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New Series on Salvific Exclusivity

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The Many Paths to God?

Introduction

As Muslims living in the West, we are faced with a myriad of legal, religious and political problems that our brothers in the East are relatively free from.

One of the more controversial issues – an issue that intersects politics and religion – is the Islamic attitude towards ‘the other.’ Many questions are raised, including: what does Islam say about other faiths? What is a Muslim’s obligation vis-à-vis people of other religions? Is it morally and legally acceptable to reject Islam and believe in another system of beliefs? What about the fate of such people in the Hereafter?

It is my intention to elaborate on some of these issues in future articles, in particular the issue of the relationship that Islam posits with people of other religions (or, to be more precise, the issue of al-walā wa al-barāʾ, which I believe has been greatly misunderstood by certain segments of society). In this series of articles, however, I will concentrate on a very crucial theological tenet of Islam: the issue of salvific exclusivity. Salvific exclusivity is the belief that the only way to achieve salvation, and hence Paradise (or the Hindu moksha, or the Buddhist Nirvana, or whatever else one believes in), is through one’s own system of beliefs. This topic is one that seriously deserves attention in our times for a number of reasons.

Firstly, due to allegations by sincere, concerned non-Muslims, and also by Islamophobes, that this belief is a dangerous belief that leads to a religious hatred of others, which in turn leads to extremism and acts of violence. Sadly, it is undeniably true that some elements within Islam have indeed gone to extremes in this regard. Yet, this is obviously not the message that the vast majority of Muslims derive from this belief. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to prove that the one (i.e., belief in exclusive salvation) does not and should not lead to the other (i.e., violence and terrorism).

Secondly, in the politically correct climate of the era that we find ourselves in, it is getting more and more difficult for any religion to publicly make such claims. The claim that one’s own faith is correct, and all other faiths are incorrect, is deemed by many (especially but not exclusively by those who do not view themselves as being particularly religious) as arrogant and self-aggrandizing. Hence, it needs to be shown that what is intended by this belief is not self-piety or appropriation of Heaven to oneself, but rather the theological perfection of Islamic beliefs and its claims of universality and finality. Only because Islam views itself as being perfect can it claim to be God’s revelation for all of mankind.

Thirdly, due to the preceding two factors, for the first time in our religious and intellectual history, there is a concerted effort by some elements who presume themselves to be authorities, in particular those who label themselves as ‘progressives’, to try to reinterpret this foundational bedrock of the religion. To this end, they claim that Islam is not the only morally acceptable path sanctioned by God. Typically, such claims center around the premise that the ‘People of the Book’ are at par with Muslims in a triad of the ‘Abrahamic faiths’. “All of us worship the same God, are children of the same father, revere the same prophets, and eventually arrive at the same goal,” you hear one of them say, “even though our paths might be different.” In even more extreme examples, some have embraced pure Perennialist beliefs, and claim that all paths, even paganism and idolatry, are manifestations of Divine Truth and eventually lead to God.

Hence, in light of the above points, it is crucial that an article be written that elaborates on this point in an unapologetic and frank manner while at the same time explaining the legitimate concerns that sincere people, of all faiths, have. Such an article needs to refute both the militant extremists who have misunderstood this point to justify their acts of terror, and the progressive liberals who have, unwittingly, destroyed central theological beliefs upon which the very foundation of Islam is built. It is my sincere hope that this article helps in achieving this goal.

The article will comprise of this introduction and four parts. In part one, the Islamic beliefs regarding salvific exclusivity will be mentioned. It will proven, from Islamic sources, that it is a fundamental principle of Islam that the only morally acceptable and divinely sanctioned religion is that of Islam. To deny this is tantamount to rejecting Islam. This part will also briefly touch on the fact that this belief is a moral and religious judgment, and not a politically enforceable one, even in an Islamic state.

In part two, the arguments that are used by certain progressives to claim that other religions are also morally acceptable will be challenged and explained. In particular, verse 2:62, “Verily, those who believe, and the Jews, and Christians, and Sabeans, whoever believes in God and does good, shall have no cause to fear, nor shall they grieve,” which is the crux of their argument, will be understood properly.

In part three, the beliefs of various other faiths regarding salvific exclusivity will be discussed. The purpose here will be to show that it is a mainstream theological tenet of most religions that only their particular religion leads to salvation. Hence, Muslims are no different in this regard from the majority of other world faiths.

Lastly, in part four, we will touch upon some political ramifications of this belief, specifically in the context of Western liberal secular democracies. Should politicians in our lands be concerned with this issue? Are such beliefs necessarily or even potentially harmful for a healthy, multi-cultural and multi-religious society? And if so, should sincere politicians (wa qalīlun māhum) intervene?

At the outset, let me make it clear that the first part of this series does not merely claim to represent the author’s opinion, but rather the Islamic opinion, concerning which no organized sect within the religion (Sunni, Shiite, Mu`tazilite, Kharijite, etc.) has ever differed regarding. The last two parts, however, represent the opinion of the author. It goes without saying that this article does not aim to be comprehensive in its scope, and there are many tangents that have either been glossed over or not mentioned at all.

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.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Joyhamza

    January 22, 2008 at 11:03 AM

    can’t wait to read ’em all!! :D :D

  2. Avatar

    Hidayah

    January 22, 2008 at 11:25 AM

    Asslamu Alikum WR WB, Cant wait to read them alllllllllllll…issue is extremely important to me as a professional women and dealing with non-Muslims 24/7 =)

  3. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    January 22, 2008 at 4:33 PM

    JazakAllahu alf khair in advance! SubhanAllah, we reeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllyyyyyyyyyy need something like this… it has the potential to rock the Islamosphere! :D

  4. Avatar

    Bhaskar Dasgupta

    January 22, 2008 at 5:29 PM

    Good article, but perhaps would be stating the obvious. The three abrahamic religions do state so that they are the only way to God.

    But what I would have liked to hear was who actually was the progressive or liberal Muslim who said “sarva dharma sambhav” (all faith’s are possible) You do refer to them in general, but can you kindly point to people and references who have have actually and publicly said so? It would have helped your article if we could have also referred to similarly well argued points.

    look forward to the next bit! :)

  5. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    January 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

    Mixed feelings about this one…either way should be interesting.

    Small request shaykh, can you include a discussion regarding the Perennialist Muslims (schuon, rene guenon etc.) …from my understanding some of them were in the fold of Islam while others went too far, but their powerful Dawah in the West created some amazing literary works, in my opinion the best Islamic literature in the English language, that still bring many into Islam.

  6. Avatar

    Yus from the Nati

    January 23, 2008 at 12:58 AM

    “With regards to the meat issue, insha Allah it is my intention to write a long article or series of articles on this topic. It is amazing that (as far as I know) no one has really produced an academic work on this topic despite its importance.”

    I’m still waiting for this article! Where you at akhi! I’m on the verge of becoming a vegetarian! just messing. I know other things are more important. Do that there.

  7. Pingback: muslimmatters.org » Salvific Exclusivity: Part One

  8. Avatar

    Sis Shaykha

    February 4, 2008 at 6:27 PM

    Asalaamu Alaaikum

    Insha’Allah, sounds good Sheikh!
    Looking forward to reading the series….

  9. Pingback: Salvific Exclusivity « Islam|HD

  10. Avatar

    AsimG

    December 13, 2009 at 12:17 AM

    Shaykh Yasir,
    any plans to finish to post the other 3 insha’Allah?

    • Avatar

      Ahmed B

      December 13, 2009 at 12:52 AM

      Here’s part one…really hope the Sheikh finishes the series someday! This topic often comes up from Muslims conducting interfaith work.

  11. Pingback: Path of Allah or the Paths of Allah? Survey of Classical and Medieval Interpretations of Salvific Exclusivity | Yasir Qadhi Video | MuslimMatters.org

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#Islam

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

Imam Omar Suleiman

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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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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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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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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

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

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


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“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


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“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

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

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

 

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