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UK General Election 2010: The Big Voting Debate [AE]- Comments Open


The issue surrounding the validity of voting from an Islamic, and even secular, position will always be debated. However, with the UK General Elections being held nationwide tomorrow (May 6th) we thought the following post by Imam Abu Eesa may help to clear up the confusion in time for people to make their final decision on the matter, insha’Allah.

Please note that while comments are now open, the focus of the discussion should be about who you are planning to vote for, or who you think Muslims should vote for. It is NOT to raise permissibility arguments, especially as the Imam will not be available to respond. Please contact him directly if you have any questions. STRICT MODERATION will be applied with no explanation provided. We’d still like to hear your opinions, and don’t forget to vote on MM’s election poll:

The Big Voting Debate

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Actually, is there really still a debate? Haven’t we dealt with all this before?

The answer: yes. Emphatically so. (please read all the articles in the link carefully because 99% of all queries have been dealt with therein)

I’m not one to waste my time re-hashing old arguments and arguing just for the sake of arguing with mostly young and new Muslims who perhaps weren’t around 4-5 years ago, and for them now the “voting is shirk” slogan fits their age and experience in Islam. Read: little.

But, after canvassing some of these young voices over the last few weeks and receiving statements like the following:

  • Surely this is verging on shirk where man does not recognise Allah swt as ruler and makes up rules for his own… i.e. he is “playing God”!
  • It’s as if we’re saying Allah swt’s rules aren’t good enough for us
  • come out of your holes munafiqeen and refute what he says.
  • But of course, mushriks will be mushriks, no matter how much aqidah talk they spur out, their nature is still shirk.

Of course it would be lazy of me and perhaps disrespectful to dismiss the opinion that “voting is shirk and renders you non-Muslim” as something to be ignored, because it comes mostly from youngsters.

Or that it comes from bored internet warriors.

Or that it comes from failed Muslim groups such as Hizb al-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun or the Anjem Choudhry Group or whatever they’re called these days.

Or that it is from people who are normally associated – whether by word or action – with the excommunication and murder of their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters around the world.

Or because they are going up against an almost scholarly consensus of our time that “to vote with an intention to improve one’s conditions is permissible.”

But then again, I am a rather lazy person. So consider their argument null and void.

Let me state very clearly for all those who wish to know: to vote for any candidate in any election – affirming of course that the true hukm is for Allah alone – based upon the premise that you wish to improve as best as possible the circumstances that you live in, or the circumstances of other Muslims elsewhere, is a permissible act. Indeed I hope that you will be rewarded for taking out the time to research how best you can make a difference.

When you vote for a man, you don’t invalidate the Divine Law of God. Rather you have declared your inability to implement fully that Divine Law, something which you are in a state of every single day that you live here anyway.

The idea that abstaining from voting so that you don’t fall into shirk therefore is a mockery. Abstaining because you feel that your vote won’t make any difference on the other hand, is something else: a respectable position and thus deserves consideration.

The articles above have discussed the fact that we are not held to account for what happens at the end, rather we are judged based upon our efforts. And these efforts I guess, are based on two areas: local interests and national interests.

Usually, political experts tell Muslims not to expect too much with respect to national policies and interests simply because the key playing factors are normally well outside the hands of the ruling party in government. We don’t wish to be conspiratorial but political history and indeed the way that the “War on Terror” seems to be panning out suggest very much that whoever runs any country in the world today is being dictated to by unseen powers and forces behind the scenes.

It is ironic then that despite the fact that the experts suggest concentrating on local issues, the very real possibility in May 2010 of a hung parliament has thrown the national agenda right back into the mix. The small benefit of a hung parliament for Muslims is just that one single party will not be able to arrogantly move against the will of the people; rather the more varied the voices and players in the decision making process, the perhaps more beneficial for all people who are looking for more considered and thoughtful policies as opposed to those that we’ve seen in the last ten years. Perhaps. Wallahu a’lam.

And nothing more is upon us brothers and sisters. The claim that you are held responsible personally because you voted in a party that went to war afterwards, is incorrect. Did you want the war to happen? If yes, then get ready for a roasting in the Akhirah. Did you try your best to avoid that war by taking all possible means legally allowed to you in said country, and then even still failed? Get ready for reward insha’Allah in the Akhirah.

As for the local scene, then it is very difficult for even the most apathetic of us to argue that block voting can’t ensure better candidates for our local communities. For those that actually do engage with their local MP, they’ll know that this is simply a person who represents their needs and causes when the situation arises. Sometimes they are very good and support all your causes, some are not so bad, and some don’t give you the time of day, and worse work actively against the Muslim community.

For the ignorant Muslims who proudly shout out, “Well you should vote BNP then because at least they wouldn’t go to war and they’d pay for your hijrah too, hahaha!” we’ll say, please accept the hijrah money and leave us alone because you clearly have no idea of politics if you think that just because someone might not want to go to war now, they won’t do so in the future. And in any case, the BNP could pay these Muslims a hundred thousand pounds each to leave and they’d come running back home after a few weeks of realising that their Islamic utopias haven’t turned out to be how they dreamt it.

Yes, let’s all not vote and allow the BNP and UKIP to rule our local schools and Masajid with the proud manifesto of their poster boy Wilders, “Close all Islamic Schools, ban burkahs and the Quran, stop Islamification. Enough is enough.”

Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable.

A final word on the issue of apathy other than the fact that we probably can have a national influence and most certainly a local influence, leads to the most important reason for me personally that we should vote: it proves to these elected officials that we cannot be ignored.

You see, we’re not Jews. We’ll be ignored because of our lack of wealth and high positions in the banks and other organisations.

We’re not White Christians. We’ll be ignored because we cannot lay claim to some emotional connection to the land itself and the psyche of the masses of olde who have made this Christian country what it still clings on to today.

We’re Muslims. We don’t have much going for us except that we can be loyal, hardworking and good citizens. Oh, and we have some silly high numbers in a few places which means that if you as elected representatives don’t support our needs here and there, we’re going to kick you out and cost you your dream job mate. Sure, we’ll be ignored most of the time as all the people of democracies generally are, but accountable you will be held.

If nothing comes of this exercise except that we are taken half-seriously by the authorities, then that’s enough of a reason to get out and vote. It really is.

Let me say at the end that I guess I’m bored with this subject as one would be expected to be having bashed it to death so many times. If you don’t want to vote because you really can’t see the benefit in doing so then ok, fair enough. If you don’t want to vote because it’s haram, khalas, leave us alone. And if you don’t want to vote because it’s shirk and you insist we’re all kuffar and mushrikeen for voting, then khalas even better, leave us alone now and let us pick some ajr from you on the Final Day insha’Allah.

Wallahu a‘lam.

Read this post: UK General Election 2010: The Muslim Vote for more background to GE2010, the so-called ‘Muslim Vote’, and for some useful links.

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  1. Amad


    May 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    It is interesting to see that at least the British have a respectable 3rd party, and a not-totally-out-it 4th. That is a far cry from US where there is really no chance for a 3rd party.

    What is the difference between Labour and Liberal Democrat? Was this party once before splitting, or always separate? How did the LD get so much traction, not being one of the two “main” parties. Finally, what happens if there is no clear majority, let’s say its 40:30:30 (conservatives: labour: LD)… can Labor and LD form a coalition and form government?

    Sorry for all the questions but obviously I am not aware much of British politics.

    • Avatar


      May 5, 2010 at 11:18 AM

      I’m not very good when it comes to politics but I can answer some of your questions.

      As far as I know, Labour and Lib Dems have always been separate. In the past 14 years (basically, since I’ve become aware of politics) and the past two general elections, Labour has been a clear favourite, but since the Iraq war, Tony Blair stepping down and the recession, the UK population has lost confidence in Labour. Conservatives have been campaigning for the past two years and seemed like a favourite to win until Lib Dems suddenly appeared out of thin air just recently.

      How did Lib Dems gain so much traction? I don’t know. My assumption is that it depends on the charisma of the party leader :P But honestly, I don’t know.

      Not sure what happens if there’s no clear majority. We need somebody well-versed in politics to answer that question.

      Perhaps I should have done more research :S

    • Avatar

      ibn Ahmed

      May 5, 2010 at 1:27 PM

      I really enjoy election night, it’s great to watch the votes come in. I even watch the U.S. one as it’s very interesting.

      To answer your questions, Labour and Lib Dems are two totally different parties. The Lib Dems are a fairly new party though they did exist in some form by a different name some time ago.

      Getting to the more interesting topic, if there is no majority then things will be very exciting. It looks near certain that no party will have a majority so we will have a hung parliament. We vote by seats so it doesn’t matter if 1 party has more total votes in the country than another, it depends how many seats that party has won. Either Labour or Conservative will have most seats therefore they will be the new party in power but they near certainly will not have enough seats to have a majority. So it could be 40% of seats to Conservative, 30% to Labour and 30% to the rest. It will be a hung parliament because even though in this example Conservative have the most seats they dont have enough seats to have a majority and therefore any laws they want to pass will have to be approved and voted for by other party members. If the other parties dont like these new laws etc then they wont approve the vote in parliament and nothing will get passed. The party in power will have to try to form a coalition to get what they want passed through parliament. It doesn’t matter if Labour and the other parties form a coalition, even if they had more total seats than the Conservatives as they are not the government. All they could do as a coalition is be a nuisance to the Conservatives who are in power.

      Take a look at these BBC links for a better understanding:
      Hung parliaments

      Winning elections without a majority:

      • Amad


        May 6, 2010 at 8:59 AM

        jazakumAllahkhair both for the quick tutorial!

        Would love to hear about voting experiences.

  2. Avatar


    May 5, 2010 at 11:29 AM


    Why would you have to vote for the lesser evil when you have an option to stand up and speak for sharia after all that is the system of ALLAH and its the best system. Of-course its not as easy as it sounds it will need sacrifice like the prophets did so lets follow the way of the prophets.

  3. Avatar


    May 5, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    I dont know about UK but here in Canada muslim people are somewhat active in voting but still not that much. the author here makes an extremely important point: we should vote regardless of whether it would matter or not becuase right now we are in desperate need of being heard. If an issue pertaining to muslims arises we will not be able to voice our dissappointment unless we come out and vote and make our politicians realise we exist and care about the society we live in.

  4. Avatar


    May 6, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    I’m surprised a bit as to why there are Muslims who voted ‘Conservative’ on MMs poll and their leader’s annoyingly arrogant too.

  5. Avatar


    May 6, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    It’s interesting that you call Hizb al-Tahrir a “failed” party. I have yet to see any other group who understands the political environment or our situation better than they do. All you have to do is watch a media interview with one of their representatives… now if all Muslim groups were that politically savvy we’d be in much better position.

    • Avatar

      Ibn Qudamah

      May 6, 2010 at 5:11 PM

      Asslamu ‘alaykum,

      As an ex student of HT I can say that in fact most students/members of HT are quite politically naive as they simply regurgitate what they have been taught in their halaqahs. They lack originality and most in all honesty do not have the political aptitude to look at politics in a holistic manner.

      Wallahu ‘a’lam.

  6. Avatar

    Abu layth

    May 7, 2010 at 2:40 AM

    We’ve already debated this last time on abu eesa’s blog. And abu eesa dealt with them. Here check out the link

  7. Avatar


    May 7, 2010 at 6:07 AM

    I hope Abu Eesa will answer all the outstanding questions soon:

    Too busy to answer questions from the Ummah on a topic Abu Eesa himself started but not busy enough to talk to the media on the same issues:

    ‘It is a well known principle of Islamic jurisprudence that if a change of circumstance occurs, the ruling can also change.’

    • Amad


      May 7, 2010 at 6:27 AM

      Maybe because he has given up on some people, who just like to argue and argue?

      I have met many of those. They are not prepared to even give a SINGLE inch away. With such people, it is better to move on, because frankly there is enough material out there for the people to make a judgment themselves, i.e. the answers are there, but they are not prepared to accept them.

      The bigger issue is that these same people are not prepared to “live and let live”. Yaani, have your opinion, don’t vote, but PLEASE respect the fact that others disagree with you on SOLID BASIS as well. No, no… we won’t until we shove shirk and kufr down your throat.

      I have faced 5% of this criticism and I am already frustrated, I can only imagine with AE has gone through, may Allah preserve him and strengthen him.

  8. Avatar


    May 7, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    I must say this panel discussion last week is probably the best dialogue on the issue of voting in the west that I have ever seen. All credit to all the respected panel members who conducted themselves very well.

    If Abu Eesa ever had the opportunity to share his opinions on a similar panel in the future this would help to clarify this matter for the Ummah Insha’Allah.


    -Even though there is one mainstream shaykh in the mix of the video, but it is really a pure HT propaganda video with all of its regalia stamped on it.

    • Avatar


      May 7, 2010 at 10:48 AM

      Don’t hold your breath Abdul.

      Its one thing to post a blog saying there is no debate – but then to run off without answering basic questions is just crazy.

      • Amad


        May 7, 2010 at 11:04 AM

        Who’s Abdul? A misplaced cut and paste comment?
        Esp. considering that both your and Riad’s comment AND Asif’s comment came from the same IP?? What’s the point of the different names? I am assuming you know that sock-puppetry is quite easy to catch?

    • Amad


      May 7, 2010 at 10:59 AM

      More HT nonsense in the link. I think HT needs to recognize that they are thoroughly discredited and that very few Muslims really care for their “insights”.

      See the comment from Abu Qadamah above.

      Here’s the advice from Abu Esa to HT guys:

      Confusing to who exactly? It’s not for me!

      I’d expect Hizb ut-Tahrir to be confused, so that’s not really a biggie if you know what I’m saying.

      My best advice to any HT members: go away and study your religion properly and sincerely under the ‘Ulema. Alhamdulillah I came across many members of HT back in the day and I never saw a SINGLE member who remained with this cult-group who actually went away and studied the religion. Once they are exposed to true knowledge, their previous ideologies melt away alhamdulillah.

      Pray for them my brothers and sisters, because they are good people at heart.

      • Avatar


        May 7, 2010 at 11:35 AM

        since when was Shaykh Sulayman Ghani (Islam Channel, Tooting Islamic Centre) with HT? He is actually pro voting so don’t be too quick to judge…. go back to the link as all the answers that were missing from Abu Eesa’s blog are in that discussion


        And because of your use of sock-puppets and HT propaganda, you are on auto-mod.

  9. Amad


    May 7, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    So, Brits, what’s happening with the hung parliament?

    Seems to me that Libs will get most out of hanging with Labour… which is probably the best scenario for Muslims, relative to having conservatives take over!

  10. Avatar


    May 7, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    Yep your right about that, I think a lot of us Brits would prefer a Labour-Liberal coalition rather than a Conservative-Liberal one. Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat leader) is weighing his options first. I guess the Lib Dems are going to be having a long weekend trying to figure out who to ‘hang out’ with while the rest of us will simply be kept hanging for the next few days.

  11. Avatar


    May 7, 2010 at 7:57 PM

    is there a policy for the comment to be removed, what is the purpose of this blog anyways! you don’t like the comment so you remove it! How do you decide brother?

  12. Avatar


    May 8, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Shame that on the one had you say in this article that the debate has been ‘dealt’ with but on the other hand don’t answer questions and sensor internet clips where people have got together to clarify the discussion from both sides. I regard myself as Ahle Hadith and you guys are giving us a bad name. No one group has a monopoly agaist liberal democracy as liberal democracy is not from the Sunnah and we should as a minimum stay away from such innovations.

  13. Avatar


    May 8, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    What we also need to do is keep a record of how many lives every individual vote that Muslims cast help to save.

    There could be another general election again in the UK very soon due to the political situation and every Muslim who voted needs to make sure that imminent death at the point of time they voted was averted.
    Otherwise the permissibility of moving away from the established rule against voting to elect a representative who will legislate by other than Islam would not have been met and as a result next time there would need to be a review of if imminent death can be averted by a Muslim who votes in the UK general elections and if an alternative position needs to be explored.

    Maybe this website could collect this data for the community?

    • Amad


      May 8, 2010 at 1:35 PM

      Farooq/Abu Layth, we don’t take sock-puppetry lightly… just a warning.

      Secondly, I think you missed the note on the post, we are not here to discuss the voting issue. If you don’t want to, don’t vote. No one is forcing you. Most of us have heard all the views, so live and let live! Learn to agree to disagree.

      It is funny that you lay out a premise for voting’s permissibility (that of absolute daroorah), which is ONE view, then you use the premise to declare a goal, and then ask those who have never bought off on the premise to start collecting some data?? I suggest all of you that feel so passionately about not voting start a website called “”, and then do spend all your energies in refutations and surveys to your heart’s content. Meanwhile, let Muslims who have moved on, focus on other everyday issues (you do know that Muslims in the West are facing a multitude of issues beyond just voting?)

  14. Avatar


    May 8, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Salaam alaykum
    People in my community were thinking the Lib Dems were better but even those in the anti war movement like Mehdi Hassan who wrote agaist the Lib Dems on Comment is Free have put a doubt on the Lib Dems due to their position on Afghanistan. What do you think we our position towards the Lib Dems should be?

    • Amad


      May 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM

      the question is: are Brit Muslims and Muslims affected by Brit policies, better off with conservatives or labor? I assume labor is still the lesser of the 2 evils and with a lib dem coalition, i can only imagine that they’ll be even better.

      as an outsider, of course, this is just my 2 cents…

  15. Avatar

    Abu layth

    May 8, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Amad I am not farooq so pls don’t try and spread rumours.

    It amazes me that the fear to discuss this isse with a real understanding.

    We can all discuss with ettiquettes that’s not the problem but whenever ppl raise an alternative position there is a knee jerk fear of hearing that opinion and actually discuss wether the opinion of pro secular voting is permissible based on an assumed rukhsaa. Whether this is a valid opinion in Islam.

    It seems this website just like abu eesa has the same ilk in thinking. Ie shut down opposing arguments.

  16. Avatar


    May 8, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    The point people need to understand is that those who promote voting are creating a siuation which will harm the rest of the community. It’s the same as with the PREVENT agenda in the UK and those who feel by being part of it is better than speaking against it and rejecting it openly. The west want Muslims to vote so they can get us to adopt their values on social and political issues through the dark road of political participation. They have said so in their own words. Just look at what some of these council level Lib Dem Muslims have been saying when visiting Israel.

  17. Avatar

    abdul muqeet

    May 8, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    interesting development. Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad used to justify voting on the basis of lesser of two evils. now he says he does not base it on lesser of evils anymore but it is still allowed because it is mere choosing.

    this means its an even worse understanding of how things work. he does not see voting for a secular party however well intentioned the voter maybe as an evil.

  18. Avatar


    May 9, 2010 at 2:51 AM

    Did those Muslims who undertook the ‘Muslims for Bush’ and ‘Muslims for Obama’ groups give any feedback afterwards on how many Muslim lives they saved through this? If there is some framework for post election review for those who voted then it’s worth sharing as those who voted in the UK now need to do a review over the coming months to see if leaving the Sunnah on this matter and voting was worth it and if such actions can be promoted next time round.

  19. Avatar


    May 9, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    in Abu Eesa’s post above he says that

    ‘We don’t wish to be conspiratorial but political history and indeed the way that the “War on Terror” seems to be panning out suggest very much that whoever runs any country in the world today is being dictated to by unseen powers and forces behind the scenes.’

    Can Abu Eesa clarify how we should select who to vote for given that politicians are not the real decision makers as he has pointed out?

    • Amad


      May 9, 2010 at 7:09 AM

      Why don’t you ask him?

  20. Avatar


    May 9, 2010 at 5:23 AM

    Can someone please clarify what the moderation policy is here as advice is needed on this matter and emotions and hostility should be calmed by dear brothers in Islam?

    I myself am very unhappy with how people who used to promote Quran and Sunnah like Usama Hassan have evolved, I fear that by engaging in shubha/bida like democracy we are pushing the limits of who can still be classified as people of Hadith and Sunnah. I did find some advice on the Abu Eesa’s blog and to be honest I thought it was the best post there – and Allah swt knows best:

    What is interesting after having read the above is that the comments that are pro Abu Eesa’s position may be best described by the man himself and I quote ‘fits their age and experience in Islam. Read: little.’

    To qualify this observation I will quote as an example what one individual posted above says:

    April 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm
    Yet all, without exception, are from the Arab states or from Africa.

    Hmm….biased much?

    One must look at all angles.

    Now Abu Eesa’s earlier quote must definitely apply to this individual do we not agree?

    I mean what kind of individual actually believes that the Islam which the Prophet PBUH came with, was specific to a particular time or location and not completed and perfected, as is the undeniable fact, for every time and every location?

    I would say a very deluded individual. Khair however, as I do not wish to attack this individual on a personal level.

    Abu Eesa whilst you may intend good how many people have intended good and never arrived at it?

    I would like to remind myself first, you second and all others, that we should fear Allah and not act upon our whims and desires.

    The list of names Abdul posted above as people who hold the view that voting is haram has some real knowledgeable scholars on it, may Allah be pleased with them and have mercy upon them.

    However for somebody to dismiss this and say that Shaykh Abu Eesa is right and they are/were wrong and worst still for you Abu Eesa to feel comfortable with this assumption is dangerous and foolishness, may Allah guide you and me.

    This ‘get out and vote’ initiative of yours smacks of the same sort of obnoxiousness and arrogance that your ‘Unity Pledge’ escapade displayed.

    Who would have thought that the Unity Pledge pipe-dream of yours would have the impact of claiming as a casualty your good friend, Usama Hassan, the grandson of a great Muhadith may Allah be pleased with him.

    How detrimental was the unity you called to on this persons Islam?

    It flew in the face of that which our beloved Prophet PBUH came with and did nothing but create controversy and bring a lot of attention to all those involved, not to mention affected those that were upon the Sunnah, to that which opposed it, like your aforementioned good friend.

    I can’t help but feel that controversy and attention are things that maybe you enjoy as you always seem to do that which will bring most of both things to you, although only Allah knows best.

    Now for me the best comment posted above was that by Anonymous on what Badee’ud Deen Shah Ar Raashidee (rahimahullah) said regards to voting.

    It was concise and clear, that this was not from the way of the Prophet PBUH so safety is in staying well away from it.

    However I pray Allah returns you, me and all other Muslims to the book and sunnah such that we use it in all aspects of our life and stop following our whims and desires and misguiding others.

    Now I know that this is the cue for the fans,students,defenders etc to attack me but Allah is my witness that what I write is as a sincere advise and not a personal attack.

    I advise all others who feel that Abu Eesa is somehow an authority on anything to do with religion to stick to the real people of knowledge.

    I would hope that Abu Eesa would be the first to admit that he would struggle to fit into the ‘student of knowledge’ title never mind ‘Scholar’

    And with this in mind let’s stick to rulings of scholars on issues such as this and others when it comes to looking for guidance and Allah knows best.

  21. Avatar


    May 9, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    I am asking him. Is the post above not written by Abu Eesa? Was this topic not posted to Abu Eesa could advise on who to vote for?

  22. Avatar


    May 9, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    Asalaam Alaikum,

    I am a muslim from the UK. And I am not a member of HT nor do I approve of them as an organisation. And I am not some looney whacko armchair critic who likes to mudsling. However, I think the whole discussion regarding voting is represented from the point of view of the pro-voting Muslim lobby and this has done much injustice to those who are against it.

    Myth 1: Defining the anti-voting group as simply anti-voting

    This is unfortunate since it allows the pro-voting camp to label those against it as lazy no-good-for-nothing losers. When in fact, it can be argued that the anti-voting group is actually a pro-Islamic nation group.

    Myth 2: All scholars support voting

    This is another myth. In fact, although democratic process has been around since before the Prophet (SAW) it has only been endorsed by ulemaa in the last few decades. Many scholars before and even currently (e.g. dr israr ahmed) are/ were vehemently against it. To pretend these scholars do not exist is unfair. To completely ignore their point of view is something I would not expect from the scholars who are pro-voting.

    Myth 3: The Muslim Nation cannot be reformed/ Khilafah is a pipe dream

    The pro-voting camp ulemaa should consider this very carefully. Almost none of them have ever written articles, made videos and given talks in favour of reuniting the muslim ummah into a single nation under a khilafah even though that is considered FARD AIN upon every muslim man, woman and child. How can it be that they are so concerned and get so worked up (as abu eesa seems to be in this article) about democracy and our participation in something that many say at best is “the better of two evils” and they totally ignore the obligation of a muslim nation. In fact, their lack of willingness to talk about this issue makes the muslim community forget about the muslim nation more and more until we reach a stage we are at now when they do not even think it is possible (or desirable) to work towards reforming a single muslim nation.

    Myth 4: So many ulemaa cannot be wrong

    This is another myth. Firstly, they are not a majority of the ulemaa in the world who are pro-voting but a majority of those who are in the West and have access/ ability to reach out to multimedia. Secondly, the anti-voting camp includes many prominent scholars who are otherwise persona non-grata in Western society so their views are ignored/ marginalised from the start. Thirdly, it shows a profound lack of historical knowledge to say that the ulemaa cannot be wrong. When the Caliphate was disbanded, the ulemaa from across the world met in a worldwide conference 3 years in a row and each time failed to do their islamic obligation of choosing a caliph and even left confused on whether to have one. Equally, the argument that the majority of the ulemaa cannot be wrong could be used by tyrannical Arab governments to justify their rule since the majority of the ulemaa in their nations publicly back the regimes.

    Myth 5: The lesser of two evils between letting in Right wing extremists and helping Muslims

    I always find that the lesser of two evils argument really depends on how you frame it. The Prophet (SAW) said that the blood of a Muslim is worth more than the walls of the kaaba… but according to the pro-voting camp it is not worth more than their next visa, or building more mosques or keeping the far-right out of power. That may seem like a claim to far, but isn’t that what you are saying in effect when you decide to vote for a party that is pro-war against a fellow muslim nation knowing full well that they will continue to do this but because the other guy is (heaven forbid) going to cut down from 200 half-empty mosques to 175 half-empty mosques?

    Myth 6: The scholars are giving us direction on voting

    The scholars are playing a funny game on this voting issue. They are telling us to vote, how important it is, how noble it is, how useful it is and how everyone who says its wrong is an idiot who needs to learn islam again… but they are not telling us who to vote for. Curious no? Well, this could mean that they don’t really mind who you vote for as long as you vote – but if it doesn’t matter who you vote for then why bother in the first place? It could be that they want us to vote tactically in our area – but again this is not clear enough… i mean should i vote for the Pro-Palestinian gay candidate who is against the hijaab OR the Zionist who is good for my local mosque and muslim school? It is IRRESPONSIBLE for scholars just to tell people to vote and not who to vote for… like giving someone a loaded gun but no real instructions on how to use it… “just use it!” they seem to say. Why don’t they reveal their own voting patterns – after all tonnes of celebrities and other public figures do? The ultimate upshot of this was clearly seen in the elections here in the UK where Muslims voted in a confused and tribal manner… some supporting those who are best for the local Muslim population, some supporting the muslim candidate (even though he comes from a over-all anti muslim party) and other supporting those who will be best for muslim overseas.

    In conclusion, I find that the tone of the pro-voting group is getting more and more dismissive about those who are against voting… and they fail to see that some of us are not so much anti-voting as we are absolutely and totally dedicated to working towards reuniting the Muslim ummah into a muslim nation once more and feel that each step the muslim community takes towards the voting booth is a step away from that Muslim nation that we have so long ignored.

  23. Avatar

    Abu layth

    May 9, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    Why have two comments of mine been deleted?

  24. Avatar


    May 10, 2010 at 6:24 AM

    AssalamuAlaykum, even though I agree with Abu Eesa’s opinion and respect him immensely, I feel he should have worded it in a less divisive manner, especially as its a sensitive issue. Anyway…

    Every 4-5 years we go through this at election time, leaflets with blood red fonts screaming SHIRK!! outbursts of emotion which result in fighting in mosques, vandalism of property, and unjustified hatred of other members of the community. Its quite tragic to witness brothers/sisters labelling others as mushrik/kafir with so much ease and without regret. In attempting to uphold the ‘Haq’ they themselves have completely gone against the virtues they believe they are upholding.

    It is ironic that the ones who have benefitted the most from this ‘dirty kafir-state’ show the most hatred to it. And yes, the UKs actions in the Muslim world past and present are truly horrific, but to counter that with unproductive methodologies is well…not productive.

    About the current political situation, looks like some sort of deal will be made between Conservatives and Lib Dem. Its interesting to see the current disagreements in UK society on how the voting process should work. While UK troops are busy in Iraq liberating them from tyranny and forcing democracy on them – they forget that they themselves back home are debating democracy. There are clear flaws in the system.

    All I can say is that – previously the thought of living here under the Conservatives seemed unthinkable, their foreign policy ideals make the Labour party seem like doves, not only that, but their model for society favours the rich, and the fact that Muslims are in the poorest category doesnt bode well. If they would have to link up with the Lib Dems to form government maybe their crude outlook on society here and abroad would be blunted.

    Wallahu A’lam.

  25. Avatar

    Abu layth

    May 10, 2010 at 9:30 AM


    I don’t think anyone here or on abu eesa’s blog have called ppl who vote for secular parties as mushrikeen and kuffar. What people who oppose this position do say is that it’s forbidden ie haram. So this isn’t about whether we should make takfeer or not but rather clarifying the rule. 

    This year there has been a concerted effort to brush the discussion under the carpet preventing legitimate discussion and debate around the ruling particularly clarifying the rule in origin and the supposed ruksaa. 

    I am not sure what is preventing many learned Muslims who support pro secular voting to discuss their position openly, calmly and in a frank manner. 

    As a reminder to all this is what ghazzali

     “Over-enthusiasm is a mark of corrupted scholars, even when the case they are defending is true. By showing excessive enthusiasm for truth and their contempt of their opponents, the latter would be stimulated to retaliate and react in the same manner. They would be driven to stand for falsehood and to be true to the label attributed to them. If the champions of truth had spoken kindly to them avoiding publicity and humiliation they would have succeeded in winning them over. But as it is, a person who enjoys a place of prestige is strongly inclined to preserve his position by attracting followers, and the only way to that is to boast and to attack or curse adversaries.” – Al-Ghazali

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Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas | Book Review

In the second decade of the 21st century in America, Muslims consider themselves “as American as apple pie,” don American-flag hijabs, and consider their presence and participation in American politics as a crowning achievement. There is little to no resemblance between the majority of the American Muslim population today, and the very first Muslims who landed in America – not as privileged individuals, but as enslaved people at the hands of vicious white colonizers who had already decimated the Indigenous population and who had no qualms about destroying the lives of their slaves. Dr Sylviane A. Diouf’s book “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” tracks the journeys and experiences of African Muslims who found themselves shipped aboard slave-trafficking vessels and taken to the other side of their known world. From their induction into the Transatlantic slave trade, to their determination to uphold the five pillars of Islam – regardless of their circumstances – to the structure of the enslaved Muslim community, their prized (and dangerous) literacy, and their never-ending resistance against slavery, Diouf illustrates in incredible detail the powerful and painful experiences of enslaved African Muslims, and the legacy that they left behind in the Americas.

This review of “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” will focus on the unique qualities and formidable faith of the very first Muslims in the Americas, and the legacy that they left for Muslims in the Americas today.

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In Chapter One, Diouf begins by answering the very first question that arises when considering the path of enslaved African Muslims: how did they end up enslaved in the first place? Slavery already existed as an institution in Africa, though vastly different from the horrifying standards of the European slavers. Between the existing slave trade, military conflicts that created prisoners-of-wars who were then sold as slaves, and the European propensity for kidnapping innocent people, many Muslims found themselves swept into the Transatlantic slave trade. These same Muslims were the ones who provided us with much of the knowledge that we have today regarding the American slave experience. Most African Muslims were literate, due to the religious and cultural importance of education; of those enslaved, many were religious scholars or students of knowledge. They described how they were captured, the torturous journey of the slave caravans across the continent, and the even more horrific experience of the slave ships themselves. These men also documented their lives as slaves, and indirectly, provided deep insight into their own inner nature. 

Despite the intense pressure and demands on African enslaved people to renounce their ‘heathen faith’ and be inducted as Christians, African Muslims demonstrated a commitment to Islam that should cause modern Muslims today to feel deeply ashamed in comparison. The very first words that Job ben Solomon (Ayuba Suleyman Diallo) uttered, after running away and then being discovered in Pennsylvania, were the shahaadah; Omar ibn Sa’id wrote numerous Arabic manuscripts, in which the shahaadah was always found (Diouf, 2013, p. 72-73). When Catholic priests tried hard to educate slaves about Christianity as part of the conversion process, the African Muslims were both resistant and unimpressed; they were already familiar with many Biblical stories, thanks to their Qur’anic education. Of those who seemed to have accepted Christianity, many did so only outwardly, while confirming their belief in Allah and His Messenger in every aspect of their lives. Indeed, in Brazil and other areas where there were large concentrations of Muslim slaves, the Muslims established underground madaaris to maintain and pass on their Islamic knowledge and education. Muhammad Kaba Saghanughu was a man whom the missionaries had thought was successfully converted when he provided all the right answers to their pre-baptismal questions – eleven years later, in a Baptist Missionary Society notebook, he wrote a 50-page fiqh manual in Arabic that encompassed the rulings of salaah, marriage, and other topics. 

Slavery did not stop the African Muslims from maintaining their salaah in whatever manner they could manage, considering their circumstances. Some did so in secret, while others insisted on upholding their salaah in public, to the extent that these incidents were recorded by the descendants of slaves and slaveholders alike. In Brazil, the African Muslim community – both enslaved and freed – held together so strongly that they were able to secretly establish Salatul Jumu’ah and attend gatherings of dhikr, even in the face of intense scrutiny (Diouf, 2013, p. 88-89). 

Perhaps one of the most greatly moving examples of enslaved African Muslims’ dedication to their Islam was that even in the midst of the utter poverty of slavery, they found a way to uphold zakaah, sawm, and Hajj. In Brazil, it was recorded that the Muslims would end Ramadan with the exchanging of gifts, no matter how simple they were; in truth, these gifts were zakaatul fitr and zakaatul maal.

In other areas, the descendants of Muslim slaves recalled that their parents and grandparents would make rice cakes called saraka at least once a year – saraka was a corruption of the Arabic word sadaqah, and the rice cakes were a Jumu’ah tradition in West Africa. (Diouf, 2013, p. 92-94) In Ramadan, many Muslims sought to fast; indeed, despite the incredible hardship and lack of nutritious food that the slaves already endured, there were those who fasted voluntarily outside of Ramadan as well, often by pretending to be ill. They knew that their situation meant that fasting – in Ramadan and outside of it – was not obligatory on them, and yet, to them, no circumstance was bad enough to warrant not even attempting to observe Ramadan. Hajj was another pillar of Islam that was both impossible and no longer obligatory on the enslaved Muslims; yet in Brazil, in a house that was used as a masjid, there were illustrated depictions of the Ka’bah – demonstrating the emotional bond that the African Muslims had with the Sacred House. 

Throughout Diouf’s book, the overwhelming theme that arises is the fierce commitment that enslaved African Muslims had to Islam. It was not superficial, shallow, or easily shrugged away in the face of difficulty. Instead, the African Muslims held onto their belief in Allah and their daily, lived practise of Islam, even when they had every excuse to relax their obligations. They upheld their Islamic and cultural dress code, not just at its minimum standard of modesty, but in a way that clearly demonstrated their religious identity (Diouf, 2013, p. 101-110). They found ways to make prayer mats and dhikr beads; they gave their children Muslim names in secret, when they were expected to present themselves as Christians; they even strove to observe whatever they could of the Islamic dietary code, by refusing to drink alcohol or eat pork – Ayuba Diallo went so far as to only eat dhabiha meat that he himself slaughtered (Diouf, 2013, p. 119-122). The enslaved African Muslims valued their Islamic identity above all. Even in slavery, they knew that their ‘izzah came from their Deen – and so did those around them, who noted their unique bearing in the face of the horrors of slavery. 

The story of the African Muslims who were enslaved and brought to the Americas is not merely a history lesson, or a token homage in honour of Black History Month. It is a story that echoes the persecution of the earliest Muslims in Makkah, and applicable to Muslims today. Muslim minorities in the West are often all too eager to complain of our difficulties and to seek religious exemptions for our minor inconveniences. Yet who are we in comparison to the earliest African-American Muslims, who endurable the unspeakable? Who are we, with our privileges, with our very freedom, in comparison to those Muslims who were stripped of everything and everyone they knew and loved, and who still held ever tighter to the Rope of Allah? One may say that it is unfair to compare us and them; that to recognize their struggles should not mean invalidating the challenges we face today. Certainly, we face numerous different fitan that are very different from what they experienced, but the truth is that we should compare our attitudes with those of our predecessors. We should be ashamed of our own weaknesses in times of privilege compared to their strength in times of oppression. More importantly, we must learn from them what it means to have such a relationship with our Creator and our Deen that we are capable of surviving and thriving in even the worst of circumstances. 

May Allah have mercy on the enslaved African Muslims who endured one of this Ummah’s historic tragedies, and may He make us of those who demonstrate their strength of love for Him through every tragedy of our own.

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Social Justice

Podcast: Priorities and Protest | On Muslim Activism with Shaykhs Dawud Walid and Omar Suleiman

Islam teaches us to stand up for justice, to enjoin good and forbid evil, and to help our brother whether he’s the oppressor or the oppressed, but how?

To help us fully understand the answer to this question, we have the honor of speaking to not one, but two subject matter experts on Muslim activism. Dr. Omar Suleiman and Shaykh Dawud Walid are both scholars, authors, and Imams internationally known for their work in civil rights and social justice.

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Excerpts from the interview:

“You can’t say I don’t believe any bad things about black people because I love Sayyiduna Bilal. We have to move past, and move beyond the tokenization of Bilal and talk about the haqeeqah (reality) of America and how the broader super culture really has influenced a lot of anti-black frameworks inside the Muslim community of those who are not black.” – Shaykh Dawud Walid

'We believe very deeply that our deen calls us to stand for the sanctity of life and to stand against oppression, and to stand against state violence and all that it represents in this regard.' - Imam Omar SuleimanClick To Tweet

“We can never elevate any other cause to where we equate it to anti-blackness in America, we can and rightfully should point to the fact that the same frames that have been used to justify state violence and white supremacy embedded in state policy towards black people in America is what guides America’s foreign policy and imperialism as well.” – Imam Omar Suleiman

'When the Muslim community stands up for the importance of black life, it is standing up for itself and with itself.' - Shaykh Dawud WalidClick To Tweet

“You know your name, and you know what land your family came from and you know the language that they spoke. Imagine the centuries of trauma that African Americans have gone through in this country, where we were brought here as chattel, like a cow or a chicken, our children were separated from our parents, our names were taken from us, our language, our culture, our religion, and then we were forced into the religion of Christianity, and the psychological warfare and violence of then having to look at a picture of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus that looked just like our slave-master, and to be told that our slave master looked more like the embodiment of civilization and purity of Jesus. And then we looked at ourselves and we saw the exact opposite. And then this dehumanization, being baked into every single system of the socio-political life of black people in America.

Anyone who is named Jones in America, it’s because their great, great grandfather was owned by someone named Jones. It has nothing to do with their lineage or their culture. And people like me, who are lighter skinned African-Americans – there’s no one from Senegal or Gambia indigenously who looks like me – it’s because my great grandfather’s mother was raped by a white man on a plantation in South Carolina. What we face in America isn’t just a moment or two of discrimination here or there.” – Shaykh Dawud Walid

'Why should cops with a list of seventeen prior violations of excessive force still be on the force? Why is it that penalizing of everyone but the police exists?' - Imam Omar SuleimanClick To Tweet

“Many Muslims feel very stressed when they’re driving across the border to Canada or flying back into the country. They’re very fearful about CBP or about being interrogated or held. Take that feeling, multiply it by about three, and imagine every day of your life living in America feeling that way. That’s about the best way I can explain it, but if you’re black AND you’re Muslim, that’s double trouble.” – Shaykh Dawud Walid

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On British Muslims & Racism: Do Black Lives Matter?

Q. As Muslims, what should our stance be on racism or racial discrimination, and should we be supporting social justice movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM)? And isn’t all of this support for BLM privileging justice for black people over others, especially when we Muslims realise the increasing Islamophobia and injustices being perpetrated against our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters around the globe?

A. At the outset, let me be clear about how I intend to engage these concerns. And that is by rooting them in mainstream teachings of Islam so as to address the issue of racism in a manner that might be meaningful in a British context, and recognised as being Islamic in a Muslim one. I have divided the response into five parts: [i] Islam & racism; [ii] modernity & racism; [iii] Britain & racism; [iv] Muslims & racism; and [v] BLM & racism.

I. Islam & Racism

Although the following verse is not speaking of the modern social construct of racism per se, it is speaking to the pre-modern concept of groupings of people related by significant comment descent; in terms of location, language, history and culture. Thus we read in the Holy Qur’an: O mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and then made you nations and tribes that you might know one another. Truly, the noblest of you in the sight of God is he who is the most pious. God is indeed Knowing, Aware. [Q.49:13]

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The Prophet ﷺ brought skin colour into the mix in these words: ‘O mankind! Indeed your Lord is one, and indeed your father is one. Truly, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor white (ahmar, lit. ‘red’ or ‘reddish’) over black, nor black over white – except by piety. Have I not conveyed [the message]?’1

In fact, the Qur’an doesn’t only negatively condemn such discrimination, but it positively and actively celebrates diversity too: And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the differences of your languages and your colours. In this are signs for people of knowledge. [Q.30:22]

The above verses and prophetic statement, then, were a total restructuring of the moral or ethical landscape prevalent throughout Arabia at the time. True worth would no longer be determined by skin colour, lineage, or even by grandiose shows of courage or generosity. Rather, true worth would be measured by taqwa – ‘piety,’ ‘godliness’ and ‘mindfulness’ of God’s commands and prohibitions.

Once, when one of the Prophet’s wives hurled a racial slur (or ethnoreligious insult, as we might say today) at another co-wife in a state of annoyance, disparagingly called her ‘the daughter of a Jew’, the Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Indeed, your [fore]father [Moses] was a Prophet; your [great] uncle [Aaron] was a Prophet; and you are married to a Prophet. What can she boast to you about?’2 Again, when one companion insulted another person, by insulting his mother because she was a non-Arab, the Prophet ﷺ said to him: ‘You still have some pre-Islamic ignorance (jahiliyyah) in you.’3 Thus no Muslim has even the slightest right to resurrect the vile attitude of racism; xenophobia; tribal bigotry; or insulting people due to them being seen as the ‘Other’, when the Prophet ﷺ radically eliminated such attitudes from the believer’s worldview and relationships. Ibn Taymiyyah said: ‘There isn’t a single verse in God’s Book that praises someone or censures someone due to just their lineage. Instead, praise is due to faith and piety, while blame is because of disbelief, immorality or disobedience.’4

II. Modernity & Racism

In the 1830s, Samuel Morton, an American craniologist, amassed and studied hundreds of human skulls so as to measure differences in brain size between people from various ethnic backgrounds. Morton believed he had used science to prove that white people were intellectually superior to other ‘races’. In his Crania Americana, Morton declared that not only did white people have larger brains and thus were intellectually superior to all other races, but also that black people had the smallest brains sizes and were hence inferior to all others. Morton and others used this conclusion as a ‘scientific’ justification to continue slavery in the United States and negatively stereotype black people. Many hold Morton to be the founding father of scientific racism. It’s here that, based upon this pseudo-science and on certain superficial differences in physiological traits, the categorisation of people into distinct ‘races’ begins in earnest. And while the institutional racism, racial prejudice, and white supremacy that was to follow were directed at all races in Morton’s descending hierarchy, providing adequate grounds to treat other races differently, in terms of rights and privileges, it would be black people (at the supposed bottom of the heap) that would bear the greatest and most sustained brunt of it.

Of course, modern science has long since shown that brain size isn’t necessarily related to intelligence. Instead, brain size is tied to things like environment, climate and body size, while intelligence is more related to how many neurons, or how efficient the connections between neurons, are in the brain. Indeed, modern science has also largely debunked the biological basis of race, showing that there is as much genetic diversity within such racial groups as there is between them. Science now regards race as a conventional attribution; a social construct, but not a scientifically rooted or valid classification. And while today we tend to favour the term ethnicity over the arbitrary construct of ‘race’ based upon skin colour and physiognomy, race remains, for some, a focus of individual and group identity, particularly members of socially disadvantaged groups, like blacks, where it oftentimes is a source of pride and joy. All this has led many anthropologists to argue that since there is no scientific basis for race, we should just chuck the whole idea in the bin. Others say that if we’re going to continue to insist on the social fiction of racial differences, let it be based on ethical considerations that enhance justice, fairness and familiarity between peoples, not hatred, discrimination and xenophobia. In fact, this latter way of looking at ethnic or racial divides is probably more in keeping with what Islam wants for humanity. After all, God made of us nations and tribes lita‘arafu – ‘that you might know one another.’

The above, then, amidst the activities of European empires and colonialism is where such modern ideas of racial discrimination and racism were birthed; ideas and realities which still reverberate frustratingly down to these present times. Just how many ordinary white Britons internalised the racist pseudo-science over the past one hundred and fifty years or so, not because they were particularly bad or evil people, but because they believed the ‘science’, is anyone’s guess. Add to that the usual xenophobia that often exists against the outsider, the modern feats and achievements of white Western Europe which feed into the idea of white exceptionalism or supremacy, and the political utility of whipping up blame against immigrants in times of national difficulty and economic downturn, make for well-entrenched myths and discrimination against people of colour.

III. Britain &Racism

Although the history of the United States is drenched in racism; with the issue of race still being the most painful, divisive one for its citizens, it is racism in Britain – my home, and where I was born and raised – that I’d like to confine my remarks and anecdotes to. And in Britain, just as in America, while peoples of diverse ethnic minorities have undeniably been, and continue to be, victims of racism, it is discrimination against black people that is by far the more endemic and systemic.

The recent anti-racist protests that are taking place across the country aren’t just to show anger about the death of yet another black man, George Floyd, at the hands of yet another American police officer. They are also protests against the systemic racism here in Britain too. Long before racism against blacks, Asians, and Eastern Europeans, Jews as a people, and also the Irish, suffered racism in Britain. Jewish people still do.

Whilst structural or institutional racism is difficult to conclusively prove, the lived reality of people of colour, as well as statistics after statistics, or report after report, all point to similar conclusions: Britain has a race problem. It doesn’t just have a problem with casual racism (now called micro aggression; as experienced in schools, jobs or everyday life), or racism born from unconscious bias (snap decisions conditioned by cultural upbringing or personal experience); it has a problem of systemic racism too – racial discrimination and negative stereotyping within many of its key institutions: the police force and the criminal justice system deemed to be among the main culprits.

It is, of course, argued that although Britain does indeed have individual racists, and that acts of racism do tragically still occur here, but Britain itself; even if it may have been in the recent past, isn’t institutionally racist anymore. We have the Equalities Act of 2010, as one of the clearest proofs against any institutional racism.

Or the case has been put that, ever since the Macpherson Report of 1999, which came as a result of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, in 1993 – and the two words in it that stood out from the rest of the 350 page report, that London’s Metropolitan Police was ‘institutionally racist’ – Britain’s police forces have internalised the criticism and have come on leaps and bounds since then: individually and institutionally. So to describe Britain’s police forces as still being systemically racist is unjust and unfair; or so the argument goes.

Be that as it may; and while many positive changes of both mind and structure have been sincerely made, the stark, present-day statistics tell us another story. Modern Britain is a place where black people, in contrast to white ones are: 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched; 4 time more likely to be arrested; twice as likely to be temporarily excluded from school; and 3 times as likely to be permanently excluded from school; and twice as likely to die in police custody. From any unbiased standard, does this look anywhere like equality? And just as importantly, are we saying that institutional racism is totally absent from these numbers?5

For most of my life, I’ve lived on one council estate or another in East London. In my pre-teen years, I grew up on an estate in Chingford, where most of the people were white, with a few Afro-Caribbean families and a couple of Asian ones: my family being one of them. I, like many other non-whites of my generation, encountered my share of racist abuse; and for a short time, a little racist bullying too. On the whole, I got along with most kids on the estate and at its primary school, regardless of colour; and they got along with me.

For my entire teen years, I lived on another estate in Leytonstone, where this time most of the residents were black. It was the mid 1970s, and it was a time when many young black people were, I wouldn’t say suffering an identity crisis, but more that they were searching for an identity. For unlike their parents, they were neither Jamaican, Bajan [Barbadian], or Trinidadian, nor did they feel (or were made to feel) totally British. Instead, young black Britons were turning to their Blackness to make sense of their place in Britain, developing a sense of collective cultural identity in the process. I felt a greater affinity to that culture, than I did any other. Voices like Bob Marley, Burning Spear, the Wailing Souls and Black Uhuru spoke to our plight and our aspirations. But whilst their conscious lyrics of roots reggae was coming out of Jamaica, it was home-grown, British reggae artists that would tell our own specifically British story: artists like Steel Pulse, Black Roots, Mikey Dread or, particularly for me, Aswad (or early Aswad, from ’76-’82). Aswad sang of African Children (which I’d swap in my mind for ‘immigrant’ children) ‘living in a concrete situation;’ in ‘precast stone walls, concrete cubicles. Their rent increasing each and every other day; Structural repairs are assessed and yet not done; Lift out of action on the twenty-seventh floor; And when they work, they smell.’ All of us youths crammed into the estate’s small youth centre, smiled, nodded away approvingly, and perfectly identified with the message when we first heard such conscious lyrics booming out at us. Whilst Marley spoke of the daily ghetto struggles of growing up in the concrete jungle of Kingston 12; Trenchtown, for me, Aswad spoke of parallel struggles growing up in the concrete situation of Leytonstone E11. We all a feel it, yes we a feel it!

Back to racism. My one little anecdotal proof of black victimisation from the police comes from the time when I was living on Leytonstone’s Cathall Road Estate. Police raids were a fairly usual occurrence on our estate as well as in the youth centre; sometimes with actual justification. In the youth centre, the police (usually with their police dogs), would stomp in; turn off the music; stamp out any spliff that was lit up; and then we’d all be told to line up against the wall with our hands behind our heads. Every time this happened, without exception, when it came to searching me, they never did. They’d simply insist that I leave the centre, or go home, which I would. I’d then usually come back half an hour or an hour later, and resume playing pool, table-tennis or bar football; or just soak up the vibes (not the spliff). Once, after a raid had happened, I came back to the centre, only for one of my close Rasta friends to advise me that it would be best if I stay home for a few days. I asked why? He told me that some people who hang out at the centre, but who don’t really know me, nor live on the actual estate, are saying that it’s odd that I never get searched and that maybe I was a grass. It would be an understatement if I said that I was scared stiff. I took the advice, and stayed away from the centre for a week, till I got the nod that things were all okay. A month or so later, and yet another raid. But this time, for me it was a Godsend: they actually searched me! I felt relieved, vindicated, and took it as a badge of honour. My point being is that throughout the ’70s and ’80s, there were countless times when I saw specifically black people stigmatised and victimised by the police.

To be honest, by the mid 1980s, with the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism doing their thing against the far-right National Front; with Reggae and Two-Tone Ska bands and gigs more and more mixing blacks and whites; and with attitudes of the young positively changing, I thought (perhaps naively) that racism in Britain would liklely be a thing of the past by the mid ’90s. Optimism, of course, is entirely healthy, as long as it doesn’t become blind to realism.

IV. Muslims & Racism

Here I’d like to speak about something that some Muslims will find uncomfortable: which is that we [non-black]Muslims need to admit the anti-black racism that infects our own communities. Sadly, racism against black people – including fellow black Muslims – is all too common among British Asian Muslims of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent. Whether it is being stared at by elderly Asians in the mosque and so made to feel self-conscious, to the way we of South Asian descent use the word kala, ‘black’, in a derogatory way; or whether it’s about marriage, or thinking all black Muslims must be converts and then dishing out patronising praise to them over basic acts like making wudhu – this un-Islamic nonsense; this jahiliyyah, simply has to stop.

We must speak to our elders about their anti-black racism. We need to respectfully discuss why so many of our mosques continue to make black Muslims feel unwelcome, or drive them away, and what can be done about it? Yet while our masjids are undeniably masjids; ‘Most mosques function as “race temples” created as enclosures for single ethnicities, and their mono-ethnic and introspective leadership are generally unfamiliar with any novelty occurring outside their silos.’6 Such ‘race temples’ are where Ethnic Islam rules the roost, even at the cost of shari‘ah race equality, sirah hospitality, or sunnah unity.

But racism isn’t just an issue with South Asian elders? It lurks in the hearts and minds of my generation too; and maybe that of my children’s? It’s less the stares or the ignorance about Black achievements, and more the negative stereotyping; post-colonial complexes; desperation to whiten-up; or outright racism when it comes to marriage. Here as an Asian Muslim parent, I’m happy for my daughter or son to marry – religiously speaking – some adamant fasiq or fasiqah – especially if they are of a lighter complexion: but I could never accept them marring a godly, well-mannered, responsible Black person! But we convince ourselves we are not racist: after all, I love the sahabi, Bilal. I weep when I read Bilal’s life story. My good friend, Bilal, is black. But the proof is in the pudding, and the truth is that we need to move beyond tokenism; beyond Bilal.

Those Muslims who make an issue of colour; whose racist or tribal mindsets lead them to look down upon a person of darker colour or treat them unequally, let them consider the son-in-law of the Prophet ﷺ, and fourth Caliph, sayyiduna ‘Ali b. Abi Talib. The classical biographers all state: kana ‘ali adam, shadid al-udmah – ‘Ali was black, jet black.7 Or take our master ‘Umar who is also described in the same terms.8 The colour, adam may refer to skin complexion which is dark brown, like a native American; or darker still, like in native Australian aborigines; or jet black, like many Africans. When the phrase, shadid al-udmah is added, ‘extremely dark’, then there’s no mistaking what is meant: a person who, for all intents and purposes, is black. Such a description seems quite usual for the Arabs among the sahabah. Black skin is also the colour of the lady with whom the whole Muhammadan saga begins: our lady Hagar (Hajarah); she was a black Egyptian. Or consider the Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. Our Prophet ﷺ once said: ‘As for Moses, he was tall and dark brown, as like the men of al-Zutt.’9 The Zutt were a well-known tribe of tall dark men from the Sudan.10 After knowing the above, if we are still going to look down at people merely due to their darker complexion, then what ghustakhi; what mockery and disrespect will we be possibly drowning in?

Islam is neither racist nor colour blind. It wants us to understand that skin colour has no intrinsic worth, only piety does. Yet at the same time, it allows us to celebrate differences in a way that does not offend Heaven, and in a way that causes us to offer joyful thanks to the One Who is the Maker of all Colours.

Islam is neither racist nor colour blind. It wants us to understand that skin colour has no intrinsic worth, only piety does. Yet at the same time, it allows us to celebrate differences in a way that does not offend Heaven, and in a way that causes us to offer joyful thanks to the One Who is the Maker of all Colours.Click To Tweet

So let’s have the conversations. Let’s have some serious introspection. Let’s listen to what Black Muslims have to say. Let’s desire to be healers, not dividers. Let’s educate ourselves about the reality of Black lives in general, and Black Muslim lives in particular. Olusoga’s Black & British and Akala’s Natives are good places to start. Sherman Jackson’s Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering is, with its theological insights, a must read. Above all, let’s work towards not just being non-racist, but anti-racist.

Change, thankfully, is in the air. For urban, millennial Muslims, and those of a generation younger still, these older ethnic divides are more and more of an irrelevance in their lives (though I’m not sure how much this applies to those raised in ethnic silos in Britain’s less urbanised cities). Such millennials have heard the stories of the intra-ethnic fighting; the anti-black racism; the token hospitality to black Muslims, but without ever giving them a voice; and the fruitless attempts to make the ‘race temples’ more inclusive, and how after decades, it’s a case of banging heads and brick walls. So owing to this, they are seeking to create more inclusive, culturally more meaningful spaces; away from all this toxic, ethnic Islam. Surely that’s where the rest of us should be heading too?

V. BLM & Racism

The Qur’an says: Help one another in righteousness and piety, help not one another in sin or transgression. [Q.5:2] Between this verse and the hilf al-fudul pact the Prophet ﷺ upheld and endorsed even after prophethood, we have a solid religious basis for supporting any individual or group working for issues of social justice: be it for Muslims or non-Muslims; be it led by Muslims or non-Muslims.

The Black Lives Matter movement has proven itself to be a powerful and effective vehicle over the past five years to demand reform in terms of anti-Black racism; with their current focus on justice for George Floyd and his family. Thus, how can Muslims not support it? Of course, we cannot give any organisation carte blanche support. Religiously, we Muslims cannot give unconditional support to anybody save to God and His Prophet ﷺ. Given that BLM has a few stated aims that are inconsistent with Islam’s theology (‘freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking’ is one of them, for instance), our activism must be guided by sacred knowledge and illumined by revealed guidance. Our intention is not supporting BLM, as such. Instead, it’s a case of making a stand against injustice, in this case anti-Black racism: supporting those individuals or organisations that are likely to be the most effective in achieving this goal. (It should go without saying, that we can work for justice for more than one cause or more than one set of people at the same time). And this is what the above verse and the hilf al-fudul pact have in mind. And just like the BLM describes itself as ‘unapologetically Black’, perhaps some of us need to be a tad more unapologetically Muslim?

But let’s take our focus off such theological nuances for now, and tie a ribbon around the whole thing and say: Let us, at least in spirit and in principle, if not in body, fully support Black Lives Matter as a cause, more than as a movement, in seeking to resolve structural racism; get justice done for all the George Floyds and all the Stephen Lawrences; and to get people to reflect on their own attitudes to racism and the racial ‘Other’ – ensuring our knee isn’t on the necks of others. We should support the overall goals of any grassroots movement that is working for a fairer, more just and tolerant Britain for everyone: black or white. Of course, for that to happen, from a Black Muslim perspective, anti-Black racism as well as an ever-growing Islamophobia must be tackled. Currently in Britain, God forbid that you are ostensibly a Muslim and Black!

Racism affects all people of colour. But when it comes to Black people, they face a unique anti-black prejudice as the ultimate Other, propagated both by white majorities and even other ethnic minorities. As a marginalised community South Asians, no doubt, have their own prejudices thrown their way. But they are not the same lived experiences as that of Black people. And while it can be easy to lump everyone together and perceive ourselves as having a shared trauma, statistics show that this equivalence is not really true.

In closing, I’d like to thank my youngest daughter, Atiyyah, for inspiring me to revisit and renew my ideas on anti-black racism; and my friend, Dr Abdul Haqq Baker for prompting me to write this piece, offering invaluable suggestions, and then reviewing it for me.

Wa’Llahu wali al-tawfiq.

1. Ahmad, Musnad, no.22978. Ibn Taymiyyah declared its chain to be sahih in Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (Riyadh: Dar Ishbiliyah, 1998), 1:412.

2. Al-Tirmidhi, no.3894, where he declared the hadith to be hasan sahih.

3. Al-Bukhari, nos.2545; 6050.

4. Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 35:230.

5. GOV.UK: Black Caribbean Ethnicity Facts and Figures.

6. Abdal Hakim Murad, Travelling Home (Cambridge: The Quilliam Press, 2020), 49-50.

7. See: Ibn ‘Asakir, Tarikh Madinat al-Dimashq (Dar al-Fikr, 1996), 42:24.

8. As per Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Isti‘ab fi Ma‘rifat al-Ashab (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1971), 3:236

9. Al-Bukhari, no.3438.

10. Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari (Cairo: Dar al-‘Alamiyyah, 2013), 8:61.

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