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Contextualising Justice in the Muslim Community – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. Here, he and Ustadh Nazim Baksh discuss contextualising justice in the Muslim communities.contextualising justice

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, began his mission in Mecca, the society was rift with tribalism, racism, and economic inequality. As he taught his people, he did so with a deep understanding of how they operated. This serves as an example for us, since we cannot have social change without deeply understanding the people that we aim to affect. Otherwise, what will follow will be a series of Band-Aid solutions which do not have a lasting impact.

The current paradigm is very much based on identity politics. In the long term, we may wish to upend the paradigm, because sincere Muslims do not fit into any of these boxes. Similarly, we cannot put others into boxes, because we lose the opportunity to engage with them.

In addition, we should take steps to realise and cement our identity, and be cautious about how our own principals may be warped and used against us. For example, in traditional Islamic teachings, the hijab was not termed as such. Guidelines on how to cover properly would be found in the fiqh books, in chapters with titles such as “covering one’s nakedness,” in the context of both men and women’s dress. It was not politicised or used as a spiritual status symbol. Nowadays, the rhetoric of hijab goes two ways: it is politicised in the Western world, and in the Islamic world, it is seen as something that only women of very high spiritual stations may wear.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?


 

Contextualising Justice in the Muslim Community – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. Here, he and Ustadh Nazim Baksh discuss contextualising justice in the Muslim communities.contextualising justice

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, began his mission in Mecca, the society was rift with tribalism, racism, and economic inequality. As he taught his people, he did so with a deep understanding of how they operated. This serves as an example for us, since we cannot have social change without deeply understanding the people that we aim to affect. Otherwise, what will follow will be a series of Band-Aid solutions which do not have a lasting impact.

The current paradigm is very much based on identity politics. In the long term, we may wish to upend the paradigm, because sincere Muslims do not fit into any of these boxes. Similarly, we cannot put others into boxes, because we lose the opportunity to engage with them.

In addition, we should take steps to realise and cement our identity. We should be cautious about how our own principals may be warped and used against us. For example, in traditional Islamic teachings, the hijab was not termed as such. Guidelines on how to cover properly were included in the fiqh books. The chapters would have titles such as “covering nakedness,” in the context of both men and women’s dress. It was not politicised or used as a spiritual status symbol. Nowadays, the rhetoric of hijab goes two ways. It is heavily politicised in the Western world. However, in the Islamic world, it is seen as something that only women of very high spiritual stations may wear. Neither of these ideals are correct.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?


 

Frequently Asked Questions – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. In this segment, he answers some frequently asked questions about the topic.

Q: Should we partner with groups with whom we have some differences of opinion?

A: The Qur’an tells us to co-operate in good and God-fearingness. Is it not wrong to ally with someone on a just cause, however you should take care. Many times, these issues are political in nature, with a sense of “we do something for you, you do something for us.” If you do go into an alliance with such a group, you should go in with eyes open and be clear on which points you agree and don’t.

Q: How should we act as a Muslim minority?

A: For most of Islamic history, Muslims have been the minority, in places like Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and more. Places that do have a Muslim majority, such as Somalia, Indonesia, Kenya and Mozambique, became such without a single Muslim army entering them. Being a minority group is nothing new in Islamic history.

Q: How should we navigate unjust laws? 

A: We need to make a distinction between the laws that we can accept, and the laws that we absolutely cannot accept. For example, if a government makes a low forbidding people from praying five times a day, then we need to do something about it. However, if the law relates to things that are not required by Islam, we should follow it, but can oppose it or work towards it.

Q: How should we view the idea of civil disobedience?

A: On one hand, if we agree to live in a society, we should abide by the law. However, there may be situations that arise when we might need to take action, such as when Rosa Parks protested racial segregation. Civil disobedience does not always mean breaking the law, but we should be careful not to harm the people we seek to convince. For example, having a protest that shuts down an airport, will do the most harm to people who need to fly for medical reasons, or to meet important deadlines. We have to consider what we will be doing, and whether it will actually help the outcome.

Q: What should we do if we are called to jury duty?

A: There is nothing impermissible about being a member of the jury, and it is generally a civic duty. However, you could do what many scholars did, which was to avoid being judges. Once, Imam Abu Hanifa and two other scholars were called to be interviewed for the position of Qadi, or judge. The first pretended to be insane, and Abu Hanifa declared that he was unfit for the post, which caused the ruler to dismiss them both. The third was confused as to what to say, and became the Qadi by default.

Q: What advice would you give to parents of children who feel marginalised?

A: We cannot shield our children from the world, and we should teach them that these things are going to happen. We need to give them a good sense of identity. From a young age, we should instil in them a sense of self-worth, and that the dunya will necessarily include tribulations.

Q: Why is speaking about social justice important, while most Muslims lack even basic tawheed (creed)?

A: Questioning peoples tawheed is questioning their Islam, so that is not a fair assessment to make. If a person believes in Allah and His Messenger, part of their tawheed would necessarily be upholding social justice, as well as the rest of the Prophetic teachings.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?


The History of Social Justice – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. This segment covers the history of social justice, from the times of the Ancient Greeks until today.

Social justice as we know it was first codified by John Rawls in his book A Theory of Justice, published in 1971. He based his theory upon “a veil of ignorance,” from a position where no one one anything about anybody: not their age, economic stats, race, or even gender.

From this basis, he came up with two standards. Firstly, that each person should have equal rights to the most extensive privileges available to other people enjoying the same. Secondly, that inequalities should be arranged so that no one person would be blocked from occupying any position.

Some people criticised this, saying that while it sounded great in theory, in reality people do have positions of privileged, so it would not be possible to give everyone exactly the same social position. In addition, Rawls did not have a plan of action as to how to implement this. Nonetheless, his theory formed the blueprint for many groups.

Plato and Socrates also had similar conceptions of justice. According to them, justice was embodied in a just man. Knowledge and reflection were both the keys to justice. They also believed that justice was one of the cardinal virtues, which sustained and perfects the other three: temperance, wisdom, and courage.

The challenge with philosophical theories, is that few people follow philosophers as a way of life. Rather, philosophers were mostly talking amongst themselves. However, a large amount of people would follow the Prophets’ message.

St Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic theologian, took it a step further by saying that justice was Divine. He believed that justice was a habit, by which a person gave everyone their due through perpetual will.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?


Justice in the Islamic Paradigm – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. This segment covers the Islamic methodology for defining social justice.

Muslims are enjoined to command the good and forbid the wrong. In addition, we are called upon to fulfil the rights of individuals, as well as the general rights of entire communities. Fulfilling the rights of communities is a unique Islamic concept, since most of the social rights we are taught today have a greater focus on individual rights.

We also have methodologies for upholding what’s right and removing what’s wrong. One of our main methodologies, is that we believe that the means by which we alleviate wrong, must be also sound and good, rather than having “the end justifies the means’ idea.

We are not defined by other people’s impressions of us. We seek validation and recognition form institutions and member of society, but we should focus on Allah’s impression of us, which is the ultimate empowerment.

Another part of our methodology for attaining justice, is defined by the hadith, “Help your brother, whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed.” What is meant by that, is that we should help the oppressed to get their justice, but help the oppressor by doing our best to stop them form doing their actions. This also means that we should not resort to name-calling, insulting, or other similar actions, because it cuts off the possibility of redemption. By putting people into a box, such as “he’s a racist,” etc, we lose the opportunity to meaningfully engage them and work for a better future.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?

Change Happens: Qur’anic Principles for Social Change–Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What is change? How does change happen? What is the purpose of change? What are the spiritual and worldly keys to change—for the individual, for groups, for communities, and for believers?

In the first part of the series, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani speaks about the definition of change, reform, and rights.

What is Change?

There is not, in fact, any intrinsic benefit mentioned in the Qur’an about change. Rather, we are called upon to change from an undesired state to a desired one, in accordance to what Allah has deemed to be good and true. Not only are we responsible to change our own states, but we also have  a social responsibility to have concern for the greater societal good.

Furthermore, we are taught about reform (islah). Something is considered to be reformed when it is free of harm. Therefore, a righteous person is called a salih, or someone who had made a personal change and fixed themselves.

We also have a definition for good. We have a moral criteria, we do not believe that good is relative. For example, just because someone is very rich, does not mean that we can steal from them. Allah has upheld justice, and His justice is not punitive. Rather, it is restorative. Justice entails that we are required to give everyone their rights, and deal with them in the best possible way.

Some obligations comes through choice, while others are circumstantial. For example, after choosing to get married, it is our duty to do well by our spouse. However, if we see someone bleeding on the sidewalk, it is our responsibility to help them, even if we haven’t been the cause of their injury.

In conclusion, we see social change as a responsibility, not as a whim-based function. We should be having a sense of responsibility to work to improve the lives of the poor or oppressed, rather than waiting until a picture goes viral.


Resources for Seekers

 

 

 

The Secular and the Sacred in Higher Education, by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Dr. John Sexton and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf at New York University’s Global Spiritual Life on the world of religion in higher education, facilitated by Reverend Dr. Serene Jones.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Dr John Sexton

Q&A facilitated by Reverend Dr. Serene Jones

Resources for seekers

Gallup Forum 2011 Video: The Challenges and Opportunities of Regional Transformation – Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, Rami Khouri, Essara Abdul Fattah, Dalia Mogahed and others

The Challenges and Opportunities of Regional Transformation – Dr. Aref Ali Nayed and others at GALLUP FORUM 2011

Dr. Aref Ali Nayed is a panelist and the 2011 GALLUP FORUM panel discussion “The Challenges and Opportunities of Regional Transformation.” The discussion took was held at Qasr Al Sarab, Adu Dhabi, UAE on Thursday December 8th 2011. Other Panelist include: Essara Abdul Fattah, Rami Khouri, and Mohamed Younis, Chaired by Dalia Mogahed.

Related posts:

Video: Growing Ecologies of Peace, Compassion and Blessing – Dr. Aref Ali Nayed


Video: An Introduction to Said Nursi – Dr. Aref Ali Nayed

Stand Steadfastly For Justice – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani – Friday Sermon at Occupy Toronto

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, the Executive Director of SeekersHub and Educational Director of SeekersGuidance was invited to deliver the Friday Prayers Sermon on October 28, 2011 at St. James Park – the site of the Occupy Toronto movement.

The following is taken from the closing remarks of the sermon:

Seven Counsels in Closing:

1. Be steadfastly committed to justice and excellence in your own life: fulfill the rights of God and God’s creation, with sincerity, concern, and excellence of character.
2. Be particularly careful about the rights of your parents, spouse/partner, children–then family, friends, neighbours, and community–then those wronged (whoever/whatever).
3. Ignore mass media: focus on becoming an informed citizen–so that you can seek, spread, and safeguard justice and excellence–the beautiful balance.
4. Money matters: look carefully at how you spend your money… make ethical, informed choices–promoting justice and excellence…
5. Time matters: don’t become a mere consumer… consuming products and entertainment and infotainment. “Two blessings many lose out on: health and free time.” – Spend your time in seeking justice and excellence… family, friends, neighborhood, society….
6. Your life matters: don’t just be a slave in the corporate jungle… seek to make your work a promotion of justice & excellence; work of benefit and meaning. Work with purpose. Relate with purpose. From our tradition: working on one’s own terms…
7. Do this for God; do this seeking Mercy; do this out of sincere concern….

What do we seek? Balance of Justice (`adl) and Excellence (ihsan). That is what makes life beautiful.

And indeed God is Beautiful, and loves Beauty.

On Libya – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf – Sandala Productions

On Libya

Hamza Yusuf

I want to share some quick thoughts and recollections inspired by the current turmoil taking place in Libya, which pains me deeply. Ghaddafi reminds me of Shakespeare’s tyrant, Richard III: conniving, mutant, dark, and absolutely cruel, with no concern for his family, friends, or companions, let alone the people he rules over. He kills to get to power and maintain it, but as power diminishes before his eyes, he unleashes his fury and decimates his own army, only to end up alone, condemned to die a traitor to his country and people.

I hope Ghaddafi’s reign comes to an end soon for the sake of Libya’s beautiful people. They deserve much better and, in sha Allah, they will get better. In each of our daily prayers, we should all pray for their succor and divine aid. God answers prayers, and there is no barrier between the oppressed and God. The iniquitous suffering Ghaddafi has ravaged upon Libya’s cities and towns is worse than reprehensible and reveals his low nature. I have personally known some of those who were closest to him at his career’s outset and then fled Libya as a result of his unspeakable treatment of his coterie; they know too well how evil this man is and has been.

I have visited Libya once, which was in 1979 and was quite a bizarre experience. Ghaddafi had been in power for just a decade, seizing control through a military coup in 1969 while King Idris was out of the country for medical treatment. On this trip, I accompanied a British convert to Islam who was raising money for a mosque project in England. I had been Muslim for only a few years and was just starting my studies in Arabic, so I was not yet fluent. Everywhere we went, I saw posters that read, “Alijan fi kulli makan” (Committees in everyplace) based on the “Colonel-leader’s” legerdemain of a true “people’s democracy” in which local committees decided their own fates. But after seeing through the illusion, Libyans, I was told, interpreted it to mean “Al-jan fi kulli makan,” (Devils in everyplace).

At the outset of the coup, in their misguided support, some of the less perspicacious Libyans actually chanted, “Iblis wa la Idris” ([Give us] the devil and not Idris). Beware of what you ask for; sometimes you actually get it.

While in Libya, I visited the home of a delightful and cultured Libyan named Sidi Abdal Hamid Ben Halim, now deceased, may God have mercy on his soul. He had been a student at al-Azhar University before becoming a politician and went on to become an ambassador to Italy for Libya. At that time, his was the single most important Libyan diplomatic post. His brother, Mustafa, had been the prime minister under King Idris, who ruled Libya in the post-colonial period until the 1969 coup. From his close and personal knowledge of King Idris, Sidi Abdal Hamid recounted that not only was King Idris a just ruler, he was also a pious and erudite Muslim who dreamed of building Islamic schools and colleges throughout Africa with the newly acquired oil revenue. The King was of the Sanussi tradition and represented the best of the benign monarchies of the old Muslim world that crumbled throughout the twentieth century, only to be replaced by malevolent dictators, all of whom came in the name of progress, freedom, and democracy; despite their claims to reform, they became tyrants aspiring to the very monarchies they had supplanted by setting up their sons for ascension to their newly acquired “thrones.”

In a classic example of his feigned madness, Ghaddafi actually stated that “democracy” was a hybrid Arabic word from dema and karasi, and hence that “democracy” really means “the thrones continue.” Most probably this nugget of “Ghaddafism” will end up in Bartlett’s, alongside the Bushisms. Never “misunderestimate” tyrants. (By the way, one who thinks Ghaddafi is certifiably insane is not paying enough attention. He is an excellent executor of the special interests that put him into power in the first place. He has worked well with BP, Occidental, Halliburton, and others for decades. The British Government has military contracts with Libya and trained Ghaddafi’s soldiers. Those beneficiaries of his “madness” don’t seem to be bothered by his quirks and idiosyncrasies. Moreover, his sanity makes him perfectly responsible for his actions. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes, “Feign ignorance [insanity?], and send your enemies into disarray.” Or, perhaps more apropos is an English phrase that Ghaddafi may have learned during his training at the British military academy, Sandhurst, “Crazy like a Fox.” A CNN reporter was recently surprised at how “lucid” Ghaddafi was in his private interview with her.)

Some time after that visit, my courageous Libyan friend, Fathi – who was from a very prestigious Benghazian family – and I had a brush with Ghaddafi’s hospitality in Granada, Spain, in 1984. While on a visit from the Emirates, I was staying at Fathi’s apartment in Granada, and one morning we went out intending to drive to a café for breakfast, only to find the inside of his blue Mercedes completely destroyed from a firebomb, courtesy of the Colonel, who had ordered the assassination of dissident Libyan expatriates all over the world. The two of us felt as if we just had a brush with our own mortality. All that remained intact from the firebomb were my Warsh Mus’haf, from which I had been memorizing the Qur’an, and a leather-bound copy of Ibn Abi Zayd’s al-Risalah (The Epistle) in Maliki jurisprudence that I was studying at the time. While the outside covers of the two books were charred, all of the pages inside them were miraculously intact and unblemished. Both the reminder of the fragility of life as well as the clear sign of providential care for God’s Book and the Prophet’s shariah, as embodied in The Epistle, were a cogent proof for me that I was spending my life studying what will, God-willing, save me from the Fire, and this had a profound impact on me. God is my Witness for what I relate here.

Fathi had been part of the resistance movement of Libyans who were living in Morocco, and many of his friends and associates had been successfully eliminated by Libyan hit teams. Between 1980 and 1987, at least 25 Libyan dissidents were assassinated worldwide, most of them highly educated and decent people. Thirty years later, most of them are dead, and Ghaddafi himself is in the death throes, losing power.

In my experience, Libyans are some of the most wonderful, loyal, and deeply religious Muslims that I have met. In my youth, my dream was to end up in Misurata, where Sidi Ahmad Zarruq’s school is and where he is buried. I used to talk with my Libyan friends about getting a plot of land there. Sidi Ahmad Zarruq loved the Libyans, and despite being a widely celebrated scholar and highly desirable resident anywhere in the Muslim world, he chose to live among the Libyans. The greatest commentator of later Maliki tradition was from a Libyan family of scholars known as al-Hataab.

My dear friend of many years, A.R.M., his wife Amnah, and his family are in Tripoli right now, and many of my other Libyan friends have family and friends who are now in terrible circumstances. Libya is a place of much significance for Muslims, and Libyans deserve our heartfelt prayers and tears during this trying time. I don’t remember having ever imprecated against anyone by name since becoming a Muslim, but now I find myself asking God to give Ghaddafi what he deserves for the terror and suffering he has inflicted upon “his people.”

My friend and teacher through his works, Shaykh Sadiq al-Ghiryani, who in my opinion represents the highest example of a scholar-warrior with his intrepid statement on al-Jazeerah, chose to speak the truth despite being in Tripoli, hence putting his life on the line. He is now in hiding and posting videos from his hideout to encourage the resistance. I recommend watching his post to see a true scholar fulfilling his duty. This is indeed the greatest jihad: to speak the truth in the presence of unjust tyranny. May God reward and protect him and his family during these trying times.

The recording of the Du’a al-Nasiri recited by the Fes Singers is posted here on the Sandala website. (The text of the prayer along with my translation will also soon be posted.) I advise people to recite it with the intention of succor for our brothers and sisters in Libya. This prayer is noted for its power and the effects it has on removing troubles due to the sincerity of its author. It was used by Moroccans as a means to ask God to expel the French during the colonial period and was proscribed by law under French authority.

Click on image to hear Du’a al-Nasiri