How Political Correctness can Derail Meaningful Intra-Muslim Dialogue. By Imam Luqman Ahmad

offesnsively true

Political correctness in Muslim America is waning on Muslim American intelligence. Political correct verbiage is still crippling meaningful dialogue within the American Muslim community. We are not as hush hush as before, but there is still resistance in getting to the nuts and bolts of our problems.

Can American Muslims freely and candidly discuss issues without crossing the boundaries of political correctness? The simple answer to that is; no, no we can’t. Now pay attention. Political correctness is incompatible with moral correctness. Although it’s probably politically incorrect to say that, it is the hard truth and we need to recognize it.

If we as Muslims living in America want to engage in honest discourse amongst ourselves as American Muslims, then we cannot continue to gloss over the obvious and take the bogeyman approach to problems as if they do not exist, or cast aside our deep-seated dysfunctional malaise as if it were figments of our imagination. We’re making headway though but we have to be spiritually and emotionally mature enough to have the open and candid dialogue that we need, and we need to be brave too because it won’t be a walk in the park. No, we need not get personal by calling each other names and blasting leaders personally. There is no one person responsible for our condition, and as it stands today, there are no individuals that I can think of who are standing out front taking responsibility as a National Muslim leader of the Muslims in America. The responsibility for opening up dialogue is a shared responsibility

Additionally, morally correct candid dialogue means that we have to open up about racism and the issue of the two Muslim Americas. We’d have to talk about Muslim-owned liquor stores and how that impacts the call to Islam and the neighborhoods which house inner city masjids where liquor stores abound. It will be a difficult, grown-up conversation. However, to make the big-boy move and go beyond the surface in addressing our problems as a Muslim people, we are going to have to dismiss with some of this political correctness. There is no way we can get around it.

One of the reasons that Muslims who knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate marginalization have very little to say is that their argument cannot hold to a legitimate discussion. Our scriptures unequivocally reject marginalization or oppression of one Muslim people by another. This is one reason why the issue of Muslim owned liquor stores is a muted discussion in Muslim America despite its devastatingly harmful effects on our inner city neighborhoods. The neighborhoods where many of us live, try to raise our families, and where we do da’wah. Such a terrible blemish on the legacy of Islam in America.

Political correctness will mask the truth like like a Hollywood make-up artist masks a pimple. The Prophet (SAWS) spoke wisely, but he did not adhere to the politically correct status quo of the society in which he was raised. Tawheed (monotheism), by nature, resists political correctness because it assigns supreme will and final authority to the word of Allah and assigns all other words beside it to a secondary station. The only people with complete and unconditional authority to speak on the Lords behalf are His Prophets and in the case of Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).

These realities alone make political correctness incompatible with moral correctness in any absolute sense. Now does what I just said mean that we should not use wisdom in our words, or not follow rules of civility, and use good speech in how we express ourselves? Absolutely not. Allah says” “invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and good rhetoric”[1]. In order to move ahead spiritually, we have to speak religious truths according to scripture whether they are politically correct or not. Truth according to orthodox Muslim belief is not, and cannot be subject to the constraints of human beings, nor society.

If the Prophet (SAWS) were alive today, people, even some Muslims would probably label him controversial, even radical. During the time that the lived (SAWS), he was called worse than that, but the Prophet (SAWS) was never described, or thought of as, politically correct. The word Islam, which for fourteen-hundred years has meant submission to Allah, now simply means peace in the minds of many Muslims, and as articulated in modern-day Muslim nomenclature. When people understood Islam to mean submission, they associated the word with action and doctrine beholden to a higher authority; Allah.

When people, Muslims included, understand Islam simply as peace, it devaluates Islam from a world faith resulting from revelation and renders it into a simple human trait that requires no action but is instead characterized as passivity and inaction. It takes doing something to be a Muslim, but it takes doing nothing to be peaceful. This not so subtle lexical lunge into la la land regarding the word Islam is just one casualty of modern-day political correctness. The religion of Islam is built upon divine truths, not politically engineered truisms.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, patriot, and author of the book; “Double Edged Slavery“, a book about how Black American Muslims and converts are marginalized in Muslim America. Imam Luqman Ahmad is is also 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. Currently he serves as an Associate Imam at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo, Ohio. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com

The 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.

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 in the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento California, you can reach him at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com, or visit the Masjid website at http://www.masjidibrahim.com


[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

The Islamic Ruling Regarding salaatul Kusoof (Solar, or Lunar Eclipse prayer) by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad


Solar eclipses occur when the moon comes directly between the sun and the earth. The name for the eclipse prayer in Islam is ‘salaatul Kusoof’. The applicable word for eclipse varies in the Arabic language to about six variations, all of which are found in the hadith texts of Bukhaari and Muslim; the most popular terminology according to Muslim jurists is to use the word, كسوف kusoof with respect to a solar eclipse, and the word خسوف khusoof, for a lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse one one in which the moon appears darkened as it passes into the earth’s shadow. The most correct employment of the two terms is to use them interchangeably for both solar and lunar eclipses. There are no other weather related phenomena, or celestial events for which the Prophet (SAWS) has sanctioned a particularly styled prayer in congregation, besides an eclipse. There is no specific congregational prayer for earthquakes, tornadoes, sandstorms, rain storms, hailstorms, comets, shooting stars, solar flares, blizzards, or for any other such events besides an eclipse, hence, its significance, and the importance of making the salaatul Kusoof (eclipse prayer) in congregation. Making du’aa during rainfall is sunna, and there is a salat for rain (salaatul is’tisqaa) in cases of drought. However, these prayers are general in nature and do not follow particular performance protocols, or time requirements like salaatul Kusoof. Solar eclipses are a sign from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, intended to strike awe into the hearts. They are rare, usually occurring 2 to 3 times annually, worldwide.

The Salaat During the Eclipse

Performing the salaat during a solar or lunar eclipse is considered sunna mu’akkadah (constant, uninterrupted sunna) by agreement of the scholars; based on the hadith; “Neither the sun, nor the moon, eclipse due to the death, or life of anyone, but they are signs from amongst the signs of Allah ta’ala, so if you see any one of them, stand up and pray[1]. The Prophet (SAWS) prayed this salaat, and a miraculous occurrence took place; in the hadith of ibn Abbaas, he said: Once a solar eclipse occurred during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). He offered the eclipse prayer. His companions asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! We saw you trying to take something while standing at your place and then we saw you retreating.” The Prophet said, “I was shown Paradise and wanted to have a bunch of fruit from it. Had I taken it, you would have eaten from it as long as the world remains.”

How it is performed

Salaatul Kusoof has no athaan, no iqaamah, and is preceded by the words, assalaatul jaami’ah (the prayer is gathering) as reported in the hadith of Aisha; an eclipse of the sun occurred during the time of the Prophet (SAWS) and he ordered a man to call out: ‘assalaatu jaami’ah’.[2] Salaatul Kusoof consists of two rak’aat, and each rak’at has two rukoo, two qiyaams, and two recitations instead of one respectively for other prayers.  It is sunna to perform salaatul Kusoof in congregation, inside the Masjid, behind an Imam where salaatul Jum’ah is held as was the practice of the Prophet (SAWS). However it is permissible to pray in other areas as well

When is it performed?

Salaatul Kusoof can only be done during a solar or lunar eclipse. The time for performing salaatul Kusoof begins at the beginning of the eclipse and concludes when the eclipse is completely ended. The prayer can begin as soon as the eclipse starts or at anytime thereafter, and it is sunna to continue praying until the eclipse has ended.

Who should attend?

Salaatul Kusoof is legislated for the stationary (non-travelling) person as well as the traveler. It is permissible for men, women and children in the same manner as salaatul Jum’ah.

Issues related to Salaatul Kusoof

  • It is recommended (mustahabb) to perform a ghusl (ritual bath) for salaatul Kusoof, by its resemblance to salaatul Jum’ah.
  • If a person waits until after the eclipse is over, then they should not pray salaatul Kusoof, based upon the hadith: “If  you see it, pray until it has cleared”.[3]
  • If people are praying Kusoof and it clears during their salaat, then they should continue praying until they are  finished the salaat.
  • The sunna is to lengthen the recitation during salaatul Kusoof based upon the hadith of Ibn Abbaas; “The sun eclipsed and the Prophet (SAWS) prayed while the people prayed with him, and he      stood a long time for an extent that was something like sura al-Baqara”.[4]
  • It is permissible to pray a shorter length. According to Imam an-Nawawi, the minimum recitation for salaatul Kusoof is to recite sura al-Faatiha during each recitation.[5]
  • After the salaat, it is sunna for the imam to deliver a khutba, in the same manner as the khutbatul Jum’ah as was done by the Prophet (SAWS). This is based upon the hadith of Aisha; “Although the Prophet finished the salat (Kusoof), he delivered a khutba wherein he thanked Allah and praised Him’.[6]
  • It is recommened to give sadaqa after salaatul Kusoof, based upon the hadith; “and if you see that (The Eclipse), pray and give sadaqa[7].
  • It is permissible to pray salaatul Kusoof individually. However, if possible, it is better to do it with an Imam in the Masjid as was practiced by the Prophet (SAWS).

Conclusion

Salaatul Kusoof is an important sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). It should be prayed in congregation in a Masjid whenever possible and people should come out to observe the prayer if they are able. And Allah knows best.

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 Bukhaari, and Muslim, with multiple narrations from several companions of the Prophet (SAWS), including Ibn Abbaas, Abu Musa, Jaabir ibn Abdullah, Mugheera ibn Shu’bah, and others.
[2] Collected by Bukhaari
[3] Collected by Muslim in the narration of Jaabir.
[4] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.
[5] Kitaab al-Maj’moo,  vol. 5, p. 53.
[6] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.
[7] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imam Luqman Ahmad

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


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

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

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

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

[5] Collected by Muslim.

[6] Mish’kaat al-Masaa’bih.

[7] Died 751 A.H.

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

The Islamic Ruling on Baby Showers in the United States

By Sheikh Luqman Ahmad, Imam, Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California

 Bismillahi Arrah’maan Arra’heem wal-humdu lillah wa salaat wa salaam alaa Rasoolillah (SAWS)

Question: Are baby showers haram (prohibited ) in Islam?

Answer: al-Humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. The Baby shower is an indigenous cultural event practiced by Muslims born and raised and residing in the in the United States of America . No adequate Islamic ruling can be made upon it without understanding the nature of the practice, its benefit and its harms if any, a thorough understanding of the social and cultural minutiae of the indigenous American Muslims who practice it, and how the practice is viewed in light of the objectives (maqaasid) of Islamic law and the letter of the Quran and the Sunna of Mustapha (SAWS).Islam in America is at a critical crossroad. American Muslims increasingly find themselves caught between issues of American culture and their Islamic identity. Despite the valiant efforts of scholars to elucidate the lines between these two variables (culture and religion), a great deal of ambiguity remains about how to reconcile the two. Many rulings regarding cultural practices and habits of American Muslim are rendered without an intimate understanding of the nature of these practices, as well as the Muslim Americans who practice them, which are essential ingredient to any Islamic ruling placed thereon.

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 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.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157. The answer to the original queery is as follows, wa billahi tawfiq

What is a baby shower?

A baby shower is a social practice whereas women gather in a home or designated place to honor and celebrate the pending birth of a child. The practice is accompanied by giving gifts, feeding food and congratulatory gestures such as cards to announce the birth of a child. It is generally a happy occasion and it is a reason for women to come together to support each other in goodness.

The basis for baby Showers in the Quran and Sunna

The essence of a baby shower is to congratulate the mother on the impending birth of a child. The basis of this is in the Quran: “Verily Allah gives you glad tidings of John.[1]” “Oh Mary verily Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him whose name will be Jesus the son of Mary[2].” Childbirth itself is considered a praiseworthy act in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) “Marry fertile easy natured women for verily I shall have the largest umma because of you on the Day of Judgment”. There is no dissension amongst the scholars of Islam that Muslims having children is a praiseworthy act that merits joy, and thanks to Allah tabaaraka wa ta’ala.

 The Permissibility of Baby Showers in the United States of America

 A baby shower, in which there is no accompanying prohibited activity such as prohibited music, displays of lewdness, alcoholic drinks, and vulgarity, is permissible in Islam and is an accepted practice for Muslims living in the United States . Baby showers are a cultural practice (aada) and not a religious one (ibaadah) by agreement of scholars familiar with the practice. The basis of cultural practices is permissibility unless there is compelling evidence from the Quran and Sunna which would make it otherwise. This is the view of the majority of Islamic scholars and of the Imams of the four schools of religious thought. Gathering and mixing with the people at their social events, at their gatherings, their joyous occasions, visiting the sick, attending sittings for remembrance of Allah, and attending peoples customary functions was the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and was the practice of the Salaf of our umma. It is especially desirable for people who are able to enjoin the good and forbid the evil[3].

Imam An-Nawawi says: Remember! Mixing with the people in the way I have mentioned earlier is the most desirable. This was the way of the messenger of Allah, the righteous Caliphs, the followers of the Companions[4], scholars and righteous people. The majority of the followers of the Companions and their followers[5] adopted it. Imam Ash-Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad and the majority of other jurists followed it.”[6]  Thus baby showers which keep to the Islamic behavioral protocol are not only permissible, it is a recommended practice.

 Reasons for permissibility of baby showers:

 Baby showers by their very nature facilitate the practice of the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). Righteous deeds frequently find their delivery through cultural practices. You have to enter the kitchen in order to prepare the food. The fact that this issue requires clarification is a testament to the sad state of the umma and the preponderance of ignorance. It has become increasingly difficult for us to distinguish truth from falsehood, even if the truth slaps us in the face. Nevertheless, the only antidote to ignorance is knowledge. Below are ten reasons why baby showers are permissible in Islam. Wallahu al-Must’a’aan

  1. The majority of Islamic scholars past and present regard social and cultural actions which do not contradict the Quran, the Sunna or an agreement of the scholars, particularly the Salaf of our umma, as permissible until proven otherwise. This is based upon the principle: “Al-aslu fil ash’yaa al-ibaaha” (The basis of things is permissibility). Anytime a social or cultural action is deemed prohibited, the burden of proof is upon the one who prohibits it, not the one who deems it permissible.
  2. Helping the Muslimah to care for her child: “And help each other in righteousness and piety and do not help each other in sin and transgression.[7]” By the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS): “Allah will be in assistance of His servant as long as the servant is in assistance of his brother[8].
  3. Visiting the Muslim: Baby shower require that you visit the person. In fact, it creates an opportunity to visit a Muslimah. The prophet (SAWS) said: “Whoever visits an ailing person or a brother of his to seek the pleasure of Allah, an announcer (angel) calls out: ‘May you be happy, may your walking be blessed, and may you be awarded a dignified position in Jannah.’”[9] No one can claim that they are not in need of additional blessings from Allah ta’ala. Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
  4. Responding to an invitation: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “The right of the Muslim over the other Muslims is six” of those six, he mentioned; “If he invites you then respond.”[10]
  5. Feeding food: The Prophet (SAWS) was asked; which is the best type of Islam? He replied: “Feeding food and spreading salaams[11]
  6. Congratulating the family of the good tidings associated with a new birth: Allah says in the Quran: “Verily Allah brings you glad tidings of John
  7. Giving gifts: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Give gifts and you will love each other.” The giving of gifts is a Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS) and a means for softening the hearts of the believers towards each other.
  8. Strengthening the bonds of sisterhood; Sisterhood in Islam is a praiseworthy pursuit based upon the verse; “Verily the believers are a single brotherhood[12] and by the hadith of the Prophet of those who will be under Allah’ shade on a day where there is no shade except His shade: “Two men who love each other for the sake of Allah, they come together based on it and they depart based on it[13]
  9. Encouraging marriage and childbirth; Childbirth and motherhood are both praiseworthy acts by agreement of the scholars of Islam. To consider them otherwise would be in contradiction to the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). From which many opportunities for good deeds abound; obedience to parents, honoring the mother, teaching children prayer and deen, opportunities for charities and the list goes on. Both childbearing and motherhood are considered to be good actions (ma’roof) by agreement of the scholars. Allah sub’hanahu wa ta’ala has commanded the believers to enjoin each other in acts of goodness (ma’roof). “Let there be from amongst you a group who calls to good and enjoins righteousness (ma’roof) and forbids evil.”[14]
  10. Allowance of maa’oon (neighborly needs). Diapers, bottles, baby blankets, baby cloths, wipes, pacifiers, strollers, basinets are all of the category of maa’oon, or neighborly needs which people routinely pass back and forth to one another on the basis of need. To prevent the practice of baby showers without just cause is to prevent the ease by which neighborly needs passes hands. Preventing the passing of neighborly needs is a major sin (kabeerah) and a loathsome act which angers Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. “And who to the worshippers; those who are neglectful of their prayers; those who pray to be seen and who prevent the passing of neighborly needs[15].  May Allah guide us all through these times of ignorance.

 

 Previous misinformed rulings about baby showers:

 There have been several rulings by various imams and councils which prohibited baby showers in the United States . The intentions behind these rulings were admirable in sha Allah. However, because of the unfamiliarity of many imams to the nature of local customs in America , the nature of fataawa, and the nature of baby showers, some of the prohibitive rulings have obvious flaws and errors. The reality is that there is no evidence in the Quran or the Sunna or in the words or actions of the Salaf of our umma which would conclusively or even remotely render baby showers haram or even makrooh. The practice of baby showers is that it contains many Sunna acts. It has traditionally been in the United States a source of good tidings, gift giving, bonding, and softening of the hearts, all of which are desirable actions, encouraged or commanded by our beloved Prophet (SAWS). Additionally, the ruling of any imam or council does not take precedence over the actions of our Prophet (SAWS). Prohibition of an act in Islam requires conclusive proof. Uninformed opinion is not enough to render that which is permissible into that which is prohibited.  

Is the Baby Shower Imitation of the Infidels?

 Some well meaning scholars have proclaimed the baby shower a prohibited act based upon the sound hadith; “Whoever imitates a people then he is of them[16]. They regard the practice as an imitation of the kuffar (non-Muslims) and therefore not permissible. This view although it has marginal rhetoric merit and emotional plausibility, has no basis in the shariah. This is for seven reasons.

  1. The hadith is specific, not general and refers to practices that have religious significance. This is explained clearly by ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in Fat’h al-Baari. The Prophet (SAWS) continued cultural, ethnic and region specific practices and allowed such, even though the majority of those doing it were non Muslims in the Meccan period. As in the case of clothing; he (SAWS) continued to wear the clothes of the pagan Meccans after he received revelation. He also allowed the Muslims to continue the literary practice of poetic expression as long as it didn’t contain undesirable prose. Umar ibn al-Khattaab instituted the diwaan for pension and salary distribution which was a practice of the Persian Kings. Anyone who thinks that the Prophet (SAWS) contradicted his own statements and performed blameworthy actions is himself an unbeliever.  Thus, the meaning of the hadith cannot mean non religious, cultural actions.
  2. The Baby shower is a cultural practice, not a religious one. Anyone who views it otherwise is obviously unfamiliar with the practice and unqualified to speak on the matter since Allah has prohibited discussion of religious matters without knowledge. “And delve not into that which you have no knowledge of.”[17]
  3. Imitating the kuffar (unbelievers) requires performing actions which are specific to kuffar only.  In other words, it is a religious action not a socio-demographic one. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims born in America by Allah’s will and decree. Many of them have baby showers. Thus, the practice is not only exclusive to non-Muslims; it is a practice of Muslims as well.
  4. Baby showers are an imitation of American culture and not an imitation of a particular religious group especially since all Christians around the world do not engage in the practice. It cannot be prohibited for American Muslims to imitate Americans since they themselves are Americans. That’s like saying it is prohibited for an Egyptian to behave like an Egyptian!  No human being is born in a state of prohibition or sin according to the creed of Ahlus Sunna (Islamic Orthodoxy) since all people are born in a state of fitra[18]
  5. American Muslims should not have to repent for being born American, or behaving as Americans as long as their actions are not prohibited by Allah and His Messenger. To suggest otherwise is sheer lunacy! People are born in a state of fitra, regardless of where they are born. A person cannot be considered morally or spiritually deficient by virtue of their country of birth. You can’t make being born and raised in a particular country prohibited as some have suggested. This argument, simply does not stand up ti scrutiny.
  6. If the practice of baby showers is prohibited for the reason of imitation. The same logic would have to apply to basketball, baseball, grade school show and tell, football, soccer, using a garbage disposal, tennis, bowling, and high school graduation, none of which were practiced by the Prophet (SAWS) and all of which are practiced by Muslim young and old after having been first been practiced by non-Muslims.
  7. The fact that a non-Muslim does an act does not make it prohibited. Blindly referring to actions and practices of non-Muslims as haram has caused many problems in the Muslim community and has been a source of much confusion. Furthermore, no one has the right to prohibit a Muslim from giving gifts, feeding food or visiting the home of another Muslim when there are no prohibited acts being committed. These are all actions enjoined upon us by the Messenger of Allah (SAWS). No scholar’s or council’s authority exceeds that of Allah and His Messenger (SAWS).
  8. The name of the event has little bearing on the permissibility or non-permissibility of what takes place at the event. In the shariah you cannot prohibit the musammaa (named action) by its ism (name). For example a person can have a barbeque in his or her back yard. You cannot prohibit it simply because it is called a barbeque and this is not a name used during the time of the Prophet (SAWS)! A barbeque is judged by its content not its name. If it contains intoxicants, nudity, profanity and loud unislamic music as some barbeques do, it is prohibited. If it has halal food, good company, the prayer times are observed and there is no unlawful mixing, there is no prohibition. The same applies to a baby shower, a picnic, a graduation dinner, and many other cultural affairs about which doubt has arisen.

 Does the baby shower replace the aqeeqah?

No. Sunna is never replaced by culture. However, it is permissible in Islam that a sunna can be enconced inside of a cultural practice. For example, maintaining relationships with one’s relatives is a command from Allah and it is the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS). If a person achieves that by attending a family picnic or barbque, that is permssible. If one has to choose between a cultural practice and a Sunna of Rasollillah, (SAWS) the Sunna takes precedence every time. However in the case of the baby shower, it is different in practice and purpose from the aqeeqah. The aqeeqah is a post birth event commanded by the Prophet (SAWS) which has religious significance and specific measure. The baby shower is a pre-birth event, all together different in nature. One action does not replace the other and both can be performed in its own time and place. A baby shower does not suffice as an aqeeqa sacrifice. Similarly, an aqeeqa is a sunna, and has its merit and reward; however, it does not serve the purpose of a baby shower, nor is it meant to be. The two are totally separate actions and are connected only in that both have something to do with childbirth. One is not a condition for the other nor do they affect each other. A similar example is Hajj. A person may make Hajj and visit Cairo on the way there. The Prophet (SAWS) made Hajj for sure but he was never reported to have visited Cairo on the way to Hajj. However such an itinerary does not nullify the Hajj or place the person in spiritual jeopardy, since the visit to Cairo is totally separate from the Hajj and does not affect it. .

A baby shower is an event, and the aqeeqa is another separate event. One event does not supplant the other. The former is a cultural tradition; the latter is a religious obligation. This issue is a matter of fiqh and right guidance and not a matter of street corner lawmaking. What we have explained herein should clear up the issue of baby showers once and for all. We should keep in mind that the truth is with the dalil (proof) and Allah knows best wa bihi tawfiq.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Sheikh Luqman Ahmad is the imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California ; he is also a national shura member of MANA (Muslim Alliance of North America) and an Executive committee member of NAIF (North American Imams Federation). He is also Executive  Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, a center for research and traditional Islamic learning based in Sacramento California .  You may contact him at: imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1] Quran: 3:39

[2] Quran: 3:45

[3] With proper knowledge and adaab.

[4] Taabi’een

[5] Taabi taabi’een.

[6] Riyaad us-Saaliheen; Chapter 70, section on Excellence of Mixing with People and Attending their Social Activities. The practice of participating with the people in their everyday social affairs and events was the practice of the people of knowledge from amongst the Salaf of our umma in spite of modern day statements to the contrary.

[7] Quran; 5:2

[8] Collected by Muslim

[9] Good authentic hadith, collected by at-Tirmidhi.

[10] Collected by Muslim

[11] Collected by Muslim

[12] Quran: 49:10

[13] Collected by Muslim

[14] Quran: 3:104

[15] Quran: 107:4-7

[16]

[17] Quran, 36:170

[18] Natural submissive disposition based upon the hadith; “Each child is born in a

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

[By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad]

Islamic scholars occupy a special place in Muslim society. They are often considered to be amongst the elite of our faith. In one tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) stated; “One Scholar is harder against the devil than a thousand worshippers”. In another tradition; “The Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets”.  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 the preservers, and often times interpreters of sacred law, Islamic scholars deserve our respect, support, and our gratitude.

Additionally, scholars of Islam are responsible for upholding the sacred trust that accompanies the acquisition of sacred 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 a, the role of Muslim religious scholars and qualified[1] teachers takes on a special significance for three reasons, the first being; the scarcity of people available 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”.[2] The second reason is 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”.

The third reason is that the world has changed, people are mixing cultures, ideas, ethnic tendencies into one big melting pot in America and Muslim scholars need to help break down barriers between the diverse Muslim peoples living here. That means that they have to get out and understand what’s going on in the land. 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[3].

Some Islamic scholars find themselves either woefully unfamiliar, or subtlety indifferent to America, American people specifically, and in the process, Muslims Americans who are socially integrated into our country’s fabric. Some, due to their ignorance of 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, gospel music, 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 haram list of one scholar or another.

Some Muslim Americans find themselves apologizing for being born in this country of ours as if it were a curse. 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. 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, yr shall find His (God’s) Face”.

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 Islam 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 indigenous American Muslim imams, laymen and intelligentsia.

The famous 14th century jurist, 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 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.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

American Muslims need to realize that this is our country, and for indigenous American Muslims, and others who intend to stay here permanently, this is our homeland. We don’t have a “back home” to go to. So we need to be certain that the teachings of Islam in this country are not tainted by anyone’s political prejudices, cultural sensitivities, 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 extremism that still germinates in the minds of some of our youth. As Muslim Americans, 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.

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

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

[3] Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh

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