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Medina Bombing: Where WE Stand & Why We Must State It Clearly, by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


In an unprecedented escalation of events, an explosion has occured close to the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ mosque in Medina, allegedly detonated by a suicide bomber. The Medina bombing comes at the heels of the devastating violence in Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh in recent weeks. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani makes it clear: where do we stand on such events and should we speak out?

Resources for seekers:

The Plague Within: Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on the Roots of Violent Extremism

Vigilante acts of violence have killed hundreds around the world in the last few days. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf writes plainly on the dark and destructive ideology which underpins groups like ISIS and their sympathisers.

According to a good hadith related by Ahmad and al-Tabarani, the Messenger of God, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, said, “You will never believe until you show mercy to one another.”
“All of us are merciful, O Messenger of God!” his companions responded.
The Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, explained, “I’m not talking about one of you showing mercy to his friend; I’m talking about universal mercy—mercy towards everyone.”
For those Muslims and people of other faiths who lost loved ones in the recent tragedies in Baghdad two days ago, in Bangladesh last Friday, in Istanbul the day before that, in Lebanon earlier last week, and in Yemen and Orlando last month, I am deeply saddened and can only offer my prayers, even as I am painfully aware of my state of utter helplessness at what has befallen our global community. As I write this, I learned about yet another bombing outside our beloved Prophet’s mosque in Medina, as believers were about to break their fast yesterday, unjustly killing four innocent security guards. Fortunately, due to the blessings of the place, the sound of the explosion was thought to be the boom of the cannon used to announce the time has come to break the fast, so the people in the mosque were not frightened nor panicked. The Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, said, “Whoever frightens the people of Medina has the damnation of God, the angels, and all of humanity.” Needless to say, the horror of these atrocities is compounded because they are being carried out—intentionally—in the blessed month of Ramadan.

A faith-eating plague

A plague is upon us, and it has its vectors. Like the brain-eating amoebas that have struck the warm waters of the Southern states in America, a faith-eating plague has been spreading across the global Muslim community. This insidious disease has a source, and that source must be identified, so we can begin to inoculate our communities against it.
New versions of our ancient faith have sprung up and have infected the hearts and minds of countless young people across the globe. Imam Adel Al-Kalbani, who led prayers in the Haram of Mecca for several years, has publicly stated that these youth are the bitter harvest of teachings that have emanated from pulpits throughout the Arabian Peninsula, teachings that have permeated all corners of the world, teachings that focus on hatred, exclusivity, provincialism, and xenophobia. These teachings anathematize any Muslim who does not share their simple-minded, literalist, anti-metaphysical, primitive, and impoverished form of Islam, and they reject the immense body of Islamic scholarship from the luminaries of our tradition.

The spread of this ideology

Due to a sophisticated network of funding, these teachings have flooded bookstores throughout the Muslim world and even in America, Europe, and Australia. For a case study of what they have spawned, we might look to Kosovo. Our “Islamic” schools are now filled with books published by this sect that lure the impressionable minds of our youth at an age when they are most susceptible to indoctrination. This sect of Islam, however, is not the sole source of our current crisis, and it would be wrong to place all blame on it alone; many of its adherents are peace-loving quietists, who want only to be left alone to practice their faith as they see fit. Their exclusivism is a necessary but not sufficient cause for the xenophobic hatred that leads to such violence. The terroristic Islamists are a hybrid of an exclusivist takfiri version of the above and the political Islamist ideology that has permeated much of the Arab and South Asian world for the last several decades. It is this marriage made in hell that must be understood in order to fully grasp the calamitous situation we find our community in. While the role that Western interventions and misadventures in the region have played in creating this quagmire should not be set aside, diminished, or denied, we should, however, keep in mind that Muslims have been invaded many times in the past yet never reacted like these fanatics. Historically, belligerent enemies often admired the nobility Muslims displayed in their strict adherence to history’s first humane rules of engagement that were laid down by the Prophet himself to insure that mercy was never completely divorced from the callousness of conflict.
We need to clearly see the pernicious and pervasive nature of this ideological plague and how it is responsible for the chaos and terror spreading even to the city of our Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, in all its inviolability. Its most vulnerable victims are our disaffected youth who often live in desolate circumstances with little hope for their futures. Promises of paradise and easy-out strategies from the weariness of this world have enticed these suicidal youth to express their pathologies in the demonically deceptive causes of “Islamic” radicalism. The pictures they leave behind—showing the supercilious smiles on their faces, even as they hold in their hapless hands their Western-made assault rifles—are testament to the effective brainwashing taking place.

Normative voices drowned out

The damage being wrought is not only within Islam but also to Islam’s good name in the eyes of the world. These now daily occurrences of destructive, hate-filled violence are beginning to drown out the voices of normative Islam, thereby cultivating a real hatred in the hearts of those outside our communities. In the minds of many around the world, Islam, once considered a great world religion, is being reduced to an odious political ideology that threatens global security; that, in turn, is proving disastrous for minority Muslim communities, who now abide in increasingly hostile environments in secular societies.

Counter-voices of scholars and activists

What we need to counter this plague are the voices of scholars, as well as grassroots activists, who can begin to identify the real culprits behind this fanatical ideology. What we do not need are more voices that veil the problem with empty, hollow, and vacuous arguments that this militancy has little to do with religion; it has everything to do with religion: misguided, fanatical, ideological, and politicized religion. It is the religion of resentment, envy, powerlessness, and nihilism. It does, however, have nothing to do with the merciful teachings of our Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him. Unchecked, we will see this plague foment more such violence, until one day, God forbid, these hateful and vile adherents obtain a nuclear device, the use of which has already been sanctioned by their “scholars,” including one currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. If such a scenario unfolds, it is highly probable that the full wrath of Western powers will be unleashed upon a helpless Muslim world that would make even the horrendous Mongol invasions of the 13th century look like a stroll in the park.

“To flee from calamities is the Sunnah of Prophets”

Invariably, some will remark that a fear of Western retaliation is a sign of cowardice. For those zealots, I would recommend turning back to the Qur’an, specifically to reflect on the undeniably brave Messenger Moses, peace be upon him, who unintentionally killed an Egyptian after striking him with his powerful blow, only because he was considered an enemy, and then asked God’s forgiveness and “fled vigilantly out of fear” (28:21). This is a cautionary tale, and it behooves all of us to reflect upon it as a lesson of what not to do when oppressed, especially when we are without political authority or the means to redress our grievances. Imam al-Sahrwardi stated, “To flee from calamities is the Sunnah of Prophets.” It is best not to let our baser self, our lust for revenge, get the better of us.
We would do well to acknowledge that much of what is happening in the Muslim world and to Muslim communities in the West is from what our own hands have wrought. Muslims have been in the West for a long time and have done little to educate people here about our faith; too many of us have been occupied in our wordly affairs, while some of our mosques and schools have been breeding grounds for an ideological Islamism rather than Islam. The Qur’an clearly instructs us that when faced with calamities, we ought to look first at what we may have done to bring them upon us. Introspection is a Qur’anic injunction. Until we come to terms with this Qur’anic truth, we will remain mired in the mirage of denial, always pointing fingers in every direction but at ourselves. “Verily, God does not change the conditions of a people until they change themselves” (Qur’an, 13:11).
As Ramadan comes to a close, let us pray for the oppressed and the guidance of the oppressors, for those who have been killed, and for those who lost their loved ones, and most of all, let us heed our Prophet’s call and want mercy for everyone.

Resources for seekers:

How to stop the cycle of hate, by Imam Khalid Latif

Almost daily there are news reports of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, as well as news of mass terrorist attacks against Muslims in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh. Imam Khalid Latif reflects in this article originally published on CNN.

This morning, I woke up to images and stories outlining numerous hate crimes taken place against Muslims in cities throughout the United States just in the last 10 hours. Two Muslim teenagers assaulted in Brooklyn, New York outside of a mosque while the assailant called them “terrorist”, a Muslim doctor ambushed and shot in Houston Texas by three men as he went for morning prayers, and another Muslim beaten in Fort Pierce Florida right outside of an Islamic Center there. These are just the stories reported and that took place less than a day ago. That’s in addition to so many more reported over the last weeks and months, and so many more that just aren’t reported.

Don’t Be A Passive Bystander

If you see something, say something has to mean something different to us today. If you see bigotry, say something. If you see hatred, say something. If you see racism, say something. You and I have to be the change that this world needs. We cannot adopt a bitterness or passivity that lets people who have no interest other than their own self-interest succeed
A failure to acknowledge and deal with illness doesn’t mean that it’s not there. I can pretend like I’m not sick, but my body will let me know otherwise. We can pretend like our society is not in pain and in need of healing, but atrocities like those that took place just even last night will let us know otherwise. The anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States isn’t just rising, it’s really high. An unwillingness and indifference on the part of individuals and institutions to put it in check is a large part of the problem.

Our Sense of Compassion Is Being Obliterated

Our indifference to the narratives of those distinct from our own coupled with our own egocentric priorities places us in the reality that we find ourselves in. Issues of race, class and privilege are the roots of our ailments, and an unwillingness to recognize it is leading us to a terrible place. With every assault, every hate crime, every death, our sense of compassion is being obliterated. With every failure to remedy injustice, we add to the pain. These assailants knew that they were going to attack Muslims. They knew they would find them at the mosques at those specific times. For what reason then with will there be a hesitancy in labeling their actions as anything but a hate crime?
More likely than not we won’t see an outcry against these actions by political leaders of any kind. There will be a continued utilization of Islam as a political football by those who have no real interest in anything other than their own self-interest. Letting hate prevail seemingly didn’t work as a solution to stopping hate, but seemingly that isn’t an issue.
In my opinion if you don’t speak out against it you’re just as bad as the person who is saying it in the first place. What do you think it teaches people when senior officials of major political parties throughout the country are either espousing, and in turn justifying, hatred against Muslims through their words or their silence? What does it teach a broader society about the worth and designation of a population that is over 1.5 billion in number throughout this world?

What Message Are We Sending Out?

The same thing that it teaches the broader society when mosques are kept from being open and built, when unjust surveillance and profiling policies are legitimized and implemented, when media has no problem making cursory links of every and any Muslim to terrorism, but dig deep to connect people of other backgrounds to troubled childhoods and mental health issues, and when politicians are allowed to build racist campaign platforms taking advantage of fear and ignorance. It teaches them that it’s ok for Muslims to be treated differently, to in fact be mistreated, simply because they are Muslim, and that there is no problem with that.
There is, in fact, a huge problem with it.

This Isn’t Just A Muslim Thing

If you think my anger and frustration is only because that there were Muslims who were attacked, then you don’t get it. I feel for these people because they are people. I feel for these people as I feel for Orlando. I feel for these people as I feel for Baltimore, Ferguson and Chicago. I feel for these people as I feel for Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Syria. I feel for these people as I feel for anyone who finds themselves in any type of affliction or conflict. We have seen minorities of all backgrounds get vilified more and more and things have gotten to a point where assaults and even death doesn’t bring about a recognition of their value as humans. We have seen shooting after shooting take place in this country, increasing directly along with our country’s legislators unwillingness to speak about gun control. My anger and frustration stems from the fact that with every act of hatred and our failed responses to it, indifference is becoming more alive and in the process our shared humanity is dying.
Will there be droves of leaders marching in the streets, elbowing each other to make sure they stand at the front of the pack and let the world know that they are outraged by the assaults on Muslims throughout the country? Will they hold vigils to speak out against the realities of hate and address the deeper, systemic issues around race, ethnicity and privilege or even give a simple nod to the signs and symptoms around us indicating their existence? Probably not. But will you stand up, simply because you are able to and it’s the right thing to do?
I am a Muslim. I work as the University Chaplain for New York University. I serve as a Chaplain for the New York City Police Department and am given the rank of inspector. I have traveled on behalf of the State Department, met with the heads of homeland security, senior white house officials and even President Obama himself, shared stages with the likes of Pope Francis and the Dalai lama. I am still one of the many Muslims in this country who have been detained, profiled and surveilled. My home has been visited by the FBI on numerous occasions where I have been told that I am being watched because I am too good to be true. As much as I am seen as antidote, I am first still seen as a poison for no other reason that I choose to practice the faith that I do. That is not ok. But I still believe that we can and will be better.

Be The Change You Want To See

Healing requires admitting we are sick. You and I are a bigger part of the cure than we might realize. On the eve of our Independence Day, we as a nation have a choice to make. At a time when we are still debating whether Black Lives Matter or not, candidates for the highest offices of our land make statements that indicate they speak for and to only a select group of Americans. We can no longer let our perspectives of each other be fueled through a media machine that seeks to sensationalize and bombard readers and viewers with narrative that serves to only segment and antagonize even further. The amplification of extreme voices has to be drowned out by our coming together. The ignorance of ISIS or the Republican right can no longer be the basis of how we function in diverse societies. We must learn the reality of struggles faced by those around us by actually being with them, as opposed to simply through the biased images that are cast in front of us every day. We do not have to be women to stand up women’s rights, black to stand up for black rights, or Muslim to stand up for Muslim rights. An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. I said it before and I’ll say it again, if you see something, say something has to mean something different to us today. If you see bigotry, say something. If you see hatred, say something. If you see racism, say something. You and I have to be the change that this world needs. We cannot adopt a bitterness or passivity that lets people who have no interest other than their own self-interest succeed. We cannot lose hope – tomorrow will be better than today so long as you do our part. Our coming together of today is only meaningful if we continue to come together tomorrow. Let us be the reason that people have continued hope in this world, and never the reason people dread it.

Resources for seekers:

Amjad Sabri’s death: Yearning for God till his Last Breath

The world is mourning the passing of one of Pakistan’s most beloved devotional (qawwali) singers. Amjad Sabri was gunned down in Karachi, allegedly by extremists who accused him of blasphemy. Shortly after his death, the video of his last televised performance went viral (watch above).

Dr Bano Murtaja has kindly translated the lyrics:

O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O Noor e Khuda, embed yourself in my eyes
Or call me to your doorstep, or come into my dreams
O veiled one, remain in the veil of my heart
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
When in the darkness of my grave, I fear
Come to my aid, my master
illuminate my grave O Noor e Khuda
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request

When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
I’m a criminal of every kind, on the day, keep my honour
Disillusioned with the world, envelope me in your succour
accept my words my Lord
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
From his face the moon and stars took their splendour
From his doorstep, the afflicted and sad took healing
Only he knows how to heal every affliction every sadness
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
O one of the green dome, accept my request
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision
I have not seen more beautiful than the beloved of God
It is his station that even his shadow its not seen
God chose not to detach even his shadow
When my time is upon me, grant me (your) vision.
Amjad Sabri
Bestow your favor upon me, O Beloved of God, for God’s sake
O Prophet, let the bud of my hopes blossom now
I am a pauper at your door, here to seek alms
Fill my bag, O Muhammad
I will not go back empty-handed
“Bhar Do Jholi”

Resources on who Amjad Sabri was and what he represented

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Gay Muslims; Scholars Issue Statement

“We, as American Muslims, follow the openhearted and inclusive Islam of Muhammad Ali and completely reject the hatred, provincialism, and intolerance of those who trample upon the rights of others, besmirching and defiling the name of Islam.”

On June 13, 2016, Muslim leaders across North America signed the Orlando Statement. Signatories include, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
You can read the statement, in full, at the Orlando Statement website.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf gave a brief interview addressing several difficult issues. We reproduce it below with thanks to CNN.

Q: There have been many statements from Muslims condemning terrorism. Why issue another one?
A: Muslims are constantly being accused of not condemning these types of attacks, even though I don’t have any control over what other people do, and they don’t represent me or my faith. Nobody associates all Seventh-day Adventists with David Koresh, who belonged to a splinter sect, or all of Judaism with Meir Kahane. But when these things happen, the whole religion of Islam is besmirched. We’re trapped in this constant cycle of: events, condemnation; events, condemnation. And then people still say, “Why don’t Muslims condemn these things?”
Q: What do you make of Donald Trump’s speech about Islam and terrorism on Monday?
A: He’s playing a dangerous game, and a lot of lives are threatened by that type of saber-rattling. We’re in an extremely volatile situation and social media has introduced an unprecedented element that we don’t fully understand.
Q: Trump and President Obama are arguing over whether to label attacks like the Orlando shooting “radical Islam.”
A: When a man wrote a political screed against the IRS and flew into its building, he was deemed mentally ill, even though it was clearly a political act. There’s a double standard, which is: If his name is Muhammad, it’s automatically terrorism. This man (Omar Mateen) wasn’t a radical Islamist. To drink or go to gay bars, or any kind of bar, is prohibited in Islam. He seemed to be a nominal Muslim. He went to mosques on occasion but I don’t see a lot of devotion there.
Q: What about the gay community and gay Muslims who may feel ostracized from mainstream Islam?
A: As we say in the Orlando statement, we are committed to Abrahamic morality, but it should not to be imposed on others. America is about choices, including those to live certain lifestyles. There’s a statement in the Quran: There should be “absolutely no compulsion in religion.”
Q: What about gay Muslims, though?
A: Look, I don’t have the power to issue papal decrees. We don’t have that type of structure in our tradition. But I have studied the tradition, and the vast majority of Muslims would never accept the lawfulness of an active homosexual lifestyle. I don’t see that happening. But there is also no authority in the tradition for any individual to take things into his own hands and impose their version of the religion on someone else.
Q: Why can’t Muslim teachings on homosexuality change? Is it because the Quran, which is considered the inerrant word of God, condemns it?
A: The Quran is pretty explicit in its condemnation of the act, and we have a long tradition of jurisprudence that defines it as unlawful. But there were also fatwas permitting people who had those attractions to relieve themselves so they wouldn’t fall into active engagement. There’s an awareness that this is a real human urge. I definitely have sympathy for people who are struggling. I’ve met with young Muslims who have told me about their struggles. But I’m not sure they want our sympathies; they want full recognition of their lifestyle, and my religion tells me that I can’t accept that. But I can’t — and won’t — impose my beliefs on others, either verbally or otherwise. I’m not going to judge people.
Q: What do you say when gay Muslims tell you about their struggles?
A: I say that I’m not going to deny your experience but my recommendation is not to actively engage in behavior outside of what is permitted in the religion. I know that people can live celibate lives, I did it myself for many years.
Q: The punishment for homosexuality in some schools of Islamic jurisprudence can be quite harsh.
A: There’s no specific punishment in the books of fiqh (Islamic laws) that relate to homosexuality per se. They apply to any illicit sexual relations, including prohibited heterosexual acts like adultery. And the punishments are strong, but they are legal fictions because they are impossible to prove. You need four witnesses to say they witnessed (sexual) penetration. In what circumstances are you going to find someone to testify to that?
Q: A lot of Muslims have lamented that the feelings of goodwill after Muhammad Ali’s funeral quickly dissipated after the Orlando shooting. You were at Ali’s memorial. What was that like?
A: Dr. Sherman Jackson said it best: Muhammad Ali put an end to the idea that you can’t be an American and a Muslim. We were all feeling that last week. The memorial was all planned by Muhammad Ali himself, and I was impressed by how much his faith was highlighted, even by people of other traditions. The spirit of love that embodied the city of Louisville for two days was overwhelming. Everyone was smiling and hugging. It felt like such a breakthrough for our community … and then, Orlando. We went from the incredible pathos of joy to the bathos of despair. It’s one step forward, two steps back.
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Explaining the Chapel Hill shooting to children

A moving and age appropriate guide for parents struggling to explain the Chapel Hill tragedy to their children, written by California-based teacher, Hina Khan-Mukhtar:

Image: Namee Barakat and his wife Layla Barakat, parents of shooting victim Deah Shaddy Barakat, react as a video is played during a vigil in Chapel HillMany parents have been asking how to talk about the Chapel Hill homicides with their children. Here is what I wrote to a Facebook friend today. I am focusing on the lives of the three who were killed, not their deaths. I discussed this with my 7th graders today as well. I reminded them that death is inevitable whether we live five days, 25 years, or a 100. Every single one of us will experience death – it is a guarantee.

The point is what was the total sum of our lives? These three martyrs lived full lives of service and benefit to others in their “short” lives. There are many witnesses who testify to their inherent goodness. Their last FB posts were about feeding the homeless and taking care of refugees. Deah’s tweet was about wanting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I shared the interview Yusor did with her Islamic school principal and pointed out how grateful and kind she was in her manners and in her speech. We talked about how do we want to be remembered? If we die tomorrow, what will our friends and our social media friends say about us? Will the poor and the hungry miss us? How many people will want to come to our funerals? Yes, we live our lives to please Allah, but how we affect people matters too.

I reminded them to pray for safety and to know that no one can harm us unless Allah wills it. People say that those three had “their whole lives in front of them” and that “their futures were taken from them”. No, they didn’t and, no, they weren’t. This is exactly how much life Allah had written for them. None of us know when our end is coming, but we need to prepare for that inevitable day when it does.

I told them that it is still our duty to do whatever we can to ensure that this type of heinous crime doesn’t happen again, insha’Allah, but in the end, we know that Allah has created both demonic people and angelic people, and we pray that we are of those people who are most pleasing to Him.

We are either benefiting people and the world or we are harming people and this world…there is no neutral ground. It’s one or the other. We have to all assess our own lives and see what kind of impact we are making on our friends, family, and society at large.

Hicks’ first wife left him, citing cruelty on his part (it’s in the official records). His neighbors say he was a belligerent man and many people had reported him to the apartment complex HOA as a nuisance. He loved those tools that can be used to harm and kill (i.e. guns).

Deah, Yusor, and Razan are spoken about by everyone with nothing but the highest of praise. Two were in dentistry and the other was in architecture. Their tools of choice (dental instruments and architect’s materials) were used to heal and bring beauty to people and the world. What do we love? What do ppl have to say about us? Will it be a relief to others when we are gone, or will the world mourn our passing?

 

Resources for Seekers:

On the killing of three young American Muslims

ChapelHillThree young American Muslims, a husband, wife and sister, were killed in their North Carolina home today.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oun.

May Allah grant Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21 and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, His Pardon and Mercy, and may He grant their families beautiful patience, ameen.

Law enforcement authorities have charged a 46-year-old male suspect, who turned himself in.

Suzanne Barakat, the sister of Deah Barakat, gave this interview to CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Just under a year ago, Razan Abu-Salha helped produce this video on Optimism, the lost Sunnah.

Resources for Seekers:

Imam Zaid Shakir on the Chapel Hill shooting
Injustice Cannot Defeat Injustice
As He Breathed His Last – Imam al-Ghazali’s Last Poem
Do Something about it!
Anger, Restraint, Wisdom and the Prophetic Message in Our Times (Interview with Habib Ali)
The Soul’s Journey after Death and The Day of Judgement