In the Name of Almighty God, The Merciful, The Compassionate

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

Salaam Aleikum (Peace be with you)! I hope you may gain some insight from my work here. Remember, I'm not a scholar and don't claim to be. I only claim to be a person who has a passion for both Islam and this great republic in which I live and wish to share my thoughts with others. Remember that anything good you find in this blog is from Allah, and anything wrong or bad is from my own flawed self.

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The Holy Ka'aba

The Holy Ka'aba
The House of God built by Abraham (peace be upon him)

The Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance
take out the 9th line, and it would be haram (forbidden) to say this.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Muslim & Christian Unity

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم
In the name of God, the gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to Almighty God who has rendered us the keepers and protectors of his Earth. All praise be to he that created us into nations and tribes so that we may come to know one another in peace, love, and appreciation. All praise be to he that sent us the prophets whom we take as our examples, among them being Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad, may peace and blessings be on them all. Assalaamu Aleikum, peace be unto you.
As a Muslim who spent most of his life in a Christian environment, the relationship between Muslims and Christians is an issue that is very near and dear to me. It is a relationship that unfortunately today tends to be an uneasy one. This fact is something that sickens my soul, and I long to do whatever I can, in my small role in this big world, to try to mend the fence that divides us, and to indeed make that fence a more transparent one and one with more gates. While there most certainly are definite theological differences that separate Muslims and Christians, most of the fundamental principles of love for humanity, love for peace, and cooperation for the better good are absolutely the same. In this entry I will, God willing, demonstrate through our respective scripture how and why this is possible, and also discuss ideas that I have about how Muslims and Christians today can work together to fight the biggest threats to our world today.
It should be well known to Christians that the message of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, as recorded in the Bible is one of peace, and love for humanity. In Matthew 5:9 it says "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Also in Mathew 22:36-40, Jesus Christ, The messiah, peace be upon him, when asked by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was he replied, " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." This clearly illustrates that one of the primary messages of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible, is the love and worship of Almighty God, and of loving your neighbor, or fellow man, as yourself, and I will challenge any Muslim who would refute that.
Islam, however, is a faith tradition that in the west, is not so commonly associated with these principles, even though they are fundamental to the faith. The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, viewed all human beings as having basic fundamental rights to be treated with peace and love. In one instance a funeral procession for a Jewish man passed by Muhammad (pbuh) and he stood in respect. His companions asked why he did this given that the man was a Jew, and he, the prophet, responded, " Is it not still a human soul?". The prophet also had a Jewish neighbor who hated him. This man hated the prophet so much that he left trash on the prophet's doorstep every day. One day the prophet found no trash, and wondering why there was no trash, he went to his neighbor to investigate. He found that his neighbor was ill and actually on his death bed. The prophet, in his love for this brother in humanity, stayed by his bedside and tended to him until his death. The Qur'an says about human unity, "O humankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know and deal with each other in kindness (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God (is he who is) the most righteous of you, and God is All Knowing, and All Aware." The Qur'an also states, "Oh mankind, your God is one, your father is one. All of you are related to Adam and Adam was made of dust". This verse indicates that all mankind are of the same origin, and therefore equally entitled to basic human liberties. When it comes to the relationship between Muslims and Christians specifically, prophet Muhammad said this in his letter to the monks of the Saint Catherine monastery.
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
This, praise be to Almighty God, is the attitude that I pray all Muslims and Christians can take towards each other. In this day in age we face so many issues that threaten the spiritual integrity of our world. All our hearts ache at the sight of children living in poverty, our hearts ache over seeing women widowed and children orphaned in wars fought over mere points of view, our hearts ache at the sight corrupt leadership than does nothing but divide us over petty differences, our hearts ache over the lack of respect for God in American public life, and we long to see "One Nation Under God" mean something again. I call out to all of my brothers and sisters in Islam, as well those Christians whom all I call my countrymen, friends, family, and allies to recognize in each other, as the two biggest faith traditions in the world, the immense potential that exists to bring about positive change in our communities, our country, and our world. So that the next time we hear a minister, a priest, or a shiekh or imam speak of us as enemies, we can know in heart of hearts, and in the elegant speech of our examples in Jesus Christ and the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them), that enemies we are not, but we are allies in the cause of Allah (God).
... And Allah Knows Best...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Music in Islam

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of almighty God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to he who created the heavens and the earth and created man from the clay, and breathed into him life.

As a Muslim, my moral constitution is the words of Almighty God and that of his prophets. As anyone who knows me knows, music has always been a HUGE part of my life. So, when I became Muslim obviously an issue I wondered about was music in Islam,and to my surprise I found much controversy. Since then I have studied the issue pratically to death. Reading hours after hour, article after article, on the subject from all different perspectives, until I finally felt that I could safely, insha'Allah, make an educated statement on the issue.
Music is and has been a greatly debated issue in Islamic Law almost since the beginning of the field. On this issue I will quote the opinion of one of the great Islamic scholars of our time,Shiekh Yusuf Al Qaradawi. (note...I do not necessarily endorse all the opinions of this scholar or any other, but his is the most comprehensive on this issue that I have found.) I appologize for the lengthiness of it, but for those who are interested I felt that all the information is important. "The whole issue of singing is controversial, whether it is with musical accompaniment or not. Some issues succeeded to gain the Muslim scholars' agreement, while others failed. All scholars have unanimous view on the prohibition of all forms of singing and music that incites debauchery, indecency, or sin. As for musical instruments, given the weakness of the evidence indicating that they are forbidden, the rule to be applied here is the one states that all things are originally deemed permissible as long as there is no Shari..ah text that prohibits them.
Singing is no more than melodious words; if these are good, singing is considered good; but if they are bad, such singing is deemed bad. Talk that contains forbidden content is prohibited. What if that talk is accompanied with rhythm and melody?
Scholars agree on the permissibility of singing without instrumental accompaniment and where the content is not prohibited. This sort of singing is allowed only in certain occasions such as: weddings, feasts, welcoming a traveler, and the like. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) that states: "He (peace and blessings be upon him) asked, 'Have you given the girl (i.e., the bride) anything as a present?' They (the attendants) replied, 'Yes.' He asked, 'Did you send a singer along with her?' 'No', said ..A'ishah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then said, 'The Ansar are a people who love poetry. You should have sent along someone who would sing: Here we come, to you we come, greet us as we greet you.'" In this case, we can say that a woman can sing only in front of women and her non-marriageable male kin.
In the subject of musical instruments, scholars disagree on the matter. Some of them permit all sorts of singing, be it accompanied with musical instruments or not, and even consider it recommended. A second group of scholars permit singing only when is not accompanied with a musical instrument. A third group declare it to be prohibited whether it be accompanied with a musical instrument or not; they even consider it as a major sin. In supporting their view, they cite the hadith narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Malik or Abu ..Amir Al-Ash..ari (doubt from the sub-narrator) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 'From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk (clothes), the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful.' Although this hadith is in Sahih Al-Bukhari, its chain of transmission is not connected to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and this invalidates its authenticity. Ibn Hazm rejects it for that very reason. Moreover, the sub-narrator, Hisham Ibn ..Ammar is declared 'weak' by many scholars of the Science of Hadith Methodology.
Besides, this hadith does not clearly prohibit the use of musical instruments, for the phrase 'consider as lawful,' according to Ibn Al-..Arabi, has two distinct meanings:
First: Such people think all these (the things mentioned) are lawful.
Second: They exceed the proper limits that should be observed in using these instruments. If the first meaning is intended, such people would be thus disbelievers.
In fact, the hadith in hand dispraises the manners of a group of people who indulge themselves in luxuries, drinking alcohol and listening to music. Therefore, Ibn Majah narrates this hadith from Abu Malik Al-Ash..ari in the following wording: "From among my followers there will be some people who will drink wine, giving it other names while they listen to musical instruments and the singing of female singers; Allah the Almighty will make the earth swallow them and will turn them into monkeys and pigs." (Reported by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih)
Conclusion on Permissibility of Musical Instruments
In the light of the above, it is clear that the religious texts that stand as a basis for those who maintain that singing is haram are either ambiguous or inauthentic. None of the hadiths attributed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is valid as evidence on the judgment of prohibition. Moreover, all these hadiths are declared 'weak' by the followers of Ibn Hazm, Malik, Ibn Hanbal, and Ash-Shafi..i.
In his book, Al-Ahkam, Al-Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn Al-..Arabi says, "None of the hadiths maintaining that singing is prohibited are considered authentic (by the scholars of the Science of Hadith Methodology)." The same view is maintained by Al-Ghazali and Ibn An-Nahwi in Al-..Umdah. Ibn Tahir says, "Not even a single letter from all these Hadiths was proved to be authentic."
Ibn Hazm says, "All the hadiths narrated in this respect were invented and falsified."
Proofs of Those Who Maintain that Singing is Halal:
First: The Textual Proofs:
They base their argument on some authentic hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). One of these hadiths is the following:
..A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated: "Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him, came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Bu..ath (a story about the pre-Islamic war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Awus). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) laid down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, 'Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)?' Thereupon, Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) turned his face towards him and said, 'Leave them.' When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signaled to those girls to go out and they left." (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
This indicates that these two girls were not so young as claimed by some scholars. If they were, Abu Bakr would not have been angry with them in such manner. In addition, in this hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) wanted to teach the Jews that Islam has room for merriment and that he himself was sent with a moderate and flexible legislation. There is also another important lesson to learn here. It draws our attention to the fact that one needs to introduce Islam to others in a good fashion, along with displaying its moderateness and magnanimity.
Moreover, we can also cite as corroborating this Allah's words that read, "But when they spy some merchandise or pastime they break away to it and leave thee standing. Say: That which Allah hath is better than pastime and than merchandise, and Allah is the best of providers." (Al-Jumu..ah: 11)
In this verse, Allah Almighty joins pastime with merchandise. He does not dispraise any of them, He just only rebuked the Companions who left Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone giving the khutbah (Friday Sermon), when they all rushed to attend to the caravan and beating of the drums celebrating its arrival.
Second: In Respect of Islam's Spirit and Basics:
It is a fact that Allah had prohibited for the Children of Israel some of the good things of this worldly life as a punishment for their misdeeds.
He says, "Because of the wrongdoing of the Jews, We forbade them good things which were (before) made lawful unto them, and because of their much hindering from Allah's way. And of their taking usury when they were forbidden it, and of their devouring people's wealth by false pretences. We have prepared for those of them who disbelieve a painful doom." (An-Nisa': 160-161)
Before sending Prophet Muhammad, He Almighty referred to him in the earlier scriptures as, "Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul." (Al-A..raf: 157)
Thus, Islam left nothing good or sound but declared it to be halal (lawful). This is a sign of mercy to this Ummah (nation or community), moving along the line of its comprehensive and eternal message. Allah Almighty says, "They ask you (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you." (Al-Ma'idah: 4)
If we are to delve deeply into this matter, we will find that love for singing and melodic voices are almost a human instinct. We can observe an infant lying in his cradle soothed and sleeping by the sound of a lullaby. Mothers and nannies are always in the habit of singing for babies and children. Moreover, birds and animals respond to nice voices and rhythmic melodies.
Thereupon, if singing is thus a human instinct, it is not for Islam to defy humankind's instincts. Islam came to refine and promote the human instinct. Ibn Taymyiah says, "Prophets were sent to polish and discipline man's instinct and not to change or modify it." This is pursuant to the hadith that reads, "When Allah's Messenger came to Madinah, he found them (i.e., the people of Madinah) celebrating two days. He said, 'What are these days?' They replied, 'We used to rejoice in these days during the pre-Islamic era.' He (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 'Verily, Allah Almighty has given you two alternative days which are much better: these are Al-Adha and Al-Fitr days (..Eids).'" (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and An-Nasa'i)
Moreover, if singing is to be considered rejoicing and play, these are not haram; this is in pursuant to the famous idea that man needs some time to relax a bit and rejoice. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Hanzalah who thought himself to be a hypocrite for his attendance to his wife and children and the change that affected him when he was apart from Allah's Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), "O Hanzalah! Part of your time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and part of time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation)." (Reported by Muslim)
..Ali Ibn Abu Talib says, "Amuse yourselves for some time, for if hearts are exposed to too much strain, they turn blind."
Abu Ad-Darda' said, "I refresh myself with some amusement in order to make myself stronger on the path of right."
Imam Al-Ghazali answered someone who asked him: "Isn't singing some kind of play and rejoice?" He said, "Yes. But, all that exists in this present life is mere play and rejoice. All that takes place between a husband and his wife is play, except sexual intercourse that is the direct cause of reproducing children. This has been reported from Allah's Messenger and his honorable Companions."
In fact, leisure time is refreshing to the heart and alleviates its tensions at the same time. Excessive strain and efforts render the heart bored and blind. Amusing the self refreshes and renews its strength and vigor. One who continuously works hard at something should take a break for a while in order to restore and regain his energy and firm will lest he totally collapses in future. When one takes a break, he thus restores his strength and vigor. Only Prophets can stand absolute seriousness. Having leisure time is a form of treatment for diseases of the self, weariness and boredom. But, leisure should not be excessive. This will go against the whole issue of rejoicing hearts to make them able to go on.
One who is familiar with and experienced in the nature of the human heart and self knows for certain that recreation and relaxation are necessary treatments for one's well-being.
These proofs on the permissibility of singing are extracted from the texts and rules of Islam, and these are sufficient to clarify the issue.
In addition to this, the people of Madinah, who were very pious and God-fearing, the Zahiriyyah, who were very literal regarding the textual proofs, and the Sufis, who were very strict and rigid, were all quoted to have declared the permissibility of singing.
Imam Ash-Shawkani says in his book "Nayl Al-Awtar", "The people of Madinah and those who agreed with them from among the Zahiriyyah and the Sufis maintain that singing is permissible, even when it is accompanied by a musical instrument such as the lute or the flute. Abu Mansur Al-Bughdadi Ash-Shafi..i narrate that ..Abdullah Ibn Ja..far saw nothing wrong in singing, and he, himself, used to compose the music for his own slaves who used to sing these melodies in his presence. This took place during the time of Commander of the Faithful, ..Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Abu Ja..far Al-Bughdadi narrates the same after Al-Qadi Shurayh, Ibn Al-Musaiyb, ..Ata' Ibn Abu Rabah, Az-Zuhri and"
Ar-Ruwaiyani narrates on the authority of Al-Qaffal that Malik Ibn Anas maintained that singing with musical instruments is permissible. Also, Abu Mansur Al-Furani quotes Malik as maintaining that playing the flute is permissible.
Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir narrates, "The people of Madinah never disputed over the permissibility of playing the lute."
Ibn An-Nahwi narrates in his "Al-..Umdah": "Ibn Tahir said, 'The people of Madinah showed consensus over this (issue). Also, all the Zahiriyyah maintained the same.'"
Al-Mawardi attributes the permissibility of playing the lute to some of the Shafi..i followers and students. This has been narrated also by Abu Al-Fadl Ibn Tahir after Abu Ishaq Ash-Shirazi; and it is narrated by Al-Isnawi after Ar-Ruwaiyani and Al-Mawardi. Again, this is narrated by Al-Adfuwi after Sheikh ..Izz Ad-Deen Ibn ..Abd As-Salam. It is also narrated after Abu Bakr Ibn Al-..Arabi.
All these scholars consider singing that is accompanied by musical instruments permissible, but as for singing that is not accompanied by musical instruments, Al-Adfuwi says, "In some of his jurisprudence-related books, Al-Ghazali narrates the consensus of the scholars on its permissibility." Also, Ibn Tahir narrates the consensus of the Prophet's Companions and those who succeeded them on this very topic. Ibn An-Nahwi states in Al-..Umdah that singing and listening was deemed permissible by a group of the Companions and the Followers.
Conditions and Terms:
There are some conditions and terms that should be observed regarding listening to singing, as follows:
1. Not all sorts of singing are permissible. Rather, the permissible song should comply with the Islamic teachings and ethics. Therefore, the songs praising the tyrants and corrupt rulers disagree with Islamic teachings. In fact, Islam stands against transgressors and their allies, and those who show indifference to their transgression. So, the same goes for those songs that imply giving praises to such attitude!
2. Also, the way the song is performed weighs so much. The theme of the song may be good, but the performance of the singer – through intending excitement and arousing others' lusts and desires along with trying to seduce them – may move it to the area of prohibition, suspicion or even detest. The Glorious Qur'an addresses the wives of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) saying, "O you wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech." (Al-Ahzab: 32) So, one has to show caution to music when there is softness of speech accompanied with rhyme, melody, and special effects!
3. Singing should not be accompanied with something that is prohibited such as alcohol, nakedness, mixing of men with women that is common in pubs and nightclubs, etc.
4. Islam has declared excessiveness as prohibited in everything. The same goes for excessiveness in leisure and recreation even though these things are permissible ! This indicates that the emptiness of the mind and heart has to be observed and tackled during man's short-term life. One should know that Allah Almighty will ask every one about his life and his youth in particular.
There are some things in which one is to be his own judge and Mufti. If there is some kind of singing that arouses his own lust or desire, and takes him away from the real life, he should avoid it then and block that very gate from which the winds of trial and seduction may come and erase his religion, morals and heart. If he does this, he will live in peace and tranquility.
Warning against playing with the word "haram"
To conclude, we address the respectful scholars who tackle the word "haram" easily and set it free in their writings and fatwas that they should observe that Allah is watching over them in all that they say or do. They should also know that this word "haram" is very dangerous. It means that Allah's Punishment is due on a certain act or saying, and should not be based upon guessing, whims, weak Hadiths, not even through an old book. It has to be supported by a clear, well-established text or valid consensus. If these last two are not found, then we revert the given act or saying to the original rule: "permissibility governing things". We do have a good example to follow from one of our earlier pious scholars. Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: "It was not the habit of those who preceded us, the early pious Muslims, who set good example for the following generations, to say, 'This is halal, and this is haram. But, they would say, 'I hate such-and-such, and maintain such-and-such, but as for halal and haram, this is what may be called inventing lies concerning Allah. Did not you hear Allah's Statement that reads, 'Say: Have you considered what provision Allah has sent down for you, how you have made of it lawful and unlawful? Say: Has Allah permitted you, or do you invent a lie concerning Allah?" (Yunus: 59) For, the halal is what Allah and His Messenger made lawful, and the haram is what Allah and His Messenger made unlawful." -Yusuf Al Qaradawi
As I said this is the most comprehensive article on this issue that I've seen from an Islamic scholar, and it is the opinion that I take. And, I want it to be known that I do not take this opinion simply because I'm a musician and want to believe music to be halal (permissable). If the evidence to suggest that music was haram (prohibited) was really authentic, convincing to the logic and the heart, I would leave it immediately out of devotion to Almighty God. However as this article points out the evidence is simply too weak to say flat out that music in general is haram. I would also add that music can be very dangerous. In my opinion it is by far the most powerful artform. As musicians we must take the position, with great power comes great responsibility. Musicians and those who listen to music should always be conscience of what the song or piece of music is speaking of, and how that influences society as a whole. That same power can also be used toward great good in the world. Many of the artists that I personally recommend and listen too are Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Native Deen, Kareem Salama, Sami Yusuf, 786, Sound of Reason, Noor, Shaam, Ani, Zain Bikha, as far as Muslim music goes, and other artists such as Keb Mo, The Beatles, The Allman Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash, aswell as countless other non-Muslim/Nasheed artists that promote good principles and good messages. In other words, good music is good music, and good music should have good messages that benefit society as a whole, and that is my stance on music in Islam, and in life in general.
... and Allah knows best...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Muslims vs. Islam

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to God, the cherisher, the sustainer, and lord of all the worlds. Praise be to he who created life from the primordial seas, and created man from a congealed clot of blood. I bear witness that there is no Deity worthy of worship other than Almighty God, and he has no partners remotely equal to him, and I bear witness that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is the slave and messenger of God. Assalaam Aleikum, peace be upon you.

In this post, I wanted to raise an issue that has recently come to mind due to a conversation I've been having with an individual on Facebook. The issue of Muslims vs. Islam. Or the idea of what Muslims do, versus what Islam says. In most people's minds today, Muslims and Islam are interchangeable. Just as the words "Muslim extremists" and "Islamic extremists", are interchangeable. However from the Muslims perspective they are not.

In this recent conversation I had, this individual had said that he was not criticizing "my Islam" or the "Islam that I practice". The fundamental truth is, that there is only ONE Islam. This is different from the Christian traditions, in that there are many sects of Christianity that in there fundamental tenants, are different. Different sects use different books and different Scriptures, such as the fact that the Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant Bible. Accordingly, most people in the west who are familiar with these Christian discrepancies, assume that Islam is the same way, as they see many different kinds of Muslims doing and saying different things. However, this is not true, as there is only ONE version of the Qur'an, and even secular historians agree that it is authentically the same Qur'an from the time of the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

While there ARE different sects, they are only different in regards to the Sunnah, or the sayings and traditions of the prophet (pbuh) in addition to the Qur'an itself. The majority of Muslims are Sunni, or orthodox, and follow the Qur'an, and the Sunnah, as is passed down in the books of hadith. Two of the most authentic books of hadith are the books of Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih al Muslim. The Shia have different books of hadith, and other sects may use the same books as Shia and/or Sunni, but with different interpretations. However with all these differences, these are only differences concerning the Sunnah. The Qur'an is accepted, as is, by ALL Muslims, regardless of sect.

When someone asks me, "What kind of Muslim are you?" I respond by saying "I'm just a Muslim". I do not define myself as any kind of Muslim, because it is made clear in the scriptures of Islam that sectarianism is strictly forbidden. So, I reject the idea of labels like Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Wahabbi, Salafi, or even Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi'i, or Hanafi which relate to the four major sunni schools of thought. For me I follow the Qur'an and the proven authentic sunnah of the prophet (pbuh).

In the west, people see some Muslims in the world being violent and hostile, some Muslims are "westernized" and look and appear seemingly the same as folks in the west, others are somewhere in the middle. So, which is correct? Well the answer is complicated and not complicated at the same time. The complicated part for westerners is understanding the difference in the sects of Islam, the influence of western powers in recent history, and the nature of political regimes in the old Muslim world, which can really only be understood by understanding the history of Muslim civilization. This is a mind boggling concept for the average American to understand, and most would just assume listen to others who claim to know about it, which can be dangerous. However, the not complicated part is that "Islam" the actual teachings of the Qur'an and authentic sunnah, is very easily accessible by the average person. It's no more than a few clicks of the mouse. There are thousands of websites where the curious non-Muslim American can learn in an easy painless way about the fundamental tenants of Islam such as Islams stance on civil liberties, women's rights, warfare, charity and poverty, family life, etc. If the average American would take the time do learn these basic things about what the Qur'an says about these things, they would easily be able to judge whether or not what they see Muslims doing is in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Then, maybe they could know whether or not to say "Islam" or "Muslims" in their critiques.

..... And Allah knows best.....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Nation Under Allah

Bismillah Ar RAhman Ar Raheem, wa Alhamdulillahi rabbi Ala'lameen wa salaatu wa salaamu 'ala An anbiya min Adam wa Muhammad.

In the name of Almighty God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to almighty God the lord and cherisher of all worlds, and my peace and blessings of Almighty God be on all the prophets from Adam to Muhammad.

This is my first attempt at "blogging" so I hope all who read it may find it interesting and feel free to comment if you like insha'Allah. I am an American Muslim. I embraced Islam while in college at Ashland University in Ohio after having taken a class on Islam there. Now many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, are baffled as to why so many people, and according to some reports more so than ever, are coming to Islam in the United States of America regardless of the seemingly ever growing animosity between the Islamic world and the west. So, as one of those people, I will do my best to explain my reasoning behind that as well as how I feel about this animosity between the U.S. and Islam, both of which I hold so dear to me.

First of all, as someone who was raised in a suto-Christian environment, choosing Islam was not a matter of rejecting my previous beliefs and replacing them with new ones. Embracing Islam was a natural "evolution" from a Christian background. Like many Americans, Christian theology simply wasn't answering all the questions I had about many things such as the origins of the universe, overall comprehensive purpose of human life and the role of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him. Islam answered those questions and then some. Islam taught me that most of what I already believed, whether they be things taught to me or things I came to believe through my own logic, were correct. Islam and Christianity are really only separated in theology by details surrounding the purpose of Jesus Christ (pbuh). However my purpose in this article is not to primarily to discuss theological differences between Islam and Christianity.

One of the many effects that becoming Muslim had on me, was deepening my love and patriotism for my country, the United States of America. This may come as a shock to both non-Muslims and Muslims alike. But the truth is, I found that many of the fundamental principles that the U.S. was founded upon, are also Islamic principles. Especially the idea of equality under the law for all, no matter what class, status, position of power, or anything. Also when I read the constitution of the United States as a Muslim, I see in it a nation that is amazing compatible with the fundamental principles of government in Islam. There are many parallels such as the Caliph being one chosen to lead based on his knowledge and credentials, not based on his family name or social status. Also that the leadership of the Caliph is tempered by a "Shura" or consensus of leaders, many times chosen regionally, much like that of a "congress". However, most importantly is that in Islamic law no one, not even the Caliph, is above the law, and there is no special status given to any human being based on any kind of status. The Caliph is chosen by the Muslims of the Ummah (nation), to lead them, to protect them with the army if necessary, and to represent them to the world. This to me is extremely close to that of a president in our country.

These examples are only a few of the countless things that make Islam and American democracy are perfectly compatible. But, probably the most compelling evidence for me and for those around me, is that I am a living embodiment of it. Some say that America and the Muslim world is heading towards a huge clash of civilizations, but I am living, breathing, walking, and talking proof that these two "civilizations" are perfectly compatible. Perfectly compatible that is, in their "pure" form.

America needs to get back to it's roots. In this year of 2008, as we watch the campaign for the next president of the United States, we all as Americans desperately need to remember what the original and true purpose of our great country was. It was to be a republic for those seeking freedom from big government, and imperial persecution. To be an oasis for those around the world, regardless of their background, to come and prosper on an even playing field. This great country was not founded to simply become another empire like the one it went to war with for it's freedom. However, that is exactly what is has become. The American government needs to realize that our safety is only hurt by constantly involving ourselves in the turbulent middle east. If America stopped worrying about all it's interests abroad, and concentrated on serving the American people, like it was originally designed to do, than everyone would be better off.

As for Muslims living in this country, I must just say this, "WAKE UP!!!" I can't say enough that I love all my brothers and sisters for the sake of Allah, but the Muslims living in this country need to realize the great blessing they have to be living in this land. They have the opportunity to work and make a living for their families that they couldn't dream of in their home countries. They have the opportunity to practice and most importantly to learn their religion in an environment free from political influence. They have the opportunity to interact with people from many different backgrounds that could help them to better understand their place in the world, and the profound nature and truth of Islam. Muslims in this country need to stop isolating themselves in concentrated communities in which they try to shield themselves from as much contact as possible with the greater non-Muslim community. Likewise, they need to learn to interact with the greater society more effectively, WITHOUT compromising their faith. Interacting and assimilating in America is NOT about shaving your beard, taking off the hijab, engaging in riba (interest that is usury) in business, selling and dealing or even worse drinking alcohol, women wearing tight sexy clothes in public, guys wearing sagging jeans and "bling".......these things are not what "fitting in" in America is about!!! It is about embracing the true American principle of equal opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which is also a fundamental Islamic principle. Muslims need to realize that to be a citizen or a permanent resident of this country, means making an oath to be a contributing member of the countries population. In Islam when you make an oath, you MUST keep it. If you don't then you absolutely must repent (make taubah) and the expiation (kaffarah) for it. Allah says in the Qur'an, "Allah will not hold you accountable for that which is unintentional in your oaths, but He will hold you accountable for your deliberate oaths. The expiation of such oath is feeding of ten poor persons on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If it is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths you have sworn. Guard your oaths. Thus Allah does make clear to you His signs, that you may be grateful." And yes this is a deliberate oath because you are aware of it when you go thru the process of immigration. If you are not willing to make that oath, that's ok, but don't live in this country. In Islam it is forbidden to make oaths to leaders who would prevent you from practicing your religion; the United States does not fall into this category. In fact, freedom of religious practice is a fundamental part of what America is.

In conclusion, people on both sides of this so called "clash of civilizations", need to go back to the roots of their ideologies and when they do they will find that there really is no clash of civilization, and that if we could only realize that, then ultimately we have a lot more in common then we do in difference.

As I said making oaths in Islam is a sacred thing. I make the oath " I bear witness that there is no god but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God". And, also in keeping with being an American Muslim I say,

"I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under Allah (God), indivisible, with liberty and justice for all".