Leaderless in Muslim America by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah once said: it’s is better for people to endure under a tyrant for 100 years than it is for them to go one night without a leader. The general rule regarding leadership is that without it, one can only expect chaos and disharmony. Religious leadership in Islam is a necessity mandated by divine law; (daroorah shar’iyyah) and something that Muslim people, wherever they may reside, should never be without.
There is no such thing as a perfect leader; some are better than others. Leaders and followers both learn through the experience if they are fortunate. Leaders are people and as per their nature, people change from state to state. Ignorant leaders can learn or receive advice, weak leaders can find strength, arrogant leaders can learn humility, unjust leaders can become just, and inexperienced leaders can become wise with time. Of course the opposite can be true with respect to all of the above.

The truth is, no one really knows in advance just how well a leader will perform in discharging his duties. Leaders die, and are succeeded by another and in some cases, leaders are voted in and out of office. Some leaders are removed for various reasons and replaced by someone else who may be better or worse than the previous one, and there are leaders, that have been forcibly deposed, overthrown, or assassinated.

A leader can inspire you as well as cause you to lose heart. Oftentimes there are layers of leadership so if there is a void, someone can step up from behind and serve in his stead. Throughout Muslim history, there have been numerous types of leaders at different times, for different Muslim peoples, and each had their own set of responsibilities, sphere of authority, function and challenges. There have been Imams, Amirs, Sultans, Haakims, Kings, Prime Minters, , Viceroys, Shahs, Sheikhs, Generals and revivalists who have all been leaders for Muslims one way or another. There are leaders who guide people to the truth and there are those who lead people astray. There are great leaders and there are dismal ones. The underlying premise behind leadership in Islam is that someone has taken responsibility for the affairs (umoor) of the believers. Even when the Muslims were a minority, the Prophet ﷺ never allowed that people would be dispatched without a leader. When the Muslims made the first hijra (migration) to Abyssinia, the Prophet ﷺ appointed Ja’far ibn Abi Taalib as Amir. When he would send detachments in campaigns and expedition, he never did so without appointing a leader from amongst them.

The highest form of leadership in Islam after prophethood itself, is the Khalifa , and the most basic form of religious leadership is the Imam of the home, and congregational prayer. Much can be said about leaders and what is ideal and desirable with respect to them, and the Quran, the sunna, as well as the books of fiqh and usool are replete with information and guidelines on the topic. However, to be leaderless in Islam is simply unthinkable. Many Muslim communities are trending towards a leaderless existence. Another trend is to for communities to have administrative leadership without any direct spiritual leadership. The fact that to be leaderless is a condition to which many of us have become accustomed, does not mitigate its negative consequences. May Allah guide. …

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American Muslims in 2011: The Year We Start Looking in the Mirror

The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are hard working, law abiding, and peaceful. human beings. I think that most Americans are aware of this despite the efforts of those who are convinced of the opposite and are hell bent upon demonizing our faith and playing upon the fears and misunderstandings many Americans have about Islam and Muslims.
It’s quite natural for adherents of any faith to wish that they are viewed favorably by others. After all, who wants to be vilified and looked upon with suspicion, even if it’s only by a few? Perhaps once we understand that the opposition that one encounters to ones faith is one of the tests if faith, we’ll not put so much stock in people’s perceptions.
I’m of the opinion that no matter how much we engage in interfaith dialogue, high profile public relations campaigns or civil umbrage, we will not be able to convince everyone to look upon Islam and Muslims favorably. I’m not saying that there’s no value in any of these activities, what I am saying is that we should aspire to much more than merely gaining public favor. This is not an electoral campaign, this is our salvation that’s at stake.
So in the interest of what’s beneficial for us as Muslims in the long run, I am suggesting that we re-examine our motives in seeking to gain favorable sentiments of Muslims and Islam. We should make sure that we apply godly purpose to our actions, and that our deeds are in agreement with our sacred Scriptures . By doing so, we ensure that whatever ranking we find ourselves and our faith in public opinion polls, we are in good standing with the Almighty Lord that we prostrate our heads to.
According to prophetic tradition, deeds are reckoned by the intention. For the Muslim, in order for a deed to have spiritual reward (thawaab), it must have amongst other things, godly purpose.
If we want to convince the world that Muslims are a peaceful people, then we should commit ourselves to peace and become peacemakers. Not for the sake of public opinion, but for the sake of our own souls and doing what is right. If we want to convince others that we are tolerant, then we should demonstrate tolerance to each other as well as to those who wrong us. Not for the sake of our own ego and popularity, but for sake of Allah be He Exalted and Glorified.
We should begin with ourselves and within our own faith. There is more than enough Muslim on Muslim fighting, killing, intolerance, and hostility going on to keep us busy for a long time to come. Let this year be the year we start worrying about our own souls first. Myself included. May Allah guide us and show mercy. Wal Allahu Al-Musta’aan
Imam Luqman Ahmad

The Islamophobia Charade ; American Muslim Leaders Just Don’t Get It

One of the most perplexing dilemmas faced by Muslim Americans is what is seen as the rising tide of anti-islamic sentiment. It tops the agenda of virtually every mosque, Islamic center, and Muslim political or religious organization in the country.
Whether or not the negative views of Islam and Muslims held by some Americans amounts to a civil rights crisis of the magnitude that some American Muslim leaders claim, is doubtful. When Americans think about civil rights, we summon the images of blatant discrimination, such as, denial of housing, employment, and education. We don’t usually think of name calling and negative sentiment as a civil rights issue.
Nevertheless, many Muslim American leaders and organizations have declared fighting islamophobia as the number one priority for Muslim Americans, and to make matters worse ; they are trying to sell it to the rest of us. Quite frankly, I’m just not buying it.
Even if, for the sake of argument, how others view me as a Muslim, and their view of my religion really made a difference in whether or not I can practice my Islam, using Islamophobia as a one size fits all categorization for every anti -Muslim sentiment or perception, is not an intelligent and practical way to address the issue.
Although some of the hysteria and fear baiting rhetoric articulated by critics of Islam or Muslims goes a little overboard, the general concerns about the unyielding and uncompromising dogma of modern political Islam, the threat of islamic extremism, and it’s potential to germinate within the ranks of American Muslim youth, are not totally unfounded, nor are they purely irrational.
The potential for extremism and fanaticism exists within in every religion group, Islam is no exception. The numerous injunctions found in Shariah law against religious extremism and fanaticism confirm conclusively, the potential for it. Because of that, and because this is a free country where people can think what they want, it should come as no surprise for American Muslims, that there is concern about Islamic extremism and the radicalization of Muslim Americans.
What I find hardest to understand is the approach that we as Muslim Americans are taking in addressing this issue. If we want to insist upon making islamophobia our number one obsession, then the least we can do is come up with an approach that makes sense.
The clinical definition of a phobia is the morbid and irrational fear of something. Thus, given the numerous examples of suicide bombings, Muslim on Muslim killings, denial of rights, sectarian warfare and hoswtility, and the senseless butchering perpetrated around the globe in the name of Islam, notwithstanding the events of 9/11, and the failed terrorism plots on U.S. soil since then, for anyone to say that concern for the potential of Islamic extremism to occur in the united states is irrational, is itself irrational, especially since there are over 2 million Muslims in the united states, many of them coming from the same parts of the world where religious extremism is common.
So it is a mistake in my view for American Muslims to categorize every and all suspicion or criticism of Islam and Muslims as simply the result of islamophobia. To do so, only serves to perpetuate the view that many Americans have of Muslims as irrational people, who cannot be trusted . This makes our fight against islamophobia using our current tactics, a winless and counterproductive campaign. Secondly, there is not a single issue upon which all Americans have the same exact view or opinion. This is a democratic republic; we do not think nor do we behave as a tribe. So for Muslims to assume that somehow we will convince every American leader, politician, academic, group or lay person to not have a criticism, hatred, suspicion or concern about Muslims in America is not only absolutely implausible, it is borderline insanity.
The obsessive American Muslim campaign against islamophobia and the questionable tactics we are employing to that end, says a lot about who we are as a people of faith. It implies that we reject our own religious axioms of being able to withstand criticism, hatred, and accepting that not everyone will share our point of view. It also says that we have very little spiritual fortitude.
The Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon Him ) and the earlier followers of Islam were relentlessly persecuted, tortured, hunted down and killed, and even totally boycotted by the Meccans because of their religion and their beliefs. Yet the Prophet (may peace be upon Him ) never referred to opposition to Islam as islamophobia or complained about being unpopulur, nor did he seek public approval for his Islam. He accepted the opposition that one encounters to their faith as one of the tests of faith.
By all accounts, Muslims who have emigrated to the United States seem to have done pretty well for themselves. American Muslim immigrants are amongst the best educated, highest earning, and most upwardly mobile demographic groups in the U.S. Thus, I cannot help but to ask the question ; just what is it that makes fighting islamophobia such a high priority for Muslims living in America?
It’s not like we’re saying ; stop killing us, stop denying us jobs and housing, stop denying us education and health care, and stop torturing us just because we are Muslim. What we seem to be saying is; we’re doing okay in our pursuit of the American dream, we just don’t like criticism of Islam or Muslims because it bruises our ego and suggests that perhaps we need to take a hard look at ourselves. Unfortunately we as American Muslims, are not quite ready to do that. The Quran states ; “God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Perhaps it is time for Muslims living in America to start looking in the mirror, or better yet ; spend more time and effort in practicing Islam than defending Islam. If we do that, we may start finding real answers to the questions surrounding islamophobia, and might even learn something about ourselves. Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad has been the Imam of a northern California Mosque for the last 15 years, he is also an executive committee member of the North American Imam’s Federation. He can be reached at : imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com

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