Dimantling the Culture of Muslim Sectarianism, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

This article was originally written about in 2004 for Q-News. I’ve made minor changes in this version. Here we are in 2017, and sectarianism is worse than ever. Things will not change, until we change. To read the original, go to;

The Lotus Tree Blog

By Imam Luqman Ahmad

In Afghanistan it’s dreadful enough that the U.S. military machine has blown the country to smithereens, now obvious obstacles to rebuilding has been augmented by the violently competitive warlords, fighting each other for power. In Iraq, intermittent violence between Sunnis and Shiites boils like a volcanic crescendo waiting to erupt should the American forces ever decide to leave. In Kurdistan another powder keg is slowly igniting between the Kurds, the Arabs and the Turkmen.

In Tajikistan after the recent fall of the Russian empire, the country capitulated into a vicious civil war. Tens of thousands of Muslims were killed and close to a million were displaced in a conflict that although ostensibly was between fundamentalist Muslims against Marxist Muslims, was really about clan rivalry and ethno-nationalism. Whether it is civil strife in Uzbekistan, sectarian violence in Somalia, Wahhaabi-Shi’ite, or Tuareg darker-skinned Muslim clashes in Mali, or…

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THE TALE OF TWO CITIES:  Portland and Philadelphia on ‘Memorial Day’ One Sister’s Story during Ramadan,by Umm K. Rashad Bey

Ramadan is the month of Quran, the month of mercy, and the month of reflection. This is one sister’s story of a troubling incident that occured during this month of Ramadan. There are hundreds of stories like these. It underscores that we need to do better in the way that we treat our women folk. – Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

By Umm K

Yesterday, there played a story in the TV news media- where a ‘colored’ teen, with a baseball hat and hair stuffed under it- some hanging out- tearfully spoke about the men who were stabbed to death for standing up for herself and a friend.  I later learned that she was not necessarily Muslim, but accompanied her friend that was Muslim and wore a headscarf (veil) and were riding on public transportation when the horrible incident occurred.  The murdered men were not Muslims but can they be considered Martyrs, non-the-less???  Or would they be considered like Ansars– or helpers or friends of the Muslims?

Also last night, I traveled to a masjid in Northeast Philadelphia.  My heart was set on attending iftar and prayers in North Philadelphia, at Masjid Mekka, but because of where I was traveling from and the time of the evening- I went to a closer mosque.  I saw a big tent set up- so I figured that they had items with which to breakfast.

The women’s area had been changed since I had last visited, and when I asked a man, he took me around to the basement entrance – an area that was not handicapped accessible, but had been nicely remodeled.  There was only water available, which is fine for iftar– but I discussed with some of the sisters there- whatever the men have, we should have the same.  Eventually, some young sisters came with a plate of dates and we all broke fast and offered Maghrib.

Another of the young sisters asked if there would be food for dinner.  I went up and out and got in my car to go home.  I saw a man unloading a van of food under the tent.   So I parked my car and saw about 6 females sitting in the dark on a concrete step, while the men lined up under the lighted tent and sat comfortably at tables and chairs with additional carpets.  A boy shuffled the women away with “bisquits” (from Popeyes) as instructed by the man who provided the food.  Meanwhile, the men had steak sandwiches, rice and peas, pizza and chicken, teas and drinks.  So I stood at the tent and asked the boy to keep asking for food for the women.  Eventually, after he told me that the food was for the men only, to which I responded ‘astaqfirullah’ we were brought pizza and then I told him just put some of everything that they had on a tray and we would all share together.  The boy, through his cooperative assistance, and repeated urging, was successful in getting this concession.  I later learned that the helpful boy was the son of the oldest female sitting outside the tent.

Which is the better behavior?  To give your life for females who are not in your faith practice- or to refuse to feed females who are in your faith practice?

Umm K. Rashad

Umm K. Rashad Bey is a licensed professional counselor, and a very active Muslimah who resides in the Philadelphia area.

 

How American Muslim Converts/Reverts Are Affected by Muslim Sectarianism, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

No-sectarianismGlobally, Muslim sectarianism affects almost all Muslims in one way or another. Many Muslim groups would not thrive as a sect or be able to keep their adherents in check without having a sub-ideological focus, or without being in opposition to another Muslim group. The modem day Salafist phenomena in the United States is just one example of that. At their height, they would ascribe medieval, and early islamic sectarian labels to other Muslims and then proceed to demonize them. They would attach the title Mu’tazilite, Raa’fidee, Juhamee, and Khawaarij to everyday converts who have never even heard of such titles and groups, and of course to many of them; to be a true Salafi, you must call yourself a Salafi.

This methodology is not only a characteristic of some modern day Salafists, it’s typical of many islamic groups who came to the country already sectarianized. Sectarianism works better in a small village somewhere where everybody is of the same tribe, or believes the same, thinks the same, and has the exact same values for generations. However, in Muslim America, sectarian Islam creates an entirely different dynamic. Especially for the convert or revert to Islam.

Sometimes converts/reverts come across one or another of these sectarianized versions of Islam and don’t even realize what hit them until much later when they try to raise their children on the sect’s sub-ideology or on veneration of the sect’s founder or leader, or until they go and try to integrate with another group of Muslims and then they discover that one group hates the other. This can be a pretty mind blowing, faith shaking discovery for someone who just recently entered into the religion of Islam. Which is why those who stay in Islam for a long time and survive the twist and turns of sectarianism become so strong in their faith and grasp on tawheed. When confusion sets in, believers tend to resort to the foundation of Islam; laa ilaaha illa Allah Muhammad Rasoolu Allah.

It’s not that sectarianists are trying to mess with your head, for many, sectarianism is the only Islam that they know and understand. The simple Islam of the Prophet ﷺ for many sectarianists is a betrayal of their sect’s sub-constitution. But it is the simple Islam of the Prophet which attracts converts to Islam in the first place, which is why sectarianism is not compatible with the convert. It ruins faith more than it enhances it.

When people convert to Islam, they are completely vulnerable. The nature of true conversion is that sins are forgiven, faith is untainted, and previously held ideology is discarded wholesale.

Converts Muslims come into the religion without belonging to, or yearning to belong to any particular sect; they come in on pure tawheed without sectarian alignment and simply want to belong to the Muslims.  They are natural marks for sectarianists and easy targets of post conversion proselytizing because they are trusting, they are open and they, in many cases, are very naïve to the nuances of Muslim sectarianism and in fighting. It’s like; okay, now that you are a Muslim, what kind of Islam do you want? Even worse, some people are presented with the notion that they really aren’t a true Muslim until they join this or that sect, or initiate into this or that tariqa, or follow this or that sheikh. People are in essence, taking two shahadas; the shahaadah of Islam, and then, the shahaadah of the sectarian group.

Extreme Salafism has had its heyday amongst American Muslim converts, but it is waning. There are more ex-Salafis now than there are Salafis. A lot of Muslims have discovered that you can follow the ways of the Salaf [righteous predecessors] without having to call yourself a Salafi. That realization for many, was an eye opener of cathartic proportion. These days, Sufism is the hot craze amongst many indigenous American Muslims. This is not a condemnation of Sufism as a discipline within the legitimate islamic practice.  It’s just an honest assessment of where we are in Muslim America.

People are using their Sufi affiliation and titles like gang signs. Many of the more popular Sufi tariqas maintain that if you leave the order, or disengage from the sheikh, then you have left true Islam, and will fall into disfavor with Allah. That’s a pretty hefty psychological burden to lay on an unsuspecting, impressionable, recent convert to Islam. Even more so if the sheikh lives thousands of miles away and you’ve never even met him face to face. Ironically, many Muslims are discovering that you can embrace and practice Islamic spirituality according to what the Prophet ﷺ practiced and taught, without having to call yourself a Sufi and without being a so called Sufi.

Converts come into the religion believing in tawheed, Muslim unity, and in the simplicity of Islam, and are then betrayed on so many levels. Sometimes, they are literally chased away from Islam by racism, marginalization, or by the pressure to give up their critical reasoning, their common sense, and their identity. Other times it is the sheer confusion and perplexity of sectarianism that leaves their heads spinning. There are many Muslims who convert to Islam, and gradually understand and practice the faith, get married, perhaps, have children and produce healthy Muslim families that continue into the next generation. However, that’s not the way it is for many converts during these times we live in today.

Many new Muslim converts in America these days are a one shot, single generation deal. They convert to Islam but it doesn’t really spread to their children or next generation. The average convert today is simply subject to too many fluctuations, and quirky influences in his or her faith and ideology in the name of Islam to keep up.

It’s interesting to note that most American Muslim converts to Islam already believed in god before they converted to Islam. In fact, most of them believed in one god. For these new Muslims, Islam only confirms and gives deeper meaning and definition to what they already believed before they converted to Islam. Which in part, is what lead them to Islam in the first place. Many converts to Islam where already honoring their parents, being kind to their neighbors, keeping family ties, giving charity with their hard earned money and were already truthful and honest before they ever knew about Islam.

There is nothing purer for the one that Allah Himself guides to Islam than the Islam that was practiced and taught by the Prophet ﷺ. Sectarianism for the Muslim convert is a demotion of faith, not a promotion of faith. It is imperative for converts to Islam to understand it’s damaging effects and to extricate themselves from the cyclical morass and confusion of modern Muslim sectarianism. In my humble opinion, there is no better Islam for them, than the original version, without supplemental editing or ideological appendixes. I believe and will in sha Allah, continue believe that Islam is best practiced when it is independent of sectarianism. Which is why Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala said; “Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty“. (Quran 5:105)

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

[Taken from the up coming book; ‘The Dilemma of the American Muslim Convert’ by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad]. American born Luqman Ahmad is the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and Imam of 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 is also author of the book: “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafi Sect“. The Imam blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

Who and what are the Salaf, and who are the modern-day Salafis? by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

salafi-1It is difficult to define just who exactly is a Salafi. The word Salafi, [from the Arabic word Salaf, is a relative noun [ism nisbee]. According to the Arabic dictionary, al-Bahr al-Muhit, a Salafi is someone who ascribes one’s self to the Salaf. Abdul-Rahmaan ibn Abdullah as-Salafi is cited by al-Fairuzaa’baadi as an example of a Salafi. Imam Adh-Dhahabi used the term Salafi in a descriptive sense when he said, “bal yakoona salafiyyan” [no, he should be Salafi]. However, the modern definition of a Salafi is inexplicit.

A Salafi in the general sense

In a general sense, a Salafi is someone who claims that he or she follows the way of the Salaf as-Saalih. He attributes and ascribes to them by using the term “Salafi” or “Salafiyyah’ which supposedly indicates that he is following their way in understanding religious matters. By religious matters we mean creed and ideology, jurisprudence, understanding of the Quranic verses, character, virtue, etc.
In such a rendering we can define the person who claims to follow the Quran as a Qurani, or the one who claims to follow the Prophet (SAWS) as a Muhammadi. Of course, these are unacceptable terms, not used by Muslims. However, were we to use the line of reasoning employed by the modern-day Salafis, such terms become plausible.

Traditional scholars of Islam did not use the term “Salafi” as a label; they did not go around saying, “I am a Salafi”. They did not name their schools madrasa Salafiyyah or claim to follow or propagate da’wah Salafiyyah. The well-known scholar of Azhar, Shiekh Abu Zahara [d. 1974] says in his book, Taarikh al-Madhahibi’l Islamiyya, that some people who dissented from the Hanbali Madhhab named themselves Salafiyyin [Salafis]. However, Abu Faraj ibn Jawzi [d. 506/1114] stopped their mischief from spreading by proclaiming them people of bid’ah.

The scholars of Ahlus Sunna wa Jamaat do ascribe themselves to the way of the Salaf. However, they used to reference the Salaf by saying things like, “this was agreed upon by the Salaf” or “this did not exist among the Salaf” or “the way of the Salaf is better”. Some would even refer to the madhhab of the Salaf. However, this was mostly done when discussing issues of creed and it was almost exclusively used in reference to things that the Salaf agreed upon. Otherwise, scholars would say, “some of the Salaf used to do so and so” or some of the Salaf used to say so and so”.

Some contemporary Salafi scholars have attempted to establish definitions for a Salafi such as “a true Salafi is one who values Tawheed and fights against shirk” or “a true Salafi is one who is not of the Khawaarij, and not of the Mu’tazila”, etc. However, these definitions and those like them can also apply to a true Muslim. As ibn Taymiyyah says,

“There is no fault upon the one who exhibits the way of the Salaf, ascribes himself to it, and refers to it. In fact, that should be accepted from him by agreement [of the scholars], because the way of the Salaf is only the truth. If he is in conformity with it outwardly and inwardly, then he is in the same category as a believer [Mu’min] who is upon the truth outwardly and inwardly. If he is in conformity with it outwardly and not inwardly, then he is a hypocrite [munaafiq]. We accept his outward appearance and leave his secret condition to Allah”[1].

Some of modern-day salafis say, “a true Salafi is one who adheres to the methodology of the Salaf in understanding the Quran and the Sunna.” This definition however, also applies to a true, sincere Muslim; it even applies to someone who adheres to a traditional school of jurisprudence such as a Shaafi’ee, a Maaliki, a Hanbali, or a Hanafi. Since the Muslim scholars unanimously recognize these four Imams and the schools of thought established by them as representing a sound and accurate interpretation of Islam, following any one of them would be essentially following the true path.
Thus, defining just who is a Salafi in an authoritative, conclusive way is an elusive undertaking. May Allah give us tawfeeq (success).

A Salafi in the specific sense

One problem encountered in describing a Salafi is the sheer novelty of the term. The scholars of the khalaf (latter-day scholars), who followed the way of the Salaf, such as the four Imams and those who came after them, did not go around saying I am a Salafi. They did not attach the ascription “Salafi” to their names, their publications, their schools etc. They would simply say, “I am a Muslim and I follow the way of the Salaf ‘as-Saalih. Thus, a “Salafi” as a separate sect is a contemporary conception. Defining who is a Salafi is not just a matter of determining what they say, but what they do. One must consider not whom they say they follow, but whom do they actually follow?

Describing a Salafi is not like describing a Muslim. One can easily look at the Quran and the rigorously authenticated traditions of the Prophet (SAWS) and find plenty of definitions for a Muslim. “If you have believed in Allah, then it is upon Him you depend if you are Muslims”. [10:84 Yunus] Here Allah says that Muslims are the ones who believe in Allah and depend upon Him. He does not say that a Salafi who believes in Him and depends upon Him! “And who is better in speech than the one who invites to Allah, does righteous deeds, and says I am of the Muslims”. [41:33 Fussilat] Here Allah says that a Muslim is one who invites to Allah and performs righteous deeds. This is the best of speech. He does not say that a Salafi does this.

The Prophet (SAWS) describes the Muslim in the hadith, “The Muslim is one who the Muslims are safe from his hand and his tongue”[2]. In another tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) describes a Muslim as, “A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. He should not wrong him nor surrender him to his enemy”.[3]

Likewise, the sacred texts describe in detail what is incumbent upon the believers with respect to belief, worship, character, law, action, social intercourse, and other things. If the verses in the Quran, and hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) regarding the Muslim were taken together, we would see conclusively in sha Allah, what the description of a Muslim or a Mu’min (believer) is. However, there is no mention in the sacred texts of what is required upon the Salafi, or what the Salafi believes, or who is a Salafi.

The Prophet (SAWS) never foretold of a people who would call themselves ‘Salafi’, hence, the descriptions of the modern day Salafi are all ijtihaadi [deductively] based, and not nassi [textually[4] based. Nass or nusoos [plural] are revealed and associated text of hadith. Ijtihaad on the other hand is the result of human deduction. The two cannot be intelligently equated. All the scholars of Ahlus Sunna wa Jamaat agree that an ijtihaad, particularly that of a latter day scholar, is subject to error. They also agree that ijtihaad which contradicts established texts from the Quran and the authentic Sunna, are frivolous at best and heretical at worst. This fact alone unmasks the true alien nature of the term Salafi, notwithstanding the obvious impossibility of determining a conclusive description for them. However in sha Allah, we shall attempt to delineate the current variety of so-called salafis.

The view of the Salafis by the general public

A perception has emerged amongst the general Muslims population that the salafis are a troublesome bunch. On the east coast of the United States, many of them are regarded as hoodlums. That is because they will accost you in the masjid because your pant leg is not rolled up high enough and then they’ll curse you out in the street because they think you didn’t give them the correct change for their sandwich! I am not saying that these perceptions are true to life. However, in recent years, based upon their interaction with them, Muslims in the United States and other parts of the world have solidified a perception of them as cold, arrogant, rude and prone to hasty interpretation. Many view them as extremely comfortable with chaos and controversy.
For some, the Salafis are those brothers who wear their pants up to their shins. For others, the Salafis are the ones who love to argue and call everybody deviants. Others regard the Salafis as those calling for a return to purity of Islam, but feel they are not quite ready for the rigors of modern hard core Salafi life. For some, the Salafis are the only true Muslims. For others, the Salafis are themselves deviant. Some people view them as a sect, a cult or simple another madhhab. Others regard them as neither of the three.

To some, the Salafis are an annoying thorn in their side. They are especially bothersome to some of the modernists, who try to carve out a modern version of Islam, congruent to the ideas of new pluralism and secular humanism. To adherents of traditional Islamic knowledge and methodology, the Salafis are considered perhaps well intentioned but grossly unscholarly and over simplistic in their approach. If you ask one hundred people concerning their opinion of a Salafi, you may get a few dozen different answers.
Since they are a new group, they are always changing and altering their views. For example, some of them used to say that you must call yourself a Salafi. Later, they modified their stance and said that it is only recommended to call yourself a Salafi. Another example is that one of them will find another hadith and then something else becomes haram or bid’ah. Then a few months later they will find yet another hadith and the ruling will change.

Since many of them reject the idea of learning from traditional chains of scholarship or adherence to any of the accepted schools of thought, they are always involved in what some of them call “progressive scholarship”. This means that while they are in the process of finding all of the hadith on an issue, they issue rulings. Then, they come back after some years or months or even the next day and change the ruling or view. There is nothing wrong with progressive scholarship; however, progressive scholarship cannot ever be considered the absolute truth, free from any error. Imam Shaafi’ee issued many rulings on issues that he later changed after he was apprised of more information. Imam Shaafi’ee was a scholar of the highest caliber. In the case of Imam Shaafi’ee, it was reported that he used to say when arriving at a disputed conclusion; “I am right, with the possibility that I am wrong, and you are wrong, with the possibility that you are right”. However; progressive scholarship when practiced by novices, and people prone to acrimonious dispute and fitna, is reckless.

It is difficult to define them as a whole. There are certainly many from amongst the Salafis who may be applying Islam in the character, temperament, and true understanding of what the Prophet (SAWS) intended. Much of what this author is referring to are the extremists of the Salafiyyah those primary targets are new Muslims. At the common level, regarding relationships amongst the average Muslims and masaajid, particularly those predominately frequented by American Muslims, the worst of the Salafiyyah is what seems to attract the most adherents. Islam as practiced by converts or reverts in the United States is mostly at the common level. As ibn Taymiyyah said,

“From that which is well-known about what occurs when people gather together upon some matter, is that any group which becomes strong and has many followers, then you will definitely find in them the pure and the impure, the justly balanced and the unbalanced, the extreme and the moderate. Moreover, a well-established fact is that the extremists are more vocal and have greater acceptance, since the ones who are justly balanced follow a middle course. And those who seek this balanced approach are few in numbers, in every age and place. As for extremism, then this is what most of the people thrive upon, and what the over-whelming majority inclines towards – and this has been the path of the various sects and religions as well. So the extremists try to monopolize their being mentioned among the people and to single in their da’wah. And they did not find any way to gain a monopoly over the people, except by extremism, which they achieve by degrading people and belittling them at every opportunity; either by their tongues, or other than that.

The first to open this door – the door of unleashing their tongues against those who oppose them – were the Khawaarij. And this is the route by which they came to the masses, through the door of takfeer (declaring a Muslim to be a disbeliever), in order that the masses would flee from other than them, so that they could secure a relationship for themselves with the masses. Then this disease was transmitted to others, such that the extreme elements of each group started unjustly declaring Muslims to be unbelievers, sinners, innovators, or deviants”. [Maj’moo’a fataawa]

 

[1] Majmoo’a a-fataawah.

[2] Collected by Muslim.

[3] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[4] Based upon the Quran and the Sunna.

 

[Taken from the book;The Devil’s Deception of the Modern-Day Salafi Sect’ by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad. American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and Imam of 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. The Imam blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 

Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom, The Blind Companion with Keen Insight, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Several verses of the Quran were revealed regarding this companion of the Prophet (SAWS). Some of the scholars of tafseer say that 10 verses were revealed about him.

The Lotus Tree Blog

This is a short story about one of my favorite companions of the Prophet (SAWS). What I love about him is that despite being born blind, he showed a dedication to our faith, a desire for knowledge, and love for the Prophet (SAWS) that was so profound that Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala spoke on his personal behalf from above seven heavens in verses in the Quran. One of the things that I love about him is that he did not let his disability (blindness) prevent him from service to our faith, allegiance to our Prophet (SAWS), or from being and a true servant of Allah.

His name was Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom. He was also known as Amru Ibn Umm Maktoom, as well as Amru Ibn Qais. His mother’s name was Aatika and her surname was Umm Maktoom which means (mother of the concealed). They called her that because she gave birth to a blind…

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A Short History of the Fast of Ramadan, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

ramadan-comment-030This is a true account of the mercy of Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, to the believers. Fasting the month of Ramadan was prescribed in the early years after the hijra of the Prophet (SAWS) from Mecca to Medina. However, the rulings regarding fasting were not all revealed at once; there were several incremental updates from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala that were sent down to the Prophet (SAWS) as revealed texts, and appearing in verses in the Quran.

For example, when the Prophet (SAWS) first came to Medina, they used to fast three days out of every month and they use to fast the day of Ashooraa. After that, Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala made it incumbent upon them to fast Ramadan, by revealing the verse: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” [2:183-184] observing the month of Ramadan became incumbent, but they had a choice; they could either fast, or they could ‘ransom’ their fast by feeding a poor person for every day instead of fasting. “For those who can do it, is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent.” [2:184] Still it was better for them to fast, by the verse; “But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him”. [2:184] Despite the choice of either fasting or feeding, fasting was deemed the better of the two options; “And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” [2:184] In either case, it was better for them to do extra, such as feeding more than one person for each day or by fasting and feeding a person based upon the verse; “But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him” [2:184].

After that, another verse was revealed which made fasting incumbent (fard) upon everyone; “So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting”, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. [2:185] After this verse was revealed, it was incumbent on every person who was present when Ramadan came, to fast the month except for who was sick, or traveling.  The dispensation of being able to ransom by feeding, instead of fasting, remained for the frail and the elderly, until this day. The companion of the Prophet (SAWS), Anas ibn Malik when he became a very old man, would have a big feast during Ramadan and feed thirty people at a time.

The companions of the Prophet ﷺ used to, if a man was fasting, and the time of iftaar came but he fell asleep, or prayed ishaa before he ate a meal; he wouldn’t eat for the rest of the night and continue to fast until Maghrib the next day. So one day Qais ibn Sir’ma al-Ansaari was fasting and when the time of iftaar came, he said to his wife; do you have any food? She said: no but let me go and see if I can get some for you He had been working that day, so he ended up falling asleep (while he was waiting). She finally came and when she saw him asleep, she said: ‘you missed it’.  It was reported in another narration that when his wife came to him with the food, he said to her: “I feel asleep”, she replied: “no you didn’t” and he insisted that he did. Nevertheless, he slept that night without eating anything, and the next day, when he got up in the morning, he was fasting.  By the middle of the day, he lost consciousness. This incident was mentioned to the Prophet (SAWS) and then the verse was revealed: “Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you,” [2:187], when this verse was revealed,  the Muslims were extremely happy because as they understood it now, they were able to continue to eat, drink or have relationships with their wives throughout the night without restriction, whereas before, if they happened to fall asleep, or if they prayed ishaa, they wouldn’t eat afterwards until sunset the next day.

Right after that, the versed was revealed: “and eat and drink, until the white thread appear s to you distinct from the black thread; then complete your fast Till the night appears”. [2:187] However, the words; (of the dawn) were not revealed yet. So the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) updated their fasting according to what was revealed and would consider it permissible to continue to eat, drink, or have relations with their wives throughout the night until the dawn came, and many of them would tie a black and white thread around their leg.

It was reported about Sah’li ibn Sa’d, who said: the verse: “and eat and drink, until the white thread appears to you distinct from the black thread”, and the words; (from the dawn –min al-fajr) were not revealed. So when men wanted to fast, they would tie a black thread and a white thread around their leg, and continue eating in the morning, until they could distinguish one from the other. After that, Allah revealed the words: “of the dawn” and they knew then that what were meant were (the threads of night) and day. This is how Allah showed his mercy to the companions of the Prophet (SAW) and heralded in the fast of Ramadan as we know it today, step by step.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and Imam of 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.

 

Reviving the Lost Art of Forgiveness in Islam، by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad 

FORGIVENESSBy Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad   

“Ali ibn Abi Taalib once said; “You will begin to heal when you let go of past hurts, and forgive those who have wronged you”

For many Muslims, the idea of forgiving a bigot, pardoning an aggressor, or a harsh unflattering critic, or letting a so-called Islamophobe off the hook, is much easier to conceptualize or articulate than it is to actually put into practice. Exacting revenge, seeking recompense, or holding a grudge, simply requires a dash of anger, a pinch of indignation and a tablespoonful of knee-jerk emotional reaction. Even hurt feelings are enough to spur a person to take punitive or compensatory action against another. Forgiveness, on the other hand, requires a particular measure of spiritual courage, moral fortitude, and emotional intelligence. Forgiveness requires a charitable heart.

While Islam recognizes the concept of retribution; forgiveness and forbearance have always been the higher and more magnanimous moral option. “O ye who believe! the law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty. (2:178).

Without diverging into a separate discussion about criminal justice policy, I’ll just say that people who murder people need to be prosecuted and brought to justice. That being said, it stands that in the religion of Islam, it is still meritorious to forgive, even if the perpetrator is prosecuted.

However, we’re not talking about murderers here. The people who have murdered or committed violent acts against Muslims in America because of their faith need to be condemned for their actions. However, they constitute only a fractional percentage of those whom we have regarded as anti-Muslim or islamophobes. What we’re talking about are the thousands upon thousands of everyday interactions, the minor skirmishes, the contemptuous glances, the unwanted comments, the simple acts of dishonor and disrespect that are aimed at Muslims and Islam. Sometimes it’s simply a case of misunderstanding but many times there is no ambiguity at all. There are the people who make it perfectly clear that they hate you because you are a Muslim.

The moral high ground in Islam affirms that it is okay to forgive such instances of bigotry and ignorance and to continue to walk in dignity. This is the higher moral ground that the Quran speaks about; “And the servants of the Merciful; they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.” (25:63).

So what we are talking about here is attitudinal change, a paradigm shift, an increased output of good old fashioned moral fortitude. For lesser infractions such as someone calling you names, criticizing your faith or your religious group, or insulting your honor, forgiveness is a praiseworthy option. There is nothing immoral, cowardly or demeaning about forgiving someone who has wronged you; nothing at all.

The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong”. (42:39-40).

In the ongoing back and forth of American Muslims mitigating anti-Muslim sentiment in our country, we seem to be neglecting the part of our religion that encourages forgiveness.  I’m not saying that it is easy to forgive; I’m saying that it’s good to forgive, and that forgiveness is a grossly underused option considering how prominently forgiveness ranks in our religion. It’s even okay to forgive when there is violence but that might be a bit much to ask of our community because we’re not that used to forgiving to begin with, and if we do forgive, we’re likely to make a full-fledged media event out of it.

The customary behavioral reaction in the Muslim community anti-Muslim sentiment is to fight fire with fire, to counter attack, to counter debate, polemicize, or to react to nearly every disparagement with either complaining about it, reporting it to the authorities, seeking some kind of redress or revenge, or amplifying our self-victimization. Many of our responses to bigotry are aimed more at getting people to see us as victims of injustice, intolerance, and oppression, than they are at being forgiving, patiently gracious, and magnanimous under fire.

I’m not suggesting that Muslim-Americans entirely overlook religious intolerance and bigotry directed towards them, or that we do not maintain vigilance against unwarranted verbal, institutional, political or violent attacks against Muslims. There have been enough incidents of violence directed towards people thought to be Muslim that warrants vigilance and awareness. Nor am I advocating that we abdicate common sense in assessing the public image disadvantages that we sometimes encounter as Muslim Americans.

What I am saying is that being Muslim brings with it a certain standard of moral fortitude standard to aim for that encourages us to withstand a fair amount of nuisance as we work to educate people and educate ourselves, and that it is okay to forgive sometimes; “You (believers) will certainly be tested by the loss of your property and lives and you will hear a great many grieving words from the People of the Book and the pagans. If you will have patience and piety, it will be a sign of firm determination and steadfastness (in life)”. (3:186)

It’s also important that we don’t overstate the problem of anti-Muslim sentiment, nor fail to recognize that the majority of people in this country do not show hatred and bigotry towards Muslims. Many Muslims are still learning about the United States and there are many areas of improvement in how we, as Muslim Americans handle bigotry. We are a fairly contentious and thin skinned people when it comes to criticism, bigotry, and anti-Muslim sentiment, and we can do a lot better in the way we deal with what some of us call islamophobia. Forgiveness and taking a high moral ground should not be taboo when it comes to our critics, detractors, and our shameless antagonists.

Our faith requires a higher degree of moral fortitude and spiritual maturity that would preclude us from feeling the need to counter every affront or criticism of Islam or Muslims. We should own the fact that we have within our communal body, cultural and historical predilections that make us particularly sensitive to any hint of criticism or rejection. The Muslim culture of revenge and outrage and holding grudges is legendary and make the Hatfields and McCoys look like Donald and Mickey. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse that is.  However, we have better examples to choose from.

When the companion of the Prophet Mistah ibn Athaatha participated in the awful slander of the Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha, at the time, his only income was the regular charity he was getting from Aisha’s wealthy father, Abu Bakr, who was a distant relative of Mistah by way of Mistah’s grandmother, Ru’haita bint Sakhar.  Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq, clearly ruffled by Mistah’s role in spreading the terrible rumors about his daughter Aisha, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, Abu Bakr swore by Allah to never to give any more money to Mistah. It was about this matter that the verse was revealed;

Let not those among you who are endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen, those in want, and those who have left their homes in Allah’s cause: let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”. (24:22).

After this verse were revealed to the Prophet ﷺ, he summoned Abu Bakr and asked him; “would you like that your sins be forgiven”? Abu Bakr replied; “yes”. Then the Prophet ﷺ informed him that this verse was revealed about him. After that, Abu Bakr forgave Mistah, and swore that he would never withhold help from Mistah, ever again.

Another example is that when the Prophet ﷺ conquered the holy city of Mecca on the 20th day of Ramadan in the Julian year of 630, there were many Meccans who had fought against him in previous battles. Polytheist combatants had violently opposed the Prophet ﷺ, and persecuted, tortured and Killed many of the Prophet’s companions over the years. Many of those killed were people close to the Prophet ﷺ and people even made attempts on his life ﷺ.

The Prophet ﷺ had plenty of reasons to exact revenge on his enemies and he ﷺ could have easily done that. However, that’s not what he did once he was in power. What he did was to forgive everyone. He even paid some of them in order to sway their favor.

A young Muslim recently asked me about what should a person do when they are confronted with anti-Muslim sentiment or an islamophobic act. My response to his question was to see if he could find a way to overlook the slight and forgive them. That’s what the Prophet ﷺ used to do; he used to forgive people. Forgiveness is a much more redemptive act than revenge and holding onto anger and contempt. As Allah has mentioned; “The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” This verse was revealed about Abu Jahl, who was a staunch enemy of the Islam and of the Prophet ﷺ.

Certainly, American Muslims should address islamophobia, although it would help significantly if we conclusively defined the word; something that has yet to be done, but that’s the topic for another discussion perhaps. However, we should deal with anti-Muslim sentiment using the tools of faith. “Those who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good”. (3:143). We should forgive at least some of the time.

When we fail to employ the full breadth of moral tools and principles in our religion when defending our faith and ourselves against bigotry, it gives the distinct impression that perhaps we really don’t understand our religion.  American Muslims are long overdue for a major metanoia in our approach to what we call islamophobia. Perhaps If we were more forgiving and showed more fortitude in the face of the bigotry that we occasionally encounter here in the United States, people who have negative views of Islam and Muslims would begin to see and perhaps understand another side of what it is to be a Muslim.  In the process, maybe we too would start to see and realize another, higher minded side of ourselves.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and Imam of 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.

 

 

 

 

The Philadelphia Negroe Muslim, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

 

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.

Islamophobia’s Bottomless Pit

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]

 

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