Are Indigenous American Muslims Arguing Themselves Into Oblivion? By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad


The Prophet said, “No people ever went astray, after they were guided, except that they were overcome by arguing”. [at-Tirmithi]

la tanaaza'ooOne thing that is clear. Muslims like to debate and argue with each other. We are a contentious people to say the least. I can’t speak for everyone else, but indigenous American Muslims seem to have an unhealthy appetite for arguing, and debating. We argue about aqeeda, we argue about food, we argue about clothes, we argue about family ties, we argue about who has the most hate for the kuffaar, who is imitating the kuffaar, and we argue what constitutes kufr and who’s faith is at risk. We argue about who is on the haqq (truth), and who is not. We argue about Allah, we argue about his Holy names and attributes, we argue about His mercy, who deserves it and who doesn’t. We argue about who is guided and who is astray, and we don’t stop arguing, night or day.  We argue about the length of our pants, the shortness of our beards, and we even argue about the sajda marks on our foreheads, and the permissibility of partitions in the masaajid between men and women.

The culture of arguing and sectarianism has become part and parcel of Muslim life in the United States. It is alive and well, and has found a home amongst indigenous American Muslims in our masaajid, in our dialogue, and in our relationships with one another. We argue about groups, we argue about gatherings, and we argue about saying hello to a stranger. We argue about alliances and disavowal and we argue about friends as well as enemies. We argue about sects of Islam, even ones that do not exist anymore. We argue about words, we argue about the meanings of words, and we argue about the meanings of the meanings of words. We argue about class, we argue about race, and we argue about titles that we make up and proclaim to be sanctified. We invent new titles and then argue about those.

We argue about the prohibited things, we argue about the permissible things, and we seem to argue most unfalteringly about the things that are in between. When we get tired of that, we find new things to make prohibited and then argue about that. We argue about fiqh, we argue about tafseer, we argue about theology, and we even argue about whether a person can recite the Quran in a melodious voice. We argue about thikr, we argue about thikr beads, and we argue about how many times a person may glorify his or her Lord. We even argue about circles of thikr around which the angels gather.

We’ll take something that is clear, and befuddle it so that we can argue about it. We even argue about arguing, and argue about ways to argue, what to argue about, who you should argue with and when you should argue with them. Even that is not enough, so then we argue about who is not doing his or her fair share of arguing. We argue about verses in the Quran, we argue about ahaadeeth of the Prophet , and we argue about proofs, and we argue about the strength and weaknesses of prophetic tradition. We argue about people who have been in their graves for centuries, and we argue about who will be amongst the inhabitants of paradise, while none of us has ever stepped foot upon it.

We argue about books of religious knowledge, we argue about who has knowledge and the places where knowledge can be found. We argue about speeches and we argue about what the Imam said in last week’s khutbatul Jum’ah.  We argue about holidays, we argue about days of the year, we argue about crescent moon sightings, and the days of the Eid.  We argue about people’s intentions, and whether they should state their intentions or keep it silent and we argue about things that are known only to Allah. We argue about who has taqwa, who is a believer, who is an infidel, who is righteous, and who is a deviant. and we argue about  how a person points his finger in tashaahhud. We argue about where you place your hands during the salaat and whether or not your feet should be parallel with the person next to you or at an angle.

We argue about da’wah, the methods of da’wah, what constitutes da’wah, and who is qualified to give da’wah. We argue about how a person comes to Islam, and how a person takes his or her shahaadah. Even after people become Muslim, we argue about the conditions of the shahaadah, which masjid is worthy or less worthy of his or her attendance, and whether or not they can read from a book to help them complete their prayer. We argue about the word convert, revert, and what type of Muslim is the real Muslim. We argue about socks, finger nail polish, and whether or not a sister has to wear black gloves. We argue about make-up, we argue about baseball caps, and we argue about coffee, American sports, and the world cup. We argue about America. (We really like to argue about America), being an American, and whether we have to make Hijra from our country.

We argue about the Prophet’s birthday, we argue about baby showers, we argue about anniversaries and we argue about things that we do every year. We argue about how to raise our children, we argue about currency, we argue about charity, and we argue about wearing sunglasses. We argue about joining a club, going to a non-Muslim college, and we argue about who is capable or incapable of understanding the religion. We argue about revolution, we argue about Muslim leaders, and we argue about who can collect the zakat.

We argue about patriotism, loving your own country, and standing up to show someone respect. We even have arguments about the pictures that appear on your driver’s license. We argue about women attending burials, reciting the Quran over the sick, and we argue about people paying their last respects to their dead. We argue about funerals, about visiting the graves, and we argue about the cost of a coffin, and the length of kafan. We argue about wearing boots in the masjid, we argue about soap, and we argue about sitting down to a dinner table. We argue about voting, we argue about making bay’at to an imam, we argue about declaring citizenship and we argue about whom can be included in a majlis as-ashura

We argue about witr, we argue about the qunoot, and we argue about when a person should end his suhoor of Ramadan. We argue in defense of shuyookh, we argue in defense of our sect, or our group, and we argue about skittles, Doritos, and slices of cheese. Wives argue about their husbands, husbands argue about how many wives they should have and people fight in the masaajid over the color of someone’s clothing. When we run out of things to argue about, we invent new things and then argue about that. We are a people who are beset with arguing. We argue in the masaajid, we argue on the internet, we argue on the phone, and we argue face to face. If we had leaders, then perhaps we could let our leaders argue, but most of us don’t and that is another argument all by itself. So we are left beloveds, to argue the time away, getting very little done in the process. Some people have more arguments to their credit than they have prayers. Some people even live for the next argument, as if it is an addiction.

Many Muslims have grown weary of arguing, and have lost the heart to do to much of anything in the way of building, or establishing the deen. There are just enough people who are willing to argue every word, every point, and every fatwa and beat people over the head with it, creating hardship, sowing doubt and spreading discord within the indigenous American Muslim community that people have lost the will to move forward on hardly anything. This is the natural result of tanaazu’ تنازع   (contention). It is the discord, and dissention itself, which causes people lose heart and give up. They are simply tired of arguing.  “And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere”.  All these years of arguing back and forth, and pointing fingers at each other and very little to show for it except broken families, broken friendships, broken down masaajid, crumbling communities, children who left the religion, some killed in the streets, or doing time in prison, and an abundance of illiteracy, unemployment, and single parent households.

So after all the fighting, all the arguing, and all the turmoil that resulted from it, where has it gotten us? Especially for the indigenous African-American Muslim community in America who in most cases have no imam, are not a committed member of an Muslim community, under no type of Muslim leadership. Arguing has become a lifestyle for many; a lifestyle of debating. We even are on behalf of people who have long since stopped arguing. So what is the net gain from it all? The answer is not much. Some would say, nothing at all. So was it worth it? Have we had enough, or do we want to continue another fifty years of fussing and arguing with each other. There are signs that American Muslims are starting to see the futility of incessant arguing about religion. That is a topic of another discussion. I guess time will tell, and Allah knows best.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Associate Imam and Khateeb  at Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Ohio.  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-day Salafists. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

Can Muslims Create an American Identity? By Imam Luqman Ahmad

The Muslim American reality in the United States as it stands today is a relatively new phenomenon. The jury is still out regarding what our domestic identity as a religious minority will eventually be in the United States, and it depends on a variety of circumstances and how we as individuals, as disparate groups, and as a religious minority collective, decide to move forward.  Identities take place through the natural process of social evolution, and ultimately, it is a behavioral issue, and a historical narrative, not a public relations issue. When Muslims attempt to create a sanitized apple pie version of an American Muslim identity, then the audacity of such an attempt becomes itself, part of our identity.

Muslims have been a part of America’s social fabric since the 1600’s when the first Muslims were brought here as slaves. A domestic identity is not something that you create in a laboratory, or stage for public consumption as if you are on a Hollywood soundstage; people’s identities are real, and personal. That’s the American way. It is a culmination of who, and what you are as a people. With that respect, there are many types of Muslims with different histories, different agenda’s and social realities, and different ways of looking at themselves. All of that combined; make up a people’s identity. There are indigenous African American Muslims who are Sunni orthodox and have been practicing a purely American brand of Islam for decades; that’s an identity, and there are other converts who need a sanction from a sheikh, 10.000 miles away in order to make daily life decisions; that’s another identity.

There are Muslim immigrants who are insecure about who they are, and have yet to find their place in American society; that’s an identity, and there are other immigrants Sunni, and Shiite, who have found their place as Americans and have never looked back; that’s an identity. There are new arrivals of Afghani, and Iraqi refugees from the war who are just trying to find some peace and a simple new life without killing, and they have their own identity. There are conservatives, there are liberals, there are democrats, republicans and independents; these are identities. There is working class, middle class and well to do American Muslims that all have their own identity. Some Muslims are devoutly religious and some not so much, and each has their own distinct identity.

American Muslims have come from many diverse paths that led them to where we are today. The notion that a singular, made for the media consumption, Muslim identity can be crafted by a few American Muslim intellectuals (mostly of foreign descent), is absurd, problematic, and misleading. We are who we are; with our differences, our problems, our successes, and our failures. We are all American Muslims with our different politics, backgrounds, proclivities, pastimes, lifestyles and ways of being American.  That’s the real identity of American Muslims. In the year 2012, the fact that Muslims are still talking about crafting an American identity, underscores just how much many Muslims misunderstand American society, and the reality of American independence and individualism.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento Ca. He can be reached @ imamabulaith@yahoo.com

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

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

The names of the Muslim lunar months:


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

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

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

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

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

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam, Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center

Sacramento, California, imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1]Quran, 9:36

[2] Sacred law.

[3] Quran, 2:189

[4] Christian era.

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

[6] Ateerah: a sheep sacrifice.

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

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

[9] A good hadith, collected by Abu Dawud

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

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

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

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

[14] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, page 206

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

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

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

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

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

[20] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

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

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

[23] Collected by Imam Malik in the Muwatta.

[24] The lessor Hajj.

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

The Virtues of the Islamic Month of Rajab: فضائل رجب

rajab1
The Virtues of Rajab: Fadaa’il Rajab by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

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

The names of the Muslim lunar months:


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

The Muslim Hijri calendar was first introduced by the Caliph and companion of the Prophet (SAWS) Umar ibn al-Khattaab in the year 638 C.E[4]. It consists of 12 lunar months. The beginning of each month is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Each lunar month lasts approximately 29 or 30 days. The month of Rajab is one of the sacred months of the Islamic calendar. The other three sacred months are the consecutive months of Dhul Qi`da, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram. Thuswe have just entered into the sacred month of Rajab, the seventh month of the Hijri calendar as of June 3rd  2011. It is a good idea to keep track of the Islamic months because during each month, there are recommended and sometimes compulsory actions which are recorded in the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS).

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

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

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

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at imamluqman@masjidibrahim.com.


[1]Quran, 9:36

[2] Sacred law.

[3] Quran, 2:189

[4] Christian era.

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

[6] Ateerah: a sheep sacrifice.

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

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

[9] A good hadith, collected by Abu Dawud

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

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

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

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

[14] Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, page 206

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

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

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

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

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

[20] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

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

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

[23] Collected by Imam Malik in the Muwatta.

[24] The lessor Hajj.

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

Leaderless in Muslim America by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

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

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

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

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

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

An American Muslim Imam’s Response to Imam Anwar Awlaki’s call for Jihad Against America

In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful 

From Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, to Imam Anwar Awlaki

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh. In a recent videotaped statement attributed to you, you posed a very serious question to American Muslims, and in addition you suggested that we as American Muslims are obligated to embark upon the unconscionable act of waging war against our own land and countrymen. You asked; “To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters?”

Well, now that you’ve posed the question, I’ll tell you why, and may Allah grant us His mercy. First of all, peaceful coexistence is not a crime; it is a mercy from the Almighty God be He Exalted and Glorified. As American Muslims, we peacefully coexist with our country because we are not under attack because of our faith and we are not driven from our homes; “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” 60:8 Quran. We live here because some of us were born and raised here, and it is the only home that we know. My forefathers came here as slaves, and have helped build this country with their bare hands. Millions of other Muslims have sought and received refuge and safe passage through this vast land of ours, and have made it their home. As American Muslims, we are of different origins; nevertheless we are here now, and it is the result of God’s divine Providence, and we are connected to this soil.

We live here because we are free men, women and children. We have the right to live here and this is our country.   We live here because Millions of American Muslims attend this nations masaajid every week without being accosted, bombed while in prayer, or hindered in any way from worshipping our Lord. Many Muslim Imams and scholars have branded our country as evil, even calling her the ‘Great Satan’. I say that the Lord that we worship favors not the east or the west; He favors the righteous wherever they dwell. “Say: To Allah belong both East and West: He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.”  Quran, 2:142. So to answer your question about our conscience as we peacefully coexist in The United States of America, my conscience, and the conscience of many Muslim Americans who live in this great land, is clear. As for those Muslims whose conscience and belief compels them to leave this country for another land, then the door is open for them to leave.

As for your call for American Muslims to wage jihad against our country and homeland; the land that you are urging us to wage war against, is the land of our homes that we are obligated to protect. In a prophetic narration by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As, he said: When we were around the Apostle of Allah (SAWS), he mentioned the period of commotion (fitnah) saying: “When you see the people that their covenants have been impaired, (the fulfilling of) the guarantees becomes rare, and they become thus (interwining his fingers). I then got up and said: What should I do at that time, may Allah make me ransom for you? He replied: “Keep to your house, control your tongue, accept what you approve, and abandon what you disapprove, attend to your own affairs, and leave alone the affairs of the generality.”[1] Therefore as Muslim Americans we are obligated by faith to protect our homes, and our homeland upon which they stand, as our homes are our refuge.

The people whom you claim we are obligated to take up arms against are our neighbors whom we live next to and share neighborhoods with, and our Prophet (SAWS) informs us to honor our neighbors by his words in the hadith reported by Abu Shuraih; “By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!” It was said, “Who is that, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.[2]   Furthermore, in the hadith of Aisha, she mentioned that the Prophet (SAWS) said “Gabriel continued to recommend me about treating the neighbors kindly and politely so much so that I thought he would order me to make them as my heirs.”[3]  They are our co-workers whom we work alongside them, our students who we teach, and our teachers who we learn from. The people whom you incite us to violence against are our firefighters who defend our homes and our property from ruin, our law enforcement officers who patrol our streets at night, and municipal workers who restore power after the storms, and remove injurious objects from the road. The individuals whom you suggest we wage jihad against are our physicians, nurses and medical professionals who care for our sick and mend the broken bones of our children. They are university professors that you yourself have benefitted from and under whose instruction you obtained your engineering degree. So in summary, my dear Imam and may Allah guide us, we must categorically reject your petition that we wage jihad against the United States of America as in doing so we would be in disobedience to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala and His Prophet (SAWS).

Innocent blood is shed all over the globe by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and that should be a concern for us all. This great nation of ours has indeed committed its wrongs just like every other nation on earth and I am confident that the Almighty God Allah, in His Infinite Power and Wisdom will render unto each his due for its good and for its evil. However in the meantime, I shall not lift a finger in jihad against the only country that I can call home. This is the United States of America, and I do not have a home to go back to. My family is here, my tribe is here, and when I bow my head in my duty to my Lord, I prostrate upon American soil.  She is a blessed land, crafted and designed by God Himself.

Our faith is a faith of reason, not rampage, and while we recognize that there have been people of all faiths who have, and will continue to shed innocent blood without just cause. We as American Muslims should take the higher ground of faith and godliness and forgive those who transgress against us, and set our sights upon the nobler ideals of Islam. My conscience is clear, and your call for American Muslims to engage in jihad against America is rejected. As an imam and as a Muslim, I pray for your salvation and the salvation of us all. May the Almighty God Allah, Glorified be His Holy Name, guide us all to righteousness, and may He bless the United States of America.

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakaatuh,

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

imamluqmanahmad@yahoo.com


[1] Collected by Abu Dawood in the Sunan

[2] Collected by Bukhaari

[3] Collected by Bukhaari

Is it a Big Deal When Prominent People Convert to Islam?

By Imam Luqman Ahmad

Al-humdu lillah wa salaatu wa salaam alaa Rasoolillah (SAWS). Should Muslims make a big deal when prominent people like famous rappers, actors, intellectuals, politicians , musicians and the like, convert to Islam? Some say yes, and some say no. The truth of the matter is,  people who make a big deal out of prominent people converting to Islam are in fact, following the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and the way of the companions. The companions used to show particular rejoice when certain people converted to Islam; for example, when Umar Ibn al-Khattaab converted to Islam, there was tremendous rejoice amongst the Muslims, as he had been a prominent adversary to the Prophet (SAWS) and Islam. Hamza had converted three days prior to that and it was a tremendous blow against the mushrikeen because Hamza was feared. When Umar converted, the Muslims were inside the house of Ar’qam ibn Abi Ar’qam, they made a takbir [Saying God is Great] so loud that that everybody assembled at the Kaaba heard it. Darul Ar’qam is near Safaa, and anyone who has made hajj or umrah knows that Safaa is a little walk from the Kaaba. The same was when Abu Sufyaan converted; the Prophet (SAWS) made a big deal about that and made Abu Sufyaan’s house a safe haven for people on the day of the conquest of Mecca (yawmul Fat’h). Just as the Prophet (SAWS) made an extra effort to convert his uncle, Abu Taalib on his deathbed, although the latter never converted. It was a big deal to the Muslims when Hassaan Ibn Thaabit converted as he had been one of the leading poets of Hejaz. When he converted, it was a blow to those who used to say the Prophet (SAWS) was a crazed poet; “and would say, “Shall we, then, give up our deities at the bidding of a mad poet?” 37:36. The Prophet (SAWS) immediately put him to use and set him upon the Quraish with his poetry. Some of the companions themselves used to make proud mention of their conversion. It was reported about Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas, that he said, “No one else converted on the day that I converted to Islam. I spent seven days when I was a full one third of Islam (Muslims). [Related by Ibn Jawzi in Sifatul Safwa, vol. 1, p. 188]. It is a big deal when anyone converts to Islam as it represents the issuing of divine guidance. “Whomever Allah wants to guide them, He opens their heart to Islam”. When influential people convert to Islam, it strengthens our religion, as mentioned by the Prophet (SAWS) when he said; “Oh Allah, strengthen Islam with the one you love most of these two men; Umar ibn al-Khattaab, or Abi Jahl ibn Hishaam”.

Every day there are people converting to Islam who are left without support, without communities that nurture them, and sometimes masaajid to go to where they are welcome. Most of those who convert to Islam are just regular, everyday people. Whether a convert is a prominent entertainer or sports figure, or an ordinary believer as most are, we have an obligation as  Muslims to pay special attention to the needs of the converts in America, and the issues that affect them specifically. That’s what the new organization, Mosque Without Borders  aims to make a priority, but we need your help. you can go to our website at http://www.mosquewithoutborders.org, and make a donation.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam 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.

Tabaqaat al-Amrikiyyeen: Recording History for American Muslim Generations, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Tabaqaat al-Amrikiyyeen

1943 MslimsBiographical stationing is an important part of Muslim historiography.  Referencing in Islam is frequently based upon ranking and association; whether it is predicated upon precedence, levels of religious knowledge, or length of service to Islam and the Muslims, each group or person is accorded a status according to his or her designated ranking.  In the hadith; “The best generation is my generation. Then those that follow them. Then those that follow them”[1], there is a reference to biographical stationing. Hence, the best generation after the Prophet (SAWS) by agreement of the scholars is the generation of the companions because of their own achievements and because according to Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani; of their proximity to the Prophet (SAWS).

Tabaqaat as-Sahaaba

Early Muslim historians employ a biographical recording method whereas the ranks of the Muslim were chronicled by ranking and category. This was known as tabaqat which literally means levels. There are numerous verses in the Quran and authentic hadith which support stationing people according to their precedent, their notable achievements in religion and their honorable status. “And as for the first and foremost of those who have forsaken the domain of evil and of those who have sheltered and succored the Faith, as well as those who follow them in [the way of] righteousness – God is well-pleased with them, and well–pleased are they with Him.” 9:100 Likewise, Allah ta’ala makes a distinction between the active and inactive Muslim; “Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each Allah hath promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary[2]

Also amongst the groups that warranted specific  distinction were the 1400 or so Muslims who made the well-known bait (oath of felty) with the Prophet (SAWS) under the tree in Hudaibiyyah. They earned an honor that others did not. “Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave the bai’at (pledge) with you under the tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquility) upon them and He rewarded them with a near victory”, 48:19 al-Fat’h.

Another group was the emigrants who migrated with the Prophet (SAWS). They received a distinction that others did not. “For the poor emigrants, who were expelled from their homes and their property, seeking bounties from Allah and to please Him, and helping Allah and his messenger, they are indeed the truthful”[3]. And let us not forget the Ansaar of Medina who hosted the Prophet (SAWS) and the emigrants who prepared their way. They can never be matched. “And those who, before them, had prepared homes and faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given (of the booty), they give (the emigrants) preference over themselves even though they were in need of that. And whomever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be successful”[4].

Individuals of these classes cannot be equaled by anyone who came after them regardless of their contributions or sacrifices. In fact, any one of the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) whom Allah or the Prophet (SAWS) has testified to their excellence, their reward of paradise or to their preference cannot be equaled in stature by anyone after them. Such regard is given to the four aforementioned caliphs, and the other six of the ten companions who were promised paradise. It also extends to persons like Bilal, whose footsteps in paradise were heard by the Prophet (SAWS), to the black woman who used to clean the masjid of the Prophet, and others.

Likewise, anyone who has fought alongside the Prophet (SAWS), fought during his time by his command, spent money in the way of Islam during the Prophet’s time, migrated with him or to him are in a class unparalleled, and unobtainable by anyone after them. This goes particularly for the Companions who participated in actions before the conquest of Mecca. “Not equal amongst you are those who spent and fought before the conquest. Those are greater in level than those who spent and fought after (the conquest)”.[5]

It is generally agreed by the Muslim historians and scholars of Islam that the participants of Badr were a special tabaqa (rank). They were accorded a status that followed them throughout their lives. For some of them, their status earned them prophetic pardon when they erred as in the case of Haatib ibn abi Balta’ah; the Prophet (SAWS) pardoned him for divulging information to the Meccans shortly before the conquest of Mecca and said: “Verily he witnessed (participated) in the battle of Badr, and what would make you come to know, perhaps Allah has already looked at the people of Badr and said: ‘Do whatever you like, for I have forgiven you.”[6] For others of the Bad’reeyyoon (Bedronites), as they came to be known there was always a social status that they were the veterans of Badr. During the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khttaab, after he conquered Persia, he put all the veterans of Badr on annual pension.

In islamic tradition, sometimes people are stationed according to knowledge of Islam such as the scholars; “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.”[7] Other times they are stationed according to scholarship within a particular school of jurisprudence or within a particular discipline such as Imam Taj ul-Din as-Subki[8] did in his famous work; “Tabaqaat as-Shaafi’iyyah”, or al-Muafa ibn Imran al-Mawsali[9] did in his ‘Tabaqaat al-Muhadditheen’[10].

Ranking by faith is perhaps the most revered of all; “Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”[11] However faith ranking is largely a hidden domain for two reasons. Firstly because faith is a variable that increases and decreases according to theological reasoning of Muslim orthodoxy (Ahlus Sunna wa jamaa’at). Secondly, because the reality of anyone’s faith is known only by Allah; “And do not praise yourselves; surely Allah knows best who has the most piety.”[12] Recording Muslim history including tabaqat is not a determinant of faith but an acknowledgement of our past and our present civilization.

Many Muslim historians, scholars and traditionalists have rendered the companions of the Prophet (SAWS), particular groups of scholars or famous Muslim personalities into stations or tabaqat. Ibn Sa’ad is well known for his famous eight volume work: ‘Tabaqaat ibn Sa’ad’[13] in which he chronicled in addition to the life of the Prophet (SAWS), the lives of notable companions, and notables of the following generations. His last volume was dedicated to distinguished Muslim women.

Al-Haakims Tabaqaat

The earliest tabaqaat works were about the companions of the Prophet (SAWS). One of the very first was a work by Al-Muafa ibn Imran al-Mawsali titled; ‘Tabaqaat as-Sahaaba’. Ibn Zayyat produced a similar work in which mentions ten tabaqaat of the companions. Many scholars accept Al-Haakim’s famous rendering whereas he mentions 12 stations accorded the companions of the Prophet (SAWS).

Those stations are as follows:

1.    The companions who accepted Islam in the early period of Mecca. These include the four righteous khalifs

2.    The companions who accepted Islam before the Darul Nadwa consultation

3.    Those who migrated to Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia)

4.    Those present at the first Aqaba meeting

5.    Those present at the second Aqaba meeting

6.    Those who migrated and met the prophet (SAWS) at Quba’a before his entry into Medina

7.    The Muslim participants in the battle of Badr

8.    The Muslims who migrated between the events of Badr and Hudaibiyyah

9.    The companions present at the fealty of Hudaibiyyah incident

10. The companions who migrated between the time of Hudaibiyyah and the conquest of Mecca such as Khalid ibn al-Waleed

11. The Muslims who entered Islam at and during the conquest of Mecca

12. The children and the youth who saw the prophet (SAQWS) on the day of the conquest and during the farewell pilgrimage.[14]

Within the history of American Muslim community there are classes of individuals who have served Islam in a range of religious disciplines; there are imams, scholars, teachers, leaders, khateebs (preachers) and du’aat (missionaries) of Islam. Recording and acknowledging our own tabaqat, chronicles our history so that each ensuing generation is aware and connected to that which preceded it. Other writers throughout history have written tabaqaat relating to their own people and their own connected epochs. Sometime around 1259 A.D., Mahmud, Minhaj-i-Nasiri, a Bengali Judge of Delhi during the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin, wrote his ‘Tabaqaat al-Nasiri’ which chronicled the history of the first fifty years of Muslim rule in Bengal. In 1554 A.D., the Shaafi’ee scholar and Mystic, al-Sharanai[15] wrote his ‘Tabaqaat al-Suhgra’ where he chronicled the lives of his teachers, and other shuyookh of his time.

This type of narrative is an important element in recording our own history as American Muslims. It establishes a generational continuity of faith and action and scholarship. Each generation not only learns from the previous generation but is compelled because of their connection to them, to honor them and pray for their forgiveness; “And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancor (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.[16]

Remembering our forefathers is an acceptable act; “So when ye have accomplished your holy rites, celebrate the praises of Allah, as ye used to celebrate the praises of your fathers,- yea, with far more Heart and soul.[17] Reviling and criticizing our dead is a detestable act as the Prophet (SAWS) has said: “Do not speak ill of the dead for they have reached the deeds that they have put forth.[18] It was also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “Do not revile the dead because then you will torment the living.[19] There is no value in cursing and reviling Muslims who have passed away as some of our youth are doing today. Cursing the previous nations is an action of the people of the hell-fire; “Enter ye in the company of the peoples who passed away before you – men and jinns, – into the Fire.” Every time a new people enters, it curses its sister-people (that went before), until they follow each other, all into the Fire.”[20]

Tabaqaat of American Muslim Pioneers

Much of American Muslim history goes on underreported. Many of our noteworthy American Muslim scholars, teachers, imams, activists and du’aat are gone and others will leave us in the coming years. The deaths of Sheikh Hisham Jaaber, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Imam Khairi Shakoor, Imam Luqman Abdullah, are reminders for us all that an era of Muslim stewardship in America is passing. In sha Allah, in the future there will be historians, and chroniclers who will retrieve and record information about those who have preceded us in faith, such as Sheikh Sulaimaan Abdul-Haadi of New York, Sheikhs Naafi’ Muhaimin, Muhammad al-Haarith, and Ahmad Thaafir of Philadelphia, as well as the noted Arabic teacher, Ustaadh Ali Abdul-Haadi who was also a Philadelphia native. Little is known about my late uncle, Sheikh Dawud Salahuddin who left Philadelphia with his family and helped to establish the sunna in Chicago, and so many others who have played significant roles such as the late great African American scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Izzuddeen, or Sheikh Wali Akram. It is important that proper respect is accorded our pioneers, imams, shuyookh, scholars and du’aat of Islam who have laid down the foundations of faith and Islam in the United States of America. Our position towards them should be one of acknowledgement, respect and good assumption.  We should stop allowing people to come to our country and disparage our imams, teachers and shuyookh, or issue scurrilous claims that there are no scholars from America.

Thus, long time Muslims who has completed a couple dozen fasts of Ramadan should occupy a tabaqa (ranking) different than someone who just accepted Islam a couple of years ago. Likewise, someone who has participated in Islamic work for decades should occupy a ranking different from the one who has just started being active or one who is not active at all. Imams who have dutifully served their communities for decades would have a higher ranking than imams who have just begun their tenure. This is not a matter of faith but a matter of generational protocol and adab. It was reported that the Prophet (SAWS) has said: “The one who does not show mercy to our youth and does not revere our aged is not from among us.[21]

Tabaqaat has to be applied in spirit first before we apply it to our own historical recording. The religion of Islam and the Muslims are better served if we respect those who have preceded us in faith, and who have and continue to, lay down the foundations of Islam in America. Recognizing that there are tabaqaat among us is one way of giving respect and honor where it is due. Wal humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen. And Allah knows best.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad deliver’s the Friday Khutba, and is an Associate Imam and resident scholar at the Toledo Masjid of Islam in Toledo, Ohio, He is a writer, lecturer and the author of the book; “Double Edged Slavery“, a book about the condition of African American Muslim converts in America, and   ‘TheDevil’s Deception of the Modern day Salafi Sect’.  He is currently working on a biographical encyclopedia of Philadelphia Muslims. You can support this project through Cash app to: $abulaith. He can be reached at, imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1]Collected by Bukhaari

[2] Quran, 4:95

[3] Quran, 59:8

[4] Quran, 59:9

[5] Quran, 57:10

[6] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim

[7] Quran, 58:11

[8] Died 756 A.H.

[9] Died, 185 A.H.

[10] Traditionalists

[11] Quran, 49:13

[12] Quran, 53:32

[13] Muhammad ibn Sa’ad ibn Mani’, d. 230 A.H.

[14] Usdu al-Ghaaba Fi Ma’rifatul Sahaaba, by Ibn Athir, (D. 630 AH.)volume 1, page 81

[15] Abdul-Wahaab ibn Ahmad al-Shraani, a Sufi mystic and scholar of the Shaafi’ee school and one of the most prolific writers of his time. He died in 1565 A.D.

[16] Quran, 59:10

[17] Quran, 2:200

[18] Collected by Bukhaari

[19] Collected by Abu Esa at-Tirmithi

[20] Quran, 7:38

[21] Collected by at-Tirmidhi and Imam Ahmad in the Musnad. The meaning being; not following our way, i.e. the way of the Prophet (SAWS).

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