Sunday, April 10, 2016

Problems and solutions: finding a completed knowledge

[Note: the following is the Friday Khutbah 4/8/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted, much of the original Arabic texts,  and the two sections of the Khutbah have been formatted into one article.]

Acting upon a bit of knowledge

Islam is the fastest growing religion worldwide. Alhamdulillaah, people are accepting it daily, after a process of investigation, on their own free will. Even with that, however, we still face some problems.

One of the issues we face is something that is also faced by Non Muslims with regards to the deen, and it occurs both inside and outside of religion. Essentially, this problem is acting upon only a little bit of knowledge. A person reads an ayah [of the Qur'an] or a hadeeth of the Prophet, or hears about an ayah or hadeeth, and forms a belief or an act based solely upon that. We will look at two examples, one minor and one major, to illustrate this point.

"None touch it except the purified" [Q 56:79]

People hear this verse and say that the Mus-haf [the physical Quranic text] cannot even be touched if that person does not have Wudoo' or is not clean. Thus, a culture has developed wherein there is a reluctance, even today, in giving a Qur'an to a curious Non Muslim.

Before sharing the context, I must share that personally, before reading the Qur'an, I do make Wudoo'! This is also the agreement [Jamhoor] among the madhaahib of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah that Wudoo should be done before reading it, but the scholars do not offer textual support for this. Rather, we do it as a form of respect. With that, let's look at the context:

Indeed, it is a noble recitation, in a guarded record, None touch it except the purified, a revelation from the Caretaker of the Universe, is this a narrative [Hadeeth] that you ridicule, and that you make your money by lying about it." { Q 56:77-82]                            
The context clearly shows us the meaning, i.e.  spiritually dead, folks with sealed hearts, they cannot benefit or receive guidance from this revelation. This is given repeatedly throughout the Qur'an.

The major example is one that gets media attention as well as attention from Muslims. "Fighting is ordered upon you", says the Qur'an. Or "Kill them where you find them" [Q 2:191] . This is a harsh verse, yet when we read the context, we find "and fight in the cause of God those who fight you, and do not transgress the limits [set by God]" { Q 2:191]. Everywhere in the Qur'an where Qitaal is mentioned, we will also find the conditions and context. So Islam is neither a passive faith, nor a religion of aggression and violence.

So we can see what happens when we have the entire picture, the problems and misunderstandings are removed. Knowing the greater picture allows us to make correct judgements. This is not only important for the deen, but it is important for our dunya. Families are broken up, relationships destroyed,   due to misunderstandings, to having access to only half the information. Jumping to conclusions, making hasty decisions, can lead to devastating consequences. We pray to Allah to be people who act upon knowledge, we seek refuge from being hasty, losing control, and making bad choices.

Second lesson

We have to be careful, particularly in public, with our speech. While it is true that we live in a world where opinions are valued, the truth of the matter is that not all opinions are equal.  There is great wisdom in the Qur'anic statement "So ask the people of knowledge, if you don't know" [Q 16:43, among other places].

It is said that Imam Ash-Shafi'ee [ d.820 CE] was once asked by an atheist [Mulhid] if the Qur'an  tells us how to bake bread. The Imam asked for time, and later upon being asked by the questioner, gave the procedure by which bread is made. When asked where this is, the Imam cited this verse. Why? Because he asked a baker, someone whose job is to make bread, and received the answer!

So having a computer and a Facebook account does not qualify a person to speak authoritatively  on the deen, politics, history etc. We must be intelligent enough to see our strengths and weaknesses.

I once took a Non Muslim to an Islamic lecture, and the lecturer spent the next hour making inaccurate and rather ignorant statements on the Bible and Christianity. Obviously, that does not make a good impression. So don't speak on Islam, or Christianity for that matter, if you don't know the subject well enough. We must avoid the traps of self-delusions and have some humility.  Similarly, simply reading does not make you a doctor, a person whose opinion would be more useful than the doctor. Allow those who are trained for the job to do their job, don't seek to undermine them, as you only succeed in harming your own self. Have enough self-respect to know your limits. If you want to go beyond, work hard to reach that, but until then have enough self-respect and respect for those who have the qualifications for their roles.

Let us take lesson from the Prophet's Du'aa. After all, his supplications are not only invoking God, they are instructive for us.

"O Allah, show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it, and show us Baatil  as Baatil, and give us the ability to abstain therefrom."                                                              

Monday, April 4, 2016

Is there such a thing as Islamic deception: a brief examination of the idea and practice of Taqiyyah


A number of organizations and personalities have emerged in the last two decades or so in North America, seeking to safeguard Muslim rights and to portray in the media and wider public a positive image of Islam.These figures and organizations, admittedly self-appointed in some cases, have a variety of interests, contrasting visions and ideologies, but what they all have in common is that they receive a push-back, a response or a series of responses, and among those are that these [Muslims] are simply lying![Ft.1]

Knowing that Islam [as does all religions] look down upon lying, these foes will assert that the Muslim organizations/personalities are engaging in a sort of "Holy Hypocrisy", deceiving their audiences into thinking Islam/Muslims are not a threat, and it is they who assert that Muslims are doing Taqiyyah.

Thus, one finds on the Internet statements such as this .

What is Taqiyyah

Taqiyyah  [ تقیة] comes from the root Waqaya, to save, guard or protect. Muslims will recognize that from this root we get the word Taqwaaa, which refers to one's awareness and regards to God and Godly matters.

The phrase Taqiyyah is not present in the Qur'an, and the term itself is largely unknown to the average Muslim anywhere in the world.

The concept is associated with only four verses in the entire Qur'an [Q 40:28, 28:40, 3:28 and 16:106]. A cursory look at these texts is sufficient to show that a logical response is given to a rather deadly situation. A person can-if he or she is in fear of death at the hands of belligerent foes, verbally recant the religion.

"Those who reject God [verbally] after having [accepted ] his faith, except those who are compelled {Ft.#2}[against their will], while his heart is [truly] contented with faith..." [Q 16:106] 

The Deen is not a toy, it is not to be treated flippantly. Those who treat God's guidance in such a manner open themselves up to a Divine response. This, the verse ends:

"....However, whosoever opens their chest to rejection [BilKufri], on them is anger from God, for them is a great penalty." [Q 16:106]

The Commentators are in general agreement that this verse's immediate reference is to 'Ammar ibn Yaasir, an early convert to Islam. He and his parents were captured and tortured, asked repeatedly to renounce Islam and it's Prophet. They refused, and they were murdered, in front of the eyes of 'Ammar. In order to save his life, he did verbally renounce Islam{Ft.#3}. He was freed, and afterwards came to the Prophet Muhammad himself [upon whom be peace and blessings]. 'Ammar was obviously disturbed by all this, and the Prophet reassured him, as does the revelation of this Quranic text!

This should be sufficient to show that Taqiyyah has no relation to lying for political gain in any way, shape, fashion or form. 

Has Taqiyyah been practiced by Muslims after the Prophet's time?

The Muslim civilization, like any other, has had its periods of upheavals and  strife, competing interests and internal struggles. This writer has no doubt that these things happened with both average people and elites alike. It can easily be argued that regardless of religion, peoples in the middle ages would have to- in order to save their lives- do things like that. 

In terms of something religiously mandated, it is said that Ja'far As Saadiq,[702-765]  the sixth Shi'ah Imam, after whom the Twelver sect is officially named  [Ja'fariyyah], made it an important aspect of religious practice. He was a threat to the Abbasid monopoly on power, they were persecuting him and his followers. In order to safeguard themselves, they would have to conceal their faith. Practically, this meant, for example,  praying as Sunnis in Sunni fashion [as opposed to the distinctive Shi'ah format]. This practice of resorting to Taqiyyah is found in all the Shiite sects. 

Due to its acceptance in the Shi'ah world, an unfortunate side affect has been that they have given Sunni polemicists a stick to beat them with. Thus, Shiites' insistence that they believe in the same Qur'an as Sunnis do, and that they don't attribute divinity to 'Ali is simply dismissed as Taqiyyah. Indeed, in the political realm the Iranians are thought  of as  engaging in Taqiyyah when they say that they are not after nuclear weapons and that they don't desire to capture Makkah and Madinah from the control of Saudi Arabian authorities. 

Taqiyyah today

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003  led to civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites. Both formed what would be termed "death squads", searching out members of the opposite sect. Consequently, Sunnis in Shiah areas, often victims of executions and kidnap for ransom schemes, would change their names when they had an obvious Sunni name ['Umar or Abu Bakr, for example] and try to learn all the names of the Shiah Imams and the Shi'ah prayer format in case of capture. Shiites did the same thing, and undoubtedly do the same today in areas under ISIS control in both Iraq and Syria. 

In Pakistan yearly sectarian-inspired killing sprees have led both Ja'fari and Isma'ili Shiites to occasionally resort to Taqiyyah

Do Muslims deceive people about their religious teachings?

The idea that Muslim activists hide the truth about their religion [and, implicitly, their own intentions] is laughable when we consider that we live in an age of information and technology, where information on Islam [or any religion for that matter] is readily available at our fingertips.

Moreover, Taqiyyah is,  as we have seen, largely a Shiite practice done in order to avoid persecution at the hands of Sunni Muslims. North American Muslim activists are mostly Sunni, many of whom have no formal religious training or backround, and have themselves never even heard of Taqiyyah. How can they be engaging in something they have never heard of?


The charge of Taqiyyah, leveled by politicians and media pundits alike, is simply a pathetic response to a Muslim or Islamic organization doing their jobs well. It is also a dangerous call, designed to generate mistrust, xenophobia and political violence. 

Quranic teachings regarding lying and cheating

"Condemned are those who engage in fraud, those who, when they receive full measure, expect to get it, yet when they have to give [correct] measure, give less [i.e. cheating their customers].." { Q 83:1-3]

"O believers, be those standing, consistently, for God as witnesses for what is right. Do not allow the hatred of others make you act in a criminal fashion. BE JUST, as that is the closest to [expressing] Taqwaaa. Have Taqwaaa of Allah, indeed, Allah is aware of your actions." { Q 5:8}

"O believers, be those standing, consistently for justice, as witnesses for God, even if against your own selves, parents or close family. If they are wealthy or poor, God is nearest to them both. So do not follow inclinations, lest you deviate. If you do distort or turn away [from what is right], then [know that] Indeed, God is aware of your actions." [Q 4:135]


[1] One example is in Dr Zuhdi Jasser, a self described secular Muslim. He heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy [AIFD]. Despite his right-wing political leanings and odd religious views and the fact that he is widely dismissed by the North American Muslim community as an opportunist looking for fame and fortune, he too, because of his Muslim backround [a Syrian American] is attacked as a sort of Trojan Horse soldier, engaging in Taqiyyah, by his detractors. 

[2] Ukriha is a passive verb. The structure clearly indicates that a person compelled, for fear of losing life, is allowed to verbally renounce Islam or proclaim words of Kufr. We have translated Ukriha here as "compelled".

[3] Imam Muhammad Ash-Shawkanee [ 1759-1839], author of the famous Quranic exegesis Fath ul Qadeer, explains this as "renouncing both in speech and action...such as prostrating to other than God." [ Shawkanee, Imam. Fat-h Al Qadeer, Kuwait, wazarat al awqaaf, Kuwait, 1988 edition, page 370]