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, February 2, 2008

Being Muslim in America (our role and our responsibilities)

In the name of Almighty God, the most gracious, the most merciful. All praise be to God, the lord of all the worlds. All praise be to God, the lord of the heavens and the earth. All praise be to God, the lord of mankind and of Jinn.
In this blog entry I have posted a transcript of the sermon that I gave on Febuary 1st, 2008 at the Bruce Ave. Mosque in Ashland, OH. For those who are not Arabic speakers I appologize for all the Arabic, and for those who do speak Arabic I appologize for my poor Arabic in English transliteration.

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".
Ama Ba'd

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...

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