The Islamic Ruling Regarding Celebrating the Fourth of July Independence Day By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans participate in some form or another, either actively or passively, in the celebration of Independence Day on July 4th.
There is no set law that     says you must be at a certain place or perform a certain ritual on independence day. Which is one reason why  cannot even consider it a religious holiday. People who claim that they hate it and have nothing to do with it, accept the overtime pay, or the paid day off, or the discounted sale items in the stores on that day. So whether it is cooking out, taking off from work and getting paid, lighting or watching fireworks, having picnics, attending family civic, or cultural events on that day, taking advantage of July Fourth sales at the mall, or simply using it as a holiday where you close your business, stay at home and rest, there is hardly any Muslim who lives in the United States who does not take part, benefit, or some way observe Independence Day. There are people who use the day as a time of protest. Still they are observing the day and benefit from our independence..

 

Not all Americans make a big deal out of the day; after all its just one day of the year, and it has become part of our nature, for many people not to not make a big deal about such holidays. However there is an undertone of uneasiness on the part of some Muslims in that even though they participate in the events of the day, there is something unislamic about it. Other people condemn the holiday, and any Muslim that participates in it in any way. This is because of the many opinions circulating which prohibit any commemoration of Independence Day, condemning anything and everything that has to do with America or being American. There are Muslims who will bristle with indignation if you even refer to them as an American.

Can certain days of the year be considered haram?

It has become common for some people to declare this or that day haram without making any distinction between the day itself, and the activities that may occur or that has occurred on that particular day. Some muslim have gone as far to say that the Independence Day itself, is haram which makes no sense at all because it is not possible to make any day haram since all of the days on the earth belong to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and regardless of whether one celebrates Independence day or not, or whether or not one even acknowledges Independence day, the truth of the matter is, that the United State of America was declared an independent republic on July 4th, 1776.

From the shariah point of view, days are decreed by Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala , and made subject to human beings to do in them as they will. “And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day hath he (also) made subject to you.[1]Thus, all of the days and all of the nights, all the weeks, months and years belong to Allah. Human beings will continue to have day and nights and handle their affairs therein, until Allah decides otherwise. Therefore when discussing what holidays are permissible or prohibited, it’s not the day itself which is in question; it’s the activity that one engages in on that particular day which desires a ruling.

The reasons why some of them say that celebrating Independence Day is prohibited

The problem is that 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 woefully 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 harm the Muslim in areas of their faith rather than benefit them. 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 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.Many fataawa are targeted specifically towards converts here in America while ignoring other Muslims who are not converts.

Some of the same scholars who prohibit imitating the kuffaar, cooperating with them, and so on, have no problem coming here to live in our suburbs or for study, or sending their children to some of our countries top universities, or participating in cultural events held in our country.Thus, the many fataawa in circulation that prohibit the celebration or even the recognition of Independence Day, are rulings are made by scholars who are well intended in sha Allah, but are ignorant of American culture and uninformed of what separates religion from civics in our country. Failure to acknowledge independence day is ludicrous because it is indeed a real and annual occurrence in the United States; people get paid holidays, there are thousands of celebrations and commemorations held all over the country, and it a day that appears on every calendar. Whether or not a person acknowledges it or not is irrelevant; the fact of the matter is that it does exist.

Another reason is that they say that it forbidden is that they say it is a celebration of non-Muslims. That is another fallacy; Muslims have been on this land (the United States) since before it became a republic. An estimated 30% of the slaves who helped build this country were Muslim, and Muslims have been participants in July fourth celebration in one way or another for decades. American Muslims whether they have long lineage here in the United States or whether they are recent immigrants have just as much right to America as anyone else, and they are free to participate in the cultural affairs and norms of our country as long as they are not disobeying Allah and His Messenger (SAWS). There are no verses in the Quran or ahaadeeth of the Prophet (SAWS) which prohibit the celebration of one’s independence. The Prophet (SAWS) used to encourage the freeing of the slave and the eradication of tyranny. American independence was a step in that direction and therefore worthy of celebration.

Another reason some people make celebration of independence day prohibited is the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS): “Allah has given you better than those (feasts): Eid al-Adha and the ‘Eid al-Fitr[2], However in this case, the Prophet (SAWS) replaced the pagan holidays that were practiced in Medina with the two Eids, and both, the previous jaahiliyyah[3] practices, and the two Eids, had religious significance. However, the hadith is a statement (khabr) in the form of a command since both Eids are Fard kifaaya, and the hadith is in no way a prohibition (nahiy) of anything except that an abrogated the pagan holidays that existed at the time. There is no indication no indication in the hadith that the Prophet (SAWS) forbade Muslims from participating in other non-religious holidays, events or joyful occurrences, and this was not the understanding of the majority of the companions nor of the Salaf.

Another faulty fatwa states that anytime a non-Muslim is happy, then it is the obligation of the Muslim to be unhappy at the happiness of a non-Muslim. Unfortunately, I’m not making this up. Nevertheless, there is nothing in the Quran or in the authentic Sunna that indicates that a Muslim is required to be miserable anytime a non-Muslim is happy or in a good mood. If that was the case, then all of the Muslims in the world would be required to be perpetually miserable since considering that there are over 4 billion non-Muslims on the planet; it is assured that at least one of them would be happy on any given day.

The Ruling of why celebrating Independence Day is permissible.

The celebration of Independence Day is not a Christian, Jewish or Islamic celebration; it is an American celebration and anyone who is an American has a right to claim it. Celebrating Independence Day is a non-religious, national holiday and is permissible in Islam as there is no verse of Quran or authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) or statement of a credible and informed group of scholars that conclusively prohibit it.

The overriding principle of usool al-fiqh (Islamic legal foundation) when it comes to haram (prohibition) and halal (permissibility) is that the non-religious affairs and actions of people are permissible unless there is conclusive proof to the contrary.  If this were not the case, then every single action and statement of every single human being on the planet would have to be examined in detail to determine whether or not it is permissible. Such would be grossly impractical and extract an undue hardship upon the Muslims which is counter to the objective of the law as mentioned in the verse’ “verily Allah wants ease upon you and does not want hardship upon you”, and by the hadith; “The practice of religion is easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will be overpowered by it.”[4]

Scholars in Saudi Arabia have upheld the celebration of Saudi National Day which commemorates the unification of Hijaaz and Najd in 1932, and scholars of Azhar in Egypt have upheld the permissibility of Egypt’s National day on July 23rd as well as other holidays. Many of the prohibitions leveled at July 4th Independence Day have been due to anti-American sentiment, and bias towards indigenous American Muslims, and not based upon Islamic law, or sound argument, and that is unacceptable. Furthermore, there has been no ijmaa (consensus) reached by the scholars that national holidays are prohibited. Therefore they remain in their original state as permissible.

American Muslims has more freedom than Muslims residing in most Muslim countries. Part of the significance of Independence day is that not only are people free to worship Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, build masaajid, give charity, fast Ramadan, make Hajj, honor their neighbors, obey their parents, raise their children, and earn an honorable living; they are free to celebrate or not celebrate the Fourth of July as they see fit. So whether or not a Muslim makes a big deal out of celebrating independence day or not, every muslim should value our independence because by it, we are able to worship Allah, think for ourselves, be free of foreign control of our religious affairs, and act in our own best self-interest as Muslim Americans without being beholden to anyone’s brand of Islam.

Celebrating Independence Day has different meanings and involves different activities depending upon the person. For some it means simply having a paid or unpaid holiday from work, for some it means overtime pay, for others it means cooking out, picnics and barbeques, fireworks displays, and deeds and actions of patriotism, and for some it is all of the above or parts thereof. However, there is nothing in the Quran or in the Sunna that prohibit any of that.

If the celebration of Independence Day is accompanied by alcohol consumption, lewd behavior, criminal acts, recklessness, and endangerment such as not being careful with fireworks or camp fires, then the lewd, dangerous and wrongful acts, are prohibited like they are during any other day. However, the celebration of the day without engaging in the prohibited acts is permissible. Likewise, if a person wants to simply ignore the day, and not give it any thought, then he or he may do that also.

Whether it is success or failure, victory or defeat, goodness or evil, or sadness or joy, it is Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala who gives human beings these days and grants to them in them whatever He pleases; “Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns” 3:140 And Allah knows best.  

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a graduate of Omdurman Islamic University, and the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, a researcher and founder of Mosque Without Borders, an American Muslim advocacy and care organization that advocates on behalf of American Muslim converts and other Muslims whose voices are muted. He.s also the 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. 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] Quran, 14:33

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Days of ignorance.

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

The Virtues of the Islamic Month of Rajab [Fadaa’il Rajab] by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

“BEHOLD, the number of months, in the sight of Allah, is twelve months, [laid down] in Allah’s decree on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; [and] out of these, four are sacred: this is the ever-true law [of Allah]. Do not, then, sin against yourselves with regard to these [months].”[1] According to the shariah[2] of Islam, years are properly reckoned by the cycles of the moon and not the sun; “They ask you concerning the crescent moons; say: they are time determinants for people and for the Hajj.[3]

The names of the Muslim lunar months:


1. Muharram 7. Rajab
2. Safar 8. Sha’ban
3. Rabi’ al-awwal (Rabi’ I) 9. Ramadan
4. Rabi’ al-thani (Rabi’ II) 10. Shawwal
5. Jumada al-awwal (Jumada I) 11. Dhu al-Qi’dah
6. Jumada al-thani (Jumada II) 12. Dhu al-Hijjah

The Muslim Hijri calendar was first introduced by the Caliph and companion of the Prophet (SAWS) Umar ibn al-Khattaab in the year 628 C.E[4]. It consists of 12 lunar months. The beginning of each month is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Each lunar month lasts approximately 29 or 30 days. The month of Rajab is one of the sacred months of the Islamic calendar. The other three sacred months are the consecutive months of Dhul Qi`da, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram. Thus we have just entered into the sacred month of Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijri calendar as of May 11th 2013. It is a good idea to keep track of the Islamic months because during each month, there are recommended and sometimes compulsory actions which are recorded in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS).

There are many areas of ah’kaam (jurisprudence) related to the month of Rajab. Some of the reported traditions of Rajab trace back to the days of jaahiliyyah[5] (pre-Islamic period) and continued after the dawn of Islam.  Others were prohibited by the Prophet (SAWS). Scholars differ as to which of these traditions continued after Islam. So in response to a question by one of the sisters about the month of Rajab and what are the recommended actions of the month, I have prepared the following.

  1. Animal Sacrifices: During the days of jaahiliyyah, people used to make animal sacrifices of sheep and called it al-ateerah[6]; scholars differ whether the practice is still permissible.  It was reported the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “There is no far’a[7] and no ateerah[8].  Other scholars say that the practice of ateerah is permissible, among them is ibn Seereen and it was related about Imam Ahmad that the people of Basra used to do it. It was related that the Prophet (SAWS) said while standing of the mountain of Arafat:  “each year, every household should slaughter a sacrifice and that is what they call al-ateerah[9]. In another tradition it was reported about Abu Razeen[10]; he said: “I said:  O Messenger of Allah, we used to perform animal sacrifices during the days of jaahiliyyah (during Rajab), we would eat it and feed whoever came to us” the Prophet (SAWS) replied: “there is nothing wrong with that.”[11] In another tradition reported by ibn Abbaas, he said: “The Quraish sought permission from the Prophet (SAWS) continue the ateerah and he said: “You may do the sheep slaughter of jaahiliyyah; however, if you sacrifice for the sake of Allah and want to eat it and give some away as charity then you may do so.[12]” scholars of Islam reconcile the prohibition in the hadith of Abu Hurraira and the permissibility of the practice reported in the other hadith by saying that the prohibition relates to the pre-Islamic practice of offering sacrifices to gods other than Allah. Sufyaan ibn Uyyaina says that what’s meant by the prohibition here is the removal of wujoob (obligation). Other scholars say that the hadith of Abu Hurraira is the most authentic narration available on the topic and should provide the standard on how the action is mitigated[13].  It was related about Hasan al-Basri that he said: “There is no ateerah in Islam. Ateerah is something that existed in jaahiliyyah. Some of them used to fast the whole month of Rajab and perform an ateerah during it and the sacrifice would resemble a religious rite or holiday.[14]” it was related about ibn Abbaas that he used to dislike that people take Rajab for a holiday. [15] The conclusion is that if a person wants to slaughter a sheep during the month of Rajab for the sake of Allah and eat some and distribute or feed some to others; that is permissible. However, they shouldn’t take a specific day or make into a holiday occasion for that would not be consistent with the Sunna.  And Allah knows best.
  2. Prayer on particular days of RajabThere are no authentic narrations about the Prophet (SAWS) regarding a specific prayer designated for the month of Rajab. There are several narrations regarding ‘salaatul raghaa’ib’ during the first Jum’ah night of Rajab but they are weak narrations with no validity.  Such a prayer is considered an innovation by the majority of scholars but not all of them. Ibn Jawzee[16] and Abu Bakr as-Sam’aani are amongst the latter-day scholars who mention this. The rulings on salaatul raghaa’ib were not mentioned by earlier scholars because the practice did not appear until about the fifth century of the Hijra.
  3. Fasting during Rajab: There is nothing authentic reported directly from or about the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions regarding fasting during specific days of the month of Rajab. However, there is a report about Abu Qalaaba that he said: “There is a castle in paradise for those who fast during the month of Rajab.” According to al-Baihaqi, Abu Qalaaba being one of the luminaries of the taabi’een would not have said such a thing unless he received it from one of the companions.[17] It was reported in a narration Mujeeba al-Baahiliyyah about her father that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “fast some days of the sacred months and leave some days.[18]” Some of the Salaf[19] used to fast the entirety of the sacred months; among them Abdullah ibn Umar, and al-Hasan al-Basri, and Abu Is’haaq as-Sabee’i. Ibn Abbaas and Anas ibn Malik used to dislike that people fast the entire month of Rajab and in another narration about ibn Umar and ibn Abbaas; they used to prefer that if people fasted Rajab, they break their fast at least some of the days. It was also reported about imam Ahmad, Sa’eed ibn Jubair and Imam Shaafi’ee that they used to dislike that people would fast the entire month of Rajab. Imam Shaafi’ee was reported to have said in a former opinion; “I dislike that people complete the fast of Rajab like they would the fast of Ramadan.” His argument for this was the hadith of Aisha; “I never saw the Prophet (SAWS) complete a month (of fasting) ever, except for Ramadan.[20]” Some of the Hanbali scholars view that fasting the complete month of Rajab is not disliked if they also fast another month before or after it in its entirety as well.  I already mentioned that Ibn Umar and others used to fast the entirety of all the sacred months. There is no harm for a person to fast the entirety of the month of Rajab if it is incorporated as part of a perpetual fast (siyaamul dahr[21]) Some fasts are customary in the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and can and should be incorporated into Rajab: Such as fasting three consecutive days of the month, as reported in the hadith of Aisha, she reported: “the Prophet (SAWS) used to fast three consecutive days out of each month.” Or fasting Mondays and Thursdays as recorded in the Sunna.  According to Imam Nawawi; “Neither prohibition nor praiseworthiness has been established for the month of Rajab in itself, however, the principle concerning fasting is that it is praiseworthy in itself, and in the Sunan of Abu Dawud, the Prophet has made the fasting of the sacred months praiseworthy, and Rajab is one of them. And Allah knows best”.[22] I also like the statement of my late Sheikh, Sayyid Saabiq; “Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the Sunna that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajar says: “There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, nor fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month.” Thus fasting during Rajab particularly has no special bearing in Islam but fasting during the sacred months is acceptable and was practiced by some of the companions. Fasting three days of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays is a Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and a praiseworthy act.
  4. Zakaat during the Month of Rajab:  Some Muslim countries and communities have become accustomed to collecting and paying zakaat during the month of Rajab. Such a practice is permissible as the zakaat is due annually and needs to be paid. However, here is no basis for singling out Rajab for zakaat in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). This alone does not make it prohibited to do so because zakaat is due annually and its payment is based upon reaching the nisaab of a year and not a particular date.    However it was reported about Uthmaan ibn Afaan that during his term as Caliph that he ascended the pulpit and said: “Oh people, this is the month of your zakaat, so whoever amongst you has a debt, then he should pay his debt.[23]” Other scholars say that zakaat should be paid in the month of Muharram because it marks the beginning of the year and some of the jurists say the Muharram is the time when the imam should dispatch the people to collect the zakaat. Others say that zakaat should be paid during the month of Ramadan because of the sheer virtue of Ramadan and the virtue of charity during the month of Ramadan. The fact of the matter is that zakaat is due after the nisaab has reached a year. According to Abu Saud, the basic definition of nisaab is that amount which is sufficient to sustain the minimum average family for one year. In some modern Muslim countries, nisaab is often interpreted to equate a governmentally determined poverty threshold. Once a person’s holdings have reached the level of nisaab, the zakaat is due on that wealth, regardless of the month. The issue of zakaat is a lengthy subject and not the central topic of our discussion. Please refer to the books of fiqh for more detail.
  5. Umrah[24] during Rajab: Once ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) performed umrah during Rajab, Aisha was present and repudiated what Ibn Umar said, he heard her repudiate it and didn’t object[25]. Umar ibn al-Khattaab and other companions used to like to perform umrah during Rajab. Aisha used to do it as well as Abdullah ibn Umar. Ibn Seereen reports that the Salaf used to do it. Thus there is no harm performing Umrah during the month of Rajab or any other month.

Conclusion: Rajab is indeed a sacred month and on should increase acts of goodness during the sacred months as in other months. It was reported in the hadith of Anas that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Oh Allah, bless us in our Rajab and Sha’baan for they deliver us into Ramadan.” The hadith although it has weakness in its chain, shows that it is permissible to ask Allah to prolong your life to a more blessed time so that you can perform good deeds during that time. It’s like saying; oh Allah keep me going until Ramadan. The Salaf used to like that when they died, it would happen at the end of a good deed; right after Ramadan, or on the way back from hajj and they used to think that if someone died in that manner their sins would be forgiven. It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “verily deeds are reckoned according to one’s final acts”. And Allah knows best. Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam, Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center

Sacramento, California, imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1]Quran, 9:36

[2] Sacred law.

[3] Quran, 2:189

[4] Christian era.

[5] Jaahiliyyah refers to the period that existed before Islam. It also refers to practices which contradict Islam and the principles of Islam.

[6] Ateerah: a sheep sacrifice.

[7] Far’a: the first born of a she camel which during the days of jaahiliyyah they used to slaughter n the name of the pagan gods.

[8] A sound hadith (sahih) collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[9] A good hadith, collected by Abu Dawud

[10] His name was Laqeet ibn Sabira, a well known companion of the Prophet (SAWS)

[11] A sound hadith collected by Al-Nissa’i

[12] Collected by Tabaraani with his own chain except that the chain of this particular hadith contains Ibrahim ibn Ismaa’eel ibn Abi Habeeba, who was considered trustworthy by Ibn Ma’een but a weak transmitter by most others.

[13] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, page 207

[14] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, page 206

[15] Collected by Abdul-Razaaq with a broken chain

[16] Abu Faraj Ibn Jawzi; his name was Abdul-Rahmaan ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad, one of the great Hanbali scholars of Baghdad; he died in the Hijri year of 597.

[17] This alone does not validate the hadith as authentic, but it does according to some scholars lend marginal credence to the narration.

[18] A weak hadith collected by Abu Dawud and others.

[19] Righteous people and scholars of the frst three generations of Islam.

[20] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[21] Perpetual fast; this is when you fast every single day perpetually.

[22] Imam Nawawi, Explanation of  Sahih Muslim, Kitab 13 Bab 34

[23] Collected by Imam Malik in the Muwatta.

[24] The lessor Hajj.

[25] This story is related in sahih al-Bukhaari.

The Islamic Ruling Regarding Morals and Ethics While Using Social Networks, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Social 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 in ways that are prohibited by the Quran, by the Sunna of the Prophet, or by agreement of the Muslim scholars. Islamic laws of ethics and morality are applicable at all times, and do not cease to apply once you turn on your computer and go online. Sometimes people are misled into thinking that since we are sitting comfortably ensconced in our homes out of view from the public; our public words and actions online have no spiritual consequence. This could not be farther from the truth; فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ “And whoever does an atoms weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atoms weight of bad shall see it”[3]. Being on or offline does not matter when it comes to maintaining Islamic standards of ethics and morality.

An alarming amount of marriages have ended, weakened or have been threatened by the involvement of one or both spouses in risky facebook activity where they are interacting with members of the opposite sex in an inappropriate manner. 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, 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. 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.[4]”  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 the true danger of using bad words, bad adab and bad judgment when posting, liking or commenting on things using the internet. 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.[5]” 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.[6] 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”.[7]

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.[8]

A general rule to keep in mind is that lawful and prohibited words, and statements; continue to come under legislation of the shariah whether online or offline. The angels that record deeds are not intimidated by the internet, and there is no way that a person can shield his or her actions from them or from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala.

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 deen, 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 or comment. And Allah knows best.

Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Luqman is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California, he can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1] Collected by Bukhaari.

[2] Quran, 49:13.

[3] Quran, 99”7-8.

[4] Quran, 6:160.

[5] Collected by Muslim.

[6] Collected by Muslim.

[7] Sharh Muslim, 16/226-227

[8] Collected by Bukhaari.

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

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.

Defining the American Muslim Identity

 By Imam Luqman Ahmad

Identities by definition, are personal to the individual. Webster dictionary defines identity as; [the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others].  People can identify with the same thing, the same value, the same profession or even the same religion but no two identities can be exactly the same. This is just one reason why there should never, ever be a such a thing as a single Muslim American identity. Different, so-called Muslim identities, as far as groups, sects, mathaahib and the like? Okay, but a one-size fits all version of Muslim identity, representing Muslim fear, Muslim patriotism, Muslim needs as citizens? No. and it should be never be something that we are searching for like a lost treasure or a holy grail.

If a person’s occupation is a policeman, he can’t turn around and identify himself as a fireman, (unless, he is both of course). The impossibility  in taking all the revolving parts of Muslim American reality; Muslim, American, citizen, non-citizen, immigrant, 2nd generation immigrant, convert, green card holder, no green card yet, indigenous, descendants of slaves, descendants of slave owners, descendants of abolitionists, conservative, liberal, holy, unholy, and everything else in between , and come up with a singular Muslim identity for public consumption.

Constitutionally if you are a citizen, you are an American. After that, there are so many possible variables, it could make your head spin. We live in a country of labels. Millennial, baby boomer, generation X.  we as Americans are a free people (at least for the time being), as human beings; we are slaves (abeed) of Allah. Whether it is individually, or collectively as a group, we are all servants of Allah, each with our own different levels of moral fortitude, or bankruptcy, debauchery or virtue, intelligence, and stupidity, patriotism or indiffernce, erudition or capriciousness. This all depends upon our varying levels of belief, understanding and practice of Islam and who we are as individual human beings. Nevertheless, we are, and will always be, slaves of Allah, and it is He, and His Prophet (SAWS) who can defines most justly, at least in a religious sense, just who, or what, is a Muslim American.  American Muslims can be, and most are;  good citizens, hard working, law abiding, and industrious. However, we woiuld be less than fothcoming if we didn’t  acknowledge that amongst us as well, are the law breakers, the unscrupulous, and the dishonest. American Muslims are not clones; we are human beings like everyone  else. Individual charachter traits, tendancies, and proclivites towards virtue, or corruption, is a matter of personal disposition, circumstance, commitment to our faith, and tawfiq (divine enablement). It is hardly a matter of singular national identity. If you are, Muslim, Islam is your identiy.

As Muslims, American we should define ourselves first and foremost, in moral, or religious terms. It is nonsensical for American Muslims to attempt to formulate a singular domestic identity for all American Muslims while
taking Allah out of the equation. Such would be a self-imposed paradox. Not convinced? Okay, let’s do the math. The operative word here is Muslim. There would be no Muslim, without Islam, and there would be no Islam, without Muhammad (SAWS) the Prophet, who taught it, called to it, preached it, and practiced it. It goes without saying that there would be no Prophet without Allah  be He Exalted and Glorified, who created him, purified his noble lineage, made him the seal of the Prophets, and then, out of His divine Mercy, cleared a path through the heavens, blocking all demons from the path, and sent down to him, the Holy Quran, by personal delivery by the Angel Jib ‘reel Gabriel.

Our religion comes from the highest available source; Allah Himself, and has been preserved through an extremely rigorous process of textual and narrative authentication.  So it seems incredulous that we as American Muslims would embark upon the fateful and futile attempt to re-define an American Muslim domestic identity, and leave Allah out of the equation, as if He doesn’t have a say about what is, or is not the identity of a Muslim?   What is a better identity than Muslim, and all that it entails?

Islam does not belong to the Muslims; as Muslims we practice it, but it is Allah who owns it, be he praised, and elevated be His name!  Islam is a path; it is the path of Allah. He defines it, He guides to it, He commands adherence to it, He puts whom He pleases upon it, and he denies who He pleases from it. Despite all that I have mentioned, in recent years, Muslim apologists have managed to execute a fairly successful, lexical end run around the word Islam so that many Muslims now emphatically regard the meaning of the word Islam; to mean peace. The classical, canonical meaning
of Islam, according to Muslim theologians, legists, and traditionalists, for the last fourteen hundred years, has been submission; submission to Allah. Being submitters to Allah (Muslims) is a much loftier civilizational plateau for
human beings to aspire to than just being peaceful. A rock resting on the sided of a grassy hill in the countryside is peaceful. Submission to the One and Only God, is something much higher, much greater.

Those of us who were adults and practicing Muslims before 9/11 can still remember the days when the inferred meaning of Islam according to Muslim Americans was submission. However, it is clear at this juncture that one
of the first casualties of attempting to redefine the meaning of Islam to make it more palatable for public consumption, is that a whole generation of Muslims are growing up to believe that Islam simply means peace. Hence, as long as you
are peaceful, don’t bother anyone, and obey the law, you are a good Muslim.

Human beings will never ever be free from Allah. Everything that exists in the heavens and on earth is under the domain of the All-Powerful,  All-Knowing, and Glorious Lord, Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. Muslims, just like non-Muslim have been granted the freedom to obey, or disobey Allah, to believe or disbelieve in Him, to worship Him or mock Him, although He is far above any deficiency or blemish. That is only because of the divine mercy of our Lord subhaanahu wa ta’ala, which extends over everything. This freedom, free will, is not something that human beings wrestled away from Allah by force, or by social media inspired revolt; this is something that was granted
to us by Allah, as a test.

Although the desire, that many Muslims have, to come up with a uniform identity that can non-Muslim Americans can find acceptable, is understandable, it is nevertheless untenable and unobtainable without compromising the self respect of Muslims, or without compromising Islam itself, so that it becomes something other than Islam. There is no way this get around this. This is why after 10 years of rigorous campaigning, complaining, protesting, reaching out, and overextending ourselves, we have not been able to satisfy all of the four-hundred plus, non-Muslim Americans that we are as American as apple pie.

The reality is that as long as you are a Muslim, regardless whether you practice Islam diligently or not, and despite spending millions of
dollars in outreach and public relations, there will be some people who will
not like you, who will feel uncomfortable living near you, and will not understand you
as Muslims, or believe as we believe. “Yet no faith will the greater
part of mankind have, however ardently thou dost desire it. “ 12:103.

There are some who do not want to understand Muslims, or Islam,
and I’m okay with that. There are even some who understand Islam very well, but
choose not to like it, nor want it for themselves, or maybe even hate it, and I’m
okay with that too, and let us not forget, that there are some whom Allah has sealed
their heart, and their hearing, put a covering upon their eyes, and they will
never believe; “Allah; has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and over their eyes is a veil; and awesome suffering awaits them.”  We as Muslim Americans need to understand
these things, because it is the truth, and we are living in ominous times. This
is not the time to dolly up Islam with costumes, and make-up, so it looks
better, and feels more modern.  . Time is too precious to spend too much time, money, and worry trying to change things which our Lord has already decreed. Outreach for da’wah and understanding is an acceptable act in Islam, as well as efforts to mitigate the harm and potential harm that may befall innocent Muslims, or non-Muslim Americans, because of bigotry or ignorance. It still remains that the only legitimate, identity that
all Muslim Americans can share, is Muslim; Plain and simple.

If you want to be an American, fine; most of us are American.
If you want to be a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, then fine. If you
want to be a basketball player, civil engineer, university professor, or bee
keeper, that’s all well and good in sha Allah as long as we keep within the boundaries
of what is permissible according to our faith. However, when we bring Islam into
any of our endeavors, then we have to adhere to a higher identity standard; we
then have to bring the tenants of the religion, and our scripture into the
picture.  Allah has to come first. If a Muslim Physician excels in his profession, al-humdu lillah, it shows that he’s a good doctor, not necessarily that he is a good Muslim. If a Muslim businessman is convicted of fraud, that not a defeat for Islam; it’s a personal
shortcoming and it shows the true picture that some Muslims adhere to our moral
teachings more than others.  We can’t point to a successful Muslim liquor store owner who makes millions selling alcohol, drug paraphernalia, blunts and pornography as an example of a successful Muslim American, or an example of the success of Islam in America. This life  short, and soon enough, every sane, adult human being who has ever walked, , crawled, ran, stumbled, or been wheel chaired or carried on the face of this earth, will have the opportunity to make their case, or have it made for them, before Allah the Merciful and Magnificent.

In the final analysis, we as Muslim Americans do not have the right to determine for ourselves, or for anyone else, a Muslim identity. Such has already been defined by the One Who created us.  We do have the opportunity in a free society to be the best Muslims we can be, and to set an example of devotion to our Lord, faith in action, brotherhood, co-operation across racial, ethnic , and socio-economic lines, as well as many other virtues that exemplify the moral high ground of Islam.

Our God given Islamic identity and list of virtual t seek out, moral challenges to overcome, and service to engage in, is a pretty good identity to aspire to, cannot be replaced by a better one. Ultimately, we all shall be judged according to our own individual scales.

Almighty God, Allah, that He is the King, and Sovereign, and that they are not subject
His whim, will answer to His justice on an appointed day. If such are punished,
or if they are pardoned, I’m okay with that. (Except if I was the one being punished,
and may Allah save us all from His punishment).

It was said in the words of our beloved Prophet Jesus the son of Mary; “If you punish them, then, surely they are your servants; and if you forgive them, then verily Thou art Forgiving and Merciful.” [5:118]. Muslim Americans should not go around pointing fingers and trying to define who is saved and who is not.  However, we should never forget the identity that was given to us by our Lord when He made us Muslims. That’s all
the identity we need.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the former Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, and currently Imam and Executive Director of the newly formed Islamic Center of Del Paso Heights, he is a writer, public speaker, consultant, and President and CEO of Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think Tank. He is also the author of the book: “The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect” a book about Muslim radicalization and theological extremism in Islam, available on Amazon.com Contact him at imamluqman@icdph.org. Read his blog @ imamluqman.wordpress.com.

 

Advice for Ramadan From Imam Luqman Ahmad;Patience and Forgiveness towards Anti-Islamic Sentiment,

Ramadan is a month when Muslims should exhibit the best qualities in the face of spiritual tests and challenges that lay in our paths. Since it is a month when the purpose is to obtain taqwa (piety), we should take care to follow the correct principles of faith and guidance when responding to challenges and not react to anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment based upon our fears and our emotions, as has been done in the past. If we truly want our condition to change than it is inevitable that we first must change; “verily Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change that which is in themselves[1].   Ramadan is a month of patience, a month of sacrifice, and a month of change. A disturbing trend is occurring amongst many Muslim Americans where people are more concerned with defending the image of Islam, than practicing Islam. This should give us pause

I am of the belief that Muslims are human like everyone else. Even though Islam is a perfect religion and a way of life; Muslims are not perfect people, and there are things about us as a whole which need improvement. We cannot continue to point the finger at everyone else, and not consider that perhaps we contribute in some ways to anti-Islamic sentiment by some of the misguided and ill conceived tactics we employ to address it. It is contradictory to our faith to measure ourselves by the number of positive statements people make about Muslims or the percentage by which we can improve our standing in the view of the general public. We should define ourselves by how much we can practice Islam, and concentrate on our own moral deficiencies; not by how much we can deflect criticism and sanitize public opinion about Islam and Muslims.

Some leaders call upon American Muslims to convey gratuitous expressions of thanks to anyone who says something good about Muslims, while appearing oblivious to how humiliating it is to grovel for approval and trip over thanks with anyone except Allah. It would have been better to simply thank our Lord in the first place for the freedom and liberty we have in this great nation to worship and serve Him, and bypass the incessant whining and complaining over what amounts to Muslim name calling.

When Muslims invite non-Muslims to practice fasting with us and think that it will help them understand Islam or the personal connection one has with God through observing the fast, that’s what I call desperate. It may help a person understand hunger, and they’ll likely come away thinking we worship a Lord that wants to starve u to death. The point is that we endure making fools of ourselves all year long in following American political Islamists and their ridiculous campaigns to improve the image of Islam and raising money through the process. This year, let’s keep Ramadan for Allah. Perhaps it’s not only the so called islamophobes who need to change; maybe American Muslims need to take a shot at stepping up our own spiritual game; and what better month for Muslim introspection and spiritual clarity (baseerah) than Ramadan?

It is understandable that Muslims in the United States are concerned about the growing-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is seen in protests, editorials and inflammatory statements made by antagonists of our faith. Although this precipitous rise in anti-Islamic sentiment marked by threats of Quran burnings, growing suspicion of Muslims in America and planned protests at some of the nation’s mosques, is viewed as a cause for alarm and worry, the opposite is true. These challenges are a test of our faith, and an opportunity to look inside ourselves and access the qualities of patience, pardon, and dignity that define the true meaning of what it is to be a Muslim. We should not forget that this s the month of Ramadan, and as such, we should strive to be more faithful and steadfast than in the previous months. In the Prophetic tradition narrated by Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (SAWS), she said, “The Prophet (SAWS) was the best of persons, and he was at his best during the month of Ramadan[2].  American Muslims should hold fast to our beliefs, and follow the guidance of our Prophet (SAWS) in confronting challenges.

A disturbing trend is taking place amongst many Muslim Americans where people are becoming more passionate about defending the image of Islam than actually practicing the principles of Islam. This Ramadan I am urging all American Muslims to keep politics, fear of backlash and the tendency towards image building away from our fasts and devote the month exclusively to Allah. We can do this in sha Allah by doing our best to follow His guidance, and the methodology of His Prophet in faith building, and righteousness and not let external influences divert our attention away from the essential purpose of Ramadan, which is to obtain piety and salvation. When confronted with anti-Islamic sentiment American Muslims are urged to consider the following advices during this month, and Imams are urged to mention some of these to their congregants who are worried and feeling uneasy about the growing anti-Islamic sentiment taking place in our Nation. Wa Allahu Musta’aan

  1. Remember that this is the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is different from other months. This is a time when conditions are optimal for a Muslim who is observing the fast and the spiritual injunctions of the month to display a greater degree of spiritual fortitude, control of emotion and magnanimity than during other the times. The doors of Paradise are opened, the doors of hell are closed and the (whispering) demons are restrained.
  2. 2.      Muslims should refrain from forwarding emails back and forth to each other detailing incidents of anti-Islamic sentiment occurring around the country, this only causes people to waste time worrying and becoming angry or frustrated with that which has already been decreed and is outside of our control. “Be concerned with yourselves; he who is astray cannot harm you if you are rightly guided”.
  3. Greet any protesters or antagonist who may come to the Mosque which you attend with a wish of guidance and peace, instead of countering protest with protest and indignation with indignation. “The men of the Merciful, who walk humbly upon the earth, and when they are addressed by the ignorant, reply with saying ‘peace’”
  4. If you feel compelled to complain, then complain to Allah, for He is the only One with the power to change what is in people’s heart.
  5. 5.      Instead of asking the authorities to take action against people who are merely expressing their views, ask Allah that He guide and still their hearts away from anger, and contempt. Allah is more Capable, and Quicker in hearing the call of the distressed. It is reported in Prophetic tradition that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “beware of the supplication of the oppressed, for verily there is no barrier between it and Allah”.[3]
  6. 6.      Be gracious and hospitable to any Mosque protestors by making sure they have access to water, coffee, or anything that will comfort them. Despite being unwelcome guests to the mosques, they are still guests at the houses of Allah. The Prophet (SAWS) displayed patience and forbearance towards a man who urinated in the Masjid. Surely we can show patience and magnanimity toward people who are expressing their views, even if we disagree. The Prophet said: “Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say:”I am fasting, I am fasting!”[4]
  7. 7.      Follow the guidance of Islam and simply pardon those who may offend us or insult us during this month, and forgive them for any perceived or actual transgression. Forgiveness and pardon are far better displays of benevolence, peace and Islamic character, than to counter protests against Islam with protest.  “Those who shun dispute, and pardon people, for surely Allah love the righteous”. Quran, 3:134

 

Muslims should stop self-victimizing ourselves by obsessing over the way that others view Islam and Muslims. We owe it to ourselves! Take a close look at who we are, and how we can improve our practice of Islam, and remain a people who put faith first before image. This is a free country and people have the liberty to believe or disbelieve what they want. .These are troubled and portentous times that we l

A Muslim Response to Criticism and Parody of Islam

Part One of two parts: By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad Given the constitutional guarantees of free speech in America, it is not likely any time soon that Americans will simply give up, criticizing or making fun of Islam, the Prophet (SAWS) or Muslims. The national campaign by some Muslim organizations to silence our critics and instill reverence for Islam in every American has not met with the success that people envisioned. In fact, we are now seeing the signs of backlash and pushback from civil libertarians, media, and others free speakers who are questioning why, in an age where every religion is poked fun of and even vilified by some, Islam is off limits. Well our answer to that is simple; Islam is the only true religion of God, Muslims are the best people on earth, and we are all above criticism. The problem is, everyone does not accept that answer, and, there is no indication at all that everyone will. The statement itself is not even entirely true. Although it is our belief that Islam is a perfect religion; we would be fools if we think for a moment that we are perfect people. Perfection and freedom from error or blemish is the exclusive domain of Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. Thus we have to make some hard choices here. Either we can continue to work ourselves up into frenzy every time someone criticizes or makes fun of Islam or Muslims, and keep pretending that this is the proper method to defend Islam, and the Prophet (SAW), or we can opt to follow our own scripture on the matter (Quran and Prophetic tradition), and save ourselves a lot of anxiety, frustration and misdirection. Who knows, public opinion of Islam and Muslims may even improve in the process. Generally speaking, a Muslim cannot reasonably expect that every non-muslim will believe in our faith, or share our reverence for our Lord, and His Prophets (AS). When the Prophet (SAWS) was negotiating the famed treaty of Hudaibiyyah, the Meccan delegate Suhail ibn Amr did not accept the Prophet’s title  (Muhammad Messenger of Allah) to be written on the contract and only agreed to the Prophet’s name; Muhammad ibn Abdullah, on the document.  Suhail justified the slight by saying; “If we actually thought that you were indeed the messenger of Allah in the first place, we would not be fighting you”. Fast forward to 21st century America; the fact that Islam garners a great deal of respect from non-Muslims in United States is itself a testament to Allah’s mercy and the higher ideals of a still largely civil society. The persecution suffered by the Prophet (SAWS) and the early Muslims in Mecca at the hands of the non-Muslims was measurably worse than what American Muslims deal with in the United States. 1400 years ago people were literally rounded up, kicked out of their homes, tortured and even put to death simply for saying that there is no god except Allah. Today, the chanting of laa ilaaha illa Allah Muhammadarr Rasoolillah (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet (SAWS),  resonates from coast to coast, five times a day, seven days a week. So let’s not get too carried away in self victimization. That’s not to say that some of this does not still occur in other parts of the world outside of the United States; the massacre of Bosnians, Palestinians, Kashmiris, and others for simply being Muslim is still fresh in many of our minds. Notwithstanding that there are Muslims being massacred by other Muslims, simply for being a certain ethnicity, sect or type of Muslim. However, there are more than a billion Muslims on the planet, and we cannot address the entire condition and modality of Muslim peoples across the globe with a one size fits all answer. Such methods contradict the principle of Islamic problem solving. In the meantime, since the topic is not likely to go away, let’s start first by looking at the issue of criticism and parody of Islam from a purely Islamic perspective without the emotional and psychological baggage. Imam Luqman Ahmad Luqman Ahmad is a freelance writer and the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in California. He is also an executive committee member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and a General Council member of the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA). He can be reached through email at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com Next: Part Two: Apparently, no one’s paying too much attention to our condemnation

Islam, Muslims and the Moral Imperitive

By Shaykh Luqman Ahamd

Some aspirations of the global Muslim community are purely optional; participating in the Olympics, seeing who can build the biggest masjid, and holding star studded fundraisers. Others are crucial responsibilities to which we are perpetually obligated. Assuming the Islamic moral imperative is a responsibility from which Muslims cannot escape. In the scheme of the modern global civilization, the Muslims peoples are obligated to be beacons of morality and guidance for the world. Now before some of you chuckle, sigh, or gasp, let me explain. Allah has unequivocally declared;

“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.”3:104

There has to be a least a group of the Muslims who are engaged in the practice of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is evil. Otherwise, we all are at fault. Our net worth as a religious group is connected in part to our enjoying the good and forbidding the wrong “You are the best nation extracted for the people; you enjoin good and forbid evil.” 3:110

Thus we cannot ignore as Muslims there is some obligation for us to provide moral leadership to the world. As we approach the 100 year mark of the post khilafate environment, even though there are over one billion Muslims in the world, spiritual leadership is at a premium, and when present, is frequently divided against itself, and systems of Islamic checks and balances are conspicuously absent. So the challenge of creating a pragmatic, morally principled and purpose driven umma is perhaps greater now than at any time during the 1400 plus years since the epoch of the Prophet (SAWS).

Outside of the masaajid, Muslim schools a few charities and the institution of hajj, there are hardly any faith driven institutions stewarded by the Muslim community. Our sense of spiritual purpose is eroded by the din of hyper-reactionary politics, the ever-present religious sectarianism, a deeply rooted cynicism, and lack of confidence in the restorative powers of our faith in action. In addition, it seems that our pursuit of worldly status has made many of us ingratiating foot stools to the world and blinded us to what made the Muslim peoples great in the first place.

In a world of sexual mania , universal distraction through entertainment and pandemic, narcissistic driven materialism, the voice of our faith is seldom heard unless it’s a call for jihad, an apologetic discourse aimed at spin control or regurgitation of religious principles that are lacking in empirical substantiation. If our religion is based upon peace then we should be the principle authors of it, starting in our own ranks! If we are the champions of justice and goodness, then let us see our own examples of solution based justice in the world. And if Islam preaches good manners and civility, let us make our own global mark upon it.

Every time we point our finger at the world, there are fingers pointed right back at us.
We point to corruption while we fail to see the corruption in our own societies. We point at intolerance and fail to see our own intra-religious intolerance. When we point at unbridled materialism, we don’t need to look very far to see it in our own selves. And when we point to violence against the innocent; we don’t need to look very far to see it happening by us and against our own people.

On the modern global stage which we all share, the Muslims are not the ones to whom the world looks to for guidance, direction or help. More often we are seeking it from others. I refuse to believe that answers for the world’s problems do not exist in what was revealed to our Prophet (SAWS). Indeed the answers are there if we engage the full breadth of what Islamic divine texts have to offer. We can’t rush to apply shariah laws to prayer, hajj and marriage and even argue about it while not applying divine guidance to the way we manage our governments, our societies, or our business and civil codes of ethics.

Dichotomizing our faith has led us to a sort of schizophrenic modality whereas we argue about beards and burqas, yet engage in fratricide. We decry ethnic profiling while being obsessed with status and ethnicity. We construct masaajid in America and call them Afghani Masjids or Arab Masjids. Even as of this writing, calls for jihad against America if she attacks Iran are emanating from the minbars of the world but did calls for the cessation of hostilities between Iran and Iraq have the same resonance during that terrible war which resulted in the loss of over 1,000,000 Muslims? The Turkish government has recently approved making military incursions into Kurdish controlled areas of northern Iraq. Are there calls against Turkey not to attack the Kurds? Are we saying that non-Muslims are not allowed to violate our sanctity while we routinely violate it ourselves?

The subjective application of Islamic principles has its consequence and perhaps that would explain why Muslim life, Muslim societies and Muslim sanctity are undervalued on the world stage. Under application of Islamic principles and the devaluation of Muslim honor and prestige are inextricably connected;

“Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.” 2:85

The truth is that we as Muslims by and large are an ethical people of faith and the inheritors of a great prophetic legacy of faith, justice, goodness, and ethics, we just seem to have lost our moral momentum somewhere along the way. The month of Ramadan has reinvigorated our spiritual engines as it is its nature. Now that Ramadan is over, let’s not go back to business as usual; let us move forward to a saintly revolution of sorts. Maybe what we need now is a reminder, or perhaps a complete spiritual overhaul. At any rate, something has to be done that directs our attention to our need for reform. Not of the faith, but of our practice of it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the moral imperative.

Asserting morality regaining the moral imperative is not a simply a matter of espousing the virtues of honesty, integrity, fair play and monotheism. Nor is it a matter of political posturing, well choreographed press conferences or heart wrenching photo-ops. Moral leadership is a matter of transferring the moral and ethical principles of Islam from a verbal and textual state to an operative reality. The universal brotherhood of Islam must evolve from being a rosy sounding cliché to a bona-fide and undeniable actuality. The mandate of non-sectarianism, righteousness, fairness, magnanimity must be resuscitated to life from our texts. We are after all, being tested; not just individually but as a collective.

It is entirely imprudent of us to dismiss the importance of our standing with the very Lord whom we worship and revere. Every community has its reckoning; and ours is invariably on the horizon.

“Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which ye earn. And ye will not be asked of what they used to do.” 2:134

The prophetic message has to be liberated from the myopic prism of the few who only see aggression and oppression as the mantra of the Islamic hubris. The time has come for Muslim peoples to re-arm themselves with the moral imperative of righteousness. Not self righteousness, because self righteousness frequently leads to arrogance, but righteousness pure and simple which has at its core, humility and submission to Allah’s way and reinstatement of principle in our dealings. There are too many moral issues on the table for which we offer no answer, no solution and for which we have no voice. We have to re-apply the principles of ethics, morality, civility and spirituality. The challenge is; first we must apply it to ourselves, our countries, our communities, our masaajid and our own families.

Sooner or later we will have to address the spiritual diseases which decimate our moral fiber. There is no shortage of issues upon which the Muslim umma can disagree and fight over. However, there are many other issues upon which many, if not most us find common ground. Most of the Muslims agree that morality is better than immorality. Most of us agree that there needs to be a presumption of safety from each other. And most can agree that sectarianism is not in the best interest of the Muslims. Most in my humble estimation would agree also that corruption and misappropriation of funds should no longer be the norm in Muslim countries. Most would also agree that more needs to be done to address, the issues relating to the poor, the weak, the homeless and the destitute amongst us whether they be Muslim or non-Muslim.

There has to be a fundamental change in the way we operate. The senseless and counterproductive culture of religious and ethnic based sectarianism needs immediate and complete extermination. Religious arrogance and tunnel-vision nationalism has to take a back seat to principle and Islamic world ethics. If the Muslim peoples ever expect to regain world leadership it will only occur if faith, morality and spiritual vision is reinserted in our constitution.

Islam has always been and will always be our best product. Were we to apply a moral spectrograph to ourselves, we would find that we have been eclipsed on many fronts in maintaining moral standards. I’m not talking about the theology of monotheism or the mantle of divine textual integrity, on that front we are second to none since there is no other religious document that can claim the authenticity of the Quran and there is certainly no religious doctrine which can successfully challenge the notion that there is only one true god. However, Islam is not simply a litany of theological cannons; it is a way of life, a way of doing things and a way of thinking. Islam has tremendous civilizational possibilities in the new world and in my opinion, offers the greatest hope for the worlds ailments. Islam addresses global warming, world hunger, unnecessary wars, materialism, and corruption. The answers are there, however we have to look close and look with purpose. Sometimes we do not even have to look close; sometimes the answers are closer than we think they are.

Islam is no doubt the greatest way of life if practiced and taken to heart and the Muslims have the potential to be a great people again. Greatness and honor with Allah is not a given, it has to be earned. The false sense of divine entitlement has to be replaced with the moral work ethic of Islam which stresses that morality and proximity to God is something earned though action.

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). 49:13 It s not the arrogance and the declarations of a people which make them great; it is their humility and total submission to their Lord in every way; even the ways they do not always like.

Luqman Ahmad

Luqman Ahmad is a freelance writer and the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in California. He is also an executive committee member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and a General Council member of the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA). He can be reached through email at imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com

Luqman Ahmad Is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California where he has served since 1996. He recently returned to Sacramento after a two year absence. He comes from a well known religious Muslim family in the Philadelphia area. He is married and the father of five children. Luqman also studied at Umm Al-Quraa University in Saudi Arabia and at the Haram al-Mekki. While in Saudi Arabia, in addition to the teachers at Um al-Qura, the Imam studied with Sheikh Suleiman al-Hazmi, Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq who was his sheikh of fiqh, and tafseer al-Quran, and Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazaali. Imam Luqman learned usool al-hadith from Sheikh Muhammad bin Humayad a classic era Az’harian trained in the Ottoman period. Imam Luqman also took lessons from the late American Sheikh; Muhammad Ghulaam Al-Haarith, who was one of the first indigenous American Muslims to attend Azhar University.

Note: This article was originally published in 2007, I just thought I’d give it another stroll around the block

Civil Marriages Versus Islamic Marriages

 By Imam Luqman Ahmad

 Recently, I entertained a notion that I never before expected would enter my mind. I have always passionately maintained that an imam should contract Muslim marriages in the United States with no civil marriage license involved. Furthermore I argued that with respect to civil legitimacy, we as Muslims in America should demand that the local, state and federal governments accept Muslim marriages contracted in a masjid as valid and legitimate for all purposes. Furthermore, I felt that Muslims in America should establish their own courts to deal with marital disputes, divorce and adjudication. I even used to cast a disdaining eye at people who sought the city hall stamp of approval for their marriages. I still hold some of these positions. However, I do not foresee any of these happening in the near future.

Now, after 20 years of witnessing utter disregard for the sanctity of marriage, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the off-handed informal way in which marriages and divorces are handled needs to be revised to better reflect the reality of the times while still maintaining, even enhancing the adherence of islamic law. It is painfully clear that more and more often, the sacredness of marriage has been replaced by an almost casual indifference to its sanctity.

Civil and Islamic marriages have taken on connotations of real and make-believe. A person will say: “lslamically I’m married to so and so but legally I’m still married to so and so.” Or they will say, “We are married in Islam but we are not legally married.” Too often a person will display a prima fascia disregard for a civil marriage as if it doesn’t matter because it’s not “islamic”. However when a legal dispute arises such as death of a spouse who was divorced islamically but not civilly, the former spouse will rush to claim that, hey, I’m the legal spouse therefore I deserve the inheritance or the insurance money or whatever is left behind. Then they seek the full backing of the law.

In virtually every case, a civil marriage solemnized islamically carries the full applicable weight of legality and sanctity. On the other hand, an Islamic marriage by itself in many cases only carries limited weight not extending too far beyond the boundaries of the masjid. That’s why in an Islamic marriage, women for example, may still keep their former husband’s last name, never change any of their identifications, (drivers licenses, work I.D., passports etc.) to reflect their status as married women. In some cases a woman may be married to a man islamically and still carry their former husbands last name. On the other hand, when there is a civil marriage certificate involved, signed by the imam, legal issues are adjusted across the board, names are changed to reflect the new status, real names are used on the certificate, identifications, and drivers licenses are changed, parents are notified (and believe they are married), and a realization evolves amongst couples that yes, we are married in every sense of the word.

Marriage is a serious matter. The prophet (SAWS) considered it half of one’s faith. It is arguably the single most important social institution in our religion. The marital status amongst Muslims needs to be explicit and unambiguous. Either you are married or you are not. Either you are divorced or you are not. The idea of a legal netherworld between Islamic and civil is absurd. Unfortunately, Muslims in the United States do not possess the power, influence, or organizational congruence, to establish a nationwide or even a local system of marriage and divorce. This is why men are able to go from city to city and marry as many times as they like in the Muslim community without anyone even knowing their real names, or have multiple wives without the others even knowing about it! It is also why men and women are more likely to abandon the marriage by simply walking away because the Islamic marriage in their eyes carries no real validity. It may at its inception but when things get rough as they often do, they know they can just simply walk away with no legal ramifications.

 

Often there is no documentation of marriage, or divorce, no reference to past marriages, to any marital history, no information regarding previously abandoned children, wives or husbands. Pretty soon we can expect that brothers and sisters may be marrying each other without knowing it. Think it won’t happen? Well think again. I know of at least two instances where it did happen. In one case the marriage was prevented in time. In the other case, incest had occurred before anyone knew better. One place to start remedying this madness would be for masaajid in any given city to share all information about marriage and divorce and establish a computer network that connects them to one another. However, that is unlikely. Masaajid are very reluctant to share information. They would rather share information with amazon.com before they share it with another Masjid.

A stable networking system of marriage and divorce in the Muslim community may be years away. In the meantime, I advocate utilizing a civil marriage certificate signed by an imam until we get our act together. This way there will be a modicum of regulation and reference and it may help stem the tide of reckless marriage and runaway divorce. Granted, this is not an easy dilemma to resolve. There are fundamental differences between marriage and divorce laws in Islam and those in secular law. The downside of marriages employing the civil system is that it subjects people to the inherent injustices of the American divorce process, which tend to unfairly (from a Muslim perspective) favor women. One positive note is that some cities are open to the idea of incorporating Islamic principles into the civil system for Muslims, which still would require that the Muslims in that city be of one accord on the fiqh of the issue. This may be an area that warrants further exploration and advocacy. I realize that the idea of allowing the government to license Muslim marriages may be distasteful to some Muslims. I do not fully endorse the notion myself. However, in light of the tragic consequences of having no system at all, I believe this is the lesser of two evils. And Allah knows best.

This and other issues like it are indicative of our unpreparedness to do what it takes to take care of our own. When a single mother with children is in need of assistance, she doesn’t go to the masjid, she goes to the welfare office. When there is a violent dispute between spouses, they do not call the masjid, they call 911 and get a restraining order. When there are financial disputes between Muslims, we do not have a system for binding arbitration in the Muslim communities, they simply go to civil court. We file and pay taxes faithfully yet we ignore zakat and resign ourselves to having to put on fundraisers which are now starting to resemble rock concerts. The chronic divisiveness of the Muslim community only augments this difficulty. Muslim communities in America are going to have to start thinking as a group. At some point “organizational normalcy” needs to occur. Our lives and individual communities are simply too interconnected for us to continue acting as if they aren’t. America in the new information age is all about connectivity. It is high time for us to catch up.

The ideas of fully utilizing the civil system in contracting Muslim marriages should not be necessarily frowned upon. We are already entrenched in the American legal system in almost every aspect of our lives and in most legal matters it is the primary system used by Muslims in the United States. Even when making hajj, you need a U.S. Government issued or approved passport and you have to use your “legal name” not your Islamic name. About the only way in which we do handle our own is in death; we do wash our own bodies and bury our own. Are we prepared to change? Only the future will tell. My dear Muslims, when are we going to realize that sooner or later we are going to have to come together as one people? We need to wake up. Our survival depends upon it.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Northern California. He can be reached at imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com, or visit his blog at imamluqman.wordpress.com

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