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There is ample evidence that American Muslim convert communities in the United States, the majority of whom are Black American converts to Islam, are headed for possible extinction. Well, perhaps not total extinction but certainly headed for nearly total marginalization and at risk to nearly disappear into thin air. This is a tough, taboo topic, unsettling at best. If any of it is true, which I believe it is, then we’ve got a crisis on our hands of civilizational proportion. There is no intelligent way to ignore this conversation.
Many folks prefer that American Muslim converts are oblivious to their own realities, especially when it comes to the decline of convert communities. Some people, even some converts, would rather that the convert community look at the world through the eyes of others, and not through their own reality. My own discussions with Imams and thousands of Muslims across the United States confirms that Black American Muslims are on a a precipitous and steady civilizational decline without a doubt. That is the reality on the ground. You can swim in denial all you want. However, there is very little to no evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, there seems to be data that shows that the American Muslim convert community, a community already fractionalized, marginalized, and historically disadvantaged because of race, are at great risk of extinction, and here’s why.
Black American Muslims, who constitute the overwhelming majority of converts to Islam in America, rank dead last on every socio-economic barometer that measures well being in the United States of America. This does not change when they convert to Islam. Add to that the terrible burden of marginalization and near civilizational irrelevancy by the rest of the Muslim world, near zero growth as a religious demographic and it all adds up to an undeniable path towards extinction. That’s the way it looks on the ground based on the information we have. More isn’t studied about it because quite simply, Converts to Islam, specifically Black American converts to Islam, to most, even to themselves, simply aren’t worth the time or the investment, and it’s hard to say otherwise with a straight face. By all accounts as far as I can see, our own survival doesn’t matter to us unless someone else is willing to pay the cost, do the work, and hold our hand, and there’s no one else left, who is willing to do that.
The Pew Research Center, a well-known respected organization that has accumulated highly credible amounts of research and data about Muslims in America, estimates that there were “about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015”. Which amounts to about 1% of the U.S. population (322 million) at the time of the study. They estimate also, that by the year 2050, Muslims will constitute 2% of the American population, doubling their current percentage of 1%. which is why some people say that Islam is the fastest growing religion in America.
So all indications seem to indicate that there is a clear trajectory of growth of Islam and Muslims in the United States; numbers of Muslims, growth in new masjid construction, new Islamic schools, and institutions. Except in the Black American Muslim and convert community where new Masjid construction is at a virtual standstill. In fact, the number of African American Muslim communities and masaajid that cater to converts is on a decline.
Convert Muslims used exuberantly to believe, and many still do, that the glowing numbers of the Muslim increase in the United States meant that people were converting to Islam in droves, and that although the immigrant community was growing, the convert community was growing in similar proportion. That might have been the case 40 years ago. However, today, Islam is growing in America today largely through immigration of Muslims from Muslim lands, and in people having children, not through conversion. Over half of the projected growth of Muslims in America from the years 2010 to 2015 were from immigration. New data released by the Pew Center in July 2017 states that excluding African American Muslims who are in prisons or otherwise institutionalized, American born blacks make up just 13% of the American Muslim adult population, which is less than half the 20 years ago number of 33% which places the current number of African American Muslims (excluding children) at around 266,000. That’s down from just a few years ago. Still we would be hard pressed to locate that many AA Muslims because of the increasing scarcity of African American or convert masaajid in the United States.
There is other data as well which suggests that the American Muslim convert community is not growing in net numbers. Dr. Besheer Mohamed, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, and a Muslim himself, concluded in a January 2016 report that; “people leave Islam at the same rate that people convert to Islam”. He also concluded that; “There has been little net change in the size of the American Muslim population in recent years due to conversion.” (Mohamed, 2016) This would seem to indicate that the American Muslim convert community is pretty close to zero net growth right now if you look at the raw numbers. My numerous conversations with imams, activists in the convert community, individuals on the ground who work in da’wah, and people paying attention to these trends, seem to confirm Dr. Basheer’s and the Pew Research Center’s conclusions.
If these conclusions and observations are even close to correct, and I believe that they are, then we have to consider that the convert community is headed for possible extinction. If such is true, that means that the demographic landscape of Muslim America over the next 30 years will change drastically. It already is changing faster than many people, especially coverts to Islam, realize. One of the reasons why you do not see African American, White American, or Latino American Muslims presented too much in the national narrative is because the numbers of people simply aren’t there. Thirty years from now, if there is no change in the trends, the American Muslim convert community, and their children will be probably be around 5% of the total population of Muslims in America.
Think it can’t happen? Then let’s consider something else; according to a 2011 CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) report, between 2000, and 2010, the number of masaajid (mosques) in the United States increased from 1,209, to 2106. An increase of 74%. The overwhelming majority of new masaajid built from the ground up (estimated 90%) have been built, run and sustained by and primarily for Muslim immigrants. The American Muslim immigrant community is moving forward in leaps and bounds on many fronts wal al—humdu lillaah. In addition to that, according to another 2015 CAIR report; “The USA’s estimated 2.4 million Muslims – are mostly middle class and willing to adopt the American way of life”.
This characterization of American Muslims as mostly middle class however, is not true of the American Muslim convert community. The American Muslim convert community, the majority of whom are African American, are dead last in virtually every barometric indicator that measures well-being in this country; employment, access to health care, two parent families, college education, business ownership, incarceration rates, and access to capital. This is the reality, and this is why the convert community is being left behind on many fronts.
At this point, the political will for (immigrant Muslims) to address or be concerned about socio-economic, spiritual, developmental, or da’wah issues related to the American Muslim convert community is almost non-existent. The obvious moral imperative is to look at Islam in America as an all for one, one for all situation and to look at ourselves as a single brotherhood working together across the board. However, the operational and historical reality suggests otherwise.
The reality is that there are two distinct Muslim Americans separated by Muslim converts, of all races on one side, and the immigrant community on the other side. Sure, there are plenty examples of integration, mixing, and some amounts of local cooperation, but for the most part, we’re talking about two distinctly different communities, with two distinctly different trajectories. In the midst of it all, Immigrant communities by and large are growing and convert communities are declining pretty much across the board.
Immigrant Muslim communities are doing what they view are in the best interests for their constituents and for the people who help build, fund and support their masaajid and communities. Convert Muslims and communities that serve their needs, have been stuck in decline for a long time, not even realizing or openly discussing that they have issues that are specific to them, or acknowledging the demographic decline. All that is starting to change as a new awareness is setting in, but it’s happening in a somewhat awkward way. Just seven to ten years ago, it wasn’t acceptable for converts to even mention that their condition overall as Americans, differ from that of the general immigrant community.
Not too long ago you couldn’t talk about the racial divide, about the influence of foreign Muslim groups, sectarianism and confusing sub ideology on the convert community, or the sense of abandonment that many converts to Islam feel when they come into the faith. 10 years ago, people did not talk about the fact that there is a high turnover rate of converts to Islam and those who end up leaving the religion. So now all of that is coming out at once, so it’s a halting conversation that is a little disjointed and seems to go all over the place.
Let’s be honest. There are in fact, two distinctly different Muslim Americas; one made up of immigrants who are better educated, more affluent, more organized and more poised for upward mobility as citizens and as a Muslim community, and the other are the converts and largely African American Muslim counterparts, who are poorer, less educated, higher percentages of ex-convicts, single parent homes, less family support as far as their Islam is concerned, and very naïve to the realities of Islam in America and the quest for power and control.
There are plenty of moral reasons, but virtually no practical, or political reasons for immigrant communities to look back and lend a hand to the convert community. If you think that politics do not figure prominently in the inner workings of Muslim America, then you are woefully out of touch. Still, even if there was a a national spiritual catharsis and a serous concerted effort to attend to the needs of the American Muslim converts, it would run into numerous challenges as long as the American Muslim convert community does not do and think for themselves and determine their own self intersts as Muslims. The groundwork has been laid for the success of immigrant Muslim communities and the groundwork has been laid for the failure of convert communities. I spell out some of the main challenges of the convert community in my book ‘Double Edged Slavery’, as well as other articles on my blog.
American Muslim Immigrant communities have done pretty well in overall in building up a viable religious and social infrastructure of masaajid, schools, institutions, legal, engineering, scientific and medical professionals, as well as research, service, and professional organizations, business men and women and strong intergenerational families. The generation that is coming are very educated, engaging, focused, and more and more are distancing themselves from some of the rigidity and backwardness of the old country. These are viable building blocks for any religious community in America, Muslim or otherwise.
Black Muslim and convert communities on the other hand, have not fared as well. There is a huge generational disconnect between one generation and the other. There are scant institutional vehicles in the convert community (including masaajid), to pass anything along to our younger generation. Interestingly enough, the American Muslim convert community has spent much of the past thirty years under the inspiration of a dozen or so foreign spheres of religious influence. Whether it’s been salafiyyism, the different brands of Sufism, jihadism, the caliphate ideology, groups like Hizb ul Tah’reer, the Jamaa’aat ul Tabligh, the Ikhwaan ul Muslimeen, a phalanx of African Sheikhs, and others. Add to that, the roaming cheerleader section of Muslim converts who move from one issue to the next, providing the cheerleading or groupie section on a variety of global islamic issues that have little to do with their condition at home. Yet, there are negligible examples where convert loyalty to these outside groups, or dedication to outside and global issues have benefitted indigenous convert communities. There has been very little reciprocity.
Another unfortunate phenomenon that has occured is that the American Muslim convert community has spent a great deal of the last three decades arguing over religious minutia, debating over micro-doctrine, and looking overseas, sometimes to failed societies, for answers to their problems here at home. The Prophet ﷺ said, “No people ever went astray, after they were guided, except that they were overcome by arguing”. [at-Tirmidhi]
Arguing and disputing with one another has taken up an incredible amount of time and energy and has not bode well overall for the convert community. So while we were busy arguing amongst one another about shoes and socks, and madhhabs and minhaj, and sparring with one another using the views of our sheikhs as if we’re playing Rokem Sockem robots, something extraordinarily consequential has occurred. Time has elapsed, and a lot of time was wasted
Additionally, we’ve created a very confusing, hostile and contentious climate in many masaajid, and too many masaajid have been overrun with foreign sectarianized ideology that dismisses cultural and physical realities on indigenous peoples, particularly, the descendants of slaves. That trend is changing but the effects are already in place and has had generational consequence. People are waking up, but they are waking up to a deeply entrenched chaos. Like someone bragging about and admiring their house for years and they suddenly realize that the contractor misled them, and that the house is infested with termites, the electrical system were the wrong specs, and that the septic system has been backed up for months.
This is not to diminish at all the good that is taking place in convert communities, and I do see light on the horizon in sha Allah. However, it is an uphill battle. It has to start with raising consciousness which is what many of us are working to do. Once Black American Muslims and converts realize that that they are free to work in their own self-interests according to Islam, without looking at things through the lenses of immigrant Muslims who mean well, but in many cases do not have a clue about our needs, then perhaps there can be forward motion. That’s just for starters and that’s starting to happen slowly.
This is not meant in any way as a slight towards immigrant Muslims; we are all, at least in principle, brothers and sisters in islam. It is simply the reality of our condition that we be realistic and truthfully forthcoming, and it is not a matter of placing blame on this or that group. There is light at the end of the tunnel because Allah is Light, but this is an uphill struggle and many of our people do not yet know or believe that they are free and there are many others who fear that indigenous Muslims would wake up.
One more thing we have to keep in mind is that the convert community is lacking in institutional presence. Just add up the numbers of Jum’ah attendees or the number of people who are connected to actual physical masaajid or communities. You need the critical mass in order to have protracted forward motion. That’s the physics of Muslim communal growth. In fact the basis of Muslim community centers around things like congregation, an Imam, a shura, establishing prayer in congregation, and responsible individuals who are in charge of dealing with the different religious as well as temporal affairs of the Muslims. Nearly every immigrant community that I know of, has these elements. Without them we are simply a scattered community that only comes together on the Eids maybe. Then there are talented, willing, energetic and intelligent people in our midst who have no where to plug in. the doors of inclusion are locked to them in many fledgling convert communities. Thousands of individual Islands can not sustain communal growth. That’s the math. Islam is a way of life but it’s also a system and if we ignore the systems aspect of our religion, then we’re just reduced to wishful thinking. Then there’s the issue of religious knowledge (a whole separate topic) which many of us completely ignore.
It’s not so much worrying about who Allah will hold accountable for it because Allah will hold all of us, everyone for everything according to how He sees fit. It’s more a matter of recognizing the trending decline of our communities and coming up with strategies, for stemming the decline and for rebuilding. Too many want to sit around and chant slogans, and rallying cries, or wallow in denial while the community is crumbling. Now is not the time for that. It is tragic when people enter into this faith and fail to pass it down to their children, or sometimes not even fully embrace it themselves. even worse when people live their Islam through someone else’s reality without never having experienced its core beauty.
In order to fully engage your Islam so that it becomes more than a bevy of regurgitated slogans, and faddish adaptations that you pick up and then discard later, you have to believe in it in its totality, and practice it as a lifestyle. However, the secret to it all which is reality is not a secret at all is that you must be engaged with Allah; that you must worship Him Alone without partners. The best way to understand our history is to hear from those who were present, or those who heard from those who were present. Three things we should focus on if we are to stem the tide towards civilizational decline in my opinion. 1. Generational continuity. 2. Preservation of our history. 3. Congregation. Without these three, any way forward is murky at best. Wal Allahul Musta’aan.
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, researcher and consultant. He is presently an associate Imam and khateeb at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo, Ohio. 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), Imam at Mosque Without Borders, 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 salafi ideology. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at email@example.com.
This 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
[The purpose of this article is not to disparage the legitimate wali [ولي], plural; awliyaa [اولياء] of Allah whomever they may be. This writing is a defense of the awliyaa of Allah [friends of Allah, or saints] and to clarify what a wali is and what wilaaya [ولاية] of Allah means based upon textual evidence [the Quran and the Sunna], the statements of our scholars, and the recognized standards of tawheed [monotheism] upon which the religion of Islam is based].
The first question is; is there a such a thing as a wali of Allah or a Saint? Do we have saints in Islam? The answer is yes, there is such a thing as awliyaa [friends] of Allah, based upon the verse; “Now surely the friends [awliyaa] of Allah– they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. Those who believe, and are god-fearing”. So who and what are the awliyaa [plural of wali] of Allah, who are the saints, and why is it important for people to know about them? Firstly, it is not incumbent for a Muslim to know all the recognized awliyaa of Allah or saints. It is not a requirement of religion. Your knowing them, knowing their names, and their history will not by itself bring you closer to Allah, raise you in degrees, or secure for you a place in paradise.
Faith and knowledge are what raises people in degrees; “Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do”. Knowing the awliyaa of Allah can be a means to expand your understanding of islamic history and broadening your options in how you pursue knowledge of the religion, and knowledge of suluk [inner character]. Knowing and understanding who are the awliyaa of Allah is a tool of the many tools available to a Muslim in pursuing his or her path to Allah, which is a path that each of us must take. “Verily, this is an admonition, therefore whosoever will, let him take a Path to His Lord!”
We all have our shuyookh, our teachers, our imams, or our elders who we take from or have taken knowledge and examples from. If you are a murid [seeker]on the Sufi path, then it is very likely that there will be those regarded as awliyaa in your chain. The reason that some people follow a particular school of fiqh or take a particular tariqa or Sufi path is to help them in their journey to Allah and an understanding of Islam. The problem occurs for some when they take their madhhab, or their Sufi path as an end goal in itself, and not simply as a means to an end. The confusion sets in when a person believes that his sheikh, or his chosen wali or saint has knowledge and spiritual gifts that exceed that of the Prophet ﷺ, or they come to believe that Islam alone is not enough for them. One of the things that I have heard said to me by some of the followers of these paths isay and that you hear more and more from impressionable new Muslims who decide on a Sufi path, is that Islam is not enough for them; they need something more than Islam. This underscores the potential danger and of being lead astray, by the promise that there is something greater than Islam to aspire to.
What is incumbent upon the Muslim, is to believe in Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, to obey Allah and His Messenger, to establish the prayer, pay his or her zakat, observe the month of Ramadan, and make pilgrimage to Mecca if and when they are able. Knowing and learning from the learned and righteous awliyaa of Allah, that which will help in seeking Allah, is what benefits a Muslim, not simply knowing of them. Still we should keep in mind that the best example for the believing Muslim is the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. “Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much”. The highest, most authentic form of religious knowledge is the Book of Allah, and the authentic ahaadeeth [traditions] of the Prophet ﷺ.
Although knowing awliyaa is not incumbent upon the Muslim, the belief that there are such persons who are the awliyaa of Allah is a requirement of deen simply because the Quran affirms it. Furthermore, seeking and acquiring knowledge of religion is incumbent on us based upon the hadith; “Seeking knowledge [of religion] is mandatory upon every Muslim”. With respect to that, there is no doubt that amongst the awliyaa of Allah were scholars of Islam and individuals in whom Allah has preserved the knowledge of religion, and placed examples of how to obey Allah and His Messenger, how to understand and practice the principles and injunctions of the Quran in detail, how to follow the Sunna, and how to persevere when tested in our faith. Thus knowing and attaching to the awliyaa can be a great source of benefit. Just like knowing and attaching oneself to the Salaf of our ummah has benefit, or knowing and attaching yourself to your teacher has benefit, or knowing and attaching yourself to your parents could be a benefit.
Those who came before and have preceded us in faith and the believing people preceding us is faith, is part of the generational continuity of Islam. As Muslims, we are required to take a certain disposition regarding those who preceded us in faith; “O our Lord, forgive us and and forgive those who preceded us faith, and make not any rancor in our hearts towards those who believe”. Therefore, we take a disposition of love, respect, and fraternity and the absence of rancor with those who have came before us in this religion. We take the approach of having husnul thann [good assumption] or [حسن الظن] as far as they are concerned. This good assumption is due for all Muslims, not just those regarded as awliyaa. Which is why the Prophet ﷺ said; “Do not revile the dead for they have already went to face what they put forth”. However, with respect with those who change the religion, those who insert detestable innovation, set themselves up as idols to be worshipped, obeyed, or venerated above Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, we tend not to be as generous with them.
The connection that most people have with a wali of Allah is the result of their taking a spiritual [Sufi] path. Outside of the community of Sufism, not a whole lot is said concerning the awliyaa of Allah. Within each Sufi tariqa, there are personalities who are considered to be awliyaa of Allah. Usually the one who founded that particular Sufi order was himself considered a wali of Allah as in the case of Sheikh Ahmad al-Badawi [d. 1276 C.E.] who was the founder of the Badaawi order, or Ibrahim ad-Dasuqi [d. 1296] the founder of the Dasuqi order, or Abu Hasan al-Shaadhili, the founder of the Shaadhiliyya order, and the famous wali of Allah Junayd al-Baghdaadi [d. 910 C.E.] Some of the awliyaa were very strict in following the sharia, others, not so much.
All of the aforementioned were considered to be awliyaa of Allah. All of them were scholars of Islam who possessed great insight about the religion, about Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala and the path to become close to Allah. They all were high examples of piety, steadfastness and taqwa, but how, and why were some considered awliyaa of Allah and others were not? The answer is more than anything else, the appearance of karamaat [miracles]. The appearance of karamaat in most cases is a condition for conference of the title wali of Allah. When such persons would die, their students and the people who knew them would remember their lives, their piety, their teachings, their benefit to others, their sacrifices for the religion, and most notably, their miracles, or miracles attributed to them, and confer upon them the title wali of Allah or saint.
The miracles, called karamaat would be what put them over the top in obtaining recognition as a wali of Allah. Sometimes the people of knowledge in that time or region would come to that unanimous conclusion. More recently there was Sheikh Aamadu Bamba [d. 1927], who is becoming particularly popular these days and considered by many to be a wali of Allah. My father Sheikh Abdulkarim, first told me about him about 30 years ago. He was the founder of the spiritual city of Tuba in Senegal. He himself was a disciple of the Qaadiriyya order founded by the great scholar and mystic, sheikh Abdul-Qaadir al-Jailaani [d. 1166 C.E.], and many miracles are attributed to him. Such as, while in chains on a boat, he broke his chains and prayed upon the water without sinking. Many other miracles are attributed to ones whom I have mentioned and to other awliyaa of Allah from amongst the companions of the Prophet ﷺ down to our present age.
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali places awliyaa into two categories. The first are those who become awliyaa of Allah by dutiful performance of the faraa’id [incumbent acts]. This includes the five prayers, zakat, observance of Ramadan, the Hajj, kindness to neighbors, fulfilling our social responsibilities to our family, our brethren, the poor, the wayfarer, and everything else that would constitute that which Allah has made incumbent upon His servants. In fact, there are no better paths to Allah except by what Allah has commanded and deemed praiseworthy. Umar ibn al-Khattaab said; “the best of deeds is to perform what Allah has made incumbent, respecting away from what Allah has made prohibited, sincere intention about what Allah be He Exalted, has in store”. In this sense, anyone who does what Allah commands, avoids what Allah says to avoids, and fulfills the rights of others as Allah has prescribed and the rights over himself and the rest of creation as prescribed by our religion is a wali of Allah.
This is why ibn Taymiyah said that; “Anyone who believes in Allah and has taqwa is a wali of Allah”. Based upon the evidence, this is correct. “Allah is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light;”. This is also why we should not overstate the status [maqaam] of the awliyaa of Allah over what is mentioned in the Quran and authenticated in the Sunna of the Prophet ﷺ. Amongst this first category are perhaps millions upon millions of believers who have come and gone, and have fulfilled their obligations to Allah and gained the status of wilaaya with Allah.
Most of these awliyaa of Allah we will never know about, and not even know their names. Abu al-Farj Ibn Jawzi [d. 1201 C.E.], in his well-known book, Sifatul Safwa [صفة الصفوة] tells the story of unknown, unnamed, righteous people and their examples. He calls them maj’huloon [unknowns]. He demonstrates by their mention that amongst the pure-minded and righteous are these who are famous, such as the companions of the Prophet ﷺ, and the Taabi’een, those who are well known, such as our early scholars, those who are hardly known and those who are not known at all, even their names.
The second category of awliyaa are those who by performing the extra, supplemental duties, the nawaafil [نوافل] they become closer to Allah. This is based upon the statement of Allah; “And My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with supererogatory (nawaafil) prayers so that I shall love him. When I love him, I shall be his hearing with which he shall hear, his sight with which he shall see, his hands with which he shall hold, and his feet with which he shall walk. And if he asks (something) of Me, I shall surely give it to him, and if he takes refuge in Me, I shall certainly grant him it”. This is the classical and correct description of a wali of Allah. When people talk about the well-known and famous awliyaa of islamic history, they are usually referring to people of this category, except that they add to that, the attribution of miracles to them.
A person does not become a wali of Allah except by the means that are explained in our sacred texts i.e. the Quran and the Sunna. Each well known wali of Allah has their own history of struggle, or leaning, of faith and of action. No two is exactly alike. If we do not use the Quran and the Sunna to understand what a wali of Allah is, then anyone can declare himself or anyone else to be a wali of Allah and use that distinction to reign over the ignorant like lords. Such as we see today. This amongst other reasons is why we have to look at the Kitaab and the Sunnah regarding what is a wali of Allah, and what it takes to become close to Allah. After all, we are Muslim, and Allah has not revealed any other religion for us except Islam.
That being the case, we are bound by law to look at matters from the view of the Quran and the Sunna and not make up religion or religious practices. The Prophet ﷺ said, “anyone who introduces in this affair (religion) of ours that which is not [originally] from it, then it is rejected”. Scholars of Islam paid special attention to not allowing the awliyaa of Allah to become some sort of elite, protected class of people who reign over other people. Because that’s not what wilaaya is all about. Wilaaya is not a public thing; it is a personal thing. According to the Quran, the qualities of a wali of Allah are two; faith and taqwa [piety]; Those who believe, and are god-fearing. The Prophet ﷺ when asked about who is a wali of Allah said; “They are whom when they are seen, [people] are reminded of Allah”.
Walking on water does not make a person a wali of Allah. Flying or floating in the air does not make a person a wali of Allah. Walking through walls, telling your fortune, self-transport to far away lands, claiming knowledge of the unseen [ghaib], or accurately surmising what someone had for breakfast that morning does not make a person a wali of Allah. If that was the case, then demons, who claim the same abilities and possess some of them, would be awliyaa of Allah. The famous magician David Copperfield walked on water and you could get a local soothsayer or Tarot card reader can tell your fortune. Magic is prohibited in Islam, as well as getting your horoscope read, and none of these things makes a person a wali of Allah. Neither does being a descendant of the Prophet ﷺ make a person a wali of Allah. A wali of Allah is first and foremost exactly what Allah has described in the Quran; “those who believe and have taqwa”. Anything above that should be subject to scrutiny and proofs because there is a fine line between miracles and magic. Some of the Sufi’s that are floating around today practice magic, advocate the use of magic spells and openly proclaim that magic is permissible to achieve one’s objectives. Many brothers, and sisters have found themselves caught up in this.
Performing a miracle or a supernatural action does not make one a wali of Allah. However, awliyaa of Allah are recorded as having performed actions that are regarded as miracles. These miracles are divided into two categories; mu’jizaat [miracles], and karamaat [blessed feats]. Miracles for Prophets are called mu’jizaat, and for the righteous and the awliyaa, they are called karamaat. Sheikh Bin Baz (RA) explained this issue succinctly by saying that what is regarded as a karaama is when Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala renders His assistance to save someone from his enemy, or lifts off a burden from them or extracts them from a bad situation in a way where it is not normal, or in some way defies physical laws. This happens by the grace of Allah and sometimes it happens in full view of witnesses. Such events are called karamaat and yes karamaat of the awliyaa is something real and factual according to the consensus of our scholars.
It is important to understand just who are the awliyaa of Allah and something about their history and teachings because to take an adversarial position to a wali of Allah without just cause is considered a sin based upon the Qudsi hadith where Allah says; “Whoever shows hostility to My wali, then I have declared war upon him”. Since hostility towards the awliyaa is considered a sin, love and religious fraternity with the awliyaa is a virtue. Here is where a lot of people become confused. Loving the awliyaa is a virtue but so is loving a Muslim. Loving the awliyaa does not mean elevating them above what Allah has granted them, and it does not mean deifying them, worshipping them, worshipping through them, or ascribing to them unique powers to grant you superior status with Allah.
A lot of people misunderstand what it means by loving the awliyaa. It’s not a matter of a metered comparative love where people are tested by the degree how much they love a certain wali of Allah over another, or over another Muslim. For example, you can’t test a person and ask him; “who do you love more? Sheikh Abdul-Qaadir al-Jaylaani [d. 1166 C.E.], or the black woman who used to sweep the masjid during the time of the Prophet ﷺ? Or test a person and ask; “who is preferable? Ibn Ataa Allah, or Hasan al-Basri? Or ask them; who do you love more? Ahmad ibn Ajiba [d. 1809], or Moinuddeen Chisti [d. 1230 C.E.]? Such associative comparisons are nonsensical and totally out of sync with what is meant by love for the awliyaa of Allah.
This is how people get tricked up into sheikh jousting and find themselves defending this or that sheikh or wali of Allah or cutting off relationships because you feel that someone is not showing enough reverence for your chosen wali of Allah [because there are tens of thousands of them]. This is madness. Some of the Arabs tried to get the Prophet ﷺ to specify his love and affinity for one tribe over the other but he wouldn’t.
Sufism is a legitimate pursuit and many of the great scholars of Islam following a Sufi past. However, Sufism has great trial in it as well because it is so varied, and some of its branched ideology goes directly into shirk [polytheism]. We live in a time where we are pressured to be politically correct in everything, even in holding on to our faith. To accept anything and everything regardless of what our scripture says about it. I get it, but I don’t subscribe to it. I believe that we should follow the Quran and the Sunna to the best of our ability and that Islam by itself, is enough for us as a religion.
The fact is that we are Muslims. We love what Allah loves and we hate what Allah hates or tells us to hate. We love those who love Allah, who support Allah, who support our religion and religious principles, who are just, who are kind, who are patient, who are benevolent, and who are merciful to others, and we hate those who hate Allah, who slaughter the innocent, those who are unjust, those who murder, and spread fitnah amongst the earth. We don’t get into who they are specifically, that’s not our job. Nor it is our job to be judge and jury over people by person unless we are real judges and real juries in courts of law. We leave the righteous in the hands of Allah; He will give them their due, and we leave the wicked in the hands of Allah, He will give them their due. In the meantime, we love Allah more than anyone else, and our greatest enemy is the devil, and we ask Allah to make us from amongst the rightly guided. This is how it goes beloveds. We are all just passing through this world; we don’t want to get stuck on personality, except the personality of the Last Prophet of Allah, Muhammad ibn Abdullah ﷺ, Rasoolullaah. We’re stuck on him, we love him, our hearts are attached to him ﷺ.
Unfortunately, we hear more and more these days about people who claim that their sheikh or their teacher is a wali of Allah or that they are following, or a disciple of a wali of Allah, which is fine, but now there is competition. As more and more people are gaining and even competing for disciples based upon their alleged close connection [wilaaya] to Allah, people have the right and obligation to know just who and what is the wali of Allah. Some people are selling choice seating on the Day of Judgment by following this or that sheikh, and this is wrong. This is completely wrong. Reported claims of some awliyaa border on the outrageous. Such as the ability to self-transport themselves every Friday to either Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina or Masjid al-Aqsa to perform salaatul Jum’ah, or the claimed permission granted to them to commit fornication, lie, steal and kill based upon their alleged closeness to Allah.
One common exaggeration about the awliyaa of Allah is that they are infallible. For example, Abdul al-Wahhaab al-Sha’raani [1565 C.E.], who incidentally was a Shaafi’ee jurist from Egypt as well as a Sufi said that; “Of the more splendid miracles of the awliyaa is their divinely granted success to be in a constant state of obedience to Allah where they enjoy total protection is’mah [عصمة] from committing acts of disobedience [to Allah] or doing anything contrary [to the religion]. The idea that a wali of Allah is infallible is a widespread notion. Even questioning their infallibility makes some wali lovers go ballistic. Unfortunately, wali’ism [new word, meaning loving and accepting anything from awliyaa without question] is a new fad that is on the rise. Muslims of today have no idea what they are getting into when they embark on blind discipleship of so-called awliyaa of Allah that takes them outside of the boundaries of scripture. Many are attracted to the mystique and novelty of wali’ism but end up committing shirk.
Superfluous sheikh veneration has become an industry in many parts of the world and has now come nearly full throttle to the United States. Some people erect shrines in their homes and plaster their walls with pictures of individuals claiming that he is a wali of Allah. Some people travel hundreds or thousands of miles just to see or touch a so-called wali of Allah or someone associated with him; to kiss his hand, or be in his presence, to benefit from his touch. Some of them argue and fuss with each other on behalf of their sheikh who claims to be a wali of Allah, or the disciple of a wali of Allah. This is not only incompatible to the principles of our religion which promotes individual striving and accountability before Allah, not accountability through the sheikh, it is incompatible with American culture and the culture of the convert to Islam. We were never really that good at sheikh veneration, and I doubt if we ever will be.
Imam Luqman Ahmad
Imam 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 email@example.com.
 Quran, 10:62-63
 Quran, 58:11.
 Quran, 73:19.
 Quran, 33:21.
 Quran, 59:10.
 Collected by Bukhaari.
 Collected by Bukhaari.
 Collected by Bukhaari.
 تقديس الأشخاص في فكر الصوفي، محمد احمد لوح، [Sanctification of Personalities in Sufi Thought] , by Muhammad Ahmad Lawh, p. 417.
 Sanctification of Personalities in Sufi Thought] , by Muhammad Ahmad Lawh, p. 221.
Homiehood Versus Brotherhood
What’s better in the long run for a Muslim? Homiehood or brotherhood? the obvious answer is brotherhood but brotherhood is getting harder and harder to find these days. As we enter deeper and deeper into the Dajjaal age, brotherhood and sisterhood are becoming scarce and have been replaced by homiehood which is a much lessor version of brotherhood. Brotherhood in Islam has unchanging and virtuous principles established by Allah and His Messenger Brotherhood is genuine and brotherhood has rules. There are many verses in the Quran and ahaadeeth of the prophet (SAWS) that talk about brotherhood. Brotherhood is a lofty station in Islam. It’s not for the petty, it’s not for the foolish minded and it’s definitely not for the true seasoned hater. That’s haterism and we’ll talk about that in a moment. There was a time when people were taught what brotherhood in Islam was, and meant but these days homiehood is often mistaken as brotherhood and the two are worlds apart. We need to reurn to the original standard of what brotherhood in Islam really is.
The Prophet (SAWS) said, “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever shield a Muslim, Allah will shield him on the Day of Resurrection”. This is brotherhood. In homiehood, these rules do not apply. Homiehood is haphazard and exists just for the sake of the homies. Islamic brotherhood exists for the sake of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. Homies frequently like to come through the back door. Your homie will tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear. Brothers prefer to come through the front door; they tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. [“It is not a righteous act to enter houses from the back. Righteousness is to be pious and enter the houses from the front door. Have fear of Allah so that perhaps you will have lasting happiness”.] Brotherhood is a lofty station that is so high, even the Prophets envy it; The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “There are people from the servants of God who are neither prophets nor martyrs, (but) the prophets and martyrs will envy them on the Day of Resurrection. . .They are those who love one another for the sake of Allah. . .I swear by Allah, their faces will glow and they will be (sitting) on (pulpits of) light. They will have no fear (on the day) when the people will have fear, and they will not grieve when the people will grieve.”
Homiehood is a spiritually lazy man’s version of brotherhood and it’s whatever the homies decide on. A homie will lie to his homie, lie for his homie and lie about his homie depending on the circumstance. Homiehood is a temporary state that changes from condition to condition. One day he’s your homie and the next day he’s your enemy. Homies have no problem coming together behind closed doors to plot, plan and execute that which is prohibited in the Book of Allah without any of them paying mind to prohibit each other or themselves from it. This is why Allah says; “O ye who believe! When ye conspire together, conspire not together for crime and wrongdoing and disobedience toward the messenger, but conspire together for righteousness and piety, and keep your duty toward Allah, unto whom ye will be gathered”. [58:9].
When brothers get together whether publicly of behind closed doors, it is to support, uphold, and establish what’s right. “The believers, both male and female, are each other’s guardians. They try to make others do good, prevent them from committing sins, perform their prayers, pay the religious tax, and obey God and His Messenger. God will have mercy on them; He is Majestic and All-wise”. [9:71] Homiehood is when you support your homie, good, bad, right or wrong, you stick wit da homie most of the time unless of course your homiehood descends into haterhood. Haterhood is when people act like friends but in reality are jealous or hateful of each other but keep up homie façade for appearances sake because people don’t like to be homieless. Homies like to get together just to kick back and chill but when it comes time to put some constructive work in, homies are nowhere to be found. Brothers like to work together to get things done but they might take some time off here and there to relax. Homiehood without brotherhood is empty dreams but brotherhood can easily survive and thrive without homiehood.
Now haterhood is a different animal altogether. Haterhood is an association built on hating, jealousy, envy, backbiting, and wishing bad on someone. Haterhood is the evil-eye. Haterhood is when the thing that you have most in common is not your love for Allah, love for Islam or love for doing good but instead you are connected by your hate or dislike for someone, or your jealousy of that person. This is also called hasad [envy] and envy is bad news for a believer both for the one who harbors it in his heart and for the one to whom it is directed. When you are glad when you see or hear about something unfortunate happening to your so-called brother, then what you have is not brotherhood, and not even homiehood, but rather haterhood.
Haterhood is the evil eye and is born out of jealousy. Haterhood is one of the diseases of the heart and it is fueled by envy and dissatisfaction with the decree of Allah for another person. It is also your wish that whatever Allah has decreed for someone else, you don’t want that person to have it, but instead want it for yourself. One of the key elements of haterism and one that every hater cannot do without is two-facedness. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “You will find that the worst of Allah’s slave on the Day of Resurrection is the two-faced person. He comes to some people with one face and to others with another face”. Two-facedness and haterism go hand in hand. The hater doesn’t want you to know that he or she hates your guts; on the contrary, the hater will try to convince you and everyone else that they love you and they are your friend and blah, blah, blah, blah. However, in reality the hater wishes your misfortune and relishes in it. In Islam haterism is part of the evil-eye.
The evil eye is real. “And verily, those who disbelieve would almost make you slip with their eyes (through hatred).” [68:51]. The Prophet (SAWS said, “If there were anything that would overtake the qadr, then it would be the evil eye”. The Muslim should guard himself against the shayaateen [demons] from amongst the jinn and humans. By Believing in Allah, putting trust in Him and seeking refuge with Him from Iblis and his allies. Also it behooves the believing Muslim to avoid those who hate them or wish ill upon them. Of the best du’aa and incantations [ruq’ya] to protect yourself from jealousy and the evil-eye is reciting al-Mu’awwadhatayn [the last two suras of the Quran], Sura al-Ikhlaas, Sura al-Fatiha, and ayat al-Kursi [2:255].
Other du’as for protection from jealousy and the evil-eye are:
The Prophet (SAWS) said, “There is no ruqyah except in the case of the evil eye or fever”. Jibril (AS) used to do ruqyah for the Prophet (SAWS) and say, “Bismillahi arqeeka min kulli shayin yudheeka, min sharri kulli nafsin aw ‘aynin hasid Allaahu yashfeek, bismillahi arqeek (In the name of Allah I perform ruqyah for you, from everything that is harming you, from the evil of every soul or envious eye may Allah heal you, in the name of Allah I perform ruqyah for you).” Also, the Prophet (SAWS) instructed people to say; “A’oodhu bi kalimat-illah il-tammati min sharri ma khalaqa (I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah from the evil of that which He has created)”. He (SAWS) also taught, “A’oodhu bi kalimat-illah il-tammati min ghadabihi wa ‘iqabihi, wa min sharri ‘ibadihi wa min hamazat al-shayateeni wa an yahduroon (I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allah from His wrath and punishment, from the evil of His slaves and from the evil promptings of the devils and from their presence)”.
You may also recite the words of Allah be He Exalted: “Hasbi Allahu la ilaha illa huwa, ‘alayhi tawakkaltu wa huwa Rabb ul-‘arsh il-‘azeem, [Allaah is sufficient for me. La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He] in Him I put my trust and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne). [9:129]
May Allah protect us all from envious people, the evil-eye, and any type of harm that threatens us or our families. Ameen. Wa billahi tawfiq. Imam Luqman Ahmad
 Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.
 Collected by al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood
Yeah, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “No people ever went astray, after they were guided, except that they were overcome by arguing”. [at-Tirmithi]
Indigenous American Muslims seem to have developed an unhealthy appetite for arguing amongst one another, and it is certainly not just limited to us living here in the United States. Arguing and disputing with one another takes up an incredible amount of time. We argue about aqeeda, we argue about food, we argue about clothes, we argue about family ties, we argue about who has the most hate for the kuffaar, who is imitating the kuffaar, and we argue what constitutes kufr and who’s faith is at risk. We argue about who is on the haqq, and who is not. We argue about Allah, we argue about His Holy names and attributes, we argue about His mercy, who deserves it and who doesn’t. We argue about who is guided and who is astray, and we don’t stop arguing, night or day. We argue about the length of our pants, the shortness of our beards, and we even argue about the sajda marks on our foreheads.
Historically, everyday Americans do not argue back and forth a whole lot about religion and religious doctrine. We live in a country where people are free to believe in whatever they like, and if a person is comfortable with his or her faith, they don’t feel the need to argue about it or defend it over and over to others. Baptists and Methodists don’t go back and forth arguing about doctrine, calling each other names, and neither do Jews and Christians.
Arguing back and forth about religion is a relatively new phenomenon that entered Muslim America along with the culture of sectarianism which Muslims have yet to resolve. The culture of arguing and sectarianism has made it pass our borders, and found a home amongst indigenous American Muslims. It seems that fourteen century’s worth of debates around theology, Islamic law, worship, faith, heresy, Muslim politics, and who should be in charge — which have taken place during the course of Muslim history — have all been resuscitated and given new polemical life here in the good ole USA.
We argue about groups, we argue about gatherings, and we argue about saying hello to a stranger. We argue about alliances and disavowal and we argue about friends as well as enemies. We argue about sects of Islam that do not even exist anymore. We argue about words, we argue about the meanings of words, and we argue about the meanings of the meanings of words. We argue about class, we argue about race, and we argue about titles that we make up and proclaim to be sanctified. We invent new titles and then argue about those.
So guess what Muslim American converts? While we were busy arguing amongst one another about shoes and socks, and madhhabs and minhajis, and sparring with one another using the views of your sheikhs as if you’re playing Rokem Sockem robots, something extraordinarily consequential has occurred. Actually, a few things have happened, but I don’t want to drop it all on you in one reading. It didn’t happen overnight, so you might not have noticed at all, but while we were engaging in theological proxy wars on the internet, trying out different identities, different paths, tariqas, movements, and championing every Muslim cause that was handed to us, (except our own of course) something has happened. And for many of us, it slipped right by without the slightest notice. Are you sitting down? Okay, I’m going to tell you.
A new group of Muslims leaders, communities and organizations have arrived on the scene who are better educated, have larger, stronger communities, are more organized, have more money (lots of money) and spread out across the nations cities and suburbs. They are the new American Muslims. Many of us complain that the narrative of Muslim America portrayed in the media, on national television, in commentaries, from the pens and mouths of many national Muslim leaders, activists and pundits, does not include the American Muslims who’ve converted to Islam. You know the ones I mean; The ones who are not searching for an identity, are not trying to figure out how to assimilate , who are not afraid of deportation, who do not have a “back home” to go to. Yeah, the converts to Islam and their children, and children’s children, and their children’s children.
The convert narrative is missing because the convert community, many of whom are African American, are not included in the future plan being concocted for Muslim America. In fact, you are hardly mentioned except anecdotally. And you, the American Muslim convert community; of African American, White and Latino Muslims, are more of a novelty, a showpiece and a passing mention, than a serious part of any national conversation about Muslims. The tremendous amount of monetary and other resources coming from inside and outside of the United States in support of the new Muslim America, is not being funneled into your communities.
Now don’t be alarmed, you should have seen this coming but you were preoccupied worrying about everyone else except yourselves. Some of you even believed them when they said you cannot be yourself, think for yourself, do for yourself, or even love yourself. Some of you believed it when it was said that its not necessary to build your own masaajid, establish your own local communities, and to be honest, there was some Kool-Aid served and yes, some of us did take the drink. So while many of you were trying to figure this out, the new American Muslims, through their powerful organizations, began to speak for you (even though they don’t know you), tell you what issues should have priority, and even out the kindness of their hearts offered you a new identity. Now isn’t that nice.
It is appreciated that you were kind enough to put your own issues and more immediate needs on hold, such as family issues, building Islamic schools for your children, building masaajid in your neighborhood where you live, addressing poverty issues were you live, crime in your communities where you live, and partnering with people and organizations where you live, just to support the causes of the international Muslim community. That was darn good of you. Your service and commitment to the causes and agendas of Muslim peoples all around the world is duly noted. You championed Palestine, you championed Egypt and the Arab spring — which ended up being the Arab nightmare — you championed Darfur, you championed Libya, and when they told you to curse Gadhafi, you cursed him. When they told you to worry about ISIS, you started to worry, even though we have the strongest military in the world to handle ISIS. All in all, your dedication and your commitment to the greater good of the world’s Muslims is admirable. It would have been needed if the world’s Muslims were just as concerned about you. Sadly they aren’t, except for a few. Today’s American converts to Islam will be remembered and recorded in the annals of history. At one point in history there was a need for you by the greater body of Muslims, and there is still a need for you in photo ops, cameo appearances, and of course a must item for every mega masjid to have at least 1 or 2 token African American or Caucasian Muslims. However, at this point the convert community has outlived our usefulness to the larger community of the new American Muslims.
Now you must deal with the reality that you are on your own as converts to Islam. Your communities are declining, many of your masaajid have closed its doors, and in the last 20 years as hundreds of new masaajid have been built around the country, there have been less than five new masaajid built in your communities. Some of you al-humdu lillah have stuck to the Masaajid and communities, and have stuck it out through thick and thin. Others amongst you who have converted to Islam found yourselves in a state of shock. You were immediately told that you have to give up your identity, give up your reasoning, give up your spirituality, your common sense, and even your Americanism, and for that we owe you a sincere apology. The Islam you were invited to is not the Islam that was shown to you after you converted.
So dear convert community, understand that you are on your own. However, you are not by yourselves. Remember that it was Allah who guided you to Islam, and it was His divine will that you become a Muslim. He didn’t do it because He wanted you to to be a colony in your own country, or a slave to anyone else besides Him. Allah did not bring you to Islam simply to fight the same fights, argue the same arguments, and perpetuate the same bigotries that have plagued Muslims worldwide. He didn’t guide you to Islam to buy into anyone’s sect, schism, or parochial version of Islam, or to become second class Muslims in your own country. He didn’t bring you into Islam to ague back and forth with islamophobes while your children are dying in the streets, or to spend your time trying to change people’s hearts, when you could be working on your own hearts. Allah called you to Islam to lift you, to purify you, to dignify you, to strengthen you, and for you to be true to the principle that religion belongs to Allah, it is for His sake, and that we worship Allah alone without partners. Believe that He will continue to guide you if you remain true to Him. You must realize that you are free to think, free to challenge, free to ask questions, free to resist any so-called Islamic authority that is not of your ranks and who does not represent your best interests.
I do see light on the horizon. It has to start with raising consciousness which is what many of us are working to do. Once African American Muslims and converts realize that that they are free to work in their own self-interests according to Islam, without looking at things through the lenses of immigrant Muslims who mean well, but in most cases do not have a clue about our needs, then we will be better off. This is not meant in any way as a slight towards immigrant Muslims; we are all brothers and sisters in islam, at least on paper we are. It is simply the reality of our condition and it is not a matter of placing blame on this or that group. Muslims come to this county to make a better life for themselves and their children, they have their own pre-existing mindsets, emotional and historical issues and dysfunctions, biases, and challenges, and African American Muslims have their own as well. However, we have enough problems already than to take on other people’s dysfunctions as our own while forgetting our own condition. Then there is the issue of Muslim politics in America; a vicious, I mean vicious cycle of power wrangling, misrepresentation, opportunism. True, many of us are simply naïve to the realities of Muslim history, and the way that Blacks are treated and have been placed in many Muslim societies, even until this very day. There is light at the end of the tunnel because Allah is Light, but this is a uphill struggle and many of our people do not yet know or believe that they are free and their are many others who fear that indigenous Muslims would wake up.
There are many Muslims in America from all backgrounds who agree with me. Some people get it, some people are in denial, and some people will catch up later in sh Allah. Many Muslims are just as sick of Muslim sectarianism and marginalization of the American convert community as I am. There are many Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, Afghanis, Asians, Africans and European Muslims, who understand the need for real unity and equality amongst Muslims, and they are plenty. They will stand with you but you as the convert community must speak your mind, you must not be afraid to work for what’s in your best interest in this life and in the hereafter, speak for yourself, and stand for yourself. You might have you go into rebel mode. The slave traders took away your identity once, and you got it back through Islam, don’t let other Muslims take it away now. It is okay if you disagree with me, it s okay if believe that I am rocking the boat. It’s okay if you want to argue, but please argue with yourself, or with someone else besides me. This is only my advice. I am a free American Muslim man and I am liberty to speak my mind and offer my advice to my fellow Muslims. Wal Allahul Musta’aan, wa sallalaahu alaa Muhammad wa alaa aalihi wa sah’bihi wa sallam.
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 is an associate Imam and resident scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio, where he delivers some of the Friday sermons. 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 “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of Black American Muslims and converts to Islam. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at email@example.com.
(faith based list)
Top Priorities for American Muslims (Politically based list)
American born Luqman Ahmad, is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. 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 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. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at, firstname.lastname@example.org
No one likes to admit that they’ve been conned. Nevertheless, there comes a time when you have to cut your losses and get out of the game which is what most victims of scams are advised to do. It seems that many American Muslim leaders have trouble recognizing a con job; even when they are conning themselves.
Just for the record; the practice of speaking on behalf of others without their permission, and without authority, is fundamentally un-American, not withstanding that it is wholly un-Islamic. When one or two Muslim organizations speak on behalf of all American Muslims about our fears, our politics, our emotions, our faith, our patriotism, or our response to this incident in San Bernardino, it undermines, and contradicts everything previously expressed about wanting to assimilate, or having already assimilated, or that we are just like other Americans, that we’re not a fifth column, or that we believe in freedom.
It says that we all think the same, feel the same, are of the same mind, in the same condition, have the same priorities, and accept the same absurdities. It also sends the message that we are disingenuous, and not to be trusted. When have you every seen or heard of a Christian or Jewish political or advocacy organizations get on national television and say they are speaking for all Christians or all Jews. Even our beloved Prophet (SAWS) allowed the Arab tribes to speak for themselves in many matters.
American Muslims are the only so-called religious demographic that allows their political and advocacy organizations to speak on behalf of their religious congregations. When these organizations bring along highly respected scholars such as Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui and religious leaders to a press conferences as window dressing while they do all the talking, it confirms for many Americans that Islam is a political ideology more than it is a religion. It says that we are fundamentally secular with little moral fortitude. It also s the message that we are dishonest, have no stable identity and that we practice a moral code other than what our scriptures teach. All of this is dangerous and fuels the very thing [islamophobia] that we say we trying to stamp out.
Now I’m a Muslim, I love Muslims and this is all abundantly clear to me. Imagine those who are not Muslim, or those who never had a problem with Muslims but come to a negative conclusion about us because of the way our politics have hijacked our morality. You may not agree with me but you do not have to look very far to read what many ordinary Americans say about Muslims as they bring up these very points as well as many others. The sad irony about us is that we are so arrogant, so pompous, so blinded by ego and wanting to be accepted we do not even believe anymore that we could possibly share some culpability for the anti-Muslims sentiment that plagues us so much.
We complain so much that they do not understand Islam while we make it abundantly clear that perhaps we do not understand Islam. Not even enough to know that the word Islam means submission and not peace. We think that the press is doing us a favor when they convey our message to the entire country how all Muslims Americans are now in fear, dismayed, disheartened, disappointed, that America has let us down, that we’re bracing for the backlash. When in reality what the media is doing is showing the extent of our moral immaturity. We may be cheering, but others are seething with disdain, many are laughing, and some of us are crying. At least if we took an Islamic approach to these matters we would have the hope of spiritual growth, and reward from Allah. Attempting to craft a pre-packaged sanitized Muslim identity through the very media that we blame for distorting our identity is like trying to beat the devil at his own game; we have nothing to show for it except disappointment. I know that certain groups of American Muslims have a lot of education and we think we’re really smart, and maybe some us are, but not that smart if we think we can play poker with Shaitaan and win.
We have our children and teenagers crying that we cannot practice our faith anymore because of all this islamophobia. People read these types of statements and conclude that Muslims are so full of themselves that they cannot see the forest for the trees. There is nothing, nothing at all that prevents any Muslim living in the United States from believing in Allah and the Last Day, from praying five times a day, from giving zakat, or from fasting during Ramadan. People practiced Islam here while they were slaves! Yet we cry anytime our ego is bruised. The sad reality is that we’ve raised a whole generation of Muslims Americans who cannot distinguish between Muslim political hype, and actual Islam. Ask your child or teenager the meaning of Islam. If they say ‘peace’, then you have deceived them already, and if we think that on the Day of Judgment, Allah will accept the excuse of Islamophobia for not praying, not giving charity, and not fasting, we have deceived ourselves. – imam Luqman Ahmad