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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imam Luqman Ahmad

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


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

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

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

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

[5] Collected by Muslim.

[6] Mish’kaat al-Masaa’bih.

[7] Died 751 A.H.

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

Generational Continuity and Preserving Islam in Your Family; A Case for Maintaining Muslim Congregations. By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

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

It is tragic when people enter into this faith and fail to pass it down to their children, or sometimes not even fully embrace it themselves. even worse when people live their Islam through someone else’s reality without never having experienced its core beauty. In order to fully engage your Islam so that it becomes more than a bevy of regurgitated slogans, and faddish adaptations that you pick up and then discard later, you have to believe in it in its totality, and practice it as a lifestyle. However, the secret to it all which is reality is not a secret at all is that you must be engaged with Allah; that you must worship Him Alone without partners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Granted, we are all American Muslims, and brother and sisters in Islam. However, if we take a closer look, it is evident that there are clearly two, distinctly different, Muslim Americas. One comprised primarily by immigrants from Muslim countries, and their children, and the other from American Muslim converts. As immigrant communities are growing, thriving, and blanketing the landscape with multi-million dollar masaajid, schools, and cultural institutions. African-American Muslim communities are struggling, lack physical resources, lack influence, and are very small in comparison. The future looks very bleak for the American Muslim converts unless we re-establish congregation with just and knowledgeable imams. Religious congregations are not perfect, but it is a lot better than chaos. For many American Muslim converts, there is hardly any religious order in their lives. Imperfect institutions that teach, regulate, and fulfill the order of the deen of Islam, are better than no institutions at all.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Philadelphia born, Shaykh Luqman Ahmad has served as an Imam in California for the last 22 years. He is currently Associate Imam and Resident Scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam Toledo, Ohio where he teaches Nd delivers Friday sermons.

He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.


[1] Quran: 16:78.

[2]

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

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

[5] Related  by Muslim

[6] Quran 103:2-3

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

[9] Related by Bukhaari

[10] Related by Bukhaari.

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