Eight signs that your sheikh, just might be a fake, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

fake-sheikhOne of the challenges to our religion that we are starting to contend with in the United States, is the appearance of false sheikhs claiming to have divine powers, divine connections to Allah that no one else has, or claim to have reached stations with Allah unobtainable by any in his group.  This is something that we do not need and it seems to be spreading. They are starting to pop up all over the place seeking followers and disciples. The American Muslim convert community especially, is an open market for these types of shenanigans. There is so much disorder in our community, our leadership is severely weakened, unequipped, and non-existent in so many corners,  that we are open game.  Notwithstanding that so many converts to Islam are looking for a magic pill, that holy savior (Jesus style) to instantly catapult them o spiritual bliss.

Many people are steering clear of them but many others are falling for the hype. Some of so-called sheikhs are making outrageous claims about having knowledge of the unseen, infallibility, celestial travel and possessing supernatural powers. Some of them claim statuses that compare them to the divine which makes it hard for some people to look at them with a critical eye because, who wants to criticize someone who is divine, or who they believe has divine power? The truth of the matter is that they are not divine, they are not licensed paradise brokers and many of them are con-men.

So how can you tell a real sheikh or scholar from a pretender or a false one? Below are seven different traits to look for that may reveal that your sheikh is actually a fake or a con-man. The scholars of Islam are the inheritors of the Prophet ﷺ, and the legitimate Imams, du’aat and teachers of Islam work to preserve and pass down this religion, our principles, our values, and the prophetic message. The fake sheikhs and con-men are getting in the way.  Allah knows best as to who is real and who is fake but below are a few points to consider when trying to figure it out. It might help you to clear up doubts you might have  about the person who you take knowledge from, or whose picture you might have hanging up on your wall, or whose shrine you might have in your living room.

  1. Firstly, does your sheikh use his real name? The first thing to do is to find out his real name. Many con-men sheikhs use pseudonyms or aliases, and conceal their real identities. Some of them are wanted criminals and others are con-men. Some are even demons looking to swerve you away from true Islam. Ask him to reveal his real identity, his real name that he uses legally. There have been cases where people were following a so-called sheikh for years and didn’t even know his real name! Ask him to show his identification. If he has a new name that he uses that is different from his legal name, then does he reveal his former name? Even the Pope does clarifies his current and former name. If your sheikh is legitimate then he will want you to know his real name so that you can make du’aa for him at the very least. If he refuses to reveal his real legal name, reveal his former name or refuses to prove his identity even by the display of a driver’s license or a passport, or has multiple aliases, then this is a sign that he might be a fake-sheikh.
  1. Is he honest about his origin? Does he claim different origins to different people?Who was his father? Who was his mother? Find out about where he is really from. Many imposter sheikhs say they are from one place, when they are really from another place. Where was he born, what is his home town? Does anyone know him. If he is secretive about his origin, or not forthcoming with such information, then it is a strong possibility that he is a fake-sheikh. Real scholars and shuyookh are very clear about their origin, where they were born, where they grew up and what schools they attended.
  1. Did the sheikh just pop up out of nowhere? Or is he well known for a time? Does he have history? Or does he appear, circulate a little, and then disappear [often leaving fitna behind], and no one can find him? Does anyone know where he lives? If he suddenly appears out of nowhere without a trail or no verifiable history, or if no one knows him previously, then this is a sign that he might be a fake-sheikh.
  1. Does the sheikh have any writings, or recordings of his words or speeches? Does he have any recorded lectures or sermons? One of the things that fake-sheikhs do today is prevent people from recording them, claiming that they are teaching secret knowledge that others cannot handle. Any real sheikh or scholar is going to be open about what he teaches. He will have a history of teaching, classes, sermons, writings or students who have studied or taken knowledge from him. If he has no verifiable history as a teacher, as a khateeb, as a scholar, or as an author, then it is likely that he is a fake-sheikh. When they say that only special people can handle their teachings, then that is another sign that he might be a fake-sheikh.
  1. Does he accept daleel [proofs] from the Quran and the Sunna? Or does He claim that he is not subject to the Kitaab or that he has superior knowledge above the Quran and the Sunna and therefore not subject to our religious texts? Doe he use Quran and hadith to come up with his claims or does he only use unproven statements of his own sayings or his real or imagined teachers to support his teachings? If he doesn’t use the Kitaab, or the Sunna, or the teachings and understanding of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ and of our Salaf [early scholars], then there is a good possibility that he is a fake-sheikh.
  1. Is he a magician? Does he perform or teach magic spells? Does he call upon the jinn or claim that he has power over the jinn? If he performs magic spells, then it is likely that he has already performed one over you if you are a disciple of his. Also, if he a is a magician then he is also a mushrik [polytheist]. If he calls upon the jinn or claims power over the jinn, then it is likely that he himself is a demon. If he does any of the aforementioned then he is very likely a fake-sheikh or worse, a demon or demonized
  1. Does your sheikh claim that he and he alone, or only his sheikh can insure your salvation? Does he claim to have the keys to the unseen? “And with Him [Allah] are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him”. Does your sheikh claim to traverses in and out of the celestial world, or offers you special seating as his guest on the Day of Judgment? If he does any of these, then it is likely that he is a fake-sheikh.
  2. Does he teach in private, in secret rooms, or does he teach publicly for all to hear? Real shuyookh make their teachings available to the public, and open to public scrutiny. They know that if what they are teaching is the truth, it will stand up to challenge, and that it will obliterate falsehood. If they teach telling you that only you will understand, because you are special, then it is because you are a fool and they know it.

America is a free country, and people are free to follow whomever they wish, in whatever they wish, and however they wish. However, if you happen to be a Muslim and your goal is to follow the Prophet (SAWS), to practice original Islam, to worship Allah without partners, and to understand your religion correctly, then following a fake-sheikh is not the way to go. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is an Associate Imam and Khateeb at Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo, Ohio.  He is a writer, defender of the faith, advocate for the disenfranchised, and a political consultant, He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He is also the author of the book, “Double Edged Slavery“, and the recent book, “Killing Marriage in Black Muslim America“. He blogs at, imamluqman.wordpress.com. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com

The Dangers of Making things Haraam, Without Having Clear Evidence, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

6/21/19 I’m selling my car to visit my terminally ill brother in the hospital. See details at the end of the this blog post.

haran and halal.Look, if something is clearly prohibited in the religion of Islam, then it is prohibited, and there is no need to go and try to make it otherwise. Likewise, if something is clearly permissible according to our scriptures and the practice of the Prophet (SAWS), then no one should be hard pressed to find a reason to make it prohibited. One area where people have become very unstable in their religion, is when they become obsessed with making things haraam, which were not previously haraam by the Book or the Sunna.  Granted there are things in the religion of Islam which God has clearly made prohibited; fornication, stealing, lying, intoxicants, murder, backbiting, paganism, and so on, where there is clear textual evidence. However, there are other things, for which there is no clear evidence from the Book or from the Sunna, which renders it prohibited. Yet, people insist upon making them prohibited using triangular reasoning, as if Allah somehow forgot to make these things prohibited. The Prophet said, “Verily, Allah has made duties obligatory, so do not neglect them; and He has set limits, so do not transgress them; and He has remained silent concerning things as mercy for you, not out of forgetfulness, so do not search them out”.[1]

There are far more things that are permissible in Islam, than there are prohibited. This is by Divine design, since it would be nearly impossible for someone to know the exact ruling, on everything they do in life, and it would be unreasonable for a person to research each and every action in their life, to try to find a justification for it in our religious texts.  It is much more important for people to be acutely aware of what is prohibited than it is for them to be acutely aware of what is permissible[2]. Therefore, the scholars of Islamic law, have come up with a principle of law that says that the legal basis of all things (except for acts of worship) is permissibility. The textual foundation for this rule is the verse:   “O ye people! Eat of what is on earth, Lawful and good; and do not follow the footsteps of Satan, for he is to you an avowed enemy”.[3]

The above verse mentions two things; lawful (halal) and good (tayyib). In other words, God places an even greater burden upon anyone who wishes to declare something on the earth as unlawful, because not only does He declare the lawful nature of things, he also clarifies that those natural things on the earth that he made lawful, are also good and wholesome. Thus when a person makes something prohibited that God has made permissible without proof, not only is he is contradicting God’s law, he is impugning God’s divine judgment, by insinuating that it is not good and wholesome, which is like saying that God makes bad choices.

This is why scholars with better discernment, and the Imams of the four schools of law, were very reluctant to render something prohibited without strong irrefutable evidence. They used to say things like, ‘I do not like so and so a thing’, or I would discourage so and so a thing’, without prohibiting it outright, because of their fear of rendering something prohibited after God has made things upon the earth permissible.

An example of how Allah looks at someone who makes haraam what Allah has rendered halal is seem in his dealing with His Beloved, the Prophet himself, after the Prophet made something prohibited upon himself, that Allah had already allowed him. “O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee? Seeking to please thy spouses. But Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”.[4]  This is in the case of the Prophet who Allah loves more than anyone else of our ummah. Thus, even the Prophet was not exempt in the prohibition of making things prohibited that Allah has made permissible.

Some Muslims are nearly obsessed with going around searching into things that are already permissible, to render them haraam, and then try to hold people as moral hostages, to these newly prohibited things that they have found some way to make prohibited. We have to counteract the cultural mindset that makes Muslims eager, and seemingly overjoyed, when they find something new, that they can declare haraam. There is enough prohibited activity in people’s lives today to keep us busy for the rest of the century.

There is no need to go about searching for new things to declare haraam. If people simply focused on avoiding the things that are already haraam by the Book and by the Sunna, they would be better off. Don’t be one of those people. The Prophet , said, “the worst Muslim criminal amongst other Muslims, is the one who asks questions about something that was not made prohibited on the people, then it becomes prohibited as a result of his questioning”.[5]

When people go about trying to find new things to make haraam, they have usually overlooked many things that were already haraam. If you become one of those people, you are very likely to be unsuccessful in the area of faith, and understanding of religion, because by doing so, you are bound to anger Allah in a very personal way. As Allah has said: “But say not – for any false thing that your tongues may put forth,- “This is lawful, and this is forbidden,” so as to ascribe false things to Allah. For those who ascribe false things to Allah, will never prosper”.[6]  Unless something is specifically prohibited in the Book or in the Sunna, it is better to leave it alone. Don’t be the person who jumps on the bandwagon, every time people get excited when they find something else that can call prohibited.

There is a certain legal threshold that is needed when we say that something is haraam. Something can be unethical but not haraam, or undesirable, but not haraam, or disliked, but not haraam. Many Muslims today, unfortunately, are inclined towards extremism and fanaticism, so we have to be more careful when we say something is haraam without evidence. There have been numerous instances, where Muslims, killed or maimed other Muslims for celebrating the Prophet’s birthday (which there is difference of opinion of scholars whether it is haraam or not), or where Muslims were condemned by other Muslims for visiting their families on certain days, and a few years ago, Muslims were shot dead in their homes, by other Muslims for watching the World Cup soccer match on television. Muslims routinely call each other infidels, fight and kill each other, and argue back and forth, other over issues newly made haraam issues, such as, Thanksgiving, Baby showers, birthdays and the like.

When things were doubtful, scholars of our Salaf (early generations) used to use the phrase; I do not like this or do not like that, without rendering something haraam without evidence. Notwithstanding that rendering something haraam without evidence is a major sin (kabeerah). Our goal as Muslims, should be to base our faith upon knowledge, and to try to curb the tide of extremism, and moral dysfunction in our ranks, and to stay focused upon what is clear in our revealed texts.

Therefore, never be in a rush to render something prohibited that is not already prohibited in the Book of Allah or in the Sunnah of the Prophet , but concentrate first, upon those things, that we know for a fact, and that are confirmed by textual evidence (Quran and Sunna), to be haraam. If you stay focused upon these things, you won’t have time to go about searching for things to make prohibited.  Wal Allahul Musta’aan.

Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Luqman Ahmad currently delivers the khutbatul Jum’ah is the Islamic Society of Folsom in California. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com. He is also the author of the book: “The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect”, available at Amazon.com.


[1] Authentic hadith, collected in the Sunan of ad-Daraqutani.

[2] Except in the case of ibaadah (worship). Matters of worship need to be cleared by textual evidence, since the Prophet said, “Pray in the manner in which you have seen me pray”.

[3] Quran, 2:168.

[4] Quran, 66:1.

[5] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[6] Quran, 16:116.

The Islamic Ruling Regarding Morals and Ethics on Social Networks, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

social networking 2Social networking can be an effective tool for maintaining contact with relatives, giving sincere advice, inviting to Islam, spreading the word of Allah, and disseminating the words of His Prophet (SAWS), as the Prophet has said: “inform about me, even if it’s only one verse.[1] All of these actions mentioned are praiseworthy manifestations of faith if done with the right intention and in the right manner. Millions of Muslims across the world use facebook and other social networking outlets to do these things on a daily basis. Internet networking is the new international meeting place, and it can be a sometimes, spiritually uplifting, engaging, and profitable venue for global interconnection, spreading good, and familiarization of peoples from different backgrounds, cultures, and faiths. Human beings by our nature, are social beings, and social interconnectivity by itself is not prohibited in Islam, as Allah has indeed sanctioned it;

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honored 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)”.[2]What is not sanctioned however is that people connect with one another and engage in behavior in ways that are prohibited by the Quran and the Sunna and that contradict the moral and ethical standards of our faith.

One of the first common casualties of social networking is shame

One of the first casualties of online social networking is modesty (hiyaa).  The Prophet (SAWS) said: “And modesty  is a branch of faith”. When a Muslim loses shame then they have lost a part of their faith. Facebook is a public forum; the words you say and conversations that you have on Facebook and other social media are public. You are willingly stating your views, your positions, your beliefs, and your personal discretions out there for public consumption. Therefore, if you openly report your sins without shame or modesty, then you are telling the world that you are a sinner. Therefore, If you openly and shamelessly backbite, then you are telling the world that you are an open backbiter, and if you glowingly talk about your escapades with your boyfriend or girlfriend, then you are telling the world that you are an open fornicator. You are still accountable for it but you are now deliberately publicizing it. Deliberately publicizing something is called (mujaahara) and mujaahara of sin, is itself a sin, and it shows that you lack modesty.

 Ibn Abbaas said: “Shame and faith are in the same horn, when shame is taken away, the other follows”[3]. And Salmaan al-Faarisee relates: “when Allah wants destruction for a person, he takes shame away (from his heart).  The invisible wall of the internet sometimes lures people into a false sense of anonymity and they become unabashedly immodest.  When people start to lose modesty/shame, their faith as a whole begins to dwindle, and it can continue to where they have no shame at all. This is why the Prophet said: “If you do not feel any shame, then do as you wish[4]. People put out things shamelessly and fool themselves into thinking that since they are behind a computer screen, there are no repercussions for what they do and say, and all they need to do to hide is to turn off their computer. That is a wrong asumption.

The difference between public and private actions in Islam

When you intentionally publicize something to the world, you are making a public statement about yourself, who you are, what you believe, and what you are about. With respect to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, is doesn’t matter if what is said is done in private, or done publicly, each is accounted for;

سَوَاء مِّنكُم مَّنْ أَسَرَّ الْقَوْلَ وَمَن جَهَرَ بِهِ وَمَنْ هُوَ مُسْتَخْفٍ بِاللَّيْلِ وَسَارِبٌ بِالنَّهَارِ

It is all alike [to Him] whether any of you conceals his thougt or brings it into the open, and whether he seeks to hide [his evil deeds] under the cover of night or walks [boldly] in the light of day”.[5]

With respect to the public, when you publicize things to people without shame, you give them license to form opinions about you that you, yourself, have confirmed. There is the additional harm of opening yourself up to criticism, recrimination, and ruining your reputation. Facebook is a public forum; the words you say and conversations that you have on Facebook and other social media are public. If you unabashedly lie to the public, then you only confirm to them that you are a liar. If you are unabashedly lewd to the public, then you confirm to them that you are lewd.

Everything on Facebook is recorded

Everything that you put on your facebook page becomes a permanent record that will bear witness for, or against you on the Day of Judgment. The angels that record words and deeds are not intimidated by the internet; and even though you can set your privacy settings to limit access for people, there is no way that a person can shield his or her online actions from them or from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. Sometimes people are misled into thinking that since we are sitting comfortably ensconced in our homes out of view from the public; our words and actions online do not fall under any divine jurisdiction and have no spiritual consequence. This could not be farther from the truth; every deed, and every word, is recorded;

And whoever does an atoms weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atoms weight of bad shall see it”[6]. The angels who record deeds, and words, write down every word whether it is online or offline;

مَا يَلْفِظُ مِن قَوْلٍ إِلَّا لَدَيْهِ رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ

[Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).[7]]

Facebook Fitna

For all its benefit, Facebook like other social networks can be a great source of fitna (trial); an alarming amount of marriages have ended, been weakened or have been threatened by the involvement of one or both spouses in risky facebook activity. People are insulted, maligned and slandered, and in turn, are tempted to return insults, and often do.  Peoples sexual exploits are divulged shamelessly and people regularly report their offline sinful behavior. It is not permissible for a Muslim to use social networking as a means to cheat on one’s spouse, cultivate unlawful relationships, post revealing photographs, spread bedroom secrets, or to uncover the faults of others without just cause. All of the above are prohibited in Islam by agreement of the scholars, and have toxic consequences upon the soul.

Likewise, we shouldn’t use the internet to make fun of people, exhibit bad character, or to backbite and slander one another. Those of you who are looking for spouses should keep in mind that it will only take a few clicks for your potential husband or wife to see the extent of your bad character, in fact the world can see it and all who see it or read it will bear witness to it. Some people have taken it upon themselves to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, to show the worst behavioral qualities that they have to the public. Remember, whatever any one of us puts out on the internet, multiplies and can spread way beyond our control.

How Sins or virtues are multiplied on Facebook

When it comes to good words or good deeds, they are automatically multiplied by at least tenfold; [مَن جَاء بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا وَمَن جَاء بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلاَ يُجْزَى إِلاَّ مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ] “He that doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit: He that doeth evil shall only be recompensed according to his evil: no wrong shall be done unto (any of) them.[8] However, bad words and statements, on the other hand, require more caution; a bad word, bad action or deed under normal circumstances, by itself constitutes only one infraction or sinful act. However, when you take into account the duplicitous nature of internet posting in that information is often re-tweeted, re-posted and forwarded to and read by others, who in turn, repeat the information, a single bad word, false statement, accusation or slander is multiplied exponentially, so one personal attack is not just one personal attack, it can easily become 1,000,000 personal attacks, and one heretical statement becomes 1,000,000 heretical statements. Then it’s all written down and goes on a scale that we will see on the Day of Judgment.

This is why the Prophet (SAWS) said: “A person will say something that angers Allah and not give it any thought, then (that statement) will throw him into the hell-fire a distance of seventy autums[9]. A singular online statement of backbiting, slander, or disbelief, may multiply long after you have logged out of your computer, and become a cause for your own spiritual ruin. May Allah protect us from that.

Good and Bad Precedents

This is the true danger of using bad words, bad adab and bad judgment when posting, liking or commenting on things using the internet, is that since it is a public forum, you increase the likelihood that someone else will follow your example. As in the hadith of Jarir ibn Abdullah, who reported the Prophet (SAWS) as saying; “Whoever sets a good precedent in Islam will have the reward for that and the reward of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever sets a bad precedent in Islam will bear the burden of sin for that, and the burden of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest.[10] It is important for Muslims to be aware of the potential consequences for what they are posting. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira, he said: the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: “Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like that of those who follow it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like that of those who follow it, without it detracting from their burden in the slightest.[11] With respect to the two previously mentioned hadith, Imam Nawawi says; “These two ahaadeeth clearly encourage us to set good precedents and forbid setting bad precedents. The one who sets a good precedent will have a reward like that of everyone who follows it until the Day of Resurrection, and the one who sets a bad precedent will have a burden of sin like that of everyone who follows it until the Day of Resurrection. The one who calls others to right guidance will have a reward like that of those who follow it, and the one who calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like that of those who follow it, whether this guidance or misguidance is something that he initiated or it was started before him, and whether that is by teaching knowledge, acts of worship, etiquette or anything else”[12].

This is important to consider, because long after you have logged off of your computer, deleted your social network account, changed your profile, or in some way shielded your identity, your actions are still spreading and having consequences. This can continue long after your soul has left your body and you are in your grave. It is common that people post and say things that they give no second thought to, and it will turn out that those statements and posts will result in their being thrown into the hell-fire. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira, the Prophet (SAWS) said: “A slave of Allah might say something which pleases Allah Almighty without realizing it on account of which Allah raises him some degrees. A slave of Allah might say something which angers Allah Almighty without realizing it on account of which he falls into Jahannam.[13]

Major infractions we commit on Facebook

Spreading marital secrets.

 The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Verily among the worst people before Allâh on the Day of Judgment is a man who approaches his wife sexually and she responds and then he spreads her secrets.”[1] This is when either a husband or a wife, and sometimes boyfriend and girlfriend pretending to be married, discloses about their personal bedroom manners. This is prohibited behavior in Islam and has terrible spiritual consequences, and places people amongst the worst people on the Day of Judgment.


[1] Collected by Muslim, Ibn Abi Shayba, and others.

Heretical statements or sentiments

Another common problem that we see are when people make statements, or take positions that are tantamount to kufr (heresy); such as when people openly reject verses of the Quran, or authentic  hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) without any ta’weel [acceptable interpretation] . A person may state on facebook or another social network like YouTube, twitter or instagram and say, I believe such and such a thing, or so and so is correct when they say such and such a thing, all the while, the statement that they make or say they believe in is a statement of unbelief. Kufr, does not cease to be kufr, just because it’s on the internet.

Speaking without knowledge

Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala makes it clear; وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً   [“And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).”][15]  Too often, people make claims about religious matters without having any knowledge. It is common that people make their own tafseer of the Quran, or ignore agreed upon positions of Islamic scholarship, many times, committing heresy in the process. The Prophet said: “Whoever speaks about the Quran without knowledge, then let him have his seat in Hellfire.” [Tirmithi]. Making capricious statements about Quranic verses is a cardinal sin. Even if the person happens to be correct, the fact alone that he or she takes such liberties as to freely interpret the sacred word of the Almighty God Allah, after it had been sent down from seven heavens, delivered by the archangel Jib’reel to the Prophet (SAWS) and preserved in the hearts of men is enough to warrant condemnation.  “The Prophet said: ”He who speaks about the Quran on the basis of his own opinion, he commits an error even if he is right”. [Tirmithi and Dawood]

Disclosing the faults of others

This has become rampant on face book and other social media. Many Muslims have followed the path of tabloid television and spend an inordinate amount of time in trying to disclose the faults of others; such behavior leads to punishment in this life and in the hereafter;
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

“Those who love to see scandal published (and) broadcast among the Believers will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows and ye know not”[16] (Quran, 19-24) The first principle to follow on this matter is to cover up your brother’s faults and resist scandal, based upon the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) “Whosoever covers (the sins of) a Muslim, Allah covers (his sins) on the Day of Judgment”.

Backbiting and Slander

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it…But fear Allah. For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful”.[17]

Backbiting is the most heinous of sins, and bears grave consequences. The Prophet (SAWS) was reported to have said: “Allah may forgive a person if he repents after committing adultery. However, Allah will not forgive the one who backbites, till his victim forgives him.”[18]

Dear beloveds, let’s be mindful of what we post or comment on the internet because bad words, bad adab, profanity, personal attacks, false accusations, lewdness, and misinformation about the religion, has its consequences. Hiding behind online anonymity may work for some people to conceal their real identities from the public, but it doesn’t work with Allah; “And every human being’s destiny have We tied to his neck; and on the Day of Resurrection We shall bring forth for him a record which he will find wide open, and he will be told:] “Read this thy record,! Sufficient is thine own self today to make out thine account!” 17:13-14 Quran. Remember to think before you post, like or comment. And Allah knows best.

Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Luqman is the weekly Imam/Khateeb at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Northern California  and Executive Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think Tank based in California; he can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.


[1] Collected by Bukhaari

[2] Quran, 49:13

[3] Jaami’ Uloom wal Hikam, By Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, p. 248.

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

[5] Quran, 13:10

[6] Quran, 99:7-8

[7] Quran, 50:18

[8] Quran, 6:160

[9] Collected by Imam Ahmad, and Abu Eesa at-Tirmithee.

[10] Collected by Muslim

[11] Collected by Muslim

[12] Sharhu Muslim 16/227-227

[13] Collected by Bukhaari

[14] Collected by Muslim, Ibn Abi Shayba, and others.

[15] Quran, 17:36

[16] Quran, 24:19

[17] Quran, 49:12

[18] Collected by al-Bayhaqi

The Islamic Ruling regarding Celebrating Thanksgiving Day by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Today’s scholars, are faced with a task, that scholars of previous times, did not have to reckon with; before the age of globalization, scholars would render religious edicts (fataawa), about their own people, and their own cultural affairs, and their own countries and lifestyle, about which they were uniquely familiar.  Today, scholars face, and sometimes simply take upon themselves, the colossal assignment of electronically rendering religious edicts, about people, places, and cultures, sometimes thousands of miles away, where they have not lived, do not have an intimate working knowledge of, and are woefully unfamiliar with.

Fatwas, that apply to well-known, and necessary matters of worship, aqeeda, theology, and religious practices, can be applied globally, across all nations and people. With regard to such issues, all Muslims are the same, and they all have the same obligations, and responsibilities. For example, in issues of salat, fasting, inheritance, and the like, all Muslims must adhere to the same ah’kaam. However, Muslim, in matters that has to do with tradition, and cultural norms, and regional circumstances, Muslim scholars should refrain from making rulings which prohibit the cultural practices people in faraway lands.

It is not common, and virtually unheard of, for scholars of Egypt to render fatwas against the people of Syria for what they do in their country, or for the scholars of Saudi Arabia to render fatwas against the People of Bahrain for what they do in their country, or for the scholars of Lebanon, or Algeria, to render fatwas against the Muslims of Sudan, for what they do in their country.

Were they to do that, people would be insulted and take hyperbolic umbrage over it. There is a certain respect, and acknowledgement of scholars, to respect the boundaries, intelligence, and independence of Muslim peoples in other countries, to understand their own condition, and to handle their own affairs accordingly. This gentleman’s understanding and respect, should also extend to Muslims, and Muslim converts living in America.

Muslim Americans have lived on this continent, since the 1600’s, long before this country even became a republic. They have endured under slavery, torture, illiteracy, and being bought and sold like cattle, and still managed to hold on to their faith. So to think that American Muslims of today, do not know how to maintain or practice their faith in the midst of a country like the United States of America, is untenable, and untenable is a soft word because it’s more like, ludicrous. It would be unthinkable for an American Muslim scholar or Imam to render a ruling about practices in another country, and be taken seriously.

The Prophet , and his learned companions, knew how to navigate their way through their society in a way as to avoid what was prohibited upon them. This is true for most Muslims, once they know what is prohibited upon them according to the Quran and the Sunna. If we can accept, as the majority of scholars do, that the companions of the Prophet were able to navigate through Arab society using the guidance of the Quran and the Sunna, then how can we not accept the possibility that American Muslims could do the same, without outside help? The reason the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Madinah, was not because they were unable to conduct their affairs morally and comprehensively in an un-Islamic society; the reason he made the Hijra, was because the Muslims were under oppression and persecution. It is a historical fact that the first Hijra was because of persecution, and the same went for the second Hijra. This is why the Prophet “said the best of you in jaahiliyyah is the best of you in Islam if they understand (the religion). In order for people to understand the religion, their focus has to be upon the texts.

During the last four or five decades, millions of Americans have converted to Islam, and their families and extended families were not Muslim. Many converts have used Thanksgiving Day for a day of strengthening family ties, keeping in touch with their relatives whom normally, they would not have the opportunity to visit because of work obligations and distance. And in the overwhelming majority of cases, the non-Muslim families, because of love and attachment to their Muslim relative, accommodates them in every possible way.

It would be grossly irresponsible to say that Thanksgiving, or any observance of it, is prohibited. Because to do so, is to say that people gathering to eat, to be amongst their family and loved ones, and to express their thanks to God, is an abomination, and something that angers God. To render the holiday and all of the practices haraam would say that it is evil, an abomination, and something that God hates. “Say: My Lord forbiddeth only indecencies, such of them as are apparent and such as are within, and sin and wrongful oppression, and that ye associate with Allah that for which no authority hath been revealed, and that ye tell concerning Allah that which ye know not”.[1]

Thus, when a convert to Islam is now told that eating with his family, visiting his grandma, and keeping ties with his family is a shameful, hateful thing to god, it sends a dangerous psychological message, that is antithetical to our faith. To say that doing these things are permissible on other days, but not permissible of the day that it is easiest to accomplish keeping ties, goes directly against the standards of our Prophet in fulfilling godly obligations. Which was to prefer ease. “This religion is easy. No one becomes harsh and strict in the religion without it overwhelming him”.[2] It is easy for scholars from abroad to prohibit something when they have no direct experience upon the matter. This is why we seek to clarify the whole issue of Thanksgiving so that people will be upon clarity بينة.

What is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day is an American cultural holiday that is marked by family gatherings, cooking and feasting, being thankful, watching football, parades, staying home from work, and discounts in the malls on the following day. For many American families, thanksgiving dinner represents a day when the family comes together. For some, it is the only day where so many of the family are present on the same day and in the same place. Maintaining family relationships is prescribed in our scripture, and it is the Sunna of our beloved Prophet .

Is sitting down to a meal with one’s family prohibited on Thanksgiving? Some modern-day scholars of Islam are adamant that participating in any part of thanksgiving; going to dinner, taking off from work, eating turkey, visiting the family, taking advantage of the discounts in the malls,  is expressly prohibited. Some have even likened such behavior as disbelief. However, the evidences from the Quran and the Sunna seems not to support that notion.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, not a religious holiday

Although Thanksgiving was originated by Christians, it was not born of pagan origin; amongst some of the early Christians in this country, special blessings viewed as coming from God, called for days of thanksgiving.  In its current form as practiced in the United States, it is not a religious holiday; it is an American holiday, observed in one way or another by people of all faiths. A person if they like, can use the occasion to reflect upon the blessings of their Lord, and thank Him. However, observing Thanksgiving Day does not require that a person worship, thank, or show gratitude to other than Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, nor does it require that a person worship other than Him be he Exalted and Glorified.

Contrary to some opinions, there is nothing in the Book or in the Sunna of the Prophet that prohibits a person from being American, living like an American, behaving like an American, or engaging in American culture as long as the lifestyle, behavior or actions do not contradict the Book of Allah, or the Sunna of the Prophet . If America, being American, living like an American or thinking like an American contradicts the wishes of some of the scholars, then the Muslim is not answerable to them in that; we are answerable to Allah for our actions first and foremost. It is interesting to note that many of the people who deride other Muslims for even acknowledging Thanksgiving, celebrate it themselves by arguing about it every year.

Operative principles of Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day centers around five points, all of which are prominently placed values in the religion of Islam.

1.      Thanking Allah: “And remember! your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): “If ye are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you; But if ye show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed”.[3]

2.      Being grateful: “He showed his gratitude for the favours of Allah, who chose him, and guided him to a Straight Way”.[4]

3.      Reminding yourself of His favors: “Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny”?[5]

4.      Keeping family ties: “Those who join together those things which Allah hath commanded to be joined, hold their Lord in awe, and fear the terrible reckoning

5.      Feeding food. They asked the Prophet ﷺ what was there best type of Islam, he said: “feeding food and spreading the salaams”.

If the Prophet wanted to make it prohibited for a Muslim to visit his or her family during certain days of the year, then he would have done so, especially since the overwhelming majority of the companions of Rasoolillaah had relatives who continued to engage in pagan worship. Even if they converted to Islam, their family members continued to observe pagan rites, rituals and functions. It is confirmed in authentic hadith that the Prophet himself, as well as numerous companions were present at the Ka’ba while people were engaged in idol worship. However, they themselves, did not participate in anything of idol worship, nor did they engage in prohibited activity.

The Prophet , and his learned companions, knew how to navigate their way through their society in a way as to avoid what was prohibited upon them. This is true for most Muslims, once they know what is prohibited upon them according to the Quran and the Sunna. Thus is our view that scholars, who are not intimately informed about people’s daily lives, and exchanges with their environments, cannot and should not, attempt to micro-manage people’s interactive navigation through life, as they pursue the religious ideals and values for which God holds them accountable.

Errant Islamic rulings which prohibit Thanksgiving

A surprising number of religious edicts or fataawa rendered upon people, events and circumstances which occur in the United States are made by scholars who are qualified and astute in their own regard, but are distressingly uniformed about the details and social-cultural minutia of life in the United States of America. Subsequently, many rulings are made that are faulty, and harms the Muslim in areas of their faith, rather than benefit them. It is common that a fatwa is rendered, usually from abroad, which ends up requiring the Muslim to disobey Allah and His Messenger , or to hate something that Allah loves, or to ignore a basic principle of deen in order to comply with the ruling of an uninformed scholar. This phenomenon is one of the causes of American Muslim moral dysfunction. This problem is further exacerbated when we see that in many Muslim countries, holidays commemorations, and events, other than the two Eids are celebrated with the consent of the scholars while some of the same scholars, render prohibitions against Muslims celebrating anything besides the two Eids here in the United States.

There is hardly a single Muslim country on earth that does not celebrate their National Day, or their Independence Day, or the Prophet’s Birthday or their Revolution Day, or their Election Day, or million man marches as was held in Egypt recently. In Saudi Arabia they celebrate, in addition to the two Eids, the June Solstice on June 21st, the September Equinox on September 22nd, and the New Year on the first of Muharram, or November 5th, and the scholars are silent about that.  There are millions of Muslims who came to America, applied for citizenship and then went to the citizenship celebration held by the U.S government, and the scholars are silent about that. In fact, many of them participate in it every year.

When the Abbasid Dynasty came into being, it started with a huge celebration and feast for the leading Umayyad princes, and ended with them all being slaughtered. Muslims celebrate victories in battle. They celebrated for days when Mu’ammar Qadafhi was killed, they celebrated in the streets of Egypt when Husni Mubaarak was deposed, and they celebrated in the streets of Kuwait, after the Gulf war and the scholars sanctioned it. Even the Muslims, who cry about thanksgiving being haraam, commemorate it every year by arguing about it, so they still participate in the holiday; they just do it by arguing about it. In Pakistan they celebrate Pakistan Independence day on the 14th of August, Pakistan day on the 23rd of March, and Labor Day on the 1st of May, and the scholars are silent about these things and participate in them

Thus many of the fatwaawa (Islamic legal rulings) which prohibit thanksgiving are biased and use a double standard, or are issued by people who may mean well but who do not fully understand western society and how we celebrate our holidays. They are unaware of how we differentiate between the religious and the cultural and they are uninformed about how we navigate our affairs so and sift through the prohibited actions in order to engage in that which is permissible. Some scholars are also uninformed about the operative meaning of the word ‘celebration’ in the modern American context; they infer that by celebration, we mean worship, or that we mean partying, from morning to night, dancing in the streets, and making a spectacle of ourselves. Additionally, the notion of a holiday to many scholars is that it is religiously incumbent, and that participation is mandatory, not optional.  This is not the case not only for Thanksgiving but for many American holidays, even the religious ones.

People in America celebrate thanksgiving differently. There is no one way that the whole population; all 311,591,917 of us, observes the day. For some it is merely a paid or non-paid day off from work, which is permissible in either case. For others, it is a time when shopping bargains are available in the stores and online which is also permissible in Islam since there is no prohibition in purchasing an item that has been discounted.  For others it is a day of preparing a feast for the family and serving it to them which is a praiseworthy action in the religion of Islam. Or spending quality time with the family which also a praiseworthy action according to the Quran and the Sunna. Still for others it is no different from any other day at all. Some people abhor the thought of Thanksgiving, and others simply sleep through the whole day and don’t wake up until the next day. So anyone can see the obvious difficulty and absurdity in rendering any acknowledgement, involvement, celebration or participation in anything that has to do with Thanksgiving as prohibited

Many scholars of Islam, (may Allah bless and strengthen them), are also unfamiliar with the operative meaning and concept of the term ‘holiday’ means in the United States. Holidays in America can be religious, political, cultural or environmental (like earth day), historical (like Presidents Day), or patriotic in nature, like Veterans Day. Since the United States, thus far, is a free society, people generally are free to observe them any way they like. It’s not like religious holidays in the Muslim world whereas on the Eid for example; you aren’t considered to have observed the Eid unless you attended Eid prayer. If a woman is menstruating, she would be considered to have observed the Eid if she attended the prayer even if she didn’t pray.  30,000 people in the city where I live, observed Thanksgiving today by running a 5k race to raise money to feed the homeless, and it’s hard to find an argument that makes raising money to feed homeless people haram.

A Muslim is not obligated to live his or her life based upon the ignorance or misinformation of a well intending scholar.  Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya 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 people’s 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 (a scholar) will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that he 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”.[6] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya.  There is a fatwa floating around, attributed to our esteemed Shaykh bin Baaz, (RA) that prohibits celebrating any festivals, holidays, or special occasions of non-Muslims. I regret that during my time of study with him, I did not ask him specifically and in detail about Thanksgiving in America. Had I done so, I doubt if he would have found it prohibited but Allah knows best.

The correct Islamic ruling on celebrating Thanksgiving Day

Deeds are reckoned according to intentions, based upon the hadith; “surely deeds are reckoned by intention”.[7] There are several Sunnan and Quranic injunctions that are found in the observance of thanksgiving such as the Prophet’s exhortation upon the believers to feed food; when asked what is the best type of Islam, he replied: “feeding food, and spreading the salaams”[3]. Thanksgiving also is marked by gathering with family and strengthening family bonds, which is a praiseworthy act; “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship.[4]”additionally, it is not prohibited in Islam to visit the homes of your relatives, and eat there; “It is no fault in the blind nor in one born lame, nor in one afflicted with illness, nor in yourselves, that ye should eat in your own houses, or those of your fathers, or your mothers, or your brothers, or your sisters, or your father’s brothers or your father’s sisters, or your mother’s brothers, or your mother’s sisters, or in houses of which the keys are in your possession, or in the house of a sincere friend of yours: there is no blame on you, whether ye eat in company or separately. But if ye enter houses, salute each other – a greeting of blessing and purity as from Allah. Thus does Allah make clear the signs to you: that ye may understand”.[8]

There are no verses in the Quran or authentic ahaadeeth of the Prophet that expressly prohibit celebrating thanksgiving. Even though there are scholars who triangulate different ahaadeeth and verses and interpret them to make Thanksgiving prohibited, this is without warrant according to our understanding.

It is not possible to prohibit an entire day, since all the days of the year belong to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. However, activities that occur on any given day can be prohibited if there is sufficient proof. So based upon the evidences that we have provided, observing Thanksgiving Day by itself, is not prohibited, and just like every other cultural occasion, the activities that one participates in on that day, should be looked upon on a case by case, compartmental basis.

It is permissible for a Muslim to prepare a meal on Thanksgiving Day, or any other day in their own homes, and eat thereof. It is also permissible to invite guests to your home on that day or any other day of the year to eat your food. It is permissible to cook turkey, chicken, duck, lamb, beef, or any other meat that is allowable according to the Book and the Sunna. It is also permissible to go vegetarian if one likes. Allah has made no restrictions on which days people can feast and which days they cannot except in the case of Ramadan.

Likewise, If one sees benefit in taking a paid day off from work to spend with their family or to rest then they should do so. If they see benefit in spending that time with their families over grandma’s house and enjoying a good meal of allowable food, then they should do so. If the see benefit in spending halal money, on permissible items that are discounted in the mall, then they should do so. However, if going to grandma’s house for dinner or preparing a special meal in your own home will cause problems in the family, sour relations with the relatives, or somehow cause you to lose your religion, or disobey Allah and His Messenger, then you should not participate. Likewise, if a person wishes to avoid everything about that day, pay full price instead of the discounted price at the mall, return to their employer, their day’s pay when they took off, and behave as if it is just another day, then they are allowed to do that according to the Kitaab and the Sunna.

Another important point is that, if we can accept that scholars can make ta’weel (interpretation) of divine ordinances so as to render an affair like Thanksgiving to be prohibited, despite that that there are no direct texts that say such, then it should be more acceptable that the opinions of scholars are also subject to interpretation, as to render their opinion erroneous, or invalid. Scholarly opinions are not divine writ. If the Book of Allah, and the ahaadeeth of the Prophet , are subject to interpretation, then so are the opinions of scholars.

Conditions for celebrating thanksgiving:

·        That you thank Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala first for the good that He has given you.   It is permissible to thank others as well according to the hadith; “whoever does not thank people, does not thank Allah”.

·        That you thank Him on all of the other days of the year as well, and not pick only that one day to be grateful to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala.

·        That you do not participate in any activity that is prohibited in the religion, such as drinking alcohol, using intoxicants, or displaying lewd, and unlawful behavior.

·        Thanksgiving dinners sometimes invite to overeating or gluttony, so a Muslim must be mindful of that, not just during thanksgiving but during the whole year.

·        That you do not waste food, and if there is excess, then you should feed others with it, or refrigerate it until a later time. But you already knew that.

·        That you do not eat in the name of other than Allah, or eat an animal that was killed in the name of other than Allah.

·        That you do not sit at a table where alcohol and intoxicating beverages are served.

Follow-up question: Is celebrating Thanksgiving imitating the kuffaar?

There is no evidence in the Book or in the Sunna that everything that a non-Muslim does is prohibited. It is impossible for Muslims to not imitate anything at all that a non-Muslim does. They are all; both Muslims and non-Muslims, human beings and inhabitants of this earth. They shop at the same stores; they wear the same brands of clothes, eat the same kinds of foods, use the same types of utensils, use the same brands of computers, and sport around in the same types of automobiles as the so-called unbeliever. Muslims use the same types of tools that non-Muslim use; power drills, electric saws, lawn mowers, and weed whackers.

We also use the same weapons as the non-Muslims use; in fact, Muslims don’t even manufacture weapons; all the advanced weaponry that Muslims use in today’s modern warfare are imitations of the non-Muslim types of weapons.  If you turn on any television (which by the way was invented by the non-Muslim, you will see Muslims in all parts of the world, wearing thobes made in China (atheists), eating on dishes made in France,  wearing diamonds mined in South Africa, bearing military ranks (general, captain, lieutenant , sergeant) invented by the so called kuffaar. So it would seem that 99% of the Muslims in the world have entered into what some scholars would characterize as disbelief.  I’m not buying it. The only one who is free from error and whose opinion must be accepted without question is Rasoolillaah . When we see textual evidence which prohibits virtually every product, action, celebration, festivity, or cause of joy that exists on the planet, as the fatwa prohibiting Thanksgiving seems to say, then we will accept it. Otherwise, we must look at all actions on a case by case basis. And Allah knows best.

Second follow up question: Do Muslims have to celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

Understand; you cannot prohibit an entire day. No one can do that. The days, the months, the years and all millennia belong to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. If you are one of those people who want to see Thanksgiving Day abolished or want to prohibit it all together then before you get started, understand that you can’t prohibit a day, but you can prohibit an action that occurs on any given day, if there is sufficient proof. That’s the way the sharia works. You can’t prohibit time; you can only prohibit how you spend the time allotted to you. You can spend Thanksgiving Day doing anything that you want in eluding your five prayers, fasting [because it’s Thursday], or an other action.

Celebrating Thanksgiving Day by any method or means that indicate that you recognize it and an American holiday, is not wajib. It is not incumbent upon you in your religion and you don’t have to do it. However, whether on like it or not, if you live in the Unites States of America, unless some sort of cataclysmic event takes place, Thanksgiving Day will come in sha Allah [God willing], and many things will happen. Your disgust about Thanksgiving will not stop the day from occurring. Many people will have a day off from work. 75% of all Americans who would normally be at work on Thursday, do not work on Thanksgiving Day. Of those who do work that day, like nurses, emergency medical people, police and firemen, and retail workers, most of them will receive overtime pay. Banks, most state, local and federal agencies, as well as public and private schools will be closed for Thanksgiving Day.  How any individual feels about Thanksgiving Day will not stop the day from coming.

No one is saying that you have to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, or to be any way involved in it. People do not have to eat with their family on that day, they don’t have to cook, or even think about cooking if they don’t want to. They don’t have to take off from work, (unless their job is closed that day), or participate in any Thanksgiving related activities. They don’t have to answer the phone when their auntie calls them to ask are they coming, and can they bring some extra plastic cups for the kids. They don’t have to take advantage of 20-50% off, in any Thanksgiving Day sale, and they don’t have to watch the parade, watch football on television, or finger through the big Thanksgiving edition of their city’s newspaper. They don’t even have to get out of bed, except to perform their prayer. They don’t have to get dressed, like they are going somewhere, and if a woman is menstruating, she can sleep through the whole day, and wake up the next day if she wants.

Participating in Thanksgiving in any way is not a religious obligation. The deen of Allah is easy, and the Lord that we worship is above pettiness of any kind. He is also very clear about what He wants us to do, and about what He wants us to stay away from. Thus, if someone wants to declare something haram, and declare that anyone who participates in a thing is committing a sin against Allah, then they need to bring clear evidence, otherwise, they risk forging a lie against Allah sub’haanahu wata’ala, and that’s what we have an issue with.

When someone, says that something is haram, then they are speaking on behalf of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and they need to bring conclusive proof, and not just their dislike for something or dislike for a certain people. It is not permissible in Islam for anyone to render something prohibited on their own accord. 7:32 “Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand”.[9]

Personal sentiment by itself, is not enough to manufacture law. Law is made by the use of textual evidence, or decisive proof, not merely that people do not like Christians, or don’t like America, or don’t like the kuffaar, or don’t like the Pilgrims, or don’t like the idea of families getting together and expressing their gratitude for each other on that day, or don’t like turkey, or don’t like what some people did in celebration of Thanksgiving, or don’t like the oppressors of hundreds of years ago. A Muslim should not let their dislike for a people, prevent them from being just. “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you, make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is closer to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do”.[10]

Summary;

It is not possible in Islam, to render a particular day haram. Just like it is not possible to render a particular week, month, or year haram. All of the days, all of the weeks, months, and all of the years belong exclusively to Allah (God) be He Exalted and Glorified. Each day, week, month, or year occurs by His will, according to His decree and in the measure that He ordains. Thus, for people who claim Thanksgiving Day itself is haram, such is a statement that has no logic, or legitimate Islamic legal consequence. Allah does not hold people accountable for the days in which they live; He holds them accountable for the action which they engage in during those days.

A Muslim may engage in any activity that is not expressly prohibited by Allah, or His Messenger, or by a unanimous consensus of Muslim scholars. They can engage in any activity that does not compromise their faith, does not require from them that they ascribe partners with Allah, does not require or encourage that they disobey Allah or His Messenger (SAWS), and that does not place them or their religion, or the practice thereof, in harm. They can engage in any activity that does not invite to haram, or leads to haram, or that glorifies something that is haram. Muslims are not allowed to engage in any activity that promotes or glorifies, kufr, shirk, disobedience to Allah and His Messenger, or that makes a mockery of our noble religion. We don’t do Christmas, Easter, or Halloween, since all of these celebrate, commemorate, or invite to disbelief, or glorifies evil, as in the case of Halloween. . If you don’t want to have anything to do with the Thanksgiving Day, then leave it alone completely; there is no blame in that, as long as you fulfill your other obligations to Allah. Wal Al-humdu lillaahi Rabbil aalameen.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad in the Imam and Executive Director of the Islamic center of Del Paso Heights, and the Executive Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think Tank, based in Sacramento California, you can reach him at imamluqman@icdph.com.

A Fatwa About Celebrating Your Country’s National Day [By Sheikh `Abd Allah b. Bayyih]

Every country has its National Day. This day is not a religious festival. The new holidays that we as Muslims are prohibited from introducing into our lives are new religious holidays. We are not prohibited from other occasions where people get together for one reason or another. People celebrate their marriages, they celebrate the birth of a new child. They might celebrate any number of other occasions, and there is nothing wrong with this, as long as their celebration is not a religious observance.

It is essential to clear up the misunderstanding that many people have about this issue. Due to this misunderstanding, people have been placed in great difficulties, since so many religious people have been made to think that by observing these non-religious holidays they are committing some sort of sin.

Observing these days is not sinful. In Islamic Law, the default ruling for an activity – barring any evidence to the contrary – is that of permissibility. We should consider how scholars related to such events in the past. There was a tradition that hailed to before the time of Islam known as `Atîrah. It was a day in the month of Rajab where an animal would customarily be slaughtered. Scholars of the Hanbalî school of law regarded it as permissible. Mâlikî scholars disliked it, since it was a practice from the times of ignorance before Islam.

Nevertheless, Hanbalî scholars saw no problem with it. They argued that there is no text forbidding it. The fact that people from since bygone days had a day in Rajab where they would traditionally slaughter an animal – called a rajabi or an `atîrah – is something that is permissible by default. If people want to get together on a day in the month or Rajab or Sha`bân or any other time that of the year that suits their customs to slaughter an animal and have a feast, then that is up to them.

The same can be said for the anniversary of a country’s independence – which is usually what is meant by the “national day” in the countries of Africa and Asia that used to be colonial possessions. There is nothing in Islam to prohibit this.

We need to properly understand the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him), upon his arrival in Madinah, found that the people there had two festive days wherein they would play and enjoy themselves and said: “Allah – most blessed and exalted – has replaced them with what is better: `Îd al-Fitr and `Îd al-Adhâ.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (1134) and Sunan al-Nasâ’î (1556)]

These were pagan religious holidays tied in with their idols. The Prophet (peace be upon him), therefore, mentioned to them the two religious holidays of the Muslims, `Îd al-Fitr and `Îd al-Adhâ. This does not imply in any way that people are forbidden to engage in any public assembly or celebration whatsoever. As long as participating in these celebrations does not entail any sinful conduct, people should be allowed to celebrate. It is unwise to raise objections, disturb people in their traditions, and cause division in society when there is no text form the Qur’ân and Sunnah to forbid those traditions, nor any scholarly consensus even within the schools of thought. Islamic Law is easy with regard to matters wherein there is no clear objection and where the disapproval that is expressed is not based upon any unequivocal evidence. People should be allowed the scope to express their customs. The principle of maintaining ease and facilitation is an essential principle of Islamic Law. Allah says: “He has not placed any difficulty upon you in religion.” [Sûrah al-Hajj: 78] He says: “Allah desires that He should make light your burdens.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 28] Anas relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Make things easy and do not make things difficult. Give glad tidings and do not become divided.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (69) and Sahîh Muslim (1734)] We say again that the religion of Islam, essentially, seeks to make things easy for the people. The other opinions and views that scholars have on this matter should be treated with respect. Nevertheless, those opinions are not sacred scripture.

And Allah knows best. By Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Bayah


[1] Quran, 7:33.

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Quran, 14:7

[4] Quran, 16:121

[5] Quran, 55:49.

[6] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

[7] Collected by Muslim.

[8] Quran, 34:61.

[9] Quran, 7:32.

[10] Quran, 5:8.

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.

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