African American Muslims and the Plantation Effect, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

negroes-fr-saleIn a socio-economic sense, most African Americans live in a second-class, plantation-like existence. Don’t get me wrong, it beats outright slavery, but it’s a slave-like existence nonetheless. Even if an African American gains power and influence in this country and decides to use it for other than entertainment purposes, he runs the risk of being brought down. No one really likes the uppity Negroe,  especially if they get too “uppity”. Even many other Black Americans have problems with the uppity Black man.

Through the criminal justice system, unequal housing and banking practices, the inner-city public school system, and a seemingly endless list of discriminatory statutes, regulations, and institutional norms which keeps African Americans in the United States of America relegated to a plantation-like existence. Whether you agree or not, there is no doubt about that. The facts speak for themselves.

Within the Black Church, there is almost complete autonomy when it comes to the practice of Christianity, and the way that African Americans run their churches and religious institutions. Even mega churches and pastors who make millions of dollars a year are pretty much left alone. Whatever issues that go on in the African American church are worked out internally. It is unheard of that a Christian scholar in Africa, Europe, Canada, or even the Pope himself would launch a personal attack against a Pastor or a group of Christians in America. We don’t get Christians from Africa, Asia, the Middle East or Europe coming to America and running rough-shod over a Church or church congregation in the United States. If they did, the congregation, after they finished laughing at him for having such audacity, would run him out of town on the same horse he came in on. They might even take his horse.

On the other hand, within African Muslim mosques, there is a great deal of foreign influence that is present and constantly pumped in. Almost every mosque in the United States, has an undue foreign ideological influence that affects the issues they work on, how they work on those issues, how AA Muslims see themselves and how they subordinate to the immigrant Muslim community on so many levels. People will literally walk in off the street into a masjid attended by African American Muslims and jump up to lead the prayer, tell the people how to run things, render legal edicts, or challenge their leadership. The problem is that there are people who actually let them do it. Otherwise it is a preposterous notion.

Very little has been written on the topic of the colonization of the African American communities and how they exist as a second class Muslim community in the United States behind the immigrant Muslims. However, it is real and the spiritual, psychological and trajectory effects of this relationship is felt far and wide.  (See The Tale of the Two Muslim Americas).  No American Muslim can go to a traditional Muslim country, visit the local mosque and proceed to tell the local people how to run their community, how to deal with their local imam, or try to run the affairs of the local people. The mere idea of it is absurd, and such a person would probably be arrested as a spy and thrown out of the country. Many African American Muslims have been conditioned to think not as free men and women, but as a religious colony here in the United States.

Here’s what boggles the mind; African American Muslims, and African American Christians are the same demographic group. They come from the same ethnic stock, and the same socio-economic backgrounds. They live in the same neighborhoods, attend the same public schools, and endure the same institutional oppression. They are housed in the same jails, play on the same basketball courts, and go to the same colleges and universities. So how is it that African American Christians can build their religious institutions and act autonomously in pursuit of their self-interests, and African American Muslims have such a difficult time in establishing congregations, building masaajid, or acting in their own self-interests without outside interference?

The answer to this question is that African American Muslims by and large, exist as a sub-group of second class Muslims under the greater immigrant community.  That’s the first reason. The second reason is that there are too many spheres of influence, all coming from abroad, and all in competition with each other for control of African American Muslims. These outside influence come in the guise of religious sects, Sufi tarqas, islamic political ideologies, and ambitious individuals who seek their own stronghold in american society through affiliation and control over clusters of African American Muslims all across the country. These outside influences are not always entirely islamic either. Oftentimes they represent a regional ethnic, cultural, or  political concern emanating from outside of the United States. These outside influences affect the way that many African Americans practice Islam, set their priorities, and determine their beliefs about Islam.

You have the Salafi influence which takes their orders from scholars abroad. If the Salafi sheikh states that the priority is to fight against deviants, then everything else; unemployment, spousal abuse, crime in the neighborhood, the dysfunction of the family and so on, falls to the side. The you have the Sufi influence which comes from all over the place. If a certain Sufi sheikh says to not to bother this or that group, or this or that masjid, or that a certain person is a saint and therefore infallible, then the Sufi sphere of influence prevails in many cases. Then there are the competing interests; political groups, Sufi tariqas, Qaadiri, Tijaaniyya, Naqshabandis, and movements such as the Shehu movement, as well as the Tablighi jamaa’aat. Each of these groups exercises a sphere of influence and in some cases absolute and control over indigenous American Muslims so it is difficult for African American Muslims to establish independent congregations, or to even think independently for fear of being in disagreement with their outside colonial type leadership.

As far as National Islamic Organizations, like ICNA, ISNA, and MAS, the membership and focus of these groups are almost entirely exclusive to immigrant Muslims.  Although they routinely claim to speak or represent all Muslims in America, they in fact do not. When a CAIR report characterizes American Muslims as mostly middle class [1], they are not talking about African American Muslims; they are talking about another Muslim America.

The Black church despite whatever criticism we may have of their beliefs, their liturgical habits, their Pastors, their choirs, or what we call their misguidance or delusion, still acts in accordance to what they view are their best interests, and the interests of their institutions, their congregations, their own moral trajectory, and their  own sense of purpose. This has nothing to do with the merits or demerits of the Black church. It has more to do with how we can become Muslim and now that we have the Quran and the Sunna, all of a sudden we are paralyzed, and afraid to think for ourselves.

Brothers and sisters cannot even make a thikr without someone inciting an argument amongst us while they sit back thousands of miles away watching a soccer game. Somebody says ‘happy birthday’ and there is a flurry of condemnation based on a fatwa that we’re following the kuffar while the same folks will hardly make a move without kuffaar instruction and approval.

The plight of the Black American deserves prioritization not because they are black, but because they are the poorest and most oppressed people in our country. Prioritizing attention to the poor and the most oppressed in your midst is the Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS). This was also the way of Jesus (AS) and the way of Moses (AS). Just in case you’re wondering.

The black church, and its leadership, does not generally grant license to anyone, be it a government agency, a remote ecclesiastical authority, a foreign agent, a religious scholar not of their midst, or a state or local politician, to speak on their behalf, represent them to our government, or assign for them a reality not their own. Many African American Muslims actually believe that we cannot use the Quran and the Sunna without getting permission and sanction.

THE POINT IS: THAT THERE ARE TOO MANY COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE SPHERES OF INFLUENCE IN OUR COMMUNITY COMING FROM ABROAD

No religious group or sub religious group can engage in forward motion if they have no leader, no congregation, and are splintered into dozens of sub-colonies or plantations where their leader or master is not present nor cannot be held accountable. If Black Christians can build churches, establish institutions of faith and despite their problems, act independent of interlopers acting from abroad, then so can we. If Christians can speak for themselves, then so can we. If Christians can establish local religious congregations that act in their best interests, then so can we.

The ranks of our community should not split up simply because of an email, a fatwa, or at the behest of someone who does not even live in your county, does not understand your condition, and who is not around to be accountable for his statements, or there to pick up the pieces after we’ve splintered our communities, and who’s only contribution is rhetoric. I have never in my life seen an indigenous African American Muslim community split in two or become racked by fitnah except that there was a foreign agent, not from their midst involved.

Let me be clear. I do not support Back Nationalism. I am a Muslim. I follow the Quran and the Sunna, and no race of people is superior to the other. And if a day ever comes when another group becomes the most oppressed, most marginalized, and most victimized group of people in our country, I’ll stand up for them too. I don’t care what race or color they are. Black people are no better than anyone else. But the point is, nether are any other people.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS:

For the African American ex-slave generations, 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. American Muslims need to stop being suckered into neglecting their own self-interests, because of outside meddling and outside interests. Support is not a one sided deal. We’ve supported every Muslim cause that came down the pike. We deserve reciprocal support when we are in the trenches and we are in the trenches now. We fight each other over the positions and statements of scholars from abroad, where in most cases they could care less about our positions or statements, even when our views are supported by the Quran, the Sunna, and the very same texts that they use against us.

STILL DON’T GET IT?

Okay I’ll give it to you raw. We’ve been had, flimflammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, conned, molly whopped, suckered, taken for a ride, hijacked, used, and still being used. Is that clear enough?

Imam Luqman Ahmad

[Taken partially from the upcoming book, Double Edged Slavery, Deconstructing African American Muslim Moral Dysfunction, by Imam Luqman Ahmad, will be available at Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble on November 1st, 2016 [in sha Allah]

American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long 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.  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] http://www.pewresearch.org/2007/05/22/muslim-americans-middle-class-and-mostly-mainstream/

 

New Book Release! The Devil’s Deception of the Modern-Day Salafiyyah Sect, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

salafi book cover amazonThe modern-day Salafiyyah, or Salafiyyism, or the Da’wah Salafiyyah has done much to highlight the Sunna of the prophet (SAWS), and its importance. However, in the process of spreading the new ideology of, “The modern-day Salafiyyah, many of its proponents have perhaps unintentionally made casualties out of the very persons for whom the so-called “da’wah Salafiyyah” was intended. Get it today at the link below or go to imamluqman.com.

Excerpts: “For many practicing Muslims, Salafiyyah is a bitter dose of questionable medicine. No one committed to this religion rejects the Salaf as-Saalih or the principles on which they agreed. However, the Salafis and their modern-day da’wah do not suit the tastes of all the righteous. Too much of their methodology revolves around character assassination, claims of monopoly on Allah’s guidance, a fanatical obsession with uncovering the faults of the Muslim”.

Another Excerpt: [Salafiyyism as presented by its modern-day adherents is not a simple methodology; it is a myriad of ideals, slogans and tendencies which burdens the average Muslim with understanding complex issues of theology, jurisprudence, exegesis, hadith methodology, language etc. It effectively abrogates the simplicity of tawheed and gradual assimilation of the Quran and Sunna, and replaces it with unreasonable demands of immediate perfection] -Imam Luqman Ahmad.

[Taken from the new book from Lotus Tree Publications; ‘The Devil’s Deception of the Modern-Day Salafi Sect’ by Imam Luqman Ahmad] available now @ imamluqman.com. Get your copy of this important and pertinent book today! Wholesale quantities available.
Go to imamluqman.com to order your copy.

Advice to Converts: Preserving Islam in Your Family; A Case for Muslim Congregations. By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

The true religion of Islam is more than polemical rhetoric, or wearing a thobe, a hijab, or short pants, or getting your picture in the paper. It’s about submitting to Allah, obeying Him, and establishing a lineage of belief, worship, family, brotherhood (love for the sake of Allah), prophetic tradition (Sunna), honor, and morality and character (akh’laaq), which is passed down from one generation, to the next, and to the next.

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.

To a true Muslim, Islam is not part of your life; it is your life.    قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ [“Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds” 6:162 Islam is a lifestyle that you, yourself, must establish for yourself and your family. No one can do it for you; no Imam, no sheikh, no scholar, and no saint. It is up to you to believe in it, embrace it, and practice it, or you can play with it. If you play with it, you are bound to lose it. The reality is that many people who convert to Islam, are losing their religion, and are failing to pass it down to their children and the next generations. Our faith is amongst the most valuable of gifts, and we need to do everything that we can to preserve it and pass it down to our offspring.

I was talking to my father, Sheikh Abdulkarim about the issue of people leaving the religion and he reminded me of the verse; “وَاللّهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْسَّمْعَ وَالأَبْصَارَ وَالأَفْئِدَةَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ[It is HeWho brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when ye knew nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections: that ye may give thanks (to Allah..][1] We have to value our Islam and realize that we came into this world with nothing, yet, now we are Muslims and have the guidance of Islam. This is a tremendous gift and there is nothing more beneficial than you can embrace for yourself, and pass down to your children, than Islam.

Success as a Muslim, without a doubt is a matter of tawfiq (divine enablement), and fadh’lillaah (divine grace). Guidance is up to Allah; “Verily Allah guides and leads astray who He pleases”; وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلكِن يُضِلُّ مَن يَشَاء وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاء وَلَتُسْأَلُنَّ عَمَّا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ. [If Allah so willed, He could make you all one people: But He leaves straying whom He pleases, and He guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions. 16:93]  However, there is the matter of whether or not we engage causative factors (as’baab) which are determinants to the type of outcome that will occur.   We cannot blame Allah for the condition of our religious practice and the loss of our children to the ways of the world. Parents have to take responsibility for how, when and to what degree we practice our faith.

It is arguable that one of the biggest problems to beset African American Muslim communities by far are that most are not part of communities. A lot of things have been done over the last twenty-years to undermine African American Muslim communities such as multiple spheres of influence that owe allegiance to a foreign entity, scores of fatwa that undermine social and family cohesion, millions of pamphlets, books, cds and propaganda which promoted mutiny within Muslim communities, and many African American Muslims pinning there futures on Muslims who were not looking out for their interests. This is created a very unstable religious environment; especially for someone new to Islam. The basis of success for a community is enjoining upon each other truth and patience. This is best done with congregation (jamaa’at). When there is no jamaa’at, there is no leadership, when there is no leadership then there is no cohesion, and when there is no cohesion, people are left to their own individual machinations and when they are left to their own machinations, there is no religious order, and when there is no religious order, chaos almost always ensues. The Prophet (SAWS) said; “Whoever among you wants to be in the middle of Paradise, let him cling to the Congregation.” [Sound, collected by Abu Eesa at-Tirmithi]

Americans have been converting to Islam in large number since the 1960’s, and some say that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States. I have no reason to dispute that claim, Yet despite the phenomena of mass conversion to Islam spanning half a century, it seems that for many converts to Islam, the religion is not passed down to subsequent generations of Muslims. So if Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States, it can be argued that amongst converts to Islam, it is the religion with the fastest turnover rate. Many converts today are without community and end up being stray sheep, and the Shaitaan (Satan) is picking them off, one by one, family by family, household by household.

Why is this important? [2]Well, it matters because as each subsequent generation of practicing Muslims evolve within the family, the moral and religious values of Islam takes hold and are reinforced within the family unit, the extended family, and then it impacts the society at large.  When Islam is not sufficiently passed down to the next generation, our children are left at a great spiritual disadvantage. More often than not, a person converts to Islam, has children, and the children grow up not to practice it, and take on social ills like teenage pregnancy, incarceration, social dysfunction and blatant immorality as if they have no guidance at all.  There is a conspicuous malfunction in the methodology of religious practice and thinking for much of the convert community, which resulted in impeding the generational flow of the religion to many of our children. The number of children of converts to Islam who have either left the religion, are dead because of wanton gang or drug related violence, or are incarcerated, ex-felons, or non high school graduates, or single unwed mothers, are staggering. The question that we have to ask ourselves is; now that we are aware of our circumstances and the consequences of our actions and inaction, what is it that works, and what is it that doesn’t work for us?

If we examine our history as Muslim Americans for the last forty years, we will get a firsthand snapshot of where we have been successful and where we have made mistakes with respect to passing down Islam to our children. When people do not know the critical mistakes of their history, they are doomed to repeat them, and by all accounts, we as indigenous American Muslims, are making the very same mistakes, over and over again. One of the greatest errors during the last half a century is when people become detached from the masaajid which are the houses of Allah, from the congregations of Muslims, and from the salat.

Muslims are brothers and sisters to one another in the global sense. However, in the fragmented world that we live in, Muslims are need to practice their religion in a local sense in order to preserve its practice within the individuals and families who share the same neighborhoods, and cities. There is no single determinant which ensures that a convert to Islam, stays in the faith, practices in and successfully passes it down to their offspring, but there is a methodology based upon the Quran and sunna, which has proved to be most successful for converts to Islam over the last 40 to 50 years or so, and that is the establishment of jamaa’aat (congregations), of a person having n imam and teacher that he or she can see and interact with and who are their to own the words and own their teachings.

American Muslim congregations are one of the few places where you will find, two, three, and four generations of Muslim family, still in the practice of deen.  People who are attached to the masaajid, and are part of religious congregations are much more likely to keep their Islam, and practice it, than those who aren’t.

Congregational communities, centered within a Masjid, with an imam, and a community of people who establish the salat, have specific loyalty, commitment, and accountability to and with each other, and who have a communal focus, is a formula that has worked for American Muslims.I didn’t say that it works perfectly; however, it does work and it does offer some sense of order, communal routine and stability.  Such communities offer prayerful consistency, fraternity, cooperative spirit and effort, religious teachings, and spiritual support, which are all healthy and contributive factors to the good practice of Islam and being a Muslim in America.  Such an environment is critical for the convert to Islam. It doesn’t produce a perfect Muslim, for there is no such thing. However, it does create an environment of measured and consistent growth, as well as singularity of focus and religious message.

For more and more Muslim converts to Islam,  Islam has simply become a fad, and not an actual way of life and practicing Islam for many people these days is optional for them; not mandatory. For others, Islam is something to argue about more than to practice. They will argue about the Quran and the Sunna while ignoring the actual principles and teachings of the religion. There are others who will only practice Islam as long as it does not require any sacrifice, or require them to go out of their way. These are the types of people who end up losing their religion all together.

However, there are those who sincerely believe that Islam is the guided way to live your life and can be applied to everything you do, and they are willing to submit to it all. These are the true ahulus Sunna wa jamaa’at [the people of sunna and congregation], and they are the ones who will find their way by Allah’s permission through the madness, the fitna, the sectarianism, and the turmoil of our times. These are the people who will in sha Allah; benefit the most from congregation, and being in communities. To these people, I am saying to you that until there is a caliphate that is for all Muslims, and until the return of Jesus the Christ, the son of Mary (AS), the awaited Messiah[3], the best places to be are with a congregation of practicing Muslims, with a just Imam.  This will aid you in the preservation of your religion, and your children’s religion. Here are just a few of its benefits. Wallahul Musta’aan.

  1. Prayer in congregation.      Congregational prayer is the primary institution of a worshipful family      and community, worship itself is the purpose of our creation; and it is      the first extension of Islam’s value system.وَمَا خَلَقْتُ      الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ [I have only created Jinns      and men, that they may serve Me.] 51:56 during      my sixteen years as Imam of the Masjid, I have seen many brothers come      into Islam and stay within the faith and practice it, teach it to their children, who grow into adults as Muslim. At the same time, I have seen      many of them convert to Islam, and go for years without engagement in the masaajid and with communities all the while their children grow up without  the knowledge of the practice of Islam, and as adults are alien to the teachings of Islam. Of course there are a lot of reasons for this but  almost in every case, the ones who left Islam, and whose children were alien to the deen were people who did not attend the masaajid, were not  part of communities, and did not attend Jum’ah with regularity. The Prophet (SAWS) said; “If there are three men in a village or desert and salat is not established among them, then the Satan takes  mastery over them. So be with the congregation since the wolf devours the remote (stray) sheep.”[4]   Anytime there are Muslims living in any vicinity, it is incumbent for them to establish the salat. When this does not happen, it is inevitable that the Shaitaan will overpower them.  “(They are) those who, if We establish  them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity,  enjoin the right and forbid wrong: with Allah rests the end (and decision)  of (all) affairs” 22:41 Establishing the salat is perhaps the single most significant factor that ensures that a person stays Muslim, and that there is trans-generational Islam. When people pray, they tend to stay in Islam, when they pray together; they tend to stay in Islam together. This  seems to have been the pattern over the years; those who pray, stay, and  those who don’t pray, leave the religion.  Leaving the salat and abandoning the  masaajid is one of the principal reasons that people leave the religion; the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Between man and polytheism and unbelief is  the abandonment of salat.”[5]      It is important that every Muslim child sees their parents, or step-parents going to the Masjid for prayer, getting up for Fajr, calling the athaan in the home, experiencing that precious family moment which occurs after they have finished the congregational prayer. There is nothing that can replace that. Children need a distinct, moral  and spiritual foundation, in order to thrive as practicing Muslim adults in America, and there is no better foundation than the salat. When there is not a strong foundation, the dunya will tear them apart.
  2. Cooperation and Familiarity.    Congregational life, and lifestyle, plants the seeds of  cooperation in righteousness and piety; تَعْتَدُواْ وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الْبرِّ   وَالتَّقْوَى وَلاَ تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَاتَّقُواْ  اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ [“and cooperate with one another in righteousness and piety, and do not cooperate with each other in sin and transgression”]. Cooperation in righteousness and piety is fundamental to our faith is the methodology which engages group action for good. Allah has created people to depend upon one another in the handling of their affairs, both religious and temporal.  When people are in communities, they develop familiarity with each other, understand each other’s nuances, become more inclined to cooperate with one another, establish shared goals and aspirations, as well as develop a sense of belonging and accomplishment  when they achieve these goals, whether it is building a Masjid or a school, upgrading their facilities, feeding the poor, or engaging in religious projects to help people. Their children get to know and befriend each other,  and they see each other’s children grow, and thrive. Cooperation and building upon successes breeds more cooperation. These things are easier facilitated through congregation than through unanchored individuals,  going it alone.  This union develops to trust, willingness to support and do business with, and a better  resolve to solve problems that arise amongst each other, because they have invested in the relationship. These things are essential for our children to witness. When there is no cooperation, perseverance, spiritual bond, and loyalty in the religious group, it sends a message to our children that there is no stable future for them being amongst the  Muslims.
  3. Spiritual and moral support.  Being a committed part of aMuslim community fosters an atmosphere of support for one another through many means; social, financial,  moral, and intra-personal. The strongest method of support is to enjoin upon each other truth, and patience; “Verily Man is in loss, except such as      have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy[6]      Without spiritual support, and righteous actions, mankind suffers a devastating spiritual loss. Personal interaction and moral support that is  found in congregation, eases the burden of isolation.  In today’s world, it is difficult to know  who you can trust, and who you cannot, who is sincere and who isn’t.  When people are engaged in a Masjid,      participating in the salat, in reminding, in fellowship, and doing good      acts, they naturally begin to support each other morally over time.
  4. Collective      accountability. Within the jamaa’at[7]  there is a certain degree of shared accountability that is not present outside of it. When brother and sisters in Islam hold each other accountable, transgression is lessened. Spousal abuse is widespread in our      communities, but when sisters are a part of a congregation, there is more recourse and direct help from within the community. When Muslim children see that their parents are true to their religious and communal  obligations, and have spiritual focus and goals in life, it is easier for  them to do the same as adults because such experiences, and rearing serves  as their foundation in life. When our children see that their parents have  no real commitment to our faith, to our institutions, to our communities,  or to each other, it sends them a message that there is no real future for   them as Muslims, and that it’s not worth the effort. We are seeing this occur time and time again.
  5. Leadership. Having communities with Imams is part of the tradition of Islam that has helped preserve our religion in America, dating back to the late 1800’s Being under some sort of religious leadership, whether it be an Imam, an Amir, a Khalifa, or a Sultan, is the sunna of our Prophet (SAWS); The Prophet said, “Whoever notices something which he dislikes done by his ruler, then he should be      patient, for whoever becomes separate from the company of the Muslims even for a span and then dies, he will die as those who died in the Pre-islamic      period of Ignorance (as rebellious sinners)”[8].       The ideal communities are those who      have leaders who are fair, just, and knowledgeable of the religion so that      can correctly teach people what is right and guided according to the Quran      and Sunna.  However, any leader is      better than no leader at all. When Muslim people do not have religious leaders, there is chaos. Brothers who have imams and are under some direct Islamic leadership tend to be more focused upon their religious priorities than those who aren’t. Imams are of varying qualities; some more knowledgeable,  and more pious than others. Still this should not prevent someone from the  benefit of praying behind an imam in the congregational prayer; The Prophet (SAWS) said: “If the imam leads the prayer correctly then he  and you will receive the rewards but if he makes a mistake (in the prayer)  then you will receive the reward for the prayer and the sin will be his.”[9]      We are living in the last days, and many of the major signs of the hour      have passed. In the hadith of Huthaifa, he was asking the Prophet (SAWS)      about the trials of latter-day times; “What do you order me to do if such a state should take place in my life?” He said, “Stick  to the group of Muslims and their Imam (ruler).” I said, “If  there is neither a group of Muslims nor an Imam (ruler)?” He said, “Then turn away from all those sects even if you were to bite (eat)  the roots of a tree till death overtakes you while you are in that state.”[10]   Ibn Taymiyyah said, “It is better to endure under a tyrannical leader for  100 years than to go one night without one.”

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. The future looks very bleak for the American Muslim converts unless we re-establish congregation with just and knowledgeable imams. Religious congregations are not perfect, but it is a lot better than chaos. For many American Muslim converts, there is hardly any religious order in their lives. Imperfect institutions that teach, regulate, and fulfill the order of the deen of Islam, are better than no institutions at all.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Philadelphia born, Shaykh Luqman Ahmad has served as an Imam in California for the last 22 years. He is currently Imam at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Northern California where he delivers the weekly khutbatul Jum’ah (Friday sermon)

He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 


[1] Quran: 16:78.

[2]

[3] The return of Jesus (AS) is very soon, as the majority of the major signs of his coming have already past

[4] Related by Abu Dawood with a good chain.

[5] Related  by Muslim

[6] Quran 103:2-3

[8] Related by Bukhaari. He dies the death of jaahiliyyah (ignorance).

[9] Related by Bukhaari

[10] Related by Bukhaari.

An American Muslim Imam’s Response to Imam Anwar Awlaki’s call for Jihad Against America

In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful 

From Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, to Imam Anwar Awlaki

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh. In a recent videotaped statement attributed to you, you posed a very serious question to American Muslims, and in addition you suggested that we as American Muslims are obligated to embark upon the unconscionable act of waging war against our own land and countrymen. You asked; “To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters?”

Well, now that you’ve posed the question, I’ll tell you why, and may Allah grant us His mercy. First of all, peaceful coexistence is not a crime; it is a mercy from the Almighty God be He Exalted and Glorified. As American Muslims, we peacefully coexist with our country because we are not under attack because of our faith and we are not driven from our homes; “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” 60:8 Quran. We live here because some of us were born and raised here, and it is the only home that we know. My forefathers came here as slaves, and have helped build this country with their bare hands. Millions of other Muslims have sought and received refuge and safe passage through this vast land of ours, and have made it their home. As American Muslims, we are of different origins; nevertheless we are here now, and it is the result of God’s divine Providence, and we are connected to this soil.

We live here because we are free men, women and children. We have the right to live here and this is our country.   We live here because Millions of American Muslims attend this nations masaajid every week without being accosted, bombed while in prayer, or hindered in any way from worshipping our Lord. Many Muslim Imams and scholars have branded our country as evil, even calling her the ‘Great Satan’. I say that the Lord that we worship favors not the east or the west; He favors the righteous wherever they dwell. “Say: To Allah belong both East and West: He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.”  Quran, 2:142. So to answer your question about our conscience as we peacefully coexist in The United States of America, my conscience, and the conscience of many Muslim Americans who live in this great land, is clear. As for those Muslims whose conscience and belief compels them to leave this country for another land, then the door is open for them to leave.

As for your call for American Muslims to wage jihad against our country and homeland; the land that you are urging us to wage war against, is the land of our homes that we are obligated to protect. In a prophetic narration by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As, he said: When we were around the Apostle of Allah (SAWS), he mentioned the period of commotion (fitnah) saying: “When you see the people that their covenants have been impaired, (the fulfilling of) the guarantees becomes rare, and they become thus (interwining his fingers). I then got up and said: What should I do at that time, may Allah make me ransom for you? He replied: “Keep to your house, control your tongue, accept what you approve, and abandon what you disapprove, attend to your own affairs, and leave alone the affairs of the generality.”[1] Therefore as Muslim Americans we are obligated by faith to protect our homes, and our homeland upon which they stand, as our homes are our refuge.

The people whom you claim we are obligated to take up arms against are our neighbors whom we live next to and share neighborhoods with, and our Prophet (SAWS) informs us to honor our neighbors by his words in the hadith reported by Abu Shuraih; “By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!” It was said, “Who is that, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.[2]   Furthermore, in the hadith of Aisha, she mentioned that the Prophet (SAWS) said “Gabriel continued to recommend me about treating the neighbors kindly and politely so much so that I thought he would order me to make them as my heirs.”[3]  They are our co-workers whom we work alongside them, our students who we teach, and our teachers who we learn from. The people whom you incite us to violence against are our firefighters who defend our homes and our property from ruin, our law enforcement officers who patrol our streets at night, and municipal workers who restore power after the storms, and remove injurious objects from the road. The individuals whom you suggest we wage jihad against are our physicians, nurses and medical professionals who care for our sick and mend the broken bones of our children. They are university professors that you yourself have benefitted from and under whose instruction you obtained your engineering degree. So in summary, my dear Imam and may Allah guide us, we must categorically reject your petition that we wage jihad against the United States of America as in doing so we would be in disobedience to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala and His Prophet (SAWS).

Innocent blood is shed all over the globe by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and that should be a concern for us all. This great nation of ours has indeed committed its wrongs just like every other nation on earth and I am confident that the Almighty God Allah, in His Infinite Power and Wisdom will render unto each his due for its good and for its evil. However in the meantime, I shall not lift a finger in jihad against the only country that I can call home. This is the United States of America, and I do not have a home to go back to. My family is here, my tribe is here, and when I bow my head in my duty to my Lord, I prostrate upon American soil.  She is a blessed land, crafted and designed by God Himself.

Our faith is a faith of reason, not rampage, and while we recognize that there have been people of all faiths who have, and will continue to shed innocent blood without just cause. We as American Muslims should take the higher ground of faith and godliness and forgive those who transgress against us, and set our sights upon the nobler ideals of Islam. My conscience is clear, and your call for American Muslims to engage in jihad against America is rejected. As an imam and as a Muslim, I pray for your salvation and the salvation of us all. May the Almighty God Allah, Glorified be His Holy Name, guide us all to righteousness, and may He bless the United States of America.

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakaatuh,

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com


[1] Collected by Abu Dawood in the Sunan

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

[3] Collected by Bukhaari

Tabaqaat al-Amrikiyyeen: Recording History for American Muslim Generations, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Tabaqaat al-Amrikiyyeen

1943 MslimsBiographical stationing is an important part of Muslim historiography.  Referencing in Islam is frequently based upon ranking and association; whether it is predicated upon precedence, levels of religious knowledge, or length of service to Islam and the Muslims, each group or person is accorded a status according to his or her designated ranking.  In the hadith; “The best generation is my generation. Then those that follow them. Then those that follow them”[1], there is a reference to biographical stationing. Hence, the best generation after the Prophet (SAWS) by agreement of the scholars is the generation of the companions because of their own achievements and because according to Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani; of their proximity to the Prophet (SAWS).

Tabaqaat as-Sahaaba

Early Muslim historians employ a biographical recording method whereas the ranks of the Muslim were chronicled by ranking and category. This was known as tabaqat which literally means levels. There are numerous verses in the Quran and authentic hadith which support stationing people according to their precedent, their notable achievements in religion and their honorable status. “And as for the first and foremost of those who have forsaken the domain of evil and of those who have sheltered and succored the Faith, as well as those who follow them in [the way of] righteousness – God is well-pleased with them, and well–pleased are they with Him.” 9:100 Likewise, Allah ta’ala makes a distinction between the active and inactive Muslim; “Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each Allah hath promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary[2]

Also amongst the groups that warranted specific  distinction were the 1400 or so Muslims who made the well-known bait (oath of felty) with the Prophet (SAWS) under the tree in Hudaibiyyah. They earned an honor that others did not. “Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave the bai’at (pledge) with you under the tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquility) upon them and He rewarded them with a near victory”, 48:19 al-Fat’h.

Another group was the emigrants who migrated with the Prophet (SAWS). They received a distinction that others did not. “For the poor emigrants, who were expelled from their homes and their property, seeking bounties from Allah and to please Him, and helping Allah and his messenger, they are indeed the truthful”[3]. And let us not forget the Ansaar of Medina who hosted the Prophet (SAWS) and the emigrants who prepared their way. They can never be matched. “And those who, before them, had prepared homes and faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given (of the booty), they give (the emigrants) preference over themselves even though they were in need of that. And whomever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be successful”[4].

Individuals of these classes cannot be equaled by anyone who came after them regardless of their contributions or sacrifices. In fact, any one of the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) whom Allah or the Prophet (SAWS) has testified to their excellence, their reward of paradise or to their preference cannot be equaled in stature by anyone after them. Such regard is given to the four aforementioned caliphs, and the other six of the ten companions who were promised paradise. It also extends to persons like Bilal, whose footsteps in paradise were heard by the Prophet (SAWS), to the black woman who used to clean the masjid of the Prophet, and others.

Likewise, anyone who has fought alongside the Prophet (SAWS), fought during his time by his command, spent money in the way of Islam during the Prophet’s time, migrated with him or to him are in a class unparalleled, and unobtainable by anyone after them. This goes particularly for the Companions who participated in actions before the conquest of Mecca. “Not equal amongst you are those who spent and fought before the conquest. Those are greater in level than those who spent and fought after (the conquest)”.[5]

It is generally agreed by the Muslim historians and scholars of Islam that the participants of Badr were a special tabaqa (rank). They were accorded a status that followed them throughout their lives. For some of them, their status earned them prophetic pardon when they erred as in the case of Haatib ibn abi Balta’ah; the Prophet (SAWS) pardoned him for divulging information to the Meccans shortly before the conquest of Mecca and said: “Verily he witnessed (participated) in the battle of Badr, and what would make you come to know, perhaps Allah has already looked at the people of Badr and said: ‘Do whatever you like, for I have forgiven you.”[6] For others of the Bad’reeyyoon (Bedronites), as they came to be known there was always a social status that they were the veterans of Badr. During the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khttaab, after he conquered Persia, he put all the veterans of Badr on annual pension.

In islamic tradition, sometimes people are stationed according to knowledge of Islam such as the scholars; “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.”[7] Other times they are stationed according to scholarship within a particular school of jurisprudence or within a particular discipline such as Imam Taj ul-Din as-Subki[8] did in his famous work; “Tabaqaat as-Shaafi’iyyah”, or al-Muafa ibn Imran al-Mawsali[9] did in his ‘Tabaqaat al-Muhadditheen’[10].

Ranking by faith is perhaps the most revered of all; “Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”[11] However faith ranking is largely a hidden domain for two reasons. Firstly because faith is a variable that increases and decreases according to theological reasoning of Muslim orthodoxy (Ahlus Sunna wa jamaa’at). Secondly, because the reality of anyone’s faith is known only by Allah; “And do not praise yourselves; surely Allah knows best who has the most piety.”[12] Recording Muslim history including tabaqat is not a determinant of faith but an acknowledgement of our past and our present civilization.

Many Muslim historians, scholars and traditionalists have rendered the companions of the Prophet (SAWS), particular groups of scholars or famous Muslim personalities into stations or tabaqat. Ibn Sa’ad is well known for his famous eight volume work: ‘Tabaqaat ibn Sa’ad’[13] in which he chronicled in addition to the life of the Prophet (SAWS), the lives of notable companions, and notables of the following generations. His last volume was dedicated to distinguished Muslim women.

Al-Haakims Tabaqaat

The earliest tabaqaat works were about the companions of the Prophet (SAWS). One of the very first was a work by Al-Muafa ibn Imran al-Mawsali titled; ‘Tabaqaat as-Sahaaba’. Ibn Zayyat produced a similar work in which mentions ten tabaqaat of the companions. Many scholars accept Al-Haakim’s famous rendering whereas he mentions 12 stations accorded the companions of the Prophet (SAWS).

Those stations are as follows:

1.    The companions who accepted Islam in the early period of Mecca. These include the four righteous khalifs

2.    The companions who accepted Islam before the Darul Nadwa consultation

3.    Those who migrated to Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia)

4.    Those present at the first Aqaba meeting

5.    Those present at the second Aqaba meeting

6.    Those who migrated and met the prophet (SAWS) at Quba’a before his entry into Medina

7.    The Muslim participants in the battle of Badr

8.    The Muslims who migrated between the events of Badr and Hudaibiyyah

9.    The companions present at the fealty of Hudaibiyyah incident

10. The companions who migrated between the time of Hudaibiyyah and the conquest of Mecca such as Khalid ibn al-Waleed

11. The Muslims who entered Islam at and during the conquest of Mecca

12. The children and the youth who saw the prophet (SAQWS) on the day of the conquest and during the farewell pilgrimage.[14]

Within the history of American Muslim community there are classes of individuals who have served Islam in a range of religious disciplines; there are imams, scholars, teachers, leaders, khateebs (preachers) and du’aat (missionaries) of Islam. Recording and acknowledging our own tabaqat, chronicles our history so that each ensuing generation is aware and connected to that which preceded it. Other writers throughout history have written tabaqaat relating to their own people and their own connected epochs. Sometime around 1259 A.D., Mahmud, Minhaj-i-Nasiri, a Bengali Judge of Delhi during the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin, wrote his ‘Tabaqaat al-Nasiri’ which chronicled the history of the first fifty years of Muslim rule in Bengal. In 1554 A.D., the Shaafi’ee scholar and Mystic, al-Sharanai[15] wrote his ‘Tabaqaat al-Suhgra’ where he chronicled the lives of his teachers, and other shuyookh of his time.

This type of narrative is an important element in recording our own history as American Muslims. It establishes a generational continuity of faith and action and scholarship. Each generation not only learns from the previous generation but is compelled because of their connection to them, to honor them and pray for their forgiveness; “And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancor (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.[16]

Remembering our forefathers is an acceptable act; “So when ye have accomplished your holy rites, celebrate the praises of Allah, as ye used to celebrate the praises of your fathers,- yea, with far more Heart and soul.[17] Reviling and criticizing our dead is a detestable act as the Prophet (SAWS) has said: “Do not speak ill of the dead for they have reached the deeds that they have put forth.[18] It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Do not revile the dead because then you will torment the living.[19] There is no value in cursing and reviling Muslims who have passed away as some of our youth are doing today. Cursing the previous nations is an action of the people of the hell-fire; “Enter ye in the company of the peoples who passed away before you – men and jinns, – into the Fire.” Every time a new people enters, it curses its sister-people (that went before), until they follow each other, all into the Fire.”[20]

Tabaqaat of American Muslim Pioneers

Much of American Muslim history goes on underreported. Many of our noteworthy American Muslim scholars, teachers, imams, activists and du’aat are gone and others will leave us in the coming years. The deaths of Sheikh Hisham Jaaber, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Imam Khairi Shakoor, Imam Luqman Abdullah, are reminders for us all that an era of Muslim stewardship in America is passing. In sha Allah, in the future there will be historians, and chroniclers who will retrieve and record information about those who have preceded us in faith, such as Sheikh Sulaimaan Abdul-Haadi of New York, Sheikhs Naafi’ Muhaimin, Muhammad al-Haarith, and Ahmad Thaafir of Philadelphia, as well as the noted Arabic teacher, Ustaadh Ali Abdul-Haadi who was also a Philadelphia native. Little is known about my late uncle, Sheikh Dawud Salahuddin who left Philadelphia with his family and helped to establish the sunna in Chicago, and so many others who have played significant roles such as the late great African American scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Izzuddeen, or Sheikh Wali Akram. It is important that proper respect is accorded our pioneers, imams, shuyookh, scholars and du’aat of Islam who have laid down the foundations of faith and Islam in the United States of America. Our position towards them should be one of acknowledgement, respect and good assumption.  We should stop allowing people to come to our country and disparage our imams, teachers and shuyookh, or issue scurrilous claims that there are no scholars from America.

Thus, long time Muslims who has completed a couple dozen fasts of Ramadan should occupy a tabaqa (ranking) different than someone who just accepted Islam a couple of years ago. Likewise, someone who has participated in Islamic work for decades should occupy a ranking different from the one who has just started being active or one who is not active at all. Imams who have dutifully served their communities for decades would have a higher ranking than imams who have just begun their tenure. This is not a matter of faith but a matter of generational protocol and adab. It was reported that the Prophet (SAWS) has said: “The one who does not show mercy to our youth and does not revere our aged is not from among us.[21]

Tabaqaat has to be applied in spirit first before we apply it to our own historical recording. The religion of Islam and the Muslims are better served if we respect those who have preceded us in faith, and who have and continue to, lay down the foundations of Islam in America. Recognizing that there are tabaqaat among us is one way of giving respect and honor where it is due. Wal humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad deliver’s the Friday Khutba at the Islamic Society of Folsom. He is a writer, lecturer and the author of the book; “Double Edged Slavery“, a book about the condition of African American Muslim converts in America, and   ‘TheDevil’s Deception of the Modern day Salafi Sect’.  He can be reached at, imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1]Collected by Bukhaari

[2] Quran, 4:95

[3] Quran, 59:8

[4] Quran, 59:9

[5] Quran, 57:10

[6] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim

[7] Quran, 58:11

[8] Died 756 A.H.

[9] Died, 185 A.H.

[10] Traditionalists

[11] Quran, 49:13

[12] Quran, 53:32

[13] Muhammad ibn Sa’ad ibn Mani’, d. 230 A.H.

[14] Usdu al-Ghaaba Fi Ma’rifatul Sahaaba, by Ibn Athir, (D. 630 AH.)volume 1, page 81

[15] Abdul-Wahaab ibn Ahmad al-Shraani, a Sufi mystic and scholar of the Shaafi’ee school and one of the most prolific writers of his time. He died in 1565 A.D.

[16] Quran, 59:10

[17] Quran, 2:200

[18] Collected by Bukhaari

[19] Collected by Abu Esa at-Tirmithi

[20] Quran, 7:38

[21] Collected by at-Tirmidhi and Imam Ahmad in the Musnad. The meaning being; not following our way, i.e. the way of the Prophet (SAWS).

 

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