Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump presidency: thoughts on the immediate and distant future

We begin this composition with a confession, and that is-simply put- that we never imagined that the Trump campaign was little more than a bad joke that had no chance of success due to the numerous accusations, outright racism and clear personality problems that are displayed in his recorded statements and behavior.

The success of the Trump campaign has essentially blindsided all of us, it has negated all the predictions of the pundits and it feels like we are now living in a parallel universe that Science Fiction programs such as Star Trek and Fringe have displayed, a world that is very similar to the world we know and are accustomed to, yet filled with glaring examples of differences, enough to make one panic and desire a quick escape.

Why is Donald Trump so troubling?

His entire platform has been one insult after another. However, our focus is not simply on this. His campaign has been one which tells the voters what they want to hear, however upon close examination there is actually no substance at all behind his rhetoric.

Whether it is call for  building a wall between Mexico and the Southern United States [which he asserts that he will make Mexico pay for], threatening Muslims, insulting African Americans, or an unclear plan to strengthen the US economy, any of these things, which are well documented, should be sufficient enough to find his election to this nation's highest office to be a frightening turn of events.

The following link has a good summary of why this is a terrible development.

If he's so bad, then why was he elected to the highest office?

The answer to this is even more troubling. Despite Trump's many issues in terms of not having any substantive plans and his crass statements regarding women, the handicapped, immigrants, minorities and the like, he has been successful. Those things did not work against him, rather, they worked for him.

I recall an interview I heard on NPR, the one being interviewed was a Gay Latino from New York. He thought of Donald Trump as a personal success story, narrating about the latter's homes, wealth and all the trappings of success he already displayed.

A succinct article in The Guardian [ Anti-Intellectualism taking over the US] explains this very well. This is increasingly becoming a culture that places no value on education [except of course in the practical fields such as Engineering].

Education is more than a piece of paper or the ability to count numbers and decipher symbols . Education is meant to instill respect for certain values and to nurture- at the least- a foundation for understanding the world around the student.

Yet, despite the presence of universities and the Internet, ignorance of even basic facts still is the prevalent situation. An economics professor doing work while taking a flight was pulled off a plane and interrogated by authorities. Apparently, he was mistaken for an Arab and his work notebook's contents "strange writings" was simply math equations. [].

This utter ignorance and dismay for personal and communal growth breeds irrational fear and unsubstantiated beliefs, particularly for the "other". African Americans have long been the victims of this thread of thinking, and are thus generally more understanding of this side of America!

The other unspoken reason that Mr. Trump has now become our president is that the demographics  are rapidly changing from the White Anglo Saxon Protestant equation. There is a great deal of growth of Non-White communities, and this of course translates into political and economic changes, not to even mention the social impact.

Indeed, the demographer William H.Frey in his book Diversity Explosion predicts that after 2040, whites will no longer be the majority population in this country. This is a future that is not pleasant to think about for many Americans.

We have ignored Mrs. Hillary Rodham-Clinton up to this point. Many analysts have explained her failure to win the Oval office due to the E-mail scandal or a frustration with the system in general. It is the view of this writer that those issues are only a minor part of it. In other words, it would not have even mattered if Jesus Christ himself was the candidate of the Democratic party, the chance to stem the social changes and to express deeply-held sentiments was simply too much to pass up.

What should Muslim do?

Since the issue of Muslims' religion and presence in this country was a campaign issue for President-elect Trump, it seems prudent to direct this to Muslims, however, this is equally valid for all Americans who feel that we have now entered seriously dangerous political territory and fear for the future of this nation!

Our response to this should include, but not be limited to:

[1] Coalition building: This means more than an occasional dinner. Muslims-particularly the leadership, have to become better involved in their local communities and become stewards of universal justice, which is itself a Quranic command [Q 4: 135]. This means that -for example- when a person is unjustly killed by law enforcement, Muslims have to be there standing for what is right. This means greater civil involvement.

[2] Become deeply involved in other parties: Currently this nation is dominated by a two party system. While other parties do exist, they have little to no influence at all. We have to join the voices of those seeking real change, and not simply hope our few dollars to entrenched politicians will produce results on our limited interests. Our interests must be bigger than Palestine, Hijaab and holidays.

As a whole, disaffected Americans can take a lesson from other nations such as India [the most populous Democratic nation as it likes to call itself]. It has about eight big active parties such as AITC and INC, but arguable hundreds of smaller ones.

We don't have to limit ourselves to this two party system. We have to think bigger and in longer terms.

[3] For Muslims, to do more to  have  our voices heard. Write to the local newspaper when stories are published. Become educated enough to answer questions on Islam. Share the Qur'an or Islamic materials with people, refer them to the mosque or to accurate websites.

[4] Americans, both Muslim and Non Muslim alike, should be encouraged to travel, in order to broaden their horizons and perspectives. This is also a Quranic teaching [ Q 29:20 is just one example]. Keep a valid passport at all times.

I hope this brief article generates much discussion and deep thinking. After all, this is the time to be rational and calm. Actions born out of frustrations and anger almost never produce a positive outcome.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Standing upon Correct Deen

[ Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah 11/4/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

"So stand your entire being to correct Deen, the holistic nature that God has placed in humanity. [Let there be] No altering of Divine creation, that is the standard Deen , but most people don't know." [Q 30:30]فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

All the words in this short ayah deserve examination, such as the command "Aqim" ["Stand"] and the term Wajhak [literally 'your face', bur explained here as 'your entire being'], however, a brief explanation before reaching our core subject is -simply- to stand for the correct deen with your entire being. This is firstly directed towards Muhammad The Prophet   صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم       .

This verse tells us the characteristics of correct deen "The holistic nature that God has placed in humanity." Muhammad- upon whom be peace and blessings- is being directed towards that which is realistic, holistic, healthy pattern of thinking and acting. This is called Fitrah.

Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم is being directed towards this by Allah ['Azza wa Jall] because the society around him was in a state of darkness. That era is called the days of ignorance or the age of ignorance [Ayyam ul Jaahiliyyah or 'Asr al Jaahiliyyah] for a reason. That era's title is not an exaggeration. We are not simply making reference to the worship of false gods. Rather, Arabia before Islam influenced them had little value to female children. They practiced female infanticide. The social order was so steeped in tribal thinking that a stray camel entering the domain  of another group led to decades of warfare.

In a sense, all of God's prophets and messengers faced these sorts of things within their environment. So Allah summons Prophet Muhammad, who actually personifies a universal summons [because he is the only universal messenger] to abandon that baggage which holds him back, and which holds his society [and humanity in general] back!

No altering of Divine Creation

Allah has allowed differences to exist as a means to keep life interesting and vibrant, yet he has placed limitations on how far those differences can go. A Black Man and a White Woman can produce beautiful children together, however a man cannot mate with a microphone!

All rational people can see the benefit of caring for the poor and underprivileged and all rational people can view murder, theft and its like as wrong. This is what the Qur'an calls Standard Deen [deen ul Qayyim]. This is also deen ul fitrah. A framework for a healthy, vibrant and sound mind, body, soul and society.

Islam or submission to God is to penetrate all areas of existence. This is not to occur by force, contrary to the views of many pundits, because force is contrary to all the previously mentioned positive states!

Muslim responsibility

We have to ask ourselves if we are upon the standard, correct deen. We have to ask ourselves if we can better or how can we better align to the Qur'an and Sunnah.

We pray to be of those who better respond to the call of Allah and his messenger, as this is a call that gives meaning and purpose to life [Q 8:24].

But most people don't know

The verse reads "...That is standard Deen, but most people don't know." [Q 30:30]. In the same Soorah, we read:

Allah's promise, Allah does not fail in his promise, but most people don't know. They know the outer shell of life [Dhaahiran min al hayaat ad dunya], and about 'Al-Akhirah', they are heedless." [Q 30:6-7].وَعْدَ اللَّهِ لَا يُخْلِفُ اللَّهُ وَعْدَهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
 يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِرًا مِّنَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ الْآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

Having access to Allah's Qur'an and access to the knowledge of how the Prophet's message transformed the hearts and minds of his society should be sufficient as a basis to ourselves become transformed, to become better, to discard the thinking and mentality of the days of ignorance!

We recently shared what distinguished Muhammad the genuine Prophet from Musaylima the false claimant by looking at the letters exchanged between the two [ see] .

Musaylima appealed, as we learn from the letters, only to the strands of ignorance, jealousy and desire, whereas Muhammad -Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam- appealed only to Allah.

Prophet Muhammad calls us to Allah, to Deenul Fitrah, so we pray to be on that path, following light rather than groping around in darkness.