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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Thanksgiving?

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

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

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, not a religious holiday

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

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

Operative principles of Thanksgiving Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Errant Islamic rulings which prohibit Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Muslim is not obligated to live his or her life based upon the ignorance or misinformation of a well intending scholar.  Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in people’s traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he (a scholar) will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that he understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah”.[6] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya.  There is a fatwa floating around, attributed to our esteemed Shaykh bin Baaz, (RA) that prohibits celebrating any festivals, holidays, or special occasions of non-Muslims. I regret that during my time of study with him, I did not ask him specifically and in detail about Thanksgiving in America. Had I done so, I doubt if he would have found it prohibited but Allah knows best.

The correct Islamic ruling on celebrating Thanksgiving Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conditions for celebrating thanksgiving:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Allah knows best. By Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Bayah


[1] Quran, 7:33.

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Quran, 14:7

[4] Quran, 16:121

[5] Quran, 55:49.

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

[7] Collected by Muslim.

[8] Quran, 34:61.

[9] Quran, 7:32.

[10] Quran, 5:8.

Why Thugs Can’t Raise a Nation; The Importance of Good Parenting

Dear beloveds, you and I know that without a doubt, young black men are an endangered species. Today’s reality is that a young African-American male is more likely to be murdered on the street in Philadelphia or Chicago than he is to be killed as a soldier in the war in Afghanistan. It’s time to spread the message that thug life is not working to our advantage. This situation will exacerbate unless we as men, start to do something about it. We can’t do anything about the past except learn from it. However, we can do something about the present and the future. I implore you brothers first of all to embrace fatherhood in every possible way. Do it by any halal means available to you.

The problems in our community are systemic; they didn’t happen overnight. Fatherless homes, drug abuse, high incarceration rates, illiteracy, family violence, dysfunctional families, and teenage delinquency are taking a high toll in our communities.  This is a systemic problem, and there are hardly enough resources; men, families, programs and solid indigenous communities left to address these issues. We have a crisis on our hands and we can’t expect the government to fix this for us, and the so called thugs and wanna-be thugs in our communities aren’t helping. In my opinion, we’re going to have to start from the ground floor and strengthen our families and communities and establish new families, and we as men and women (especially men), have to shoulder our responsibilities to help insure that another generation of Muslims doesn’t end up repeating the cycle of dysfunction all over again. We have to make a decision as a people, to get off the roller coaster

Amongst the top priorities my brothers is to make it your mission to be a parent or a step parent, in the true sense. Relish in it, meet it head on, accept it, value it, immerse yourself in it, work it, embrace it, grab it by the horns, greet it with enthusiasm, cherish it, be about it, face it, love it, handle it, smile at it, get down on it, step up to the plate, seize it, man up to it, and don’t turn away from it, don’t be afraid of it, and do not let parenthood escape you. Be believing and dutiful parents beloveds; by any means necessary……

The best thing that you can pass down to your children is guidance; “Were ye witnesses when death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: “What will ye worship after me?” They said: “We shall worship Thy Allah and the Allah of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma’il and Isaac,- the one (True) Allah. To Him we bow (in Islam).” 2:133

In these last days, where children often do whatever they want, and effectively run the households of their parents, where teenage pregnancy is at an all-time high in our community, juvenile delinquency is common, and where it is acceptable that 25 and even 30-year-old young men sit around in their momma’s houses playing video games and smoking weed all day, we have got to address the issue of parenting and family order in our communities. Acting like a thug may look good on television but in my opinion, thugs can’t raise a nation. They can hardly hold down a good job! And for all you weed lovin, pill poppin, needle pushin, crack smoking, drug dealin, and meth takin parents; you just adding to the problem.

People have to start acting like grown-ups and start raising their children and not let their children raise them. You have to teach your children right from wrong and not let your home be ruled by the whims of a child, or be ruled by your own whims for that matter. When I see the extremely high rates of black on black killing, and crime in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Compton, Detroit, and Brooklyn, I’m thinking; where are the parents? Where are the fathers?

The plight of our black youth in America is not just a police or school issue; it’s a parenting issue! Where are the parents in all of this? Where is the proper teaching and raising of children? Where are the examples of decency and rightful thinking in the family? For that matter, where are the families in our community. We’ve got plenty of baby mommas and baby daddies but very few real mothers and fewer real fathers.

I see too many mothers and fathers in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s trying to live like they are still teenagers. I see brothers paying more attention to their 20 inch rims on their car than they do to the proper care of their children. Perhaps the biggest problem with thugs and thug life is that many of them end up dead, addicts or in jail where they can’t help anyone. Too many children live a legacy where their dad is holed up in some state penitentiary, doing time.There’s nothing glamorous about that.

The time for excuses is over. Something has to be done. I don’t know the answer except to follow the guidance of Islam; get married, establish a family, be a dutiful husband, be a dutiful wife, be dutiful parents, teach your children morals, teach them religion, give them religious instruction, set boundaries for them, teach them right from wrong. Stay close to the masaajid and to the gatherings of Muslims. Eat together, pray together, do things together.

It is a tragedy that many of our men and woman have been conditioned to seek out the thug path, glorifying thug life, (street life), believing in the thug creed, (there is no right or wrong); it’s only what makes you happy. While worshiping the thug god, (money, gold, cars, and shiny things), and having   incarceration as a rite of passage, While idolizing and painting murals of other dead thugs. Whose daily staple is weed, who is fond of the forty, and who spend more on their dogs and their cars than they do on their own families. In the religion of the thug, they curse their absent fathers, defy their mothers, live off their women, and spend an hour in the mirror primping themselves.

The scriptures of the thug are the rhymes and raps of debauchery and narcissism. They have taken self-love to an extreme. They damn the virtues of righteousness, while mentioning the name of God, and sometimes Allah in the same breath. Thugs cannot raise a family, let alone a nation.  They don’t honor life; they only destroy it.  How many of our women are raising the illegitimate children of some has-been thug, who is doing time.

Make no doubt about it; the commander-in-chief of the thug nation is none other than Shaitaan himself. The cure to end the cycle of madness is Islam, but we first have to submit, submit in a total submission. O ye who believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the evil one; for he is to you an avowed enemy.” 2:208  

With all due respect to the single mothers out there, and may Allah reward you for the extraordinary job you are doing. It takes men to raise men. With so many the men in our communities ether incarcerated, dead, gay, effeminate, emasculated, in the streets, on drugs, weeded out, washed up, faint of heart, or still, over forty, pretending that they are still teenagers, there just aren’t that many men left standing in our communities. So for those of you who are left; if you are able to shoulder a little extra responsibility, then now is the time. If you have to partner with other men of like minds, then do so. But don’t sit back and do nothing.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

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Essential Tips for Raising Muslim Children of Converts, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

There is no perfect way to raise Muslim children in America, or in anywhere else, and in a complex society such as the United States, there are a lot of different elements which factor into the overall process of healthy child-rearing for Muslim American children; neighborhoods, education, background, family support, community participation, parental involvement, income, experience or lack of, knowledge of the deen, common sense, the role of father, as well as other factors.  Some of these things we have control over and others, we have no control over. However, there are principle elements of child-rearing that are based upon the Quran and the Sunna, and that have proven effective for children of American Muslim converts to Islam. Similarly, there many things that have proven not to work and that have shown to be destructive to their religion.

Imam al-Qurtubi says; “knowledge is acquired through two means; nusoos (textual evidence) and tajriba (trial and error)”. Something very disturbing is happening in Muslim America amongst children of converts; many of them are either leaving Islam altogether, or at least abandoning the meaningful practice of Islam.  Some of them are speaking out about how growing up in dysfunctional Muslim homes where there was extremism, abuse, conflicting religious messages, moving from sect to sect, or living under ridiculous, imported fatwas and rulings made their lives difficult. Some are even converting to Christianity and heading for the churches, and others grow up confused about their identity which is something that should never befall a Muslim child. This generational backlash is widespread, and warrants that we need to take a look at what has and hasn’t worked as far as raising Muslim children in America because judging by the lack of the generational continuity of Islam in many new Muslim American families, we indeed have a problem.

Islam has been in the United States for a long time now, and people have been converting to Islam in high numbers for the last fifty years or so. Since that time, what we have seen is that a high percentage of the people who converted to Islam, failed to pass it down to their children in a healthy, seamless way that their children continued to practice the faith into the next generation and the generation after that. There is a great disconnect between those who convert to Islam and the ability to pass it on to the next generation. At this point in our juncture it is only prudent that we take a good look at what we are doing and how we are going about raising our children and what are we raising them upon.

From what I have seen over the last thirty years, parents who have had the most success in maintaining Islam within their children have been the ones who kept their Islam simple and emphasized following the Quran and the Sunna, without any additions. The parents who complicated their Islam with too many foreign elements, or who neglected their Islam, and replaced it with secular teaching and ideas, or who mixed their Islam with Christianity, tend to raise children who are very confused about their Islamic identity (if they still have one), and who opt not to practice their religion. By simple Islam, I mean the emphasis upon what was contained in the hadith of Jibril (AS) regarding the five pillars, and basic beliefs; (Allah, the Prophets, the angels, the Day of Judgment, and the Books). When the importance of the primary foundations of Islamic belief and behavior such as prayer, fasting, family bonds, goodness to neighbors, charity, honesty, loyalty, taqwa, kindness, family, the Masjid, and brotherhood, were stressed, children seemed to have an easier time coping in the long term, and maintaining a healthy and active Islamic identity. I’m not talking about a perfect Islam or perfect child because there is none, but there is such a thing as an active and healthy Muslim identity.

It is important for Muslim parents to keep in mind that it is absolutely vital that you make sure that your children have a secure foundation in their deen. Giving children a foundation in their religion usually takes the entirety of their growing up under you. It is not something achieved in one sitting, one experience, in one month, one summer, or one year, and it’s not something that you can buy, or contract someone to do for you. You as a parent must do it yourself, starting at home. Children are born in a state of fitra, and by their very nature they are predisposed to take the path that their parents put them on. When they are exposed by the parents to too many different truths, or too many different religious sub-ideologies, they will tend not be secure in their faith. Faith insecurity is something that you do not want to happen with your children under any circumstances because once they become insecure in their faith, they are likely to fall for anything.

The Prophet (SAWS) wasn’t a complicated person. He didn’t preach or teach in a complicated style, and he didn’t like excessive questioning about matters which is why he said; “It was only their excessive questioning and their disagreeing with their Prophets which destroyed those who came before you[1]  He (SAWS) never liked when the deen was made burdensome, and he said; “The practice of religion is easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will be overpowered by it. Therefore, be moderate, try to be near perfection but within your capacity and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” [2] Instead, our beloved Prophet (SAWS) preferred simple messages of guidance that were simple to grasp and easy to implement, as long as you didn’t complicate it. For example when asked what the best type of Islam was, he replied: “Feeding food, and spreading salaams[3], when asked for advice he simply replied in one tradition: “don’t get angry”.

When children are put upon simple, firm and true deen from the very beginning, it is likely that they will not be swayed or moved by anything different; whether it is a different madhaahib, deviant ideologies, or faddish Islamic sects. You don’t want your children to end up being like the people who spend more time researching and arguing about the deen, than they spend practicing it. This is why the Prophet (SAWS) said: “I’m leaving you with two things that if you hold fast to them you will never go astray after me; the Book of Allah and my Sunna”. [Bukhaari] Holding fast to anything else after that is just a gamble, and gambling is haram in Islam. Keep in mind is that the true religion of Allah will always be Islam and the only one of our ummah who is ma’soom (free of error) is Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, the Last Prophet (SAWS). So teach your children to live according to the Quran and the Sunna beloveds, anything else is just someone else’s experiment, for which Allah has revealed no authority. Let your children identify themselves as Muslims. It is the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) to call yourself a Muslim, and that is the best possible identity for them.

وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَى وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ

[“And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector – the Best to protect and the Best to help![4] ]

Indigenous American muslim converts, mostly whom are African American, have a unique and distinct history in that we are the descendants of slaves and are historically and fundamentally cut off from the rest of the Muslim world to a very significant degree, and we need to recognize that and stop trying to fit into everyone else’s reality. Indigenous American Muslims ascribe to groups and ideologies in different ways that people generally do from the Muslim world, which is a subject by itself that I won’t address here, and I’m not saying this in a good or bad way except to say that the American Muslim convert community has a uniqueness that warrants we keep our assimilation of Islam, very independent and progressively simple. Principally because since many of us are converts, and second generation, we should assimilate into Islam in the same simplistic incremental way the first converts of our Umma i.e. the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) did.  This was to keep their Islamic identity, simple enough to minimize complication and flexible enough using principles from the Quran and the Sunna, that it was inclusive of everyone who came to believe laa ilaaha illa Allah and accepted the basic principles of Islam.

Therefore, do not teach your children that they are, Shaafi’ee, Qaadiri, Tijaani, Tablighi, Salafi, Hanbali, Maaliki, or any other designation. Teach them that they are Muslim. Even if you happen to follow a particular school of thought or a tariqa be it Shaafi’ee, or Maaliki, or Shaadhili, or if you ascribe to a group such as Salafi, or a Tablighi, or anything else, don’t let these designations become your children’s principl identity. Do not, and I repeat, do not teach your children that anything represents the totality of Islam, other than Islam.  If you teach them that your group are the only true Muslims, or that if they follow this or that tariqa or madhhab, there Islam will be better than everyone else’s, then you will only confuse and mislead them; as many people are already doing.

Islam, as an identity, has more depth, more security, more longevity, and more spiritual potency than any of the other sectarian additions to it. This is because Islam, in its pure form is sanctioned from above seven heavens and is supported by the authority of wahy (divine revelation). The Prophet (SAWS) was sent to all of mankind by agreement of the scholars. قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعً” [Say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah,][5] However, this or that sheikh, or that companion, or that taabi’ee, were not dispatched to all people as a mercy to mankind. In reality; people are only commanded to worship Allah Alone, and to make the religion for His sake only, and that is the most important message that we must pass on to our children.

The point is, that if you teach your children the truth, (the Quran and the sunna), you don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching them about all the falsehood that they may or may not encounter during their lifetime, or teaching them about all the different sects and ways that people do this or that. Truth is stronger than falsehood, and there is no end to the amount of falsehood, differences of thought, deviant and orthodox ideology, and opinions in circulation amongst the Muslims. It takes years for most people to sift througfh all that. Their time on earth is limited just like ours, and the more truth they know (from the Kitaab and the Sunna) and the more they are aware of what is important, then the more time and energy they can devote to practicing it and preparing for their hereafter.

There are so many sunnan and vital aspects of deen that Muslim children grow up knowing nothing about.  Whether it is family issues, moral value issues, character issues, adaab issues, belief issues, fiqh issues, social issues, or simple lifestyle issues upon which Allah and His Messenger have rendered guidance. The idea is to pass the deen down to your children in a way that they will remain firm in their faith, and in their practice of Islam, and not find themselves running from one thing to another thing to another thing. Or constantly questioning this and then questioning that, and questioning what they believe, every time something new comes on the scene, like many Muslims are doing today. It’s really a sad situation. However, it can get better in sha Allah but we have to go back to the basics.

You don’t need advanced and complicated aqeeda books to teach children their belief. People have been doing it for years, with simple, basic instruction and by word of mouth from parent to child. If a parent really wants their child to learn aqeeda, then read the Quran to them. Everything they need to know about Allah is contained in His Book, and whatever essentials that are left undisclosed in the Book, the Prophet (SAWS) has covered it abundantly. When they grow up and want to get deep down in theology, or if they want to become polemicists when they get older, and debate back and forth about aqeeda on the internet, then let them do that on their own, but let not you as the parent, be the one to start them off on this path. For most parents, you will find that the Quran and the Sunna is more than enough for your children. When it comes to religion; teach them exactly what the Prophet (SAWS) taught us.

Simplicity and the fundamentals are the first step in restoring order amongst indigenous American Muslims, and most vital in that is in establishing the prayer with your family, your wife and the children of your household. Your children must see that you bow your head down to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. That way, they will know that you are accountable to Him.  If they see that you are accountable to Allah, they will find it easier and more palatable to be accountable to you as a parent. If there is no prayer in your home, then it is almost assured that Shaitaan will soon become the imam of your household.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1] Collected by Bukhaari.

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Collected by Muslim

[4] Quran, 22:78.

[5] Quran, 7:158

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

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

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.

 

Leaderless in Muslim America by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah once said: it’s is better for people to endure under a tyrant for 100 years than it is for them to go one night without a leader. The general rule regarding leadership is that without it, one can only expect chaos and disharmony. Religious leadership in Islam is a necessity mandated by divine law; (daroorah shar’iyyah) and something that Muslim people, wherever they may reside, should never be without.
There is no such thing as a perfect leader; some are better than others. Leaders and followers both learn through the experience if they are fortunate. Leaders are people and as per their nature, people change from state to state. Ignorant leaders can learn or receive advice, weak leaders can find strength, arrogant leaders can learn humility, unjust leaders can become just, and inexperienced leaders can become wise with time. Of course the opposite can be true with respect to all of the above.

The truth is, no one really knows in advance just how well a leader will perform in discharging his duties. Leaders die, and are succeeded by another and in some cases, leaders are voted in and out of office. Some leaders are removed for various reasons and replaced by someone else who may be better or worse than the previous one, and there are leaders, that have been forcibly deposed, overthrown, or assassinated.

A leader can inspire you as well as cause you to lose heart. Oftentimes there are layers of leadership so if there is a void, someone can step up from behind and serve in his stead. Throughout Muslim history, there have been numerous types of leaders at different times, for different Muslim peoples, and each had their own set of responsibilities, sphere of authority, function and challenges. There have been Imams, Amirs, Sultans, Haakims, Kings, Prime Minters, , Viceroys, Shahs, Sheikhs, Generals and revivalists who have all been leaders for Muslims one way or another. There are leaders who guide people to the truth and there are those who lead people astray. There are great leaders and there are dismal ones. The underlying premise behind leadership in Islam is that someone has taken responsibility for the affairs (umoor) of the believers. Even when the Muslims were a minority, the Prophet ﷺ never allowed that people would be dispatched without a leader. When the Muslims made the first hijra (migration) to Abyssinia, the Prophet ﷺ appointed Ja’far ibn Abi Taalib as Amir. When he would send detachments in campaigns and expedition, he never did so without appointing a leader from amongst them.

The highest form of leadership in Islam after prophethood itself, is the Khalifa , and the most basic form of religious leadership is the Imam of the home, and congregational prayer. Much can be said about leaders and what is ideal and desirable with respect to them, and the Quran, the sunna, as well as the books of fiqh and usool are replete with information and guidelines on the topic. However, to be leaderless in Islam is simply unthinkable. Many Muslim communities are trending towards a leaderless existence. Another trend is to for communities to have administrative leadership without any direct spiritual leadership. The fact that to be leaderless is a condition to which many of us have become accustomed, does not mitigate its negative consequences. May Allah guide. …

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

The Decline of Indigenous American Muslim Communities, by Imam Luqman Ahmad Part 2: Self Splintering

This much we know; unity is good and disunity is not good. With a dozen or so, foreign  spheres of religious influence circulating in the indigenous American Muslim convert community, any attempt to act collectively and independently in our own best interests is subject to direct or indirect scrutiny by a fatwa, a manifesto or an opinion of a far away Sheikh or scholar  who either sanctions it, or brands the action as deviant,  heretical, prohibited, or worthless .

As Muslims we should conduct  our lives according to the Quran and the authentic sunna of the Prophet (SAWS), and scholars of Islam, past and present are indispensable in that they help us to understand and live our faith. However most scholars are not leaders of people, and many Islamic rulings are environmentally specific to time, place, and circumstance.

People need leaders who are alive,  accessible and aware of their condition.  Indigenous American Muslims are arguably  the most leaderless Muslim group on the planet. Most  converts to Islam are not under direct leadership of a local or even a domestic Imam. Without leaders and Imams , it is difficult for American Muslims to have domestic focus, and it becomes easy to fall prey to a self -splintering modality, such as we find ourselves in today.
There are hundreds of opinions and views, on the internet,  in pamphlets, booklets, and on cds, which  can be thrown up like a roadblock  or detonated like an improvised explosive device and directed towards indigenous American Muslim activity with the result being either chaos,  disinterest, vociferous debate , inaction, condemnation, paralysis or splintering. It is the splintering that seems to do the most damage, because it siphons off the collective resources, and undermines the principal of unity.

Many Muslims realize the dangererous and divisive nature of multiple spheres of outside Islamic influence when not channeled properly.  Still these foreign spheres of religious  influence, if they do  not totally derail a beneficial  action or prevent it,  cause just enough doubt and polemical debate amongst African American Muslims for people to become either frustrated and loose heart, drift. into apathy,  or become adversaries, and antagonistic to each other.
There are fatwas, contemporary religious opinions, musings and edicts, that cover the full spectrum of social, religious, and cultural  intercourse  to the degree that any Muslim American can be conveniently labeled astray when needed in order to derail forward motion, or prevent that person from cooperating locally with other Muslims who are in their own neighborhood!

There are fatwas which declare that every Muslim in America must migrate immediately to a Muslim country.  There are fatwas that say becoming a member of a Muslim community is haram. There are fatwas that say that say that you must hate it anytime a non-Muslim is happy, There are fatwas that say that starting an organization is against the sunna.  There are fatwas that say that if an American Muslim does anything thing that an American does that he or she is imitating the kuffaar (infidels ) despite that he or she is an American! There are foreign religious views which  hold that thikr circles at someone’s house takes precedence over congregational prayer in the Masjid.  You’ve got fatwas that tell American Muslims to wage war against their own neighbors, and fatwas that prohibit people from cooperating with another Muslim who differs with your theological axioms.  There are fatwas that prohibit men and women working together, and fatwas that say that sports like football have no value and are a waste of time.

Some Muslims believe that they must wait around for the caliphate to come into being that will herald in a utopian society, others believe that you need approval from a Sheikh, ten thousand miles away before you can act upon anything,  and still others believe that even to consider ones self as an  American is counter to Islam. Many indigenous American Muslims behave as if they are a colony of some foreign Islamic entity.  Thus actions conducted without the approval of their particular sphere of influence or its doctrine, frequently results in creating another layer of division.

All it takes is a fatwa or an email from abroad for a project to come to a screeching halt,  or for people to withdraw their support or participation. Very rarely are scholars required to be present on our shores in person where they can be questioned and have to defend their arguments, and see first hand the fitna that occurs.  Have some indigenous American Muslims have given up their right to think for themselves?

Scholarship is not the culprit here; nor is it neccessarily the scholars who are at fault. Knowledge and comprension of deen through understanding our theology, sacred law (fiqh), and the proper use of rulings, is the foundation of religious practice. However, knowledge should be employed to empower people with the ability to seek the good that Allah made for them in their life and afterlife, not manipulated in a way that is burdensome and divisive.
Muslim people have the God given right to act in the best interests of their dunya wal aakhira and  are obligated to seek the pleasure of Allah only . In a better world , all Muslims would act as one people, share resources and help each other based upon mutual respect and dignity. However that is not the case; African American Muslims are marginalized,  regarded by many as third class Muslims and treated as such.  Of the billions upon billions of dollars invested in Islam in America,  barely a trickling of that is spent on the indigenous American Muslim communities and the fledgling institutions that seeks to address their needs.

The answer is to cut the psychological umbilical cord with the many unhealthy spheres of foreign religious influence because there are very little nutrients getting through and to do for self while depending upon Allah. We have to break free from the paralyzing choke hold of a slave mentality and realize that we are free men and women; slaves only to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala.
Imam Luqman Ahmad

imamabulaith@yahoo.com

salafi book cover amazonNew book available by Imam Luqman Ahmad: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern day Salafi Sect”, A detailed analysis of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect, their beliefs, practices, and influences upon the religious landscape of Muslim America. In particular, the indigenous American Muslim population. Available @ imamluqman.com

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