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 Gritty Side of Muslim Aqeeda Wars, By Imam Luqman Ahmad

The word aqeeda comes from the Arabic word aqd [عقد], which means knot, or something to bind around. The word also means contract; as mentioned in the verse: “O you who have believed, fulfill [all] contracts [عقود]. The derivative word aqeeda [عقيدة], does not appear in quran laid outthe Quran, nor was it mentioned by the Prophet ﷺ. The terminological meaning of aqeeda in the religion of Islam is creed, or belief system. The word aqeeda is also sometimes used synonymously as tawheed, sharia, even Islam. The discipline and knowledge of aqeeda is a critical and important part of Islamic knowledge and of the sharia [Islamic law]. Aqeeda has to do with your belief system as a Muslim. Aqeeda in the classical sense constitutes the boundaries of faith and heresy. If you are a Muslim, then you should know what you believe. You do not have to be an aqeeda scholar to have proper aqeeda. If a person believes that there is no god except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and they agree wholesale with everything that is in the Quran, and everything that is authenticated in the words of the Prophet ﷺ, [the Sunnah], then that person has the correct aqeeda, even though they do not know all the details. This is based upon the hadith, “Whoever witnesses that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger, Allah forbids the Fire from touching him“.

The central foundation of what we know to be aqeeda is la ilaaha illa Allah [there is no god except Allah], and to worship Him alone without partners. This was the message of all the Prophets starting with the Prophet Adam; وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَسُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ [Verily We have raised from amongst every nation, Messengers (proclaiming) to worship Allah and to avoid the taaghoot], [16:36]. During the time of the Prophet (SAWS) the companions did not argue with each other about the issue of Allah, His oneness, or his attributes. If there was ever a disagreement or misunderstanding, on a point of faith, they referred it the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and it was settled.

After the era of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ heretical and idolatrous beliefs and practices started to make an encore into Muslim society after the Prophet ﷺ had rid idolatry from the Arabian Peninsula.  These false beliefs and heretical notions returned to Muslims lands either by Arabs who went back to their pre-islamic practices or influences from foreign and conquered lands. Hence the need for more specificity about aqeeda and what constitutes kufr and eemaan. It is not incumbent upon every Muslim to possess advanced, scholar-grade knowledge of aqeeda; that is a common misconception of some people. For the everyday Muslim, such information is necessitated on an as-needed basis.

The first books about aqeeda were written during the time of the taabi’een starting with Imam Ibn Shihaab az-Zuh’ri, (died 124 AH/741-2 CE),. The written discipline of aqeeda further evolved during the first part of the second century of the Hijra when Imam Malik ibn Anas (711–795 CE / 93–179 AH), wrote the Muwattaa. He organized hadith into chapters dealing with aqeeda such as the chapter on emaan, and the chapter on tawheed, and the chapter on knowledge. Imam Malik’s work was the budding of the independent discipline of aqeeda.

What prompted the scholars to delve into specialization on the topic of aqeeda were the ideological splits that started to appear during the latter period of the companions of the Prophet (SAWS). One of the major clashes in aqeeda was in the appearance of the khawaarij [kharajites] and the practice of declaring a person to be an unbeliever because of a sin he committed. Hence, the scholars of the Sunna saw the need to elucidate just what is the creed of ahlus Sunna in detail. One of the first books devoted to belief clarification was the book al-Fiqh al-Ak’bar by Imam Abu Hanifa (699-767 CE). Imam Shaafi’ee was born the same year that Abu Hanfah died, (150 AH). Hewrote a book with the same title [al-Fiqh al-Akbar] where he addressed specific issues of aqeeda point by point. Over the years, scholars of the sunna developed variant views on issues of aqeeda but agreed with the foundation. These scholars became known as the Ahlul Sunna.

Amongst the Ahlul Sunna are the aqeeda of the Ash’aris, the aqeeda of the Maatureedis, the aqeeda of the Salafis, and the aqeeda of the Sufis. Within these groups are points of agreement that are the foundational principles of faith, and then are there are points of divergence. Sometimes the differences are scholarly, and civil  in nature; at other times differences lead to name-calling, anger, killing and bloodshed. In many Muslim countries, people have blown up masaajid, and killed innocent men, women and children while they celebrated the Prophet’s birthday, or murdered people in cold blood simply over differences in aqeeda. There has been a lot of that in our ummah, and t hasn’t stopped, even until this very day. It continues.

There is nothing new about aqeeda wars except that in the past these ideological skirmishes were waged by scholars, jurists, politicians, and people who had knowledge. Now days, it’s largely an internet, free-for-all where anyone, regardless of knowledge or training, can participate. Al-humdu lillaah we haven’t had any violent aqeeda clashes in the United States yet, and were it not for the rule of law and the mercy of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, we would see it here. The undercurrent for it is pretty strong. Aqeeda wrangling keep American Muslims very busy. Busy enough to have split masaajid and communities, severed long standing relationships, and caused crippling stagnation within Muslim communities, especially amongst converts and Black American Muslim communities. People are very quick to pronounce takfeer on others because they regard their aqeeda heretical. People will sever long standing relationships over a fine point in aqeeda. In my opinion, it’s gotten completely out of hand.

Throughout history, aqeeda was used primarily as a topic of learning, but also as a political and sectarian hatchet and an avenue for extreme discord and transgression.

Some of the greatest scholars of Islam were persecuted, imprisoned, and killed on the charge that their aqeeda was amiss. When scholars had issues with other scholars, the easiest way to shut them down was to accuse them of an aqeeda breach. Imam Shaafi’ee was once accused of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen and was arrested and taken to Baghdad in chains. The Turkish scholar of Islam and intellectual, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was once arrested for violating secularist laws; in other words, thinking as a Muslim and teaching Islam. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was persecuted by the Caliph Ma’moon and imprisoned and tortured for 28 months under the Caliph al-Mu’tasim because he refused to accept the notion that the Quran was created. Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, whom people today regard as amongst the greatest scholars of Islam, as well as deviants, in the case of Ibn Tayiyyah, were both prosecuted and jailed on the charge of having heretical aqeeda. Ibn Taymiyah died in prison on those accusations. If we didn’t have the rule of law in the United States people would probably be pulled off the pulpit amid trumped up charges of violating aqeeda. Aqeeda is a scholarly discipline but it is also a political tool to sow discord and to silence dissent.

The word aqeeda did not find it’s way into American Muslim dialogue until the mid to late ‘70s, and it didn’t gain traction in the America Muslim community until the early ‘80s. It started with simple education about Tawheed and helping people in the United States, mainly new converts, to Islam, understand Muslim orthodox theology. It quickly escalated into a war of words. Since the ‘80s we have seen the incessant aqeeda wars rage on amongst Muslims in America, primarily Black American Muslims, continuing until this very day. Other than a long trail of character assassination, split communities, torn apart friends, and a nation of young Muslims who argue with each other over their sheikhs and who is or is not an not an infidel, tell me, where is the net benefit?

Aqeeda is an in-depth and highly specialized topic. Anyone with advanced knowledge of Islamic theology and creed and can look into another Muslim’s belief detail and find where he or she has technically stepped outside of standard Islamic orthodoxy. People who engage in candlelight vigils have gone against our aqeeda. Individuals who declare that everyone who has a criticism of Islam or who does not like Muslims or Islam is an Islamophobe have diverted from our aqeeda. Anyone who thinks that their race is superior to others has gone outside of our aqeeda. Anyone who thinks that a person declaring the shahaadah performing the five prayers, paying zakat, fasting the month of Ramadan and making Hajj has not done enough to be regarded as a Muslim, has stepped outside of our aqeeda. There are dozens of examples where one person can declare another person to be outside of our aqeeda if you dig deep enough. That’s why we have aqeeda wars.

One of the casualties of the aqeeda wars is that people become obsessed with it to the point that they don’t choose their battles wisely. Declaring people to be kuffaar after they take shahaadah, pray the five prayers, pay the zakat, fast the month of Ramadan, and make the hajj is closer to kufr than giving them the benefit of the doubt. After they do all of the above, we should leave their hisaab to Allah. The Prophet ﷺ said: “I have been commanded to fight against people until they testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, perform the Salah ‘Prayer’, and pay Zakah ‘obligatory charity’. If they do that, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by Islamic law, and their affairs rest with Allah.[1]”.  Sheikh Bin Baaz (RA) said, in explaining this hadith: “All Muslims have thus, to fear Allah, worship Him Alone, and believe in His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) as being sent to all Jinn (creatures created from fire) and mankind and as being the final Prophet. All Muslims have to perform the Obligations of Allah, abandon His Prohibitions, help one another in righteousness and piety, enjoin one another to truth and patience, and renounce all Deens (religions) of Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). Whoever dies in the state mentioned above will enter Jannah without being reckoned or punished”.

Bonding in aqeeda versus bonding in Islam

The bond of aqeeda advanced by the Prophet ﷺ was the bond of laa ilaaha illa Allah. When people talk about the bond of aqeeda, they have to be clear what they are talking about. Do they mean the bond of laa ilaaha illa Allah? Or do they mean bonding based upon the specific, individual points of Islamic theological doctrine? If they mean the latter then it is very difficult for Muslims to unite and we will always be in a state of internal conflict. If they mean the former then this is the sunna, that we come together on the basis of laa ilaaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasoolullaah. The different points of Islamic creed number in the hundreds. It is impossible to sit down with someone and go over point by point to see if you agree on every detail. It is highly improbable that Muslims in America will bond on every point of aqeeda. This is why there is no such thing as the ‘bond of Islamic creed’. The Prophet ﷺ never spoke of any bond of Islamic creed, nor is it mentioned in the Quran. This is a modern-day terminology that gives people the license to dig into everyone’s detail of what they believe to call this or that one a kaafir or a mushrik. What the Prophet ﷺ did say was: “Whoever prays our prayer, faces our Qibla, eats our thabeeha, then that is the Muslim. He is under the protection of Allah and His Messenger, so let not any of you betray Allah in His protection (of people)”.[2]

You cannot be brothers and sisters in advanced creed since faith is internal, point specific and people’s individual creed varies from person to person. You can, however, be brothers and sisters in Islam. The Prophet ﷺ did not advocate the examination of every individual’s personal creed outside of them declaring the shahaadah and establishing the prayer. This is the bond of Islam. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira the Prophet ﷺ said: “I was commanded to fight the people until they say that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and that they establish the prayer, and pay the zakat, and If they say that their blood and their wealth are safe from me except in the right of Islam and their reckoning is with Allah[3].  Sheikh bin Baaz (RA) said that this hadith on the surface means that if a person does these things, they are to be considered Muslims unless they come with something (specifically) that will nullify their Islam. He further stated that: “Anyone who comes with Tawheed and belief in the message then he has entered Islam. Then after he is requested to fulfill the rights of Islam such as the salat, the zakat, the fast, the Hajj and things like it then performs what which Allah had made incumbent on him, then he is entirely a Muslim”.

Now as far as picking apart people’s aqeeda, you could do that with just about anyone and find glitches and inconsistencies in their belief system. Even the notion that a person can perform the five pillars, and openly declare the shahaadah, yet still be considered an unbeliever such as some Muslims apply wholesale to some groups, is itself practice that contradicts the aqeeda of Islam.

The concept that after taking their shahaadah, a Muslim has to openly denounce every belief, and every principle he previously held, or denounce every idol, every ideology, every thought that is counter to Islam, is not something established or practiced by the Prophet ﷺ. This added requirement contradicts the aqeeda of Islam. The aqeeda of Islam is that whoever comes with the two testimonies, establishes the prayer, pays the zakat, fasts the month of Ramadan and accepts and performs the hajj, they are a Muslim, and their reckoning is with Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. This is the Islam of the Prophet ﷺ. Anything outside of that, then a person needs to produce daleel.

We as Muslims living in the United States should stop letting people tell us who we can work with and who we can’t can’t; which firemen we can have help us put out the fire and which one’s we can’t. People dial 911 and accept anyone to come and help settle their dispute or help with their problem without asking about their aqeeda. But when it comes to getting help fixing up the neighborhood, stemming crime, and making the streets and the people safer, you have to worry about their aqeeda?

There is no greater word on the scale, nor stronger bond between believers than the bond of لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله [There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah], Hostilities were ended because of this word, blood was spared because of this word, protection was given by our Prophet to the inhabitants of Mecca because of this word. People enter Islam with this word. Sins are forgiven because of this word. If this word is not a strong enough bond for Muslims, then let whoever wishes, seek their bond. Let them seek their own word.

The modern-day politics of aqeeda in Muslim America is that aqeeda can become a built-in incendiary device, detonated anytime someone wants to cause discord between African-American Muslims in the United States. Anytime anyone wants, they can only (and selectively), inject the aqeeda card and all of a sudden, African American Muslims are stuck. We’ve been stuck for the last forty years.

Islam and our practice of it in this modern pre-Dajjaal age are mired in politics, power, public relations and scheming. We have to get back to the basics of our religion which is the five pillars, the seven beliefs, and the simple religion as practiced by our beloved Prophet ﷺ who said: “The religion is easy, and the religion is never made harsh to anyone except that it will overpower him[4].”

If the shahaadatain [the two testimonies] the establishment of prayer, the paying of zakat, the fasting of Ramadan and the agreement to the hajj as an obligation, is not enough to consider a person a Muslim, then those who disagree should take their argument to Allah.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam.

Imam Luqman Ahmad is an Imam and Resident Scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com 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 imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

[1] Muslim.

[2] Bukhaari.

[3] Bukhaari

[4] Muslim.

Audio Khutba: Quran; The Divine Inheritance of Every Believer, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

quran up closeRemember beloveds, that as Muslims, we have the divine, God given right, to take from the Quran, and from the authentic sunna of our Prophet ﷺ, anything, and everything, that benefits us in our religion, and in our lives, and no imam, sheikh, scholar, fatwa, or leader of any group, has the right or authority, to prevent us, or prohibit us, from doing that. “And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it). And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is stern in reprisal”. [59:7] We were given the Book; it is our inheritance. “Then We have given the Book for inheritance to such of Our Servants as We have chosen: but there are among them, some who wrong their own souls; some who follow a middle course; and some who are, by Allah’s leave, foremost in good deeds; that is the highest Grace”. [35:32] We are first and foremost, servants of God and God alone.This is the topic of this khutbatul Jum’ah recorded at Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento. Click on the link to take a listen. Wal Allahul Musta’aan.

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