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Guest submission by Ola

(Summary of an Arabic article by Shaykh Muhammad Salih Al-Munnajid)

All Praise is due Allah, Lord of the worlds, and may the peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah.

From a small, remote island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean, a small, sub-glacial volcano erupted, sending plumes of ash thousands of feet into the air. It drove the entire European continent into panic and caused the disruption of international flights around the world.

Airplanes discontinued flying, airports shut down, and air traffic was suspended. One-hundred thirteen European airports closed their airspaces in the face of international navigation. More than 63,000 flights were cancelled. The airline industry faced losses of up to $250 million per day. Over seven million travelers were stranded.  Airport lounges turned into dormitories, and passengers were provided with blankets and other necessities. In addition, importers and exporters were confronted with deficits.

Europe was nearly isolated from the world when it met the biggest disruption of air transportation in its history.

1. So take warning, O people of vision (59:2):

One cloud of volcanic ash sent an entire continent into panic and fear and paralyzes air travel.  What would happen if several volcanoes erupted? Indeed, it is an event that calls upon us to think, reflect, and contemplate. It is not fit for such great happenings to surpass a Muslim without a deep, thoughtful pause that comes about from his/her faith in Allah, with full certainty, that whatever good happens in this universe is from the grace and mercy of Allah and whatever evil happens in it is with His knowledge.

ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ

That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing.” (Ya-Seen 36:38)

Allah has wisdom behind everything He wills and decrees.

لَا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ

He is not questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned.” (Al-Anbiyaa 21:23)

2. And We send not the signs except as a warning (17:59):

Volcanoes and the like are soldiers of Allah; He sends them upon whom He wishes of His servants, in the time He wishes, in the manner He wishes.  They are a warning, a trial, and a punishment.

وَمَا يَعْلَمُ جُنُودَ رَبِّكَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَمَا هِيَ إِلَّا ذِكْرَىٰ لِلْبَشَر

And none knows the soldiers of your Lord except Him. And mention of the Fire is not but a reminder to humanity.” (Al-Muddaththir 74:31)

Among the soldiers of Allah is the volcanic ash, composed of small particles of glass and pulverized rock. The ash poses great danger to aircraft engines and instruments and thus hinders planes’ movement. Moreover, it may pose serious health hazards if inhaled.

To simply say that such incidents are “natural” occurrences due only to standard universal laws illustrates one’s heedlessness of the Creator and the Controller of this universe. For who runs and manages this universe in such an orderly fashion and gives it power to strike its inhabitants?

هُوَ الَّذِي يُرِيكُمُ الْبَرْقَ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَيُنشِئُ السَّحَابَ الثِّقَال * َوَيُسَبِّحُ الرَّعْدُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ مِنْ خِيفَتِهِ وَيُرْسِلُ الصَّوَاعِقَ فَيُصِيبُ بِهَا مَن يَشَاءُ وَهُمْ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي اللَّهِ وَهُوَ شَدِيدُ الْمِحَالِ

It is He who shows you lightening, [causing] fear and aspiration, and generates the heavy clouds. And the thunder exalts [Allah] with praise of Him – and the angels [as well] from fear of Him – and He sends thunderbolts and strikes therewith whom He wills while they dispute about Allah; and He is severe in assault.” (Ar-Ra’d 13:12-13)

3. And this is nothing else than a reminder to mankind (74:31).

The volcanic ash cloud is a sign among the signs of Allah. It was sent to His slaves as an admonition and reminder to the Believers, and a way to warn and frighten those who turned away from Him. The believing heart will take heed and turn to its Lord in repentance, while the oblivious heart that has forgotten its Lord will only worry about economic losses and the latest updates.

لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لَّا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ

They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.” (Al-‘Araf 7:179)

It is from the hardness of the heart that one hears of such adversities and yet fails to detach themselves from sin and transgression and continues to follow their desires.

Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) describes the state of the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhe wa sallam) when he saw a cloud, “If the Prophet saw a cloud in the sky, he would walk to and fro in agitation, go out and come in, and the color of his face would change, and if it rained, he would feel relaxed.”  When she inquired about his reaction, he replied, “I don’t know (am afraid), it may be similar to what happened to some people referred to in the Holy Quran in the following Verse:

فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهُ عَارِضًا مُّسْتَقْبِلَ أَوْدِيَتِهِمْ قَالُوا هَٰذَا عَارِضٌ مُّمْطِرُنَا ۚ بَلْ هُوَ مَا اسْتَعْجَلْتُم بِهِ ۖ رِيحٌ فِيهَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

And when they saw it as a cloud approaching their valleys, they said, ‘This is a cloud bringing us rain!'” Rather, it is that for which you were impatient: a wind, within it a painful punishment.” (Al-Ahqaaf 46:24)

Similarly, during the solar eclipse he experienced (salallahu alayhe wa sallam), he came out in a restless state thinking the Hour had begun. This is indicative of the degree to which he feared the Hour and kept it in his mind.

What should our state be when we witness an ash cloud shooting up 10km into the air?

4. They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. (22:74)

What hit Europe and affected the entire world is a great indicator of the power and strength of Allah, glorified be His Majesty. His decree outstrips all other commands and His might leaves all other helpless.

Whatever Allah wills happens and whatever He does not will does not happen, and He is over all things competent.

اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ وَمِنَ الْأَرْضِ مِثْلَهُنَّ يَتَنَزَّلُ الْأَمْرُ بَيْنَهُنَّ لِتَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَحَاطَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عِلْمًا

It is Allah who has created seven heavens and of the earth, the like of them. [His] command descends among them so you may know that Allah is over all things competent and that Allah has encompassed all things in knowledge.” (At-Talaaq 65:12)

5. Man is weak.

When man becomes arrogant, transgresses, claims perfection and self-sufficiency, Allah sends signs that remind man of his weakness and need of his Creator (the Exalted).

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ

O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy.” (Fatir 35:15)

It was a matter of minutes before security turned into fear and profit into deficit. Did the power, technology, money, research, and innovations of these “First World” countries benefit them in the face of one of the soldiers of Allah? They helplessly watched and gazed as the order of Allah moved before their very eyes.

أَمَّنْ هَٰذَا الَّذِي هُوَ جُندٌ لَّكُمْ يَنصُرُكُم مِّن دُونِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ ۚ إِنِ الْكَافِرُونَ إِلَّا فِي غُرُورٍ

Or who is it that could be an army for you to aid you other than the Most Merciful? The disbelievers are not but in delusion.” (Al-Mulk 67:20)

6.  There is no refuge from Allah except in Him (9:118).

No matter how influential or intelligent man is, there is no way out of such catastrophes except by turning to his Lord in sincere du’aa and worship. For this reason, we are commanded to rush to salah during solar and lunar eclipses. “They are two signs amongst the signs of Allah. When you see them stand up and pray.” (Bukhari)

7. A fire that reminds of a greater Fire.

The lava discharged from the volcano reached a temperature of 1,000°C (1,800°F) and melted about 10% of its icecap. This is the fire of this world which serves a as a reminder of the Fire of the Hereafter. The Prophet (salallahu alayhe wa sallam) said, “This fire of yours which is lit by the sons of Adam is one seventieth part of the fire of Hell.” (Muslim)

8. And no soul perceives what it will earn tomorrow (31:34).

Conferences organized, meetings arranged, appointments set, reservations confirmed, hotels booked, and holidays planned; but no person knows what he will earn tomorrow. It was one eruption and many cancellations. Travelers were fighting over seats to get back home.

وَلَوْ كُنتُ أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ لَاسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ وَمَا مَسَّنِيَ السُّوءُ

And if I knew the unseen, I could have acquired much wealth, and no harm would have touched me.” (Al-Araf 7:188)

9. And whatever strikes you of disaster – it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much (42:30).

This is the way of Allah; He decrees calamities to scare His slaves. When sins, oppression, killings, and indecency multiply, so do volcanoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, droughts, diseases, wars, and losses of life and wealth.

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].” (Ar-Rum 30:41)

And such misfortunes will not be the last for those who violate the laws of Allah, as He (the Exalted) says:

وَلَا يَزَالُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا تُصِيبُهُم بِمَا صَنَعُوا قَارِعَةٌ أَوْ تَحُلُّ قَرِيبًا مِّن دَارِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَ وَعْدُ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ

And those who disbelieve do not cease to be struck, for what they have done, by calamity – or it will descend near their home – until there comes the promise of Allah. Indeed, Allah does not fail in [His] promise.” (Ar-Ra’d 13:31)

10. An adversity for some and prosperity for others:

While airline businesses faced shortfall, transportation services by train, bus, and ferry were thriving as passengers looked for alternatives.  In addition, there was a high demand for hotel rooms.

All praise is due to the One who allocates provision to whom He wills! Some people suffer bitter losses and other people celebrate unexpected gains!

11. Remembering the countless blessings of Allah upon us:

Observing exhausted travelers sleeping on uncomfortable chairs, impatiently waiting days and nights, should lead us to acknowledge the great and innumerable blessings Allah has bestowed on us. The blessings of security, peaceful nights, and tranquil days ought to fill our hearts with the praise of Allah and our tongues with thankfulness to Allah.

Moreover, this particular incident reveals to us our reliance on airplanes and the blessing of arriving at far distances in a short span of time.

12. Remembering the Last Day:

The likes of such a phenomenon should remind us of a much terrible one yet to occur: the earthquake of the Hour. Sunlight was blocked by the ash cloud, and something similar will happen on the Last Day:

إِذَا الشَّمْسُ كُوِّرَتْ

When the sun is wrapped up [in darkness]” (At-Takwir 81:1)

Just as airplanes were deserted and neglected, on the Last Day:

وَإِذَا الْعِشَارُ عُطِّلَت

And when full-term she-camels are neglected” (At-Takwir 81:4)

Allah mentions she-camels in the Quran because they were prized wealth to the Arabs just as airplanes are valued to us today.

The ash cloud that travelled thousands of feet into the air serves as a reminder to a cloud of smoke Allah will send prior to the Last Day:

فَارْتَقِبْ يَوْمَ تَأْتِي السَّمَاءُ بِدُخَانٍ مُّبِينٍ يَغْشَى النَّاسَ ۖ هَٰذَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

Then watch for the Day when the sky will bring a visible smoke. Covering the people, this is a painful torment.” (Ad-Dukhan 44:10-11)

We ask Allah subhana wa ta’ala to have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and through these signs, guide those who have gone astray to the Straight Path. Indeed, Allah is Subtle and Acquainted.

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abu Rumay-s.a.

    May 10, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    Allahu Akbar…these events are indeed very scary…

    While I was waiting in line, I ran into a non-Muslim fellow who was from that region and he told me that he believes that this is something from God and he was also in awe of the situation… so how about us?

    May Allah have mercy on us and forgive us…ameen…

  2. Avatar

    Slave of the Most Loving One

    May 10, 2010 at 4:02 AM

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

    Praise and thanks to Allah SWT, Lord of the everything that exists!
    Peace and blessings be on our beloved Prophet, his family , his companions and all the righteous believers.

    SubhanAllah! just yesterday me and my friend was discussing about how we have made to become desensitized to the warnings of Allah SWT (May Allah protect, guide and forgive us) because of different “scientific theories and explanations” ….as if it does not have a greater meaning i.e, Allah’s warning…

    tsunami, eclipses, earthquakes etc… everything just happened bcz of global warming or some other factor is what most of the people believe…but Allahu Akbar…these are indeed the soldiers of Allah!

    may Allah SWT protect our hearts from hardening and place us under His Mercy in this world and akhira.ameen!

    • Avatar

      sabirah

      May 10, 2010 at 4:09 AM

      salam, what do you mean with the eclipse? how’s that a desaster?

      • Avatar

        Siraj

        May 10, 2010 at 6:05 AM

        Not disaster, eclipse is a sign of Allah, is what he meant.

  3. Avatar

    sabirah

    May 10, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    salam!

    …a volcanoe on iceland erupted about 240 years ago resulting in a poisonous ash cloud crossed Europe that caused more fatalities than Tschernobyl, it went into tens of thousands and caused severe famines.
    The weather changed so dramatically that the Missisipi froze in New Orleans

    Forgotten by now… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laki

  4. Avatar

    Slave of the Most Loving One

    May 10, 2010 at 5:31 AM

    Wasalam wrt wbrt Sabirah

    JazakAllah Khair for pointing out that…i dint mean eclipse as a disaster, rather a sign but again people say it’s due to some scientific factor and hence taking away THE message …people usually end up with scientific explanation for these phenomenon forgetting and/ trying to run away from reality… every now and then He will show signs…some will receive it and repent and mend their ways while others will continue to be heedless (may Allah SWT protect us)..

  5. Avatar

    Rashid Jaffrey

    May 10, 2010 at 6:19 AM

    These are indeed signs of Allah and its time we heed to the warnings.
    May Allah give us the wisdom and the strenghth to be righteuos . May Lllah prevent us from committing sins knowingly or unknowingly and guide us to the path of eternal success. Inshaallah

    Ameen

  6. Avatar

    Abdullah

    May 10, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    Asselamu Aleykum.

    JEZAKUMMULAH KHIER!

    I’d like to point out which I think are mis-spellings to correct:

    Below point 2: وَهُمْ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي اللَّهِ وَهُوَ شَدِيدُ الْمِحَالِلله (it is ٱلۡمِحَالِ) not الْمِحَالِلله

    Below point 9: (Ar-Rum 30:41) at the end of Aya it’s يَرۡجِعُونَ not يَرْجِعُونَله

    All knows best!

    May Allah reward you immensely.

    Wasalamu Aleykum

    • Avatar

      Mariam E.

      May 10, 2010 at 8:21 AM

      wa Alikum asallam warahmatu Allah

      It’s fixed now. Jazakum Allah khayr.

  7. Avatar

    Amatullah

    May 10, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    SubhanAllah, amazing lessons and reflections from shaykh Munajjid. Jazaaki Allahu khayran sister Ola for translating and summarizing his article.

  8. Avatar

    Olivia

    May 10, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    Jazakallahu khair, I really enjoyed all your points. Very thoughtful. Always good to come out of the small world we immediately live in and take a look at the bigger picture.

  9. Avatar

    Salaam

    May 10, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Nice reminder but I wonder if “reminders” is an excuse for mediocrity within our Muslim community. There was nothing particularly insightful or engaging or even personable about this article. The only part I liked was number 12 even though that was full of doomsday reminders–the reference to the “she-camels” and airplanes is interesting and thoughtful.
    If your intent is to engage the wider community and sincerely remind them then you might want to start by engaging in your piece with a little but of narrative so people can relate and want to hear what you have to say. Scholars seem to be in this high ivy tower where they just throw out verses at the rest of us and seem to forget how to relate to others through narratives, compassion and the common human folly we all share.
    Can’t we instead relate on the footing of humility we have in the facing Allah and humanity and love we have within us all?

    And may Allah forgive me if I said anything wrong.

  10. Avatar

    Hassan

    May 10, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Someone was pointing out that Europe banned veil for muslim women, and Allah covered entire Europe with ash cloud veil…

    • Avatar

      ivoryTower

      May 10, 2010 at 9:07 PM

      Mashallah! Allah Akbar!

      So the ash cloud cover will remain until the law is changed?

      • Avatar

        sabirah

        May 11, 2010 at 4:26 AM

        salam.. that was just 2 European countries, not Europe. I doubt that personally, as Allah has been very selective in past punishments, spared the true believers and restricted the punishments sometimes even on particular cities only and spared the surrounding ones.

        If people need to draw conclusions, i think it makes more sense that it would have been punishment for intruducing the nude body scanners on airports… as this hurts the aircraft industry most.
        Sorry, I think those occasions are reminders, but drawing conclusions like that is a bit like assuming what we know not of Allah swt. And a waste of time and scare mongering. Better remember that every soul will taste death, including you and me, because that is what we know for sure and make our duas in the morning and evening
        la hawla wa la quwwatta illah billah

        • Avatar

          Hassan

          May 11, 2010 at 4:53 PM

          Its somebody’s pondering thought, not a factual statement.

          • Avatar

            amad

            May 12, 2010 at 4:21 AM

            it does remind me of the coca-cola– la makkah, la mohammed fiasco…
            very creative, but probably out there :)

  11. Avatar

    ummbudi

    May 10, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Salam I find your comment so strange. If words of Allah don’t move you, honestly we have to look within ourselves.

  12. Avatar

    Abdullah

    May 10, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Bismillah & Aselamu Aleykum,

    Jezakillah Khier sister Mariam.

    Re: Salam “Scholars seem to be in this high ivy tower where they just throw out verses at the rest of us and seem to forget how to relate to others through narratives, compassion and the common human folly we all share.”:
    May Allah forgive you and us all. FEAR Allah! Ask Him to give you understanding of Islam and Quran. Mu`awiyah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (Selallahu Aleyhim Weselem) said, “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
    You have already mentioned that you liked (may be understood not liked?) at least one point i.e if we understand one point, ponder and work on it, THAT IS IT! It’s a mercy from Allah, we may get back to the next point/points and keep gaining more understanding.

    Please don’t think our Shuyuk and Ulema’e (scholars) seem to be talking pointless. By Allah, they are the greatest individuals Allah bestowed on the Ummah until the time He wishes, as in one hadith mentions:

    Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying: “Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people, but He takes it away by taking away (the lives of) the religious scholars till none of the scholars stays alive. Then the people will take ignorant ones as their leaders, who, when asked to deliver religious verdicts, will issue them without knowledge, the result being that they will go astray and will lead others astray.”
    [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

    Lastly, I kindly ask you my brother/sister to think first before you post or blame scholars. If you see there is any area that Scholars are not covering, you may remind, give comment or/even cover it yourself. InshiAllah!

    “O’ Allah bestow on us the understanding of Your Deen, forgive us and return us to your Deen in best return”.

    Allah knows best!

    Fi-Amanillah!

  13. Avatar

    elham

    May 10, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    SA,

    ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
    “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].” (Ar-Rum 30:41)

    This Ayah is so profound in meaning.It speaks of what we see around us and shows the Mercy of Allah in that He gives us a taste of only SOME of what our hands have earned.

    Imagine if Allah gave us what we deserved, we wouldnt even exist!. Instead He tells us by these trials to return to Him, for true success only lies with Him.

    And then this verse froze me:

    فَارْتَقِبْ يَوْمَ تَأْتِي السَّمَاءُ بِدُخَانٍ مُّبِينٍ يَغْشَى النَّاسَ ۖ هَٰذَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
    “Then watch for the Day when the sky will bring a visible smoke. Covering the people, this is a painful torment.” (Ad-Dukhan 44:10-11)

    Allah(swt) have Mercy on us!

  14. Avatar

    Sayf

    May 10, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    You know, people sometimes arrogantly think that with our modern science and technology we really have a firm hold on the world around us, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. If someone really understood science they would see how little we know, how horribly fragile and insignificant we really are, and how much we’re at the mercy of Allah subhana wat’ala. I hope to submit something along these lines one day insh’Allah!

  15. Avatar

    Salaam

    May 10, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    ummbudi: I don’t believe I mentioned how the ayahs moved or didn’t move me personally. Kindly refrain from making comments like that in the future inshAllah.

    But I will take your comment into consideration. Perhaps I am strange but would it not be the “Muslim” thing to do to try and show compassion– if not understanding– instead of alienating me?

    Abdullah: Thank you for the reminder. I really do respect scholars so I ask you to read my initial comment again. And I understand they are people like you and me, so I was trying to give constructive criticism I didn’t BLAME anyone. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself too well so allow me to expand.
    I was just stating in my experience that the majority of scholars are not personable, approachable to the average person. It would be better for the ummah inshAllah if they gave a narrative, and tied in these beautiful verses so we may understand their enlightenment and their depth of understanding can be shared –inshAllah at least to some degree– with the rest of us. People remember stories, personally connections, let’s help each other build a better relationship with Allah and Allah’s word.

    I believe dishing out ayah’s like this, in a list no less, [and please forgive me dear author] is like fast food.

    Shoot the drug in for a quick fix of fear so we can feel our hearts shake and then tell ourselves we’re religious and anyone who doesn’t find such a swallow skimming of ayahs and unsophisticated thoughts satisfying –well, there must be something wrong with them!–they are not religious. There is something wrong with their deen. Let’s condemn them and shut them out before someone starts to deeply and compassionately engage with what they have to say.

    Too often we allow our affiliations, whether racial, economic or religious, to limit us instead of allowing it to help us in the fight to expand ourselves. InshAllah by remembering the principles of Islam, let it be a way we humble ourselves, look introspectively and forgive people [even if they criticize you].

    And may Allah forgive me if I have said anything wrong or hurt anyone

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 11, 2010 at 12:19 AM

      To be honest, “salam”, I myself found the article a bit dry and it would have made it 10x better if it talked more directly to us. Not just verses, but show us how these verses talk to us. A lot like Br. Nouman has the quality to do.

      However, I think the issue is not that you had this sentiment, but rather how you broached it, how you related to a scholar. Ivory towers is not where actually many scholars live… some of them may struggle to relate to EVERYONE (remember, their audience is no longer their halaqa, which makes it much more challenging in this day and age), but I think it’s unfair to think they are not trying. And also keeping in mind their various audiences, it is likely that indeed this style does impact others, if not us.

      wasalam

      • Avatar

        Salaam

        May 11, 2010 at 1:35 AM

        Amad thank you for your feedback. After serious consideration perhaps my use of “ivy tower” was a misuse in terms of typical specification so let me clarify. “Ivy tower” I meant in terms of underestimating the sophistication of the audience and general populace and dumbing down lectures and articles to the level of a hormonal preteen [no I am not an ageist–in fact it wasn’t long since I was one myself]. I know this is not without causation whether through intimidation the community puts on their scholars [etc] or the need to relate to everyone all the time through playing the lowest common dominator of faith: namely fear, in my humble opinion.

        But the thing is that people move on and many people are disillusioned with the constant ‘fear’ card.

        Fear and anger can be a great and basic motivating force but soon people get burned out. SubhanAllah, things like love, thankfulness and understanding are things that the more you give, the more you have to give and the more you receive.

        And may I repeat again: I never said they [scholars] weren’t trying and I am NOT blaming. In fact if I didn’t think they weren’t trying then I would have never bothered to write out this sentiment in the first place. InshAllah my intention is give constructive criticism and to vent out my frustration at the plethora of articles and lectures like this. Can’t we encourage our ummah to become critical thinkers, to see life though the eye of insight? To a higher level of eman and sophistication of knowledge and understanding –inspiring a depth of love for Allah and our deen? Must we endorse and encourage acceptance of shallow observations and cutting and pasting of Qur’anic ayahs without which nurturing and careful fostering of rumination and experience has taken place?

        It’s heart-wrenching and it pains my heart dully that because of this widely accepted monopolizing archetype of religiosity and devoutness that I, and others like me, feel they cannot take refugee in our ummah. Not only are we “othered” in the mainstream for being religious but we are “othered” by the discourse of religiosity in our communities*.

        And may Allah forgive me, you and the seekers

        *often unintentionally; as it seems I must spell out my disclaimers.

    • Avatar

      Abdullah

      May 11, 2010 at 1:35 AM

      Bismillah!

      Aselamu Aleykum.

      Salam: Dear brother,we need to know what place the scholars have in the sight of Allah.

      I still take your words inappropriate and wrong. (I don’t mind you hurting me BUT to scholars YES) Hence, I was forced to correct you. I am not trying to challenge/disappoint you nor to anyone.

      Please, once again WATCH out your language & your words! In fact, I am afraid (as I’m IGNORANT & POOR slave of Allah) since we are talking about scholars.

      Re:”constructive criticism”: who are we to criticize; on what base?REMINDER: the title of the article was called [Reflections on the Icelandic Volcano] + (Summary of an Arabic article by Shaykh Muhammad Salih Al-Munnajid). Do you know Shiek Muhammad Al-Munnajid (Hafizehullah)? If not, check one of his website that I know: http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/islamqapages/2 and one of his response to Modemists http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpweeeFlVs4

      Re: “approachable to the average person”, It’s very important that we need to recognize who really a scholar is. You had your own experience, which we can’t generalize. The problem is we call everyone a scholar nowadays. By Allah, the true scholars are never like that.

      “fast food” “[even if they criticize you].”…I better stop….

      Re: “..so we may understand their enlightenment and their depth of understanding can be shared”
      There are i-numerable Halaqat, lectures, episodes of Tafsirs in depth. For instance: Shiek Muhamad Hassan has excellent episodes of Tawheed, Tafsir etc.. that has been recorded in many websites, with many Islamic channels. If you know Arabic you can get and download them from http://www.rabania.com/media/cat.php?catid=2 or http://alrahma.tv If not you can google it from reliable such us tafsir.com sources, I just have a quick reference now i.e http://www.kalamullah.com/juzz-amma.html Br. Nouman [Brother not scholar :)].

      May Allah guides us to the straight path (A-sirat Al-Mustaqim)!

      Allah knows best!

      • Amad

        Amad

        May 11, 2010 at 2:08 AM

        I think Salaam got the point, and I understand his perspective. Thanks for sharing the links. Lets move on to the topic now :)

        • Avatar

          Salaam

          May 11, 2010 at 2:29 AM

          Sister not brother :)

          WaShalom

          –Ilana

          • Amad

            Amad

            May 11, 2010 at 4:41 AM

            Oops, sorry, tough to make out the gender of “salaam” you know :)

            As for “otherness” you mentioned in your previous comment, we have quite a diversity in opinions on the MM staff… so don’t be discouraged by comments. Being misunderstood or mischaracterized by some is often a part of the ritual of “blogrowing”. You just have to stick to your guns if and when you believe strongly in your view and get the message across to those who are less rigid, or less tied to one view. That has been my own (continuing) experience.

            Btw, any reason for the Hebrew “shalom”?

  16. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    May 11, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    jazakAllah khayr. Excellent reminders.

  17. Avatar

    Abdullah

    May 11, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    Chapter 241
    Virtues of Knowledge which is Learnt and Taught for the sake of Allah

    http://witness-pioneer.org/vil/hadeeth/riyad/12/chap241.htm

  18. Avatar

    Salaam

    May 11, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Indeed, “Salaam” not particularly gendered for a reason, I rather not deal with the facade of kindness and understanding people display when they know they are talking to a woman–esp a young woman. However I did let it be known I am one at the end of my intended comments so inshAllah they would be able to feel the disparity of the perception they had of the commenter [me] as a man and then as a woman. It’s usually amusing even if it is disheartening.

    As for MM I don’t particularly think it’s varied. Occasionally it has an article I appreciate but definitely caters to a populace inclined towards rigidity. It’s a good idea but it would be better if it was multi-facade as being Muslim doesn’t come in one way–and instead of appealing to the lowest common dominator let’s bring in scholars and people who come from different backgrounds and believe strongly in their point of view creating a lively discourse instead of creating a complimentary club that preaches to the choir [aka “ivy tower syndrome”].

    As for the encouragement for sticking with my views; Alhumdullah I believe it is already apart of my character and inshAllah it will continue to be.

    As for the “Shalom” it’s my own way to combat the overt or subtle forms of dehumanization and prejudice I have witnessed in the Muslim community against our Jewish brothers and sisters.

    beace out.

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 12, 2010 at 3:20 AM

      Every site has to have a focus, a vision and a mission. We have a vision as well, and orthodoxy is our fundamental base. See the “About Us” section to get a better understanding. Upon this fundamental base, there are huge variations, and if you have followed comments, you will see that variation, often in heated debates, even sometimes between authors. So, your comment about preaching to the choir belies the actual situation, and highlights a lack of research and visits to MM. I urge you to review some of our political articles, and you can get a pretty good idea that we hardly have an observant choir! A little research goes a long way in avoiding conclusions based on one or two posts.

      Secondly, we don’t believe in a completely open tent, because Islam is not a religion that is open to everyone’s whims and desires. You can find “scholars” who think its perfectly okay for Muslims to do pretty much anything, and to be anything. That’s not the Islam MOST Muslims agree with. We cater to the mainstream ahl-sunnah wal-jamah, which constitutes majority of Muslims.

      And I don’t understand the comment about appealing to the “lowest common denominator”… please expound further.

      Finally, dehumanization and prejudice against Jews (stereotyping) is definitely an issue in some Muslim quarters, but we don’t allow any antisemitism on MM. There is a huge gulf between the Zionist Islamophobic types and the general Jewish masses, the latter constituting most of the American Jewish diaspora. I would say though that the reverse is more true these days, esp. in the occupied territories.

  19. Pingback: Pen Marks | Icelandic Volcano

  20. Avatar

    Rightstuff

    May 17, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    Assalam u alaikum,

    A wonderful piece, great reminder of how Allah (swt) works his wonders

    May Allah grant us success in Dean dunya and Akirah…..Ameen

    Jazakallah Khayr.

  21. Avatar

    Sana

    May 20, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Asalma-o-alikum

    May Allah reward the author the best… And give us Hidaya. Ameen

    Its really the time to repent to Allah. Because our sins are so great that we sometimes don’t realize that things happening because of our daily life sins like lies, backbiting, slandering,& corruption

    Even if the author wrote Ayah after Ayah, But I think that’s fine because Allah SWT already told us that “And He made Quran easy to understand”. And everything has its starting. For the people who can’t comprehend it, they got the aya reference now they can go to any tafseer book and read it InshaAllah

    Wasalam

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#Current Affairs

Criticism, Accountability and the Exclusion of Quran and Sunnah – Critiquing Ahmed Sheikh’s Critique

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Let me begin by making two things clear. First, this article is not seeking to defend the positions of any person nor is it related to the issue of CVE and what it means to the Muslim American community. I am in no way claiming that CVE is not controversial or harmful to the community nor am I suggesting that affiliations with governments are without concern.

Second, this paper is meant to critique the arguments made by the author that encourage holding Islamic scholars accountable. I encourage the reader not to think of this article as an attempt to defend an individual(s) but rather as an attempt to present an important issue through the framework of Islamic discourse – Quran, hadith supported by scholarly opinion. In that spirit, I would love to see articles providing other scholarly views that are contrary to this articles. The goal is to reach the position that is most pleasure to Allah and not the one that best fits our agenda, whims, or world views.

In this article I argue that Islamic scholars in America cannot effectively be held accountable, not because they are above accountability but because (1) accountability in Islam is based on law derived from Quran and hadith and this is the responsibility of Islamic experts not those ignorant of the Islamic sciences. And to be frank, this type of discourse is absent in Muslim America. (2) Muslim Americans have no standard code of law, conduct, or ethics that can be used to judge behavior and decisions of Muslim Americans. I do believe, however, that criticism should be allowed under certain conditions, as I will elaborate in the proceeding paragraphs.

To begin, the evidence used to support the concept of holding leaders accountable is the statement of Abu Bakr upon his appointment to office:

O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

This is a well-known statement of his, and without a doubt part of Islamic discourse applied by the pious companions. However, one should take notice of the context in which Abu Bakr made his statement. Specifically, who he was speaking to. The companions were a generation that embodied and practiced a pristine understanding of Islam and therefore, if anyone were to hold him accountable they would do it in the proper manner. It would be done with pure intentions that they seek to empower Abu Bakr with Quranic and Prophetic principles rather than attack him personally or with ill intentions.

Furthermore, their knowledge of the faith was sufficient to where they understood where and when the boundaries of Allah are transgressed, and therefore understood when he was accountable. However, when these facets of accountability are lost then the validity of accountability is lost as well.

To give an example, during the life of Abu Bakr, prior to appointing Omar (ra) as his successor he took the opinion of several companions. The prospect of Omar’s appointment upset some of the companions because of Omar’s stern character. These companions approached Abu Bakr and asked him “what will you tell Allah when he asks why you appointed the stern and severe (ie Omar).” Abu Bakr replied “I will tell Him that I appointed the best person on earth,” after which Abu Bakr angrily commanded them to turn their backs and leave his presence.

Fast forwarding to the life of Uthman, large groups of Muslims accused Uthman of changing the Sunnah of the Prophet in several manners. Part of this group felt the need to hold Uthman accountable and ended up sieging his home leading to his death. Now, when one researches what this group was criticizing Uthman for, you find that Uthman (ra) did make mistakes in applying the sunnah that even companions such as Ibn Mas’ood expressed concern and disagreement with. However, due to the lack of fiqh and knowledge, these Muslims felt that the actions of Uthman made him guilty of “crimes” against the sunnah and therefore he must be held accountable.

With this I make my first point. A distinction between criticism and accountability must be made. Ibn Mas’ood and others criticized Uthman but, since they were scholars, understood that although Uthman was mistaken his mistakes did not cross the boundaries of Allah, and therefore he was not guilty of anything and thus was not accountable.

Holding Muslim scholars accountable cannot be justified unless evidence from the Quran and hadith indicate transgression against Allah’s law. Thus, before the Muslim American community can call for the accountability of Dr. Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, or others, an argument founded in Quran and Sunnah and supplicated by scholarly (classical scholars) research and books must be made.

It is simply against Islamic discourse to claim that a scholar is guilty of unethical decisions or affiliations simply because CVE is a plot against Muslims (as I will detail shortly). Rather, an argument must be made that shows how involvement with CVE is against Quran and sunnah. Again, I emphasize the difference between criticizing their decision because of the potential harms versus accusing them of transgressing Islamic principles.

To further elaborate this distinction I offer the following examples. First, Allah says in context of the battle of Badr and the decision to ransom the prisoners of war,

“It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Had it not been for a prior decree from Allah, you would have certainly been disciplined with a tremendous punishment for whatever ˹ransom˺ you have taken. Now enjoy what you have taken, for it is lawful and good. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (8:67-69)

In these verses Allah criticizes the decision taken by the Muslims but then states that ransom money was made permissible by Allah, and therefore they are not guilty of a punishable offense. In other words, Allah criticized their decision because it was a less than ideal choice but did not hold them accountable for their actions since it was permissible.

Another example is the well-known incident of Osama bin Zaid and his killing of the individual who proclaimed shahadah during battle. Despite this, Osama proceeded to slay him. Upon hearing of this the Prophet (s) criticized Osama and said, “did you see what is in his heart?”

Although Osama’s actions resulted in the death of a person the Prophet (s), did not hold Osama accountable for his actions and no punishment was implemented. Similarly, Khalid bin Waleed killed a group of people who accepted Islam accidentally and similarly, the Prophet (s) criticized Khalid but did not hold him accountable.

Why was there no accountability? Because the decisions of Osama and Khalid were based on reasonable – although incorrect – perspectives which falls under the mistake category of Islamic law “And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:5)

The previous examples, among others, are referred to in Islamic discourse as ta’weel (interpretation). There are many examples in the lives of the companions where decisions were made that lead to misapplications of Islam but were considered mistakes worthy of criticism but not crimes worthy of punishment or accountability.

Ta’weel, as Ibn Taymiyya states, is an aspect of Islam that requires deep understanding of the Islamic sciences. It is the grey area that becomes very difficult to navigate except by scholars as the Prophet (s) states in the hadith, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear and between them is a grey area which most people don’t know (ie the rulings for).”

Scholars have commented stating that the hadith does not negate knowledge of the grey entirely and that the scholars are the ones who know how to navigate that area. The problem arises when those ignorant of Islamic law attempt to navigate the grey area or criticize scholars attempting to navigate it.

Going back to Ibn Taymiyya -skip this part if you believe Ibn Taymiyya was a dancing bear- I would like to discuss his own views on associating oneself with oppressive rulers. In his book “Islamic Political Science” (As Siyaasa ash Shar’iah) he details the nuances of fiqh in regards to working with or for oppressive rulers.

It would be beneficial to quote the entire section, but for space sake I will be concise. Ibn Taymiyya argues that the issue of oppressive rulers should not be approached with a black and white mentality. Rather, one must inquire of the relationship between the person and the ruler.

One can legitimately adhere to the verse “And cooperate in righteousness and piety” (5:2) while working for an unjust ruler such as: “performing jihad, applying penal laws, protecting the rights of others, and giving those who deserve. This is in accordance to what Allah and His messenger have commanded and whoever refrains from those things out of fear of assisting the unjust then they have left an obligation under a false form of asceticism (wara’).”

Likewise, accepting a position under an unjust regime may prevent or reduce the harm of that regime, or prevent someone mischievous from taking the position and inflicting even more harm, then such an association is Islamically valid. Furthermore, someone working in a particular department is not responsible or accountable for the crimes being committed in another department nor are they guilty of “cooperat[ing] in sin and aggression” (5:2). He ascribes these fiqh rulings to the majority of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmed.

The argument against those who are affiliated with the UAE is simply not grounded in fiqh or supported by clear evidences from the Quran and hadith. How does being part of a peace forum make the participants guilty of the crimes in Yemen? The claim that such participation enhances the influence of these regimes is not necessarily consistent with Quran and hadith.

Dr. Jackson, I argue, is in line with Islamic discourse when he says that being part of such initiatives does not mean he agrees with all they do. The same goes for CVE. As Ibn Taymiyya suggests above, participating in such programs is Islamically justifiable if the goal is to reduce the harm and this is what Dr. Jackson claims. Ibn Taymiyya gives the example of someone working as a tax collector for a ruler who unjustly takes taxes from his citizens. If the individual can reduce the amount being taken then his position is Islamically valid.

One might state that such a claim – reducing the harm – is naïve and an excuse to justify their affiliations. No doubt this is a possibility, however, I once again quote Ibn Taymiyya,

“The obligation is to bring about the benefit to the best of their ability and or prevent the harm or at least reduce it. If there are two possible benefits then the individual should pursue the greater of the two even if it leads to losing the lesser. If there are two possible harms to prevent then they should prevent the greater of the two even if it results in the occurrence of the lesser.”

There are ways of determining whether a persons is clearly excusing himself. At the same time, the debate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harm is almost always within the grey area mentioned above. Thus, it is irresponsible to attack Islamic scholars and call for their accountability for positions that are not clearly against Quran and hadith.

Another rebuttal might claim that the rulers during the time of Ibn Taymiyya were better than present day rulers and that his fiqh was addressing his realities which are inconsistent with ours. My response is that although that is true, Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings are not built on contextual realities that are only effective in those realities. Rather, his teachings are built on principles that are formulated in a way that renders it capable of measuring a particular context. In other words, it acts in a way that considers the realities and context as part of the equation and decision process.

A third rebuttal might claim that Ibn Taymiyya, like many others, warned of the harms of befriending rulers. Again, this is accurate, however, an important distinction must be made and that is between spiritual advice and fiqh rulings. An issue can be spiritually problematic but permissible fiqh-wise and this differentiation is seen in the lives of the companions and spiritualists in general.

For example, the companions rejected many worldly pleasures out of zuhd and wara’ (two forms of asceticism) and not because they are forbidden. To be more specific, a person may restrict themselves from drinking green tea not because it is forbidden by Quran or hadith but because of they view it as a desire that distracts them from the next life.

Similarly, the discouragement scholars expressed towards relationships with rulers was because of the spiritual harms and not because of an unequivocal prohibition against it. This is an important facet of Islamic discourse that should be recognized by the Muslim community. That is, a person can critique an issue from various angles (for example the psychological harms of political rhetoric and how it effects a person’s spirituality) while remaining neutral to Islamic law. What I am trying to say is that legitimate criticisms can be made about a particular issues without having to bring a person’s Islamic credibility into the discussion.

To conclude, I’d like to once again emphasize a distinction between criticism and accountability. Criticism is justified when the criticizer is qualified in the topic and when the one being criticized has made a mistake. Accountability is legitimate when a person has transgressed red lines established by Islam itself. But, in order for such accountability to be valid one must invoke the Quran and hadith and here lies the problem.

In the several articles posted against UAE and CVE, Quran and hadith are excluded and such has become Muslim American discourse – we are Muslims who invoke Allah and His messenger yet exclude their words from the conversation. I remind the Muslim American community and myself of the following verse “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” (4:59).

I would like to pose the following questions to the Muslim American community:

  • Under what code of law and ethics should scholars be held accountable? In other words, what standards do we use to deem a scholar accountable or guilty? Who determines these laws and principles? Is it other scholars who are well versed in fiqh? Is it American standards or perhaps Muslim American activists and whatever is in line with their agenda?
  • Who or what institution has the authority to hold scholars accountable?
  • To what extent do we consider Quran, hadith, fiqh and scholarly opinions in determining illegal actions, problematic decisions, and or immoral behavior?
  • Are these laws and principles only applicable to scholars or are other Muslim leader figures held to the same standards?
  • Are all scholars “dancing bears” who have no credibility? If not, who, in your opinion, is trustworthy and credible and why do you think so? Is it because they are following Quran and Sunnah, or because they fit activism?
  • Do you believe that certain celebrated Muslim American activists / politicians present theological and moral problems to American Muslims that are corrupting their faith and behavior? Should they be held accountable for their statements and actions? What about the various Muslim organizations that invite them as keynote speakers and continue to show unwavering support?
  • Do you believe it is fair to say that these celebrated activists are not responsible for clarifying to the community their controversial positions and statements because they are not scholars or seen as religious figures?
  • Do you believe that activism is dominating Muslim American discourse and do you believe that there is a serious exclusion of Quran and hadith in that discourse?

I hope the community will acknowledge the concerning reality of the exclusion of Quran and hadith from our affairs. Until we live up to the standards of Quran and sunnah our criticism will only lead to further division and harm.

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#Society

Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society.

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Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

By Fatima Asad

Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids

 

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OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces

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Ali ibn Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)once said, “Know the truth and you’ll know who’s speaking the truth.” 

I am based in Canada and was recently having coffee with friends. In the course of the conversation, a friend (who I consider knowledgeable) said that it’s okay to pay interest on a leased car because interest doesn’t apply to lease contracts. This completely caught me off guard, because it made no logical sense that interest would become halal based solely on the nature of the contract.

I asked him how this can be true and his response was that the lease contract is signed with the dealer and the interest transaction is between the dealer and the financing company so it has nothing to do with the buyer. Again, this baffled me because I regularly lease cars and this is an incorrect statement: The lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company who is charging you directly for the interest they pay the car dealership. Therefore, any lease contract that has interest associated with it is haram. This is the same as saying your landlord can charge you interest for his mortgage on a rental contract and this would make it halal. I tried to argue this case and explain to my friend that what he was saying was found on false assumptions and one should seriously look into this matter before treating riba in such a light manner.

Upon going home that night, I pulled out all my lease contracts (negotiated to 0% mind you) and sent them over to my friend. They clearly showed that a bill of sale is signed with the dealer, which is an initial commitment to purchase but the actual lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company which is charging you interest directly. If this interest rate is anything above zero it is haram (anything which is haram in a large quantity is also haram in a small quantity).

To my dismay, instead of acknowledging his mistake, my friend played the “Fatwa Card” and sent me a fatwa from a very large fatwa body in North America, which was also basing their argument on this false assumption. Fortunately for me, my friend pointed out the hotline number and the day and time the mufti who gave the fatwa would be available to answer questions.

I got in touch with the scholar and over a series of text messages proceeded to explain to him that his fatwa was based on a wrong assumption and for this reason people would be misled into leasing cars on interest and signing agreements with financing companies which are haram.
He was nice enough to hear my arguments, but still insisted that “maybe things were different in Canada.” Again this disappointed me because giving fatwa is a big responsibility – by saying “maybe” he was implying that full research has not been done and a blanket fatwa has been given for all of North America.

It also meant that if my point was true (for both Canada and the United States) dozens of Muslims maybe engaging in riba due to this fatwa.

The next week I proceeded to call two large dealerships (Honda and Toyota) in the very city where the Fatwa body is registered in the US and asked them about paperwork related to leasing. They both confirmed that when leasing a new vehicle, the lease contract is signed with a third party financing company which has the lien on the vehicle and the dealer is acting on the financing company’s behalf.

It is only when a vehicle is purchased in cash that a contract is signed with the dealer. This proved my point that both in the US and Canada car lease contracts are signed with the financing company and the interest obligations are directly with the consumer, therefore if the interest rate is anything above 0% it is haram. I sent a final text to the mufti and my friend sharing what I had found and letting him know that it was now between them and Allah.

1. As we will stand in front of Allah alone on Yaum al Qiyamah, in many ways we also stand alone in dunya. You would think that world renowned scholars and an entire institution would be basing their fatwas on fact-checked assumptions but this is not the case. You would also think that friends who you deem knowledgable and you trust would also use logic and critical thinking, but many times judgment is clouded for reasons unbeknownst to us. We must not take things at face value. We must do our research and get to the bottom of the truth. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says to stand up for truth and justice even if it be against our ourselves; although it is difficult to do so in front of friends and scholars who you respect, it is the only way.

2. There are too many discussions, debates and arguments that never reach closure or get resolved. It is important to follow up with each other on proofs and facts to bring things to closure, otherwise our deen will slowly be reduced to a swath of grey areas. Alhamdulillah, I now know enough about this subject to provide a 360 degree view and can share this with others. It is critical to bring these discussions to a close whether the result is for you or against you.

3. Many times we have a very pessimistic and half hearted view towards access to information. When I was calling the dealerships from Canada in the US,  part of me said: Why would these guys give me the information? But if you say Bismillah and have your intentions in the right place Allah makes the path easy. One of the sales managers said “I can see you’re calling from Toronto, are you sure you have the right place?” I replied, “I need the information and if you can’t give it to me I don’t mind hanging up.” He was nice enough to provide me with the detailed process and paperwork that goes into leasing a car.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned any names in this opinion and I want to make clear that I am not doubting the intentions of those who I spoke to; I still respect and admire them greatly in their other works. We have to be able to separate individual cases and actions from the overall person.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us to the truth and rid of us any weaknesses or arrogance during the process.

Aameen.

Ed’s Note: The writer is not a religious scholar and is offering his opinion based on his research on leasing contracts in North America.

Suggested reading:

Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

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