A Muslim Response to Criticism and Parody of Islam

Part One of two parts: By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad Given the constitutional guarantees of free speech in America, it is not likely any time soon that Americans will simply give up, criticizing or making fun of Islam, the Prophet (SAWS) or Muslims. The national campaign by some Muslim organizations to silence our critics and instill reverence for Islam in every American has not met with the success that people envisioned. In fact, we are now seeing the signs of backlash and pushback from civil libertarians, media, and others free speakers who are questioning why, in an age where every religion is poked fun of and even vilified by some, Islam is off limits. Well our answer to that is simple; Islam is the only true religion of God, Muslims are the best people on earth, and we are all above criticism. The problem is, everyone does not accept that answer, and, there is no indication at all that everyone will. The statement itself is not even entirely true. Although it is our belief that Islam is a perfect religion; we would be fools if we think for a moment that we are perfect people. Perfection and freedom from error or blemish is the exclusive domain of Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. Thus we have to make some hard choices here. Either we can continue to work ourselves up into frenzy every time someone criticizes or makes fun of Islam or Muslims, and keep pretending that this is the proper method to defend Islam, and the Prophet (SAW), or we can opt to follow our own scripture on the matter (Quran and Prophetic tradition), and save ourselves a lot of anxiety, frustration and misdirection. Who knows, public opinion of Islam and Muslims may even improve in the process. Generally speaking, a Muslim cannot reasonably expect that every non-muslim will believe in our faith, or share our reverence for our Lord, and His Prophets (AS). When the Prophet (SAWS) was negotiating the famed treaty of Hudaibiyyah, the Meccan delegate Suhail ibn Amr did not accept the Prophet’s title  (Muhammad Messenger of Allah) to be written on the contract and only agreed to the Prophet’s name; Muhammad ibn Abdullah, on the document.  Suhail justified the slight by saying; “If we actually thought that you were indeed the messenger of Allah in the first place, we would not be fighting you”. Fast forward to 21st century America; the fact that Islam garners a great deal of respect from non-Muslims in United States is itself a testament to Allah’s mercy and the higher ideals of a still largely civil society. The persecution suffered by the Prophet (SAWS) and the early Muslims in Mecca at the hands of the non-Muslims was measurably worse than what American Muslims deal with in the United States. 1400 years ago people were literally rounded up, kicked out of their homes, tortured and even put to death simply for saying that there is no god except Allah. Today, the chanting of laa ilaaha illa Allah Muhammadarr Rasoolillah (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet (SAWS),  resonates from coast to coast, five times a day, seven days a week. So let’s not get too carried away in self victimization. That’s not to say that some of this does not still occur in other parts of the world outside of the United States; the massacre of Bosnians, Palestinians, Kashmiris, and others for simply being Muslim is still fresh in many of our minds. Notwithstanding that there are Muslims being massacred by other Muslims, simply for being a certain ethnicity, sect or type of Muslim. However, there are more than a billion Muslims on the planet, and we cannot address the entire condition and modality of Muslim peoples across the globe with a one size fits all answer. Such methods contradict the principle of Islamic problem solving. In the meantime, since the topic is not likely to go away, let’s start first by looking at the issue of criticism and parody of Islam from a purely Islamic perspective without the emotional and psychological baggage. Imam Luqman Ahmad Luqman Ahmad is a freelance writer and the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in California. He is also an executive committee member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and a General Council member of the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA). He can be reached through email at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com Next: Part Two: Apparently, no one’s paying too much attention to our condemnation

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Islam, Muslims and the Moral Imperitive

By Shaykh Luqman Ahamd

Some aspirations of the global Muslim community are purely optional; participating in the Olympics, seeing who can build the biggest masjid, and holding star studded fundraisers. Others are crucial responsibilities to which we are perpetually obligated. Assuming the Islamic moral imperative is a responsibility from which Muslims cannot escape. In the scheme of the modern global civilization, the Muslims peoples are obligated to be beacons of morality and guidance for the world. Now before some of you chuckle, sigh, or gasp, let me explain. Allah has unequivocally declared;

“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.”3:104

There has to be a least a group of the Muslims who are engaged in the practice of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is evil. Otherwise, we all are at fault. Our net worth as a religious group is connected in part to our enjoying the good and forbidding the wrong “You are the best nation extracted for the people; you enjoin good and forbid evil.” 3:110

Thus we cannot ignore as Muslims there is some obligation for us to provide moral leadership to the world. As we approach the 100 year mark of the post khilafate environment, even though there are over one billion Muslims in the world, spiritual leadership is at a premium, and when present, is frequently divided against itself, and systems of Islamic checks and balances are conspicuously absent. So the challenge of creating a pragmatic, morally principled and purpose driven umma is perhaps greater now than at any time during the 1400 plus years since the epoch of the Prophet (SAWS).

Outside of the masaajid, Muslim schools a few charities and the institution of hajj, there are hardly any faith driven institutions stewarded by the Muslim community. Our sense of spiritual purpose is eroded by the din of hyper-reactionary politics, the ever-present religious sectarianism, a deeply rooted cynicism, and lack of confidence in the restorative powers of our faith in action. In addition, it seems that our pursuit of worldly status has made many of us ingratiating foot stools to the world and blinded us to what made the Muslim peoples great in the first place.

In a world of sexual mania , universal distraction through entertainment and pandemic, narcissistic driven materialism, the voice of our faith is seldom heard unless it’s a call for jihad, an apologetic discourse aimed at spin control or regurgitation of religious principles that are lacking in empirical substantiation. If our religion is based upon peace then we should be the principle authors of it, starting in our own ranks! If we are the champions of justice and goodness, then let us see our own examples of solution based justice in the world. And if Islam preaches good manners and civility, let us make our own global mark upon it.

Every time we point our finger at the world, there are fingers pointed right back at us.
We point to corruption while we fail to see the corruption in our own societies. We point at intolerance and fail to see our own intra-religious intolerance. When we point at unbridled materialism, we don’t need to look very far to see it in our own selves. And when we point to violence against the innocent; we don’t need to look very far to see it happening by us and against our own people.

On the modern global stage which we all share, the Muslims are not the ones to whom the world looks to for guidance, direction or help. More often we are seeking it from others. I refuse to believe that answers for the world’s problems do not exist in what was revealed to our Prophet (SAWS). Indeed the answers are there if we engage the full breadth of what Islamic divine texts have to offer. We can’t rush to apply shariah laws to prayer, hajj and marriage and even argue about it while not applying divine guidance to the way we manage our governments, our societies, or our business and civil codes of ethics.

Dichotomizing our faith has led us to a sort of schizophrenic modality whereas we argue about beards and burqas, yet engage in fratricide. We decry ethnic profiling while being obsessed with status and ethnicity. We construct masaajid in America and call them Afghani Masjids or Arab Masjids. Even as of this writing, calls for jihad against America if she attacks Iran are emanating from the minbars of the world but did calls for the cessation of hostilities between Iran and Iraq have the same resonance during that terrible war which resulted in the loss of over 1,000,000 Muslims? The Turkish government has recently approved making military incursions into Kurdish controlled areas of northern Iraq. Are there calls against Turkey not to attack the Kurds? Are we saying that non-Muslims are not allowed to violate our sanctity while we routinely violate it ourselves?

The subjective application of Islamic principles has its consequence and perhaps that would explain why Muslim life, Muslim societies and Muslim sanctity are undervalued on the world stage. Under application of Islamic principles and the devaluation of Muslim honor and prestige are inextricably connected;

“Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.” 2:85

The truth is that we as Muslims by and large are an ethical people of faith and the inheritors of a great prophetic legacy of faith, justice, goodness, and ethics, we just seem to have lost our moral momentum somewhere along the way. The month of Ramadan has reinvigorated our spiritual engines as it is its nature. Now that Ramadan is over, let’s not go back to business as usual; let us move forward to a saintly revolution of sorts. Maybe what we need now is a reminder, or perhaps a complete spiritual overhaul. At any rate, something has to be done that directs our attention to our need for reform. Not of the faith, but of our practice of it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the moral imperative.

Asserting morality regaining the moral imperative is not a simply a matter of espousing the virtues of honesty, integrity, fair play and monotheism. Nor is it a matter of political posturing, well choreographed press conferences or heart wrenching photo-ops. Moral leadership is a matter of transferring the moral and ethical principles of Islam from a verbal and textual state to an operative reality. The universal brotherhood of Islam must evolve from being a rosy sounding cliché to a bona-fide and undeniable actuality. The mandate of non-sectarianism, righteousness, fairness, magnanimity must be resuscitated to life from our texts. We are after all, being tested; not just individually but as a collective.

It is entirely imprudent of us to dismiss the importance of our standing with the very Lord whom we worship and revere. Every community has its reckoning; and ours is invariably on the horizon.

“Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which ye earn. And ye will not be asked of what they used to do.” 2:134

The prophetic message has to be liberated from the myopic prism of the few who only see aggression and oppression as the mantra of the Islamic hubris. The time has come for Muslim peoples to re-arm themselves with the moral imperative of righteousness. Not self righteousness, because self righteousness frequently leads to arrogance, but righteousness pure and simple which has at its core, humility and submission to Allah’s way and reinstatement of principle in our dealings. There are too many moral issues on the table for which we offer no answer, no solution and for which we have no voice. We have to re-apply the principles of ethics, morality, civility and spirituality. The challenge is; first we must apply it to ourselves, our countries, our communities, our masaajid and our own families.

Sooner or later we will have to address the spiritual diseases which decimate our moral fiber. There is no shortage of issues upon which the Muslim umma can disagree and fight over. However, there are many other issues upon which many, if not most us find common ground. Most of the Muslims agree that morality is better than immorality. Most of us agree that there needs to be a presumption of safety from each other. And most can agree that sectarianism is not in the best interest of the Muslims. Most in my humble estimation would agree also that corruption and misappropriation of funds should no longer be the norm in Muslim countries. Most would also agree that more needs to be done to address, the issues relating to the poor, the weak, the homeless and the destitute amongst us whether they be Muslim or non-Muslim.

There has to be a fundamental change in the way we operate. The senseless and counterproductive culture of religious and ethnic based sectarianism needs immediate and complete extermination. Religious arrogance and tunnel-vision nationalism has to take a back seat to principle and Islamic world ethics. If the Muslim peoples ever expect to regain world leadership it will only occur if faith, morality and spiritual vision is reinserted in our constitution.

Islam has always been and will always be our best product. Were we to apply a moral spectrograph to ourselves, we would find that we have been eclipsed on many fronts in maintaining moral standards. I’m not talking about the theology of monotheism or the mantle of divine textual integrity, on that front we are second to none since there is no other religious document that can claim the authenticity of the Quran and there is certainly no religious doctrine which can successfully challenge the notion that there is only one true god. However, Islam is not simply a litany of theological cannons; it is a way of life, a way of doing things and a way of thinking. Islam has tremendous civilizational possibilities in the new world and in my opinion, offers the greatest hope for the worlds ailments. Islam addresses global warming, world hunger, unnecessary wars, materialism, and corruption. The answers are there, however we have to look close and look with purpose. Sometimes we do not even have to look close; sometimes the answers are closer than we think they are.

Islam is no doubt the greatest way of life if practiced and taken to heart and the Muslims have the potential to be a great people again. Greatness and honor with Allah is not a given, it has to be earned. The false sense of divine entitlement has to be replaced with the moral work ethic of Islam which stresses that morality and proximity to God is something earned though action.

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). 49:13 It s not the arrogance and the declarations of a people which make them great; it is their humility and total submission to their Lord in every way; even the ways they do not always like.

Luqman Ahmad

Luqman Ahmad is a freelance writer and the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in California. He is also an executive committee member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and a General Council member of the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA). He can be reached through email at imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com

Luqman Ahmad Is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California where he has served since 1996. He recently returned to Sacramento after a two year absence. He comes from a well known religious Muslim family in the Philadelphia area. He is married and the father of five children. Luqman also studied at Umm Al-Quraa University in Saudi Arabia and at the Haram al-Mekki. While in Saudi Arabia, in addition to the teachers at Um al-Qura, the Imam studied with Sheikh Suleiman al-Hazmi, Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq who was his sheikh of fiqh, and tafseer al-Quran, and Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazaali. Imam Luqman learned usool al-hadith from Sheikh Muhammad bin Humayad a classic era Az’harian trained in the Ottoman period. Imam Luqman also took lessons from the late American Sheikh; Muhammad Ghulaam Al-Haarith, who was one of the first indigenous American Muslims to attend Azhar University.

Note: This article was originally published in 2007, I just thought I’d give it another stroll around the block

An American Muslim Imam’s Response to Imam Anwar Awlaki’s call for Jihad Against America

In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful 

From Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, to Imam Anwar Awlaki

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh. In a recent videotaped statement attributed to you, you posed a very serious question to American Muslims, and in addition you suggested that we as American Muslims are obligated to embark upon the unconscionable act of waging war against our own land and countrymen. You asked; “To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters?”

Well, now that you’ve posed the question, I’ll tell you why, and may Allah grant us His mercy. First of all, peaceful coexistence is not a crime; it is a mercy from the Almighty God be He Exalted and Glorified. As American Muslims, we peacefully coexist with our country because we are not under attack because of our faith and we are not driven from our homes; “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” 60:8 Quran. We live here because some of us were born and raised here, and it is the only home that we know. My forefathers came here as slaves, and have helped build this country with their bare hands. Millions of other Muslims have sought and received refuge and safe passage through this vast land of ours, and have made it their home. As American Muslims, we are of different origins; nevertheless we are here now, and it is the result of God’s divine Providence, and we are connected to this soil.

We live here because we are free men, women and children. We have the right to live here and this is our country.   We live here because Millions of American Muslims attend this nations masaajid every week without being accosted, bombed while in prayer, or hindered in any way from worshipping our Lord. Many Muslim Imams and scholars have branded our country as evil, even calling her the ‘Great Satan’. I say that the Lord that we worship favors not the east or the west; He favors the righteous wherever they dwell. “Say: To Allah belong both East and West: He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.”  Quran, 2:142. So to answer your question about our conscience as we peacefully coexist in The United States of America, my conscience, and the conscience of many Muslim Americans who live in this great land, is clear. As for those Muslims whose conscience and belief compels them to leave this country for another land, then the door is open for them to leave.

As for your call for American Muslims to wage jihad against our country and homeland; the land that you are urging us to wage war against, is the land of our homes that we are obligated to protect. In a prophetic narration by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As, he said: When we were around the Apostle of Allah (SAWS), he mentioned the period of commotion (fitnah) saying: “When you see the people that their covenants have been impaired, (the fulfilling of) the guarantees becomes rare, and they become thus (interwining his fingers). I then got up and said: What should I do at that time, may Allah make me ransom for you? He replied: “Keep to your house, control your tongue, accept what you approve, and abandon what you disapprove, attend to your own affairs, and leave alone the affairs of the generality.”[1] Therefore as Muslim Americans we are obligated by faith to protect our homes, and our homeland upon which they stand, as our homes are our refuge.

The people whom you claim we are obligated to take up arms against are our neighbors whom we live next to and share neighborhoods with, and our Prophet (SAWS) informs us to honor our neighbors by his words in the hadith reported by Abu Shuraih; “By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!” It was said, “Who is that, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.[2]   Furthermore, in the hadith of Aisha, she mentioned that the Prophet (SAWS) said “Gabriel continued to recommend me about treating the neighbors kindly and politely so much so that I thought he would order me to make them as my heirs.”[3]  They are our co-workers whom we work alongside them, our students who we teach, and our teachers who we learn from. The people whom you incite us to violence against are our firefighters who defend our homes and our property from ruin, our law enforcement officers who patrol our streets at night, and municipal workers who restore power after the storms, and remove injurious objects from the road. The individuals whom you suggest we wage jihad against are our physicians, nurses and medical professionals who care for our sick and mend the broken bones of our children. They are university professors that you yourself have benefitted from and under whose instruction you obtained your engineering degree. So in summary, my dear Imam and may Allah guide us, we must categorically reject your petition that we wage jihad against the United States of America as in doing so we would be in disobedience to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala and His Prophet (SAWS).

Innocent blood is shed all over the globe by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and that should be a concern for us all. This great nation of ours has indeed committed its wrongs just like every other nation on earth and I am confident that the Almighty God Allah, in His Infinite Power and Wisdom will render unto each his due for its good and for its evil. However in the meantime, I shall not lift a finger in jihad against the only country that I can call home. This is the United States of America, and I do not have a home to go back to. My family is here, my tribe is here, and when I bow my head in my duty to my Lord, I prostrate upon American soil.  She is a blessed land, crafted and designed by God Himself.

Our faith is a faith of reason, not rampage, and while we recognize that there have been people of all faiths who have, and will continue to shed innocent blood without just cause. We as American Muslims should take the higher ground of faith and godliness and forgive those who transgress against us, and set our sights upon the nobler ideals of Islam. My conscience is clear, and your call for American Muslims to engage in jihad against America is rejected. As an imam and as a Muslim, I pray for your salvation and the salvation of us all. May the Almighty God Allah, Glorified be His Holy Name, guide us all to righteousness, and may He bless the United States of America.

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakaatuh,

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com


[1] Collected by Abu Dawood in the Sunan

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

[3] Collected by Bukhaari

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