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A Mosque Statement On The London Attack

On 22nd March 2017, a man launched an attack near the parliament buildings in London, England, resulting in the death of five and injuries to over 40 people. Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said and Imam Professor Muhammad Hafiz Akram have issued the following statement on behalf of one of London’s busiest mosques.

 

Yesterday we all heard the news of this appalling incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the families and all who have suffered as a result of this horrific and vile attack.

We commend the actions and bravery of all those from the police and emergency services in particular for their outstanding service and we pray for their safety at all times. Again our deepest respects and thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of PC Keith Palmer.

Such offensive actions are an attack on civil society and all people. We stand shoulder to shoulder with, and as part of all communities who are victim to these abhorrent acts.

We understand current reports identify the attacker as “a British Muslim”. His actions neither represent his Britishness nor his Islam. Such attacks are clearly designed to incite hatred, to provoke aggression and to divide us. We implore all of the community – Muslim and non-Muslim to remain united.

We encourage all to attend the Vigil to be held in Trafalgar Square at 6pm this evening to remember the victims of the Westminster terror attack.

 

Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said, Scholar in Residence & Head of Education,
The Executive Committee, Harrow Central Mosque and Imam Professor Muhammad Hafiz Akram

Keeping Aleppo In Perspective, and How To Respond, by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

The horrific news and images coming out of Aleppo, Syria has left the world stunned. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani offers some sobering perspective on how we should process these traumatising event and how we should respond.

Caribbean Calling: Nourishing Communities of Faith, by Nazim Baksh

sh_saadAt the beginning of the blessed month of Rabi’al Awwal 1438, Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari will visit the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. He will give a series of talks on the Sira of Allah’s Messenger , peace and blessings be upon him, at local mosques and will teach from Al-Nubdhah Al-Sughra at the prestigious San Fernando Jama Masjid.


Shaykh Ahmad’s host is Maulana Siddiq Nasir and his Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah Institute (ASWJI), the same organization that recently hosted Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said and Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy. Maulana Siddiq is one of the early graduates of the Aleemiyah Institute in Pakistan. Seeker’s Hub has endorsed this initiative. Sidi Nazim Baksh will be accompanying Shaykh Ahmad on this tour and in this article he explains why it is important for Muslim scholars to continue visiting Muslims in the Caribbean.
 

Shaykh Ninowy in Guyana, March 2016

Shaykh Ninowy in Guyana, March 2016

What Exactly Constitutes an Authentic Expression of Islam?

For the last three decades Muslims who live in Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, have been grappling with the thorny issue of what exactly constitutes an authentic expression of Islam. It wasn’t always like this, but it has made the Caribbean a highly desired destination for a variety of foreign scholars and organizations looking to make their mark.  
In Guyana and Trinidad, countries with the largest communities, the majority of Muslims are direct descendants of indentured labourers who were brought from India to cultivate rice and sugar plantations during the British colonial period. There is also now a growing number of converts to Islam mostly from the African West-Indian communities across the English-speaking Caribbean.   
While indentureship ended in the early 20th century, the East-Indian Muslims stayed on, raising families, establishing businesses, forging communities and building mosques – 140 alone in Guyana.
Although religious texts were imported and disseminated locally, it played only a limited role in keeping people connected to the religion. The rhythm of Islamic spirituality for the mostly agrarian communities were the intermittent visits of a number of respected scholars who were grounded in tassawuf.  

Mawlana Siddiq
Nazim Baksh with Maulana Siddiq Ahmed Nasir

Historical Scholarly Visits to the Caribbean

In the 1930’s Maulana Sayed Shams-ud-Din visited Guyana traveling by boat from Trinidad where he was a scholar in residence for two years. Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique’s visit to the region in 1950 makes him the most prominent scholar in this period to have visited and spend time in both Trinidad and Guyana before he died in 1954 in Al-Madinah and was buried in Al-Baqi.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari was a young man when he accompanied Maulana Siddique and he returned to the Caribbean in the 1960’s to conduct seminars and encourage local Muslims to establish educational institutions. He would later create the Aleemiyah Institute in Pakistan where three young Guyanese and one Trinidadian were offered scholarships to study sacred knowledge. Maulana Siddiq, our host, was one of the them.

Maulana Noorani
Maulana Noorani in Guyana in the 1960s

Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani also visited the Caribbean in the late 60’s and early 70’s and he single-handedly revived a love and devotion to Allah’s Beloved Messenger with his inimitable style of reciting Qasidas and making the standing during the salutation on the Prophet known locally as ta’zim, a standard feature at all types of major religious gatherings.
He was so well-liked that the Muslim leaders of Trinidad made an LP of his recitation of the Quran along with his renditions of a few qasidas. Today, there are still men among the older generation of Muslims who imitate his style of reciting the Quran.

The Infusion of Alien Religious Ideas

As the 14th hijri century came to an end the Islamic waters of the Caribbean got murky with the infusion of alien religious ideas. Not surprisingly, the first practice that would be attacked was the central role of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in Muslim religious life. Opposition to the Mawlid was fierce and the singing of qasidas in praise of the Prophet was seen as a throwback to bygone days and an imitation of Hinduism. Some even labeled it as shirk.     
Political organizations based in the United States began to focus their gaze on the communities in the Caribbean. The Nation of Islam was one of the first, but soon Dar al-Islam and The Islamic Party of North America led by Yusuf Muzaffaruddin Hamid, began setting up branches in the Caribbean. Both organizations were militant but also heavily influenced by the ideology of Hasan Al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syed Abul Ala Al-Mawdudi’s Jamaat-i-Islami.  
The first murder to take place in the name of Islam in the Caribbean happened in 1985 in Trinidad when a group of men gunned down an Ahmadiyya Missionary in front of his teenaged son. The men were followers of Jamaat Al-Fuqra, a U.S. based organization headed by a Pakistani mystic that was an offshoot of Dar al-Islam.
Long before Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi dreamed of establishing a Caliphate, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr staged a failed coup in Trinidad in 1990. His goal was to establish a Caliphate according to an important report on the failed coup. Six people were killed and Abu Bakr’s Jamaat Al-Muslimoon caused millions of dollars in damage.  

Largest Number of Da’esh Recruits Per Capita in the World

Today the government of Trinidad estimates that 130 adult men along with their wives and children – some 400 in all – have left the country in the last three years to join Da’esh in Iraq and Syria. This makes Trinidad the country with the largest number of Da’esh recruits per capita in the world. Some of them have taken to social media to declare Yasin Abu Bakr an apostate of Islam because he no longer pursues the path of Jihad and Hijra.
The convenient course of action is to ignore the Caribbean because afterall it is on the extreme periphery of Muslim majority countries. To do so is to ignore the vast majority of Muslims who desire to live respectfully and peacefully in a faith-diverse community as their ancestors have for well over a century with their Christians and Hindu neighbours. We have a moral obligation to assist the silent majority by opening for them the doors of sound Islamic knowledge lest some of them fall prey to a vigorous campaign by violent extremists.  

Resources for Seekers

caribbean islamCover Photo by Samuel David

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Why We Must Behave Decently Towards People – Shaykh Faid Said

In the aftermath of the July 2016 bombing in Medina, Saudia Arabia, Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said says we have an important and active choice to make. We can choose to speak with good and act with good in an attempt to be part of the solution amidst all the chaos and madness.

Shaykh Faid Said - Behave Decently With PeopleShaykh Faid Mohammed Said is a jewel in the crown of traditional Islamic scholarship in the United Kingdom and we at SeekersHub are ever grateful for his friendship, guidance and support. He was born in Asmara, Eritrea, where he studied the holy Qur’an and its sciences, Arabic grammar and fiqh under the guidance of the Grand Judge of the Islamic Court in Asmara, Shaykh Abdul Kader Hamid and also under the Grand Mufti of Eritrea. He later went to study at Madinah University, from which he graduated with a first class honours degree. In Madinah, his teachers included Shaykh Atia Salem, Shaykh Mohamed Ayub (ex-imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, peace be upon him), Professor AbdulRaheem, Professor Yaqub Turkestani, Shaykh Dr Awad Sahli, Dr Aa’edh Al Harthy and many other great scholars. Shaykh Faid has ijaza in a number of disciplines including hadith, and a British higher education teaching qualification. He is currently the scholar in residence and head of education at Harrow Central Mosque, United Kingdom.
Read his articles on the SeekersHub blog.

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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?

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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.

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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

Should Muslims "Apologize" For The Orlando Shooting? Imam Zaid Shakir

In the aftermath of the Orlando murders many Muslims are adamant that they will not apologize for anything. Imam Zaid Shakir argues, this is a proper stance as our religion does not advocate collective guilt, nor collective punishment. However, clarifying Muslim teachings is also being condemned and this is wrong.

We are informed in the Qur’an, “No bearer of burdens (a sinner) can bear the burdens of another.” No one needs say, “I am sorry” for crimes they did not commit. On the other hand, many are viewing clarifying Muslim teachings, attempting to manage popular perceptions, or condemning criminal actions as unacceptable “apologizing.” Such a view is misguided.

We Do Not Have The Luxury Not To

It is fitting, in fact it is imperative, that we announce to the public that acts of vigilante violence, mass murder, wanton mayhem, and targeting innocent people have no place in our religion. This is true if such violence takes place in Muslim majority countries, as happens almost daily in places like Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen, and sporadically elsewhere in the Muslim world. It is especially true for those of us living here in the United States, where there is a propaganda machine in place, which capitalizes on the unique aspects of each massacre to distort basic Islamic teachings, over time with numbing effect. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we do not have the luxury of saying nothing.

Nefarious Forces

Such clarification is especially needed now because nefarious forces are using Omar Mateen’s (and his possible accomplices’) vile actions to further the idea that Islam is a violent, irrational, barbaric religion, and then translate the ensuing fear, hatred and anger into policies, which even now, are having devastating consequences for Muslims all over the world. I have seen firsthand the damage such misperceptions are causing among non-Muslim family, friends, and associates, and I have also seen how welcome clarifying words are.

Managing Perceptions is from the Prophetic Character

As for managing perceptions of the religion, ask yourself a couple of questions. Why did the Prophet (peace upon him) announce that a woman walking with him was his wife, Safiyya bint Huyayy? Why did he resume praying for deceased debtors? In the first instance he did not want people to think that the moral character of the Messenger of God (peace upon him) was flawed in any way, as that would have devastating implications for the integrity of the entire religion. In the second instance he did not want people to think that he abandoned his Companions at the time of their deaths. There are numerous incidents of this sort that illustrate the ways in which the Prophet (peace upon him) managed the public perception of himself, his community and his message. Hence, working to ensure that people view Islam in the most positive light is from the prophetic way (Sunnah).
Again, when there is a machine in place that wants to create extremely negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims, we do not have the luxury of remaining silent. A well-known marketing principle states, “Unchallenged perceptions become reality.” We should not even wait until there is some odious, headline-grabbing attack before we begin speaking up to define our reality. It should be an ongoing process. Hence, far from becoming frustrated and refusing to challenge the memes that are accentuated in the aftermath of attacks such as those in Orlando, Florida, we know what those memes are and we should be relentless in attacking them on a constant, ongoing basis.

It Is A Religious Duty

As for the condemnation of criminal actions, we are commanded by our Prophet (peace upon him), “Whoever among you sees a vile action, then let him change it with his hand; if unable to do so, then with his tongue (condemn it); if unable to do so then let him hate it in his heart, and that is the lowest level of faith.” What could be viler than a Muslim (nominal or not) committing mass murder against unsuspecting people at a time when this country, in fact the world, is celebrating the life of an American Muslim hero –Muhammad Ali? I do not know who is calling the shots of criminals like Omar Mateen, I serious doubt if they are Muslim, but, God-willing, I will condemn those crimes as long as they continue to occur. May Allah protect us.
Follow Imam Zadi Shakir on Facebook and visit his blog, New Islamic Directions.

Resources for seekers

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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