The Decline of Indigenous American Muslim Communities Part 3: Undervaluing the Muslim Woman

The Decline Of Indigenous American Muslim Communities, Part 3: The Women.
One must never underestimate the value of good and sincere advice (naseeha). Notwithstanding that it’s one of the essential foundations of deen; as in the hadith, “religion is advice”. The most valuable advice that I have received in my life have been from Muslim women, beginning with my mother (may Allah grant her Paradise), my sisters, especially my oldest sister, I’ve never had a better advisor than her, and of course, my wife. I cannot count the times when I wished I had listened to the advice of Umm Luqman, my beloved mother, may Allah raise her amongst the righteous. Ameen. I can’t even think about the many mistakes I’ve made by not listening to the advice of my wife! I ask Allah for guidiance.
Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala has decreed that I am not a woman, and perhaps I will never really be able to fully understand and appreciate the difficulties and the challenges faced by American Muslim women. May Allah have mercy upon all of them. The challenges of wearing hijaab, raising children, managing households (many without spouses), feeding their families, staying safe, holding down a job in many cases, being patient with their husbands, or patient without one, and so many other things that Muslim women endure on a daily basis, not only in the United States, but all over the globe.
Recently a Muslim sister reminded me and advised me of the remarkable strength, endurance, resilience and skill-set that American Muslim women bring to the table. Many of our women are educated, smart, professional, talented and organized. In our search for practical solutions to the problems facing indigenous American Muslim communities, we should not overlook our women.
Many traditional Muslim communities limit the participation of women in administering the affairs of the masaajid, or in having. a voice. Some of this mindset is due to concerns about free mixing of the sexes , and preventing inappropriate behavior between men and women. Perhaps another reason that we place limitations on our women is that we undervalue their true worth; both to us as helpmates, and to their ability to uplift and make meaningful contributions to our faith.
The beneficial knowledge, strengths, insight and skills granted to our sisters is part of the sustenance (rizq) that Allah has extended to them. It is a ni’mah from the Almighty Lord of the worlds be He Exalted and Glorified. Although sadly, it is one of Allah’s favors that we sometimes overlook, may Allah forgive us, and guide us.
Righteous and beneficial actions have merit and are rewarded regardless of whether it comes from a man or a woman; “And whoever performs a righteous deed whether male or female, and they are a believer, such are those that shall enter Paradise, given sustenance without measure”, 40:40
The role of Muslim women in helping us to repair, strengthen, and build our communities is not only key to our survival, it is both a matter of law (fiqh), as well as a matter of Creed (aqeeda). With respect to fiqh, there are certain limitations in what a woman is allowed to do under normal circumstances; for example, a woman cannot be the Imam of a community, or Masjid and lead the men in prayer, or deliver the khutba to them on Friday. Likewise, it is not permissible for a woman to be alone and secluded with a man who is not her mahrim . Additionally, behavior between men and women that leads to haraam acts , is itself haraam by agreement of the scholars of Islam. These types of considerations; attention to the rules of proper adab between the sexes according to the Quran and the sunna, can be easily implemented by intelligent, believing men and woman. It’s not however, prohibited for a Muslim woman to run an organization, give advice, teach men a skill, or deen, serve on a board or majlis shura, or be an organizer. It’s not prohibited for a Muslimah to help fix where we messed up.
It’s interesting how we trust our women to work outside the home amongst non-believing men, where they make meaningful contributions to industry, medicine, commerce, education,and society in general, while becoming almost completely manic when it comes to them working on behalf of our faith and our struggling communities. Thus we find that we deny ourselves one of our most valuable resources (our women and their skills), while granting it to others.
From the aspect of faith and creed, we have to be careful that we no not devalue the reward and acceptability of righteous acts and deeds performed by women; “And their Lord hath accepted of them and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you. Be he male or female. Ye are members, one of another”, 3:195. Thus it is not permissible for a Muslim to devalue the righteous act or deed of a Muslim woman on the basis of gender alone, after Allah has deemed it rewardable like that of men. To do so knowingly, after the proof (hujja) has been made clear, is to reject what Allah has revealed to our Prophet (SAWS).
As Muslims in the United States, we need our women, we need you sisters who are able, to help us and use the education, skills and talent that Allah has given you to assist our imams, our Amirs, our congregations and our ailing communities. Our men are dwindling in number and our sisters are many.
I believe, and only Allah knows, that one of the answers to our dilemma is in our women and what they have to offer. In the meantime brothers should do everything that is in our power to stop the abuse, mistreatment, and marginalization of our women, at all costs. We must look after our wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. Protecting them is protecting the best interests of our dunya wal aakhira. If anyone wants to know where to start, my advice is to start with ourselves and look at how we treat our women. I’d like to hear what you sisters have to say
Wa Allahu al-Musta’aan. Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

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The Decline of Indigenous American Muslim Communities, by Imam Luqman Ahmad Part 2: Self Splintering

This much we know; unity is good and disunity is not good. With a dozen or so, foreign  spheres of religious influence circulating in the indigenous American Muslim convert community, any attempt to act collectively and independently in our own best interests is subject to direct or indirect scrutiny by a fatwa, a manifesto or an opinion of a far away Sheikh or scholar  who either sanctions it, or brands the action as deviant,  heretical, prohibited, or worthless .
As Muslims we should conduct  our lives according to the Quran and the authentic sunna of the Prophet (SAWS), and scholars of Islam, past and present are indispensable in that they help us to understand and live our faith. However most scholars are not leaders of people, and many Islamic rulings are environmentally specific to time, place, and circumstance.
People need leaders who are alive,  accessible and aware of their condition.  Indigenous American Muslims are arguably  the most leaderless Muslim group on the planet. Most  converts to Islam are not under direct leadership of a local or even a domestic Imam. Without leaders and Imams , it is difficult for American Muslims to have domestic focus, and it becomes easy to fall prey to a self -splintering modality, such as we find ourselves in today.
There are hundreds of opinions and views, on the internet,  in pamphlets, booklets, and on cds, which  can be thrown up like a roadblock  or detonated like an improvised explosive device and directed towards indigenous American Muslim activity with the result being either chaos,  disinterest, vociferous debate , inaction, condemnation, paralysis or splintering. It is the splintering that seems to do the most damage, because it siphons off the collective resources, and undermines the principal of unity.
Many Muslims realize the dangererous and divisive nature of multiple spheres of outside Islamic influence when not channeled properly.  Still these foreign spheres of religious  influence, if they do  not totally derail a beneficial  action or prevent it,  cause just enough doubt and polemical debate amongst African American Muslims for people to become either frustrated and loose heart, drift. into apathy,  or become adversaries, and antagonistic to each other.
There are fatwas, contemporary religious opinions, musings and edicts, that cover the full spectrum of social, religious, and cultural  intercourse  to the degree that any Muslim American can be conveniently labeled astray when needed in order to derail forward motion, or prevent that person from cooperating locally with other Muslims who are in their own neighborhood!
There are fatwas which declare that every Muslim in America must migrate immediately to a Muslim country.  There are fatwas that say becoming a member of a Muslim community is haram. There are fatwas that say that say that you must hate it anytime a non-Muslim is happy, There are fatwas that say that starting an organization is against the sunna.  There are fatwas that say that if an American Muslim does anything thing that an American does that he or she is imitating the kuffaar (infidels ) despite that he or she is an American! There are foreign religious views which  hold that thikr circles at someone’s house takes precedence over congregational prayer in the Masjid.  You’ve got fatwas that tell American Muslims to wage war against their own neighbors, and fatwas that prohibit people from cooperating with another Muslim who differs with your theological axioms.  There are fatwas that prohibit men and women working together, and fatwas that say that sports like football have no value and are a waste of time.
Some Muslims believe that they must wait around for the caliphate to come into being that will herald in a utopian society, others believe that you need approval from a Sheikh, ten thousand miles away before you can act upon anything,  and still others believe that even to consider ones self as an  American is counter to Islam.
Many indigenous American Muslims behave as if they are a colony of some foreign Islamic entity.  Thus actions conducted without the approval of their particular sphere of influence or its doctrine, frequently results in creating another layer of division.
All it takes is a fatwa or an email from abroad for a project to come to a screeching halt,  or for people to withdraw their support or participation. Very rarely are scholars required to be present on our shores in person where they can be questioned and have to defend their arguments, and see first hand the fitna that occurs.  Have some indigenous American Muslims have given up their right to think for themselves?
Scholarship is not the culprit here; nor is it neccessarily the scholars who are at fault. Knowledge and comprension of deen through understanding our theology, sacred law (fiqh), and the proper use of rulings, is the foundation of religious practice. However, knowledge should be employed to empower people with the ability to seek the good that Allah made for them in their life and afterlife, not manipulated in a way that is burdensome and divisive.
Muslim people have the God given right to act in the best interests of their dunya wal aakhira and  are obligated to seek the pleasure of Allah only . In a better world , all Muslims would act as one people, share resources and help each other based upon mutual respect and dignity. However that is not the case; African American Muslims are marginalized,  regarded by many as third class Muslims and treated as such.  Of the billions upon billions of dollars invested in Islam in America,  barely a trickling of that is spent on the indigenous American Muslim communities and the fledgling institutions that seeks to address their needs.
The answer is to cut the psychological umbilical cord with the many unhealthy spheres of foreign religious influence because there are very little nutrients getting through, and to do for self while depending upon Allah. We have to break free from the paralyzing choke hold of a slave mentality and realize that we are free men and women; slaves only to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala.
Imam Luqman Ahmad

imamabulaith@yahoo.com

salafi book cover amazonNew book available by Imam Luqman Ahmad: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern day Salafi Sect”, A detailed analysis of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect, their beliefs, practices, and influences upon the religious landscape of Muslim America. In particular, the indigenous American Muslim population. Available @ imamluqman.com

The Decline of American Muslim Indigenous Communities

Here are the facts; 80% of American Muslim converts are African American, and African Americans are dead last in virtually every socio-economic category that measures well being; unemployment, access to health care, illiteracy, education, single parent households, broken families, incarceration rates, diabetes, hypertension, home ownership, and infant mortality, and the list goes on and on.
Indigenous African Americans have been converting to Islam for decades ; however, the phenomena of massive and continious conversion amongst African Americans to Islam has not  evolved generationally into indigenous Muslim families, extended families or home grown institutions that reflect our faith and it’s principles, and serve the best interests of the new Muslim . 
Why is this important? Well, it matters because as each subsequent generation of practicing Muslims evolve within the family, the moral and religious values of Islam takes hold and are reinforced within the family unit and the extended family.
It’s one thing when a person is the only Muslim in their family, and becomes the odd man out at family functions, and must deal with the issues of doctrine, values, diet, and holidays while being the only believer. It’s something entirely different when a child grows up and not only are their parents muslim; but so are their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, their cousins, their siblings, and even their great-grandparents. This will not make it a perfect world or a perfect family. However, it will help ensure that the values of tawheed , proper guidiance, islamic lifestyle, good upbringing will be preserved in the family. It also lays the foundation that helps to reinstate the notion of clan and tribe into the indigenous American Muslim family dynamic.
Families, tribes and clans are the natural order upon which Allah has assembled human beings;”Oh mankind , verily We have created you from male and female, and made you into nations and tribes in order to know one another” .
A great number of indigenous american muslim converts to islam are not making it to the next generation. The religion and value system of islam is not being passed on and subsequently,  new converts are having to reinvent the wheel over and over again . We will never be able to effectively address our  condition unless we prioritize strengthening these two essential elements that  contribute to the healthy practice and preservation of deen ; family , and community . Muslim families are important because they are the building blocks of society, and it is where the generational flow of
Islam occurs. When muslim communities fail, the family will still prevail. The muslim  family is a community by itself, and nurtured a sense of belonging, and identity. For many converts to islam, there is an expectation that they will find a family, community  and a sense of belonging amongst their new found co-religionists. in other words;  a spiritual support system. When that doesn’t happen , their is an almost immediate disconnect and disorientation coupled with isolation  . This leaves the new Muslim in a very weakened state. The weakened and isolated condition of many converts contribute to Islam not taking hold and moving on to the next generation. Thus when you enter many masaajid populated by indigenous American Muslims, it is either full of older people, or full of young converts starting from scratch. 

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