The Psychology of American Muslim Sectarianism, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

 

SectarianismYeah, I know it’s a long title. Nevertheless, this is a really complex and deeply problematic topic. When people become Muslim, they’re not thinking; I’m becoming a Tijaani, I’m becoming a Shaafi’ee, I’m becoming a Jihadi, a Tablighi or a Salafi. They’re thinking; ‘I’m becoming a Muslim’. It’s only after they take their shahaadah that people indoctrinate them into this or that sect or group, at a time when no less when they are most vulnerable. I’m not knocking your group here but darn, can’t we just let people get used to being a Muslim first before we sectarianize them? If you think about it, that’s a really cruel trick to play on someone; have them enter Islam thinking unity, and then induct them into sectarianism. This article could have been titled ‘American Muslims and the Oftentimes Perplexing Sectarian Identity Politics’ but that’s heck of a long and confusing title so I settled for a shorter and slightly less confusing title.

Still, this is really a complex topic because for many people, entering Islam is awesome; it’s one of the greatest things that ever happened to them in their lives, but what comes next can be a let down. Especially after they’re ushered through the labyrinth of supplemental isms which have become attached Islam.  Hey don’t misunderstand me; I get it that one man’s ism is another man’s source of enlightenment. However, considering that according to a Pew Research study published earlier this year, the American Muslim convert community is at a zero growth rate, meaning that for every ten people who converts to Islam, ten other people end up leaving Islam, I wonder whether all these isms confronting the new Muslim might have something to do with it. Hey, we are human beings and we need to have groups for a whole bunch of reasons, we just don’t need a whole bunch of groups thinking that they have the monopoly on the truth. The haqq, if you will.

First of all, if you choose just to be a regular Muslim, you might not get much love in the first place because just about every sect, sub-sect, tariqa, group, or movement is looking to increase membership. If  you end up as part of a sect or a particular group, you have to become indoctrinated not only in basic Islam from the Quran and the Sunna, but now you have to become indoctrinated and taught again, the tenants, beliefs and practices that are particular to your sect or group. This is not to say that every group is inherently bad, evil or wrong. I already mentioned that as human beings we need groups, Not every group is wrong and the Muslim ummah agrees to the legitimacy of the four orthodox schools of islamic legal doctrine as well as the Ja’fari and the Zaidi schools from amongst the Shiite, and there are all kinds of groups who follow the Quran and the Sunna. So let’s just say that right now, I’m not referring to any particular group; I’m just talking about sects and sectarianism. Just a little chat. Additionally, it is well known at least in what I believe that as Muslims, we are to follow the methodology of knowledge as set forth by the scholars of the first three generations of Muslim or the Salaf as-Saalih.

Still, you have to admit that sectarianism is an encumbrance on the new Muslim, and in my humble opinion, it’s hit us pretty hard, especially for the American Negroe. We come from a people that’s been pre-programmed for self-destruction, and a culture where our young men (and women) routinely fight and kill each other on the streets for next to nothing. We have people who fight over turf that they don’t even own and then we give them Muslim sectarianism to fight over. That’s the last thing we need; something else to fight over. I’m not seeing where that really worked for us, or where sectarianism has built anything for indigenous African American or convert Muslims. Sectarianism can produce a Crip versus Bloods mentality. People ready to argue and fight with someone over their sect, their sheikh, even over their madhhab or tariqa. When you join a sect, and of course most every sect has its protagonists and antagonists, you have to learn all the tenants of your sect that makes your sect different or better than the other sects, and different from the Islam that existed before your sect or group came into being. If seem people kicked out of their sect because they didn’t want to follow the rules. The Prophet ﷺ and the Salaf, preceded all of these sects. Then, every sect has their particular reasons why their sect is better than the other, otherwise there is no reason for people to be in the sect in the first place. Then once you become in full doctrinal mode then you have to be appraised of the sects (if any) that your sect or group is opposed to, as well as the ones that are opposed to your sect.

Most every self-respecting sect these days has its enemies and detractors to gather people against. The nature of sectarianism is that it is easier to gather people in opposition of something than it is to get them together in favor of something unless its some bid’ah. Sectarianists love them some bid’ah. Not just them. Any one of us can get caught up in some bid’s these days if we’re not careful. If the bid’ah is exciting enough and you’re going to get good news coverage, people will flock to some bid’ah. If someone belongs to a sect, then best believe if you look hard enough then you will likely find some religious innovation. Sometimes just a minor smidgeon of bid’ah, but sometimes you find the weird stuff. I mean real weird stuff. I remember a recent group that some brothers belonged to where they do turn off the lights to do thikr. Now that some weird stuff to me. Why turn off the lights? Unless maybe you’re trying to save money on the light bill, but why do it at thikr time? I wasn’t there and I’m not part of that group and it could be totally innocent, just trying to save money on electricity. I just have a thing when men and women gather together and then turn out the lights because it reminds me of back in the day house parties.

Once you enter into sectarianism you can easily find yourself in the unappealing position of attacking anyone who criticizes your sect, your sheikh, your madhhab, or your particular group. Or even worse, taking it personal. As you become deeper and deeper indoctrinated as happens to many people, they find themselves defending their sect even when the criticism is warranted and upholding the views of their sect and their shuyookh even when those views contradict the Book and the Sunna. This is how sectarianism gets out of control and for Muslim converts, it gets out of control quite often. Bottom line, if you think that your sect is the way to go, then al-humdu lillaah. If you think your madhhab is the way to go then al-humdu illah. I follow the Shaafi’ee madhhab in most every issue of fiqh but I’ve been known to take a Maaliki position here and there. I know that some people say that’s not allowed and they are free to try to bring it up when we all stand before Allah on the day of Judgment.  I’m still of the view that if it agrees with the Book and the Sunna, I’m all for it, and if it doesn’t well… not so much.

Sectarianism may have its benefits and of course like I said, all groups, tariqas, islamic political parties, and movements aren’t bad and they all aren’t 100% pure good either. So don’t go off half cocked because you think I insulted your group or your sheikh. My advice is that if you’re going to be Muslim then learn the basics. Learn your prayers, do your prayers, pay your zakat, fast your Ramadan, and if you get a few dollars, or excuse me, a few thousand dollars to spare, go ahead and make Hajj. Do the five pillars. If you want to go deep into one sect or another, okay ma sha Allah, but still try to stick to the basics and keep your options open. If we can pay dues to all of these groups and spheres of foreign influence in our communities and still manage to all work together to address our problems with family, Islamic communal infrastructure, our many fatherless homes, and the other problems in our shared communities then fine. If not, we should think a little more about the impact of Muslim sectarianism on what’s left of our fragile communities. In the meantime, obey Allah and His Messenger ﷺ and your leaders that you are connected to in matters that are right, but remember,  you have to trek your own path to Allah. No one else can do that your you. Not your sheikh, not your group, not your Imam, just you. Above all else, keep your loyalty and your sincerity to Allah and to Allah Alone. Wal Allahul Musta’aan.

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.

The Gritty Side of Muslim Aqeeda Wars, By Imam Luqman Ahmad

The word aqeeda comes from the Arabic word aqd [عقد], which means knot, or something to bind around. The word also means contract; as mentioned in the verse: “O you who have believed, fulfill [all] contracts [عقود]. The derivative word aqeeda [عقيدة], does not appear in quran laid outthe Quran, nor was it mentioned by the Prophet ﷺ. The terminological meaning of aqeeda in the religion of Islam is creed, or belief system. The word aqeeda is also sometimes used synonymously as tawheed, sharia, even Islam. The discipline and knowledge of aqeeda is a critical and important part of Islamic knowledge and of the sharia [Islamic law]. Aqeeda has to do with your belief system as a Muslim. Aqeeda in the classical sense constitutes the boundaries of faith and heresy. If you are a Muslim, then you should know what you believe. You do not have to be an aqeeda scholar to have proper aqeeda. If a person believes that there is no god except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and they agree wholesale with everything that is in the Quran, and everything that is authenticated in the words of the Prophet ﷺ, [the Sunnah], then that person has the correct aqeeda, even though they do not know all the details. This is based upon the hadith, “Whoever witnesses that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger, Allah forbids the Fire from touching him“.

The central foundation of what we know to be aqeeda is la ilaaha illa Allah [there is no god except Allah], and to worship Him alone without partners. This was the message of all the Prophets starting with the Prophet Adam; وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَسُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ [Verily We have raised from amongst every nation, Messengers (proclaiming) to worship Allah and to avoid the taaghoot], [16:36]. During the time of the Prophet (SAWS) the companions did not argue with each other about the issue of Allah, His oneness, or his attributes. If there was ever a disagreement or misunderstanding, on a point of faith, they referred it the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and it was settled.

After the era of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ heretical and idolatrous beliefs and practices started to make an encore into Muslim society after the Prophet ﷺ had rid idolatry from the Arabian Peninsula.  These false beliefs and heretical notions returned to Muslims lands either by Arabs who went back to their pre-islamic practices or influences from foreign and conquered lands. Hence the need for more specificity about aqeeda and what constitutes kufr and eemaan. It is not incumbent upon every Muslim to possess advanced, scholar-grade knowledge of aqeeda; that is a common misconception of some people. For the everyday Muslim, such information is necessitated on an as-needed basis.

The first books about aqeeda were written during the time of the taabi’een starting with Imam Ibn Shihaab az-Zuh’ri, (died 124 AH/741-2 CE),. The written discipline of aqeeda further evolved during the first part of the second century of the Hijra when Imam Malik ibn Anas (711–795 CE / 93–179 AH), wrote the Muwattaa. He organized hadith into chapters dealing with aqeeda such as the chapter on emaan, and the chapter on tawheed, and the chapter on knowledge. Imam Malik’s work was the budding of the independent discipline of aqeeda.

What prompted the scholars to delve into specialization on the topic of aqeeda were the ideological splits that started to appear during the latter period of the companions of the Prophet (SAWS). One of the major clashes in aqeeda was in the appearance of the khawaarij [kharajites] and the practice of declaring a person to be an unbeliever because of a sin he committed. Hence, the scholars of the Sunna saw the need to elucidate just what is the creed of ahlus Sunna in detail. One of the first books devoted to belief clarification was the book al-Fiqh al-Ak’bar by Imam Abu Hanifa (699-767 CE). Imam Shaafi’ee was born the same year that Abu Hanfah died, (150 AH). Hewrote a book with the same title [al-Fiqh al-Akbar] where he addressed specific issues of aqeeda point by point. Over the years, scholars of the sunna developed variant views on issues of aqeeda but agreed with the foundation. These scholars became known as the Ahlul Sunna.

Amongst the Ahlul Sunna are the aqeeda of the Ash’aris, the aqeeda of the Maatureedis, the aqeeda of the Salafis, and the aqeeda of the Sufis. Within these groups are points of agreement that are the foundational principles of faith, and then are there are points of divergence. Sometimes the differences are scholarly, and civil  in nature; at other times differences lead to name-calling, anger, killing and bloodshed. In many Muslim countries, people have blown up masaajid, and killed innocent men, women and children while they celebrated the Prophet’s birthday, or murdered people in cold blood simply over differences in aqeeda. There has been a lot of that in our ummah, and t hasn’t stopped, even until this very day. It continues.

There is nothing new about aqeeda wars except that in the past these ideological skirmishes were waged by scholars, jurists, politicians, and people who had knowledge. Now days, it’s largely an internet, free-for-all where anyone, regardless of knowledge or training, can participate. Al-humdu lillaah we haven’t had any violent aqeeda clashes in the United States yet, and were it not for the rule of law and the mercy of Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, we would see it here. The undercurrent for it is pretty strong. Aqeeda wrangling keep American Muslims very busy. Busy enough to have split masaajid and communities, severed long standing relationships, and caused crippling stagnation within Muslim communities, especially amongst converts and Black American Muslim communities. People are very quick to pronounce takfeer on others because they regard their aqeeda heretical. People will sever long standing relationships over a fine point in aqeeda. In my opinion, it’s gotten completely out of hand.

Throughout history, aqeeda was used primarily as a topic of learning, but also as a political and sectarian hatchet and an avenue for extreme discord and transgression.

Some of the greatest scholars of Islam were persecuted, imprisoned, and killed on the charge that their aqeeda was amiss. When scholars had issues with other scholars, the easiest way to shut them down was to accuse them of an aqeeda breach. Imam Shaafi’ee was once accused of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen and was arrested and taken to Baghdad in chains. The Turkish scholar of Islam and intellectual, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was once arrested for violating secularist laws; in other words, thinking as a Muslim and teaching Islam. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was persecuted by the Caliph Ma’moon and imprisoned and tortured for 28 months under the Caliph al-Mu’tasim because he refused to accept the notion that the Quran was created. Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, whom people today regard as amongst the greatest scholars of Islam, as well as deviants, in the case of Ibn Tayiyyah, were both prosecuted and jailed on the charge of having heretical aqeeda. Ibn Taymiyah died in prison on those accusations. If we didn’t have the rule of law in the United States people would probably be pulled off the pulpit amid trumped up charges of violating aqeeda. Aqeeda is a scholarly discipline but it is also a political tool to sow discord and to silence dissent.

The word aqeeda did not find it’s way into American Muslim dialogue until the mid to late ‘70s, and it didn’t gain traction in the America Muslim community until the early ‘80s. It started with simple education about Tawheed and helping people in the United States, mainly new converts, to Islam, understand Muslim orthodox theology. It quickly escalated into a war of words. Since the ‘80s we have seen the incessant aqeeda wars rage on amongst Muslims in America, primarily Black American Muslims, continuing until this very day. Other than a long trail of character assassination, split communities, torn apart friends, and a nation of young Muslims who argue with each other over their sheikhs and who is or is not an not an infidel, tell me, where is the net benefit?

Aqeeda is an in-depth and highly specialized topic. Anyone with advanced knowledge of Islamic theology and creed and can look into another Muslim’s belief detail and find where he or she has technically stepped outside of standard Islamic orthodoxy. People who engage in candlelight vigils have gone against our aqeeda. Individuals who declare that everyone who has a criticism of Islam or who does not like Muslims or Islam is an Islamophobe have diverted from our aqeeda. Anyone who thinks that their race is superior to others has gone outside of our aqeeda. Anyone who thinks that a person declaring the shahaadah performing the five prayers, paying zakat, fasting the month of Ramadan and making Hajj has not done enough to be regarded as a Muslim, has stepped outside of our aqeeda. There are dozens of examples where one person can declare another person to be outside of our aqeeda if you dig deep enough. That’s why we have aqeeda wars.

One of the casualties of the aqeeda wars is that people become obsessed with it to the point that they don’t choose their battles wisely. Declaring people to be kuffaar after they take shahaadah, pray the five prayers, pay the zakat, fast the month of Ramadan, and make the hajj is closer to kufr than giving them the benefit of the doubt. After they do all of the above, we should leave their hisaab to Allah. The Prophet ﷺ said: “I have been commanded to fight against people until they testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, perform the Salah ‘Prayer’, and pay Zakah ‘obligatory charity’. If they do that, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by Islamic law, and their affairs rest with Allah.[1]”.  Sheikh Bin Baaz (RA) said, in explaining this hadith: “All Muslims have thus, to fear Allah, worship Him Alone, and believe in His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) as being sent to all Jinn (creatures created from fire) and mankind and as being the final Prophet. All Muslims have to perform the Obligations of Allah, abandon His Prohibitions, help one another in righteousness and piety, enjoin one another to truth and patience, and renounce all Deens (religions) of Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). Whoever dies in the state mentioned above will enter Jannah without being reckoned or punished”.

Bonding in aqeeda versus bonding in Islam

The bond of aqeeda advanced by the Prophet ﷺ was the bond of laa ilaaha illa Allah. When people talk about the bond of aqeeda, they have to be clear what they are talking about. Do they mean the bond of laa ilaaha illa Allah? Or do they mean bonding based upon the specific, individual points of Islamic theological doctrine? If they mean the latter then it is very difficult for Muslims to unite and we will always be in a state of internal conflict. If they mean the former then this is the sunna, that we come together on the basis of laa ilaaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasoolullaah. The different points of Islamic creed number in the hundreds. It is impossible to sit down with someone and go over point by point to see if you agree on every detail. It is highly improbable that Muslims in America will bond on every point of aqeeda. This is why there is no such thing as the ‘bond of Islamic creed’. The Prophet ﷺ never spoke of any bond of Islamic creed, nor is it mentioned in the Quran. This is a modern-day terminology that gives people the license to dig into everyone’s detail of what they believe to call this or that one a kaafir or a mushrik. What the Prophet ﷺ did say was: “Whoever prays our prayer, faces our Qibla, eats our thabeeha, then that is the Muslim. He is under the protection of Allah and His Messenger, so let not any of you betray Allah in His protection (of people)”.[2]

You cannot be brothers and sisters in advanced creed since faith is internal, point specific and people’s individual creed varies from person to person. You can, however, be brothers and sisters in Islam. The Prophet ﷺ did not advocate the examination of every individual’s personal creed outside of them declaring the shahaadah and establishing the prayer. This is the bond of Islam. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira the Prophet ﷺ said: “I was commanded to fight the people until they say that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and that they establish the prayer, and pay the zakat, and If they say that their blood and their wealth are safe from me except in the right of Islam and their reckoning is with Allah[3].  Sheikh bin Baaz (RA) said that this hadith on the surface means that if a person does these things, they are to be considered Muslims unless they come with something (specifically) that will nullify their Islam. He further stated that: “Anyone who comes with Tawheed and belief in the message then he has entered Islam. Then after he is requested to fulfill the rights of Islam such as the salat, the zakat, the fast, the Hajj and things like it then performs what which Allah had made incumbent on him, then he is entirely a Muslim”.

Now as far as picking apart people’s aqeeda, you could do that with just about anyone and find glitches and inconsistencies in their belief system. Even the notion that a person can perform the five pillars, and openly declare the shahaadah, yet still be considered an unbeliever such as some Muslims apply wholesale to some groups, is itself practice that contradicts the aqeeda of Islam.

The concept that after taking their shahaadah, a Muslim has to openly denounce every belief, and every principle he previously held, or denounce every idol, every ideology, every thought that is counter to Islam, is not something established or practiced by the Prophet ﷺ. This added requirement contradicts the aqeeda of Islam. The aqeeda of Islam is that whoever comes with the two testimonies, establishes the prayer, pays the zakat, fasts the month of Ramadan and accepts and performs the hajj, they are a Muslim, and their reckoning is with Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. This is the Islam of the Prophet ﷺ. Anything outside of that, then a person needs to produce daleel.

We as Muslims living in the United States should stop letting people tell us who we can work with and who we can’t can’t; which firemen we can have help us put out the fire and which one’s we can’t. People dial 911 and accept anyone to come and help settle their dispute or help with their problem without asking about their aqeeda. But when it comes to getting help fixing up the neighborhood, stemming crime, and making the streets and the people safer, you have to worry about their aqeeda?

There is no greater word on the scale, nor stronger bond between believers than the bond of لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله [There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah], Hostilities were ended because of this word, blood was spared because of this word, protection was given by our Prophet to the inhabitants of Mecca because of this word. People enter Islam with this word. Sins are forgiven because of this word. If this word is not a strong enough bond for Muslims, then let whoever wishes, seek their bond. Let them seek their own word.

The modern-day politics of aqeeda in Muslim America is that aqeeda can become a built-in incendiary device, detonated anytime someone wants to cause discord between African-American Muslims in the United States. Anytime anyone wants, they can only (and selectively), inject the aqeeda card and all of a sudden, African American Muslims are stuck. We’ve been stuck for the last forty years.

Islam and our practice of it in this modern pre-Dajjaal age are mired in politics, power, public relations and scheming. We have to get back to the basics of our religion which is the five pillars, the seven beliefs, and the simple religion as practiced by our beloved Prophet ﷺ who said: “The religion is easy, and the religion is never made harsh to anyone except that it will overpower him[4].”

If the shahaadatain [the two testimonies] the establishment of prayer, the paying of zakat, the fasting of Ramadan and the agreement to the hajj as an obligation, is not enough to consider a person a Muslim, then those who disagree should take their argument to Allah.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

American born Luqman Ahmad is a life long Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam.

Imam Luqman Ahmad is an Imam and Resident Scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the book “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at salafiyyism the ideology which forms the mindset of ISIS. He has written blog posts challenging ISIS, Anwar Awlaki, and BOKO Haram on his blog, imamluqman.wordpress.com. The sentiments shared in this article are his own and not representative of any of his professional affiliations. He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

[1] Muslim.

[2] Bukhaari.

[3] Bukhaari

[4] Muslim.

Audio Khutba: Explanation of the Hadith: “The Most Beloved People to Allah”, by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

waterdrops2The Prophet said: “The most beloved people to Allah are those that bring most benefit to other people, and the most beloved of deeds to Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, is bringing happiness upon a Muslim or removing a worry from him, or to pay his debt, or to remove his hunger, . It is more beloved to me that I walk with my brother to fulfill his need, than if I performed i’tikaaf for a month in the masjid, and whoever holds back his anger, Allah will cover his faults, and whoever keeps his anger to himself, and if he wants to just let it go and lets it go, Allah will fill his heart with satisfaction on the Day of Judgment”. And whoever walks with his brother to fulfill his need until he secures it for him, Allah will secure his feet for him on the day when feet are unsteady, and bad character will spoil a deed just like vinegar spoils honey”. [ Hasan, Collected by Abu Ya’lah]

Click on the link to listen to a very nice explanation of this hadith by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, recorded at Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California.

15 Of the Most Beloved Deeds to Allah , by Imam Luqman Ahmad

6/21/19 I’m selling my car to visit my terminally ill brother in the hospital. See details at the end of the this blog post.

allah
1.      The most beloved deen: The Prophet said: “The most beloved religion to Allah is the Al-hanafiyyatu sam’ha”. (Easy going religion). [Collected by Ahmad]

2.      The salat in its proper time. The Prophet said, “The most beloved of deeds to Allah are: the salat in its proper time, goodness to the parents, and striving in the way of Allah”. [Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim]

3.      Belief in Allah: the Prophet said: “The most beloved of deeds to Allah are: belief in Allah, then, keeping your ties with family, then, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil”. [Collected by Abu Ya’lah]

4.      Consistency in good deeds: The Prophet said, “The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if it is small”. [Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim]

5.      The remembrance of Allah: The Prophet said: “The most beloved of deeds to Allah is to die while your tongue is moistened with the remembrance of Allah”. [Collected by Tabaraani}

6.      The masaajid: The Prophet said: “The most beloved places to Allah are the masaajid, and the most hated places to Allah are the marketplaces”. [Collected by Muslim]

7.      Speaking the truth in the presence of an unjust ruler: The Prophet said: “The most beloved jihaad to Allah is speaking the truth in the presence of an unjust ruler”. [Collected by Ahmad].

8.      Truthful speech. The Prophet said: “The most beloved of speech to me is that which is most truthful”. [Collected by Bukhaari]

9.      The fast of David: The Prophet said: “The most beloved fast to Allah is the fast of David; he used to fast one day, and break fast one day, and the most beloved prayer to Allah is the prayer of David; he used to sleep half the night, pray a third, and sleep a sixth”. [Bukhaari and Muslim].

10.   Plentiful hands in the food plate: The Prophet said: “The most beloved meal to Allah is that in which many hands partake from the plate”. [Collected by Ibn Hibbaan]

11.   Saying Sub’haana Allah: the Prophet said: “The most beloved of speech to Allah is for a servant to say; Sub’haana Allah wa bi hamdi’hi”. [Collected by Muslim].

12.   The four most beloved words: The Prophet said: “The most beloved words to Allah are four; sub’haanallah, al-humdu lillaah, wa laa ilaaha illa Allah, wa Allahu Akbar”.  [Collected by Muslim].

13.   Good character: The Prophet said: “The most beloved servant to Allah is he who has the best character”.  [Collected by Tabaraani]

14.   The best names: The Prophet said: “The most beloved names to Allah are, Abdullah and Abdul-Rahmaan”. [Collected by Muslim]

15.   Benefiting people:  The Prophet said: “The most beloved people to Allah are those that bring most benefit to other people, and the most beloved of deeds to Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, is bringing happiness upon a Muslim or removing a worry from him, or to pay his debt, or to remove his hunger, . It is more beloved to me that I walk with my brother to fulfill his need, than if I spent i’tikaaf for a month in the masjid, and whoever holds back his anger, Allah will cover his faults, and whoever keeps his anger to himself, and if he wants to just let it go and lets it go, Allah will fill his heart with satisfaction on the Day of Judgment”. And whoever walks with his brother to fulfill his need until he secures it for him, Allah will secure his feet for him on the day when feet are unsteady, and bad character will spoil a deed just like vinegar spoils honey”. [Collected by Abu Ya’lah]

Righteousness does not have to be complicated. Consider all these good deeds beloved. All of these actions are sanctioned by our beloved Prophet (SAWS) and loved by Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, and all of these are easy to accomplish in sha Allah.  Wal Allahul Musta’aan

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

imamabulaith@yahoo.com

Are Black 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'ooWe have particular pathologies as a people. Nearly every new issue is polemicized with us, as if it is some sort of Black Muslim ritual. We follow the same pattern. Take an issue, argue about it, create further splintering, no resolve to the issue, the issue fades away, another dimension of splintering remains, while we await the next argument. And with us, every issue is worth fighting amongst ourselves about, and it goes on over and over again like clockwork. After a half a century of this incessant type of circular insanity, we have to conclude that perpetually arguing about our religion does not, and cannot ever make sense.

One 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 polygamy, and who can marry who, 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, an who is best at arguing. 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 the money we drop in the zakat box, 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 Black-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 and author of the recent book “Killing Marriage in Black Muslim America“. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

Audio Khutba: Call Yourselves into Account Before You Are Called into Account, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

scales and gavelIt is an expectation from Allah that the Muslim Ummah police itself and call itself into account, and that we as a ummah, stand up for what is right. It is also expected that we as individuals stand up for what we believe, and put it into practice to the best our ability. It is unacceptable that during these times, Muslims abandon its role as an ummah that stands up for righteousness, even it’s against our own-selves. This is the topic of this khutbatul Jum’ah recorded at Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento Ca. Click on the link below to take a listen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

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

He can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.


[1] Quran: 16:78.

[2]

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

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

[5] Related  by Muslim

[6] Quran 103:2-3

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

[9] Related by Bukhaari

[10] Related by Bukhaari.

Defining the American Muslim Identity

 By Imam Luqman Ahmad

Identities by definition, are personal to the individual. Webster dictionary defines identity as; [the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others].  People can identify with the same thing, the same value, the same profession or even the same religion but no two identities can be exactly the same. This is just one reason why there should never, ever be a such a thing as a single Muslim American identity. Different, so-called Muslim identities, as far as groups, sects, mathaahib and the like? Okay, but a one-size fits all version of Muslim identity, representing Muslim fear, Muslim patriotism, Muslim needs as citizens? No. and it should be never be something that we are searching for like a lost treasure or a holy grail.

If a person’s occupation is a policeman, he can’t turn around and identify himself as a fireman, (unless, he is both of course). The impossibility  in taking all the revolving parts of Muslim American reality; Muslim, American, citizen, non-citizen, immigrant, 2nd generation immigrant, convert, green card holder, no green card yet, indigenous, descendants of slaves, descendants of slave owners, descendants of abolitionists, conservative, liberal, holy, unholy, and everything else in between , and come up with a singular Muslim identity for public consumption.

Constitutionally if you are a citizen, you are an American. After that, there are so many possible variables, it could make your head spin. We live in a country of labels. Millennial, baby boomer, generation X.  we as Americans are a free people (at least for the time being), as human beings; we are slaves (abeed) of Allah. Whether it is individually, or collectively as a group, we are all servants of Allah, each with our own different levels of moral fortitude, or bankruptcy, debauchery or virtue, intelligence, and stupidity, patriotism or indiffernce, erudition or capriciousness. This all depends upon our varying levels of belief, understanding and practice of Islam and who we are as individual human beings. Nevertheless, we are, and will always be, slaves of Allah, and it is He, and His Prophet (SAWS) who can defines most justly, at least in a religious sense, just who, or what, is a Muslim American.  American Muslims can be, and most are;  good citizens, hard working, law abiding, and industrious. However, we woiuld be less than fothcoming if we didn’t  acknowledge that amongst us as well, are the law breakers, the unscrupulous, and the dishonest. American Muslims are not clones; we are human beings like everyone  else. Individual charachter traits, tendancies, and proclivites towards virtue, or corruption, is a matter of personal disposition, circumstance, commitment to our faith, and tawfiq (divine enablement). It is hardly a matter of singular national identity. If you are, Muslim, Islam is your identiy.

As Muslims, American we should define ourselves first and foremost, in moral, or religious terms. It is nonsensical for American Muslims to attempt to formulate a singular domestic identity for all American Muslims while
taking Allah out of the equation. Such would be a self-imposed paradox. Not convinced? Okay, let’s do the math. The operative word here is Muslim. There would be no Muslim, without Islam, and there would be no Islam, without Muhammad (SAWS) the Prophet, who taught it, called to it, preached it, and practiced it. It goes without saying that there would be no Prophet without Allah  be He Exalted and Glorified, who created him, purified his noble lineage, made him the seal of the Prophets, and then, out of His divine Mercy, cleared a path through the heavens, blocking all demons from the path, and sent down to him, the Holy Quran, by personal delivery by the Angel Jib ‘reel Gabriel.

Our religion comes from the highest available source; Allah Himself, and has been preserved through an extremely rigorous process of textual and narrative authentication.  So it seems incredulous that we as American Muslims would embark upon the fateful and futile attempt to re-define an American Muslim domestic identity, and leave Allah out of the equation, as if He doesn’t have a say about what is, or is not the identity of a Muslim?   What is a better identity than Muslim, and all that it entails?

Islam does not belong to the Muslims; as Muslims we practice it, but it is Allah who owns it, be he praised, and elevated be His name!  Islam is a path; it is the path of Allah. He defines it, He guides to it, He commands adherence to it, He puts whom He pleases upon it, and he denies who He pleases from it. Despite all that I have mentioned, in recent years, Muslim apologists have managed to execute a fairly successful, lexical end run around the word Islam so that many Muslims now emphatically regard the meaning of the word Islam; to mean peace. The classical, canonical meaning
of Islam, according to Muslim theologians, legists, and traditionalists, for the last fourteen hundred years, has been submission; submission to Allah. Being submitters to Allah (Muslims) is a much loftier civilizational plateau for
human beings to aspire to than just being peaceful. A rock resting on the sided of a grassy hill in the countryside is peaceful. Submission to the One and Only God, is something much higher, much greater.

Those of us who were adults and practicing Muslims before 9/11 can still remember the days when the inferred meaning of Islam according to Muslim Americans was submission. However, it is clear at this juncture that one
of the first casualties of attempting to redefine the meaning of Islam to make it more palatable for public consumption, is that a whole generation of Muslims are growing up to believe that Islam simply means peace. Hence, as long as you
are peaceful, don’t bother anyone, and obey the law, you are a good Muslim.

Human beings will never ever be free from Allah. Everything that exists in the heavens and on earth is under the domain of the All-Powerful,  All-Knowing, and Glorious Lord, Allah be He Exalted and Glorified. Muslims, just like non-Muslim have been granted the freedom to obey, or disobey Allah, to believe or disbelieve in Him, to worship Him or mock Him, although He is far above any deficiency or blemish. That is only because of the divine mercy of our Lord subhaanahu wa ta’ala, which extends over everything. This freedom, free will, is not something that human beings wrestled away from Allah by force, or by social media inspired revolt; this is something that was granted
to us by Allah, as a test.

Although the desire, that many Muslims have, to come up with a uniform identity that can non-Muslim Americans can find acceptable, is understandable, it is nevertheless untenable and unobtainable without compromising the self respect of Muslims, or without compromising Islam itself, so that it becomes something other than Islam. There is no way this get around this. This is why after 10 years of rigorous campaigning, complaining, protesting, reaching out, and overextending ourselves, we have not been able to satisfy all of the four-hundred plus, non-Muslim Americans that we are as American as apple pie.

The reality is that as long as you are a Muslim, regardless whether you practice Islam diligently or not, and despite spending millions of
dollars in outreach and public relations, there will be some people who will
not like you, who will feel uncomfortable living near you, and will not understand you
as Muslims, or believe as we believe. “Yet no faith will the greater
part of mankind have, however ardently thou dost desire it. “ 12:103.

There are some who do not want to understand Muslims, or Islam,
and I’m okay with that. There are even some who understand Islam very well, but
choose not to like it, nor want it for themselves, or maybe even hate it, and I’m
okay with that too, and let us not forget, that there are some whom Allah has sealed
their heart, and their hearing, put a covering upon their eyes, and they will
never believe; “Allah; has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and over their eyes is a veil; and awesome suffering awaits them.”  We as Muslim Americans need to understand
these things, because it is the truth, and we are living in ominous times. This
is not the time to dolly up Islam with costumes, and make-up, so it looks
better, and feels more modern.  . Time is too precious to spend too much time, money, and worry trying to change things which our Lord has already decreed. Outreach for da’wah and understanding is an acceptable act in Islam, as well as efforts to mitigate the harm and potential harm that may befall innocent Muslims, or non-Muslim Americans, because of bigotry or ignorance. It still remains that the only legitimate, identity that
all Muslim Americans can share, is Muslim; Plain and simple.

If you want to be an American, fine; most of us are American.
If you want to be a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, then fine. If you
want to be a basketball player, civil engineer, university professor, or bee
keeper, that’s all well and good in sha Allah as long as we keep within the boundaries
of what is permissible according to our faith. However, when we bring Islam into
any of our endeavors, then we have to adhere to a higher identity standard; we
then have to bring the tenants of the religion, and our scripture into the
picture.  Allah has to come first. If a Muslim Physician excels in his profession, al-humdu lillah, it shows that he’s a good doctor, not necessarily that he is a good Muslim. If a Muslim businessman is convicted of fraud, that not a defeat for Islam; it’s a personal
shortcoming and it shows the true picture that some Muslims adhere to our moral
teachings more than others.  We can’t point to a successful Muslim liquor store owner who makes millions selling alcohol, drug paraphernalia, blunts and pornography as an example of a successful Muslim American, or an example of the success of Islam in America. This life  short, and soon enough, every sane, adult human being who has ever walked, , crawled, ran, stumbled, or been wheel chaired or carried on the face of this earth, will have the opportunity to make their case, or have it made for them, before Allah the Merciful and Magnificent.

In the final analysis, we as Muslim Americans do not have the right to determine for ourselves, or for anyone else, a Muslim identity. Such has already been defined by the One Who created us.  We do have the opportunity in a free society to be the best Muslims we can be, and to set an example of devotion to our Lord, faith in action, brotherhood, co-operation across racial, ethnic , and socio-economic lines, as well as many other virtues that exemplify the moral high ground of Islam.

Our God given Islamic identity and list of virtual t seek out, moral challenges to overcome, and service to engage in, is a pretty good identity to aspire to, cannot be replaced by a better one. Ultimately, we all shall be judged according to our own individual scales.

Almighty God, Allah, that He is the King, and Sovereign, and that they are not subject
His whim, will answer to His justice on an appointed day. If such are punished,
or if they are pardoned, I’m okay with that. (Except if I was the one being punished,
and may Allah save us all from His punishment).

It was said in the words of our beloved Prophet Jesus the son of Mary; “If you punish them, then, surely they are your servants; and if you forgive them, then verily Thou art Forgiving and Merciful.” [5:118]. Muslim Americans should not go around pointing fingers and trying to define who is saved and who is not.  However, we should never forget the identity that was given to us by our Lord when He made us Muslims. That’s all
the identity we need.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

Imam Luqman Ahmad is the former Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, and currently Imam and Executive Director of the newly formed Islamic Center of Del Paso Heights, he is a writer, public speaker, consultant, and President and CEO of Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think Tank. He is also the author of the book: “The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect” a book about Muslim radicalization and theological extremism in Islam, available on Amazon.com Contact him at imamluqman@icdph.org. Read his blog @ imamluqman.wordpress.com.

 

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