Fighting Over Weak Hadith

By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

It has been prophesized that the Muslim Ummah would follow the path of those that came before us, i.e., the Jews and the Christians. “You will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, … much so that even if they entered a hole of a lizard, you would follow them[1].Nowhere has this been more apparent than in our differing with each other in matters of religion.  “The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will): Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them.´3:19. In today’s times, differences amongst Muslims frequently take on an air of hostility and acrimony.  As Muslim Americans become more familiar with principles of hadith methodology, we find ourselves at odds over many issues relating to statements attributed to our beloved Prophet (SAWS). Historically, such topics were the exclusive realm of legitimate scholars, their students and people who had great familiarity with the disciplines of sacred knowledge. Nowadays, as the lines between teacher and student have become blurred, some Muslims find themselves in vociferous contention over amongst other issues, weak hadith.

People dispute over weak hadith to a degree that some people repudiate others, not for the way they practice religion, but in the hadith they read. I have seen where people have virtually vilified scholars for using weak hadith in their books, or Imams who quote weak hadith in their sermons,  or suggested that we throw books out into the garbage pile because they  contained weak hadith or that we avoid this or that book because of the presence of weak hadith in them. Of course, all of this in nonsensical; It is incredulous that Muslims fight and argue over the use of weak hadith in unprecedented ways. However, these types of disputes are becoming commonplace amongst American Muslims.

We should all understand that as Muslims, we should strive to be accurate in what we report about the Prophet (SAWS), and that indeed amongst the volumes of prophetic traditions reported about the Prophet (SAWS) there are reports that are authentic (sahih or hasan), and there are reports that are not authentic, otherwise known as da’eef (weak). In any matter relating to deen, authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) are first and foremost, and form the basis and foundation of our religion along with the Quran. However, weak hadith are not going to be expunged from hadith literature and people will continue to encounter them in books, read them and transmit them to others.  Thus, it is helpful to understand they way weak hadith are used in our religion.

 A weak hadith does not necessarily mean that the Prophet (SAWS) did not say, or sanction a thing; it simply means that the hadith does not meet the standard of authenticity set by hadith scholars.  Weak hadith contribute to the overall understanding of the religion of Islam, and its auxiliary sciences   of knowledge, such as tafseer (exegesis), fiqh (jurisprudence), and history. This issue of weak hadith is not simply a matter that all weak hadith are bad and need to be trashed as some Muslims are suggesting. There are different categories and variants of weakness ranging from 50 types according to ibn Habbaaani, to seventy something categories according to ibn Kathir, to over one-hundred and twenty categories of weak hadith according to Sharfud Deen al-Manaawi. A hadith can have multiple chains of transmission, each with the same or slightly different wording. Sometimes a hadith is weak when related through a particular chain of transmission but strong when related to another chain.

Generally speaking, there is nothing inherently wrong with quoting weak hadith, otherwise scholars like Imam Ahmad, Imam an-Nawawi, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, as-Shawkaani, and so many countless others, would not have done so. Even Imam Bukhaari uses weak hadith in his book ‘Adab al-Mufrad’ (Muslim Manners). Imam Ahmad and Imam Shaafi’ee both consider weak hadith as a legitimate evidentiary resource used in arriving at rulings. It is not in the best interest of Muslims to argue about whether or not a person should read or use weak hadith. In fact, doing so only exposes a person’s ignorance of Islamic procedural law (usul al-fiqh).

It is important that people understand how to use or not to use hadith, both weak and authentic. Some people have advocated reading only hadith from Bukhaari or Muslim since they are two collections of prophetic tradition that scholars consider to be completely authentic. However there are other collections of hadith that are authentic as well; such as the Sahih of Ibn Khuzaimah, the Sahih of Ibn Habbaani, the Sahih of Abu Awaanah, and others. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in his explanation of the classical work on hadith methodology; “Nakh’batul Fikr fee Mustalihaat Ahlul Thikr”, says, “Scholars agree that it is incumbent to act upon every sound authentic hadith, even if was not produced by the two sheikhs (Bukhaari and Muslim)[1].


[1] Qawaa’id at-Tah’deeth, Jamaaluddeen al-Qaasimee, p. 90. In my opinion, a person should not restrict themselves to reading only certain books of hadith as there are dozens of hadith collections and they all have benefit. Muslims should not engage in any campaign against weak hadith, although it is necessary to distinguish between the authentic and the not authentic, as many of our illustrious scholars have done for us.

What is needed in my view is that we campaign against general ignorance of religion. Weak hadith are not the main issue; it is in how people use hadith, weak or authentic which seems to cause so many problems. People’s mis-use and misunderstanding of authentic hadith is a greater problem than people’s use of weak hadith. The important thing is to correctly understand the deen of Islam as a whole, so that it can be practiced properly. For example, the hadith “He who memorizes forty hadith will enter paradise and be raised alongside the scholars“, although it has many variations and different chains of transmission, is itself a weak hadith. However, scholars have used this hadith as an inspiration to compile collections of forty hadith, such as the forty hadith compiled by Imam Nawawi. Another example are mursal (incompletely transmitted hadith). A hadith can have a sound chain of reputable narrators but omit the name of the companion of the Prophet (SAWS) from whom the hadith was taken. Imam Shaafi’ee used to use mursal hadith attributed to Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib, who was a taabi’ee[2], since the latter was considered one of the Imams of the taabi’een, and it was extremely unlikely that he would lie about the Prophet (SAWS) or lie about having heard a hadith from a companion of the Prophet (SAWS).  Thus when a personage such as Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib would say; “the messenger of Allah (SAWS) said so and so”, its understood by scholars that he (Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib) got the information from a companion of the Prophet (SAWS) although he does not mention the companion by name. It’s like an otherwise trustworthy person saying; ‘my grandfather used to say this and that, and although the person never met his grandfather, it is understood that he got the information from someone who did hear it from his grandfather, such as his parents. A mursal hadith is considered by definition to be a weak hadith. However as we have shown, its weakness is due to omission, and not deception.

ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani has set what I consider to be intelligent guidelines for the use of weak hadith and they are as follows:

  1. That the hadith does not have extreme weakness. (There can be over fifty reasons that a hadith is weak)
  2. That the hadith is not used to make something haraam, or to make something that is haraam, halal
  3.  That the hadith is not used to confirm a certainty, but instead only as an affirmation of a possibility
  4. That acting upon a weak hadith is used only in the support of a confirmed act of goodness.

It’s more advantageous in the long run to be rounded in Islam as a religion. When people take it upon themselves to read hadith on their own and try to come up with fiqh rulings as many people do, it creates individual discord, each person arguing his or her point in an open court, with no ruler, no judge, no decorum and no civility. Reading hadith, authentic or not is one thing; practicing Islam according to the Prophet’s way (SAWS) is something entirely different.

Many hadith, just like verses in the Quran, require explanation in order to understand it correctly.  Most of the mis-informed opinions derived from hadith that I have encountered in my 15 years as an Imam has been through mis-understandings people have about authentic hadith by not understanding the hadith itself, mis-using it or emphasizing hadith without understanding fiqh application, or a combination of all the above. The hadith about the seventy-two sects of Islam is in authentic, yet so many people misunderstand it, that some actually believe that if you call yourself a certain type of Muslim, you are automatically saved.

The current problems with new Muslims and old, straying off the path, bordering extremism and getting confused has more to do with the near leaderless structure of the umma in its current form, the multiple spheres of influence, and the degeneration of spiritual intuitiveness that comes with diseases of the heart, than it have to do with people following weak hadith. And Allah knows best. Imam Luqman Ahmad


[1] Bukhaari

[2] A taabi’ee is a Muslim who met a companion of the Prophet (SAWS) but never met the Prophet himself (SAWS).

Advertisements

Civil Marriages Versus Islamic Marriages

 By Imam Luqman Ahmad

 Recently, I entertained a notion that I never before expected would enter my mind. I have always passionately maintained that an imam should contract Muslim marriages in the United States with no civil marriage license involved. Furthermore I argued that with respect to civil legitimacy, we as Muslims in America should demand that the local, state and federal governments accept Muslim marriages contracted in a masjid as valid and legitimate for all purposes. Furthermore, I felt that Muslims in America should establish their own courts to deal with marital disputes, divorce and adjudication. I even used to cast a disdaining eye at people who sought the city hall stamp of approval for their marriages. I still hold some of these positions. However, I do not foresee any of these happening in the near future.

Now, after 20 years of witnessing utter disregard for the sanctity of marriage, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the off-handed informal way in which marriages and divorces are handled needs to be revised to better reflect the reality of the times while still maintaining, even enhancing the adherence of islamic law. It is painfully clear that more and more often, the sacredness of marriage has been replaced by an almost casual indifference to its sanctity.

Civil and Islamic marriages have taken on connotations of real and make-believe. A person will say: “lslamically I’m married to so and so but legally I’m still married to so and so.” Or they will say, “We are married in Islam but we are not legally married.” Too often a person will display a prima fascia disregard for a civil marriage as if it doesn’t matter because it’s not “islamic”. However when a legal dispute arises such as death of a spouse who was divorced islamically but not civilly, the former spouse will rush to claim that, hey, I’m the legal spouse therefore I deserve the inheritance or the insurance money or whatever is left behind. Then they seek the full backing of the law.

In virtually every case, a civil marriage solemnized islamically carries the full applicable weight of legality and sanctity. On the other hand, an Islamic marriage by itself in many cases only carries limited weight not extending too far beyond the boundaries of the masjid. That’s why in an Islamic marriage, women for example, may still keep their former husband’s last name, never change any of their identifications, (drivers licenses, work I.D., passports etc.) to reflect their status as married women. In some cases a woman may be married to a man islamically and still carry their former husbands last name. On the other hand, when there is a civil marriage certificate involved, signed by the imam, legal issues are adjusted across the board, names are changed to reflect the new status, real names are used on the certificate, identifications, and drivers licenses are changed, parents are notified (and believe they are married), and a realization evolves amongst couples that yes, we are married in every sense of the word.

Marriage is a serious matter. The prophet (SAWS) considered it half of one’s faith. It is arguably the single most important social institution in our religion. The marital status amongst Muslims needs to be explicit and unambiguous. Either you are married or you are not. Either you are divorced or you are not. The idea of a legal netherworld between Islamic and civil is absurd. Unfortunately, Muslims in the United States do not possess the power, influence, or organizational congruence, to establish a nationwide or even a local system of marriage and divorce. This is why men are able to go from city to city and marry as many times as they like in the Muslim community without anyone even knowing their real names, or have multiple wives without the others even knowing about it! It is also why men and women are more likely to abandon the marriage by simply walking away because the Islamic marriage in their eyes carries no real validity. It may at its inception but when things get rough as they often do, they know they can just simply walk away with no legal ramifications.

 

Often there is no documentation of marriage, or divorce, no reference to past marriages, to any marital history, no information regarding previously abandoned children, wives or husbands. Pretty soon we can expect that brothers and sisters may be marrying each other without knowing it. Think it won’t happen? Well think again. I know of at least two instances where it did happen. In one case the marriage was prevented in time. In the other case, incest had occurred before anyone knew better. One place to start remedying this madness would be for masaajid in any given city to share all information about marriage and divorce and establish a computer network that connects them to one another. However, that is unlikely. Masaajid are very reluctant to share information. They would rather share information with amazon.com before they share it with another Masjid.

A stable networking system of marriage and divorce in the Muslim community may be years away. In the meantime, I advocate utilizing a civil marriage certificate signed by an imam until we get our act together. This way there will be a modicum of regulation and reference and it may help stem the tide of reckless marriage and runaway divorce. Granted, this is not an easy dilemma to resolve. There are fundamental differences between marriage and divorce laws in Islam and those in secular law. The downside of marriages employing the civil system is that it subjects people to the inherent injustices of the American divorce process, which tend to unfairly (from a Muslim perspective) favor women. One positive note is that some cities are open to the idea of incorporating Islamic principles into the civil system for Muslims, which still would require that the Muslims in that city be of one accord on the fiqh of the issue. This may be an area that warrants further exploration and advocacy. I realize that the idea of allowing the government to license Muslim marriages may be distasteful to some Muslims. I do not fully endorse the notion myself. However, in light of the tragic consequences of having no system at all, I believe this is the lesser of two evils. And Allah knows best.

This and other issues like it are indicative of our unpreparedness to do what it takes to take care of our own. When a single mother with children is in need of assistance, she doesn’t go to the masjid, she goes to the welfare office. When there is a violent dispute between spouses, they do not call the masjid, they call 911 and get a restraining order. When there are financial disputes between Muslims, we do not have a system for binding arbitration in the Muslim communities, they simply go to civil court. We file and pay taxes faithfully yet we ignore zakat and resign ourselves to having to put on fundraisers which are now starting to resemble rock concerts. The chronic divisiveness of the Muslim community only augments this difficulty. Muslim communities in America are going to have to start thinking as a group. At some point “organizational normalcy” needs to occur. Our lives and individual communities are simply too interconnected for us to continue acting as if they aren’t. America in the new information age is all about connectivity. It is high time for us to catch up.

The ideas of fully utilizing the civil system in contracting Muslim marriages should not be necessarily frowned upon. We are already entrenched in the American legal system in almost every aspect of our lives and in most legal matters it is the primary system used by Muslims in the United States. Even when making hajj, you need a U.S. Government issued or approved passport and you have to use your “legal name” not your Islamic name. About the only way in which we do handle our own is in death; we do wash our own bodies and bury our own. Are we prepared to change? Only the future will tell. My dear Muslims, when are we going to realize that sooner or later we are going to have to come together as one people? We need to wake up. Our survival depends upon it.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Northern California. He can be reached at imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com, or visit his blog at imamluqman.wordpress.com

Is it a Big Deal When Prominent People Convert to Islam?

By Imam Luqman Ahmad

Al-humdu lillah wa salaatu wa salaam alaa Rasoolillah (SAWS). Should Muslims make a big deal when prominent people like famous rappers, actors, intellectuals, politicians , musicians and the like, convert to Islam? Some say yes, and some say no. The truth of the matter is,  people who make a big deal out of prominent people converting to Islam are in fact, following the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and the way of the companions. The companions used to show particular rejoice when certain people converted to Islam; for example, when Umar Ibn al-Khattaab converted to Islam, there was tremendous rejoice amongst the Muslims, as he had been a prominent adversary to the Prophet (SAWS) and Islam. Hamza had converted three days prior to that and it was a tremendous blow against the mushrikeen because Hamza was feared. When Umar converted, the Muslims were inside the house of Ar’qam ibn Abi Ar’qam, they made a takbir [Saying God is Great] so loud that that everybody assembled at the Kaaba heard it. Darul Ar’qam is near Safaa, and anyone who has made hajj or umrah knows that Safaa is a little walk from the Kaaba. The same was when Abu Sufyaan converted; the Prophet (SAWS) made a big deal about that and made Abu Sufyaan’s house a safe haven for people on the day of the conquest of Mecca (yawmul Fat’h). Just as the Prophet (SAWS) made an extra effort to convert his uncle, Abu Taalib on his deathbed, although the latter never converted. It was a big deal to the Muslims when Hassaan Ibn Thaabit converted as he had been one of the leading poets of Hejaz. When he converted, it was a blow to those who used to say the Prophet (SAWS) was a crazed poet; “and would say, “Shall we, then, give up our deities at the bidding of a mad poet?” 37:36. The Prophet (SAWS) immediately put him to use and set him upon the Quraish with his poetry. Some of the companions themselves used to make proud mention of their conversion. It was reported about Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas, that he said, “No one else converted on the day that I converted to Islam. I spent seven days when I was a full one third of Islam (Muslims). [Related by Ibn Jawzi in Sifatul Safwa, vol. 1, p. 188]. It is a big deal when anyone converts to Islam as it represents the issuing of divine guidance. “Whomever Allah wants to guide them, He opens their heart to Islam”. When influential people convert to Islam, it strengthens our religion, as mentioned by the Prophet (SAWS) when he said; “Oh Allah, strengthen Islam with the one you love most of these two men; Umar ibn al-Khattaab, or Abi Jahl ibn Hishaam”.

Every day there are people converting to Islam who are left without support, without communities that nurture them, and sometimes masaajid to go to where they are welcome. Most of those who convert to Islam are just regular, everyday people. Whether a convert is a prominent entertainer or sports figure, or an ordinary believer as most are, we have an obligation as  Muslims to pay special attention to the needs of the converts in America, and the issues that affect them specifically. That’s what the new organization, Mosque Without Borders  aims to make a priority, but we need your help. you can go to our website at http://www.mosquewithoutborders.org, and make a donation.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

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

Tabaqaat al-Amrikiyyeen: Recording History for American Muslim Generations, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Tabaqaat al-Amrikiyyeen

1943 MslimsBiographical stationing is an important part of Muslim historiography.  Referencing in Islam is frequently based upon ranking and association; whether it is predicated upon precedence, levels of religious knowledge, or length of service to Islam and the Muslims, each group or person is accorded a status according to his or her designated ranking.  In the hadith; “The best generation is my generation. Then those that follow them. Then those that follow them”[1], there is a reference to biographical stationing. Hence, the best generation after the Prophet (SAWS) by agreement of the scholars is the generation of the companions because of their own achievements and because according to Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani; of their proximity to the Prophet (SAWS).

Tabaqaat as-Sahaaba

Early Muslim historians employ a biographical recording method whereas the ranks of the Muslim were chronicled by ranking and category. This was known as tabaqat which literally means levels. There are numerous verses in the Quran and authentic hadith which support stationing people according to their precedent, their notable achievements in religion and their honorable status. “And as for the first and foremost of those who have forsaken the domain of evil and of those who have sheltered and succored the Faith, as well as those who follow them in [the way of] righteousness – God is well-pleased with them, and well–pleased are they with Him.” 9:100 Likewise, Allah ta’ala makes a distinction between the active and inactive Muslim; “Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each Allah hath promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary[2]

Also amongst the groups that warranted specific  distinction were the 1400 or so Muslims who made the well-known bait (oath of felty) with the Prophet (SAWS) under the tree in Hudaibiyyah. They earned an honor that others did not. “Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave the bai’at (pledge) with you under the tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquility) upon them and He rewarded them with a near victory”, 48:19 al-Fat’h.

Another group was the emigrants who migrated with the Prophet (SAWS). They received a distinction that others did not. “For the poor emigrants, who were expelled from their homes and their property, seeking bounties from Allah and to please Him, and helping Allah and his messenger, they are indeed the truthful”[3]. And let us not forget the Ansaar of Medina who hosted the Prophet (SAWS) and the emigrants who prepared their way. They can never be matched. “And those who, before them, had prepared homes and faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given (of the booty), they give (the emigrants) preference over themselves even though they were in need of that. And whomever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be successful”[4].

Individuals of these classes cannot be equaled by anyone who came after them regardless of their contributions or sacrifices. In fact, any one of the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) whom Allah or the Prophet (SAWS) has testified to their excellence, their reward of paradise or to their preference cannot be equaled in stature by anyone after them. Such regard is given to the four aforementioned caliphs, and the other six of the ten companions who were promised paradise. It also extends to persons like Bilal, whose footsteps in paradise were heard by the Prophet (SAWS), to the black woman who used to clean the masjid of the Prophet, and others.

Likewise, anyone who has fought alongside the Prophet (SAWS), fought during his time by his command, spent money in the way of Islam during the Prophet’s time, migrated with him or to him are in a class unparalleled, and unobtainable by anyone after them. This goes particularly for the Companions who participated in actions before the conquest of Mecca. “Not equal amongst you are those who spent and fought before the conquest. Those are greater in level than those who spent and fought after (the conquest)”.[5]

It is generally agreed by the Muslim historians and scholars of Islam that the participants of Badr were a special tabaqa (rank). They were accorded a status that followed them throughout their lives. For some of them, their status earned them prophetic pardon when they erred as in the case of Haatib ibn abi Balta’ah; the Prophet (SAWS) pardoned him for divulging information to the Meccans shortly before the conquest of Mecca and said: “Verily he witnessed (participated) in the battle of Badr, and what would make you come to know, perhaps Allah has already looked at the people of Badr and said: ‘Do whatever you like, for I have forgiven you.”[6] For others of the Bad’reeyyoon (Bedronites), as they came to be known there was always a social status that they were the veterans of Badr. During the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khttaab, after he conquered Persia, he put all the veterans of Badr on annual pension.

In islamic tradition, sometimes people are stationed according to knowledge of Islam such as the scholars; “Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well- acquainted with all ye do.”[7] Other times they are stationed according to scholarship within a particular school of jurisprudence or within a particular discipline such as Imam Taj ul-Din as-Subki[8] did in his famous work; “Tabaqaat as-Shaafi’iyyah”, or al-Muafa ibn Imran al-Mawsali[9] did in his ‘Tabaqaat al-Muhadditheen’[10].

Ranking by faith is perhaps the most revered of all; “Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”[11] However faith ranking is largely a hidden domain for two reasons. Firstly because faith is a variable that increases and decreases according to theological reasoning of Muslim orthodoxy (Ahlus Sunna wa jamaa’at). Secondly, because the reality of anyone’s faith is known only by Allah; “And do not praise yourselves; surely Allah knows best who has the most piety.”[12] Recording Muslim history including tabaqat is not a determinant of faith but an acknowledgement of our past and our present civilization.

Many Muslim historians, scholars and traditionalists have rendered the companions of the Prophet (SAWS), particular groups of scholars or famous Muslim personalities into stations or tabaqat. Ibn Sa’ad is well known for his famous eight volume work: ‘Tabaqaat ibn Sa’ad’[13] in which he chronicled in addition to the life of the Prophet (SAWS), the lives of notable companions, and notables of the following generations. His last volume was dedicated to distinguished Muslim women.

Al-Haakims Tabaqaat

The earliest tabaqaat works were about the companions of the Prophet (SAWS). One of the very first was a work by Al-Muafa ibn Imran al-Mawsali titled; ‘Tabaqaat as-Sahaaba’. Ibn Zayyat produced a similar work in which mentions ten tabaqaat of the companions. Many scholars accept Al-Haakim’s famous rendering whereas he mentions 12 stations accorded the companions of the Prophet (SAWS).

Those stations are as follows:

1.    The companions who accepted Islam in the early period of Mecca. These include the four righteous khalifs

2.    The companions who accepted Islam before the Darul Nadwa consultation

3.    Those who migrated to Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia)

4.    Those present at the first Aqaba meeting

5.    Those present at the second Aqaba meeting

6.    Those who migrated and met the prophet (SAWS) at Quba’a before his entry into Medina

7.    The Muslim participants in the battle of Badr

8.    The Muslims who migrated between the events of Badr and Hudaibiyyah

9.    The companions present at the fealty of Hudaibiyyah incident

10. The companions who migrated between the time of Hudaibiyyah and the conquest of Mecca such as Khalid ibn al-Waleed

11. The Muslims who entered Islam at and during the conquest of Mecca

12. The children and the youth who saw the prophet (SAQWS) on the day of the conquest and during the farewell pilgrimage.[14]

Within the history of American Muslim community there are classes of individuals who have served Islam in a range of religious disciplines; there are imams, scholars, teachers, leaders, khateebs (preachers) and du’aat (missionaries) of Islam. Recording and acknowledging our own tabaqat, chronicles our history so that each ensuing generation is aware and connected to that which preceded it. Other writers throughout history have written tabaqaat relating to their own people and their own connected epochs. Sometime around 1259 A.D., Mahmud, Minhaj-i-Nasiri, a Bengali Judge of Delhi during the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin, wrote his ‘Tabaqaat al-Nasiri’ which chronicled the history of the first fifty years of Muslim rule in Bengal. In 1554 A.D., the Shaafi’ee scholar and Mystic, al-Sharanai[15] wrote his ‘Tabaqaat al-Suhgra’ where he chronicled the lives of his teachers, and other shuyookh of his time.

This type of narrative is an important element in recording our own history as American Muslims. It establishes a generational continuity of faith and action and scholarship. Each generation not only learns from the previous generation but is compelled because of their connection to them, to honor them and pray for their forgiveness; “And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancor (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.[16]

Remembering our forefathers is an acceptable act; “So when ye have accomplished your holy rites, celebrate the praises of Allah, as ye used to celebrate the praises of your fathers,- yea, with far more Heart and soul.[17] Reviling and criticizing our dead is a detestable act as the Prophet (SAWS) has said: “Do not speak ill of the dead for they have reached the deeds that they have put forth.[18] It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Do not revile the dead because then you will torment the living.[19] There is no value in cursing and reviling Muslims who have passed away as some of our youth are doing today. Cursing the previous nations is an action of the people of the hell-fire; “Enter ye in the company of the peoples who passed away before you – men and jinns, – into the Fire.” Every time a new people enters, it curses its sister-people (that went before), until they follow each other, all into the Fire.”[20]

Tabaqaat of American Muslim Pioneers

Much of American Muslim history goes on underreported. Many of our noteworthy American Muslim scholars, teachers, imams, activists and du’aat are gone and others will leave us in the coming years. The deaths of Sheikh Hisham Jaaber, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Imam Khairi Shakoor, Imam Luqman Abdullah, are reminders for us all that an era of Muslim stewardship in America is passing. In sha Allah, in the future there will be historians, and chroniclers who will retrieve and record information about those who have preceded us in faith, such as Sheikh Sulaimaan Abdul-Haadi of New York, Sheikhs Naafi’ Muhaimin, Muhammad al-Haarith, and Ahmad Thaafir of Philadelphia, as well as the noted Arabic teacher, Ustaadh Ali Abdul-Haadi who was also a Philadelphia native. Little is known about my late uncle, Sheikh Dawud Salahuddin who left Philadelphia with his family and helped to establish the sunna in Chicago, and so many others who have played significant roles such as the late great African American scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Izzuddeen, or Sheikh Wali Akram. It is important that proper respect is accorded our pioneers, imams, shuyookh, scholars and du’aat of Islam who have laid down the foundations of faith and Islam in the United States of America. Our position towards them should be one of acknowledgement, respect and good assumption.  We should stop allowing people to come to our country and disparage our imams, teachers and shuyookh, or issue scurrilous claims that there are no scholars from America.

Thus, long time Muslims who has completed a couple dozen fasts of Ramadan should occupy a tabaqa (ranking) different than someone who just accepted Islam a couple of years ago. Likewise, someone who has participated in Islamic work for decades should occupy a ranking different from the one who has just started being active or one who is not active at all. Imams who have dutifully served their communities for decades would have a higher ranking than imams who have just begun their tenure. This is not a matter of faith but a matter of generational protocol and adab. It was reported that the Prophet (SAWS) has said: “The one who does not show mercy to our youth and does not revere our aged is not from among us.[21]

Tabaqaat has to be applied in spirit first before we apply it to our own historical recording. The religion of Islam and the Muslims are better served if we respect those who have preceded us in faith, and who have and continue to, lay down the foundations of Islam in America. Recognizing that there are tabaqaat among us is one way of giving respect and honor where it is due. Wal humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad deliver’s the Friday Khutba at the Islamic Society of Folsom. He is a writer, lecturer and the author of the book; “Double Edged Slavery“, a book about the condition of African American Muslim converts in America, and   ‘TheDevil’s Deception of the Modern day Salafi Sect’.  He can be reached at, imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1]Collected by Bukhaari

[2] Quran, 4:95

[3] Quran, 59:8

[4] Quran, 59:9

[5] Quran, 57:10

[6] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim

[7] Quran, 58:11

[8] Died 756 A.H.

[9] Died, 185 A.H.

[10] Traditionalists

[11] Quran, 49:13

[12] Quran, 53:32

[13] Muhammad ibn Sa’ad ibn Mani’, d. 230 A.H.

[14] Usdu al-Ghaaba Fi Ma’rifatul Sahaaba, by Ibn Athir, (D. 630 AH.)volume 1, page 81

[15] Abdul-Wahaab ibn Ahmad al-Shraani, a Sufi mystic and scholar of the Shaafi’ee school and one of the most prolific writers of his time. He died in 1565 A.D.

[16] Quran, 59:10

[17] Quran, 2:200

[18] Collected by Bukhaari

[19] Collected by Abu Esa at-Tirmithi

[20] Quran, 7:38

[21] Collected by at-Tirmidhi and Imam Ahmad in the Musnad. The meaning being; not following our way, i.e. the way of the Prophet (SAWS).

 

The Islamic Ruling on Baby Showers in the United States

By Sheikh Luqman Ahmad, Imam, Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California

 Bismillahi Arrah’maan Arra’heem wal-humdu lillah wa salaat wa salaam alaa Rasoolillah (SAWS)

Question: Are baby showers haram (prohibited ) in Islam?

Answer: al-Humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. The Baby shower is an indigenous cultural event practiced by Muslims born and raised and residing in the in the United States of America . No adequate Islamic ruling can be made upon it without understanding the nature of the practice, its benefit and its harms if any, a thorough understanding of the social and cultural minutiae of the indigenous American Muslims who practice it, and how the practice is viewed in light of the objectives (maqaasid) of Islamic law and the letter of the Quran and the Sunna of Mustapha (SAWS).Islam in America is at a critical crossroad. American Muslims increasingly find themselves caught between issues of American culture and their Islamic identity. Despite the valiant efforts of scholars to elucidate the lines between these two variables (culture and religion), a great deal of ambiguity remains about how to reconcile the two. Many rulings regarding cultural practices and habits of American Muslim are rendered without an intimate understanding of the nature of these practices, as well as the Muslim Americans who practice them, which are essential ingredient to any Islamic ruling placed thereon.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157. The answer to the original queery is as follows, wa billahi tawfiq

What is a baby shower?

A baby shower is a social practice whereas women gather in a home or designated place to honor and celebrate the pending birth of a child. The practice is accompanied by giving gifts, feeding food and congratulatory gestures such as cards to announce the birth of a child. It is generally a happy occasion and it is a reason for women to come together to support each other in goodness.

The basis for baby Showers in the Quran and Sunna

The essence of a baby shower is to congratulate the mother on the impending birth of a child. The basis of this is in the Quran: “Verily Allah gives you glad tidings of John.[1]” “Oh Mary verily Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him whose name will be Jesus the son of Mary[2].” Childbirth itself is considered a praiseworthy act in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) “Marry fertile easy natured women for verily I shall have the largest umma because of you on the Day of Judgment”. There is no dissension amongst the scholars of Islam that Muslims having children is a praiseworthy act that merits joy, and thanks to Allah tabaaraka wa ta’ala.

 The Permissibility of Baby Showers in the United States of America

 A baby shower, in which there is no accompanying prohibited activity such as prohibited music, displays of lewdness, alcoholic drinks, and vulgarity, is permissible in Islam and is an accepted practice for Muslims living in the United States . Baby showers are a cultural practice (aada) and not a religious one (ibaadah) by agreement of scholars familiar with the practice. The basis of cultural practices is permissibility unless there is compelling evidence from the Quran and Sunna which would make it otherwise. This is the view of the majority of Islamic scholars and of the Imams of the four schools of religious thought. Gathering and mixing with the people at their social events, at their gatherings, their joyous occasions, visiting the sick, attending sittings for remembrance of Allah, and attending peoples customary functions was the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and was the practice of the Salaf of our umma. It is especially desirable for people who are able to enjoin the good and forbid the evil[3].

Imam An-Nawawi says: Remember! Mixing with the people in the way I have mentioned earlier is the most desirable. This was the way of the messenger of Allah, the righteous Caliphs, the followers of the Companions[4], scholars and righteous people. The majority of the followers of the Companions and their followers[5] adopted it. Imam Ash-Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad and the majority of other jurists followed it.”[6]  Thus baby showers which keep to the Islamic behavioral protocol are not only permissible, it is a recommended practice.

 Reasons for permissibility of baby showers:

 Baby showers by their very nature facilitate the practice of the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). Righteous deeds frequently find their delivery through cultural practices. You have to enter the kitchen in order to prepare the food. The fact that this issue requires clarification is a testament to the sad state of the umma and the preponderance of ignorance. It has become increasingly difficult for us to distinguish truth from falsehood, even if the truth slaps us in the face. Nevertheless, the only antidote to ignorance is knowledge. Below are ten reasons why baby showers are permissible in Islam. Wallahu al-Must’a’aan

  1. The majority of Islamic scholars past and present regard social and cultural actions which do not contradict the Quran, the Sunna or an agreement of the scholars, particularly the Salaf of our umma, as permissible until proven otherwise. This is based upon the principle: “Al-aslu fil ash’yaa al-ibaaha” (The basis of things is permissibility). Anytime a social or cultural action is deemed prohibited, the burden of proof is upon the one who prohibits it, not the one who deems it permissible.
  2. Helping the Muslimah to care for her child: “And help each other in righteousness and piety and do not help each other in sin and transgression.[7]” By the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS): “Allah will be in assistance of His servant as long as the servant is in assistance of his brother[8].
  3. Visiting the Muslim: Baby shower require that you visit the person. In fact, it creates an opportunity to visit a Muslimah. The prophet (SAWS) said: “Whoever visits an ailing person or a brother of his to seek the pleasure of Allah, an announcer (angel) calls out: ‘May you be happy, may your walking be blessed, and may you be awarded a dignified position in Jannah.’”[9] No one can claim that they are not in need of additional blessings from Allah ta’ala. Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
  4. Responding to an invitation: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “The right of the Muslim over the other Muslims is six” of those six, he mentioned; “If he invites you then respond.”[10]
  5. Feeding food: The Prophet (SAWS) was asked; which is the best type of Islam? He replied: “Feeding food and spreading salaams[11]
  6. Congratulating the family of the good tidings associated with a new birth: Allah says in the Quran: “Verily Allah brings you glad tidings of John
  7. Giving gifts: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Give gifts and you will love each other.” The giving of gifts is a Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS) and a means for softening the hearts of the believers towards each other.
  8. Strengthening the bonds of sisterhood; Sisterhood in Islam is a praiseworthy pursuit based upon the verse; “Verily the believers are a single brotherhood[12] and by the hadith of the Prophet of those who will be under Allah’ shade on a day where there is no shade except His shade: “Two men who love each other for the sake of Allah, they come together based on it and they depart based on it[13]
  9. Encouraging marriage and childbirth; Childbirth and motherhood are both praiseworthy acts by agreement of the scholars of Islam. To consider them otherwise would be in contradiction to the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). From which many opportunities for good deeds abound; obedience to parents, honoring the mother, teaching children prayer and deen, opportunities for charities and the list goes on. Both childbearing and motherhood are considered to be good actions (ma’roof) by agreement of the scholars. Allah sub’hanahu wa ta’ala has commanded the believers to enjoin each other in acts of goodness (ma’roof). “Let there be from amongst you a group who calls to good and enjoins righteousness (ma’roof) and forbids evil.”[14]
  10. Allowance of maa’oon (neighborly needs). Diapers, bottles, baby blankets, baby cloths, wipes, pacifiers, strollers, basinets are all of the category of maa’oon, or neighborly needs which people routinely pass back and forth to one another on the basis of need. To prevent the practice of baby showers without just cause is to prevent the ease by which neighborly needs passes hands. Preventing the passing of neighborly needs is a major sin (kabeerah) and a loathsome act which angers Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. “And who to the worshippers; those who are neglectful of their prayers; those who pray to be seen and who prevent the passing of neighborly needs[15].  May Allah guide us all through these times of ignorance.

 

 Previous misinformed rulings about baby showers:

 There have been several rulings by various imams and councils which prohibited baby showers in the United States . The intentions behind these rulings were admirable in sha Allah. However, because of the unfamiliarity of many imams to the nature of local customs in America , the nature of fataawa, and the nature of baby showers, some of the prohibitive rulings have obvious flaws and errors. The reality is that there is no evidence in the Quran or the Sunna or in the words or actions of the Salaf of our umma which would conclusively or even remotely render baby showers haram or even makrooh. The practice of baby showers is that it contains many Sunna acts. It has traditionally been in the United States a source of good tidings, gift giving, bonding, and softening of the hearts, all of which are desirable actions, encouraged or commanded by our beloved Prophet (SAWS). Additionally, the ruling of any imam or council does not take precedence over the actions of our Prophet (SAWS). Prohibition of an act in Islam requires conclusive proof. Uninformed opinion is not enough to render that which is permissible into that which is prohibited.  

Is the Baby Shower Imitation of the Infidels?

 Some well meaning scholars have proclaimed the baby shower a prohibited act based upon the sound hadith; “Whoever imitates a people then he is of them[16]. They regard the practice as an imitation of the kuffar (non-Muslims) and therefore not permissible. This view although it has marginal rhetoric merit and emotional plausibility, has no basis in the shariah. This is for seven reasons.

  1. The hadith is specific, not general and refers to practices that have religious significance. This is explained clearly by ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in Fat’h al-Baari. The Prophet (SAWS) continued cultural, ethnic and region specific practices and allowed such, even though the majority of those doing it were non Muslims in the Meccan period. As in the case of clothing; he (SAWS) continued to wear the clothes of the pagan Meccans after he received revelation. He also allowed the Muslims to continue the literary practice of poetic expression as long as it didn’t contain undesirable prose. Umar ibn al-Khattaab instituted the diwaan for pension and salary distribution which was a practice of the Persian Kings. Anyone who thinks that the Prophet (SAWS) contradicted his own statements and performed blameworthy actions is himself an unbeliever.  Thus, the meaning of the hadith cannot mean non religious, cultural actions.
  2. The Baby shower is a cultural practice, not a religious one. Anyone who views it otherwise is obviously unfamiliar with the practice and unqualified to speak on the matter since Allah has prohibited discussion of religious matters without knowledge. “And delve not into that which you have no knowledge of.”[17]
  3. Imitating the kuffar (unbelievers) requires performing actions which are specific to kuffar only.  In other words, it is a religious action not a socio-demographic one. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims born in America by Allah’s will and decree. Many of them have baby showers. Thus, the practice is not only exclusive to non-Muslims; it is a practice of Muslims as well.
  4. Baby showers are an imitation of American culture and not an imitation of a particular religious group especially since all Christians around the world do not engage in the practice. It cannot be prohibited for American Muslims to imitate Americans since they themselves are Americans. That’s like saying it is prohibited for an Egyptian to behave like an Egyptian!  No human being is born in a state of prohibition or sin according to the creed of Ahlus Sunna (Islamic Orthodoxy) since all people are born in a state of fitra[18]
  5. American Muslims should not have to repent for being born American, or behaving as Americans as long as their actions are not prohibited by Allah and His Messenger. To suggest otherwise is sheer lunacy! People are born in a state of fitra, regardless of where they are born. A person cannot be considered morally or spiritually deficient by virtue of their country of birth. You can’t make being born and raised in a particular country prohibited as some have suggested. This argument, simply does not stand up ti scrutiny.
  6. If the practice of baby showers is prohibited for the reason of imitation. The same logic would have to apply to basketball, baseball, grade school show and tell, football, soccer, using a garbage disposal, tennis, bowling, and high school graduation, none of which were practiced by the Prophet (SAWS) and all of which are practiced by Muslim young and old after having been first been practiced by non-Muslims.
  7. The fact that a non-Muslim does an act does not make it prohibited. Blindly referring to actions and practices of non-Muslims as haram has caused many problems in the Muslim community and has been a source of much confusion. Furthermore, no one has the right to prohibit a Muslim from giving gifts, feeding food or visiting the home of another Muslim when there are no prohibited acts being committed. These are all actions enjoined upon us by the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). No scholar’s or council’s authority exceeds that of Allah and His Messenger (SAWS).
  8. The name of the event has little bearing on the permissibility or non-permissibility of what takes place at the event. In the shariah you cannot prohibit the musammaa (named action) by its ism (name). For example a person can have a barbeque in his or her back yard. You cannot prohibit it simply because it is called a barbeque and this is not a name used during the time of the Prophet (SAWS)! A barbeque is judged by its content not its name. If it contains intoxicants, nudity, profanity and loud unislamic music as some barbeques do, it is prohibited. If it has halal food, good company, the prayer times are observed and there is no unlawful mixing, there is no prohibition. The same applies to a baby shower, a picnic, a graduation dinner, and many other cultural affairs about which doubt has arisen.

 Does the baby shower replace the aqeeqah?

No. Sunna is never replaced by culture. However, it is permissible in Islam that a sunna can be enconced inside of a cultural practice. For example, maintaining relationships with one’s relatives is a command from Allah and it is the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). If a person achieves that by attending a family picnic or barbque, that is permssible. If one has to choose between a cultural practice and a Sunna of Rasollillah, (SAWS) the Sunna takes precedence every time. However in the case of the baby shower, it is different in practice and purpose from the aqeeqah. The aqeeqah is a post birth event commanded by the Prophet (SAWS) which has religious significance and specific measure. The baby shower is a pre-birth event, all together different in nature. One action does not replace the other and both can be performed in its own time and place. A baby shower does not suffice as an aqeeqa sacrifice. Similarly, an aqeeqa is a sunna, and has its merit and reward; however, it does not serve the purpose of a baby shower, nor is it meant to be. The two are totally separate actions and are connected only in that both have something to do with childbirth. One is not a condition for the other nor do they affect each other. A similar example is Hajj. A person may make Hajj and visit Cairo on the way there. The Prophet (SAWS) made Hajj for sure but he was never reported to have visited Cairo on the way to Hajj. However such an itinerary does not nullify the Hajj or place the person in spiritual jeopardy, since the visit to Cairo is totally separate from the Hajj and does not affect it. .

A baby shower is an event, and the aqeeqa is another separate event. One event does not supplant the other. The former is a cultural tradition; the latter is a religious obligation. This issue is a matter of fiqh and right guidance and not a matter of street corner lawmaking. What we have explained herein should clear up the issue of baby showers once and for all. We should keep in mind that the truth is with the dalil (proof) and Allah knows best wa bihi tawfiq.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Sheikh Luqman Ahmad is the imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California ; he is also a national shura member of MANA (Muslim Alliance of North America) and an Executive committee member of NAIF (North American Imams Federation). He is also Executive  Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, a center for research and traditional Islamic learning based in Sacramento California .  You may contact him at: imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1] Quran: 3:39

[2] Quran: 3:45

[3] With proper knowledge and adaab.

[4] Taabi’een

[5] Taabi taabi’een.

[6] Riyaad us-Saaliheen; Chapter 70, section on Excellence of Mixing with People and Attending their Social Activities. The practice of participating with the people in their everyday social affairs and events was the practice of the people of knowledge from amongst the Salaf of our umma in spite of modern day statements to the contrary.

[7] Quran; 5:2

[8] Collected by Muslim

[9] Good authentic hadith, collected by at-Tirmidhi.

[10] Collected by Muslim

[11] Collected by Muslim

[12] Quran: 49:10

[13] Collected by Muslim

[14] Quran: 3:104

[15] Quran: 107:4-7

[16]

[17] Quran, 36:170

[18] Natural submissive disposition based upon the hadith; “Each child is born in a

Beard or no Beard; Is it Worth the Fight?

By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

As Muslims we seem to not fail to uncover any stone in our search for issues to argue and fight over. Disagreeing is one thing. However, we frequently escalate issues to the point of separation and splintering which is counter to the very foundation of what Islam is all about. “Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty.” 3:105. One recent issue that caught my attention is the wearing of a beard. Wearing of the beard for Muslim men is the sunna of our beloved Prophet (SAWS) without question or disagreement by any of the reputable scholars of Islam. The fiqh position as far as shaving the beard, is that both the Maaliki and Handball schools of law consider it prohibited to shave the beard off outright, but do not consider it disliked to cut off what is in excess of a handful or to trim off an amount that is not regarded as shaving. The Hanafees consider it a prohibitive dislike to shave the beard entirely. The Shaafi’iyya considers shaving the beard to be disliked. Imam Nawawi, in his explanation of sahih Muslim mentioned ten disliked actions with regard to the beard, amongst them is it’s shaving, except in the case of a woman who has hair growth resembling a beard, in which case is it recommended that she shave it off. [1] (Al-fiqh al-Islaami wa adillatuh, Dr. Wahba Zuhaili, vol. 1, p. 308) 

Some Muslims have advanced the notion that a person who does not wear a beard should be beaten or punished. They trace this opinion they say, back to Imam Malik. Requiring that someone is punished or beaten for not having a beard is absurd and irresponsible, especially coming from a scholar. Are we supposed to go about in America’s Masaajid, picking fights and beating Muslims up for not having a beard? Or calling them fussaaq (corrupt)? Punishing people for not having beards is not a practice of the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions of knowledge. So if a brother wears a beard because he fears reprisal from other Muslims, is he then wearing the beard for Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala, or wearing it for the satisfaction of the Muslims who taunt him? If he wears it for the latter then this is shirk, and there is no reward associated with it. This is the idiocy of taking issues of fiqh and deen to extreme levels not practiced by the Prophet (SAWS).

 In the biographical account of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, he did not have a beard and it is well known that the Imam of the Muhadditheen, Imam Bukhaari did not have a beard either. Imagine the fitna that would ensue if Muslims started to condemn each other for not wearing beards. Oops, I’m sorry; we don’t have to imagine it, it has already begun. The hadith; “Act against the polytheists, trim closely the moustache and grow the beard.” is a sound hadith from Ibn Umar and collected by Imam Muslim in his sahih.  Scholars differ as to the wujoob (incumbent), or istih’baab (recommended) nature of wearing a beard and what is its desirable length. They all agree unanimously that it is Sunna. However, American Muslims should not let the issue of the beard be a part of contention between us to the degree of animosity.

Wearing a beard, although a very important  part of natural grooming (fitra) for Muslim men, does not suffice by itself as a referendum on who and who is not righteous. There are hundreds of singular acts of worship, sunnans, recommendations, orders, prohibitions, ideologies, and daily habits that make up Islam and that constitute proper Muslim behavior. For example, the hadith; “He who has no character, has no religion”, or the hadith; “none of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself”. A person could easily say to the person who has perceived bad character, that he or she is a bad Muslim, or has no deen as the Prophet (SAWS) said in the hadith. However, that is not the way we navigate faith in Islam according to the Quran and the sunna. Otherwise we would all continuously perform moral cat scans on each other to try to gauge each other to see who has better imaan. Such is not the desirable behavior of a Muslim; “Therefore ascribe not purity unto yourselves. He (Allah) is best aware of him who has piety (taqwa).” 53:32

Muslims should not let themselves be tricked by the devil to relying on outer manifestations of Islamic behavior to become the basis of their deen. Yes, brothers should wear beards because it is sunna. Brothers should also, pay charity, honor their parents, raise their children, be kind to their wives, honor their neighbors, guests, relatives. They should refrain from drugs and alcohol, and selling narcotics, they should pray in the Masjid, they should use miswak, they should feed the poor, tend to the single women with children, be honest in their dealings, they should earn an income and not live on their wives welfare check, and they should remain chaste until married.

Muslim women are often fooled by a brother who has a beard, a sajda mark (sometimes fake as I have been told), and short pants or thobe who presents himself as pious, and then marry them to find out he is a monster in a Muslim costume. There are much more heinous crimes and more important issues at hand than that. Some actions subject a Muslim to public accusation of corruption; a Muslim who openly sells alcohol, encourages Muslim on Muslim violence, or endorses racism, or the supremacy of one ethnic group over the other is more of an open sinner that someone who doesn’t have a beard! By the way if you take a look at Sikhs in America, almost every one of them has beards, so do many suicide bombers.

What’s important is that we all strive to assist each other in righteousness and piety and be patience with each other as we work to do good deeds. Lets stop this madness brothers and sisters. Work on your own faith because when it comes down to it; Allah will only ask you about you. Muslims should be careful not to embark upon issues that further separate the umma into factions. Doing such is itself, resembling the polytheists. “Turn ye back in repentance to Him, and fear Him: establish regular prayers, and be not ye among those who join gods with Allah,- Those who split up their Religion, and become (mere) Sects,- each party rejoicing in that which is with itself” , Quran 30:31-32 And Allah knows best.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com


[1] Al-fiqh al-Islaami wa adillatuh, Dr. Wahba Zuhaili, vol. 1, p. 308

Fatwas and the Responsibility of Muslim Scholars in America, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

[By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad]

Islamic scholars occupy a special place in Muslim society. They are often considered to be amongst the elite of our faith. In one tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) stated; “One Scholar is harder against the devil than a thousand worshippers”. In another tradition; “The Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets”.  The Quran states that people are elevated by their religious knowledge “Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well- acquainted with all ye do.” Quran 58:11 As the preservers, and often times interpreters of sacred law, Islamic scholars deserve our respect, support, and our gratitude.

Additionally, scholars of Islam are responsible for upholding the sacred trust that accompanies the acquisition of sacred knowledge; which is to explain the religion clearly and concisely and not cover up any part of it, “Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book,-on them shall be Allah’s curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse 2:159.  In today’s turbulent times a, the role of Muslim religious scholars and qualified[1] teachers takes on a special significance for three reasons, the first being; the scarcity of people available who possess sound and accurate islamic knowledge, It was related in the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “From among the portents of the Hour are (the following): 1. Religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of Religious learned men). 2. (Religious) ignorance will prevail. 3. Drinking of Alcoholic drinks (will be very common). 4. There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse”.[2] The second reason is the responsibility to stand as barriers between ignorant Islamic leadership and the Muslim people themselves; “Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to ignorant as their, leaders; then they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray”.

The third reason is that the world has changed, people are mixing cultures, ideas, ethnic tendencies into one big melting pot in America and Muslim scholars need to help break down barriers between the diverse Muslim peoples living here. That means that they have to get out and understand what’s going on in the land. Scholars of Islam have to take the added step whenever and wherever possible, to familiarize themselves with the common people, and the intricacies of American life and culture, about which they render judgments and opinions. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “The Muslim who mixes with the people and is patient with their ills is better than the Muslim who does not mix with the people and is not patient with their ills[3].

Some Islamic scholars find themselves either woefully unfamiliar, or subtlety indifferent to America, American people specifically, and in the process, Muslims Americans who are socially integrated into our country’s fabric. Some, due to their ignorance of American culture and her people, and often operating from abroad, have managed to demonize virtually every aspect of American culture and way of life. Sports, birthdays, Thanksgiving, family photos, decorating homes, designer clothing, thikr beads, wearing jeans, baby showers, attending graduation ceremonies, saying what’s up brother to a stranger on the street, being in a good mood during Christmas season, gospel music, wedding rings, visiting graves of relatives, bereavement practices, women entering Masaajid, loving one’s country, and a host of other things have ended up on the haram list of one scholar or another.

Some Muslim Americans find themselves apologizing for being born in this country of ours as if it were a curse. The average Muslim, especially the convert, who simply wants to worship his or her Lord, and live an Islamic lifestyle, is often left in an almost perpetual state of confusion. Scholars, as they learn more about American society alternately prohibit things in one instance and then make them permissible according to their own evolutionary knowledge of our country, our culture and our way of life.

Anti American oratory has surreptitiously made its way into the modern canonical dialogue of Islam. Many American Muslims have been morally blackmailed into having to repudiate American culture in order to find acceptance as Muslims by immigrant scholars. Even today, rhetoric from a minority of Muslim scholars and some imams are replete with anti-American invectives or rallying cries against so called ‘western culture’ or values. It is ironic however, that from an Islamic theological perspective, morality has no hemispheric basis; “to Allah belongs the east and the west, wherever thou turnest, yr shall find His (God’s) Face”.

Islam for many Muslim Americans has become too complicated to be user friendly. The dozen or so, often conflicting spheres of scholarly influence has created a virtual merry-go-round of Islam in America, and we need to do something about it. Understanding how to apply Islamic law and morality, in the United States, require a thorough understanding of the shariah, the culture norms of the people, as well as the inclusion and consultation of indigenous American Muslim imams, laymen and intelligentsia.

The famous 14th century jurist, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

American Muslims need to realize that this is our country, and for indigenous American Muslims, and others who intend to stay here permanently, this is our homeland. We don’t have a “back home” to go to. So we need to be certain that the teachings of Islam in this country are not tainted by anyone’s political prejudices, cultural sensitivities, or ignorance about America and our way of life.  Granted, this is a difficult topic. Nevertheless, it is one that must be addressed if we have any hope from curbing the undercurrent of extremism that still germinates in the minds of some of our youth. As Muslim Americans, our first duty is to our Lord, and our number one priority is our own salvation.  As American Muslims, we have the god given right to look out after our own spiritual self-interests.

Imam 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 look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 


[1]We mention qualified teachers because unqualified teachers should refrain from teaching religion.

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

[3] Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: