we need to go back to the drawing board on this African connection thing, and we need to make sure that the interest in such a connection is reciprocal.

There are like 1.2 billion people in Africa.  There are less than one million of us (AA Muslims). We don’t need to remake ourselves in anyone else’s image, or reach out and have hardly anyone reach back. We just did that remember? W’ve been doing it for the last 40 years or more, and it turned out too well for us. Knowing our history should tell us that we need to learn to fend for ourselves and build, support, plan and run our own communities. We are a part of this society and no one is taking up the mantle to help us except for some social and educational institutions, (at least some), the safety nets, the welfare system that many of us depend on and perhaps some other entities that I’m not thinking of at the moment. Making nice with a few Africans, having them come and lecture us about Islam, bless us with their awliyaa (saints), or teach us how to be authentic, is not going to affect our condition. However, building communities, building a few more decent masaajid, with leadership, responsible congregations, families with some generational continuity and taking advantage of the good that our country has to offer, will more than likely affect our condition. Even the Africans are doing that.

We want to romanticize about having an African connection which so far has not amounted to much more than getting to know a few African Sheikhs, learning about some remarkable islamic scholars of history, some brothers marrying some African sisters, some from Africa marrying some of our sisters, and a whole bunch of pictures and selfies from Africa and with Africans, (and it is a beautiful continent). Hoorah!  If we really want to connect to our ancestry like that then we need to get DNA testing for our people, and at about $300 a pop, you do the math.  In fact, instead of that, how about 10,000 of us put up $300 bucks and build 3 or 4 quality nice sized masaajid where they are most needed?

It seems like we always want to do the feel good stuff, the selfie stuff, the showy stuff, and the bandwagon stuff that does not change a thing on the ground.  In the meantime, there are 3.1 million African immigrants living in the United States and they are interacting in our country on all levels. Just check to see how many African dentists, engineers, academics, business owners, psychologists, and even farmers, there are in this country, and we talking about establishing an African connection with little or no resources of our own? Not too many are even paying attention to us on this African connection thing. Africans who hear rumors about it are probably looking at us like; whaaaaaat????? All the while they are reminding their children to steer clear of us, unless it could lead to a green card, or a following.  Many Muslims whom I love and respect have embraced this African connection craze. I happen to disagree with the notion that re-connecting to Africa and African shaykhs is going to somehow be the catalyst for changesomehow  and think that it is a wrong direction; another faze. We seem to keep avoiding the reality that it is us who need to come up with our own plan. The African Muslims that I know, are smart, incredible people who know the difference between strength and weakness. If you ask them, they would likely say that we have to put in our own work, with our own people, with our own home grown plan. Sadly, many of us just don’t get it. Yet. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a Philadelphia native, a writer, consultant, and Imam and khateeb at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the new book “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafi, the ideology. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

[1] Race and Slavery in the Middle East. Bernard Lewis, 1990, Oxford University Press, p. 33

[2] http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-03-18/news/0703180344_1_black-immigrants-high-achieving-immigrants-biracial-couples.

[3] http://www.jbhe.com/news_views/64_degrees.html

Why American Muslim Convert Communities Are Headed Towards Extinction, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Humanity-Extinction.jpgTo put it bluntly, convert Muslim communities in the United States, or what’s left of them, are headed for possible extinction. Well, perhaps not total extinction but certainly headed for nearly total marginalization and at risk to nearly disappear into thin air. This is a tough topic and at this juncture, it is still pretty much taboo to speak about it in candid terms. The mere fact that people like myself and many other Muslims are starting to address the issue of convert marginalization, is unsettling for a lot of people.

Many folks prefer that American Muslim converts are oblivious to their own realities, especially when it comes to the decline of convert communities. Which is why there is such a push for converts to be narcissistic and exuberant and assume that everything is fine. People would rather that the convert community looks at the world through the eyes of others, and not through their own reality.  Nevertheless, there seems to be data that shows that the American Muslim convert community, a community already fractionalized and marginalized, is at great risk of extinction, and here’s why.

The Pew Research Center, a well-known respected organization that has accumulated highly credible amounts of research and data about Muslims in America, estimates that there were “about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015”.[1]  Which amounts to about 1% of the U.S. population (322 million) at the time of the study.  They estimate also, that by the year 2050, Muslims will constitute 2% of the American population, doubling their current percentage of 1%. which is why some people say that Islam is the fastest growing religion in America. So all indications seem to indicate that there is a clear trajectory of growth of Islam and Muslims in the United States; numbers of Muslims, growth in new masjid construction, new Islamic schools, and institutions. Except in the African American and convert community where new Masjid construction is at a virtual standstill. In fact, the number of African American Muslim communities and masaajid that cater to converts is on a decline.

Convert Muslims used to believe, and many still do, that the glowing numbers of the Muslim increase in the United States meant that people were converting to Islam in droves, and that although the immigrant community was growing, the convert community was growing in similar proportion. That might have been the case 40 years ago. However, today, Islam is growing in America today largely through immigration of Muslims from Muslim lands, and in people having children, not through conversion. Over half of the projected growth of Muslims in America from the years 2010 to 2015 were from immigration.[2] New data released by the Pew Center in July 2017 states that excluding African American Muslims who are in prisons or otherwise institutionalized, American born blacks make up just 13% of the American Muslim adult population, which is less than half the 20 years ago number of 33% which places the current number of African American Muslims (excluding children) at around 266,000.[3] That’s down from just a few years ago. Still we would be hard pressed to locate that many AA Muslims because of the increasing scarcity of African American or convert masaajid in the United States.

There is other data as well which suggests that the American Muslim convert community is not growing in net numbers. Dr. Besheer Mohamed, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, and a Muslim himself, concluded in a January 2016 report that; “people leave Islam at the same rate that people convert to Islam”. He also concluded that; “There has been little net change in the size of the American Muslim population in recent years due to conversion.” (Mohamed, 2016)[4] This would seem to indicate that the American Muslim convert community is pretty close to zero net growth right now if you look at the raw numbers. My numerous conversations with imams, activists in the convert community, individuals on the ground who work in da’wah, and people paying attention to these trends, seem to confirm Dr. Basheer’s and the Pew Research Center’s conclusions.

If these conclusions and observations are even close to correct, and I believe that they are, then we have to consider that the convert community is headed for possible extinction. If such is true, that means that the demographic landscape of Muslim America over the next 30 years will change drastically. It already is changing faster than many people, especially coverts to Islam, realize. One of the reasons why you do not see African American, White American, or Latino American Muslims presented too much in the national narrative is because the numbers of people simply aren’t there. Thirty years from now, if there is no change in the trends, the American Muslim convert community, and their children will be probably be around 5% of the total population of Muslims in America.

Think it can’t happen? Then let’s consider something else; according to a 2011 CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) report, between 2000, and 2010, the number of masaajid (mosques) in the United States increased from 1,209, to 2106. An increase of 74%[5]. The overwhelming majority of new masaajid built from the ground up (estimated 90%) have been built, run and sustained by and primarily for Muslim immigrants. The American Muslim immigrant community is moving forward in leaps and bounds on many fronts wal al—humdu lillaah.  In addition to that, according to another 2015 CAIR report; “The USA’s estimated 2.4 million Muslims – are mostly middle class and willing to adopt the American way of life”.[6]

This characterization of American Muslims as mostly middle class however, is not true of the American Muslim convert community. The American Muslim convert community, the majority of whom are African American, are dead last in virtually every barometric indicator that measures well-being in this country; employment, access to health care, two parent families, college education, business ownership, incarceration rates, and access to capital. This is the reality, and this is why the convert community is being left behind on many fronts.

At this point, the political will for (immigrant Muslims) to address or be concerned about socio-economic, spiritual, developmental, or da’wah issues related to the American Muslim convert community is almost non-existent. The obvious moral imperative is to look at Islam in America as an all for one, one for all situation and to look at ourselves as a single brotherhood working together across the board. However, the operational and historical reality suggests otherwise.

The reality is that there are two distinct Muslim Americans separated by Muslim converts, of all races on one side, and the immigrant community on the other side. Sure, there are plenty examples of integration, mixing, and some amounts of local cooperation, but for the most part, we’re talking about two distinctly different communities, with two distinctly different trajectories. In the midst of it all, Immigrant communities by and large are growing and convert communities are declining pretty much across the board.

Immigrant Muslim communities are doing what they view are in the best interests for their constituents and for the people who help build, fund and support their masaajid and communities. Convert Muslims and communities that serve their needs, have been stuck in decline for a long time, not even realizing or openly discussing that they have issues that are specific to them, or acknowledging the demographic decline. All that is starting to change as a new awareness is setting in, but it’s happening in a somewhat awkward way. Just seven to ten years ago, it wasn’t acceptable for converts to even mention that their condition overall as Americans, differ from that of the general immigrant community.

Not too long ago you couldn’t talk about the racial divide, about the influence of foreign Muslim groups, sectarianism and confusing sub ideology on the convert community, or the sense of abandonment that many converts to Islam feel when they come into the faith. 10 years ago, people did not talk about the fact that there is a high turnover rate of converts to Islam and those who end up leaving the religion. So now all of that is coming out at once, so it’s a halting conversation that is a little disjointed and seems to go all over the place.

Let’s be honest. There are in fact, two distinctly different Muslim Americas; one made up of immigrants who are better educated, more affluent, more organized and more poised for upward mobility as citizens and as a Muslim community, and the other are the converts and largely African American Muslim counterparts, who are poorer, less educated, higher percentages of ex-convicts, single parent homes, less family support as far as their Islam is concerned, and very naïve to the realities of Islam in America and the quest for power and control.

There are plenty of moral reasons, but virtually no practical, or political reasons for immigrant communities to look back and lend a hand to the convert community. If you think that politics do not figure prominently in the inner workings of Muslim America, then you are woefully out of touch. Still, even if there was a a national spiritual catharsis and a serous concerted effort to attend to the needs of the American Muslim converts, it would run into numerous challenges as long as the American Muslim convert community does not do and think for themselves and determine their own self intersts as Muslims.  The groundwork has been laid for the success of immigrant Muslim communities and the groundwork has been laid for the failure of convert communities. I spell out some of the main challenges of the convert community in my book ‘Double Edged Slavery’, as well as other articles on my blog.

American Muslim Immigrant communities have done pretty well in overall in building up a viable religious and social infrastructure of masaajid, schools, institutions, legal, engineering, scientific and medical professionals, as well as research, service, and professional organizations, business men and women and strong intergenerational families. The generation that is coming are very educated, engaging, focused, and more and more are distancing themselves from some of the rigidity and backwardness of the old country. These are viable building blocks for any religious community in America, Muslim or otherwise.

Black Muslim and convert communities on the other hand, have not fared as well. There is a huge generational disconnect between one generation and the other. There are scant institutional vehicles in the convert community (including masaajid), to pass anything along to our younger generation. Interestingly enough, the American Muslim convert community has spent much of the past thirty years under the inspiration of a dozen or so foreign spheres of religious influence. Whether it’s been salafiyyism, the different brands of Sufism, jihadism, the caliphate ideology, groups like Hizb ul Tah’reer, the Jamaa’aat ul Tabligh, the Ikhwaan ul Muslimeen, a phalanx of African Sheikhs, and others. Add to that, the roaming cheerleader section of Muslim converts who move from one issue to the next, providing the cheerleading or groupie section on a variety of global islamic issues that have little to do with their condition at home. Yet, there are negligible examples where convert loyalty to these outside groups, or dedication to outside and global issues have benefitted indigenous convert communities. There has been very little reciprocity.

Another unfortunate phenomenon that has occured is that the American Muslim convert community has spent a great deal of the last three decades arguing over religious minutia, debating over micro-doctrine, and looking overseas, sometimes to failed societies, for answers to their problems here at home. The Prophet ‫ﷺ said, “No people ever went astray, after they were guided, except that they were overcome by arguing”. [at-Tirmidhi]

Arguing and disputing with one another has taken up an incredible amount of time and energy and has not bode well overall for the convert community.  So while we were busy arguing amongst one another about shoes and socks, and madhhabs and minhaj, and sparring with one another using the views of our sheikhs as if we’re playing Rokem Sockem robots, something extraordinarily consequential has occurred. Time has elapsed, and a lot of time was wasted

Additionally, we’ve created a very confusing, hostile and contentious climate in many masaajid, and too many masaajid have been overrun with foreign sectarianized ideology that dismisses cultural and physical realities on the ground. That trend is changing but the effects are already in place and has had generational consequence. People are waking up, but they are waking up to a deeply entrenched chaos. Like someone bragging about and admiring their house for years and they suddenly realize that the contractor misled them, and that the house is infested with termites, the electrical system were the wrong specs, and that the septic system has been backed up for months.

This is not to diminish at all the good that is taking place in convert communities, and I do see light on the horizon in sha Allah. However, it is an uphill battle. It has to start with raising consciousness which is what many of us are working to do. Once Black American Muslims and converts realize that that they are free to work in their own self-interests according to Islam, without looking at things through the lenses of immigrant Muslims who mean well, but in many cases do not have a clue about our needs, then perhaps there can be forward motion. That’s just for starters and that’s starting to happen slowly.

This is not meant in any way as a slight towards immigrant Muslims; we are all, at least in principle, brothers and sisters in islam. It is simply the reality of our condition that we be realistic and truthfully forthcoming, and it is not a matter of placing blame on this or that group.  There is light at the end of the tunnel because Allah is Light, but this is an uphill struggle and many of our people do not yet know or believe that they are free and there are many others who fear that indigenous Muslims would wake up.

One more thing we have to keep in mind is that the convert community is lacking in institutional presence. Just add up the numbers of Jum’ah attendees or the number of people who are connected to actual physical masaajid or communities. You need the critical mass in order to have protracted forward motion. That’s the physics of Muslim communal growth. In fact the basis of Muslim community centers around things like congregation, an Imam, a shura, establishing prayer in congregation, and responsible individuals who are in charge of dealing with the different religious as well as temporal affairs of the Muslims. Nearly every immigrant community that I know of, has these elements. Without them we are simply a scattered community that only comes together on the Eids maybe. Then there are talented, willing, energetic and intelligent people in our midst who have no where to plug in. the doors of inclusion are locked to them in many fledgling convert communities. Thousands of individual Islands can not sustain communal growth. That’s the math. Islam is a way of life but it’s also a system and if we ignore the systems aspect of our religion, then we’re just reduced to wishful thinking. Then there’s the issue of religious knowledge (a whole separate topic) which many of us completely ignore.

It’s not so much worrying about who Allah will hold accountable for it because Allah will hold all of us, everyone for everything according to how He sees fit. It’s more a matter of recognizing the trend, and the decline of our communities and coming up with strategies, working for change, and rebuilding. Too many want to sit around and chant slogans, and rallying cries, or wallow in denial while the community is crumbling. Now is not the time for that. Wal Allah Musta’aan.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a Philadelphia native, a writer, consultant, and Imam and khateeb at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), Imam at Mosque Without Borders, and the author of the new book “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafi, the ideology. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/06/a-new-estimate-of-the-u-s-muslim-population/.

[2] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/06/a-new-estimate-of-the-u-s-muslim-population/.

[3] http://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/demographic-portrait-of-muslim-americans/.

[4] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/06/a-new-estimate-of-the-u-s-muslim-population/.

[5] https://www.cair.com/images/pdf/The-American-Mosque-2011-part-1.pdf

[6] https://cair.com/press-center/cair-in-the-news/4804-cair-american-muslims-reject-extremes.html

An Introduction to the Different Types of Books of Hadith by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

إن الحمد لله نحمده ونستعينه ونستغفره ، ونعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا وسيئات أعمالنا ، من يهده الله فلا مضل له ، ومن يضلل فلا هادي له ، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأن محمدًا عبده ورسوله .

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلا وَأَنْتُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ

يَاأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ نَفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالا كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاءً وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا )

:يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلا سَدِيدًا. يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا أما بعد :

booksof hadith2.jpgThe study of hadith is a world in itself. It is a beautiful, remarkable and detailed universe of source knowledge, intra-disciplinary sciences, and sub-sciences that support the preservation, transmission, explanation, understanding, and implementation of the Sunna of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah ﷺ. The world of hadith is a world of guidance, knowledge, and understanding of this religion.  It is the collection of statements, actions, habits, travels, and events of the Prophet ﷺ and is one of the most satisfying and beneficial paths and pursuits of knowledge. The study of hadith and its related sciences is vast, and is something that scholars, students of knowledge, and regular folk engage in as a lifelong pursuit.

There are many ways to approach hadith study. Primarily as Muslims, we want to know and understand what the Prophet ﷺ did and said so we can obey him and follow him. Of course it’s more than that; it’s loving him, using his guidance, and following his path.  No one gets to a point where they know all the hadith, or studied all the hadith or have learned everything there is to learn about hadith of the Prophet ﷺ. There are many approaches, many disciplines and sub-disciplines, and many methods. I advise every student, or serious seeker of knowledge that when you decide to read a collection of hadith, or an explanation of a collection of hadith like Aoun al-Ma’bood, or Tuh’fatu  Ah’wathi, or Fat’h al-Baari, or even study it with your sheikh, you would benefit a lot by reading the introduction, or the foreword by the author himself. You learn a lot from the introduction such as terminology, the reasons behind writing the book, how it is arranged, the authors methodology, and the views of that particular scholar on issues relating to hadith and to his own hadith collection or explanation.

There are two principle ways that hadith books are put together. One is according to chapter and subject matter or what scholars call ‘abwaab’ which is the plural of ‘baab’ which literally means door. In these types of hadith books, the book is organized by subject matter such as tahaara, salat, zakat, siyaam, buying and selling etc. Books arranged by subject matter are easier for research and finding the topic you are looking for and is preferred by students and scholars alike. If a person wants to look up a hadith on a certain topic, then there’re likely to refer to these types of books first as opposed to the second type which I’m going to talk about next.

The second type of hadith book are books that are arranged according to the companions of the Prophet ﷺ that narrated the hadith originally. Usually this is done in alphabetical order. Sometimes it’s done according to the rank of the narrator (راوي) his preference in Islam or his ranking, or what’s called a tabaqa (طبقة). The following types that I mention are not all of the types of books of hadith but they are the major ones. In sha Allah this short piece will help understand in some small way, how to study and look at books of hadith. Keep in mind that this is just a small window to a very wide and deep topic. Wal Allahu al-Musta’aan.

Types of Books of Hadith:

Jaami [جامع]:

A Jaami is a hadith collection that contains all the main categories of primary islamic knowledge which represent the full breadth of the religion such as aqeeda, adab, eating and drinking, tafseer, hadith about fitan (trials), raqaa’iq / رقائق (spiritual heart softeners) and ibaadah / عبادة  (worship). The most well-known of such types of hadith books are Jaami as-Sahih by Imam Muhammad Ismaa’eel al-Bukhaari (d. 256 h.), better-known as Sahih al-Bukhaari. The actual title that Imam Bukhaari named the book that we’ve come to know as; “Sahih al-Bukhaari” was, “Al-Jaami’ al-Musnad as-Sahih al-Mukhtasar min umoor Rasoolillaah wa sunanihi wa iyyaamihi(الجامع المسند الصيح المختصر من أمور رسول الله و سننه و ايامه). Over time it simply became known as Sahih al-Bukhaari, or Jaami Sahih, or Jaami’ Sahih al-Bukhaari.

Another is al-Jaami as-Sahih by Imam Muslim, known as Sahih Muslim, and al-Jaami by Imam Abu Eesa at-Tirmithee, better known as Sunan at-Tirmidhi. The actual name of Imam al-Tirmidhi’s collection is Al-Jaami al-Mukhtasar min al-Sunan wa Ma’rifatu as-Saheeh wal ma’lool, wa maa alaihi al-amal. الجامع المختصر من السنن عن رسول الله صلي الله عليه و سلم و معرفة الصحيح و المعلول ما عليه العمل)). As you can see, it is a pretty long name and one that is hardly ever used in any modern printings of the book. It has been referred to at times as Jaami’ as-Sahih by at-Tirmidhi which is a misnomer because the collection contains hadith which are not sound. It’s sometimes referred to as a Sunan because it deals a lot with hadith al-ah’kaam, or hadith that has to do with law and it follows the same pattern as other books of Sunan and notwithstanding that Sunan is part of the original title of the book.  Imam Abu Eesa said about his collection; “anyone who has this book in his house, it’s like the Prophet ﷺ is in his house talking”.

The titles of the books of hadith and the arrangement of the chapters and subject matter gives you an insight into the thinking and methodology of the muhaddith who authored the book. For example, Imam al-Bukhaari and others use what’s called the tarjama [ترجمة]. The word tarjama has several meanings in the Arabic language but according to traditionalists (scholars of hadith) the tarjama is the section heading. The common word for chapter is Kitaab [كتاب] and the common word used for section is baab [section]. The name of the section is the tarjama and the tarjama give you a clue of the scholar’s view on the issue. Imam an-Nawawi used to say; “Bukhaari’s fiqh is in his taraajam”. For example, in Sahih al-Bukhaari in the Book of ghusl (ritual bath), there is a section titled; “If one remembers while he is in the masjid that he is in a state of impurity, he should leave as he is without making tayammam” (بلب اذا ذكر في المسجد انه جنب خرج كما هو، و لا يتيمم), then he proceeds to present the hadith that proves the implication of the tarjama. You see this example throughout his Sahih and in other books of hadith.

Sunan [سنن]

Books of Sunan in the language of hadith scholars are books of hadith that contain hadith dealing with law (احكام), organized by the sections of fiqh. For example, these books usually begin with purification (طهارة), and the section on purification will start with a certain aspect of purification depending on the detail, the style and choice of the compiler of the book. For example, Imam Abu Eesa at-Tirmidhi (d. 279 h.), begins his book with tahaara but starts with the hadith; “the salat is not accepted without wudu[1] . Then he follows with hadith about the virtues of wudu and moves on from there. However, Imam Abu Dawood (d. 275 h.) takes a different approach; he begins his Sunan with a chapter titled tahaara but begins the first section with hadith about the etiquettes of relieving one’s self. Which is also a part of tahaara.  In the Sunan of an-Nasaai, Imam Abu Abdurrahman Nasaai (d. 303 h.) takes a slightly different approach. He begins his book with the chapter on tahaara but starts with the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Prophet ﷺ said; “When one of you wakes up from sleep, he should not put his hands water (for ablution) until he washes them because he does not know where his hand spent the night”. (what his hands touched”. The second hadith in his collection is about using siwaak (miswaak), which is also a part of tahaara.

So the major books of Sunan follow the same style and methodology in that purification is usually at the beginning but differ in the exact approach to the topic. This is one reason why students of knowledge should be broad in their lifelong study of the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ which is not something that you do over a certain period of time; it’s something that you do without. Even the major shuyookh of the ummah, still read and study hadith of the Prophet ﷺ and engage in its related sciences.

This demonstrates the breadth of approach to knowledge and scholarly independence of hadith preservation. So of the great scholars who compiled and preserved the ahaadeeth of the Prophet ﷺ, they demonstrated their preferences in how they approach of hadith the topics of Sunna in their books.

All books of hadith do not have the same detail, the same number of hadith, or the exact same approach to any given topic. After tahaara (purification) Sunan books usually follow with ibaadah starting with salat, then zakat, then fasting and so on. The most well-known books of Sunan are the Sunan of Abu Dawud, the Sunan of at-Tirmithee which is the Jaami of at-Tirmithee [جامع الترمذي], the Sunan of an-Nasaa’i, and the Sunan of Ibn Majah. These four are known as the Four Sunan (السنن الاربعة). Within the discipline of hadith study, scholars employ certain terminology that is specific to the science. Within it, they have several ways of referring to books of hadith also. For example, if they say “the three”, then they mean the four Sunan we just mentioned minus the Sunan of ibn Majah. If the say “the five” for example, they mean the four Sunan and the Musnad of Imam Ahmad. If they say ‘Sahihain’ (صحيحين) they mean the collection of al-Bukhaari and Muslim and if they say; ‘as-shaykhaan (الشيخان), [the two shaykhs], then they are talking about al-Bukhaari and Muslim also.

Musnad [مسند]

A Musnad is a collection of hadith that is according to the name of the companion of the Prophet ﷺ who narrated the hadith. Sometimes this is done in alphabetical order, other times it is arranged according to who preceded who in Islam, and other times it is arranged according to preference (fadeela/ فضيلة) of the particular companion to another. Many musaaneed begin with hadith narrated by the four caliphs (الخلفاء الراشدين) starting with Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq. Others arrange it according to the ten companions who were promised paradise, then the companions who were at Badr. At other times, a Musnad is arranged according to genealogical status or lineage. There are many musaaneed / مسانيد (plural of Musnad). The most well-known of the musaaneed is the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 h.), followed by the Musnad of Abu Ya’laa.  At other times a Musnad its arranged according to preference or the historical position of the narrator of the hadith.

Al-Mu’jam [المعجم]

Al-Mu’jam (plural: mu’aajam/ معاجم ), in the terminology of traditionalists, are hadith collections that are arranged according to a name of the sheikh from whence the author narrated it. Where the author arranges the hadith according to his shuyookh that he heard them, in alphabetical order. The most well-known of these are the three ma’aajam written by Abu al-Qasim Sulaiman at-Tabaraani (d. 360 h.), called al-Mu’jam al-Sagheer, and al-Mu’jam al-Awsat which were both hadith that he related from his shuyookh, and his third one is called al-Mu’jam al-Kabir [المعجم الكبير], which consists of hadith narrated by companions. The Mu’jam al-Kabir is the most famous of Tabaraani’s three collections. It popularity and recognition is at a level that when people mention “al-Mu’jam” then it is known that they are referring to al-Mu’jam al-Kabir by Tabaraani. Some books are so well-known and so widely used that they are fully recognized by even part of the name. for example, the book, Fat’h al-Baari, the famous explanation of Sahih al-Bukhaari by Ibn Hajar al-As’qalaani (d. 852 h.) is known across centuries simply as “al-Fat’h”, despite that there are hundreds of books whose title begins with al-Fat’h or contains the word Fat’h. Nevertheless, when a reference to al-Fat’h is mentioned in a book or a footnote, scholars of this discipline generally assume (depending on the context) that you are referring to Fat’h al-Baari. An anecdotal note about Ibn Hajar’s Fat’h al-Baari is that Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795 h.) himself, started writing an explanation of Sahih al-Bukhaari and he titled it; ‘Fat’h al-Baari’ he completed up to the chapter on salaatul janaaza before he died. Twenty years after his death, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani began his explanation of Sahih al-Bukhaari and he named it; ‘Fat’h al-Baari’ in honor of ibn Rajab.

Al-Musannafaat al-Jaami’a [المصنفات الجامعة]

These are encyclopedic collection of hadith compiled from many different collections by different scholars of hadith. These types are arranged in two different ways. The first way is to arrange it according to subject category or chapters (abwaab). An example of this type of hadith collect in this style is the book; Jaami’ al-Usool fi Ahaadeeth ar-Rasool [جامع الأصول في احاديث الرسول] by ibn al-Atheer [d. 606 h.] In his book he compiles hadith from Bukhaari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, at-Tirmidhi, ibn Maajah and the Muwatta by Imam Malik. He also takes the added steps of explaining unclear words.  Another book like this is the book; Khunz al-A’maal fi Sunan al-Af’aal wal Aq’waal [خنز العمال في سنن الاقوال و الافعال] by Ali ibn Hussaam al-Muttaqi (d, 975 h.), better known as al-Muttaqi. This is probably one of the most comprehensive books of this type; he complies hadith from about ninety something different collections of hadith. In the beginning of the book he explains terminologies of different scholars of hadith that are specific to them, since all scholars do not use all terminology in other same way.

The second style of collection of this category are books where the hadith are compiled alphabetically according to the first word in the hadith. Such is the book al-Jaami al-Kabir (الجامع الكبير) by Jalaaluddeen as-Suyuti (d. 911 h.). al-Jaami al-Kabir by Suyuti is considered to be the basis for Khanz al-A’maal. Another book by Suyuti, al-Jaami as-Sagheer in one where he (Suyuti) abridged the Jaami Kabir by removing ahaadeeth that were repeated, and he added other ahaadeeth. The whole book (al-Jaami al-Kabir) has 10,031 hadith altogether.

 Al-Mustad’rak / المستدرك

Al-Mustad’rakaat [المستدركات] are books of hadith where the author writes down hadith whose status of authenticity meet the standards [شرط] of a traditionalist although that traditionalist did not include those ahaadeeth in his own book. For example, Imam Al-Bukhaari memorized 200,000 authentic hadith. However, he only included 7,275 hadith in his Sahih. If you count the hadith that Bukhaari repeated [المكرر], then the number of hadith in Sahih Bukhaari is only 4,000 or so hadith. So another scholar of hadith will come along and make a collection the hadith that meets Bukhaari’s standards of authenticity, but that Bukhaari did not include in his Sahih. Such a book is referred to by scholars of hadith as a Mustadrak / المستدرك.

The most well-known of the Mustad’rakaat (plural) is the Mustadrak of al-Haakim on Bukhari and Muslim titled; al-Mustadrak alaa Sahihain [المستدرك علي الصحيحين]. In al-Haakim’s Mustadrak, Al-Haakim (d. 403 h.) takes hadith that were collected by imam al-Bukhaari and Imam Muslim, that they did not included in their published collections. He somewhat follows some of Bukhaari’s arrangement of subject matter. The first four sections the Mustad’rak is similar to that of the Sahih as far as methodology. Al-Haakim begins with the book of faith [كتاب الايمان], then the book of knowledge [كتاب العلم], then the book of tahaara [كتاب الطهارة], followed by the book on salat [كتاب الصلاة]. Although he uses different hadith, he uses the same subject categories in the beginning of al-Mustad’rak except that Imam al-Bukhaari starts his book with “The Beginning of Revelation” (بدء الوحي), then he follows with the Book of faith, the book of Knowledge, and then after that al-Bukhaari, instead of having a chapter entitles the book of Tahaara like some of the others, he moves to the Book of Wudu, then the Book of Ghusl, then the Book of Menstruation, then the Book of Tayammum, then he moves to the Book of Salat, and so on. Similar methodology of the others, but different approach to the subject matter.

Unfortunately, scholarship is not without its controversy. Imam al-Haakim, like many other early scholars of hadith compilation, was a Persian. Some have accused Imam al-Haakim as having had leanings towards Shi’ism, and others have said that all of the hadith in the Mustadrak were not according to the standards of Bukhaari and Muslim; some of the hadith they say, were weak, and even forgeries. Other scholars defended him with that if particular muhaddith but that particular muhaddith did not include it in his book. For example, the most well-known Mustad’rak is the Mustad’rak of al-Haakim from Bukhaari and Muslim. He related hadith that met the standard of authenticity of Bukhaari and Muslim even though they did not include those hadith in their collections and we already mentioned some of the controversy surrounding al-Haakim (رحمه الله).

Forty Hadith Collections / الاربعينات

 Forty hadith collections are amongst the most common and popular types of hadith collection. In the terminological language of traditionalists ((المحدثين, Arba’een is a collection of hadith that is comprised of forty ahaadeeth, or forty sections (ابواب) of knowledge. The most well-known and perhaps the most often used of forty hadith collections is the Forty Hadith of Imam Abu Zakariyyah Yahya ibn Sharf An-Nawawi (d. 676 h.). Sometimes a forty hadith collection will contain the isnaad of the hadith and at other times it won’t contain isnaad. Sometimes a collection or book will use forty hadith as a benchmark but add to it. For example, ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s (d. 795 h.) Jaami Uloom wal Hikam (جامع العلوم و الحكم), is an explanation of Imam an-Nawawi’s forty hadith but he added ten more hadith to it.

Is the hadith about collecting Forty hadith, a weak hadith?

What prompted many scholars to compile books of forty hadith were two things; the first is the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ: “Whoever of my Ummah memorized forty hadith from the affairs of its deen, Allah will resurrect him (on the day of judgment) as a scholar, and I will be a witness and an intercessor for him on the Day of Judgment”. This hadith, although weak (ضعيف), was reported by thirteen different companions of the Prophet ﷺ. According to Imam an-Nawawi; scholars all agree that this is a weak hadith despite that it has been reported through several chains. Some scholars say that due to the severe weakness of the multiple chains of this hadith, it is not permissible to act according to it. Imam an-Nawawi himself, who compiled one the most famous and enduring collections of forty hadith said; “I’m not depending on this hadith to compile my collection, on the contrary, (I’m basing it on) other sound hadith such as the hadith; “Let those who are present inform those who are absent”, and the hadith; “Allah will brighten (the face) of the person who hears what we say, understands (memorizes) it and passes it on just like he heard it”.  that he compiled his forty hadith collection based upon the virtue of compiling and spreading ahaadeeth of the Prophet ﷺ. Nevertheless, despite the weakness of this hadith, many scholars have compiled collections of forty hadith and it has become an accepted and agreed upon category in hadith compilation.

The first of our scholars to compile a book of forty hadith was Abdullah ibn al-Mubaarak (d, 181 h.). This was during the second century of Islam. His work was followed in the next century by Muhammad ibn As’slam at-Toosi (d. 242 h.), and Ibraheem ibn Ali at-Thah’li (d. 293 h.).  During each century of Islam, there have been scholars and Imams who compiled forty hadith collections. Even Ibn Hajar as-Asqalaani compiled a forty hadith compilation according to as-Sakhaawi in his biography of Ibn Hajar[2]. This goes on up until this present day.

Books of Takh’reej / كتب التخريج

 Books of takhreej (extraction) are books where the author extracts or deducts hadith from another a book of knowledge that has hadith mentioned in it, and he clarifies in which book this hadith is collected, or which hadith scholars narrated or has a chain to this hadith. books of takh’reej may or may not clarify the strength or the weakness of the hadith, but it will tell you where the hadith is located. There are many books of takh’reej. The idea being takh’reej is so that the reader or student of knowledge is clear about the origin of the hadith he finds in a book. So that he knows which of the traditionalists collected the hadith in his book, and possibly the authenticity of the hadith. Scholars continue to this very day to write books of takh’reej of other collections. It is common for a scholar to do a takh’reej on another book. Usually he’ll put the takh’reej right in a separate or supplemental printing or publication of the book as a footnote, and end note or part of the commentary.

A couple of the more well-known books of takh’reej are;

  • Tal’khees al-Hibar fi Takh’reej Ahaadeeth al-Raafi’ee al-Kabir / التلخيص الحبير في تخريج احاديث الرافعي الكبير written by Imam Ibn Hajar al-As’qalaani. In it ibn Hajar clarifies the hadith contained in Imam Abu al-Qaasim al-Raafi’ee’s (d. 623 h.) explanation of the book ‘al-Wajeez Fi fiqh al-Shaafi’ee (الوجيز في فقه الشافي) which was written by Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazaali.
  • Al-Mughni an Himl al-Asfaar Fi al-As’faar Fi Takh’reej ma Fi al-Ih’yaa min al-Akh’baar / المغني عن حمل الاسفار في الاسفار في تخريج ما في الاحياء من الاخبار, by al-Haafiz Imam Abdul-Raheem ibn Hussain al-Araaqi, better known as al-Haafiz al-Araaqi (d. 806 h) who incidentally was one of the Shuyookh of ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani. In it, he extracts and clarifies the ahaadeeth contained in ‘Ih’yaa Uloom ad-Deen / احياء علوم الدين, by Imam al-Ghazaali and offers some explanation of some of the text.

Keep in mind, there are many, many other books of takh’reej, books of hadith, other types of hadith books, books about the different sciences of hadith and associated sciences of hadith. The number of books relating to hadith study and methodology are in the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. Some are well-known and others are not so well-own. And Allah knows best as to their number.

These are not all of the types of books of hadith. However, these are the major ones. There is no one book that will give you all the understanding or all the knowledge of the religion . The religion is based upon the Quran and the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) as recorded in hadith. Understanding is from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. The books are tools towards understanding in sha Allah, and our scholars are writers, compilers and preservers of these books.  May Allah increase us in knowledge and understanding of the religion.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also and the author of the new book, “Double Edged Slavery “, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com. 

[1] The word mentioned in the hadith is tuhoor (طهور). By this he means wudu (ablution).

[2] الجواهر والدرر في ترجمة شيخ الإسلام ابن حجر, Vol, 2, p 669

The Effects of Muslim Sectarianism on American Muslim Converts, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Sects

Globally, Muslim sectarianism affects almost all Muslims in one way or another. Sometimes it’s relatively harmless. However, at other times, it can have terrible consequences and become a scourge and blemish upon the ummah. Muslims in many places outside of the United States and in many Muslim countries are already sectarianized in one way or another. People are born in a state of fitra (natural submission) but they are raised upon whatever the prevailing sect, group, or sub ideology of their family, their tribe, their country or their village. If they’re from Pakistan, it could be Deobandi, Barweili, Tablighi, Ahmadiyyah, or Ahul Hadis. If it’s Egypt, it could be Ikhwani, Salafi, jamaa’ah islamiyyah, or any one of a number of Sufi groups. If it’s Algeria it could be Maliki, it could be ibaa’dhiyya and so on.

Many Muslim groups could not thrive as a sect, raise money or be able to keep their adherents in check without having a sub-ideological focus, or without being in opposition to another Muslim group. The modem day Salafist phenomena in the United States is just one example of that. At their height, they would ascribe medieval, and early islamic sectarian labels to other Muslims and then proceed to demonize them. They would attach the title Mu’tazilite, Raa’fidee, Juhamee, and Khawaarij to everyday converts who have never even heard of such titles and groups, and of course to many of them; to be a true Salafi, you must call yourself a Salafi.

This methodology of factionalization is not only a characteristic of some modern day Salafists, it’s typical of many islamic groups who enter the United States already sectarianized. Sectarianism works better in a small village somewhere where everybody is of the same tribe, or believes the same, thinks the same, and has the exact same values for generations. However, in Muslim America, sectarian Islam creates an entirely different dynamic, especially for the convert or revert to Islam. It becomes especially problematic when the new Muslim convert is compelled by pressure or by what they presume to be the requirements of faith to join or belong to a particular Muslim sect. I recall having some brothers who joined a particular Sufi sect telling me that according to their sheikh, Islam was not enough, that there was some secret knowledge that needs to be acquired and that can only be gotten through the sect and by means of the sheikh that they now pledged allegiance to.

Sometimes converts/reverts comes across, or initiates into one or another of these sectarianized versions of Islam, and do not even realize what hit them until much later (sometimes years) when they try to raise their children on the sect’s sub-ideology or on veneration of the sect’s founder or leader, or until they go and try to integrate with another group of Muslims and then they discover that one group hates, or is in opposition to the other. This can be a pretty mind wrenching, faith shaking discovery for someone who just recently entered into the religion of Islam.

It’s not that sectarianists are trying to mess with your head; for many, sectarianism is the only Islam that they know and understand. The simple Islam of the Prophet ﷺ for many sectarianists is a betrayal of their sect’s sub-constitution. But it is the simple Islam of the Prophet which attracts converts to Islam in the first place, which is why sectarianism is not compatible with the Muslim convert, just like it wasn’t compatible with the companions of the Prophet who themselves were converts to Islam. It ruins faith more than it enhances it.

When people convert to Islam, they are excited about being Muslim and are ready to do whatever it takes (at least in the beginning) to be a true Muslim. This is generally a good thing, but it also makes them vulnerable to the culture of Muslim sectarianism. Convert Muslims come into the religion without belonging to, or yearning to belong to any particular sect; they come in on pure tawheed (monotheism) without sectarian alignment and simply want to belong to, and be with the Muslims. This trusting disposition can make them natural marks for sectarianists and easy targets of post conversion proselytizing. Many if not most new converts to islam are very naïve to the nuances of Muslim sectarianism and in-fighting. It’s like; okay, now that you are a Muslim, what kind of Islam do you want?

Even worse, some people are presented with the notion that they really aren’t a true Muslim until they join this or that sect, or initiate into this or that group or tariqa, or follow this or that sheikh. People are in essence, taking two shahadas; the shahaadah of Islam, and then, the shahaadah of the sectarian group. Granted, there are many people who are part of a group or sect, but are not hardcore sectarianists. However, make no mistake about it; within every major sect of islam in America, there are hardcore ideologues who police the beliefs of its members.

Extreme Salafism has had its heyday amongst American Muslim converts, but it is waning. There are more ex-Salafis now than there are Salafis. A lot of Muslims have discovered that you can follow the ways of the Salaf [righteous predecessors] without having to call yourself a Salafi. That realization for many, was an eye opener of cathartic proportion. These days, Sufism is the hot craze amongst many indigenous American Muslims. This is not a condemnation of Sufism as a discipline within legitimate islamic practice. It’s just an honest assessment of where we are in Muslim America.

People are using their Sufi affiliation and titles like gang signs. Many of the more popular Sufi tariqas maintain that if you leave the order, or disengage from the sheikh, then you have left true Islam, and will fall into disfavor with Allah. That’s a pretty hefty psychological burden to lay on an unsuspecting, impressionable, recent convert to Islam. Even more so if the sheikh lives thousands of miles away and you’ve never even met him face to face. Ironically, many Muslims are discovering that you can embrace and practice Islamic spirituality according to what the Prophet ﷺ practiced and taught, without having to call yourself a Sufi and without belonging to a Sufi sect or group.

Converts come into the religion believing in tawheed, Muslim unity, and in the simplicity of Islam, and are then betrayed on so many levels. Sometimes, they are literally chased away from Islam by racism, marginalization, or by the pressure to give up their critical reasoning, their common sense, and their identity. Other times it is the sheer confusion and perplexity of sectarianism that leaves their heads spinning. There are many Muslims who convert to Islam, and gradually understand and practice the faith, get married, perhaps have children and produce healthy viable Muslim families that continue into the next generation. However, that’s not the way it is for many converts during the times we live in today.

Many new Muslim converts in America these days are a one shot, single generation deal. They convert to Islam but it doesn’t really spread to their children or next generation. The average convert today is simply subject to too many fluctuations, and quirky influences in his or her faith and ideology in the name of Islam to keep up.

It’s interesting to note that most American Muslim converts to Islam already believed in god before they converted to Islam. In fact, most of them believed in one god. For these new Muslims, Islam only confirms and gives deeper meaning and definition to what they already believed before they converted to Islam. Which in part, is what lead them to Islam in the first place. Many converts to Islam where already honoring their parents, being kind to their neighbors, keeping family ties, giving charity with their hard earned money and were already truthful and honest before they ever knew about Islam.

There is nothing purer for the one whom Allah Himself guides to Islam than the Islam that was practiced and taught by the Prophet ﷺ. Sectarianism for the Muslim convert is a demotion of faith, not a promotion of faith. It is imperative for converts to Islam to understand it’s damaging effects and to extricate themselves from the cyclical morass and confusion of modern Muslim sectarianism. In my humble opinion, there is no better Islam for them, than the original version, without supplemental editing or ideological appendixes. I believe and will in sha Allah, continue to believe that Islam is best practiced when it is independent of sectarianism. Which is why Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala said; “Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty”. (Quran 5:105)

We cannot understate the effects of Muslim sectarianism on American convert communities. I imagine that one of the biggest drawbacks to Muslim sectarianism for converts is that you’ll have people living in the same city or the same are of a city and there will be so many foreign (and domestic) spheres of influence that get in the way of them working together while at the same time, they all share the same space and deal with the same problems and obstacles. Their sectarianism creates a reluctance and sometimes an ideological impediment to work together.

It may take an entire generation for the American Muslim convert community to recover from the negative effects and consequences of sectarianism and that’s only if we begin now, and that’s only if we recognize the damage that has been done.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that addressed Muslim sectarianism and critical issues that impact the loves of Muslim converts in the United States. He is also and the author of the new book, “Double Edged Slavery “, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

How Muslim Sectarianism is connected to Islamophobia, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

la tanaaza'oo.jpgAmidst the climate of increased anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States and the cacophony of noise decrying the evils of islamophobia and the islamophobes, confronting Muslim sectarianism is not a palpable topic for front line attention. Why should American Muslims even stop to think or care about sectarianism within our own ranks, when everyone is worried about islamophobia?

Why consecrate cerebral real estate to thinking about deep-rooted division within the Muslim body when Muslims are being harassed, harangued, mowed down and killed in the streets? That’s a good question. After all, as American Muslims, there are more immediate things to contend with; our honor, our reputation, our dignity and our lives that are at stake. Islamophobia is an assault on all of that. However, what many of us fail to realize is; so is sectarianism. It’s easy to look at islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment and think that is was formed in a vacuum and simply came out of nowhere, or that is fueled by pure ignorance, and good old fashioned American bigotry, without there being any underlying factors that contribute to anti-Islamic sentiment.

Such an assessment is flawed, and underscores just how much more Muslims need to understand the American people and how we form our ideas, and even our biases. What many people fail to understand is that there is a direct link Muslim Sectarianism and islamophobia. They are connected in more ways than many of us are willing to concede.

Sectarianism, extremism and racism, are the trifecta of pathology in moral dysfunction that plague Muslims world-wide. If you look at the fighting in Iraq, the fighting in Syria, the fighting in Pakistan, the bombings of mosques, and the war lording factions in the Muslim world, you will see Muslim sectarianism. Despite the blame we can attribute to western powers and their meddling in the Muslim world, there is still at the core a basic concept of Muslim on Muslim killing, legitimized through ethnicity, sect, and sub islamic ideology, especially between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and through racial differences. But what does one have to do with the other, and what does any of them have to do with islamophobia?

Muslim sectarianism is not an imaginary monster; it is not a fairy-tale or a Hollywood horror movie. it is real, it is pervasive, and it is consequential. Obviously we can see its results in the Muslim world, but we can see it’s consequence as well in various and sundry ways in our own American Muslim sectarianized communities.  These are not imagined problems; these are real shortcomings that affect Muslims and non-Muslims alike. When Muslims emigrate to the United States from the places where sectarian strife is ingrained in the society, it is only reasonable that some people will be concerned that some of this sectarian modality that we’ve become famous for, will germinate here in the United States. You can call such a person an Islamophobe, but others would say that such a person is a pragmatist. I’m not justifying bigotry, or generalization, or implying that this is always the case, but what I am saying is that is grossly unintelligent to suggest that it is never the case. Furthermore, by our own admission, we are a sectarianized community on many levels, and if such be true, then it is a reasonable assumption that this could be a contributing factor to anti-Islamic sentiment. Whether or not Muslim sectarianism should influence people’s views about Islam and Muslims is another conversation. However, the fact remains that it does, whether we think it should or not. Not only that. sectarianism affects us morally and spiritually and it raises important questions about who we are as a religious community.

Amongst the thousands of Muslims with whom I have spoken, interviewed, taught or lectured during the last twenty years, there is an almost unanimous consensus that Muslim sectarianism is a ubiquitous cancer affecting our communities here in the United States. It is problematic, it is ugly, and it affects our lives and the lives of our children. If it is present, and if it affects our masaajid, our interaction with each other and contributes to our division, then it goes without saying that these eventualities could and are likely to influence the way that people look at Muslims, and contributes to anti-Islamic sentiment, or what people call islamophobia.

Therefore, American Muslims cannot adequately address islamophobia until we address the irrefutable dynamics that help define the narrative of our civilizational personality of which sectarianism is at the top of the list. The Muslim ummah in many ways is against itself and against each other according to race, nationality, ethnicity and sub-religious doctrine. We ourselves cannot deny that. We ourselves complain about it, talk about it and write about it. It is flippant to think that the world has not taken notice of that. It is intellectually disingenuous to think for moment that the way we are as a Muslim people, does not influence the way that people look at us. More importantly, it is close to heresy to believe that the way we are in reality does not determine how our Lord looks at us.

Anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States is directed at immigrant Muslim and immigrant Muslim communities in a much higher proportion that it is directed at African American or white American Muslims who were born and raised here. In the inner cities, people are changing their attitudes towards  African American Muslims not because they are Muslim, but because of their association with immigrant Muslims who are viewed as racist and some of whom capitalize on drug, alcohol and gambling addiction, by selling crack pipes, meth pipes, liquor, lottery tickets, blunts and pornography in inner city neighborhoods and then shutting down for two hours on Friday and heading off to the local mosque. People see that. People are aware of that, they talk about it, and it contributes to anti-Muslim sentiment and there is nothing irrational about that.

It goes without saying that as Muslims, we should be very concerned about islamophobia or anti-Muslim rhetoric and we should do whatever we can to curb it. However, recent history has shown that in spite of all the resources that Muslim American organizations have put into combatting islamophobia, the incidents of anti-Muslim rhetoric, hate, violence and vandalism is as high as it has been during the last 16 years.

That does not mean that we should not try to present a positive image of Islam and Muslims but it’s increasingly difficult when people are acutely aware of the factionalism that we practice is our faith.   Notwithstanding that placing responsibility for Islam’s image on other than ourselves is a flawed and unstable paradigm that siphons away valuable time, energy and spiritual as well as temporal benefit. It distracts us from individual and collective responsibility and sets in motion as’baab (causative factors) that could deprive us, at this critical juncture in our history, of what we need most: divine intervention and support. This can only come from Allah.

One of our problems is that Muslims only like to discuss what they perceive to be external threats, whereas the Prophet ﷺ, in addition to addressing external threats to Islam and Muslims, spent a great deal of time addressing internal threats to our religion and to our moral well-being. Our relationships inside of our faith were very much a part of his messaging. All these issues have been bottled up, but at this point is history, there’s no place left to bottle them up any more. Islamophobia is just another type of sectarianism; it’s non-Muslim against the Muslim. From a non-Muslim perspective, why should people be hands off about Muslims when Muslims aren’t hands off about Muslims?

Division within the Muslim body only emboldens anti-Muslim antagonists.

One sure way that the American Muslim Community will have a positive effect on the Greater Community is to address racism and sectarianism within our own communities. Racism is the major unresolved issue in the united states, if Muslims send a message that they not only cannot deal with the racial issue; they will not deal with it or face it, it says that we have not matured as a socially conscious community. It says that there is a flaw in our moral foundation. It also says that we’re hypocrites. I’m not calling anyone a hypocrite, but that is certainly the visual takeaway.

Sectarianism is the most widely used and most successful weapon against the Muslims. The first racist was Iblis. “I am better than him; you created me from fire and you created him from must”. Ever since then, Iblis has used racism and sectarianism to diminish the message of Islam and to enable us in writing our own self-destructive narrative.

In not addressing the racial and sectarian divide in Muslim America, we are, instead of solving sectarianism, cultivating new strains of it. All of this is happening at a time where our country has made fighting violent Muslim extremism a priority, and while Muslim communities have made fighting islamophobia a priority. Violent extremism is fueled by sectarianism, and sectarianism is a subtler form of racism, and all three; extremism, sectarianism, and racism are inextricably connected and Muslims are dead in the middle of it all. So where do we go from here?

American Muslim communities (where applicable) should embrace this conversation, and work more to open their masaajid to more indigenous and convert Muslims (of all races). Because this would produce a diversity of thought, a diversity of policy, and solutioned approaches to other and broader issues affecting our Muslim communities. Muslim communities need to address these things not just on the surface, and not just with pats on the head and the Bilal story, or the Suhail ar-Rumi story, but on their boards, in their leadership, in their decision making, in their community strategy, as well as in their core ranks. And I’m not just talking about superficial talking points; we’ve already been through that. African American Muslims especially have dealt with bigotry in this country for a very long time and we shouldn’t dismiss their experiences like they’re new to this, or insult each other’s intelligence. Both communities could learn from each other.

The more people outside of Islam view our communities as foreign, and behind the times on the issue of race, the more likely people will express and act on their bigotry and dislike for Islam and Muslims. Of course when we seriously start to address racism, we would have to deal with other issues like sectarianism. If we unpack sectarianism, we will find extremism and if we unpack extremism we will invariably find racism. Racism is itself an extreme ideology that presupposes that Allah is not a just Lord, and that He sanctions the subjugation, disparagement, and marginalization of one race of people over another simply on the basis of skin color. Islamophobia, the Muslim American Godzilla, is simply another form of racism; it’s just that the shoe is on the other foot. At some point, we’re going to have to resolve this issue of racial, ethnic, and religious discord within the ummah. It is inevitable. Our future is connected to it.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also and the author of the new book, “Double Edged Slavery “, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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