A slighly modified version of this was cross-posted on Dailykos.com
This letter has already made the rounds on a few Muslim blogs, but the importance of this message and its underlying beauty of style and content deserve its reading in every Muslim and non-Muslim household. So, I have appended below the entire letter of Shaykh Salman al-Oadah to Osama Bin Laden. As Muslims, we know that a letter like this can affect the militant and terrorist tendencies of some extreme elements among Muslims a million times more than what a military response or any other Western campaign to “win hearts and minds” could accomplish.
In essence, when Al-Oadah says something, people listen, especially the youth. I think it is easy to understand why something like this would have a greater affect on extremists than other avenues. Let’s consider the example of an ignorant Muslim who makes sajdah to the graves (i.e. engages in grave-worshipping). There would be a much better chance that he would stop doing so if some some scholar or “peer” that he follows tells him that this is polytheism, compared to a “wahhabi sheikh”. You get the point.
Another important benefit of this statement is that it counters the charge of clerics promoting extremism in the Muslim world. The muftis of Saudi, for instance, strongly condemned 9/11 (see here). Recently, we posted a response to the OBL video, including a response video from Dr. Ali Shehata (see here). In fact, when I was organizing Texas Dawah in Houston in 2003, we set up a live videolink with Shaykh Ibn Jibreen, the grand-scholar from Saudi. The conference was much maligned in the media and Ibn Jibreen was called out for his “support” of Osama. Obviously, this was untrue. Otherwise we would have never supported such an event. As it happened, with FOX Noise in the room, the Shaykh condemned 9/11, and spoke about harmony and peace, completely spoiling FOX’s storyline :) To be fair though, I must say that they did air a positive news story on the conference, amazingly!
A Ramadan Letter to Osama bin Laden from Salman al-Oadah
Sheikh Salman b. Fahd al-Oadah, the general supervisor of IslamToday.net, delivered the following address to Osama bin Laden live on NBC television on 14 September, 2007, which corresponds to the second day of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia:
How much blood has been spilled? How many innocent children, women, and old people have been killed, maimed, and expelled from their homes in the name of “al-Qaeda”?
Are you happy to meet Allah with this heavy burden on your shoulders? It is a weighty burden indeed – at least hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if not millions.
How could you wish for that? – after knowing that Allah’s Messenger said: “Whoever as much as kills a sparrow in vain will find it crying before Allah on the Day of Judgment: ‘My Lord! That person killed me in vain. He did not kill me for needful sustenance.”
This religion of ours comes to defense of the life of a sparrow. It can never accept the murder of innocent people, regardless of what supposed justification is given for it.
Didn’t you read where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “One of the prophets once sat under a tree and was bitten by an ant. Because of this, he burnt the ant’s nest. Thereupon, Allah questioned him: ‘Why not only the one ant?’ ” [Sahîh Muslim]
Allah revealed to that prophet: “What? Just because one ant had bitten you, you have set fire to an entire nation that extols Allah’s glory!” [Sahîh Muslim (2241)]
If this is the case for a nest of ants, consider how much worse it must be to visit harm upon human beings.
Who is responsible for all of those young Muslim, who are still in the bloom of their youth, with all the zeal of their age, who have strayed down a path they have no idea where it is headed?
The image of Islam today is tarnished. People around the world are saying how Islam teaches that those who do not accept it must be killed. They are also saying that the adherents of Salafi teachings kill Muslims who do not share their views.
However, the reality of Islam is that our Prophet (peace be upon him) did not kill the treacherous hypocrites in his midst, even though Allah had revealed to him who they were and informed him that they were destined for the deepest depths of Hell. Why did he stay his hand? He gave the following reason: “I will not have people saying that Muhammad kills his companions.”
Brother Osama, what happened on September 11 – crimes that we have condemned vociferously since that very day – was the murder of a few thousand people, possible a little less than three thousand. This is the number that dies in the airplanes as well as in the towers. By contrast, Muslim preachers – who remain unknown and unsung – have succeeded in guiding hundreds of thousands of people to Islam, people who have ever since been guided by the light of faith and whose hearts are filled with the love of Allah. Isn’t the difference between one who kills and one who guides obvious?
Our Lord tells us: “Whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the Earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the lives of all mankind.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 32]
Guiding one soul to knowledge and faith is a momentous achievement. It is what will earn us great blessings.
Brother Osama, what is to be gained from the destruction of entire nations – which is what we are witnessing in Afghanistan and Iraq – seeing them torn apart with plague and famine? What is to be gained from undermining their stability and every hope of a normal life? Three million refugees are packing into Syria and Jordan alone, not to mention those who are fleeing to the East and the West.
The nightmare of civil war which now reigns supreme in Afghanistan and Iraq brings no joy to the Muslims. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard about a man named Harb (meaning “war” in Arabic), he promptly changed his name to something else, because the Prophet hated war.
Allah says: “Fighting is prescribed for you, though you detest it.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 216]
War is something hateful that must only be resorted to under the most dire and compelling of circumstances when no other way is found.
Who stands to benefit from turning a country like Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, or Saudi Arabia – or any other country for that matter – into a battlefield where no one feels safe? Is the goal to obstruct the government? Is that, then, the solution for anything?
Is this the plan – even if it is achieved by marching over the corpses of hundreds of thousands of people – police, soldiers, and civilians, even the common Muslims? Are their deaths to be shrugged off, saying: “They will be resurrected in the Hereafter based on the state of their hearts.”
Indeed, all of those who are slain will be resurrected based on the state of their hearts. The question we must ask ourselves, however, is in what state are we going to be resurrected? How are we going to find ourselves when we meet our Lord? How will it be for someone who has all those countless deaths weighing down upon him, whether he wants to own up to them or not?
The concern for conveying Islam’s message to humanity is one that can influence others and convince them. This is a far greater and far weightier concern than that of using brute force and violence to bend others to one’s will. “Allah sent His Messenger (peace be upon him) as a guide for humanity, not as a tax collector.” as `Umar b. `Abd al-`Azîz used to say.
Who is responsible – brother Osama – for promoting the culture of excommunication which has torn families asunder and has led to sons calling their fathers infidels? Who is responsible for fostering a culture of violence and murder that has led people to shed the blood of their relatives without remorse, rather than nurturing the spirit of love and tranquility that a Muslim family is supposed to have?
Who is responsible for the young men who leave their mothers crying; who abandon their wives; whose small children wake up every day asking when daddy is coming home? What answer can be given, when that father may very well be dead, or missing with no one knowing of his fate?
Who is responsible for Western governments attacking every charitable project in the world, so that the orphans, the poor, and the needy throughout the globe are deprived of food, education, and other essential needs? Who is responsible – brother Osama – for filling the prisons of the Muslim world with our youth, a situation which will only breed more extremism, violence, and murder in our societies?
Muhammad (peace be upon him) – my source of guidance as well as yours – is what he came with not enough for you? He was sent as a mercy for all humanity. Allah says: “And We sent you merely as a mercy for all humanity.” [Sûrah al-Anbiyâ’: 107]
The word “mercy” is not to be found in the lexicon of war. Where is the mercy in murdering people? Where is the mercy in bombing places? Where is the mercy in making people and places into targets? Where is the mercy in turning many Muslim countries into battlefields?
The Prophet (peace be upon him) brought all of Arabia under his sway without a single slaughter, despite all of the battles that were waged against him. The number of people who were killed during the twenty-three years of his mission were less than two hundred people. The Muslims who were killed during that time by their enemies were many times in excess of that number.
What do a hundred people in Algeria, or double that number in Lebanon, or likewise in Saudi Arabia hope to achieve by carrying out acts of violence – or as they say, suicide attacks? These acts are futile.
Let us say – purely hypothetically – that these people manage to take power somewhere in the world. What then? What can people who have no life experience hope to achieve in the sphere of good governance? People who have no knowledge of Islamic law to support them and no understanding of domestic and foreign relations?
Is Islam only about guns and ammunition? Have your means become the ends themselves?
That ideology that so many young people have embraced in many parts of the world, is it revelation from Allah that cannot be questioned or reconsidered? Or is it merely a product of human effort that is subject to error and to being corrected?
Many of your brethren in Egypt, Algeria and elsewhere have come to see the end of the road for that ideology. They realize how destructive and dangerous it is. They have also found the courage to proclaim in their writings and on the air that they were mistaken and that the path they had been on was the path of error. They admit that it cannot lead to anything good. They have sought Allah’s forgiveness for what has passed and have expressed their sincere regrets for what they had done.
Those with brave hearts need just as much to have courageous minds.
Do you not hear the voices of the pious scholars, those who worship Allah day and night and are truly heedful of Allah – don’t you hear them crying out with the very same words that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used when Khâlid b. al-Walîd, the commander-in-chief of his army, acted in error: “O Allah! I plead my innocence to You from what Khâlid has done.”
These same words still echo after 1400 years in the cries of the scholars of Islam: “O Allah! I plead my innocence to You from what Osama is doing, and from those who affiliate themselves to his name or work under his banner.”
I wish to remind you of what our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to Usâmah b. Zayd – whose name you carry – when he killed a man from Juhaynah in the heat of battle after that man had declared that there is no God but Allah.
After the Prophet (peace be upon him) rebuked him, Usâmah said: “O Messenger of Allah! He only said that because he was scared of the sword.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “How will you fare with the declaration of faith when it comes on the Day of Judgment?”
Usâmah pleaded: “Seek forgiveness for me, O Messenger of Allah.”
He just repeated what he had said: “How will you fare with the declaration of faith when it comes on the Day of Judgment?”
O Osama! What will you do with the declaration of faith when it disputes with you on the Day of Judgment?
Life, Osama, should not be a single lesson. We must face numerous lessons throughout our lives, and these lessons are of a great variety.
My situation is no different than that of a lot of other people who are concerned with Muslim affairs. My heart pains me when I think of the number of young people who had so much potential – who would have made such great and original contributions to society, who had so much to offer that was constructive and positive – who have been turned into living bombs.
Here is the vital question that you need to ask yourself and that others have the right to demand and answer for: What have all these long years of suffering, tragedy, tears, and sacrifice actually achieved?
I ask Allah to bring everyone together upon the truth and right guidance. I pray that he guides us all to what pleases Him.
– Salman b. Fahd al-Oadah
Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman
Iblees was no ordinary worshipper. He worshipped Allah for thousands of years with thousands of prayers. He ascended the ranks until he accompanied the angels with his noteworthy worship. Performing good deeds was no issue for him. He thanked Allah with his prayers, and Allah rewarded him with a lofty station in Paradise. But when Adam was created and given the station that he was, suddenly Iblees was overcome by pride. He couldn’t bear to see this new creation occupy the place that he did. And as he was commanded to prostrate to him, his pride would overcome him and doom him for eternity. Alas, swallowing his pride for one prostration of respect to Adam was more difficult to him than thousands of prostrations of worship to Allah.
In that is a cautionary lesson for us especially in moments of intense worship. When we exert ourselves in worship, we eventually start to enjoy it and seek peace in it. But sometimes we become deluded by that worship. We may define our religiosity exclusively in accordance with it, become self-righteous as a result of it, and abuse people we deem lesser in the name of it. The worst case scenario of this is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one who comes on the day of judgment with all of their prayers, fasting, and charity only to have it all taken away because of an abusive tongue.
But what makes Iblees’s struggle so relevant to ours? The point of worship is to humble you to your Creator and set your affairs right with His creation in accordance with that humility. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that whoever has an atom’s worth of pride in their heart would not enter paradise. The most obvious manifestation of that pride is rejecting the truth and belittling someone else. But other subtle manifestations of that pride include the refusal to leave off argumentation, abandon grudges, and humble yourself to the creation in pursuit of the pleasure of the Creator.
Hence a person would rather spend several Ramadan’s observing the last 10 nights in intense prayer seeking forgiveness for their sins from Allah, rather then humble themselves for a moment to one of Allah’s servants by seeking forgiveness for their transgressions against him, even if they too have a claim.
Jumah is our weekly Eid, and Monday’s and Thursday’s are our weekly semblances of Ramadan as the Prophet (s) used to fast them since our deeds are presented to Allah on those days. He said about them, “The doors of Heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday, and Allah pardons in these days every individual servant who is not a polytheist, except those who have enmity between them; Allah Says: ‘Delay them until they reconcile with each other”
In Ramadan, the doors of Heaven are opened throughout the month and the deeds ascend to Allah. But imagine if every day as your fasting, Quran recitation, etc. is presented to Allah this month, He responds to the angels to delay your pardon until you reconcile with your brother. Ramadan is the best opportunity to write that email or text message to that lost family member or friend and say “it’s not worth it to lose Allah’s forgiveness over this” and “IM SORRY.”
Compare these two statements:
The Prophet said: “He who boycotts his brother for more than three days and dies during this period will be from the people of hellfire.”
He also said:
“I guarantee a house in the suburbs of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right.”
Swallowing your pride is bitter, while prayer is sweet. Your ego is more precious to you than your sleep. But above all, Allah’s pleasure is more precious than it all.
Can I Give My Zakat To An Islamic Educational Cause?
As Ramadan nears its end, many Muslims are thinking about paying their zakat in the last ten nights. But what is a worthy cause to which we can give our zakat and, in particular, what do the scholars have to say on this issue?
A number of Islamic educational and media institutions in the West have in recent years been highlighting their ‘zakat-eligible’ status. The list of these institutions is quite long. In the US, they include this website, the al-Madina Institute, the Yaqeen Institute, Zaytuna College, and the Ta’leef Collective. In the UK, they include Cambridge Muslim College. Some of these institutions focus on covering the cost of tuition for students who would otherwise be unable to pay, but others are focused on running an institution whose raison d’etre is Islamic education.
But some might wonder how such institutions can receive zakat? A common belief is that zakat is meant only for the poor and destitute and that such institutions would, therefore, be ineligible. This is sometimes reinforced by the way that a minority of scholars, including learned ones, might deal with these issues.
Last year in the UK, a respected scholar stated emphatically that “none of the scholars” in Islamic history until modern times had ever said one can give zakat to causes like supporting institutions that promote Islamic education. He asserted that only modern scholars permitted the spending of zakat on such matters in the name of the fī sabīli-Llāh category (which I will explain below). The same British scholar reiterated a similar view in the past couple of weeks, but this time said that his view was the opinion of the “vast majority of scholars”.
The average Muslim may find such conflicting claims confusing. How is it that some scholars say zakat cannot be given to Islamic educational causes, while a large number of prominent Islamic educational institutions, presumably led by Islamic scholars, are directly soliciting zakat funds?
The main reason for this is the existence of difference of opinion (ikhtilāf) among scholars regarding who or what is deserving of zakat payment. The Qur’an (9:60) sets out eight categories of zakat-eligible recipients. While people today often think of zakat as being due to the poor and needy, they only explicitly form two of these categories.
The basis on which many of the aforementioned scholarly institutions claim zakat-eligible status is the category of fī sabīli-Llāh which translates to “in God’s path.” Historically, the more dominant interpretation of this zakat-eligible category was that it referred to jihād in God’s path, i.e. zakat was to be given to people engaged in military expeditions on behalf of the Islamic community.
However, some medieval scholars, and a remarkably large number of modern scholars, appealing to the fact that the Prophet highlighted that jihād was ultimately for the sake of making God’s word prevail (li-takun kalimat Allāh hiya al-‘ulyā), have argued for a far broader understanding of this zakat-eligible category.
Jihād, as a concept, is of course incredibly broad in Islam. For example, one finds in a sound hadith that the Prophet said: “Engage in jihād against the polytheists with your wealth, your lives, and your tongues.” Additionally, some of the verses in the Qur’an that enjoined jihād were revealed in Mecca where military jihād was not yet permitted.
Because of this, a minority of medieval scholars argued that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients could entail payments made to support any righteous acts, while others argued that the category was ultimately about upholding and strengthening Islam specifically through da‘wa initiatives that cause God’s word to prevail of which education is one of the most effective tools.
Indeed, giving seekers of sacred knowledge (ṭullāb al-‘ilm) was deemed a legitimate form of zakat payment according to all four schools of law. Clearly, the respected British scholar cited above was inaccurate in his claim that “none of the scholars,” or only a small minority of them, viewed the fī sabīli-Llāh category as referring to anything other than military engagements.
Among modern Arab ulama, the view that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients can apply to Islamic da‘wa and educational initiatives has perhaps become the dominant position on this issue over the last one hundred years. This is true of all major ideological orientations, whether Salafi, Neo-traditionalist, or Islamist.
Thus, for example, arguably the most important Salafi scholar of his generation, the first Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm Āl al-Shaykh argued that the most deserving recipient of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat was the cause of da‘wa, and responding to sources of doubt about Islam. Reportedly it is also the final opinion of his most important successor, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azīz b. Bāz. Among living Salafis, this is the position of senior scholars outside the Saudi religious establishment as well, such as Shaykh Salmān al-‘Awda and Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Munajjid (may Allah liberate them from their unjust imprisonment).
It is also the position of senior scholars of the Azhar and Egypt’s Grand Muftis for many generations from the 20th and 21st centuries. In our own time, this includes Neo-traditionalist scholars like ‘Alī Jum‘a and Abdullāh b. Bayyah. While the latter prefers a more restrictive interpretation for the category, he permits the more expansive interpretation in his fatwas.
Among Islamist (Ikhwān) oriented scholars, one finds Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, author of what is perhaps the most comprehensive work to be written on the fiqh of zakat in Islamic history, promoting such an understanding as well. His two volume work, which addresses the major debates surrounding the fī sabīli-Llāh category in great detail, has also been translated into English. Among younger Islamist-leaning scholars, the encyclopaedic Mauritanian scholar and master of the Sharia sciences, Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ḥasan al-Dadaw argues that the fī sabīli-Llāh category may even be used in the establishing of educational endowments.
The above is only a selection of voices among those who are supportive of promoting Islamic educational causes on the basis of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat. With due respect to scholars who would argue otherwise, it is clear that this is not only a legitimate legal opinion on this question but may well be the dominant view of many of the leading scholars of modern times.
Our communities are best served by an Islamic discourse that acknowledges the richness and diversity of our great religious tradition rather than restricts it to a narrow range of opinions. As the Prophet said to the Bedouin who prayed for God to exclusively show mercy to himself and the Prophet, “You have constricted what is vast!” (laqad ḥajjarta wāsi‘an).
Since there are a very large number of scholars who have recognised initiatives that promote the sound understanding of Islam to be eligible for receiving zakat, our community is best served by the accurate portrayal of the valid difference of opinion on such matters in which members of the community may legitimately seek to follow either opinion without claiming that the position adopted by others is illegitimate.
In an era in which the sound understanding of Islam is threatened by Islamophobic forces from without and extremist forces from within, we all recognise the importance of Islamic education as a central concern for contemporary Muslims to prioritise. May we all support this cause, whether through zakat or by some other means.
#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives
Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019 at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.
Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.
News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.
Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.
The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.
“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”
MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.
You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar
At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com
The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News
“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman
Source: Bend The Arc
“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman
Source: Kera News
Source: The Carter Center
Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred
“My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN