Open letter to American Imams: The Integrity of Our Friday Sermons is Not for Sale, or Loan to Anyone

minbar

My dear respected colleagues and brothers in faith, I am not the best of you, nor am I the most knowledgeable, eloquent, or favored of you to God Almighty. However, I share with all of you, the awesome responsibility of delivering the Friday Sermon. As the American Muslim community, as other religious communities, face the complex, and often confusing, and stressful challenges of our time, we must remember that our duty as Imams, and khateebs, (Muslim preachers) is first and foremost to God Almighty, and then to the believers who attend the Friday prayers and listen to our sermons. Our Lord demands, and our congregations have a right that we are honest, forthright, sincere, free and unhindered in what we impart to them in the way of scriptural exhortations, religious instructions, and advisement. The faithful congregations that we serve in our nation’s mosques have placed in each of us their trust that we speak as free men.

American imams are nudged in varying degrees to address pre-chosen topics according to the current campaign priorities of National American Muslim political organizations and advocacy groups, local an federal law enforcement agencies, and sometimes even by politicians. Sometime this occurs in complicity with board members and mosque administrators, and sometimes not. Muslim political leaders, and all of the aforementioned organizations all serve an important purpose in our communities. However, when the imam ascends the pulpit to deliver the Khutbatul Jum’ah (Friday sermon), anyone else’s presumption of authority, or influence should come to a complete halt. .

With increasing frequency, American imams are given pre-selected issues, instructions, outlines, and talking points about what should be the topic of our weekly sermons. Last week it was ISIS, this week it’s homegrown terrorists , in previous weeks it was the Chapel Hill Murders, in January it was the Charlie Hebdo killings, in December it was the Peshawar school massacre, in September it was the beheading of US journalist Steven Sortloff, and in August it was James Wright Foley. Anti-Islam, and anti-Muslim sentiment, religious extremism, identity crises, ignorance of religion, spiritual ailments, and world events are all things that matter. Sometimes things that warrant condemnation or support by rallying or demonstrations. All of that falls under the category of enjoying the good and forbidding the evil, which within most Muslim communities is a department that the Imam heads. So it should never be up to anyone but the Imam or khateeb to decide what comes out of his mouth when he stands on the minbar on Friday. Khutbatul Jum’ah is considered a dutiful act of worship (ibaadah), that is for the remembrance of Allah and what is associated with it, and an Imam should never act as anyone’s or and organization’s or any local or federal law enforcement agency’s personal religious police, or rented out as such.

When Muslims leave the Masjid, they face the real world, where there is very little sugar-coating. We as Imams need to be just as intimately candid and honest with our congregations, both individually and collectively. Muslim board members, and administrator should trust the Imam, and give him the opportunity to come up with the right formulas for the congregation, and let him define his own personality and relationship with the congregation. Sometimes the boundaries between the religious purview and conscious of the imam, and the sensibilities of a board, or the politics of an influencing Muslim organization are muddled.

Our duty is to teach people the religion, and instruct them about what is required of them by God. We must maintain our prerogative to offer impressionable Muslim youth, the full complement of moral teachings, life instructions, Quranic advises, and Prophetic guidance that is available to us in our faith. We are free men of conscience, and each of you has a better understanding of the congregations and localities that you serve, than anyone else. If we believe that as Americans and as Muslims, we respect the right of all people to speak freely, then we must also assert that very same right for ourselves when speaking from the pulpit.

Speak as you will dear brethren, on whatever topics that you see beneficial at the time, but deliver your sermons as free believing men of conscience, inspiration and choice, being obligated to one except Allah, be He Exalted and Glorified. It is hypocritical, and disingenuous for any of us to say that we stand for freedom of choice, freedom of speech, or liberty, and for the best interests of our religion, and our country, if we allow anyone, including Islamic organizations, Muslim leaders outside of our congregations, law enforcement agencies, the media, or politicians, to control our messages. One of the most egregious forms of tyranny, is to restrict the words of a khateeb while he is speaking on Friday inside of the House of Allah. The message we deliver in the Friday sermon, should never be compromised, sold, auctioned or bartered, or loaned to anyone, at any time, in any mosque. If we allow that to happen, then we have betrayed our country, our religion and ourselves.

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 critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

Fatwas and the Responsibility of Muslim Scholars in America, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Some fatwas need to be revisited. There’s no harm in that when it’s necessary. It is the responsibility of scholars to revisit legal edicts (fataawa) when new, better and more legitimate information is available or presented, or when circumstances change. It is also their responsibility to not issue rulings anonymously or from behind a veil like the Wizard of Oz. A great many rulings issued to and about Muslims in the United States have been errant, baseless, and incoherent. Sometimes religion and even lives have been ruined because of it.

Islamic scholars occupy an important place in Muslim society. They are the guardians of sacred law and are often considered to be amongst the elite of our faith. In one tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) stated; “The Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets[1]. The preservation and transmission of sound Islamic knowledge and guidance is compromised without the works and efforts of our scholars. Without them, people are destined to being misinformed about their religion, and to be misled by Iblis in handling their affairs. In another tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) said: “One Scholar is harder against the devil than a thousand worshippers[2]. The Quran states that people are elevated by their religious knowledge “Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well- acquainted with all ye do.” Quran 58:11. As teachers, guardians and interpreters of sacred law, Islamic scholars deserve our respect, support, and our gratitude.

Scholars of Islam are responsible for upholding the sacred trust that accompanies the acquisition of religious knowledge; which is to explain the religion clearly and concisely and not cover up any part of it; “Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book,-on them shall be Allah’s curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse” 2:159. In today’s turbulent times, the role of Muslim religious scholars and qualified[3] teachers takes on a special significance for  at least three reasons;

  1. The first being; the scarcity of people who possess sound and accurate islamic knowledge; It was related in the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “From among the portents of the Hour are (the following): 1. Religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of Religious learned men). 2. (Religious) ignorance will prevail. 3. Drinking of Alcoholic drinks (will be very common). 4. There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse[4]. We      are living during times of pervasive ignorance of religion, and in the United States, we are the only major religious group where our political and advocacy groups eclipse religious groups as the de-facto leaders of the Muslim community.  Additionally, we routinely take upon ourselves religious edicts (fataawa) from scholars in faraway lands who have limited knowledge of our domestic customs, our history and our condition.
  2. The second reason is that religious scholars have the responsibility to stand as barriers between ignorant Islamic leadership and the Muslim people themselves; “Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people, turn to ignorant as their leaders; then they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray[5]. Scholars of today need to not only address the condition of the general public; they must also be willing to address those who are in authority,   and those who make decisions for and on behalf of Muslims.
  3. The third reason is that the world has changed, and in today’s globalized environment, Muslim people are mixing cultures, ideas, ethnic tendencies, and beliefs into one big melting pot in America.  Muslim scholars are tasked not only with helping to help break down the obvious and sometimes intractable barriers between the diverse Muslim peoples living here in the United States, they are also (the ones who make our business, their business), charged in helping to maintain the religious and spiritual nature of the American Muslim trajectory, and making sure that our politics do not trump our morality. That means that they have to understand Islam in a morally applicative sense, understand what’s going on in the land in which we live and work, and understand the people upon whom they deliver critical rulings of law. Scholars of Islam have to take the added step whenever and wherever  possible, to familiarize themselves with the common people, and the intricacies of American life and culture, about which they render judgments and opinions. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “The Muslim who mixes with the people and is patient with their ills is better than the Muslim who does not mix with the people and is not patient with their ills.[6]

Some Islamic scholars residing in the Muslim world, find themselves either woefully unfamiliar, or subtlety indifferent to America in general, and towards American people specifically, and in the process, issue unfair and unrealistic rulings towards Muslims Americans who are socially integrated into our country’s fabric. For example, the fatwa ruling that it is not permissible for any Muslim to even reside in the United States. Some, scholars, due to their ignorance, and or bias towards American culture and her people, and often operating from abroad, have managed to demonize virtually every aspect of American culture and way of life. Sports, birthdays, Thanksgiving, family photos, decorating homes, designer clothing, thikr beads, wearing jeans, baby showers, attending graduation ceremonies, saying ‘what’s up brother’ to a stranger on the street, being in a good mood during Christmas season, wedding rings, visiting graves of relatives, bereavement practices, women entering Masaajid, loving one’s country, and a host of other things have ended up on the prohibition list of one scholar or another. Other scholars have done great disservice to Muslims and to Islam by issuing verdicts that allow the sale of intoxicants in our cities, despite the Quranic ruling against it.

Some Muslim Americans find themselves apologizing for being born in this country of ours as if it were a curse. Other Muslims argue back and forth with each other over rulings rendered by scholars regarding what’s permissible and what is not. Because of irresponsible law rendering, the average Muslim, especially the convert, who simply wants to worship his or her Lord, and live an Islamic lifestyle, is often left in an almost perpetual state of confusion. Because of the multitude of conflicting and sometimes nonsensical religious rulings, such as the fatwa that American Muslims wage military jihad upon our own neighbors, or the fatwa that selling intoxicants in American is permissible as long as the buyers are not Muslim, many Muslims are resigned to a state of moral dysfunction. Scholars, as they learn more about American society alternately prohibit things in one instance and then make them permissible according to their own evolutionary knowledge of our country, our culture and our way of life.

Anti American oratory has surreptitiously made its way into the modern canonical dialogue of Islam. Many American Muslims have been morally blackmailed into having to repudiate American culture in order to find acceptance as Muslims by immigrant scholars. Even today, rhetoric from a minority of Muslim scholars and some imams are replete with anti-American invectives or rallying cries against so called ‘western culture’ or values. It is ironic however, that from an Islamic theological perspective, morality has no hemispheric basis; “to Allah belongs the east and the west, wherever thou turnest, you shall find His (God’s) Face”.

Thus, Islam for many Muslim Americans has become too complicated to be user friendly. The dozen or so, often conflicting spheres of scholarly influence has created a virtual merry-go-round of Islamic thought in America, and we need to do something about it. Understanding how to apply Islamic law and morality, in the United States, require a thorough understanding of the shariah, the culture norms of the people, as well as the inclusion and consultation of bother indigenous American Muslim imams, laymen and intelligentsia and their immigrant counterparts. This is why it’s so important to address sectarianism as well.

The famous 14th century jurist, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya[7] alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”[8]– Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

There’s nothing inherently wrong with traditional scholarly interpretations of our religious texts and there is no pressing need to reinterpret the Quran or hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) to fit modern times.  Our scholars (and there have been tens of thousands of them) have done a pretty exquisite job at maintaining the integrity of our texts, and explaining them to both lay people and other scholars. Its less a matter of reinterpreting texts than it is having contemporary scholars using the our sacred texts contextually to fit the reality in which we live.

There is a false assumption by some, including some scholars, that people who were born and raised in the West, or more specifically, the United States do not have the ability to understand Islam, our religious texts or the associated sciences to any degree that someone coming from the Muslim world can. This misconception alone has a tremendous impact upon or national conversation about the challenges facing Muslim America. Then there is the issue of racism, marginalization of Blacks, and the influence of geo-political realities that taints and sometimes tends to prostitute modern day scholarship. Marginalization of ant part of the American Muslim demographic is a big deal.  You can’t ignore and marginalize an entire people and then expect to apply scholarly rulings and analysis to them when the very basis of fiqh application is to know the subject,  and their condition. The fluidity and hence, value of Muslim scholarship is connected to situational relevance. This is something that I have written about elsewhere.

Nevertheless, American Muslims need to realize that this is our country, and our homeland. If we want to make it better then we have to be better. So we need to be certain that Islamic rulings for and about American Muslims  are not tainted by anyone’s political prejudices, cultural sensitivities, racial or ethnic biases, or ignorance about America and our way of life. Granted, this is a difficult topic. Nevertheless, it is one that must be addressed if we have any hope from curbing the undercurrent of sectarianism and religious extremism that still germinates in Muslim America. As Muslims, our first duty is to our Lord, and our number one priority is our own salvation. As American Muslims, we have the god given right to look out after our own spiritual self-interests, and it starts at home.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

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


[1] Collected by at-Tirmithi, Ahmad, Abu Dawood and others.

[2] Collected by at-Tirmithi and Ibn Majah.

[3] We mention qualified teachers because unqualified teachers should refrain from teaching religion.

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

[5] Collected by Muslim.

[6] Mish’kaat al-Masaa’bih.

[7] Died 751 A.H.

[8] I’laan al-Muwaqqi’even an Rabbil Aaalameen, vol. 1. P. 157.

African American Muslims; Making Hard Choices That Will Change Our Condition

Indigenous African Americans have been converting to Islam for decades; however, the phenomena of massive and continuous conversion amongst African-Americans to Islam has not evolved generationally into indigenous American Muslim families, extended families or home-grown institutions that serve our faith needs, reflect our faith and it’s principles, and serve our overall best interests from a religious and spiritual perspective. Granted, we are all American Muslims, and brother and sisters in Islam. However, if we take a closer look, it is evident that there are clearly two, distinctly different, Muslim Americas. One comprised primarily by immigrants from Muslim countries, and their children, and the other from American Muslim converts. As immigrant communities are growing, thriving, and blanketing the landscape with multi-million dollar masaajid, schools, and cultural institutions. African-American Muslim communities are struggling, lack physical resources, lack influence, and are very small in comparison.

Here are the facts; 80% of American Muslim converts are African-American, and African-Americans are dead last in virtually every socio-economic category that measures well-being; unemployment, access to health care, illiteracy, education, single parent households, broken families, incarceration rates, diabetes, hypertension, home ownership, and infant mortality, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, African-Americans are about 33% of the American Muslim demographic. This reality comes at a time of great spiritual, economic and civilizational decline, as we are entering into the time of the Dajjaal (anti-Christ), and the coming of Jesus, son of Mary (AS).

The post conversion reality that is played out in Muslim America is important because as each subsequent generation of practicing Muslims (emphasis on practicing) evolves,  not just as individuals, but as a family unit, the moral and religious beliefs and values of Islam takes root, are reinforced within the family and upbringing, and becomes part of the lifestyle.  Once that occurs, these values are passed on to the extended family, and onto ensuing Muslim generations.  Thus, one of the most important institutions that we must care for and strengthen, is the family, after that, it is the religious communities (jamaa’at), because without the critical mass of common purpose and support, it is very difficult erect and maintain religious based institutions. Therefore, we have to be very careful in the marriage and divorce decisions we make, in the decisions we make about community and Masjid participation, and in the decisions we make about child rearing, and Islamic education because these decisions will affect us, our families and our children for a long time to come.

As African-American Muslims, our civilization is in a near shambles. We are fighting and arguing in many of our masaajid, the numbers of full-time, affordable Islamic schools that serve the needs of African-American Muslim children are down, most of us are without leadership, and considering our numbers there are very few real congregations left in the country that serve our needs. Most of our children are being raised in single parent households, many of our sons are in the criminal justice system in some way or another, and many of our daughters are being courted by the non-Muslims, and have children out-of-wedlock. Drug and alcohol abuse is very high (no pun intended) in the African-American Muslim community, and African-American Muslims are less educated and less affluent than our immigrant counterparts, and our communities do not have adequate material resources.  However, we do have choices, and these choices contribute to our betterment or detriment.

There is nothing we can do to change the past beloveds, but we have an opportunity before us for a better future. However, it requires that we submit wholeheartedly to the moral and liturgical principles of Islam. Changing the condition begins with the self. If there was ever a place to begin then I suggest that we begin with the salat. The family that prays together is way more likely to stay together than those who don’t; and that’s a choice. Brothers who attend the Masaajid for the salat tend to be more spiritually enlightened that those who don’t; that’s a choice. People who are married with problems, but choose to patiently endure, instead of opting out of the marriage simply because they are not happy that day, or that week, or that month, are much more stable in the long run than those who don’t; that’s a choice.

Brothers who work and spend money to support their families are better men in a key area of manhood, than those who don’t, and try to live off of their wives; and that’s a choice. Sisters who are obedient and dutiful to their husbands (in what is right) tend to be much more spiritually stable than those who don’t; that’s a choice. People who take the time out to learn a little something of their religion instead of sitting in front of the television all day, playing a wii, or seeking to be entertained all the time, tend to be more religiously intuitive than those who don’t; that’s a choice People who make their hereafter a priority and realize that it often requires sacrifice tend to have a better gauge about what’s important in life then those who don’t; that’s a choice.

People who love thug culture and try to live according to jaahiliyyah codes of life, tend not to be as steadfast in their religion than those who follow the Quran and the sunna; that’ a choice. People, who smoke weed, use drugs, drink alcohol or abuse prescription drugs tend to be more mentally unstable than those who don’t; and that’s a choice.  People who do the boyfriend/girlfriend, relationship thing, are less chaste than those who get married and are faithful to their spouses; and that’s a choice.

People who are part of religious congregations (jamaa’aat) tend to stay in the religion in higher numbers than those who aren’t; and that’s a choice. People, who have imams or Amirs, and have reciprocal accountability between leaders and followers, tend to be stronger Muslims than floaters, who are not committed to anything; and that’s a choice. Muslims who backbite, treat people badly, and are always engaged in some sort of fitna or another cause more destruction and severance of personal and communal relationships than those who don’t; that’s a choice. People, who know how to love and forgive for the sake of Allah, are better and more lasting friends than people who are consumed by hate and not inclined to forgive; and that’s a choice. People who give sincere advice the ummah, to the imams, and to their leaders tend to be more sincere to our cause than those who don’t; that’s a choice.  We have an abundance of resources available to us, inherent in the choices we make individually and as a Muslim people. In fact, Allah has given us all that we need in order to be successful and to build strong communities and institutions, however, by and large, too many of us have chosen otherwise. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is an American born Muslim and a full time clasically trained Imam of a Masjid and community  in Northern California. He can be reached @ imamabulaith@yahoo.com

Qualities to Look For in a Muslim Husband by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

One Hundred Advices About Muslim Marriage: For People Who Are Marriage Minded by [Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad]If you are looking for the perfect Muslim man who is the embodiment of prophetic character and constitution in every possible way, then you will never find that person, and if you did, it is unlikely that you will be the perfect paragon of virtue to match him. I mean, anything is possible, but being human and all, it is likely that you, as well as your spouse or potential  spouse will have human qualities. However, there is such a thing as an ideal spouse that fits and compliments you.

Every Muslim woman who seeks marriage in Islam should be aware that you are seeking a person to not only be a husband, friend, lover, life-partner, and all those good things; but you are seeking someone to be the imam of your home and family. Of course you want him to be a kind, generous, patient, good-natured, healthy, attractive (to you), and a god –fearing , virtuous husband who is reasonable. Nevertheless,  as a woman, you need to be clear about what you really want and seek in a marriage. The imam part is important because any man who is worth his salt as a Muslim man, realizes that in addition to being other things, he must be the Imam of his home. That is not his choice, that is an obligation, a contract between him and his Lord.

Many sisters say they want one thing but when they get it, it turns out that it’s not what they really want. Don’t say you want a strong man, and then resent his strength when he tries to lead, or his firmness in some things, or say you want a knowledgeable man, and want him to disregard his knowledge and follow your or someone else’s whim, and don’t say you want a god-fearing, pious man, and then oppose him when he wants to direct his family to piety.

If a woman wants a man who has these good and godly qualities then she should seek that type of man, and not be overtaken by his looks, his swagger, his car, his walk or his talk.  If a woman seeks a husband who does not have the qualities of a good man, then she will likely get a joker. The first thing to check about a potential Muslim spouse is his salat, and if you check his, make sure that you check yours too. Keep in mind that all the beautiful qualities that you want in a husband,  you should make sure that comparable qualities exist in your own self.  Realistically people are human, are fallible, and no one is perfect, and you are much more likely to find a husband and a lasting marriage by seeking a good man, than a perfect man.

couple-silh-2

If you are a Muslim woman who does not particularly want to be married to a religious man, or a man who prays, or enjoins you to pray, pays zakaat, fasts and enjoins you to fast, and observes a healthy (non-extremist) Islamic lifestyle, then that is your choice, and you should be honest with yourself about that. He can still be a decent person and not be that much into practicing his Islam.

This is not about blaming this or that person for how they want to live and what they consider important. Islam is a path, not a destination and people struggle with all aspects of their faith from time to time, that is life.

Nevertheless,  lets keep it real sisters, if you are not really trying to live the Islamic lifestyle as a wife and a woman, then don’t waste the time of a brother who is looking for that type of lifestyle.  You need to be clear with yourself about that, and he needs to be clear with you about that. Likewise, if you as a Muslim woman, know that you want to life a serious and sober Islamic lifestyle, and raise your children accordingly, then don’t be beguiled by a brother who is handsome, talks a good game, drives a nice car, wears designer clothes, but lacks the substance that you are seeking. A woman can help a man evolve and grow, and vice versa, but people can’t change people.

Every woman should have a general idea about how she wants to get pattern her home life, what she’s willing, or not willing to do, and how where she is in her deen, and Allah is the best judge. However, for the new and not so new Muslim woman who wishes to be married and live an Islamic lifestyle here in the United States to the best of their ability, it is important to seek and marry the kind of men who can and will support that type of life.  With that in mind, here are some things that you should look for in a real Muslim man. These qualities will not make a perfect man, for such a thing is a fantasy. However, if a brother has these qualities, and you have problems in your marriage as many of us do, a man with the qualities mentioned below, gives you a lot to work with. Just keep in mind, your marriage is not entirely built upon the man and what he does and who he is, it is equally dependent on who, who you are and what you do. Marriage is a two-way street.  So each trait that you look for in a husband, you must ask yourself, do you have similar complimentary traits? Similarly, each question you ask about his past and upbringing, be prepared to answer similar questions about yourself. Wallahul Musta’aan.

  1. You have to know something about his background, his family, his upbringing, his history. Family background is important. You want to know what kind of family he came from, whether or not he was raised by both parents, came from a single parent household, or reared in a foster home. Some of our men who are converts come from broken families, from prison and criminal backgrounds and from the thug, gang, culture of the inner city streets. Of course that is not true for all; nevertheless, is true for many, and we are seeing the results of it in our communities. Thus, in these cases, the question is how much of the previous jaahiliyyah lifestyle has been discarded and replaced by Islamic thinking, Islamic habits, and Islamic traits? If he is a Muslim, but still likes to run the streets, hang out on corners, go to the clubs, sling dope, smoke weed, or run game, then he hasn’t yet crossed over to an Islamic way of life. People can, and will change, and change takes time; however, these days, people are not changing. They are falling to the wayside of Islam in very high numbers
  2. Does he pray or even know how to pray? If a brother does not know how to pray, then he should be actively learning his salat, and have a salat book in his pocket, or his backpack. He should be up in the Masjid, praying behind someone who knows how to pray. Salat is not an option. If he doesn’t know how to pray, and is not actively learning how to pray, then he is a joker as far as Islam is concerned; he does not take his Islam seriously, and neither should you. The hardest salat upon the hypocrite is the Fajr and Isha prayers. The prophet (SAWS) said: “if people knew what was in the Isha and Fajr (prayers in congregation), they would attend them even if they had to crawl.[i] If a brother cannot get out of bed for Fajr, or cannot put down the remote control for Isha, then it is likely that he will not establish prayer in the home.
  3. Does he know about purification? Does he know how and when to perform a ghusl, the proper manner of wudu, and the performance of istin’jaa? If he does not know the above, then his whole worship apparatus is in disarray, and dysfunctional, not withstanding that he is probably in a perpetual state of impurity. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “Purification is half of faith”. Thus if he doesn’t understand and practice purity, he is bereft of half of his eemaan. On the other hand, if he is attentive with regards to purification, then he is more likely to be dutiful with respect to salat. It goes without saying that if he is steadfast and attentive to salat, then he will be the same in other areas of his deen.
  4. Is he employed? Does he have halal income? If he is a street hustler, most of the time, his income is from haram sources and in our experience, street hustler dudes, rarely takes care of their families. However, all street hustles are no haram and all street hustlers do not neglect their families, keep that in mind also. You just have to ask the right questions and look into it to the degree it matters to you.
  5. If he is employed, does he pay zakaat, or take care of his children if he has any? If he is employed, does he make sacrifices for the sake of his job and career, at the expense of his religion? Does he integrate the salat into his work schedule, does he attend Jum’ah. If he sacrifices his religion to earn a living then it is likely that you will get a man who brings home the money, but won’t be an Imam in his home, won’t raise the children as Muslims, and will be less inclined to uphold islamic moral values while he is at work, or at home.  There is such a thing as balance; however balance in in following religion and using the latitude that it affords.
  6. Does he play hooky from Ramadan? If he plays hooky from Ramadan, then he is a joker. He does not take his Islam seriously. Where is this brother during the month of Ramadan? Is he around the Muslims, is he near the Masjid, is he at the iftaar (breakfast), is he in the salat line during any of the taraaweeh? Or is he one of those brothers who calls the Masjid three weeks into Ramadan and asks; ‘when does Ramadan start’? Where is he at Fajr time? Is he sleeping, or is he busy with suhoor and salat. These are the things you need to look at in choosing a good Muslim man. The observance of Ramadan is one of the things that separates the men from the boys as far as deen is concerned. Pay attention to how he handles Ramadan and it will give you a glimpse into what he’s made of.
  7. Does he take care of himself? Does he have his own place, have his own bills, have his own car, buy his own food, buy his own clothes, pay for his own bus pass? It’s okay if he takes care of himself but is struggling because times are hard these days, but sisters need to understand that taking care of yourself is a certain mindset that a man has, and trying to live off of mommy, baby momma, or your girlfriend is a totally different mindset; it’s the mindset of a boy, pretending to be a man.
  8. Who are his friends? Are they practicing Muslims? The Prophet (SAWS) said: “A person is upon the religion of his close friend (khalil)”. If his friends are trifling, know nothing, do nothing dudes, then your guy is bound to be like them. If he is still rolling with the non-Muslim, then rest assured, he probably still thinks like one. If he’s rollin with the boys and not the men, then he’s probably still a boy. grown men don’t roll behind little boys.
  9. Does he have an Imam, or a sheikh from whom he takes instruction? Or is he a floater? If he has no Imam, then his imam is probably Shaitaan. If he is not linked to leadership, or scholarship, (and I’m not talking about the internet), then he is likely going around in circles as far as his deen is concerned, and he will lead you around in circles. This is not true in every case, but it’s very likely.
  10. What is the relationship with his mother? If he doesn’t honor and respect his mother, then there is hardly any chance that he will honor and respect you as his wife. If he disrespects his mother, then he is already engaged in major sin from the very beginning. You should also talk to his mother. Mothers know their sons, if the mother says he is no good, then she’s probably right.
  11. Does he attend Jum’ah prayer or does he make invalid excuses? If a brother is missing Jum’ah without a valid excuse, more than 3 times in a row, then he already has a seal on his heart. Abu Ja’d al-Dhamri (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whosoever misses three Jumu’ah prayers by taking the matter lightly, Allah will seal his heart.”[ii]

These are just a few things that our women must consider in choosing a mate. If you are already married, then you should encourage your husband to adopt some of these traits and don’t make excuses for him or just be another mommy for him. Sisters, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, and there are no perfect men, just like there are no perfect women. However there is such a thing as good and bad qualities in a man, as well as a woman. Try to choose someone in whom the good qualities outweigh the bad. And Allah knows best. Wa bihi tawfeeq. Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Ohio. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the author of the 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 critical look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism, and the author of the new e-book, “Killing Marriage in Black Muslim America“, a brief look at the marriage dilemma among Black American Muslims and converts to Islam.

He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

[i] Related by Bukhaari

[ii] Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan Nasa’i, Sunan Ibn Majah and al-Darami

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