Friday, February 29, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
This past week, we witnessed yet another horrible tragedy in another one of our American institutions of higher education. It reminded me of first of all, of how bad certain elements of our society have become. Personally, it makes me wonder what they really mean by us being a "civilized" society. If what I saw on my television screen last Thursday is what can be considered a part of a civilized society, I think I'd rather be raized by wolves, because wolves and other animals don't kill without a reason usually related to their survival. Animals don't go on killing rampages because someone made them feel inferior. Animals don't seek out another that wronged them, years later, to kill them. What I saw on thursday reminded me that as human beings we sometimes behave not as animals, but much lower.
I can't say enough how much heart felt sorrow I feel for the families of those who lost loved ones last thursday. I pray with all my heart that Almighty God fill their heart with hope, and that He has mercy on those poor people who so tragically lost their lives. When I contemplate the situation, I can't help but ponder what God almighty told us in his holy Qur'an. God almighty says, "" Verily, with ALLAH alone is the knowledge of the Hour. And HE sends down the rain, and HE knows what is in the wombs. And no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Surely, ALLAH is All-Knowing, All-Aware. "" 31:34 If there is anything good that can come out of sensless tragedies like this, it is that it reminds us that death can come to us no matter how old we are, whether man or woman, black or white, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, or atheist. Death is the ultimate certainty. God says, "Every soul shall have a taste of death; In the end to us shall ye be brought back" .(Surah Al-'Ankabut The Spider 29:57). In fact we know, without any religious text, that death will come to us all. No prayer, no lucky charm, no science can prevent this ultimate truth. So this begs the question, how do you want to die? I have heard many creative answers to this question over the years, but ultimately, logically, in order to answer that question, one must consider what comes after death.
We know from the Qur'an and indeed all major religious texts that without a doubt, there is an afterlife. All spiritual traditions are agreed that for those who are "good" will be rewarded, and those who are "bad" will be punished. The problem is what is the definition of "good" and "bad". The ultimate good of course is to recognize that there is a God, and to do everything in our power and in our knowledge to live a life that recognizes his lordship over us. After that, it is to serve our fellow human beings. It is to grant others the rights that they have over you. The rights that your mother has over you, for enduring overwhelming pain and suffering in order to bring you into this world. The rights that your father has over you, the rights that your husband/wife has over you, the rights that your children has over you, the rights that your fellow man has over you, and even the rights that the earth itself has over all of us. And, it is about not exceeding the limitations of our own rights over others, especially the rights that Almighty God has over you. And, of course to define "bad" it would be the opposite of this. "Bad" is to disregard the rights others have over you. It is to deprive a childs right to his/her parents, it is to deprive an innocent mans right to live, it is to deprive the animal's right to be slaughtered humanely, and to deprive all others the right to live and love as they choose, and to impose one's own will on others.
One can only pray that these poor individuals who died last thursday, were on the right side of this spectrum. Whether you are a successful business man, an elderly person lonely in a rest home, or college student sitting bored in your class, death can come at any time, and any place. I once heard a quote from Confederate States of America general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, when asked how he could remain so calm in the midst of such horror as that of battle. He replied something to the effect, " God has fixed my time of death, so I do not concern myself with that, but I strive to be ready whenever that time comes. That's how all men ought to live". Well Mr. Jackson, I completely agree. We shouldn't constantly be worried and paranoid about death, but rather we should live and love and enjoy our short time in this life, and make sure that when that Angel comes to us, to take our soul from our body, that we can be content that we will be leaving this life in a state that is pleasing to the one whom we ultimately will return, the Almighty, Allah, and if we can be content in that, we have nothing to fear.
...And Allah Knows Best...
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to the one who created us from a single pair, a male, and a female. All praise be to him who made us into nations and tribes so that we may come to know each other in mutual peace and love, and praise be to He that judges not by our national or tribal affiliation, but by our devotion and obedience to him. May His peace and blessings be on all his prophets and messengers from Adam to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.
As many may know, Febuary is considered "Black History Month" here in the US and Canada. Of course many of us remember learning about brave human beings like Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks, during this month back in our elementary and secondary school days. However one aspect of the African American experience that is unfortunately not as talked about in the public school system, is the influence of Islam. As I have said in other blog entries Islam has been a part of the United States from the very beginning, in it's existence amongst early African American slaves. However in this blog I'd like to mention a few more details surrounding that and also leading up into our modern history.
There have been estimates, ranging from 10% to 40%, of the early generations of African American slaves were Muslim. One of these men was Omar Ibn Said. Omar Ibn Said (ca. 1770-1864) was born in the Muslim state of Futa Toro in Western Africa, in present-day Senegal. He was a Muslim scholar and trader who was captured and enslaved. He arrived in North Carolina in 1807 after escaping a cruel master in Charlestown South Carolina, and was sold to James Owen. He was considered a Muslim scholar and had been educated in Islamic law and Arabic language. Some of his Arabic manuscripts, including an autobiography and several hand written copies of chapters of the Qur'an, are kept today in the North Carolina Collection in the Wilson Library at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is reported that he was still a slave when he died in 1864.
Another man by the name of Bilali (Ben Ali) Muhammad, was also a famous Muslim slave living in Georgia. He was well known for being a Muslim scholar and served as an Imam for approximately 80 Muslim men living on his plantation. He regularly observed the salat (prayers), the Ramadan fast, and the Eids, and was also known to wear a fez and thobe. He had also written manuscripts including a work on Islamic law and conduct.
Over time, during the 19th century however, many African American slaves lost their Islamic roots due to either forced conversion to Christianity, or simple ignorance and lack of access to Islamic education.
For much of the 2nd half of the 19th century and early 20th century, the practice of Islam lay dormant in America. In 1913 a "suto-Muslim" organization was formed called the "Moorish Science Temple of America", founded by Noble Drew Ali. While this organization was an African American one, it was not a truly Islamic organization and should not be confused with Islam.
In 1930 a man by the name of Wallace Fard founded the "Nation of Islam". Fard dissapeared in 1934 and Elijah Muhammad became the leader. It was under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad that the NOI grew to the status it is today. However, while members of the NOI did believe in the "five pillars of Islam" and believed in the Qur'an and in the prophethood of Muhammad (sws), they still were not really an Islamic organization. Elijah Muhammad taught that Wallace Fard was "Allah in human form", and had come as a savior to the black peoples of America. This notion alone is, in my mind, is grounds to disqualify them as Muslims. They also were a racist organization, and preached black supremecy, which is not in any way shape or form, an Islamic ideology. However, many folks who were formally members of the NOI went on to become some of the most influencial leaders of "true Islam" in America, leading us into the modern era of African American Islam.
Al Hajj Malik Al Sabazz, or better known as Malcolm X, was one of the greatest leaders and spokesmen to come out of the NOI. While he spent most of his life preaching the extreme racist teachings of the NOI, he later left the NOI, made the Hajj to Mecca, and became a mainstream, orthodox Muslim. It was at this point that he became a shining voice for Islam in America. He said in a letter he wrote from Mecca,
"Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors."I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca, I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad, I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat."There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white."America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color."You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth."During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug - while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana."We were truly all the same (brothers) - because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude."I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man - and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their 'differences' in color."With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called 'Christian' white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster - the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves."Each hour here in the Holy Land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities - he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth - the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to."Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors - honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King - not a Negro."All praise is due to God, the Lord of all the Worlds."
It was with these words that true Islam was really reintroduced to the African American people. It was his denouncation of the doctrine of racism, and hate that had been promoted by the Nation of Islam. However, only approximately a year later, he was assinated, and thus his shining voice, silenced.
However, after the death of Elijah Muhammad, his son Warith Deen Muhammad ended the racist organization's life and reformed it under a mainstream, orthodox Muslim ideology. Today W. D. Muhammad is one of the leading Muslim leaders in the United States.
In recent history, real mainstream Islam has seen a revival amongst African Americans. Scholars and Imams like Imam Zaid Shakir and Imam Siraj Wahhaj just to name a couple, have become highly respected leaders in the African American Muslim and non-Muslim communities.
Islam has undoubtedly had a huge influence on the African American experience in this country, and thus indirectly also has had a huge influence on all of America. As a musician I have to mention that a great deal of the great jazz musicians of the be-bop era were Muslim, including one of my all-time favorite drummers " Abdullah ibn Buhaina" or "Art Blakey". It is theorized that much of the traditional singing of slaves was influenced by their Islamic roots, thus meaning that jazz, blues, and subsiquently almost all American music was influenced by Islam.
However, despite the great achievements of the African American community, I believe there are still huge challenges. While there is still most certainly racism amongst white America, it isn't what it used to be. However many African Americans still blame most of the problems they face on that. I most certainly understand the historical plight of the African Americans, however I believe that many of the problems facing them today are partially on their own heads. Most certainly the popular culture that currently dominates BET, and MTV are not good for the African American community, but I don't want to criticize too much because there are plenty of African American leaders who do a much better job of that than I can. Insha'Allah during this "Black History Month" I wanted to express the importance of remembering the influence of Islam in America, whether you are a Muslim or not, and how Islamic roots have shaped the evolution of the African American experience.
...And Allah Knows Best...
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem. Alhamdulillahi rabbi Alameen. Alhamdulillahi rabbi samawati wal `ard. Alhamdulillahi rabbi An Nas wal Jinn. Innalhamdullah nahmadahu, wa nasta`eenahu wa nastaghfirhu, wa na`uzoo billah min shurooi an fusina, wa min sayi ati `am aalina. man yahadillahu falla mu'dhilallah wa man yudhlil falla hadiallah. Ashadu an La illaha illa Allah, wahdaho La sharik Allah, wa ashadu anna Muhammadun `abdahu wa rasoolahu. Allahuma Salla `ala Muhammad, wa `ala ali Muhammadin, Kama Salaita `ala Ibrahima wa `ala ali Ibrahim. Allahuma Barak `ala Muhammadin wa `ala ali Muhammadin. Kama barakta `ala Ibrahima wa `ala ali Ibrahima. Innaka hameedun Majeed.
Qal Allah ta'ala;
"Qul Innani hadani Rabbi illa siratim Mustaqim
Deenan Qiyaman millata Ibrahima haniifa, wa maa kaana min al Mushrikeen
Qul inna Salati wa nusukii wa mahyaaya wa mamaati lillahi rabbil Alemeen
La sharik Allah! wa bi thalika umirtu wa ana awul ul Muslimeen".
My brothers in Islam! As I was thinking of what to share with you today in the khutbah, I couldn't help but to be a little distracted by the television. On that television was CNN coverage of the ongoing political struggle going on here in this country, as Republicans and Democrats campaign their way hopefully to the White House, and to the presidency of United States. As I watched all of this on the T.V., I couldn't help but link it in my mind to what it means to be a Muslim living in this country. What does it mean to be a believer of "La illaha ila Allah, wa Muhammadun Rasoolallah", and be living in this pluralistic microcosm of the world we call the United States? What are our responsibilities to Allah (swt) in respect to living in a prodominantly non-Muslim community? What are our responsibilities to this country? And, how should we, if at all, participate in the greater society of our country? When we look to the shari`ah of the issue, that is the Qur'an and the Sunnah of our messager Muhammad (sws), we find some fundimental concepts that are directly related to this issue that we face in the 21st century, thus showing us the infinate wisdom, the glorious hikma, of our deen, and I hope insha'Allah ta'ala to share some of this hikma with you today.
First of all we must recognize what our obligations are to Allah (swt) regardless of where we live. We have the obligation to obey the words of Allah (swt) in all that we do. We MUST make sure that we are making the salat, as that is the absolute most important part of being a Muslim, after Ashahadah. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur'an that the salat is what seperates us from non-Muslims. And the prophet (sws) compared the salat to bathing 5 times a day, in that if one did so they shall never be dirty. So, also the converse is true. If you NEVER bathed you would continue to accumulate filth and it would be hard for others to tolerate you. Also we must make sure that we are adhering to the proper Islamic Aqeedah, in our day to day lives. These are absolutely pre-requisit to addressing the issue of our position in our country.
Now coming to that issue; our position, status, and role in this country.. Muslims have been in this country for every bit as long as Christians have. At the time of the first European exloration of North America by the Spanish, there was amongst them A Moor by the name of Mustafa Zemmouri or as he is known in the western history records Estavanica of Azamor. He was one of the first Europeans to explore what is now the American Southwest. It is also recorded that many, as much as 40% of African American slaves who came here, were Muslim, and in some cases slave owners actually provided prayer areas for Muslim slaves. It is said that in 1790 a group of Morrocans settled in South Carolina and was given special legal status as "non-slave Africans" by the South Carolina legislature. So it really cannot be said that Islam is a new phenomenon to America. Muslims have been a part of this country from the beginning.
However, in recent history, as in the past few decades, there have been huge influxes of Arab and Indian/Pakistani imigrants to the US, as many of you may have been a part of, and it is this group that is currently the mainstream of the American Muslim demographic. And, as with any immigrant group, there are both great accomplishments as well as great challenges. These Muslims have been largely responsible for the creation of such organizations as CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, The Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim American Society just to name a few. They have also been responsible for the creation of countless mosques, Islamic centers, and schools. On the the other hand there are still huge challenges.
One of the biggest challenges that Muslims living here in the US face is the prospect of living in a pluralistic society. What I mean by that is living in a society in which there are people from many many different idealogical backgrounds. This is sometimes a difficult prospect for many Muslims who come from countries that are prodominantly Muslim, and as a result often times isolate themselves in tight-knit communities like the Arab community of Dearborn Michigan, or the Somali community of Columbus, Ohio for example. First of all we must look to the Shari`ah on the matter of pluralism.
The truth is the very first Muslim country to exist was a pluralistic society. The city/state of Medina was a society made up of Muslims, Jews, and pagan Arabs. When we look to the Constitution of Medina we see that the prophet Muhammad (sws) supported the idea of plurality. He extended equal rights under the law to all groups in Medina, including those of different religious beliefs. Thus it was not incumbant upon those who were not Muslim to adhere to laws specifically given to Muslims. For example in the Qur'an, Allah (swt) sometimes refers to us, " Ya Ayu an Nas" or "Oh mankind!" and sometimes, "Ya Ayohalatheena Aminu" or "Oh you who believe (the Muslims)". When Allah says "Ya Ayohalatheena Aminu", these are laws for the believers, for the Muslims. However "Ya Ayunan Nas", these are laws to all mankind, and it was to these laws that non-Muslims in Yathrib (Medina) were to obey. Outside of these the Jewish tribes and others had the right to create and live by their own laws. Now if the Muslims of Medina could live side by side those who are not Muslim, we have to ask ourselves then what makes it difficult for some Muslims in this country to deal with the greater non-Muslim society.
An argument could be made that unlike in Yathrib, in this country and many others Muslims are a minority, and this brings us to the next major challenge, living as a minority. Being a minority has many challenges in itself. We feel it in trying to find quality halal food. We feel it celebrating our holidays. We feel it in trying to explain to employers about our prayers, and fasting, and dress code. Muslim children also feel it in the many pressures they face in there journey through public schools. There was however, an instance of Muslims living as minorities at the time of the prophet (sws). Those Muslims who fled to Abisynnia lived there as a minority, under the Christian king. They lived there under the King and even participated in a civil war on behalf of the King, as he was a just ruler, and treated them with peace and equality. My Islamic name-sake Ja'far ibn Abu Talib (ra) was primarily responsible for this by stating clearly to the King, the principles of Islam in regard to justice, human rights, and dignity, and it is his example that the Muslims living in this country should examine.
Sometimes we forget what the most important parts of our deen, and our identity are. It's hard to find a single Muslim who will eat a bite of pork, but at the same time it's very easy to find Muslims who sell or consume alcohol. We find Muslims who rarely if ever make their daily prayers, yet at the same time rave and rant and take to the streets when someone insults the prophet (sws). And, at the same time, we see seemingly very religious brothers wearing thobes, big beards, kufis and imamas, miswak in their mouth, and yet at the same time they are beating and abusing their wives at home. Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an, in the English translation, "It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practise regular charity, to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing." (Al Baqarah;177) It is in this holy verse that Allah expresses to us that it is not these outward expressions of our faith such as the rituals we perform, or the things we wear that are what makes us believers, even though those things are important to disiplining ourselves in our day to day lives. It is what is in our hearts and in our sincere intentions that Allah cares most about, and only we and Allah know what is in our hearts and what is in our intentions. It is in our encouragement of the better good in our community and working with all those, regardless of religious beliefs, for things that will benefit humanity. Also it is in our forbidance of evil around us no matter whether it be from so called Christians who fire-bomb abortion clinics, so called "freedom of speech" advocates that insult and desicrate people's symbols of faith, or so called Muslims who plot to kill thousands of innocents in their backward and extremely misguided view of Jihad. There is no doubt that there are many non-Muslims in this country who view us as strange, backward, and question are intentions in this country. These folks feel this way mostly out of ignorance of and lack of any real experience with Islam. However one of the biggest contributing factors to that ignorance is the Muslims themselves. We cannot expect for Islam to become an accepted part of American society by trying to "blend in", and being something we are not. We must strive to be good examples of our faith in all that we do; in our families, in our work and business, and in how we interact with our non-Muslim friends, neighbors and family.
Aqulu Qawli hathaa wa staghfirullaha lii walakum
The last thing I'd like to mention is the importance of Muslim participation in the political system in our country. In this year with the presidential election in full swing, this fact is even more evident. I was watching the Republican primary in Michigan a few weeks ago, and many of the candidates were in and around Dearborn, MI, home of the Ford Motor Company as well as probably the largest concentration of Arab American Muslims in the United States. I kept waiting to hear the pundants mention these folks but when they did it was only to say that they were relatively insignificant, because in a recent poll, a vast majority of those Muslim citizens "didn't believe in voting". This appalled me personally, as there is no shari'ah text that prohibit such a thing and in fact actually encourage it. The prophet (sws) said "The best Jihad is to stand up for truth before an unjust ruler". He (sws) also said, "If my followers fail to stand up to an oppressor and say to him: ‘You are an oppressor’, then there will be no good in them." In some countries there is no legal way to do this, and so the only way it's done is unfortunately through violence. However, we have in this country, a unique system that allows in the law, for those desenting voices to be heard without fear of persecution by the law. We Muslims should realize this opprotunity and be willing to participate for the betterment of all. Allah (swt) says, "How should ye not fight for the cause of Allah and of the feeble among men and of the women and the children who are crying: Our Lord! Bring us forth from out this town of which the people are oppressors! Oh, give us from Thy presence some protecting friend! Oh, give us from Thy presence some defender!" (An-Nisa; 75)
So, in conclusion it is important that we remember Allah constantly, and take heed of his message in all that we do, and especially with living amongst non-Muslims. I believe that it is our responsibility to be upright ambassadors of our faith to the people of this country, so that our children and grandchildren will know an America that welcomes Islam as an vital part of it's spiritual tradition.
Allahuma Eghfir lil' Muslimeena wal Muslimat...
Wal Moumineena wal Mouminaat...
Al Ahya'ee minhum wal amwat...
Innaka Samee'um mujibul dawat...
wa Qala Allah... (surat Wal Asr)
wa Qulu qawli hathaa wa staghirullahali walakum
wa aqimi Salat...