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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Qur'anic Arabic sessions and lectures: May 16, 17 Saginaw, Michigan

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Naseehah: advice to Tablighi Jama'at and other activists seeking to spread Islam and strengthen the spiritual life of Muslims

Religion is sincere advice [or sincerity, Naseehah in Arabic], [for the cause of] Allah, to the messenger, to the leaders of the Muslims and to the general public. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, 2:42]

 It is in the spirit of the above hadeeth that these words are composed. They are in no way meant to be hateful or condemnation. After all, we have another well-known hadeeth [ mentioned in A-Bukhari's Al Adab al Mufrad and in a slightly different wording in  Tirmidhee's collection] that says that a believer is a mirror [mir-aat] for his brother.  There is wisdom in that particular hadeeth, as we look in the mirror and see if the hair needs to be combed, we can dress ourselves and groom ourselves so we can go out into the world with some dignity, confidence and honor. 

This article is mainly directed towards Tablighi Jama'at, a movement that, although founded in India in 1926 as a means to strengthen the Muslims in an area wherein they had been basically following Hindu customs, it's reach has spread throughout the world. This movement's main activities are traveling from place to place, meeting Muslims and advising them to attend five daily prayers in the Mosque.


Practical advise

Understand that the methodology of calling towards Allah is not limited to reciting to an audience the texts of the Qur'an and Hadeeth. This was understood by the Prophet's wife Umm al Mu'mineen 'Aishaa when she observed that "his character was the Qur'an" [ Saheeh Muslim], meaning that Rasulullaah, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was the embodiment of courtesy, respect and all the good that is given within Allah's book! In any case, here are some practical words of advise.

[1] Understand your surroundings: This is especially important in Non-Muslim countries. The needs, culture[s], history and issues of the local community are not always the same as given in Muslim societies. A good example of this is the mosque itself. In most Muslim nations, Mosques and prayer halls are almost always accessible. People can enter them anytime, even outside times for daily Salaah, for personal prayer and reflection, study, shelter. However, that is not the case in Western mosques. While the mosques may be open for daily prayer, security as well as practical concerns prevent the mosques from being accessible at all moments. Moreover, while the Masjid in muslim nations serve mainly as a place for prayer[ ft.1], in the West the Mosque serves as a community center, place for weddings and marriage counseling, as a place that even has political function. In other words, we have to be realistic in light of our needs and surroundings. Half-hazard and 'spur of the moment' acts such as going to Mosques in distant cities without even so much as seeking permission from those in charge of the said Mosque, expecting to spend the night for a week or a month, and be provided food and cleaning facilities   actually does more harm than good. The Qur'an itself speaks of being prepared, of the importance of planning[ft.2]. Organized and well-thought out, practical plans are far superior to random actions.

[2] Be considerate of your hosts: This means more than simply putting money in a donation box. If staying in a mosque and using its facilities, clean up after one's self. Don't impose yourselves on people. This lesson is admittedly a hard one, it was even hard for Prophet Muhammad himself, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, to teach his followers. It was Quranic revelation itself that had to address these things. " O believers, do not enter the Prophet's houses until permission has been given to you for the meal, and [even then not so early] as to have to wait for its preparation. When you are granted permission, enter, and after the meal, disperse, and don't push for leisurely talk . Verily, that type of behavior on your part is hurtful to the Prophet, he is ashamed to dismiss you, yet Allah is not ashamed of Haqq.."[ft.3]  [Q 33:53]. Have enough respect to do simple things, while in a mosque for a few days, like buying soap and toiletries. As highlighted earlier, random acts are not as worth-while as planning. We live in an age of email, webpages, text messages and easy communication. Call ahead, and see if it's okay to pay a visit.


[3] Be ever prepared in terms of dealing with Non Muslims: The logic of Tablighi Jama'ah is, in a sense, that the Muslims have to be reached before Non Muslims. Thus, people on Khurooj seek out Muslims, usually the same few Muslims every time, Muslims who already have a religious consciousness and connection to the local Masjid. This is a waste of time and resources for all concerned, passing up entire cities of people with the wrong idea about the Islamic message just to preach to those who are already in the choir!  Our recommendation is to, at least, be prepared to have a good discussion with Non Muslims. There are numerous stores that sell Qur'ans for small amounts of money. Booklets, small pamphlets and CDs that represent authentically the Islamic message- in English- can easily be stored in the car or in a suitcase. 


Getting our priorities straight

There are a great many issues in today's world, issues that can be addressed by the Qur'an and Prophetic model. Allah is not only the Rabb of the Masjid, he is the Sustainer and provider for the entire Universe. Islam is for inside the mosque as well as outside, it speaks to realities.So let us get our priorities straight. 

Wa Billaahit Tawfeeq.

Footnotes

[1] The word for mosque in Arabic is Masjid, literally, a place for prostration [Sujood]. In Arabic grammatical language, it's Ism al Makaan.

[2] An obvious example of not acting in random way and being prepared, planning out well, is in the Qur'an 8:60. Going into war with no preparation leads to disaster. This logic is applicable to all things, especially things relating to Islamic work.

[3] Haqq has various meaning, including that of justice and what is right. In this ayah, the implication is that the Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings, has a right to not be burdened, he has a right to relax in his home, but he's shy to express this. I think all humans can relate to this in one sense or another. There is a bit of social etiquette given in this ayah. Also of interest in this regards is the whole of Soorah Al Hujuraat [ Soorah 49].

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Keeping it real: leadership, culture, and race in American Islam

The term American Islam is a deliberate, provocative phrase. I have used it to garner attention to this article, while at the same time seeking to show that Muslims in the United States have issues that are unique, that cannot and should not be ignored, but they should be the subject of analysis, dialogue and research.Insha-Allah, this brief post will generate discussion on these important topics.


The importance of attaining guidance from those who truly understand our situation

This principle has been very important in Muslim history. Indeed, we find examples of 'Ulamaa [scholars] who were reluctant to issue opinions on situations facing even a city in which they were not residing. Yet, for many of us in the United States, we follow the religious rulings and opinions on how to live our Islam here from those who have never even paid a visit here, let alone living here, having the experiences we have to experience, knowing and understanding the culture, history, social and spiritual needs we have here. Thus, many Muslims become misguided, entering into unnecessary difficulties, resulting in divided communities, confused understanding of Islamic practices, and sometimes even leading to people leaving Islam all together![Ft.#1]


If we are going to follow the opinions and fatawa of Imams and 'Ulamaa, we should consult those who have experience and understanding of what we are going through. Similarly, it would be a good idea for our Imams, who are almost always sought after for marital guidance, to seek out knowledge/training on counseling and related subjects in psychology,sociology etc..

Developing an Islamic culture in the United States

As minorities and majority populations, Muslims [like any other body of people] have developed habits, attitudes and thinking patterns that are unique to themselves while also, deliberately or otherwise, internalizing or at least being influenced by the dominant society. Islam does not advocate dropping your identity, food and clothes for the items of others. On the contrary, it advocates only that which is best and most useful. A suit and tie is just as "Islamic" as the Jalabiyyah and the Shalwar Kameez. [Ft.#2].

A positive development is that Muslims in this country, second and third generation, the children of both those who migrated here from other lands or whose parents accepted Islam freely, are [by large] dropping the baggage of the previous generation. The previous generation has baggage that is very harmful, everything from class arrogance, elitist feelings, racial and regional prejudices, even bringing old theological disputes to Western soil [Ft.#3]. America itself has experienced many changes, changes for the better, and it is our view that religion as surrounding personalities, xenophobia and jealousies, are disappearing from the American Muslim landscape. Those negative attributes can still be found, even within the leadership of certain communities and Mosques, nonetheless these things seem to be going to the trash can, and what emerges are Muslims who understand the West and strive to be Muslims, not "Muslim" as prefixed or attached to some other label or limited to nationality. The Muslims will, of course, have different attitudes, even within the same nation, but nonetheless the general course will be a healthy one, Insha-Allah.



Conclusion

A beautiful quality of Islam is that of the Qur'an itself. It has application in any time, place, situation or circumstance. Thus, rather than depending too much on the Maulvis back home, or on the personality of a leader dead or alive or on the appeal of racial sentiment, Muslims are looking more and more to the book of Allah. This is precisely what the Muslims in the first generation [in the Prophet's life and afterwards] did. They were able, by and large, to overcome feelings of tribalism and pettiness to become leaders of the world, spreading Islam to such an extent that it was near the Spanish borders and in China in a short time of 80 years after the Prophet's death [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam], creating empires, a renewed interest in the sciences, philosophy and all matter of development.

"It is he who has sent among the Ummiyyeen [ The Arabs]  a messenger [ Muhammad] , relating to them his [Allah's ] signs, purifying them, teaching them the scripture and wisdom. And before that, they had been in a clear state of loss. And to others who have not yet joined them [this messenger and this Qur'an has come to likewise benefit them] .And he is the exalted, the wise. This is Allah's bounty, he gives to whom he wills. And Allah is the possessor of bounty, the magnificent." [Qur'an 62:2-4]










Footnotes

[1] There are many examples of this that we have witnessed personally, these problems usually emerge due to reading literature that has little basis in the Qur'an and Sunnah and more of a foundation in the culture, prejudice or uninformed opinion of the writer. One example that comes to mind is a book produced in another country that attacked a number of Western Muslim leaders and groups. This book is quite popular, yet, the majority of its contents were not even true! Obviously, the information at the disposal of the author was third hand!

[2] Sometimes it is said that the tie is a symbol for the cross, but this writer has been unable to find any real evidence for that. Iran's Imam Khomeini discouraged the wearing of it, as well as  the majority of 'Ulamaa in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. We understand their reasoning behind this stance, as they felt western clothing were  symbols of imperialism and cultural attack. But what are Western Muslims suppose to do? Should we adopt automatically the clothing of Muslim lands? The question becomes moot when one realizes that the Muslim world itself is very diverse, with varying styles of clothing. Islam itself teaches that for men and women, they are to dress modestly. Certain areas of the body are to be covered up in public. Form-fitting and tight clothing, especially for women, are inappropriate. The style of one's clothing all depends on personal and cultural taste.

[3] As an example, in the UK there have actually been physical fights and confrontations in Mosques among second-generation British Muslims between followers of Braelvi ideology and Deobandis. These are disputes that originate in India and Pakistan, and are largely unknown to the wider Muslim world. The point in bringing this up is that we should not repeat the mistakes and the issues of other lands. Sectarianism itself is something we need to avoid rather than resurrect!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Eid ul ad-haa Khutbah video

This is from Oct 15, 2013, Eid ul adhaa speech [Khutbah] at Toledo Masjid.

Eid ul adhaa Khutbah

Monday, January 27, 2014

Actions are judged by intentions:human relationships in light of the hadeeth

The Messenger of Allah was reported to have said "Actions [al'A'maal] are only to be evaluated with regards to the intention[ft.1], and for all there is due but what he intended. So whosoever has made Hijrah for worldly considerations [Dunya], or for marriage with a woman [ft.2], his hijrah is to what he made hijrah for.[Bukhari, Kitaab Bada' al wahy, 1:1]

Introduction

This narration is perhaps the most famous hadeeth in the Muslim world. It is quoted by scholars and lay people alike. Partly, it has become so popular because it is the very first narration quoted in many small hadeeth anthologies, such as An Nawawi's Al Arba'een An Nawawiyyah [forty hadeeth], and of course it is the very first narration found in Saheeh Al Bukhari. For the sake of brevity and focus, we have omitted the chain of transmitters [Isnaad] as well as any discussion on it.

The immediate implications or understanding of this narration are obvious. Due to the lack of freedom of religion, constant persecution and dangers, the followers of the Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings, had to make hijrah, meaning they had to migrate to places where their spiritual development would not be arrested. The first migrants went to Abyssinia, wherein the local authorities treated the Muslims with respect. Eventually, the Prophet himself, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, went to Yathrib, which later on became known as Madinah al Munawwarrah, or Madinat un Nabi, the Prophet's city, or simply Madinah for short. It was in Madinah that the base of Islam was established.

The importance of Ikhlas, sincerely doing something because you want that act to be counted as an act of virtue or a means to attain closeness to Allah, is given here, as well as throughout the Qur'an and many other Prophetic narrations. Indeed, this teaching regarding Ikhlas is apparent in something like Prayer itself. Before prayer, one must have "intention" before reciting the opening Takbeer. "O Allah, it is my intention to offer such and such salaah for your sake" or any similar expression. This can also be done in the heart, rather than verbal. None can know when you offer the ritual of prayer or the ritual of fasting that you are truly doing it for Allah or doing it in order to be seen, to conform to social expectations.

Applying this hadeeth in human interactions

The first lines of the narration "actions are only to be evaluated with regards to intention" certainly have applications in the physical world, in the relationships between family members, spouses and friends. If the intention [Niyyah] is good within a person, then the other person making judgment on it should take that into consideration. Indeed, according to the Messenger of God, this is the only thing[ft.3] that should be used to base the judgements on. This hadeeth does not advocate being naive or a simpleton, but it does advocate what is generally taught in Islam, and that is the concept of positive conjecture, Husnudh dhann [ft.4]. When the intention is known to be good, actions that result from the intention, especially when those actions have actually have not generated any harm, should not be held against the person.

In life, all people make judgements, have egos and make mistakes. Holding things against others, especially when intention was always good, is another sign of an unhealthy spiritual situation. A situation that is best resolved by contemplation, supplication to Allah, consulting the book of Allah and people of wisdom[ft.5].

Footnotes
[1] This is my translation, but in the article title I have retained the usual English rendering. The Arabic words are Innamal 'a'maalu bin niyyat.

[2] In Saheeh Al Bukhari the words Imra-atan yatazawwajuhaa appear, whereas the text used by Imam An Nawawi has the words Imra-atan yankihuhaa. Both phrases have the same meaning, marriage with a woman.

[3] The word Innama, which is the first word in the Arabic text, is a particle of restriction [Hasr] in grammar. Thus, we have rendered it, in context, as " actions are only to be evaluated with regards to the intention". Also see footnote 1 above.

[4] This concept is explained further in http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2013/07/towards-healthy-spiritual-life.html.

[5] Qur'an 4:35 teaches, as an example, that when a marriage problem emerges, parties from both the husband and wife are to work to solve it. This serves many benefits, including preserving the privacy and standing of the couple.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Divine internet connection: Salaah in the life of a Muslim

Prayer is obviously important. Of this, all religions agree. Indeed, the Christian scriptures assert to "pray unceasingly" [ 1 Thessalonians 5:16]. It is a universal institution, and while differences exist between religions as to the format of prayer [and even within the same faith community], all hands are in general agreement as to its value and importance. This article seeks to take a look at prayer from an Islamic perspective.

[1] Salaah is our main connection with Allah

This is easily gleamed from the meaning of the word Salaah itself, which is related to the word silah, meaning tie or connection. It allows us to express our yearnings, our inner-most hopes and aspirations, to the Lord of all . In short, Salaah is an act that is done in order for us to see God beyond an intellectual possibility, to see God as real! It's certainly best to view God as real now, rather than on the day of judgement, because acknowledging that on the day of standing [Yawm ul Qiyaamah] will be pointless. Indeed, in the Qur'an, we are told of Pharoah, who had seen himself as Divine [ Q 79:23], finally he recognized the truth when death approached [ 10:90-91], but it was too late then. In these regards, it's important to recall that the Qur'an says:

Art thou not aware that it is God who makes the night grow longer by shortening the day, and makes the day grow longer by shortening the night, and that He has made the sun and the moon subservient [to His laws], each running its course for a term set [by Him]  and that God is fully aware of all that you do?   Thus it is, because God alone is the Ultimate Truth,  so that all that men invoke instead of Him is sheer falsehood; and because God alone is exalted, truly great![ Q 31:29-30, Muhammad Asad translation]

   [2] Why five daily salaahs?

The most important reason is that the Qur'an, the most authentic source, tells us to offer them [ Q 11:114, 17:78, 50:39, 30:17,among many verses ]. The hadith literature also tells us the Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] himself mentions them. In addition to the textual evidences, the simple fact is that God is "needed" at all times. God does not take a day off! So we wish to be in regular communion with the one who is the best of providers, the Lord of this world and the next, the one who is the most forgiving and merciful. Thus, if we believe in God, it's logical to seek to be regular in our seeking of him! 

 Allah! Nothing deserves worship except He, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal. Slumber does not overtake him, neither does sleep. To Him belongs what is in the Heavens and what is in the Earth. Who possesses abilities of intercession, except by His permission? He knows what is between them, and what is behind them. None grasp of his knowledge, except by his will. His throne encompasses the Heavens and the Earth, He does not tire in protecting them both, and He is the Most High, the Magnificent”[ Q 2:255]

[3] "I'm a sinner, so it would be hypocritical to do my salaah"?

This opinion is very widespread. However, as long as we have life there is a chance to correct or to make up for whatever sin[s] we commit. Moreover, there are many ahadith [sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings] which speak of salaah as a means of expiating or erasing one's sins in the presence of Allah. One hadeeth phrases it in the following manner:

Anas reported that a man came and said to the Prophet "O messenger of Allah! I have done an act that requires punishment [Hadd], so impose the punishment on me!" He [The Prophet] did not ask him regarding it, then came time for salaah [wa hadaratis salaat] , the man prayed with Allah's messenger [Fa-sallaaa Ma'a Rasoolillaah]. After salaah, the man again asked for the sentence to be done to him, to which the Prophet responded " Have you not offered salaah with us?" . The man said he had. The Prophet responded "Consequently, Indeed Allah has forgiven your sin or your [normally required act] that required punishment [Fa Inn-Allaha Qad Ghafara Laka dhanbaka aw Haddaka] [Bukhari and Muslim]
 [4] "I get distracted in Salaah!"
This is another issue, an important one. This is another reason why five salaahs daily are required. If distracted or unhappy with the salaah, that just gives more inspiration to do better in the next salaah.
[5] "I don't know how to do it all in Arabic"

Our advice is to learn the words and the format of salaah from a person, rather than in books. It's actually very easy. Moreover, if you do make mistakes in recitation or movements, be confident that you are trying, and that sincerity is what's recorded in the presence of Allah.

[6] "My work schedule doesn't permit any time for salaah"

A very real concern. In the USA and Western nations in general, there does exist allowances for lunch breaks and the like. Take that as the opportunity to pray.Moreover, if the need is such, one can pray in private, perhaps in an office or even the car, away from staring eyes ! Whatever one does, we suggest never going to bed before having completed your salaahs!

[7] Salaah while traveling

One can shorten and combine [which is usually called in arabic Jam'u baynas salaatayn] salaahs. Meaning, for example, at Dhuhr time, pray two rak'ahs of Dhuhr, and immediately afterwards pray two rak'ahs of 'Asr, even though it's Dhuhr time. You can do this also at 'Asr time. For Maghrib and 'Ishaa, you can offer the three rak'ahs of Maghrib, and right afterwards offer two Rak'ahs of 'Ishaa, even though it's Maghrib time! 

In addition, if conditions warrant, one doesn't have to offer standing, bowing and prostrating, nor face the Qiblah. Rather, one can do the acts by gestures, and face whatever direction necessary. The Qur'an says: "And to Allah belongs the east and the west. so whereever you [might] turn, there is the face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-encompassing and knowing." [Q 2:115 Saheeh international translation]

[8] "Handicap prevents Salaah"

The Qur'an itself recognizes that salaah can be done in any posture when the need exists [Q 4:103]. In a similar fashion, if water is unavailable for Wudoo' [ablution], using clean soil in a symbolic way can serve the same function. [ see Qur'an 5:6]. 

[9] "Difference between Du'a and Salaah"

Du'a and Salaah are usually translated by the English word "prayer". In practical terms, Du'a is an informal plea from the heart. One can use texts from the Qur'an or Hadeeth, but it's really just a plea. "God have mercy on so and so" is a Du'a! Salaah is that act of worship that does include some pleas, but it's main function is to remind us about Allah, to connect us to Allah, and to be an act that encourages us to be regular in our moral actions and to stay away from unethical conduct [ Qur'an 29:45]. So there is a difference between the two. Both should be done in a consistent manner, but the salaah itself serves the higher function.

Conclusion
This article has not explored the Fiqhi details of Salaah, and may have left many unanswered questions. Nonetheless, we hope this brief analysis has encouraged the reader to become stronger in his/her observance of Salaah. The Prophet is reported to have said that on Judgement say, it will be the first thing asked about in the Divine court [Tabaraani]. 

Wa Aakhara Da'waana anil Hamdulillaahi rabbil 'aal ameen.
 

 

 

 

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Some pictures

Salaam, every now and then I receive requests for pictures. So, here are some.

From the top, The Islamic center of Greater Toledo [ISGT], 9/11 program sponsored by UMAT. "Make a way for unity week" presentation at the University of Toledo. "Learning from Jesus: benefitting from the Messiah" program at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. To the left is Imam Ibrahim A Rahim, and the right is Qari Haji Khatis.