The Philadelphia Negroe Muslim, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

If there was any American city which could be rightly called the heart of Islam in America, it would be the City of Philadelphia.

 

city-hall-philadelphia-pennsylvania-usa_mainThis article is a generalization but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fabrication. I happen to be from Philadelphia, and even though I have not read the entire book, “The Philadelphia Negro”, By W.E.B. Dubois, I always liked the title. So I used the title for this article although my article here has little if anything to do with the book written by W.E.B. Dubois. This article is about growing up as a Muslim in Philadelphia. One thing about growing up in Philadelphia is that you never forget where you came from. Now that may be true for many places but if you are from Philly, no matter where you move to in the country or the world, you still consider yourself from Philly and a Philly person. There is something that can be said that is the Philly vibe. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so.

It is not one characteristic. It is many characteristics rolled up into one. And all those characteristics do not go for everyone. It all depends where you grew up, and how you grew up in Philadelphia; what kind of home, what kind of lifestyle, what kind of parents, what neighborhood, and one combination of home and street values where you raised upon. All that goes into who you are as a Philadelphian, and of course like I said, this is not just for Philadelphia, but I just happened to be from Philadelphia.

I grew up in a working-class, two-parent Muslim household. For the most part, we were always the only Muslims in the schools, the only Muslims on the block and for most years the only Muslims in the immediate neighborhood. Both of my parents were heavily involved in Islamic work. Our lives as I remember it, revolved around Islam. Does that mean that we were perfect Muslims, or the perfect Muslim family? No, of course not, and there’s no such thing by the way. It is just that Islam was a focal point of our lives and our identity growing up in Philly. Every city and region has it’s own personality when it comes to culture, politics, and religion. Philadelphia is no different, and when it comes to the religion of Islam in the United States, to IslamI grew up in the area of the city called Germantown. I grew up at a time where we had gangs in the neighborhood, and if you did not know anything else, you had to know how to fight, you had to know how to stand up for yourself and to stand up for your religion which was frequently under attack. Philadelphians tend to speak straight to the point, and tend to take a stand on things; for or against, with you or against you, agree with you or do not agree with you, your friend or your foe. I do not know about now, but back in the day people did not tend, at least the people that I know, to be wishy-washy.

Then there were always the con artists, and the con games, and the people who would always like to BS. I never had too much of a stomach for those types. Once you are known as a con artist and everybody tends to look at you as a con artist, and if you were a con artist you had to take your chances, if you got over, got over. If he got caught, then there were consequences and you just had to live with that. Those were the rules back then, and I do not know what the heck the rules are today. If you had a butt whuppin coming, (or worse) because of your actions, the police couldn’t save you. If you conned somebody, set someone up, or where treacherous, most likely, you had to pay the consequences for that.

I do not ever recall having to live under the guise of political correctness. I do not even think that they had the terminology back then. You would say what you meant, and you meant what you said. One of the worst things that a person could be back then was to be two-faced, to run your mouth too much about other people’s business, to be wishy-washy, or to be a coward.

Philadelphia was always a city of uppity Negroes who would dare to speak up, to keep coming back, and to not give up, and the Philadelphia Muslim Negro is an uppity Muslim who will fight off the yoke of second-class Muslim citizenry. There were times when our city was very racially polarized and we used to fight for respect. Many brothers from Philadelphia have went overseas and study Islam. There are many graduates from Islamic universities who were from Philadelphia.

The first indigenous American Muslim who memorized the Quran, Shaykh Anwar Muhaimin, is from Philadelphia. Some of the oldest indigenous American Muslim families who have four, five, and six generations in Sunni Islam are from Philadelphia. Our country was founded in Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. The underground railroad came through Philadelphia. Frederick Douglass and the abolitionist movement thrived in Philadelphia. Martin Luther King was influenced by Philadelphia during his time in Chester, Pennsylvania. Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish American Science Temple flourished in Philadelphia. The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded by Richard Allen in Philadelphia. John Coltrane settled in Philadelphia. Will Smith is from Philadelphia, Pattie Labelle settled in Philadelphia, Grover Washington Jr. was from Philadelphia.

The religion of Islam has a very rich history in Philadelphia. We were taught from a very young age to take our Islam seriously. Although much of the history has yet to be written, Islam in America amongst indigenous American Muslim converts has a lot to do with Muslims in Philadelphia who spread out and strengthened other communities, and established communities. Philadelphia is a city of courage, and

So when I wrote the book Double Edged Slavery about the modern-day colonization of African American Muslims, you have to keep in mind that I am very much a product of Philadelphia. You may or may not understand what that means but Philly people understand what I’m saying. I was raised not to be afraid to say what I have to say. I learned this from my mother and my father, and this is what you see reflected in my writings. Much of the passion that I drew upon in writing my book, had to do with me growing up and being a son of Philadelphia, and about the willingness to call a con-game, a con-game, and that what my book is about. It’s about liberation, and removing obstacles from between you and Allah.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a Philadelphia native, a writer, consultant, patriot, and until recently, has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. Currently he delivers the Friday sermon (khutba) at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), 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. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which in part formed the mindset of ISIS. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

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Islamophobia’s Bottomless Pit

As Muslims, accurate and responsible use of categorical verbiage is a moral obligation and, in this case, a vital tactical adjunct for Muslims in America. This is why it is critical that before we wage jihad against Islamophobia, we accurately define the terminology.

bottomless-pit-monticello-dam-drain-holeNote: This article was first published ten years ago. Reading it again now gives you an idea about how we have been literally going around in circles dealing with the issue of islamophobia. I’m republishing the article now to show the fruitless irony of our relentless pursuit against what we call islamophobia  when to the day in 2016, we still have not identified the term is any cognitive way. This 10-year old article shows how we have been stuck. I haven’t changed a single word from the original. 

BY IMAM ABU LAITH LUQMAN AHMAD

Recognition of Islamophobia as the irrational and unwarranted fear of Muslims and Islam lingers in lexical incubation. Some accept the term fully while others discount its validity. Whether this neologism will gain currency as a bona fide social pathology or be viewed simply as a marginally legitimate term, moonlighting as a public relations tool, remains to be seen. Phobias, according to the American Psychiatric Association, are mental disorders characterized by persistent and irrational fear of a particular thing, situation or animal. The word Islamophobia and the operative definition applied to it is far from clinical recognition. However, I must admit, it is a catchy term and certainly trendy-sounding enough to fuel circulation. Like: “What are you guys doing this weekend? “We’re going to fight Islamophobia!” Its etymology ensures seamless placement in the “for Islam”, “saving the deen”, “for Allah” category.

Islamophobia has a diabolical, sinister ring to it. You can almost picture a young Muslim mother sending her child off to public school: “Now son, remember to drink your milk, look both ways when you cross the street, don’t forget to say your prayers on time and be sure to watch out for any Islamophobia!” We’ve used the term with such frequency and with such self-serving overtones that it has started to lose it effectiveness if it even had any. Picture the scenario of a man who utters an anti-Muslim remark causing outrage in the Muslim community; he’s rushed to a licensed Islamophobist for diagnosis, after submitting to a few diagnostics the man turns to the doctor in anxious trepidation and says: “Well Doc, tell me! What is it? Racism? Psychomotor agitation? Bipolar disorder? Bird flu? The doctor, clipboard in hand, gazes solemnly into his eyes and says: “No Pat, what you have is a mild case of Islamophobia.” The man, wiping the sweat off his brow, says: “That’s all? Thank God, for a moment I thought it was something serious.”

As Muslims, accurate and responsible use of categorical verbiage is a moral obligation and, in this case, a vital tactical adjunct for Muslims in America. This is why it is critical that before we wage jihad against Islamophobia, we accurately define the terminology. Perhaps we can avoid misdirecting our energies in what may very well be another fruitless pursuit, frocked in Islamic trappings, that fails to address the root of our problems as Muslims. Sure there is discrimination against Muslims and yes, it should be addressed, but not manipulated. I don’t see crowds of rednecks chasing down Muslims in the streets.

Let’s set aside American foreign policy for a moment, that’s a separate issue. I’m talking about everyday life, living in America. Are there Americans who fear Muslims? Absolutely, and there are some that fear bald-headed bikers clad in leather, there are some that fear Latinos, Italians whose last name ends in a vowel and Christian fundamentalists. There are people in America who fear African Americans, especially those less than 25 years of age who, parenthetically, may be the most feared minority in the country. There are people in America who fear skinheads, the sound of fire trucks, the din of crowded subways, men with bushy moustaches, Caucasians, the police, Catholic priests, the homeless, and there are even people in America, believe it or not, who are mortified by toothless old ladies. I’m terrified of dentist visits and a contentious divorce could make a person afraid of the opposite sex. Welcome to the club. Fear is an industry in America and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Accepting that there are Americans who fear Muslims, is such fear completely irrational? Well, knowing that a surgically worded fatwa can turn an unsuspecting young Muslim into a societal menace overnight and the capricious way in which a Muslim can be suddenly labelled a non-Muslim, a deviant or infidel does cause concern. Is there fanaticism in the name of Islam? Yes. Is it widespread? Yes. Are we doing much to combat it? I don’t think so. I’d never expect that anyone could find any moral imperative to suicide bomb a Mawlid celebration. Regardless of the variant opinions of Muslims on celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, bombing a group of Muslims – many of whom were scholars of Islam – gathered in honour of Allah’s final messenger would make a person say Hmm… Talk about Americans fearing Muslims, there are Muslims that fear Muslims! Does this qualify them as Islamophobes? I think not.

We can blame the media until we are blue in the face for negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims. Even as of this writing, graphic imagery of Muslim on Muslim violence, Muslim rage, Muslim turmoil, dominate network and print media. However, these images fuel policy; they help pass massive budget appropriations and provide justification for the mega industry that is known as the war on terror. Preparing ourselves for the so-called Muslim threat has created completely new industries in America as well as bolstering others. Police departments are spending billions of dollars on preventive arsenal and technology to prepare for the Muslim threat. Kevlar-fitted canines, which 10 years ago might have been the butt of a Jay Leno opening monologue, are now a lucrative commercial venture.

There is such abundance and variety of Muslim media footage that politicians, policy makers, businessmen, non-profits and industrialists can literally pick out what suits their purpose. Want to do missionary work in Iraq? Grab some hungry children footage. Want to get funding to buy new jail doors from your brother in-law’s company? Get some terrorist cell simulation footage. Want to retrofit that county bridge to withstand a terrorist attack? Of course, no one could imagine what a so-called terrorist would want with a bridge in the middle of nowhere, but you simply pull out the appropriate news footage and motion passed. The press is only doing their job, selling news entertainment.

The question is, what are we going to do? Continue complaining? Ignore our own ills? Only take on agendas that have fund-raising potential? The only thing stopping the Muslims from changing their condition is our own arrogance, religious sectarianism, injustices to our selves and refusal to address serious social Islamic issues. It is nonsense to assume that the media is the only culprit. Or to assume we can somehow eradicate unwarranted fear or distrust of Muslims through the rhetoric of public relations or references to the glorious history of Islam. America is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of country. Which, by the way, is not an unIslamic viewpoint. The prophet said: “Verily deeds are tallied according to those that are last (innamaa al-a’maalu bil khawaa’teem).” Years of town halls, demonstrations, accountability sessions, sensitivity training and boycotts hasn’t removed graphic negative Muslim media imagery from top billing on headline news. Money can’t buy you love. Yeah, I know the Beatles said it in 1964 but Allah said it 1,400 years prior: “And if you spent everything in the world you could not have joined between their hearts, but it is Allah who joined between them”, 8:63.

Americans do not necessarily fear Islam and Muslims. What Americans do not want is to see suicide bombers in New York City. As an American Muslim who knows no other homeland, I have no problem in protecting our borders or legitimately defending my country. Does that make me a bad Muslim? I live here, why would I want to see America go down in flames? I have issues with the phrase “Death to America”. Our way of life here may not be all good but it definitely is not all bad. We need to stop making politics part of theology or if we insist on doing so we should accept that no one group or ethnicity can speak for all American Muslims. You have scholars who have never experienced the family bonding that takes place at Thanksgiving dinner or understood the true nature of the holiday making fatwas using triangulated logic, telling me that to sit down with my Muslim and non-Muslim family to eat roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese, hug my aunties whom I haven’t seen all year and watch a football game with my cousins is a faith deficiency! My response to that fatwa is posted elsewhere. However, the point I’m making is that there is a distinct, irrational, extremist tendency in our application of Islam that needs to be extricated.

Americans are more confused about Islam and Muslims than anything else. I don’t think the media is entirely to blame for that. Heck, even Muslims are confused about Islam. Every year there are millions of Muslims in America who are confused about the start of Ramadan. Should I fast or should I eat? Can I do both? Taraaweeh prayer: is it 20 rakáat or 8? Am I wrong if I do 8? Am I an innovator if I do 20? Do I give salaams to all Muslims or just some of them? Do I boycott American products even though I live in America? I still can’t figure that one out. There are so many conflicting fatwas flying around that a person spirals into bewilderment just trying to keep track of them, let alone making sense of some of them.

Domestically, the American people have accommodated and accepted the Muslim presence in too many ways for anyone to suggest that there is a pandemic of Islamophobia. It has been and still is a struggle. However, the doors have already been opened in large part by African American Muslims. American Muslims in the United States have very little difficulty buying homes, starting businesses, enrolling in universities or obtaining the so-called American dream. Redundant use of psycho-suggestive coinage would tend to make you feel that people are staring you down when they just happen to be looking at you like they do everybody else. It can also convince you that you were not hired because you were a Muslim and not simply because another candidate was more appealing or more qualified. Statistically speaking, incidents of anti-Muslim hate, violence, discrimination in America are relatively low. If we divide the 1,500 or so anti-Muslim and anti-Arab (what about anti-African or anti-Asian?) incidents reported by one of the largest and loudest civil rights groups in America into the six million Muslims who legally reside in America, that adds up to 2/10ths of a per cent. If we multiply the number by five to take into consideration unreported incidents, we arrive at the grand total of one per cent of the general Muslim population, hardly enough to qualify fighting Islamophobia as a top priority!

Using the term as a scare tactic has created another neologism: ‘Islamophobia-phobia’ (the fear of Islamophobia), which is a greater threat to Muslims than Islamophobia. It is true that many Muslims in America receive daily briefs detailing anti-Muslim incidents. However, these daily alarms appear more like self-serving, opinion shaping, headline grabbing and manipulative issue control than proof of an evil, unwarranted, mindless campaign against Muslims and Arabs by the American citizenry. Give me a break!

With respect to the religion of Islam, the only ones who can taint its image are its designated practitioners i.e. the Muslims. This is why the prophet opted not to dispose of some of the treasonous hypocrites in Medina. It also explains why he reprimanded Mu’aath ibn Jabal for leading the congregational prayer beyond reasonable length. Both actions are potential repellents. Extremism – although it may seem, depending upon the interpreter, to have a textual basis (Koran and Sunna) – usually results in other than the desired outcome. Our failure to realise this point will leave us in disappointment. We have many examples of such. Our recent overreaction to the cartoon portrayal of the prophet is just one. None of our protests altered the prophet’s status in any way. His place with Allah is still secure and in the same degree he is still the honoured last prophet of god. All the ranting did not endear the masses to Islam; it exposed our lack of rectitude, it cost us lives, money, time, moral capital and lacked definitive textual basis.

Human beings cannot invalidate the quality or value of Islam; on the contrary, Islam is a divinely pre-validated faith and way of life according to orthodox Islamic creed (aqeeeda). “Verily the religion of Allah is Islam”, 3:19. Adherence to Islam or lack of it determines humanistic value, balances societies and, by the way, supports stable, healthy civilisations. Anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States has particular causes such as providential disbelief or what is known in theological jargon as kufr. Nothing we can do about that. “And tis no different whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe”, 36:10. Other causes are misunderstanding, misrepresentation of Islam by Muslims or non-Muslims, injustice, the absence of Islamic standards of civility (yes, there is such a thing) and the conspicuous scarcity of Muslim social service institutions in America. Furthermore, anti-Islamic sentiment is not always tantamount to anti-god, anti-righteousness or anti-justice. You can’t go around accusing anyone who criticises a Muslim of being immoral or Islamophobic. We are gullible but we’re not idiots, at least not all of us.

Placing responsibility for Islam’s image on other than ourselves is a flawed and unstable paradigm that siphons away valuable time, energy and spiritual as well as temporal benefit. It distracts us from individual and collective responsibility and sets in motion as’baab (causative factors) that could deprive us, at this critical juncture in our history, of what we need most: divine intervention and support. This can only come from Allah. “Allah is the Friend of those who believe; He takes them out of the darknesses into the (one) light”, 2:257. Faith, more than rhetoric action, is required. If we for a moment think that success or improvement in our condition can ever occur without it we are engaging in a fantasy, existing only in the quilt of our minds, woven together with the threads of wishful thinking. Want to prove people in the West wrong about Muslims? Be charitable, help others, feed the hungry, assist the orphan, teach people to read, build a hospital, pave a road or clean a park. Charitable work does wonders for the soul and it doesn’t hurt public image either if that’s what we care about. The prophet said: “Prayer is light and charity is proof.” When a people address their own ills and acknowledge their individual and collective faults and their need to change wrongful ways, and embrace fairness, righteousness, civility, adab, humility, brotherhood, honesty, patience and the qualities that ultimately define our character, change becomes imminent. Divine assistance is set in motion.

Labelling people Islamophobes still muzzles some criticism of Islam and Muslims. However, for many other Americans it just tees them off, especially when one can easily see the upward mobility, affluence, academic, commercial and political presence of immigrant Muslims in American society. No one likes a perpetual whiner, especially one perceived as having a silver spoon on his palate. This is regardless of whether he worked for it or not. Other than paying taxes, there is no significant Islamic social welfare component to offset suspicion, hostility, resentment or mistrust. This is another cause for anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiment in America.

We hardly see Islamic ideals and principles manifested institutionally in the United States. Oh, pardon me, that’s not entirely true. Islamic ideals and principles do exist in many American institutions. Let’s see: the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, free and reduced fee clinics, food stamps, homeless shelters, the SPCA, fire departments, traffic lights, free libraries, trash collection, the ability to disagree publicly, oh, and we have tawheed (monotheism) here too. Maybe we have forgotten what Islam is all about. It just may be possible that we have some closet Islamophobia within us! Let us all, myself included, get our act together and leave dog-and-pony shows to the circus.

Imam Luqman Ahmad – [Published in 2006]

 

The Islamic Ruling regarding Celebrating Thanksgiving Day by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Contrary to some opinions, there is nothing in the Book or in the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) that prohibits a person from being an American, living like an American, behaving like an American or …

Source: The Islamic Ruling regarding Celebrating Thanksgiving Day by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

The Trump Presidency; Good or Bad for American Muslims? By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

I’m sure that there will be a phalanx of Muslim scholars from overseas, acting with the colonial air of authority, who will weigh in and tell us how we as Muslims in America should react to our new president.

trump.pngNow that Donald Trump has won the election. Some of us are of the opinion that it will not make a big difference either way for Muslims in the long run.  What Muslims themselves do, will have a greater impact on our lives than what president elect Trump says that he might do. Now that the election is over Mr. Trump has already started to back-pedal on some of his campaign rhetoric. Still, there are some people in the American Muslim community who are alarmed, and fearful, and who will try to project that fear onto other Muslims. Some National Islamic organizations are trying to convince the country that all Muslims in America are writhing in a state of fear as a result of the Trump victory. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. All American Muslims are not afraid of a Trump presidency, nor should they be.

I’m suspect that some national Muslim political and advocacy organizations will use such fear; fear that they helped to create and spread, to raise money, and I’m sure that there will be a phalanx of Muslim scholars from overseas, acting with the air of colonial authority, who will weigh in and tell us how we as Muslims in America should react to our new president. It is also likely that national Muslim American political and advocacy organizations  will seek to make alliances with the Trump administration characterizing themselves as representing the entire American Muslim community while at the same time, disavowing themselves from alignment with African Americans. I’m not saying that such overtures will happen, but it is likely to happen based upon our past history and the modern political trends within the American Muslim community.

These groups like most Muslim political organizations tend to follow the political winds and make decisions based upon their organizational self-interests, which I can understand. They are not likely to want to be on the bad side of a Trump administration. There may be another segment of the American Muslim community who, if Trump makes good on his promises regarding halting immigration from selected Muslim countries, [which I doubt will happen], will look to the African American Muslim community to become allies for their cause. Such scenarios are possible but we’ll have to wait and see.

African Americans as a group, are not afraid of a Trump presidency. Angry? Perhaps for some. Disappointed?  Maybe for many. Shocked? Slightly, but not all of us are in shock because we’ve seen and experienced a lot in this country. Afraid? I’d doubt it. African American Muslims and non-Muslims have been through much more than a Donald Trump. We’ve been through lynchings, Jim Crow, police brutality, and abject slavery, a Donald Trump presidency does not make us shiver in our boots.

Realistically, a Donald J. Trump presidency is not likely to affect whether or not we as Muslims will go to heaven or whether or not we can pray our five prayers, pay zakat, fast the month of Ramadan or make the Pilgrimage to Mecca. If an American Muslim wants to practice his or her faith and exercise their moral conscious, it doesn’t seem that a Trump administration will get in the way of that.  Being Muslim, being American if that’s your goal,  then realizing such opportunity can be achieved regardless of who’s sitting in the White House. So in this sense, a Trump presidency is not a threat to Muslims, and the hyperbolized sense of alarm and impending disaster or over-blown in my opinion. It’s really a smokescreen because worrying about Trump diverts attention away from State, regional and local politics, where every-day issues such as local ordinances, local crime and community well-being, school boards, property taxes and community issues are decided.

We’ve seen over the past 8 years that an Obama presidency did not change the condition overall of Black Americans for the better, and it is unlikely that a Trump presidency will change the condition of Black Americans for the worse in any appreciable way. The condition of a people does not change until they themselves change. As far as bread and butter issues, a Trump Presidency will not have much of an initial financial effect on the Muslim immigrant community because by and large better educated, have more stable families, more upwardly mobile and are much more financially secure than their African American Muslims counterparts. As far as the refugees from Syria and elsewhere, as long as they are refugees, they will continue to receive tremendous amounts of economic, subsistence, and institutional support. Refugees are automatic wards of the state and come with certain guaranteed provisions, and by the way, al-humdu lillaah for that.

As far as social programs, it is unlikely that Trump will make any drastic changes in that area because a large portion of the constituency that elected him, benefit from such programs. Many of the poor white voters, including veterans, that helped him get elected, get food stamps, welfare, and depend on social programs. also, I suspect that Donald J. Trump, at the end of the day, may prove to be more compassionate of a president than people think he will be.

For African American Muslims,a Trump presidency offers no threat of deportation and most of our families are already here in the United states; they’ve been here for 400 plus years. So that means that we are still faced with the same problems and conditions that we had before the election and there is no need jump to conclusions about a Trump presidency. However, we still need to, like other Muslim communities, move forward.  This is why we must at this very juncture, resist the colonial state of indigenous American Muslims under the larger immigrant community. It is not wise for indigenous American Muslims and converts to tie their futures and their well-being to the greater Muslim community because there are in fact; two Muslim Americas, their priorities, their condition, and their trajectories are not the same.

If we are to thrive as a faith community, especially indigenous American Muslims and converts who are in state of turmoil, we need to depend on Allah Only, and break the foreign, ideological control of our thinking, our politics, our way of developing our religious communities and even our relationship with our own country. We need to think as free and independent Muslim Americans who are people of faith first and not anyone else’s marginalized political pawn, part of anyone else’s, or any outside group’s agenda. This is why my just released book “Double Edged Slavery” is so relevant and a must read!

In the meantime, we don’t know for sure whether a Trump presidency in the long run will be better or worse for Muslims in America, but at least the man is up front about his views. Let’s not speculate too much in the negative. Much of his campaign rhetoric that worried Muslims will be difficult to implement in real time. We elected a president; not a king. Let’s wait first and see what he does. As of this writing, he hasn’t even formed a cabinet, so all of this frenzied talk about Muslims being afraid for their lives is pre-mature and does not reflect the sentiments of many, if not most Muslims. Time will tell, but I don’t believe that it will be as bad as many of us have imagined.  I urge you to read my book though because one thing for sure, indigenous American Muslims, need to free ourselves from colonial control by foreign based interests.

I clearly remember when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I was a fourth grader at Francis D. Pastorious Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We were all instructed to go outside, stand in full assembly and sing; ‘we shall overcome’. The second chorus was; ‘we are not afraid’. I wasn’t afraid then, and I sure as heck, aren’t going to start being afraid now. As far as the verdict on president elect Donald J. Trump, I say give the man a chance, but tie your camel. Tie your own camel and not someone else’s camel.

Imam luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, patriot, and until recently, has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. Currently he delivers the Friday sermon (khutba) at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), 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. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which in part formed the mindset of ISIS. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

New Groundbreaking Book! Double Edged Slavery, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-51-18-pmNEW BOOK RELEASE: DOUBLE EDGED SLAVERY! For the last forty years, the American Muslim convert community seen it’s share of ups and downs, and has been literally going around in circles. People have been converting to Islam in the United States for decades, but where have all the converts gone? Where are their children? Why don’t we don’t see more second, third, fourth and fifth generation Muslims descending from the convert community? Why is it that the American Muslim convert community seem like a second class colonized population under the greater American Muslim community? What’s happening to our ummah?

  • Why are we afraid to talk about racism within our faith practice when we know it exists?
  • Ever wonder why as Muslims argue so much amongst ourselves? 
  • Why are we reluctant to talk about the two Muslim Americas and the growing chasm between indigenous American Muslims who are mostly African American, and largely forgotten, and the larger Muslim American community? 
  • Do you ever wonder why so many indigenous American Muslim converts complain of feeling rejected by the greater Muslim community?
  • Ever wonder; what’s wrong? What’s the problem? Where is the disconnect? What is the source of our moral dysfunction? 

So many questions, with so few answers. UNTIL NOW!!

My new  book “Double Edged Slavery” answers these questions for you and more in clear, plain English without any sugar coating, without being politically correct, and without insulting your intelligence. It is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the why and the how of some of the underlying causes of moral dysfunction in Muslim America. 

This groundbreaking book is based on forty years of direct observation, hundreds of interviews, dozens upon dozens of testimonials, many found right here on my blog posts, and painstaking examination and analysis of our condition as Muslim Americans. Open any part of the book  and and you will be immediately enthralled and will find that many things you wanted to say, are said for you. Many of the questions people have been asking for years, are answered right here in this brazenly honest and detailed book about Muslim America!

Imam Luqman Ahmad 

GET YOUR COPY TODAY! AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM FOR $14.95. 

Halal Halloween? Not Hardly, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Muslims know and understand instinctively; that witches, ghosts, goblins, and little horned devils with pitch forks, are not heroes and icons of faith in Allah; but are things representing the culture and tradition of paganism

images.jpgI read a fatwa by a Mufti out of Great Britain which legalized trick-or-treating, Halloween costumes of witches, ghouls, goblins, and the celebration of Halloween for Muslim children and surprising enough, adults as well. Part of the text of the fatwa is as follows; “It is permissible for children (and grown-ups) to partake in Halloween customs in general which include practices such as ‘Trick or Treat’ or to dress as monsters, witches etc. Despite these practices being of pagan origin, they no longer carry such meanings in general and neither can lead to Paganism from a realistic perspective”. You can read the fatwa here

The Mufti seems to be making a sincere attempt to address a serious issue about the challenges of assimilation of Muslims into Western society and the pressure upon the children to blend in. For this we applaud him and may Allah strengthen and guide him. Ameen. As for the fatwa itself? Suffice it to say that the triangulated fatwa, although perhaps well-intended, is fundamentally flawed and misleading. The problem begins with his opening statement; Despite these practices being of pagan origin, they no longer carry such meanings in general and neither can lead to Paganism from a realistic perspective”.   What he misses is that paganism does not have to lead to paganism in order to be considered paganism. It is not a matter in the case of Halloween of something leading to paganism, the ritual practices of Halloween are itself paganism. It’s like saying; “having unmarried sex doesn’t lead to fornication”, not realizing that having unmarried sex, is itself, fornication.

The opinion of this fatwa’s author is that “these practices no longer have meaning”, whereas in reality, for millions upon millions of people, these practices have very great meaning. Additionally, it remains that the religion of Islam, it’s laws, it’s creed and its theology, still has meaning, and as long as our religion has meaning, issues that our religion addresses, such as paganism, have meaning. The dressing up in evil costumes goes back to the time when men used to dress up as ghouls [jinn] and ghosts in order to seek protection from the jinn. This pagan practice was mentioned in the Quran as having only resulted in increased wrongdoing and disbelief. “And verily, there were men among mankind who took shelter with the masculine among the jinns, but they (jinns) increased the and people are still under contract to m (mankind) in sin and disbelief”. 72:6

The idea and practice behind Halloween is that you are seeking refuge in demons to protect you from them and other demons. This is why it is so prohibited, as mentioned in the Book; “They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the Command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you! Evil would be the exchange for the wrong-doers!” 18:50. The costumed trick-or-treater is essentially seeking protection from the demons that he or she not be harmed by demons and this, as the verses clearly illustrates is prohibited in Islam.

Evil jinn still roam the earth. They still incite people to evil, and people are still under contract to take the shaitaan as an enemy. What the author of the fatwa seems to be saying is that Halloween is a pagan practice but since children of today do not realize that it was a pagan practice [of jaahiliyyah], it’s okay for them to do it. He further asserts in the fatwa that as adults, even though we know that this is a pagan practice summoning the jinn, we should still subject ourselves and our children to it. Unfortunately, he is mistaken on all counts.

What the fatwa seems to be saying also is; Halloween is okay because even though it started as a pagan rite, the people don’t believe in the pagan rites part anymore so therefore its harmless, and if its harmless, it must be permissible. Our response to that premise is that even if some people do not believe in the meanings and consequences of pagan rites anymore (although many people still do), pagan rites still have meaning, and still have consequence. Pagan rites especially those that venerate the devil and his minions are considered kufr [heresy], and kufr can never be considered harmless. Magic is kufr whether a person believes in magic or not. If some people stopped believing in magic, it does not mean magic does not exist, and it does not make it not kufr. Herein lies the problem of this fatwa. Paganism is not something that you can simply flip the switch, or interpret a couple of hadith and boom, it’s halal.

The Prophet’s entire mission ﷺ was dedicated to monotheism and the eradication of idolatry, and pagan beliefs and practices. To make paganism halal requires fine-tuned legalese and fiqh finesse at the very least. Which is what this fatwa attempts, albeit unsuccessfully, to do. Magic, witches, ghouls and monsters do not represent Islamic principles or morals and they never will. In fact, these things are antithetical to godliness and to submission to God.

Pagan rites are satanic acts of worship that honor the Devil. Satan does not lose his resolve or potency with the passage of time. He does not become an old man and retires to the hell-fire way station.  Even if people stopped believing in him, [the Devil], it doesn’t mean that he ceases to exist. So if a child no longer attaches meaning to the pagan rites of demon worship, it is still demon worship nevertheless. Magic and the practice of sorcery is devil’s work. There is no difference of opinion of Muslim scholars on this fact. Ghouls are satanic jinn[1], and ghosts are tormented earthbound souls in a state of punishment. Making these creatures into seeming harmless costumed caricatures does not change their status in Islam.

What the fatwa also seems to suggest is that good and evil are both, especially evil, archaic notions of the past. If we threw away the belief system in Islam, then of course there would be nothing wrong with this fatwa at all, and hence, nothing wrong with Halloween. Halloween simply would be an ideologically neutral, morally unaligned practice; however, that is not the case. Halloween is not ideologically neutral. Halloween is a celebration of Iblis and his allies and it is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate Iblis because he is an enemy of Allah. Batman, Superman, and Captain America just come along for the ride but the holiday itself and all the associated characters, are all part of the Iblis crowd. It is their party. If we didn’t believe that there was a God and that there was a Devil, or believed that they both were baseless superstitions, then we could write off Halloween fanfare; ghosts, magic, witches, and ghouls as just a bunch of groundless superstitions of a bygone era.

For people who grew up with and understand the connotations of Halloween in the United States [ahlul-urf] and those who understand the culture of the bogeyman, the scary movie, Freddy Kruger, Jason, and haunted houses, the fatwa at first glance is absolutely absurd. More of a voice of treason rather than a voice of reason as the author states. This is a cultural fatwa more than it is an islamically legal fatwa. Cultural fatwas are what comes along when you suppose that the religion is no longer relevant. We are in a great flux of misguidance these days so expect more of these cultural fatwas, and don’t let anything shock you.

The fatwa seems to be written for a particular audience. The Muslim immigrants to the west who are grappling with assimilation, acceptance, finding their place and not standing out might find this fatwa as a relief. It gives them the license to celebrate Halloween, and by default, Christmas, Easter, St Valentine’s Day. They finally get to tell their children that there is a Santa Claus. This fatwa is for them. For Muslim American converts, or a second generation Muslims wo are not clamoring to assimilate, who are not concerned about not being accepted as Americans or true Brits, who are not waiting in terror fearing backlash, this fatwa is completely absurd.  The only thing legitimate about it is that it’s called a fatwa. In Western culture, at least in the United States, people do not associate witches, casting spells, and monsters that go about in the night, with God or godliness.  In Islam we obviously do not associate these things with Allah, with prophetic guidance, or with worshipping Allah.

Even without a ruling affirming the prohibition of Halloween practices and pagan rites, this is something that Muslims know and understand instinctively; that witches, ghosts, goblins, and little horned devils with pitch forks, are not heroes and icons of faith in Allah; but are things representing the culture and tradition of paganism and the occult.  We see a witch mixing a brew or conjuring a spell, we don’t say; ma sha Allah! Yum, yum. what cha cooking? On the contrary, we would seek refuge in Allah from the Shaitaan.

Another issue with the fatwa is that the brother does not only allow it for children; he takes the extra step of allowing it for adults which creates another issue; children under the age of puberty are ghariru mukallaf [Legally not liable for their actions} based upon the hadith; “the pen is lifted off of three people” and among them are the child until he reaches puberty. However, for the adult, he or she is responsible for their actions and it is not permissible for an adult Muslim to celebrate the devil, to emulate satanic jinn, Witches are real and so are ghouls, as well as evil spirits, and even ghosts. Witches are practitioners of magic and the black arts, ghosts are earthbound souls, and ghouls are satanic jinn. Dressing up as them is a celebration of their identities and it is not permissible for a Muslim to venerate Iblis, or to celebrate his army or his avowed allies.

If we threw away the belief system, and moral framework of Islam, then of course there would be nothing wrong with this fatwa at all, and hence, nothing wrong with Halloween. Halloween would be an ideologically neutral, morally nonaligned practice; however, that is not the case. If we didn’t believe that there was a God and that there was a Devil, or believed that they both were superstitions then we could write off Halloween fanfare; ghosts, magic, witches, and demons, as part of superstition. Halloween is not ideologically neutral, Halloween is literally a celebration of Iblis’s family and it is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate Iblis, his family, or his army. Knowing what Halloween represents, and the pagan practices of the holiday, it is very unlikely that the Prophet ﷺ would have sanctioned his wives, his children going out dressed up as witches’ monsters and goblins at Maghreb time, literally begging people for candy. How can trick-or-treating be permissible when tricking people itself is haram?

Fatwa analysis: Assimilation on steroids

In the current political-cultural climate of hyper-assimilation, fighting islamophobia, wanting and needing to fit in, and shedding negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims, there exists an air of near desperation. Desperately wanting to be accepted, of wanting to be a part of western society not only in name and citizenship, but in being part of the buddy crowd. There is nothing inherently wrong with western society, and there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to belong. Many of us, myself included were born in the West and have been here for generations. We are part of these societies and not seeking the way to become part of any other nation. There is a very strong push however, to gain acceptance, to lessen the real or perceived disparagement, unflattering stares, and innuendoes, that Muslim are subject to these days.  Many of us couldn’t care less how others perceive us but for many others, their sense of self-worth, personal sense of pride, and their well-being is connected to how westerners view them.

This fatwa, though categorically errant, speaks to this reality and this need by many Muslims for acceptance. It is not simply a matter of scholarly deduction; it is more a matter of relieving the stress off of a certain segment of the Muslim population in western countries and trying to find a way to do it to under Islam. The problem here is that we’re taking about Halloween when it comes to paganism. Scholarly deduction would reject paganism and the veneration of witches, ghouls and demons at the outset. You don’t have to be a mufti to know that these things are wrong.

Muslim children will survive if they don’t dress up for trick-or-treat, and Muslim adults won’t rack up any more brownie points if they go to work the next day and say; ‘hey guys! My kids and I went out trick-or-treating last night!  Nevertheless, the fear of backlash, the fear of being labelled an extremist, and the fear of not being accepted is real. Overblown sometimes, but real nevertheless. Subsequently this is not necessarily an islamic based fatwa; it is a culturally based and a culturally biased fatwa that uses vague islamic legal precedence for some of its foundation but ultimately fails to make a convincing argument for permissibility of Halloween practices because he approaches what is meant to be an islamic legal point, from a particular cultural perspective and reality. Let me explain.

Then there’s the double standards by which many fatwas are applied here in the West and certainly in the United States. You have scholars, who when it comes to validating full assimilation into western culture and lifestyle for immigrants coming from the Muslim world, are very liberal, and make wide allowances for them. Almost anything goes. However, when it comes to American and British converts who are born in these countries, many scholars tend to be much harsher, and will haram just about anything we do, even if it has nothing to do with religion. If an American Muslim convert or one of our Imams here in the United States, cited the same arguments as quoted in the fatwa, he would be verbally crucified. There is a double standard in play, one for indigenous Blacks, and converts; and another standard for everyone else. I don’t believe this brother had bias in mind when he wrote the fatwa.

So, here we are, trying to teach our children about Allah, about virtue, about morality and about Islam and here comes this fine gentleman, scholar if you will, telling our children that the wicked witch, the goblin, the ghost and the monsters that enter into their dreams are things that we should embrace, at least on Halloween, a day by the way, that people dedicate to these creatures. Now even a five-year-old will tell you that witches, goblins, bogeymen, monsters, Dracula, and the like, all consider Satan to be their master of masters. Whether spoken or unspoken, Shaitaan is the big boss of the magic and monster crowd.  Everybody, well almost everybody knows that these characters are decidedly on the side of Satan and not considered in our religious, cultural or urfi understanding to be the party of God. They are not the ones around which we should establish holidays when we are supposed to know better.

Yet here is this fatwa making Halloween and its trappings of pagan rites, permissible. And after all, it’s a fatwa, it’s a sheikh saying it, and to put icing on the cake, he’s a mufti. This deceptive fatwa certainly open’s a Pandora’s box and we can either try to put a lid on it, or open it further. If Halloween is okay, then celebrating Christmas is a must, and that goes for Easter too, the celebration of the Goddess of fertility.  This ideologically compromising fatwa and those like it affects our moral-cultural trajectory as Muslims from and who have immigrated to the West. If we don’t get handle on this type of recklessness in fatwa making, the next thing you know, Santa Claus will be giving the khutba on Friday and little elves will be running through the ranks collecting zakat. Ho, ho, ho, in al-humda lillaah….

Bizarre Fatwas and Political Fatwas

Bizarre fatwas are nothing new. There was once a fatwa out of Egypt which allowed Muslim liquor store owners to sell liquor in the United States as long as they didn’t sell to Muslims. To this very day, there are Muslim liquor owners who use that fatwa to liquor to people in the United States. There was another fatwa once that mandated that every Muslim in the United States take up arms and wage jihad against our country [there were several of these]. There was another fatwa that said you can’t say; “hey bro” to someone who is not your brother in Islam or your biological brother. We hear and read about bizarre fatwas all the time. The internet has no borders in the West so fickle fatwas slip through the cracks on a regular basis.

Can a fatwa compromise a principle of Islam? Yes, and in these last days, or end times, such does happen more often than we’d like. Is every fatwa binding? No, of course not! Are some fatwas ill conceived? Yes. Is the fatwa making celebrating traditional Halloween permissible, one of those ill-conceived fatwas? Absolutely Yes. When people celebrate witches, magic, ghosts ghouls, and evil spirits, they are celebrating creatures who all work for Iblis, are part of his army, or who have been foiled or defiled by him in some way.

Fatwa making can have a lot of politics to it. As American Muslims who have been through years and years of Halloweens, growing up on Freddie Kruger, Friday the 13th, the headless horseman, and Jason, we kinda know how to identify demonic creatures even if they have a smile on their face, or appear in a cartoon. The problem is that you have scholars, who when it comes to validating full assimilation into western culture and lifestyle for immigrants coming from the Muslim world, are very liberal, and make wide allowances for them. Hence, halal Halloween. However, when it comes to American and British converts who are born in these countries, many scholars tend to be much harsher, and will haram just about anything we do, even if it has nothing to do with religion or paganism at all. If an American Muslim convert or one of our Imams cited the same arguments as quoted in the Halloween fatwa, he would be verbally crucified.

I wouldn’t characterize this fatwa as completely irresponsible, nor would I call it flimsy altogether or unfounded. The brother uses daleel, and he follows scholarly procedure to some degree to come up with his conclusions. However, the errantry in the fatwa has to do with one, misinformation about the underlying ramifications of celebrating Halloween, and two, being under-informed about the ideological attachments that come part and parcel with the holiday.

Remember as I have mentioned, there are two distinctly different Muslim communities; one made up of immigrants, and the other made up of converts who in both the case of Great Britain and on the United States, are primarily African American for the latter, and African –Caribbean in the case of the former. This fatwa is a result of happens when people are so desperate to be accepted, that will do and so most anything to convince people that they are as western as anyone else, What the fatwa amounts to is assimilation on steroids.

The bigger picture that we don’t want to miss here is the dichotomous civilizational and cultural construct being created. On the one hand you have indigenous American Muslims who are much more familiar with the situational placement of holidays in America whereas there is more precise navigation and understanding of detail with regards to line between religion and culture. On the other hand, you have a people [immigrants] who are simply trying to create a new civilizational construct for themselves without the benefit of the former’s experiences in the same country in which they are exponentially more familiar.

American Muslim converts by and large are proud of their distinctions as Muslims, while immigrants are ashamed of their distinctions as Muslims. This shame is not just limited to immigrants. Converts are being taught this shame mentality as well these days. The more you beg to be accepted by the greater society and long for them to regard you like they regard themselves, the more shameful your own religion appears to you. We felt so ashamed of our religion that we changed its fourteen-hundred year meaning from submission to peace.

Further Analysis of the ruling

The ruling rendering Halloween practices permissible is an errant ruling. It sanctions paganism while paganism is antithetical to tawheed. Paganism is prohibited in Islam as are pagan acts. Knowing what Halloween represents, and the paganistic practices of the holiday, it is very unlikely that the Prophet ﷺ would have sanctioned his wives or his children going out dressed up as witches’ monsters and goblins at Maghreb time, begging people for candy. How can trick-or-treating be permissible when tricking people itself is haram?

American children do not find any problem dissing Halloween amongst their peers without having to worry about being called a terrorist, an outsider, or somehow strange.  Not everybody in the United States or Great Britain goes in for the Halloween thing anyway. Many Christians are staunchly against it as it goes against biblical principles. For those of us who grew up in the united states, we know that some of the coolest people in junior high school, and grade school were the people who didn’t go for Halloween. An indigenous American Muslim child Black, white or Latino can go to school and say “man, Halloween is whack!” without the fear of reprisal. An immigrant child may not have the same level of confidence and feel that any rebuff of American culture would open them to harassment, dislike or being called names. This happens simply because the way that their parents acculturate them to life in America.

Thus, a fatwa like this is made to appeal to that group, to the assimilation seeking group, in the hopes that it will lessen the alienation that some Muslim children feel as new immigrants and by sticking out as different from the others. In this way, I understand the fatwa although I disagree with it. As far as indigenous American Muslim converts are concerned, we know what Halloween represents; notwithstanding the pagan origins; we grew up with Friday the 13th, Freddie Kruger, Jason, Inkabad Crane, the headless horseman, and the crazy clown so we automatically know what Halloween represents and what it summons.

The fatwa is well-intended, and makes a couple of good points but ultimately fails to make the argument of making the pagan practices of Halloween permissible. Halloween in the traditional trick-or –treat, witches and goblin promotion, and jack-o-lantern rendition, is haram. He makes a good point for example about the misuse and overuse of the hadith; “whoever imitates a people then he is from amongst them”. Because that is the singular hadith that you can use to haram almost any type of clothing, manner of speech, gourmet food, amusement parks, skiing, football, cotton candy and thousands of other things. I think that the fatwa was well intended. There’s no reason to believe that the brother is intentionally trying to deceive anyone, in this fatwa or that he did not apply appropriate fiqhi reasoning and methodology to the topic. It seems clear that he did. He just happens to be on the wrong track in this case. Just because Hollywood and pop culture can make Shaitaan appear to be a fair seeming, hip and handsome, humanitarian with a conscious, and who drives a BMW, doesn’t make him any less than the devil he is.

Sheikh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

We’ll be talking about these issues on my next broadcast of the Muslim Review radio show with your host Imam Luqman Ahmad. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/themuslimreview

[1] Dictionary of Islam, Thomas P. Hughes, p.139.

Seven Important Things to Consider Before You Join a Muslim Sect, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

Nevertheless, my first advice for any new or first generation Muslim is that you do not join a sect. You will probably be better off as a Muslim without one.

shahada-fingerI realize that there are many brands of Islam people have to choose from today. Many paths, and many different ideologies. I get it. I just think that especially with Eesa ibn Maryam coming and the Dajjaal [The antichrist] at our door steps, we should stick as much as possible to the simple Islam of the Prophet (SAWS). Quran and Sunna, five pillars, good to neighbors, good to parents, help the poor, etc. the basic stuff. Many converts are pressured to choose from different brands of Islam. It seems that there are more and more varieties, and sects to choose from everyday. Why all the choices? Its like choosing between different brand names of Islam, each claiming to be better than the original. The Prophet (SAWS) had his brand and a bunch of other people came along, each having their own brand of Islam. So what is the best Islam for the convert Muslim, and why? Who’s serving up these choices? This last question has a very long answer because there are a lot of people and groups vying for the hearts and souls of the new convert and first generation of Muslim Americans. This alone should get your attention.

Nevertheless, my first advice for any new or first generation Muslim is that you do not join a sect. You will probably be better off as a Muslim without one. Secondly, if just can’t resist to lull of the sect, then wait for at least ten years. Thirdly,  I want you to consider your children if you have any. Muslim children are born in a state of fitra [natural submission to monotheism]; they are not born in a state of sectarianism, and will not be in such a state unless you put them there. Muslim American children do not usually take too well to life inside most Muslim sects unless you can totally isolate them, and control their environment around that particular sect and its ways and teachings. Meaning that you have your own schools, your own neighborhoods, your own controlled environments, your own ideological self-sufficiency, meaning that your leader is local and there are little or no foreign influences. Otherwise your children will be exposed to too many things and too many other kinds of Islam and Muslims; both sectarian and non-sectarian, that will convince them in the end that your sect is not all it was cracked up to be.

So take the time to master just practicing the five pillars and understanding the basics of Islam and you  can easily do that without joining a sect, a Sufi order, or an Islamic political group. While you’re busy understanding the basics, maybe spend a little time doing research about different Muslim groups and sects, and perhaps talk to people who have had experiences with joining different sects. Especially talk to them about how their children have fared, and what made them leave. It’s a lot easier to be gung-ho about Islam for your whole life than it is to be sung-ho about your sect. Muslim sects can lose their novelty and shininess but Islam never loses it’s appeal.

After ten years if you’re still hankering to become sectarianized, then put off joining one and think about it for another ten years. If after twenty years, you still have not gotten a hold onto your Islam enough that you don’t need to join a sect, then think about it one last time for at least another five years. If after 25 years you still find that you must belong to a Muslim sect in order to feel good about yourself, or in order to find what you believe is salvation, then this is a free country and you are free to join any sect you like and there are many to choose from. However, before you join any Muslim sect, then there are some things that it would be good for you to know first.

First of all, what is a sect? The short answer is that any group that requires that you take on additional beliefs and theology above what was related in our scripture; the Quran and the Sunna, is a sect. When you hear them say that the Quran and the Sunna is not enough, or that there is some secret knowledge that was left out of the original Islam then best believe that they are a sect. Most every sect or group, but not all, has a specific ideology or platform that is particular to them. A political group has a political ideology that is specific to them too like democrat or republican, or communist r socialist. An economic group has an economic ideology that defines it such as bullish or bearish, and a religious group or sect has a religious ideology that is specific to them. It defines who they are and it distinguishes them from other sects or groups. Otherwise, if all sects were completely the same, then why should you join their sect and not join the others? What makes their sect stand out? What makes it so special and appealing? these might be questions you want to ask yourself.

There has to be a hook, a special concept, a special distinction, or an honor that at least according to them, makes their sect superior or better than others sects. When it comes to religious sectarianism in Islam, almost every sect claims that their sect represents the truest and most correct form of Islam. I happen to believe that the truest, most authentic form of Islam is that which the Prophet ﷺ was upon. I mean the Islam that is free of division, free of  ideological nuance that distinguishes it from the original. The simple, basic Islam. Many sects are built around or even named after individuals and their feats, their personalities, their greatness, and their, especially when it comes to religious sects, closeness to god. These are some of the things that makes a sect, a sect.

Some groups or sects emphasize practices that are already firmly established in Islam, while other sects bring entirely new things [bid’ah or innovation] to the religion. Some sects and groups are built around other sects, or extensions of them such as the group Jamaa’aat Takfeer wal Hijra, which was an extension of the group; the Muslim Brotherhood. Another example is the Darqaawi Sufi order which was a branch of the Shaathiliyyah Sufi order and there are many other examples of group extensions that became separate groups themselves.  Each sect or extension has specific beliefs, and ideologies with regards to Allah, His commandments, His being, His relationship with the creation, and the creation’s relationship to Him.

All sects are not good and all sects are not bad. Just like in about everything else, there is good and there is bad. There is that which is very beneficial, and there is that which is disastrous. There is that which is faith and there is that which is heresy [kufr]. Some people wouldn’t know what to do I if they were not in sect, and some people have never known islamic life at all except from the inside of a sect. I’m writing here about American Muslim converts. The average convert does not convert to a sect of Islam; they convert to Islam. Then, post conversion they choose a sect, have a sect chosen for them or one is enforced upon them. Or maybe as it happens in many cases, they adopt the cultural norm of a sect and do not even realize it. This article is for them, and anyone else who wants to understand. Wal Allahul Musta’aaan.

There are two types of sectarianism. Old world sectarianism and new world sectarianism.  By old world sectarianism we mean sects that have been around for hundreds of years, and that have existed in societies for a long time, and developed other own hierarchies, customs, shuyookh, history and ideological stretches. By new world sectarianism, I mean old world sects that have taken root in the United States or, start-up Muslim groups and sects in the United States that in most cases are a mixture of the old Muslim order, imposed on the new Muslims to produce a hybrid sectarian order. After talking to hundreds of people who are current or former members of imported islamic sects, I’ve found that most converts who joined these groups, knew very little about the group’s  core beliefs.  Some simply were impressed by the costumes and the attire of the sect’s  members. Most of new adherents of sects believed that you are not allowed to challenge your sect’s views or practices, and that somehow this is disrespectful. I also found that when it comes to Muslim sectarianism in the United States, there is a general understanding by convert [mostly African American] disciples, that you will always be a subordinate, and that you will never reach the level of the sheikh, or the level of your foreign counter-parts in your sect. It’s simply accepted that if you are a Black american Muslim, you will always be a lower class disciple in the sect.

Entire Muslim countries are built around a certain Muslim sect or group,  to the degree that if you to challenge it, or have questions,  you would face problems, even death.  Some old world sects try to impose on new Muslims this theorem; that you cannot challenge anything no matter how irrational or heretical it sounds. However, this is the United states of America. We are Americans and when things don’t add up or doesn’t quite make sense. We are conditioned to challenge it. when people come to the United States, they are already part of these sects. Old world Muslim sectarianism is starting to take hold in America. So far, I haven’t seen where it has benefitted Muslim America or our country as a whole. An important point to note is that anytime you think that your sectarian brand or branch of Islam is equal to the sum total of all of Islam, then you are definitely either in a sect, or you have sectarianized your Islam. This article should not be looked upon as a challenge to anyone’s sect, but simply as a list of things that a Muslim might want to consider before joining one.

  1. Know your sheikh’s real name. One of the things that have been a part of islamic civilization from the begining is that people have scholars and sheikhs to teach them the religion and to direct them in their religious affairs. The tradition of having shuyookh [shaykhs] goes all he way back to the companions of the Prophet ﷺ. Having a sheikh is a good thing; some say it is a necessary thing. I’m saying its a very beneficial thing if you first have the right intention. However, in modern Muslim culture, particularly amongst American Muslim converts, having a sheikh is a trendy thing, for may it is a fad thing, and the more super your sheikh, the greater your standing. People, boast about their affiliation with this or that sheikh, or that they’ve sat with this or that sheikh as if it is some sort of badge of honor. If you are seeking out a sheikh, try not to do it in this fashion. However, first and foremost, you should know your sheikh’s real name, his real origin, and something of his real parentage and lineage. At least know his name. I know situations where people followed and were disciples of a person calling himself a sheikh, they followed him for years and didn’t even now his real name or where he came from. So the first thing to know is your sheikh’s real name. If he doesn’t want to reveal his real name, then that’s a red flag. Red flag being to stop.
  2. Know the beliefs [aqaa’id] of your tariqa or sect. There are a lot of different groups in Muslim America; religious groups and sects, political groups, social groups, and ethnic groups representing Muslims of different ethnicities. Each of these different groups all have their own  political leanings and associations, their different ideologies, and sub-theologies, and their own individual agendas. Therefore, you should know the belief of your group before you join and not follow blindly. Being a groupie may look cool, and their words and pretty poetry can put you into a trance like state. Still, you should know what you’re getting into; what new beliefs you are taking on, and what theological additions you are adding to your Islam. Many Muslim sects have heretical beliefs that take you ideologically outside of Islam. Some people have set up shrines in their homes for this or that Sheikh and not have a clue to what their beliefs are. Some people have taken wirds [special daily thikrs] from sheikhs in their Sufi order and not even now what they are saying. Sometimes even calling upon the jinn [demons] and not knowing it. Other sects believe in magic, believe in astrology, believe in the the use of talismans, special rings and signets to give you power or protect you from evil or that can harvest the power of the sun. So if you insist on becoming an initiate in a sect, then at least do yourself a favor and learn their ideology.
  3. Know the rules of your group. Some groups have rules that require that you check in and get permission even to travel. Some have dues that you have to pay. Some require that you make certain sacrifices. They have certain initiation rites and others have specific rules for being in the group, for leaving the group and for maintaining membership in good standing with the group. Some sects have weekly gatherings that are incumbent upon its members. Some groups require that you venerate and pay homage to certain individuals. Some groups require sexual favors, and sexual sacrifices that they seek from you once you have been in the sect after a certain time.
  4. Know who the head of your sect is. Most sects, if not all of them, have a living leader. Someone who takes responsibility for them, for their teachings, for their ideology, and for their religious practices. No sect among the famous sects that are in circulation today, are without a leader. There is someone, near or far who is the imam, or amir, or khalifa, or sultan or leader of that sect. The leader could be local or the leader could be someone overseas. In either case, you should know who the leader of your sect is. When people converted to Islam during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, they knew who he was. When they made bay’at to the khulafaa arr-raashidoon [the four righteous khalifs], they knew his name. when people take oaths of citizenship to become citizens of the United States of America, they know the President’s name. You should never join a sect without first knowing the name of its leader. It might even help to know something about the leader. You should also know what the leader of your sect says about himself. What does he believe he is capable of doing? Some leaders and founders of sects believe themselves to be infallible. Some believe that they are as old as Allah. Some believe that they have the power to place you in certain situations on the Day of Judgment, and others believe that they are so close to Allah and that they do not have to pray anymore. Be sure to investigate the beliefs of the person who founded or is the head of your sect. There are people today who are joining these sects without even knowing who the leader of the sect is, nor do they know anything about him.
  5. You should know and understand the additional prayers, remembrances, utterances, and religious practices of the sect you are joining. If the groups you are joining has supplementary prayers, utterances, practices, and liturgies in addition to the five daily prayers and Jum’ah, then you should know about that. For example, some Sufi groups make tawaaf [circumbulation] around tombs after Jum’ah, and this is something you should know about. Some of them have heretical beliefs that contradict the Quran the Sunna and the positions of most scholars of Islam, and you should know about that.
  6. You should get a second opinion. If you’re considering it, don’t be in a rush to join a sect, group, or a movement. Some sects and some movements only last a generation or half of a generation anyway. The Ansarullah Community was a sect that was headed by Eesa aka Dr. York. It only lasted about a generation or maybe half a generation. Other movements like the Muraabitoon, came and gone. Some sects, have been around for hundreds of years, and others, just for decades. Sects and sectarianism are not going anywhere, so try getting a second opinion. Maybe there are people who used to members of a sect and they can tell you some of things that went on that you may ultimately not want to sign up for.
  7. Know the difference between a group, an affiliation, a madhhab, and a sect. you should know the difference between a group, an affiliation and a sect because they are all not the same, nor do they have the same properties. For example, a person may affiliate himself or herself with salafiyyism and simply say that they are a Salafi. This does not mean that they have joined a sect. It could just mean that they are a Muslim who makes that affiliation in that they adhere to the way or the methodology of the Salaf as-saalih, [the first three generations of Muslims]. Now I do not advise that a person calls himself a Salafi. Calling yourself such will not make you closer to Allah or make your deeds more acceptable to Allah. In fact, calling yourself a Salafi does nothing at all for your hereafter but it might be a reminder for you to stick to the original Islam of the Prophetﷺ. However, it does not necessarily mean that you have joined a sect. On the other hand, if you believe that calling yourself a Salafi makes you better than other Muslims or that calling yourself a Salafi, gives you some sort of upper hand in your religion or some sort of superiority over other Muslims them, yes, you have joined a sect. otherwise, you have simply taken on an affiliation. Another example is that of a madhhab, and here I mean a madhhab of fiqh, or one of the four school of islamic law. If you say for example that you are a Hanafi, or that you are a Shaafi’ee, it does not mean that you have joined a sect; it simply means that you have decided to follow a particular course and a particular set of rulings when it comes to practicing your religion. However, at the same time you recognize that there are legitimate interpretational differences between the four schools of islamic law that are acceptable whereas one is not inherently wrong and the other s not inherently right. For example, the Shaafi’ee school of law, a person pronounces the basmala [saying of bismillaahirr Rahmaan arr-Raheem] audibly in their prayer as part of Sura al-Fatiha, while in the Maaliki school they start the Fatiha with al-humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. Both of these methods are accepted by the scholars of Islam whereas the prayer is considered acceptable in both ways. This is belonging to a madhhab. Madhhabs are not exactly sects but then again, a person can become fanatical about his or her madhhab to where it is a sect. for example, a person may opt to not give salaams o not pray being someone who is of a different madhhab of the four Sunna schools of thought. Then that person has elevated their school of thought to a sectarian level, whereas it becomes a sect to him. Overall, have the imported sects of Islam been beneficial for Muslim America? The answer is; perhaps in some small ways but over all? I would say no.  We are better off just sticking to the original sect of islam; the Quran, and the sunna, the sect of Rasoolillaah (SAWS).

Imam Luqman Ahmad