A Short History of How Tawheed [Islamic Monotheism] Survived in America Since Slavery.

cropped-shahada-finger.jpgThis has nothing to do with being anti-immigrant. We are all brothers and sisters in Islam, and the most honored person to Allah is the one with the most taqwa. This has to do with a right of a historically oppressed and marginalized people to think and act in the best interests of their religion and of tawheed. Every people has the right and the obligation to speak the truth, seek the truth, and to realize what has been harmful for them and what has proved beneficial for them. The colonial-like existence as second-class Muslims in a country that we helped build, has not proven beneficial for us. Not by a long shot. And its time to let it go.

Many Muslims are woefully unaware of the history of African Americans and Islam in the United States. Some people might even prefer if we simply dismiss our history and not talk about it, not think about it, or even worse, let someone else tell it for us their way. However, none of these are viable options. People’s history helps shape their present and their future, by the permission of Allah and by His decree. When black slaves were brought to this country in chains. Everything was stripped from them; their possessions, their language, their culture, their family ties, their history, and their religion. Of all that was taken from them, the only thing that was not completely gutted out of them was tawheed. Tawheed remained, and still remains in many people who are not yet Muslim.

The idea that there is only One God remained intact for millions of black slaves and freedmen, just as it does to this very day. About half the people who convert to Islam already believe that there is only One God. Even when slaves were given and many times forced to convert to Christianity, they did so under threat of the whip or threat of death, but they still believed in tawheed. As African Americans started to hear of and be exposed to Islam in it’s pure state, millions upon millions of them converted to Islam; a process that continues to this very day, except that now, the original Islam is often mutated into other isms, and other people’s additions. So now, there is so much more that is added to the original Islam; the splintering ideologies, the sectarianism, the racism, the colonial mindset, the international politics, the suppression of independent thought, that it is sometimes hard to see the original Islam of the Prophet ﷺ through all of the additions.

Also, another problem today is that African Americans increasingly see their Muslim counter-parts as a subjugated people under the authority of Muslim immigrants. How much that is true is a matter of debate, but there is no mistaking the pervasive perception amongst African Americans that we as Muslims have adopted a religion that condones racism and racial subjugation of one race over the other. This problematic perception is exacerbated and turns into reality when people actually end up converting to islam and find that as blacks they are seen and treated as an inferior Muslims by many immigrant Muslims.

The attraction to Islam by millions of ex-slave generations is not a coincidence, although some would like you to think so. It is part of a greater plan to rescue our religion and to uplift and enlighten the minds of Muslims across the globe. Islam is supposed to be our greatest unifier, and it still can be.  Islam can be our greatest unifier but that will not happen until we are all on equal footing and have equal respect for each other and each other’s ideas and viewpoints.

I remember back in the day growing up as a Muslim in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; back then our neighborhoods were divided by territory and you had gangs; Haines street, Brickyard, the Clang, Summerville, Pulaski Town, 22nd and Diamond, Norris Street, Camac and Diamond, and so on. There was nothing that united African Americans from different parts of the city – at least in Philadelphia –  more than Islam. Nothing even came close. When we started to differ over Islam; especially over imported versions of it, well, things got progressively worse. We argued over Ahmadiyyism, we argued over Shiism, and later we argued over the Fuqra Movement, the Jamaa’atul Tabligh, then salafiyyism. Now it’s different brands of Sufism, and other sub-ideologies of Islam. It’s not so much that we argue over these things; it is that each one of the ones  mentioned require that we pay homage and obedience to a foreign element and also sets limitations that no African American can rise above the master headquartered abroad either in knowledge, in thought and in the ability to lead.

For the African American ex-slave community there is nothing that binds us together more than Islam; more than race, more than nationality, more than cities of origin, more than class, tribe, clan or lingo. Islam trumps everything for us. This is why it is imperative that we not fight the ideological proxy wars imposed on us from abroad. I know this is a hard pill for some to swallow, but it is the truth nevertheless.

In sha Allah one day more of us will see the game that’s been played on us. It’s deep that we let these jokers flim-flam us into fighting their ideological proxy wars on our home soil like we’re unpaid Muslim mercenaries. I say that we straight up drop just about every one of these foreign spheres of ideological influence and stick to the Quran and the Sunna. We should do that for at least a generation and a half and see how that works out for us. We can always go back to imitating the fractionalized Muslim world if Quran and the Sunna alone do not work for us. We can always bring back the made up titles and the auxiliary up brands of Islam.  All I’m saying is that Islam is not Black, it is not White, it is not Arab, not Asian, and not Oriental. Islam is the religion of Allah and it transcends everything. That’s the point.

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. Recently he headed up a new organization (Islamic Center of Del Paso Heights) to address the needs of Muslims, specifically new Muslim converts in the United States. 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 book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at imamluqman@icdph.org.

The Psychology of American Muslim Sectarianism, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

 

SectarianismYeah, I know it’s a long title. Nevertheless, this is a really complex and deeply problematic topic. When people become Muslim, they’re not thinking; I’m becoming a Tijaani, I’m becoming a Shaafi’ee, I’m becoming a Jihadi, a Tablighi or a Salafi. They’re thinking; ‘I’m becoming a Muslim’. It’s only after they take their shahaadah that people indoctrinate them into this or that sect or group, at a time when no less when they are most vulnerable. I’m not knocking your group here but darn, can’t we just let people get used to being a Muslim first before we sectarianize them? If you think about it, that’s a really cruel trick to play on someone; have them enter Islam thinking unity, and then induct them into sectarianism. This article could have been titled ‘American Muslims and the Oftentimes Perplexing Sectarian Identity Politics’ but that’s heck of a long and confusing title so I settled for a shorter and slightly less confusing title.

Still, this is really a complex topic because for many people, entering Islam is awesome; it’s one of the greatest things that ever happened to them in their lives, but what comes next can be a let down. Especially after they’re ushered through the labyrinth of supplemental isms which have become attached Islam.  Hey don’t misunderstand me; I get it that one man’s ism is another man’s source of enlightenment. However, considering that according to a Pew Research study published earlier this year, the American Muslim convert community is at a zero growth rate, meaning that for every ten people who converts to Islam, ten other people end up leaving Islam, I wonder whether all these isms confronting the new Muslim might have something to do with it. Hey, we are human beings and we need to have groups for a whole bunch of reasons, we just don’t need a whole bunch of groups thinking that they have the monopoly on the truth. The haqq, if you will.

First of all, if you choose just to be a regular Muslim, you might not get much love in the first place because just about every sect, sub-sect, tariqa, group, or movement is looking to increase membership. If  you end up as part of a sect or a particular group, you have to become indoctrinated not only in basic Islam from the Quran and the Sunna, but now you have to become indoctrinated and taught again, the tenants, beliefs and practices that are particular to your sect or group. This is not to say that every group is inherently bad, evil or wrong. I already mentioned that as human beings we need groups, Not every group is wrong and the Muslim ummah agrees to the legitimacy of the four orthodox schools of islamic legal doctrine as well as the Ja’fari and the Zaidi schools from amongst the Shiite, and there are all kinds of groups who follow the Quran and the Sunna. So let’s just say that right now, I’m not referring to any particular group; I’m just talking about sects and sectarianism. Just a little chat. Additionally, it is well known at least in what I believe that as Muslims, we are to follow the methodology of knowledge as set forth by the scholars of the first three generations of Muslim or the Salaf as-Saalih.

Still, you have to admit that sectarianism is an encumbrance on the new Muslim, and in my humble opinion, it’s hit us pretty hard, especially for the American Negroe. We come from a people that’s been pre-programmed for self-destruction, and a culture where our young men (and women) routinely fight and kill each other on the streets for next to nothing. We have people who fight over turf that they don’t even own and then we give them Muslim sectarianism to fight over. That’s the last thing we need; something else to fight over. I’m not seeing where that really worked for us, or where sectarianism has built anything for indigenous African American or convert Muslims. Sectarianism can produce a Crip versus Bloods mentality. People ready to argue and fight with someone over their sect, their sheikh, even over their madhhab or tariqa. When you join a sect, and of course most every sect has its protagonists and antagonists, you have to learn all the tenants of your sect that makes your sect different or better than the other sects, and different from the Islam that existed before your sect or group came into being. If seem people kicked out of their sect because they didn’t want to follow the rules. The Prophet ﷺ and the Salaf, preceded all of these sects. Then, every sect has their particular reasons why their sect is better than the other, otherwise there is no reason for people to be in the sect in the first place. Then once you become in full doctrinal mode then you have to be appraised of the sects (if any) that your sect or group is opposed to, as well as the ones that are opposed to your sect.

Most every self-respecting sect these days has its enemies and detractors to gather people against. The nature of sectarianism is that it is easier to gather people in opposition of something than it is to get them together in favor of something unless its some bid’ah. Sectarianists love them some bid’ah. Not just them. Any one of us can get caught up in some bid’s these days if we’re not careful. If the bid’ah is exciting enough and you’re going to get good news coverage, people will flock to some bid’ah. If someone belongs to a sect, then best believe if you look hard enough then you will likely find some religious innovation. Sometimes just a minor smidgeon of bid’ah, but sometimes you find the weird stuff. I mean real weird stuff. I remember a recent group that some brothers belonged to where they do turn off the lights to do thikr. Now that some weird stuff to me. Why turn off the lights? Unless maybe you’re trying to save money on the light bill, but why do it at thikr time? I wasn’t there and I’m not part of that group and it could be totally innocent, just trying to save money on electricity. I just have a thing when men and women gather together and then turn out the lights because it reminds me of back in the day house parties.

Once you enter into sectarianism you can easily find yourself in the unappealing position of attacking anyone who criticizes your sect, your sheikh, your madhhab, or your particular group. Or even worse, taking it personal. As you become deeper and deeper indoctrinated as happens to many people, they find themselves defending their sect even when the criticism is warranted and upholding the views of their sect and their shuyookh even when those views contradict the Book and the Sunna. This is how sectarianism gets out of control and for Muslim converts, it gets out of control quite often. Bottom line, if you think that your sect is the way to go, then al-humdu lillaah. If you think your madhhab is the way to go then al-humdu illah. I follow the Shaafi’ee madhhab in most every issue of fiqh but I’ve been known to take a Maaliki position here and there. I know that some people say that’s not allowed and they are free to try to bring it up when we all stand before Allah on the day of Judgment.  I’m still of the view that if it agrees with the Book and the Sunna, I’m all for it, and if it doesn’t well… not so much.

Sectarianism may have its benefits and of course like I said, all groups, tariqas, islamic political parties, and movements aren’t bad and they all aren’t 100% pure good either. So don’t go off half cocked because you think I insulted your group or your sheikh. My advice is that if you’re going to be Muslim then learn the basics. Learn your prayers, do your prayers, pay your zakat, fast your Ramadan, and if you get a few dollars, or excuse me, a few thousand dollars to spare, go ahead and make Hajj. Do the five pillars. If you want to go deep into one sect or another, okay ma sha Allah, but still try to stick to the basics and keep your options open. If we can pay dues to all of these groups and spheres of foreign influence in our communities and still manage to all work together to address our problems with family, Islamic communal infrastructure, our many fatherless homes, and the other problems in our shared communities then fine. If not, we should think a little more about the impact of Muslim sectarianism on what’s left of our fragile communities. In the meantime, obey Allah and His Messenger ﷺ and your leaders that you are connected to in matters that are right, but remember,  you have to trek your own path to Allah. No one else can do that your you. Not your sheikh, not your group, not your Imam, just you. Above all else, keep your loyalty and your sincerity to Allah and to Allah Alone. Wal Allahul Musta’aan.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also 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, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

How Political Correctness can Derail Meaningful Intra-Muslim Dialogue. By Imam Luqman Ahmad

offesnsively true

Political correctness in Muslim America is waning on Muslim American intelligence. Political correct verbiage is still crippling meaningful dialogue within the American Muslim community. We are not as hush hush as before, but there is still resistance in getting to the nuts and bolts of our problems.

Can American Muslims freely and candidly discuss issues without crossing the boundaries of political correctness? The simple answer to that is; no, no we can’t. Now pay attention. Political correctness is incompatible with moral correctness. Although it’s probably politically incorrect to say that, it is the hard truth and we need to recognize it.

If we as Muslims living in America want to engage in honest discourse amongst ourselves as American Muslims, then we cannot continue to gloss over the obvious and take the bogeyman approach to problems as if they do not exist, or cast aside our deep-seated dysfunctional malaise as if it were figments of our imagination. We’re making headway though but we have to be spiritually and emotionally mature enough to have the open and candid dialogue that we need, and we need to be brave too because it won’t be a walk in the park. No, we need not get personal by calling each other names and blasting leaders personally. There is no one person responsible for our condition, and as it stands today, there are no individuals that I can think of who are standing out front taking responsibility as a National Muslim leader of the Muslims in America. The responsibility for opening up dialogue is a shared responsibility

Additionally, morally correct candid dialogue means that we have to open up about racism and the issue of the two Muslim Americas. We’d have to talk about Muslim-owned liquor stores and how that impacts the call to Islam and the neighborhoods which house inner city masjids where liquor stores abound. It will be a difficult, grown-up conversation. However, to make the big-boy move and go beyond the surface in addressing our problems as a Muslim people, we are going to have to dismiss with some of this political correctness. There is no way we can get around it.

One of the reasons that Muslims who knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate marginalization have very little to say is that their argument cannot hold to a legitimate discussion. Our scriptures unequivocally reject marginalization or oppression of one Muslim people by another. This is one reason why the issue of Muslim owned liquor stores is a muted discussion in Muslim America despite its devastatingly harmful effects on our inner city neighborhoods. The neighborhoods where many of us live, try to raise our families, and where we do da’wah. Such a terrible blemish on the legacy of Islam in America.

Political correctness will mask the truth like like a Hollywood make-up artist masks a pimple. The Prophet (SAWS) spoke wisely, but he did not adhere to the politically correct status quo of the society in which he was raised. Tawheed (monotheism), by nature, resists political correctness because it assigns supreme will and final authority to the word of Allah and assigns all other words beside it to a secondary station. The only people with complete and unconditional authority to speak on the Lords behalf are His Prophets and in the case of Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).

These realities alone make political correctness incompatible with moral correctness in any absolute sense. Now does what I just said mean that we should not use wisdom in our words, or not follow rules of civility, and use good speech in how we express ourselves? Absolutely not. Allah says” “invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and good rhetoric”[1]. In order to move ahead spiritually, we have to speak religious truths according to scripture whether they are politically correct or not. Truth according to orthodox Muslim belief is not, and cannot be subject to the constraints of human beings, nor society.

If the Prophet (SAWS) were alive today, people, even some Muslims would probably label him controversial, even radical. During the time that the lived (SAWS), he was called worse than that, but the Prophet (SAWS) was never described, or thought of as, politically correct. The word Islam, which for fourteen-hundred years has meant submission to Allah, now simply means peace in the minds of many Muslims, and as articulated in modern-day Muslim nomenclature. When people understood Islam to mean submission, they associated the word with action and doctrine beholden to a higher authority; Allah.

When people, Muslims included, understand Islam simply as peace, it devaluates Islam from a world faith resulting from revelation and renders it into a simple human trait that requires no action but is instead characterized as passivity and inaction. It takes doing something to be a Muslim, but it takes doing nothing to be peaceful. This not so subtle lexical lunge into la la land regarding the word Islam is just one casualty of modern-day political correctness. The religion of Islam is built upon divine truths, not politically engineered truisms.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, patriot, and author of the book; “Double Edged Slavery“, a book about how Black American Muslims and converts are marginalized in Muslim America. Imam Luqman Ahmad is is also 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 book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com. Currently he serves as an Associate Imam at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo, Ohio. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com

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