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
New 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