Imam Zaid Shakir on The Futility of The "Haram Police"

When Imam Zaid Shakir first became Muslim, he was a massive jazz fan. It was all he listened to.

“No one ever told me music was haram,” he says. “No one threatened to lynch me or burn me in a pile of melting LPs.”

So how did he give it all up? Find out in this brief video, courtesy of Al Madina Institute.

Resources for seekers

Cover photo by Alan Eng.

Seven Counsels for Successful Service and Activism – Advice from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani at SeekersHub Team Meeting

Recently, a group of volunteers gathered at SeekersHub Toronto for a strategy meeting. At the end of the gathering, I shared the following seven counsels on successful service and activism:

One: Renew Your Intention Regularly

The first point is that it is always important to renew one’s intention. What are we trying to do? We’re seeking Allah through serving His Creation.
This is, in reality, entailed by our faith (iman) itself. The Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said, “None of you believes until they wish for others what they wish for themselves.” [Bukhari and Muslim] He also said (peace and blessings be upon him), “None of you believes until they wish for others of the good what they wish for themselves.” [Nasa’i]
A basic expression of gratitude to Allah Most High–for the gifts of faith, and guidance, and good–is that one wishes those things for others. But wishing it for others is not simply saying: “Well, I hope others get it, too.” Rather, the proof of wishing it for others is how one actively tries to convey the good to them.
We have to keep renewing this intention of service—reminding ourselves that our service, activism, and effort is about seeking the pleasure of Allah Most High, in ways pleasing to Him.

Two: Be With The Group

Second, know that the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) emphasized the strength and need of the group. He said (peace and blessings be upon him), “Hold fast to the group and beware of going it alone. Verily, the Shaytan is close to the one alone and is more distant from two. Whoever seeks the highest of Paradise, let them be with the group.” [Tirmidhi]
Why? Being with the group—community and collective effort — has many benefits. One benefit is that collective effort is more impactful than individual effort.
Being alone results in harms, and disconnection cuts us off from sources of benefit—for ourselves and for others. Be connected through your service to community, and help others connect—so that you benefit and facilitate benefit for others.
We should always remember the need for that group—of community, of working together — and also reaching out and helping other people connect. This is integral to any work we do.
The Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said, “The group is mercy, and parting from it is torment.” [Ahmad and Tabarani, Awsat]
You will have seen that in your own social and family circles, those who disconnect and distance themselves from community get distanced from benefit—and those who remain connected grow and increase.

Three: Uphold a Collaborative Spirit

The third is to keep in mind the spirit of collaboration (ta’awun) with others—both in our own projects and organizations, and also with others’ projects and organizations. Seek and assist in the good, in others’ efforts and in others’ projects, as if they were your own.
Allah Most High commands: “Assist one another in all that is good and virtuous.” [Qur’an, 5.2]
Thus, anytime you hear of any good that others are engaged in—whether in our own group or circles, or outside of them—ask yourself: “Can I help out?” Help others; encourage them; encourage others to help them; promote their efforts…
For example, let’s say our Academy team sends out an email saying asking for feedback on their plans. This spirit would mean taking two minutes to comment and share your thoughts.
This collaborative spirit is also tested by how we view other groups and organizations—and our attitude towards them.
A foundational part of our ethos—of the Prophetic spirit and concern — is that we should not see “others” involved in similar projects as “competition,” in any negative or defensive way.
Rather, we should view them as our partners in calling to Allah (Most High), as partners in the good we’re trying to promote. We should want success for them as we want and pray for success for ourselves
We should promote their projects, programs, and events, as we would promote our own—without any hesitation, defensiveness, or negative attitudes.
We shouldn’t wait for others to ask before we promote their events. We should be proactive in doing so—and doing so is a test of sincerity, trueness, and of having Prophetic attitude and concern.

Four: Seek Allah’s Helping Through Help Others</>

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) promised that, “Allah is in the aid of His servant as long as they are in the aid of others.” [Muslim and Tirmidhi] This promise applies to both individuals and groups.
Have complete certainty with respect to this promise: when we help others and promote their projects—seeking Allah Most High thereby—we will find Divine Assistance and Divine Aid in our lives and our projects. Our attitude of collaboration should be a value we uphold for Allah, as a Prophetic way—without hesitation nor ulterior considerations. And it shouldn’t be conditional on others’ reciprocation.
To deeply root such collaboration, we should strive to establish formal relationships of mutual collaboration—and define the processes of making collaboration happen. But even without such relationships, we should uphold a collaborative spirit. More than this, we should promote others’ efforts even if they don’t and won’t promote our efforts and projects. Our actions aren’t for them—they should be for Allah.
There are a lot of good things happening in the community, and having a collaborative attitude actually helps you learn from others’ successful efforts. You will notice the things they’re doing well, it will help you in improving your individual and collective efforts.

Five: Ask From Allah Most High—Knowing that Success is from Him, not from your efforts

Remember that service is about seeking Allah—by Allah. In the Fatiha we affirm, “It is You alone we serve; and it is You alone that we rely upon.” [Qur’an, 1.4] The most powerful means for success in service is to seek assistance from Allah Most High.
How do we seek Allah’s assistance? Make dua before all that you do. Make dua for Allah’s assistance specifically for your efforts and projects of service after prayer, at night in night worship, whenever you work and plan.
Habib Kadhim said that 80% of true success is asking Allah. Our effort is necessary, but it is adab with the Divine. The Giver is Allah Himself.
This is a spiritual commitment for spiritually-meaningful and transformative activism: make dua for all the projects you’re involved in; make dua for others’ projects; make dua for those you are working with, individually and by name, and for others who are striving for the good.

Six: Strive To Embody What You Call Others To

Always reflect: “Am I striving to uphold what I am calling others to?” This shouldn’t hold you back if you find shortcomings in your own character and conduct. Rather, it should instill a renewed resolve to call yourself to Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and to all good we’re calling others to.
The masters of the spiritual path would say, “Call yourself to Allah just as you call others to Allah.” Service (khidma) is both an honour and opportunity as well as a responsibility, trust, and test.
One aspect of this in our work is that everyone should strive to attend least one class a week. Calling others to seek beneficial knowledge is a communal obligation—but also a personal duty we shouldn’t neglect.
If we don’t strive to do this, it could be from the Divine Warning, “Believers, why do you say that which you don’t do?” [Qur’an, 61.2] This is a reminder to call oneself just as one calls others—and to begin with oneself, for blessed calling.

Seven: Call To Benefit Without Hesitation

Don’t be shy about sharing benefit within your own circles. Sometimes the ‘there-are-other-people-taking-care-of-it’ attitude affects us. Or we feel shy to tell people—fearing being labelled or fearing negative perceptions.
Instead, anything good worth pursuing is worth promoting and sharing. This applies to the Hub’s programs, as well as others’ programs.
Whenever there is a program, new class, or project, strive to share the email or social media messages—and directly tell friends and family about it. People follow people more than they follow distant promotional messages.
May Allah Most High make us of those whom He praises: “Who is better in statement than one who calls to Allah, does righteous deeds, and affirms that ‘I am truly of those who submit’.” [Qur’an, 41.33]
And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.

How to Counsel a Teenager with Religious Shortcomings?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari
Question: What is the best way, the prophetic way to deal with a teenager (17 of age) who’s going through a crisis of faith? Can you recommend books to read on such a topic?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Dear Sister,
Assalamu alaikum,
I pray you and your family are well.
Thank you for your question.
With the advent of Ramadan, now is a wonderful time to ask Allah Ta’ala to bring hearts together and replace the young person’s doubt with yaqin (certainty of faith).
The proper response is compassion and patience, not harshness or ostracism.
God Most High says in the Qur’an, “And it was by God’s grace that thou [O Prophet] did deal gently with your followers: for if you had been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from you. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when you have decided upon a course of action, place your trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him.” (3:159)
Crises of faith can beset anyone, young or old, male or female, strong religious background or otherwise. Sometimes there is an obvious trigger like a traumatic event or an illness, but sometimes a crisis can be precipitated by the everyday wearing down of the faith that can occur under a barrage of negative media reports about Islam and Muslims and a difficulty on our part to connect with the beauty of our Creator in the midst of such ugliness.
My advice is to seize whatever opportunity you can to reach out to your teenager on any level–it doesn’t have to be a religious discussion per se. Also, involving a trusted counselor or youth director might be helpful, particularly if your teenager is likelier to open up in a more neutral setting.
As far as books are concerned, a good starting point might be Mohamed Rida and Ekram Beshir’s Parenting in the West.
May Allah grant ease.
Zaynab Ansari
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Counsel for Seekers: Listen to and follow the counsel of your teachers

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful


Thumb calligr muhammad


A student of knowledge asked for counsel (nasiha). I replied:


[1] Reflect on what you have learned from your teachers.

[2] Write down the most important counsels they gave you.

[3] Resolve to act upon these counsels the best of ways till the last of your breaths.

[4] Have a specific plan on how to act upon and live these counsels.

[5] Review these counsels on a monthly basis–and renew your resolve to follow them, with complete reliance upon Allah in this.

And Allah alone gives success.


Faraz Rabbani

Can One Love a Disbeliever?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: My question is, why are there many scholars who say that if someone loves a disbeliever (parents included) it is a sin of the heart and they will meet the same fate as them on the day of judgement…If one loves a disbeliever, does that incur sin?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

Sincere Concern and Loving for Others

What our teachers have taught us is that with respect to disbelievers or disobedient Muslims, what we hate for the sake of Allah is their disbelief or transgression, not their actual persons. Our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) came only as a mercy to all of creation, and he sought only good for all creation. He taught us that the essence of religion is sincere concern (nasiha). [Muslim] As such, we look at everyone — believer and disbeliever, righteous and sinner — with the prophetic eye of mercy, sincere concern, and wishing well for them. We love people, yet we dislike the act of sinning, the act of injustice, the act of wrongdoing, and the act of disbelief.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Many eminent scholars explain that the word “brother” used in the hadith includes non-Muslims, for we should love for them to enter Islam and attain all the virtues of our religion and eventual salvation. [Nafrawi/Qayrawani, Fawakih Dawani ala Risala Ibn Abi Zayd; Ibn `Allan, Dalil Falihin ala Riyad al-Salihin; Hashiya `Adawi ala Sharh Kifaya al-Talib al-Rabbani]

A most telling example of this love is the narration of our Master Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him), who states, “It is as if I am looking upon the Messenger of Allah describing one of the prophets — Allah’s blessings and peace be upon them all — whose people struck him and caused him to bleed, yet he wipes the blood off his face, saying, ‘O Allah! Forgive my people, for they know not what they are doing.'” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Imam Qurtubi comments that our beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is both the one describing the prophet as well as the one being described, that is, he was talking about himself. Imam Muslim therefore placed this hadith under the chapter of the Battle of Uhud. [Nuzhat al-Muttaqin Sharh Riyad al-Salihin]

Birr in Treating Non-Muslims

In terms of how to treat non-Muslims, Allah Most High states, “Allah does not forbid you, regarding those who do not fight you on account of your religion nor drive you out of your homes, to treat them kindly and deal justly with them: Allah indeed loves those who are just.” (60:8)

The word ‘treat them kindly’ used in this verse is derived from ‘birr’, which scholars define as ‘expansiveness in good’ or ‘every sort of good’. [Khadimi, Bariqa Mahmudiyya Sharh Tariqa Muhammadiyya] It is interesting that the same word is used for treatment of one’s parents, ‘birr al-walidayn’.

Some commentators of the verse explain ‘birr’ as showing ‘ihsan’. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

Imam Nasafi comments on ‘birr’ in this verse, saying, “That you honor them and show them ‘ihsan’, in both word and deed.” [Madarik al-Tanzil wa Haqa’iq al-Ta’wil]

The word ‘ihsan’ is derived from the trilateral root ‘h-s-n’ which has to do with beauty and excellence, and the pattern ‘ihsan’ is causative, i.e., literally ‘to cause/create beauty and excellence.’ Hence ‘ihsan’ is to deal with others in the most beautiful and excellent of manners.

Imam Biqa`i notes a very subtle indication in the verse, stating that the phrase “deal justly with them” uses the Arabic preposition ‘ila’ which literally means ‘to’. He explains that this shows that the justice shown to them incorporates an element of ‘connection’ (ittisal), and he also cites the authentic hadiths that “Allah loves gentleness (rifq) in all matters, and He gives when there is gentleness that which He does not give when there is roughness.” [Nazm al-Durar]
The eminent 20th-century Tunisian exegete Ibn `Ashur defines ‘birr’ as “gracious dealings and honoring.” He also highlights the importance of the last phrase of the verse, “Allah indeed loves those who are just,” as it serves to further emphasize the merit of treating non-Muslims with goodness and fairness — it is not only allowed, but actually incurs the love of Allah Most High. [Tahrir wal-Tanwir]

And Allah knows best.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani