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On the mass murder of Coptic Christians by ISIS

As-Salaam Alaikum,

When murder becomes an end, in and of itself, all principles are cast aside. The fact that the Prophet Muhammad (Blessing and peace of Almighty God upon him) severely condemned Usama bin Zayd, when he killed a captive who had pronounced the Muslim Declaration of Faith (Shahadah), is meaningless to the shot-callers of ISIS when they decided to murder Abdur Rahman Kassig, a captive aid worker who had uttered the Shahadah. Where are we to place their actions in light of the Prophet’s (Blessings and Peace of Almighty God upon him) condemnation of Usama?

The mass murder of randomly kidnapped Coptic Christians by ISIS demands that we ask a similar question. Where do we place their actions in light of the Prophet’s (Blessings and Peace of Almighty God upon him) covenant of protection to the Christian nation. He dictates in the Achtiname, a document cherished by the Christian monks in the Sinai who carefully guard its replica, a reminder to the mass murders of ISIS, or anyone contemplating joining their ill-fated ranks:

“This is a letter which was issued by Mohammed, Ibn Abdullah, the Messenger, the Prophet, the Faithful, who is sent to all the people as a trust on the part of God to all His creatures, that they may have no plea against God hereafter. Verily God is the Mighty, the Wise. This letter is directed to the embracers of Islam, as a covenant given to the followers of Nazarene in the East and West, the far and near, the Arabs and foreigners, the known and the unknown. This letter contains the oath given unto them, and he who disobeys that which is therein will be considered a disobeyer and a transgressor to that whereunto he is commanded. He will be regarded as one who has corrupted the oath of God, disbelieved His Testament, rejected His Authority, despised His Religion, and made himself deserving of His Curse, whether he is a Sultan or any other believer of Islam.” Translated by Anton Haddad.

Contrary to the image of our religion being put forward by warmongering murderers, both those who hate Islam and those claiming to be its adherents, Islam is dedicated to helping and assisting the weak and helpless, not using them in sadistic pornographic propaganda films, which, by the way, it is absolutely forbidden to view. We conclude with what should be chilling words to the henchmen of ISIS. The Prophet Muhammad (Blessings and Peace of Almighty God upon him) declared, “Whosoever murders an innocent person whose life is to be protected will not smell the fragrance of Paradise, and its fragrance can be found at a distance of forty years (Bukhari).”

Imam Zaid Shakir
Originally published here

 

Resources for Seekers:

 

Imam Zaid Shakir’s khutbah on the Chapel Hill shooting

Imam Zaid Shakir addresses the Chapel Hill shooting in his Friday khutbah in Michigan.

See also, his comments shortly after the tragedy unfolded,

“May the deaths of these beautiful young people, and all others who have perished as a result of senseless, inexcusable violence, anywhere, not be in vain. May they motivate us all to do more to stop this insanity, because all of their lives do truly matter.”

…and advice for parents who are struggling to explain the incident to their children

Resources for Seekers:

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
On the killing of three young American Muslims

Imam Zaid Shakir on the Chapel Hill shooting

zaidshakir1As-Salaam Alaikum,

Our condolences to the families of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and her sister Razan, the three young Muslims who were murdered yesterday in North Carolina.

May their entrance into Paradise be swift and sure, as is the case for the martyr (a martyr is an innocent victim of violence, not a suicide bomber).

Many are complaining of the lack of media coverage around this event. The sad fact is that the mainstream media that recently brought us “I am Charlie” has no interest in humanizing Muslims. The deceased were too full of life and positive energy to meet the stereotype of the evil, sneaky, not to be trusted Muslim. Why provide free humanizing coverage to the adherents of an evil ideology, hellbent on taking over the country. The smiles, vitality and genuine concern for others exhibited by the deceased will likely be dismissed as Taqiyya, self-serving deception.

As for their self-proclaimed atheist killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, there is no way he could be an adherent of an evil ideology. He probably never heard of Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens or their humanized atheist ilk who openly call for the indiscriminate mass murder of Muslims. He’ll likely be declared insane, perhaps he went to view American Sniper and lost it.

May the deaths of these beautiful young people, and all others who have perished as a result of senseless, inexcusable violence, anywhere, not be in vain. May they motivate us all to do more to stop this insanity, because all of their lives do truly matter.

‪#‎MuslimLivesMatter‬ ‪#‎ChapelHillShooting‬

Imam Zaid Shakir
11th February 2015

 

Resources for Seekers:

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
On the killing of three young American Muslims

Mockery by Imam Zaid Shakir

A special thank you to New Islamic Directions for this insightful article.
The original article can be viewed here
[What is Mockery?]
Mockery: Behavior or speech that makes fun of someone or something in a hurtful way.
Mockery of entire groups has effectively been criminalized in Western societies.
One would think thrice before publicly mocking Jews, African Americans, homosexuals or many other groups.
Yet when it comes to Muslims, all bets, and societal protections are off. To quote Yeats, “we traffic in mockery.”
From his moving poem, “Nineteen Hundred Nineteen”:
“Come let us mock at the great
That had such burdens on the mind
And toiled so hard and late
To leave some monument behind,
Nor thought of the levelling wind.
“Come let us mock at the wise;
With all those calendars whereon
They fixed old aching eyes,
They never saw how seasons run,
And now but gape at the sun.
“Come let us mock at the good
That fancied goodness might be gay,
And sick of solitude
Might proclaim a holiday: Wind shrieked—and where are they?
“Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we Traffic in mockery.”
Yes, when it comes to Islam, we traffic in mockery.
Yet, who can blame the mockers, when business is so good, and it is so easy to advertise the product.
[Who Cares?]
Who cares that Muhammad (peace upon him) was the founder of a great world religion that has fostered spiritual, intellectual and cultural beauty.
Mock the great.
Who cares to even search for the historical relevance of Al-Ghazali, Razi, Ibn Rushd or Ibn Sina.
Mock the wise.
Who cares that Islam provides millions of people the internal fortitude to bury their murdered children, rebuild their bombed neighborhoods, plow their parched fields and still smile and greet a stranger with warmth and kindness.
Mock the good.
[Mock the Muslims]
Go on and mock the Muslims, have a good go at it. Yet, you should know, the fruit of mockery is bitter and the seeds it carries only give birth to evil, an evil that oozes from the stinking corpse of dead heroism, rotten culture and brutish insensitivity to the pain and hardship one afflicts on others.
This is the message Yeats is sending to us. It is a lesson we ignore at our peril.
In the last section of the poem he reminds us:
“Violence upon the roads: violence of horses;
Some few have handsome riders, are garlanded
On delicate sensitive ear or tossing mane,
But wearied running round and round in their courses
All break and vanish, and evil gathers head: …”

Relevant Resources:

Scorning the Prophet goes beyond free speech – it’s an act of violence – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Letter to the West: we just have to learn to live together – Habib Ali al-Jifri

Courses:

Prohibitions of the Tongue

 

The Menace of So-called “Jihad” – Imam Zaid Shakir

basmala-the-bismillah-phrase-arabic-islamic-calligraphy-3

To see the original post: Click here
[Speak out]
Those of us who have been speaking out against the menace of so-called “Jihad” must redouble our efforts.
“Jihad” is far more than a threat to the lives of unsuspecting innocent people, both here in the West and in Muslim countries. It is a threat to our religion, in terms of how Islam is being represented by the advocates of “Jihad” and how it is being perceived by others.
Muslim scholars cannot remain silent and allow this misrepresentation to go unaddressed.
As for those youth who have been alienated by the systematic “othering” of Muslims in the post-9/11 anti-Muslim climate that is deepening here in the West, they would do well to consider a different set of religious teachings when studying Islam.

[True religion]
True religion is not to be found in emotional and sensational reactions to current events and mind-numbing atrocities.
True religion is not to be found in a self-glorying end brought on by a hail of bullets or a murderous act of suicide.
Rather, true religion provides the spiritual direction needed to find one’s self-worth and human value in ones relationship with God.
True religion provides the solace and succor needed to find inner peace even when outer realities are crushing.
True religion provides nobility that empowers its possessor to fearlessly challenge oppressors while mercifully protecting innocent life, regardless of the race, religion, color or creed of the blameless.
True religion provides a path to heaven that is paved with devotion, lofty morals and patient, dignified struggle against the schemes of one’s ego, the vicissitudes of the world and the vagaries of both power and powerlessness.
As for those who are deceived into believing that wanton murder, mayhem, destruction, suicide and inviting war and hatred against one’s coreligionists represent an express road to paradise, they should think deeply before embarking on that path.
Religion teaches and history demonstrates that such a path is a sinister, nefarious route that winds steadily, oftentimes irreversibly, into a deep, dark cold abyss.
“When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Friedrich Nietzsche
—-
Relevant Resources:
A Powerful Description of True Servants of Allah – Imam al-Sulami
Mufti Taqi Usmani Clarifies His Stance on Jihad
Islam vs. ISIS: A Letter to Baghdadi from Leading Scholars
The War Within Our Hearts – Imam Zaid Shakir
Answers:
Jihad, Abrogation in the Quran & the “Verse of the Sword”
Imam Nawawi On Fighting The Ego (Nafs)
Understanding the Hadith, “I Was Ordered to Fight the People Until They Testify…”
Understanding the Qur’anic Verse “Slay them wherever you find them”: Balance, Justice, and Mercy in Islamic Rules of Jihad

Israel is Not Like “Them” – Imam Zaid Shakir – New Islamic Directions

Article originally posted here. Reposted, with thanks.
“And that’s the difference between us and our neighbors,” he continued. “They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don’t. We condemn them and we put them on trial and we’ll put them in prison.” Binyamin Netanyahu
Reacting to the arrest of the Israeli colonizers who murdered Palestinian teenager, Mohammad Abu Khdeir, Israel’s Prime Minister uttered the above words. Either Mr. Netanyahu is oblivious to the history of his country, or his mendacity is so effective he has brainwashed himself and actually believes his lies. The fact that he can even utter these words, as he issues orders to murder innocent Palestinian children, without turning himself in to the nearest Israeli prison, is itself beyond belief.
Israeli terrorists not only have gotten streets named after themselves, some of the most notorious of them have been elevated to the office of Prime Minister. David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon were all deeply involved in heinous acts of terrorism that make Hamas look like a bunch of bungling amateurs. Each would become Prime Minister of Israel. The list of assassinations and massacres committed by this cast of characters, from Lord Moyne to Count Bernadotte, from the King David Hotel to the sinking of the SS Patria, from Deir Yasin to Sabra and Shatila, and much in between, is long and gruesome.
Contrary to Mr. Netayahu’s claim, they have streets, squares and parks named after them. An Israeli tourism website, Inisrael.com, describes Ben-Gurion Street in the following fashion, “Ben-Gurion St. is one of Tel Aviv’s nicest places to have a walk and a cup of coffee in the middle of the Street. There are a couple of places along the boulevard worth visiting.” So much for not being like “them.”
Perhaps Mr. Netanyahu has never heard of Ariel Sharon Park, to the east of Tel Aviv. It is home to the Hiriya Recycling Park, a symbol of Israel’s “green” future. As for Begin, he has an upgrade. Israel has not merely named a street after him, he has an entire highway, Highway 50, also known as Menachem Begin Expressway. To repeat Mr. Netanyahu’s words: “They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don’t. We condemn them and we put them on trial and we’ll put them in prison.”
As for Shamir, probably the most notorious of the bunch, he has yet to have a street named after him, however, the reason is not because Israel, unlike its neighbors, refuses to memorialize terrorists and murderers, but because two years have not elapsed since his demise. In the words of Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Haviva Avi-Gai, who chairs the names committee, “The personality [Shamir] is worthy of memorialization, but we do not talk about commemorating a person until two years pass from the time of his death.” Shamir died June 30, 2012. Perhaps he will get his street this summer.
Netanyahu’s arrogant mendacity is to be expected. What is surprising is the extent to which the American public is exposed to and consumes this tripe. In reality, Israel is just like its neighbors: She lies; she murders innocent civilians, she disregards international law and human rights with impunity and she treats Palestinians like dirt. Until this latest round of mechanized slaughter in Gaza, there would be little difference between the Israeli blockage of Gaza and the Syrian blockade of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern edge of Damascus.
There is one noticeable difference between Israel and her neighbors. Her murder and mayhem is financed in large part by American tax dollars and facilitated in large part by American-made weapons and American diplomatic protection. That being the case, every tax-paying American is an indirect accomplice to murder unless and until we raise our voices and votes to end the illegal and brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
– See more at: http://newislamicdirections.com/nid/notes/israel_is_not_like_them1#sthash.mZG9FPzL.dpuf

Apologetics Versus Apologizing – Imam Zaid Shakir

Original note from Imam Zaid Shakirs’ facebook page.
As-Salaam Alaikum,
Many Muslims confuse apologetics with apologizing. Apologizing for a wrong has a great place in Islam, as is the case with all viable religions or systems of morality. It is part of the process of redressing a wrong one has done to another. Apologizing can also have a negative connotation. This would be the case if one were to express regret for being a Muslim or for some legitimate Islamic practice, especially one that has historically not been viewed as problematic, even by people outside of the fold of Islam.
Apologetics, on the other hand, involve a systematic defense of a faith, doctrine or practice. This is where many Muslims fall into confusion. When some Muslims defend Islam against practices that have no sanction in the religion, others (a small, but sometimes vocal minority) might ask, “Why are you even addressing this issue? Who cares what the Kuffar think. Stop apologizing for Islam!” Such responses are antithetical to both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In other words, in both of these sources of the religion, we see well-reasoned defenses of Islam.
For example, Allah mentions in the Qur’an, “Among them is a group who use their tongues to distort the Scripture in order that you think it [the distortion] part of the Scripture while it is not part of the Scripture. They further say, ‘It is from Allah,’ while it is not from Allah. They knowingly lie against Allah” (3:78). The point here is that Allah ta’ala informs the believers that the distortions of those liars are not part of the Qur’an. He is, as it were, “defending” the Qur’anic message from distortions and perversions. Allah could have let the message speak for itself and left the distortions unaddressed, however, he knows the power a lie can have on the hearts and minds of His servants. Hence, He clarifies the situation. Examples such as this in the Qur’an are too numerous to mention here.
Along these lines, we will point to an incident from the Sirah (prophetic biography). One night, the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, was accompanying Safiyya, his wife, back to her house when two of his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, passed by. When they saw the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, they quickened their pace. He called out, “Slow down. Verily, it is Safiyya bint Huyyay!” Hearing this, they responded, “Subhanallah [we thought nothing] O messenger of Allah!” He addressed them saying, “Surely, Satan flows through the human body like blood. I feared that he would cast an evil [thought] into your hearts.”
zaidshakir1The Prophet, peace and blessing upon him, could have left them free to think whatever they chose to think, but he did not. He clarified the situation in order that the moral integrity of Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, was preserved. In other words, he was defending the religion, as his moral integrity is foundational for Islam. In essence, he’s engaging in apologetics. He further gave a “religious” justification for doing so, namely, to protect those two Companions from the machinations of Satan -“Surely, Satan flows through the human body like blood. I feared that he would cast an evil [thought] into your hearts.”
Those who think that in the face of the many conscious distortions of Islam we should just leave people free to think whatever they want are missing the mark. I would ask them, “Should people be left free to be manipulated by Satan and placed unwitting, in many instances, in the service of his vile agenda?” I think not. Surely, Allah knows best.

The Muslim Marriage Crisis – A Frank Conversation with Imam Zaid Shakir

Fahad Faruqui had an in depth discussion with a leading American-Muslim scholar Imam Zaid Shakir, a senior faculty member of Zaytuna College, about marriage, polygamy, temporary marriages and divorce, in attempt to tease out the true spirit of love, romance and marriage in Islam.

A brief SeekersHub course on being married won’t cost you a penny but could do absolute wonders for your lovelife. Take a look here.

Some Muslim men and women spend several years in finding the right spouse. Very few know what exactly they’re looking for beyond physical beauty and financial stability, which has proved to be insufficient for a sustained, successful marriage. And many others have a skewed Disney fairytale version of love and marriage in mind.
Marriage in Islam, in the outward sense, is merely a social contract, but the wise Imam explained that it is also a “spiritual covenant,” which got me thinking.

Fahad Faruqui: Can you talk a bit about how the institution of marriage is seen in Islam? And what should one look for when searching for a spouse?

Imam Zaid Shakir: Marriage in Islam is a sacred covenant, whereby intimacy between the genders becomes lawful and sanctified, and acceptable to the Lord of the Worlds. So there is definitely a deeper spiritual covenant to it, and I think a lot of times we lose sight of the fact that there’s an issue of not only fidelity towards one’s spouse and not only a desire to please one’s spouse and to sacrifice for one’s spouse, but also to please Allah and to have fidelity in our dealings with Almighty God.
Marriage is an institution whereby we can deepen our relationship not only with another human being, but with Allah subhanahu wa-ta’ala.

Q: It seems that more and more people are losing faith in the institution of marriage. What is the root of this problem?

A: It’s a societal problem, so our societies are increasingly of people who’re divorced from not just the teachings of Islam per se, but from deeper ethical and moral teachings. And these kinds of issues you’re pointing to are only manifestations of those deeper crises.

Q: When you say marriage is a spiritual covenant, where does Islam place those men and women who cheat on their partners and hence, put their relationship in jepoardy?

A: I think it affirms the fact that they’re living a life divorced from a sense of responsibility…A wife is a trust from Allah. A husband, a family is a trust. Allah ta’ala mentions in the Quran: “O ye believers! Don’t betray Allah and His messenger.” And simultaneously by so doing, you’re betraying the trust.

Q: Why Islam gave men the right to marry four women at a time?

A: There are situations where there are disproportionate number of eligible women, and polygamy allows a dignified way for those women to be married.

Q: Even though the reasons for allowing polygamy may be well founded, why do we see the practice being misused?

A: Oh, most definitely! Any social institution can be misused. Marriage itself is misused, like for obtaining residency, visas, extending favors to relatives, and situations that render those people involved extremely unhappy in many instances. So there’s no doubt that polygamy is misused. And this is why Islam tried to regulate the practice, so that the potential for misuse can be minimized.

Q: How did Islam curb the pre-Islamic forms of marriages?

A: First of all, by limiting the numbers of wives. When you had marriages [in pre-Islamic era] where there were 10 or 12 wives for one man then you basically had a revolving-door policy, where three or four wives were divorced every few months and then others taken on. This sort of nonsense was something that Islam tried to eliminate by making manageable arrangement that was subject to limitation. Also requiring the equal treatment of one’s wives–in terms of their maintenance, clothing and provisions.
Islam tried to regulate a practice that has social benefit in many situations and instances, and to elevate thereby the status of the man and the woman. Anyone who’s suggesting that primary motivation for man marrying another wife is boredom is extremely misguided.
Muslim marriage nikah

Q: There have, however, been instances of exactly that–men marrying out of boredom.

A: Definitely, there are instances. Okay, my wife doesn’t turn me on anymore, so I’ll go get another wife, you have instances of that. But how frequent is that? Especially in light of the fact that in non-oil producing Muslim countries and increasingly even in those countries, such as Libya and even Saudi Arabia, where the population is growing, an average guy can’t afford one wife. It has become increasingly difficult for 99 percent of Muslim men to get married – period – to a single a wife.
So to take the practices of a small minority and extrapolate from that into a situation that supposedly represents the norm–the normal Muslim man being bored with his wife, so he gets another wife–I think that’s a dangerous way of looking at social reality.
How many Saudi men can involve themselves in this sort of nonsense?

Q: A good number, Imam Zaid.

A: What percentage would you say?

Q: In terms of percentage in the Muslim ummah [community] it may be low. There is a problem when the west or even the feminists look at the Muslim world and say that such practices are becoming normative.

A: I am not denying it’s a problem. And I am not denying it is a misuse of religion, and it’s the abuse of an institution that was instituted for noble means, so that’s definitely true.

Q: Aren’t temporary marriages–like misyar, misfar or mu’tah–escaping the commitment and responsibility towards the family?

A: That’s why we believe temporary marriages were forbidden! And these sorts of arrangements are extremely questionable. And I said, these are only excuses that point to a deeper set of problems in the society. When one is looking for legal loopholes to escape one’s responsibility, then it’s a betrayal. When one is looking for legal loopholes to escape one’s responsibility, get out of a contract that one has entered into through guiles and schemes–this is a betrayal of Allah and the betrayal of the messenger of Allah, who introduced a set of very serious practices to this ummah in order to safeguard the social and spiritual integrity of the ummah. These practices you point to are simply indications of social disintegration.

Q: But what’s surprising is that practices like misyar [arrangement marriage] is preferred by women, who are not willing to completely invest themselves in marriage and would like to keep their options open while getting expensive gifts.

A: That’s exactly what I am pointing to. It’s a deeper problem that transcends gender and points to spiritual crises, where the religion is just a set of rules to either be adhered to, if you’re pious, or to be skirted around by various guiles and schemes, if you’re not pious. And women who would facilitate such foolishness are just demonstrating that they too are affected by that spiritual disease.

Q: What should be guidelines for marriage then?

A: I think the guidelines should be, first and foremost, a study of marriage relationships. They should think: Will this person help me in my deen [Islamic code of life]? Will this person be an aid for me in attaining paradise? Will this person be a good mother or father for my children? Will this be someone who will be faithfully committed to me in my old age, when I need someone to assist me and to strengthen me? These are the questions people should be asking, going into a relationship.

Q: What would you advice to those looking for spouses?

A: I would advice, first and foremost, to not be fanatically committed to superficial things such as looks or income or profession that is if a person is close to standards of acceptability then to move in to look at their character and look at their religion…Character is what’s going to sustain the relationship, not good looks. Good looks fade. Big muscles become puffy and soft. Slim waistlines tend to bulge and expand as the years go by.

Q: What would you suggest to those who are married but feel they’re falling out of love?

A: It’s very important for them to do some of the things they were doing when they fell in love. Like when you ask people what did you do when you fell in love, they’ll say, we took walks together, ate out, went to the park ever Saturday and just sat and watched the children play. And invariably you’ll find that they gradually stopped doing those things. So the things that led to them being in love in the first place were stopped. How does one expect to sustain a deep emotional attachment when the things that led you to develop that attachment in the first place, have faded away.

Resources on Muslim Marriage for seekers

Cover photo by Azlan DuPree.

The War Within Our Hearts – Imam Zaid Shakir

For original article: Click here
Verily, they were youth who believed in their Lord and we increased them in guidance. And we strengthened their hearts when they took a stand, saying: “Our Lord is the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth; we will never call on any God besides Him. Were we to do so we would have uttered a grave enormity”. (Qur’an 18:13-14)
zaidshakir1[Disconnected from God]
One of the disheartening features of our modern, or for some our postmodern condition, is that it encourages us to live lives of isolation, oftentimes divorced from even the crowds that might surround us in our bustling cities. We have friends and acquaintances, but many times these relationships do little more than disguise our fundamental state of alienation. One of the disastrous consequences of our state is that sometimes we become isolated from even our true selves and from our Lord. This condition of alienation from Allah is reinforced and encouraged by many of the messages that permeate our environment. Those messages are conveyed via television, movies, popular music, literature, and many other means.
Many of the techniques currently used to convey those messages were unknown to many Muslim parents who have migrated to the West from towns or villages in the Muslim world; places that lacked in some instances electricity, not to mention televisions, iPods, the internet, and related media. For those Muslim parents who converted to Islam here in the West, those techniques, some of which are designed —by way of example— to create lifelong brand identification in six-month-old babies, were in rudimentary and simplistic stages of development during their youth. Now, they are fully perfected and along with other forces that currently influence and help to shape the psychic and spiritual environment we are developing in, they create an atmosphere that challenges a believer in ways that are unprecedented in human history.
Through various forms of print and electronic media we are encouraged to consume things we do not need, a lifestyle that threatens our planet and erodes our humanity. We are encouraged to fornicate and to abandon the values, mores, customs and conventions that have supported family life since the advent of humans on this planet. We are encouraged to use drugs, drink alcohol, and to become gluttons by consuming ever expanding quantities of food “products.” We are encouraged to interact with the opposite gender in ways that are debasing and potentially destructive. How can a young Muslim negotiate such rough terrain? Answers to this question have been scarce, especially answers that resonate with our youth. Now, Habib Quadri, a youth organizer, experienced teacher, and perhaps more importantly, someone who has walked down the challenging, obstacle-strewn roads many of our youth are currently traveling, provides a meaningful answer. That answer lies in this book, The War Within Our Hearts, an insightful volume that takes on many of the issues confronting Muslim youth here in the West, sometimes with humor, oftentimes with brutal frankness, but always with sound knowledge and great clarity.
imam z[What is the War Within Our Hearts?]
The War Within Our Hearts focuses the attention of the reader on the real battleground where the war for the soul of our youth is being waged, the hearts. If we are looking for the source of the problems currently vexing Muslims, young and old alike, there could not be a better starting place, for our Prophet, peace upon him, has reminded us: “Surely, in the body there is an organ, if it is sound the entire body is sound and if it is corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Verily, it is the heart.
It has been said that the enemies that are waging a relentless war against our hearts are four: the ego, Satan, our whimsical desires, and the world itself. The most dangerous of these enemies is the ego. The soul in its unrefined, unconstrained, immature state is the ego. That it is the more dangerous than even Satan is illustrated by the fact that during Ramadan, Satan and his dupes are chained up. The Prophet, peace upon him, mentioned, “When Ramadan arrives the gates of Paradise are flung open, the gates of Hell are slammed shut, and the Satans are shackled.”  However, there are people who engage in the most egregious sins during Ramadan. How could this be when Satan and his dupes are shackled? We are taught that those sins emanate from the ego.
We mentioned that one of the characteristics of the ego is its spiritual immaturity. Its maturation takes place over time. This fact is illustrated by the story of Joseph in the Qur’an. When the soul of the wife of the Aziz of Egypt, Zulaikha, was immature and unrefined, she was a prisoner of her passions and impulses. As a result, she could not see the blame that she bore for her attempt to seduce Joseph. To prove her lack of guilt she gathered the women of her circle and had Joseph enter the room. When they lost control of themselves in his presence, she used that as an affirmation of her innocence. However, as the years passed and her soul matured, she was able to free herself from her passions, to see her guilt as well as the negative impact her actions had in the events leading to the wrongful incarceration of Joseph. She declared: I do not absolve myself of any blame. Surely, the ego commands what is vile, except for those my Lord has mercy on. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. (Qur’an 12:53)
This verse emphasizes something of tremendous relevance for our youth. Specifically, the ego naturally inclines towards vileness. Hence, without a conscious effort to restrain it and to nurture it toward maturity, it will naturally draw a person toward the vileness and vulgarity that is intricately intertwined with contemporary youth culture: the alcohol, drugs, violence, abusive language, misogynistic attitudes, pornography, crass music, sloppy dress, rejection of parental authority, and other vices that stand in clear contradistinction to sound Islamic principles and teachings. The immaturity of the soul is one of the main reasons many of the things mentioned here are particularly attractive to young people nowadays. These are some of the very issues that Habib Quadri deals with in this enlightening volume.
As for Satan, his enmity towards the human being is clear. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, Verily, Satan is an enemy unto you, take him as an enemy.  (Qur’an 35:6) For his part Satan mentions, Because you have waylaid me, I will lie in ambush of them on your straight path. I will assault them from their front, their rear, their right and their left. And you will not find most of them thankful. (Qur’an 7:16-17)  It is said that the assault of Satan from these various vantage points means that he will assail us in our worldly affair, our religious life, and cause us to doubt about the veracity of the Hereafter. We often forget that Satan has declared war on us and is waging that war on many fronts. We live our lives as if his assault is fictitious or harmless. If we are to survive his attack we have to be constantly on guard against his guiles and conspiracies.
[How do you win the War?]
In that Satan is at war with us, we must fight back. Allah encourages us in the Qur’an, Therefore, fight you altogether the dupes of Satan. Surely the scheme of Satan is weak. (Qur’an 4:76)  By implementing this order, we do not sit back and allow Satan to bring the battle to us. If we do so we will inevitably be overwhelmed. We have to go on the offensive. We go on the offensive against Satan by staying constantly in a state of purity, by means of Wudu and Ghusl. We stay on the offensive with the frequent remembrance of Allah. We stay on the offensive by regularly reciting the Book of Allah. We also fight Satan and his dupes by avoiding the arrogant and self-centered attitude that led to his demise.
Satan’s arrogance was instrumental in his being prevented from entrance into Paradise. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, And when We said to the Angels bow down before Adam, they did so, except Iblis, he refused, arrogated himself, and was among those who reject faith.  (Qur’an 2: 34) As for those who will inhabit the heavenly home, Allah describes them in the following terms, This is the Home of the Hereafter that We have made for those who do not desire to exalt themselves on Earth, nor to work corruption therein; and the [good] end will be for the God-conscious. (Qur’an 28:83) Satan fell from Allah’s grace owing to his arrogance. Many believers will be saved due to their humility. Each and every one of us has to choose which of these two paths we will follow: the path of arrogance or the path of humility.
Controlling one’s whimsical desires is also instrumental in holding on to one’s religion and successfully living a life of faith. Falling victim to our whims is very similar to how some of us succumb to the whisper of Satan, for it is during our moments of heedlessness that we become susceptible to both. However, resisting our soul’s whimsical desires is not an easy matter. In addition to mental and spiritual alertness, we have to consciously struggle against those whims. Allah says in the Qur’an, As for one fears when he will stand before his Lord, and denies his soul its whimsical desires, surely Paradise will be his refuge. (Qur’an 79: 40-41)
This is the “jihad” that Habib Quadri is alluding to in the pages of this book. That is to say the “jihad” to control of tongue, the “jihad” to turn away from the pornographic pictures and the lewd, indecent lyrics. Waging this “jihad” is to resist the temptation to attend the wild parties, or to dress in a manner totally unbecoming a Muslim. The practical solutions Habib Quadri offers to these and many other issues currently vexing our youth are tactical steps in the “Greater Jihad.” Allah mentions in the Qur’an, As for those struggling for Our Sake, we will guide them to our Paths. Indeed, Allah is with those possessing inner excellence. (Qur’an 29: 69) Those paths are the paths leading to Allah. They are only accessible to those who struggle for His sake. Habib Quadri has rendered our youth an immeasurable service by delineating for them very practical and easily performed steps to guide that struggle.
[The greatest enemy]
detatchFinally, the world itself is a great enemy of the human being. However, this is not necessarily so, for the world can also be a source of great benefit. Whether the world is an enemy or a source of benefit lies in how a person approaches it. If one approaches it with caution and the understanding that is has many potential pitfalls, then one can negotiate past its hazards and traps. The Prophet mentioned, peace upon him, “The world is a source of beneficial enjoyment, and the most beneficial thing in it is a righteous spouse.”  This hadith presents us with a clear message concerning the potential benefit of the world. However, the Messenger of Allah, peace upon him, also said, “The world is sweet, green [and lush].”  This seemingly innocuous statement is a warning against the seductive temptation of the world. It can definitely benefit us, but it can also seduce us.
Its seductiveness lies in its ability to blind us and lead us to believe that its delights are unsurpassed and that they endure. When a person has been seduced by the world he comes to believe that there is nothing nicer and more pleasurable. He believes that he is in a paradise, and he believes that the delights of the world are permanent. The believer knows better. The Prophet, peace upon him, described this state of delusion in a few brief words when he mentioned, “The world is paradise for the disbeliever and prison for the believer.”  This is a powerful statement concerning the nature of the world. The disbeliever is deluded into believing there is nothing more pleasurable than this world, and his entire life devolves in a reckless, hedonistic endeavor. As for the believer, he lives like a prisoner, realizing that like an incarcerated person, he cannot do what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. However, like a prisoner he looks for opportunities to do things that will benefit him when he returns home.
A thoughtful prisoner will take advantage of the educational and vocational opportunities that are available for him. He will take advantage of the free time to read abundantly, expanding his mind and raising his consciousness, as was the case of Malcolm X and countless others. He will also hit the weights and work himself into tip-top shape. Hence, the Prophet, peace upon him, has presented an amazing parable for the world. In it the believer is constrained by the rules put in place by the warden. However, he takes full advantage of the opportunities he has, even in such a harsh and dangerous environment, of those things that will benefit him when he goes before the parole board and when he finally returns home.
With this invaluable book, Habib Quadri has reminded our youth of these realities. He has shown us many of the weapons that the ego, Satan, our whimsical desires, and the world use in their war against our hearts, and he has given tremendous insight into the means of defense that we have at our disposal to resist the combined assault of those forces. He does this in a readable and accessible fashion that will not repulse those youth that have been pushed away from religion by the strict formalism and rigid thinking of scholars and teachers who, through no fault of their own, are simply unfamiliar with the mentality of Western Muslim youths and the severity of the challenges that they face just to be Muslims. Hence, when he reminds us of the war that is being waged on the battleground of our hearts, he does not cause us to despair. Rather, he encourages us by letting us know that this is a winnable war. Armed with that knowledge, let us all enter into the fray and begin fighting back.
_____________________________
Bukhari, 52; Muslim, 1599.
Bukhari, 1898, 1899; Muslim, 1079.
The wording in this verse should not lead us to believe that Iblis (Satan) was an Angel. He was present with the Angels when this command was issued and was thus included among those being addressed. As for his essential nature, he is one of the Jinn, normally invisible creatures who Allah has created from fire. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, concerning Satan, And when We said to the Angels, bow down before Adam, they bowed down except Iblis. He was among the Jinn and he refused the command of his Lord. Will you take him and his progeny as protecting friends, while they are an enemy unto you. What a foul exchange the oppressors make!  (Qur’an 18: )
Muslim, 1467.
Muslim, 2742.
Muslim, 2957.
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Free Islamic Courses at SeekersGuidance:
The Marvels of the Heart
Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion)
Principles of Islamic Spirituality
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Mandela: A Lesson in Patience – Imam Zaid Shakir

Original video link here.

In this Friday sermon delivered at the Muslim Community Center of East Bay (MCC), Imam Zaid Shakir talks about Nelson Mandela a day after he passed away and how he patiently persevered through the many trials and tribulations he faced in his life.
“Life presents us many challenges and unexpected surprises. One of the greatest resources we have for successfully surmounting those challenges and surprises is patience. What is patience? It is restraining oneself, in light of sound intellect and the divine law, from responding in a way that might ordinarily seem justified in a particular situation.” Imam Zaid Shakir
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