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The Curse & the Promise: Religion and Violence, by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad (Q & A)

Religion and violence, reflecting upon both how faith can become the cause and perpetrator of conflict and persecution, and also the victim, has been a central focus in this year’s Autumn lecture series at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church in London, England. But can our faith and our understanding of God also provide the promise for the healing of our nations? The lecture series covered the perspective of the three Abrahamic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. St Martin-in-the-Fields invited Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad as a guest speaker to explore these themes from the perspectives of the Islamic faith.

This is the Question & Answer segment of the program. Listen to the main lecture elsewhere.

SeekersHub is deeply grateful to Cambridge Khutbahs, etc. for making this recording available.

The Curse & the Promise: Religion and Violence, by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad

Religion and violence, reflecting upon both how faith can become the cause and perpetrator of conflict and persecution, and also the victim, has been a central focus in this year’s Autumn lecture series at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church in London, England. But can our faith and our understanding of God also provide the promise for the healing of our nations? The lecture series covered the perspective of the three Abrahamic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. St Martin-in-the-Fields invited Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad as a guest speaker to explore these themes from the perspectives of the Islamic faith.

This is the main segment of the program. Listen to the Question & Answer session elsewhere.

SeekersHub is deeply grateful to Cambridge Khutbahs, etc. for making this recording available.

American Muslims Respond: Fundraise for Victims’ Families

At least 14 people have been killed and 17 more wounded in San Bernardino, California where up to 3 attackers went on a shooting spree at a regional center that provides services to those with special needs. The San Bernardino families lost their loved ones in a deplorable act of violence. This is why a collective American Muslim leaders and groups have launched an effort to raise funds for the victims’ families.

We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us and send a powerful, united message of compassion through action. Our Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, said: “Have mercy to those on earth, and the One in the Heavens (God) will have mercy upon you.” And the Quran teaches to “Repel evil by that which is better.” (41:34)

All fundraising proceeds will help with the immediate, short term needs of the families, such as funeral expenses. If we exceed the $50,000 goal, we can even assist the families with long-term expenses or possible provide a donation to the regional center where the shooting took place. Funds will be distributed to the victims’ families by the MiNDS Institute.

Please contribute and share this project with those you know and inshaAllah together we can send this message of compassion.

 

Resources for Seekers:

“Be Unapologetically Muslim No Matter What” – Linda Sarsour

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Linda Sarsour, in the aftermath of the shootings in San Bernardino, California, writes: “A young man, Saqib, put this 1-minute video together from a speech I recently gave and it really sums up a sentiment and feeling I hope we can all share. So many tragic and horrible things happening around us impacting so many people of all backgrounds around the world. Amidst that all, we need to stay grounded. Hope you listen carefully, absorb my words, and hold them close in your heart when you are feeling any fear or doubt.”

Resources for Seekers:

“Our hearts are with all who are suffering in California” – Shaykh Jihad Brown-Totten

Mushhaf-Quran-on-Stand-in-Mosque.pngWhat I’ve been compelled to convey to my non-Muslim family members out in Southern California:

Our hearts are with all who are suffering tonight in California.

We suffer with you.

There is no excuse for the taking of innocent lives.

Our beautiful and gentle Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is certainly turning in his grave as he witnesses what he declared to be criminal activity.

Among his mandates, “Whoever takes a single life it is as if he has taken the lives of all of humanity”.

Confused and ignorant youth who we are consistently prevented from teaching after the collapse of our classical theological institutions and the rise of reactionary reductionist political ideologies in the vacuum that ensued.

No amount of humiliation and anger at abuses warrants or justifies criminal activity in response to criminal activity.

Religion is a potent and powerful phenomenon with such power to destroy – when abused. But when understood soundly – to heal like no other medicine.

We live in confusing times “that will confuse any gentle man”.

Killing is never an effective answer to killing. Everyone is left blind.

Your Muslim neighbours continue to decry the actions of an angry and confused minority that – for all types of unrelated reasons insist on misrepresenting their faith despite best efforts.

I do however, demand from Muslim community decision-makers that those who are properly qualified in Islamic law and theology be allowed access to teach the modern Muslim public a correct balanced realistic (and grounded) understanding of the religion of Islam.

This lack of professionalism and sustained immaturity in scriptural interpretation must end.

With caring and judiciousness we all as neighbours together can find solidarity healing and brightness in our future.

It is our collective decision to take.

Concerned and hopeful.

 

~ Shaykh Jihad Brown-Totten

 

Resources for Seekers:

Can Muslims Stop The Rise of Extremism? Perhaps, If…

muslim-boys-peace-sign…We start with our own families to make sure there is a safe, non-judgmental space for everyone, all the oddities and the depressives and the questioners, so that no-one feels so isolated from their religious environment that they swing first to extremes of rebellion, drugs, gangs or suchlike, only to bounce to the opposite extreme of psuedo-religious death cults.

…We invest in the arts. Ezra Pound said that “Artists are the antennae of the race”, which I take to mean the human race. Artists are not beholden to political vetos or line-toeing: we can say what we like, and often it’s the artists who point out hypocrisies when no-one dares to. We’re like the jesters of medieval courts. But more important than that, the arts are a space in which we can renew ourselves, be freed from frustrations and heartache, find deep peace and then share it with others. We don’t need to wait to be “discovered” by the mainstream – we can create our own channels and platforms, but it needs support, time, a bit of manic sharing on social media and most importantly, investment. This might be through micro-grants or crowdfunding via sites such as LaunchGood (I recently did a crowdfunding campaign through them and they are very friendly, helpful and dedicated).

…We learn Non-Violent Communication to defuse confrontation and turn verbal abuse into a valuable way for Islamophobes to reassess their prejudices. I believe this is essential if we are to get away from defensive attitutes that turn into insular, divided realities. Read how families have soothed ancient feuds, women have pulled the rug from under the feet of would-be rapists, disputes between Israeli and Palestinian neighburs have been resolved, and millions of people worldwide have been enabled to deal with problems without resorting to fighting.

…We recommit to the founding principles of our faith, compassion and mercy. Why compassion and mercy, why not just love, straight up? Because compassion and mercy are forms of love you can give anyone, even when they’ve hurt you or treated you unjustly. You have to be a saint to truly love your tormentor, but even us mortals can hope to treat others with compassion.

…We campaign passionately but peacefully to end the roots causes of extremism, of any kind: militias and corrupt dictators being propped up and funded by our tax money ($500m of American tax dollars was sent to Syria to arm the Free Syrian Army in their fight against Bashar al-Assad…yet the FSA is the biggest source of arms and recruits to ISIS, go figure); poverty; social exclusion; racism.

…We take every opportunity to create beauty in the world. When everything looks ugly, plant roses. Write poems, paint murals (where you can), sing, whirl, do whatever you can to drown out the ugliness with its opposite. This is how we love and respect creation, how we show thanks to its Creator, how we free ourselves from fear and pessimism. This is a spiritual path that encompasses everyone, regardless of faith or practise, and does not require others to agree with us.

There will always be extremism of some form or another, somewhere or another. But at least we can say we didn’t sit and watch helplessly. There are no excuses – “A smile is charity”. You don’t need money, only determination. Now read this again without the title!

By Medina Tenour Whiteman, Cavemum

 

Resources for Seekers:

Helping our children find the light in dark times, by Hina Khan-Mukhtar

“You should probably think about what you’re gonna say to kids when you go back to school on Monday,” I told my son Shaan this weekend.

He raised his eyebrows quizzically.

“About Paris … and Muslims.”

He suddenly looked irritated. “I’ve done the drill before. Every year of my high school life, I’ve had to deal with what to say and how to react. In freshman year, it was the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. The next year, it was the Boston marathon bombing. Last year, it was Charlie Hebdo. Now I’m a senior and its 127 dead in Paris. I’m a pro at this now.”

He walked away, a signal that he didn’t want me to continue with further advice or suggestions. But before I could say anything more, he turned back to me and I saw the anger on his face replaced instead with sorrow. “Isn’t that sad, Mama? Isn’t it sad that I’ve become a pro?”

I was surprised by the tears that suddenly sprang to my eyes. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry that this is your reality.”

“You know what’s really frustrating?” he asked. “Last week we had the highest number of students ever show up to our Muslim Students Association meeting. I bet you the numbers are gonna drop now.”

“Why would they drop?” I asked. “I would think that in these types of dark times, kids would find it helpful to seek solace and comfort within a larger group. Wouldn’t they want to come to the MSA where they could maybe find guidance and support from one another?”

He shook his head. “It’s easier just to stay away, to not be known as a Muslim anymore.”

I was still mulling over his words when my youngest son piped up. “How can these terrorists be Muslim? They attacked on a Friday which is supposed to be like a mini-Eid for us; it’s a holy day. And ISIS people carry a flag that has the seal of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on it. Those aren’t bad things; those are good things! How can they turn everything that’s beautiful into something that’s so ugly? They just can’t be Muslim!”

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa“It doesn’t matter if they’re actually Muslim or not,” I heard myself telling my sons for the umpteenth time. “What matters is what people’s perception of them is. That’s our reality. If the majority of the world says and thinks Muslims are doing these horrific acts, then that’s the reality we have to deal with. That’s what we have to address.”

I felt gratified to know that my boys have a hard time believing that Muslims would be the ones who would be barbaric enough to commit the heinous crimes of Friday the 13th. Whereas someone else may accuse them of just being in denial, I actually realize how so far removed from evil they are that they aren’t even able to recognize it within anyone who claims to be a co-practitioner of their faith. They simply can’t relate.

I gathered them close to me. And, as I did so, I found myself wishing once again that I could create a special protective bubble within which to encase my family. I’ve always wanted only to get through life with them in safety — not only safety of body and limb but safety of heart and soul. I want them all to be safe in their deen (religion) and to never waver in their faith, insha-Allah (God willing). It feels like we Muslims are under attack from every side these days. Please know that not for one moment do I compare myself to the refugees fleeing war-stricken lands; my loved ones and I are not tested in the least when it comes to what the Syrians and the Palestinians and the Afghans and the Iraqis and the Rohingyans and the Kenyans are suffering these days. Yet I still worry what effect today’s state of affairs will have on the hearts and minds of my charges.

So my response has been to hunker down. To create an oasis in the middle of the desert. To lead them to the center of the vortex and let the storm rage around us. The way I try to do this is by minimizing our exposure to news media and teaching them about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instead. I show them examples of his magnanimity and his kindness and his generosity on a daily basis, and then I remind them to emulate him. My husband and I try to maintain a peaceful, loving, welcoming atmosphere in our home where prayers are prayed in congregation and the Holy Quran is recited on a regular basis and friends enter open doors to share food and funny stories and words of wisdom. We attend dhikr (remembrance of God) gatherings where the lyrical chants of God’s name wash over us while we close our eyes and calm our spirits. We talk about Islamic history and point out examples of tests and tribulations greater than the ones in our time and then we teach them about the even greater responses of dignity and grace. We pool our resources — and encourage our friends and relatives to do the same — and then share blankets, warm clothes, and funds for food with refugees and orphans from around the world, some who are now living locally. As a family, we pray for peace and healing for all of mankind.

“This world is not meant for us to wrap our arms around,” I tell them. “It is fleeting and we are here only for a little while. Our only duties in our lifetimes are to worship our Lord and to serve our fellow mankind. We serve by spreading peace and light and knowledge; we serve by leaving the world a better place than we found it, even if it only means that we’re picking up the litter we happen to find in the street or we’re giving a smile to someone who looks sad and lonely.”

No matter what the headlines and the political pundits may be screaming, my top priority in my childrearing is to prove to my kids that “Islam works”. If they can grow up seeing that Islam worked in their homes, then the deviant aberrations they hear about in the world will be recognized by them for what they are — complete impostors perverting the pure message of a religion that provides so much peace and guidance and benefit to its followers. And the next time an ignorant person tells them, “You Muslims are terrorists!”, they can honestly respond with, “Come meet my family and find out the truth.”

 

The author, Hina Khan-Mukhtar, is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 30 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue.

Republished with special thanks to The Muslim Observer.

 

Resources for Seekers:

Paris Attacks: Response and Responsibility

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Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you), Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem (in the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful),

In the aftermath  of the tragic attacks in Paris, France where so many have died senselessly, many Muslims feel very shaken. The believer is someone who is pained by the loss of others, who is saddened in the grief of others, who dislikes all that is odious to Allah. So the believer should be saddened, should be pained, should feel outrage at the wrong and should be praying for the families of those who died, should be praying for safety and good.

Don’t feel dejected

With that, one has to realize that the believer never feels dejected nor overwhelmed by the sheer force things. The believer takes everything back to their faith. We believe without a doubt that everything happens by the will of Allah and with the Wisdom in it. Nothing is outside of the will of Allah. Everything is in His hands, and we do not object to that.

You are not responsible

While saddened, don’t forget you’re not responsible for this. Did you do it? Did you support it? Did you agree with it? As a Muslim, you should not feel shaken, that “How come this happened?” None of us agree with it, none of us supported it, none of us see that this has anything whatsoever to do with the example of the beloved messenger, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, the one who in battle was praying for his enemy, who after two decades of being attacked and ostracized and oppressed and wronged and ill-treated by his own people, forgave everyone upon entering Makkah victorious. He said, “May Allah forgive us and you. There’s no blame on you today.”

It’s not info-tainment

Our Messenger is a messenger of absolute mercy even in battle, with the highest standards of noble conduct in the most difficult and testing of situations. Don’t feel somehow embarrassed. [What happened in Paris] has nothing to do with you as a Muslim. It has nothing to do with your belief in Allah. It has nothing to do with your religion. It has nothing to do with your Prophet (peace be upon him) nor what he has come with, so that’s not what should consume us nor should we just sit back and make this a mode of info-tainment. “What’s the death count now?” or “Oh, 150 people have died” or “Oh there’s X number of attacks” or “Oh look there’s a dead woman!”

You have a responsiblity

There is a tragic loss but along with being saddened and feeling grief for those who have lost, realising you’re not responsible for what took place, we do have a responsibility as believers. Our responsibility as believers is not fulfilled by sitting back and watching what is going on and feeling dejected by it or being defensive about it but rather, Allah, Most High, has made us responsible for protecting the good and standing up to the wrong.

Don’t sit back and watch

“You are the most virtuous of communities raised on to humanity. Call to all that is good. Forbid all that is wrong,” so when we see ugliness being spread in the name of our religion, there are travesties and terror being committed in the name of our Prophet (peace be upon him), we have to realize that we have a collective responsibility. Instead of sitting and watching the news for hours, ask yourselves – “How can I be a part of change for the good? Are there religious understandings in our community that are ugly, that are affecting our youth and causing them to embrace erroneous ways?”

A counter-narrative

There are. Those understandings have nothing to do with the way of the messenger of mercy but we are responsible for having a positive counter-narrative. What is the counter narrative? It is the way of light, the way of the beloved messenger, peace be upon him, who is an embodiment of Mercy. The way we deal with harshness is mercy. The way we deal with ugliness is beauty. The way we deal with darkness is light.

Dedicate your life

We have to ask ourselves, what am I doing to be part of the way of light, the way of Mercy, the way of beauty in this life? We should all be asking ourselves how many hours we give of our days and weeks and months and years in serving the religious good, calling people to the beauty, mercy and virtue of the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him). How much of our time do we spend being agents of mercy?

Prophetic concern

Our messenger is  the one who while on an important expedition as the Messenger of Allah, stopped to attend to the concerns of a deer. That’s the nature of prophetic concern. The Prophet (peace be upon him) cared for the concerns of animals, let alone human beings so what part of the good are you dedicating yourself to? That’s what we have to ask ourselves.

How can you direct your time towards the good? How can you direct your life towards the good? How can you direct some of your time to be of assistance to others? In these times, call yourself to Allah. Commit yourself to reconnect with virtue.

Heal and be healed

Yes, there may be other people, who are causing damage all around in the world but many of us are causing damage in our own marriages, in our own families, to our own children, to our own parents, in our own communities, in our own relationships. We need to heal and be part of the healing because this is what the Messenger (peace be upon him) has come with.

Urgency

When we see ugliness, we should have a renewed sense of urgency to uphold the good ourselves, to become embodiments of the good, to become ambassadors of the good, to become callers to that good so find something of the good that you are connected with on a weekly basis in your personal life. Connect with knowledge, connect with spirituality, connect with service and have something that you do on a weekly basis that benefits others so that you serve to become an agent of the good. Renew that commitment and when you see events that are ugly, have a sense of urgency. If you’re not able to do good yourself, support the causes that are doing good. The ways of good are many – actively support them with your time but also with your wealth, your skills and with all that you have.

May Allah Most High make us of those who spread light when we see darkness, who spread good when we see evil and who are part of healing and mercy because that is the way of our beloved messenger, peace be upon him, and have no doubt whatsoever about that.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
13 November 2015

 

Is ISIS justified in its ritual slaughter of enemies?

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani addresses a question asked at a session in SeekersHub Toronto, “Is ISIS justified in its ritual slaughter of its enemies and its burning of prisoners and others on the basis of prophetic teachings, specifically in regards to the hadith where the Prophet (saw) is reported to have said, O Quraysh, I have come to you with slaughter?” Catch his brilliant and comprehensive response on the SeekersHub Podcast or watch it below.

 

Podcast: 

icon-podcastShaykh Faraz Rabbani was asked “According to a commentary I read on Hadith 13 (None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.] – this hadith is very broad and includes Non-Muslims. Should we then consider Non-Muslims to be our brothers and sisters?”

The question came from Shaykh Faraz’ class on Imam Nawwawi’s 40 hadith – take the course for free today. Listen to the answer: Are Non-Muslims Our Brothers, as Mentioned in the Hadith?

 

Reactions on social media worth reading:

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Resources for Seekers:

Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery

Humble-I-Khawarij“As ISIS continues its murder and violence across the provinces it controls and seeks to control, and as it continues to plague the conscience of the great majority of Muslims around the world, what’s worth recalling is that we’ve seen this before in history with the sect called the Khawarij (anglicised to Kharijites). So before tackling ISIS, let’s look at their forerunners; the Kharajites, to whom their pedigree can be traced…”

Read the rest of this article by scholar Abu Aaliyah Surkheel Sharif on his blog, The Humble I.

 

Resources for Seekers:

ISIS, Sex Slaves and Islam – reflections from Imam Zaid Shakir

As-Salaamu Alaikum,

Today’s New York Times’ (NYT) article highlighting ISIS’ sexual enslavement of Yazidi women has cast a critical light on the issue of slavery and Islam. The ensuing implications should concern all Muslims. This is so owing to the fact that ISIS presents its practices as normative Islam and accuses the masses of Muslims who reject their draconian interpretation of the religion as ignoramuses or cowards who are afraid to identify with “real” Islam.

ISIS’ practices and fatwas are based on a type of literalism that has never been part of normative Islam, both during its formulation and after its maturation. Why is this so? Normative Islam is based on both rulings and interpretive principles. Those who, like ISIS, separate the rulings interpretive principles both misrepresent Islam and open the door to varieties and degrees of harm that the religion strictly forbids.

The idea of understanding rulings in light of interpretive principles is implied by the Prophet, peace be upon him, when he stated, “Whosoever Allah desires good for, He gives him a good understanding of the religion.” By implication, one Allah desires to ruin is left void of any understanding. The relevant point here is that merely knowing a particular ruling is not sufficient. One has to understand it.

The first thing we should understand about slavery is that it is not an integral part of Islam such as praying, fasting, the prohibition of interest, etc. As such, it is amenable to being rejected without any sin falling on the one rejecting it. For this reason, every Muslim nation has legally outlawed slavery and there have been no noticeable protests or accusations of sin or disbelief levied at the ministries and scholars who oversaw the drafting of the relevant legislation. We remind Bernard Haykel that these prohibitions occurred long before the advent of ISIS, so they were not motivated by embarrassment.

The fact that slavery is not an integral part of Islam also means that fatwas associated with it are amenable to change with changing circumstances, something that factored into the prohibitions mentioned above. We can cite the following as an example of an issue calling for a change in a fatwa associated with sexual slavery. For those who argue that Islam has retained sexual slavery as a deterrent to other nations from going to war against Muslims; in the current context, the actions of ISIS are being used to fan the flames of war against Muslims as hatred and fear of not just ISIS, but Muslims in general grows. In that the ruling to re-institute slavery has lost its deterrent power, the ruing itself collapses. The legal principle relevant here is the following: “A ruling is associated with its legal rationale, implemented when the latter is present, voided when it is absent.”

The widespread rejection of slavery among Muslims approaches the level of irreproachable consensus as it has become the ‘Urf or convention of the Muslim people. In this case, such convention has legal authority. One indication of this is that ISIS had to publish articles rebuking its hesitant minions who were repulsed by the idea of enslaving and raping Yazidi women and girls.

Another relevant legal principle is consideration of the future harm resulting from implementing a ruling. This principle is subordinate to the principle of removing the means that lead to an unlawful end, even if those means, in some cases, are themselves lawful. In the case of ISIS and slavery, one of the frightening implications of their actions is that it is turning people away from Islam in droves, including many Muslims. Combined with the rise of an organized and aggressive Atheist movement, the murderous and rapacious actions of ISIS are becoming the poster child used to highlight everything that is wrong with religion in general and Islam in particular, in the view those attacking Islam from this angle.

The first and highest objective of Islamic law is the preservation of religion itself. When an action, such as sexual slavery, which in no way, shape, or form could be described as an essential of the religion, is undermining the religion, that action is to be rejected. Hence, we reject these repugnant actions of ISIS and urge all Muslims to do the same.

Our religion is not this hideous Frankenstein-like creation being cobbled together by ISIS and their ilk and endorsed by some Islamic studies professors at Princeton University. It is a beautiful gift of a sophisticated civilization, however, that gift will not be understood or understandable when the principles that allow us to make sense of various rulings are cast aside. May Allah grant us all understanding.

This was originally published on Imam Zaid Shakir’s Facebook page.

 

Resources on ISIS, sex slaves and related issues for seekers: