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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Ways American Muslims Can Help Save the World

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support 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.

By Junaid Subzwari

The world, it appears, has completely lost its mind.  It seems that our tiny planet is staged for a complete disaster with the West and Muslim world as the co-stars.  What’s sad is that all of these problems are based on misunderstandings and lies spread by hate mongers with one interest: growing their bank accounts.  To add insult to injury, citizens from the West and the Muslim world are starting to detest each because they feel the other side is this Great Evil trying to enslave them.  Then there are those caught in the middle: the American Muslims, aka, you and I.  We’re blessed with the conundrum of being, both, Muslims and Americans.  We know that Islam is not about killing the innocent, but, also know that reality tv is not the reality of Western culture.  So what’s a brother/sister to do?

A crucial problem American Muslims should understand is that the people in this country are learning Islam from the evening news.  Those profiting from spreading hate have hijacked the media and stifled the truth.  The result is that people listen to Mike Savage and never our side of the story. Hence, it becomes our job as American Muslims to pick up the slack. Because many of us are born here or have lived here since childhood, we know the language and culture of our communities.  With the help of knowledge, technology, and personality, we can touch the people around us and show that Islam prescribes many of the same values the West cherishes. Here are a few simple things that every American Muslim can do to help save the world.

1. Practice your Islam: Continue to pray, make dua, wear hijab, fast, etc.  Only by staying close to Allah (swt) and asking for His help can we accomplish anything.

2. Educate yourself: Spend time learning about Islam especially the most misunderstood parts.  You’ll be surprised how much you don’t know and you’ll be better prepared to help others understand.  People can sense whether you know what you’re talking about.  So spend time with your Imam and local scholars learning more about this deen.

3. Smile: The Prophet (saw) said that even a smile is charity.  By being polite and smiling, people will feel more comfortable around you even when your sporting a hijab or a 1 ft. beard. So when FOX news reports that Muslims are blood thirsty murderers, the image of your award winning smile will make them think twice.

4. Be friendly with your neighbors: Make friends with your neighbors and coworkers/classmates and talk to them like normal human beings about everyday stuff.  It can be from spending a few minutes talking on the driveway to being involved with them in the school’s PTA.  By making friends with them, you’ve bridged the gaps of communication.  So when they hear lies against Islam, they’ll feel more comfortable to come talk to you about it.

5. Stand up for others: If you hear someone dropping the N-bomb or any other racial slurs about any racial/ethnic/religious group, don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right.  Many people complain that Muslims (and other minority groups) only care about themselves.  Islam demands from us to defend the rights of everybody, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  If we stand up for others, our neighbors will be more likely stand up for us.

6. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer: The best way to show people the mercy of Islam is to help others around you.  There are plenty of homeless shelters, safehouses, foodbanks, etc to get involved in.  Volunteer with non-Muslims and show them that Muslims do care about problems in this society.  If you can, start a Muslim-based organization that addresses a problem in your community. It could be anything from distributing blankets in the winter to standing outside your local grocer and collecting cans for a food pantry.  There are no shortages of problems this society has and no shortages of answers in Islam.  Show people that Muslims care.

7. Highlight the good things about the West: Sure this country has many problems.  What country doesn’t?  The fact is that Western culture has many good things about it.  So don’t be afraid to tell your family and friends back on the farm about the good things of this society.  Our brothers and sisters across the ocean need to understand that the majority of Americans are not blood thirsty adulterers but are peace loving individuals that share many of the values we cherish.

8. Be active on the internet: Internet technology has enabled us to communicate with others around the globe in more ways then we can imagine.  There are tons of websites, blogs, etc., out there that promote Islam and defame it.  Get involved in the internet community and spread the truth.  Go to a newspaper website and comment on all articles there, whether it’s Muslim related or not.  The internet can be our biggest advantage and our biggest threat.  What it becomes depends on how we use it.

9. Be a model citizen: Follow the law, clean up after yourselves, don’t speed in a school zone, etc.  By being a role model citizen, you show everyone around you that Muslims do respect the law of the land and can live peacefully within its boundaries, with the assumption that none of those laws contradict the laws of Islam.

10. Be a human being: If you see a mother of 5 struggling to get her groceries to the car, help her with the bags.  When you’re coming off a plane, help the old lady ahead of you find her way to the baggage claim.  Show compassion for others and they’ll be more likely to show compassion towards you.  The hatemongers have tried to demonize Muslims as bomb carrying barbarians.  By showing our Non-Muslim friends otherwise, we help to dispel that image.

Easy enough?  Some of the naysayers might be snickering about how could a smile save the world.  Remember the problem statement.  The West see Muslims only as what is shown in the media.  They see “Muslims” blowing up innocent civilians and the “scholars” justifying the attacks with Islam.  By us living within the manners and values of Islam, we have the unique ability to help stop the violence and show this country’s citizens that Islam truly is a beautiful way of life that cherishes equal rights, justice, and mercy for all humanity. With knowledge comes compassion and understanding.  These are the key elements to help end the bloodshed.  We just need to lead the way.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    March 9, 2010 at 6:36 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Very poignant and relevant. Even though these things are mentioned frequently at Masjids and events organized at both the local and national levels, they cannot be emphasized enough.

    JazakAllah Khair.

  2. Avatar

    abdullah

    March 9, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    This is the most useful article i have read in a looong time!

  3. Avatar

    FearAllah

    March 9, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Very beneficial action points masha’Allah. BarakAllahu feek for compiling these.

  4. Avatar

    Amatullah

    March 9, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    Jazaak Allahu khayran!

    I think this advice is general for all Muslims living in Non-Muslim societies. Not only in America, but in Canada, UK, Australia etc.

  5. Avatar

    Halima

    March 9, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Assalamu Allaykum,

    Really good article, jazaak. I was just reading about the Muslims/ Chrisitian fighting in Nigeria on Yahoo, and some of the comments were really defaming Islam as you mentioned. Then I came here and found this article. Thanks!

  6. Avatar

    ummabdullah

    March 9, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    A great article mash’allah. We definitely need that kind of positive outlook.

    One little teensy weensy thing I did not like was the reference to your family on the ‘farm’. I moved overseas to Egypt and i’m originally from pakistan and believe me overseas is not always a ‘farm’. In fact, what I knew before and know now is that Americans are the ones who sort of live in a black box. That sadly often includes Muslim Americans as well.

    The muslim world is a super diverse world. and even though there is tons of poverty, believe me when I tell you this that around here where I live in egypt..there’s -good- things here in terms of techonology, service, education, entertainment (halal) that do not exist in the US.

    Anyhow, keep up the good work. Insh’alah if we can just focus on our circle of influence, we can make a difference :-)

    Ummabdullah

    • Avatar

      Imran

      March 9, 2010 at 8:54 PM

      +1

    • Avatar

      Junaid Subzwari

      March 9, 2010 at 11:02 PM

      Asalaamwa’alaikum,

      Jazakhallahkhairun for your positive feedback. Please forgive my farm reference but it was nothing more then a little American colloquialism. I didn’t mean it in a derogatory way, but just to keep a serious topic a little more light hearted.

  7. Avatar

    TheSussist

    March 9, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    How lovely.

    JazakAllahu Khairan

  8. Avatar

    Abd- Allah

    March 9, 2010 at 9:10 PM

    JazakumAllah khayr for this article! These are things that every Muslim should do, regardless of where they live! However, we should do them because they are important parts of Islam and regardless of whether they really have a positive influence on the way non-Muslims view Islam or not.

  9. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    March 10, 2010 at 12:15 AM

    Excellent advice. Throughout the article, I was reminded of the Prophet [صلى الله عليه Ùˆ سلم] and his conduct that won him everyone’s love, and turned his enemies into his friends.
    Gaining knowledge of Islam, having a voice on the Internet, and putting faith into public practice (e.g. praying on time, even in public) are ways that Muslims (real-life, good Muslims) will be noticed for who they are.
    Jazak Allahu khair!

  10. Avatar

    Muhammad Sheikh

    March 10, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    “8. Be active on the internet: Internet technology has enabled us to communicate with others around the globe in more ways then we can imagine. There are tons of websites, blogs, etc., out there that promote Islam and defame it. Get involved in the internet community and spread the truth. Go to a newspaper website and comment on all articles there, whether it’s Muslim related or not. The internet can be our biggest advantage and our biggest threat. What it becomes depends on how we use it.”

    Salaam,

    Great article, but this point is 1/2 of a double sided coin.

    I see many Muslims making the mistake of attempting to defend Islam without a proper understanding of the issue at hand.

    If we recall the “Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students of Sacred Knowledge,” it states:

    -Urge Muslims in the West, especially our youth, to leave off unproductive and divisive discussions of involved theological issues that are the proper domain of trained specialists, and we especially discourage participation in those internet chat rooms, campus discussion groups, and other forums that only serve to create ill-will among many Muslims, while fostering a divisive, sectarian spirit;

  11. Avatar

    Anon Sister

    March 11, 2010 at 11:41 PM

    Assalamalaikum,

    I think that number 7 is an important point, but should be taken with a grain of salt. I understand and am quite appreciative of the rights I enjoy as a Canadian citizen in a fairly well-to-do part of Ontario. However, I feel that Muslims in the West shouldn’t be afraid to speak out or criticize. Just looking at the increased use of racial profiling and surveillance /specific/ to the Muslim demographic, is troublesome. Furthermore, current policies in the Middle East are horrifying and unjust and as Muslims, have the onus to challenge this.

    All the best,
    Sister Anon

  12. Avatar

    Qasim - Chicago Islam Examiner

    March 12, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    Very well said brother. Excellent thoughts. I think my favorite just might be to smile more often :)

    Jazakallah for posting this article.

  13. Avatar

    want to know

    March 30, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    Thank you for your article. I am a Canadian trying to understand the muslim culture in the west. Like many before me wrote this is relevant to all human beings of the world. I am afraid of my muslim country men and women as I don’t know them or understand them. I don’t know if I should share a smile because I don’t wear a hijab or that it may be misinterpreted as something wrong. I would like to reach out to my muslim neighbours for better understanding of them. I have a new daughter and I would like her to grow up in peace with my muslim country men. Your article gave me courage to reach out.

  14. Avatar

    Abdulhaqq

    April 17, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    It’s nice to remind Muslims how they should be Muslims. However the Internet remark is a big mistake on the authors part. Online discussions by unqualified individuals can be counter productive leading to confusion and even get you into some real trouble with the FBI. If you want a good advice stay off Internet discussions.
    I don’t think that is right to call one self such and such Muslim we are Muslims period.
    One last thing to mention is that no matter what we do the prophecy of our Rasool swa will come true. Those battles will have to fought no matter how much we scream PEACE. Every human being needs to find peace within themseves in order for the world to be at peace.
    As’salamu alaykum

  15. Avatar

    Sindh human Rights Organization

    October 4, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    As you all aware that flood and rain destroyed everything in
    Sind,.Pakistan Millions of the people are affectees by flood and high
    rains of the monsoon and they left their villages, cities, towns, and
    districts and now them living in relief camps, in every district about
    500 to 700 villages are underwater and shifted in camps and they are
    getting only food from civil societies, government, other authorities.
    When we visit the camps lot the children were without clothes, and
    affected by different diseases, as Lot of the families living left
    their villages, cities and towns at middle of night and not able to
    take any wearing clothes and other things for the him selves,
    children. At Camp those families got lot of the diseases such as
    diarrhea, malaria, cough and skin diseases open their face and their
    livestock also die due to hungry.

    So our organization needs your help to donate ready made clothes,
    Blanket, warm clothes, tents medicines and something for the
    livestock.
    Please do not send cash and only send material. Your help will save
    the lives of the women and children.
    Thanks
    Zulfiqar Ali Soomro
    Executive Director
    Sindh Human Rights Organization
    Ghaghrani Street Inside Lakhi Gate
    Shikarpur
    Sindh
    Pakistan
    92-331-2694636
    Sindhhro@gmail.com

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

charity
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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

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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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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Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | 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?

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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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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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