Counsel To Muslim Social Justice Activists

Let us work together to preserve all that is special about being Muslim in the process

Islam is a faith concerned with the wellbeing of all humankind. Like other Abrahamic religions, it combines service to God with service to humanity. It is focused neither exclusively on the hereafter nor solely on sociopolitical concerns. If the most recent US elections exposed the gravity of polarization in American society, it also uncovered a clash of communal visions between some Muslim social justice activists and classically trained Muslim scholars. Social justice is one of the noblest and most essential of causes, and the activists involved with efforts to universalize justice are involved with prophetic work. The support and participation of all Muslims in whatever capacity they can in such work is absolutely essential.

We, as an assembly of experts on the study of Islam and other concerned parties committed to traditional Islamic mores, concerned for both the unity and moral integrity of Muslims living as ethnic and religious minorities, open our hands, hearts, and ears to those Muslims involved in political mobilization and communal organization as a sincere gesture of peace and reconciliation upon the teachings of Islam and universal human concerns.

We wish to both acknowledge and remind others that for every political alliance formed with groups with special interests, those alliances potentially and/or actually alienate others. Alliances are important. But, when those alliances unduly alienate large swaths of the demographic that activists and/or religious scholars themselves claim to represent, it should become a matter of great concern. And, one should pursue ways to attract, rather than repulse potential members and advocates for one’s cause.

Activism is not the exclusive purview of those designated as activists. It is the fulfillment of the Islamic obligation of “enjoining good and forbidding wrong” or “correcting wrongs with one’s hand, tongue, and heart.” Islam cautions us against the threat of external and internal oppression. We must remain vigilant against allowing our opposition to external injustice to make us forget about the danger of internal transgressions against the Creator’s laws. Before our efforts are to be given prophetic sanction, our advocacy must pass the test of prophetic scrutiny and/or imperative.

Our children should not be confused or misled about the mores bequeathed to us by our beloved Prophet Muhammad—God’s peace and blessing upon him. Though victims of oppression are not to be unjustly blamed for their plight, they can be called to introspect about their own failures to uphold their duty to God and justice to others. If in this effort to advise, leaders were to mistakenly place the crux of responsibility on the oppressed rather than their oppressors, such leaders would be derelict in their duty, and their silence in such cases would be more useful to the masses than their activism.

We believe that the way forward in the US political arena requires a synthesis of the best that both liberals and conservatives have to offer, not merely maintaining a blind commitment to the democratic, republican, or independent parties. Our main desire is that Islam and the preservation of its values be given priority and not sacrificed on the altar of political opportunism. If the mores of others are worth emphasizing, Islamic mores should be worth showcasing as well, even if they clash with those of our allies at times.

Like this?
Get more of our great articles.

This is what creates space for genuine dialogue and understanding, which can lead to long-term peaceful coexistence. It is also what real freedom of expression, thought, and conscience look like. We believe that “all” people agree on the “majority” of issues and concerns. The points of disagreement and difference pale in comparison. We all are members of one human family, from the same mother and father: Adam and Eve. Our true enemy is Satan.

Our call is for:

  • the prioritization of the non-negotiable teachings of Islam instead of viewing our religion and scripture through the strictures of uncritical moral assumptions, be they liberal or conservative.
  • a commitment to insulating all members of the community even those with whom we strongly differ from the attacks of those who wish us physical and spiritual harm.
  • a call to initiate regular dialogue with one another about areas of disagreement rather than public antagonism and assuming the worse about one another’s intentions.
  • Lastly, we invite activists and scholars together to form more holistic and inclusive strategies to protect our civil, religious, and human rights.

With that said, let us work together to secure our rights and persons as fellow Americans, while preserving all that is special about being Muslim in the process. This will ensure that our moral legacy is passed onto our children, and that the mark we make in history underscores the Islamic principles which guided us to our success.

—–##—–

Join the effort by filling out the form below:

Fill out my online form.

Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, Zaytuna College & Lamppost Education Initiative
Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood & Deputy Amir, MANA
Ustadha Ieasha Prime, Barakah Inc
Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan
Haytham Soliman, CEO MuslimMatters Inc.
Shaykh Khalil Abdur-Rashid, Islamic Seminary of America
Shaykh Abdul-Karim Yahya, Munazzamah Dar al-Rahmah
Imam Sulaimaan Hamed, The Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam
Shaykh Amin Muhammad, Masjid Muhammad of Atlantic City
Shaykh Joe Bradford, Wellspring Endowment
Aisha H.L al-Adawiya, Founder of Women In Islam Inc.
Ustadha Muslema Purmul, Institute of Knowledge
Shaykh Kafani Cisse, Student and Teacher and Cultural ambassador of A.A.I.I. and Namsrul Ilm America. #helpforhumanity
Bilal Ansari, Chaplain/Community Organizer
Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, Bayyinah Institute
Arbazz Mohammed, Sahaba Initiative
Daniel Haqiqatjou, Islam & Evolution, MuslimMatters Inc.
Anas Hlayhel, Masjid esSalaam, Chandler, AZ
Hazel Gomez, Rabata’s Ribaat & Michigan Faith In Action
Khalil Muhsin, Lamppost Education Initiative
Amad Shaikh, MuslimMatters Inc.
Wajiha Khalil, Art and Education
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Executive Director, CAIR Georgia
Jamil Abdur-Rahman, The National Muslim Council for Justice ( NMCJ )
Dr. Zahid Bukhari, ICNA Council for Social Justice
Minhazul Abedin, Masjid Muhammad Atlantic City
Aamer Ahmed, President of MA’RUF
Abdul Aziz Suraqah, Ibriz Media
Haji Abdul Kareem Nandasena, Amanulla Centre
Suzy Ismail, Cornerstone
Imam Amin Nathari, Islam in America Movement and the Muslim Empowerment Institute
Imam Khalis Rashaad, Ibrahim Islamic Center
Faiz Khan, Justice for muslim
Maha Elgenaidi, Islamic Networks Group (ING)
Tarek El-Messidi, CelebrateMercy
Mohammad Elshinawy, MuslimMatters Inc.
Zainab Ismail, Al-Maqasid
Dr. Shadee Elmasry, NBIC and Safina Society NJ
Arsalan Haque, Islamic Association of Collin County
Imran Muneer, The Mad Mamluks Podcast
Shaffwan Ahmed, Activist and Organizer
Qasim Rashad, United Muslim Masjid
Ameena Jandali, Islamic Networks Group
El Hajj Mauri Saalakhan, The Aafia Foundation Inc.
Dr Sulayman Nyang, The Aafia Foundation
Abdur Rehman Badat, Activist
Farooq Zafar, MUSElim
Nana Firman, Global Muslim Climate Network
Sabiha Ansari, American Muslim Consumer Consortium (AMCC)
Imam Osamah Salhia, Islamic Center of Passaic County (Clifton Campus)
Hassan Kazi, Justice for All, Al-Nadwa Institute & Al Falah Islamic Centre
Dr. Iqbal Al-Nadvi, ICNA Canada, Al-Nadwa Institute & Canadian Council of Imams
Cassim Peer, Gordon’s Bay Islamic Society
Khalid Baig, Albalagh
Sulaiman Saleem, Institute of Islamic education
Mobeen Vaid, MuslimMatters Inc.
Sarah Bellal, UC Berkeley MSA
Shaykh Luqman Ahmad, Mosque Without Borders, Imam, Islamic Society of Folsom
Yasin Dwyer, Muslim Chaplaincy at Ryerson University
Ermin Sinanović, International Institute of Islamic Thought
Amtul Atya, ICNA Relief
Imam Thomas Abdul Azeez Manning, Ash-Shifaa Inc
Anika Ingram, The Ingram Firm, LLC
Mohamad Ashrof, International Interfaith Dialogue India
Shaheen Saiyed, Ma’ruf

13 / View Comments

13 responses to “Counsel To Muslim Social Justice Activists”

  1. Ramy says:

    I’m so glad that this letter was published. It captured my thoughts almost exactly. Thank you!

  2. Rahma says:

    Assalamu ‘Alaykum.

    What does this mean with respect to our allies in the LGBTQ community?

    • Abdullah says:

      Covered under the point:

      a commitment to insulating all members of the community even those with whom we strongly differ from the attacks of those who wish us physical and spiritual harm.

    • tsofa says:

      Assalamu ‘Alaykum.

      What does this mean with respect to the LGBTQ community and Allah’s commands on gender and sexual behavopr. i.e. Prophet Lut’s message?

  3. Ahmad B. says:

    Salam Sr. Rahma,

    I think it means we should, at the very least, make a clear distinction in our rhetoric between what other people–specifically non-Muslims–do and what we know to be right and wrong by Allah’s revelation. The extent to which we can support LGBT rights in the secular sphere without contradicting Islam–especially when it comes to things like marriage, which formally endorses gay sexual relationships and is diametrically opposed to Islam’s vision of natural family, lineage, gender complementarity, etc.–is a thorny question which scholars, activists, and others will have to discuss together with great nuance.

    At the least, however, we should avoid using metaphysical language and moralistic rhetoric like the need to “affirm the full dignity of LGBT persons”–i.e., by recognizing and affirming the moral legitimacy of their relationships–and the like, since that implies that human dignity writ large depends on affirming actions and behaviors that Allah has prohibited, which is a flat out contradiction. If we believe Islam to be true, it cannot be the case that human dignity lies in affirming the legitimacy and goodness of gay relationships. We actually hold the opposite: human dignity is best achieved by submission to the commands of Allah. Similarly, using language implying that moral opposition to same-sex marriage somehow constitutes “bigotry,” “discrimination”–understood as universal categories–is “hateful,” etc., directly undermines our moral position, since Islam does not allow these relationships, and in fact criminalizes same-sex behavior (though actual prosecution is very difficult, as with all sexual offenses).

    If, after extensive and nuanced discussion, our scholars and activists decide that we should, in our current circumstances and society, support certain rights claimed by LGBT groups, we should speak of this strictly as a question of “lakum dinukum wa-liya din”–a phrase directed at Meccan pagans (as such, using this phraseology doesn’t at all imply that we approve of the other “din” being practiced). People often point out that Zoroastrians in Muslim societies were apparently allowed to practice certain incestuous marriages that were allowed in their religion but forbidden and repugnant in ours. To the extent that this was the case, I think it’s clear to all that this was seen as a purely political-cum-legal accommodation: Islamic law guarantees the members of other religions to practice their faiths, even where those contradict Islam theologically and, in the case of incestuous marriages, in terms of morals and practice. (This is actually extraordinarily “tolerant,” to use modern terminology, if you think about it.) It should be clear to any Muslim that the Muslim state, society, scholars, etc., would never have expressed any type of moral approval of such relationships, would never have spoken about the “full dignity of Zoroastrian persons” being achievable only by lending moral legitimacy to their incestuous relationships, etc. Their practices were tolerated, not because they were inherently good, or true, or right, but only because Muslims were commanded to allow others to practice their religions and not coerce them to adopt Islam. Truth, however, lay–and still lies–with Islam, and since such groups had not accepted that Truth, they were not bound by its particulars.

    If we end up, after careful consideration, taking some such “live and let live” stance in today’s society, it can only be with the same spirit as our predecessors. People may have the right to their own practices, but this does not make those practices right, and a Muslim should never speak in ways that could even remotely imply the opposite–any more than we would ever speak in ways that even remotely imply that we find polytheism, say, or Christian trinitarianism to sort of be okay, or, for that matter, drinking alcohol, engaging in extra-marital sex, etc. Though non-Muslims may not be bound by the particulars of Islam, we continue to uphold Islam as the truth sent by God to guide mankind, valid until the Day of Judgment, with it being our duty to represent, embody, and call all to that truth for the ultimate benefit of all in this life and the next, in the best possible way and without coercion.

    It goes without saying, obviously, that WITHIN the Muslim community–be that mosques, Muslim organizations, conferences, etc., or simply when we engage with each other as Muslims–Islamic norms alone are applicable. While we must recognize that there are Muslims who struggle with same-sex desire, and embrace them compassionately in their efforts to live according to the Shari’a, this can never be used as an excuse to justify haram behavior, “celebrate” illegitimate relationships, or normalize the culturally and historically contingent, modern Western notion of a “sexual identity,” that is, an entire personal identity defined through and based on the orientation of one’s sexual desires. That is not our paradigm, it’s not how Islam categorizes individuals, and it’s not language that we should adopt within our community, as so many have recently begun to do uncritically, especially among the social justice activism crowd to which this letter is directed. Wallahu ta’ala a’lam.

    Wassalam,
    Ahmad B.

  4. Ali Saeed says:

    SubhanAllah, so refreshing. Well worded. Gives clarity amidst current confusion, and outlines healthy practical ways to tackle the current issues: the marriage between traditionally trained scholars and the politically savvy activists. Working hand-in-hand

  5. Sherifa says:

    AlhamduliLah. This is a great initiative and a most welcome one. At the same time, My hope is that other scholars, imams and leaders from our diverse community are also invited to sign up to this initiative. My hope is that those who have already signed here will reach out to those with whom they have the most differences with and try to reach a middle ground. As the letter says, we have to prioritise the core beliefs. On the rest, we can agree to disagree, and yet strive for unity and strength.

  6. Aziz Gilani says:

    I’m curious on how the authors of this post choose to define “non-negotiable teachings of Islam.” I would define it as the traits listed in Quran 2:177, but was that the author’s intent?

  7. Maryam says:

    This letter captured my thoughts exactly. Baarak Allahu feekum

  8. Umer S. says:

    I wonder why Ahmedi propagandist Qasim Rashid would sign this when, A) this was written by a Sunni whose aim is to maintain theological integrity. Having an Ahmedi on board with this message belies its motive; and 2) many of the Sunni signatories consider Ahmedis to be non-Muslim.

  9. Mustafa says:

    For our esteemed ulema and scholars: we love you – please come down from the ivory minaret more often.

    For our beloved activists: we really respect your work – please go up in khalwa (seclusion) to the minaret more often.

  10. Inasy says:

    I am glad you produced this document. However, I think its a little too ambiguous. Greater clarity and a follow-up would be great. I agree with the spirit of these words, but I think it lends itself to being misunderstood. I suggest you organize a forum that allows for greater discussion on the particulars. I think the American Muslim community needs to have these discussions more openly and go beyond just the issuing of statements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *