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 or without a daily infusion of fear into the Muslim body that there is a bogeymen out there. 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. Sectarianism 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 makes the Muslim convert a natural mark 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

(These are my words and not anyone else’s, and represents no organization other than Mosque Without Borders.)

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher. 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.

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Fighting Islamophobia, a Policy Built on Fear, Ignorance of Religion and Thin Air. By Imam Luqman Ahmad

I I was the first American Imam who openly challenged in published writing, the use, potential misuse, and overuse of the neologism “Islamophobia“. Much of what I wrote more than a decade ago in the article that follows this article, has come to pass as I predicted. American Muslims have spent billions of dollars in the so called fight against islamophobia and here it is in the latter part of 2018, and many of us still regard fighting islamophobia as the number one priority for Muslims living in the United States.

Our tactics in the anti-Islamophobia campaign have not changed that much since the time the article you are about to read was originally written, nor has there been too many changes made to the anti-islamophobia playbook. It is nearly the same at it has always been;

  • Reject any and all criticism constructive, accurate or otherwise of American Muslims as the musings of an islamophobe.
  • Present a sanitized, mostly white looking version of the American Muslim,
  • Try to prove to other Americans just how American we are, or that we are more American than the average American.
  • Place limits on the meanings of scriptural terminology like Islam, and Jihad, to make it more palatable to the American public. When Islam meant submission, it meant that you had to do something to be a Muslim. Once we changed the meaning to mean peace, and peace only. That meant that all you had to do to be Muslim is be peaceful.
  • Marginalize converts and Black American Muslims because well, one, they’re Black, and two, if Black, White, and Latino Muslims had a fraction of the funding to build Masajid and organizations that serve people and people’s needs, that immigrants and immigrant organizations have at their disposal
  • Modifying our belief expression to exclude public mention of the Shaitaan, ad-Dajjaal, the last days, unbeliever, kaafir, kufr, or hell-fire, and hereafter. These are all banned words in the fight against islamophobia. to make us seem more mainstream.
  • Insulting the intelligence of thinking people while shutting down anyone who thinks too much, or like me who talks too much.
  • Thats been pretty much the multi-billion dollar anti-islamophobia game plan for more than a decade, and till this very day, no one can tell me who is the chief strategist, policy maker, agency, group of consultants, or anti-islamophobia czar who is spearheading this fight and mapping out strategy. In the United States of America, you can trace policy to a particular law, a President, a Governor, a city council, a state, federal or local legislative body, a ballot measure, a referendum, a court ruling, or the old guy in the back room that makes policy. In Muslim America, as far as There has been no cost benefit analysis that I’m aware of, to determine whether or not we are winning or losing the fight, or whether or not fighting islamophobia was or is the right path for Muslims living in the United States. There is not even a mention of a moral imperative, a godly reward, or a link to how fighting islamophobia is pleasing to Allah or in any way will bring you closer to Him.
  • Fighting islamophobia has become an industry in and of itself, and quite a lucrative one. It’s not a religious industry; it’s a political industry masquerading as a path to salvation or a religious path. As long as your fighting islamophobia, you are regarded as a true Muslim activist. The fight against islamophobia is industry that not surprisingly excludes Black and Convert Muslims from any funding. Which is ironic since if there was any people who would understand the historical sensibilities of Non-Muslim Americans, and how we think as traditional Americans it would be the people who were once themselves, non-Muslim Americans. Doesn’t that make sense? Fighting islamophobia is an American Muslim policy. It’s not a hukm shar’i ( Islamic legal ruling). It’s a policy built on fear, ignorance and thin air.

    The word Islamophobia does not appear anywhere in the Quran, and there are no hadith or prophetic tradition whatsoever according to my knowledge where Islamophobia is mentioned or where fighting it as a full blown campaign is precedented. Furthermore, there are no scholars from amongst the salaf (early generations) of the Ummah who sanctioned or made fataawa that Muslims should be fighting islamophobia. Think about that as you read the article below.The rendition below was published in 2007 on the Islamicity.org website (a quick search and you’ll find it).

    I want you to read the following article for yourself, read it carefully and see if any of my predictions and analysis about our use of the word and concept islamophobia turned out to be true and on point. If you see value in my summations then please consider that these viewpoints are coming from an Imam whose family is currently homeless in Sacramento California. Yes, you read it right, we have been displaced home, and are now homeless and I could be of much more benefit to our Ummah if I and my family weren’t homeless. This is a tough time for us. Something that could happen to anyone and something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone If you’d like to help get us back on our feet, then you can donate in three ways;

    1. Via Zelle to 916-595-9503

    2. Via cash app to 916-692-6184

    3. Via Facebook fundraiser by clicking on the link. https://www.facebook.com/donate/253074035541780/2322832827732763/#

    Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad.

    Confronting Islamophobia, It’s No Dog and Pony Show [Published in 2007]

    Recognition of islamophobia as the irrational and unwarranted fear of Muslims and Islam lingers in lexical incubation. Some accept the term fully while others discount its validity. Whether this neologism will gain currency as a bona fide social pathology, or be viewed simply as a marginally legitimate term, moonlighting as a public relations tool, remains to be seen. Phobias, according to the American Psychiatric Association are mental disorders characterized by persistent and irrational fear of a particular thing, situation, or animal. The word islamophobia, and the operative definition applied to it, is far from clinical recognition. However, I must admit, it is a catchy term; and certainly trendy sounding enough to fuel circulation. Like; “what are you guys doing this weekend? “We’re going to fight islamophobia!”” Its etymology insures seamless placement in the “for Islam”, “saving the deen”, “for Allah” category. 

    Islamophobia has a diabolical, sinister ring to it. You can almost picture a young Muslim mother sending her child off to public school; “Now son, remember to drink your milk, look both ways when you cross the street, don’t forget to say your prayers on time, and be sure to watch out for any islamophobia! We’ve used the term with such frequency and with such self serving overtones that it has started to lose it effectiveness if it even had any. Picture the scenario of a man who utters an anti-Muslim remark causing outrage in the Muslim community; he’s rushed to a licensed islamophobist for diagnosis, after submitting to a few diagnostics, the man turns to the doctor in anxious trepidation and says; “well Doc, tell me! What is it? Racism? Psychomotor agitation? Bipolar disorder? Bird flu? The doctor, clipboard in, hand, gazes solemnly into his eyes and says: “no Pat, what you have is a mild case of islamophobia”. The man wiping the sweat off his brow says: “That’s all? Thank God, for a moment, I thought it was something serious”. 

    As Muslims, accurate and responsible use of categorical verbiage is a moral obligation, and in this case, a vital tactical adjunct for Muslims in America. This is why it is critical that before we wage jihad against islamophobia, we accurately define the terminology. Perhaps, we can avoid misdirecting our energies in what may very well be another fruitless pursuit, frocked in Islamic trappings that fails to address the root of our problems as Muslims. Sure there is discrimination against Muslims and yes, it should be addressed, but not manipulated. I don’t see crowds of rednecks chasing down Muslims in the streets. 

    Let’s set aside American foreign policy for a moment, that’s a separate issue. I’m talking about everyday life, living in America. Are there Americans who fear Muslims? Absolutely, and there are some that fear bald headed bikers clad in leather, there are some that fear Latinos, Italians whose last name ends in a vowel, and Christian Fundamentalists. There are people in America who fear African Americans, especially those less than 25 years of age who parenthetically, may be the most feared minority in the country. There are people in America who fear skinheads, the sound of fire trucks, the din of crowded subways, men with bushy mustaches, Caucasians, the police, Catholic priests, the homeless, and there are even people in America believe it or not who are mortified by toothless old ladies. I’m terrified of dentist visits and a contentious divorce could make a person afraid of the opposite sex. Welcome to the club. Fear is an industry in America and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

    Accepting that there are Americans who fear Muslims, is such fear completely irrational? Well, knowing that a surgically worded fatwa can turn an unsuspecting young Muslim into a societal menace overnight, and the capricious way in which a Muslim can be suddenly labeled a non-Muslim, a deviant, or infidel does cause concern. Is there fanaticism in the name of Islam? Yes. Is it widespread? Yes. Are we doing much to combat it? I don’t think so. I’d never expect that anyone could find any moral imperative to suicide bomb a Mawlid celebration. Regardless of the variant opinions of Muslims on celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad , bombing a group of Muslims many of whom were scholars of Islam, gathered in honor of Allah’s final Messenger would make a person say hmm… Talk about Americans fearing Muslims, there are Muslims that fear Muslims! Does this qualify then as islamophobes? I think not.

    We can blame the media until we are blue in the face for negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims; Even as of this writing, graphic imagery of Muslim on Muslim violence, Muslim rage, Muslim turmoil, dominate network and print media. However, these images fuel policy; they help pass massive budgets appropriations, and provide the justification for the mega industry that is known as the war on terror. Preparing ourselves for the so-called Muslim threat has created completely new industries in America as well as bolstering others. Police departments are spending billions dollars on preventive arsenal and technology to prepare for the Muslim threat. Kevlar fitted canines which ten years ago might have been the butt of a Jay Leno opening monologue, is now a lucrative commercial venue. 

    There is such abundance and variety of Muslim media footage, that politicians, policy makers, businessmen, non-profits and industrialists can literally pick out what suits their purpose. Want to do missionary work in Iraq? Grab some hungry children footage. Want to get funding to buy new jail doors from your brother in-law’s Company? Get some terrorist cell simulation footage. Want to retrofit that county bridge to withstand a terrorist attack? Of course, no one could imagine what a so-called terrorist would want with a bridge in the middle of nowhere, but you simply pull out the appropriate news footage and motion passed. The press is only doing their job, selling news entertainment. 

    The question is, what are we going to do? Continue complaining? Ignore our own ills? Only take on agendas that have fundraising potential? The only thing stopping the Muslims from changing their condition is our own arrogance, religious sectarianism, injustices to own selves, and refusal to address serious social Islamic issues. It is nonsense to assume that the media is the only culprit. Or to assume we can somehow eradicate unwarranted fear or distrust of Muslims through the rhetoric of public relations, or references to the glorious history of Islam. America is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of country. Which by the way is not an un-Islamic viewpoint. The Prophet said: “Verily deeds are tallied according to those that are last” (innamaa al-a’maalu bil khawaa’teem). Years of town halls, demonstrations, accountability sessions, sensitivity training and boycotts hasn’t removed graphic negative Muslim media imagery from top billing on headline news. Money can’t buy you love. Yeah I know the Beatles said it 1964, but Allah said it 1400 years prior; “And if you spent everything in the world you could not have joined between their hearts, but it is Allah who joined between them” Quran 8:63. 

    Americans do not necessarily fear Islam and Muslims. What Americans do not want is to see suicide bombers in New York City. As an American Muslim who knows no other homeland, I have no problem in protecting our borders or legitimately defending my country. Does that make me a bad Muslim? I live here, why would I want to see America go down in flames? I have issues with the phrase “death to America”. Our way of life here may not be all good but it definitely is not all bad. We need to stop making politics part of theology or if we insist on doing so, we should accept that no one group or ethnicity can speak for all American Muslims. You have scholars who have never experienced the family bonding that takes place at Thanksgiving dinner, or understand the true nature of the holiday, making fatwas (religious edict) using triangulated logic, telling me that to sit down with my Muslim and non-Muslim family to eat roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese, hug my aunties whom I haven’t seen all year and watch a football game with my cousins is a faith deficiency! My response to that fatwa is posted elsewhere. However the point I’m making is that there is a distinct, irrational, extremist tendency in our application of Islam that needs to be extricated. 

    Americans are more confused about Islam and Muslims than anything else. I don’t think that the media is entirely to blame for that. Heck, even Muslims are confused about Islam. Every year there are millions of Muslims in America who are confused about the start of Ramadan. “Should I fast or should I eat? Can I do both? Taraaweeh prayer; is it 20 rakaat or 8? Am I wrong if I do 8? Am I an innovator if I do twenty? Do I give salaams to all Muslims or just some of them? Do I boycott American products even though I live in America? I still can’t figure that one out. There are so many conflicting fatwas flying around that a person spirals into bewilderment just trying to keep track of them, let alone making sense of some of them.

    Domestically, the American people have accommodated, and accepted the Muslim presence in too many ways for anyone to suggest that there is a pandemic of islamophobia. It has been and still is a struggle. However, the doors have already been opened in large part by African American Muslims. American Muslims in the United States have very little difficulty buying homes, starting businesses, enrolling in universities, or obtaining the so-called American dream. Redundant use of psycho-suggestive coinage would tend to make you feel people are staring you down when they just happen to be looking at you like they do everybody else. It can also convince you that you were not hired because you were a Muslim and not simply because another candidate was more appealing, or more qualified. Statistically speaking, incidents of anti Muslim hate, violence, discrimination in America are relatively low. If we divide the 1500 or so anti Muslim, and anti-Arab (what about anti African, or anti Asian?) incidents reported by one of the largest and loudest civil rights groups in America, into the 6 million Muslims who legally reside in America, that comes up to 2/10ths of a percent. If we multiply the number by five to take into consideration unreported incidents, we arrive at the grand total of 1% of the general Muslim population, hardly enough to qualify fighting islamophobia as a top priority!

    Using the term as a scare tactic has created another neologism; ‘islamophobia-phobia’, (the fear of islamophobia),, which is a greater threat to Muslims than islamophobia. It is true that many Muslims in America receive daily briefs detailing anti Muslim incidents. However, these daily alarms appear more like self-serving, opinion shaping, headline grabbing, and manipulative issue control, than proof of an evil, unwarranted, mindless campaign against Muslims and Arabs by the American citizenry. Give me break! 

    With respect to the religion of Islam, the only ones who can taint its image are its designated practitioners; i.e., the Muslims. This is why the Prophet opted not to dispose of some of the treasonous hypocrites in Medina. It also explains why he reprimanded Mu’aath ibn Jabal for leading the congregational prayer beyond reasonable length. Both actions are potential repellents. Extremism, although it may seem, depending upon the interpreter, to have a textual basis (Quran and Sunna),, usually results in other than the desired outcome. Our failure to realize this point will leave us in disappointment. We have many examples of such. Our recent overreaction to the cartoon portrayal of the Prophet is just one. None of our protests altered the Prophets status in any way. His place with Allah is still secure, and in the same degree, he is still the honored last Prophet of God. All the ranting did not endear the masses to Islam, it exposed our lack of rectitude, it cost us lives, money, time, moral capital and lacked definitive textual basis

    Human beings cannot invalidate the quality or value of Islam; on the contrary, Islam is a divinely pre-validated faith and way of life according to orthodox Islamic creed (agenda). “Verily the religion of Allah is Islam” Quran 3:19. Adherence to Islam or lack of it determines humanistic value, balances societies, and by the way, supports stable, healthy civilizations. Anti Islamic sentiment in the United States has particular causes such as providential disbelief or what is known is theological jargon as (kufr). Nothing we can do about that. “And it is no different whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe” Quran 36:10. Other causes are misunderstanding, misrepresentation of Islam by Muslims or non-Muslim, injustice, the absence of Islamic standards of civility, (yes there is such a thing) and the conspicuous scarcity of Muslim social service institutions in America. Furthermore, anti Islamic sentiment is not always tantamount to anti God, anti righteousness, or anti-justice. You can’t go around accusing anyone who criticizes a Muslim as immoral or islamophobic. We are gullible but were not idiots, at least not all of us.

    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 away 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. “Allah is the Friend of those who believe; He takes them out of the darkness’s into the (one) light”. Quran 2:257. Faith, is more than rhetoric action is required. If we for a moment think that success or improvement in our condition can ever occur without it, we are engaging in a fantasy, existing only in the quilt of our minds, wove together with the threads of wishful thinking. Want to prove people in the west wrong about Muslims? Be charitable, help others, feed the hungry, assist the orphan, teach people to read, build a hospital, pave a road, or clean a park. Charitable work does wonders for the soul and it doesn’t hurt public image either if that’s what we care about. The Prophet said: “Prayer is light and charity is proof”. When a people address their own ills and acknowledge their individual and collective faults, and their need to change wrongful ways, and embrace fairness, righteousness, civility, adab, humility, brotherhood, honesty, patience and the qualities that ultimately define our character, change becomes imminent. Divine assistance is set in motion. 

    Labeling people islamophobes, still muzzles some criticism of Islam and the Muslims, However, for many other Americans, it just tees them off, especially when one can easily see the upward mobility, affluence, academic, commercial, and political presence of immigrant Muslims in American society. No one likes a perpetual whiner especially when perceived as having a silver spoon on his palate. This is regardless whether he worked for it or not. Other than paying taxes, there is no significant Islamic social welfare component to offset suspicion, hostility, resentment, or mistrust. This is another cause of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiment in America. 

    We hardly see Islamic ideals and principles manifested institutionally in United States. Oh, pardon me, that’s not entirely true. Islamic ideals and principles do exist in many American institutions. Let’s see, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, free and reduced fee clinics, food stamps, homeless shelters, the SPCA, Fire Departments, traffic lights, free libraries, trash collection, the ability to disagree publicly oh and we have tawheed (monotheism) here too. Maybe we have forgotten what Islam is all about. It just may be possible that we have some closet islamophobia in us! Let us all, myself included, get our act together and leave dog and pony shows for the circus.  [Published in 2007]

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    Dissecting the Daleel about Dogs, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

    me-and-the-dogsThis is not about the rantings of a dog lover. I do not consider myself a dog lover or a champion of the canine species. In fact, I have never written an article about dogs in my life, and only in the last few years, acquired dogs for security purposes. I just happen to be a Muslim who used to own dogs, and who has learned to love his dogs and considered them part of my household, and who learned a lot about things like loyalty, grant, preserverence, survival, love, care and compassion, all from owning dogs, which is somethings I’ve always avoided.

    About a year ago, I posted a picture on social media of me and my dogs sitting in our back yard at a previous residence. The picture of a Muslim, an Imam to boot, sitting between two big dogs in his back yard, prompted questions, confusion, perhaps a bit of disgust, some likes, and of course, discussion.

    After all, much of the general sentiment in many Muslim communities are that dogs are entirely unclean, that they are haram (prohibited), and that dogs are definitely un-islamic, and no self-respecting Muslim, Imam or otherwise, needs to be pictured with dogs unless he’s running from a dog (lol), or in he’s featured in some super cool pic standing on a snow blanketed mountainside with his hunting rifle in his left hand, his thikr beads in his right hand and his two dogs at his side. But sitting with your two dogs in your back yard? There is a distinct religious-cultural attitude of disapproval towards dogs in general and towards Muslims who own dogs in particular. Unless you’re a rancher or something. Dogs and Islam do not mix; at least in the popular narrative, and that’s what I used to think.

    Until I acquired a German Shepherd and a Husky Malamute to guard my homes, and my person, and my family during a difficult time. That experience changed my perception and understanding about dogs and dog lovers, and taught me a lot about myself and about people.

    Now these dogs were guard dogs; they lived outside and were not house dogs. They were good at their job wal-humdu lillaah (praise God), they were fiercely loyal and they protected, and watched over my home, my family and my children. They warded off strangers and let us know when we need to be on heightened alert. When the time arose, they handled their business like clockwork (at least one did) and I loved them for that. They had their own unique and individual personalities, and I became attached to them.  so you can’t help but to get to know them and either like or dislike them. This is by the decree of Allah. I happen to love them. Don’t always like them though, because they will tear up stuff on occaision.

    Obvious Drawbacks to Dog Ownership

    Owning a dog is not for everyone. Just like owning any pet or even having children is not for everybody. Dogs are Allah’s creation that require care, compassion, affection and time. Nevertheless, a Muslim owning a dog has its obvious drawbacks; partially because of the cultural taboo against it, but mainly because we have to pray five times a day and there is the issue of impurities and the recurring need to be in a state of tahaara (purification). This was one (just one) of the reasons that I ended up not having dogs although I don’t rule it out for the future.

    The general idea is that if a dog sniffs you, and everybody knows that dogs sniff people, you are no longer fit to make prayer in those clothes. I myself have went into near hysteria when approached by a dog when I’m out and about. Not because I’m afraid of the dog, but because I wasn’t in position to change my clothes any time soon or before the next prayer came in.  So if you own dogs you have to make adjustments and take special care in order to be in compliance with Muslim laws regulating ritual purity.

    Dog Ownership and Rules

    As a rule, you don’t pray in the same clothes that you wear when dealing with your dogs. You change your clothes, and you wash your hands, face and body parts after you deal with them. Especially of course, knowing that you have the next prayer to contend with. The prescribed prayer requires purification and there is no getting around that. There are parts of a dog that are considered to be impure according to islamic law, and there is no getting around that. The upside to that is that because you own a dog, you develop a heightened sense of ritual purity and there is certain spiritual praise attached to that. The Prophet ﷺ said; “No one guards over their ablution except a believer” [Ibn Majah] Another upside in owning dogs, at least for my family is that they remind us of gratitude, love, loyalty, compassion, the value of rizq (sustenance), and ultimately, believe it or not, they remind us of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. This was not my intention but it just came about that the dogs made us more aware of our religious obligations and the importance of compassion towards animals.

    As far as the official religious rulings about dogs. There is nothing in our religious and canonical laws that inherently prohibited owning a dog. However, there are some guidelines based upon our religious texts. For example, the hair of a dog is not considered najas (unclean) according to most scholars. However, the drool of a dog is considered najas based upon the hadith: “If a dog drinks in a vessel belonging to one of you, then he should rinse it out seven times”. So if dog drool gets on your hand for example, you have to wash your hands, and if it gets on your clothing, you have to rinse your clothing.

    Secondly, so there is little room in Islam for a Muslim to become the quintessential dog lover type since it is only permissible for a Muslim to own a dog in certain circumstances; (hunting, herding, and guarding). Other scholars add seeing eye dogs, personal care dogs, rescue dogs, cadaver dogs, and search dogs. Islam upholds the permissibility of owning dogs if there is a legitimate reason and of that, there are several as mentioned. The Quran states, “So eat what they (your dogs) catch and mention the name of God thereon, and fear God.” (Surah Al Ma’idah).

    Feeding and Caring for Your Dog is a Righteous Deed

    Proper care and feeding your dog is associated with religious piety. The Prophet ﷺ recounted the story; “While a man was walking on a road. he became very thirsty. He came across a well, got down into it, drank (of its water) and then came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. The man said to himself, “This dog is suffering from the same state of thirst as I did.” So he went down the well (again) and filled his shoe (with water) and held it in his mouth and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He said, “(Yes) there is a reward for serving any animate (living being).” [Bukhari; Muslim]

    Thus, if a person owns a dog, then they have to feed her, mend her when she’s sick, help her with childbirth, protect her from the elements, train her, be kind to her, be just to her, and not burden her with more than she can bear. All of this is a part of sharia law as it governs animal ownership, and if you do it proper it can make you a better person, and a better Muslim. The same goes for horses, oxen, mules, and sheep. As for the opinion that a dog by itself is all unclean, or all haram? There is no basis for that whatsoever in the sharia and in fact, such a notion would contradict the Book of Allah.

    Keeping Your Dog Outside

    A general principle is that if a Muslim owns a dog, it should not be a house dog. Sheltering your dog inside the house is considered disliked (makrooh) based upon the prophetic tradition, “the angels will not enter a house that has images or a dog” [Bukhaari]. Most Muslims don’t even know the whole story about why the angel Jib’reel would not enter the Prophet’s ﷺ house on one occasion. The story goes that Jib’reel made an appointment to come visit the Prophet ﷺ and the Prophet waited for him and he didn’t come. Later, the Prophet asked him why and then Jib’reel mentioned why. “the angels will not enter a house that has images or a dog”.  It turns out that the Prophet ﷺ had an image on a curtain in his doorway and a dog had crept in his house and was hiding under the bed. That’s one reason why certain scholars say that the issue of angels not entering the house because of a dog is for the Prophet ﷺ only and that’s perhaps why the only penalty mentioned for owning a dog as a pet it the home is the loss of one or two ‘qiraat’ (karats).[Note: Scholars differ as to what exactly is a ‘qiraat’ according to islamic law, from anything from 1/20th of a dinar,  to 16 grams of silver. In any case, it s not deemed to be too much according to most scholars.]

    The Quran also mentions the story of the people of the cave who had a dog as their companion. Some people see a conflict in the story about the dog of the people of the cave and the hadith about angels not entering houses that have a dog in it.  Actually, there is no conflict here because firstly, the people of the cave were outside, and secondly, because the people of the cave were not prophets. Angels act differently around prophets, especially Rasoolullaah (SAWS) than they act around folks who are not Prophets. There is a different level of reverence. The third reason is there was no wahy (divine inspiration) being sent down to the people in the cave and when Jib’reel comes, he is likely to bring wahy with him which requires a different decorum, ambiance and situation. There are a lot of reasons if I had more time i could explain but there is ample reconcilement of the verse in Kah’f and in the hadith in Bukhaari

    Having a dog outside, in a cave, in the park, in the woods, on the trail, out camping, hunting, hiking, herding or anything like it, is different from the ruling about dogs in the house and even then, as I mentioned, some scholars say that the house ruling was exclusive to the Prophet ﷺ. Sometimes as Muslims we tend to go overboard with dogs like we sometimes go overboard with a lot of things. In fact, dogs are a creation Allah made subject to our control, subjugation and training just like horses, cattle, sheep, some birds and so on. The basis for owing them is permissibility and they have purpose for mankind as mentioned in the Quran.

    What’s left are the laws, rules, etiquette and protocol that govern owing a dog or dogs. Part of these laws has to with purification and hygiene, and part of it has to do with the proper treatment and care of dogs (as well as other animals) and none of it has to do with outlawing all dogs, or stigmatizing Muslim dog owners like they don’t have taqwa or something.

    During the time of the Prophet ﷺ dogs used to roam freely and occasionally one would end up in someone’s house or even the masjid. In the hadith of Abdullah ibn Umar, he said: “I used to stay overnight in the mosque at the time of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ when I was young and single, and dogs used to urinate and come and go in the mosque, and they did not sprinkle water over any of that.” What the Prophet ﷺ frowned upon was owning a dog for no purpose except a pet in the house. The hadith about angels (of mercy) not entering which is a sound hadith by the way, scholars interpreted it differently. I personally err on the side of caution as far as dogs in the house but the fact remains that we make a bigger deal about dogs than the Prophet did ﷺ.  A lot of time because we follow someone else’s cultural attitude toward the canine and not the actual legal standard as codified in our religious laws. Dogs are here in part to serve some of the needs of humans, and over time people have discovered other uses for dogs. There are dogs who have saved many more lives than many men, by the permission and decree of Allah.

    Dogs and Pets as Reminders of Faith

    The thing about our dogs is that they remind us of gratitude, love, loyalty, the value of rizq (sustenance), and ultimately, believe it or not, they remind us of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. I love my dogs and I seek the blessings and reward from Allah in feeding them, kindness to them and the way that we treat them. They depend on us for their care and Allah has entrusted my family with them. We take that trust seriously. There is nothing strange about being reminded about Allah, His mercy, His goodness, and His guardianship over His creation through our interaction with our animals, remembering that Allah is their Lord too.

    Imam Luqman Ahmad

    Why I’m Challenging Racism in Muslim America, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

    B1F9AF2A-BAAA-40E2-90E7-8AEB29408A82.jpegI was born and raised Muslim in America, I grew up attending Philly Masajid with my mother, my father and all my brothers and sisters and I paid attention to everything I heard and saw. I gave hundreds of khutbas in the Philly region, and over a thousand in California, and at least 3 thousand classes on Fiqh, aqeeda, Seerah, tafseer, hadith methodology, and have written over 150 Articles about Islam that are online on my blog. I’ve written two books about American Muslims, all public and accessible. I engage in thousands of individual talks, or council with Muslims from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities.

    Forty years straight, I stood by my words, and never, ever, ever, deceived any Muslim about Islam, or Muslims, or ran and hid somewhere when problems arose. Not ever! I spent my entire adult life on the front line of Islam in America and there is no one, man, woman, or recording angel that can say different. And of the thousands from all races and ethnic who gave crossed my personal path as a teacher or Imam. There is no one, even amongst those who may dislike me, who will say I misled them or lied to them concerning the Deen, or about Allah sub’haana hu wa Ta’ala. And as imperfect as I am,(very, very imperfect) I was born and bred to work for Allah, my father, my wife, and my children will tell you that.

    I have a right and a duty according to Quran, the Sunna, Islamic law, and the constitution of the United States, to oppose marginalization and civilizational irrelevancy applied against Black American Muslims. And yes, I am a believer, and a patriot, and will defend my religion and our faith values in accordance of the law. A new strain of unchecked, racism and marginalization of converts by other Muslims will hurt Islam, hurt Muslims and it will hurt America. And it is my right to campaign against it, and to ask for assistsnce from Muslims and non Muslims, while I raise your consciousness and my own, by Allah’s will. If that’s not worthy of support, then sub’haana Allah, why are we here?

    Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

    Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, 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.

    Do American Muslim immigrants have any idea of the pain and trauma they cause Muslim converts by racism?

    cropped-shahada-finger.jpgIf you don’t know, it’s then it’s unfortunate, may Allah open your eyes. If you know, yet prefer to remain in denial, then Allah has blinded you to the truth, if you know, and can see it right before your eyes, but choose to do nothing, say nothing, but still demand that America respects you, accepts you as an equal, then you do not know America at all.

    There are good, God fearing, socially conscious people in this land. I do not believe that our country will ever fully accept a Muslim America headed by arrogant, racist, leaders who champion civil rights but deny black Muslims the dignity that the demand for themselves.

    The American Muslim convert community has been nearly completely overrun, marginalized, and left to die out by America’s immigrant Muslim Communíty. This is one of the greatest injustices of our time. Do you have any idea of how it feels to American Muslim converts to know that we have to fight racism and marginalization from the very Muslims that we’ve helped pave the way for through our blood, our sacrifice, and our struggle to uphold and spread this religion?

    Do you know that Islam is the only religion in America where people can honestly say that they get treated better, and with more respect walking into a church, than walking into a million dollar Masjid? Too many Muslims have sacrificed, suffered, and endured the hardship of being Black and being Muslim, for too many years, for our whole memory to be washed away.

    If the voices of the Black Muslim and Convert community  vare going to be muffled, and if our relevance as a convert community that Allah has personally guided to Islam is going to be dismissed simply because most of us are black, then know that by Allah, and may He be my witness, we are not going down without a fight.

    Black Muslims have been on this continent before we became a republic. Despite being stripped of our languages, our identity, our knowledge of our history, our heritage, and our religion, they could not take our faith and belief in the One God. We still held on to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and He gave us back Islam, and we are still holding on to His rope as you read this.

    We will never let go of our faith. Even amongst the thousands of Muslim converts who all but abandoned Islam  because of racism, sectarianism, and rejection by the immigrant community, the belief that there is no God but Allah is still resting in their hearts. No amount of oppression will take that away. It is Allah’s divine gift to us, and He knows this situation better than we know it ourselves.

    We have been fighting racism on this land for 400 years. If we have to keep on fighting it in 2018, within our own faith, in our own country,  and from the Muslim immigrants whom we will still love, in the land that we slaved for and helped build with our bare hands, then know that even though it hurts us, because we love Islam, and we love Muslims,  we will still resist.

    If i was tasked with taking up this cause alone, I certainly would do it because I am fearful of what He would do with me if I turned my back on it, and because I am in need of Allah’s mercy and forgiveness more then anyone else I know. Allah commanded me to step forward, despite my insisting to Him  day after day, and night after night that I am not worthy. However Allah has indicated to me that help will come, and that there are people who are already inspired and waiting to support this cause, and that I will not be alone. But He stipulated that I have to put myself out there first. Y’all know how Allah is always testing folks. (Lol).

    So I asked al-Rah’masn be He Exalted and Glorified, can I be myself, the one with faults, sins, and defects, or do I have to pretend that I am a sanctified holy shaykh or Imam. Al-humdu lillah, He said, that He already knows who I am, ( And indeed We have created man, and We know whatever thoughts his inner self develops, and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Quran 50:16).) He also said that my good deeds will erase my bad deeds. A man kissed a woman (unlawfully) and then went to the Prophet and informed him. Allah revealed: “And offer prayers perfectly At the two ends of the day And in some hours of the night. Verily! good deeds remove (annul) the evil deeds (small sins)” (11.114). The man asked Allah’s Apostle, “Is it for me?” He said, “It is for all my followers.”

    So, with Allah’s help, we will mount a moral and dignified resistance to being conquered, overran, and dismissed and marginalized by the very people that our country, the country we helped build, opened its doors to, and whom Allah allowed to prosper on His land. And before we invoke the du’aa of the oppressed, for which there is no barrier between it and Allah, we shall appeal to the faith, and moral conscience of Muslim America.

    Iis not permissible for Muslims to allow another group of Muslims, to pounce upon them like conquerers, using their money, influence and education to marginalize them. Thank God this is America, and al-humdu lillah, Allah is watching, and knowing, and has the power over all things. I trust Him that He will make an opening for us.

    I recently started an organization, Mosque Without Borders    so that I can fulfill this responsibility. I have nothing to fight with right now except my voice, my key board, and my love for Islam, feel free to donate . If your heart tells you to stay away from it then stay away because it means you’re not invited. If your heart tells you that this is right, then donate if you can or email me, tell me who you are and what you can offer, and I’ll tell you how you can help.

    This in house fight we are about to have in Muslim America, has nothing to do with our government, nothing to do with islsmophobes, with my fellow countrymen who are not Muslim (although you do not have to be a Muslim to donate or support), and it has nothing to do with the media, fighting islamophobia, breaking any laws of these United States, or trying to destroy anything that we have built. It does not have to be a cantankerous exchange. I will not mention anyone’s name, disparage anyone’s character or reputation, and I will not reveal anything that as an Imam for twenty years, I am sworn to keep private. But it’s not going to be a kitty spat either. So there you have it. Keep us in your du’aa, wal Allahu al-Musts’aan.

    Lastly, yes, I am an American Imam, and when the weak and the marginalized of our communities cry out. I listen and pay attention. Read the following from an American Muslim convert, and know that I have a thousand just like it in my inbox.

    “As a black american single head of a household of four children, I find your article very accurate. I have attended the local masjid and have never felt so alienated in my entire adult life. The traditional Muslim women indeed acted as if they were superior in every form and fashion. For example, the ladies of the masjid were once cooking a meal, one sister grabbed the knife and vegetables from me saying that I did not know how to cut the vegetables properly. I was appalled. She mentioned that Americans had everything cut up for them and I could not possibly know what I was doing. It took all of my faith not to slap the mess out of her. I have lived some 42 years in America as a black woman and have come from a farm to a ghetto where we cut up everything, from vegetables to people!!! So I totally agree with addressing the racism that exist amongst Muslims as a whole. I am tired of some well meaning sister telling me about Islam based on a cultural upbringing that has no rationale or legitimacy in relation to the Quran or hadiths. I may be a new Muslimah, but I have learned to stand my ground when things do not add up. Thanks for the article.”

    Jazaaka Allahu khairan, thanks for you support. Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

    imamabulaith@yahoo.com, , http://www.mosquewithoutbrders.org

    Right now we need, funds, IT people, graphic designers, video folks,  office space, and more funds. Please no not contact me if you are not prepared to get to work right away.

     

     

    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].

    Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 7.15.13 PM
    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.

     

    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, intransitive 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 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.

    Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher, Defender if the Faith and advocate for the oppressed, the marginalized , and those without a voice. 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

    Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 7.15.13 PM
    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

    basmala
    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

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