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Dawah and Interfaith

A Foundation for Establishing Dialogue with the People of the Book

Omar Usman

Published

The following paper was submitted as a homework assignment for the AlMaghrib Heavenly Hues course taught by Shaykh Yaser Birjas in Houston. The assignment was to search through the ayaat of the Quran to see what guidelines are given for establishing a foundation of dialogue with Ahl al-Kitab. It was mentioned in class that it would be posted here, and you can find it below insha’Allah.

Thematic Study:

A Foundation for Dialogue With Ahl al-Kitab

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Does the Qur’an elucidate a manner of having dialogue with the People of the Book? Does it simply give a message to convey, or does it also put that message into a greater context taking into account their history, characteristics, and potential for accepting the message in the future?

 

The Qur’an not only gives guidance on these affairs, but establishes detailed guidelines for the believer to follow in creating a foundation for dialogue with the People of the Book. Dialogue in this context necessitates a focus on giving da’wah, foundations for how to give da’wah, and discussion of issues of common concern and disagreement.

While there are hundreds of ayaat dealing with those given previous Scripture and their stories, a select few can be taken from them to show the Divinely ordained method of having dialogue with them and inviting them to the truth.

Establishing any kind of dialogue with someone requires understanding and truly knowing the one being invited. The caller must familiarize himself or herself with the dispositions held by the other party, including their background and status. After this, a framework for discussion must be established, with the caller focusing on the etiquettes of dialogue and the arguments he or she plans to proffer. In the end a resolution must be offered and its potential results evaluated.

 

Know Your Audience, Knowledge Precedes Action

 

Before initiating a dialogue with the People of the Book, Muslims must first familiarize themselves with who they are, and their history.

 

Muslims must learn the message that was given to the People of Scripture and how they responded to it. This is essential to understanding why we need to have dialogue with them in the first place.

 

The People of the Book broke the covenant they had with Allah and changed the religion revealed to them. This is the primary reason that dialogue is needed. Many ayaat in the Qur’an reference various events of this nature. Some of the ayaat specifically shed light on the covenant that Allah took from them.

 

The Covenant Taken by Allah

 

The People of the Book are the Jews and Christians entrusted with the previous revelation,

 

Verily, We did send down the Torah, therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allah’s Will, judged the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests, for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s Book, and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me and sell not My Verses for a miserable price. …. And in their footsteps, We sent Jesus, son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him, and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for the pious.[1]

 

The covenant Allah took from them is the same as the message of Islam that Muslims are commanded to invite to,

 

And [recall] when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, [enjoining upon them], ‘Do not worship except Allah; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give zakah.’ Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you were refusing.[2]

 

Instead of holding steadfast to this covenant though, the People of the Book broke it and committed crimes against what Allah entrusted them with. One particularly heinous example was killing the Prophets sent to them,

 

Verily, We took the covenant of the Children of Israel and sent them Messengers. Whenever there came to them a Messenger with what they themselves desired not – a group of them they called liars, and others among them they killed.[3]

 

They were even cursed by their own prophets for the injustices they committed,

 

Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus, son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and were ever transgressing beyond bounds.[4]

 

Their greatest transgression committed by The People of the Book was the crime of shirk. They claimed that Allah was a part of a Trinity and that He had taken a son, thus disbelieving in the message sent to them.

 

Surely, they have disbelieved who say: “Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary.” But the Messiah said: “O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Verily, whosoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise for him, and the Fire will be his abode. And for the wrong­doers there are no helpers. Surely, disbelievers are those who said: “Allah is the third of the three (in a Trinity).” But there is no god (who has the right to be worshipped) but One Ilah (Allah). And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall the disbelievers among them.[5]

 

Both nations ascribed a son to Allah (far removed is He from such accusations),

 

And they (Jews, Christians and pagans) say: Allah has begotten a son. Glory be to Him. Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth, and all surrender with obedience (in worship) to Him.[6]

 

It is even more amazing that they consider themselves to be saved from punishment in the Hereafter despite holding these beliefs,

 

And (both) the Jews and the Christians say: “We are the children of Allah and His loved ones.” Say: “Why then does He punish you for your sins?” Nay, you are but human beings, of those He has created, He forgives whom He wills and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and to Him is the return (of all).[7]

 

Dialogue is necessary with them due to these deviations in belief, and the altering of the message sent to them. In spite of these blameworthy actions, the People of the Book still enjoy a special rank and status due to the fact that they were recipients of a Scripture from Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala.

 

Status and Rank of the People of the Book

 

The sincerity held by the pious amongst them must be recognized. These qualities are mentioned to show their nearness to the message that Muslims must invite them to. By reminding them of their positive qualities, it eases taking the next step into accepting the message.

 

Allah says regarding some of them,

 

Not all of them are alike; a party of the people of the Scripture stand for the right, they recite the Verses of Allah during the hours of the night, prostrating themselves in prayer.[8]

 

And in another ayah,

 

And there are, certainly, among the people of the Scripture, those who believe in Allah and in that which has been revealed to you, and in that which has been revealed to them, humbling themselves before Allah. They do not sell the Verses of Allah for a little price, for them is a reward with their Lord. Surely, Allah is Swift in account.[9]

 

While this is the case for some of them, the Qur’an reminds to be on guard,

 

You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.[10]

 

The People of the Book are also addressed directly in the Qur’an by Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala.

 

The Address of Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala to the People of the Book

 

The same points made before are now directly reemphasized by Allah to the People of the Book.

 

He calls upon them to reaffirm the original covenant of worshipping Allah alone without any partners,

 

O people of the Scripture! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit created by Him; so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not: “Three (trinity)!” Cease! (It is) better for you. For Allah is (the only) One Ilah (God), Glory be to Him (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is All­-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs.[11]

 

He also commands them to accept the pristine guidance sent down in the Final Revelation to mankind,

 

O people of the Scripture! Now has come to you Our Messenger explaining to you much of that which you used to hide from the Scripture and passing over much. Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a light and a plain Book.[12]

 

And He leaves them no excuse to reject it,

 

O people of the Scripture! Now has come to you Our Messenger making (things) clear unto you, after a break in (the series of) Messengers, lest you say: ‘There came unto us no bringer of glad tidings and no warner.” But now has come unto you a bringer of glad tidings and a warner. And Allah is Able to do all things.[13]

 

For the believers to understand how to correctly call to this guidance, they must not only understand the history that has preceded, but see the reality of their relationship vis-à-vis the People of the Book.

 

The Relationship of Muslims to the People of the Book

 

The People of the Book work to mislead and deceive the believers. They do this because they will not be pleased until everyone else follows their way of life,

 

Never will the Jews or the Christians be pleased with you until you follow their religion. Say: “Verily, the Guidance of Allah is the (only) Guidance.” And if you were to follow their desires after what you have received of Knowledge, then you would have against Allah neither any protector nor any helper.[14]

 

While they wish to mislead the believers, they only harm their own selves,

 

A party of the people of the Scripture wish to lead you astray. But they shall not lead astray anyone except themselves, and they perceive not.[15]

 

The Muslims though, view the People of the Book with balance and respect. They understand the disbelief they have committed, but still acknowledge the piety held by some amongst them,

 

Verily, you will find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers the Jews and those who associate others with Allah, and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: “We are Christians.” That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.[16]

 

The following ayah conveys the same message by commanding the believers to be just in their interaction with them,

 

Many of the people of the Scripture wish that if they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from their own selves, even, after the truth has become manifest unto them. But forgive and overlook, until Allah brings His Command. Verily, Allah is Able to do all things.[17]

 

Part of the relationship the believers must maintain regarding the People of the Book is to interact with them with good manners. This establishes the etiquettes of dialogue with them.

 

Manners of Invitation to the People of the Book

 

Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala commands the believers to have good manners with them and to call them with the best of argument and dialogue.

 

And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.[18]

 

One important principle of dialogue is to not give into falsehood. A severe warning is given for those who compromise the truth,

 

O you who believe! If you obey a group of those who were given the Scripture, they would (indeed) render you disbelievers after you have believed![19]

 

The believers are now ready to follow the command to establish direct dialogue with the People of the Book.

 

 

To Speak a Just Word

 

Dialogue starts by asking them to come to a statement that should be an issue of commonality between both parties, worshipping Allah alone without any partner. This is also a commandment given in the Bible. Allah says,

 

Say: “O people of the Scripture: Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah.” Then, if they turn away, say: “Bear witness that we are Muslims.”[20]

 

The invitation must always begin with the call to Tawheed, the message which was the basis upon which all Messengers were sent.

 

Say: “O people of the Scripture! Exceed not the limits in your religion (by believing in something) other than the truth, and do not follow the vain desires of people who went astray in times gone by, and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the Right Path.”[21]

 

Response to the People of the Book

 

As the believers start this dialogue, it is expected for the People of the Book to respond as well. Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala has given instruction on how to respond to their assertions. The believers are not only given the responses, but also commanded to stop after conveying the message.

 

So if they dispute with you say: “I have submitted myself to Allah, and (so have) those who follow me.” And say to those who were given the Scripture and to those who are illiterates: “Do you (also) submit yourselves (to Allah in Islam)?” If they do, they are rightly guided; but if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the Message; and Allah is All-Seer of (His) slaves.[22]

 

They will find ways to criticize the believers for following the Message sent to them,

 

Say: “O people of the Scripture! Do you criticize us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and in (the revelation) which has been sent down to us and in that which has been sent down before (us), and that most of you are disobedient?”[23]

 

As with any debate and discussion, Muslims are commanded not only to defend themselves against accusations, but to be on the offensive in their dialogue as well,

 

Say: “O people of the Scripture! Why do you reject the verses of Allah while Allah is Witness to what you do?”[24]

 

In one encompassing ayah Allah instructs the Prophet Sal Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam to convey the message and not grieve over their rejecting it.

 

Say “O people of the Scripture! You have nothing until you act according to the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been sent down to you from your Lord (the Quran).” Verily, that which has been sent down to you from your Lord increases in many of them their obstinate rebellion and disbelief. So be not sorrowful over the people who disbelieve.[25]

 

Dealing with their rejection of the message is a central theme in how the Qur’an shows believers to react after the dialogue has finished.

 

Deconstructing the Dialogue

 

Once the dialogue is finished, a conclusion must be reached. For the believers, it requires understanding the responses of the People of the Book in light of their past history.

 

They Differ After Receiving the Truth

 

Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala gives some explanation to the believers regarding those who rejected the message,

 

Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam. Those who were given the Scripture did not differ except, out of mutual jealousy, after knowledge had come to them. And whoever disbelieves in the ayaat of Allah, then surely, Allah is Swift in calling to account.[26]

 

They differ despite the clear evidences conveyed to them,

 

And the people of the Scripture differed not until after there came to them clear evidence.[27]

 

This behavior is not new, but is something that has been manifest numerous times. The primary example of this is their rejecting and covering up the prophecies of the Prophet Sal Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam in their own Scripture.

 

Prophecies in Previous Scripture

 

Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala informed us that the coming of the Prophet sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam is confirmed in the scriptures of the People of the Book. This lets the believers know that not only was evidence established upon them prior to their dialogue, but also that their dialogue was still a duty in spite of their response.

 

And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah confirming what was with them, a party of those who were given the Scripture threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs as if they did not know![28]

 

And He said,

 

Those to whom We gave the Scripture recognize him as they recognize their sons. But verily, a party of them conceals the truth while they know it.[29]

 

The knowledge in the previous Scripture was so detailed that the Messenger was even named,

 

And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic.”[30]

 

With this in tow, a final outcome must still be reached from this dialogue.

 

The Desired Outcome

 

The ideal result from this dialogue is that the People of the Book will accept Islam, upholding the main tenets of faith in that they testify to worshiping Allah alone without any partner, and affirming that Muhammad Sal Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam is His final Messenger.

 

Then, We sent after them, Our Messengers, and We sent Jesus ­ son of Mary, and gave him the Gospel. And We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him, compassion and mercy. But the Monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them, but (they sought it) only to please Allah therewith, but that they did not observe it with the right observance. So We gave those among them who believed, their (due) reward, but many of them are disobedient to Allah. O you who believe [in Moses and Jesus]! Fear Allah, and believe too in His Messenger (Muhammad), He will give you a double portion of His Mercy, and He will give you a light by which you shall walk (straight), and He will forgive you. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. So that the people of the Scripture may know that they have no power whatsoever over the Grace of Allah, and that (His) Grace is (entirely) in His Hand to bestow it on whomsoever He wills. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty.[31]

 

Some will also readily accept the message because they immediately recognize the truth as a result of this dialogue,

 

And when they (Christians) listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognized. They say: “Our Lord! We believe; so write us down among the witnesses.”[32]

 

Unfortunately, not all immediately recognize the truth, and someone engaged in dialogue with them must always be prepared for this.

 

The Ultimatum

 

Part of conveying the message properly is to make sure that the dialogue concludes without any ambiguity. In this vein, there are two ayaat in particular that lay out the ultimate choice for the People of the Book.

 

They are reminded with censure of their previous transgression while at the same time being given hope of a good reward should they accept the message,

 

And if only the people of the Scripture had believed (in Muhammad and warded off evil and had become pious, We would indeed have blotted out their sins and admitted them to Gardens of pleasure (in Paradise).[33]

 

It is up to them to choose the path of success,

 

Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So those who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful.[34]

 

If they still reject the message though, then the blame lies on their shoulders in the Hereafter,

 

Verily, those who disbelieve from among the people of the Scripture and the polytheists will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.[35]

 

Final Advice to the Believers and the People of the Book

 

And to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And verily, We have recommended to the people of the Scripture before you, and to you (O Muslims) that you (all) fear Allah, and keep your duty to Him, But if you disbelieve, then unto Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is Ever Rich (Free of all wants), Worthy of all praise.[36]

 

 

 

1 Ma’idah:44-46
2 Baqarah:83
3 Ma’idah:70
4 Ma’idah:78
5 Ma’idah:72-73
6 Baqarah:216
7 Ma’idah:18
8 Aali-Imraan:113
9 Aali-Imraan:199
10 Aali-Imraan:110
11 Nisaa:171
12 Ma’idah:15
13 Mai’dah:19
14 Baqarah:120
15 Aali-Imraan:69
16 Ma’idah:82
17 Baqarah:109
18 Ankaboot:46
19 Aali-Imraan:100
20 Aali-Imraan:64
21 Ma’idah:77
22 Aali-Imraan:20
23 Ma’idah:59
24 Aali-Imraan:98
25 Ma’idah:68
26 Aali-Imraan:19
27 Bayyinah:4
28 Baqarah:101
29 Baqarah:146
30 As-Saff:6
31 Hadeed:27-29
32 Ma’idah:83
33 Ma’idah:65
34 A’raaf:157
35 Bayyinah:6
36 Nisaa:131

 

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    mkhalifa

    January 29, 2008 at 1:09 PM

    Beautiful article akhi.

    The way you phrased the first sentence of the post led me to believe that you obtained this from another student, but knowing that you attended the Heavenly Hues seminar that just wrapped up in Houston (found out after checking the forums) I assume that the assignment is actually yours.

    If so, then bravo. :)

  2. Avatar

    Reed

    January 29, 2008 at 1:09 PM

    One Muslim scholar who speaks much on dialogue and tolerance is Fethullah Gulen. There are quite a few articles on his website (English website is at http://en.fgulen.com/ and Turkish one is at http://tr.fgulen.com/).

  3. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    January 29, 2008 at 1:50 PM

    Masha’Allah, very comprehensive and detailed!

  4. Avatar

    Brian

    January 29, 2008 at 2:29 PM

    Are there other purposes for dialogue between Christians and Muslims beyond conversion?

    [from the introduction: “… the Divinely ordained method of having dialogue with them and inviting them to the truth.]

  5. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    January 29, 2008 at 3:07 PM

    brian – this is specifically in the context of discussing religion – its not exclusive to all types of dialogue or conversation in general.

    and i wouldn’t actually venture to say the actual goal is conversion, but rather conveyance of the message. the muslim’s role is to adequately convey the message of our fundamental beliefs (namely that God should be worshipped alone, without any partner, or son, etc..) – whether or not a person converts after that is up to them.

  6. Avatar

    Brian

    January 29, 2008 at 3:16 PM

    I remember going on a visit/tour of a mosque, and I asked the Imam if there was any study of Isa. He said that no emphasis was placed on understanding Jesus.
    It strikes me that he is the strongest common link between Islam and Christianity. He is featured in the Injil, and mentioned many times in the Quran.
    But dialogue is naturally difficult, no matter what encouragement is offered in the Quran, because the details between the source documents do not match up.

    Christians have particular trouble with the crucifixion story, since it is the prime point for giving meaning to their faith. Did you know that many Christian churches are architecturally designed to look like a cross from the sky?
    [google images: “transept church plan typical”]
    The cross is the symbol of the Christian faith, because the scripture says that Jesus died on one. And Jesus’ death paid a penalty due to a holy God, what all created men must pay for their sins – a life.
    Christians believe that bad deeds outweigh good deeds for every person. All people deserve the wrath of God.
    Except Jesus. Even the Quran never makes note that Jesus was a sinner, though it does say that other prophets like Adam, Noah, Moses and Mohammad committed sins. Doesn’t this make him an extremely interesting character, and worthy of study?

    So a sinless Jesus can purposefully choose to die for other people, knowing his death for his own sins isn’t demanded by a holy God. [Jesus didn’t sin, he is holy.]

  7. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    January 29, 2008 at 5:03 PM

    a comment received via email:

    ادْعُ إِلِى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ

    An Nahl 125. Invite (mankind, O Muhammad SAW) to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the Divine Inspiration and the Quran) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided.

    From what we learned of this aya in emphasizing stages in Da’wah

    That da’wah is split into 3 levels:
    1) Invite to the Way of your Lord with Hikmah (“WISDOM”) – lexically Hikmah means “to put something in its proper place,” therefore – hikmah – wisdom – here means to say the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, in the right place, in the right context, in the right environment, putting it in the right place.)
    2) Fair Preaching/Admonishing
    3) Argue with them in a way that is better.

    More so we learned from this aya (of which volumes alone can be written) that having Hikmah (which transcends the translation of just ‘wisdom’) is greater than simply having ‘knowledge.’

    The example in da’wah in the aya is clear as well.

    The importance Allah ‘azza emphasizes in this verse, in wisdom which NEEDS good manners, and then the second stage which is the GOOD and FAIR admonishment(and how many times do people admonish without doing it in a good and fair way?) and then Allah ‘azza wa jal RE emphasizes that in the third stage, when one is ARGUING/DEBATING one has to do it in a way that is BETTER.

    What we realize is truly the statements of an Nabee salAllahu ‘alaihee wa sallam when he said in Abu Dawood, “Show gentleness, for if gentleness is found in anything, it beautifies it and when it is taken out from anything it damages it.”

    And some people make the mistake of jumping to the THIRD, without the people knowing and the da’ee not “Inviting to the Way of your Lord with hikmah,” as was discussed above.

    and as we know the aya says: ‘وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ’ – “And argue with them in a way that is BETTER” And how many do we know that those who try to do this are nothing but poor adab and with the wrong akhlaaq.

    And in this we goto the statements of the scholars, where we heard Shaykh Suhaib Hasan (hafidhahullah) say that he heard Shaykh Al-Albani (rahimahullah) say: “”The Ummah is in need of the proper aqeedah (theology), and those that ascribe themselves to the salaf (pious predecessors) are in need of proper akhlaaq (manners).”

    A clear example of hikmah.

    More so, what strikes me personally, we may find many people with knowledge, and that in itself is a blessing that they impart, but you find few people of knowledge that correlate that knowledge with hikmah (placing the knowledge in the right place). And truly we realize

    ذلك فضل الله يؤتيه من يشاء والله ذو الفضل العظيم

    “That is the bounty of Allah , which He gives to whom He wills, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty. ”

    Allah raised the status of those who have hikmah and May Allah make us of those who he grants it and through our hands raises the banner of Islam.

    And May Allah grant us this hikmah in our path in gaining knowledge, for hikmah is greater than simply gaining knowledge. Ameen.

    WAllahu ‘Alam

  8. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    January 29, 2008 at 8:28 PM

    Barak Allahu feeka ya ibna abee umar…

  9. Avatar

    Brian

    January 29, 2008 at 8:30 PM

    Of course, you can run your blog as you wish, even as you choose not to gain knowledge…

    You can choose to elevate beliefs in Islam. Your website is all about that.

    But dialogue… greater understanding, exploring alternate viewpoints – sadly, not.

    What am I to think of Islamic dialogue now?

  10. Amad

    Amad

    January 29, 2008 at 8:34 PM

    Brian, links unrelated to the post in question or to the theme of the comment in question will be moderated. If you want to have dialogue, have it with your own words, not with the words of others.

  11. Avatar

    inexplicabletimelessness

    January 29, 2008 at 9:02 PM

    Masha Allah, a wonderful paper and insight. Jazak Allahu khairan!

  12. Avatar

    Samira

    January 30, 2008 at 12:14 PM

    Assalamu aleykum … jazak Allahu khairan! was looking forward to reading it after it was mentioned in class. Well done!

  13. Avatar

    Elzaharna

    January 30, 2008 at 7:27 PM

    Masha’Allah, good work.

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    Kadijah

    March 17, 2008 at 10:02 PM

    SubhanAllah, I really enjoyed reading this article.

    I found that the lessons learned could be applied to several instances in my life, and personally, it is great to be able to read an article, and gain that connection and insight, especially one with so much truth and sincerity.

    May Allah(SWT) Bless you for your work, and keep us all among the Believers until our last breath. Ameen ya Rab.

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#Islam

Identity Scholarship: Ideological Assabiya And Double Standards

Danish Qasim

Published

The Prophet helped the Arabs overcome their asabiya (tribalism) and enter a new defining bond of Islam. The criterion for right and wrong was no longer clan membership, but rooted in the religion of Islam. Muslims were instructed to defend the truth, command good, and forbid evil regardless of tribal affiliation. Asabiya does not just relate to kin-based tribes.  One of the resurging traces of jahilya affecting our discourse is ideological tribalism. In ideological tribalism, we hold double standards between our tribe and other tribes, and overlook fallacies in our group that we would not for other groups. Just as we protect an idea that represents our identity, when a personality reflects our group identity, there is a personal reason to defend the personality. It then becomes instinctual then to double-down in discussions even when wrong to show group strength, which at this point is a survival mechanism and not a true dialectic. Abandoning a quest for truth and succumbing to an in-group vs. out-group dichotomy leaves us to defend falsehood and dislike truth. Refusing to accept truth is one way the Prophet described arrogance. 

Group belonging

One of the main drivers of identity scholarship is group belonging. When we focus on defending our group rather than principles which extend beyond group delineations we prove false our claims of wanting the truth.  The burden of moral responsibility is not offset by finding someone to follow [1]. Charismatic leaders have an ability to tap into latent desires of individuals and awaken in them the desire to be part of something greater than themselves. Their own identities are often validated by following the charismatic figure, and they then work hard to preserve the group as they would to preserve their own selves.

According to Ann Ruth Willner, charismatic authority “derives from the capacity of a particular person to arouse and maintain belief in himself or herself as the source of legitimacy. Willner says that the charismatic leadership relationship has four characteristics:

  1. The leader is perceived by the followers as somehow superhuman.
  2. The followers blindly believe the leader’s statements.
  3. The followers unconditionally comply with the leader’s directives for action.
  4. The followers give the leader unqualified emotional commitment.
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Charismatic leadership satisfies our desire to be part of something bigger, and paradoxically, to hand all power over to someone else can make us feel more powerful because we think that person is the best version of ourselves. We feel that we have gained ‘agency by proxy.’ We have also dumped all responsibility for decisions onto the leader- what Erich Fromm, the scholar of Nazism, called an ‘escape from freedom.’ When we are in a charismatic leadership relationship, our sense of self-worth attaches attached to the identity of the leader, so that we take personally any criticism of that leader, and have as much difficulty admitting flaws or errors on the leader’s parts as we do on our own. Because we see the leader as us, and we see us as good, we simply can’t believe that he or she might do bad things” (59) [2].

Charismatic leadership is emotional and works on desires. This type of leadership has no relation to truth. It exists and persists due to feelings, hence contradictions, double-standards, and outright hypocrisy aren’t issues for those in the relationship. Even when the leader confidently behaves irresponsibly, followers do not think less of him. What is inconsistent and irresponsible for an out-group observer is charming to members of the in-group.

As Miller points out: 

Followers don’t expect charismatic leaders to be responsible for what they say, nor to behave responsibly; their irresponsible behavior is part of their power. Their use of hyperbole and tendency to be unfiltered in speech are taken to signify their passionate commitment to the in-group (60).

Such loyalty is not specific for charismatic leaders, The Minimal Group Paradigm shows that we have more empathy for our in-group even if that in-group is arbitrarily assigned, and we will act biased in their favor against an arbitrarily assigned out-group. This is a tendency against which we must actively fight to maintain clarity in thinking and fair standards in discussions. When group loyalty is prized there is a fear of opposing the group, which obliterates any chance of scholarly discourse. Questioning a position becomes akin to questioning authority and leaves the questioner ostracized and out-casted. When the out-group is pejoratively labeled, there is an additional fear of thinking like or ending up in that group. 

Identity scholarship

Rather than looking at the argument constructed and judging whether or not it is sound, identity scholarship approves or dismisses arguments based on the person making them. Arguments are then validated by personalities and not standards of scholarship.  This is a dangerous shift from reasoning and evidence to personalities. 

Identity scholarship leverages the need to belong and centers the personality over the argument. However, focusing on the strength of arguments and not the personality is especially important given that the term ‘scholar’ or ‘shaykh’ is applied to vocationally trained Muslims, seminal graduates, preachers, or to those who display a scholarly caliber in Islam alike. This is a sufficient crisis. The term is heavily equivocated, and should never serve to stand in place of standards of scholarship in discourse. 

Ambiguity in the term ‘scholar’ or ‘shaykh’ is exploited by groups to strengthen their influence. Not always pernicious, this is the natural progression of proselytizing via group identity. An in-group who will dismiss dissenting voices for not having studied long enough, not obtaining ijazas, will promote voices of similar or less educated Muslims when those voices are in their ‘in-group.’ Titles like ‘ustadh’ and ‘ustadha’ are quickly conferred upon those who are volunteers or proponents of the ‘in-group’ even with minimal study. Advocating for the correct paradigm is rewarded more than a knowledge based approach to issues. Giving titles to those with social capital in your in-group is also an effective way for brand expansion. For example, loosely affiliated students with avenues into the growing Muslim mental health field are often referred to as ‘ustadha.’  Also, traditionalists will often promote in-group religious figures engaging in no-risk activism like condemning already popularly condemned figures as exemplary ‘scholars and activists’ who should be followed by other activists.  

If a person has been doing this long enough they become ‘shaykh,’ and then eventually a ‘senior scholar’ with assumed wisdom and spiritual insight, worthy of deference. I am well acquainted with the unfortunate irony in traditional circles where those who push a manhaj of studying at the feet of scholars have by and large not done so beyond attending general lectures by visiting scholars.  Many do not even know Arabic, but their zeal and tenure of feel good lectures in a community primarily interested in nasheeds and tea coupled with their promoting the right figures secure for them a scholarly status by generations who venerate the theory of studying at the feet of scholars. 

Thus authority and titles are conferred by virtue of in-group allegiance. 

Slip into demagoguery

When we accept an in-group and out-group dichotomy and don’t argue fairly, we lay the foundation for demagogic discourse. As Patricia Mill-Roberts writes “If people decide to see things as a zero-sum game- the more they succeed, the more we lose, and we should rage about any call made against us, and cheer any call made against them- then democracy loses” (13). The best way to avoid this is by maintaining fair discussions and letting go of double standards. Arguments appealing to in-group or out-group positions rather than being based in fact should not be accepted regardless of which group they are coming from. Several tactics used in these types of arguments are described below. 

Creating a strawman

Falsely representing the out-group is a common tactic in demagogic discourse. One example is portraying out-group critics as only critics. The critic is frozen in time as someone who has accomplished nothing, helped no one, and as only one who sees the faults in others. The in-group then goes on to list what they have accomplished -‘albeit with some faults’- to not seem as braggarts, but insists that those faults are magnified by the arm-chair critics. 

Another example is labeling Muslims more concerned with academic preservation and development as Muslims in ivory towers. This suggests knowledge is only relevant if immediately actionable and discounts the role of theoretical knowledge in both present and future action as well as an intrinsic end.  

Even when it comes to the epitome of practical action, Allah tells the Muslims to not all go out in battle, but to have groups remain behind to study.

Condescending discrediting

One way demagoguery characterizes the out-group is by a “dithering, wavering, impaired masculinity, and weakness…”(66).  Just as Rudy Giuliani dismissed those protesting Trump’s 2016 win as “professional protestors” with nothing else to do in life, so do we dismiss dissenting voices. 

Terms like ‘keyboard warrior’ should be dropped from the vernacular of anyone who uses the internet for Islamic education. If the internet is good enough for theatrical Ramadan reminders and choreographed Islamic reflections, it should also be good enough for dissent and valid critiques.[3] We have to embrace the fact that the internet is not a pretend medium; social media posts are used in newsfeeds, are reacted to on the mimbar, and even prompt live events. If we dismiss valid criticisms made online as the act of ‘keyboard warriors’ we should also call those giving dawah online ‘studio daa’is.’  

Discrediting due to inexperience

Experience is an important element in answering questions and dealing with different scenarios, and, should rightly be considered when one is looking for a teacher, etc. However, frequently, the standards for what constitutes experience are used inconsistently. The same individuals who refer to young teachers as ‘shaykh’ or ‘mufti’ while in their in-group, dismiss ‘shaykhs’ and ‘muftis’ in the out-group of similar age and experience, arguing that a person can’t be a ‘real’ mufti because studying 7 years doesn’t make anyone a scholar. Graduating from a seminary or Islamic university will be the standard for members of an in-group to be called scholars, but the out-group will be ‘immature graduates’ who have not learned wisdom.  Wisdom itself will be defined as the avoidance of actions which challenge the in-group. Likewise an activist saying the right thing and echoing in-group talking points will be called ‘ustadh,’ but if from the ‘out-group’ dismissed as a Godless- activist’ that just hates hierarchy. 

Victimization and Victimology

Demagoguery thrives on the in-group being victimized by the out-group. It is common for religious figures to dismiss valid criticism as nothing but hate, envy, or ignorance [4]. When criticized by activists, it is common to label them as ‘anti-clerical’ activists who only have an issue with Islamic leaders because they are neo-Marxists. 

‘Neo-Marxist’ is used as a catch-all term to discredit those who disagree with the positions of some religious leaders to insinuate the disagreements are rooted in hate for hierarchy or authority thus being illegitimate. Even conservative and practicing Muslims are labeled as ‘leftists’ and ‘Godless activists’ for simple critiques. In Sufi groups, disagreeing with leadership is often said to be the result of being spiritually veiled, or the work of ‘dark forces’ and ‘shayateen’ dividing us. If we can agree that black-magic and evil-eye are real but should not be the first culprit in a failing marriage, let’s also look for practical failures when religious organizations break down before we start blaming the ‘shayateen.’  

On one hand the in-group claims they are victims, on the other they blame the out-group for having a victim mentality.  This may seem like an obvious contradiction, but as Miller explains,  

If condemnation of out-group behavior is performed by a very likable persona, then onlookers are likely to conclude that the rhetor would never engage in the behavior she or he is condemning. This maneuver is especially effective with people who believe that you can know what someone believes by listening to what values he or she claims to espouse, and with people who think you can predict behavior by listening to values talk (who believe that ‘good people- that is, people who say the right things- don’t do ‘bad’ things) (56) 

Another tactic is using terms like ‘victomology’ to belittle legitimate grievances of being wronged and falsely representing those grievances as an attitude of being a victim in life.

Being oppressed (mazlum) does not require living a tough life, being a victim in life, or being part of an oppressed group. We are told by the Prophet that delaying a payment owed while being capable of paying is oppression (Muslim). When our God given rights are transgressed upon, we are mazlum in that situation. It is not uncommon however to see Muslims want to claim their rights and express they have been wronged to be dismissed as those who love to be victims. Ironically, this is even done by organizations that describe themselves with the leftist concept of ‘safe spaces.’  

Disregarding Nuance

“Demagoguery is comfortable because it says the world is very simple, and made up of good people (us) and bad people (them)” (24). 

We must understand that if someone does not see an issue as black or white, it’s not because they are obviously corrupt, willfully ignorant, or stupid.  The word nuance itself triggers cynicism and is treated as an excuse to employ mental gymnastics to deny what is ‘obvious.’  The fact of the matter is when it comes to khilafi issues there is generally a vast scope of acceptable actions, and when it comes personal ijtihaadi matters for policy there is often no clear-cut best answer. Thus in such matters the objective is to come to a best resolution or course of action. In short, we should all take appropriate measures in our decisions to ensure the benefit outweighs the harm. Certain positions are cautioned against due to the likelihood of harm to one’s religion, but that likelihood may not serve as evidence that one has harmed his religion. As the great scholar Muhammad Awama relates in Ma’laam Irshadiya, the way of the scholars is to leave people in what they are following as long as it is correct and has a valid legal perspective [5]

Scholarly discourse

Advice from recognized experts in a field carries weight, but it should not be conflated with a scholarly argument. A common mistake is to confer authority upon an opinion outside the area of one’s authority. Scholarly works must prove themselves to be scholarly as stand-alone works. Even if a great scholar has published many scholarly works, his advice should be taken as advice. For example, Imam al-Ghazali was a great scholar, but Dear Beloved Son is not a scholarly work.  We have a malfoozaat (wisdom-sharing) tradition that is precious, but we must know where to place it in the hierarchy of Islamic knowledge. 

Islamic scholarly discourse should be evidence based, demonstrative of legal proficiency, and cater to Islamic concerns. Those engaging should share the evidence for what they say, the sources of the rulings they share, the difference between the reason for a ruling and the wisdom of a ruling [6], understand contextual fatwas,[7] and understand which rulings are based on urf and which rulings are intrinsic obligations or prohibitions. These are just some elements of Islamic scholarly discourse, and it cannot exist alongside identity scholarship. 

There should be private forums with prerequisites where scholarly discourse can take place. When these discussions move outside of their proper place other issues such as discussing weak or aberrant (shadh) fiqh opinions arise, which to an undiscriminating audience all will seem co-valid on the spectrum of differing opinions in sharia. Promoting aberrant positions caters to our cultural preferences of thinking outside the box and carries the façade of an intellectual approach to Islam. In Maharam al-Lisaan (Prohibitions of the Tongue) Muhammad Mawlud lists both mentioning the conflict between the Sahabah, and mentioning aberrant opinions as prohibitions.  This is not due to the utterance being sinful, but rather to the misconceptions it can lead to for the average Muslim if not properly addressed.  

There may be a need to dismiss open innovators and those spreading misguidance, because there is no end to the possibilities of innovation and it obfuscates what should be self-evident, and can be very difficult for even scholars to refute in ways that resonate with those affected by innovation. The double standard as previously mentioned is when lack of formal credentials is only a problem for out-groups. 

How to have productive discourse

Islamic historical discourse has its share of polemics. There are commentaries, fatwas and treatises which insult valid ijtihad and even refer to the entirety of a madhab with epithets. Some scholars were harsh and had a penchant for polemics. Transgressions into mockery and slander were not condoned, and belligerent attitudes were something scholars sought to check with reminders of adab al-ikhtilaf (the etiquettes of disagreement). While the previously mentioned certainly existed and such an approach may serve to strengthen positions of the in-group to the in-group, it does not make for productive dialogue with the out-group.

Outside of scholarly discourse, when we debate policy and Islamic positions, we need to have sincere, fact based arguments with the goal of arriving at truth. Our ability to accept truth no matter who says it shows we have transcended in-group vs. out-group tribalism and have entered the realm of sincere discourse.  Overcoming in-group tribalism and following the truth, rather than blindly following our ‘fathers’ is a central message in the Quran. 

And when it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided?  2:170 

Arguments on points should never be personal. We should train ourselves to evaluate arguments and understand that people we like can make mistakes, and people we dislike and generally disagree with may be right on certain matters. 

Don’t take cheap shots if you disagree with someone, such as pointing out a typo to insinuate incompetence. 

It’s important to leave double-standards, and to point them out when someone is employing them.  When one side is unfair or uses double standards, it encourages the opposition to act in kind, and the discussion devolves into a fight. When disagreeing with someone, never insult that person.  When a personality is attacked, the response will be defending the personality, and the entire discussion is derailed. 

Sharing a post, or article should not be seen as endorsing an individual or a post. Sometimes it’s a means of opening a discussion, other times to share beneficial points even if the entirety of what is shared is not beneficial. Furthermore, endorsing an individual in one area is not a blanket endorsement, and should never be taken as such.  The Hanafi tradition was able to benefit from legal fatwas while not accepting theology of Mu’tazilite scholars. Likewise, many of our best tafseers are from Mu’tazilite scholars. The widely studied and highly regarded Tafseer al-Baydawi is basically a reworked Mu’tazilite tafseer without the Mu’tazilite aqidah. Scholars have been able to ‘take the good and leave the harm.’ 

“I don’t think you could search America, sir, and find two men who agree on everything.” – Malcolm X

We need to uplift our intellectual level and drop disclaimers like “I don’t agree with everything in this article” or “I don’t agree with everything he said.”  It is only worth stating when you do agree with everything someone says or does.  The common disclaimers should be taken as givens and we shouldn’t capitulate to a cultural push of walking on egg-shells so no one accuses us of supporting the wrong person or idea. 

It is critical we operate under the assumption that sharing a panel with or working with an individual is not an endorsement of that individual. Likewise, working with an organization is not an endorsement of that organization. Such associations are attacked as potentially confusing to the average Muslim, but we must work towards establishing that such actions are not support. 

Here we see an ambivalent conceptualization of the ‘average Muslim’ as someone who both deserves transparency from religious scholars for their actions as well as one who is easily confused or misled by the actions of Muslim scholars. If we can accept both propositions, that a scholar’s actions are not proof, and that working with someone and sharing posts and platforms do not equate support for every particular view or stance of a person, we may set the foundation for being issue focused rather than personality focused. 

In conclusion, it is important we all hold ourselves to high standards of discourse and not support behavior or fallacies from our in-group that we would deride from an out-group. The groups themselves are inevitable and not a problem, but we have to work to overcome the natural ideological tribalism that accompanies group membership.  If we personally transcend in-group bias and reflect it in our discourse, we can overcome the pettiness and hypocrisy that stifles productive discussions. 

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Al Dardiri

Published

charity

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. 

1. 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. 

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

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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

3. 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. 

dardir

4. 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

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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

9. 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.

10. 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

Published

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.

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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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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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