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An Inspiring Story: Rwanda Turning to Islam

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

A very inspiring story, from Arab News (follow link for photo).

What really inspired me – more than the story of this orphan teenage convert who memorized the Quran in the midst of a civil war, which in iteslf is a beautiful story – is that the percentage of Muslims in Rwanda has doubled following the horrible massacres of 1994-6. Why? Because Muslims did not participate in the massacres, established a reputation of peace, and were active in humanitarian aid in the aftermath. Hence, Rwandans actually respect Islam for its beautiful image.

It’s just nice to know that somewhere, someplace, Muslims are doing a good job and actually giving the correct image of Islam :) .

DUBAI, 30 September 2007 — The life story of Umugwaneza Sulaiman, a contestant for the Dubai International Holy Qur’an Award, is truly inspirational since he has risen from rubble to create a renaissance.

Even though he is only 19, this young man from Rwanda has survived a life of hardship. As a young child he survived the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. He still has horrific memories of hiding in forests from militias that were killing people. The rivers and roads they walked through were littered with bodies. Later on he lost his father and had to lead a harsh life in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Despite all his hardships, Sulaiman was determined to become a hafiz and was rewarded by becoming the first Rwandan to take part in the Dubai International Holy Qur’an Award competition. Sulaiman’s quest with the sacred book started when he converted to Islam at the age of 11.

“Even though my family were Catholics I was never interested in the church. The Azan from the mosque in my neighborhood fascinated me and I started attending classes there,” he said.

When asked if he faced any resistance from his family, Sulaiman said that his family had no issues with him becoming a Muslim, as Islam is a held in high regard in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. His whole family followed him a few years later and converted to Islam.

Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people in Africa’s mostly Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began. The reason behind the conversions lies in the fact that Rwandan Muslims did not take part in the genocide and played a key role in the humanitarian efforts that followed.

Muslims have been honored by the national government for their roles in saving the lives regardless of their faith. Many people attribute the recent spread of Islam to these humanitarian acts.

It took years of dedicated work for Sulaiman to memorize the Qur’an. The lack of qualified teachers in Rwanda made him make up his mind to travel to Kenya as there are good Qur’anic schools there.

“I was 15 when my five friends and I decided to travel to Kenya to seek knowledge. Two of my friends were converts like me,” he said.

The six young men packed their bags and traveled to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to find the school. They enrolled themselves in a free boarding school, which accepts students from all over East Africa. There they studied under the tutelage of Qur’an scholars. It took Sulaiman two years to memorize the whole Qur’an.

Now back home in Rwanda, Sulaiman works as a part time Imam and Qur’an teacher to supplement his income while studying at the only Islamic seminar in Kigali. “Masha Allah, there are so many Muslims now in my country. We are working hard at teaching the Qur’an to the new generation of Muslim children,” he said.

After finishing his education, Sulaiman hopes to get a scholarship to study Islam. “We get Muslim scholars coming from Uganda to spread the word of Islam in Rwanda. I hope that through my knowledge of Islam I will be able to help spread peace in my country,” he said.

Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Amad

    Amad

    September 30, 2007 at 3:47 PM

    mashallah, great story.

    When we act as Muslims, dawah becomes so easy…

    Another lesson of the story is that the indigenous/residents of a nation can have the most affect on the nation’s opinion of them, esp. in the absence of popular media. I imagine Rwandans were out of touch with most of the world, so they did not have the biases against Islam being fed to them on a daily basis, as opposed to much of the Western world. Of course, our extremist brethren have a lot to bear for this coloring of opinions regarding Islam.

    So, here in America, we have the media and the right-wingers to bias opinions, but all of us, individually and collectively can have a greater affect on opinions and opinion-makers if we put in the effort.

  2. Avatar

    Omer Choudry

    September 30, 2007 at 4:01 PM

  3. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    September 30, 2007 at 4:03 PM

    I was wondering where that ‘other’ Rwandad story was – Jazak Allah khayr Omer for sending the link.

  4. Avatar

    Islam Blog

    September 30, 2007 at 11:09 PM

    Very inspiring indeed. It’s tales like these that get me going and keep me motivated.

    Jazakallah for sharing this.

  5. Avatar

    Moiez

    September 30, 2007 at 11:19 PM

    Subhanallah this just makes me boost my islamic metabolism and want to eat as much as I can, in a non-literal way, I like the fact that he has his core group of friends around him for that support and togetherness one needs and its fun too plus its for the sake of Allah how much better can it be

  6. Avatar

    Omer Choudry

    October 1, 2007 at 2:25 AM

    Your welcome Shiekh :)

    theres also this report from the bbc from around the same time…

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3561365.stm

    What made the situation worse for the Catholic church is that not only were they not helping the civilians, they were actually actively on the forefront of this genocide. There were numerous accounts of priests inviting in their fellow congregants from a particular tribe, only to call in gangs from their own tribe to come and slaughter the refuge seekers in the church. There is the case that has become symbolic of this scenario in which a priest promised the Tutsis refuge in his church. As thousands gathered he called in the Hutu militia that guarded the exits while bulldozers were brought to bring down the church on top of the congregants. The priest then proceeded to shoot anyone that survived, bringing the death toll from that single incident to 2,000.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanase_Seromba

    When many priests were “recalled” by the Catholic church regarding the situation years later it wasnt to condemn them for their active participation in the massacre but rather to condemn them for allowing Islam to spread in the land. The Vatican to this day refuses to blame the church for any wrongdoing claiming that it was individual faults that are to blame and not the institution.

    It brings to mind the tragic events of Sebrenica where Serbian soldiers were openly blessed by Orthodox priests before undertaking their mission to massacre the Bosnians – something for many years taken as baseless accusation until it was painfully proven in the video that leaked some years ago.

    http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/blog/2005/07/srebrenica_the_1.html

  7. Avatar

    Shama

    October 1, 2007 at 2:32 AM

    Two days ago, I met a Rawandan Muslim sister and this was my first time meeting a Muslim from Rawanda so I was particularly excited.
    This sister lived through the genocide and was 16 yrs old at the time. I had seen the movie Hotel Rawanda and I was terrified of what I saw so I asked her if the movie depicted the tragedy accurately which she told me it did except that it was only the tip of the iceberg. The gravity of the genocide could never be reflected in a movie.

    While she talked about the horrors of the genocide she took more interest in giving me another perspective. She told me that before the genocide Muslims were a minority in Rawanda and it was very difficult to practice the religion. If you took a day off from work for Eid, the next day you would be fired.

    During the genocide, while a select few got involved into the genocide, the majority of this minority was busy rescuing people in their masjids.
    People were killed inside churches, the new borns were killed inside hospitals, wives were killed by their husbands inside their homes and vice versa yet at the same time people were rescused, protected and looked after inside masajids. This happened on such a massive scale that after the genocide, the efforts of the Muslim minority were recognized by the Rawandan government.

    Today that minority religion has become the religion of 50% or more of the country and is growing. People practice Islam without any difficulty and few Muslims have been appointed on government positions which was unimaginable before the genocide.

    Something else she told me that reflected the maturity of the people of Rawanda was that every year the Rawandan government marks the anniversary of the genocide by using media to remember the tragedy. But she said the Rawandan people don’t want to be reminded of the tragedy over and over. They want to move on and not get stuck in that moment.

    And I thought, if only we learn to not exploit our sufferings.

  8. Avatar

    Shama

    October 1, 2007 at 2:37 AM

    Just to clarify, the statistics of 50% of Muslim population was given by the sister – wallahu a3lam what the true statistics are

  9. Avatar

    Abu Adam

    October 1, 2007 at 4:30 AM

    Alhamdulilah,

    That’s really nice to know…

    I guess there is a lot that can be read into this – the role of the media for and against Islam; grassroot vs. top down movements; simlarities of events in Western countries, but different results etc etc…

    But I wonder if it should just be taken at face value, and be looked into too deeply??

    Wasalaamu Alaykum,

    Abu Adam

  10. Avatar

    Tariq Nelson

    October 1, 2007 at 7:13 AM

    It’s just nice to know that somewhere, someplace, Muslims are doing a good job and actually giving the correct image of Islam

    Indeed

  11. Avatar

    Sis Shaykha

    October 1, 2007 at 11:33 AM

    Asalamau Alaiakum

    Well, how beautiful masha’Allah!!

    Hopefully Islam spreads through all of the African nations, insha’Allah!

    ..and the whole world.

    Really touching story Sheikh, thanks for posting.

    Wa’alaykum Aslaaam

  12. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    October 2, 2007 at 12:09 AM

    You can view images of the Rwandan event narrated by Marc Lacey here (number 40) :
    http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?query=islam&srchst=m&d=&o=&v=&c=&sort=newest&n=10&dp=0&daterange=full&frow=30

    Also there are some other hard to find multimedia there such as Islam in China, Match-making Muslims, Muslim Marines and even an interview with NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!

  13. Avatar

    iMuslim

    October 2, 2007 at 1:38 AM

    Jazakallah for this inspiring and amazing story.

    Shama’s comment reminds me of the Seerah. I have heard some scholars say that the reason the people of Medina took to Islam so quickly was because their main leaders had been killed in a big battle between the two tribes of Medina years before, and so the people were more free to choose for themselves what and who to follow. Perhaps Rwanda has become another Medina… may Allah fill it with the blessings of Medina! Ameen.

  14. Avatar

    Tahsinthree

    October 2, 2007 at 12:43 PM

    Don’t forget Capt. Mbaye Diagne, a Senegalese Muslim. He played a courageous role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. See the websites:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ghosts/video/mbaye.html

    and

    http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2007/04/rwanda_genocide.html

    i would like to think that this man’s courage contributed to Islam spreading in Rwanda – Allah knows best.

  15. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    October 2, 2007 at 1:30 PM

  16. Pingback: Injil » Blog Archive » Islam Doubles in Rwanda

  17. Avatar

    Abu Muhammad

    October 3, 2007 at 10:34 AM

    As much as I differ with you guys. It’s reasons like this that I love you so much: that you have a love for Allah and His Deen.

    May Allah increase your love Qazi saheb!

  18. Avatar

    UAS

    October 3, 2007 at 12:25 PM

    “Another lesson of the story is that the indigenous/residents of a nation can have the most affect on the nation’s opinion of them, esp. in the absence of popular media.”
    ________________________________

    So very true..
    The ‘after-shock’ of Rawanda took place because we followed the true Prophetic tradition of brotherhood:

    Anas relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim

    Until we go back to the days of Bilal RA, when all Muslims were given equal and utmost respect, and character was the main advancement and token of Imaan for the believers, we will not see the true identity of Islam manifested in the believers.

    Do we embrace the indigenous African Americans as our dear brothers?

    When we truly stand together, with our indigenous brothers, then will savor the glorious days. The ‘happy days’ will come once again.

    This was also the hot topic at ISNA 2007

    Islam is indigenous to America and the African Americans brought this to light. We can see what happens when indiginous Muslim(s) such as al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz gather to progress, and we can see what has happens when our efforts are diluted by Muslims who associate only with a certain mindset/ group of people.

    The eyes tear and the heart aches, but the limbs stay limp.

    We see in Rawanda what happens when faith is coupled with action..

    “…Until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself”

  19. Pingback: Connecting News, Commentaries and Blogs at NineReports.com -

  20. Avatar

    Solomon2

    October 11, 2007 at 9:48 AM

    The Arab News story, while inspiring (to me as well) is woefully incomplete, as it omits the unhelpful history of Belgian colonialism and the local Roman Catholic Church’s role, actively undermining economic development (rejecting modern agriculture!) and exacerbating racial tensions and retarding social development (by continuing to support the traditional Tutsi/Hutsi master/slave relationships in exchange for elite support for the Church).

    They need something new over there. Maybe Islam will help.

  21. Amad

    Amad

    October 11, 2007 at 1:37 PM

    You are right Solomon. There was misuse of Christianity in play, just like the Bible was used for a long time by bigots to justify slavery.

  22. Pingback: muslimmatters.org » How Abu Bakr (Ruben) Came to Islam

  23. Avatar

    AbuAbdAllah

    April 12, 2008 at 2:51 AM

    bismillah. this article deserves to be on the front page carousel, mashaAllah.

  24. Avatar

    blackbelt9226

    April 12, 2008 at 8:48 PM

    i second that :)

  25. Avatar

    Riadh Sridi

    April 15, 2009 at 5:52 PM

    “اذا جاء نصر الله و الفتح و رأيت الناس يدخلون في دين الله أفواجا فسبح بحمد ربك و استغفره انه كان توابا”
    It’s really stunning to be a witness of this miracle of God. Nobody expected that the most catholic country in Africa will be overrun by Islam,but when The All-mighty choose a land to touch His Light,nothing can stop it.God bless Rwanda and make It a new spring for the spread of Islam in Central Africa and beyond it and make It a land of erudites and scholars well-known in the whole Islamic world by they well understanding and representing of Islam. Amen.

  26. Avatar

    SAm

    January 17, 2011 at 1:47 AM

    i wonder why the international community didn’t award the muslims of rwanda the nobel prize for peace. any group who conducted themselves with such great nobility and honor in the face of horrors would hand down got at least wide media acknowledgement and few prizes not to mention the nobel prize. let the rwandan muslims get their nobel prize of peace, it is longtime overdue.

    (from a nonMuslim)

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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charity
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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.

Yaqeen

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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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.

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Dawah and Interfaith

Can I Give My Zakat To An Islamic Educational Cause?

Dr Usaama al-Azami

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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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.

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