Top Ten Priorities For American Muslims in 2016, by Imam Luqman

image2016 Top Ten Priorities for American Muslims

(faith based list)

  1. Remove politics from the practice of our faith, and give the religion back to Allah. Everything we do in the name of our religion should be for the sake of Allah and not for the sake of our public image, for the sake of popularity, or for the sake of defraying criticism.
  2. Have an open and honest discussion about the racial divide in Muslim America. We have to be true to our faith and candidly address the issue of racial division in Muslim America. This will be a sober conversation. However, we can get through it and we will be much better off at the other end. It will free us from denial.
  3. Separate politics from the religion. We cannot serve two masters. In the midst of decrying that ISIS has hijacked our religion, our politics seems to have hijacked our morality.
  4. Give American Muslim Imams the autonomy to shepherd their communities according to what their own knowledge and experience tell them and not based upon some national consensus. The ones in America who need to be representing Muslims are the imams, not our political leaders. We need to let our imams assume their rightful roles as stewards of our faith, and not silence them or control what they can and cannot say.
  5. Stop emphasizing ‘American’ in everything we do and say. It doesn’t have to be; American Muslims do this, or American Muslims did that, or look at us; we are American Muslims! We need to stop that. At this point it’s overkill, and It getting old.
  6. To national Islamic, political, advocacy, and policy organizations; Stop presenting a single narrative of Muslim America that excludes indigenous African American, White, and Latino Muslims. No one has to right to represent all American Muslims. We are too diverse of a group with a diverse history, sentiments, understanding of moral priority and  different sense of politics.
  7. Stop sloganizing our religion and cease from using these stupid slogans and talking points; “somebody hijacked our religion”, “Islam is peace”, “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam”, “Islam is as American as apple pie”, “Islam is just like Chistianity”.
  8. Give up the idea of crafting a singular identity for American Muslims. Each Muslim American, if they don’t already have one, needs to simply get their own identity. It’s not that difficult you know. Making or crafting an identity summons images of Frankenstein, the Borg, or impersonating God, and I’m pretty sure its haram anyway.
  9. Stop denying that there are two Muslim Americas, one for immigrants and one for indigenous Muslims. The sooner we can accept our reality and deal with what needs to be dealt with, then the sooner we can move on as a people of faith.
  10. Stop thinking that you have to respond to every insult, and every criticism of Islam and Muslims.
  11. Find out the true identity of the person or persons who are in charge of the anti-Islamophobia campaign.

Top Priorities for American Muslims (Politically based list)

  1. Defeat islamophobia and crush the islamophobes once and for all.
  2. Do more networking with non-Muslim organizations so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  3. Do more charity work and get good press and pictures so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  4. Register one million voters so that we can create a Muslim voting block to target islamophobic politicians and defeat islamophobia.
  5. Make sure that America knows that Muslims are afraid of islamophobia so that people can take pity on us and we can defeat islamophobia.
  6. Hold more conferences with themes centered around islamophobia so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  7. Get more people to say good things about Muslims and perhaps target some celebrities and prominent Americans for this so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  8. Shut down any dissent from within the American Muslim community about the insanity in how we fight islamophobia so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  9. Keep talking about islamophobia so that Muslims will stay focused on islamophobia so that we can defeat islamophobia.
  10. Do more interfaith work, pray in more churches, consider celebrating Easter, and get better at denouncing terrorism, so that we can defeat islamophobia.

American born Luqman Ahmad, is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com.  The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at, imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com

The Massacre in Paris; Assessing the Muslim Response, by American Imam, Luqman Ahmad

Iterror-attack-paris-510x287 do not regard lightly, the loss of any innocent life that Allah has made inviolable. Innocent life is sacred, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, nationality, or ethnicity. It is Allah who grants life to whomever He pleases, and no one has a legitimate right to take that life unjustly. When people die, other people’s lives are affected. When innocent people are mercilessly killed, slaughtered, gunned down, beheaded, massacred, blown up, suicide bombed, or droned for no sense at all, it amplifies the tragedy.

I agree wholeheartedly that condemning violence against innocent souls is an appropriate Muslim response as it falls into the category of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil (al’amr bit a’roof wal nahyi an al-munkar). However, condemning selected instances of violence, while remaining silent about others that are equally if not more heinous, only perpetuates the widely held notion that Muslims living in the West are disingenuous, and self-serving. If Muslims are in fact, morally outraged about the terrible slaughter in Paris, then we should be equally outraged when it happens in Beirut, North Africa, Palestine, in suburban Connecticut, or in a Chicago slum.

There is a difference between taking a firm, unequivocal, morally principled position against injustice and murder of innocent lives of any kind, and taking episodic stances against occurrences of extreme violence’s against innocent civilians, according to hyperbolic pressure from the media, or our own political, and public relations considerations. This recurring, and seemingly automated Muslim reaction to these types of selected and sensationalized acts of extremism only takes us deeper into an ostentatious black hole, with no foreseeable ending or win game.

If we still believe that selective condemnation of Muslim violent extremism will somehow convince the media and vocal critics of Islam, and Muslims, to put the brakes on their vitriol, and give the rest of us a break, then history has shown that we are terribly wrong, and have not succeeded by any measure.

That we continuously find ourselves in the circuitous predicament of feeling compelled to condemn yet another incident of Muslim violence, and then complaining with the same frequency that no one’s listening, is testimony enough that just as violent extremists have hijacked the image of Islam, our politics has hijacked our morality.

We cannot continue to calibrate the shelf life and intensity of our moral consciousness based upon the length of a news feed or the broadcast schedule of the news media. Politicizing our Islam has virtually eviscerated Muslim moral credibility in the West. If people believed that we were truly a people of conscious and not a people of convenience, there would be no expectation of Muslims to condemn selected instances of violence, nor would we feel any compulsion to do so.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad has been the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento California, for close to 20 years. He is the author of the Book: ‘The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafiyyah Sect, a detailed analysis of extremist salafiyyism, which is the mindset of the modern ISIS extremists. Available on Amazon.com. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com

Respectfully Mr. President; Some American Muslims are not afraid, and we darn sure aren’t worried

We the peopleDear President Barak Obama, you mentioned in a recent in a Los Angeles Times op-ed; “But we know that many Muslim Americans across our country are worried and afraid”. Gee Mr. President, with all due respect, did any Muslim American leader tell you that American Muslims, or at least some of us, are concerned, but are patient, faithful, believe in the power of prayer, and have put our trust in our Lord?

You see Mr. President, to many of us, Islam is a religion; not a political ideology. And as such, there are numerous verses in our scripture and prophetic traditions that teach us how to deal with negative statements about Muslims and Islam. I’ll just mention a couple of verses: “All that is with you is bound to come to an end, whereas that which is with God is everlasting. And most certainly shall We grant unto those who are patient in adversity their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did.” 16:96. Here’s one more; “Endure, then, with patience (all that they who deny the truth may say] -always remembering that it is none but God who gives thee the strength to endure adversity and do not grieve over them, and neither be distressed by the false arguments which they devise:” 16:27. So you see Mr. President, some American Muslims simply do not have the time to sit around being afraid and worried about anti-Muslim sentiment. Our faith, and trust in the Lord, keeps us calm.

Some of us are more concerned about health care, unemployment, paying our bills, and getting our children through college than we are about who praises, or who criticizes Muslims. Don’t get me wrong Mr. President, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t concerned about the rising anti-Muslim, and anti-Islam rhetoric, however, that’s not the only thing that we are concerned about. Some of us, Mr. President, are concerned about the erosion of free speech in this great country of ours. Some of us are concerned that there are American Muslim leaders who fraudulently claim to speak for all of us, when in fact, they do not, and cannot speak for us all.

Some American Muslims believe that in the United States of America, people have the right to like or dislike whoever or whatever they want, as long as they do not resort to violence, or break the law. In fact Mr. President, some American Muslims believe that our right to be Muslim, and love Islam, is connected to the right of others not to be Muslim, and to hate Islam. You see Mr. President, some American Muslims are not a tribe, we don’t have tribal chiefs imbued with the authority to tell all of us what to think, what to like or not like, and how to feel.

If you really want to know who American Muslims are Mr. President, you might want to ask around a little bit more, and not rely on a few Muslim political organizations. By the way, we didn’t even elect those guys to represent us in the first place. We did elect you to be our President, and I at least expect you to dig a little deeper before you ask our entire country to give American Muslims a special pass that other groups who experience negative inference do not get.

You know Mr. President, I clearly remember when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I was a fourth grader at Francis D. Pastorious Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We were all instructed to go outside, stand in full assembly and sing; ‘we shall overcome’. The second chorus was; ‘we are not afraid’. I wasn’t afraid then, and I sure as heck, aren’t going to start being afraid now.

In the meantime Mr. President, I will defend without violence, the right of any and every American whether they like Islam, hate Islam, ambivalent towards Islam or is an adherent of Islam, the right to speak according to his or her own conscious, and conviction, whether it be political, religious, satirical, or editorial. You can tell people who you want them to be, but you cannot tell them who they are, and what to think. I also believe that God will call every person into account on the Day of Judgment, based upon who they are, not who they said they were, or who someone else thought they were. In the end, it is God who will decide who is right, and who is wrong, and at that time, nothing else will matter. I don’t speak for all American Muslims Mr. President. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone can – That’s just my take on it Sir. If I can be of any additional service, please contact me. I’m sure you have my number.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California. He is also a founding member of COSVIO (Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book; ‘The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect’ available on Amazon.com. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com. http://www.masjidibrahim.com.

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

thanksgiving dinnerToday’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, in matters that has to do with tradition,  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 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 are the best of you in Islam if they understand (the religion)”. In order for people to understand the religion, the focus has to be upon the primary texts of the Quran and the Sunna; not the secondary opinions, that are inconsistent with the original intentions (maqaasid) of Islam.

One Hundred Advices About Muslim Marriage: For People Who Are Marriage Minded by [Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad]During the last four or five decades, millions of Americans have converted to Islam, and their families and extended families were not Muslim. People 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 the Muslim, 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, is 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 on 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 or 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.

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. The Prophet was asked; what is the best type of Islam? He answered, “Feeding food, and spreading the salaams”.[6]

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”.[7] 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”.[8] 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”.[9]

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: Does Muslims have to celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

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. They do not even have to mention the word; Thanksgiving, if they choose not to.

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. ‘He hath explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you’.[10] 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”.[11]

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”.[12]

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 is an Imam and Resident Scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo in Toledo Ohio.  He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page @ Luqman Ahmad.


[1] Quran, 7:33.

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Quran, 14:7

[4] Quran, 16:121

[5] Quran, 55:49.

[6] Collected by Muslim.

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

[8] Collected by Muslim.

[9] Quran, 34:61.

[10] Quran, 6:119.

[11] Quran, 7:32.

[12] Quran, 5:8.

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

A guide for Muslim converts: How to give your children a strong moral foundation, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Me and MaryamI cannot stress enough beloveds, the importance of strong families. Never neglect family ties, regardless of what religion family members have. Don’t even play around with it when it comes to strengthening and preserving the family. “O Mankind! Fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allaah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allaah is ever, over you, an Observer”[1].When communities fall short, become fragmented, or fail, the religion can be preserved on the family by holding onto and passing down the values and teachings of faith to the next generation. and the next after that.  When you invest in the family, what you end up with, in sha Allah is, generation after generation of eemaan. You can’t buy that at a halal store, you can’t download it from the internet, and you can’t mix it up in a mixing bowl. You have to strive for it, pray for it and make it a priority. In order to have strong believing families, you must build your immediate family structure upon belief in Allah and in His oneness (tawheed).

It is important from the very beginning that everyone in your immediate family; your wife, your children, and all other members of your household are aware without a doubt that the reigning law and source of order within your home, is Islam.  With that in mind, you must establish the prescribed 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. In doing so, they will know that you as parents, are accountable to Him (Allah). If they see that you are accountable to Allah, they will find it easier and more palatable to be accountable to you as parents. If there is no prayer in your home, then it is almost assured that Shaitaan will soon become the imam of your household.

It is the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) to call yourself a Muslim. Therefore, try not to teach your children to attach themselves to tightly to a sectarian, or strict madhhabi  designation such as, 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, 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.

The best of the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) loathed sectarianism and ran away from it. They sahaba never called the people to follow anything other than the way of Allah and the way of the Prophet (SAWS). They didn’t call themselves salafi, Shaafi’ee, Qaadiri, or any other designation except Muslims. Don’t be fooled beloved; in today’s global environment, people who raise their children based upon a particular sect are just experimenting; there is no evidence that such a thing has worked. We don’t pray to grandpa in America; that’s someone else’s path. 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). Teach your children to live according to the Quran and the Sunna beloveds, anything else is just someone else’s experimentation, for which Allah has revealed no authority.

Claiming the religion of Islam as your religion has more depth, longevity, and 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) .

إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللّهِ الإِسْلاَمُ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ الَّذِينَ أُوْتُواْ الْكِتَابَ إِلاَّ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ

The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will):  And the People of the Book did not differ except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the Signs of Allah, Allah is swift in calling to account[2].

 The Prophet (SAWS) was, without a doubt, sent to all of mankind, as Allah states:;

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا

“Say; O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah”[3]

The Prophet’s way and path of faith (sunna),  is applicable for all Peoples and for all times. However, this or that sheikh, companion, taabi’ee, or imam , were not dispatched to all people as a mercy to mankind. Therefore, the cultural, ritual, and spiritual additions to our religion that are practiced elsewhere in the world, are not necessarily    beneficial for American Muslim converts who wish to practice the religion in its pure, unadulterated form.

Most of the people who have convert to Islam, didn’t sign up for all the polemics, infighting and sectarianism that exists today. They didn’t envision that the ummah would become stagnated because we are too busy arguing and fighting over someone else’s point of view. It’s a shame that people come into Islam out of sincerity to worship Allah alone without partners and are almost immediately met with a litany of groups, scholars and positions that they are pressured to pay homage to, when in reality; people are only commanded to worship Allah Alone, and to make the religion for His sake only.  .

وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاء وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَذَلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ

And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practice regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight[4].

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. There is no end to the amount of falsehood, difference of opinion, deviant and orthodox ideology, and opinions in circulation amongst the Muslims. Of course as things come up, you may comment upon it to your kids, (if neccessary), or explain it to them but in most cases, children will depend upon the parent to simply raise them right and teach them correctly the first time. 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; (prayer, fasting, family bonds, goodness to neighbors, charity, honesty, loyalty, taqwa, kindness, family, the Masjid, brotherhood, and so on), then the more time and energy they can devote to practicing it and preparing for their hereafter. There are so many aspects of deen that children grow up and know 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 religion and foundational knowledge of Islam down to your children in a way that will help them to remain firm in their faith, and in their practice of Islam, and not find themselves going from sub-ideology of Islam to another. Ultimately what you want for your family is generational continuity of Islam as a way of life.  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. When children are put upon firm and true deen from the very beginning, it is likely that they will not be swayed or moved by anything different. Whether it be a different madhhab, or a deviant ideology. You don’t want your children to end up being like the people who spend more time arguing about the deen, than they spend practicing it. Children are born in a state of fitrah, The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Each child is born in a state of fitrah, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian”.[5]  Muslim parents have the opportunity and are charged with keeping their children upon the straight path that Allah has created them upon; the prophet (SAWS) reported about Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, that He said:  “I created My servants in the right religion, but the devils made them go astray.[6]” Children by their very nature 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 ideologies, they will not be secure in their faith. Once they become insecure in their faith, they are likely to fall for anything.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is the son of converts to Islam. He 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. He is also and the author of the new book, “Double Edged Slavery “, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.


[1] Quran, 4:1.

[2] Quran, 3:19

[3] Quran, 7:158

[4] Quran, 98:5

[5] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[6] Collected by Muslim.

The Tale of The Two Muslim Americas By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Scripturally speaking, at our core, all Muslims are a single brotherhood. Why? because Allah says so that’s why. [“Verily the believers are but a single brotherhood“]. – 49:10.  This is true  whether or not we believe it, or practice it. However, in the United States of America, in our communal and social assignment as a Muslim American demographic, we are still brothers and sisters in Islam but, there are two Muslim Americas; and it’s not just a tale; it is a reality.

Go to any major American Metropolis where there are a sizable number of Muslims; Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., St. Louis, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Buffalo, the Carolinas, and and anywhere and everywhere else and you’ll find almost without exception, two distinctly different versions there are Muslims and you will find; in one corner, multi-million dollar Masaajid that are well-funded, and made up of very affluent professionals and their families, and in the other corner you will find a small nondescript Masjid, usually a storefront, or a converted building, that is struggling in many cases to keep its doors open, pay its bills, and fund programs. In the former, there will be a largely immigrant Muslim community, and in the latter, there will be indigenous Muslim American converts, made up of mostly African-Americans. This is the case in virtually every major city in America where there are Muslims; a tale of two Muslim Americas.

“By all credible accounts, indigenous African-American and convert Muslims have been relegated to a second class and sometimes even third class status in modern-day Muslim America.”

African American and converts Muslims are largely invisible in television coverage, in the national news, and in ridiculous Muslim reality shows on television. Whenever there is mention of American Muslims in the media, the reference is made to immigrant Muslim communities, indigenous American Muslims are almost completely ignored. More often than not, the people and organizational leadership, who illegitimately claim to speak on behalf of all American Muslims, who determine domestic Muslim priorities and who define which issues are deemed most important, are political leaders, and board members of national Muslim political and advocacy organizations, not imams, clerics, or leaders of actual religious congregations, and these spokespeople and policy makers are almost always immigrant Muslims. Subsequently, many Muslim Americans find themselves thinking and confronting challenges politically, not morally, which is why the topic of the two Muslim Americas is never mentioned.

Traditionally, converts, imams, and more spiritually oriented Muslims of all backgrounds tend to look at things from a moral perspective, not a political one. Conversion to the faith itself is a moral decision; there’s nothing political about it, and there is nothing to gain except guidance. Thus, many converts, every day Muslims, and those concerned primarily with salvation become confused when the so-called Muslim leadership become almost obsessed with status, power, and controlling the message of Islam and the trajectory of American Muslims, even at the expense of our own moral values. It is unlikely that the Prophet (SAWS) would have sanctioned the war against islamophobia, especially in light of the verse;

لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُواْ أَذًى كَثِيرًا وَإِن تَصْبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الأُمُورِ  (Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs.) 3:186. It is also unlikely that the Prophet (SAWS) would have sanctioned  that we as American Muslims would characterize ourselves as oppressed, given the tremendous amount of material wealth, access to food, housing and physical resources that we here in the United States. Nor would the Prophet (SAWS) have sanctioned Muslim imagery and public relations over moral substance when it was he who said; “verily Allah does not look at your outer shapes or your bodies, but He looks at your hearts”.[1]

In the past thirty years, billions of dollars have been put into building masaajid, and Islamic Centers, setting up schools, propping up political and advocacy organizations and educational endowments in the name of Islam and in the name of furthering the cause of Islam in America. However, only a very small percentage of that funding goes towards masaajid and institutions that serve the needs of indigenous American Muslims in the cities of America. Subsequently what we have seen over time is the establishment of two distinctly separate Muslim Americas. This reality, arguably more than anything else, defines who we are as an American Muslim community, and shapes in large part, our moral reality, and our civilizational trajectory.  It sort of resembles ‘Jim Crow’ Muslim American style.

The debate about the two Muslim Americas is an ongoing one and there are varying opinions about whether it is a problem at all. African-American, Latino and even Caucasian Muslims will tell story after story about being marginalized and disrespected by their immigrant counterparts, about being in the mall giving salaams and not having the greeting returned to you, or having an immigrant Muslim question your Islam. Recently an African American Muslim woman in her sixties, who converted to Islam in the 1970s, related the story to me about how she, wearing full hijab, was questioned whether or not she was a Muslim by an immigrant Muslim store owner. Such accounts are plentiful.

After more than forty years of direct observation, and hundreds, of source testimonials, it is clear that it is very unlikely that American Muslim converts can successfully integrate into immigrant masjid communities or to ever be accepted as equal in a practical sense. The level of denial and taboo about dealing with the race issue is too great, and there are too many differences in goals, priorities, and objectives.

American Muslims constantly relate stories of how they are disparaged and marginalized by the immigrant community. People are quick to relate to you the ‘Bilal story’, and swear that there is no racism in Islam. However, the reality on the ground is that we are an ummah where people are frequently judged by their race, and their ethnicity.  If you are an African American Muslim, you are expected to assume the subordinate position.  If you ask African-American Muslims about their experiences, you will hear story after story after story after story of indignation, hurt, disappointment,  when made to feel like you are less than.  Of course there are those who say it is only imagined, but I believe that after 400 years, African-Americans have come to know a little something about racial prejudice.

This is the tale of the two Muslim Americas, on the one side, are a people who according to a CAIR / Pew study, have the highest per capita income of all Americans, the highest percentage of people with post-graduate degrees, the highest percentage of businessmen, the highest percentage of home ownership, while on the other side of the coin are indigenous African-American Muslims who are dead last on virtually every socio-economic barometer that measures well-being; employment, education, health care, disease, home ownership, single parent households, and so on. They are two separate American Muslim communities with minor areas of overlap here and there. Nevertheless, this has become the reality of Muslim America.

How these two Muslim Americas interact and address this chasm says a lot about who we are since the fundamental message of the Prophet (SAWS) from the beginning to the end of prophetic period was the integration of all people into one community under faith. Many Muslim Americans, both immigrant and indigenous, are not happy at all with this divide and are diligently working to bridge the gap, but so far it is an uphill battle.  The power elite of Muslim America are made up of only a small percentage of American Muslims; however, using money and politics, they are bent on controlling the debate, the issues and the path that we take as a Muslim people in America.

As American Muslims we owe it to ourselves to address the indigenous – immigrant and the racial-ethnic divide and the unchecked authority of our political, lobbying and advocacy organizations, head on; especially since it speaks to our moral worth and credibility as a religious people. Our religion requires that our spirituality and character are not overthrown by perceived political expediency and imagery.

The great thing about Muslims is that we respond to reminders; [ وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَى تَنفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِين ] “yet go on reminding [all who would listen]: for, verily, such a reminder will profit the believers” َ 51:55.  I believe in sha Allah that as people become more aware of the two Muslim Americas, the prevailing attitudes that keep us separated will change. It may take a generation, and it may even take a revolution within the Muslim community to see the change. I do not believe that in the long run, righteous and conscious Muslim Americans who will accept this great divide between immigrants and indigenous American Muslims, because it is hurting us and will continue to hurt all of us. I suspect that future generations of enlightened and free Muslims will not accept for any group, a second or third class status in our own faith. I believe that we can write a better narrative because at the end of the day, despite our faults and shortcomings, we are a believing people.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

 

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is the Imam and Executive Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think tank based in California U.S.A., and the author of the book’ ‘The Devil’s deception of the Modern Day Sect”, available on Amazon.com. You may contact him @ imamluqman@icdph. com

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[1] Collected by Muslim

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

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