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.


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]


[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